Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Stream of Thanks

My husband
My husband’s love
My husband’s laughter and wild brain
My husband’s touch
Obie’s love
Obie’s sweetness
Obie’s beauty
My girls
My girls
My girls
Mom and Dad
My friends
I love you all for being so true
God’s love
God’s beauty
Thank you
God’s gifts
Melanie’s joy
Every moment
Wild winds
Poofy clouds
Dancing flowers
My husband dancing
Nina’s smile
Eye to eye with comrades
Obie’s smile
Obie’s paws
Blading by the sea
My life
The earth
Thank you
My spirit
My body
Thank you
The gifts of the unknown
The gifts of being challenged
The gifts that human angels bring
Thank you
Thank you for this day of Thanks.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Punch Bowl

Where to begin? In this amazing land of melting pots where every single person births forth with his very own blueprint of mixed ethnicities and traditions….I would LOVE to go back to my parents’ heritages in detail,  to lay the foundation of this little story but not this time. Instead a brief telling:

My mother’s father was senator of Iowa and though she had, for one brief shining moment, lived as an aristocrat, with the onset of the depression and all of her father’s interests in Iowan farmland, by the time she went off to Smith College, she had a handful of plunky dresses, thick glasses and a giant, magnificent, expressive brain and imagination.

My dad’s father was vice president of Exxon,  had never  been schooled past the 7th grade,  but had worked his way up to head of exports based on his fairness. He was ‘let go’ by the company in the 40’s because he refused to sell oil to Germany prior to World War II. My father had grown up with lawn tennis courts and excursions into New York City to the opera in chauffeurred limousines, but embodied his parents’ simple values and joix de vive.

My parents met on a blind date, Mom believing that Dad was surely going to be an eskimo, because of his name, and the date was not stellar. Having been raised with manners the two corresponded, both ended up going to Yale and kept their connection alive.

Fast forwarding to the wedding.

Dad’s Yale law degree, subsequent work, and Mom’s Dad’s position had put him smack in the center of political attention. He was being groomed to run on a ticket with Hubert Humphrey and there was much excitement. The vice president under Roosevelt, Henry Wallace, was a friend and guest at the wedding. It was an elegant affair and a beautiful coming together of two dynamically bright thinkers and doers. An exquisite, cut crystal punch bowl had been a gift from the Wallaces, and was the center of the party.

With World War II on the horizon, my parents’ lives took a phenomenal shift when Dad decided to go into Japanese language training as an interpreter. By the war’s end, after personally creating hope out of despair for many in the South Pacific,  his inner world was so vastly different that he could no longer proceed with his previous life plans. Dad entered a seminary and together with Mom they devoted their lives to humanitarian service in India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Nepal.

When we were not in India, our family headquarters was suburbia New York, and Mom and Dad’s Christmas party was a peek for us offspring at the life they had once lived. The wedding punch bowl frothed forth a mixture of sherbet, ginger ale, and pineapple juice and lit up the dining room and drew people together in a mystical way. Every year this was so, and every year the elegance and magic of bygone times visited us.

When my parents moved to the northern woods of Lake Michigan, in the mid 80’s I inherited the punch bowl. It was meticulously wrapped and shipped to me in South Carolina and as my life was in upheaval, it lived in storage for years and years.

Three years ago, a few months after Mom had passed, Dad came to visit me in Southern California for his birthday. Little did any of us know that three days later he would be admitted to a hospital and set sail for his last earthly chapter of this go ‘round. However! On his birthday I rallied my closest friends, and we gathered around the pinkly frothing punch bowl  and after toasting Dad, he launched into tale after tale of his life. When everyone had gone he sat down by the table, looked at the punch bowl, picked up a photograph off of my bookshelf of his wedding and he sat listening to a recording of Chopin’s waltzes.

Dad left the planet three months later and my life took a wild spin where once again the punch bowl needed to retreat into storage. Two days ago, as the holidays are coming, I wanted to retrieve my recipe box from storage and I found the punch bowl, shattered. Tears wanted to leap to my throat but they didn’t.  Beginnings and endings and beginnings, this felt right.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Charlie and the Homeless Cat

A few days ago whilst caring for Charlie the cat, black sleek prince of Wadsworth,  in his exquisite treetop home half a block from the beach in Santa Monica, I heard a yeowling coming from the back porch. There he was, perched on the top step of his spiral staircase, his efforts of forward movement being thwarted by a straggly, bone skinny, orange, black and white homeless cat who was vocally claiming this porch as his.

I peered out through the sliding glass door and instantaneously felt a conflict rise inside of me but loyalty to my charge took precedence over my indecision. I opened the door and shooed the homeless cat away, allowing Charlie to enter his human occupied realm. He glanced up with a flicker of acknowledgement and then made a bee-line for his fresh fishy food. I went back to the door and looked out for the other cat. No sign of hide nor hair.

I cannot help but be haunted by this, and by my part in it! I have tried to justify my impulse to opt for Charlie but my allegiance to the sensitivities of those less fortunate in this world is real.

It is easy to stand on the side of the beautiful and healthy and wealthy.
It is easy to reach  out to the needy and down trodden and unkempt.
What is the deciding factor in which way to jump?

Obie and Me

Just now, after finishing my previous blog, Obie came and laid his goldeny head in my lap with a slight wafty wag of his plumey tail and a ‘Walk?’ look in his none-such smiling eyes. Oh Obie! How can I ever say ‘no’ to you?

So off we went.

We walked and walked up and around a meandering Mt. Washington road. It was totally deserted; only the sound of birds and bugs, and all of LA spread out in the distance. With the sunny feel of fall and light dancing in swaying trees, my brain flitted hither and yon. Walks through dappled Michigan woods with my sister,  climbing trees as a young girl and waiting to be discovered,  Byron Katie’s naming meditation, Olive and Ben on the other side of the mountain, and then a couple of strangers appeared out of nowhere and Obie trotted over to greet them. I snapped back to the present and corraled him to join me.  He came to me and then bounced on down the road and I muttered, “Oh Obie, I love you” and he turned around and smiled at me. We stood still and looked at each other. The golden light on his fur, his smiling eyes and loving look, I will never forget that moment.

Beyond precious, beyond sacred, two beings enjoying a beautiful day, walk, moment and each other.

Lakshmi and the Pasadena Apple Store

I have recently been challenged in the computer department! Four months ago I bought a brand new Apple and from the moment I touched it I knew that something was not right with it. I decided to let it ride and see if this feeling continued, meanwhile noting all of the little bloops and fidgets that were awry. By three weeks I knew that I had to come forth with my truth and so off to the Apple Store in Santa Monica I went. One genius after another could find nothing wrong; hence Lakshmi was sent to the Apple care headquarters to have a thorough examination. She was returned with the diagnosis that she was perfect and so  I accepted her back,  secretly hoping that she had been fixed by accident.

Time passed and the erratic behaviors continued,  genuinely hampering my writing,  I returned to  the store with a more commanding demeanor and was met by a bullish insistence that there was not only nothing wrong but that I was wrong. An escalation of opposite positions finally led to insults on their part and tears on mine. I left and never wanted to step foot in an Apple Store again.

Two days ago, Lakshmi  gave up the ghost not to be revived. I felt punched in the stomach  as I had not backed up my files and my brain flew through all the specifics of what I had surely lost. I knew that an Apple Store needed to be in my immediate future if there was any chance of remedying this. I chose a different store; this time in Pasadena.

As this was my first return to an Apple Store since my  humiliating venture in Santa Monica,  I noticed a vibratory resistance to being there. My husband took over the reins and made an appointment with a genius. After waiting for ninety minutes we were rewarded with an uncharacteristically relaxed man named James, whose listening skills and focus were authentic and reassuring. He  rescued almost all of what I had thought was gone forever while examining Lakshmi’s operations. As I watched him I felt his integrity so clearly that I shifted to a place of knowing that if the officials who ultimately decided our computer fate, voted against a replacement computer, a healing was taking place and I would be alright with the outcome.

The store manager was summoned when James had completed his report and when she appeared, there was a familiar waft of ‘this is not going to happen for you’ in her presence. My husband  shifted into non aggressive battle mode and as a true Gemini used his language skills to deliver an eloquent discourse on relationship in general and then relationship between business and customer. Ours had been destroyed with this company after our Santa Monica fiasco and we wanted it made  right here.

Lani listened earnestly and then asked for a twenty minute recess. We left the store, returning half an hour later. Lani emerged from the back room carrying a white case and a beautiful essence of goodwill.  I have a brand new Lakshmi, but what is vastly more important is that I have faith in human beings in business. Yes, relationship is what the world needs to be about, and the Apple Store in Pasadena, with special thanks to James and Lani, gets a gold star and heartfelt thanks for this restoration. Some angels wear blue shirts with apples on them.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


My mother used to talk about you, always beginning with, “My friend Betty, who I think you would have much more in common with than I….”

And then we met! It must be twenty years ago now and you were in your late 70’s! So many elders that I know have shared that they feel that they are the  cheese standing alone as their friends peel off the planet one by one and no one remains from the ‘old days’, but not you. Every year your birthday parties grow and the stories that you write and read so too!

St. Exupery once wrote “What we went through, no animal could go through” and I think of you. You who have buried your children, one after another, you who have suffered excruciating physical agonies, you who have risen above and identified yourself to yourself through your humanitarian efforts to educate women around the world and preserve the traditions of Native Americans through museums and artwork; you who have taken me by the hand and extended  yourself to me in moments of darkness, you are a light that seems to want to burn and burn and touch others along the way.

When you decide to go,  a flutter of golden leaves will lay a trail  around the earth of Betty inspired expanded awareness. You will lift off onto the Blue Spirit Road and no doubt be greeted by a multitude of tiny white four-leggeds that love to snuggle in one’s lap, and you will tell them stories, as you have told us.

And now? I just wonder what you’ve been up to today.

The Nature Part of Wisdom

This afternoon I smelled a yellow rose that was beyond heaven.

I spied a lotus blossom all alone, stretching up and breathing beauty at me.

And then I saw a giant, gnarled, tangled, graceful tree with wisps of leaves dancing in the wind, that I want to be when I grow up.

And suddenly I thought of something that I read once: that the path to wisdom is three-fold; through intuition, nature and culture.

This recollection fires my soul….and it makes me want to slip off my clothes, grab every child’s wrist that I can,  to join me and splash in a giant puddle together.

Breaking Free

A crystal clear day and a blustery wind frenetically whips and tosses branches and chickens hither and yon and into shape. It must be in the 60’s  but  I’m freezing. Once again my internal thermometer has acclimated to toasty climes.

We humans do acclimate, even if it doesn’t serve us! We burst forth into life and then settle into habits that lock and block forward movement and true living in the present, and we don’t even notice until the habit produces restlessness or emptiness or  crisis.  Those chickens out there are being buffeted about and complaining with every blast, but they are awake!

From Wordsworth:
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s star, Hath had elsewhere its setting;
And cometh from afar: Not in entire forgetfulness, and not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory….

Not in utter forgetfulness and not in utter nakedness . There’s hope.

Last week I experienced a lesson which resulted in my being buffeted about. My need created a breakdown in communication and I was left shivering in the wind, naked. My soul created this so that I would wake up and see. Thank you, need.

A wee cloud of glory today.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Sunset Musings and Love

Last night I bladed along the sea just as the sun was setting. Here I am, living on the coast of la mer magnifique (Mom, are you closing your eyes tightly and shaking your head?)and yet its every  sunset reminds me of evenings perched on the rolling dunes of Lake Michigan.  As involuntary as my heartbeat, when I see God’s breath turn the sky from blue to hued, the words “Oh Mom!” escape me. Thank you for seeing and for insisting that we see too! I can hear ‘Oh LOOK Tel!” “Oh LOOK Francie” “STOP TEL! I must take this picture!”

Yes. And even your stroke couldn’t stop you from that.

Flash flash through my red walk, our Renault chugging up a Swiss mountain and Mom saying “STOP!” and leaping out with camera in hand; Indian women at dawn pounding their clothes on the rocks, “Oh the light! Stop dear!”; and always flowers: poppies, heather, baby’s breath, cardinal flowers; and her last hurrah of sunset after sunset in Michigan with Dad pushing the button.

Yes. When Mom was stroked and control of her right side obliterated, her three expressions were instantly and forever denied her, we thought.  Writing, piano playing and photography. She never regained the physical ability to write or play the piano but she zeroed in on her camera with might.  She grew to a place of being able to hold the camera in her hand but never up to her eye, and as she was not  an ‘automatic’ photographer, could not adjust the lens or push the final button.

Dad, who  never had an eye or inkling about photography beyond his adoration for what Mom produced, offered to help. The weepy protests, the frustrated insults, finally finally led to Mom being open to his offer. Trial and error, trial and error, more tears, more demeaning remarks, Dad cheerfully held his own and insisted, evening after evening in front of Lake Michigan sunsets.

They mastered it! They did. The most incredible, beautiful team to behold. The sight of the two of them would swing any artist into his heart. Mom would point and position herself. Dad would place the camera in front of her eye. She directed him and when all was aligned, he pushed the button and CLICK. Mom made three calendars in those years that sold in shops all over Michigan.

All of this because of a sunset!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

My Umbrella Dream

Most people that I know either don’t remember their dreams or they dream the most elaborate, labyryinthy dreams imagineable. I’m always a bit envious of these dreams as mine are simple and straight forward.  Almost every night I fly. Sometimes I fly on my own as myself, sometimes I have wings,  sometimes I have a whole animal body with wings, and sometimes I am riding on the back of an incredible flying creature. I fly over lands and I see things. I learn about life and the world and I have a marvelous time,  but that is the extent of my dreams.

This being said, every once in awhile  my world gets a shake and a non flying dream creeps in. One such dream happened a few nights ago and I have been haunted ever since by its message.

I was standing on an endless pristine  beach with many many other beings. As far as I could see, black umbrellas were folded down hard on their people. All of a sudden a light shone all around, the umbrellas transformed from black to luminous rainbow colors and they floated up into the sky carrying their people with them. These words that rang out:

“You have to die first before you can be reborn”.

Is this true?