Blurred by ice-then-snow-now, grass and tree and house and bay are rendered in the softest greys. Meteoric, a crow as black as space lands on a tailwind. Then another; black feathers plump and shudder off the snow. They strut like they own the place. Which today, they do.
Neighbors’ grand homestead, built out over decades of prosperity, has been surrendered to bankers, unmanageable. Dad became grandpa, then lost his memory one football story at a time.
So now, a ghostly hulk, their happy place is falling to ruin.
We had the world by the tail. We were invincible. We believed the tv gurus: you can have everything you want, if you focus clearly enough.
They didn’t tell us how inevitable the wind worries away the rock, and how an arc must eventually return to earth.
Let it snow, this cool balm, on the first days of spring. Breathe in the hush, let the softness dust your hair. It all happens right now. The house will disappear, and This will still be true.
When you lose a dog, you not only lose the animal that has been your friend, you also lose a connection to the person you have been.
I hit 62 this year- old enough to qualify for senior housing. I walk with a cane, slowly. I’m grateful when I can remember your name. And at each wave of aging, there’s a wash of nostalgia/regret for what used to be.
It’s hard on me, losing a pet. This year my bright spirit Charlee (above right) was suddenly killed by a passing car. Four years ago I lost my old black dog- she presided over an important and eventful 15 year slice of my life. At 44 I had so many options to work with. Now I feel doors closing, firmly closed, on chapters in my life. It’s sobering.
I still have my Young Dog, Lily (above left) At 11, she’s considered old now, her vision dimming. Can’t see the squirrels to chase anymore.
I’ll never be the globe-trotting artist I was when Seneca was young- not again. I’ll not careen around the city on my bike. I’m most likely past my last great romance, and glad for the lack of emo drama.
My Wiccan priestess would challenge me: “look for your unfolding challenges! The crone has plenty of important things to learn.”
Okay. Perhaps it’s just year-end blues, all this looking back with poignant feeling. And the cold and darkness that Winter brings. Let’s light a lantern and look ahead.
The simple sentences from these grieving parents touched me like poems. From The Daily 360° from nytimes.com
I’ve had a lot of problems
on the water and the land.
I recently lost my daughters…
I used to think only of fish when I came out here.
Now I see my daughter’s faces in the water.
This beach is my home.
I leave my problems in the sea.
I watch my husband fish
and we support each other to leave everything behind.
I focus on my work and it relaxes me.
I’ll never leave this beach
because I forget about my problems here.
I live for the water
and I try to move forward.
There is no other way.
I wish this awesome girl hero had come along when I was even younger- but even in college years she was inspiring. When did we ever see such a kick ass heroine in space? Leia opened the door for Ellen Ripley of Aliens, Captain Janeway, even Buffy.
[BREAKING NEWS: DEBBIE REYNOLDS DIES, 1 DAY AFTER HER DAUGHTER. LINK]
When Carrie Fisher wrote Postcards from the Edge, I was really surprised. She was so amazingly candid for movie royalty. When she came out as manic depressive, I was thrilled. Maybe we could finally talk about it like any other illness. May you can be brilliant, creative and flawed. Even crazy. And it’s okay.
When I saw The Force Awakens, the reunion of Leia and Han was a kick in the heart – a good one, but full of real life angst. No fairytale romance for them -clearly they gave it a go, but grew apart. Years of gritty revolution took it’s toll, of course they’re battle weary.
Thank you, Carrie
For the inspiration, for the laughs, and most of all for permission to tell it like it is.
Some words of wisdom from Carrie Fisher
“I feel I’m very sane about how crazy I am.”
“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. ”
“There is no point at which you can say, ‘Well, I’m successful now. I might as well take a nap.”
Since the election on November 8 I have started and bailed on 4 posts, unable to wrap my head/thoughts/words around the election of the 45th president. I’m going to do my best to weave those aborted essays into something coherent, so I can move on. Here’s Part 1. The verse is from a poem by William E. Stafford
How I Became a Liberal
If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.
Alas, I am one of those out-of-touch ‘elites’ who, despite my rust-belt roots and my current bank balance, delights in a healthy planet, education, real science, and a sensitivity to and celebration of other cultures. How did I become so solidly Blue?
Maybe it’s because,of this: in 7th grade Civics our teacher used the presidential election to get 35 moody 13 year olds excited about politics. We had to join a campaign team – either Republican Richard Nixon or Democrat Hubert Humphrey.
I was born into a family that voted Republican. We were part of Detroit’s white flight to the suburbs, landing in a WASP suburb famous for redlining. Black folk were domestic workers and I never met any Jews until I went to college.
In that very white, very Republican Michigan suburb, every kid in the class wanted to work for Nixon. That’s who our parents talked about as the good guy. I got stuck on the Humphrey team. As our classroom campaigns rolled along we became engrossed in the real Presidential race. I worked hard to get Hubert elected, most of it falling on deaf ears. I remember my disappointment when he lost.
This was also formative: Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In was a revelation. Here were people that felt my tribe. Before long I was itching to join anti war protests and fighting with my dad. He threatened to vote for segregation candidate George Wallace that year.
Sometimes one piece of art stops me in my tracks with it’s inescapable beauty and truth.
Pixar, the studio that brought us Toy Story, Up!, Finding Nemo and so much more, has released a new short that’s a luminous paean to memory, grief and love.
“Borrowed Time” is an animated short film, directed by Andrew Coats & Lou Hamou-Lhadj, and produced by Amanda Deering Jones.
The music was written & performed by Gustavo Santaolalla, composer of The Motorcycle Diaries, Biutiful, and The Last of Us and Best Original Score Academy Award winner for Brokeback Mountain and Babel.
“A weathered Sheriff returns to the remains of an accident he has spent a lifetime trying to forget. With each step forward, the memories come flooding back. Faced with his mistake once again, he must find the strength to carry on.”
How do we learn to live with people who aren’t like us?
Mahzarin Benaji researches unconscious bias at Harvard. She discussed her fascinating and important research this week on the podcast On Being.
Dr. Benaji uses the word “implicit” instead of “unconscious,” because of
“the implication that the unconscious is this incredibly motivated, smart process that is constantly trying to do things that are in my interest and shove away the deep dark secrets of my childhood that I don’t wish to remember. And the science has not produced good evidence for that.”
“‘Are you the good person you yourself want to be?’ And the answer to that is no, you’re not. And that’s just a fact. And we need to deal with that if we want to be on the path of self-improvement.”
Who is ‘Other’?
According to Dr. Benaji’s findings, distrusting the ‘other’ has provided, until recently, an evolutionary advantage: discernment about who to embrace into one’s community was a useful filter in an agrarian culture.
But in today’s global world, this inner program doesn’t serve us when we are, for instance, hiring someone, or choosing the best candidate for a program. Someone who looks and speaks in strange-to-us ways is quite often the best choice. Yet those who haven’t experienced multiple cultures in a community like a university, urban life or the workplace still operate from this ancient, implicit view. This might explain some of the Trump phenomenon.
Apparently without direct experience of ‘others.’ we are not inclined to consider their humanness. In the wake of the horrifying Orlando shooting, teaching tolerance is clearly an urgent need.
Instead of the word tolerance Dr. Benaji prefers the word understanding. Understand comes from Old English and is literally stand, read as viewpoint, and under meaning beneath or unconscious.
You are the Unreliable Narrator!
For an example of how unreliable our automatic perception can be, have a look at the Selective Attention Test video. If you haven’t already, watch the vid and follow the instructions carefully.
Are you willing to challenge your automatic assumptions?
“You have to not-turn to anger, not-turn to resentment.”
That advice comes from a man who spent 26 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, to kids who find themselves entangled in the juvenile justice system. He’s helping them know themselves through writing, and to learn to manage their chaotic lives and hopefully survive the system.
I was intrigued by his negative verb: ‘not-turn.’
What is the parallel positive equivalent? My friend pointed out that ‘not-go’ is really ‘stay.’ But stay where?
I think when we’re anxious or angry or stressed, the place we seem to be in isn;t a good one. And we don’t necessarily wake up to what’s happening until we’re already reacting. If we wake up at all.
So where is it we’re supposed to stay? That’s where the mindfulness comes in. In my own story, it has taken me many years to become aware of the vicious self criticism that undermined my sanity. It operated without my awareness, defeating my confidence at every turn. I looked in the mirror and I looked terrible. I created something and it was pathetic. I offered myself to people and awaited harsh criticism, because that’s what I lived with all the time, inside my head.
Clearly I couldn’t ‘stay’ there!
I’ve finally learned, imperfectly, to ‘not-turn’ on myself, ‘not-turn’ to the excoriating self-talk. In order to do this, I had to learn go back to before it was activated, so I could halt the process before it got underway. Which was tricky when I believed that self-critical voice to be a true part of me. That voice seemed so real when I began this quest. Which is why it was so difficult to gain control over.
I am Not My Thoughts
Through meditation, particularly mindfulness techniques and body centered methods, I learned to be with myself in a way that allowed me to observe the self-talk arising. It’s a process of recognizing a mind pattern and realizing that it’s ‘not-me.’
In celebration of Dr. King’s holiday, I want to honor the Rev. Delores M. Roberts-Mason, who dedicated her life to “the least, the last and the lost,” empowering children through reading, performing arts, education and religion.
Mrs. Roberts-Mason was a natural at empowerment. She pursued her first degree while her two children were young, and took them with her to campus on weekends. “I want them to assume they belong in university,” she told me.
The list of Delores’ accomplishments is long. during her 30 years with DC DHS she touched many lives, uplifting, educating, encouraging and empowering families who had fallen on hard times. Her testimony before the House and Senate Select Committee on Aging in 1989 was helped pass legislation protecting seniors. Howard University honored her as an Outstanding Woman of Washington for her work with young people.
When I met Delores in 2004, she was the head of Zoe Life Ministries, a faith-based youth empowerment organization that ran reading, performing arts and non-violence programs with area kids.
Armed with only volunteers, Rev. Delores and the Zoe Kids & Teens Theater Group wrote, produced and performed numerous musicals including Day of Reckoning, Heart of an Angel,Why and more. The typical production took 2 years from script to performance. Dedicated volunteers worked with the kids on dance, acting and music. But it was Rev. Delores who recruited, wrote, rallied and wrangled the entire magnificent enterprise into being.
The Teen Peace Summit was a special school day dedicated to violence prevention held at Walker Mill Middle School in Capital Heights, MD. Tapping her extensive network of professionals in many fields for leaders, Rev. Delores created a dozen or more break-out sessions with topics like Conflict Resolution, How to Say NO, Seeing One Another through Art, and more on the morning of this special day. The afternoon saw awards presented to students for accomplishments in writing, speaking and art.
Rev. Delores had many gifts, but perhaps the most important was the ability to help people open up and share the best part of themselves. She touched many lives in her work, certainly my own. I believe she had the heart of an angel.
On November 10, 1975, a wild winter storm was welcome incentive to stay indoors and study. A friend called me the next day to tell me his boat had sunk. We shared our memories of that crummy little boat. Then I told him about the sinking of the Fitgerald and we fell silent, the phone line crackling the way digital lines do not.
I grew up in a family obsessed with marine history in general, and Great Lakes shipping in particular. No wonder; these enormous iron ships passed our home day and night, sun and fog, most months of the year.
Nearly silent, the behemoths carried iron ore, limestone, coal, and grain. Unlike ocean-going ships (that we called ‘Salties’) these freighters were long, low lying, with pilot house fore and crew quarters, engines and tall smoke stack aft. The length of the ship held hatches filled with bulk cargo, usually iron ore or something used in the processing of it.
Living on a river with ship traffic leaves an indelible imprint on your imagination. The world sails by your door every day. The Norwegian flag, Russian sailors, the Queen’s yacht, Canadian ice breakers, Japanese cargo ships, and iron ore: day and night the red earth that became the cars, trucks, girders, refrigerators, screw drivers and kitchen sinks of our modern lives were moving past my door.
If there was one freighter that everyone loved, it was the Edmund Fitzgerald. Why? She was friendly! The Edmund F. would salute you with a long-two shorts whistle if you waved at them or whenever they passed the San Souci Bar, the pinacle of cultural life on the Island. Most ships were business-as-usual, but you could count on a ‘hello!’ from the Fitzgerald, every time.