Beautiful Boy

He strapped a noose around his neck,
in truth we heard it breaking;
his dress and mode in retrospect
reflected tender aching;

I wonder why they cannot see
or hear the cries and mourning,
before life turns on that thin dime
wherein the soul is yearning
to simply be accepted now
for who and what one is,
instead of fighting circumstance
to dampen down the fizz.

(RIP~ June 2017)

 


Streets

How can it be in this land of plenitude,
our fellows spilling out now
into city streets, smearing pristine glare
of glossy retail windows
with the crime of their insanity?

I walk and talk with open heart,
not from a place where vacant stares
meet hollow eyes;
hear his story, however true,
offer a meal he declines,
proud he is employed, no longer able
to dig holes, he says,
since someone crushed the back
of his skull with a rock.

Live long enough and it all seems plausible,
as we stroll along, talking unselfconsciously
in a throng of iPhone-toting trust fund youth,
oblivious to the suffering their lack of empathy
stamps securely on a world they inherit.

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Duplicity

Gods and demons!
False idols imbued with qualities
we aspire to or thrust against;
Not realizing culpability,
admiring angels with blind eyes
inured to consequences.

Travel the whole world through
not discovering any unlike yourself;
and after the honeymoon’s over,
stand bereft, once again,
upon the shoals of self deception.

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Bottomless

Every day around three or four, I get hungry. When I tap into my core, it’s not so much that I’m ravenous; rather it feels like there is a need I’m trying to fill, and food is most convenient.

Perhaps you share my sentiments.

If I harken back to childhood where too many things tend to crystallize into patterns we later become oblivious to, that time of day points to when I’d return home from school peckish, ready to zero in on homework. My mom wasn’t so much the motherly type. I was never presented with a freshly baked snack, for example, nor much of anything homemade or substantial at all that could be construed as brain food. I usually opened up the refrigerator and downed all the milk I could, straight from its gallon jug. City water was horrible, and though my parents could afford the bottled kind, my father was adamant that, if he found it drinkable, all nine of us should. Thus it was that I grew up without much fresh water at all, and ignored a lactose intolerance that would plague me into later life. Maybe I’d add a slice of Wonder bread smeared with Peter Pan and Smucker’s jelly, maybe some American cheese. I remember spooning peanut butter straight from the jar; eating dry sugared cereal from the box.

Later while studying Jungian Psychology in college, Marion Woodman’s work entranced me. A former anorexic, she spent an entire career focusing on the connection between women and bodies and food and mothering. In shorthand: food=matter=Mater=Mother Earth=food. I found it compelling, coming from a family rife with eating disorders. It opened some doors, leaving others to be discovered – still firmly sealed – later on in life.

Like Alice of the famed Wonderland, I feel as though I’ve been holding the key to that tiny door forever, pacing back and forth while deciding if I want to be larger or smaller; usually smaller, but then again, I appreciate the merits of size, in the converse logic that comprehends the bigger I am, the less likely I am to be noticed. And I’ve never sought the spotlight. Thus there is a peculiar protection embedded in portly. I’m a female in Western culture, after all.

Meanwhile I continue learning from this blessed body, and am determined to get to the bottom of this late afternoon craving for something indefinably satisfying. Perhaps I need more nurturing, or it might be something deeper. I arrived into this life with my family of origin for a reason. My parents were the best teachers for me at that time. Call it karma – I do – and it’s easy to understand that the baggage I carried into this life contains valuable material for waking up as fully as I am able.

And I sure as heck am willing.

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Touche!

What was important then

empties into bleakness as we relax now,

savoring moments inside skin;

dropping defenses if we are lucky,

losing the act if we are smart

so that others may access our heart.

 

What is it about the young,

pushing against, away –

only to discover those crowded to perimeters

are needed most in times of self loathing;

of grief and trembling and fear?

Culture to culture, we are the same –

running yellow under the surface where,

like animals, we strike out and retreat,

licking perceived wounds.

 

Clouds part and shift, planets repel and attract,

universes expand and implode

while the smallness of human drama continues

thrusting and parrying; hunching

into a sea of weakness inside bodies constructed

too frailly for posturing emotions.

 

Observations On the Train – Part Four

The young man’s smile is engaging, while his girlfriend sits placidly, brow furrowed with tension, locked in a computer embrace. They are from Chicago, and have taken the train to Davis, California to a friend’s wedding. He possesses a rather lovely SLR/digital camera, and spends most of his time gazing out the window and snapping frames of the countryside.

She looks up and smiles tightly, doe-like eyes magnified through the lenses of her glasses. Pale skin tells me it’s been a long time since she has basked in sunlight. Indeed she affirms a harried work schedule that, despite the sheer magnitude of her employer’s firm, is frankly enjoyable. If only the company were a bit smaller, while she rushes to erase any criticism with the kindness of coworkers; the leniency of a schedule with free weekends. She appears exhausted.

Her boyfriend overhears that I live in Hawai’i. He asks What city would you live in, if you could live anywhere in Hawai’i? I tell him that one is easy, for there is no city in the great, wide world I would ever choose to live in; that I am a straight-up country girl, craving clean air and soil and wide, open spaces. He insists. But IF you had to choose, where would it be? Presses me again with such eagerness and guile that I feel obligated to answer. Honolulu, I finally settle upon, sure he is going to inquire about job possibilities in his Internet Technology field. He seems delighted, sharing that he once applied for a job in Honolulu but was turned down. I encourage him to have another go, adding She, my head inclining toward his weary traveling companion, would be happy if you did! And am rewarded with that weak smile, that flawless porcelain skin furrowed at the brow.

 

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BLOGOSPHERE

Blogging provides a virtual and sometimes therapeutic channel in which to pour one’s thoughts and feelings that, in turn, insinuate themselves into the collective like dye injected into a crystalline ocean. Slowly spreading, the new medium eventually becomes assimilated into the existing one, and a hybrid is born. We are changed and the world changes us.

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To Everything There Is A Season

As wintertime deepens, one observes nature releasing what she will not require in the cold months ahead. Energy in plants moves inward, growth slows and finally stops. Leaves shed from deciduous trees and some evergreens’ needles turn to yellow. Frogs aestivate and other animals hibernate, mimicking something as close to death as to be mistaken by the uninformed as death, itself. And indeed, many life forms will and do die in the bitterest cold.

Ecclesiastes offers, To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven … including a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to cast away; a time to gather. Nature seems well informed and accepting of how and when to let go. It is a necessary step in the process of renewal. The Western world is far less accepting of this inevitable cycle of decline; in fact, physical death is something many fear, reject, and forestall at almost any cost.

Tibetan Buddhists suggest a practice of nonattachment, or the ability to release what is longer needed so that a person might differentiate between perceived and genuine needs. All of us require a roof over our heads, food to eat and clothes to wear. Yet knowing how and when to let go is difficult in a culture based on consumerism, a process whereby we are conditioned to endlessly gather and strive. Consumerism fuels the economy we have created, to the degree that many of us do not know when to stop gathering. Much of this amassing is focused on the material and monetary. Paradoxically, our currency is labeled with the epithet In God We Trust, suggesting surrender to the Divine and faith in its ability to provide for us, even as we are spending this money to assure self provision.

According to Webster, trust is synonymous with faith, the unquestioning belief that does not require proof or evidence. Yet even those of us who believe we practice faith are not always cultivating trust. We pray, ask, look for signs that our prayers have been answered and, failing this, we attempt to figure out and control the outcome of events and circumstances. I’m not saying this makes us good or bad as people. It’s simply the way we’ve been conditioned to operate in a stressful, competitive social climate.

We compete with others in the workplace; wrangle with Creation in providing what we perceive we need and need now. Even though we have been assured, time and again through scripture and sacred texts of all persuasions, that our prayers are absolutely answered and that Providence bestows all we seek, few of us have engendered the patience of Bear or the trust of Birch that food sources will be renewed and that leaves will bud again in the spring. Nature can be a great teacher and healer, if we observe her long enough. As the sun sets, it also rises.

Many of us are blessed to live close to nature. Our dwellings might even hug the forest or overlook expansive waters. We can easily learn to let go by observing nature’s cycles: the tides coming in, going out; the migration of waterfowl. Yet even in an urban environment, we can still sit and breathe while visualizing ourselves as part of the cycle of death as winter approaches, letting stressful thoughts and worries flow out on that same breath. Dying to stress is dying back into life. Embracing change rather than fighting against it facilitates the realization that we might not finish everything, but what we do complete will be enough. We, like Chipmunk and Frog, will survive. Like Pine, part of us will continue greening, while like Maple, part will flutter away. It is all in Creation’s plan. And we humans play an integral part.

Columbus Day Musings

We live down the street from a rooster farm – no, make that two rooster farms. We didn’t know about one of them, which only came into being a week after we settled into this place. It wasn’t a conscious decision to be or not to be in company with such an annoyance, rather in order to secure a nice home with a modicum of privacy, this is what was available; this is what we got.

When the tradewinds are down as they are and have been for the past few days, the noise can be unbearable, never mind the agenda that presents itself when one considers the raising of these lovely birds, each tethered by its foot to a triangle of plywood just big enough for its body. To us animal lovers, it is a disturbing and pitiful sight. And let’s face facts – there is no earthly reason to raise these creatures except to fight them. They don’t lay eggs and their meat is too tough to be palatable. And though cockfighting is illegal in the great old US of A, it is largely overlooked in Hawaii due to the diverse cultural milieu.

Before you get all riled up as I was the first time I realized people actually engaged in this awful practice while living on the island of Moloka’i twenty years ago, I’d offer this caution: if righteous anger could alter an engrained cultural practice overnight, we would live in a very different human universe. Sadly, it does not and cannot. Changes of this caliber happen slowly, if they happen at all, through peaceful understanding and more patience than the gods ever granted folks like me, though I am learning. Changes such as this happen by impressing youngsters with knowledge and alternatives. In turn, they then may or may not affect the deeply rooted values of their parents.

If I’ve learned nothing else through confronting injustices such as this, it is to cultivate greater tolerance. Countless others have attempted through personal and litigious channels to eradicate rooster fighting from the islands without success. And I realize that, just like personal transformation, change happens from inside the culture. It’s highly unlikely that another white person (who, like it or not, remains a symbol for the coopting of indigenous people through imminent domain) is going to ingratiate himself into the native community while insisting that people sweep away even more vestiges of their familiar. It’s a conundrum and a balancing act in this evolving world where many of us envision a more level playing field for all sentient beings.

 

 

WALLS

How many times have we slammed into walls in life, only to either slide back down them bruised but alive, or peeled off like some bad wallpaper with a cheap replacement slapped back over it in haste, while we continue more or less as before?

There have been pivotal times I’ve run into walls, though thankfully in looking back, I can recognize the wisdom that was garnered from the pain of separation, whether from another human being or from society in some form. I’m not overtly rebellious, but something inside of me balks at accepting the status quo simply for its own sake. What follows is an example of one of the wall hits with the greatest lifelong impact. I’d love to hear about your own, if you’d care to share them.

 

One of the first startling memories was when, at fourteen and as a devoutly raised fundamentalist, I decided to no longer attend church. My Sunday school teacher on whom I had a bit of a silly adolescent crush kicked me out of class for being a wiseass, though that’s certainly not what he would have termed it. As an all-around model student and perfectionist, I took this as a major blow, and vowed never to set foot in his classroom again, which meant I would lose major face by returning to church in general. So I stayed away with one future exception, despite fears of being ostracized and the deeply rooted terror at making a choice that would land me somewhere less than desirable in the afterlife.

A sort of inner quaking persisted for over a decade, but I never backed down on my decision. Meanwhile I began to read voraciously, anything I could get my hands on, from the beautifully illustrated Hare Krishna books sold at airports everywhere to the I Ching. Once I had children, I questioned the wisdom in losing that first spiritual bridge, and even brought my small daughter to Sunday school and placed her amongst other children to begin her indoctrination. But after the adult morning service was out, something twisted inside of me and, despite misgivings that I could provide her with adequate nonsecular guidance, I once again vowed never to return. There was simply something diminishing and lacking in that particular brand of patriarchal structure for me, and I didn’t want my daughters tainted by the experience. It was hard enough being a woman of the ‘fifties who rooted through cultural hype in order to establish some foundation of self-esteem. I wanted more for my girls. I just didn’t know how I was going to provide it for them.

In time, I managed to discover much of what was missing in the dogma of youth, a shining core of faith and divinity that had settled deep within me despite the means by which it was inculcated. More a product of my own personal communication with the great unseen, this eternal flame burned in me as it must, I think, in any soul, by whatever means, if it is to blossom into self-realization.

P.S.  My daughters turned out with similar inclinations, unsurprisingly.