Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Longest Night



Tonight, the longest night of the year is also the coldest and we begin to live in winter again. After the big snow, the deep chill has arrived – and now the darkness.

It’s time for reflection, for staying warm, for staying safe from the bitter cold. The longest night, the deepest reflection, these are the messengers of winter solstice.

This year, tonight also begins the first night of Chanukah, the Festival of Lights.

After marrying into a Jewish family, I clearly remember my first Chanukah, each night another candle added to the menorah, the candleholder. The first night beginning with two candles: the shamash – the helper candle and one other candle representing the first night of the 8 day Jewish Festival of Lights. The light from these two candles filled the darkened room with their small glow. The next night another candle was added to total three, making it a little brighter. The following night - another, with each night growing brighter as a little more of the darkness was lit. Finally on the eighth night, the room was ablaze in light.

This dark and bitterly cold night my family gathers around the table once again to light the menorah. A Christmas poinsettia shares the same table. We sing the song in Hebrew for the growing light. We sit in the darkness of the longest night and listen to the biting wind outside. We lean close, relying upon each other to get through this time of darkness till the light returns, until the warmth returns – as it always does. And we wait.

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This Little Light of Mine - Mavis Staples (she sings it with a lot of heart)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Survivor


Survivor - from the Latin: supervivere; super – above, vivere – to live.

Survivor: Above to live. A place I can aim for that is somewhere above this worried, fearful, stressed world that we’ve come to accept as normal. When truly pushed to the edge, still, we usually meet the challenge. That thing you’ve heard mention of? Survival instinct? It’s real. Been there, done that. As they say, I can ‘testify’.

I can testify that we underestimate ourselves. When push comes to shove we instinctively rise to meet the occasion. It’s not courage… it’s not bravery. It’s instinct.

I can testify that we are capable of so much more than we believe we are. As Mexican artist Frida Kahlo who lived with much pain and limitation said, “At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.” She painted her way through her survival. It helped her ‘above to live’ the circumstances of her life.

There is a Chinese teaching riddle from the chi gong healing tradition:

How do you move a mountain?

One shovelful at a time.

We stand at the bottom of that mountain feeling overwhelmed, feeling doubt, feeling where do I even begin? You begin when you decide to pick up the shovel. You begin when you determine that you will do all it takes, regardless… You begin when you decide that no matter how long it takes, no matter if your undertaking is successful or not – that it’s not the outcome that matters as much as the journey taken - that shoveling matters.

That mountain might be a life-threatening illness, an abusive relationship or an addiction. It might be an ill child, the loss of a loved one, a natural disaster… It might be the terror of living in our own minds, or our own nations at war… It might be poverty. We each have our own mountains, things that call us to rise - above to live…

Some say of cancer survivors that the moment you receive a cancer diagnosis you're a survivor. Others say they don't like the word for a variety of reasons.

Above to live: survivor - I can not only wear that word, I’m thankful to be able to wear it. It's lovely to be a survivor. Truly lovely. And it's a horror. A horror of circumstance. That's the part I've had to live above. Survivor isn't a new word to me. If it were a coat, I've worn quite a few of them throughout my life. I'm sure most of you have also.

There was surviving my alcoholic Dad, the beatings my Mom endured and that I powerlessly witnessed. There was the electrocution of my brother and my family’s survival as the loss brought grief and depression. There was a lot of human damage, and unhealed, damaged humans create more damage… I'll just leave it at that.

As a young man I married into a Jewish family - survivors of the Holocaust; not that they were in the camps - they were the part of the family who left in time. But others in the family did not get out in time. It's all the same... here, there.... Jewish holocaust survivorship is a huge shadow over the shoulder. Kind of like cancer for many of us - frequently looking over the shoulder – hyper-vigilant. Is that it? Is the shadow closing in once again???

Oh yeah, and the cancer... and the treatment! I survived that! Can't forget that- although I almost did! Caution: Chemo-brain At Work!

In light of the shit in my life, Survivor has been a good place to land. I don't object to the word. In fact I've taught my kids to feel strong in the knowledge that they come from two lineages of survivors: the Jewish side and the Mexican/Indian side. We wear many mantles of survivorship between us. Many coats. In these times, when so many people are living in fear of an unknown frightening future of their imaginings and a matching powerlessness, it can be strengthening to remember all those many surviving moments in a lifetime - our own and others.

We all come from survivors really. There are strong, hardy stories in EVERYONE'S families... Those were the folks who lived to reproduce, and their hardy babies survived - sometimes terrible odds. The hardy survived... and gave birth to the next generation, and the next, and the next.... and here we are: Survivors... from the moment we are born.

Above to live.

Especially when I was in the throes of cancer and treatment, back when the journey felt like I’d been plunged into the third ring of hell, I thought of holocaust survivors. Their stories spoke to me loudly. Victor Frankl especially:

"We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."

That was a powerful reminder to me and still is - "to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."

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Sometimes I am uncomfortable with the word though. I wish it weren't part of my story. But ain't that just the major bitch of this whole cancer thing and every other survivorship, including the life after and the after-effects: It is what it is. I find myself arriving at this conclusion repeatedly. "It is what it is." But that's only after I've pitched a royal fit, screaming and crying, railing against it all, raising my fists.... raising hell and then in exhaustion giving up and collapsing, giving in to a new level of acceptance that "it is what it is" and attempting to move forward from there.

And I continue to seek: Above to live.

In context of ‘surviving cancer’, I'm only recently becoming dissatisfied with the word. It's not big enough. I want more. Sometimes ‘survivor’ can sound like the bare minimum. We made it. We're alive… and I want more than that bare minimum of ‘I survived’. And for that sometimes I feel guilty, as if maybe I want too much, but not so much guilt that I stop thinking I deserve to be worthy of more and that the pursuing of it is worthwhile.

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My local YMCA received a grant from the Lance Armstrong Foundation to start a LiveStrong program training cancer patients; helping us recover our de-conditioned bodies. I've been going to the gym working out under the trainers' guidance. It’s been extraordinarily hard work for me and usually I’ve felt worsened with my post-chemo nerve condition in my back and leg. Often I was laid up after in extreme pain. I pushed through. Many days I hated it, didn't want to go. I'd say, "Fuck Lance Armstrong!" I hated and resented him with his Tour de France, race winning, testicular cancer survivor shit. Show-off. I hated him. My body was broke down in so many ways. Recovering it seemed futile at times. I wanted to give up many times, but didn't. From the beginning I committed that I would show up. I would consistently show up. No matter what, I would show up. After some experimentation I found my proper challenge level which was at a much lower level than my male psyche wanted to recognize. I stopped hurting myself repeatedly and started making some progress physically. The biggest strengthening? This one caught me by surprise – my mind, the result of making the commitment; pushing through despite wanting to quit about 30 times a day; showing up, regardless...

I look down at my wrist and this little funky yellow band of rubber from China with the word LIVESTRONG written on it that I received for completing the program. It represents a lot to me. I earned that word I'm wearing - LIVESTRONG. I'm not somebody who has ever worn any of the little rubber bracelets before. This one is special though. I think maybe I'm doing it - I'm becoming more than a cancer survivor. I hope so.

Yeah, there's been some crap in my life. I have no corner on crap. I know y'all have had your share also. And we're here. Still here to tell the tale. Still here to write the remainder of the story - at least as much as we are allowed to contribute to that story line. And as Victor Frankl would remind us, no matter what, nobody can rob us of our dignity or the last of our human freedoms – to choose our attitude, to choose our own way. That's the part of the story line we actually do have control over: how we respond to the crappy circumstances of that moment; we always have the Power of Choice in our response.

Survivor: I can live with that word. I just want the chance to really live it from its roots in Latin - Above to Live.

LiveStrong y'all, (and I apologize to Lance and all for cursing him!)
el poquito

"After all, man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord's Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips." - Victor Frankl

Bob Marley's Redemption song taken around the world:

Monday, December 8, 2008

Prayer for Departure

in honor of my mother's departing moment (1911-2007)

It was yesterday, in the early afternoon light;
I held your hand closely in mine, the rosary beads
draped between our hands - together, passing
from one bead to the next,

Hail Mary, full of grace,

flavoring the room: a balm.
Breathing in deeply: All That Is.

The Lord is with thee
ninety-five year old vesseled spirit
with staccato breath.

Blessed art thou among women

emptying with each exhale, in the

lengthening pauses

of

nothingness.

The tide leaves the shore:
each wave withdraws deep
to the sea.

Blessed is the fruit of thy womb

a vessel made of red earth and chile;
once strong legs, a blackening blue,
as you take your leave
no longer needing them.

Ticket in hand, you turn away,
look at the clock, see that it’s time,
and move toward the gate that reads
‘Departures’.

Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of god,

water pouring into it’s source,
the vessel empties,
the breath rests,
and this time
does not
return.

Pray for us sinners.

The red-brown clay dries, crumbles...
returns to the earth,

now and at the hour of our death

as you leave:
a breeze
rejoining
the
wind.

Amen.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Guest House


The Islamic Sufi poet-philosopher Rumi wrote this in the 13th century. Although Rumi's works were written in Persian, Rumi's importance is considered to transcend national and ethnic borders; a 13th century poet for the 21st century.

THE GUEST HOUSE

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

-- Jelaluddin Rumi

translation: Coleman Barks
painting: Michael Green

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving of Survivors


print by Melanie Cervantes
I remember long ago hearing a wise piece of counsel from Wallace Black Elk, a controversial Lakota
elder who has since passed. He said, “Wherever you travel in the world, it is a matter of respect and would be a great benefit to learn the ways and history indigenous to that land.” In Europe, the old ways of that land - the Celtic and Druid; in Asia, the Taoist, Buddhist and Hindu; in Africa the ancient African cosmology that preceded the missionaries; in the Americas the ways of the First Nations.

Since this is the one time of the year when the mainstream culture includes and recognizes the First Nations in our national story, I wanted to share with you another Native elder’s words on Thanksgiving.

Chief Oren R. Lyons is Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Onondaga Nation and a Native American scholar at Syracuse University. Here he shares the First Nation’s history of Thanksgiving and survival:

"Thanksgiving in America is a family day. It’s the least commercial of American holidays, and that’s good.

I can only suppose that religious peoples would celebrate Thanksgiving religiously, meaning that they would direct their gratefulness to the god of their religion, or gods, as the case may be.

As for us, the native peoples of North, Central, and South America, giving thanks is a way of life. We have ceremonies of thanksgiving for all of the Creation that take place around the lunar year.

Prior to 1492 things were quite good here in Turtle Island (North America). The streams, rivers, and lakes were teeming with fish. The woods were magnificent with old growth trees, full of free and contented animals. The Great Plains of North America were as full of animal life as the Serengeti plains of Africa. There were millions upon millions of buffalo and passenger pigeons. The deer and the antelope were playing and villages upon villages of our peoples (American Indians) sharing peace and prosperity and giving thanks on a daily basis to the Creator for the goodness and bounty of Mother Earth. Life was good. No doubt things have changed, drastically.

In 1620 a small band of religious refugees and entrepreneurs fleeing religious persecution on a small sailing vessel named the Mayflower landed at a place we now call Cape Cod. After raiding a deserted Nauset village of ten bushels of corn, oil, and a bag of beans, they settled at their next stop – a deserted village of the Wampanoag [people] called Pawtuxet and later renamed Plimoth. For the native people of the Americas, the story goes downhill from there.

Yes, it’s true that a former English slave named Samoset, an Abnaki, came with another former slave named Tisquantum, a Wampanoag, and together they saved the lives of this bedraggled group of survivors whose ranks had dwindled to nine able-bodied men. The others were too sick and/or weak from hunger to help themselves.

Yes, there was a harvest celebration in the fall of 1621 and the great leader Massasoit, with ninety members of his village, brought five deer to help launch a three-day feast. This was the first Thanksgiving for the English on our soil.

Massasoit kept the peace. It was the children of this Thanksgiving who broke faith. In 1661 Massasoit died and in 1676 his son, Metacomet, was hunted down and killed by the English in a swamp. His head was put on a pike and stayed for twenty-five years as a reminder to all native peoples that this fate awaited those who would resist the hegemony of English and Christian empire.

Today we the survivors of a great genocide continue to give thanks for what we have. It is still our way of life, and I think it’s a good idea that Americans set aside a day of thanksgiving for life and family. The freedom to give thanks is not predicated on a religious doctrine, but it is an inherent right vested in this land and our peoples who were here long before the white man."

- Chief Oren Lyons

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Giving thanks, or an attitude of gratitude is one of my own keys of survivorship and living the well-lived life, beyond surviving and on toward thriving. I am very grateful to be a survivor.

All the best as we reflect in gratitude,
el poquito

Monday, November 17, 2008

Again and Again I Am Reminded

a villanelle por mi compadre tiburón


Falling down again, I raise high my fist!
Groping the air, I stumble and fall.
Rising up again, a window opens.

Frustrated, angry, I am so pissed.
Blind and psychotic I try to crawl.
Falling down again, I raise high my fist!

Again, I’m reminded that I am blessed;
to open my eyes; to hear the call.
Rising up again, a window opens

wide to me, the invited guest,
and I tumble through, begin to fall.
Falling down again, I raise high my fist!

I struggle to try to do my best;
if only to climb even a small
rising. Up again, a window opens.

Forward always on this quest!
Tiahui! Courage for us all!
Falling down again, I raise high my fist!
Rising up again, a window opens.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Rapture of Matisse's Scissors


84 year old hands
guide scissors,
carving light,
pure chroma;
visions: Japanese Green,
Persian Violet, Aquamarine.

Matisse’s scissors move forward,
always forward – confidently
cutting the contours,
cutting away all that is not
leaf and vine; woman and flower;
determining what is not,
and what is.

Perseverance furthers.
Determination defines.

This: I will keep.
This: I will not, and
let
fall
around my feet -
worry; fear;
pain; despair.
I cut them away.

Remaining: the fruits, the flowers, the sea, the vine.

Buddha’s blade cuts; a scythe
through dark illusion.
Sword of discernment
slices the air
without
a
sound…
the fabric, the veil
of the known Universe,
torn -
never to be the same!

Once witnessed,
you cannot turn back.

Once the veil has been sheared
in two,
you are the invited guest
into an
UN-
KNOWN
UNIVERSE.

Buddha with shears -
more than
invited guest.
From his wheelchair,
from his bed,
dancing, birthing
hand-carved illumined
vision;
dipping hands into
raw earth,
color, form…
stirring Life and Joy,
freeing
flora and fauna,
springing forth
from his hands
as if
from

Nothingness.

Genesis: Let there be Light!

Magic leaping,
climbing the walls,
ascending upward,
around the corner, down the hall,
spilling… pouring …
into the rooms, out the doors,
through the windows,
into the streets,
ecstatic splendor
cascading
throughout the countryside;
the magic of:
a child at play;
Buddha with his Blade
of Discernment;
a madman departing in
mahasamadhi;
magic of Light and Beauty
rising from his aged hands…
Hands that
loved, touched,
wiped tears, comforted;
tended wounds, gardens,
children and paints.
Now, magic scissors
and pure heart,
cut a swath
through darkened
fear and illusion…
and passive voices
of lost hope.

He is more alive than most!
More free than many.

He is the Pied Piper
on the “Adventure of a Lifetime”
through the veil,
up the hill…
a chapel of light, a beacon
on the mountaintop,
calling All
to the Tree of Life,
to sit in its shade,
to taste its fruit…

Behold: the Gateway,
spun from color, breath,
determination and spark;
carved
from the
Rapture of
Matisse’s scissors.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A little something to help ease you through Election Day

These two pieces say it all. Hope they help take the edge off any election day stress.
Good Luck America...
~el poquito

from The People Have the Power
-Patti Smith & Fred Smith

...and my senses newly opened
I awakened to the cry
that the people have the power
to redeem the work of fools
upon the meek the graces shower
it's decreed the people rule

The people have the power
The people have the power
The people have the power
The people have the power



(mural - Detroit Industry - Diego Rivera: Detroit Institute of Arts)

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THE POWER IN NEKKIDNESS
Old Fat Naked Women For Peace
by The Righteous Mothers

Dia de Los Muertos - Day of the Dead


Dia de Los Muertos - Day of the Dead is a time of remembering. It is a different take on the season of Halloween, ghosts and ghouls. Some connect it with All Saint's Day on the Christian calendar, but it far predates any missionary influence to pre-Columbian indigenous tradition and history. This is the time when we have been taught to honor the memory of those loved ones who have left our earthly world. We remember them, what they taught us, the flowers and songs of their lives that they left behind for us to remember them by.

I make the ofrenda, the altar, from a table in the "living" room. I cover it with a nice cloth, add candles, light them, place photos, flowers, favorite foods- the pintos, the chile, favorite drinks - the coffee, the vodka, poems and stories, obits... I light the new mexican sage and let the smoke drift over the altar. I remember each of them - our time shared together; some a long lifetime; some a brief, but important crossing of paths; some old, some far too young. Each of these folks who has died and moved on, has left a part of themselves with me. I recognize the gifts I've received. And I am grateful.

They don't need my food offerings. They don't need the candles or the flowers. I need those things: small actions that recognize the importance of those who've gone before me, that help me to remember and keep their memory alive. They don't need my earthly offerings. But they do need me to remember. And I need me to remember. Remembering the Past and the seeds that they planted, in order to move forward in courage into an unknown future.

One day perhaps my children will make an ofrenda and teach their children this simple way to "Remember." Perhaps my smilin' mug will be looking out at them one day and they will remember. We will bridge across time and distance with love and memory and remain connected. Always.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Matisse's Scissors

Dedicated to my coompañeros on the road. (you know who you are)

One definition of irony: Most of my adult life I have worked with others with disabilities, limitations, pain and uncooperative body parts assisting them through massage, exercise and rehabilitation. Now, I live with disability, limitation, pain and uncooperative body parts... Irony... she's a good friend of mine. We know each other intimately.

On this "Surviving Life-threatening Illness Road" I've met some special compañeros; fellow travelers who also know the challenges of moving forward "by hook and by crook." An adaptation of my "work" has been to assist them without ever placing my hands on them; to help them in understanding pain and help translate it's messages, how to find relief and how to live beyond the "cage" that pain and limitation can bring. Little lessons I've learned along the way...

Tonight's Class:
Sounds as if things are going well with your observations. There's definitely a place for denial I believe. But then there's also a place for paying attention. Neutral observation. That's what I was implying with rating pain with a number (1-10) and naming it's qualities. You, the wordsmith could have some fun with that: naming the qualities of the moment, the nuances, the adjectives. Otherwise we get caught in this group hypnosis of ->PAIN<-. I name it that because people have a collective agreement and response to pain. !!!->PAIN<-!!! : !!!->OWWW!<-!!! With all it's spikey hurt and fear. And then the worry.... There is all this collective, group pain that is all too easy to tap into - and then others look upon you with their own fear, worry and concern that's a lot about them and how your situation scares the crap outta them! Their genuine concern for you is there also, but neither will help us move forward. And that's what it's about, yes? Moving forward - always forward, by hook and by crook... persevering... and when we run low on perseverance, then out of sheer stubbornness. When we name pain's qualities (sharp, stabbing, throbbing, dull, weak, burning, ad infinitum...) and get to know it's nuances, it begins to have less of a hold over us. That simple. We start to notice it isn't necessarily 3-alarm !!!->PAIN<-!!! all the time. It fluctuates, has a rhythm, moves like a tide rising and receding. With observation comes an objectifying of the pain. It isn't us. And we are not it. It's only a sidebar. Yep, there's the other stuff: the losses, limitations, being robbed of energy and ability, but what is most important is to keep all that stuff as a sidebar to my Life, my real Life, the stuff that makes me - me; the joys, passions, dreams and relationships along with all the "other" real life stuff - the challenges, the "crap", the chores, the relationships <------(they get to be on both lists! Rewarding and challenging as they are). The pain, the discomfort, the ache and frustration??? Heh!!!! Not gonna let it take me down if I can help it. So I remind myself about Matisse sitting in his wheelchair at the end of his life with his scissors, no longer able to stand, no longer able to paint the way he once did. Instead, cutting shapes of color that began climbing his walls from his bed, and around the corner and down the hallway to the other rooms - eventually this style of work becoming his final masterpieces. All born out of his "inability." I have a beautiful photo of him: barefoot, kinda Santa-chubby, sitting in a wheelchair, large scissors in his hands, focused on cutting the next shape, scraps of paper cuttings strewn at his feet all around the wheels of his chair. Working passionately into his eighties. By hook and by crook.

You're made of the same.

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"You see as I am obliged to remain often in bed because of the state of my health, I have made a little garden all around me where I can walk... There are leaves, fruits, a bird..." - Henri Matisse describing his bedroom/studio.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Adventures of Popeye

At 12 yrs. old he decided he was going to sail on tall ships. You know, like 1800's brigantines and schooners. At 13 he began learning through doing. It's a small slice of the world where you still learn through apprenticeship. Every summer since, he has sailed on the Great Lakes as part of a youth sail training program, working his way up to becoming first mate this past summer aboard "Playfair" of Toronto Brigantine. Some of you know his story. It continues...

Now he is on the crew of "Pride of Baltimore." They sailed up the St. Lawrence, past Montreal, Quebec City, up to the Atlantic Provinces. They sailed down to Boston. The hurricane approached with 5 inches of rain in one day. As it came up the coast they were heading down to New York City. While he is at sea there is no communicating with him. Other parents of kids his age are coping with things like their kids moving away to live in a dorm. They feel a certain powerlessness and hope their kids will be all right. Us? Our kid is reduced to a red dot on a map that indicates where the ship is. We watch it helplessly as it skirts the hurricane. We await the red dot's safe arrival in New York harbor.

One day, the red dot arrives safely. Whew! Two days later he calls. "We're in port. I can see the Statue of Liberty. Where the World Trade Center was? It's up the street. Oh, we're at the end of Wall St..." So there's my son, harbored on the end of Wall St. as it's going through it's nightmare collapse.

"What's it like there on Wall Street?" I ask.

"Bunch of crazy, angry people," he says. There's my boy, sitting on the edge of America on a tall ship as the golden street turns to rust.

They sailed on.

Today he calls me. "I only have a minute to talk. I just wanted to tell you about the race. We just got into port a couple of hours ago." They had just completed and won the "Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race." He's geeked, He's high on adrenaline, talking fast and excited. "We were neck and neck with the Virginia for 14 hours... First we would take the lead and steal their wind and then they would take the lead... We were never more than a boat length apart for 14 hrs. We were doing all sorts of sailing tricks - some of 'em kinda risky."

My knee-jerk parental response was, "Why were you guys doing it, if it was risky?"

"It was a race, Dad!"

Oh, yeah.... And once again I am reminded I am powerless as the father of Popeye.

He continues on with his story, "We were sailing hard when all of a sudden a big gust came up and snapped the main sail of the VIrginia. We pulled out ahead of them and won the race!" I can hear his crew-mates in the background. He's talking with them and then suddenly is back to me saying, "I've gotta go. I've got the afternoon off and tomorrow too. We're off to explore Portsmouth, Virginia." And he's gone...

I once heard someone say, "With the world the way it is now, if you're not living life on the edge, you're probably taking up too much room." Popeye is one who takes up little room. Sometimes I think some of the lessons he learned in his teenage years of having a sick Dad, were about Life lived on the edge. Each day counts. A lot. Squeeze the most living out of every single day. Live on the edge, but most importantly - Passionately Live!!!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

heh. guess you're not inside my mind....

It's been pointed out to me that I confused some folks with my Autumn Equinox Triptych. I'm sorry to have not been clearer. All is well with my health. It has been 3 years now since my first becoming ill and I needed to wrap that chapter up. It's been a journey, and markers like the Autumn Equinox are like a wrinkle in time. It seems like yesterday on some days; like a lifetime on others. One of my coping skills is to write my way through a challenge. Writing/ Paddling, one in the same. Must keep paddling forward. And I am. So I apologize if I caused any of you any concern.

These days my mind is filled with these words/thoughts/images:
Oases - as in planned resting places in my mind, week, routine;
Carrots - as in the kind I reach ahead for;
Will;
Intention;
Determine;
Persevere...

Good words, all. Any and all worth kicking around, mulling over and reflecting upon.

"The mind is the medicine." -Tlakaelel

As you see, I've come far since "surviving." I am fortunate. I'm sorry if I gave any other impression. Life is good. Very good.

A RECENT OASIS

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Flowers for Mother Hubbard



Old Mother Hubbard
Went to the cupboard,
To fetch her poor dog a bone.
But when she got there,
The cupboard was bare,
And so the poor dog had none.

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Cupboards are hinting at getting bare. Folks are nervous, especially with the media loop-tape of “Be afraid… be very afraid,” that plays endlessly.

The back wall of our pantry has been painted for just such times as these: images and poetry. When the bread is low, we still have the roses; and especially in those times, we need the flower and song.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

TV Oracle

"The sky is falling!! The sky is falling!!"


Karl Rove Knows


The Debate

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Autumn Equinox - part lll


The Messenger

When I’m able to keep my eyes wide open, keep my ears wide open and keep my spirit wide open – Mystery speaks. As with most things, all it takes is paying attention. It might be an overheard conversation… a phone call from a friend, just when you needed one… a storm… a hummingbird… an eagle feather… an ancient fossil. These messages happen to us all of the time, if only we stop to see.

My wife and I were sitting in the late afternoon sun. We sat on a garden bench outside the oncology center, taking a break from the “too much reality” going on inside. We were noticing how the light is changed in autumn – subtler observations than the reality trying to bludgeon us inside the hospital walls. The last flowers stretched themselves to the sky, to the sun… the last vivid colors before this northern world would soon be stripped down to white, black and shades of gray for many months to come. Soon enough, our eyes would hunger for color and light. We absorbed the last of the warming light falling on our faces that were still brown from the summer sun.

All throughout the garden, chipmunks were scurrying about – under the bushes, through the flowers, busy and hard at work, stuffing their cheeks, chattering to one another, looking for seeds and other edible treasures to stash away for the coming winter months.

Suddenly, darting out from the bushes, appeared the different one – the outlier. He was completely white; no stripes of darker brown down his light brown back; no tan underbelly – totally white. For a moment we tried to grasp what different kind of an animal this was. He behaved just like all of the others, scurrying frenetically as chipmunks do and we realized he was an albino chipmunk. Fascinated, we sat there and watched him closely doing his work, when out of the blue, he charged over the mound of wood chips under the pine tree and ran straight at us, stopped abruptly and fell over on his side about five feet away.

What? He didn’t move. We couldn’t understand what we were seeing – and what we were seeing was a pure, white chipmunk, who had fallen in his tracks, that now appeared either dead or unconscious. He lay there absolutely still and unmoving, as were we. We looked at each other confused, trying to comprehend the scene, while the other chipmunks continued their afternoon’s work of harvesting. We puzzled over the little guy’s demise for a couple of minutes when as suddenly as he’d fallen, he now leapt to his feet, shook it off and ran back into the underbrush, as if nothing unusual had just happened.

In a nutshell: we had witnessed a fluke of nature – an outsider, an outlier from the norm – a little white ghost of a creature. We had seen him active in his chipmunk life of autumn harvesting. We had watched him keel over as if he were dead. And we had seen him resurrect. Before our eyes we had seen life come back into him – a private showing for my wife and I only. I admit, I was highly drugged on morphine at the time, but my wife was not. She confirmed it wasn’t the drugs speaking to me. It actually had been a visitation and a message from an albino chipmunk, never to be seen again. His message I would carry within and remember again and again in the coming months…
The universe has interesting ways of getting our attention if we:

Keep our eyes wide open,
Keep our ears wide open,
And keep our spirits wide open –
Mystery speaks.

Every day,
Mystery speaks.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Autumn Equinox - part ll





Dancing in the Abyss

Whenever I feel as though life is hurtling toward the edge, I think of the flyers, los voladores of ancient Mexico… tied by a rope, tethered to the Tree of Life, flying upside-down in the wind; ribbons of color cutting the air with red, yellow, green and blue; music trilling lightly from their flutes singing from the brink of oblivion…. dancing in the abyss. Los voladores are a tradition and vision of equanimity. They breathe grace, even as they spin, hanging by a strand as they hurtle toward the earth. Their sureness and grace lie in their knowing. They know they are held safely, cradled by invisible threads that anchor them to the Infinite.

In the middle of the night, as my abdomen engorged and distended, this unknown “thing” rapidly was crowding my stomach, kidneys, gut and breath. I struggled to breathe – to remain present. The pain cut through my belly with each partial breath, defining the edges of bearable. I fought to find my way to the still-point, the point of balance, where I could float free of pain or at least be released from it’s tenacious grip of fear. I searched to find my freedom and release my fear as I fell through the infinite, through the Abyss. And all the while the pain charged, mounting stronger, searing itself into my flesh, my breaking flesh.

High above the earth, the four voladores settle onto their seats at the top of the central pole. Each flyer, one of the Four Winds: East, South, West and North. The fifth volador climbs above the seated four, standing straight atop the pole on an area that spans no larger than the soles of his feet. He lifts himself upright, defying gravity, height and fear. Drum in hand he begins to beat the rhythm of the heartbeat: ba-bahm, ba-bahm, ba-bahm, ba-bahm. The Heartbeat of Tierra Madre; ba-bahm, ba-bahm, beating on the drum, beating down through the pole, beating into the earth. He sings, calling forth the four winds, the energies weaving together to create a dance of light and air and Spirit. Los voladores sit, each in his direction, high above the density of a world caught in gravity and heaviness. They wind their rickety platform like the winding of a cosmic clock, their ropes wrapping around the pole as they wind it up. Then, together in a synchronized movement, they let themselves go, falling backwards off of their platform into the emptiness of space behind them, trusting that their connection, a single rope tethered to the pole - the Tree of Life, will hold them up against gravity. As the weight of their four bodies pulls downward, the ropes begin unwinding and the flyers soar through the air in ever widening circles. Suspended upside-down, colors flying in freedom, flutes warbling a song of beauty, they defy distress, instead embodying the lightness of Spirit in a state of grace. Los voladres - the flyers: equanimity and balance while dancing in the Abyss.

I lay my body on the earth asking her to cradle me, to take my suffering, to pull the pain from my aching flesh. She calms me, soothes me, comforts me, her child. I give her my fear and panic, the hooks that anchor the intense pain ripping through my flesh. And I breathe…. I breathe.... I could stay here under the nighttime sky asking her to take my pain for as long as she will, for as long as she is able. I could stay here and let go of the body, release it back to the earth…. return it from where it came… “from dust thou came and to dust thou shall return…” And then their faces: my children, my wife - my loved ones appear before me calling me to return to the living, return to the suffering, embrace the pain, to find the rope tethering me to the Tree of Life - the hope for a fleeting moment of grace in the midst of chaos. I pick myself up off the ground and choose to walk forward with courage, to walk myself through the hospital doors. I surrender. And upon arriving in that darkened, pre-dawn hour at the hospital, I surrender myself to the knowledge that my life will never be the same. I surrender to what will be a week-long search for an answer: a search into my body, into my soul.

Los voladores arc gracefully through the air, their ropes unwinding from the pole, 52 times circling in an inverted upside-down dance; 52 sacred circlings of grace under fire. 52, the sacred number from the Ancient Ones, the memory passed from one generation to the next. And they hold to the instructions, hold to the memory, hold to the ancestors, performing their sacred duty, their flying dance of 52 circlings of the Tree of Life that helps the earth to awaken to another day.

The story of the hospital unfolds amidst blood tests, x-rays, cat scans, lymph node biopsy, bone marrow biopsy, consultations and teams of doctors searching for an answer, tracking down clues to a puzzle, in hopes around the next corner the answer lies: 52 sacred turnings of the rope, circling the Tree of Life.

Now the ropes unwind to their full length. Los voladores fly in beauty; large slow circles, the flutes trilling playfully, the drum steadily beating, another Dance of Grace completed… and in the final circling, the 52nd one, the flyers smoothly right themselves to meet the ground on their feet. They take their first steps on the earth... humble walkers once again. Flyers, disguised among the walking - until tomorrow when they will fly again and call the Earth to awaken to another dawn.

Dawn in the hospital held most in slumber, except those who had routines to perform: blood to be drawn, medicines to be dispensed, vitals to be recorded… routines. The dawn of my diagnosis of cancer coursing throughout my body, through my blood, found me escaping the hospital walls to the outdoors – to the garden. Here I was again, under a pre-dawn, still nighttime sky. All of my worldly foundations had crumbled. Now, I sat under a vision of an endless universe filled with stars, galaxies and Mystery; a vision of the Eternal flying high above this mortal ground… and this time I sang. My IV pole on wheels became the Tree of Life; the plastic tubing dripping medicines into me became the rope tethering me to the Tree. I circled the IV pole Tree of Life, inverted, upside down, 52 sacred circlings, defying pain and fear, safely held by the Invisible, connecting me to the Infinite.

I had become un volador - one who dances in the Abyss…and sings:

In the house made of dawn,
In the story made of dawn,
On the trail of dawn…
Beauty is before me.
Beauty is behind me.
Above and below me
Hovers the beautiful.
And I am surrounded by it.
I am immersed in it.
In my youth I am aware of it,
And in the sunset of my life
I shall walk quietly
The beautiful trail.



(poem by n. scott momaday)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Autumn Equinox: a triptych - part l



Monday morning the sun's path will cross the equator as he moves southward. Autumn equinox - the first day of fall. The West is the direction of sunset, autumn and reflection; transition and death. It calls us to look within, gather the harvest, prepare for the winter. It was three years ago, in the night of the first day of autumn that the earth opened up to me. I found myself far below this "worldly life", struggling to keep a foothold. I wrote this immediately after receiving the final news in the hospital that my life would never be the same.

There are many events in a life that are crossroads moments - when life spins on a dime, never to be the same... We all, at one time or another, are swallowed by the earth - falling down the rabbit-hole.

This was written in a heavy morphine haze - I believe written by me, to me - an instruction manual in survival in less than 125 words. I offer it for others who find themselves walking a labyrinth.


The Labyrinth

Trust the process;
the process of twists and turns,
left, right, forward, back…
twisting, turning,
seemingly backwards, upside-down, inside-out,
yet always forward, always forward...
Tiahui. Tiahui.
Forward in courage -
with open heart, open mind,
open Spirit, open eye.
I find my way to the center.
I claim the core, the Heart of hearts.
Remembering the old ones; the young ones;
the Ancient Ones; the new ones yet to be...
Remembering the fabric
from which I’ve come.
Alchemy in the process,
changing me from rough gray lead
to shining burnished silver
ornamented with stones of turquoise.
Re-minding me Home.

Trust the process.
The process of twists and turns,
Seemingly backwards, upside-down, inside-out,
Yet always forward.
Always forward.
Tiahui.
Tiahui.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Silenced No More

Odd, how life in dreams can be. Anything is possible. One night, in a dream, I was “visited” by a black, lesbian poet. By “visited” I mean I was a black, lesbian poet – feeling all of the outsiderness of being a black, lesbian poet in mainstream america. Being inhabited by “another” is a deep way to connect, to feel; and what that dream brought to me was all the feeling of the depth of the experience of being an outsider.

Coincidentally (?), a couple of weeks later in my waking life, Audre Lord, a black, lesbian poet found me. She was a new discovery to me through a book that practically jumped off of the public library bookshelves and into my hands called 'The Cancer Journals'. She wrote this book back in 1980 born out of her personal experiences, and although outwardly her background and experiences were far different from my own, inwardly, I found we had more in common than different -- the shared commonness of having 'fallen down the rabbit-hole'.

Cancer - the great equalizer. The truly equal opportunity employer that doesn't show preferential treatment as it sweeps through the population, touching almost half of us at one time or another. Half of us. Think about it. A daunting statistic most people don't know until they themselves are touched. Once fallen, we find ourselves in a very dark place, but upon looking more closely, as our eyes adjust to the darkness we find footsteps, paths made by those who have gone before.

I found Audre Lorde's very clear footsteps down there. With her words like a machete, she cleared a path for me to follow - reminding me: we're not alone. We're never alone. Just follow the footsteps.

I was gifted when I first had that dream that alerted me. I was further gifted when I recognized her arrival into my life and her words lit my path; when she so honestly shared her fears with me, not always being brave and courageous, but human; human in the rawness of her vulnerability - our shared vulnerability.

I hope and work to listen to her call, to rise above the fears that want to swallow me, that want to swallow all of us into powerlessness and silence, whatever the circumstances of what might feel like our own very dark rabbit-hole.


In 'The Cancer Journals' she writes:

“I was going to die, if not sooner then later, whether or not I had ever spoken myself. My silence had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you.”

"Sometimes fear stalks me like another malignancy, sapping energy and power and attention from my work. A cold becomes sinister; a cough, lung cancer; a bruise, leukemia. Those fears are most powerful when they are not given voice, and close upon their heels comes the fury that I cannot shake them. I am learning to live beyond fear by living through it, and in the process learning to turn fury at my own limitations into some more creative energy. I realize that if I wait until I am no longer afraid to act, write, speak, be, I'll be sending messages on a ouija board, cryptic complaints from the other side. When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less important whether or not I am unafraid."

and…

“May these words serve as encouragement for others to speak and to act out of our experiences with cancer and other threats of death, for silence has never brought us anything of worth.”

She wrote these brave words in 1979-80, when there weren’t the open conversations and supports that exist in the world today, and if this old dawg, el poquito, can find solace and inspiration in a breast cancer/mastectomy survivor's testimony, then probably most others can, too. Some of our strengths lie in our diversity of experiences outside of our own, where we find we are a lot more the same than different.

Thank you, Audre. I am no longer silent.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Restoration


Do you know which way I went?
I remember seeing me the other day
talking with the homeless woman
about her missing child -
the auto accident -
and the curse...
and noticing how she
folded and unfolded
the origami change purse
she held nervously in her hands...
telling me her story,
that was my story too,
about the tragedies that had
broken her,
and broken her again
into a pile of human shards
scattered across the land...
unrecognizable from the fine
strong vessels
we once were
before.

Yesterday I was high in the mountains
crossing a dangerous pass -
Dead Man's Pass...
It was too long a journey.
I was so tired...
Last I recall I was looking out the window of the train,
looking out upon the savanna --
The light and heat were beating down upon us
and the gazelles were running swiftly away
fleeing from the hard-breathing animal
that snaked it's way through the plains.
Did you see me come by here yesterday?
Do you know which way I went?

Later I remember seeing me
methodically shoveling the dirt.
How do you move a mountain?
One shovelful at a time...
Restoring hope can take time that way -
like moving a mountain
with a shovel.
It can be done.
I've seen it happen
many times.
But renewal does not birth easily.
Did you catch a glimpse of me?
Do you know which way I went?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Breathe


It's September. Labor Day weekend has passed. The kids are back in school. The pace picks up - despite nature's pace winding down. In one week the date will be 9-11. The classic images, the ones burned in our collective retina will begin this week - you know, planes crashing, exploding buildings, people fleeing down the streets in terror. Terror - the broad paintbrush of the past 7 years. You don't need me to drive these images of fear and national symbols of trauma deeper.

What I offer instead is a remedy - an antidote, written the week following 9-11-01. I offer it today at the beginning of this week where "they" will remind us repeatedly how unsafe we are. How insecure and vulnerable we all are in a world gone mad. True perhaps, but there's more to the story. There's always more to the story....

"I was to meet with a friend this morning, a midwife who never made it to our appointed time to meet. I assume she was probably busy at a birth with a mom and new arrival. It's good to remember that in times such as these, with the appearance of darkness overwhelming us, that Life keeps moving forward; babies are being born today - new hope, new breath, new life. We certainly have been wading through the other side of it all recently.

I picture you in my mind and heart, well and at peace and will hold that picture as we continue to wade deeply through our human muck. We truly are a strange species - capable of inflicting the darkest horrors and birthing the most tender beauty. Remember friend, we are not alone. I am here fanning tender embers of hopefulness and peace with my breath, as are others. The same breath that flowed through all our ancestors before, flows through and around each of us now and blesses the newly arrived who draw their first breath today.

BREATHE...

Share in that first breath of the newly born - breathe in the life, the precious life. Here, Now, Breathe..."

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sidewalk Art


anonymous street artist

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sestina to Yes

There was a time when all
I knew were the habits of living,
motions looking for connection
beyond the mechanical, lost,
churning of the hour
hungering for the feeling of "yes!"

If I'd only known yes
was the secret, it all
would have unfolded in an hour
or so of fruitful living,
washing away the confusion of lost
and wasteful motion without connection -

grounding me into the radiant connection
of hands, heart and Spirit singing "yes!"
I am no longer lost
in the frenzy of it all.
With the job of living
I fill each and every hour

and try to remember that this hour,
this one moment of connection,
is a rare gift of living
present in the moment of yes,
not in the dream where all
is a game to be won or be lost.

There is no winning without those who have lost-
no eternity without the finite hour.
Still, the pulse, the rhythm - the heartbeat of all,
calls the soul longing for holy connection
with all that is made of heartfelt yes
and joy and loving and living...

I do not know the secret of living
or how to accept all that is lost,
but I know it begins with the Spirit of yes
and removing the shackles of the grinding hour.
And found in loving, spirited connection
that binds us one to All.

When my living be done and in it's final hour,
When the last has been lost - even the threadbare connection,
I hope to sing yes as I surrender, let go and relinquish it all.

><><><><><><><><><><<<><><><><><><><><

*Sestinas go back to 13th century troubadours - 6 stanzas ending with the same 6 words repeated in a specific pattern that forms a spiral, driving the words and theme deeper and deeper. The 7th stanza of 3 lines uses all 6 words. They were performed as a contest between troubadours - kind of an obsessive-compulsive meets hip-hop poetry slam. And for my purposes an exercise in cognitive restoration post-chemo.

**No - also a powerful word medicine when used wisely.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Greater Mystery



It is in the realm of mystery where such things as love and healing reside. Anyone who has ever experienced either can tell you it is so, but yet words escape in attempting to describe the experience. Still we know they are real.

Incurable is a very odd word used to medically describe my circumstances. Such a final ring to it – incurable: a hot, stuffy room in summer with all the doors closed and windows latched with no air to breathe… a room I don’t care to spend much time in. It does serve me though by making me consider, reflect and take a deeper look at "healing" and what it means to me. When cure is not considered an option, then all the other possible options need to be explored. A window gets cracked open – and just that much is all I need to bring the tiniest bit of fresh air into the stifling, hot room.

Healing is something I wake up and affirm daily, regardless of how crappy or bleak things may look or seem. Healing, like hope, is an action verb. It needs constant tending. It’s my patch of earth that needs tilling, planting, watering and constant weeding. Healing says, "don't judge a book by it's cover." Healing says, "dig deeper… and now more." Healing says, "today is what matters, NOW… this moment." Healing says, “I need to love and also to be loved,” exposing us to our vulnerability. Healing says, "let's go fishing, listen to the birds, feel the wind, write poetry and dance…"

Healing, as an action verb, not a wish bestowed, is an exploration that includes not only the obvious like nutrition or exercise, but also an often challenging navigation of the subtleties -- being able to live smack dab in the middle of the tension between opposites, such as: courage and fear; hope and despair; love and hate; joy and sorrow… It is a very human experience…one a sane person would never volunteer for, but one that completes the human experience. Cure is the golden ring we all think we would like to capture. It’s the best…it’s the golden ring. But none of us is getting out of this place alive; there isn’t a cure to earthly, mortal life. With that in mind, finding our way and our humanity, in this world of opposites and contradictions; finding another’s humanity despite their contradictions, because they are human also: this is healing. At least a tiny corner of it that’s been revealed to me thus far.

When facing a life-threatening illness, it forces you to start digging deeper. What is offered? Is this a blind, dead-end alley or just a narrowing curve that I can’t see beyond? What goals are easily within my reach? And what ones that would appear far-fetched or beyond my reach are worth pursuing anyway? “Nothing ventured, nothing gained…” Remarkable recoveries do occur and not just occasionally. According to scientists, 95% of the universe is comprised of what they call dark matter, an unknown, a mystery… The visible universe makes up the other five per cent – that which we see and know. That leaves a lot of room for Mystery… and for healing…

Mystery… ninety-five percent. Think about it.

Monday, August 4, 2008

recurring dreams, mending heart & tizitl


It's high noon.  In the dream it's always high noon.  And I am inside of a school, a home - different settings with the sudden need to go outside.  I open the door to step out and instead of the light of "high noon" there is nothing but pitch black.  Inky, thick, darkness. What???  And I think to myself,  "this is not going to be an ordinary day..."

It's high noon folks.  And there's a lot of darkness out there.  You can feel it - it's palpable: the fear, the worry, the concern.  If you don't feel it, it must be because you're too busy shopping.  But then you're probably not here reading the ramblings of el poquito.  So for you quaking in our collective boots, I offer this silly little blog.

"Maybe I should take a break from it all and try to mend my heart."

Hmmm... mystery words that arrive in a dream worth considering.  Stepping back from terror always begins with that - stepping back...."maybe I should take a break from it all..." 
Interesting advice when one is stuck in darkness at noon like a fly to flypaper...

That is the story, again and again.  How do we step back against the onslaught of life's wounds and injuries, when it jostles us about, as it, lives us?   Yes, sometimes life lives us - despite our tantrums, our pleadings and supplications and our positive thinking.  It still lives us, over and over again.  And that part can be frightening.  The surrender necessary, is over most of our heads  We are a people of get and have, a culture of not enough, living under a banner of victors and winners.   But how do you break the darkness that reaches across the sky at high noon when you can't bend the universe to your will?  There are some forces that are just too big.  

I take to heart, concentration camp survivor Dr. Victor Frankl and his advice that the key that unlocks the prison door is in our response to the horror we find ourselves living in.  It's in the response.  One more time - the ticket is in the response.  My response will determine my next destination, and my chance out of this darkness.   Much can be lost or stolen, but the one thing that we can determine never to lose is that small, still place within us where our dignity and hope live with our ability to determine our next response.  This is the only worthwhile ticket. The others are only fantasy 5-day cruises. Tempting, but they only offer 5 days.  I'm holding out.

It's not in the willful attempt to create my reality where I will find relief or sustenance or joy. It's in my response to the life living me.

Step back - and try to mend the heart.

Which brings me here.  To this.  To you in this "Blogs 'r Us" world.  The past almost three years has been a rugged journey for me.  For many I have disappeared, especially in this past year when my physical limiting conditions caused me to "step back".  It's been a year of retreat, rediscovery and reconstruction.  A big restoration project - not as before, but with some of the old parts torn down with some new wings and additions added.  So you, dear reader, I invite you to this place with el poquito to "tizitl blogspot".  Tizitl is nahuatl, an indigenous language of Mexico and the southwest.  Tizitl means healer.  I want to carve out one more piece into the darkness surrounding, a place to touch upon healing - for myself and for all of us.  A healing garden, hence flower and song - an old tradition of Mexico: flor y canto.

I leave you with this:

the word holy
and whole
and heal
all have the same root - 
and if one is the same as the other 
or cousins at least
then the holy
is the wholly
from the sacred
to the profane.

Tiahui (forward in courage - your next nahuatl vocabulary word)  
tiahui, always forward, always forward....

Come join me at el poquito's table... we have much to share.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

taxi confessions

I had to laugh at myself in the back seat of a short cab ride home, not enough leg power at the moment to ride the bus and walk the short ways, so payin' the big taxi bucks.  The curious driver wants to know about the crutches and me and my work, and when I say I've had to retire and he asks why, I tell him I got sick a little while back.  Enough, right?  No.  "What did you have?"  "Cancer."  He then proceeds to tell me if it were him how he wouldn't pursue treatment.  I caution him saying, "never say never...  I used to feel that way.  I always told my poor wife if I were ever terminal, just set me up a nice bed on the porch - weather permitting, let me hang out, listen to the birds and watch the light change throughout the day...."  He agrees.  My home is only a few blocks away and I'm feeling like the "mystery rider of the day" - you know, the one with "a message" in the movie  and I need to give it to him fast.  

Yep, somehow in the back of someone's taxi that I've not been in for 3 minutes I'm going to become a cliché and I'm going to share with him my own very personal why of "never say never."

It was the middle of the night, I was in severe pain.  I didn't need an expert to tell me that without help I would die soon.  4 am, trying to leave for the emergency room, but I can't get to the car. I lie down on the earth because that's all I can do.  The earth absorbs my pain, makes it a little more tolerable, tolerable enough that I'm comfortable dying here.  I could just lie here, let the earth take me.  After all it's going to happen to all of us some day, right?  Tonight's my night.  I'll curl up into the earth's arms and wait....  I'm looking up at a clear starry sky on the first night of autumn.  It's cosmic and so am I. After all I want to die "in a good way."  I lay there looking up at the stars when suddenly I see clearly a vision of my wife's face - not her actual face that was busy pacing the yard trying to figure out once again what to do with this man she's chosen to share a life with.  Her face hovers inches above mine, lingers a few seconds, vanishes and is replaced by my son's face.  His face recedes to the background and my other son's face appears.... then it all dissolves into starry sky.  I know what I am supposed to do.  I know it in my bones.  I have to face my fear.  Not of dying, but of going through the hospital doors and not coming out anytime soon.

I tell the cab driver, "For me the scary thing wasn't dying," this had his attention now,"It was going through those hospital doors and surrendering, but I knew I had to.  I knew it was about a lot more than just me.  I couldn't just go off and die and leave them just yet.  I was still needed.  So for me the brave thing was to haul my ass up off the ground and go to the hospital and surrender.

Sometimes surrender is the only way through....

As he dropped me off he told me that he himself had 13 kids!  
I gave him a really good tip, which surprised him.   "With 13 kids, you need it buddy!"  I close the car door thinking to myself, never say never...

Drop the old tired dogma.  Be open to surprises (some of them are good surprises) - like highly toxic medications that may help one survive to have a little more time to love, to be loved and to be the mystery man in the movie with the message....

                      ><><><><<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><

 

Flor y Canto - a sestina by el poquito

What I leave you is a flower
and a well-loved song.
This will be your inheritance
to pass on to the next generation
of vital, young ones that have
patiently waited to receive. 

In all that I receive, 
it is the aroma of the flower
in the dream that I have, 
in the birth of the song, 
being sung to the next generation
of all that is rich and worthy of inheritance.

All the riches of inheritance, 
all the gifts you receive, 
are the music - the generation
of poetry in flower, 
of love into song
and all that I have

because all that I have
to give you for inheritance
is the poetry of a song
that was given to me to receive -
the blossom of a flower
from an ancient generation.

And to your generation...
all the dreams that I have, 
all the colors that flower, 
all the beauty of inheritance
and wealth to receive
I give you as a song

to be heard in your heart, a song
to be passed to the next generation
awaiting to receive
all that we have
to give as inheritance:
the song and the flower.

Rising up in song, I give you all that I have:
the melody, the generation of loving inheritance...
the light we receive like a garden in flower...


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

your one wild and precious life

The Summer Day - Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean - 
the one who has flung herself out of the grass, 
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand, 
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down - 
who is gazing around with her enormous eyes. 
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away. 
I don't know exactly what a prayer is. 
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, 
how to kneel down in the grass, 
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, 
which is what I have been doing all day. 
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon? 
Tell me, what is it you plan to do 
with your one wild and precious life?