Sunday, June 26, 2016

Running to the Hills With Poetry



I am a product of long corridors, empty sunlit rooms upstairs, indoor silences, attics explored in solitude, distant noises of gurgling cisterns and pipes, and the noise of wind under the tiles. Also, of endless books.

C.S. Lewis

Friday, June 24, 2016

Stemming the Tide With Lapins

Channel Islands, Pacific Ocean, Planet Earth

to Moye



I don't know about ya'll, but there's a distinct panic in the air this morning. Out here on the edge of the continent, it's a combination of the goings-on in England (how quickly new words like Brexit appear), Drumpf's latest grotesque shenanigans, the fires raging in Kern County, the rumblings about The Big One striking Los Angeles and causing widespread catastrophe, and the fact that it's nearly impossible with the 24/7 news cycle not to be aware, however inadequately, of all the world's troubles. Oh, and the irony of blogging is not lost on me.

This morning I lay in bed stemming panic about everything in general and some things in particular. I tried to be mindful of this -- the prick of tears, the roiling in the stomach, the paradox of feeling both charged and anxious and paralyzed. Sometimes it takes literal will to gain perspective, a sort of coaxing now, now, come on, come on. I thought of the tide and how it creeps up on the shore, creeps up and retreats, creeps up a tiny bit more and retreats, again and again and so on. That's what it felt like this morning, my bed a boat, the usual boat, the rocking and drifting but the tide was pushing me in not letting me out. I felt like I might be swallowed.

I remember seeing an old black and white Super-8 movie that my father took in the sixties. I was not even five years old, we were at the beach -- somewhere on Long Island -- and I had on only the bottoms of a bikini, my small, thin body brown as a nut. I was skipping into and out of the tide as it moved in and out, and I don't know if it was the combination of the silence broken only by the tick of the film advancing and my innocent joy, or the wonder that something as ephemeral as childhood could be captured forever, but I was mesmerized and moved by the intimacy of my dancing with the tide. I am struck by that memory today and by how I seem to have lost that ability to dance or, at least, the ability to do it so easily.

If you read The Writer's Almanac, you might have seen the wonderful yet freaky story of today being the anniversary of an outbreak of dancing plague or dancing mania that first appeared in Aachen, Germany in 1374. Known as St. Vitus' Dance, it spread across the European continent, and people danced for days and even months in a sort of mass hysteria to, for some, their literal deaths. Good Lord. I've known about St. Vitus Dance for many years because epileptics were sometimes diagnosed with it, but I can't help today to wonder if we're all involved in something similar. We need a visit to the Bunny Planet, my brilliant friend Moye texted me this morning, referring to a sweet book by Rosemary Wells that we read to our children when they were little. In the story, after a particularly bad day where everything is going wrong, a young rabbit girl gets a visit from the Bunny Queen.

Far beyond the moon and stars, Twenty light-years south of Mars, 
Spins the gentle Bunny Planet 
And the Bunny Queen is Janet.
"Here's the day that should have been"

and so on to the happy ending of sun-warmed summer tomato soup and love, always love.

I know this post is going on, and you're probably wondering what the hell I'm talking about, but Moye sent this text to me next which we both agreed was an act of stunning synchronicity:

It is the first duty of a flagging spirit to see renewal in the latitudes of whimsy. I, for one, dream on beyond the five planets to a world without wickedness; verdant, mild, and populated by amiable lapins."
Benjamin Franklin, letter to his nephew, 1771.

 In case some of you don't know, lapin is the French word for rabbit or bunnies.

So there you go -- my willful stemming the tide of panic.

Now, now, come on, come on.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

I Put A Spell On You




I put a spell on you because you're mine.

Screamin Jay in the car and I'm thousands of miles away in my mind, a movie theatre, black and white film, the Hungarian girl and the man with the huge nose, the back of their car, someplace embedded in snow and then light or was it the other way around? This song. Nina Simone then in my mind. Both of you in my mind and I'm back in my car and up ahead something glitters. A flash of light that makes me blink, look away, blink and open and in that space it's an angel's wings on the back of a truck and the light bends as the truck moves (is it a movie shoot?) but it's only (only?) the sun glinting off a rake in the back of a gardener's truck. Stranger Than Paradise. Everything is all (only?) in your mind.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Thoughts Are Clouds




Pema Chodron said You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather.

I'm thinking about that today as I navigate dramas of various sorts.






Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Love It Or Leave It



Remember that saying? I think it's what the conservatives said to the protesters in the sixties. Not a day goes by that I don't think about where I'd like to move if I could move. I don't know why I don't have a strong sense of "country," or even a modicum of patriotism. I consider myself blessed to have been born here to a life of relative privilege and am grateful for how my parents brought me up, but I don't think of America as the greatest country on earth nor am I grateful for my country in the abstract.  The older I get, the less inclined I am to feeling proud of being American, given that I can sometimes only summon up the observation that we (so far) can go to the polls and vote and not get shot. Lately I'm just sort of overwhelmed by what's going on with the gun control clusterf*^k, the Drumpf thing, the fact that each summer gets hotter (it was 108 degrees in my driveway yesterday) yet people I know are climate change deniers, that the treatment for infantile spasms is roughly the same in 2016 as it was in 1995 yet millions of dollars have been spent for research, and that I don't have anything in particular for Sophie to do this summer, the 22nd of her life.

Let's talk about that last thing first. The LAUSD messed up as per usual and didn't assign an aide who knows Sophie to accompany her to summer school. When I made a modest stink about it during the last week of school, I got the runaround with the usual requests for me to speak to Downtown. For those of you living in the hinterlands, Downtown is where The LAUSD headquarters are, and I imagine it to be a box similar to the one in Oz where one ridiculous man stands behind a curtain and fiddles with a bunch of knobs. I did attempt to reach Downtown but never got a call back, and repeated requests for Sophie's school's Special Education Office to help me only resulted in the advice to call Downtown or to accept the fact that we are not required to supply an aide that knows Sophie. 

Today I got a notice in the mail letting me know that if Sophie doesn't show up at her assigned Summer School Location next Monday, she will be withdrawn from the system.

Cue Mrs. Braddock's screaming laugher.

Reader, I've folded.

I've given up.

I realize that asking for the obvious from The Man Behind the Curtain was a fool's errand. Yes, I could have packed a proverbial pistol and fought The Man with my silver tongue, but I'm plumb sick of fighting for mediocrity. Sophie's home this summer, and you should know that for young adults like her with severe developmental disabilities, there are few programs and not much to do. I'm not saying or even thinking that we're somehow entitled to programs. I'm just stating the facts. This is what life for the severely developmentally disabled young adult looks like in Amerika. The programs that do exist are often very expensive. I did sign Sophie up for one day a week of what looks to be a terrific summer camp, but the daily rate is about a million dollars, so I'm going to have to get creative for the rest of week. Saint Mirtha will be coming to help entertain and take care of Sophie, and damn, I'm grateful to have the means to pay her.  I'm grateful for everything I have because I know that many people don't have even a third of what I do, yet they keep on keeping on. We'll keep on keeping on, too. That picture up there is Sophie trying out the swing in the gym where the camp is going to be.

I started this tedious post by kvetching about moving from the country, how not a day goes by that I don't have some sort of fantasy of packing it all in and heading to Costa Rica or an adapted watchtower in one of the Canadian national parks or a hut somewhere in Mexico. I'll bring one pair of jeans, one bathing suit, a couple of black tee-shirts, a few bare dresses and maybe some panties and a bra but not much else. Does anyone want to join me?

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Interior


If I never felt these extraordinarily pervasive strains — of unrest or rest or happiness or discomfort — I should float down into acquiescence. Here is something to fight; and when I wake early I say to myself Fight, fight. If I could catch the feeling, I would; the feeling of the singing of the real world, as one is driven by loneliness and silence from the habitable world… Anything is possible. And this curious steed, life, is genuine. Does any of this convey what I want to say? But I have not really laid hands on the emptiness after all.

Virginia Woolf

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Love is a Verb

Blue Grosbeak, Malibu Creek Post


Love is a verb – it wants to be active. It wants to be witnessed, felt, demonstrated, shared, flung and sung from treetops and from the bottom of our toes. Love does not want to be subordinate to grief and hurt – it wants to be part of it, it wants to be known as the cause of it. Love is longing to be woven into the entire emotional fabric of our lives – winding and revealing itself alongside every thread that is not love. This big, messy, beautiful tapestry is the truth.
Kristi Nelson, from Heroic Hearts: Love in the Face of Despair 


I imagine we're all sort of still shattered by what happened in Orlando and what's happening -- well -- everywhere in this country. I'm in more of a daze than I generally live in, and while I've work to do, children to attend and a myriad of insignificant problems, I feel weighed down and not sure of how to go about lightening up. My usual sense of humor feels dampened. I'm restless and distracted. I'm not often like this, in fact am rarely so, but I'm thinking some kind of extended meditation is in order. Going in and breathing out. Tonglen meditation is a Buddhist practice roughly translated as "giving and receiving." It's about breathing in suffering and breathing out compassion. When Sophie was a little baby and suffering from the side effects of the drugs we were giving her, she'd scream nearly constantly. Some days I'd put her in the middle of the big bed and get into the shower, turn on the water, crouch down on the floor and let the water beat on my back, the sound of it drowning out her screams. Then I read a little book by Thich Nhat Hanh whose title I can't recall in this moment, and I learned a mantra that I repeated to myself, over and over, as I held Sophie while she screamed. I didn't need the shower, nor to take a break. Breathing in I calm myself, breathing out I smile. Breathing in I calm myself, breathing out I smile. I didn't know it then, but that mantra and those breaths were a sort of Tonglen meditation, and they have saved me over the years, over and over again. But this isn't about me. It's about all of us. It's about breathing in to calm ourselves and then breathing out love to others. Maybe that's all we can do right now. Breathe in calm, breathe out compassion. Love out loud.


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Muscle Memory






Today is an anniversary of sorts, albeit a painful one. On this day, twenty-one years ago, Sophie was admitted to New York Hospital on York Avenue after being diagnosed with infantile spasms. Those who've read my e-book might remember that I was given the diagnosis while sitting in a gray folding chair in an emergency room. I was holding Sophie. The two young residents were holding clipboards. Their voices came from the end of a long tunnel, and I stood up, raised my voice and said what are you talking about? I remember them backing out of the room when I told them to leave, and then I remember being admitted to a room at the hospital that was straight out of a Dickens novel: six or eight metal cribs with babies and toddlers inside, some alone. Sophie's crib was by a window that looked out onto a shaft. The panes were coated in dust from the 19th century when the hospital was built. A cheerful nurse brought an orange into the room and some hypodermic needles. We practiced shooting the needle into the orange and then pulling it back out to make sure we hadn't hit a vein. The drug needed to go into the muscle. The drug was a powerful steroid given in a very high dose. The skin of the orange was thick and puckered and the needle slid right in. Sophie had been on the planet for three months, and the skin on her legs was so soft. Do babies have muscles? We stayed in the hospital for one week during which the baby's appetite grew so grotesque, my breasts couldn't keep up. Don't worry, a young doctor said to me as I pressed my face against the dirty window and wept. Breastfeeding isn't everything. We went home to our little apartment on the fourth floor of a walk-up on the Upper West Side. We continued to give her the shots, twice a day. Her face blew up like a moon, her eyes slits in puffs of pale, the white pustules of thrush around her lips and bottom. She screamed 22 hours out of 24, so we walked with her. Up and down, up and down, up and down the little balcony off the bedroom, the roof-top water towers marking the sky. She continued to seize. I wasn't going to mark this day, but why not? Muscle has memory even after twenty-one years. I have practiced and never hit a vein.

Disarm

Channel Islands, California


My wife has been killed by a machine which should never have come into the hands of any human being. It is called a firearm. It makes the blackest of all human wishes come true at once, at a distance: that something die.

There is evil for you.

We cannot get rid of mankind's fleetingly wicked wishes. We can get rid of the machines that make them come true.

I give you a holy word:
DISARM.


Kurt Vonnegut, Deadeye Dick

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Principles of Non-Violence

Militarism – war, imperialism, domestic violence, rape, terrorism, human trafficking, media violence, drugs, child abuse, violent crime…
 “A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war- ‘This way of settling differences is not just.’ This way of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
from  Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; Boston: Beacon Press, 1967


I had a post planned about my wonderful weekend. I took a boat from Ventura to one of the Channel Islands. I took some amazing photos of wildlife -- whales and dolphins, birds and sea lions. I walked uphill for miles and looked down on the Pacific. I had a magical encounter with a friend and an Island Fox. Honestly, it was one of the most beautiful days I've ever had. I promise to post some of those photos and do some writing about it soon.

But then there's Orlando. I posted a provocative thing on Facebook in an inane attempt to weed out my "friends" -- namely anyone who espouses the use of guns as protection or a "right." I'm sick of the fuckery of gun violence and the same old gobbledy-gook about liberty and one's "right" to protect oneself and one's children from harm. I am not afraid and refuse to believe that owning a gun -- any kind of gun -- in order to protect myself or my children is my right. I have absolutely no desire or feel any fear or need to do so. I took the post down mainly because one of my relatives let loose and spewed a whole lot of hatred and racism, and it just about made me sick that I might have provoked it.

In any case, I'm hunkering down and re-familiarizing myself with the principles of non-violence because I believe the contemplation and practice of them might be the only way to live. I'm not talking about breath here, but life. Living. Loving. I do understand that MLK had quite backward views of homosexuality, and those backward views do disturb me. I can only hope that he might have come to a more enlightened and educated view had he lived longer. His principles for dealing with conflict are sound, though, and they are dynamic and ongoing.

I've copied and pasted the following from The King Center website.  I send all my love to those affected by the violence in Orlando, particularly to those in the LGBTQ community who suffer at the hands of violent people in thought and deed every single day.



SIX PRINCIPLES OF NONVIOLENCE
Fundamental tenets of Dr. King’s philosophy of nonviolence described in his first book, Stride Toward Freedom. The six principles include:
  1. PRINCIPLE ONE: Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.
    It is active nonviolent resistance to evil. 
    It is aggressive spiritually, mentally and emotionally.  
  2. PRINCIPLE TWO: Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding.
    The end result of nonviolence is redemption and reconciliation. 
    The purpose of nonviolence is the creation of the Beloved Community.                                                                                                        
  3. PRINCIPLE THREE: Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice not people.
    Nonviolence recognizes that evildoers are also victims and are not evil people. 
    The nonviolent resister seeks to defeat evil not people.
  4. PRINCIPLE FOUR: Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform.
    Nonviolence accepts suffering without retaliation. 
    Unearned suffering is redemptive and has tremendous educational and transforming possibilities.    
  5. PRINCIPLE FIVE: Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate.
    Nonviolence resists violence of the spirit as well as the body.           
    Nonviolent love is spontaneous, unmotivated, unselfish and creative.  
  6. PRINCIPLE SIX: Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice.
    The nonviolent resister has deep faith that justice will eventually win. 
    Nonviolence believes that God is a God of justice.    
___________________ 


We've got a hell of a lot to do.  Here is some guidance:

SIX STEPS OF NONVIOLENT SOCIAL CHANGE
The Six Steps for Nonviolent Social Change are based on Dr. King's nonviolent campaigns and teachings that emphasize love in action. Dr. King's philosophy of nonviolence, as reviewed in the Six Principles of Nonviolence, guide these steps for social and interpersonal change.
  1. INFORMATION GATHERING:To understand and articulate an issue, problem or injustice facing a person, community, or institution you must do research. You must investigate and gather all vital information from all sides of the argument or issue so as to increase your understanding of the problem. You must become an expert on your opponent's position. 
  2. EDUCATION:It is essential to inform others, including your opposition, about your issue. This minimizes misunderstandings and gains you support and sympathy. 
  3. PERSONAL COMMITMENT:Daily check and affirm your faith in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence. Eliminate hidden motives and prepare yourself to accept suffering, if necessary, in your work for justice.
  4. DISCUSSION/NEGOTIATION:Using grace, humor and intelligence, confront the other party with a list of injustices and a plan for addressing and resolving these injustices. Look for what is positive in every action and statement the opposition makes. Do not seek to humiliate the opponent but to call forth the good in the opponent. 
  5. DIRECT ACTION: These are actions taken when the opponent is unwilling to enter into, or remain in, discussion/negotiation. These actions impose a "creative tension" into the conflict, supplying moral pressure on your opponent to work with you in resolving the injustice. 
  6. RECONCILIATION:Nonviolence seeks friendship and understanding with the opponent. Nonviolence does not seek to defeat the opponent. Nonviolence is directed against evil systems, forces, oppressive policies, unjust acts, but not against persons. Through reasoned compromise, both sides resolve the injustice with a plan of action. Each act of reconciliation is one step close to the 'Beloved Community.' 
Based on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail" in Why We Can't Wait, Penguin Books, 1963.

Friday, June 10, 2016

What Wings Sound Like

Fra Angelico: The Annunciation
Florence, Italy


I have always wondered whether Mary heard Gabriel's wings when he landed in the courtyard and what sort of sound they made. Was it a rustle belying sinew and skin pulled tight over cartilage and bone until he landed, a skid and thud? Blue-bled at the tips, fading inward. She drew back, then, afraid. Or did they whisper like the drapes pulled out of marble by some sculptor insistent on revelation?  She leaned forward, then, resigned.

The hedge outside my bedroom is full of nests. I have never noticed just how many birds live among us. I am drawn to the nubs that emerge from human backs, wings not yet pointed with only a suggestion of flight.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

WHOOOOOOO?


My Owl


And sometimes as much as we want to walk as far left as we can, we have to remember that some left is better than completely insane right. 
Mary Moon, from A Good Walk on a Pretty Day 

I wasn't much in the mood to vote the other day. I actually feel strangely (for me) dissociated from all political goings-on and certainly didn't much care whether Sanders or Clinton won the primary. I have felt much as my friend Andrew McElfresh's clever meme says:
Created by Andy McElfresh


I guess Bernie's "fuck you" to big money and his socialism probably most closely align with my values, but I'm okay with Hillary getting the big job and am not a little moved by the historic first woman president thing. Overall, though, I feel preoccupied by other stuff, and I guess that's okay, too. I have a 35th high school reunion coming up in the fall, and while I'm unable to make it back to Atlanta and feel disappointed about it, I'm also sort of relieved. I'm on this Facebook thread right now that is the first in what I imagine will be many to organize the event, and it led me to poke around a bit and read some of my former classmates Facebook pages. Mixed in there are some people who I will just say are mighty conservative, and their posts -- specifically about Trump and their support/admiration of/for him -- with enthusiastic comments from their friends -- made me nauseous. That anyone I grew up with, went to school with, chatted with, danced with, cheered with, sat next to or even liked can possibly support Trump as a human being and POTUS is just as unpalatable to me, I'm sure, as my views are to them, so it's probably a good idea to avoid any gatherings where there might be more than the usual numbers of Trump supporters than one might find in, say, Los Angeles.

Anyhoo.

I wish I could be wise like my totem animal up there whose head can swivel any which way, but I'm human and lean turn fall walk run to the left quite naturally. I was leaning toward Sanders because -- let's face it -- I'm a democratic socialist, but I'm all in for Clinton, now. I started this post with a quote from the inimitable Mary Moon whose post on the subject was just about perfect. You can read the rest of it here.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

World Ocean Day

Beach in Izu by Hiroshiga

I think it's World Ocean Day.  I intend to bring Sophie to the ocean more this summer, especially given the fact that the LAUSD has overdone its usual clusterf*^kery and failed to assign her aide for summer school. I'm so incensed by it that I've decided to not send her to summer school after all.  I say incensed but I'm more of a slow burn. Let's face it. Fighting for this is fighting for mediocrity. My capitulation is borne of weariness and resignation but it's got a spark of I don't give a f*^k, too. Sorry for the profanity, but a well-placed IDGAF is healing.  I don't know if it's the benign vertigo, the twenty two years or the dragon's tail that I drag behind me, but I'm not up for the fight. I'm not up for any fights these days which is probably a good thing. Oh, I'm up for fighting for our oceans and expressing gratitude for their great blue expanse. The other day someone posted a Mary Oliver poem about the ocean that I'd never read. Who says that poetry is boring? Here it is, all sexy and dreamy:



From House of Light,
Beacon Press, © 1990.
photos - l: angela russo / r: marisa chrystene


Monday, June 6, 2016

Another Crow Post



I had to pick up Sophie from school early today to take her to the quarterly appointment with The Neurologist. The appointment is just for drill because we all know that when you're two decades in, there's nothing new under the sun. The crows were strutting around the parking lot of Sophie's high school, spewing their mess at me. Crows do not, they do not, like me. I don't like them. They are too large too black too loud too vulgar. They throw nuts on the ground from the tops of trees to crack them open. I think of brains dashed to pieces, their insides spinning. They hop on their crow legs across the road even as my car inches forward. Get over here, I think, and look me in the eye. For all I know they keep the world spinning. Sophie's pants were wet when I stood her up out of the wheelchair, and her wheelchair cushion was too. I sighed as crows screamed. I learned this morning that the LAUSD has not assigned Sophie to a summer school class. I screamed as crows hopped. While it's an imperative in her IEP, it's even more imperative that I not have her home all day every day for two months. This imperative makes me feel if not guilty than less than, not good enough. And please don't assure me otherwise. Crows are incredibly intelligent yet I wish I had a shotgun to pick them off, one by one, starting with the murder that sits in the pine tree outside my bedroom door. That should give you an idea of my less than not good enough. Sophie moaned in the car all the way to The Neurologist even as Bob Marley shot the sheriff and wailed of dreads and weed. Why are you moaning? I thought. Dreads and weed. I had my I'm never enough it's never enough how can it ever be enough thoughts. Sophie threw her right leg out from the backseat and hit my elbow, zinging the nerve. She's had no seizures. She is well. I pulled right into a handicapped parking space at the hospital. It wasn't raining like the last time so I didn't cry. We sat for only a few minutes under the Conquest sign where all the rich donors have their names enshrined (thank you, rich donors) and were called inside. The nurse asked no dumb questions and used the old-fashioned blood pressure thingy when I told her that it worked best. The Neurologist was pleased. We threw around the possibility of taking another bit off the Vimpat or the Onfi, but I said no. I don't really want to rock the boat or murder a murder. I feel feeble right now. I told The Neurologist about my dizzy spells, how when I lie down the room spins, the inside of my head churns and the world tilts. I didn't tell her that I'd looked up my symptoms on the interwebs, had ruled out stroke and ruled in benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. She suggested that I had benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. There's a crystal that's become unlodged and it's floating around inside my ear and tricking my brain. I'd think it was cool if I wasn't so unmoored. I don't need to rock the boat. The Neurologist confirmed the Epley maneuver treatment for it or just throw yourself on your bed on your side, she said. I love that. I'm thinking of crows, how they dash those nuts to the ground, shatter the shells and pick out the meat.

This is my message to you, oou oou. Don't worry --

about






thing.

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...