BARDO NEWS: Wilderness Week coming up….

Editor’s Note: Please join us for this event sponsored by The Bardo Group and hosted by Priscilla Galasso (scillagrace).

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004PRISCILLA GALASSO ~ started her blog at scillagrace.com to mark the beginning of her fiftieth year. Born to summer and given a name that means ‘ancient’, her travel through seasons of time and landscape has inspired her to create visual and verbal souvenirs of her journey. Currently living in Wisconsin, she considers herself a lifelong learner and educator. She gives private voice lessons, is employed by two different museums and runs a business (Scholar & Poet Books, via eBay and ABE Books) with her partner, Steve.

During the week of August 31 – September 6, The Bardo Group will post essays, photos and poems on Wilderness to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act being signed into law in the U. S.   You are encouraged to add your voice to ours on this site via Mister Linky or by sharing a link to your work in the comments section of any post that week.  Although this is an U.S. event, we recognize that there are places all over the world that are still wild and that are protected by naturalists, scientists, governments and concerned citizens. Hence, we invite participation from everywhere. We think it would be a good thing for us to share information and insights about the world’s many wild places though poems, essays, photographs, music and videos. Please mark your calendars and plan to join us.  

“…in Wildness is the preservation of the World. Every tree sends its fibers forth in search of the Wild. The cities import it at any price. Men plow and sail for it. From the forest and wilderness come the tonics and barks which brace mankind…I believe in the forest, and in the meadow, and in the night in which the corn grows. We require an infusion of hemlock, spruce or arbor vitae in our tea…” Henry David Thoreau, “Walking” 1862

 

wilderness signBen Jonson exclaims: ‘How near to good is what is fair!’ So I would say, How near to good is what is wild! Life consists with wildness. The most alive is the wildest. Not yet subdued to man, its presence refreshes him. One who pressed forward incessantly and never rested from his labors, who grew fast and made infinite demands on life, would always find himself in a new country or wilderness, and surrounded by the raw material of life. He would be climbing over the prostrate stems of primitive forest-trees. Hope and the future for me are not in lawns and cultivated fields, not in towns and cities, but in the impervious and quaking swamps.” Henry David Thoreau, “Walking” 1862 wilderness campFind some solitude and some wild land and let your spirits explore! 

cranesWe’re looking forward to hearing from you!

© 2014 photographs by Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

Thank you to all who share their extraordinary and diverse works here, to those who read and comment, and to those who spread the word and reblog posts. Thanks to the Core Team for their consistency, commitment, and professionalism. You rock!

In the spirit of peace, love and community,

THE BARDO GROUP

The Bardo Group, Facebook Page

bardogroup@gmail.com

interNational Photography Month: Wordless Wednesday

“A picture is worth a thousand words.”  So said sources from the early 20th century, and advertising and marketing departments were quick to adopt this maxim.  Images became icons; symbols got recognition and replicated themselves.  In our viral age, this happens in a nanosecond.  We are bombarded with so many images in a day that we simply filter out most of them.  Junk mail, pop-ups, video clips and trademarks pass in and out of our field of vision at an alarming rate. 

When was the last time you looked at an image for more than 10 seconds?  When was the last time you stood in a museum or gallery in front of an image for more than 10 minutes?  Was that image a photograph? 

Suppose we create a virtual photographic museum here on Bardo.  Share with us a photo that you have taken that will draw us into some full minutes of contemplative focus.  It may be a photograph that tells an entire story in itself.  It may be a place to which we’re drawn, compelled to step into the frame.  It may be a portrait of a face that speaks volumes of stories.  (What’s interesting to note is that we, like infants, will look long into the faces of people, especially those to whom we feel strongly connected.) Perhaps one of these photographs will inspire a story or essay in the writers amongst us for a future time….for now, let it be wordless.  Here are some from my collection to “prime the pump”.

 

YOU ARE INVITED TO SHARE YOUR PHOTOGRAPHS WITH US.

PLEASE LINK THEM TO THIS SITE USING MISTER LINKY BELOW

OR LEAVE THE LINK IN THE COMMENTS SECTION

THE LINK WILL STAY OPEN FOR 72 HOURS AND PRISCILLA WILL VISIT AND COMMENT

WE HOPE YOU WILL ALSO VISIT ONE ANOTHER TO COMMENT AND ENCOURAGE

004PRISCILLA GALASSO ~ started her blog at scillagrace.com to mark the beginning of her fiftieth year. Born to summer and given a name that means ‘ancient’, her travel through seasons of time and landscape has inspired her to create visual and verbal souvenirs of her journey.

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

Good Gawd, Y’all!

Another school shooting hit the news yesterday. The impact seems dull. Repetition has begun to numb my response. The predictable media storm continues, but just as raindrops seem less penetrating after your clothes are soaked, I simply can’t absorb this horror. And that is rather shocking.

 I Googled “List of school shootings in the U.S.” The Wikipedia article’s chronology goes by decade, starting with the 1760s. There is one entry there. The next listing is 9 decades later. Two items there. The narration continues to list shootings for every decade. When we get to this millennium, the bullet points are replaced by a chart. From 2000 – 2010, there are 46 different shooting events chronicled. From 2010 – 2014 (n.b. Not even half a decade!) there are 65, including yesterday’s. And I may have lost count of one while scrolling down through the list.

Obviously, this storm is escalating. This is a flood. Our country is awash in violence being perpetrated against school children. School children! What can that be about? What madness has overtaken our culture that young people at their studies have become targets? I’m pretty sure it’s not so much about the targets as it is about target practice.

 Our culture has target practice deeply embedded in its psyche and readily available in its entertainment, military and politics. Angry? Take aim. Proud? Take aim. Patriotic? Take aim. Need security? Take aim. Impoverished? Needy? Insulted? Invisible? Defiant? Miffed? Whatever the uncomfortable feeling you have, you can get relief by pulling out a weapon and taking aim at some target. Children in school apparently make a pretty easy gallery.

 This approach is like using the same tool for every situation, no matter what it is. Would you use a hammer to wind your watch or play your piano or punch down your bread dough or crochet a sweater? No. And how did you learn to lay your hands on the appropriate tool for each of these situations? Most likely, at a very young age, you watched someone do it. A role model. Perhaps a parent or grandparent. Someone you trusted, who spent time with you, doing everyday kinds of things.

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 Let’s look around. Where are the role models that are pulling out weapons for every crisis? Where are the role models who are negotiating, discussing, creatively engaging, brainstorming and experimenting with different non-violent approaches? Who are the role models who have multiple tools in their belts and use the appropriate ones for the situation? And violence, what is it good for? Is it ever the best tool for the job?

 And, c’mon, let’s be creative. Why does our entertainment have to follow this unimaginative formula of violence? There are a million other options. There are a million other roles to play. Playing something different will make us smarter, wiser, more flexible, more open, more like children. School children….our vanishing resource.

© 2014, essay and photograph, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

004PRISCILLA GALASSO ~ started her blog at scillagrace.com to mark the beginning of her fiftieth year. Born to summer and given a name that means ‘ancient’, her travel through seasons of time and landscape has inspired her to create visual and verbal souvenirs of her journey.

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

Model Behavior

I don’t have a television, so I don’t see a lot of commercials. Still, I find NBA games on the internet and catch a few ads in the process. There’s one for a fried chicken franchise that particularly bothers me. Here’s the set-up: two teenaged kids have made a rare venture out of their rooms to join their parents for dinner. They are still plugged into their media devices and never speak or make eye contact with the camera or their parents. The African-American family sits in the living room with a bucket of chicken on the coffee table. Mom & Dad tell the camera that the chicken is the occasion for them to have this special “family” experience. Dad jokes that if the batteries run down, they might actually have a conversation.

 Sigh. Is this an accurate snapshot of our current culture? Rewind about 100 years.

 I’m reading a book called Nothing To Do But Stay: My Pioneer Mother by Carrie Young. The author describes her life in North Dakota during the Great Depression. Her mother had acquired land as a homesteader, married and raised 6 kids on the farm. Her sisters struggled to become educated and get jobs as school teachers in local one-room schoolhouses. One particularly brutal winter, their parents found it more sensible to drop off the 18-year-old daughter, the teacher, with the two younger sisters at school and let them stay there during the week instead of transporting them back and forth through the snow drifts by horse-drawn wagon. The week turned into months. Fresh supplies were delivered every week, but these 3 young ladies spent that winter relying on their own resourcefulness for their daily life — with no electricity, simply a coal-burning furnace in the basement and a woodstove with one burner in the classroom. How is that possible? I’m sure that life was one that their parents had modeled for years.

 Compare these two snapshots and imagine the changes that have swept through our country. What has “adult living” become? What do we model for our children these days? What skills are being delegated to machines or service companies or ‘experts’ that used to be more universal and personal? Besides modeling tasking skills, how do we model social and moral skills in this decade?

 When more families were farming, children grew up alongside their parents and were incorporated into communal activities. They helped milk the cows, tend the garden, and make the food and clothing they all needed to live. In the 50s, when more families lived in cities and suburbs, Dad would drive off in the morning and work out of sight of his kids all day while Mom would turn on appliances to do the chores around home. The kids learned consumerism. Then the Moms left the house and went into the workforce leaving the kids in daycare. In 1992, someone came up with “Take Your Daughters To Work Day”. That was expanded to include boys a decade later. What was first perceived as a Feminist issue of role modeling was recognized as a parenting void: children had no clue how adults spent their work days.

Musing about these changes made me consider what my own children had learned from my husband and me. My daughter made a calligraphy sign when she was in High School: “My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived and let me watch him do it.” (Clarence B. Kelland) She was 23 when her father died. What we intended to model and what she actually learned are most likely two different things. One thing I do know. She did learn to cook her own chicken.

joy 2

© 2014, essay and photograph, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

004PRISCILLA GALASSO ~ started her blog at scillagrace.com to mark the beginning of her fiftieth year. Born to summer and given a name that means ‘ancient’, her travel through seasons of time and landscape has inspired her to create visual and verbal souvenirs of her journey.

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

Joy in January

The temperature on my car dashboard said -10 degrees this morning.  A “polar vortex” has moved into Milwaukee, and my partner Steve is a US Postal Service mail carrier.  He will be working outside today despite warnings (no doubt escalated by our sensationalizing media) about frostbite and hypothermia.  However, he is excited about the opportunity to live in the moment, make decisions one after another, and flow with the realities of the environment.   His attitude reminds me that we can choose to feel victimized and we can choose to feel joyful.  The following is a post on Joy that I first published 2 years ago.

Joy to the World

December 22, 2011 by

Gift of the Universe #22:  JOY!

I truly believe that joy is available to everyone.  No one is denied the opportunity to be joyful.  Many people on this planet will never have a full stomach or adequate shelter or enough material wealth to climb out of poverty, but believe it or not, some of those very people know joy.

“Joy is not in things; it is in us.”  – Richard Wagner

“Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world. We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy.”  – Joseph Campbell

My late husband was ill for many years.  He went under the knife for open heart surgery when he was just 31.  He suffered a host of medical problems stemming from diabetes, always believing that he would get the disease under control.  When he realized that was not going to happen, he said, “Okay, I’m sick.  I can be sick and miserable, or I can be sick and happy.  I choose happy.  Pain is inevitable, misery is optional.”  I really admire him for coming up with that maxim, and for embodying it.  The night before he died, he called me at work and asked if I’d like to go out to dinner.  Our daughters were out for the evening, and he took the opportunity to enjoy a ‘date’ with me.  We went to a local sports bar & grill and enjoyed veggie appetizers and sandwiches.  Our youngest called from rehearsal to say she was not feeling well and was coming home early, so we went home to be with her.   Jim was tired, so he took his medications, hooked up to his dialysis machine and CPAP and watched some TV.  When I came up to bed, he turned off the TV and the light.  We fell asleep holding hands.  He never woke up.  And he never complained.  Some people claim that “if you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything”.  I don’t buy that.  Jim didn’t have health, but he had joy and love and he knew it.

Many people would foreswear food, health, housing, and money in order to find joy in an ascetic lifestyle.  Mendicants, yogis, monks, and priests of different faiths have adopted austere practices in order to experience the bliss of enlightenment.

“Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.”  – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“The fullness of joy is to behold God in everything.”  – Julian of Norwich

This is a deep and serious topic, and much too heavy for me to write about today.  My brain is circling closer to Dr. Seuss and The Grinch who puzzles how the Whos could be singing without “ribbons and tags, packages, boxes and bags”.  Perhaps joy means a little bit more than the glee we feel when we get a shiny, new present.  Happiness is fleeting.  Joy is deeply felt.

“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”  – George Bernard Shaw

I’ve got to say that the way I have most felt this joy of being used for a mighty purpose and force of Nature is through mothering.  I know what it is to be thoroughly worn out and joyful.  I know what it is to feel like nobody is devoting himself to my happiness and not to complain because I am finding so much joy in devoting myself to someone else’s well-being.  Not that I didn’t complain occasionally (hey! I’m human!).  I always felt that mothering mattered.  That I was truly making a difference, a big one, to at least four people in the world.  I smiled at my babies even when I was not feeling joyful, and joy emerged.   Never underestimate the effect of a smile.  Check out this Still Face Experiment by Dr. Tronick on youtube.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apzXGEbZht0

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” – Thich Nhat Hahn

My joyful (and crazy!) kids

Are you smiling every day?  I’m sure I am.  I even busted a belly laugh today as Steve was describing a Giotto fresco…of Mary and Joseph… kissing at the gates of Bethlehem…with Snoopy in the background.  He speaks like a nerd who knows everything, and then I realize he’s joking with me.  I fall for it all the time and then get to laugh at him and at myself.  Steve’s identity motto, which he came up with at a psychology school retreat, is “I am the joy in change and movement”.  I am really benefiting from his perspective because I am often afraid of change and movement.  I so don’t need to be.  There is freedom in allowing joy into your life.

Let Heaven and Nature sing…and see if you don’t find yourself singing along.  Rejoice, my friends.

– Priscilla Galasso

© 2011, 2014, essay and photograph, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

004PRISCILLA GALASSO ~ started her blog at scillagrace.com to mark the beginning of her fiftieth year. Born to summer and given a name that means ‘ancient’, her travel through seasons of time and landscape has inspired her to create visual and verbal souvenirs of her journey.

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

BARDO NEWS: reader and writer achievements, Victoria’s books, the growth of Niamh Clune’s independent press, Second Light Network calls for submissions

800px-Rafael_-_El_Parnaso_(Estancia_del_Sello,_Roma,_1511)WE CLOSE THE YEAR WITH KUDOS ALL AROUND for prodigious bloggers of every ilk with their plans for 2014 and their successes in 2013. So many of our readers and writers rose to the WordPress challenge of a post a day. Others took on special challenges related to seasonal changes or holiday events or their own personal sense of adventure. To name just a few:

  • From November 28 on, Terri Stewart (Slow Down, Begin Again: Spiritual Practices in Context) incorporated the work of many bloggers into a creative and joy-filled Advent Light event.
  • Instead of counting down on an Advent calendar, Priscilla Galasso (scillagrace) has been counting the free gifts we all get every day in a series of Advent essays that are beautifully written and both thoughtful and though provoking.
  • John Nooney (Johnbalaya), a faithful reader here, successfully incorporated his prodigious works from several blogs into one compact blog where he shares his many talents and interests including essays, poems, short stories, photography, and a love of music.
  • Beatrice Garrard (Adventures in Hats) started her first blog and will be joining us in 2014 as our college reporter with a monthly news post covering the arts and other topics of interest to us.
  • Liz  Rice-Sosne a.k.a. Raven Spirit (Noh Where) a devoted friend to Bardo has joined us as a core team member and will take an active leadership role in our collective Voices for Peace project. This is no small gift to us since she is also now a volunteer teacher of English-as-a-Second language. We hope she’ll share her thoughts and experiences on that effort as well. We have officially partnered our Voices for Peace project with 100,000 Poets, Musicians and Artists for Change.

There are many among us who don’t aspire to publication, but many do and they have successfully sold work to magazines and anthologies, won contests, and/or attracted publishers or chose to self-publish.

Victoria Slotto's Mom
Victoria Slotto’s Mom

Not the least is Victoria C. Slotto whose first novel was published in 2012 by Lucky Bat Press. From that experience she moved on to publish Jacaranda Rain: Collected Poems, 2012, now in a newly-minted paperback edition, and  Beating the Odds: Support for Persons with Early Stage DementiaWe took the time to read the latter this month and found it to be chockfull of commonsense suggestions that are easily incorporated into daily activities with which you can encourage your loved one. This work was inspired by Victoria’s care of her elderly mother and her experiences as a nurse.

The first section, Shoring Up Memory!, is alone worth the price of admission. She advises phone logs, maintaining a memory board and lists, and a commitment to maintaining a Day Timer and a journal. Other advice includes simplifying life: no over-booking, doing what can be done to minimize stress, and reworking the home so that it is as danger-free as possible. She provides information on getting legal advice, creating a team of helpers (our term, not hers), finding doctors and other health care providers. Victoria emphasizes the importance of physical and mental exercises, faith and prayer, and family support. Well done, Victoria. (Photo copyright, Victoria Slotto, All rights reserved.)

PLUM TREE BOOKS and THE BARDO GROUP have tied the knot and are collaborating to evolve our collective of artists and musicians, poets and writers, encouraging fellowship and appreciation.  Plum Tree Books (PTB) CEO, Niamh Clune, writes about PTB’s latest effort: “This is the bones of the news…  I have created, Plum Tree Books ~ INSIGHTS ~ A magazine about publishing, writing, children’s books, illustrating and poetry. I am receiving so many of your wonderful poems, and requests from people who would like to write for Plum Tree Books, that I thought this would be a great chance to expand our horizons and include more of your work as well as sharing insights into how we are growing, creating, and collaborating. This is all part of building the Plum Tree Books’ platform to give some of the wonderful talent expressed through FaceBook, blogs and The Bardo Group a broader exposure. Coming in January!”

A FINAL REMINDER ABOUT THE SECOND LIGHT NETWORK’S CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS FOR THEIR 2014 ANTHOLOGY. The deadline is 15 January 2014.

51rk8frRwfL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Her Wings of Glass (the title a quotation from Sylvia Plath) is to be a 200 page anthology that will complement but not repeat Second Light’s previous anthology (with Arrowhead Books), Images of Women. The focus of this anthology is ‘big issues’, for example the future of the planet, good and evil aspects of our relationship with the natural world and with each other, different aspects of our imaginative understanding of ‘who we are’.

The invitation is for up to six poems per submission, not more than 200 lines in total, with three copies of each poem to Dilys Wood at 3, Springfield Close, East Preston, West Sussex, BN16 2SZ, by January 15th 2014 together with the administrative fee of £5 (Second Light members) or £8 (non-members). Cheques payable to ‘Second Light’ or pay online at the poetry p f (online shop (filter to ‘Wings’). Non-UK submissions may be sent by e-mail as .doc or .pdf attachments, only to Second Light Administrator (poet Anne Stewart. ) Anne Stewart is a fabulous help with your technical questions. [Check out Anne’s poems HERE.]

Issue 11, November 2013 of ARTEMISpoetry is available now through Second Light Network and submissions are currently being accepted for the next issue. Details HERE.

BLOGGERS IN PLANET LOVE: This is a heads-up on our event in the planning for Valentine’s Day 2014. Details to be determined and announced. Look for more news about this collaborative effort addressing climate and environmental concerns and the meaning of nature in our lives.

WRITERS’ FOURTH WEDNESDAY with Victoria C. Slotto will resume on 22 January 2014, running every month up-to-and-including 22 October 2014.

… and, as the saying goes “last but not least” … a WW I memorial project of John Anstie’s (My Poetry Library and 42church group from Christ Church Stocksbridge featuring poet Ian McMillan …

Best wishes for the New Year from all of us to all of you. If you missed the deadline for this post, feel free to leave your announcement in the comments section. If you have something you’d like us to include in the next news post, leave a note here in the comment section as well or under any upcoming post and someone will get back to you. The next news post will go up on January 26, Sunday at 7 p.m. PST. The deadline for news submissions is Friday, January 24.

– The Bardo Group

Claiming Rites of Passage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—- Priscilla Galasso

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

004PRISCILLA GALASSO ~  started her blog at scillagrace.com to mark the beginning of her fiftieth year. Born to summer and given a name that means ‘ancient’, her travel through seasons of time and landscape has inspired her to create visual and verbal souvenirs of her journey.

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

Affairs of the Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Priscilla Galasso

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

004PRISCILLA GALASSO ~  started her blog at scillagrace.com to mark the beginning of her fiftieth year. Born to summer and given a name that means ‘ancient’, her travel through seasons of time and landscape has inspired her to create visual and verbal souvenirs of her journey.

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

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

Nostalgia

the work of Priscilla Galasso in response to the weekly photo challenge from WordPress

Oh, boy.  It’s a dangerous thing to invite a widow and empty-nester to post a blog on the theme Nostalgic!  Contemplating the past can lead to maudlin stretches and lots of used Kleenex™, even if I don’t have a glass or two of wine first.  I don’t think that would be at all edifying to the blogging community, so I’m going to try hard to steer away from that.  I hope to write and show something that is true about a time that has come and gone.

Life is characterized by impermanence.  Our kids don’t stay little; our loved ones don’t stay alive forever.  What we live is present moments.  If we try to hang on to them and make them more permanent or attach our happiness to them, we are in for a world of frustration.  As we get farther away from present moments, it’s hard to remember what they were really like.  We lose perspective.  That wonderful family outing…did I yell at the kids that day?  I don’t remember.  I probably lost patience at least once.  Did my kids remember that?  How did they feel?  How did they heal?  Or is it all, as my mother often puts it, ‘a merciful blur’?

Brookfield Zool dolphin show, August 1991. Jim (RIP), Emily, Josh, Becca and Susan (who will be wed in less than three weeks).
Brookfield Zool dolphin show, August 1991. Jim (RIP), Emily, Josh, Becca and Susan (who will be wed in less than three weeks).

In my current life, I see a lot of families on outings with their children, since I work at two different family museums.  Families interact in all sorts of ways.  I try to look at them with compassion and tolerance remembering what I can about how challenging it is to raise four kids at one time.  The important thing is to BE KIND in the present moment.  With your kids or someone else’s.  If the world is to be a good place to live, it’s important that all seven billion of us humans remember to BE KIND.  And this is not a glib solution.  If you think deeply about being kind, you’ll see that it is a profound power in the universe.   BE KIND to your fellow humans.  BE KIND to every living thing.  BE KIND to yourself first, and feel what that is like.  It is peace.  It is well-being and health.  It is life.  Don’t settle for feeling nostalgic about a time when you felt the world was a kinder place to live.  Make it a kinder place to live this very moment by acting kindly!

– Priscilla Galasso

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

004PRISCILLA GALASSO ~ is a contributor to Into the Bardo. She started her blog at scillagrace.com to mark the beginning of her fiftieth year. Born to summer and given a name that means ‘ancient’, her travel through seasons of time and landscape has inspired her to create visual and verbal souvenirs of her journey.

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

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

Ice Age Spring

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This Ice Age Spring was photographed in Wisconsin.

– Priscilla Galasso

© 2013, photographs including the portrait below, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

004PRISCILLA GALASSO ~ is a new contributor to Into the Bardo. She started her blog at scillagrace.com to mark the beginning of her fiftieth year. Born to summer and given a name that means ‘ancient’, her travel through seasons of time and landscape has inspired her to create visual and verbal souvenirs of her journey.

“My courage is in the affirmation of my part in co-creation”, she wrote in her first published poem, composed on her thirtieth birthday and submitted alongside her seven-year-old daughter’s poem to Cricket magazine. Her spiritual evolution began in an Episcopal environment and changed in pivotal moments: as a teenager, her 20-year old sister died next to her in a car crash and, decades later, Priscilla’s husband and the father of her four children died of coronary artery disease and diabetes in his sleep at the age of 47.  Awakening to mindfulness and reconsidering established thought patterns continues to be an important part of her life work.

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