June 2016, Vol. 2/Issue 9; The Joys of Friendship

June 15, 2016

“Friendship improves happiness, and abates misery, by doubling our joys, and dividing our grief” Marcus Tullius Cicero

Friendship: Such a homely topic and yet where would we be without friends, whether from childhood or new to us in retirement, whether with family, schoolmates, coworkers, online or in the flesh, our friends do indeed double our joys and make our grieving more bearable. Friends may share specific times in our lives or specific values and interests. Each friend is without a doubt among the great treasures of life and living.

This month our contributing writers and our guests explore the wide range of friendships, their observations and notably, their gratitude. From newborn friendships to one that has stood the great test of time and is in its sixtieth year, from friends who share our family life to those who accompany us in retirement, all are savored this month.

Many of our reader-faves are back this month. Writing on theme Contributing Editor Priscilla Galasso, and Contributing Writers John Anstie, Corina Ravenscraft, Naomi Baltuck, Liliana Negoi and Charlie Martin. Frequent guest contributors Imen Benyoub and Aprilia Zank share their world-class poetry.

Poet Maggie MacKay debuted with us last month. We’re delighted to bring another of her poems to you today. We extend a warm welcome to poet Patricia Leighton, new to our pages.

Fathers can be our greatest champions and friends and we celebrate Father’s Day with Juan Felipe Herrera, former poet laureate of the United States. He’s a joy. Don’t miss that feature.

In our “More Light” section: We continue our well-received “Getting to Know You” series this month with interviews of Silva Merjanian, a frequent guest contributor, and Michael Watson, a member of the Bardo team from almost the beginning.

With Michael we also explore the consequences of disability in a special collection of features on illness and disability. You’ll find an inspiring piece there about a heroic friend of mine who, despite being legally blind, continues to ply her passion, fine art photography.

Contributing Writer, Joe Hesch, and Mendes Biondo – Mendes debuted with us last month – share their world class poety.

Among the features included in “More Light” is M.J. Tenerelli’s article about the process of publishing a poetry collection – Grabbing the Apple, An Anthology of New York Women Poets – which just launched a few weeks ago A long-time friend of The Bardo Group Beguines, Dutch nature artist, Paula Kuitenbrouwer, shares the tranquility in her art, “Lotus Plant” and “Lotus Pond and Tortoise.”

Enjoy all and thank you for being the peace.

On behalf of The Bardo Group, Beguines, and in the spirit of peace, love and community,
Jamie Dedes
Founding and Managing Editor

FRIENDSHIP

Features

Friendship and the Serious Introvert, Priscilla Galasso
You Rock, Naomi Baltuck
Musings on Friendship, Corina Ravenscraft
There Are Friends … and there are Friends, John Anstie
Bonds, Liliana Negoi

Poetry

scars and stars, Imen Benyoub
Eyeing the Landscape, Patricia Leighton
Musing on a Sixty-Year Friendship, Maggie MacKay
of lovers and friends, Charles W. Martin
you really didn’t say that, Charles W. Martin
re: your account, Charles W. Martin
photographs, Aprilia Zank

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY

Father’s Day with Juan Felipe Herrera, Performance Artists and former California Poet Laureate

MORE LIGHT

Special Section: Disability

Illness, Disability and Servitude, Michael Watson
Living …. the operative word …. With Disability, Jamie Dedes
Legally Blind Photographer, Wendy Alger, Jamie Dedes

Feature

“Grabbing the Apple” … or, How a Regional Anthology of Women Poets Was Created and Successfully Launced, M. J. Tenerelli

Poetry

In Chorus We Breath, Joseph Hesch
It’s spring, folk!, Mendes Biondo

Art

“Lotus Plant” & “Lotus Pond with Tortoise”, Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Getting to Know You

Silva Merjanian, From War-torn Lebanon to Peace in California
Dreaming the World, An Interview with Michael Watson

IMG_9671CONNECT WITH US

Beguine Again, Spirtual Community and Practice

Facebook, The Bardo Group Beguines

Twitter, The Bardo Group Beguines

Access to the biographies of our core team, contributing writers and guest writers is in the blogroll where you can also find links to archived issues of The BeZine, our Mission Statement and Submission Guidelines.

An Open Book

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

But the city is an open book.

Its stories are there for all to read…

In a gesture.


Or a smile.

Or a sigh.

Life is happening all around.

So many faces…

…and each one…

…tells a story.

All images and words copyright Naomi Baltuck

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

You who lights candles . . . Salam to you . . .

file261336842312-1Bitter is this dawn that no longer comes
With the prayer of doves on rooftops
And your face

This treacherous sky above your head
The colour of lead and flame
These forests of stars smothered
In the blinding smoke

These banners ripping the air around you
Woven of cries
These fields of ruins and debris
Where you stand shivering
In the nudity of daylight

You, a lonely prophet in this besieged space
Who listens to the laments of stones
And writes his testament
With tears and blood

You, who lights candles
For the passing caravans of martyrs
And falls asleep with the night

Salam to you

. . . this  poem . . . in my mind i wrote it for a friend in Gaza . . . i haven’t heard from him in weeks now . . . 

– Imen Benyoub
© 2014, poem, All rights reserved; photograph courtesy of morgueFile

pictureIMEN BENYOUB ~ is a multilingual, multi-talented writer, poet, and artist from Guelma, Algeria. Imen currently lives in East Jerusalem. She is a frequent guest here on The Bardo Group blog and with On the Plum Tree and Plum Tree Books Facebook page as well.

~

ALICE WALKER (b. 1944), American activist and Pulitzer Prize winning author:

Not with a bang … but with a whimper.

Peace: It’s a decision.

Our Sighs Ride the Ebb-tides of Eternity …

 

On May 28, our group for people with life-threatening illnesses celebrated the lives of those who have already passed on. I was unable to attend the memorial service due to bronchitis, but I celebrate them, two of my family, and this wonderful group here today.

Our group is composed of people from several different religious traditions and is hosted by our local Insight Meditation Center. The group was founded and is run by a Buddhist chaplain who has been very kind and is a stalwart friend to each of us.

I no longer attend meetings. By some surely unearned grace, I am now considered “chronic and stable” and I’ve grown to the point that the news of death no longer disturbs me. The major take-away for me from this experience is that the only difference between having a medically predicted expiration date and not knowing when our time will come is that with a diagnosis, we no longer fall into those moments of denial. That’s a huge gift. Huge! The result is that we become present in each moment. 

Today, is my loving celebration of: Ann, Deborah, Dick, Ernie, Hilda, Mary, Parvathy, Robert, Mary Kate, Steve, Victor and to family lost in recent years: my former husband, Kirby (the most decent man I’ve ever known), and my cousin, Christopher, with whom I grew-up and who was like a brother … 

Each moment and every person is precious and beautiful and the only thing that really matters is how much we have loved and been loved and that – as survivors – we continue to live in the service of our families and those in need. In the end it would seem that’s the best way to honor the family and friends whose memory we treasure .

IMG_20140525_103644407Eternity flowed deftly through the last eight years
enfolding in her stream eleven with whom we
contemplated Knowledge and Mortality
Looking back, we ponder amazed at love among friends,
……….it blossoms fragrant, as gentle
……….as a dewy rose among thorns and thistles
We thrash and crawl and climb
……….puzzling
……….over the sea and fire that stalks us
Our hearts, cupped in one another’s hands
……….like castanets, beat in unison
Our measured moments grave lines in phantom fears,
……….they float like storm clouds above us
In words of jade, we speak elegies and encomiums
Our smiles mask our sorrows and yearning
Our laughter is love grown wild
We see each other in a thousand shapes and dreams
……….and in nameless names
Our sighs ride the ebb tides of Eternity
…..Another moment:
…..and even the sun will die
…..but our lotus song will echo on ….
……….We have lived! We have loved!

© 2014, poem and photograph (yellow roses traditionally symbolize friendship), Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved

Photo on 2014-03-31 at 17.16 #3unnamed-18JAMIE DEDES (The Poet by Day)~I am a medically retired (disabled) elder and the mother of married son who is very dear. I started blogging shortly after I retired as a way to maintain my sanity, to stay connected to the arts and the artful despite being mostly homebound. My Facebook pages are: Jamie Dedes (Arts and Humanities) and Simply Living, Living Simply.

With the help and support of talented bloggers and readers, I founded and host The Bardo Group because I feel that blogging offers a means to see one another – no matter our tribe – in our simple humanity, as brothers and sisters and not as “other.”

“Good work, like good talk or any other form of worthwhile human relationship, depends upon being able to assume an extended shared world.” Stefan Collini (b. 1947), English Literary Critic and Professor of English Literature at Cambridge

The Flight of the Sparrow

Last summer I saw a baby Stellar Jay perched on my arbor, resting after trying out its wings. I looked away for an instant; when I looked back, it was gone.

It reminded me of something The Venerable Bede once said.  Bede was an Anglo-Saxon monk born in 672A.D.

In  The Ecclesiastical History of the English People he compares a person’s life to the flight of a sparrow.  Imagine sitting in a mead-hall at supper by the light of a blazing fire, while outside a winter storm rages.

A sparrow flies in one door of the hall, into the light, then darts out out another door, back into the cold dark night.  “So our lives appear for a short space,” said Bede, “but of what went before, or what is to follow, we are utterly ignorant.”

People have many different thoughts, feelings, beliefs and explanations as to what or if anything comes before…

…or after the sparrow’s flight.

Sooner or later each of us will fly out into the night.

That seems to be the only thing everyone can agree upon.

I don’t need to know all the answers before I fly back out.

I am right here, right now, basking in the warm and beautiful light of life.

Whatever happens outside the mead-hall won’t change the way I live my life here and now.

I have work I am passionate about…

..family I love and good friends to play with.

I care about issues in the wider world…

…and in my own little sphere.

I hope I can make some small difference…as a writer, a storyteller, a parent, a friend…

…and to leave even just a little nightlight shining…

…when my flight is done.
null

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

You Mean It’s NOT a River?

Some people say life is a river.  I think it’s more like a mountain.

 

It has its ups…

…and downs.

It can be glorious.

Mysterious.

Precarious.

Fraught with fire…

…and ice.

No one can climb it for you.

But, oh, what a trip.

As you find your way…

…the climb can be difficult.

The right path isn’t always clear.

But there will be beauty all around you.  In little things….

…or stretched out before you in all its grandeur.

In Hawaii they say love is like fog–there is no mountain on which it does not rest.

May there be friends to share the journey.

…to make you smile…

…to guide you…

…and support you.

Life is a delicate balance, a precious jewel, a piece of work.

Yes, look before you leap…

…and wear the proper footwear.

But as the saying goes, we don’t trip on mountains.  We trip on molehills.

All words and images c2013 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

When We Come to It

So many  bridges.

Bridges of concrete…

…iron…

…and steel.

Ancient ones of stone…

…brick…

…mortar….

…and wood.

 

Some are famous…

…celebrated in story…

…and song.

Some draw pilgrims from all over the world.

So different…


…yet they serve the same purpose.

To span distance…

…to connect…

 

…to deliver us from troubled waters.

There’s an old saying…it is better to build bridges than walls.

 All words and images 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

One Village

On the little island of Aeroskobing in Denmark…

…or above the clouds high up in the mountains of Switzerland.

At sea level in Iceland…

….or at the foot of a Norman castle in Ireland.

In the shadow of Cesky Krumlov Castle in the Czech Republic…

…or on the shore of a fjiord in Norway.

Beneath an ancient Roman aquaduct in Spain…

øn a little cobbled street in Dorset…

Or deep in the Amazon jungle…

Each place has its own unique story and history…

Tastes…

Traditions…

Colors


And characters…

All so different and yet so familiar.

Almost like family.

All words and images 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

Affairs of the Heart

“Sudden massive coronary events” are dominating my thinking lately.  I am reading Joan Didion’s account of her husband’s death in The Year of Magical Thinking and recently browsed the pertinent pages of Ekaterina Gordeeva’s book My Sergei while waiting for Steve to glean salable items from Good Will on Tuesday.   I am also writing my own memoirs of my husband Jim in a Continuing Ed course.  What struck me this morning was the role of the grieving person’s best friend as hero.  Not the knight-in-shining-armor type hero, but the simple, calming presence modelling a way to be.  In a moment when shock obscures all notions of how to act, having a trusted person exhibit some caring, helpful behavior is a distinct grace.

My mother was that hero to me when my sister was killed in a car crash.  Alice and I were traveling across country together, enjoying the freedom of being 20 and (almost) 17 when it happened.  My mother cobbled together connecting flights from San Jose to reach me in Nebraska the next morning.   She got me discharged from the hospital and set us up in a hotel while she went through all the details of bringing Alice’s ashes back to California.  We went to the mortuary the next day.  I was still rather zombie-like while my mother handled the business.  Then the director asked us if we would like to see the body.  “Absolutely,” was my mother’s reply.  For some reason, I hadn’t realized that was why we were there.  I hesitated.  Mom led me into the room while the director closed the door.  “Oh, honey,” she sighed as she approached the table.  “No, she’s not there.  She’s gone.  Look here…” she began to comment on Alice’s wounds, on her swollen face and how old she looked, as if she were a battered wife decades in the future.  My mom said something about all the suffering her daughter had been spared.  Then she tenderly bend down and kissed that pale, waxy forehead.  My mother has never looked more beautiful to me in all my life than she did at that moment.  Strong, compassionate, wise and incredibly beautiful.  I wanted to be like her, so I kissed my sister’s forehead, too.

photo credit: Dharam Kaur Khalsa
photo credit: Dharam Kaur Khalsa

Gordeeva writes about her coach, Marina, prompting her to go into the ICU room where her husband lay.  “Don’t be afraid.  Go talk to him.  He can still hear you.”  She goes in and begins to unlace his skates, a normal gesture that helps loosen her words, her tears, her emotions.  I remember our priest asking me and two of my daughters if we’d like to anoint Jim with some olive oil, bathe his face, and prepare his body to be taken away.  It was a relief to excuse ourselves from the people downstairs in the living room and go up to him together, to say our goodbyes together, to touch him one more time.  I am so grateful someone thought of allowing us that right then.  We had another opportunity to say goodbye to his body at the funeral home later when my two other children came home.  By then, I could take the lead with them and encourage them to approach.  I can’t remember who started humming “Amazing Grace”, but we all joined in, musical family that we are, and swayed together, arms and bodies entwined.

In the aftermath of Jim’s death, my youngest daughter and I fought frequently.  I didn’t know how to talk to her, to listen to her anger directed at me and recognize that she wasn’t hateful, only grieving.  Steve was the one who suggested that she was hurt, not hurtful and agreed to sit by me while we attempted an honest conversation.  My instinct was to run away.  I was grateful to observe someone who could be calm and present, reasonable and compassionate in the face of powerful emotions that frightened me.  He is adamant about not rescuing me, but equally determined to be the best friend he can be.

I hope that I will have opportunities to be a great friend to someone in grief.  I would like to be a conduit of such grace.

– Priscilla Galasso

© 2013, essay and photographs, 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.

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

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

Flowers (are like people)

Each flower…

https://i1.wp.com/i1176.photobucket.com/albums/x334/nbaltuck/IMG_8922-1-1.jpg

…is a miracle of nature.https://i2.wp.com/i1176.photobucket.com/albums/x334/nbaltuck/IMG_9334-1.jpg

…a work of art.
https://i0.wp.com/i1176.photobucket.com/albums/x334/nbaltuck/IMG_8085-1.jpg

They are like people.  Each one shines on its own.

https://i2.wp.com/i1176.photobucket.com/albums/x334/nbaltuck/IMG_9014-1.jpg

But it is through contrast…


…or complement….

…and through interaction…

That we truly shine.

https://i1.wp.com/i1176.photobucket.com/albums/x334/nbaltuck/IMG_5158-1.jpg


All words and images 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

No Such Thing As An Odd Couple

Couples come in all shapes and sizes.  They always have, since the beginning of time.

 

Life is short, and often cruel.  Finding true love, or even a true friend is not just a comfort.

It’s a miracle.

But I’ve seen it with my own two eyes. True love happens.

It is easy to recognize when you see it.

Love…

..in all its many forms…

…is a gift to us all.   It fills the world with light.

Let it shine!

All words and images copyright Naomi Baltuck 2012

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

Doors

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

We find many interesting doors in life.

Sometimes we know just what we need…

Other times the choice is not so clear…

Some doors are lovely…

Others scary…

Some are daunting…

It would be nice if we could sneak a peek…

Some doors are difficult to get to…

Still others can be hard to find…

Or best avoided…

But you never can tell which door…

…will open up onto a new friendship…

 

…or a loving family…

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

Reach for the doorknob….

…..and see what you can find.

All words and images Copyright 2012 Naomi Baltuck

All images and words copyright Naomi Baltuck

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

John O’Donohue, Irish Poet and Writer …in honor of the day

The Irish poet and writer, John O’Donohue (1956-2008) was as moved by the landscape of the soul as he was by the landscape of his country with its Celtic spirituality. A Catholic priest, he eventually left the priesthood, but he never abandoned the mystical roots of his Christianity. He was a Hegelian philosopher, did doctoral work on the Meister Eckhart, was fluent in Irish and German, was an environmental activist, and wrote several best-selling books (nonfiction and poetry). His most notable work was Anam Cara:A Book of Celtic Wisdom. (Anam Cara meaning soul friend.) Jamie Dedes

    Real friendship or love is not manufactured or achieved by an act of will or intention. Friendship is always an act of recognition.”

blessthespacebetweenlrgNo one knew the name of this day;
Born quietly from deepest night,
It hid its face in light,
Demanded nothing for itself,
Opened out to offer each of us
A field of brightness that traveled ahead,
Providing in time, ground to hold our footsteps
And the light of thought to show the way.

The mind of the day draws no attention;
It dwells within the silence with elegance
To create a space for all our words,
Drawing us to listen inward and outward.

We seldom notice how each day is a holy place
Where the eucharist of the ordinary happens,
Transforming our broken fragments
Into an eternal continuity that keeps us.

Somewhere in us a dignity presides
That is more gracious than the smallness
That fuels us with fear and force,
A dignity that trusts the form a day takes.

So at the end of this day, we give thanks
For being betrothed to the unknown
And for the secret work
Through which the mind of the day
And wisdom of the soul become one.

~  John O’Donohue, The Inner History of a Day, excerpt from To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings

HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY

normal_saint_patricks_day_Shamrock_Pipes

PERSPECTIVES ON CANCER #28: Living With Dying

LIVING WITH DYING

by

Gayle Walters Rose

 When my mother’s best friend, Katherine, became ill with stomach cancer, her daughter enlisted Katherine’s friends to be of support as she went through her chemotherapy treatment and subsequent recuperation.  Her daughter lived out-of-state and had a medical practice and could not be with her day-to-day.

I had known Katherine my entire life.   She was one of the most positive, bright lights I had ever known.  Her daughter and I had spent much time together as children, which included many hours swimming in the beautiful lake that they lived on.  Katherine’s husband had died many years prior.

Her daughter was very organized and efficient with setting up people in shifts to take turns staying with Katherine during her illness.  Sometimes this included remaining overnight with her.  But Katherine had a very independent nature, even at age 87, and at times would insist that she was OK and send us home.  Her daughter had tried her best to convince Katherine to move to North Carolina and stay with her family, but Katherine always refused.  She had been there for over 50 years.  During one afternoon, she confided in me that she would never leave her beloved home on the lake.   The house had an enclosed porch that overlooked the water and we would sit out there for hours as we talked and relaxed.  Her eyes would occasionally scan the lake and she would comment on a bird that had caught her eye or an activity by a neighbor around the water’s edge.

We were able to share ourselves like never before.  She regaled me with all kinds of stories from her past and shared intimate feelings.  She told me she was totally at peace and was not fearful of death.  I felt somehow as if I were a vessel for her to pour her heart into and was so grateful that I could be of service to her in this way.

I marveled at her serenity during this difficult time.  There was no “battle”, just gentle, quiet acceptance and the allowing of what was.  She illustrated to me what it meant to live in the moment.  Her ease and even emotions were a gift to me as well.

One day she tired as we had been sitting on the porch for quite some time and so we retired to her bedroom.  Climbing into her bed, I propped myself next to her as we watched television.  A short time later, as I noticed her eyes getting heavy, I told her I would leave and let her sleep.  Lowering myself down on the bed so I could look into her eyes, I held her hands in mine and told her how much I loved her.  She smiled at me with beaming love in her clear, sweet, blue eyes and told me how beautiful I was.  Tears pooled in my eyes as I realized, in that moment, what grace she possessed.

Katherine died quietly in her sleep with hospice in attendance several months after her diagnosis.  Her bedroom window was open to the lake.

© photograph and essay, Gayle Walters Rose, 2011. All rights reserved. No re-blogging or publishing without the permission of the author.

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Gayle Walters Rose ~ lives in Winter Park, Florida and has been blogging since August of 2010. She is an adventurous writer, experimenting with various forms of poetry and with fiction and creative nonfiction.Gayle comes from a large family, and she is the mother of grown daughters. Much of her writing is about nature or things of the spirit. Early in life, she lived in an ashram and often shares that experience and its lessons.

Gayle’s favorite quote is “Never think there is anything impossible for the soul. It is the greatest heresy to think so. If there is sin, this is the only sin; to say that you are weak, or others are weak.” (Swami Vivekananda)  You’ll find Gayle blogging at Bodhirose’s Blog, where she is much appreciated by the online poetry community for her fine work and because she is genuine.

PERSPECTIVES ON CANCER #8: A Gift from Cancer

Dilys Wood

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A GIFT FROM CANCER

by

Dilys Wood

Some friends of mine who suffered cancer and did not survive in the longer term were, as it happens, exceptional people with a special gift for sharing. That’s how I come to know that there can be shared happiness even when a friend is diagnosed with a serious illness. When time is short, inhibition may fly out of the window. You may feel ‘licensed’ to talk freely about every aspect of both your lives.There are no excuses for not doing the things you meant to do together. Boring daily chores just have to give way to what, at normal times, might seem a whim.

In fact, the more ‘whims’ your friend has the more delighted you feel to be able to help, even though, when someone is getting weak, there can be problems. If not used to being a caretaker, you sometimes feel stupid, inadequate and guilty. A few weeks before her death, I took a friend abroad and was in tears of despair at Heathrow airport because I hadn’t allowed for her slow walking and general debility. Why hadn’t I booked help? When we reached our hotel in Amsterdam, I was tired and she was ready for an enjoyable evening. I’d learnt the lesson that energy levels in a cancer patient can be unpredictable: a remarkable will-power may come into play, with a passionate desire to do new things, go places, indulge a little lavish spending, even when out of character.

Within a week or so of her own death, a friend learnt that an aunt was housebound and set off to see her. It should not have been possible for her to take that journey by car, train, tube and bus, but she did it on her own. When she told me the details it was obvious she had had one of the happiest days of her life. This friend was one who talked about everything under the sun, including questioning everyone, from priests to shop-assistants, about their idea of eternity.

Another friend greeted everyone on the street with, “I’ve got terminal cancer”. Far from resenting this – and despite the fact that she had just moved house – her neighbours were soon actively helping in every possible way, visits, shopping, lifts in their cars, re-plumbing her washing-machine. By contrast, I was unhappy when the close family of a dying friend banned visitors from the house in her last fortnight. Did she feel that “closing out” was harsh, as I did, or was it the right decision?

For another friend, dying in a Hospice, things were different. Lying in the bay-window of a large sunny room she was dying in a combined greenhouse and luxury hotel. Surrounded by a mass of cut-flowers and house-plants, her bedside table groaning with fruit and chocolate, she was eager for visitors, warm, loving even while hallucinating. I will never forget her friendly indignation as she pointed to the vision we couldn’t see, “Look a tiger, apricot stripes!”

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Dilys Wood ~ Dilys is poet, editor and founder of Second Light Network of Women Poets. She has edited four anthologies of women’s poetry, mainly with Myra Schneider and has published two collections of poetry, Women Come to a Death and Antarctica. She is a great advocate for women poets, especially those who come to the art and craft of it late in life. Dilys mother died of cancer.

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INTO THE BARDO·

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