Hope Floats

 

On my last visit to Juneau, my Alaskan sister Constance, told me a story. It began over fifteen hundred years ago, when a small band of Pacific Islanders, plagued by overpopulation and the depletion of natural resources, set sail across the Pacific in outrigger canoes to seek new islands to call home.

 

They were the ancestors of the people of Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa, and other Polynesian islands.  Their only guidance was gleaned from the stars, the wind, ocean currents, the swell of the waves, the birds and the fish, the movement of the clouds. This ancient system of navigation, known as ‘wayfinding,’ enabled them to travel thousands of miles across vast stretches of ocean to remote tiny islands.

My sister told me she had volunteered at an event in honor of native Hawai’ian, Nainoa Thompson, who had come to Juneau to tell his story, and to celebrate the strong bond between the First Peoples of Alaska and Hawai’i.  It began in 1976, when Nainoa wanted to follow in his ancestors’ wake by sailing from Hawai’i to Tahiti with only traditional navigation as guidance.  He had a double-hulled outrigger canoe named Hokule’a, ‘Our Star of Gladness’.  At that time, ‘wayfinding’ was in danger of being forever lost.  Hawaii’s wayfinders had all died, and only a few elderly wayfinders remained in Micronesia. One of them, Mau Piailug, barely spoke English, and the trip from Hawaii to Tahiti longer than any voyage Mau had ever made.  But Mau’s children, like the children of so many Native Americans, had been taken away to boarding schools, robbed of their culture, and any interest in learning the ancient art.  He agreed to mentor Nainoa.

Under Mau’s tutelage Nainoa completed the trip, and became a master wayfinder, helping to preserve Hawai’ian culture.  But the Hokule’a was built from modern materials, and Nainoa wanted to build a ship of traditional Hawai’ian materials.  For almost a year, Nainoa searched throughout the Hawai’ian Islands for two koa trees to use as hulls.

Between the devastation of ranching and logging, he couldn’t find a single koa tree tall or thick enough to serve.

It was noted in Captain George Vancouvers journals in 1793–that some Hawai’ian canoes had hulls of Sitka Spruce.  The logs had been carried three thousand miles from Alaska by ocean currents, tossed up on Hawaiian beaches, and were considered gifts from the gods.

Nainoa asked Alaskan tribal elders for two Sitka Spruce trees to build an outrigger canoe.  He was told that he could have the trees “so you can build the canoe to carry your culture.  But we won’t take their lives until you come see that they are what you need.”

The Sitka Spruce trees were beautiful; 200-feet tall, eight feet in diameter, over 400 years old.  But Nainoa realized that he couldn’t take the life of those trees before dealing with the destruction of his native Hawaiian forests.

Nainoa returned to Hawai’i to launch a restoration program. People worked together, old and young–some traveled from Alaska–to plant thousands of koa tree seedlings, creating forests that will one day have tree big enough to make canoes.

Only then did Nainoa feel he could return to Alaska to accept the gift of the Sitka Spruce trees.

Nainoa called the new canoe ‘Hawai’iloa’, after the ancient wayfinder who first discovered the Hawai’ian Islands.

Those first Polynesian voyagers coped with overpopulation and depletion of resources by migrating to other uninhabited islands, but that’s no longer an option on our crowded planet.  Nainoa’s expanded mission has become ‘Malama Honua’, which means ‘caring for the Earth.’  Last year the Hokule’a completed a three year tour that circled the planet, building global community, and promoting earth care and sustainability as well as Polynesian culture.

I believe we have strayed, and lost sight of the world we want and need to live in.  But, as Nainoa discovered, and now teaches, if one is willing to listen and learn, there are wayfinders who can show us the way home.

All images ©2019 Naomi Baltuck


NAOMI BALTUCK (Writing Between the Lines)~ is Resident Storyteller at The BeZine. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer. Her 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 (her personal blog) as well as on The BeZine.

Naomi 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.

Naomi says, “When not actually writing, I am researching the world with my long-suffering husband and our two kids, or outside editing my garden. My novel, The Keeper of the Crystal Spring (Viking Penguin), can be read in English, German, Spanish, and Italian. My storytelling anthology, Apples From Heaven, garnered four national awards, including the Anne Izard Storytellers’ Choice. I am currently working on a contemporary women’s novel.”

Waging Peace, On a Fairy Tale Wall

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” so wrote Robert Frost the great American Pastoral Poet. He thought about the great dividers between neighbors and nations. Are walls really so important, I have often wondered.

In fact the very word fascinates me.It resounds with great historical significance- Walls! Oh ! No, not the Great Wall of China nor the Berlin Wall, now gone. But I am thinking of my historical wall ‘ my historical wall was the cute little two feet high red bricked structure, that stretched straight across from the main gate to the back side of our house, dividing our neighbors house; easily climbable, easily cross-able and utterly comfortable to sit on , in the lazy Summer afternoons and sometimes early in the day, but on a holiday…yes, all day..that was my ‘wall’…

Huge lofty shady trees grew in the spacious grounds around the house which was built like a fairy tale cottage and of course a few trees grew alongside this wall, providing cool shade and shelter.

Memories of childish conversations quick chats and funny anecdote exchanges over it are still fresh in my mind.

‘Where is she,” my mother would ask worriedly. “Oh, she must be on the wall.” And so it was in full view of the house. Mother would be satisfied. I would lean against the dark rough bark of the nearest tree, pull a leaf and roll it into a tiny pipe whistle. We would call it a Peace Pipe. (I learnt it from my wall-time friend ).Nature was so near and dear to us. The freshness of the green leaves is still vivid. I can hear the “pip-peep, pip- peep” of the tiny flute. This was the best peaceful music we made together and broke into breathless laughter.

My friend and I would sit for long hours (or so it seemed) talk and laugh.. “come to the wall again tomorrow,” Nargis my friend would say. We were never really frightened as we were close to the main house.  Our elders could see us even from inside the house. We could see “the whole wide world,” the boundless sky changing colors from time to time, the birds gliding and swirling high above the gently setting golden sun. And, let not forget, the tiny ants that crawled harmlessly on our small hands and feet as if making us conscious. “Lo! It’s time to go home, to study, to finish the home work, and then to sleep. There was no video monster or audio ET then.

The small rather low wall was also our imaginary Express, sometimes chugging along and sometimes dashing and flashing by faster than fairies . . .

faster than witches
past the hedges
past the ditches

It was exciting, passing through tunnels crossing dangerous bridges blowing the whistle . . . er, not the real one but across the thumb and the forefinger . . . coo,ooo chhick chhik chhik. We never knew the stations or stops or junctions on our way. Our little express would just go on and on till it finally slowed down and came to a stop. “Good fences make good neighbors.”
Our little fence was never a point of point of trouble ‘What is it that we are walling ‘in’ or ‘walling out’ when we build a wall? Nothing really…

The whole world was clear as the wide open sky. Our wall was our astronomical observatory I say ‘our’ because I shared it with my sisters and neighborly friend. During the late night sittings in the hot summers, we would scan the twinkling sky for the Great Bear, the Seven Stars and the Belt of Orion, our nighttime fantasy land.

I would call my little wall a Kingdom of Imagination and Delight of ‘Enlightenment and Joy. It did as well, however, have its disturbing moments. Once we were so engrossed in a session on a lazy afternoon, before we realized a large dark swarm cast a pall over us. I remember shrieks and screams ensued…Locusts all around. It was a locust attack. We ran towards the house to safety. Once inside, the walls made us feel safe. This time the walls were different, strong and supportive.

Summer would soon be over. Most of the fun subsided due to the cold dry winds. My little kingdom would be silent for days, empty AND lonely and bare but standing like a rock with all its glory, its dark majestic castle like structure like a fortress, enclosing the wonderful memories of peaceful times, giggling and endless laughter.  Our world of imagination knew no limits.

“Thou wast not made to be broken ‘cos thou served a purpose of unity and friendship Thou had thy music too.”

My wall was a bond that brought love and built our character. It gave us strength and joy.
I wonder if my kingdom, so small and yet so rich, so strong and yet so tender, so silent and yet so vociferous, should still be standing.

Not long after, about four or so years we had to leave the cottage house for other places that  were never the same. Perhaps the times had changed.  Nonetheless, I know that ‘my wall had no equal would never have one. I know that my wall was such that to no one would it ever give offense.

© 2019, Anjum Wasim Dar (Poetic Oceans)


ANJUM WASIM DAR (Poetic Oceans) was born in Srinagar (Indian occupied Kashmir) in 1949.
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Her family opted for and migrated to Pakistan after the Partition of India and she was educated in St Anne’s Presentation Convent Rawalpindi where she passed the Matriculation Examination in 1964. Anjum ji was a Graduate with Distinction in English in 1968 from the Punjab University, which ended the four years of College with many academic prizes and the All Round Best Student Cup, but she found she had to make extra efforts for the Masters Degree in English Literature/American Studies from the Punjab University of Pakistan since she was at the time also a back-to-college mom with three school-age children.
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Her work required further studies, hence a Post Graduate Diploma in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) from Allama Iqbal Open University Islamabad and a CPE, a proficiency certificate, from Cambridge University UK (LSE – Local Syndicate Examination – British Council) were added to  her professional qualifications.
 .
Anjum ji says she has always enjoyed writing poems, articles, and anecdotes and her written work found space in local magazines and newspapers. A real breakthrough came with the Internet when a poem submitted online was selected for the Bronze Medal Award and I was nominated as Poet of Merit 2000 USA. She accepted the Challenge of NANOWRIMO 2014 and Freedom is Not a Gift, A Dialogue of Memoirs, a novel form was the result. She was a winner, completing her 50,000 word draft in one month.
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Although a Teacher and a Teacher Trainer by Profession, she is a colored-pencil artist and also enjoys knitting and is currently trying to learn Tunisian Crochet.
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Memoir writing is her favorite form of creative expression.
Find Anjum here:
https://anjumwasimdar.wordpress.com/    Unsaid Words of Untold Stories…Prose  writing
knitting projects/stories
https://helpingenglishteachinginpakistan.wordpress.com/  ELT   Work experience/educational service for the country

Painshill Park & The Honey Bee Festival

Reading Biddle The Bee at Painshill Park during the honey bee festival http://www.amazon.co.uk/Biddle-Bee-Everything-Garden-Purpose/dp/0992618827

painshill

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was such a treat to read my Biddle The Bee story at The Painshill Honey Bee Festival at the weekend.Painshill Park is a beautiful, 18th century garden near Cobham, Surrey, UK. The landscape garden was originally created by the Honourable Charles Hamilton between 1738 and 1773. Over 80,000 visitors a year now visit Painshill Park with its iconic follies.

The Honey Bee Festival is hosted every year by members of The British Beekeepers Association. Sandra Rickwood and Marion Cooper of the Weybridge Branch of British beekeepers invited me to participate and read my story of Biddle The Bee. Marion Cooper helped with the final editing of the book, and I can honestly say that beekeepers are very particular that all the facts in a story should be absolutely correct! Biddle The Bee has their seal of approval! Phew!!

www.amazon.com/Biddle-Bee-Dug-Rosie-Everything-ebook/dp/B00GLXM9TA

Biddle The Bee http://www.amazon.co.uk/Biddle-Bee-Everything-Garden-Purpose/dp/0992618827
And Papa jumped up, “Let’s waggle and jive! Let’s be like the bees when they’re in the hive. They buzz to the left, and buzz to the right! They’re dancing a map of their nectar flight, And showing each other just where they have been, To find the best nectar for feeding the queen!”
 My tongue is so long, like a straw, made to shloop! I prod and I poke; I probe and I scoop. I suck up the nectar for my honey tummy. I cook it; I mix it ~ sweet honey, so yummy!  I keep it and store it in my winter pantry, For when food is scarcezzzzz, and nectar is scanty!”
My tongue is so long, like a straw, made to shloop! I prod and I poke; I probe and I scoop. I suck up the nectar for my honey tummy. I cook it; I mix it ~ sweet honey, so yummy! I keep it and store it in my winter pantry, For when food is scarcezzzzz, and nectar is scanty!”

Biddle The Bee is one of a series of Pa Dug & Rosie books, all about how everything in the garden serves a purpose. In my attempt to bring poetry to science, I am thrilled to be involved in raising awareness of the wonderful bee who is under serious threat internationally from pesticides and loss of habitat. Bees are an incredible civilization unto themselves and many things upset their rhythm. As part of my research for this story, I visited an apiary. The fact that bees crawled all over me didn’t phase me a bit!  I trusted them, and they were remarkably calm ~ even when being handled.

Painshill Park is such a beautiful place. Songs from the book were sung, and children wrestled with deliberate tongue-twisters such as: “But the bee buzzed by on busy business!” Well! if you were aged between 3 and 7, you’d have fun pronouncing this! And, of course, we danced the Waggle Jive!!! Children love the musicality and rhythm of the rhyme and hearing it read with me imitating all the different voices…doing the bee voice is fun; doing this at my age is even more fun! And, of course, the little ones LOVE the pictures ~ Originals courtesy of Marta Pelrine Bacon and coloured with added graphics by yours truly!

Find Biddle The Bee HERE in Kindle (GREAT FOR CLASSROOMS). HERE (where the print version is cheaper than Amazon!)

Niamh Clune © 2014, words and illustrations, all rights reserved

430564_3240554249063_1337353112_n-1NIAMH CLUNE (Plum Tree Books Blog) ~ is the author of the Skyla McFee series: Orange Petals in a Storm, and Exaltation of a Rose. She is also the author of The Coming of the Feminine Christ: a ground-breaking spiritual psychology. Niamh received her Ph.D. from Surrey University on Acquiring Wisdom Through The Imagination and specialises in The Imaginal Mind and how the inborn, innate wisdom hidden in the soul informs our daily lives and stories. Niamh’s books are available in paperback (children’s books) and Kindle version (The Coming of the Feminine Christ). Dr. Clune is the CEO of Plum Tree Books and Art. Its online store is HERE.  Niamh’s Amazon page is HERE.

“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

21A6GA4TWSL._AA160_T

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

Sweet Grass

Sweetgrass HillsSweetgrass Hills in Montana from Red Rock Coulee
Source: Wikipedia

“His father’s father was Métis, you know…rode with Riel in 1869 and his father fought with Dumont at Duck Lake and Batoche in ’85,” Sheriff Hank Reynolds said as he pulled the glasses off his nose after reading the arrest report on his desk.

“That may be so, Sheriff, but it doesn’t give Liberté Beaubois license to ride into Montana, hunt protected buffalo and take a couple of shots at my head, does it?” asked Reynolds’ new deputy, Linus Philkin.

Reynolds wiped a few drops of coffee off his graying mustache and walked back to the holding cell, where he stared at a buckskin-clad man sleeping on the floor, face to the wall, on a mattress he’d pulled off the cot.

The sheriff rubbed his hand across his bald spot and recalled wind blowing through his hair in the long-ago when he, Liberté and some Piegan boys from over Milk River way would ride hell-bent for election chasing buffalo that would wander onto his father’s place. It was in those days before the Somme, before Liberté came home with a Victoria Cross and Croix de guerre in exchange for his childhood, an eye and, some said, his mind.

“I’ll take care of this,” Reynolds said, and loaded Liberté into his Ford pickup truck and Liberté’s horse with his into the trailer behind it. They drove from Chester up to his old man’s place outside Whitlash, where they mounted and pointed their ponies north, all the while howling like twelve-year-olds, chasing memories through the Sweet Grass back into Alberta.

A true mash-up of prompts went into this little story. First was Lillie McFerrin’s word of the week, Freedom. Then I decided it worked with Canadian writer Sarah Salecky’s daily prompt, which was “His father’s father was Métis.” I can never let a chance to write a North American historical piece go by. Then, as luck would have it, the first Story-A-Day May prompt was Going Home. And there you have it.

– Joe Hesch 
© 2014, All rights reserved

Hesch Profileproduct_thumbnail-3.phpJOSEPH HESCH (A Thing for Words) is a writer and poet from Albany, New York , an old friend of Bardo and a new core team member. Joe’s work is published in journals and anthologies coast-to-coast and worldwide. He posts poems and stories-in-progress on his blog, A Thing for Words.  An original staff member at dVerse Poets Pub website, Joe was named one of Writers Digest Editor Robert Lee Brewer’s “2011 Best Tweeps for Writers to Follow.” He is also a member of the Grass Roots Poetry Group and featured in their 2013 poetry anthology Petrichor Rising.

A StoryCorps Story: a mother, a son, two secrets and much love

“But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begins.”
― Mitch Albom (b. 1958) American author and journalist, quote from For One More Day

Our thanks to Laurel D. for suggesting this one.

Ssssh! Don’t Tell Anyone!

dr-nanaplum-amazingbooksforchildren.com

dr-nanaplum-amazingbooksforchildren.comShall I let you into one of my secrets?

When I was little, fairies lived at the bottom of my garden. I used to talk or sing to them quietly (as fairies don’t like shouting). And when dew covered the grass and made it glitter and sparkle, I knew the fairies were preparing for a shindig.

Everyone knows that when dew is on the grass, fairies have their choice of the most beautiful sparkles imaginable. Fairies might wear peony, iris, or rose sparkle. Boy fairies wear shamrock and breeches made of bark ~ be-dewed and made smooth and slithery ~ great for sliding down mole-hills!

Fairies love nothing more than dew! They drink it; it makes them giggle! They wear it; it makes them shimmer. Dew really is the diamond in the fairy-queen crown.

Apart from anything else, dew means the dawn of a new day, when fairies can flit and dart ~ flicker and start; hover and whiz ~ zip and fizz; float and flash ~ make-a-dash; tease and prance ~ skip and dance; hurry and scurry ~ all of a flurry; rush and rail ~ skim, speed and sail!

The best Leprechaun fiddlers play the most lively jigs! Elf harpists pluck at your heartstrings and weave magic in verse. Goblins are the best drummers, whilst meadow sprites have very high, reedy singing voices. Usually appearing on percussion are the cobbler gnomes ~ with a-clink and a-clank, whenever needed. All in all, fairy gatherings are a sight to see ~ for those able to see them.

I spent many an early morning dancing fine jigs to the tunes of the little people, singing long songs or reciting poems, all of which are of very great interest to fairies. They taught me some of their secrets about bees and butterflies, worms and magic bears who know such an awful lot about everything. They also taught me how to grow up into someone who is wise. I like to share some of those mysteries with boys and girls (and grown-ups who still have magic in them) who are inquisitive but can also keep a secret.

Sssssssssh! Promise you won’t tell anyone…

Find me on dr-nanaplum-amazingbooksforchildren.com if you would like more stories!

© 2014, illustration and story, Plum Tree Books, All rights reserved

430564_3240554249063_1337353112_n-1orange-petals-cover_page_001DR. NIAMH CLUNE (Plum Tree Books Blog) ~ is the author of the Skyla McFee series: Orange Petals in a Storm, and Exaltation of a Rose. She is also the author of The Coming of the Feminine Christ: a ground-breaking spiritual psychology. Niamh received her Ph.D. from Surrey University on Acquiring Wisdom Through The Imagination and specialises in The Imaginal Mind and how the inborn, innate wisdom hidden in the soul informs our daily lives and stories. Niamh’s books are available in paperback (children’s books) and Kindle version (The Coming of the Feminine Christ). Dr. Clune is the CEO of Plum Tree Books and Art. Its online store is HERE.  Niamh’s Amazon page is HERE.

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

Señora Ortega’s Frijoles

flores de la frijoles
las flores de frijoles

Her fate was set when she fell under the spell of his kind eyes and bigger than life personality. For his part, he loved her gentle ways, the fluid dance of her hands at work, the sensual swing of her hips as she walked to the market with basket in hand. And so it happened that in 1948, with her father’s permission and her mother’s tears, they were wed in the old adobe iglesia where uncounted generations of her family had been married before her. Not many months after the wedding, she kissed her parents and siblings goodbye, took a long loving look at her village, and she followed her new husband north to los Estados Unidos de América. She was already pregnant with Clarita.

****

As the days and years passed, they settled into their routines. Sunday mornings were her husband’s quiet time. He stayed at home while Señora Ortega and Clarita were at Mass. In their absence he would occasionally put down his newspaper and stir his wife’s frijoles simmering fragrant with pork, a few bay leaves, onions and garlic.

Last night: their Saturday ritual, she and Clarita had sorted and then washed the dried beans in cold water and left them to soak until morning. The child – fast becoming a young woman – took the time and care to do a good job of this. El trabajo es vertud. Work is virtue, Señora Ortega encouraged. In the tradition of Señora Ortega’s own madre, la cocina was a place of teaching – about food, about life, about being a woman, about being human.

“!Ten cuidado, hija!”  Be careful, she would say as she demonstrated her almost sacramental sorting of the dry beans. It was an opportunity to teach Clarita the dichos, the proverbs, of her mother and grandmother and all the grandmothers before. “Los frijoles son nuestra fuerza.” We get our strength from los frijoles, she taught Clarita just as her own mother taught her. Certainly the beans give the strength to our bodies, but also the strength to our character.  There are lessons. “¡Aqui!”  Remove these. Remove the wrinkled, the broken, the discolored or malformed. Remove them as you should remove flaws from your character. One bad frijole will ruin the whole pot.  Taparse con la misma cobija.* … You will be judged by the company you keep. Be cautious in your choice of friends.  Even the norteamericanos have such a saying: one bad apple spoils the bunch.

“Mama,” said Clarita, rolling her eyes after her mother’s latest speech. We are North Americans.” Señora Ortega’s brow furrowed when she heard this. She was given to worry about such reactions from her daughter. What of the child’s values?  It is true after all. My daughter is American. What does this mean for her future, for our relations, and for us as la familia?

****

Soon Señora Ortega had to put her concerns aside. It was springtime. Easter was upon them and with it a visit from her husband’s sister with her two small children. Señora Ortega and Clarita were busy with preparations. The air in her house smelled of poblanos roasting and cookies baking. They put fresh linens on the beds in the guest rooms. They picked flowers from her garden and set them in vases around the house. She gave in and bought chocolate Easter bunnies too, the silly convention of this country, but the children loved them and looked forward to them each year.

Finally the honored guests arrived and the house was filled with the cheerful noises of los niños. The boy and girl were now old enough to learn to prepare beans and, on the eve of Easter Sunday, Señora Ortega gave Clarita the task of showing the children how to sort los frijoles for cooking.  She looked on as Clarita explained the process. “!Ten cuidado, mis primos. Aqui! Remove these. Remove the wrinkled, the broken, the discolored or malformed.  Remove them as you should remove flaws from your character. Remember one bad frijole will ruin the whole pot. Be cautious in your choice of friends. Taparse con la misma cobija. You will be judged by the company you keep. “Los frijoles son nuestra fuerza.” Los frijoles are our strength.

****

At some point, Señora Ortega’s husband had come to stand by her side. She realized he was watching her as intently as she watched their daughter. He put his arm around her and held her close. “You see, mi querida, she is a good girl and you are a good mother. It’s gonna be okay …” “Am I that transparent,” thought Señora Ortega, but she sighed gratefully. All will be well. My mother was right. “Los frijoles son nuestra fuerza.” 

Taparse con la misma cobija – literally: to cover yourself with the same blanket, i.e. likely the same meaning as our expression “birds of a feather.”

© 2012, short story, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved. This story is a fabrication and not meant to depict any specific person or persons living or dead. It is, however, meant to provide a slight view of immigrant concerns and to show how in some traditions values are passed from mother to daughter. Photo credit ~ Schnobby via Wikipedia under Creative Commons Share-Alike 3.0 unported license

Photo on 2014-03-31 at 17.16 #3– JAMIE DEDES (The Poet by Day)~ I am a mother and a medically retired (disabled) elder. The graces of poetry, art, music, writing and study continue to evolve as a sources of wonder and solace, as a creative outlet, and as a part of my spiritual practice.

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

song for Agriope

sounds were rising –
chrysalides for the yet unborn
crystalline shivers…

still were the waters,
undead the moonlight –
and aerial was the calling
of the sound-bender…

and all were silent…

Elysium bowed
under salty heaviness
and doubled up with pain,
unallowed to rebirth the lost

yet sounds kept rising –
chrysalides breaking
tracing furrows
in the molten souls that were
listening…

unshed fire caressed
crimson and black and golden
and hearts were born
where there had been none

and all were crying…

rocks blossomed under
the taming ether
exposing the bones of
ancient rainbows

and sounds kept rising –
chrysalides blooming
mourning the morning
never to come…

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.

A few bits of Soul Sustenance – A story, a quote and a poem

One of the things I like about parables or fables is that they have seeds of truth and wisdom condensed into “bite-sized” amounts of reading. I enjoy looking for new ones which I haven’t read and sometimes come across old favorites. For those of you seeking “Truth” (and all that the word with a capital “T” entails) I offer the following story:

The seeker of truth

“After years of searching, the seeker was told to go to a cave, in which he would find a well. ‘Ask the well what is truth’, he was advised, ‘and the well will reveal it to you’. Having found the well, the seeker asked that most fundamental question. And from the depths came the answer, ‘Go to the village crossroad: there you shall find what you are seeking’.

Full of hope and anticipation the man ran to the crossroad to find only three rather uninteresting shops. One shop was selling pieces of metal, another sold wood, and thin wires were for sale in the third. Nothing and no one there seemed to have much to do with the revelation of truth.

Disappointed, the seeker returned to the well to demand an explanation, but he was told only, ‘You will understand in the future.’ When the man protested, all he got in return were the echoes of his own shouts. Indignant for having been made a fool of – or so he thought at the time – the seeker continued his wanderings in search of truth. As years went by, the memory of his experience at the well gradually faded until one night, while he was walking in the moonlight, the sound of sitar music caught his attention. It was wonderful music and it was played with great mastery and inspiration.

Profoundly moved, the truth seeker felt drawn towards the player. He looked at the fingers dancing over the strings. He became aware of the sitar itself. And then suddenly he exploded in a cry of joyous recognition: the sitar was made out of wires and pieces of metal and wood just like those he had once seen in the three stores and had thought it to be without any particular significance.

At last he understood the message of the well: we have already been given everything we need: our task is to assemble and use it in the appropriate way. Nothing is meaningful so long as we perceive only separate fragments. But as soon as the fragments come together into a synthesis, a new entity emerges, whose nature we could not have foreseen by considering the fragments alone.” ~ Author Unknown Source

For those of you unfamiliar with the wonderful sounds of a Sitar (the instrument mentioned in the story above), I offer the following beautiful example from one of the greatest players of our time, Ravi Shankar:

In addition to truth, one also needs moments of stillness and meditation to keep balance in life. The photo below is mine, but the quote is Lao Tzu’s:

Be stillAnd lastly, a poem written a while ago about something I rarely get to witness, since I’m a night-owl by nature:

~ Sunrise Sighs ~

Today, for the first time in a small while, I was awake to witness a fresh sunrise.

The purpled-pink fingers crept up like a smile,

gently waking the crisp air of still-sleepy skies.

Vaporous flames of bright orange hues, licking the velvet of dew-kissed dawn,

Sleep promised me a solid, deep, dreamless snooze,

But rapt in my awe, I stayed awake and gazed on.

I love the quiet, hushed hours of Night; they keep me content in a solitary peace,

But the rare, glimpsed glory of Morning’s soft light

Makes me ache with a sweetness that begs for release.

~ C.L.R. ~ ©

effecd1bf289d498b5944e37d8f4ee6fAbout dragonkatet Regarding the blog name, Dragon’s Dreams ~ The name comes from my love-affairs with both Dragons and Dreams (capital Ds). It’s another extension of who I am, a facet for expression; a place and way to reach other like-minded, creative individuals. I post a lot of poetry and images that fascinate or move me, because that’s my favorite way to view the world. I post about things important to me and the world in which we live, try to champion extra important political, societal and environmental issues, etc. Sometimes I wax philosophical, because it’s also a place where I always seem to learn about myself, too, by interacting with some of the brightest minds, souls and hearts out there. It’s all about ‘connection(s)’ and I don’t mean “net-working” with people for personal gain, but rather, the expansion of the 4 L’s: Light, Love, Laughter, Learning.

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 Christmas Truce, 1914

This story was written by children’s author, Aaron Shepard, and was originally published in Australia’s School Magazine, April 2001. Mr. Shepard allows it to be reblogged with credit and copyright intact.

The Christmas Truce is a short story based on the true events of the famous Christmas Eve truce of 1914, which Arthur Conan Doyle wrote of as “one human episode amid all the atrocities.”  The story is longer than the ones we generally post, but this is a Christmas Eve gift and offered as something we can share with the children in our lives, aged nine or up. You will find that it is a story very much in the spirit of The Bardo Group.

Parents and educators will find stories and scripts for children’s plays at Mr. Shepard’s website HERE.

Copyright © 2001, 2003 by Aaron Shepard. May be freely copied and shared for any noncommercial purpose. 

Our thanks to Gail Walters Rose (Bodhirose’s Blog) for this one.

The story is formated as a letter ….

THE CHRISTMAS TRUCE
by
Aaron Shepard
.
Christmas Day, 1914

My dear sister Janet,

It is 2:00 in the morning and most of our men are asleep in their dugouts—yet I could not sleep myself before writing to you of the wonderful events of Christmas Eve. In truth, what happened seems almost like a fairy tale, and if I hadn’t been through it myself, I would scarce believe it. Just imagine: While you and the family sang carols before the fire there in London, I did the same with enemy soldiers here on the battlefields of France!

As I wrote before, there has been little serious fighting of late. The first battles of the war left so many dead that both sides have held back until replacements could come from home. So we have mostly stayed in our trenches and waited.

But what a terrible waiting it has been! Knowing that any moment an artillery shell might land and explode beside us in the trench, killing or maiming several men. And in daylight not daring to lift our heads above ground, for fear of a sniper’s bullet.

And the rain—it has fallen almost daily. Of course, it collects right in our trenches, where we must bail it out with pots and pans. And with the rain has come mud—a good foot or more deep. It splatters and cakes everything, and constantly sucks at our boots. One new recruit got his feet stuck in it, and then his hands too when he tried to get out.

Through all this, we couldn’t help feeling curious about the German soldiers across the way. After all, they faced the same dangers we did, and slogged about in the same muck. What’s more, their first trench was only 50 yards from ours. Between us lay No Man’s Land, bordered on both sides by barbed wire—yet they were close enough we sometimes heard their voices.

Of course, we hated them when they killed our friends. But other times, we joked about them and almost felt we had something in common. And now it seems they felt the same.

Just yesterday morning—Christmas Eve Day—we had our first good freeze. Cold as we were, we welcomed it, because at least the mud froze solid. Everything was tinged white with frost, while a bright sun shone over all. Perfect Christmas weather.

During the day, there was little shelling or rifle fire from either side. And as darkness fell on our Christmas Eve, the shooting stopped entirely. Our first complete silence in months! We hoped it might promise a peaceful holiday, but we didn’t count on it. We’d been told the Germans might attack and try to catch us off guard.

I went to the dugout to rest, and lying on my cot, I must have drifted asleep. All at once my friend John was shaking me awake, saying, “Come and see! See what the Germans are doing!” I grabbed my rifle, stumbled out into the trench, and stuck my head cautiously above the sandbags.

I never hope to see a stranger and more lovely sight. Clusters of tiny lights were shining all along the German line, left and right as far as the eye could see.

“What is it?” I asked in bewilderment, and John answered, “Christmas trees!”

And so it was. The Germans had placed Christmas trees in front of their trenches, lit by candle or lantern like beacons of good will.

And then we heard their voices raised in song.

Stille nacht, heilige nacht . . . .

This carol may not yet be familiar to us in Britain, but John knew it and translated: “Silent night, holy night.” I’ve never heard one lovelier—or more meaningful, in that quiet, clear night, its dark softened by a first-quarter moon.

When the song finished, the men in our trenches applauded. Yes, British soldiers applauding Germans! Then one of our own men started singing, and we all joined in.

The first Nowell, the angel did say . . . .

In truth, we sounded not nearly as good as the Germans, with their fine harmonies. But they responded with enthusiastic applause of their own and then began another.

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum . . . .

Then we replied.

O come all ye faithful . . . .

But this time they joined in, singing the same words in Latin.

Adeste fideles . . . .

British and German harmonizing across No Man’s Land! I would have thought nothing could be more amazing—but what came next was more so.

“English, come over!” we heard one of them shout. “You no shoot, we no shoot.”

There in the trenches, we looked at each other in bewilderment. Then one of us shouted jokingly, “You come over here.”

To our astonishment, we saw two figures rise from the trench, climb over their barbed wire, and advance unprotected across No Man’s Land. One of them called, “Send officer to talk.”

I saw one of our men lift his rifle to the ready, and no doubt others did the same—but our captain called out, “Hold your fire.” Then he climbed out and went to meet the Germans halfway. We heard them talking, and a few minutes later, the captain came back with a German cigar in his mouth!

“We’ve agreed there will be no shooting before midnight tomorrow,” he announced. “But sentries are to remain on duty, and the rest of you, stay alert.”

Across the way, we could make out groups of two or three men starting out of trenches and coming toward us. Then some of us were climbing out too, and in minutes more, there we were in No Man’s Land, over a hundred soldiers and officers of each side, shaking hands with men we’d been trying to kill just hours earlier!

Before long a bonfire was built, and around it we mingled—British khaki and German grey. I must say, the Germans were the better dressed, with fresh uniforms for the holiday.

Only a couple of our men knew German, but more of the Germans knew English. I asked one of them why that was.

“Because many have worked in England!” he said. “Before all this, I was a waiter at the Hotel Cecil. Perhaps I waited on your table!”

“Perhaps you did!” I said, laughing.

He told me he had a girlfriend in London and that the war had interrupted their plans for marriage. I told him, “Don’t worry. We’ll have you beat by Easter, then you can come back and marry the girl.”

He laughed at that. Then he asked if I’d send her a postcard he’d give me later, and I promised I would.

Another German had been a porter at Victoria Station. He showed me a picture of his family back in Munich. His eldest sister was so lovely, I said I should like to meet her someday. He beamed and said he would like that very much and gave me his family’s address.

Even those who could not converse could still exchange gifts—our cigarettes for their cigars, our tea for their coffee, our corned beef for their sausage. Badges and buttons from uniforms changed owners, and one of our lads walked off with the infamous spiked helmet! I myself traded a jackknife for a leather equipment belt—a fine souvenir to show when I get home.

Newspapers too changed hands, and the Germans howled with laughter at ours. They assured us that France was finished and Russia nearly beaten too. We told them that was nonsense, and one of them said, “Well, you believe your newspapers and we’ll believe ours.”

Clearly they are lied to—yet after meeting these men, I wonder how truthful our own newspapers have been. These are not the “savage barbarians” we’ve read so much about. They are men with homes and families, hopes and fears, principles and, yes, love of country. In other words, men like ourselves. Why are we led to believe otherwise?

As it grew late, a few more songs were traded around the fire, and then all joined in for—I am not lying to you—“Auld Lang Syne.” Then we parted with promises to meet again tomorrow, and even some talk of a football match.

I was just starting back to the trenches when an older German clutched my arm. “My God,” he said, “why cannot we have peace and all go home?”

I told him gently, “That you must ask your emperor.”

He looked at me then, searchingly. “Perhaps, my friend. But also we must ask our hearts.”

And so, dear sister, tell me, has there ever been such a Christmas Eve in all history? And what does it all mean, this impossible befriending of enemies?

For the fighting here, of course, it means regrettably little. Decent fellows those soldiers may be, but they follow orders and we do the same. Besides, we are here to stop their army and send it home, and never could we shirk that duty.

Still, one cannot help imagine what would happen if the spirit shown here were caught by the nations of the world. Of course, disputes must always arise. But what if our leaders were to offer well wishes in place of warnings? Songs in place of slurs? Presents in place of reprisals? Would not all war end at once?

All nations say they want peace. Yet on this Christmas morning, I wonder if we want it quite enough.

Your loving brother,
Tom
– Aaron Shephard
Aaron Shepard allows this piece to be reblogged with credit and copyright intact. Mr. Shephard’s home page is HEREThe photograph (via Wikipedia) is in the public domain: A cross, left near Ypres in Belgium in 1999, to commemorate the site of the Christmas Truce in 1914. The text reads:
1914 – The Khaki Chum’s Christmas Truce – 1999 – 85 Years – Lest We Forget.


Sacred Space: Myth-Adventures

wagonrutts
Wagon Ruts

When I was a little girl, I thought, “I should have been a pioneer woman!” I thought I was strong, and self-reliant. Well, I was. But I am certainly glad that I was not born a pioneer woman or I would have died in child-birth somewhere on the western horizon. The myth of the pioneer woman, though, has stayed with me through time as it is definitely incorporated in some aspects of my personality.

Some of these traits are as named…strong, self-reliant. But I would also add creative, thinking of new ways to do things, starters, innovators, and backbones of their society and of the family. These are all mythical traits with connection to real and imagined features. What I learned as a young girl, where in Colorado I could still see the tire tracks through the prairie, was a one-sided view of a pioneer person.

The truth of the matter is that in order for western expansion to happen, people had to be pushed out and that was the indigenous peoples of North America. So an innovator, starter, pushy pioneer woman and her family was actually displacing native peoples. Bummer. They did not teach us that story in elementary school! Therefore, there is part of that mythology to let go of. The “surviving at all costs” thinking needs to be tempered with an awareness of what it means to negotiate power and an understanding of my own social location.

And there is the other part of my mythology. It stems from a story about my grandfather. He was 1 of 17 kids. Fact. I was told or heard somewhere along the way that my grandfather’s mother was Native American. This would have been one of the tribes from New York. Probably the Cayuga. Who knows? It is a great myth for a girl to latch onto. My pioneer woman is married to a strong, amazing (17 kids!) indigenous woman. That is fun. But what exactly do you do with that when it is hearsay and unsubstantiated? Holding the story became enough. Even when I got older and researched on ancestry.com, I did find the names of the two women that would have been the probable mothers to my grandfather, one was traceable further, the other was simply “Miss Kitty.” Hypothetically, that would be her. Cool. That makes me a smidge of everything. It also explains the profound connection I have with the land of my birth. It does not merely go back hundreds of years, but perhaps thousands. Steadfastness.

And then there is my spiritual mythology. I am a Christian and have a liberal understanding of what scripture is. I don’t hold it tightly in a literal way. But I do hold it tightly in a mythological way. There are amazing stories if we read with subtext and if I read, “In the beginning, there was a formless void.” I can easily imagine everything that the “Big Bang” teaches us from a science standpoint. Spectacular. The Big Bang becomes a new mythology or a new creation story to be incorporated into my life and beliefs.

What is the point of all this myth and where am I going with it?

Myth seems to the story, spoken or unspoken, that we live our lives by. I spend a lot of time talking to people about telling their story. What is your story? What does it tell you? How does it give you life? And stories do not always give life.

Thursday, I was sitting in the juvenile detention center with a youth. He opened up to me in a way he hasn’t in the last 12 months I have known him. He told me more about gangs and gang mythology than I had ever heard before. Oh, he would not have used the words “gang mythology,” but there it was.

“Miss Terri, do you know why we don’t ever say the word donut?”

“Uh, no. I’m not sure I was ever even aware you didn’t say donut.”

“Well, when King David was killed he was in the donut shop. So we don’t say donut out of respect for King David.”

I was mightily confused. King David? King David never went to a donut shop! Donut shops are not even in the Bible! Then it finally dawned on me. He was talking about a gang leader, David Barksdale. Now, I am certain that there has been a conflation of David Barksdale with local gang happenings for reasons that are beyond this discussion, but the point is that it is their myth. Their story. It defines who they are even to the point that they go for “pastries” not “donuts.” (Other parts of their myth – no fish on Friday because of a similar reason, and wear red every Friday to honor their fallen comrades. Oh, and the leaders don’t listen to the young people just like every organization in existence.)

With this conflation of stories about their gang leaders, they recover David Barksdale who did some extraordinary things with his leadership. (Stick with me…this is odd). David Barksdale was from the 1960s/1970s. He died in 1974. He became tired of the killing between gangs and united gangs in Chicago so that they came together in a truce. At that point, he started several social service programs aimed at helping his people have better opportunities. That’s a pretty good myth. (It goes bad again, but at his death and afterwards.)

This young person’s myth was defining who he was in extraordinary ways. He ritualized the mythology of the gang. And in this case, the overall mythology is not life-giving. I would describe it ultimately as death-dealing. So personal mythology or our personal story are very important. They can put or keep us on a trajectory towards greater life or towards death.

Please, let’s choose life.

I asked myself, “What is the myth you are living?” and found that I did not know. So…I took it upon myself to get to know “my” myth, and I regarded this as the task of tasks…I simply had to know what unconscious or preconscious myth was forming me. ~C. G. Jung, The Portable Jung

How do we get to know our myth? What can we recognize as myth? Can we have an understanding that our myths are sacred story created just for us? Here are fundamental questions that typically pop up in mythologies (from Your Mythic Journey):

  • Where did I come from?
  • Why is there something rather than nothing?
  • Why is there evil in the world?
  • What happens to me when I die?
  • With whom do I belong?
  • How close should I be to my individual family members, lover, or friends?
  • What are my duties?
  • What is taboo?
  • What is the purpose of my life, my vision?
  • Whom should I imitate?
  • Who are the heroes and heroines?
  • Who are the villains?
  • Who is the enemy?
  • What are the stages along life’s way?
  • Who are my helpers, guides, allies?
  • What is disease?
  • How can I be purified, healed?
  • What should I do with bounty, wealth, surplus?
  • What is my relationship to animals?

That is a lot of questions and a lot of potential for a variety of answers. The question I don’t see on this list that I would include is “What do I do with suffering?” or “Why do people suffer?” But it is a great list and a great starting point for examining your own personal mythology to see where you are maintaining sacred space (life-giving) or profane space (death-dealing).

Today, if you have time, hold just one of these questions in your mind and explore your personal mythology. As we can see just from the questions, our personal myth illuminates our relationship to the world and the types of actions we take in the world. My wish for you is that you write a story that is life giving for yourself and for the world. Transforming the cosmos into sacred space.

Shalom and Amen.

~Terri

© 2013, post, Terri Stewart, All rights reserved

terriREV. TERRI 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. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual. (The 2014 issue just released!)

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.beguineagain.com , www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.  To reach her for conversation, send a note to cloakedmonk@outlook.com

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.

Sacred Grief: Shabbat Shalom

Leningrad_Codex_Carpet_page_eThe power is out! I am sharing something I wrote in November 2010. I think it speaks to the spiritual practice of grief work and for preparing for difficult seasons of life. I am going to let it stand as a piece and not edit it on my phone! I hope you enjoy this glimpse into my past.

Often we think of Sabbath as Sunday. In fact, traditionally, Sunday is the Day of the Lord and sundown Friday to sundown Saturday remains the Sabbath time. Recently I went to Shabbat service at Kol Ami to experience the beginning of Sabbath, a dedicated time of reflecting on giving our lives and all there is to God. Going to a Jewish service is a little unnerving as it is generally in Hebrew, however, the Siddur (what would be like a hymnal) is written in Hebrew and English. It also has the transliteration so you can follow along. Whew! That allowed me to sort of keep up.

When I entered the Narthex to join Kol Ami during Shabbat, I was a little nervous. After all, I know what we think when new people come and visit us! Often it is “Hooray!” How odd would it be to become the new person again? And how odd is it to become the new person within a building that I know so well? When I entered, Rabbi Glickman almost recognized me. I said hello and put myself into context for him. He introduced me to a lovely couple in the congregation. I got there just in time to hear their tales of recent loss to Rabbi Glickman. My heart tugged because I know those tales of loss. It has been an entire year devoted to loss for me and to the dangerous work of going through this liminal time in my life. Late last summer we had to put down Sarah, our dog of fourteen years. In October I finally did some very heavy grief work for my mother. In February, a good friend at school died. And not only did he die, but I was the one who had to break the news to my school community. I presided over his memorial service. And then, the capper for me was the loss of my brother in May. Oy vey! And then there have been smaller losses since then. But these were the big boulders for me. The interesting thing that I learned was that each time a smaller loss, it taps into that bigger well of grief that has built up. So even a smaller thing like the ROTC soldier at Seattle U who was killed in Iraq recently, brings up the bigger grief and you have to deal with it again. Then I met Maria and her husband.

Maria shared with me at the Shabbos service recent news they have had of a close friend dying. And this was layered on top of huge challenges they have had over the last year. They are an older couple and have had to face challenging health situations that seem to be coming at them in waves. On top of that, they lost their grandson seven years ago. So these smaller challenges and griefs are tapping into that huge loss in their life. I was so very aware that even though there were many differences between us (religion, culture, age), that coming together in our grief to share the loss together on Shabbat as we recite the Kaddish together was an amazing experiment. Kaddish is recited for all who grieve and is an amazing response of faith. In the deepest grief, the responsive prayer is one of praise to God. It is:

Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name throughout the world which He has created according to His will. May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon; and say, Amen.

May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.

Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored, adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for u and for all Israel; and say, Amen. He who creates peace in His celestial heights, may He create peace for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

I am also reminded of all the hurts that can come to us during this upcoming Advent and Christmas season. For children of alcoholic parents, for recovering addicts, for people undergoing the birth of a new way of having family, for those suddenly without family, for those who are alone, even for those of us who very much need to watch our food intake—it can be challenging at best and a minefield at worst. I think my wish for advent, for this time of growth, is that we all can embrace change and loss where we need to knowing that it is gestating into something new that may bring forth a beautiful new life. And in this time of gestation, that we may claim together, the magnificence and glory of our creator who creates peace for us all.

Love,
Terri

© 2013, post , Terri Stewart, All rights reserved
Illustration ~ Leningrad Codex cover. This is from a very old mauscript of the Hebrew bible. A former possession of Karaïte Jews written circa 1010 C.E. The photograph by Shmuel ben Ya’akov is in the United States public domain.

WP_20131026_034REV. TERRI 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. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual. (The 2014 issue just released!)

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

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

Abandoned, Alone, and Angry

In my faith tradition, Jesus is crucified on the cross. He cries out, “Father, Father, why have you forsaken me?” This is a reference to Psalm 22 which explores emotions of abandonment, anger, and finding hope. I have used this methodology to express the anger and hope that I find for the youth that I work with who are affected by incarceration.

One night when I was working in detention (re: jail for kids), I heard story after story of hopelessness. It came to me that these youth were torn apart by their parents, by the education system, by poverty, by global issues beyond my understanding. One youth was going home the next day. To a crack addicted mother. Why couldn’t he go to his dad? His dad smuggles guns into the country and was a high placed gang member. He was certain he would be dead if he lived with his dad. So to his mom he goes. Where she will offer him drugs and he will become hooked. Again. He said, “I do not have the strength to say no to my mother.”

Another youth, noticably affected with psychological and educational challenges, was from Somalia. He was living with his auntie here. In Somalia, he had seen his parents dragged from their home, his mother raped, and both parents killed in front of him. But instead of investing in mental health centers, we have invested in mental health courts. This young man, clearly with a minimum of PTSD, will be locked up where the focus is on “treatment” (in this setting that means that they admit to crime and say they are sorry) not on therapy.

This makes me so mad! So my heart cries out to all who have let down these children. Let me say it again–children. But in order to do this work, I needed to discover why. The below poem was my journey through the anger to discovering how I can possibly continue to find hope and love in a system that is hopeless and loveless. It is also my way of putting words to the stories that the youth tell. And my own story.

And PS, if you’d like to support my work with these troubled youth, I’d love it!

 

Psalm
Eli Eli lama sabachthani?

where were you
when the embryo
hatched and was formed
by blood-spattered hyenas
tearing hope from
limb to limb and
laughing gleefully
at the mockery

where were you
when the embryo
fell and love
offered a hit
of a crack pipe
covered in symbols
flashing through
the ghetto offering
escape from the
desolate heat

the hands that
should be reaching
out are cut off at
the wrists bleeding
sanctimonious tripe
in defiance of the call
to love the
least , lost, and lonely
while sentencing each
embryo to death

guilty rings through
the room as we
continue to bleed the
embryo out with
ignorance born of
fear and shame and
the lie of the only way
being my way standing
on the corner shouting
belligerently to
repent or die

revelation rings through
the cosmos as the
embryo marches the
guilty to sheol while
silent tears are birthed
wresting the stumbling
breath of hope into a
silent scream reaching
to the ramparts and
calling forth the final
battle fought with
easter lilies

© 2013, post, Terri Stewart, All rights reserved

© 2009, poem, 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