The prompt at Poetry Jam this week is Goodbye. This popped into my head in response. Of course it made me cry. Over at Cressida's blog, she wrote about another big black dog. Her poem, too, made me cry, so my eyes are awash this morning, at the thought of those big, devoted and departed hearts.
At Poets United's Verse First today, Kim has set us another inspiring prompt : to say what freedom means to us. Toni Morrison's quote is given: "the function of freedom is to free someone else." This must be why Wild Woman writes : having been through the fire, she hopes to help her younger sisters make their own escapes.
At Real Toads, Mama Zen would like us to think of the safest place we've ever been, and write about it in 53 words or less. My mind zipped right to this moment. After walking through the Siberian wasteland of the heart, which had been traumatized and then abused for three decades, I had walked in the door of the coffeehouse and found Home.
Brock Tully (now a sought after motivational speaker and founder of the World Kindness movement in Vancouver, B.C.), and the wonderful alternative folk who frequented Brock and Friends, accepted me with warmth. They loved me gently until I was ready to love myself. My life turned onto a kinder, gentler path because of them. It was one of the most significant turnings of my life. My most cherished friends date from those days in the early 80's, when I finally found the members of my tribe.
Kids, I am sheer exhaustion from head to toe right now, and was wondering what to share with you, but not a Thought would Think. Came across this wonderful poem by Wendell Berry, and decided to post it for you till the sludge lifts in my brain. Love This Miraculous World Our understandable wish to preserve the planet must somehow be reduced to the scale of our competence. Love is never abstract. It does not adhere to the universe or the planet or the nation or the institution or the profession, but to the singular sparrows of the street, the lilies of the field, "the least of these my brethren". Love this miraculous world that we did not make, that is a gift to us. -Wendell Berry Have a great day, kids!
* In the film connected to the picture, The Great Wind, Windigo, punishes a young man for his greed, for wanting more than he needs. Wikipedia describes a Windigo as a legend of the Algonquin people, a cannabalistic spirit that can possess humans in times of famine and is to be guarded against.
The event with the killer whales really happened to a woman I met once who lives among the whales in Simoon Sound. Alexandra Morton has dedicated her life to the well being of the whales and, more recently, to raising the alarm about the endangered salmon habitat in her area.
This delightful poem, With Elephants by Bruce Moody, came to my inbox this morning from Poem for the Day by Larry Robinson, who collects and shares wonderful poems with his mailing list. Checking out the poet, I discovered an intriguing person who wrote a memoir about homelessness titled Will Work for Food or Money. I adore elephants, and this description made my heart leap with delight. Thought you would enjoy it. A nice change from tiresome old Crone Crunchies !
Listen up, kids, because Wild Woman has a few nuggets of hard-won wisdom to share. Call 'em Crone Crunchies, because you can put toppings on them, and try to make them sweeter, but in the end, you're still eating what's underneath: good for you, if not especially tasty. First, you will look all over: another book, another path, a different place, a different life, tried on like your Great Grandma's old hat, beautiful in its day, but bearing no resemblance to the life you will eventually call your own. You will look to person after person to be that Other who will magically make you whole, then find out it is An Inside Job. Sorry, for that is the hardest truth I know. Also difficult, but necessary, is looking Within and discovering that, contrary to all your misgivings, you are not more horrible or less deserving than any other human. You'll do, in a pinch. You will give of yourself till you are stripped bare, yet it will never ever seem to be Enough. Enough is what, eventually, you will discover you are left with, after you stop all the Looking and the Doing, and you down-size on the Reclamation Projects, for there clearly isn't enough time to save the world, or anyone, really, but, perhaps, yourself. Enough is what's left after you strip away what doesn't serve you, sit on whichever porch you've landed up on, and just stare at the sky and listen to the birds. After all that striving and searching, isn't it a bummer to discover that it's just that easy? I always look forward to Wednesday, because Kim's prompts at Poets United's Verse First are always so wonderful. Today Kim wants us to tell the wild truth. So as usual, I just started tapping on the keys, to find out what I am thinking. Do check out Verse First. (I am eager to see what everyone else knows. Maybe we can combine the knowledge and start a movement!)
There is a woman sitting on a porch swing. She is rocking to ease the hard little kernel of pain she has always carried under her valiant smile, the strain of sadness underlying the positive talk, the unrelenting hope, the dismayed recognition at the way it has all turned out so far from the once upon a time visions of long ago, for so long dreaming one day it would all be so much better. She is rocking upon the tide of all those dreams: the one she made come true - the ten years out of sixty when she lived her own life- and the ones she finally gave up on She is rocking upon the tide of What Is having long ago learned to find happiness within its framework. She is rocking under a blue sky full of birdsong, squirrel chatter and the call of the raven She is rocking under lowering storm clouds of smokey gray, thunder rumbling, splitting across the sky, the fresh scent of rain as it splatters against the tin roof. She is rocking under the night sky, and star dreaming She is rocking under the full round grandmother moon and is feeling the presence of crones on the night-time air: strong resolute women who do what is put before them because no one else will and there is no choice when someone has to feed the children She is rocking her way to the end of her life letting go of the past, letting go of all fractious and inharmonious bodies, distancing herself from all the crisis and clamour and youthful drama her age has no energy for, gathering her limited energy, conserving, for the needs of the present day, letting go of the dreams once dreamed and the years that cannot come again, leting go of Home and making a home where she is, trying to be grateful for struggle Because It Could Always Be Worse, (and often is!) She is trying to cling to the vanishing life that is hers under the claims and demands that would gobble it all and then burp unperturbed at its ending having eaten its fill. She is longing for long white empty beaches and the roar of the waves, the cry of the gulls, the eagle soaring wind-swept skies, the picky-toeing progress of the blue heron, serene at the inlet's edge and no humans anywhere within sight or hearing but her. She is longing for her last years to be her own something of her own choosing having only chosen once - maybe twice - in her entire life of responsibility for herself All the rest was for others, the pitfall of those who take seriously the role of mother. While rocking, she achieves the state of No Thought, that Nirvana the sages and mystics seek through practice is effortless for her for she is too exhausted to think Inner peace disguised as exhaustion or vice versa She rocks and thoughts flit like the little birds in the hedgerow and fly fast away She rocks and promises herself that one day at a time is all she has to manage The rest will take care of itself She prays for relief that some of the burdens be lifted But she doesnt believe enough they ever will One day she will rise wraith-like from all the burdens that claim her and will fly to a farther shore. She would rather stay here for she really likes the scenery on planet earth But she likes it best without people all their egoes and clamour and inflated self-worth On her porch swing she mutters oaths and incantations: sometimes "Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!" when she remembers something incredibly oafish she once said sometimes "Shift....shift.....shift....." as she tries to add her small push to the collective consciousness Somewhere monks bow to the tone of a fulsome bell Somewhere nomads hunger for food and justice Somewhere ignorant armies clash and thunder Somewhere butterflies follow their migration of pure wonder Somewhere a whale gives a mighty blow, then dives, then breaches and always always always her heart trods those long and empty beaches On her porch swing she is with them all, all but the fighting. She has no fight in her, her striving is for surviving Today her first great grandchild has come to planet earth and all the hope she has blesses this birth. One from the archives, kids, linked to Real Toads for Open Link Monday
In a round, they spoke their pain: childhood sexual abuse, the voices inside her head, molestation, rape, violence, the "disappeared" women of the streets who vanish, nameless and invisible, the woman whose seven babies died, one after the other, the woman who thought she was well because she "got on with it", without ever grieving what had been done to her. Seven women, their stories all true, heart-rending, and spoken with strength. Powerful pain and powerful women, to have survived it all and kept on walking. At the end, I realized you could take any seven women, anywhere, and hear the same stories, the identical pain. And yet, we rise. Again and again, generation after generation, we go on loving. We rise.
Last night I attended a play about women's stories, spoken by seven women, the stories all true. My daughter, Lisa, was one of the actresses, and made me proud. At the end, we stood, to honor their voices and validate women's experiences. What's that quote? "It isn't safe to be a girl child in a world full of men." Alice Walker, The Color Purple.
Kelvin, over at dVerse, recently received a horribly racist and ugly comment about Asians. After reading his post, I am moved to write about my very lovely daughter, Zenny, a beautiful and golden-hearted girl from the Phillipines, whom my son was incredibly lucky to marry in 2000. She is as much a daughter to me as my other two girls. Canada is a highly multicultural society, and we are proud of living together with respect to "differences", knowing that the underlying sameness is simply this: we are all human beings. Kelvin asked us to write something on the topic of Asians. I know there are many other great responses to this prompt, so do click over to dVerse and take a look, to support people who are trying to rise above the true ugliness of racial slurs, one of the most offensive things I can personally think of. In her life, she has only ever been good and kind, generous and giving, and sweet. She hurts because she lives so far from home, hurts because her mother's life is still so hard, hurts because so few of her simple dreams ever came true. But this girl is as strong as the coconut tree, and as sweet as the mangoes that grow so plentifully back home. Her smile is as beautiful as the morning sun, rising. Her eyes are as clear and honest as the night sky. Her heart belongs to the ocean, the forest, and its wild creatures, but she lives, now, on the prairie, twice displaced from her ocean home. Yet she is cheerful, caring, hard-working and willing, and always upbeat. Anyone who says an entire race of people is (fill-in-the-blank) offends me in my soul. They are missing a vital piece of inner information: we are, each one of us, just human beings, trying to make our way. "Forgive them, for they know not what they do." But let's hope, one day, soon, they get a clue.
"You are a child of the universe. No less than the moon and the stars, you have a right to be here." Desiderata When I first read those lines, at twenty-seven, I wept. It was the beginning of my journey into Selfhood. I had not known, before, that I had a right to be here. As a child of the universe, I sought love, and found pain and betrayal. As a child of the universe, I journeyed across the desert and fell in love with the sea. As a child of the universe, I trusted, and learned the only one I ever had to trust was me. As a child of the universe, trekking decade by decade through the glorious landscape of this infinitely beautiful world, I grew whole, and old, and Souled.
posted for Kim Nelson's Verse First prompt at Poets United: A Place In the Universe
Mother Earth, you are so giving. Though chainsaws and grappleyarders massacre your hillsides, still trees unfurl their leaves, and buds bestow the beauty of their blooming. Though factories pump offal into the air and all along your shores, you lavish us, even so, with streams and rivers, waterfalls and lakes, and your everness of waves pound as surely onto the coastline as if nothing has changed in a million years. Though fracking cleaves your innards, and they're messing with your very atmosphere, still your big old smiling sun comes yawning up behind the mountains every morning, and a blue sky unfurls the gift of a brand new day. How do you stay so beautiful, when angry little pustules of war are breaking out all over the planet, bombs exploding, the madness of nuclear "testing" shaking your very foundation? And still you smile on us your beautiful Earth Mother smile. You array a visual feast for us in every corner of the landscape. You color your mountains, decorate them with clouds, drape misty shawls along their shoulders. You people the planet with beautiful fur beings, creatures that fly and swim, to delight our eyes and warm our hearts, to help us strive. You give us sunset, night after night, so we can dream. Forgive us for being acting-out adolescents, not yet wise enough to understand the largesse of your offering. May we grow up fast, so we can be good sons and daughters to you, care for you as tenderly as you deserve. Mother Earth, how do you remain so patient?
This week, Poets United'sPoetry Pantry is all about Mothers - a celebration of the nurturing spirit of women. I plan to pour myself a coffee, Sunday morning, and peruse all of the offerings. Do check out the Pantry, as there will be some wonderful reading in there Sunday and Monday.
Some of us have children of our own, some of us are loving aunts, and many of us love whatever children the universe sends our way. I raised four children as a single mom, one of the hardest paths in the world, but I wouldn't trade the journey for anything. Then came the grandchildren, four more amazing individuals , here because their mom is here, and because I was here, and because my mother was here. For a dozen years, I have provided respite care for foster parents, and have loved a stream of little voyagers from rocky paths, many of them with special needs, all of them from fractured families, having already experienced loss and heartache in their short lives. They come to me for peace and warmth and laughter, a time out of time. I have a sunny little four year old with me this weekend, while his foster mom takes a break. I am reflecting much on the nurturing character of women, so hard-wired are we to care for those around us. I wrote a poem for my mom when I was 16 and read it aloud at a school event where she was sitting in the audience. I decided to post that one today. I wrote another poem after her death, and will post that as well - full circle, as these cycles go. My mom and my grandma have been gone for a long time, but they are both strongly within me, and within my daughters and my daughter's daughter: one long line of strong, original, cackling women.
Happy Mother's Day
age 16, 1962
A feeling unexpressed in words
lives in my heart for Mother;
a thought too deep, a turning home
unfelt for any other.
Since time began our two lives ran
parallel paths together;
the years have bound our hearts around
unchanged by any weather.
Protection, shelter, in my need -
a refuge when I sought it.
I picked a flower one baby hour:
love blossomed where I brought it.
A song sang through my infancy:
her voice soothed all my fears,
and silent sympathy washed away
the ache of hidden tears.
I failed when I met life. I tried again.
Mother believed in me.
Too much, she believed, and I tried to be true
to Mother's deep faith in me.
I was launched into life with a dream and a prayer,
adrift on a stormy sea:
but e'er the ebb tide I'll have gained the far side-
her love having sheltered me.
Two weeks after my mother's death in 1994, I was driving towards her home in Port Alberni, just on the outskirts, entering the town. I was thinking of my mom when, in slow motion, as if time had stopped and we were caught fast in that stationary moment, an owl flew slowly across my windshield, so closely I could see every feather, defined. As she flew, she turned her head and our eyes locked together as she slowly flew into the forest. I then remembered I was driving the car, time started up again, and I drove on. I can see that owl still, remember how everything stood still for those few moments.
I wrote this poem several years later.
The Owl Is the Doorway Into the Unknown
[The title quote is from The Golden Cauldron by Nicki Scully] September 13, 1999 I sit beside my mother's bed as she lies dying. Our eyes meet: all the words we cannot say, all the missed connections, misperceptions, in this lifetime, it has always been this way. I release the ways we never got it right; forgive, no need to hold the anger tight. Just "I love you" and her spirit flies away, out of the room into the starry night. Weeks later, I am driving towards her home when, in slow motion, across my windshield flies a gray owl, feathered being, infinitely wise, as she passes looking deep into my eyes. Time is suspended on this point of traveling. Somehow I feel a message has been received and, somewhere in my spirit sore, unraveling, I know all is understood and I believe. Owl, swooping sideways into the forest green, bird between two worlds, all that we know and the unseen, harbinger of change, of mysteries beautiful and strange, as our eyes meet I know an Oracle has been. Wise watcher in the night, friend of the moon, fly after she who left my world too soon. Fly, messenger of my belated transformation; and give my love to my mother in the Spirit Nation.
In the late 40's radio was It. My dad told me a little man lived in the round lit up globe and that he was the one talking, and, four years old, oh yes, I believed. The highlight of afternoons at my grandma's was rocking back and forth, the rocker pulled out into the middle of the room, while I listened to Maggie Muggins and Mr McGarrity. The show always ended with "And we don't know what will happen tomorrow." In my world, neither did I. Me and Maggie Muggins were soul sisters. Pennies From Heaven, Sunny Side of the Street, Happiness is Just a Thing Called Joe, and, at twelve, freckle-faced and falling all over my feet, I began to dream. At thirteen, the sound of Brenda Lee on the radio gave me an electric shock as I recognized we sang in the same range. All through my teens, my long-suffering family listened to me rockin' out with Brenda, wailing and howling with all the angst of life's uninitiated, dreaming that someday somehow my clumsy psyche would at some point, magically, achieve some kind of grace. Teen years were sock hops to the radio during school lunch hour, and after school request programs. We dropped our requests into a little box at the bottom of the stairs at the radio station - walking, as kids were rarely driven anywhere back then - and they would be read on the air from 4 to 5 p.m.: "Please play Run Around Sue for......well, you know who you are." Yoiks! The 60's was driving around in souped up cars that are now classic antiques, boys in duck tails (the hair style of the day), girls in bouffant "Do's" that got all disarranged what with all the necking. In the background or, perhaps, the foreground, the radio played all the songs of love and heartbreak: Cold, Cold Heart, Who's Sorry Now? Your Cheatin' Heart. (It should have been a clue that love songs were always about heartbreak. Yet all we longed for was Love, capital L.) Misty. Chances Are. Blue Velvet. Soft and dreamy. Girls mooney-eyed, lying on their beds dreaming of......... whatever it would take for their lives to begin. Beam me up, Mr Radio Man. Would you like to run that program by me all over again? I'd do a lot less agonizing and a lot more dancing. Promise. At Real Toads, the fair Maid Marian set us a simple, intriguing challenge: to discuss the impact of radio on our lives. The radio has been the sound track of my life. In a big way, especially in those pre-tv days when I was a kid.