Haiku for Uvalde

No comprehension
In these life’s ragged moments
Empty in the void

Hear the mother hen
Squawking distress heartbreak grief
Skunk’s hunger sated

Loud rolling thunder
Image fading too slowly
Empty weeping arms

Handcuff mothers’ fear
Protecting children dying
More guns men laughing

Peace found within fields
Memory of loving days
Mountain heart endures

Back from Bedlam

Apropos, I suppose, I woke up this morning with James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” running through my head. The song appeared on his first album Back to Bedlam (named after a famous psychiatric hospital in England). Of course “bedlam” is descriptive of my anguished frustration and confusion as to “how can this keep happening” — these senseless murders of young children. With the tune playing through my mind as I came out of sleep, I was also well aware of the counterpoise necessary to rebalance myself after giving permission for that one voice to blow off some steam and heed the call to get loud.

I reflect that thirty-plus years ago, when I was 40, I started training in kung fu. At first it was simply a disciplined way to get exercise, but as I moved into the art, it became one of my deepest psychological journeys.

Early in my training, I was tasked with learning a series of moves: a straight punch to the face, an elbow to the chin, and knee to the groin (all with full control because that, in essence, was what we were training to have:  control). I performed the move — quite well, I thought — with hardness. “Look at my warrior strength!!” my ego beamed.

My sifu stopped me and said, “Good, but now I want you to do it slowly and softly.” I looked at him, and I said, “Well, I can’t do that. That’s not who I am,” so ingrained in this persona that who “I was” was hard and strong and direct. But he was not going to argue with me; he gave me the choice to do it slowly and softly or to get on the ground and do 50 full-body pushups with my partner kicking me in the stomach on each plank. I kid you not, but without hesitation I dropped to the ground to do that instead of having to be soft.

My sifu, not expecting that to be my choice, stopped me. In essence, the choice changed to “do it soft and slow or end your training.” Because I felt “it” happening, I wanted to argue that I could not do “soft,” and I told to him, “I will cry if I have to do that.” He said, “That’s okay.” I replied, “No, it’s never okay to cry, especially in kung fu.” He chuckled and said, “It’s always okay to cry.”

A higher, wiser Self stepped up beside me (I now recognize it as the Spirt side of Mind/Body/Spirit) and “held” me while I went through that controlled move. And I cried. “Again,” my sifu said. Again, I did it softly and slowly, and I cried more deeply. “Again,” he said.  And I sobbed as I touched feeling so scared and vulnerable in allowing myself to be soft. Through the following seven years of training in kung fu, my challenge was to learn to “yield,” to honor my yin energy, to find the balance between the yin and the yang. I achieved Brown Belt rank before arthritic issues at age 47 (probably the physical manifestation of years of hardness) ended my physical training.

Though most people move through life disguised and dressed in one persona (mine at that time was a hardened, closed-off warrior superwoman), if we become aware, we recognize we all have different voices, or selves, within us, each of which needs to be recognized and honored in order to free ourselves. It was during those years of training in kung fu, in my search to rebalance myself, I was privileged to be introduced to  a wise woman and practitioner of Voice Dialogue, a process through which a person learns to identify and become aware of these different voices or selves in order to become a more balanced individual.  Though far from practiced in the process myself, I recognized its importance in helping me achieve an emotional equipoise in my life.

Back in those days of kung fu, I had to learn to listen to this young, weak child that was never allowed to cry and that had to wear armor to get through life. Not only had that armor ceased to serve me, it had become destructive. Through kung fu — and Voice Dialogue and shamanic work, and eventually meditation — I got in touch with my world of archetypical energies that all serve me when in balance, but also can be destructive or hindering when one outshouts the other.

The Lover’s voice in James Blunt wrote and sang those beautiful songs. “You’re Beautiful” is an incredibly sad song about unrequited love, expressing the intense emotions of James Blunt when he saw his girlfriend with another man and he didn’t do anything about it (in the official video he jumps endlessly off a wall, down, down, down to …?).

Yesterday my Warrior ranted and played the bagpipes and banged on the drums of frustration. This morning, my Priest sat in silent meditation. In the bedlam of our “modern world,” I continue to listen for and await the voice of wisdom and spirit to illuminate the way.

May peace and love find us all and be the loudest voice and the brightest light to show the path forward in the bedlam of our world.

Old Journals – Old Memories

I found an old journal from 1996 that I haven’t looked at probably since I stowed it away. Old memories. One of the first entries reads: “No one can play the strings of your song. I realize that now. I realize what I keep playing is your laughter. What I keep playing is your love. It’s you I play, not me.” Though I allowed it to be a painful time, I’m glad I recorded its journey where I had allowed myself to “fall in love” with the most unavailable — and truly the most gorgeous — man on the planet.

How did I deal with my pain? Exactly as I always have: I jumped on a plane and flew away, this time to Florida, by myself. These are the thoughts that I recorded in a brand-new journal.

Wind on the mountain
Freedom pushing
Strength resisting
Isolation
Solitude of the eagle,
Of the hawk.
Everything trying to merge and
Everything trying to separate
Wholeness held in one hand
Loneliness wrapped in love
Love not knowing its own face
Love not seeing, remaining
Undiscovered and unseen.

(I only write poetry when wounded by love.)

A mockingbird sings, looking for love to touch its soul too. I wait for the sunset in Key West. Still thinking of that man. Can’t get into him. Never will. Can’t get away from him. …But I will. The broad arm of a mahogany leans across the second story patio of Mallory Square, giving shade, but my skin is fried by too much sun.  I can’t feel its cool brush. There’s a gentle clatter of ceiling fans in an effort to move air that’s too tired to move.

At the Italian Fisherman, another day, I sit on a patio at the water’s edge. I watch garfish and cat fish being circled by one small barracuda while shadows of pelicans pass over. At the table next to me are two fat women who are bitching about work in Minnesota: that they’re not allowed to wear perfume. The light breeze brings to me a strong odor of overpoured perfume clinging to their clothes as if telling their boss, “Fuck you. Smell me now.”

Later, traveling across the Everglades, heading to Clearwater, I notice a man following me in a gold Subaru. When the highway becomes four-lane, he hovers next to me, turning constantly to stare at me. It creeps me out. My imagination runs wild, as I imagine him taking down my license plate, and though it’s a rental, somehow he will find out who rented it, telling the agency some story to get them to give them my address. Damn my imagination. I slow way down, visibly taking out a pencil and paper while I drive, letting him know to beware that I am now taking down HIS license. He finally drives on ahead.

There are Native Americans in the Everglades that still live in — or at least build — thatched huts of bundled cattails — like the one I built for myself in New Zealand — but they put tar paper across the peak. A canal that borders Highway 41 is dotted with fishermen. The shacks might be their fishing shacks. In the distance a charcoal cloud, heavy with rain, hangs above the swamp that extends to the horizon. I learned later that a jet crashed into the Everglades — not within my vision or point in time — but 109 people died. The nose of the plane, the plane itself, was buried 30 feet deep in the muck. If anyone had survived the crash, the alligators were waiting. Salvage was not discussed.

Farther west, I met the green fabric of fields woven into the blue fabric of sky from which (for whatever reason), I weave in a quote by Annie Proulx: “We face up to the awful things because we can’t go around them.” That man — that man that I came to Florida to escape — is with me again, like a needle stuck in an old record. I must face why I am attracted to the emotionally unavailable. I already know why I get on planes and fly away when my heart is hurt.

I’m airport watching now on my way back to the Northwest, leaving behind plastic-fantastic. Key West is a fascinating amusement, but overall I dislike Florida. Sitting at Delta Gate 54A, a 25-year-old, hidden behind sunglasses, tells me: “…I was 17 then. A long time ago. I was a day late. Didn’t matter if I was a dollar short or a day late, my parents would take care of it.” He takes off his glasses to clean them on his shirt and puts them back on. “But now,” he says, “it’s the real world.” Yes, it is, I think.

I glance away and see an old man, with trembling hands, eating a nacho with jalapenos. He drinks water,  it shaking in his hand, but suddenly he stands up and moves away from a young woman who’s drinking a beer, changing tables. Then he changes tables again. He’s moving yet again when a long-haired man with a beeper, looking at each beep, distracts me.

Another man, older, without a chin, is standing nearby. He keeps pulling up his overly baggy pants in a way that accentuates his penis and balls. He looks like a child molester. Two indiscreet Native Americans walk by, carrying ceremonial drums. For some reason, the man I’m trying to erase from my heart and mind re-enters, a constant thrump, like the river flowing over rocks and boulders on its way to the sea. Conversations distract me. “Where’s she going to stay?” a man asks. “In the States,” she answers, jutting out her jaw. I didn’t hear the rest as the conversation blurred into a man talking about back surgery to the stranger next to him.

Yes, there are windows opening constantly in the pulse of time. I take it in, like a grouper’s mouth sucking in the unsuspecting dinner. I notice an elegantly dressed woman in colors that accentuate her aged tan and silvered hair. She sits alone, watching also, her hand lazily drooped over the arm of the chair, while mine is scribbling in my journal.

And then she rises, as do I, when boarding is announced.

A Clear-Flowing River — all the rest is just window dressing

First thing each morning, I put on my clothes — no, that’s not true.  First, after I jump out of bed, I scurry quickly five feet down to turn on my little heater in my van in which I live, and as that heat quickly changes the temperature from 39 to a passable 64, then I put on my clothes, often the same ones I wore the day before, but-for clean underwear and socks. I put on a saucepan of water to boil for my coffee while I grind my half cup of beans and put them in the French press, and then, a never-fail ritual, I turn on my laptop and check my emails.

I have five email addresses created for different reasons. They’re like different clothes I put on, or different hats worn for different occasions.

The first email I opened was a weekly post on CaringBridge, updating a friend’s journey with cancer. This week, five weeks after her treatment began, she is completely bald. She posed in the window of the camera lens in her baldness and in a colorful head wrap, trying on her new looks that she’ll wear for awhile.

She also shared a picture of her granddaughter’s sixth birthday, the Great Unicorn Gathering. With sparkles in her eyes and a smile, she, her granddaughter, was standing by a table of colorful cakes and cupcakes, also dressed in their own headdresses of white-“haired” frosted chocolate cupcakes, drizzled with something looking like strawberry syrup, and a round single-layer cake mounded with fresh raspberries and sliced almonds.

In her CaringBridge entry, my friend writes about the joy of her granddaughter’s little party. Also, she makes a comment about a “challenging” nurse she’d had to contend with during her last chemo appointment. Something that’s so special about my friend is her compassion and understanding of others.  This is often reflected, I think, in her filter and her ability to think before she speaks, making her the go-to school counselor for hundreds of children, and a dear person who has shouldered maybe too many of her friends’ secrets and woes. I too have taken my problems to her, where she’s listened deeply, and then asked those questions of me wherein the answers rested. A miracle worker, she is, revealing the one constant of life: the beauty of love and caring.

These are the thoughts I have as I look at these images she’s shared reflected in these window frames: her bald pate, her colorful head wrap. She emanates a beauty from within that overshadows any of the guises of clothes and hairdos she’s worn over the years.

She also wrote of the tears she cried as a friend shaved off the last tufts of hair that had clung to her head like flood-torn branches on a river’s edge, life’s river. But her current still runs strong and clear, and if obstacles appear, she is held safely by her husband and surrounded with the closest and most loving friends to help her remove those rocks and boulders or to portage her around, over, or through them. The love she’s given is returning thousandfold.

She is and always has been the most beautiful woman I’ve had the privilege to share my life with. Just as I get used to my thinning hair that’s come with aging, just as she watched her husband’s hair turn from dark to white (both of which were slow processes that slipped in through the cracks of time, while hers came upon her so quickly), she will get used to not having hair for a while. It’s just a different guise — or disguise — she’s trying on, while her beauty shines even brighter.

Right now, she’s the beauty of an acorn without its top hat, shiny and smooth. We already know — all of us who love her — that within that shiny, beautiful seed is a great, strong tree, burgeoning with life, strength, and love which is, after all, the beauty that always has and always will shine forth.

She is the clear-flowing river.  All the rest is just window dressing.

You know who you are, and I love you.