Emotions of Red...

November and December could fall through a manhole, never to be seen again, and I wouldn’t miss them.  Difficult memories trigger melancholy autumn reveries ~ if I agree to them. Some years are better than others and some experiences hurt too much for words.

Grief was the national endowment this holiday season and, over time, we’ll each find a way to pay tribute and evolve meaning for a better world.

I live for 21 December ~ the return of light. The week between Christmas and the new year is a period of reflection, chalking up progress, metabolizing regrets, setting intentions for the next twelve months, reorganizing for maximum efficiency and sending less used items to goodwill or recycle. I reevaluate my priorities and cast ahead to see if

the path I’m on will lead me to the feelings I want to have over the next 365 days.

This is a self portrait from the dark days of the past quarter. In her opening remarks at a Doll Gardner Gallery exhibit, Karen Van Hoy stated studies show red elicits aggressive responses yet when tinted down to pink, the same color is the most peaceful. I found the concept fascinating and experimented with the idea. This type of mark making has been with me for most of my life. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to elegant up and decided raw, unadulterated interaction with the support and medium is how I am able to most fully express.

Self Portrait in Contrasting Shades of Emotion, 2012. Oil paint and bars on canvas, 30” x 24”.

Remembrance, Peace, Healing and Cannon Fodder

When a human being consciously believes they are offering their life for a cause greater than themselves, they choose the path of hero.

I may not support the cause, however, I honor the individual for the nobility of their act and respect a person’s right to choose how they may possibly die.

With honor to the men and women who serve…

Yesterday, my US Air Force veteran spouse and I visited the Dignity Memorial Wall, a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, now on the final leg of it’s tour before retirement to a museum.

As a Marine Corps wife during the Vietnam war, the wall brought back powerful and painful memories. I’m profoundly grieved by this compelling reminder we humans have been involved in the earth experience for thousands of years and haven’t yet found a peaceful way to resolve international differences. I pray every day we get a lot smarter in a very short time. Since Lysistrata, mass sexual boycott has been a powerful tool for peace consciousness. Hello? An end to combat may really be so simple.

Turning from the memorial to look across the grounds I saw recruitment tents. To make sure I read the situation correctly, I approached a uniformed man behind the table:
Me: “Are you recruiting?”
He: “We’re trying not to.”
Me: “What’s your purpose here then?”
He: (Indicating a precision fan of brochures and pamphlets) “We’re providing information and handing out presents.” (Presents was the term he used for trinkets marching between the pamphlets. Do military marketers really believe we’d raise young people gullible enough to sign their lives away for a few gimcracks?)
Me: “So you’re recruiting?”

He had the grace to look chagrined and didn’t answer. To his credit, he couldn’t lie.

Most folks, whatever their their political or military persuation, would acknowledge using a memorial as a shil for business is ill mannered at the least. The title of the traveling exhibit and the stark reality of a recruiting presense set up an irreconcilable dissonance for me. Exploitation of the intense and vulnerable emotions from those at a vigil for the thousands of men and women who served and died is conscious less.

I Dance.

I dance in moonlight
jig time on his grave
toes kicking up the tidy mound
of freshly turned earth
midnight blanket to smother
sounds of celebration.
Cold, you say, cold.
Whisper behind your hands
grief has deranged her for a time,
perhaps forever.

No. I’ve cried my tears.
Howled and screamed,
became addicted to the storm.
Habit served me well.

Deep in silence of other nights
liquid grief slid down
without a witness
filled my ears
with distant drums of rage.

Mourners, admirers, sycophants
are gone, food properly covered,
refrigerated to correct temperatures.
The children escape with their families.
Inheritance of secrets.

You think I mourn him?
I lament my own deaths
honor bereavement of the soul
who once birthed my dreams.
Reconcile self betrayal.

In alchemy of final resting
child woman

Oh yes, I’ve wept.

So you who whisper know
I’ve slipped back to raw earth
with headstones reflecting stars
and dance in jig time
on his grave.

February 2007

Saving Grace

In my world, poetry too often compares to the practice of speaking in tongues. An interpreter and translation is necessary for practical application of the channeled message to a congregation. While meaning may be clear to the author of the poem, I’m more often than not left scratching my head and frustrated from the effort to understand. I want to comprehend not only the words and meaning, I need, need, need to feel the intention of the author resonate in my soul. Therapists have asked to use my poetry with their clients and I’ve shared the work with friends. By sending my poems out into the universe, I hope the simple words I’ve chosen will clearly speak from my heart to yours.  My intention is to offer my words to those who need a voice and, for whatever reason, can’t find their own at this moment in time.

I’ve packed
memories away
Carefully washed and folded clothes
once molded
to plump, warm bodies.
nothing more
than limp polyester and cotton,
in apple boxes
in the corner of the closet.
If I save clothes
and toys
little white shoes with pink rosebuds,
pictures stubbed out
in finger paint,
broken necklace charms
old hair bows,
I’m saving them.
I’m saving me
for them.

The New Math ...

What pattern the Fibonacci sequence of grief?
Each loss summed by previous two.
Old wives caution ~ beware ~ death comes in threes!
Sorrow intensified by exponent of repetition.
Crones cackle, “practice makes perfect.”
Single tear raised to power of never ending,
hologram for life and meaning
traces a course of alchemical healing down skin.
Eternal fractals
beauty of pattern
spiral on and on.

Christmas Card

I stopped sending cards because people were too confused about why cheerful Christmas missives arrived in July. A new move-in on the block asked me why I kept Christmas lights up all year. To make the neighbors crazy, of course.  It seems to me the point of a Christmas celebration is bigger and more encompassing than a couple months of frantic marketing and consumption in the winter. Although, a comparison could be drawn between the current holiday madness and the solstice slaughter of flocks with the accompanying orgy a couple thousand years ago. It’s all about evolution and the advance of civilization, right?

 I like the lights and carols and the way people seem to have softer edges at Christmas time. However, for many Christmas marks a dark time of the soul, not only because of the weather or the position of the sun but because it’s a reminder of personal pain. Christmas becomes a marker of grief folded neatly, placed in the drawer with the sachets of memory and denied in deference to polite convention. For all of you who bear hearts of sorrow and move through your Christmas days with grace and dignity, I honor you.

 Christmas may have begun as a pagan celebration designed to unite subjected peoples under the military conquests of Constantine yet it now has a significance that reaches beyond countries, religion and dogmas. The whole point of Christmas is a man named Jesus walked the earth and learned precept upon precept to become a Christ – the embodiment of Creator’s love to the earth. The Christ spirit and the miracle of burdens lifted is still available after two thousand years, to minister to us and to anoint us as ministers of the Christ spirit.

 When we remember the Jesus of the Christian scriptures we are told he had no place to lay his head. The foxes have holes and the birds have nests but the man who would profoundly influence people for two millennia had no refuge. There are those of us who have homes with all of the comforts and still ache to belong in our family of origin or communities or church. I’ve walked among the homeless and witnessed their tender concern for each other, dividing a sandwich or splitting an egg, so perhaps there’s a lesson contained in the metaphor. It’s just an idea - perhaps if we stop judging the homeless, why and how they got into the situation, it will become easier for us to stop judging ourselves. We would lose the fear separating us from Them – whomever They are. You know - the ones whose only crime is being different from us. The wall between the Haves and Havenots would come down as fast as the separation did in Berlin and we could begin to understand what it means to know the Christ is abundance and there is more than enough for everyone if we can learn to share. We’d know good will toward every person on the planet is possible because we’ve come to nurture kindness and compassion and acceptance toward ourselves.

 Some carry the grief of a parent denied the companionship of children by death, the law, inability to conceive or the right of our children to choose to remain absent from us. We’re supposed to “get over it” and we feel somehow deficient when the pain boomerangs back to become intolerable in the face of Christmas cheer. After all, the holiday is for families. We remember the one missing and even if we take away the vacant chair there remains the empty place in our heart. The seasonal announcement that Christ is come to bring joy seems blasphemous in our pain. The sun coming up every day and the tides flowing in and out somehow discounts the agony like a cheap bargain basement sale. The family of the Christ turned away from him and his community tried to stone him. By alchemy the Spirit of the Christ is able to heal separation. We begin to understand when we become willing to sacrifice the comfortable familiarity and habit of our grief to the knowledge that we are not our story. The unity we desire may come described in people who are not of our blood and yet become our kin. There are those in our sphere who are waiting for a kind word, an embrace of comfort or a smile. Simple therapy for complex sorrow.

 There are some of us who feel rejected by love and despair of making connection with a soul who truly understands. The first place to look for appreciation is inside ourselves and recognize we come with incredible gifts as a Being on assignment to this planet. When we realize the person in the mirror embodies miracles – miracles become possible for ourselves and everyone we meet. It’s recorded Jesus prophesied we would do greater things than he did. We experience the most devastating rejection of all until we truly believe in ourselves and our capability to bless another.

 Many among us live daily with incredibly difficult physical pain. Some are hospitalized. Others face the realization we are not invincible and attempt to wrap our heads around the eventuality of our own death or the passing of someone dear to us. The blessing of the Christ spirit is not reserved for the “other side” like we save the “good china” for a special time in a distant future. The spirit of Christ is for right now. One day at a time. One hour at a time. One minute at a time. And the Christ spirit is available to us in many presentations. If we can breathe through our pain and realize Christ comes disguised in faces of every color and age – people offer us daily opportunities for miracles - if we can accept them and the offerings they bring. Gratitude is a powerful antidote to pain.

 The innocent suffer trauma at the hands of those who are careless of the damage they inflict - often during the holiday at family gatherings.  What was taken can’t be replaced and those who abuse must be held accountable. In the face of violation, the spirit of Christ can alchemize the tragedy into restoration of hope, the belief in the eternal purity of who we are. Anger and fear accompany difficult mortal experiences and time is another gift to mortality - a paradox - since an eternal Being heals because time doesn’t exist. Healing witnessed in this moment becomes past and future encompassing. For those who have suffered under violence even the most barren fields of the soul can be restored and blossom again.

 Gifts often come wrapped up in something we don’t want. We experienced a death during the holiday season and I felt bereft and alone. The only way I could face the day was to turn my attention and intention to gratitude for the life of the one who so violently died. I fasted, abstaining from food and drink for the day in memory of the one no longer with us. The preparation of the feast became a sacrament and when the time came to sit down to the table, the gluttony marking so many previous years was miraculously replaced with deep thanksgiving for all of my blessings. The food wasted in previous years was preserved and we had broth and meat for soups to nourish us in the hard winter still ahead. Gratitude transmuted grief and the holiday dinner became an intimate celebration of life in place of the excruciating misery of wasteful death.

 And one last thing, while I’m on the subject – stress. The stress of the holiday season. Now we even have songs (can’t elevate them to the level of carols) extolling holiday stressors. Stress is only a socially acceptable way to place all of our unresolved issues “out there” beyond our selves and play the hapless victim of circumstances beyond our control. Perhaps it’s time to take charge, cut a few things out, simplify, to remember who we really are and what we’re here for. If we’re struggling with personal darkness, overwhelm and issues we can’t face alone, we can consider asking for help. When we clearly make our request, people are amazing about providing the support we need and serving as vessels to bring the beautiful light of the Christ to us.

 Wishing you a blessed Christmas season and a great new year of possibilities.