An A-musing Life
 

The Great Exodus-Salamanders and Passover Crossings


It was the first night of Passover; the night of the first Seder. It was also the first night of the annual crossing of the salamanders when they go to the vernal pools to mate. In an effort to save these creatures BEEC, a local environmental group, organizes volunteers to protect the salamanders and their attending frogs as they cross the unpaved roads to their local pools. I was one of those organized. A group of us met with rain gear and flashlights in tow. Our task was to slow the oncoming cars so all make the long journey across their muddy desert safely.


It was not overly cold; it never is on Passover, but the light rain offered an edge that made the importance of this night sharp with focus. We were there to help sustain the ecosystem and, as far as I am concerned, a culture; a lifetime that spanned eons of the same behavior with the same expectations each time. The winter had melted away, the lushness of nature was awakening, and the rains had come. The pools appeared from under the ice and snow that created them. It was now time to emerge and continue life while the land is verdant and moist.


The luminous sheen of the salamander’s skin, the darkness vaguely lit by what the sky could offer, the scent of nature’s abundance deepened my breath.  My heart glimpsed the endlessness of time and its fire spark that night. Archetypal images rendered themselves in my mind’s eye.  I was filled with the presence of this ancient event that was whirling around in every sense I had.


Just as I could feel the deep paths of my ancestors’ exodus laden with slavery’s heaviness; I felt the salamanders’ primal urge that propelled them toward their equally long journey across their dirt road. The vastness of each resonated.  


One side of the road had just a few houses each spaced a distance from one another. Their various grasses and plants came to the edge of the road to meet the dirt and small stones that served as pavement. Beyond this lay the vernal pool, the land of milk and honey, or rather water and algae that was their promised land.

The woods from which the salamanders and frogs emerged were on our other side. We kept vigilant eyes on the slope of the road that held the forest at bay, so as not to miss even one. We walked slowly, always with our flashlights pointed toward the ground. What took us just a few seconds to cross, took these beautiful spotted beings many times more. What respect and awe we were all in at the determination and strength we were witnessing. Sometimes our feelings got the best of us and we would gently pick one up, and with reverence, place them in the grass across the way. We stayed for a few hours, adults and children, and ferried our charges.


The sound was all encompassing. While salamanders are silent, almost other worldly; the frogs sang in different tones; some fast and high, others long and low. There were different species each with their own song. I could see my ancestors crossing the Sea of Reeds and almost hear their song. The many trees curved their branches above us forming a dome that looked almost like stained glass as the moon dappled them with its light. The rain was gentle and added its own harmony as it landed on the leaves and grass. The sounds of the earth and the animals were music of the highest kind. 


At last, all the salamanders that were going to cross that night had already done so. Their exodus ended until the next rainy evening. How poignant that on the first night, my Seder was one that had become animated and played itself out right in front of me. 


When the last person left for home and to warmth, I stood on the edge of the road that led to the vernal pool where I had placed so many to forge their way through the grass. The mist of the night and continuing songs of the frogs and rain filled the air.


I breathed in the deepness of the night. The frog’s dulcet tones began to sound like prayers. I stood still and softened my vision. My feet were grounded to the earth but my head moved slowly back in time.

I began, softly at first, to sing Eliyahu’s song. The longer I sang, the more I felt nature and history meld together. This was the embodiment of the Passover story and I felt taken to the center of the energy, the pure essence of this holiday. The connection to history past, the present and the future wrapped itself around me.

This was a true Seder.  This night was about freedom. The freedom to express one’s true nature, the freedom to express one’s true spirit, and the freedom to feel that there is truly a place for each of us. I made my prayers and went home to have a cup of wine with Elijah.



One Sip at a Time


It was a morning for nibbles taken slow and steady. No deep gulps of juice and hearty bites of toast and scrambled eggs that usually accompanied her morning routine were going to happen today-not after last night.

There were lots of lights and action and too much drink, bourbon to be precise. She used to be a scotch girl, but a sentimental run in with some a few years ago had given bourbon a warm place in her heart. The guy at Racine’s liquor store was thrilled that Cerridwen wanted to buy some. Bourbon was his passion and she was a willing student. She left with an array of mini bottles and one full size bottle of his favorite. “All different tones”, he said."Well, I do love music," played Cerridwen. They both smiled and each knew they would be seeing each other again.


She also left with the sneaking suspicion that someone was watching her, on her tail, so to speak. “Hmmm “, Cerridwen Marsh said to no one in particular,”Why do they call it ‘sneaking’ when it really hits you over the head? I guess not much can sneak up on you when you are in a particular line of business,” she said with an inner smile and slight outer sadness in her eyes. Despite herself, she did take her profession seriously and her clients knew it, as did the police. Perhaps this is why she never lacked work.


”Okay, time to get going”, she said after she downed some aspirin and retrieved her keys from the ‘thing’. The thing was a vase given to her by a client. The gesture was made for appreciation of her sleuthing skills, but perhaps a little more for the divorce attorney referral. The 'thing' was loud and awful in texture, color and size. And, she realized, was not about to let her hide it, so she let it live on a shelf in her entrance foyer in all its gaudy glory. That being the case, she figured she might as well put it to some use.


“Oh, crap”, griped Racine as she reassembled the Frito’s display. She felt a bit like the hamster in its wheel at the pet shop next door. Always running but the scenery never seemed to change. The rack got knocked over again, but not by the usual wild kid. A quick clip of someone’s rustling coat and the rack was down while the footprints were still warm. But there were no footprints. Racine kept the place immaculate. She did not want to mess with the department of health.


Racine went back to checking out her bourbon laden customer and would clean up after. She felt like something was going on though, but what? It must be important, because, lots of important things happened in her store. Some she saw, some she just heard about and some she participated in. She liked to think of her place as a cauldron ,of sorts, where she could stir up what needed to happen. “A bit of witch, you are,” someone once said to her. And then she got cold because she remembered that voice. It chilled her like the touch of a trench coat that she knew once. 'He's back', and her chill became part of her bones, just like the season.


The trees held the sun for as long as they could. The air was a net that caught the cold of the night and held it through the shortening days so that no matter how bright the sun was, its warmth could never fully penetrate. Light or dark, there was an iciness to that crept into one’s being and stayed for the long haul of the season. But not for Cerridwen.


Julie, Cerridwen’s trusted assistant, office holder and general mess cleaner-upper on more days than she would  choose, found an envelope taped to the front office door. Whoever put this there must have been in a hurry. It hung at an angle as if slapped on in a frenzy so as not to be seen. Julie cocked her head to read the very haphazard cursive, although she already knew who it was for.


After turning on the lights and doing all the usual morning tasks that an office demands, Julie opened the envelope. Not only was she dismayed by the continuing appallingly bad penmanship, a pet peeve of the organized; but was that grease? Really, was this moron eating junk food and using a pen. Have you ever heard of a napkin! Another pet peeve but this time of the culturally inclined. After reading yet another cryptic, and she was being generous with that word, and ominous, again more generosity, clue that was supposed to point to some penultimate matter, Julie put the whole mess down.


When Cerridwen finally bothered to arrive with one of her better hangovers, Julie cast her annoyed eyes in the general direction of the corner of her desk. Cerridwen was used to this over educated attitude. Actually, she kind of respected it, at least most of the time. She picked it up and said to Julie, “Well, let’s have a read then.”

“It was a long day in winter when the birds flew home and she went to roost. It was a short day in summer when the chickens ran free. It was a middling night when one is free-toed in salty spring.”

“Really?  I am not up for this?”


“Remember what you always say”, Julie gently admonished, “it is the incidental sounds and impressions you want to find. The incidental sounds will sing like a torch song singer with a secret.” repeating her bosses words back to her. “You’ll figure it out, you always do.” Cerridwen walked the note into her office. What was she going to do now?  Put on some Edith Piaf, really loud.


Why when she read it again did a faint scent of something junk foody and salty waft through the air? Why did she instinctively turn her head, just a bit, as if she might see someone standing to her right? “Wait a second”, she thought. Snack food remains, late last night feeling a presence nearby when she stopped at Racine’s for her bourbon binge, and now this tell-tale badly written note. ”Jubilation Malone”. Cerridwen said the name with certainty. Her eyes narrowed, she felt cold and on alert. “He’s back.”


Cerridwen raised herself from her chair with the tremulous resolve that could only be aided by a robust cup of coffee. She was going to crack this case if it is the last thing she did. There is a piece of someone’s soul at stake here. But then again, there always is.


Looking straight ahead, steps stalwart but not pounding the floor too terribly much, she headed to the outer office and for the coffee pot which had been sitting in all its overbearing coffee thickness for the past two days. She no longer offered coffee to clients. Her odd tolerance for coffee that would easily support a stick to stand upright in the middle of the pot was not a popular beverage preference.


Julie, for the most part, had become used to ‘the walk and don’t talk’ moments when her otherwise friendlyish boss was to be treated like a vapor, just a slip of presence…and no phone calls. But sometimes she could not help herself from exclaiming her disgust of this stunning ‘coffee habit of horror’.


On those occasions, Cerridwen would reply, “Blame it on Scott MacConnell,” and without missing a translucent beat, she would shut the door to her office and drink.



A Resolute Spirit


As a nod to one of the words for 2016 posted by Merriam-Webster-‘post-truth’; part of this piece is ‘post-time’. Its initial writing came to an abrupt halt due to, well, you’ll see.


The End of…. 2015

The last day is coming and a wintery air of anticipation abounds. This closing of time is like a book that one has finally, yet often stubbornly, finished.


It flies around you like an insistent bird that won’t stop flapping its wings and banging its beak into that tree outside your window. Walking through hazy morning eyes toward your coffee, your bare foot crunches a slight piece of bark. It has a soft, dulcet tone until it leaves a splinter in your heel. How did this get into my house!

And there is the book waiting on your kitchen table. It is a somewhat annoying book, really. Not consistent, not hilariously funny, but not dreadfully sad. Its protagonist was kind of brave, was kind of well behaved, and was way too attached to good cheese. She was not overly lovable, but not too disliked; just enough to confirm she still had some spice. Room for improvement, for sure, but would not be a total embarrassment if flirted with in a bar.


“So”, said my New Year’s Resolution Fairy, although she looked more a cross between a gargoyle gone soft and a lapsed, yet surprisingly glamorous, burlesque dancer. She adjusted her wings into the cushions on my couch, then threw one leg over the other and proceeded to pump it in steady rhythm. It reminded me of the cat clock I had as a child. The tail moved back and forth like a metronome of time. Only this was no cat and it did not purr. Rather, it brandished questions and comments like an old feathered fan that had been used in some onstage extravaganza.


“tell me what ya got.”

“I don’t know yet. I haven’t thought about it and I didn’t know you were coming today.” Did I really just say that? I felt like a guilty child. I busied myself with straightening up to avoid eye contact. In other words, I moved things from here to there for no reason whatsoever. 

“I can think of a thing or two,” she quipped, eyeing my newest and fanciest cheese board. Those eyes made a slow orbit between my birthday gift to myself and my eyes, which I am sure, resembled the proverbial deer caught in the headlights; not a grown woman who knows how to stand her ground.

“Okay,” I said rising to the occasion. I called on my inner Wonder Woman and planted my feet on the floor, lifted my chin in righteous clarity, and spoke.

“I will not be bullied and shamed. I am a grown up and I can determine my own indulgences.” And with that, I blew a bit of bang out of my eyes. Not the strongest ending, I suppose.

My declaration was met with a stern look of bland amusement. “You got any wine to go with that cheese?” she asked. “I seem to recall we discussed wine last year.”

As usual, she got the last word, and off I went for a bottle of my best red. “Would you like to chase that down with some scotch? I seem to recall we discussed that as well,” I retorted, proud of my quick inspiration. “Touché,” I thought. A bold parry, this was. After all, she was getting something out of the deal.

“Why, yes, I do recall that,” she answered, “but if you think plying me with even more liquor than last year will give me a hangover, don’t bother. You think I look like this because I don’t know how to drink?”

“Okay, look,” I said, taking a seat next to her while defiantly munching on cheese and a slice of zucchini that I often use as a cracker, “I am a foodie. If I ate food the way I talk about it I would not be able to fit through doors and I would be on more medications than you can fit in a pill organizer.”

No response; just a well-appointed foot- she does have good taste in shoes- tapping, ever so slightly, the embellished edge of that new cheese platter.

“This is going to be tougher than I thought…again,” I quietly lamented.

And then….

Yellow!!!!! I woke up yellow!!!!! It was the tip of 2016. I was still rolling with 2015. The Resolution Fairy had barely left. I was still finding her snarky looks peering around the edges of the notebook I was recording her yearly visit in when….I woke up yellow!!!!!

I take care of myself with clean food-even the disputed cheese is infested with nature, not additives-and clean supplements and herbs…oops. Clearly, that herb was not clean enough as it spread havoc within my innards like a stealth bomber until….Have I told you I woke up yellow?

So I spent the year de-yellowing, de-traumatizing and de-lighting my inner resources.

New Year’s Eve and Last Night of Chanukah 2016

Okay, well here we go again. There is still cheese, but I am chasing it down with beet juice in my finest wine glass, of course.

“I’ll show her,” I thought.

Despite the year I have had, I still believe in the aesthetic life. Beauty and necessity can partner and sustain an ideal. Beauty adds to living. It does not diminish moral values or actions. And this year was filled with moral and immoral actions on a grand and global scale.

Now it was my turn to tap my feet. My Resolution Fairy was later than usual. Was she having too good a time outraging someone else?  I decided that when she heard about my very colorful year, we would have something to celebrate. Maybe she would forgo the blasts of eyeball and snorts, and cheer me on for once. I decided to bring out my good port and long unused antique port glasses to mark the occasion. 

While my head was stuck in the china cabinet, which had gotten scarily dusty during my year hiatus, I heard a tenor toned yelp and then I heard a crash. “Oh, this does not bode well,” I said to myself. Perhaps she had as tough a year as I did. I wondered if she ever takes broken resolutions personally, or is her not so veiled disdain the answer to my question. I guess if I were in her position, I might get a little cranky myself.

So I walked into the living room bearing a shiny grin and crystal glasses when I was stopped short in my reverie. My eyes were filled with the most disheveled and frayed creature I ever could have imagined would share space on the celestial pod, or wherever fairies and their like live.

I never could get a clear answer out of my R.F.; who absolutely abhorred when I called her that. The only thing she ever said was not to be too surprised, as she was when she started this gig, with the motley crew that any group of beings can include, emphasis and eye-jab on ‘any’ pointing toward me, as I recall. But I think I also recall just a wee smile from her.

“You’re not my Resolution Fairy,” I said as he unraveled himself from my curtains.

“May I help you?” I continued. “You seemed to be lost.” But my eyes were stuck on permanent open because I didn’t want to lose any part of this sight. 

“I’m not lost at all,” he said. “I’m taking over some of her cases this year’s end eve.”

And then I blinked…a lot. “Cases?  Is that what I am…stop…A mess to be managed…stop… Well, harrumph to you!” I screamed inside my head.

I probably looked like I was practicing Morse Code.

“Overrun we are, with the most recent of hatchling resolutioners. Oh, and by the by, she most dislikes when you call her R.F.”

“Well, if Yoda channeled Shakespeare, it would be you; and yes, I know she does not like it,” I replied while chomping on some much needed cheese, as I was left famished by all that blinking.

“Who are you then? You certainly don’t look like a fairy.”

Not that I had a hold on what all fairies look like, but I presumed they all at least had wings, and this creature was as close to the ground as one could come.  He held onto whatever he could find as if he were in the constant possibility of landing face down on whatever surface was beneath his odd little shoes. Nope, not a fairy.

“I am merely a fraction of a most large spirit beast such that holds time.” He was off and unwinding like a too tightly wound pocket watch.

“How I lament, with every pass of moment, the waste of chance, oh sorry humanity, you had, to make time move toward something of bounteous conflagration of wills and ways. Verily, oh, woe to me, who feels you swat me like a fly.” His flailing arms could hold him no more. His center of gravity lost to his grave words, and with that, he fell over flat.

“Please forgive my outward passion. I have not been ‘on the job’, as you say, since William penned himself to history.”

“Holy crap,” I thought. “You have been retired that long? We must be in bad shape if they pulled you out of the Globe. Here is some mead for you then,” I said leaning down to floor level.

“I know what port is,” he sniped. “Gimme that,” and he grabbed the bottle.


We spent the rest of his time with me, as he did have other ‘cases’ to see, discussing the dawning awareness of the political imperative to action, drinking beet juice and port; well he had the port and almost all of the cheese, laughing and crying and basically charming the hell out of each other.

We agreed that the only resolution anyone needs to make this year is to keep moving forward, if that is already what you do; and for the new resolutioners, to begin to move forward. For those of us in the first group, I also suggest that we add another to our list. We will keep motivating all of us and mentoring the newly awakened ones.


To you all, I offer my new friend’s last words, borrowed from his old friend.

All days are nights to see till I see thee

And nights bright days when dreams do show me thee.’ ( William Shakespeare Sonnet 43)




Mushroom Soup with John


December 5, 1989 I was numb with mourning. I had spent the last month at St. Vincent’s Hospital herding people and doctors in an out of John’s room. I became his door keeper and soul keeper. John had helped many people navigate the pain and fear of having and/or losing others to AIDS. His healing circle was sacred space for us. Now it was time to do the same for him.


While we were not close before his hospitalization, John and I soon became each other’s heart. As his unexpected, yet not reluctant healer and then psychopomp, his world became my world. When the circle asked me to go to the hospital where John had just been taken, the sound of my heels on the sidewalk kept me focused. I listened to them like they were a drum. Each step was a beat that steadied my fear so I could find the courage that John needed me to have for us both. I knew John’s death path would beam its dying light on the many who loved him. The map of the AIDS trail had begun to draw itself, and we were all learning to walk it.


We grasp at ways to comfort those who are beyond being comfortable. We had become veterans of the dying companion brigade. We who were not sick, ever or yet, took the lead in turns. There was always someone who was in hardship and in fear of what was imminent. These were the days when an AIDS death sentence was a given. Caregiving was about ease of transition, restful interlude between medical horrors, and softening the additional trauma many experienced when reaching out to family that often did not want to reach back.

Those days were contained in an intractable intensity. There was no letting up the vigilance this time demanded. We were on constant alert for new diagnosis, new needs and new ways to create emotional and spiritual tools. There was an unspoken commitment to be strong for each other, so when we did need to fall apart, there would be arms to hold on to. Tears were a commodity that we could not often afford because they could easily slip us into the inability to act.


There were times all I could do was stand back and watch nurses frantically try to apply their skills to quell this thing that seemed to have its own agenda. When the nurses were finished, we would change places and I would offer my own abilities. We felt bloated from the tears we all held inside. We were all in this together. We were all suffering.


But then, when the morning came, and I could walk to the lounge to get a coffee, I knew damn well who the patient was. My heart howled at those treacherous nights of holding John and others through their anguish because we were ultimately all so inept. I could only offer myself.


It is a natural inclination for me to cook for people. Food is a way I nurture, and hospital food leaves a lot of space for that. One day I brought John cream of mushroom soup. Although he could barely eat a tablespoon, the aroma was a sense memory for him of happier times. He felt calmed and cared for. I made fresh soup every day, often doing so late at night after coming home from the hospital.


Most days he could not eat any. But having someone do something just for him was a little healing from a cold and distant family. John’s father would not come see him. He wrote a letter that John clutched in his weakening hands. Seeing him press the envelope to his heart was a challenge for me. This image still brings me to tears.


I say Kaddish for John every year. I also hang a unicorn ornament inscribed with his name and death date that I bought from a street vendor outside of the hospital a few days after John died. My heart breaks and fills, at the same time, on the same day, each year.


Maybe because of the present political and social climate; this year I needed to do more for John’s yahrzeit. So many of us are in a state of fear from something over which we may have no control in spite of what we try to do. Our lives, life as we have been living, has got to become something else.

This was AIDS in 1989. We were forced to face a new reality that we were ill prepared for. Our worldview and behavior were being challenged and our lives felt usurped by a virulent darkness. The ground had become a fragile bedrock of shifting fault lines. I believe it is this way again.


So this year I made John’s cream of mushroom soup and thought about his lustrous eyes that smiled when they could, and how he called me his ‘sweetness’ when he saw his soup.


Heartwork

(1989)


And so I came to where you did your spirit’s work.

We did not speak, but I sat in your circle week after week.

You were mysterious to me.


And I would go home to the skies of late fall

and watch the shadows change from under my

warm sweater and steamy coffee and hazelnut liqueur.

The air smelled sweet-the time was safe.


One day you walked across the room.

You were not alone-you were not alone.

I saw the silent sigil of death that walked behind you.

You were in two worlds at once-and

the air parted to let you through.


And then there was voice on the phone.

“Go to the hospital. He is there.”

I was catapulted fast, so fire burning fast

that I had no choice but to follow its flame.

I saw the cold tiled floor and heard the

relentless clicking and churning of the machines.


I walk into your room and you are asleep.

You are asleep in your frailty, in your anger, in your pain

in a sterile white bed.

You sink into the middle: it surrounds you.

You are a long, thin wavering line

but your presence is strong-even then.

Are you traveling in your sleep-

time across the universe?

No, not yet.

We have work to do, you and I.


I put my hands around you.

I feel your heart and see where you are.

You know I am here.

And I begin to know you-

through my hands, through my heart.

These were the tools I had for you.

I began to know your pain and terror,

but I also learned your beauty and love.

You echoed in my heart in the most endless way.


It is twilight, darkness is coming.

This is not the comforting time of home-

This is not safe.

This twilight is of bold transition.

It moves the day to night with swift strides:

A tidal wave of shadows tumble in against the moon.


Our time was about our deepening connection

that was a step toward completion.

The fact of death, the process of dying shows us our frailty-

but also makes us find our strength.

Your heart lay upon my heart and beckoned me.

Your soul was the object of my vision.

For me your dying was to learn that vision.

For you it was a last lesson of love.


There is a certain rhythm to being.

It is a silent current in the earth: in our souls.

It is subterranean wet

and when we reach it, we can ride its moist power-

Be surrounded by its waving, undulating pulse.

This is where the knowing is.

This is what we listen to deeply.

The language of the earth is time.

The language of the divine is love.

They intersect, they intertwine.


The day you were ready to leave I was in my kitchen.

You stood impatient-you were ready.

On the train the rhythm of the wheels felt like the beating of your heart.

My heart joined yours for one last time.

It grew luminous and multi-colored-the air was thick.

Time was culminating in a cascade of pulsing breaths.

We would ride them together until you could go alone.

I felt your moving to death around me like a wrapping from centuries ago.

It had the smell of time.

It had the feeling of grace.

It had the rumble of thunder.


I came to you.

A tear rolled down your cheek.

We looked toward each other one last time.

I saw you through the light-just a little way,

and touched you one last time.

And then the air became sweet and the time felt safe.









11/12 and Counting


Tuesday:

I went to sleep half an hour before the election was called. My sleep was grey and dreamless.


Wednesday:

I awoke unable to take my usual deep and nourishing morning breath. The only thing I could manage was a thin inhale that had to maneuver between stone piled upon stone. 

I was in a supreme oxygen-withholding-deep-dread-awareness-of-the-day-before mode. This soon became laced with organ menacing fear. My blood and breath were running their course, but with their backs to one another. This felt like a mirror of what is going on in our country. Those on opposite sides and preference have turned away from each other to lick their wounds or shine their win.

I thought about what will happen to Standing Rock. I thought about how deeply ingrained our country’s misogyny is; how fierce it is in our cultural geology. It is scary squared to think about Trump and Pence having a go at us. I thought about friends who voted for Trump and Pence and their vile views. What might this do to friendships? These were all issues that had been contentious conversations before the election. What would happen now?

We: those who voted for Hillary, those who voted third party and those who did not vote at all, are part of how this happened, as is the campaign and Hillary herself. Did we really believe no matter what happened that we had this election in the bag? Were we just too complacent to call out the behind the scene chicanery of ‘our’ party and the media? What if we protested then and not now?

I know that even if we did all we could, that the political machine is not a cool and witty steampunk contraption. It is a behemoth of gears of unrelenting disregard for those who do not oil it. We may still have had this outcome.


Thursday:

It was a blur of grasping for a normal moment; but normal is reshaping itself. It is throwing off our old expectations and behavior. That normal is chalk on the sidewalk outlining a body waiting for a forensic examination. This will be blown away by January’s snows. Don’t try to catch the glittery dust. There is no romance in those sparkles. My mantra for the day was, “We don’t need the SYFY channel. We are living it.”

Facebook was a flutter with condemnation, allegations and challenges of retribution. Some questioned if they should unfriend their friends who stood on the opposite side. Others tried to educate by posting endless articles and memes meant to show each other the way. Some tried to placate and reach out. Basically, Facebook used some funky mushrooms in its soup recipe post.

People look for comfort and explanation when bad things happen in order to cope. Posts and conversations began to talk about how Trump is our shadow figure and that this is a good thing to have happened so that now we can fix it. One article told me that Trump is really our spiritual teacher and that we can learn all about the darkness from him. Can you guess what my shadow wanted to do when I read that?

While there is some truth to this; to hear this now feels like an easy way to take the sting out of what happened through the guise of being ‘spiritual’(and I am part of that world).But I don’t want to take the sting out. I don’t want to risk losing the urgency to act. We need the sting.

The time will come when this shadow can be our guide to action, but we need to become stronger and unified first, or risk becoming passive because we are overwhelmed with the task. 


Friday:

In a need for some relief of growing fears I wondered “What would be in my swag bag from this new venue of the Un-United States?” The grips dissolved in my hands when I picked it up. Clearly, I didn’t have a handle on this thing yet.

But then there were the swastikas.  I remembered learning about Nazis as a child, and being afraid to go to the bathroom at night because I would see two Nazis there with guns.

The hatred and bigotry is not only pointed toward Jews, I know this; but because the Nazi Swastika is still the symbol used, as it has become a container for all hatred; I cannot help but feel the time when I was in third grade and had rocks thrown at me for being Jewish.

The darkness of generational pain and loss again stops my breath, but it also sharpens my eyes and makes my feet want to walk hard on the path to join in the fixing.

We cannot become quiet and still after the first spate of protests fade, and our everyday lives call us back. What is ahead is daunting. It is bigger than each of us. It has also happened before. We have to look at history and finally learn from it. I fear that if we do not do this, and do not work together in a committed, compassionate and smartly strategic way, we will become the country of our nightmares.


Friday Night-Shabbat

It is Friday night. The sun has set on the fourth day since the elections. Autumn night Shabbats are my solace. The early darkness of these weeks, that only last till the next solstice, is a precious time to me. It is richly lush with the scent of the shifting earth. There are still some leaves left to swirl in the winds and our gardens are putting themselves to ground to begin their new year of regeneration. 

This is a poignant image of what we need to do right now. We need to look deep into our own interior landscapes and then we need to look toward each other.

I remember lighting candles and singing with the friends with whom I am now at odds. Politics and religion are hard issues to clash over, and this election has brought them both out full force. I am not sure that the- we should just agree to disagree-solution will work this time.

The principled stance, despite the different ideas about what that is, has become a central pillar of discourse. The politic and the moral are deeply interwoven in the Trump/Pence platform. They see their politics growing out of their religious beliefs. Separation of their church and state does not exist in this world view that is rife with twisted and hateful declarations and plans to act on them.

“I long for the day that Roe v. Wade is sent to the ash heap of history,” said Pence. How can we respond to this? Action, not only words, must become the new response. Registering Muslims is the beginning of another holocaust, and not disavowing David Duke is agreeing with him.


I have friends who voted for this ticket because of its economic policies. They say they disagree with the misogyny, racism, xenophobic plans, denial of climate change, LGBTQ rights, voter suppression, etc. They do not see the disparity of this.  Those who are vehemently opposed to Trump/Pence do not see how they can miss it. This is where communications break down, and friendships find themselves in peril.

“When we judge others - we contribute to violence” - Marshall Rosenberg

Friday Night- Shabbat Mantra: “Before you taste anything, recite a blessing.” Rabbi Akiva


Saturday-Shabbat Morning:

It is Saturday, still Shabbat, and five days in and counting. The air is crisp and I feel fried. I have spent some time on Facebook posting and responding to other’s posts. I told myself that I would limit this because I didn’t want to get pulled into the whirlpool of call and response of the frustration, anger and pain. I needed a break and I wanted some solitary time to collect my own thoughts. I can take in just so much before I begin to lose my already off kilter center. And it is Shabbat, so why did I even turn on my computer?


Saturday-Shabbat Late Afternoon:

Words are difficult to reach now. The past days have lodged themselves in my body. As the sky begins to turn toward the evening, the end of Shabbat is coming. I usually feel filled with new energy for the incoming week, but I feel tired and heavy with concern and despair. When the body, mind and emotion are on overwhelm, the spirit steps back to make room for what the soul needs to process. The extra soul that we receive on Shabbat has not been a comfort to me because I can hardly feel it. My heart is wide eyed with pain and turmoil. I fight with myself to find my hope, the belief that we can make it through what is to come, and then, somehow, I feel a fragile smile of resolve.


Saturday night:

Hasn’t come yet. Can I presume I know what to assume? Not anymore.

But I do know that we cannot just crawl back into the cocoon of stillness. We need to fight that inclination and then fight the fight. Inaction is not acceptable.

Cry, if you are inclined, with tears of salt or howl with tears of primal tones. Let those tears roil into a sea of engagement. We need to move into the waves of action and wisdom.

I am afraid that the earth’s hands will let her fingers, that have been so entwined to hold us, dissolve and we will fall into the muddy abyss if we do not.











A Snow Bunny in Summer





As Summer begins to wane, but birds still beckon us outside with their flights of fancy through the sky, as the mountain that my inner snow bunny snow shoed up (well it was more like ‘upish’) winters ago….(you see where this is going?)

 

It's time for the girl from the city dark with soot to try her hand, or rather her feet, at a summertime sport:

 

It's time to climb the mountain on foot, sans snowshoes.


So Rabbit donned her hiking boots-(okay, so who am I kidding, I don't own hiking boots. I have a pair of sneakers that might be 10 years old)....whatever. So off Rabbit went to climb that there mountain.


          Snow Bunny Journal-Entry Two-"Hopping with Summer"

 

Upon awakening that morning, our Rabbit dejour demurred to the pull of summer madness and packed her bag for her foray up Wantastequet Mountain, or Rattlesnake Mountain, so named centuries ago. Rabbit had heard that the only snakes left there are the non-lethal ones, though since they were asleep during the winter she didn't see any of them when last there in the snow.

 

So into her bag went water, rabbit snacks, journal, pen, cell phone for its music and camera, not to call for assistance; although she did inform some other rabbits of her upcoming foray, earphones and a few sundries.


On her walk through town and across the bridge to the foot of the mountain, Rabbit met some other folk who were out and about enjoying their own summer play. As Rabbit had spent the winter and spring being sick and mostly isolated, a story for another chapter perhaps, she was also enjoying the many sandaled feet whose attendant arms waved ‘hello’ and ‘glad you are looking better.’

 

The mountain was lush though a little muddy, a little buggy-but let's pretend that is part of the charm! Walking through a forest, the scent of the earth is at its most relaxed. The wind sighed with the stretch of growth. This mountain is a bit steep and rocky, so until one is familiar with the terrain, the ground should always be kept in sight. And not wanting to be a damaged Rabbit that is just what she did. And a good thing because crossing her path was a snake! She looked at it and it looked at her, such as they could. It was quite a pretty thing really. They had a little chat and off they went, hoping that they would meet again.


A while up the path there was a hawk feather sunning itself on a rock. Quite alone without the rest of itself, the feather decided that a ride in an ear clip was as good as it was going to get. Hence, Rabbit gets adorned and the feather gets a better vantage point more suited to its nature. There was a dappling of other hikers along the way. All greeted each other in the most kind of manners.

 

Rabbit continued on her way. The sun flickered through the trees. The sound of singing water from the various waterfalls, waterfallettes really, quite cute with the sweetest tones that caught the light and sparkled like sprites, made her swoon.


Tromping and chomping along, Rabbit was having a nice look about when not even 15 feet in front of her she came face to snout with a bear. (No, I am NOT making this up!) Rabbit stood still and wondered what Jack Hanna would do. Oh yeah, who cares!


Bear made a slight nod to her as if to say that it was just looking for lunch. Rabbit smiled and introduced herself in as relaxed a manner as she could. “I must google do bears eat rabbits”, she thought. With just a vague smile of response to this, Bear thought better of it and replied with a , “Nice to meet you and have a nice day”, yet her eyes said,” Now go away”, but not in an overly rude way. So Rabbit spun herself around, ever so slowly, and walked back down a ways…very quietly. When she turned back to have a look, the bear was gone. She surmised Bear had headed off the trail down the ravine looking for berries…not bunnies.


Turning back toward her destination, Rabbit continued forth with a little lilt to her hop. She told three other hikers she met about it. They were highly skeptical. She being from the city, perhaps, they proposed that she had not seen a bear at all. It was probably just a big dog that was with 2 other hikers. "Give me a break", she thought.


They actually asked her if she knew what a bear looked like because they had never heard of a bear up here. She told them that she had been informed by a lifetime resident that bears have come back and that her family had one in their backyard and anyway, the bear was carrying a picnic basket, so yes, she knows what a bear looks like. That got the hikers quiet. She’s snow bunny’s fool, this Rabbit.

 

So off Rabbit went to climb the rest of the way. She reached the top and watched the hawks and geese fly. The sun was beginning its evening decent over the vista of river and endless mountains and the town below.


A little proud and a little surprised that she made it this far, Rabbit took one more look that turned into a battle with her camera’s panoramic setting, checked to make sure her hawk friend was still with her and turned to walk down toward home. She munched on her last bit of snack and thought of bed. A tired and recovering Rabbit had had a good day.

 




Frost in the Summer

or

A Simple Reflection on Groundworks’ Un-grounding at 39 Frost Street


Simply put: things happen. Funding does not come through, people have opinions and reactions and organizations have their stance that seems intractable. Parties become adversaries instead of partners. The lessons learned from this can spread a wide net, if we let it, if we tend to it.


When I first read about Groundworks opening the winter shelter on Frost Street, just houses down from where I live, I was excited. I was glad that there would continue be a place for those who need shelter. I was proud and looking forward to being a part of it. When the plan became expanded, I thought even better.


I wanted Groundworks to be able to establish their programs here. I saw a tremendous potential for the neighborhood and the wider community to create a model of health, service and inclusiveness, so that the broken hoop of our culture, that negates and disenfranchises so many, and creates class dichotomy, might begin to heal. A new paradigm was waiting to show itself. It would take immense energy and commitment, but it could happen. 


Soon other voices were heard. We are a neighborhood, a community, and as a member of this clan, I needed to listen because this project was not just about Groundworks; it was also about the people in whose midst it would live.


While there was consternation and trepidation surrounding the project for some neighbors (while I can’t say I didn’t share a few of these feelings, I was always clear I wanted this to work) and those in nearby recovery; I was willing, to become part of the solution with others and Groundworks to mitigate these considerations. I never thought it would be easy. It could make for a frosty summer indeed.


Groundworks holds its mission close. But while a mission is the masthead and vision spearhead; policy is what gives an organization’s mission its bones, and some of those bones were going to need to be adjusted. Whether it would be a large or small adjustment, I suppose, would depend on where you stood.


This was going to be tough. It was going to be harsh at times and compassionate at others. 


Simply put: this is how big issues run and I wanted to run with it. I wanted to believe it would work and that we would come to an agreement that would suit us all. I will miss my own vision and mission to restore and nurture growth and healing that I so wanted to share with Groundworks clients, staff, our neighborhood and wider community. I wanted to be part of creating this.


I believe in Groundworks’ mission. I believe those of us who have, should help those who don’t. Showing gratitude for what you have, and concern for those who do not by offering yourself; be it by direct client interaction, money or behind the scenes help, is true creation of community, heart and justice.


Groundworks’ client demographic is varied and complex.  Yes, there are some clients who have issues that might affect the wider community in negative ways; but so many of the individuals, the families who come for the shelter and other programs are, what is now, way too easily called ‘the working poor.’


They have jobs, they have homes, they have responsibilities that they fulfill brilliantly; but their hard work still does not afford them the ‘luxury’ of being able to buy the food they and their families need. They are stressed beyond their tether to balance, and so need support services as well.


Make no mistake: this could be any of us.

I am concerned for the people who will need shelter for the coming winter and hope a new location is found.

Simply put: Whether Groundworks find a new place or by chance comes back to 39 Frost, I will continue my run and invite you to join me.


Draped in Time




The trees begin to rustle. I change the ringtone on my phone to the Bewitched theme. Their leaves become brilliant with color. I get out the orange, purple and green bat mug. They crackle as they are tossed about by the autumn wind. The outside decorations sway their come hither dance in the October bluster.

The sun leaves earlier than many would like. The warmth has become illusive, although still shows itself in snippets. The last of the summer crops are foraged by hands still lustful for the past season.

But for others, this is the widening of the earth’s soul. It is a time of rising depth and deep inhalations of an expanse of spirit. The winds sing in the key of mysterium mundi. 


This is the short and shifting time of year that walks toward winter quickly. Transitions are powerful. They rearrange and set the stage for what is to come. They demand you go with their will, or you are be left on your own. This transition’s beauty is soul searing. The verdant scent of the leaves and plants as they begin to make their way inward toward the earth fills the air and dances with the smoke of newly awakened woodstoves. I love this rich and moist aroma. It coats my fingers and I feel it seep deep within my spirit. It takes me inside myself, just as it takes itself deep within the ground. It is lush with the changing of the season.

This is also the only time I am drawn to read the French Symbolist poets. How can one resist:

“Towards a sky softened by pure and pale October
That reflects its infinite languor in great formal pools
And deigns, on the stagnant water where the tawny agony…” Sigh by Stéphane Mallarmé  

You get the gist, oui?

This is the turning time, when for a few nights, the veil between the worlds is open. It reveals the other side so we can take a peek behind the curtain. When we hear flapping in the night that swooshes us out of safe sleep; is it a night critter on the forage, or is it this veil fretting for us to look to the beyond?

Okay, so what is Halloween, or for some of us Samhain, all about? Let’s get the easy answers out of the way. It is a commercialized day that puts nothing but pressure on kids and parents, much like Valentine’s Day. It is when nerds, apparently the new cool, get to become their sci-fi alter egos, or as they may say, to be ironic; although I think that is more of hipster stance. It is also when there are way too many ads for insulting costumes for women as sexualized whatevers and anythings.

I must say, as someone who adheres to the spiritual aspect of the day, All Souls Day- which is the reworked takeover of a holy day that was not going to be wrested from the heathen heart- makes me smile a tad. I just had a thought! How about a new restaurant called ‘The Heathen’s Heart’-food for the soul and the stomach.  It would be done up with lots of curtains that open to the various nether regions of the beyond-aka- eatery of mood environs; a sort of Dante’s Inferno, but with candy corn and a bit more fun, and velvet, lots of velvet. But I digress.


This is the spell of measure that offers a vantage point of the past, present and future within a shared point of time. It is a place to reflect and vision and to take honest stock of where you have been, where you are and where you want to go. Invite your ancestors and helping spirits, who may just be waiting by their cauldrons stirring their otherworldly chicken soup, to guide and inspire you. Don’t be shy. Velvet is soft and their hearts are warm.


Muse, reader, on this wind.

Muse, reader, on this time that holds the turning.

It can catch your soul as quickly as it can catch your eye.

And for crying out loud, let yourself eat some goodies.

Trick or Treat

and

Blessed Be to all.








A Penne for Your Thoughts



Oh great bowl of pasta that shines like a buttery heaven. It glistens with abandon. Little sparks of sunlight cheese roam about the grainy goodness to add some depth. This is the secret; a smattering of micro-planed hard cheese. Oh, the sheer fun of holding the wedge tempered to the room. Having lost its chill, it fits in her hand like it was carved by an angel. The cheese sings in soft timbre against the grater. The dulcet tone of tap, tap, tap. She gently pushes the last bits of tendrils that remain attached to the metal, like a chad, but much more holy. Her fingers, lovingly filled with anticipation, release their grip. The hard cheese floats softly down, deftly finding its place on the awaiting deliciousness.


Their tongues stand in anticipatory glee. They are on the precipice of joy. The scent of steamy sweet of flour, butter and cheese opens their hearts. Oh, the way it makes them feel; like all is well with the world. There is a unifying, cohesive awareness when you realize that many others, those of your cookery tribe, will intone the slurpy goodness as one.  All revel, in the taste gently cascading down their throats like sweet nectar of the gods as it swirls around their mouths. It is like dining with the deities.


Pasta is the flour of fun, the laughter of the soul. So many search deeply to experience this joy. How they shine with fullness as the cheese and butter fills them with inner spirited glow. This is the ultimate concern of roving moment. The immediacy and the everlasting become entwined. They meet and all rest in this cosmic unfoldment of truth and eternal harmony. Their spirits join in the great trinity of their hearts. Their souls are now on the path of completion. They inhale the luxuriant fragrance, like a holy rose, they rumi-nate on life. They are at their highest in themselves and group. How abundant is the world in all things-flour, even those without gluten. How it holds the sauce and nurtures it toward one’s feelings of satiety and sureness of glycemic footstep.


They become one with the breath of time. Oh, that glorious exhalation of the divine. This eatery of the repast they enter is one built of connection, joined commitment and path-work of the higher realms. This is not a place constrained by concrete and engineered plans. This is built this with intention, creativity and intuition.

Pasta flour sets the gastronomic table. But when it is dredged into suffocating form, the welcoming sheen of our dishes dull and tablecloths droop.


What true epicurean could like being boxed in rigid name and use? They tell you what to cook. They tell you how to cook it. They tell you with what you can eat it. They do not let you think. You are not allowed to create. Just follow the directions like it is the sacred writ of cookery: a doctrine of cartonology, if you will.  All are constrained and held back from true sensual delight. Their foodie spirits are squashed.  Enchantment and wonder cannot thrive because of obligation to strict adherence to the scribed words of recipe. They are a restraining package that directs the way to the pot and bowl like a blind horse that is pulled to water.

Angel hair in a box? Talk about a no fly zone.   Alphabet ‘noodles’ spell out “no escape”. What comes up in the spoon from the soupy lagoon is what you get to read. Ravioli is enclosed and has room for nothing else. It hides the truth of what is inside. It takes the unlit leap of faith to apprehend what it holds in its grip. Rotelle wheels turn but are burdened with the heft of the spokes of a doctrine hindered by false sense of savory correctness.


As so many others, those who follow this way, sit in the same chairs around the same table as those before them, and eons before them. Their experience is predetermined, just as will be their futurelings. Oh, how restricting and flat. To use the same methods meal after meal is death to the soul. How can one truly feel the joy of eating when you are bound by the twines of the dogma of nourishment? The toppings, sliced and rasped with graters annealed with the bound generations of hard cheese; that solid and indigestible food made from milk, canon that declares the only way.


So what is left for one to do? Is it best to gather ingredients with wild relish and abandon and to sing the glorious notes of savoring the unbound passion of pasta? Should one taste in pedantic chew after chew the ways that started it all? To adhere to the missives and memorandums of the ancestral gourmands, who perchance knew that flour, with its many possibilities, first has to be ground?

Or perhaps, it is best to remember that life is just a gas.



License to Frill



Welcome folks! Come on in! Don’t trip on the way down to our subterranean Cave of Narrative Notions. Careful now, don’t slip on something you didn’t see. Those can be the most obvious banana peels around. We hope you enjoy your time here.


Straight ahead is Heart Hollow. It has been said that our hearts are our centers. All radiates from this thumping thing that stirs through joy, sadness, awe and well, by anything else that passes its way.  While this ‘center’ concept might be up for debate these days; we choose to remain faithful to the classics, hence the placement. So come on in and smell the coffee or the flowers as they say. Yup, we offer you a richly aromatic rose or a ‘cuppa Joe’ for those who find heartwarming depth in the bean.


By a miracle of destiny and engineering, you can feel the gentle beat of said heart through the gilded and moss cushioned benches. Why not through the ground under your feet, you ask? It was considered, but really, it’s kind of creepy, and for anyone with a hint of a balance issue there would be much tilting and falling. It is hard enough to keep steady with all the pulsing and pulling we have inside of us already; not to mention the extra staff we would require to have about. This is to be a nurturing nook not an obstacle course.  So have a seat, or a lie down on the grass, and let the sway of the gentle wind that seems to always be there just when one needs it, massage your spirit and your figure, a dashing one at that, before we move on.


Gather round and look to your left. We will now enter the Maze of Memories. There is a basket of rose colored glasses at the entrance for those who feel the need, but most people prefer the cup of emotional solace cocoa-shot of bourbon optional- that we offer. This is a still place; a place of dusky, grey velvet sky. Leaves colored by the seasons alight upon your shoulder and soft, bring you a memory.


All the memories you have are here. How, you ask? Some call it magic from another realm and find themselves a little spooked. But for those of you in the ‘know’, you know that what some call magic is a natural capacity of the natural consciousness of everything from our thoughts, to, let’s say, a plant’s inclination to share their qualities of their spirits when we ask. You know…the ability to cast spells. And this is how we have created this maze. Everything in here, the plants, the stones that line the walkways, even the sky above has been worked with in tandem by our ‘designers’ to dip into your inner chasms and show you what you need to see. You do remember the disclaimer you signed, right? What a treat to re-see your favorite old toy or a day in high school that was actually not noxious with angst.


But what a heartache it can be when you see a loss or painful time leaning nonchalant in a corner of the maze. Some of these stay with us and move beside us even though we don’t know it. Your perceptions and reactions are colored by their hidden presence. This pain comes out in ways we often do not see. We invite you to let these memories go, only if you are ready to of course. Just breathe and we will do the rest. So take a last look as your memories slowly float upward and their earth colors meld with the embracing sky. When they can no longer be seen, let the maze show you to our next stop.


We are now at The Arch of Aesthetic Rights, more commonly called by visitors, ’Sometimes you simply must’, or named by one such grammarian who came by, ‘The Arch of Dangling Participles’. Sparkles and spectacles abound here. There is nary a spot that is left unadorned. The place abounds with glittered, collaged and painted leaves that hang by filaments of gold and silver.


What is this in your hand? What is that sticking out of your pocket? It seems that a leaf from the Maze of Memories has gone rogue and taken up residency on your person.  Go on now, look and see what memory you are holding.  Are you surprised or does your center become stilled by its truth?


Sometimes a memory breathes along with you. You are not finished with it and it lets you know. Its shadow turns toward you and you sense its mist in the corner of your eye. Your soul becomes ever so tremulous like a sea about to roil. Even though your mind understands what created that moment in your life, it continuous to be an apparition that hinders your heart. There are times that living entails showing yourself some compassion by shifting, or rather, adding another element to a memory so that its sting and pain can finally find quiet and peace.


Is this a false way of dealing with our lives? Is it dishonest? Maybe this is a self-saving stance of humility, not hubris, to know that in order to put something to rest you must offer it a guise of comfort.

And so like our grammarian, modify with aplomb, with beauty, with decorations of the deep whirling of ribbons. This is your story. You have a license to frill.


 

An

A-musing

Life


A column by

Nanci Bern




Inspired, amused and sometimes befuddled by the creatures we call ourselves, nature, the arts, the spirit and the mind, cosmic or otherwise; the columnist is ever in awe of the spectrum of life.

Whether her fingers are tapping out her latest column on the keyboard, or delivering relief through her healing work, eco-art therapy and social justice work, the columnist goal is to infuse and inspire your spirit with healing, humor and the thoughtfulness of natural inquiry.

Her essays, non-fiction and poems have been featured in various online journals and her poems have also been composed to, danced to and displayed.

Warning: don't be ambushed by her humor - it sneaks up on you in the middle of the night.

See more entries from this column

in the Archive here


www.in-sighthealing.com  website 


http://thecenafinlailluminations.com/  

literary blog


https://insighthealingdotcom.wordpress.com/  healing blog