Waging Peace, On a Fairy Tale Wall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

faster than witches
past the hedges
past the ditches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2019, Anjum Wasim Dar (Poetic Oceans)


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

The BeZine, Dec. 2018, Vol. 5, Issue 4, Theme: Life of the Spirit

“Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it…”  The Art of Living, Wilfred Peterson

December 15, 2018

A Life of the Spirit is a many-faceted jewel. Some of our contributors interpreted the theme for this month as Spirit (Being, the Ineffable, the Divine) and others more as spirited, strong. Some find Spirit and courage in the great love of their life or in their art, in their religion or spiritual practice. Others find it in an inspiring parent or grandparent.  You will see that nature plays a role for nearly everyone.

I don’t think I’ve ever used as many hankies in pulling together an issue of The BeZine as I have with this issue.  Contributors this quarter speak intimately from both joy and heartbreak, which is perhaps not surprising given the theme.

©2018 Naomi Baltuck, Chris Spengler, and Allison Cox

Our contributors have also rallied their spirits to speak out against gun violence and to speak up for the LGBTQ community. Violence and cruelty are not an absence of Spirit but a lack of awareness.

c 2018, Anjum Wasim Dar

My country – America – has a gun violence history that is notorious but firearms are ubiquitous on this Earth and complicit in wars and conflicts, hate crimes, terrorism, suicide and accidental shootings. Death by fire arms is grotesquely common in South American countries, Jamaica, and Swaziland.

Gun-suicides: I’ve taken the liberty of including a poem about my big sister, Teresa Margaret, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. She was twenty-seven. I was fourteen. Fifty-four years later, the trauma remains. The questions remain: Why? Where did the gun come from? Who taught her how to use it?

“Although the USA ranked fourth in the world with 12,400 firearm-related homicides, that figure pales in comparison with its 23,800 gun suicides. None of the other 194 nations and territories  [ … ] came close; India ranked second at 13,400.” USA Today HERE

Easy access to firearms is cited by experts as one reason for the prevalence of their use in suicide. Another may be that guns offer an effective means of suicide.

Since there is history, culture, identity, and ethic involved in gun ownership and use, attempts at doing away with guns are not feasible at this time. Complicated core issues need to be defined and addressed first. Will we ever come to a unified place where we agree that murder and torture are not options?  How then would Spirit play in the garden of material life?

Thanks to The Bardo Group Bequines team and to our guest writers for helping us put together an issue that is honest, artful, and inspiring, one that walks “with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground.”

As you read, we hope that you will leave your “Likes” and comments behind to let each contributor know they were read and appreciated and to enrich the experience for others.

In the spirit of love (respect) and community,
and on behalf of The Bardo Group Bequines,
Jamie Dedes
Founding and Managing Editor

TABLE OF CONTENTS


How to read this issue of THE BeZINE:You can read each piece individually by clicking the links in the Table of Contents.
To learn more about our guests contributors, please link HERE.
To learn more about our core team members, please link HERE.


BeAttitudes

A Murmur, John Anstie

Your Freedom Eyes, Linda Chown

Julia Vinograd Slipped Into My Writing, Michael Dickel

Feathers of Grass, Joe Hesch

Whelm, Tricia Knoll

Making White Flags, P.A. Levy

Hope Springs Eternal, Tamam Tracy Moncur

Spirit Speaks, Corina Ravenscraft

A Gift of Courage, Anjum Wasim Dar

Poems

Standing Out in the Straight …, Linda Chown

Stone Love, P.A. Levy

Landing, P.C. Moorehead

Illuminating, P.C. Moorehead

Dense Flesh, P.C. Moorehead

Songbird, Jason A. Muckley

Princess of the Sea, Jason A. Muckley

Four Haiku, Jason A. Muckley

Log Cabin Quilt, Anne Myers

Lit Up With Your Warmth, Scott Thomas Outlar

Catching Leaves and Picking Clover, Scott Thomas Outlar

High Tide Hallelujah, Scott Thomas Outler

The Spirit of Us, poem by Deborah Setiyawait, photography by Carl Scharwath

The Star, Clarissa Simmens

my decision is not new, since …, Anjum Wasim Dar

for those who don’t know the chocolate, Amirah Al Wassif

the poetry is …, Amirah Al Wassif

Windows of Madrid, Amirah Al Wassif

Social Justice for LGBTQ

Telling Tales Under the Rainbow, Naomi Baltuck, Alison Cox, Chris Spengler

Gravy, Chris Spengler

Gun Violence

GunShot, Gary W. Bowers

A Girl in a Box, Jamie Dedes

A Poem for the Tree of Life Synagogue, Michael Dickel

Silencing the Thunder, Joe Hesch

Snow Angels, Joe Hesch

CONNECT WITH US

The BeZine: Be Inspired, Be Creative, Be Peace, Be (the subscription feature is below and to your left.)

Daily Spiritual Practice: Beguine Again, a community of Like-Minded People

Facebook, The Bardo Group Beguines

Twitter, The Bardo Group Beguines

SUBMISSIONS:

Read Info/Missions StatementSubmission Guidelines, and at least one issue before you submit. Updates on Calls for Submissions and other activities are posted every Sunday in Sunday Announcements on The Poet by Day.

Memories of September 11, 2001

Yesterday on our partner blog writers Ruth, Terri, Chrysty, Donna and James shared their memories of the 9/11 tragedy. You may want to read what they each have to say and to add your own voice there as well.

November 22, 1963, Lives in Memory

Haibun

I had been to lunch in Third House.  It was a warm spring day, just the sort of day to leave lunch early and walk in the sunshine.  I ambled over to Second House and plopped down in front of the TV.  I had spent my sophomore year here and I had always loved it – it felt like home more than any other dorm.  However, that day I was a senior, an upperclassman of 17 years of age.  While at Dobbs’ I had lived in each of these Queen Anne houses.  Today I lived in First House.  They were rickety and old, painted a dull boarding school gray.  None the less I was quite comfortable for they represented home for me for three of my four years at school.  I comfortably seated myself on a couch in front of the television.  It might no longer be my dorm, but it still felt cozy and I felt confident, that day so long ago.  That confidence must have come from some of that upperclassman swagger that one acquires as they move though their grades (although, to be honest, I didn’t have much swagger).  It felt strange as I did not have many confident days in my youth.

wild grey geese above

flew in perfect formation

chaos left behind

 

Haibun

I flipped on the black and white TV, there was no color in those days. “Oh My God. What was happening?” I was in an instant state of shock. President Kennedy had been shot right in from of my eyes – in his limo in Dallas, Texas. “Was this true?” There was growing chaos everywhere on the television, then this horrific  event seemed to ebb out of the television and blanket me. It was thick and dark. I knew that I must get away. I had to get up, go back to the lunchroom and tell of the shooting. I thought of our beautiful first lady and what her sadness must be like. It was so hard to move. I made myself leave.

woodpecker knocking

high above in the maple

a chick all grown up

 

Haibun

I ran back to the lunchroom and shouted out the news. I do not remember another thing that afternoon. I do remember crying myself to sleep that night filled with such emptiness, dread and a sense of loneliness. Of late, I have been reading a good deal about the Kennedys. I will never believe that this assassination evolved out of the crazy thoughts of one lone Soviet sympathizer. I also suspect that the full truth of those moments in Dallas that November 22nd of 1963 will not be known by the public within my lifetime.

shells upon a beach

dry cool windy autumn day

creation of sand

unnamed-2LIZ RICE-SOSNE a.k.a. Raven Spirit (noh where), perhaps the oldest friend to Bardo, is the newest member of The Bardo Group Core Team. She is also our new Voices for Peace project outreach coordinator and our go-to person for all things related to haiku.  She says she “writes for no reason at all. It is simply a pleasure.” Blogging, mostly poetry, has produced numerous friends for whom she has a great appreciation. Liz is an experienced blogger, photographer and a trained shaman. We think her middle name should be “adventure.”

Staph Infection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So it would seem,” I replied.

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

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

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

…where I became a professional storyteller

…and author.

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

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


c2013 all words and photographs, Naomi Baltuck

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

The Olympics, Polio, and the Medicine Wheel, Part One

Snowy-MorningEditor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part piece on Perfectionism originally posted on Dreaming the World. Part II will post here tomorrow.

I am an elder, and as such I am given the task of teaching and supporting the young. On the Medicine Wheel of this lifetime I am in the Northwest, the place of honoring the challenges of my life, understanding them as best as I am able, and sharing what I have learned with others. Perhaps you will share your thoughts about the experiences I share below; I would greatly value that.

We, along with many others, spent a good deal of time during the past two weeks watching the Olympics. Over time we noticed, especially from NBC’s coverage, that the commentators seem to believe winning and perfection were all important. This is a sad thing. One does not have to watch much before one becomes aware the announcers are ceaselessly pointing out errors and failures. Rather than empathy for the competitors, one is barraged with demands for perfection and minute details about failure to achieve such.  There is very little celebration of the athletes who fail to meet the announcers’ or judges’ criteria.

This hits home on two fronts. The first is cultural. I was raised to appreciate the efforts of all. Winning is fun, but should not shame others. Nor should anyone be left behind after the games are over. Further, perfection was considered suspect. One was advised to build imperfection into one’s art and welcome it in one’s life. After all, we are not the Creator although we are aspects of His/Her creation. Only the Creator can be perfect, and it is likely even S/He makes mistakes; as we are reflective of the Creator this suggests that even mistakes can be good and holy. The unbridled pursuit of perfection endangers the individual and the culture, the community and the ecosystem.

The second part is I am a survivor of Bulbar Polio. My phsysiatrist says I am “a walking quad”; rather than disparaging, this is a simple statement of truth. I have severe neurological injuries; Polio destroyed motor neurons all over my body. My arms and hands have considerably diminished capacity; my legs and feet lack strength and mobility; breathing can be a challenge. I am not perfect by the dominant culture’s standards.

Add to this my Native American heritage and the soup becomes thick indeed. I once heard a man, who understandably thought he was with other Europeans, say something like,  “There is nothing more pathetic than a disabled Indian.”  What are we to do with that? Indeed, what are we to do with NBC’s virtual silence on the topic of the Para-Olympics?

Herein lies the difficulty. One one hand I was encouraged to accept  and honor imperfections. On the other, as a Polio survivor I was taught to do my level best to pass as normal, to overcome limitations, and to forget my illness and its  aftermath. Additionally, as a child in a Native family that was actively passing, I was taught to be invisible, a lesson that surely applied to Polio as well.

It is a profound challenge to resist the limiting messages of our families and the dehumanizing ones of the dominant culture. I have done my best, yet I have also spent much of my life seeking to achieve others’ views of perfection, even though not even normalcy was not an option.This has been painful.

I don’t know whether you have ever thought about the Wounded Healer.  In Traditional cultures ill youngsters are often expected, should they recover, to become healers. I use the term “recovery” loosely. Youngsters who face and survive catastrophic illness may not have the same physical capacities as their normative friends. Yet their illness may also give them abilities and insights not readily available to others. When the child is ill the healers do their best to aid. They also seek to discern the nature of the illness; often such illness are understood to be calls from the spirits, initiations into the realm of healers. When there is a spirit call, training in the healing arts accompanies recovery. The illness frequently leaves a footprint in the life and work of the survivor; he or she becomes a wounded healer, knowledgeable about many of the territories and challenges that accompany illness.

This is a different model than the academic learning focus of the West. Of course, the two paths are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, they may intersect, even overlap at times. Both address the needs of the body. Some Western trained healers have adopted the Indigenous understanding that the soul and psyche must also be attended to.  (Milton Erickson, although not to my knowledge Indian, comes to mind as someone who walked both roads well.)

I have come to this point on the Medicine Wheel by living my life from within this severely injured body. This is a sharp contrast to the physically perfection of elite Olympic athletes, or the health and wealth gurus we see on PBS and on innumerable infomercials. The television sages convey the message to us that illness, poverty, loneliness, and all other forms of suffering are moral failures. They do not speak this directly, rather they hold up their carefully managed perfection as a mirror to our human frailties. They offer advice, even salvation; for a fee we can be just like them. But I, and many others, cannot.  The very lifestyles they espouse harm us, and endanger our precious planetary ecosystem and all that lives therein. Where, I wonder is their wisdom and compassion?

We approach the Spring, the East in the Abenaki view of the Medicine Wheel, the place of rebirth and awakening. I am curious how my changing understanding of this beloved, traumatized body will blossom in the coming year.  I wonder whether our culture can set aside the deeply held values of independence, competition, and perfectionism that shaped the  our country (the very ones espoused by those television commentators). Can we own our imperfections, and acknowledge the harm we have inflicted on ourselves and so many others, inside and outside our country? Can we embrace those who suffer illness, poverty, displacement, abuse, or isolation?

As we follow the journey of the sun into the East, we are invited to begin again, to open our eyes and practice compassion and understanding. May we  find the courage to do so.

– Michael Watson, Ph.D.

© 2014, essay and photographs (includes the one 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.

I Imagine …

I imagine Mummy

She is listening for Doodle Bugs

Running past St James Square

They make a swooshing noise before

Hitting their targets

Windows are darkening now

As she scurries by them

Like a mouse

Shades being pulled down

All light receding and gone

She is heading towards St Paul’s

She is meeting with a friend

At the statue of St Ann

Dinner was to soon follow

Constant gray clouds of dust

Engulfed her in dirt

London was under

Aerial bombardment

The Luftwaffe would spend

Fifty-seven nights

Bombing this great city

Wishing to eradicate it

From the face of the earth

This symbol of London and God

But London endured

St Paul’s remained standing

A symbol of British

endurance

Mummy lived to return home

To the USA

But I still imagine

I still wonder

Was it the war that

Shaped her personna

Making her harsh

She once said to me

During a phone call

With Mummy

Not long before her death

She told me that

The war was the most

Thrilling period of her life

I understand that feeling

I know what she was saying

She is gone

St Paul’s is standing

London thrives

Yet still I imagine

We all must come to terms with our upbringing.  For some there is more pain to work through than for others.  I had what one might call a proper upbringing.  Yet still, one filled with much pain.  My mother was not in London during those 57 nights of the Blitz.  This was of course poetic license on my part.  However, she was living in London during 1943 and 1944 in WWII.  She became a lifelong Anglophile.  This fact set up some difficult goals for her children to attain for they were not British (and we came after the war).

Sometimes due to her scrapbooks I feel as though I was there, in London during the war.

There was a time that I knew nothing about war.  A spiritual experience that I was willing to have in 2005, dictated that I learn about war.  Mummy never spoke of her work in London during WWII.  She worked for the US propaganda office or the OWI – Office of War Information.  I really never knew until I found two scrapbooks while cleaning out the family home.  Finding these scrapbooks made me realize what a vary brave woman she had been.  As a result, instead of harboring resentment towards her (resentment that she earned) I came to have significant admiration for her.

I wish to redo these books as they are in a state of disintegration.  However, it is exceptionally difficult for me to work with them.  I am very emotional about the subject.

Politicians never give thought to the consequences of wars into which they enter.  They have no clue as to the gravity of the collateral damage that accompanies their warring ways.  The United States of course had to enter WWII.  But, Hitler did not have to begin The War To End All Wars.  That war like so many have touched people down through the ages, times long past the end of the war in question.  War shapes people for generations to come.  Peace begins at home.  Not in the country, the state or the city.  No peace begins in the heart of the individual.  For it is when you get peaceful individuals together, one at a time that real peace begins to grow into a movement.  It becomes sizable and a peaceful nation is born.

The following paragraph is taken word for word out from Wikipedia:

“On 31 December, the Daily Mail took the unusual step of publishing the photographer’s account of how he took the picture:[

I focused at intervals as the great dome loomed up through the smoke. Glares of many fires and sweeping clouds of smoke kept hiding the shape. Then a wind sprang up. Suddenly, the shining cross, dome and towers stood out like a symbol in the inferno. The scene was unbelievable. In that moment or two I released my shutter.”  – Herbert Mason

Stpaulsblitz

© 2013, essay and photographs, Liz Rice-Stone, All rights reserved

unnamed-2LIZ RICE-SOSNE a.k.a. Raven Spirit (noh where), perhaps the oldest friend to Bardo, is the newest member of The Bardo Group Core Team. She is also our new Voices for Peace project outreach coordinator and our go-to person for all things related to haiku.  She says she “writes for no reason at all. It is simply a pleasure.” Blogging, mostly poetry, has produced numerous friends for whom she has a great appreciation. Liz is an experienced blogger, photographer and a trained shaman. We think her middle name should be “adventure.”

BLOGGERS IN PLANET LOVE

Rainforest_Fatu_HivaPLEASE JOIN US: Beginning at  7 p.m. PST this evening, we are celebrating Valentine’s Day with love – not the love of and for another person – but our love for our mother planet ….

WE INVITE ALL writers, poets, artists, photographers, musicians and other creatives to join us at The Bardo Group for our Valentine’s Day event, BLOGGERS IN PLANET LOVE. Link in your work that shares your appreciation for the beauty of nature or your concern for environmental issues. You can share the url to your post via Mr. Linky, which will stay up for seventy-two hours. Corina Ravenscraft (DragonDreams) hosts. Jamie Dedes (The Poet by Day) will visit sites and comment. We hope you will also visit others and comment on their work, lending support and encouragement and making connection.

If tonight is date-night for you, remember that you do have seventy-two hours to link your work in. It doesn’t have to be a new or recent piece, just something in the spirit of the event, something that expresses your love of our planet.

Photo credit ~ Tropical Rainforest, Fatu Hiva Island, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia by Benutzerseite: Makemake via German language Wikipedia under CC A-SA 3.0 Unported license.

sleeping without walls

My mom died twenty-two years ago this month. She has been much on my mind these past few weeks.

squeezing a penny

my mother never knew the names for things
the trees were just trees, the flowers just flowers,
but she knew life as a sigh and love as a linchpin
and how to get to work and maneuver in the dark,
she could squeeze a penny and was known to force
tired feet into worn shoes, she could make them dance

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

sleeping without walls

camp that year taught the art of sleeping outside
sleeping without walls, watching the stars and moon,
gathering dreams from sunsets and morning dew

we slept in bed-rolls configured of old white sheets
and army blankets made of itchy khaki-colored wool
i wondered if my uncles slept on them during the war,
as I wondered about many things, many things …
and that summer held other delights, climbing trees
and eating cherries without washing them, oh!

and there were blueberry bushes and fig trees and
i lined the path to our food hut with odd sunday stones,
my own bare prayer while the big girls were at Mass,
i marveled at my middle-aged mother’s plump knees
and marked her spirit for wearing shorts and for her
joining in children’s games and singing ‘round the fire

now i wonder at summer camp morphing into metaphor ~
all our lives we did those things: gathering dreams,
mom and me, outsider artists sleeping without walls

Mom and me 1980, San Francisco, CA
Mom and me
1980, San Francisco, CA

in the shadow of the moon

like lucid dreaming, like light-infused rain drops and
the untarnished silver stars above country terrain,
my mother calls to me from the shadow of the moon
my father beams his smile at me from the milky way
gone and gone, still their essence scents my nights

– Jamie Dedes

© 2013, poems and family photos, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved

Photo on 2012-09-19 at 20.00JAMIE DEDES ~ My worldly tags are poet and writer. For nearly six years I’ve blogged 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.

the notes that embrace you . . .

Editorial note and reminder: In eight days, Wednesday, October 23, at 7 p.m. we will host a second writing challenge  (Writer’s Fourth Wednesday) featuring Victoria C. Slotto, novelist and poet. The subject of this next challenge-yourself exercise is stream-of-consciousness. So writers mark your calendars for next week’s event. Mr Linky, which enables you to share your work with everyone, will remain open for seventy-two hours. Victoria and Jamie will visit all participants to read and comment.

Here Renne Espriu shares a poem for her mother …

file0001670280217-1the notes that embrace you

i see you dancing
on the floor of the
pizza parlor
a smile playing
across your face

where every note
that is pumped
out of the theatre
pipe organ
embraces you

plys your feet
with rhythm
only you would know
caring not that
eyes are watching

i see you even though
you are gone now
a memory that
spilled out of
the letter you wrote

-Renee Espriu

© August 2013, poem “the notes that embrace you”, Renee Espriu, All rights reserved
Photo courtesy of morgueFile

c796b9e96120fdf0ce6f8637fa73483cRENEE ESPRIU ~ is a creative prose writer and poet. She began delighting us with her work at Turtle Flight, My Muse & Angels in March 2011. The work she shares with us there includes short stories. Renee is a daughter, mother, grandmother, and seeker of spiritual peace and soul-filled freedom. She’s studied at the graduate level and has attended seminary. She describes her belief system as eclectic, encompassing many faiths. She believes “Nature is the basis of everything that is and everything that is also a part of Nature.”

I Remember the Amber Moon

file3761333734081When I remember you
I remember the amber moon
the burnished brown of the old oaks
their leaves like hands waving goodbye
As dusk transitioned to dark, stars alight,
we sat on the beach by slow cooking-fires,
their coals gone from hard black to gray dust
I cherished your warm hug in the chill of the night
and falling asleep, safe

I stopped loving you,
but I never stopped loving the memory of you
I carry that with me on lunatic trips of the heart ~
though my preference is to rest solitary on forest logs
with their stunning imperfections and
the secret-lives swirling in the sunless damp on which they rest

I think of the path that led from then to now,
a mix of smooth and rough along a rocky coast
I live near the sea to breath
I imagine you living, wherever you are
by an ocean with your skin still smelling of Old Spice,
with your well-formed hands, the hands of a pianist and surgeon,
and the high-tensile strength of your mind

In the odd geography of life, no one knows where we came from
or how it was, how it felt to be us in the days of promise
when the spell of Hudson Bay felt like a prayer to St. Christopher
That bay is no longer our safe harbor,
but it gave us our sturdy roots and strong wings
and so the nights, the nights by this bay are good
When I smile at the amber moon, it smiles at you

– Jamie Dedes

© 2013, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved 
Photo credit ~ Anne Lowe, Public Domain Pictures.net

Photo on 2012-09-19 at 20.00JAMIE DEDES ~ My worldly tags are poet and writer. For the past five years I’ve blogged 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.

The Turtle and The Hare

As a little bit of back story, in the course of my life, I spent quite a few years in the company of a blues musician. By spending a little time with him, I also spent time around a lot of different blues musicians.

Men and women with a deep vein of soul and history and rhythm.

When you are around blues people, you hear a lot of stories. Telling stories is pretty much the foundation of being able to play the blues. As a storyteller in my own right, I used to soak in these stories, letting them enter my pores and fill my soul and tap my DNA on the shoulder and ask it to dance.

The stories are in me. Not all of them are true. Few of them are pretty.

All of this is a long winded lead up to a particular story I have in mind.

It goes something like this:

Back in the 1950’s in a small suburb of Dallas, Texas, two talented brothers grew up together.

Both had music in their bones and talent for playing the guitar. The world knows a little bit more about Stevie Ray Vaughan because of his breathtaking musical style and early death, but Jimmie Vaughan has also seen a fair bit of success with his music.

If you listen to each of their music, you can hear their very different styles. Stevie’s music was intense, complicated and at times frenetic. Jimmie likes to play a bit slower and wider and easier.

Legend has it that back in the day in Oak Cliff, Texas both boys not only liked guitars but they liked cars.

Stevie, unsurprisingly, liked real fast hot rod cars that he could jump in and race around town. Stevie used to vex the local police who couldn’t slow him down.

Jimmie on the other hand liked to cruise. He liked big, heavily finned, tuck and roll upholstered, Buick with a “smile” kind of cars. He’d put his girlfriend beside him on the bench seat and slowly roll through town, vexing the local police who wanted him to speed up.

I think of this story pretty frequently in relation to my own roll through life. My approach is more Jimmie than Stevie, though I admire Stevie very much.

Perhaps this owes to the slow “land of mañana” pace of where I grew up. We don’t move with alacrity in New Mexico and tend to be suspicious of those who do. When I still lived in the state and traveled to San Francisco or Boston for work, I was always comforted to come home, get off the plane, and visually see how slow people moved. Then I would match my pace to theirs and know I was home.

There is a great comfort in moving at a calm pace.

I find, however, that is not how the world thinks one should move.

Let’s take for example, New York City. In New York, you are supposed to walk fast. Very fast. Head straight, eyes forward, and walk.

Despite how much I love Manhattan, I have quite a hard time keeping up. The Good Man (my husband) was born in Brooklyn so moving at that pace comes natural. It does not come natural for me. I prefer to toddle along closer to the buildings and let the people pass me by on the outside of the sidewalk.

I am the person that New Yorkers yell at for walking too slow.

This all came back to mind this past week. It is New York Fashion week and I follow Nina Garcia, Marie Claire magazine’s Creative Director, on various social networking sites.

She has been posting photos from all of the various designer shows and I have been lapping them up like at kitten at a bowl of milk.

I may not have a figure for fashion, but I love it. I love seeing how textiles and stitches and notions come together to create something fantastic or ugly or offbeat.

So a couple of days ago, Ms. Garcia posted a photo of a sign she saw backstage at the Michael Kors Spring show. Oh my, I am a huge fan of Mr. Kors.

Here is the photo:

I read the words and my heart sank a little. I am happily romantic, strong and my own version of gorgeous.

But I don’t walk fast and with energy.

I would love to kill them with chic, but instead I must maintain my killer sense of humor.

For some reason, this really got under my skin and whispered to those demons in my head who heckled me and said that if I can’t walk fast and with energy, I am a nobody. They said I don’t measure up, don’t belong, don’t matter because I can’t keep up.

And that’s when I remembered the story about the Vaughan brothers.

I don’t need to race up and down the streets of New York. There are plenty of people who have that covered. I want to cruise the Manhattan blocks and tip my head upward to wonder at the buildings and smile and give my lungs room to breathe.

Slow though I walk, I always get where I’m going. Pink cheeked, a little sweaty and smiling.

Perhaps I am taking this hand written sign a little too close to heart. I’m sure this was simply a note of encouragement for the models walking the runway, reminding them to keep it peppy and light.

Perhaps it just hit me on a bad day when the demons were a little closer to the open door than I would like. I let them out to play awhile, really let them run, then I whistled and corralled them back into the pen.

And I remembered that a strong, courageous New Mexican doesn’t have to walk fast unless she wants to. That is true both when walking the Bosque or NYC’s Broadway.

A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.

–Coco Chanel

Thankfully, I am both.

–Karen Fayeth

© 2013, essay, Karen Fayeth, All rights reserved

Photo from the Instagram feed of Nina Garcia. All rights belong to her.

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, an essay with the online magazine Wild Violet, and a short story in Foliate Oak. Her story “What Leibniz Never Learned” will appear in the Fall edition of The Storyteller.

Mom Always Said…

Hope for the best, expect the worst, and try not to be disappointed.   My mother’s life philosophy was actually pretty upbeat for a kid whose family lost everything during The Great Depression, including her father, who died of Brain Fever when she was only eight.  Grandma Rhea supported her children by sewing and taking in wash.  My mom shared a bed with Grandma, so they could rent out her room to make ends meet.  But they didn’t always quite make it.  In the freezing Detroit winters, they nailed blankets over the windows because they couldn’t afford coal to heat the house.

Their only book was the family bible.  But Mom found a copy of Alice in Wonderland in a box of textbooks left by a renter.  She read it cover to cover.  As soon as she finished, she turned back to the first page and started over.  She had discovered her passion and her escape–in books.

Mom was the first in her family to attend college, working her way through by reading to blind students.  A person of quiet, if impractical passions, Mom passed on normal school and secretarial school to study Classical Greek and Latin, French, German, and Russian.  Italian, too, but she said that hardly counted.  “After Latin,” Mom said, “Italian is a snap.”

I remember going home from college to visit one weekend.  There were index cards by Mom’s reading chair, on the kitchen windowsill, on the nightstand by her bed.  They had strange writing on them.

“It’s Greek,” she explained.  “Passages from The Iliad, by Homer.”

“Why?” I asked.

“I’m memorizing it,” she said.

“But why?”

“For fun, dear.  After I’ve memorized The Iliad, I’m going to memorize The Odyssey.”

As a young college grad, she had never shown any interest in men, and was still living at home while working for the War Department.  Grandma planned on having a spinster daughter to keep her company in her old age, unaware that Mom had already promised herself she would move out and find a place of her own by her 25th birthday, if she hadn’t gotten married by then.   Mom just hadn’t met her intellectual equal.  Then Harry Baltuck came along.

He was handsome, funny, brilliant; every woman in the office had her eye on him.  But he had eyes only for Mom.  She was so nervous on their first date that she threw up in his car.  Actually, she threw up every time they went out.  “But he kept coming back,” she said, laughing.

He was intrigued, and not just because she was determined to remain a virgin until her wedding night.  It was a very quick courtship.

His proposal wasn’t exactly story book.  “Well, what if we made it legal?” he asked.

“Would you wear a ring?” she countered.  And the rest is family history.

They traveled many peaks and valleys in their time.  They had seven children and eighteen years together.  She was still young when widowed, and Mom received several proposals from Daddy’s friends and army buddies; some decent and well-intended, others not so much.  But Mom didn’t take anyone up on his offer.  She never remarried, or even dated.  Books, once again, became her passion and her escape.

In 1989, I sat at her bedside as she lay dying of cancer.  It had been a long hard battle.  Mom looked up and caught her breath.  “Harry,” she whispered.

“What did you say, Mom?” I asked.

“Harry!”  She pointed toward the door, but I saw nothing there.

“Mom, do you see someone?”

“It’s Harry,” she said, nodding.  “He’s standing right there.”

Was it the delusion of a dying woman?  Or the love of her life, who had been patiently waiting for twenty-five years to take her home?

Let’s hope for the best.  Just like Mom always said, you have to hope for the best.

All images and words c2012 Naomi Baltuck

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

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

Today (we are all survivors)

We are all survivors, of our personal histories, our family lines, and of the human race.  Since the dawn of time, think of the families ended abruptly by a bullet, a spear, a club, a predator, illness, by accident and even by someone’s own hand.

Today is the anniversary of D-Day, the Normandy invasion in 1944.  It was the day my Uncle Lewis was launched onto the Normandy beaches into a cruel war.  I think it no coincidence that today is also the anniversary of my father’s death in 1965.

The day before he died, while his kids ran and laughed and played in the yard, my father planted a walnut tree—just a stick of a sapling–by the side of the house.  Did he know what he was going to do?  Did he plant that tree as his own memorial?

I hope not, because someone else is living in that little house in Detroit, and my Dad’s walnut tree is long gone, cut down in its prime.  This I know, because I drive past each time I go back to visit my Aunt Loena.   So these words must serve as a memorial to a World War II vet who came home without his little brother and best friend.  That was the sin his mother never forgave him for, the sin he could he never quite forgive himself for either.

My army buddy, Jack Oliver, attended boot camp with Uncle Lewis.  He helped me understand that my father was as much a victim of the war as my uncle.  When the War Department tallies the casualties, it counts the dead, the wounded, the missing in action.  But no one ever takes into account the broken hearts and broken families left by the wayside in the wake of war.  If they did, perhaps they would stop sending our children off to fight and die.

But today is a day a of forgiveness, a day of understanding, a day to be thankful that life goes on.  It is a day of sorrow, but most of all, today is a day to love.

– Naomi Baltuck

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

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

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.

The Divining Trunk

The battered metal steamer trunk in my living room, a family heirloom, is crammed full of memories. Sturdy sides hold every photo album and scrapbook that was bestowed upon me in the weeks following my father’s death*.

This pile of memories is like a divination tool. I open the lid and dig in then something useful bubbles to the surface. Something I’ve never seen before or something familiar, but always just the thing I need to see.

One stapled stack of papers catches my eye today. It contains a perfect wood pulp circle of life: my paternal grandparent’s birth certificates, their marriage license, and both death certificates.

Their entire lives are covered off in five pages.

On my grandmother’s death certificate, it lists, “oat cell cancer to left lung” under the cause of death.

Oat cell. Doesn’t that sound very grandma-ish? Like warm oatmeal and a hug, however, a short Google search advises that oat cell is among the most aggressive forms of lung cancer.

Besides, my grandmother wasn’t very oatmeal and hugs anyway. She was something much more urbane.

Which makes her bigger than life in my memory.

When I was about seven, my paternal grandparents made a visit to New Mexico to attend my first communion. My dad grew up in South Bend, Indiana, which to this desert kid may as well have been on the other side of the universe.

In the mid-seventies, Albuquerque wasn’t a very evolved place. Our airport was a small building the color of dry grass next to a hot concrete tarmac shared with the air force base.

The waiting area had memorable soft leather chairs on sturdy wood frames. I’d sink into the smell of leather and through large picture windows watch the planes fly in over the Sandia Mountains.

Passengers would disembark down sturdy metal stairs, eyes blinking in the bright desert sun.

That day I stood there, clutching at my mom, both scared and excited to meet my dad’s parents.

“There they are,” my mom said.

“Where?” I asked, perking up.

“Look, the woman in the coat.”

I looked. Making her elegant way off the plane was my white-haired grandmother. She wore a dress, pearls, stockings and heels. On top of it all she wore a fur-lined overcoat.

No one wore fur, much less an overcoat, in New Mexico.

She carried herself like a movie star, the regal matriarch of my father’s family. Her lipstick was flawless, her porcelain skin showing nary a wrinkle.

Behind her tottered my grandfather, a tall man with a lined face wearing a good suit and a hat. Always a hat.

These people were like something out of a novel. They were big city. Granted, South Bend is no great shakes, but they flew in from Chicago and looked it.

To me they seemed worldly, intelligent, and jaunty in that “Great Gatsby” kind of way.

My Grandmother smelled of perfume and powder and my Grandfather of cigarettes and hair oil. I was in awe. My mother was visibly intimidated by them both so I followed suit.

My 1970’s fashionable bell-bottom jeans and ratty t-shirt now felt tacky and under-dressed, as elegance had just hit our dry, desert wilderness.

Over the course of the visit, I tried desperately to reconcile myself to these people; my family. I clung to my mother, a shy doe-eyed girl from Oregon who in later years would confide to me just how much her in-laws scared the bejeezus out of her. I understood why.

At breakfast one morning, Grandmother sat chain-smoking, leaving perfect lipstick rings on the filter while Grandfather sat quietly, acquiescing to her, always. Something my dad had said made Grandmother mad, and she spoke harshly, her Irish temper flaring.

She shouted down my father, something no one I knew had ever done. I fled from the room, scared out of my gourd.

No one talked back to my father and got away with it. I think that terrified me more than the shouting.

I’d managed to bond with my gentle, comedic Grandfather and did my best to studiously behave in front of my Grandmother, lest she turn her overpowering temper on me.

Several days into the visit, while having an early evening happy hour, my mom cracked open a can of smoked oysters and Grandmother clapped her hands with glee, as this was a favorite treat. She prodded me to try one. It looked like a globby, gray pencil eraser doing an oily shimmy on a cracker.

Wanting desperately to somehow connect with this elegant woman, I took the offering like receiving communion, and chewed. It was tasty and I smiled. Grandmother was pleased, and handed me another, which I quickly ate. She wrapped an arm around me and pulled me close to her warm, fleshy side.

I’d done good.

We were worlds apart, and yet, our mutual love of good food held the power to close the gap.

In the years that followed, I wouldn’t be able to explore any more potential common ground. South Bend and Albuquerque were just too far apart, and it was five years later that my grandmother died. It was the only time I ever saw my father cry, and at age twelve, my first experience with cancer.

I wish I’d known my grandmother more. I wish I could find more ways to say, “oh, I’m just like her” but I can’t.

She was like a shooting star, in my mind a brief bit of glorious celebrity, stolen away far too quickly by the oat cells.

*My father succumbed to complications from pulmonary fibrosis

© Karen Fayeth, copyright 2011, all rights reserved. The family photos of the author and her grandmother are covered under copyright. Please be respectful.

webheadshotKAREN FAYETH ~ is one of our regular contributing writers. She is our new 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 will be 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.

 

THE STORY OF A WAR AND A QUIET MAN

Normandy American Cemetery

“My army buddy, Jack Oliver, attended boot camp with Uncle Lewis.  He helped me understand that my father was as much a victim of the war as my uncle.  When the War Department tallies the casualties, it counts the dead, the wounded, the missing in action.  But no one ever takes into account the broken hearts and broken families left by the wayside in the wake of war.  If they did, perhaps they would stop sending our children off to fight and die.” Naomi Baltuck

REMEMBERING UNCLE LEWIS

by

Naomi Baltuck (Writing Between the Lines)

One of my earliest memories is of dinner at Grandma Rose’s house.  Her towels, furniture, and closets smelled of mothballs; she even stored her silverware in mothballs.  Mostly, though, I recall standing on Grandma’s couch to study the framed collage of black and white photographs on her wall.  I recognized my father, but knew the other boy in the pictures only by name, and by heart.

Uncle Lewis was my father’s only sibling, younger than my dad by ten years.  We never met, and Daddy never spoke of him.  But they were best friends.  In one picture Lewis was laughing, having been surprised on the toilet by my father with his camera.  The brothers teased Grandma too.  Lewis would yell, “Harry, stop hitting me!”  Grandma would rush in, and scold my father for picking on his brother.  Undaunted, they’d laugh and repeat, until Grandma caught on.

Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Lewis was drafted into the infantry, a shy studious eighteen year old who had never kissed a girl.  My father joined up as an officer.  He pulled a few strings to get Lewis transferred into the 30th ‘Old Hickory’ Division, so the brothers could cross the Atlantic on the same ship.  Lewis wrote letters and post cards home, often addressed to their dog ‘Peanuts.’

“Hey, Peanuts, tell Pa to eat his spinach!”   From the ship he wrote, “Harry and his buddies sneaked me into their cabin.  They gave me chocolate and let me play with their puppy.  Don’t tell anyone, or we’ll all catch it.  They smuggled the pup on board, and officers shouldn’t fraternize with enlisted men…”

While serving in Africa, Italy, England, France, and Germany, Harry was safely behind the front lines.  But Lewis was sent to Normandy two days after the D-Day invasion.  He fought in the hedgerows of France, and in Holland.  “The Dutch ran into the streets and passed out everything from soup to nuts.  As we marched out of there in the middle of the night, you could hear the clink of cognac, whiskey, and wine bottles in the guys’ jackets, amidst all the cursing and the roar of the Jerrys’ planes overhead.”  

To his parents Lewis wrote, “Dear Ma and Pa, today I saw General Eisenhower drive by.”  Or, “Kronk said the war can’t last.  It just can’t.  And he said it with such an angelic look on his face, I believe him!”

But to my father he wrote, “You should see the bruise from where a bullet passed through my shirt, Brub.  It was a close call.”  Or, “They took Julian away.  It’s so lonely here, Brub.  He’s the reason I wouldn’t take that promotion to sergeant.  We dug in together, took care of each other when things got rough.  I don’t know how bad he’s hurt; I just hope he makes it, and escapes this Hell.  Pray for me, Brub. Pray for me.”

On September 20, 1944, the day before his company attacked the Siegfried Line, Staff Sergeant Lewis Baltuck was killed by the blast of a shell.  Twenty years old, he had hardly begun to live.  He was survived by his parents, his dog Peanuts, and his brother Harry.  He never had the time or the opportunity to fall in love and marry.  He left no children to mourn for him—only the Bronze Star and the bronzed baby booties Grandma kept on her bookshelf until the day she died, more than forty years after her son’s death.

Harry married, had seven children, and built his own little house in Detroit.  But for the rest of his life he suffered acutely from the unspeakable burden of depression and Survivor’s Guilt.  When Grandpa Max died, my father became the sole caretaker of his widowed mother.  There was no one to share that burden with, to joke with or jolly her along.  Worst of all, crazed with grief, Grandma Rose blamed Harry for Lewis’s death.

I envied those kids who grew up with cousins to play with, and uncles who cared about them.  Uncle Lewis would’ve been that kind of uncle, and my father would have been a different man, without that black cloud to live under.  When Daddy died in 1965, we lost our connection to my father’s extended family, and our ties to our paternal cultural heritage were nearly lost as well.  But it does no good to dwell on the past or to speculate on what might have been.

Uncle Lewis was right about one thing.  War is Hell.  The price it exacts is impossible to tally, and can never be repaid.  When a soldier is killed, one heart stops beating, but many more are broken.  The wounds inflicted upon whole families are so deep that the scars can still be felt after generations.

I swear my uncle’s little bronze baby booties will never end up on the bargain shelf at the Salvation Army Thrift Store, like so many others I have seen there.  How sad to think that such precious keepsakes might be tossed into the giveaway because no one remembers or cares about the one whose little feet filled them.

I attended the 60th reunion of the Old Hickory Division in Nashville in search of someone who knew my uncle.  I met only one man who remembered him…“a quiet man who didn’t say much, but when he did speak, he was always worth listening to.”

I tell my children that story, and many others about their Great Uncle Lewis.  I am confident he will be cherished and remembered, not just for his tragic death, but for his joyful life.

© 2012, essay and family photos, Naomi Baltuck, All rights reserved

Photo credit ~ Normandy American Cemetery: I doctored this (taken in 2010) so that the original colors would not lend a dissonant note to the post. The photo was taken by Harald Bishoff and uploaded to Wikipedia under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported. J.D.

Naomi Baltuck ~ has been blogging (Writing Between the Lines) since December 2011. She shares her days and her thoughts in the true spirit of weblog, a dairy of sorts. Her posts are perfectly executed works of art: careful and caring, symmetrical and clear. Her interests are eclectic but her family is certainly her center. We are proud to have her as a contributing writer. J.D.

PERSPECTIVES ON CANCER #12: The Divining Trunk

Karen Fayeth’s Grandmother

Author Karen Fayeth and her Grandmother

·

THE DIVINING TRUNK

by

Karen Fayeth

The battered metal steamer trunk in my living room, a family heirloom, is crammed full of memories. Sturdy sides hold every photo album and scrapbook that was bestowed upon me in the weeks following my father’s death*.

This pile of memories is like a divination tool. I open the lid and dig in then something useful bubbles to the surface. Something I’ve never seen before or something familiar, but always just the thing I need to see.

One stapled stack of papers catches my eye today. It contains a perfect wood pulp circle of life: my paternal grandparent’s birth certificates, their marriage license, and both death certificates.

Their entire lives are covered off in five pages.

On my grandmother’s death certificate, it lists, “oat cell cancer to left lung” under the cause of death.

Oat cell. Doesn’t that sound very grandma-ish? Like warm oatmeal and a hug, however, a short Google search advises that oat cell is among the most aggressive forms of lung cancer.

Besides, my grandmother wasn’t very oatmeal and hugs anyway. She was something much more urbane.

Which makes her bigger than life in my memory.

When I was about seven, my paternal grandparents made a visit to New Mexico to attend my first communion. My dad grew up in South Bend, Indiana, which to this desert kid may as well have been on the other side of the universe.

In the mid-seventies, Albuquerque wasn’t a very evolved place. Our airport was a small building the color of dry grass next to a hot concrete tarmac shared with the air force base.

The waiting area had memorable soft leather chairs on sturdy wood frames. I’d sink into the smell of leather and through large picture windows watch the planes fly in over the Sandia Mountains.

Passengers would disembark down sturdy metal stairs, eyes blinking in the bright desert sun.

That day I stood there, clutching at my mom, both scared and excited to meet my dad’s parents.

“There they are,” my mom said.

“Where?” I asked, perking up.

“Look, the woman in the coat.”

I looked. Making her elegant way off the plane was my white-haired grandmother. She wore a dress, pearls, stockings and heels. On top of it all she wore a fur-lined overcoat.

No one wore fur, much less an overcoat, in New Mexico.

She carried herself like a movie star, the regal matriarch of my father’s family. Her lipstick was flawless, her porcelain skin showing nary a wrinkle.

Behind her tottered my grandfather, a tall man with a lined face wearing a good suit and a hat. Always a hat.

These people were like something out of a novel. They were big city. Granted, South Bend is no great shakes, but they flew in from Chicago and looked it.

To me they seemed worldly, intelligent, and jaunty in that “Great Gatsby” kind of way.

My Grandmother smelled of perfume and powder and my Grandfather of cigarettes and hair oil. I was in awe. My mother was visibly intimidated by them both so I followed suit.

My 1970’s fashionable bell-bottom jeans and ratty t-shirt now felt tacky and under-dressed, as elegance had just hit our dry, desert wilderness.

Over the course of the visit, I tried desperately to reconcile myself to these people; my family. I clung to my mother, a shy doe-eyed girl from Oregon who in later years would confide to me just how much her in-laws scared the bejeezus out of her. I understood why.

At breakfast one morning, Grandmother sat chain-smoking, leaving perfect lipstick rings on the filter while Grandfather sat quietly, acquiescing to her, always. Something my dad had said made Grandmother mad, and she spoke harshly, her Irish temper flaring.

She shouted down my father, something no one I knew had ever done. I fled from the room, scared out of my gourd.

No one talked back to my father and got away with it. I think that terrified me more than the shouting.

I’d managed to bond with my gentle, comedic Grandfather and did my best to studiously behave in front of my Grandmother, lest she turn her overpowering temper on me.

Several days into the visit, while having an early evening happy hour, my mom cracked open a can of smoked oysters and Grandmother clapped her hands with glee, as this was a favorite treat. She prodded me to try one. It looked like a globby, gray pencil eraser doing an oily shimmy on a cracker.

Wanting desperately to somehow connect with this elegant woman, I took the offering like receiving communion, and chewed. It was tasty and I smiled. Grandmother was pleased, and handed me another, which I quickly ate. She wrapped an arm around me and pulled me close to her warm, fleshy side.

I’d done good.

We were worlds apart, and yet, our mutual love of good food held the power to close the gap.

In the years that followed, I wouldn’t be able to explore any more potential common ground. South Bend and Albuquerque were just too far apart, and it was five years later that my grandmother died. It was the only time I ever saw my father cry, and at age twelve, my first experience with cancer.

I wish I’d known my grandmother more. I wish I could find more ways to say, “oh, I’m just like her” but I can’t.

She was like a shooting star, in my mind a brief bit of glorious celebrity, stolen away far too quickly by the oat cells.

*My father succumbed to complications from pulmonary fibrosis

© Karen Fayeth, copyright 2011, all rights reserved. The family photos are covered under copyright. Please be respectful.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Karen Fayeth ~ A corporate executive, writer, blogger, photographer, and visual artist, Karen was born and raised in New Mexico and moved to the San Francisco Bay area in 1997. Her work blends the influences of Hispanic, Native American, and the deep rural soul of the American West along with her newer city-sense learned in places like San Francisco, Brooklyn, and Boston. She is an award-winning short-story writer, and her baseball photo Bromance was featured on Intential Talk, hosted by Chris Rose and Kevin Millar. New Mexico magazine recently published three features by Karen. She has one published novel and lives with her husband, a cat (Gypsy), and two Siamese fighting fish, Benito and Margaret. Karen’s grandmother died of lung cancer. Karen blogs at Oh Fair New Mexico.