Posted in General Interest, Mortality, Peace & Justice, poem, Poems/Poetry, poetry

Some Kind of Hell to Pay

Breadline
Breadline

the unconscionable dance in the canyons of power,
lined with megalithic buildings, the edifice complex
of the spin-meister’s lie, that the demigods can do
anything – anything – walking this asphalt valley

a parade, flailing lemmings trussed and trusting their
die-cut dreams to the pitiless whim of the military/
industrial/medical alliance, whose war-cries are of
greed and arrogance, believing they’ll live forever,
today’s sovereignty, tomorrow’s guarantee. But it’s

all delusion – cultures die and the hope-crushing
architects of cuts and austerity measures are like
the rich man in the Lazarus story, there’ll be
some kind of backlash, some kind of hell to pay …

© Jamie Dedes

“Rich Lazarus! richer in those gems, thy tears,
Than Dives in the robes he wears:
He scorns them now, but oh they’ll suit full well
With the purple he must wear in hell”
Richard Crenshaw (c.1613-1649), English cleric, teacher, metaphysical poet, Steps to the Temple. Sacred Poems, Delights of the Muses (1646)

© photo credit,1930 breadine sculpture at the FDR memorial courtesy of Peter Griffin, Public Domain Pictures.net

Posted in General Interest, Peace & Justice, Video

WRITING PEACE: An exhibition for thinking and sharing peace across time and space. A project of UNESCO…

Given the events of the past few weeks, it seemed a good idea to share this thought from UNESCO’s 2012 event. For more, HERE is UNESCO’s PDF on Writing Peace.

Of equal interest (thought provoking) is VISUALIZING UNIVERSALISM: The Unesco Human Rights Exhibition, 1949-1953 HERE. Also in PDF form, it includes 110 photographs from UNESCO’s archives.

UNESCO

UNITED NATIONS EDUCATIONAL, SCIENTIFIC AND CULTURAL ORGANIZATION

“Its purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through education, science, and culture in order to further universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights along with fundamental freedom proclaimed in the UN Charter. It is the heir of the League of Nations’ International Commission on Intellectual Cooperation.
UNESCO has 195 member states and nine associate members.” Wikipedia

UNESCO’s priorities for the 21st Century:

“Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.” UNESCO philosophy

Of related interest:

Please mark your calendars to join with The Bardo Group and 100,000 Poets (Artists and Muscians) for Change for our virtual event here on September 27, 28, 29, and 30.

Posted in Culture/History, Fiction, First Peoples, Joseph Hesch, story

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.

Posted in Culture/History, General Interest, Victoria C Slotto

Cultural Connections–International Museum Day

“Museums are an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among peoples”. Internation Council of Museums 

Image: George Andrews
Image: George Andrews

Yesterday the world community celebrated International Museum Day. The International Council of Museums (ICOM) established this event to occur each year on or about May 18th. In 2013, 35,000 museums from 143 countries on five continents participated, welcoming guests to their venues, without charge.

The theme for this year’s celebration, as established by the ICOM is “Museum collections make connections.”

Until last year I had the great pleasure of serving as a docent at the Nevada Museum of Art (NMA), Nevada’s only accredited art museum. The role of the docent is, as the name implies, to lead the public in tours of the museum’s offerings, and to teach participants about various exhibits. This requires numerous hours of on-going training in the rotating exhibits and offers opportunities to meet (in the case of an art museum) artists, curators and collectors of art.

When I attended a National Docent Symposium a few years ago, I became more aware of how many types of museums were represented: those dealing with history, collections such as cars (the National Automobile Museum is here in Reno), zoos, botanical gardens, sports, entertainment, children discovery centers, occupations, science cultures…the list goes on and on.

Photo: Palm Springs Life
Photo: Palm Springs Life

I found the greatest joy in introducing children to the world of art—to watch them respond to the principles and elements of art such as color and texture, to learn to use art as a launching pad for story-telling and poetry, to learn to use their senses to jump into a painting and explore what it might taste like, smell like, feel like. I planned age-based activities and each tour was followed by an art experience.

In keeping with this year’s theme, museums offer a chance to experience other cultures and to understand the point of view of the forces behind the exhibits. They teach responsibility for the environment, diversity, and offer families the opportunity to share.

In honor of the spirit behind International Museum Day, please consider paying a visit to a museum of your choice. Perhaps the idea of becoming a docent will appeal to you if you are looking for a volunteer opportunity. Docents are educators, though it is not necessary to have a background in education, or even in your field of interest, thanks to the intense initial training program and on-going education.

It was hard for me to resign my position. It was a passion for me. But life circumstances change and sometimes the time commitment becomes unattainable. I find it dangerous to visit NMA now—I want to jump back into the role that is no longer realistic. But when I tour with friends or my husband, I find the docent in me taking over. I devise questions I would ask the school children, activities I would have them do.

To learn more about museums in your area just google “Museums (your town).” You will be surprised. And rewarded.

– Victoria Slotto

© 2014, essay, Victoria C. Slotto, All rights reserved; photo credits as indicated above

2940013445222_p0_v1_s260x42034ff816cd604d91d26b52d7daf7e8417VICTORIA C. SLOTTO (Victoria C. Slotto, Author: Fiction, Poetry and Writing Prompts) ~ is an accomplished writer and poet. Winter is Past, published by Lucky Bat Books in 2012, is Victoria’s first novel. A second novel is in process. On Amazon and hot-off-the-press nonfiction is Beating the Odds: Support for Persons with Early Stage Dementia. Victoria’s ebooks (poetry and nonfiction) are free to Amazon Prime Members. Link HERE for Victoria’s Amazon page.

Editorial note: Congratulations, Victoria, on that the long awaited publication of print copies of Jacaranda Rain, Collected Poems, 2012, Beautifully done.

Writers’ Fourth Wednesday is hosted by Victoria from January through October. Tomorrow Victoria’s Fourth Wednesday writers’ prompt will post at 12:01 a.m. PST. Please join us. Mister Linky will remain open for seventy-two hours so that you can link your response to this blog. Victoria and Jamie will read and comment and we hope you will read each other’s work as well, comment and encourage. 

Posted in Creative Nonfiction, Essay, find yourself, memoir, Mortality, Priscilla Galasso

Claiming Rites of Passage

St. Luke's columbarium
St. Luke’s columbarium

A few years ago, I went to an exhibit on mummies at the Milwaukee Public Museum.  It was fascinating.  Listening to the whispered comments and questions of other patrons was fascinating as well.  We have a very scattered cultural approach to death, with so many various ways of marking the rite of passage, including not really marking it at all.

American culture, as a whole, has been dominated by technology to the point that important parts of our lives are relegated to “experts” and taken out of our hands completely.   My mother fought against this trend in the late 50s when she insisted on breastfeeding her babies instead of allowing the “experts” to convince her that artificial formula on an artificial schedule was better for them.

Birth experiences have become sterilized, institutionalized, and anesthetized as well in the mainstream. My 4 were all born in a hospital under the HMO system (but not under any pain killers!) because in my 20s, I wasn’t brave enough to seek more creative options.   However, my sister birthed one of her children at home, and I once assisted a friend who had a home birth.  It’s not impossible to choose to take full responsibility in this event.

Death is another part of life that more and more people deal with by proxy. The hospice movement is a wonderful example of the purposeful effort to maintain the grace and dignity of this stage of life by bringing it back into the home, away from institutions.  I recently watched an Ingmar Bergman movie set at the turn of the century, called Cries & Whispers (well, it’s actually called something in Swedish, but that’s the English title).  This intense family drama deals with the death of a spinster sister from cancer.  The action all takes place at home, in this case an elegant manor.  The doctor’s largest role is in an affair with one of the sisters, in flashback.  When I think of the family drama of my husband’s death, experts and technology played a huge part.  Unfortunately, that became a distraction from entering into the rite of passage, from experiencing the more intimate aspects of the dynamics that were changing my family.  What I mean to say is that it enabled denial.

The last photo taken of me & my husband
The last photo taken of my husband: 11 days before he died at home.

What does it mean to choose to take responsibility for my life?  Not to delegate the more painful or complicated bits to an “expert”, not to live by proxy or by representative?  In which situations do I most often abdicate my ability to decide a course of action?  Are they likely to be mostly financial, political, medical, social, spiritual, emotional or physical?  I am only beginning to wake up and ask myself these questions.  Steve often puts it to me this way: in every situation, you have at least 3 options:  1) Run away or hide  2) Try to change the situation  3) Change yourself.

This is a good time for me to think about aging, about how I want to live and address the changes that are happening now and will continue to happen.  What do I want?  I want to experience life in a more authentic way, not behind a duck blind or a proxy, not behind a curtain of denial or dogma, not by avoiding discomfort or hard work.  I want to make decisions about who I am and how to live proactively.  How do I embody this?  At this point, I am still figuring out who I am and want to be and recognizing places where that has been dictated and I have responded without looking deeper.   My father and my husband took great care of me.  I want to learn to do that myself.   I often dream about Jim returning as if he’d never died.

Last night, I had a powerful dream about him, set in the house I sold, with my young children around.  My consciousness struggled with it; I knew that the house was emptied and I’d moved.  I couldn’t understand why the furniture was back and the place looked so “lived in”.  I couldn’t understand why Jim was there.  He told me he was going out to work because he wanted to support me and the kids.  In a choked whisper, I closed the door behind him and said, “Don’t come back.”  I woke up crying.  Talking about this dream with Steve, I realized that I do want him to come back and float through my subconscious and consciousness without confusing me, without affirming me or correcting me, just visiting.  I suppose when I gain the confidence to affirm and care for myself, my dreams will change and Jim’s place in them as well.  Then we will both move beyond this Bardo and into a different sphere.

—- Priscilla Galasso

© 2013, essay and photograph, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

004PRISCILLA GALASSO ~  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.

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.

Posted in Naomi Baltuck, Photo Essay, Photography/Photographer

Sunrise in Gibraltar

This sunrise was our reward for an early start on a big day.  We were staying near Gibraltar, and taking the ferry over to Tangier in Morocco to spend the day.  It was our first time ever in Africa, and we were a little nervous to step through that door.

Our driver Rashid was very helpful.   Rashid was a good son, who lived with and cared for his elderly mother.  His English was difficult to understand, so he and the kids communicated in Spanish.  If I had a question, I could make myself understood in my rusty French, but his replies came too quickly for me comprehend.  We worked out a system in which Rashid would reply to my French questions in Spanish, which the kids would then translate into English for me.

We were typical tourists.  We went to the market.

And did what most of the day trippers do.

We felt grateful for just a quick peek into another world.

One glimpse down a dark alley shed light on another way of life.

We walked past little shops and businesses…

In Tangier we were given a taste of new flavors, colors, music, and customs.

I saw this cat in a narrow passageway, and it occurred to me that cats all over the world speak the same language.  I wondered what would happen if people did too.  Something would gained, but much would be lost as well.

Then it was time to cross back over the Straits.  The  kids will never let me live down the fact that I accidentally bought a rug, my only souvenir of that trip.  I just wanted to bring home some of the warm vivid colors of a world so very different, and yet so much the same as ours.

Sunrise to sunset, long after the threads on my rug have faded, that day will stay with me.

Copyright 2012 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

Posted in Culture/History, General Interest, Guest Writer, Karen Fayeth, memoir

For the Love of a Good Cuppa

A couple years ago, my husband and I had the chance to celebrate the Fourth of July with some good friends. There were six of us total (three couples), and we met at our friend’s house for a special treat.

One of our crew had just recently returned from a trip to Ethiopia. She and her husband are in process of adopting an adorable baby boy and she had to make a visit to work through the paperwork with the local courts.

While in country visiting her baby son and patiently working though the long process, she was treated on several occasions to the Ethiopian coffee ceremony.

On our Fourth of July holiday, she wanted to share this ceremony with us, her friends.

About the coffee ceremony, here’s a quote from Ethiopian ambassador Haile-Giros Gessesse:

“Coffee has social value in our society. It is deep rooted in our culture. The coffee ceremony in local areas is used mainly for social gatherings. In the mornings and evenings parents, especially mothers gather together for a coffee ceremony and also use it as a platform for exchanging information in their surroundings. It is a means of communication. When people sit down they usually spend three hours finalizing the ceremony, starting with the preparation, and then roasting to brewing it.”

Our friend had hauled home a big bag of green coffee beans, water hulled (the good stuff) not fire hulled, and we sat outside in the beautiful sun while she told us about the ceremony.

First, she roasted the beans on the grill. We watched as she shook and swirled the pan, much like a slow Jiffy pop motion.

When we all agreed that it looked like the beans were at a good medium roast each of us took in a whiff of the fantastic aroma from the pan.

Then we took turns using a mortar and pestle to smash the beans down to a nice grind. Every person took their turn and everyone contributed.

It was satisfying work to smash, smash, smash those crispy beans and release the beautiful scent and oils.

Once ready, the grinds were placed into a French press and once brewed, a round of coffee was poured into six cups.

This fresh roasted coffee was delicious! It had a floral aroma and tasted so light and mild. This coffee was perfect with just a touch of sugar and nothing else.

In keeping with tradition, we had three rounds of coffee while we discussed our lives, the news of the day, baseball, and got caught up with each other. This is an essential part of the ceremony, sharing community, support, and friendship.

Now, I love a great cup of coffee, but I rarely drink caffeinated coffee. After three cups I was ready to clean my house top to bottom, jog a thousand miles, and throw a 98mph fastball.

But it was a happy caffeinated high shared with dear friends.

I was honored to be a part of the ceremony and I can hardly wait until our friends bring home their baby boy. I hope to we can continue to give him a sense of community and family, maybe even over a cuppa or two…or three.

– Karen Fayeth

© 2013, essay, Karen Fayeth, All rights reserved
Photo and quote from a CRIEnglish.com article by Wei Tong.

webheadshotKAREN FAYETH ~ is one of our regular writers. She is our tech manager, site co-administrator along with Jamie and Terri, and fiction and creative nonfiction editor. She blogs at Oh Fair New Mexico. Born with the writer’s eye and the heart of a story-teller, Karen Fayeth’s work is colored by the Mexican, Native American, and Western influences of her roots in rural New Mexico complemented by a growing urban aesthetic. Karen now lives in the San Francisco Bay area. When she’s not spinning a tale, she works as a senior executive for science and technology research organization.

Karen has won awards for her writing, photography, and art. Recent publication credits include a series of three features in New Mexico magazine and an essay with the online magazine Wild Violet. Her latest short story “Quick, Quick Slow” was published in the May edition of Foliate Oak. Karen’s photography is garnering considerable attention, her photo titled “Bromance” (featuring Aubry Huff and Pat Burrell) was featured on MLB Network’s Intentional Talk hosted by Chris Rose and Kevin Millar.

Posted in Essay, Michael Watson

Troubling the Post-Tribal

On hte BridgeRecently, I found myself in conversation with a diverse group of alternatively oriented, North American,  health care providers, some of whom integrate shamanic practices into their work. As often happens, talk turned to our various efforts to situate ourselves in the broader cultural framework. Inevitably, this proves a thorny conversation.

Identity issues cut deep, exposing the painful questions underlying the increasingly tenuous fabric of Self. When engaged in conversations about our fundamental beliefs about Self we may find ourselves asking: “Who am I? What claims may I make about my experience of Me-ness? In a world that appropriates and commodities everything, how do I understand and situate Self?”

Speaking with my colleagues I was reminded that conversations about traditional modes of living and healing generate additional anxiety. Ethical questions abound: “What constitutes appropriation? Given we learn to be adults through acts of appropriation, what may we respectfully borrow from others? Does our use of another’s knowledge diminish the other? “

My colleagues attempted to circumvent these raw issues by positioning themselves squarely in the “Post Tribal”. At that point I stopped talking and simply listened. While I see myself as situated in the uncomfortable potential space between tribal and urban, I identify strongly with my tribal heritage. From that point of reference it seems to me the idea of Post Tribal is fraught  with problems.  The greatest of these is that it effectively erases the sovereignty and authorship of the world’s thousands of active tribal cultures. In so doing it effectively dismisses any claim to ownership of knowledge, traditions, and practices these cultures may make. The idea of the Post Tribal threatens, once again, to leave tribal people behind and alone. It borrows freely and selectively from Indigenous understanding, and uses these decontextualized bits of knowledge to strengthen the very citadel  of individuality that tribal ways of knowing challenge.  This seems, at best, disrespectful, and at worst genocidal. Either way, such attitudes inflict great harm on the souls of tribal and non-tribal people alike. There must be more heart centered ways for us to negotiate these issues.

Most of my teachers walked the “Soft Path,” the way of the Heart. On this path we are encouraged to balance mind and heart, and to be courageous warriors of the Spirit. We are advised to wrestle lovingly with difficult questions and the challenges of our time. Yet we are also to stand up to tyranny in all its forms. From the place of the Tribal Heart, we can understand that in a world of eight billion people most of us will not live on the land, in tribal communities. That must not stop us from acknowledging and honoring diverse knowledges and ways of living, no matter how easy it would be to do otherwise. Rather, I believe we must, if we are to survive as persons and as a species, tend the garden of diversity, protecting and nurturing the myriad forms of culture and biological life that make Earth home.

As we consider the way onward we may well ask ourselves:”How are we to hold on to the best of the traditions from which we spring? What might we ethically incorporate into our lives from the beliefs and practices of other cultures? What shared knowledge might be of real use in our turbulent times, might aid all of us in moving towards sustainable lifeways?”

The path ahead is challenging and the view is at times bleak. Yet, we do not know how that view, or the terrain, may change around the bend, or on the other side of the mountain. I imagine we are called simply do our best as we walk on. Approaching questions of Self and appropriation with deep thought and great kindness is good to practice  as we journey along together.

– Michael Watson, M.A., Ph.D., LCMHC

© 2013, essay and photographs (includes portrait below), Michael Watson, All rights reserved

michael drumMICHAEL WATSON, M.A., Ph.D., LCMHC (Dreaming the World) ~ is a contributing editor to Into the Bardo, an essayist and a practitioner of the Shamanic arts, psychotherapist, educator and artist of Native American and European descent. He lives and works in Burlington, Vermont, where he teaches in undergraduate and graduate programs at Burlington College,. He was once Dean of Students there. Recently Michael has been teaching in India and Hong Kong. His experiences are documented on his blog. In childhood he had polio, an event that taught him much about challenge, struggle, isolation, and healing.

Posted in Creative Nonfiction, Jamie Dedes

For the Record: Remembering Mom

Mom and Me 1950, Brooklyn
Mom and Me
1950, Brooklyn

First publication: March 15, 2012, Connotation Press

I am the keeper of the dreams and the memories, the matrix where the generations converge, the record-book held between familial bookends. I am responsible for passing her life on to him that she may continue to live and that he may understand the consequences of history and culture as common people do.

He is the vindication of hope, his and ours. Her heart is the place were hope started. I can hardly think of my son without also thinking of my mother. They are the two people I love most in this world, though one of them – Mom – is no longer here. So for the record, I’m not sure why, but the occasional pancake breakfasts I had with her at Oscar’s of the Waldorf are on my mind. We had rituals we honored until life had its way with her.

______

We spent time savoring the hotel before going into Oscar’s for breakfast. The Waldorf was decorated with so much gold color that despite the muted lighting we felt we were having our moment in the sun. The jewel-colored furnishings and plush carpeting invited us to find a place to sit. We indulged in wide-eyed rounds of people watching. The businessmen seemed busy with self-importance. The women fussed with their manifest charm. We always stopped in the ladies’ room with its uniformed attendants continually present. They provided each guest with a freshly laundered terry-cloth towel and double-wrapped soaps, lavender-scented. Mom would tip the attendant a quarter and give me a quarter to tip her too.

Waldorf Lobby & Clock
Waldorf Lobby & Clock

An important ritual was a visit to the Waldorf Astoria Clock in the main lobby. I’ve read that it’s there still, all two tons of it. It’s a place where people find one another. I’ll meet you at the clock. Everyone knows that means the clock inside the Waldorf-Astoria at Park Avenue. It’s a towering thing, the actual clock sitting below a replica of the Lady Liberty, hope of immigrants, and above some bronze carvings and an octagonal base of marble and mahogany. Standing near the clock gave us the sense of a history of which we were not a part. It offered the illusion of privilege, the true secret spice that made the blueberry pancakes at Oscar’s so delicious. The famed maître d’hôtel, Oscar Tschirky, Oscar of the Waldorf, was no longer there. He died in 1950, the year I was born.

_______

My mom loved the Waldorf and Oscar’s blueberry pancakes as she did everything she felt characteristic of culture and good breeding. Being well bred meant you recognized quality in a person or product: women who wore pearls, men who always tipped their hats in greeting, and dresses with wide hems. Well-bred meant you didn’t swear or use colloquialisms.  It meant that if you were a boy you never cried. If you were a girl you didn’t display your intelligence. You didn’t run. You didn’t shout. You never went out without wearing hat, gloves, and girdle.  You sacrificed sports and ballet at nine. You didn’t risk turning any tidbit of excess fat into unseemly muscle.

Given my illegitimate birth – which occurred when my mother was thirty-six – combined with our roots, peasant not patrician, and our working-class status in this country, it seemed Mom was forever posturing. Nonetheless, over time I convinced myself that my mother was indeed a most cultivated person. Hence my birth had to be a virgin birth. That would explain my father’s absence, though there was no kindly Joseph to lend an aura of respectability. Mom advised me never to kiss a boy. Kissing could cause pregnancy. Well, yes, if one thing leads to another, but how would my mom know?

'50s Style Theater seating
’50s Style Theater seating

Mom’s interest in culture was insatiable. What she viewed as high culture most people would see as popular culture. We consumed it regularly and with religious fervor. We were fickle about our temples of worship. We opened our hearts at the Harbor Theater on Wednesday night, the RKO on Saturday afternoon, the Loew’s Alpine on Sunday, and for whatever reruns were on television at any given time. Because of movies we knew what to dream. They were our world; their luminaries our goddesses and gods. Audrey Hepburn, goddess of fashion. Cyd Charisse, goddess of posture. Katherine Hepburn, the great goddess of elocution. Grace Kelly inspired us to wear pearls, however faux our own five-and-dime pearls were. We did our best to meet the standard. Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, and Jimmy Stewart were the gentlemen gods who shaped our expectations of men.

Our home back then was a one-bedroom Brooklyn apartment on the top floor of a six-story four-section complex that was built in the 1920s before the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Each of the four sections had an elevator, often in disrepair. Our apartment had French windows, which we found romantic and from which we could see the lights of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge at night. The bridge didn’t open until 1964 and so it came to our landscape late. The requisite fire escape was outside the kitchen window, the only window without a radiator below its sill. It made a fine place to sit and read, write stories, and watch the cars below and the clouds above.

Our apartment, D61, was often blessed with rain in the form of leaks. Manna dropped from the ceiling in the guise of paint chips. If the people downstairs were too noisy, we tapped on the wood floor with the end of a broomstick. When there was no heat or hot water we consulted with the landlord’s wife, a common woman whose carelessly open closet displayed a frowzy collection of cotton house-dresses and limp lifeless sweaters. Mom always sniffed as we walked away, her sensibility offended. She said the woman’s hair was entirely too long and youthfully styled for someone of her station and maturity.

I remember my mother as so refined that when conflict arose between us she never fought or yelled or slammed a fist on the table. After a quiet well-barbed soliloquy, she went silent. If Mom’s anger was white-hot, she might not talk to me for years. The last episode of protracted silence extended from my fifteenth birthday until after my marriage. I no longer remember my original offense but a rebellious marriage to someone of a different ethnicity did nothing to serve the cause of reconciliation.

________

00000001There’s my mother, the little girl on your left. She’s about seven in that sepia photograph – circa 1921 – where she stands alongside her mother and three of her six siblings. My mother’s mother is pregnant and in her mid-twenties. There would be four more children that survived out of eighteen pregnancies. Mom told me my grandmother was married off at twelve to a seventeen-year-old boy-man with something of a temper. They immigrated to this United States of America after the first two children were born, one boy (thank God!) and one girl.

I often look at that photograph of my mother and wonder what she was thinking. What did she long for? As she made her way around the old neighborhood and tried to grow beets in a wooden box on the tenement fire escape, certainly she dreamed of dressing in the latest rage. When, through the aegis of the New York Times Fresh Air Fund, she spent a month each summer at the Muzzi’s farm upstate, no doubt she fantasized about living where the air is clear and the spaces packed tight with solitude and well-occupied with growing green things. She often talked with longing of the fresh vegetables at the Muzzi’s and of a large accommodating farm kitchen.

Mom once landed a part in an elementary-school version of Aïda and got to wear a costume and make-up. Her father had her remove the red lipstick that was provided by a teacher. As an adult, Mom collected lipsticks. You wouldn’t believe how many different shades of red there are and how poetic the names: autumn rose, wild ruby, crimson dew …

Over time, the hope of being valued by a good man, of living in a garden apartment with something more than an efficiency kitchen, moved slowly out of reach. As Mom grew older, less nubile, and more invisible, she became more artful with her war paint and her dress. She no longer wore what jewelry she had as decoration, but as amulets.

Her decline must have started when she was pregnant with me. Coincident with that, she was diagnosed with cancer for the first time. Through the years and bit by excruciating bit, she lost organs: a breast now, then her thyroid, then her womb, a kidney and finally the second breast and lymph glands. I’m just a shell, she’d tell me before warming her soul by the cold fire of a movie screen. She would fight cancer on-and-off all her life. When the end came, she died in my arms of breast and colon cancer. She was seventy-six.

Mom was a good numbers person, always able to find work as a full-charge bookkeeper. When I was twelve, a particularly exciting opportunity came her way. A prospective employer flew her – a Kelly Girl ®, forty-eight years old – to D.C. for a trial assignment and a job interview. When she arrived, she found the possibility of permanent employment required a full medical exam. The exam, along with work history and evaluation, would be submitted to the board for review. All those men would see it. They might even discuss her lack of womanly organs at the board meeting, complete with board notes for the record. Embarrassed, Mom declined the interview, packed her bag, and found her way to the airport. That afternoon, she arrived back in New York at Idlewild.

Subway Station
Our Subway Station

The next morning, without even a nod to the well-bred goddesses and gods of mortal fancy, Mom threw on some clothes and grabbed my hand. An hour or so later we were in Manhattan. We went straight into Oscar’s. We didn’t stop in the hotel lobby for people-watching or give quarters to the ladies’ room attendant. We didn’t pay our respects to the Waldorf Astoria Clock. We just ate. Rather, I should say I watched. Mom ate. She cut her pancakes at punitive angles and made doleful jabs at the pieces with her fork. When she finished her serving, she moved on to mine. By the time Mom gulped her third coffee, paid the bill, and left a grudging tip, even my child-mind understood that our visits to Oscar’s for blueberry pancakes would no longer be part of a wistful dream. Lacking sacred ritual, they would devolve into compulsion. This was the beginning of Mom eating much too much and of me not eating quite enough. While Mom endeavored to bury her dreams, I sought to scrap their bones bare and set them free.

© 2012, memoir/family photographs and portrait (below), Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved /the photographs which include my mother are a part of our family album but they’re also covered by copyright. Please be respectful. Waldorf Lobby & Clock courtesy of New York Architecture. Theater seating by Reddi  via Wikipedia under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 unported license. Subway station by David Shakelton via Wikipedia under Creative Commons Attritution-Share Alike 3.0 unported license.

Photo on 2012-09-19 at 20.00JAMIE DEDES ~ My worldly tags are poet and writer.  I’m in my fifth year of blogging at The Poet by Day, the journey in poem, formerly titled Musing by Moonlight.  Through the gift of poetry (mine and that of others), I enter sacred space.

Posted in Music, Naomi Baltuck, Photography/Photographer

As I Was Going Up the Stair

Yesterday upon the stair, I met a man who wasn’t there.

 

He wasn’t there again today.  Oh, how I wish he’d stay away!

photograph c2013 Naomi Baltuck

This is the first stanza of Antigonishwritten in 1899 by Hughes Mearns.  It was inspired by rumors of a ghost roaming the stairs of a haunted house in Antigonish, Novia Scotia.  It inspired a popular Glenn Miller song in 1939, with vocals by Tex Beneke.

– Naomi Baltuck

Editor’s note: What a  fine example of how – with our art – we feed one anther. Here people pass around a folk tale. A poet picks it up and writes a poem. A composer finds the poem and sets it to music, which musicians then play accompanied by a singer singing the poem. Wonderful! J.D.

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppiNAOMI 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

Posted in Essay, General Interest, Guest Writer, Uncategorized

I hope you enjoy this interesting piece by Manu Kurup, which he has done with a delightfully light touch. Jamie Dedes