An Open Book

 

“Thou art alive still while thy book doth live, and we have wits to read and praise to give.”  –William Shakespeare–

Paris is a huge city, so crowded, so busy.

 

 Sometimes it’s difficult to see beyond the milling throngs.

 

 

But the city is an open book.

Its stories are there for all to read…

In a gesture.


Or a smile.

Or a sigh.

Life is happening all around.

So many faces…

…and each one…

…tells a story.

All images and words copyright Naomi Baltuck

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi51kAqFGEesL._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here410xuqmD74L._SY300_ at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

“Who Speaks for Wolf” … a Native American Learning Story …

Our thanks to Gretchen Del Rio (Gretchen Del Rio’s Art Blog) and Mary Burns (Seeker of Truth and Beauty) for this lovely video.

Gretchen is much appreciated by us for her beautiful spirit as expressed through her spirit animal paintings. Below is one of her watercolors, War Bonnet, which notes that “Wolf is on the warpath. Many of his kind have been destroyed.”

If you haven’t already “met” Gretchen and Mary, we recommend a visit to their blogs.

Original watercolor by Gretchen Del Rio (c) all rights reserved; posted here with permission
Original watercolor by Gretchen Del Rio (c) all rights reserved; posted here with permission

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The book, Who Speaks for Wolf was
written by Paula Underwood and
illustrated by Frank Howell.

Are There Any Other Civilisations … Out There?

 

I have held a universal and, it seems probably a pantheistic view of our life on earth for many years now. It is this: that there are probably other intelligent civilisations out there in the cosmos, but, in spite of our continued quest to find some and because of the humungous scale and mind boggling span of time that is represented in the life of the universe, we will never discover one. We may not even exist simultaneously. I would add a small warning to those, who like my mother-in-law, God rest her soul, are mind-bogglephobics, or who simply cannot cope with the scale of it all, that this may be a challenging concept to grasp. Nonetheless, it does require a calculator with a large scale, should you wish to do some proportions!

The following is a track from his album, “Letters from a Flying Machine” by a very fine musician, singer and songwriter from the USA, Peter Mulvey, whom we saw and met on the weekend at the Barnsley Acoustic Roots Festival.  Having listened closely to the words of his songs and one or two of his ‘between song’ talks, I asked him in our brief chat, did he by any chance write poetry? He replied that he didn’t; he preferred to leave that to the poets, but that a few of his friends were poets and that he read a great deal of poetry … to exemplify this, the inside cover of the album we bought from him, “Silver Ladder” reveals a brief quote from the 17th Century poet, Mizuta Masahide: “Barn’s burnt down – now I can see the moon”.

… anyway, back to the theme of this post.

The only thing I can do is ask you to listen to this story that Peter Mulvey tells of a conversation that he had, over some beer, with “Vlad the Astrophysicist“:

Sums it up very neatly for me.

You might also want to listen to some of this fellow’s music; there is poetry in a lot of it.

 © 2014 John Anstie

John_in_Pose_Half_Face3

JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British writer and poet, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Singer, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer”. He has participated in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union as well as a being a ‘spoken-voice’ participant in Roger Allen Baut’s excellent ‘Blue Sky Highway‘ radio broadcasts. John has been blogging since the beginning of 2011. He is also a member of The Poetry Society (UK).

*****

product_thumbnail-3.php

51w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_John has also been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

The Very Picture

The king was plagued with the heavy burden of responsibility. “Drought and famine, war and rebellion, disease and disaster, one after the other!  I must find a way to quiet my troubled heart, so I can sleep at night!”  He offered a reward to the artist who could paint him a picture of perfect peace.  Artists came from all over the kingdom, each bringing his own vision of peace.

 

One painted a sheltered mountain valley.

Another a pristine lake, still and calm, a perfect mirror to reflect a clear blue sky.

There was an orchard in full bloom.

Fluffy clouds with silver linings.


Cheerful sunny days.

And so many sunsets!

The king studied them all, and at last he decided.  He chose a painting of a waterfall, tumbling down a mountainside, beneath a dark, angry sky.

“But your majesty,” said his counselor. “Why this painting? This is a portrayal of chaos.”

“Look closely,” said the king.  He pointed to a sheltered spot behind the waterfall, where there was a ledge between the jagged rocks. Upon that ledge a mother bird had built her nest.  Snuggled beneath her wings, safe and warm, were her precious chicks.

“I understand now,” said the king. “Peace happens not only where there is an absence of strife and suffering.   In the midst of chaos, if there is calm in your heart, will you know the true meaning of peace.”

(Mrs. Bradford Ripley and Her Children, 1852. By Robert Walter Weir, Detroit Institute of Art)

(Sculpture for his friend Robert Arthur by Samuel Murray, Detroit Institute of Art)

Copyright 2013 Naomi Baltuck

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi51kAqFGEesL._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here410xuqmD74L._SY300_ at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

Dandelions and Other Foreigners

A friend said to Hodja Nasruddin, “Look at all these dandelions!  I’ve tried pulling them, poisoning them, starving them, digging them out by the root.  Nothing works.  I am at my wit’s end!”

“That’s a shame,” said the Hodja. “They are not a problem for me.”

“Really?  Please tell me your secret, my friend!”

“It is very simple,” said Nasruddin.  “I have learned to love them.”

Dandelions are native to Eurasia, but have traveled all over this world.   In France they were called “Dent de Lion,” or “Lion’s Tooth,” because of their toothed leaves. In England they were, “Piss-a-Beds,” for their diuretic properties.  In Germany, Russia, and Italy they are “blowing flowers.”  In Catalan, Poland, Denmark, and Lithuania they are  “milk flowers,”  “milkpots,” and “sow’s milk,” after the flower stem’s milky sap.  In Finland, Estonia, and Croatia, they are “butter flowers.”  In China, they are “flower that grows in public spaces by the riverside,”  while in Portugal, they are called, “your dad is bald,” after a game the children play with them.

A weed is only a weed if it is unwanted.  These immigrants have been used by humans for food, winemaking, herbs, and medicine for all of our recorded history.  Their roots are roasted for a chicory-like hot drink.  They are brimming with vitamins, and they enrich the soil.

They were only introduced to North America by the first European settlers.  Foreign? Yes. But think of all the good things they have brought with them.  Think of summertime without their cheerful faces.  Most of all, think of all the wishes that have come true since they have found a home here.

All words and images copyright Naomi Baltuck

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi51kAqFGEesL._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here410xuqmD74L._SY300_ at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

Staph Infection

As a newly graduated English Majorette, I headed Out West to seek my fortune, and arrived in Seattle just before the holiday season.

While I decided what to do with the rest of my life, I landed a temp job selling shoes at the downtown Frederick and Nelson’s to pay the rent.

The shoe did not fit.  Most of the saleswomen spent their paychecks on new clothes, using the employee discount, of course.  I had two and a half presentable outfits, and rotated.  I didn’t wear make-up or high heels, but I did have a decent pair of leather boots that went with everything.  I was competent and polite, except to the imperious bitches who mistook the fitting chair for a throne and were used to being waited on hand and foot.  They were the ones who came in five minutes before closing, ordered me to fetch four different pairs of shoes in three sizes, then stuck out their feet for me to remove their own shoes for them.

That six week position seemed an eternity, but I had a secret superpower to get through it.  Long before the invention of Photoshop, I had mastered my own techniques for photo doctoring.

It was crude, but effective.  And my family was very forgiving.

All it took was a pin to scratch away here and a red marker to color in there, and voila!   I turned my Frederick and Nelson’s staff pin into a Frederick and Nelson’s staph pin.  No one even noticed, but somehow it was a sign, and it made all the difference to me.

Then one cold December day my boss called me into the back room.  I was sure she was going to fire me for badge tampering.  But she said, “I want you to work here on a permanent basis beginning in January.”

Before I could tell her, “Thank you, but I want to check out job opportunities in Hell first,” she leaned forward to stare at my bosom.  Or at the badge on my bosom, to be more precise.  “I think there’s a typo on your badge.”

“So it would seem,” I replied.

“That’s never happened before.  Go get a new one, and then let me know as soon as possible about the job.”

I never did trade in my Little Red Badge of Courage for a new one.  As for the job selling shoes… those boots were made for walking, and that’s just what they did.  They walked on down to Grand Teton National Park, where I waited tables, and to King’s Canyon National Park, where I taught canoe.

And they brought me back to the home of my heart…

…where I became a professional storyteller

…and author.

Along the journey, I have learned to pay attention to my instincts, and to read the writing on the wall.

But I still keep the badge as a reminder that sometimes one must relish the tiny victories along the way.


c2013 all words and photographs, Naomi Baltuck

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi51kAqFGEesL._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here410xuqmD74L._SY300_ at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

On learning and remembering

I was installing something on my computer this morning and I smiled when I remembered that, prior to meeting my husband, computers were for me something that I barely touched, using the one in my house back then only to write some paper work for university from time to time (yeah, that was a different age, we used handwriting more often 😛 – I still use it probably more than half of you, dear readers, although I discovered also that Microsoft Office is quite a friendly application :).

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that after meeting my husband I “evolved” up to the point where I’m not only capable to use the current system, but I’m able to assemble one from pieces, install the software (starting with the OS) and whatever other programs I need, and do many other things with it. In other words, “I learned”. Which is something that we ALL do, all our lives, voluntarily or involuntarily – we learn in order to adapt to the circumstances presented to us by life. Some say that we are able to learn even prior to being born from our mothers’ wombs – I don’t know about that, but for sure we are able to learn starting with the moment when we are born, and we continue to learn until the day we die.

The reasons why we learn are obvious. The reasons why we don’t learn can also be obvious, but neither ones nor the others make my topic for today. Instead I am going to mention a discussion that I had with a friend only a couple of days ago, in which he (my friend), who, coincidentally, is going to be a professor, was telling me that if I’m not able to teach someone a certain thing, maybe it’s because of the method that I’m applying.

I was tempted to reject the idea, for many reasons (pride among them), but fortunately for me I was smart enough in that moment to simply shut up, to listen to what he was saying and to chew on his words later that night. And then I realized that he was pretty much telling me what I always stated – that prior to teach someone WHAT to learn, you have to teach them HOW to learn. Ignacio Estrada said that “If a child can’t learn the way WE teach, maybe we should teach the way THEY learn”. The final goal is not for our own teaching to impose itself unto the mind of a being, but for that being to learn something from our teaching.

What my friend may not have realized at that point was the lesson that I myself had to learn that evening – and that is that the hardest to learn is when you think you already know what you’re learning. But as John Cotton Dana said, “He who dares to teach must never cease to learn”. And I myself feel lucky to have remembered such a beautiful lesson of life – and above all, lucky to have friends to teach it to me again :). Namaste!

who-dares-to-teach-must-never-cease-to-learn-education-quote© 2014 Liliana Negoi

The image used was taken from http://quotespictures.com/who-dares-to-teach-must-never-cease-to-learn-education-quote/

IMG_7667LILIANA NEGOI  (Endless Journey and in Romanian curcubee în alb şi negru) ~ is a member of our core team on Into the Bardo. She is the author of three published volumes of poetry in English, which is not her mother tongue but one that she came to love especially because of writing: Sands and Shadows, Footsteps on the San – tanka collection and The Hidden Well.  The last one can also be heard in audio version, read by the author herself on her SoundCloud site HERE.  Many of her creations, both poetry and prose, have been published in various literary magazines.

What seas and bicycles and whiskey have in common

“You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.”

These words belong to Rabindranath Tagore, and they came to my mind while I was actually looking at an over-water bridge that is currently being consolidated in the area where I live. I looked at the bridge this early morning, seeing it for what it is – a connection between the two shores of the river, meant to ease people’s access from one side to the other. And then I realized that the important aspect of Tagore’s quote was not what was said in it, but what it implied: the idea of moving, of doing something. The idea of not waiting for things to come to you, but of trying to reach those things somehow, whether by building bridges towards them, or by getting around the obstructions.

Man learned to cross seas and mountains because of his need for exploring, for moving, for trying to obtain the “better”. Up until now, evolution was not done only by staying still and admiring the circumstances – although, if sitting still means learning and evaluating the pros and cons of an action, it is also called “moving”, in my opinion.

Einstein - movingSeas, waters, obstacles, are always in our paths. Sometimes we see them from a distance, thus having time to prepare for them, other times we wake up right in front of them, and we have to make a decision. And most of the time the decision implies moving – either towards our goal, or away from it. Sitting there and not doing anything about it, although a valid choice, is the worst, because you willingly confine yourself into a dead end. And life is not – or at least it should not be – about dead ends.

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.”

The one who said that was Einstein – and the main word in that quote is the last one, because no matter what happens at a certain point in time, in a specific place, no matter how big the pain, the horror, the joy or whatever the experienced feeling, time, as we, humans, perceive it, continues to flow. Things change. Life goes on – with or without us.

And related to that, I’ll end my pondering with one of the shortest quotes that apply here – Johnny Walker’s “Keep walking”.

© 2014 Liliana Negoi

IMG_7667LILIANA NEGOI  (Endless Journey and in Romanian curcubee în alb şi negru) ~ is a member of our core team on Into the Bardo. She is the author of three published volumes of poetry in English, which is not her mother tongue but one that she came to love especially because of writing: Sands and Shadows, Footsteps on the San – tanka collection and The Hidden Well.  The last one can also be heard in audio version, read by the author herself on her SoundCloud site HERE.  Many of her creations, both poetry and prose, have been published in various literary magazines.

The Most Noble Story

There was once a widow who had three sons, Alberto, Eduardo, an Ernesto. She had spent a lifetime trying to teach them the meaning of charity and compassion.

The day came when she knew she was dying, and would no longer be there to guide them.  She called her sons to her bedside.

“My sons, the only thing of value I have to leave you is my diamond ring. It was given to me by my mother, who had it from her mother, whose mother handed it down to her. It cannot be divided and it must not be sold, for one day, it shall go to one of your daughters.  Now I must decide which of you is most worthy of this treasure. Go, my sons, and do good in the world.  Come back in one week’s time and tell me your stories. The one who has performed the most noble deed shall inherit the diamond.”

By the time the three young men gathered again at her bedside, their poor mother was near death.

She said to her firstborn, “Alberto, tell me your story.”
“Well, Mother,” said the eldest, “after much thought, I gave half of everything I owned to the poor.”
“My son,” said the old woman, “no one can tell you that you haven’t performed a good deed. But it is not a noble deed, for have I not taught you that it is everyone’s responsibility to care for the needy?”


She said to her secondborn son, “Eduardo, tell me your story.”
He said, “Mama, I was passing the river when I saw a small child swept away in the current. I can hardly swim, but I jumped into the water and pulled the child out to safety.  It was only by the grace of God that I didn’t drown myself.”


“My son, you too have performed a good deed, but not a noble deed. Have I not taught you that everyone should be willing to lay down his life for that of a helpless child?”


The old woman said to her youngest son, “Eduardo, come tell me your story.”
Ernesto hesitated before taking her hand. “Mamacito,” he confessed, “I haven’t much to tell. As you know, I’ve no earthly goods, and I cannot swim a stroke. But I’ll tell you something that happened to me this week. Very early one morning I was walking in the mountains.

I came upon a man sleeping at the edge of a cliff. If he were to stir in his sleep, he would surely fall to his death on the rocks below. I determined to prevent this tragedy. I crept over, so as not to startle him awake. Then I saw that it was my bitter enemy, Juan Miguel. At first, I thought to leave him there, for the last time we met, Juan Miguel threatened to kill me if he ever got the chance. But deep down I knew what I had to do.
“As I put my arms around him, Juan awoke and I could see the fear in his eyes as he recognized me.
“’Don’t be afraid,’ I told him. I quickly rolled him away from the precipice to safety, and helped him to his feet. When Juan Miguel came toward me, I was sure he meant to kill me. But then he threw open his arms to embrace me.
“Juan said, ‘Last night darkness fell before I could get home. Rather than chance a misstep in the dark, I decided to spend the night where I was. I had no idea I was so close to the cliff edge. You saved my life, Ernesto, and after I treated you so poorly!’
“To make a long story short, Mamacita, Juan and I are no longer enemies, but have sworn to be friends forever.”

The old woman shed tears of joy. “My son, I have taught you well. That was truly a noble deed, and you are a noble man, for you risked your life to save a man sworn to kill you. With one act of kindness, you have transformed hatred into love and made the world a better place.” With her dying breath she told her sons, “The diamond shall go to Ernesto, but you must all remember that with each noble deed you perform, you shall add to the treasure that awaits you in Heaven.”


All three sons married and had children of their own. They, like their mother, taught their children the meaning of charity and compassion. When the time came, Ernesto left his mother’s diamond to one of his daughters.

But Alberto and Eduardo left their children a gem worth as much as any diamond, for their children held in their hearts their grandmother’s precious legacy, the story of the most noble story.

All photos copyright 2013 Naomi Baltuck

The Most Noble Story is from Apples From Heaven, copyright 1995 Naomi Baltuck, and retold from a folk tale of Mexico.

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi51kAqFGEesL._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here410xuqmD74L._SY300_ at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

The Power of Collective Creativity

As creative individuals, it’s rewarding when we can use our skills to make something that “speaks” to others. Whether it’s the written word, the visual arts, music or performance arts, “The Arts” have always been a way to make powerful statements about politics, religion, war, the environment. It’s a way to make your own opinion known about these and other things that usually embody a very personal, individual set of beliefs or values. It has been said that any “successful” piece of art is one that evokes an emotional response (be it good or bad).

image borrowed from http://www.edutopia.org/arts-music-curriculum-child-development

image borrowed from http://www.edutopia.org/arts-music-curriculum-child-development

Throughout history, there are scads of examples of “The Arts” changing the world in some way. I’m not just talking about changing the “Art World”, though there are plenty of examples of that, too. But consider things like cave paintings. Once discovered, they completely changed the way that modern mankind viewed our cave-dwelling ancestors! Or how about Shakespeare and his influence of adding around 1700 words to the English language, or his play “Othello” which brought the idea of inter-racial love to the forefront of peoples’ minds?

image borrowed from http://www.durbeckarchive.com/plays.htm

image borrowed from http://www.durbeckarchive.com/plays.htm

The song “Imagine” by John Lennon became something of a “global” anthem for peace, because anyone, anywhere could relate to the desire of human beings for peace instead of war. The photograph of the young, naked Vietnamese girl running away from a napalm attack in the 1970′s shocked enough people to significantly swell the anti-Vietnam movement here in America.

image borrowed from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/vietnam/7735854/Vietnam-War-girl-in-the-picture-reunited-with-journalist-who-saved-her-life.html

image borrowed from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/vietnam/7735854/Vietnam-War-girl-in-the-picture-reunited-with-journalist-who-saved-her-life.html

I’m sure you can think of numerous examples, but the point is that Art has POWER.

Now take that creative energy and then multiply it, with many artists working for the same cause…and the possibilities are astounding! I’d like to share a video I recently watched from here regarding the POWER of a “Collective Creative Conscience”. It gave me hope and inspiration that we CAN (and DO) change the world in better ways than we ever thought possible! Enjoy! :)



Corina L. Ravenscraft

© 2013, essay and portrait (below), Corina Ravenscraft, All rights reserved

Corina-1CORINA L. RAVENSCRAFT (Dragon’s Dreams) ~ is an old friend of The Bardo Group and a new member of the Core Team. She is a poet and writer, artist and librarian who has been charming us through her blog since 2000, longer than any blogger in our little blogging community.  In the her engaging “about” on her blog HERE, Corina says, “I’m not a materialistic person, because I’ve learned that it’s not the “things” in life which really count, but the people you connect with, whose lives you touch or who touch yours. I don’t take anyone or anything for granted because I know from experience that it can all disappear in the blink of a cosmic eye.  People and animals are so much more important (and interesting!) to me than any kind of material possessions.”

Angel

file000537145929‘Mommy, my feet are cold…’

The words pierced her heart like sharp daggers. She felt a lump of tears dangerously knotting inside her throat, but she managed to swallow it and raised to find something warmer for the little boy who was trying to fall asleep by her side. Fighting with the need to scream, she put the only old patchy blanket left in the house over the other one already covering the small child, and crammed in the bed by his side, holding him in her arms and trying to help him get warmer. It was indeed cold in the tiny room, she had nothing left to burn in the stove, and the fact that it was freezing that night outside was not of any help either. She had spent whatever penny she still had on a bread, some cheese and a bottle of milk for the little one, and now she tried to ignore the feeling of despair rising within her soul. What was she going to do tomorrow?… A bit dizzy from hunger – was this the sixth or the seventh day since she had eaten last?! – she kissed the boy on his forehead and whispered:

‘Everything will be alright my little love…everything will be alright…just try to get some sleep…’

The child nestled in her arms and soon she was able to hear his regulate breathing, sign that he managed to enter the world of dreams. She realized though that it had gotten so cold in the room that her own breath was forming steams in the air, so she grabbed the coat from the chair next to the bed and put it also on the kid. Her back was beginning to freeze, and she began to shiver and shake, but she remained in the bed, making sure that whatever was left of her body heat was going towards her son. The shadow of a smile blossomed in her tired crying eyes – he was such a wonderful child…and she hated so much that she wasn’t able to give him everything she wanted…’Please, God, help me take care of him’, she prayed, while fighting the pain that was taking control over her chest. […]

[…] The child was dreaming – sweet childhood dreams, decked with chocolate and candies and other things he didn’t dare tell his mother about, for fear of seeing her cry…he loved his mother so much, and he knew she had no means to give him all those things. In his innocent wisdom he had chosen to ignore the typical childhood wishes in the day-to-day life and he dreamed of them only at night…the way he was doing now. Suddenly he saw her face next to him…beautiful and radiant…smiling…his mom was beautiful, and he always thought so, but this time she was such a ravishing appearance that he kept staring at her. She held him in her warm arms, always smiling and kissing him on his hair, and he heard her voice, calm and joyful this time ‘Everything will be alright my little love…everything will be alright…I’m always here…’. Then he felt arms carrying him and a warm light veiling him. ‘You’ll be fine, child, I’ll take care of you’, he heard someone. ‘Mommy, is this what an angel looks like?’, he asked with a feeble voice but got no answer…[…]

[…] Father Christian was carrying the boy in his arms as fast as he could. John was waiting in the carriage for him and when he saw the priest with the child in his arms he hurried down to help him.

‘What happened, father?’

‘We were too late John…she is with God now…she was already dead when I got inside, probably her heart failed because of the cold…but this little fellow here still lives, and I intend to keep him alive. Take me to Mary’s home, I need to leave him in a warm place and then come back and take care of his mother’s funeral…You’ll be fine, child, I’ll take care of you’, he further whispered into the boy’s ear. And then a soft murmur reached his hearing ‘Mommy, is this what an angel looks like?’

© 2013 Liliana Negoi

The photo attached was taken from http://morguefile.com.

IMG_7667LILIANA NEGOI  (Endless Journey and in Romanian curcubee în alb şi negru) ~ is a member of our core team on Into the Bardo. She is the author of three published volumes of poetry in English, which is not her mother tongue but one that she came to love especially because of writing: Sands and Shadows, Footsteps on the San – tanka collection and The Hidden Well.  The last one can also be heard in audio version, read by the author herself on her SoundCloud site HERE.  Many of her creations, both poetry and prose, have been published in various literary magazines.

Jack Shit: Just Say Yes

When my daughter Bea was a little girl, she found a seed in a seedless Satsuma, and planted it in a tiny pot on our kitchen windowsill.  She kept the soil moist and, to our delight, a tiny Satsuma tree sprouted.  We nearly lost hope when the little tree was infested with insects, but it hung on.  Through the years, we tried everything we could think of to bring it back to health. We washed it with dish soap to get rid of the bugs, and transplanted it to a bigger pot.  We tried covering the soil with plastic wrap, to keep the bugs away from the leaves.  In desperation, we trimmed it down to almost nothing, but it came back–and so did the bugs.  I half hoped it would die, just to be done with it.

Last summer I set it out on the deck, like a fish thrown back into the water, to sink or swim.  But the little tree liked the fresh air and sunshine, and grew greener and healthier than ever.  I brought it inside before the nights turned cold, and it’s back on the windowsill, perhaps gazing out at the yard and looking forward to warm summer nights.

We live our lives in hope.

Almost everything we do is an act of hope. Big ones and little ones.

Hope is writing this post, even when I couldn’t figure out the new Photobucket last night.  It’s trying a new flavor of yogurt.  It’s getting out of bed each morning.  It’s teaching your child to look both ways when crossing a street.  It’s writing the address of a friend with cancer into your address book—in ink.  Hope is page one of every new book you open.

It’s writing page one of a new manuscript before the last one has sold.  It’s everything from watering a plant to having a baby, from a blind date to getting married.  It’s why Jack planted his magic beans, against all odds and common sense.  Hope was the last most precious thing left to us, when Pandora opened up her box.  It’s more important than love, because as long as we have hope, love might yet grow.

A scientist studying nature vs. nurture put identical twins into separate rooms, one stocked with toys, candy, a real live pony.  The other he put into a room filled with manure.  When he went back to observe, the twin in the room of toys was sitting in the middle of it, crying.  “What’s wrong,” said the scientist.  The child replied, “I just know I’m going to break something and get in trouble.”  The scientist found the other child up to its ears in manure, laughing, leaping about, scooping up handfuls of the stuff and tossing it to one side.  “What are you doing?” asked the scientist.  The child answered, “With all this shit, there’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!”

Who says Jack doesn’t know shit?  Bring on the magic beans!

And with all the shit life throws at you, there’s got to be a pony in there somewhere.

All words and images c2013 Naomi Baltuck

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi51kAqFGEesL._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

“Jerry,” Faulkner and the Laundromat

0014the work of Priscilla Galasso  

“The Bardo” is a place of transition, perhaps akin to Purgatory. It is common ground and a sacred space of sorts. It’s intriguing to think of the Laundromat as a place like that  . . .

David Attenborough makes a point in The Life of Mammals video about “Social Climbers” – monkeys. He says that you can tell how large a monkey’s social group is by the size of his brain. Baboons live in large, complex social structures and have the largest brains of all the monkeys. Surviving and thriving in a social environment means that you have to be able to assess situations and make an array of decisions – how to make allies and with whom, how and when and whom to fight, how to secure a mate and improve your chances of passing on your genes. Navigating social life is even more brain-bending if you’re human, I think. More subtleties are involved. Here’s a case in point: the laundromat.

When Jim and I were first married, I did laundry at the laundromat. I hated going there, for several reasons. First of all, I was pregnant. The smells nauseated me; the physical demands of standing to fold and hoisting large loads of clothes around exhausted me. It was a depressing place to be physically, but perhaps even more uncomfortable was the social aspect. You never know what strangers you might encounter. I have had some rather pleasant days at the laundromat. I met a psychic, once, who was very interesting. She could tell I was skeptical and not receptive, but she kept on talking to me nevertheless. Gradually, I relaxed and figured out how to respect her and appreciate her and communicate that to her. We parted with a hug and wished each other well. Mostly, I get a pleasant experience if I can do my laundry in silence and read a few short stories at the same time. What I often find is that the laundromat is a place to observe human suffering, my own and others’.

I happened to have selected a book of short stories by William Faulkner as my laundry companion. I grabbed it off of Steve’s stack figuring that short stories would fit nicely into those periods of time between cycles, and I wouldn’t mind being interrupted or distracted as much as I would if I were trying to tackle “heavier” reading. What I didn’t think about was that these stories of post-Civil War race relations would be cast for me on a backdrop of the urban reality of this century…and that the same awkward tensions would result. I felt like some of his characters, eavesdropping in the kitchen, when people in the laundromat would chatter on their cell phones to friends and social agents. Outwardly, I guess I was trying to be invisible. I couldn’t help picking up snatches of their lives and wondering about their stories. For example, Jerry and his family…

I’ve seen Jerry twice now. Yesterday, I recognized him as I approached the laundromat. He was wearing a diaper under sweatpants, shoes, and no shirt. He was hitting his head repeatedly and grunting. Or maybe it was more like moaning. The woman he was with may have been his mother. She was in a wheelchair with an artificial leg that looked like a sandbag. He was with another woman as well, perhaps his sister. She was the one doing the laundry. I remembered them from a month ago. They came with about seven large, black garbage bags full of clothes. They took a social services shuttle bus to get there; I knew this from hearing the mother make cell phone calls about being picked up. This woman had the sweetest, kindest voice you would ever hope to hear. Her voice was full of compassion and pain; it was lilting and rich and Southern. I would cast her as a black Mammy in one of Faulkner’s stories. Her manners were impeccable. If she had to pass around me, she excused herself, and I felt like apologizing profusely for being in the way. Her daughter (?), the other woman, spoke almost unintelligibly as she did the laundry and corralled Jerry. Even the woman in the wheelchair told her, “I can’t understand what you’re saying.” Jerry likes to wander. They don’t want him to wander out to the street and get hit by a car. They don’t want him to bother the other people in the building. Their voices called out periodically, “Jerry. Jerry, come over here.” “Jerry, honey. Stop! Jerry, come here.”

When Jerry wanders near me, I don’t know what to do. I keep my head down and my eyes in my book. Would I frighten him if I made eye contact? Would he frighten me? Another gentleman was there. He helped bring Jerry back inside when he wandered out. The mother thanked him, “You’re so sweet. Thank you, sir.” They exchanged names. He told her that he has a grandson who was hit by a car at age seven; the grandson is now twenty-five and has brain damage. “Oh, so you know. You understand,” she sighed. I learned that Jerry is thirty-two years old.

In the other corner of the room, there was a mother with a five-year old daughter, London. She looked about five, anyway. London had a pacifier. I heard her mother yelling at her. “London! Get up offa that floor! Sit your butt down here!” Her voice was sharp and angry. London began to cry. There is not much to interest a five-year-old in the laundromat. She hadn’t brought any toys or books to occupy her.

The mother talked on her cell phone while London played with the lid of the laundry hamper. I made eye contact with the child as we went about our business. She silently bent her wrist toward me, while sucking her pacifier. “Oh, did you hurt yourself?” I asked. “London! Get out of the way!” her mother said.

In the Faulkner story, Master Saucier Weddell is trying to get back to Mississippi from Virginia. He is the defeated. He and his traveling companion, his former slave who is very attached to him and his family, find themselves in Tennessee at a farmhouse. These victors are extremely suspicious. They think Mr. Weddell is a Negro. Actually, he’s Cherokee and French. The story is short, but intense. The traveler and the farmer’s younger son end up being killed in an ambush by the farmer and his Union soldier son, Vatch. The last two sentences read, “He watched the rifle elongate and then rise and diminish slowly and become a round spot against the white shape of Vatch’s face like a period on a page. Crouching, the Negro’s eyes rushed wild and steady and red, like those of a cornered animal.”

I finished my laundry in silence. I waved my fingers and mouthed “goodbye” to London who had been banished to the corner. Her mother didn’t see me.

At home, the late afternoon sun shines down on the quilt on my bed. Steve isn’t home, and it’s very quiet. I feel like crying. My brain is not big enough to figure out why.

– Pricilla Galasso

© 2013, story/creative nonfiction and photographs, Pricilla Galasso, All rights reserved

004PRISCILLA GALASSO ~ is a contributor to Into the Bardo. She started her blog at scillagrace.com to mark the beginning of her fiftieth year. Born to summer and given a name that means ‘ancient’, her travel through seasons of time and landscape has inspired her to create visual and verbal souvenirs of her journey.

“My courage is in the affirmation of my part in co-creation”, she wrote in her first published poem, composed on her thirtieth birthday and submitted alongside her seven-year-old daughter’s poem to Cricket magazine. Her spiritual evolution began in an Episcopal environment and changed in pivotal moments: as a teenager, her twenty-year-old sister died next to her in a car crash and, decades later, Priscilla’s husband and the father of her four children died of coronary artery disease and diabetes in his sleep at the age of forty-seven  Awakening to mindfulness and reconsidering established thought patterns continues to be an important part of her life work.

Currently living in Wisconsin, she considers herself a lifelong learner and educator. She gives private voice lessons, is employed by two different museums and runs a business (Scholar & Poet Books, via eBay and ABE Books) with her partner, Steve.

The Irish Coastline

In Ireland, the ocean is everywhere.

Sometimes hiding in the mist…

History hangs heavy in the ocean air, like breath moistened by a story.

In rough weather…

Or calm…

Whether watching intently…

Or only vaguely aware of it…

You can still smell the salt in the air…like a ghost.

You can feel it like a heartbeat…

And hear it like a lullabye…

Copyright 2012 text and photographs Naomi Baltuck

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi51kAqFGEesL._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here410xuqmD74L._SY300_ at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

Doors

Is a door the way in or the way out?  It depends…are you coming or going?

We find many interesting doors in life.

Sometimes we know just what we need…

Other times the choice is not so clear…

Some doors are lovely…

Others scary…

Some are daunting…

It would be nice if we could sneak a peek…

Some doors are difficult to get to…

Still others can be hard to find…

Or best avoided…

But you never can tell which door…

…will open up onto a new friendship…

 

…or a loving family…

Which is why we must not be afraid to step out into the sunshine, or forget to invite someone in out of the cold.

Reach for the doorknob….

…..and see what you can find.

All words and images Copyright 2012 Naomi Baltuck

All images and words copyright Naomi Baltuck

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi51kAqFGEesL._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here410xuqmD74L._SY300_ at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

The Seed of Creativity

When my daughter Bea was a little girl, she found a seed in a seedless Satsuma, and was inspired to plant it in a paper cup.  Our little Satsuma tree has lived on our kitchen windowsill for years now, a reminder that unexpected marvels can come from a single seed.  Creativity is a seed that grows ideas.

It helps us to see beauty in the ordinary.

Or, upon reflection, to take the ordinary and transform it.

Sometimes inspiration comes to us in a flood.


Sometimes in a flash.

Or even in hindsight.

More often,  it comes in disguise.

Or as a creative response to something we feel passionate about.

Perhaps we are inspired by another artist…as in Bea’s sculpture, The Ice Scream.

I love working with a creative team…

Sometimes it’s a process.

…but the end result is worth it.

However it comes to you, wherever you find your inspiration, you are never too young…


Or too old….


To fly with it!

May all your ideas and inspirations be fruitful!

Copyright 2012 words and photographs, Naomi Baltuck.

All images and words copyright Naomi Baltuck

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi51kAqFGEesL._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here410xuqmD74L._SY300_ at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

THE EMPTY NEST PART I: You Can’t Change That

Like a brilliant sunset, it’s here and then gone.

As fleet as a bird on the wing…

Passing as unnoticed as the morning dew…

…even as it goes speeding down the track of no return.

From here.

To here.

Like a river, it flows, with its twists and turns, its highs and lows.

But mostly highs.

But it’s just as they say.

 Time…

…and tides wait for no one.

Childhood, theirs–not ours–slips away like water through our fingers.

 

Or a kite caught up in a strong wind.

As warm and wonderful as a hug, but just as fleeting.

Suddenly they’re all grown up; intelligent, creative, compassionate human beings, ready to make their contributions to the world.  Which is the whole point, isn’t it?

Their childhood is a gift…

…we gave to each other.

It has its season, and then it’s gone…

Off they go to seek their fortunes.

Dang!  And just when they learned how to cook!

But here’s something they won’t know until they have children of their own.  Long after our kids are parents, long after they’ve gone gray, long after they are elderly orphans…they will still be our babies.

 photo e44fa7f6-b8ce-4182-b007-8bfc3bce5a47_zpsee121352.jpg
Neither time nor tides can ever change that.

All words and images copyright 2013 Naomi Baltuck

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi51kAqFGEesL._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

Mine (yours, and ours)

My child…my world…

My wish is for her to grow up in a world where people are judged for who they are, and not by the color of their skin, not for who they love, who they worship, by their gender, or the size of their bank account.  My wish is for this world to become our world, where ‘live and let live’ is only the starting point, and where my children, your children, all children become ‘ours’ to educate, to heal, to care for so they are prepared and able to help make our world a better place.

And because it’s the right thing to do.

 That is my wish.

All words and images c2012 Naomi Baltuck

© 2012, essay and photographs, Naomi Baltuck, All rights reserved

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi410xuqmD74L._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

One Foot in Front of the Other

Walking is a spiritual practice that I am predisposed to. After all, photography would not happen unless I walked around! Simply putting one foot in front of the other, time after time, without expectation of arrival at an end point is a contemplative practice. Recently, though, I discovered a new way of viewing walking as a contemplative practice. This practice had an end point and I was completely aware of all the w’s – who, what, when, where, why. I was not letting go and receiving images (well a little). I was literally focused on my feet and putting my feet, one step at a time, on stable ground.

And this is a metaphor. Sometimes, sitting at our desk or listening to our loved ones, can be a practice of just being aware of what is now and putting your best effort towards arriving at the next now. One step at a time.

As you continue reading, consider the questions, “In what area of my life can I start (or continue) putting one foot in front of the other? What new story will be created?

Here is my story.

Monday, I went hiking to Bridal Veil Falls / Lake Serene in the Central Cascade mountains of Washington. It was a spectacular day. (The weather is forecast to be fabulous all week-long in Seattle leading me to believe somebody is playing with our emotions.) I felt confident I could do the +7 mile hike. BUT I forgot to look at the way the path is (smooth vs. rocky) and the grade or “up-ness.”

I started out on the popular path and asked a co-hiker what to expect and she told me it was steep but that it was worth it. And that there were a lot of switchbacks. OK. I can do this! I will just take my time and be careful.

In February of this year, I was going through a diagnosis of Celiac disease. Now most folks just think that this is digestive only. Well, it is not. It causes inflammation in every part of my body. It grew tumors in my ovaries. I had a period for 3 weeks. I was severely anemic. The test didn’t say, “Low,” it said “Alert!” I could not walk up a short hill without being severely out of breath because I had very few mature red blood cells to carry oxygen around. In short, it stank.

And, over the last few years I have had surgery on my left ankle (torn tendon) and my right foot (two! neuromas crowding out my middle toes). I couldn’t walk without pain until, oh, last year after the neuroma surgery. Generally, I count every pain-free step a success. Would my feet hold out? Always a question. And with the ankle surgery, I generally look for nice, solid, flat ground so my ankle will not roll.

Rats! This path is not smooth. Very rocky. Wet sometimes. Muddy sometimes. But mostly rock, rock, rock. Keep my eyes down and make sure my feet land on flat spots! That’s the plan.

Anyway, I started up the path at my own pace. I got a little less than two miles in and found the below sight. I tried really hard to capture this thing that was happening with the sun and the water! It looked like liquid sunshine was pouring off the top of the waterfall. My eyes received the beautiful image of sunshine being poured down the mountain, could my camera receive it? A little.

Walkabouts__2013-06-03_12-05-17

At any rate, it was astounding. And it was the second set of falls I had seen. This mountain is one big slab of granite! (Hence the rocky path) And there is water everywhere. Well, okay, not everywhere, but in a lot of places. It was hard to get a good picture, but earlier, there was a set of falls that were very tall and jagged. But the trees were very overgrown so you could only get glimpses of the splash of light and water. This is the very bottom of that series. I received beautiful images of flowing water.

Walkabouts__2013-06-03_16-17-40

I got past the falls and it was two miles to Lake Serene. I was feeling good so decided my body could do this! I kept on going. And going. Up and up. Picking my way carefully through rocks. Resting when I felt overwhelmed. Then there came a moment when I thought that I was not going to be able to do it. I grounded my feet to the earth and drew on the strength of my God and the strength of the earth. I breathed deeply. This had become a spiritual quest.

I kept on going. But at that moment, I felt like giving up. I soon encountered a woman and her dog. They were resting. (Yay for rest!). I asked her how much further. She said, “When you feel like you have been through the worst possible climb, then it is just a bit more up and a little down and you’re there.”

OK. The worst possible climb. I can surely get to this.

I went up and encountered massive rocky path, with only about a 9″ clearance to skinny through. Surely, this is the worst possible spot.

I kept going and encountered another massive rocky path, with water and slipperiness. Surely, this is the worst possible spot.

Add water and repeat.

Finally, I broke through the shadows of the forest into a sunny meadowy type area (is it a meadow if it is on the side of a mountain?). I looked up and my breath left my body. It. Was. Amazing. I received the most beautiful blues intermingled with a dark granite mountain and white fluffy clouds rising like steam. I remember the story of Moses going up the mountain to be with his God and going into the cloud. This is a place to connect with spiritual strength. I felt strengthened, encouraged, excited, and alive. A complete contrast to how I felt when I was in the shadows.

Walkabouts__2013-06-03_13-56-59

I was now in the sun, with this incredible sight, having passed through at least 5 stretches of the worst climb ever. And I saw another worst climb ever in front of me. But my spirits were jubilant. I was in the light and had left the darkness. Amen!

I kept on going. There was one more seriously worst climb ahead and then I was there. Lake Serene.

Walkabouts__2013-06-03_14-25-52

In fact, this lake feeds into the waterfalls pictured earlier. I had climbed all the way around to the other side. Here is what the top of the waterfall looks like from this same point, just facing the other way.

Walkabouts__2013-06-03_14-25-23

I clambered through the snow a bit and sat at the closest point I could get to the top of the waterfall. Ate lunch. Relaxed a moment.

Time to head back down. Surely, down would be easier! It always is. Mostly.

On the way down, I kept my head down looking to keep my feet planted so my ankle will not turn. I almost made it. Darn it. One misstep and a turned ankle. Choice – fall in a way to minimize injury or try to get that wobbly ankle to hold me up. Quick decision – my ankle will not withstand the effort to stay firmly up. Fall it is! Sheesh. I hate rocky, downhill, paths. Now, cuts and bruises, scratches and blood. I would hate to see what I looked like.

I crossed back in front of the amazing waterfall that poured sunshine and the woman I had met earlier was there with her dog! She was resting. Her dog decided to try to clean up the scratches on my legs a bit (ha ha!). We chatted a bit and she moved on. I stayed and tried to get some more photos of the falls and take a rest. Oh, and to use the water to wash my arm which has a pretty serious scratch(es).

But, gosh darn it, I did it! I am still on the path. I can still walk. My body is sustaining me. This is such a big deal, you have no idea. I was misdiagnosed for at least 20 years. To be able to do this is the most awesomely amazing thing ever. My muscles don’t even hurt as much today as they did on days the inflammation from being celiac made them hurt. (That was a bad sentence, sorry.)

I kept going. And I made it back to my car by about 5:00 p.m.

The quest was complete.

I am proud that I had the perseverance to keep on pushing through. My blood tests still say “alert” on the iron portion, but it is improving. My ankles and feet are okay today. My right arm and right shin are pretty banged up, but as long as nobody touches them (!) I will be fine.

The return hike took 2 hours. It took me 4 hours to go up.

Walking or hiking as a spiritual practice, for me, is typically about opening myself up to the images around me. Receiving images that I sometimes share here or on my blog. This time, though, it transformed into something else. Instead of receiving the beauty around me, I had to dig deep to connect to the strength of the earth, strength of my faith, and to the strength in my own body in order to find sustenance for the journey. This is a new kind of spiritual practice for me.  I had thought, Monday night, that I would not be eager to repeat this experience. But I am. Focusing on putting one foot in front of the other in this way gave me a faith in myself that I sometimes lack. Especially in my own body’s ability to sustain me. That is my new story. I trust my body.

Blessed be.

Shalom and Amen.

~Chaplain Terri

Adapted from a post at my blog. Trials on the Trail.

© 2013, post & photos, Terri Stewart, All rights reserved

terriTERRI STEWART is Into the Bardo’s  Sunday chaplain, senior content editor, and site co-administrator. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction with honors and is a rare United Methodist student in the Jesuit Honor Society, Alpha Sigma Nu. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual.

Her online presence is “Cloaked Monk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at www.cloakedmonk.com, www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.  To reach her for conversation, send a note to cloakedmonk@outlook.com

Editing Monet’s Garden

Last May, while traveling in France, my sister and I went to Giverny to visit Monet’s Garden.  The line to enter was horrendous, and once we got past the ticket booth, we became part of the swarm of tourists overrunning his house and garden.  We must have heard a dozen different languages spoken, people from all over the globe had come to see for themselves the inspiration for Monet’s most famous paintings.

It was eye candy, a stunning profusion of color!   But instead of the rare and exotic flora I expected, all the flowers were, well, your regular garden variety.  Irises, roses, tulips, pansies, alyssum, forget-me-nots…nothing I don’t grow in my own garden.  Yet they were artfully arranged by height, texture, and color to maximize the effect.  And after all, they were in Monet’s Garden.

I wanted to capture at least the illusion of solitude and serenity, and to photograph the garden as I thought it must have been back in Monet’s day.  I waited for lulls in tourist traffic to get my shots.  But while waiting, I watched hoards of humanity shuffling by, and I caught glimpses of peoples’ lives that I found as moving as anything I saw in those historic gardens. Mothers and children, old couples holding hands, a little boy with eyes only for the baby chicks, an awkward teenaged boy who had eyes only for the teenaged chicks, and a family with four generations of women all sharing a park bench.

While we writers strive to capture a mood or feeling or effect, we should also observe the stories happening all around us.

The first  is like a very pretty still life, or a posed portrait of Mother Nature.  The other is a very real, sometimes messy picture of the world, brimming with humanity, and all the joy and heartbreak that life and love have to offer.

There is beauty in it all.

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All images and words c2012 Naomi Baltuck

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi51MC3SKEF0L._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV.

Naomi also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com