Celebrating Sixty-seven Years on the Razor’s Edge

Om or Aum the mystical or sacred syllable in the Indian religions, which symbolizes the all-encompassing basic substance: God, Allah, Being, Source, Light, whatever is your preferred pointer.
The Hindu Om or Aum symbolizes the all-encompassing basic substance: God, Allah, Being, Source, Light, whatever is your preferred pointer.

“Rise, awaken, seek the wise and realize. The path is difficult to cross like the sharpened edge of the razor, so say the wise.” Katha Upanishads, verse 1.3.14

SURPRISED TO HAVE MADE IT TO SIXTY-SEVEN

photo-on-2014-03-31-at-17-08In gratitude today, I celebrate sixty-seven years of life, forty-seven years with my world-class son, and sixteen years of survival beyond my medically predicted expiration date.

About a week or two after the CitySon Philosopher was born.
About a week or two after the CitySon Philosopher was born, Gravesend, Brooklyn, N.Y.

In 1999, I was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) and given two years to live. (No, I have never smoked in my life.) Thanks to the boundless patience and kindness of my son and the compassion and good offices of an extraordinary medical team, I’m still here, sometimes home-bound and always bound to toting an oxygen tank. These complications don’t keep me from enjoying the CitySon Philosopher, my beautiful, smart, fab and funny daughter-in-law, and the friendship of many including my friends from our Group for people with life-threatening illnesses, my neighbors, the members of our spiritual congregation/social justice network and my arts community of poets, writers, artists, musicians and bloggers.

With cousins Dan and Chris, like brothers to me.
With my cousins Dan and Chris, like brothers to me, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York

Regarding the latter, I hold Jingle Yanqui (no longer online) most especially in heart. Her vision for forming a cohesive and supportive online poetry community has facilitated a network of poets I could not have hoped to manage on my own. It makes up for being unable to take part in off-line poetry readings and groups.

With Mom circa 1980, San Francisco
With Mom circa 1980, Park Merced in San Francisco

Without a doubt, I cherish the friendships and shared values among The BeZine core team members and guest contributors. They rock … and they’re helping to rock the world into peace.

Senior year of High School
At my Aunt Yvonne’s: junior year of high school when being a writer and poet was just a dream, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York
This is perfect. Unable to find out who created it. If it's yours, please let me know and I will credit or take it down as you like.
This is perfect. This is exactly what it feels like to have the writer’s eye and ear. Different perspective. I love this illustration. Unable to find out who created it. If it’s yours, please let me know and I will credit or take it down as you like.

Celebrating poetry, prose, music and art with you through your books and blogs numbers among my most treasured gifts. Thank you for your honesty, for sharing your wisdom, your joys and sorrows, your laughter and pain and very human folly, your faith and despair, the rough knobby wool of the human condition. As my workload and commitments have expanded over the years and my disease progresses, I don’t get to visit as often as I like … but I do peek in on you and you continue to endear yourselves to me.

LESSONS FROM THE SHARPENED EDGE OF THE RAZOR

Over the past few days, I have been thinking about life lessons learned from years of living – as you do too – on the razor’s edge:

  • We are not meant to compare ourselves with others. Our beauty is absolute, not relative.
  • Freedom is a state of mind. It requires a recognition of  Madison Avenue values and programming and a disconnect from them and from any other received values that are not consistent with our own inner truth.
  • Committing art is spiritual practice.
  • We are meant to immerse ourselves in beauty: family, friends, flowers, music, poetry …
  • As long as we live on this earth, we have to make a living, but we were not meant to be wage-slaves. Find the balance between making a living with making a life.
  • Health is a relative thing: We will always be more-or-less healthy. We may have to modify our activities because of health challenges and/or aging, but as long as we’re alive, there’s no reason not to stay engaged.
  • When we receive a terminal diagnosis, it takes time to process and to deal with the shock. Eventually we find our way to peace and continue our lives, albeit within the limits of disability. The terminus – as you can see from my experience – may be a long way off.
  • The only difference between people who are living with a terminal diagnosis and those who are not is that the former are no longer in denial.
  • Don’t turn good time into bad by worrying about what is an inevitable part of life. There comes a point when we accept that things are just the way they should be even though we don’t understand the whys and hows.
  • As long as we insist on identifying with the painful experiences of our lives, with the insults received at the hands of others, we feel desolate and somehow less.  The order of the day is reframe and reinvent. The need is to rewrite our stories.
  • People who are at peace with themselves are never cruel. If someone hurts or has hurt us, it’s because of their own pain.
  • Best policy: let go, trust yourself and get on with life.
  • Consciousness is not the mind attached to the brain. It is a Light independent of the physical. We may not always have form or human personality but we have always been and we always will be. The challenge is to be a worthy spark of Being.
  • Love – true love – is not romantic love. Love is found by seeing the reflection of Being in ourselves and all life. It is the ability to recognize the sacred everywhere and in everyone, even in our frail and fallible selves, in the most unfortunate conditions and the most unfortunate people.

May every day be a rebirth for you in the light of Love.

In metta,

Jamie Dedes

Metta – the Buddhist practice of holding self and others in loving kindness, a value shared by the world’s religions.

A sweet kind photo-grid made for me today by my cousin Dan. Meaningful, memorable photos all.
A sweet kind photo-grid made for me today by my cousin Dan. Meaningful, memorable photos all.

Family photographs are under copyright.  Please be respectful. The Om illustration is in the public domain.

Two Subjects (and one important thing to remember)

While traveling in Argentina, we visited La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires.   Since 1822, nearly 5,000 mausoleums have been constructed  in the highest fashion of the times, from Baroque and Neo-Gothic to Art Deco and Art Nouveau.   La Recoleta is a city for the dead, with elegant marble tombs neatly laid out in blocks over fourteen acres.

Some are maintained, for love or pride.  Others, like the poet Shelley’s statue of Ozymandias, have fallen into disrepair, covered with spider webs and graffiti, littered with broken glass and faded plastic flowers.  Feral cats stare warily from their marble perches and skulk away sideways if approached.

We saw the grave of Eva Peron, and other statesmen, poets, generals, and presidents.

More interesting to me was the final resting place for a mother and her infant.  They were not famous, but clearly they were loved.  Did she and the child die in childbirth?  Were they swept away by an epidemic, leaving behind the grieving husband and father who erected this memorial?  Was he able to pick up the pieces of his broken life to find happiness again?

Wherever we go, we will find reminders of all the stories in this world that will never be told.  When I took this photograph, I could be certain of only two things.  Both mother and child were subject to an early and tragic demise.  And, as seen by the lush green fern sprouting from the dust collecting in the cracks in the stone, life goes on.

All images and words copyright 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

Underpainting With Love and Kindess

work by Leslie White 
.
I could not believe my good fortune when I found a photo of Grandpa Elliot posted to the wet canvas photo reference library for artists.  It was a must-do for me..Several bloggers have made mention of underpaintings; the most recent being Amy from Souldipper found here. She asked me about an artist’s use of an underpainting.  I responded something like it is the foundation that we build our final work on. That made me think more on the subject as we were also talking about underpainting our lives with love and kindness.  Then I came across the photo of Grandpa Elliot who has actually underpainted his life with sharing music to millions in New Orleans and becoming part of the project, “Playing for Change”, a CD whose proceeds go to helping others.The other connection I can make about an underpainting is that it always, for me, sets the tone for where the light will fall in it. BINGO! I see the same in life with passing on kindness. Light is passed on through our kindness to others.  The above stage of my painting illustrates how I carved out areas where I wanted the light to fall.

grelliot

The above image is the finished result.

I can not think of a better way to start the weekend than this:

Video posted to YouTube by .

– Leslie White

leslieblue6LESLIE WHITE (lesliepaints) ~ is a guest writer here and an artist, teacher, book illustrator, and blogger. She’s been blogging since March 2009 and appreciated for the skill and beauty she shares. Her gifts to us are mini-lessons in a artistic technique. Often there is value added with life lessons, such as the one presented here.  Leslie shares information on new art products and techniques and enriches our understanding of and appreciation for art.  Her blog-posts go a long way toward encouraging others. She often enchantes us by sharing the work of her granddaughter and her students.


LIFE INTO ART

2-1-13-2LIFE INTO ART

by

Marilynn Mair (Celebrating a Year)

I think, looking back at my wayward path through the years, that the most valuable life skill one needs to develop in order to succeed, is to learn how to improvise. Life will never be smooth or rosy, except in very small stretches. Opportunities for your skill set may never materialize, love may not be as generous to you as you are to it, life as you planned it will definitely at some point go astray. Set-backs and tragedies await, and if you are to cope, to carry on, you need to be able to take a hard look at the pieces on the board and figure your best way forward. Right where you stand, right where you never expected to be. Imagination helps, optimism is a crucial ingredient even if it seems to have temporarily disappeared. No one teaches us how to do this, we learn from necessity. But it certainly puts jazz in a whole different perspective. And poetry, abstract painting, things most people think they don’t understand. Because, really, we are all just learning how to make life imitate art.

I think that if all we had in life to guide us was this paragraph by Marilynn Mair, we’d be okay. Life is the art of taking the jarring notes, the unlikely word, the unexpected juxtapositions, the odd shadings and turning them into something lovely. Life is the teacher. Art is the text. Creating art is survival, the way we work out understanding and meaning. Jamie Dedes

© 2013,essay and photographs, Marilynn Mair, All rights reserved

Rs-roda-016-e1335986264463-300x258MARILYNN MAIR ~ of Celebrating a Year is known as the “angel of the tremolo” and “the first lady of mandolin”. Marilynn is Professor of Music at Roger Williams University, Bristol, Rhode Island. Her most recent CDs are Meu Bandolim and Enigmatica. Her most recent book is Brazilian Choro – A Method for Mandolin.  For more of Marilynn’s story, link HERE. Marilynn Mair is a contributing writer to Into the Bardo.

PERSPECTIVES ON CANCER #30: When Cancer Strikes

WHEN CANCER STRIKES

by

Dan Roberson

It was both
a blessing and a curse,

Her chestnut
hair was often tangled or worse,

There were
times Laura hated her hair,

Conditioners,
detanglers, moisturizers,

Sometimes made
her wish it wasn’t there,

 ·

It had been
that way as far back as memory could get,

Uncontrollable
when dry, hard to manage when wet,

Laura’s
curly hair was admired often, she’d confess,

But it was
often a distraction as a frizzy mess,

There weren’t
many options on how to fix her hair,

She worried when
the wind made it fly here and there,

Often Laura
looked out of control and people would rudely stare,

 ·

Looking
calm, peaceful, and beautiful was her goal,

Forgotten were
the comments about her beauty as a whole,

Intelligence
and her abilities made her special in all she did,

But under
hats, tied up in tight braids, her curly hair she hid,

 ·

Laura was a
businesswoman, ambitious in every way,

Determined to
be a success before she turned old and gray,

Laura was
also wife and mother with two children on her mind,

Time for
them or even for herself, was very hard to find,

 ·

Her husband
sent her flowers every month to let her know,

That he would be waiting for her if she decided to take life slow,

Her life was filled from dawn till night, with one job to the next,

Rarely did
she spend quality time with Joe, and both were too tired for sex,

Vacations
were quick and far away, with pictures to prove she was there,

But wherever
she went and whatever she did, she covered up her hair,

 ·

Questions
from a young M.D. on her routine annual exam,

Made her mad
when he said, “We need further tests for you, Ma’am,”

She went
through the tests mainly to prove him wrong,

Much to her
chagrin blood was drawn, it didn’t take them long,

Laura balked
at first when new appointments were made,

But soon she
was on her way and memories of the visit began to fade,

 ·

Later that week several phone calls at work interrupted
her day,

“We want you
to come in, not tomorrow, perhaps yesterday,”

“What’s so important?”
she wondered as she brushed tangles from her hair,

“I’ve always
been so healthy, so why should I care?”

That night
Laura brushed her hair ninety-nine times or more,

With each
tug she commented, “Curly hair is such a chore,”

 ·

But Laura
was restless, the upcoming visit was eating at her,

And at her
next appointment she decided she would concur,

“You have
cancer,” he said quietly, “we should treat it aggressively,”

“I don’t
have time for cancer!” she shouted, “or even time for me,”

“We need to
treat it with chemotherapy,” he stated, “as soon as we can,”

“If we want
to win this war, we have to make a plan,”

“Doctor, I’m
too busy for this, I’ll do chemo in the spring,”

“Then they’ll
bury you deep while you sleep, the chemo won’t mean a thing,”

 ·

The nurse
read a list of changes that Laura might expect,

Foods to
eat, nausea, loss of hair, there was little time to reflect,

She could
deal with changes in her diet, so why did she care,

Yet on her
way home one thought returned, she would lose her hair,

 ·

What would
she do about work, would everyone lose respect?

And what
about her children and her Joe, what would he expect?

“This is not
fair,” she thought, “I’ve fought hard to get where I am,

Now I have
cancer and that puts me in a jam,”

She’d talk
to the doctors and see how this could be fixed,

Laura knew
how business worked, maybe this could be deep sixed,

She was
afraid to hug her husband, likewise with the kids,

With this
draining more from her, their marriage would be on the skids,

Joe listened
to her intently and suggested a group for her to attend,

“I don’t
need a support group,” she countered, “I just want to mend,”

He left a
number of the group in case she wanted to call,

For two days
Laura wanted nothing to do with the group at all,

 ·

But the
third evening as she brushed and detangled her hair,

Laura
wondered what others did when strangers began to stare,

She called a
cell phone number knowing she had to make a choice,

She agreed
to go to a meeting when she heard a cheerful voice,

“Come on and
join us, we’ll have a special guest tonight,

You’ll find
we have lots of fun because no one gets uptight,”

Nervously she
brushed her hair as she waited for her ride,

In the car
it was explained she’d have to wait outside,

 ·

Waiting outside
a home made her feel this was not the place to be,

But she only
had time to see what they wanted her to see,

Conspicuously
placed was a sign stating the group’s name,

“Birds of a
Feather” and in smaller print, “We’re all the same,”

 ·

Laura was
led in at the appointed time but saw one empty chair,

“It’s saved
for you,” a woman called out, “and your beautiful hair,”

How could
she explain that soon her head would soon be bare,

She was
afraid they might laugh and show they didn’t care,

Laura’s fear
was growing as she glanced about the room,

She was the
only one with cancer and ready to meet her doom,

 ·

Businesswomen,
single women, mothers, daughters, wives,

These women
were all beautiful and had normal lives,

“We have a newcomer tonight, so welcome Laura
with applause,”

The leader
continued, “And in case she’s worried, it’s time for us to pause,

We’ve faced
our fears before, and sometimes hid our shame,

But together
we are strong and our freedom we proclaim,”

 ·

One by one
each removed a wig to reveal her hair was gone,

“We’re all
in this together, no one is all alone,”

Their smiles
were wide and welcoming as the leader took her hand,

“When you
can, let Laura know that you really understand,”

 ·

When the
meeting was over Laura returned home,

She kissed
her children and showed them her comb,

She
explained her disease and told them about her hair,

They answered,
“We love you, mommy, we don’t care,”

Her husband,
Laura learned, was compassionate and kind,

He loved her
for her heart, her ambition, and her mind,

They decided
to fight cancer together and strive for the best,

And they’d
spend more time living and loving with zest,

The cancer
went into remission and Laura grew back her hair,

And whether tangled,
frizzy, or wind-blown, now she combs with flair.

© poem and artwork, Dan Roberson, 2011 all rights reserved

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Dan Roberson ~ lives in Kansas City, Missouri.  He says, ” I celebrate life. I retired from teaching and now I’m looking for new parades to lead, or to follow. I’m alone, still hoping to be a published author, and trying to stay on my chosen path. I have no anchor to hold me down and I’m ready to rid myself of possessions that impede progress. I want my imagination to soar. I’m open to learning about new worlds, new countries and languages, and different ways to look at things I thought I knew. Every day is a bonus day and I look forward to the challenges it brings. I’m finding out that technology is fast and getting faster and there is much information that I need to learn.”  You’ll find Dan at My Blog.

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.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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.