Posted in story

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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
Posted in General Interest, Nature

In Memory: Robert D. Rossel, Ph.D.

062One of the first of three (the others being Buddhist poet Ann Emerson and Methodist Minister Terri Stewart) to be invited to share work on this site was Robert D. Rossel, Ph.D. who passed away on Sunday, July 26, surrounded by his family. He participated here for about two-and-a-half years. Below – in memory – is a piece Rob wrote and shared here in 2011. We know many fondly remember Rob and his work. Enjoy!

Photograph California Quail in Golden Gate Park courtesy of Mila Zinkova under GNU Free Documentation License via Wikipedia.

Nature’s Gifts

by

Robert D. Rossel, Ph.D.

This morning I had an amazing encounter.   After a sleepless night,  I woke up late and decided to go for my morning walk in the local nature preserve behind my house.   It was drizzling slightly— a very gentle spring rain.    I was deep in an intense internal reverie as I entered the park.  I looked up and found myself  looking at three deer slightly ahead of me on the trail.  I instinctively calmed myself and walked slowly forward.   They didn’t seem in any hurry to leave as they often do when I encounter deer in the preserve.  It may have helped that I caught one of them, a two year old buck, in the middle of “doing his business.”    He turned around and looked at me head-on but didn’t move because he wanted to finish.  The others, perhaps encouraged by his unwillingness to stop what he was doing, were in no hurry to leave either.  They just managed to  keep  themselves at a safe distance as I slowly moved forward.     Very slowly, I walked forward.  The buck kept me in his gaze but didn’t move.    I was able to get maybe within six or eight feet of him, almost within reach.   Finally he finished his business and slowly walked away from the trail, still keeping me in his gaze.

Then while walking further, I encountered a mother quail and ten teeny, teeny, babies  walking into the tall grass on the side of the trail.   It was like a cartoon, the last little straggler trying to negotiate and jump over strands of weed and grass, mother scolding/encouraging them all to come along.  The little chicks must have been no more than a day old, very small, very cute.

Public domain photograph courtesy of Arpingstone.

Then I arrived at a farm in the middle of the preserve.  The farm is for families with children—goats, pigs, chickens and ducks to enjoy, and a cow, named Luna.   I have become very fond of this cow over many trips to the farm–perhaps because of my bovine heart valve.   She knows me now and accepts my touch, and will occasionally give me a big affectionate lick. (I haven’t brought myself yet to lick her back).    Anyway, she has been away for a while so they can repair her paddock and I haven’t  been able to see her.    But to my great delight she was there this morning, nursing a  baby bull and calf.  Even while occupied with her nursing babies, she recognized me and let me give her a few scratches and nuzzles.

I felt so gifted this morning by Nature.   It was as if in the inscrutable wisdom of nature the Gods found a way of bringing me out of my funk and deep reverie and welcomed me into the world.   All of my efforts at self-care in a painful, sleepless, night had utterly failed me.   But somehow Nature’s magic managed to touch me and bring me out of my funk and  reverie.   It amazes me  that this happens over and over again in my life.  When I seem to most need it, Nature finds a way to touch me.  I am grateful. I am also grateful that I am still able to be touched!

Photograph courtesy of Mandie Lancaster, Public Domain Pictures.net.

© 2011, words, Robert D. Rossel, All rights reserved; photos credits as indicated above.

Posted in Essay, Photo Essay, Photo Story, Photography/Photographer, Spiritual Practice, Story Telling, Terri Stewart

Sacred Space in the Fault Zone

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.  More information is at the end of this post-scroll down!

Throughout religious history, wilderness has been associated with sacred space. Mt. Zion, Mt. Tabor, Mt. Olympus, the wilderness outside Jerusalem, Heart Butte, Sacred Bear Butte, and the list goes on. Sacred places which attract people questing for beauty and for a glimpse into something beyond us. All over the world, people religious live in the wilderness–the Celtic “thin places.” Places where the realm between what is and what could be seem unified in a spiritual wild-zone. Thin places offer the potential for transformation. I’d like to invite you to travel into the wilderness of “The Earthquake Trail” with me and Colin (my son).

1-earthquaketrailThe Earthquake Trail is north of San Francisco and goes directly over the San Andreas fault. We went there after my son had surgery and had his post-surgery “clearance” checkup. This surgery was necessary for Colin to continue his path to a transformed, fulfilled, abundant life. It seems appropriate that we visit a place where sudden transformation has and will occur. And as the sign so appropriately points out, “Prepare yourself for the uncertainty of walking in the fault zone.

2It seems to me, that is what the wilderness experience is about. Confronting uncertainty and coming through it with a greater appreciation for the faults that lie within ourselves…and with others. But most importantly, recognizing the power that our faults have when they rage out of control and the beauty they hold when they illustrate our uniqueness.

4There is life in the fault zone. New life of grains, older life of majestic trees, even dried moss hanging on lifelessly-for now-waiting to be reborn during the moist days ahead. And most majestically, the California Condor–a bird rebounding from extinction in the wild. Life is abundant here, in the fault zone.

10Prickly thistles adding color and leaves hanging in the balance–proving even the most uncomfortable plant can provide beauty and buoyancy.

5But no matter where we are, there comes a point when we have to make a choice. Do we stay here? Or do we go deeper? Will we cross the bridge? Ford the stream?

6Once we cross, as before, there are boundaries. Places that are “in” and are “out.” Boundaries can be places of support and beauty as we grow and become comfortable with our faults.

7But our boundaries are not always healthy. Sometimes they need to be reset. Transformation happens in an upsetting of power that tumbles our soul pell-mell through the wilderness. What used to be a contiguous, easy, fence breaks and a new boundary is set. Opening up space for abundant love.

9
This fence was moved from “here” to “there” during an earthquake. It used to be one, straight fence.

And this happens within the wilderness and ancient trees that dwarf our understanding of life. But always stretching it upward and onward.

11Inviting us to further journey along the path.

12Following the inspiration that calls to us. No matter which way the wind blows. Finding sacred space in the fault zone.

13
Weathervane at the Earthquake Zone Visitor’s Center

Shalom and Amen!

terri

 

 

Simulcast at http://www.BeguineAgain.com

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.  

 

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Posted in General Interest, story, Video

A StoryCorps Story: a mother, a son, two secrets and much love

“But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begins.”
― Mitch Albom (b. 1958) American author and journalist, quote from For One More Day

Our thanks to Laurel D. for suggesting this one.

Posted in Corina L. Ravenscraft, Culture/History, Essay, Film/Documentaries/Reviews, General Interest, Nature, trees, Video

The Man Who Planted Trees

If you haven’t read or heard the tale, “The Man Who Planted Trees” by French author Jean Giono, it is a wonderful story about how one person can have a tremendous impact on the world! It’s also a story of how everything in nature, including man, is connected.

"The Man Who Planted Trees" by Jean Giono.  Image borrowed from Wikipedia Commons, fair use agreement.
“The Man Who Planted Trees” by Jean Giono. Image borrowed from Wikipedia Commons, fair use agreement.

It tells about how a single, reclusive shepherd manages to successfully re-forest a barren and desolate area in the foothills of the Alps. Elzéard Bouffier, the shepherd, dedicates the latter half of his life to re-planting acorns, beech nuts and other tree seeds, one by one, patiently walking the land where nothing would grow and no water flowed, and the people who lived there were a hard, bitter folk.

When I first heard the tale, I thought that it was based on a true story. I later discovered that it is not. However, there have been real life counterparts! There is a man in Assam, India, named Jadav Payeng, who single-handedly managed to plant a forest covering 1,360 acres. Abdul Karim is yet another man in India who used the same method of planting trees as the shepherd in the story, and over a period of 19 years, created an entire forest from nothing. Another man, Ma Yongshun, was a forestry worker in China who planted more than 50,000 trees in his lifetime!

Tree gif from dragonkatet/photobucket.com
Tree gif from dragonkatet/photobucket.com

If you haven’t read or heard the story, may I suggest that you pick up a copy from your local library, or even better, watch the short, animated film below. It is an uplifting story full of hope and reassurance that no matter who or where you are, you CAN make a difference as only a single entity! Best of all, your actions may inspire others and create a ripple effect of good. 🙂

~ © Corina L. Ravenscraft 2014 ~

effecd1bf289d498b5944e37d8f4ee6fAbout dragonkatet Regarding the blog name, Dragon’s Dreams ~ The name comes from my love-affairs with both Dragons and Dreams (capital Ds). It’s another extension of who I am, a facet for expression; a place and way to reach other like-minded, creative individuals. I post a lot of poetry and images that fascinate or move me, because that’s my favorite way to view the world. I post about things important to me and the world in which we live, try to champion extra important political, societal and environmental issues, etc. Sometimes I wax philosophical, because it’s also a place where I always seem to learn about myself, too, by interacting with some of the brightest minds, souls and hearts out there. It’s all about ‘connection(s)’ and I don’t mean “net-working” with people for personal gain, but rather, the expansion of the 4 L’s: Light, Love, Laughter, Learning.

Posted in General Interest, Photography/Photographer

interNational Photography Month, join us in celebrating this art form

“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” Ansel Adams (1902-1984), American photographer

As with interNational Poetry Month, we are recreating National Photography Month, an event sponsored by the American Photography Association, into our own event that crosses borders. This was a spur-of-the moment decision of the core team and the hope is share work, ideas, and perhaps some instruction on photography as record, story, spiritual practice/meditation and fine art. We’ll also have at least one Wordless Wednesday to allow everyone to link in their own work. While there will be quite a few posts on or including exemplary photography, there will still be posts dedicated to poetry, essay and other arts.

Annie Leibovitz by Robert Scoble under CC A 2.0 generic license
Annie Leibovitz by Robert Scoble under CC A 2.0 generic license

To begin this evening, we share a short video, So There You Go, featuring the world-renown American portrait photographer, Annie Leibovitz (b.1949).

“Born in Waterbury, Connecticut, on October 2, 1949, Leibovitz is the third of six children. She is a third-generation American whose great-grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe. Her father’s parents had emigrated from Romania.  Her mother, Marilyn Edith, née Heit, was a modern dance instructor of Estonian Jewish heritage; her father, Samuel Leibovitz, was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force. The family moved frequently with her father’s duty assignments, and she took her first pictures when he was stationed in the Philippines during the Vietnam War.

At Northwood High School,  she became interested in various artistic endeavors, and began to write and play music. She attended the San Francisco Art Institute, where she studied painting. For several years, she continued to develop her photography skills while working various jobs, including a stint on a kibbutz in Amir, Israel, for several months in 1969.” bio courtesy of Wikipedia

Posted in Culture/History, Disability, First Peoples, General Interest, Mental Health, Michael Watson, Shakti Ghosal

Trauma, Story, and Healing

Evening-Sky

He sat on the sofa, pulled deeply into himself, almost disappearing before my eyes, as he told me about his dad’s violence. I wondered whether he knew I was in the room with him. “I feel terribly fragmented; I don’t know who I am,” he explained. “I can’t remember ever being like everyone else; they seem so at home in themselves.”

One of my teachers, a Psychoanalytically oriented clinician, always said the real problem is the second trauma. Her view was the first trauma one encounters sets the stage for PTSD and related problems; the second trauma triggers the cascade. Repeated traumas in childhood physically alter the function of the developing brain, leaving one more vulnerable to new trauma. Even if only one trauma occurs in early childhood the person may remain susceptible to PTSD via a second trauma as an adult.

Continue reading “Trauma, Story, and Healing”

Posted in General Interest, Naomi Baltuck, Nature, Photo Essay, Photography/Photographer, story, Story Telling, Photo Story

Dandelions and Other Foreigners

A friend said to Hodja Nasruddin, “Look at all these dandelions!  I’ve tried pulling them, poisoning them, starving them, digging them out by the root.  Nothing works.  I am at my wit’s end!”

“That’s a shame,” said the Hodja. “They are not a problem for me.”

“Really?  Please tell me your secret, my friend!”

“It is very simple,” said Nasruddin.  “I have learned to love them.”

Dandelions are native to Eurasia, but have traveled all over this world.   In France they were called “Dent de Lion,” or “Lion’s Tooth,” because of their toothed leaves. In England they were, “Piss-a-Beds,” for their diuretic properties.  In Germany, Russia, and Italy they are “blowing flowers.”  In Catalan, Poland, Denmark, and Lithuania they are  “milk flowers,”  “milkpots,” and “sow’s milk,” after the flower stem’s milky sap.  In Finland, Estonia, and Croatia, they are “butter flowers.”  In China, they are “flower that grows in public spaces by the riverside,”  while in Portugal, they are called, “your dad is bald,” after a game the children play with them.

A weed is only a weed if it is unwanted.  These immigrants have been used by humans for food, winemaking, herbs, and medicine for all of our recorded history.  Their roots are roasted for a chicory-like hot drink.  They are brimming with vitamins, and they enrich the soil.

They were only introduced to North America by the first European settlers.  Foreign? Yes. But think of all the good things they have brought with them.  Think of summertime without their cheerful faces.  Most of all, think of all the wishes that have come true since they have found a home here.

All words and images copyright Naomi Baltuck

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

Posted in Disability, Essay, General Interest, Mental Health, Michael Watson

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

community-seatingThe Olympics have come to a close; the Paralympics follow. Saturday evening Jennie and I watched a Gimp DVD. She is planning to show it to her Expressive Therapies class, along with some material from Bill T. Jones. Its been a while since we last saw Gimp in performance so revisiting their work was a revelation.

The Paralympics is a much-needed, if under-reported competition for athletes who happen to be disabled. The Gimp Project is a collective of dancers, able-bodied and disabled. The Paralypics is a contest; Gimp is a collaboration exploring the world of disability experience.  The first seeks perfection, the latter revels in the beauty of imperfection. The Paralympics pursue inclusion, abet separate and unequal; Gimp tells stories, often casting light on the processes that marginalize and exclude.

There is a remarkable invisibility surrounding these processes, although many activists, academics, and artists have sought to illumine them. It matters little whether these forces  exclude persons on the basis of ethnicity, race, disability, or other difference, the effect is consistent. The systems are pervasive and largely invisible; they are also profoundly human.

The Medicine Wheel holds all of human experience, offering us a view of life as a whole. There is a place on the Wheel for everything that can be encountered, even a space for our collective fear of otherness and contagion. The Wheel reminds us that we will each encounter all that is, whether directly or through the experiences of others. Our fates are inexorably woven together; the fate of each is that of all.

As we meditate on the Wheel we are encouraged to consider that while they seem real, both safety and isolation are illusory, transitory states. The last few months I have found myself wandering the wilderness that is part of the Post Polio experience. Recent health concerns continue to bring up ancient unresolved feelings, along with worries about the future. I have been repeatedly thrown back to the fear and pain of the acute illness and post-illness recovery, and the social isolation imposed on me as a Polio. I am also reminded the effects of the virus continues to impact my life and thus the lives of those I hold dear.

I’ve been exploring the experience of Post Polio through the wisdom of the Wheel. For me, now, Post Polio lies in the North, the place of aging, teaching, and eventually, making preparations to return to the Spirit World. (The North is also the place of preparation for rebirth!) The journey is complicated as I find myself trying to make sense of my nearly lifelong disability from a place on the Wheel where it is also my task to embrace a declining body.

Part of the task is to acknowledge my fear of erasure. We live in an epoch in which Polio was eradicated; we are, for most purposes, a Post-Polio world. I was taught I had survived the virus and should get on with life, ignoring, as much as possible, the devastation to my body and psyche. Yet the path of forgetting and ignoring is fraught with difficulties; the way of assimilation or “passing” is thorny. The normative prescription offers the possibility of inclusion, yet to follow that road is to participate in a collective act of erasure, to become invisible, and thus lose Self.

Every human being comes to a place where s/he is vulnerable; each of us eventually faces the treat of erasure and the powerful emotions that accompany that threat. In a culture addicted to perfection, and dismissive of difference and need, such moments carry added fear and shame. How odd such an essentially human experience is marginalized, leaving so many to face the North filled with loneliness and dread.

As a society we increasingly relegate the task of accompanying folks on the journey through the North to the health care profession and the clergy. As a result, we have marginalized the insight and wisdom that may accompany disability, experiences of trauma, and aging.  In doing so we create great suffering for the very young we profess to idolize, for we deny them context. How are they, in the face of ceaseless messages about the centrality of competition and perfection, to know they are all loveable, all sacred, beautiful, and desirable in their humanness and imperfections?

Our collective focus on perfection sells products and drives our economy, yet blinds us to the fate of our neighbors and the world. Our deeply held collective desire for safety encourages us to abandon our elders, young people, and children, threatens our very being as a species, and steals our Souls. Still, as prophesy insists, we have options. We can risk relearning the wisdom of the elders, symbolized by the Medicine Wheel, accept the complexity and terror of being human, and journey together into a Sixth World. There are, if we make it so, seats for all at the table.

– Michael Watson, Ph.D.

© 2013, 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.

Posted in grief, Liliana Negoi, Music, poem, Poems/Poetry, poetry, story

song for Agriope

sounds were rising –
chrysalides for the yet unborn
crystalline shivers…

still were the waters,
undead the moonlight –
and aerial was the calling
of the sound-bender…

and all were silent…

Elysium bowed
under salty heaviness
and doubled up with pain,
unallowed to rebirth the lost

yet sounds kept rising –
chrysalides breaking
tracing furrows
in the molten souls that were
listening…

unshed fire caressed
crimson and black and golden
and hearts were born
where there had been none

and all were crying…

rocks blossomed under
the taming ether
exposing the bones of
ancient rainbows

and sounds kept rising –
chrysalides blooming
mourning the morning
never to come…

IMG_7667LILIANA NEGOI  (Endless Journey and in Romanian curcubee în alb şi negru) ~ is a member of our core team on Into the Bardo. She is the author of three published volumes of poetry in English, which is not her mother tongue but one that she came to love especially because of writing: Sands and Shadows, Footsteps on the San – tanka collection and The Hidden Well.  The last one can also be heard in audio version, read by the author herself on her SoundCloud site HERE.  Many of her creations, both poetry and prose, have been published in various literary magazines.

Posted in Essay, General Interest, Spiritual Practice, Terri Stewart

Finding Sacred Space in the Story

Below is the beginning of a parable written by an unknown person. As an exercise of finding yourself and sacred space, please place yourself in the story from whatever perspective you feel speaks to you and finish the story! Are you a chicken? The eagle? The farmer? An unseen or unknown person? Let us know!

A long time ago in a remote valley, there lived a farmer. One day he got tired of the daily routine of running the farm and decided to climb the cliffs that brooded above the valley to see what lay beyond.

He climbed all day until he reached a ledge just below the top of the cliff; there, to his amazement was a nest, full of eggs.

Immediately he knew they were eagle’s eggs and, even though he knew it was profoundly un-ecological and almost certainly illegal, he carefully took one and stowed it in his pack; then seeing the sun was low in the sky, he realized it was too late in the day to make the top and slowly began to make his way down the cliff to his farm.

When he got home he put the egg in with the few chickens he kept in the yard. The mother hen was the proudest chicken you ever saw, sitting atop this magnificent egg; and the cockerel couldn’t have been prouder.

Sure enough, some weeks later, from the egg emerged a fine, healthy eglet. And as is in the gentle nature of chickens, they didn’t balk at the stranger in their midst and raised the majestic bird as one of their own.

So it was that the eagle grew up with its brother and sister chicks. It learned to do all the things chickens do: it clucked and cackled, scratching in the dirt for grits and worms, flapping its wings furiously,flying just a few feet in the air before crashing down to earth in a pile of dust and feathers.

It believed resolutely and absolutely it was a chicken.

Then, later in its life, the eagle, doing all the all the things chickens do – it clucked and cackled, scratching in the dirt for grits and worms, flapping its wings furiously,flying just a few feet in the air before crashing down to earth in a pile of dust and feathers – suddenly took flight and flew up into the nearest tree, high above his brother and sister chickens. And there he perched…

And now, you tell the rest of the story!

photo by Linda Tanner cc licensed (BY) flickr
photo by Linda Tanner
cc licensed (BY) flickr

(c) 2014, post, Terri Stewart

parable in its complete form found at http://www.spiritual-short-stories.com/spiritual-short-story-602-Chicken+and+the+Eagles.html

REV. TERRI STEWART is The Bardo Group’s Sunday chaplain, senior content editor, and site co-administrator. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction.

Her online presence is “Cloaked Monk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at www.BeguineAgain.com ,www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.

Posted in Corina L. Ravenscraft, poem, story

A few bits of Soul Sustenance – A story, a quote and a poem

One of the things I like about parables or fables is that they have seeds of truth and wisdom condensed into “bite-sized” amounts of reading. I enjoy looking for new ones which I haven’t read and sometimes come across old favorites. For those of you seeking “Truth” (and all that the word with a capital “T” entails) I offer the following story:

The seeker of truth

“After years of searching, the seeker was told to go to a cave, in which he would find a well. ‘Ask the well what is truth’, he was advised, ‘and the well will reveal it to you’. Having found the well, the seeker asked that most fundamental question. And from the depths came the answer, ‘Go to the village crossroad: there you shall find what you are seeking’.

Full of hope and anticipation the man ran to the crossroad to find only three rather uninteresting shops. One shop was selling pieces of metal, another sold wood, and thin wires were for sale in the third. Nothing and no one there seemed to have much to do with the revelation of truth.

Disappointed, the seeker returned to the well to demand an explanation, but he was told only, ‘You will understand in the future.’ When the man protested, all he got in return were the echoes of his own shouts. Indignant for having been made a fool of – or so he thought at the time – the seeker continued his wanderings in search of truth. As years went by, the memory of his experience at the well gradually faded until one night, while he was walking in the moonlight, the sound of sitar music caught his attention. It was wonderful music and it was played with great mastery and inspiration.

Profoundly moved, the truth seeker felt drawn towards the player. He looked at the fingers dancing over the strings. He became aware of the sitar itself. And then suddenly he exploded in a cry of joyous recognition: the sitar was made out of wires and pieces of metal and wood just like those he had once seen in the three stores and had thought it to be without any particular significance.

At last he understood the message of the well: we have already been given everything we need: our task is to assemble and use it in the appropriate way. Nothing is meaningful so long as we perceive only separate fragments. But as soon as the fragments come together into a synthesis, a new entity emerges, whose nature we could not have foreseen by considering the fragments alone.” ~ Author Unknown Source

For those of you unfamiliar with the wonderful sounds of a Sitar (the instrument mentioned in the story above), I offer the following beautiful example from one of the greatest players of our time, Ravi Shankar:

In addition to truth, one also needs moments of stillness and meditation to keep balance in life. The photo below is mine, but the quote is Lao Tzu’s:

Be stillAnd lastly, a poem written a while ago about something I rarely get to witness, since I’m a night-owl by nature:

~ Sunrise Sighs ~

Today, for the first time in a small while, I was awake to witness a fresh sunrise.

The purpled-pink fingers crept up like a smile,

gently waking the crisp air of still-sleepy skies.

Vaporous flames of bright orange hues, licking the velvet of dew-kissed dawn,

Sleep promised me a solid, deep, dreamless snooze,

But rapt in my awe, I stayed awake and gazed on.

I love the quiet, hushed hours of Night; they keep me content in a solitary peace,

But the rare, glimpsed glory of Morning’s soft light

Makes me ache with a sweetness that begs for release.

~ C.L.R. ~ ©

effecd1bf289d498b5944e37d8f4ee6fAbout dragonkatet Regarding the blog name, Dragon’s Dreams ~ The name comes from my love-affairs with both Dragons and Dreams (capital Ds). It’s another extension of who I am, a facet for expression; a place and way to reach other like-minded, creative individuals. I post a lot of poetry and images that fascinate or move me, because that’s my favorite way to view the world. I post about things important to me and the world in which we live, try to champion extra important political, societal and environmental issues, etc. Sometimes I wax philosophical, because it’s also a place where I always seem to learn about myself, too, by interacting with some of the brightest minds, souls and hearts out there. It’s all about ‘connection(s)’ and I don’t mean “net-working” with people for personal gain, but rather, the expansion of the 4 L’s: Light, Love, Laughter, Learning.

Posted in Jamie Dedes, Nelson Mandela, Video

“Let me tell you a story,” Nelson Mandela said

Nelson Mandela, 1937
Nselson Mandela, 1937

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”

― Rudyard KiplingThe Collected Works

I appreciate this story of a story of Nelson Rolihlahla MandelaI appreciate it for many reasons, but most of all because storytelling is what we are about, whether our creativity expresses in music, theatre, or film, writing or poetry, or visual arts. We tell stories to – among other things – encourage positive change and healing, however modest. In this video we learn how Nelson Mandela used storytelling as leverage to make a big dream come true. It’s the ultimate use of storytelling.  It’s a bit of history and inspiration you won’t soon forget.

“We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.” Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)

South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician and philanthropist, former President of South Africa, first Black South African to be elected in a democratic election, a nationalist, a democratic socialist, a former President of the African Congress, husband, father, friend, inspiration, prophet

His work done. He is resting in peace … no doubt.

It is up to us to carry his vision forward.

Photograph in the U.S. public domain

photo-on-2012-09-19-at-19-541JAMIE DEDES (The Poet by Day)~ I am a mom and a medically-retired (disabled) elder. The graces of poetry, art, music, writing and reading continue to evolve as a sources of wonder and solace, as a creative outlet, and as a part of my spiritual practice. The gift of blog offers a platform for having my say and a means to maintain off-line and online friendships with others who value the arts and humanities and favor the causes of peace.

Posted in Aaron Shepard, story

The Christmas Truce, 1914

This story was written by children’s author, Aaron Shepard, and was originally published in Australia’s School Magazine, April 2001. Mr. Shepard allows it to be reblogged with credit and copyright intact.

The Christmas Truce is a short story based on the true events of the famous Christmas Eve truce of 1914, which Arthur Conan Doyle wrote of as “one human episode amid all the atrocities.”  The story is longer than the ones we generally post, but this is a Christmas Eve gift and offered as something we can share with the children in our lives, aged nine or up. You will find that it is a story very much in the spirit of The Bardo Group.

Parents and educators will find stories and scripts for children’s plays at Mr. Shepard’s website HERE.

Copyright © 2001, 2003 by Aaron Shepard. May be freely copied and shared for any noncommercial purpose. 

Our thanks to Gail Walters Rose (Bodhirose’s Blog) for this one.

The story is formated as a letter ….

THE CHRISTMAS TRUCE
by
Aaron Shepard
.
Christmas Day, 1914

My dear sister Janet,

It is 2:00 in the morning and most of our men are asleep in their dugouts—yet I could not sleep myself before writing to you of the wonderful events of Christmas Eve. In truth, what happened seems almost like a fairy tale, and if I hadn’t been through it myself, I would scarce believe it. Just imagine: While you and the family sang carols before the fire there in London, I did the same with enemy soldiers here on the battlefields of France!

As I wrote before, there has been little serious fighting of late. The first battles of the war left so many dead that both sides have held back until replacements could come from home. So we have mostly stayed in our trenches and waited.

But what a terrible waiting it has been! Knowing that any moment an artillery shell might land and explode beside us in the trench, killing or maiming several men. And in daylight not daring to lift our heads above ground, for fear of a sniper’s bullet.

And the rain—it has fallen almost daily. Of course, it collects right in our trenches, where we must bail it out with pots and pans. And with the rain has come mud—a good foot or more deep. It splatters and cakes everything, and constantly sucks at our boots. One new recruit got his feet stuck in it, and then his hands too when he tried to get out.

Through all this, we couldn’t help feeling curious about the German soldiers across the way. After all, they faced the same dangers we did, and slogged about in the same muck. What’s more, their first trench was only 50 yards from ours. Between us lay No Man’s Land, bordered on both sides by barbed wire—yet they were close enough we sometimes heard their voices.

Of course, we hated them when they killed our friends. But other times, we joked about them and almost felt we had something in common. And now it seems they felt the same.

Just yesterday morning—Christmas Eve Day—we had our first good freeze. Cold as we were, we welcomed it, because at least the mud froze solid. Everything was tinged white with frost, while a bright sun shone over all. Perfect Christmas weather.

During the day, there was little shelling or rifle fire from either side. And as darkness fell on our Christmas Eve, the shooting stopped entirely. Our first complete silence in months! We hoped it might promise a peaceful holiday, but we didn’t count on it. We’d been told the Germans might attack and try to catch us off guard.

I went to the dugout to rest, and lying on my cot, I must have drifted asleep. All at once my friend John was shaking me awake, saying, “Come and see! See what the Germans are doing!” I grabbed my rifle, stumbled out into the trench, and stuck my head cautiously above the sandbags.

I never hope to see a stranger and more lovely sight. Clusters of tiny lights were shining all along the German line, left and right as far as the eye could see.

“What is it?” I asked in bewilderment, and John answered, “Christmas trees!”

And so it was. The Germans had placed Christmas trees in front of their trenches, lit by candle or lantern like beacons of good will.

And then we heard their voices raised in song.

Stille nacht, heilige nacht . . . .

This carol may not yet be familiar to us in Britain, but John knew it and translated: “Silent night, holy night.” I’ve never heard one lovelier—or more meaningful, in that quiet, clear night, its dark softened by a first-quarter moon.

When the song finished, the men in our trenches applauded. Yes, British soldiers applauding Germans! Then one of our own men started singing, and we all joined in.

The first Nowell, the angel did say . . . .

In truth, we sounded not nearly as good as the Germans, with their fine harmonies. But they responded with enthusiastic applause of their own and then began another.

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum . . . .

Then we replied.

O come all ye faithful . . . .

But this time they joined in, singing the same words in Latin.

Adeste fideles . . . .

British and German harmonizing across No Man’s Land! I would have thought nothing could be more amazing—but what came next was more so.

“English, come over!” we heard one of them shout. “You no shoot, we no shoot.”

There in the trenches, we looked at each other in bewilderment. Then one of us shouted jokingly, “You come over here.”

To our astonishment, we saw two figures rise from the trench, climb over their barbed wire, and advance unprotected across No Man’s Land. One of them called, “Send officer to talk.”

I saw one of our men lift his rifle to the ready, and no doubt others did the same—but our captain called out, “Hold your fire.” Then he climbed out and went to meet the Germans halfway. We heard them talking, and a few minutes later, the captain came back with a German cigar in his mouth!

“We’ve agreed there will be no shooting before midnight tomorrow,” he announced. “But sentries are to remain on duty, and the rest of you, stay alert.”

Across the way, we could make out groups of two or three men starting out of trenches and coming toward us. Then some of us were climbing out too, and in minutes more, there we were in No Man’s Land, over a hundred soldiers and officers of each side, shaking hands with men we’d been trying to kill just hours earlier!

Before long a bonfire was built, and around it we mingled—British khaki and German grey. I must say, the Germans were the better dressed, with fresh uniforms for the holiday.

Only a couple of our men knew German, but more of the Germans knew English. I asked one of them why that was.

“Because many have worked in England!” he said. “Before all this, I was a waiter at the Hotel Cecil. Perhaps I waited on your table!”

“Perhaps you did!” I said, laughing.

He told me he had a girlfriend in London and that the war had interrupted their plans for marriage. I told him, “Don’t worry. We’ll have you beat by Easter, then you can come back and marry the girl.”

He laughed at that. Then he asked if I’d send her a postcard he’d give me later, and I promised I would.

Another German had been a porter at Victoria Station. He showed me a picture of his family back in Munich. His eldest sister was so lovely, I said I should like to meet her someday. He beamed and said he would like that very much and gave me his family’s address.

Even those who could not converse could still exchange gifts—our cigarettes for their cigars, our tea for their coffee, our corned beef for their sausage. Badges and buttons from uniforms changed owners, and one of our lads walked off with the infamous spiked helmet! I myself traded a jackknife for a leather equipment belt—a fine souvenir to show when I get home.

Newspapers too changed hands, and the Germans howled with laughter at ours. They assured us that France was finished and Russia nearly beaten too. We told them that was nonsense, and one of them said, “Well, you believe your newspapers and we’ll believe ours.”

Clearly they are lied to—yet after meeting these men, I wonder how truthful our own newspapers have been. These are not the “savage barbarians” we’ve read so much about. They are men with homes and families, hopes and fears, principles and, yes, love of country. In other words, men like ourselves. Why are we led to believe otherwise?

As it grew late, a few more songs were traded around the fire, and then all joined in for—I am not lying to you—“Auld Lang Syne.” Then we parted with promises to meet again tomorrow, and even some talk of a football match.

I was just starting back to the trenches when an older German clutched my arm. “My God,” he said, “why cannot we have peace and all go home?”

I told him gently, “That you must ask your emperor.”

He looked at me then, searchingly. “Perhaps, my friend. But also we must ask our hearts.”

And so, dear sister, tell me, has there ever been such a Christmas Eve in all history? And what does it all mean, this impossible befriending of enemies?

For the fighting here, of course, it means regrettably little. Decent fellows those soldiers may be, but they follow orders and we do the same. Besides, we are here to stop their army and send it home, and never could we shirk that duty.

Still, one cannot help imagine what would happen if the spirit shown here were caught by the nations of the world. Of course, disputes must always arise. But what if our leaders were to offer well wishes in place of warnings? Songs in place of slurs? Presents in place of reprisals? Would not all war end at once?

All nations say they want peace. Yet on this Christmas morning, I wonder if we want it quite enough.

Your loving brother,
Tom
– Aaron Shephard
Aaron Shepard allows this piece to be reblogged with credit and copyright intact. Mr. Shephard’s home page is HEREThe photograph (via Wikipedia) is in the public domain: A cross, left near Ypres in Belgium in 1999, to commemorate the site of the Christmas Truce in 1914. The text reads:
1914 – The Khaki Chum’s Christmas Truce – 1999 – 85 Years – Lest We Forget.


Posted in Essay, Spiritual Practice, story, Terri Stewart

Sacred Space: Myth-Adventures

wagonrutts
Wagon Ruts

When I was a little girl, I thought, “I should have been a pioneer woman!” I thought I was strong, and self-reliant. Well, I was. But I am certainly glad that I was not born a pioneer woman or I would have died in child-birth somewhere on the western horizon. The myth of the pioneer woman, though, has stayed with me through time as it is definitely incorporated in some aspects of my personality.

Some of these traits are as named…strong, self-reliant. But I would also add creative, thinking of new ways to do things, starters, innovators, and backbones of their society and of the family. These are all mythical traits with connection to real and imagined features. What I learned as a young girl, where in Colorado I could still see the tire tracks through the prairie, was a one-sided view of a pioneer person.

The truth of the matter is that in order for western expansion to happen, people had to be pushed out and that was the indigenous peoples of North America. So an innovator, starter, pushy pioneer woman and her family was actually displacing native peoples. Bummer. They did not teach us that story in elementary school! Therefore, there is part of that mythology to let go of. The “surviving at all costs” thinking needs to be tempered with an awareness of what it means to negotiate power and an understanding of my own social location.

And there is the other part of my mythology. It stems from a story about my grandfather. He was 1 of 17 kids. Fact. I was told or heard somewhere along the way that my grandfather’s mother was Native American. This would have been one of the tribes from New York. Probably the Cayuga. Who knows? It is a great myth for a girl to latch onto. My pioneer woman is married to a strong, amazing (17 kids!) indigenous woman. That is fun. But what exactly do you do with that when it is hearsay and unsubstantiated? Holding the story became enough. Even when I got older and researched on ancestry.com, I did find the names of the two women that would have been the probable mothers to my grandfather, one was traceable further, the other was simply “Miss Kitty.” Hypothetically, that would be her. Cool. That makes me a smidge of everything. It also explains the profound connection I have with the land of my birth. It does not merely go back hundreds of years, but perhaps thousands. Steadfastness.

And then there is my spiritual mythology. I am a Christian and have a liberal understanding of what scripture is. I don’t hold it tightly in a literal way. But I do hold it tightly in a mythological way. There are amazing stories if we read with subtext and if I read, “In the beginning, there was a formless void.” I can easily imagine everything that the “Big Bang” teaches us from a science standpoint. Spectacular. The Big Bang becomes a new mythology or a new creation story to be incorporated into my life and beliefs.

What is the point of all this myth and where am I going with it?

Myth seems to the story, spoken or unspoken, that we live our lives by. I spend a lot of time talking to people about telling their story. What is your story? What does it tell you? How does it give you life? And stories do not always give life.

Thursday, I was sitting in the juvenile detention center with a youth. He opened up to me in a way he hasn’t in the last 12 months I have known him. He told me more about gangs and gang mythology than I had ever heard before. Oh, he would not have used the words “gang mythology,” but there it was.

“Miss Terri, do you know why we don’t ever say the word donut?”

“Uh, no. I’m not sure I was ever even aware you didn’t say donut.”

“Well, when King David was killed he was in the donut shop. So we don’t say donut out of respect for King David.”

I was mightily confused. King David? King David never went to a donut shop! Donut shops are not even in the Bible! Then it finally dawned on me. He was talking about a gang leader, David Barksdale. Now, I am certain that there has been a conflation of David Barksdale with local gang happenings for reasons that are beyond this discussion, but the point is that it is their myth. Their story. It defines who they are even to the point that they go for “pastries” not “donuts.” (Other parts of their myth – no fish on Friday because of a similar reason, and wear red every Friday to honor their fallen comrades. Oh, and the leaders don’t listen to the young people just like every organization in existence.)

With this conflation of stories about their gang leaders, they recover David Barksdale who did some extraordinary things with his leadership. (Stick with me…this is odd). David Barksdale was from the 1960s/1970s. He died in 1974. He became tired of the killing between gangs and united gangs in Chicago so that they came together in a truce. At that point, he started several social service programs aimed at helping his people have better opportunities. That’s a pretty good myth. (It goes bad again, but at his death and afterwards.)

This young person’s myth was defining who he was in extraordinary ways. He ritualized the mythology of the gang. And in this case, the overall mythology is not life-giving. I would describe it ultimately as death-dealing. So personal mythology or our personal story are very important. They can put or keep us on a trajectory towards greater life or towards death.

Please, let’s choose life.

I asked myself, “What is the myth you are living?” and found that I did not know. So…I took it upon myself to get to know “my” myth, and I regarded this as the task of tasks…I simply had to know what unconscious or preconscious myth was forming me. ~C. G. Jung, The Portable Jung

How do we get to know our myth? What can we recognize as myth? Can we have an understanding that our myths are sacred story created just for us? Here are fundamental questions that typically pop up in mythologies (from Your Mythic Journey):

  • Where did I come from?
  • Why is there something rather than nothing?
  • Why is there evil in the world?
  • What happens to me when I die?
  • With whom do I belong?
  • How close should I be to my individual family members, lover, or friends?
  • What are my duties?
  • What is taboo?
  • What is the purpose of my life, my vision?
  • Whom should I imitate?
  • Who are the heroes and heroines?
  • Who are the villains?
  • Who is the enemy?
  • What are the stages along life’s way?
  • Who are my helpers, guides, allies?
  • What is disease?
  • How can I be purified, healed?
  • What should I do with bounty, wealth, surplus?
  • What is my relationship to animals?

That is a lot of questions and a lot of potential for a variety of answers. The question I don’t see on this list that I would include is “What do I do with suffering?” or “Why do people suffer?” But it is a great list and a great starting point for examining your own personal mythology to see where you are maintaining sacred space (life-giving) or profane space (death-dealing).

Today, if you have time, hold just one of these questions in your mind and explore your personal mythology. As we can see just from the questions, our personal myth illuminates our relationship to the world and the types of actions we take in the world. My wish for you is that you write a story that is life giving for yourself and for the world. Transforming the cosmos into sacred space.

Shalom and Amen.

~Terri

© 2013, post, Terri Stewart, All rights reserved

terriREV. TERRI STEWART is Into the Bardo’s  Sunday chaplain, senior content editor, and site co-administrator. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual. (The 2014 issue just released!)

Her online presence is “Cloaked Monk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at www.beguineagain.com , www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.  To reach her for conversation, send a note to cloakedmonk@outlook.com

Posted in Imen Benyoub

From Imen with Love

1426548_493414027428304_360525756_nOriginally published on Plum Tree Books Facebook Page
.
From Damascus to Istanbul: a child’s memories of a city . . . 
.
Dear Yasmin,
.
This morning, I saw the first jasmine flowers on our balcony.  They reminded me of you. That’s why I decided to write this letter.
.
We live in Istanbul now. I have new friends and I am learning Turkish. My parents never changed their habits. My father still smokes his hookah while he reads and my mother plants flowers everywhere to feel like our old house in Damascus.
.
Wasn’t it Mahmoud Darwish* who wrote once “Jasmine is a message of longing from nobody to nobody”? They named you after it. Everyone loves the way jasmine clutters like snowflakes at the sides of the road, falling everywhere and scattering scent to greet everyone.
.
Every city has its smells. My grandfather told me once that the heart of Jerusalem smells of spices and musk and Jaffa of oranges and the sea. He said smells are nostalgia and memory and the person can never forget them. Damascus alleys and houses smell of jasmine and rose water. It seems like an eternity passed since we left months ago, since I woke up to the sound of Feirouz singing and smells of freshly baked bread and my mother’s early morning ritual of making coffee and watering the garden.
.
The day we left, she put her gentle hands on my shoulders and gazed at me. Her hazel eyes were full of tears and she said: “Habibi, we have to leave. Go pack your things”. War already broke with news of bombed neighborhoods and dying people reached us daily. My parents tried to keep me away from its ugliness, to cocoon me in a world of poetry and flowers, but the war reached our little world and destroyed it.
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The war brought death and fear. Houses were ruined. Most people fled. I always ask my mother about you. She said that you left with your family to go Jordan and that you would write to me soon.
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When we arrived in Istanbul I was angry and my mother silent. We packed what we could take with us; some clothes and family albums, some poetry books my father used to read, a silver ornate dagger that belonged to my grandfather. I took a picture of us together, feeding pigeons in the square of the Umayyad mosque.
.
Istanbul is not so strange, Yasmine, they have bread sellers in the streets, big Bazaars and very old houses of wood, and a long bridge I can see from the window of my auntie’s house. The Adan comes from different places. There are pigeons in squares too. It is a big busy sleepless city. I love my auntie’s studio. It is full of paintings and its windows are always open to let light through. Stillm I felt lonely at the beginning because children did not understand me.
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I miss Damascus, the clean cats of our neighborhood and my school friends; I miss our trips to Quassioun and watching people dancing dabkah at weddings. I am still waiting for your letter, but now I will send you mine with the first flowers.
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Didn’t you always love when I told you stories?
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Firas
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Mahmoud Darwish ~ Regarded as the national poet of Palestine, he focused on the universal experiences of loss, exile, and identity.
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Translations:
-Yasmin: a female Arabic name “jasmine”
-Firas: a male Arabic name “perspicacity”
-Feirouz: a very famous Lebanese singer
-Adan: prayer call
-Habibi: “my darling” in Arabic
-Dabkah: a Middle Eastern dance
-Quassioun: a mountain in Damascus

 ©2013, letter and photograph, Imen Benyoub, All rights reserved
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pictureIMEN BENYOUB ~ is a miltilingual, multi-talented writer, poet, and artist living in Guelma, Algeria. She is a regular contributor to Into the Bardo and to On the Plum Tree and Plum Tree Books Facebook page.

Posted in Naomi Baltuck, Photo Essay, Photography/Photographer, Story Telling, Photo Story

Jack Shit: Just Say Yes

When my daughter Bea was a little girl, she found a seed in a seedless Satsuma, and planted it in a tiny pot on our kitchen windowsill.  She kept the soil moist and, to our delight, a tiny Satsuma tree sprouted.  We nearly lost hope when the little tree was infested with insects, but it hung on.  Through the years, we tried everything we could think of to bring it back to health. We washed it with dish soap to get rid of the bugs, and transplanted it to a bigger pot.  We tried covering the soil with plastic wrap, to keep the bugs away from the leaves.  In desperation, we trimmed it down to almost nothing, but it came back–and so did the bugs.  I half hoped it would die, just to be done with it.

Last summer I set it out on the deck, like a fish thrown back into the water, to sink or swim.  But the little tree liked the fresh air and sunshine, and grew greener and healthier than ever.  I brought it inside before the nights turned cold, and it’s back on the windowsill, perhaps gazing out at the yard and looking forward to warm summer nights.

We live our lives in hope.

Almost everything we do is an act of hope. Big ones and little ones.

Hope is writing this post, even when I couldn’t figure out the new Photobucket last night.  It’s trying a new flavor of yogurt.  It’s getting out of bed each morning.  It’s teaching your child to look both ways when crossing a street.  It’s writing the address of a friend with cancer into your address book—in ink.  Hope is page one of every new book you open.

It’s writing page one of a new manuscript before the last one has sold.  It’s everything from watering a plant to having a baby, from a blind date to getting married.  It’s why Jack planted his magic beans, against all odds and common sense.  Hope was the last most precious thing left to us, when Pandora opened up her box.  It’s more important than love, because as long as we have hope, love might yet grow.

A scientist studying nature vs. nurture put identical twins into separate rooms, one stocked with toys, candy, a real live pony.  The other he put into a room filled with manure.  When he went back to observe, the twin in the room of toys was sitting in the middle of it, crying.  “What’s wrong,” said the scientist.  The child replied, “I just know I’m going to break something and get in trouble.”  The scientist found the other child up to its ears in manure, laughing, leaping about, scooping up handfuls of the stuff and tossing it to one side.  “What are you doing?” asked the scientist.  The child answered, “With all this shit, there’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!”

Who says Jack doesn’t know shit?  Bring on the magic beans!

And with all the shit life throws at you, there’s got to be a pony in there somewhere.

All words and images c2013 Naomi Baltuck

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

Posted in Essay, Poems/Poetry, Spiritual Practice, story, Terri Stewart

Abandoned, Alone, and Angry

In my faith tradition, Jesus is crucified on the cross. He cries out, “Father, Father, why have you forsaken me?” This is a reference to Psalm 22 which explores emotions of abandonment, anger, and finding hope. I have used this methodology to express the anger and hope that I find for the youth that I work with who are affected by incarceration.

One night when I was working in detention (re: jail for kids), I heard story after story of hopelessness. It came to me that these youth were torn apart by their parents, by the education system, by poverty, by global issues beyond my understanding. One youth was going home the next day. To a crack addicted mother. Why couldn’t he go to his dad? His dad smuggles guns into the country and was a high placed gang member. He was certain he would be dead if he lived with his dad. So to his mom he goes. Where she will offer him drugs and he will become hooked. Again. He said, “I do not have the strength to say no to my mother.”

Another youth, noticably affected with psychological and educational challenges, was from Somalia. He was living with his auntie here. In Somalia, he had seen his parents dragged from their home, his mother raped, and both parents killed in front of him. But instead of investing in mental health centers, we have invested in mental health courts. This young man, clearly with a minimum of PTSD, will be locked up where the focus is on “treatment” (in this setting that means that they admit to crime and say they are sorry) not on therapy.

This makes me so mad! So my heart cries out to all who have let down these children. Let me say it again–children. But in order to do this work, I needed to discover why. The below poem was my journey through the anger to discovering how I can possibly continue to find hope and love in a system that is hopeless and loveless. It is also my way of putting words to the stories that the youth tell. And my own story.

And PS, if you’d like to support my work with these troubled youth, I’d love it!

 

Psalm
Eli Eli lama sabachthani?

where were you
when the embryo
hatched and was formed
by blood-spattered hyenas
tearing hope from
limb to limb and
laughing gleefully
at the mockery

where were you
when the embryo
fell and love
offered a hit
of a crack pipe
covered in symbols
flashing through
the ghetto offering
escape from the
desolate heat

the hands that
should be reaching
out are cut off at
the wrists bleeding
sanctimonious tripe
in defiance of the call
to love the
least , lost, and lonely
while sentencing each
embryo to death

guilty rings through
the room as we
continue to bleed the
embryo out with
ignorance born of
fear and shame and
the lie of the only way
being my way standing
on the corner shouting
belligerently to
repent or die

revelation rings through
the cosmos as the
embryo marches the
guilty to sheol while
silent tears are birthed
wresting the stumbling
breath of hope into a
silent scream reaching
to the ramparts and
calling forth the final
battle fought with
easter lilies

© 2013, post, Terri Stewart, All rights reserved

© 2009, poem, Terri Stewart, All rights reserved

terriTERRI STEWART is Into the Bardo’s  Sunday chaplain, senior content editor, and site co-administrator. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction with honors and is a rare United Methodist student in the Jesuit Honor Society, Alpha Sigma Nu. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual.

Her online presence is “Cloaked Monk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at www.cloakedmonk.com, www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.  To reach her for conversation, send a note to cloakedmonk@outlook.com
Posted in Essay, Nature, Photography/Photographer, Spiritual Practice, story, Story Telling, Photo Story, Terri Stewart

One Foot in Front of the Other

Walking is a spiritual practice that I am predisposed to. After all, photography would not happen unless I walked around! Simply putting one foot in front of the other, time after time, without expectation of arrival at an end point is a contemplative practice. Recently, though, I discovered a new way of viewing walking as a contemplative practice. This practice had an end point and I was completely aware of all the w’s – who, what, when, where, why. I was not letting go and receiving images (well a little). I was literally focused on my feet and putting my feet, one step at a time, on stable ground.

And this is a metaphor. Sometimes, sitting at our desk or listening to our loved ones, can be a practice of just being aware of what is now and putting your best effort towards arriving at the next now. One step at a time.

As you continue reading, consider the questions, “In what area of my life can I start (or continue) putting one foot in front of the other? What new story will be created?

Here is my story.

Monday, I went hiking to Bridal Veil Falls / Lake Serene in the Central Cascade mountains of Washington. It was a spectacular day. (The weather is forecast to be fabulous all week-long in Seattle leading me to believe somebody is playing with our emotions.) I felt confident I could do the +7 mile hike. BUT I forgot to look at the way the path is (smooth vs. rocky) and the grade or “up-ness.”

I started out on the popular path and asked a co-hiker what to expect and she told me it was steep but that it was worth it. And that there were a lot of switchbacks. OK. I can do this! I will just take my time and be careful.

In February of this year, I was going through a diagnosis of Celiac disease. Now most folks just think that this is digestive only. Well, it is not. It causes inflammation in every part of my body. It grew tumors in my ovaries. I had a period for 3 weeks. I was severely anemic. The test didn’t say, “Low,” it said “Alert!” I could not walk up a short hill without being severely out of breath because I had very few mature red blood cells to carry oxygen around. In short, it stank.

And, over the last few years I have had surgery on my left ankle (torn tendon) and my right foot (two! neuromas crowding out my middle toes). I couldn’t walk without pain until, oh, last year after the neuroma surgery. Generally, I count every pain-free step a success. Would my feet hold out? Always a question. And with the ankle surgery, I generally look for nice, solid, flat ground so my ankle will not roll.

Rats! This path is not smooth. Very rocky. Wet sometimes. Muddy sometimes. But mostly rock, rock, rock. Keep my eyes down and make sure my feet land on flat spots! That’s the plan.

Anyway, I started up the path at my own pace. I got a little less than two miles in and found the below sight. I tried really hard to capture this thing that was happening with the sun and the water! It looked like liquid sunshine was pouring off the top of the waterfall. My eyes received the beautiful image of sunshine being poured down the mountain, could my camera receive it? A little.

Walkabouts__2013-06-03_12-05-17

At any rate, it was astounding. And it was the second set of falls I had seen. This mountain is one big slab of granite! (Hence the rocky path) And there is water everywhere. Well, okay, not everywhere, but in a lot of places. It was hard to get a good picture, but earlier, there was a set of falls that were very tall and jagged. But the trees were very overgrown so you could only get glimpses of the splash of light and water. This is the very bottom of that series. I received beautiful images of flowing water.

Walkabouts__2013-06-03_16-17-40

I got past the falls and it was two miles to Lake Serene. I was feeling good so decided my body could do this! I kept on going. And going. Up and up. Picking my way carefully through rocks. Resting when I felt overwhelmed. Then there came a moment when I thought that I was not going to be able to do it. I grounded my feet to the earth and drew on the strength of my God and the strength of the earth. I breathed deeply. This had become a spiritual quest.

I kept on going. But at that moment, I felt like giving up. I soon encountered a woman and her dog. They were resting. (Yay for rest!). I asked her how much further. She said, “When you feel like you have been through the worst possible climb, then it is just a bit more up and a little down and you’re there.”

OK. The worst possible climb. I can surely get to this.

I went up and encountered massive rocky path, with only about a 9″ clearance to skinny through. Surely, this is the worst possible spot.

I kept going and encountered another massive rocky path, with water and slipperiness. Surely, this is the worst possible spot.

Add water and repeat.

Finally, I broke through the shadows of the forest into a sunny meadowy type area (is it a meadow if it is on the side of a mountain?). I looked up and my breath left my body. It. Was. Amazing. I received the most beautiful blues intermingled with a dark granite mountain and white fluffy clouds rising like steam. I remember the story of Moses going up the mountain to be with his God and going into the cloud. This is a place to connect with spiritual strength. I felt strengthened, encouraged, excited, and alive. A complete contrast to how I felt when I was in the shadows.

Walkabouts__2013-06-03_13-56-59

I was now in the sun, with this incredible sight, having passed through at least 5 stretches of the worst climb ever. And I saw another worst climb ever in front of me. But my spirits were jubilant. I was in the light and had left the darkness. Amen!

I kept on going. There was one more seriously worst climb ahead and then I was there. Lake Serene.

Walkabouts__2013-06-03_14-25-52

In fact, this lake feeds into the waterfalls pictured earlier. I had climbed all the way around to the other side. Here is what the top of the waterfall looks like from this same point, just facing the other way.

Walkabouts__2013-06-03_14-25-23

I clambered through the snow a bit and sat at the closest point I could get to the top of the waterfall. Ate lunch. Relaxed a moment.

Time to head back down. Surely, down would be easier! It always is. Mostly.

On the way down, I kept my head down looking to keep my feet planted so my ankle will not turn. I almost made it. Darn it. One misstep and a turned ankle. Choice – fall in a way to minimize injury or try to get that wobbly ankle to hold me up. Quick decision – my ankle will not withstand the effort to stay firmly up. Fall it is! Sheesh. I hate rocky, downhill, paths. Now, cuts and bruises, scratches and blood. I would hate to see what I looked like.

I crossed back in front of the amazing waterfall that poured sunshine and the woman I had met earlier was there with her dog! She was resting. Her dog decided to try to clean up the scratches on my legs a bit (ha ha!). We chatted a bit and she moved on. I stayed and tried to get some more photos of the falls and take a rest. Oh, and to use the water to wash my arm which has a pretty serious scratch(es).

But, gosh darn it, I did it! I am still on the path. I can still walk. My body is sustaining me. This is such a big deal, you have no idea. I was misdiagnosed for at least 20 years. To be able to do this is the most awesomely amazing thing ever. My muscles don’t even hurt as much today as they did on days the inflammation from being celiac made them hurt. (That was a bad sentence, sorry.)

I kept going. And I made it back to my car by about 5:00 p.m.

The quest was complete.

I am proud that I had the perseverance to keep on pushing through. My blood tests still say “alert” on the iron portion, but it is improving. My ankles and feet are okay today. My right arm and right shin are pretty banged up, but as long as nobody touches them (!) I will be fine.

The return hike took 2 hours. It took me 4 hours to go up.

Walking or hiking as a spiritual practice, for me, is typically about opening myself up to the images around me. Receiving images that I sometimes share here or on my blog. This time, though, it transformed into something else. Instead of receiving the beauty around me, I had to dig deep to connect to the strength of the earth, strength of my faith, and to the strength in my own body in order to find sustenance for the journey. This is a new kind of spiritual practice for me.  I had thought, Monday night, that I would not be eager to repeat this experience. But I am. Focusing on putting one foot in front of the other in this way gave me a faith in myself that I sometimes lack. Especially in my own body’s ability to sustain me. That is my new story. I trust my body.

Blessed be.

Shalom and Amen.

~Chaplain Terri

Adapted from a post at my blog. Trials on the Trail.

© 2013, post & photos, Terri Stewart, All rights reserved

terriTERRI STEWART is Into the Bardo’s  Sunday chaplain, senior content editor, and site co-administrator. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction with honors and is a rare United Methodist student in the Jesuit Honor Society, Alpha Sigma Nu. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual.

Her online presence is “Cloaked Monk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at www.cloakedmonk.com, www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.  To reach her for conversation, send a note to cloakedmonk@outlook.com

Posted in Naomi Baltuck, Photography/Photographer, Story Telling, Photo Story, Writing

Editing Monet’s Garden

Last May, while traveling in France, my sister and I went to Giverny to visit Monet’s Garden.  The line to enter was horrendous, and once we got past the ticket booth, we became part of the swarm of tourists overrunning his house and garden.  We must have heard a dozen different languages spoken, people from all over the globe had come to see for themselves the inspiration for Monet’s most famous paintings.

It was eye candy, a stunning profusion of color!   But instead of the rare and exotic flora I expected, all the flowers were, well, your regular garden variety.  Irises, roses, tulips, pansies, alyssum, forget-me-nots…nothing I don’t grow in my own garden.  Yet they were artfully arranged by height, texture, and color to maximize the effect.  And after all, they were in Monet’s Garden.

I wanted to capture at least the illusion of solitude and serenity, and to photograph the garden as I thought it must have been back in Monet’s day.  I waited for lulls in tourist traffic to get my shots.  But while waiting, I watched hoards of humanity shuffling by, and I caught glimpses of peoples’ lives that I found as moving as anything I saw in those historic gardens. Mothers and children, old couples holding hands, a little boy with eyes only for the baby chicks, an awkward teenaged boy who had eyes only for the teenaged chicks, and a family with four generations of women all sharing a park bench.

While we writers strive to capture a mood or feeling or effect, we should also observe the stories happening all around us.

The first  is like a very pretty still life, or a posed portrait of Mother Nature.  The other is a very real, sometimes messy picture of the world, brimming with humanity, and all the joy and heartbreak that life and love have to offer.

There is beauty in it all.

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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