RESOLVED…..

IMG_0054

A year ago I first posted a blog. It was a resolution designed to make me braver, to challenge me.  I was one of those writers who kept much of my work in boxes and folders, not confident enough to share much of it, especially the poetry and the prose that might reveal who I was and what I really thought.  The blog became a way to record some of my continuing journey through life.

I had taken two courses based on Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” that had helped me open up creatively. It was because of the experiences of sharing with the other creative spirits in the classes that I finally gathered up my courage shook off some of my insecurities and inherent shyness to put me out there in my writing. It has been at times harrowing and at other times very satisfying.

The blogging experience itself has been very interesting. To have people I didn’t know react favorably to something I wrote was a welcome surprise. To find that people of all ages, sexes, philosophies, and geography and with vastly different backgrounds and experiences could relate and share was a joy. Reading some of the blogs of the people who were kind enough to push the like button on my blog expanded my horizons, it was like walking into a library with shelves lined with books on so many subjects that you hardly know where to look first.

I took a break during the summer, reacting to situations and mulling decisions I had to make, and quite frankly missed trying to meet the weekly goal I had set for myself. When I tried to sit down to the task, there seemed to be too many thoughts running through my head to make any kind of coherent theme. In retrospect, it might have helped me to achieve some clarity.

As 2012 wound down, and we experienced the inevitable recap of the events, the terrible and the glorious of the year (which some thought to be mankind’s last), I fought the urge to sigh and roll my eyes. Then I thought about it and realized that these retrospectives have value. They remind us that we can and do for the most part collectively survive the worst, and relish the best, that we can be drawn together either through grief or triumph and that the years do march along and we can, if we determine to, prevail.

It also serves to remind us that no matter where our personal journeys may lead us, we are all on those intersecting roads together. Most of what we think of as destinations are really way stations leading us further in our exploration of life. Some of us certainly travel in more comfort than others. But I hope that occasionally we will turn to our fellow travelers and extend a hand if needed, and that we don’t forget to enjoy both the company and the scenery along the way.

DREAM

Reach
As far and as high as you can
Or jump if you must
You can reach your goals
You can achieve your dreams

Touch
As many souls as you can
Don’t be afraid to feel
You will find the love
That fulfills all your dreams

Accept
As many gifts as are given
Then give even more
Your life will be filled
With all you saw in your dreams

THE CHRISTMAS PARADOX

The presents are all unwrapped; the idea of any more candy or cookies is practically unthinkable. Denuded trees are starting to show up on curbs. Another Christmas is almost over. This was my first in my new home, the first time I could walk to my sister’s house in all of our adult years. Looking around the room this morning, it seemed to be filled with the smiling spirits of parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles and friends who are no longer with us but are a part of my collective Christmas memories. They seem closer at this time of year, when we are celebrating and looking forward to a new year.

This has been a year of change and challenge for me personally and for the world around me. I’ve found myself thinking about the meaning of Christmas, more than usual. It’s a complex holiday in a lot of ways. It continues to evolve and the season seems to stretch each year. It is a curious mixture of faiths and beliefs. Many of the customs are based on ancient pagan winter solstice celebrations. The exact date and facts of the events it purports to honor are open to vastly different interpretations.

The core of both the pagan and Christian celebrations is based on a celebration of renewal, of coming together and humanity. It is tempting to nostalgically yearn for the simpler celebrations of yore, when trees were decorated with home made ornaments on Christmas Eve and presents were more humble and generally utilitarian. Many writers have portrayed times when the giving of the gifts meant some sacrifice on the part of the giver. Jo in “Little Women” sold her hair to buy a gift for her mother and the selling of hair was even more poignant in “The Gift of the Magi” when the woman sold her hair to buy a watch fob for her beloved’s watch and he sold his watch to buy her a comb for her hair.

Gift giving and its expectations have become a part of the great divide in our society. At Christmas the difference between the haves and have not’s is punctuated by the economical frenzy of retailers during the season. And toy drives and food drives allow us to feel better about being so caught up in our own lives to address the needs of the less fortunate the rest of the year.

Retailers are dependent upon our need to make each Christmas better than the last. This is the season that they “made their nut”. And I along with many of you bemoan the commercialization as I make my rounds of the department stores before the Thanksgiving leftovers are down to a sad bit of cranberry sauce.

But when it’s all said and done, it’s about our family and friends, the ones with us and those who still live in our memories. Any of us who can cherish and be with our loved ones are the lucky ones, no matter how many presents are under the tree. And the greatest Christmas wish of all is for all of us to have that, no matter how we celebrate or don’t celebrate the season, no matter where we live, how we worship, what the color of our skin.

So dear readers, I wish you the happiest of Christmases and a new year filled with an abundance of love, joy, peace, health, acceptance and security. These are not gifts that can be wrapped, but they are the greatest gifts we can share with one another all year long.

GIFTS

What would I get for Christmas
If I could have anything
A hug from my mother
As I came through the door
That slight grin on my dad’s face
As he looked at the piles of gifts
The feeling I had when
The dollhouse was under the tree
The scent of my grandmother’s cologne
Mingled with the smells of her cooking
The hustle and bustle of relatives arriving
Juggling gifts in both hands
To live once more those memories
And then just one more time
The sound of your voice
Saying “Merry Christmas, luv”

Unanswerable Questions

I thought long and hard about whether or not I wanted to add my “two cents” about the horrific events that happened in Connecticut. Is there any thing else to say about it? Pundits, reporters, politicians, clergy, doctors, law enforcement, educators have all been on TV, Radio and the Internet giving their thoughts, do I really have anything to add that is meaningful? Perhaps not, but I am still compelled to acknowledge the tragic events that took the lives of innocents.

It should not surprise us that it is the most innocent among us who were the victims of the despicable and incomprehensible acts that occurred in that seemingly idyllic community. It seems to be in the nature of evil and the crimes and wars that it propagates that the front line casualties are most often the most innocent.

The past week gave us poignant pictures of the funerals of the victims as news personalities and politicians debated the subject of gun control. While I feel it is a debate that has been on the back burner for far too long, it disturbs me that it took the slaughter of the students and teachers in an idyllic Connecticut suburb to move it to the fore front.

I wondered as they showed the mourners on TV with bells tolling in the background why we don’t see the funerals or hear bells ringing for the dozens of other children who lose their lives daily from violence. Are their deaths any less tragic because they are not dying in a massacre? Is the waste of their young lives any less noteworthy? I would like to see a portion of every newscast, everyday note these losses.

The control of guns unfortunately probably won’t take care of the problem at the core of what has happened with the events of multiple murders that have seemed to be increasingly a part of our culture. Denied guns some will turn to bombs or poison and there have been massacres of children with knives.

A mere acceptance of the seemingly inherent thirst for violence in humans that in some individuals manifest all too frequently and trying to remove instruments from their reach seems to be like spitting into an ocean.

What needs to be addressed is how inured to violence mankind is and how we appeal to the “better angels of our nature”. Our television, movies and music have become a digital coliseum where we see and hear people belittle, humiliate and injure one another, where games are scored by body counts and the survival of the fittest is glorified no matter what the moral cost. While I would not advocate censorship, I would like to see more balance. I would like to see the powers that be actually take a chance and give the public a chance to think about the content of their entertainment rather than solely rely on shock to get the audience attention. And I’d like to see more of us have the courage to not be afraid of being seen as uncool if we dare to like something softer, more life affirming, less “edgy”.

We cannot turn back the clock, we cannot return to simpler times, which in reality were not so simple. There are more of us, scrambling to climb the hill and claim the prize envisioned there. We sometimes don’t see that the prize may be climbing that hill beside us. We need to open our eyes and our hearts, everyday, not just when something awful reaches the scope of Sandy Hook. How wonderful it would be if we could care about all the children we don’t know who live in violent situations everyday of their young lives, of those who are caught in a rain of bullets between two rival gangs, of those terrorized each day by an out of control parent or caregiver, those who may succumb to the ravages of disease or malnutrition, or physical and sexual abuse.

Maybe today some time we could take a moment of silence for them.

I’ve shared the following poem before, but it seemed to sum up my scattered thoughts in this blog. It’s a poem I wrote years ago, but never seem to go out of date.

NOT HERE

In the sand and in the cities
Children are crying
Looking for parents who
Are looking for them
Afraid they won’t find them
More afraid they will
In the morgues or the ruins
Smoke from smoldering
Remains of homes and villages
Blocks the sun and the light
As they wander searching
Among the sea of faces
For a certain face, the right face
To end the wondering and wandering
Haunted eyes, silent cries
From those who can
No longer give voice
To their pain and their fear
Pleading eyes, frail hands
Reaching for strangers
To answer the unanswerable

The images flash across our screens
And we watch with full bellies
In our comfortable homes and
We wonder to each other how
This could happen, how this cruelty
And senseless violence exists
And why no one stops it
We will write a check
Tomorrow or next week
We will go to meetings and
Over expensive coffee or wine
Berate those who let this happen
Who didn’t stand up and we
Won’t recognize who “they” are

Haunted eyes, silent cries
They are there, not here
There’s no war here
Not here on our streets or
Under the bridges and overpasses
Or behind the closed doors of
Our homes, our churches, our schools
They couldn’t be here
We would see them, wouldn’t we?

NO EXCUSES

imageAll the boxes are unpacked and carted away, there are pictures on the wall, and I’m beginning to remember where I put everything. There’s even a Christmas tree up and decorations displayed. I have the address changes done for everything I can remember and I now get mail without the yellow forwarding sticker.
Even without my new car’s very helpful navigation system I can find my way to the grocery store and the mall. I am moved, I am at home, it’s familiar and comfortable.

With the office all set up, a comfortable new chair and my books all around me, there are no more excuses, I need to write. As many of my fellow writers know, procrastination comes easily to most of us. Sometimes we call it writer’s block, rather than just admitting that we really wanted to watch our favorite guilty pleasure movie just one more time, or get involved in a best seller. In my case I’ve used the excuse that I am still getting my new place in order.

As I was moving things around for the umpteenth time, I was reminded of a robin’s nest that was built in a rambling rose bush outside the sun porch of my grandparent’s home when I was a child.

I began living with them when I was almost five. The house they lived in was an old, rather ugly orange structure on the corner. The house was divided into two apartments and we had the lower one. They turned the small perhaps 8-foot square foot sun porch with small paned glass walls on two sides, over to me as a playhouse. Along with my growing collection of dolls, there was furniture for my dolls, some of it built by my grandfather, Lincoln Logs, coloring books and crayons and my small rocking chair. I couldn’t use the room in the colder winter weather, there was no radiator there, but in the spring when the bush got its leaves and first buds, a robin would begin to build a nest. I’m not sure it was the same robin, or a succession of several over the years, but the nest was always in the same place. It would be reconstructed or remodeled with the bits of twigs, leaves, paper, etc, that the bird collected. In time there would be two or three eggs in the nest, and in good years, I would see the eggs open and the chicks emerge. Sometimes they grew, nurtured by their mother until they flew out of the nest eventually, but sadly more often when the mother went to look for worms they were plucked from the nest by scavenger birds.

Each year however the collection of materials began again and a new improved nest would develop. As I rearranged my furniture, old and new, my twigs so to speak, this house that used to be my dad’s slowly became mine.

The house is in pretty good shape, there are a few decorating tweaks I would like to make, but they aren’t necessary for comfortable habitation. I’ve set my self down at the computer and started writing a little each day and have restarted doing my “morning pages”. I’m better acquainted with the geography. I am grateful that my siAster and family is just a walk across the yard way, but I need to get myself out of the cocoon, I need to start meeting people, building a new physical network. It is very easy to use the convenience of social media, email, unlimited calling on the cell phone to rely on my network that is still in California. But I can’t call them to meet me at the mall, or to go to a movie. So that’s my next endeavor, expanding my horizons, meeting new people. No excuses.

Twigs

The small robin flies back and forth
Bringing new twigs for the nest
In the rambling rose bush
That climbs up the sun porch window
She is building on the foundation
She or a sister built last year
I watch, rocking in my small chair
Eager to see the pale bluea eggs
That will eventually appear
If the eggs hatch, I will name the babies
The robin’s name is Rose Marie
I heard that name in a movie
My grandmother took me to
About a singing Mountie in a red coat
Sometimes I can hear the robin singing
I wonder if she’s calling to her friends
And I wonder if she watches me
As I dress my dolls and snug them in their beds
Does she see me rocking there
Does she have a name for me
Does she know that like her babies
Who will eventually fly away
That I will grow up and go away
To other houses, other nests.

Portents and Remembrances

 

I am writing this at 33,000 feet on my way to my new home. The past week has been hectic, I full of activity, physical and emotional. Sleep has been at a premium, as my brain has been in overdrive. Have I done all the things need to do for the move? Probably not. Have I made the right decision? I hope so, I feel like it’s right.

The day the packing crew came to load physical manifestation of the past quarter of a century of my life into boxes was more than a little surreal. I had a friend there to keep me company but that didn’t totally distract me from seeing things I had forgotten I had or from having memories stirred by objects disappearing into the cardboard containers.

One of the last mementos to be wrapped and cosseted was a small glittering rainbow fish toy that had hung high in the archway between my living and dining room. This reminded me of two young adults who had gifted it too me when they were small. I watched them grow up while I lived there. The fish reminds me of the joy and wonder their love brought into my life and the friendship I share not only with them but the numerous friends who passed under that shiny trinket through the years.

But as the remembrances played through my mind like personal movies, it also registered that relationships change as people grow (and hopefully we all keep growing) and that we all must look to our futures and accept the changes that must come. Even the ones that are attached with the pain of parting

In my circle of friends there are many changes happening. One friend identified it as a vortex of change where people in the circle were being presented with new opportunities and adventures. Some seeing dreams starting to true, some beginning to see the light at the end of a dark tunnel of their lives and some like me making moves that help to balance them and lead them to explore the horizon from a different perspective.

While these courses of change whirling among a group of interconnected individuals seems very personalized, if I broaden my vision it becomes clear that we are part of a much larger, more global air of change. While it is unfortunate that all of the change is positive, it does seem to portend a shift. Another of my friends speculated that perhaps the Mayan prophecy was not so much an end of the world in 2012 but just a metaphysical shift.

I may be watching all of this play out on a different front porch, but I a looking forward to the next chapter not only for me but also for my personal galaxy of dear friends.

Rainbow Fish

Gifted to me by tiny hands
You’ve hung in my home
Reflecting the sunshine
Greeting my guests
Making me smile
Your sequins didn’t always
Match the current decor
But you never looked out of place
You sometimes swayed
With breezes through the window
Or shook went the earth moved
You’ll join me in my new home
Reminding me always
Of the times and the love
I shared with so many friends
And when you hang
In a special place in my new home
You’ll hold the memories
As I create new ones

Betwixt and Between

I’m down to the final days before I make a major change in my life. I feel as if I am in a sort of limbo between the life I know and am leaving behind and my new one. It’s scary, exciting, and has me rather disconnected. I look around the place that has been my home for a quarter of a century and it feels vaguely unfamiliar. My calendar is full of plans for meeting with friends to say farewell. Those appointments highlight the scary part of this move – leaving old friends and making new ones.

The disconnect I am feeling is probably unconsciously defensive – protecting me from the feelings of loss that linger there just on the periphery. It will be difficult not being able to call some of my friends for that quick lunch or happy hour. It will be strange not knowing that everything I need is quickly accessible, within walking distance. I have lived in the middle of metropolitan areas for over 30 years, adjusting to suburban living may be a bit of challenge.

But those urban conveniences come at a price that I am no longer willing to pay, financially and personally. The crowding, noise, lack of personal space have become more irritating. What was once exciting and energizing has become wearisome and vexing.

My friends have been great, encouraging and open. So far the get togethers have been lighthearted, memory filled and warm. In the waning days I anticipate that there will be some heavier emotions as the finality of the impending changes really set in. But the first few days in my new home should ignite my adventurous side. Knowing that I will be living in the same area, as my family for the first time in over a quarter of a century is heartwarming.

I look forward to my friends coming to visit me and to my return visits to my old haunts. It will afford us the opportunity to share our lives in a completely different way.

We are not saying goodbye, it is indeed ‘til we meet again. Thanks to the wonderful world of technology we can stay in touch with immediacy and frequency. We may not be able to play Scrabble around a table at the spur of the moment, but we can do “Words with Friends”. I may even become a better picture taker and better at uploading and downloading.

Unless sudden inspiration hits, the next blog I write should be from my new home.

This poem is not particularly new, I wrote it several years ago when other changes where happening in my life, but it seems apropos my current situation.

OUT TO SEA
In finding what she had not known was lost
Or perhaps in being found
Her life took an unexpected turn
And suddenly she was sailing
On wild uncertain seas
Toward a new port, too far to see
Unknown, yet so familiar
Frightening, yet beaconing
Drawing her further from the shore
Than she had ever been.

MLV – 2005

9 11

Nine –eleven: two simple words, three numbers that represent one of the most horrific days in the history of our country. Eleven years later the images of the Towers coming down and the gaping hole in the Pentagon are still seared in the memories of many of us who watched on live TV that September day. And today the day was commemorated but the coverage was brief, the lengthy stories are now on the History Channel. As with other historical dates like Pearl Harbor, or the Kennedy assassination, each year that passes will fade the details, and the memories will become just a part of our story.

But more than just the events of that day, it is the aftermath that continues the story. Air travel will always be more difficult, we still have U.S. Troops in harm’s way, we have seen our privacy rights eroded. The damages inflicted that day linger in our national psyche and affect how we live our daily lives.

Whether those events hastened the economic downturn that happened; or made us more paranoid and insular; whether it made us stronger as a nation, may be determined by history, but some of the shockwaves are certainly continuing.

It was not an election year in 2001, so the autumn of mourning was one that gave us a brief respite of the more internal vitriolic political polemics. This eleventh anniversary comes in an election year and on the heels of the party conventions and there is no restraint being shown. Instead of building bridges to make our country strong, they are pitting us against each other. They are forgetting that the rules and principals for governing are found in the Constitution.

While it was the external impact of those planes crashing into the buildings that caused the fires and the initial damage, it was in the final analysis the damage to the interior core that caused them to collapse. We need leaders who will protect that core. Protect our freedoms, lead us in confidence not fear of not only those from the outside who would harm us, but fear of each other.

Aftermath

A plane flies low
It seems right above my head
It’s engines roar in my ears
I look up and stumble
Not watching where I step
The memories lay deep
Aroused by that noise
That causes a reflex
A flood of images
And a deep shared sorrow