Posted in Culture/History, Environment/Deep Ecology/Climate Change, Naomi Baltuck, Nature, ocean bliss, Peace & Justice, Photo Story, Photography/Photographer, Spiritual Practice, story, Story Telling, Photo Story, Sustainability, Teachers, TheBeZine, trees, Writing

Hope Floats

 

On my last visit to Juneau, my Alaskan sister Constance, told me a story. It began over fifteen hundred years ago, when a small band of Pacific Islanders, plagued by overpopulation and the depletion of natural resources, set sail across the Pacific in outrigger canoes to seek new islands to call home.

 

They were the ancestors of the people of Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa, and other Polynesian islands.  Their only guidance was gleaned from the stars, the wind, ocean currents, the swell of the waves, the birds and the fish, the movement of the clouds. This ancient system of navigation, known as ‘wayfinding,’ enabled them to travel thousands of miles across vast stretches of ocean to remote tiny islands.

My sister told me she had volunteered at an event in honor of native Hawai’ian, Nainoa Thompson, who had come to Juneau to tell his story, and to celebrate the strong bond between the First Peoples of Alaska and Hawai’i.  It began in 1976, when Nainoa wanted to follow in his ancestors’ wake by sailing from Hawai’i to Tahiti with only traditional navigation as guidance.  He had a double-hulled outrigger canoe named Hokule’a, ‘Our Star of Gladness’.  At that time, ‘wayfinding’ was in danger of being forever lost.  Hawaii’s wayfinders had all died, and only a few elderly wayfinders remained in Micronesia. One of them, Mau Piailug, barely spoke English, and the trip from Hawaii to Tahiti longer than any voyage Mau had ever made.  But Mau’s children, like the children of so many Native Americans, had been taken away to boarding schools, robbed of their culture, and any interest in learning the ancient art.  He agreed to mentor Nainoa.

Under Mau’s tutelage Nainoa completed the trip, and became a master wayfinder, helping to preserve Hawai’ian culture.  But the Hokule’a was built from modern materials, and Nainoa wanted to build a ship of traditional Hawai’ian materials.  For almost a year, Nainoa searched throughout the Hawai’ian Islands for two koa trees to use as hulls.

Between the devastation of ranching and logging, he couldn’t find a single koa tree tall or thick enough to serve.

It was noted in Captain George Vancouvers journals in 1793–that some Hawai’ian canoes had hulls of Sitka Spruce.  The logs had been carried three thousand miles from Alaska by ocean currents, tossed up on Hawaiian beaches, and were considered gifts from the gods.

Nainoa asked Alaskan tribal elders for two Sitka Spruce trees to build an outrigger canoe.  He was told that he could have the trees “so you can build the canoe to carry your culture.  But we won’t take their lives until you come see that they are what you need.”

The Sitka Spruce trees were beautiful; 200-feet tall, eight feet in diameter, over 400 years old.  But Nainoa realized that he couldn’t take the life of those trees before dealing with the destruction of his native Hawaiian forests.

Nainoa returned to Hawai’i to launch a restoration program. People worked together, old and young–some traveled from Alaska–to plant thousands of koa tree seedlings, creating forests that will one day have tree big enough to make canoes.

Only then did Nainoa feel he could return to Alaska to accept the gift of the Sitka Spruce trees.

Nainoa called the new canoe ‘Hawai’iloa’, after the ancient wayfinder who first discovered the Hawai’ian Islands.

Those first Polynesian voyagers coped with overpopulation and depletion of resources by migrating to other uninhabited islands, but that’s no longer an option on our crowded planet.  Nainoa’s expanded mission has become ‘Malama Honua’, which means ‘caring for the Earth.’  Last year the Hokule’a completed a three year tour that circled the planet, building global community, and promoting earth care and sustainability as well as Polynesian culture.

I believe we have strayed, and lost sight of the world we want and need to live in.  But, as Nainoa discovered, and now teaches, if one is willing to listen and learn, there are wayfinders who can show us the way home.

All images ©2019 Naomi Baltuck


NAOMI BALTUCK (Writing Between the Lines)~ is Resident Storyteller at The BeZine. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer. Her 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 (her personal blog) as well as on The BeZine.

Naomi 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.

Naomi says, “When not actually writing, I am researching the world with my long-suffering husband and our two kids, or outside editing my garden. My novel, The Keeper of the Crystal Spring (Viking Penguin), can be read in English, German, Spanish, and Italian. My storytelling anthology, Apples From Heaven, garnered four national awards, including the Anne Izard Storytellers’ Choice. I am currently working on a contemporary women’s novel.”

Posted in Environment/Deep Ecology/Climate Change

CLIMATE CHANGE, STORYTELLING & Judith Black

Storyteller Judith Black
Storyteller Judith Black

We’re getting ready to hit the publish button on this month’s issue of  The BeZine in a few hours. The theme this month is Environment/Environmental Justice. Here, our friend Judith Black helps us to warm up with her TED-X video on StoryTelling and Climate Change organized by the storytelling community.

JUDITH BLACK (Storytelling: A Window on to the World
A Mirror into the Heart) is a professional storyteller, story maker, and teacher/coach with an international following. Originally trained at Wheelock College as an early childhood educator, Judith leapt from the classroom to the stage after training at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. Ultimately she bound these two passions with storytelling and for thirty-five years has been using story to motivate, humanize, entertain, and teach. She is the winner of many awards in her field.

If you are reading this in an email, you’ll likely need to link through to view the video.

© portrait, Judith Black

Posted in General Interest, Naomi Baltuck, Story Telling

Holiday Storytelling … Heads-up Seattle

naomiphoto1-300ppiJOIN THE SEATTLE STORYTELLING GUILD FOR AN EVENING WITH THREE GREAT TELLERS, including The Bardo Group Beguines’ steller story teller, Naomi Baltuck

FOLLOWED BY FREE SNACKS AND AN OPEN MIC

Sharon Creedon was a trial attorney when she discovered the Seattle Storytellers Guild. She began collecting and telling stories, many of which are included in her books, In Full Bloom: Tales of Women In Their Prime and Fair Is Fair: World Folktales Of Justice, which received the National Aesop Award for folklore.

Naomi Baltuck and Beatrice Baltuck Garrard are an intrepid mother-daughter duo. When Naomi is not writing novels and Beatrice is not studying history at Stanford, they travel the world together, telling stories and fighting crime!

Pat Peterson tells her holiday stories with a twinkle and a smile – that’s not to say that a memory revealed might bring a tear to the eye or a tug at the heart. Pay will share some old favorties and something new…

FURTHER DETAILS: TIME, PLACE et al HERE

Posted in General Interest, The B Zine, The BeZine Table of Contents

The BeZine, May 2015, Vol. 1, Issue 7

640px-The_Historian_(The_How_and_Why_Library)Storytelling: It’s a means by which we are entertained but also by which we explore meaning and develop our internal fortitude, our moral fiber, values and identity … At least that was the purpose before storytelling was so grossly co-opted by marketing with its push to accumulation and self-aggrandizement. This month in our lead feature, Healing Stories, Michael Watson, therapist and Native American shaman, explores the power of storytelling to heal in the context of tradition and of therapy.

Our resident professional storyteller, Naomi Baltuck, gifts us with four photo stories, small gems that will make you smile and laugh and remind you of what really matters in life.

The poem, Mourning Brooch, reflects on the power of memory when it evolves into story. John Anstie‘s poem is a love story for his grandson. How many of us have told our children or grandchildren stories about their birth, it’s meaning to us, and what we want to leave them as legacy? Turtle Speaks explores meaning in Native American stories about Turtle. Charlie Martin, Joe Hesch and Myra Schneider use poetry to tell their stories or those of others. For Charlie it’s all about social conscience, compassion and justice. For Joe Hesch it’s often about nature and history. For Myra it’s about the different ways that both fine art and everyday things move her … and by extension, us.

Señora Ortega’s Frijoles is a short story about dichos (sayings), which are used to pass tradition and values from one generation to the next … just like storytelling.

Silva Merjanian shares four poems from her second collection, Rumor (Cold River Press).  We introduced Silva here last month.  Silva’s poems tell us the stories of war – not simply a reaction to the news of war as in my own The Doves Have Flown – but her experience of war.

We shared in the last issue that Silva and her publisher are donating all profits from the sale of Rumor to the Syrian Armenian Relief Fund.  As I was preparing this intro I learned that thus far they have raised $1,397.73.  Well and kindly done, Silva.

The use of poetry to raise funds for worthy causes is not new to our contributors and readers.  John Anstie and the Grass Roots Poetry Group donate the funds from Petrichor Rising to UNICEF.  Therein lies another story featured this month: “Petrichor Rising” … or how the Twitterverse birthed friendships that in turn birthed a poetry collection …

With a nod toward spring in the Western Hemisphere, Corina Ravenscraft serves up a charming soupçon of gardening advice, a small treasury of hints to help you garden with simplicity, patience, and compassion.  It’s all about balance, whether you are caring for plants or for your own spirit.

Millais_Boyhood_of_RaleighAs you go through your days, do your work and practice your art, we hope you keep in mind the meaning and value of the stories you hear and read and of your own story as it unfolds. We hope you’ll share your stories in the comment sections here or via books or blogs or at gatherings of family and friends.

Enjoy this issue.  Be sure to “like” and comment to let contributors know what you think and that you value their hard work and their contributions. The BeZine is entirely a volunteer effort, a gift of love. (Our mission statement is HERE.) Any ads you see are not our own.  They are WordPress ads used to defray their cost of hosting blogs and websites.

Be the peace.

Thanks for visiting us.
Jamie Dedes

Illustrations: Header via Wikipedia under CC BY-SA 2.0 license, A very fine par dated 1938 A.D. The epic of Pabuji is an oral epic in the Rajasthani language that tells of the deeds of the folk hero-deity Pabuji, who lived in the 14th century.; photo #1 (public domain) via The How and Why Library, E. Irving Couse, A. N. A.; The Historian; The Indian Artist is painting in sign language, on buckskin, the story of a battle with American Soldiers;  photo #2 (public domain) via Wikipedia, The Boyhood of Raleigh by Sir John Everett Millais, oil on canvas, 1870. A seafarer tells the young Sir Walter Raleigh and his brother the story of what happened out at sea.

Core Team and Guest Contributor Biographies

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Lead Feature

Healing Stories by Michael Watson, M.A., Ph.D., LCMHC

Photo Stories

Survival Stories by Naomi Baltuck
The Inside Story by Naomi Baltuck
To See the World by Naomi Baltuck
Rather Than Curse the Darkness by Naomi Baltuck

Fiction

 Señora Ortega’s Frijoles by Jamie Dedes

Poetry

An Apology from Your Grandfather by John Anstie

The Mourning Brooch by Jamie Dedes
Turtle Speaks by Jamie Dedes
The Doves Have Flown by Jamie Dedes

The Discovery of Grass by Joseph Hesch
In Audience with the Queen by Joseph Hesch

dance to life’s music by Charles W. Martin
no translation necessary by Charles W. Martin
honey … I swear this is for the birds … by Charles W. Martin

Beirut by Silva Merjanian
Collateral Damage by Silva Merjanian
Doves of Beirut by Silva Merjanian
Rooftop by Silva Merjanian

Bird by Myra Schneider
Milk Bottle by Myra Schneider

Feature Articles

Being a More Compassionate Gardener by Corina Ravenscraft

“Petrichor Rising” … or how the Twitterverse birthed friendships that in turn birthed a poetry collection … by John Anstie and Jamie Dedes

Posted in General Interest, Naomi Baltuck, Photo Essay, Photography/Photographer

Another Man’s Shoes

I’ve always told my kids it’s nice to share, but not everything.  Bea was asthmatic, and every cold she caught seemed to morph into pneumonia. Since pre-school, they’d had it drilled into their heads not to drink from someone else’s cup.  And, of course, when you’re traveling, don’t drink the water!

Years ago, while traveling in Italy

…we had a long train ride from Naples….

https://i2.wp.com/i1176.photobucket.com/albums/x334/nbaltuck/Pirate%202013/Italy/1cd5c4ef-9448-47ae-9966-eb5d6f2e909a_zps5bbc941c.jpg

…to La Spezia.


We were delighted to have a compartment to ourselves.  The kids sketched and I knitted, while Thom read aloud to us from the YA novel, Donata, Daughter of Venice.

When the train stopped in Rome…

…a middle-aged couple came in, lugging bags, suitcases, groceries, and a 2 liter water bottle.  I smiled politely, and we scooted over to make room, but I was privately disappointed to have to share our quiet space.  They stowed their stuff, Thom tucked away our read-aloud, and I determined to catch up on my travel journal.

The man introduced himself as Giorgio, and his wife as Leah.  Giorgio spoke very good English, but it was different.  It sounded to me like he was speaking English with an Italian-Australian accent, an unexpected blend of cultures.  As we left behind Rome Giorgio told us he was born in Italy, but lived in Australia. Their daughter studied in Pisa, had met someone, and now they were returning to the Old Country to attend her wedding to a nice Italian boy.  Then Giorgio kindly offered us a drink of water from his bottle…which I politely refused.  We couldn’t afford to get sick while on vacation.

“Please,” insisted Giorgio, perhaps assuming my reluctance was due to shyness.  He filled six little paper cups with water, one for each of us.  I took the cup, wishing there was a potted plant I could discreetly pour my little helping of hospitality into.  Cups in hand, both kids watched intently, to take their cue from the Queen Mum of The Land of Do Not Share.  I lifted the cup to my lips.  Yes, and then I sipped, ignoring everything I knew about contagion, as well as the shocked stares of my children, and the smarty pants expression on my husband’s face.

Giorgio shared much more than water.  As the train rattled along, he told us, step by step, how to cook his favorite Italian dishes.  He told us we really couldn’t leave Italy not knowing how to make our own tomato sauce, or white cream sauce, or garlic sauce.

“Brown, but don’t burn the garlic,” he said.  He dictated recipe after recipe, and I wrote it all down in my journal.  Canneloni, parmigiana eggplant, chicken breast filet.  “It is not difficult!” he assured me.  Leah nodded in solemn agreement.

We passed a field of sunflowers.  With tears in his eyes, he pointed and said, “Itsa beautifulla!”

I heard that heartfelt expression many times on our train ride.  When we passed farms, olive groves, or little villages, his eyes would mist up.  Overwhelmed, he shook his head and said again, “Itsa beautifulla!”

“You must miss Italy,” I said.  “Why did your parents leave?”  Giorgio said his family wanted to escape the pain and aftermath of post-war Italy…

…for a new life in Australia.  He said Italians made up the one of the largest minorities in Australia.  Like the Irish, who came to build the railroad in America, Italians provided cheap labor in a rapidly developing country.  Just as the Irish faced discrimination, and were confronted with “No Irish Need Apply,” the Italians were told, “If you don’t like it, go back to Italy.”

Giorgio was a teenager, wanting desperately to fit in.  Money was tight, but his father must’ve understood, because he bought him handsome new cream-colored shoes and matching trousers.  To show off his new shoes, Giorgio and his brother walked out on the town.   A gang of boys started following.  They laughed at the shoes, tossed ethnic slurs, kicked dirt on the brothers and the prized shoes.  Devastated, Giorgio went home.  In his backyard, he took a knife and shredded the shoes beyond repair.  His father couldn’t understand, but Leah did.

Giorgio was seventeen and Leah was fourteen.  Both were born in Italy, the children of Italian immigrants to Australia. Once they found each other, they never looked back.  Well, hardly ever.  In time, Australians came to respect Italians as hard workers, and recognized the contribution they made to the country, much as we now celebrate Irish-Americans, at least on St. Patrick’s Day.

When Giorgio and Leah got off the train in Pisa…

…we felt we were saying goodbye to friends.  We finally had the compartment to ourselves, but we didn’t whip out our read-aloud book.  We needed time to think about Giorgio and Leah, and the story we had been privileged to share.

Of course, Thom and the kids teased me about sharing a cup with total strangers.  But you’ll never know what you’re missing if you aren’t willing to share a compartment on a train, accept a drink of water from a stranger’s paper cup, or walk a mile in another man’s shoes.

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 Uncategorized

As You Like It (Reflections Upon the Art of Aging)

“All I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by…”


My mother and her sister Loena were best friends.  Wherever Loena went, she would sing or hum quietly to herself.  My mother used to introduce her to friends saying, “This is my sister Loena.  Don’t mind her; she hums.”

Mom was the one who used to bust Aunt Loena out of Detroit for road trips.  Sometimes to Washington, D.C. to visit my sister Miriam, to Maine to see my sister Constance, or to see me and my siblings in Seattle, especially if the Tigers were scheduled to play the Mariners.

Driving cross country to attend my wedding, they made a late-night stop at a hamburger joint in Iowa. They were laughing so hard the young man behind the counter came to their table and said, “Ladies, I don’t know where you’re going, but I want to come with you.”

Less than a year after Mom died, my first baby was born.  It was a wonder-full time, if bittersweet.  Aunt Loena’s visit was the next best thing to seeing my mom holding my baby in her arms.  I felt my mother’s presence, watching, smiling, loving.

But it was hard for Aunt Loena to get away.  She spent two decades housebound while caring for her mother-in-law, and then her husband.  No one blamed him for his frustration, but he yelled at everyone who came to visit or offer aid, and fired everyone my aunt hired to help with housework and eldercare.  It was emotionally isolating and physically exhausting.  She never complained, and joked that at least her medical appointments for heart trouble, cataract surgery, and blood transfusions got her out of the house.  Like my mother, she knew how to look for the bright spots.

The 911 response team knew her by name, as she had to call whenever her husband fell out of the recliner where he slept.  It was time for a nursing home.  She visited him twice a day, until she caught meningitis.  Her doctors didn’t think she’d survive.  I flew to Detroit to say goodbye, but Aunt Loena is a two-time cancer survivor, who has come back from the brink so many times she makes Rasputin look like a weenie.  It was a wake-up call, however.  She checked out of the hospital with a bucket list.  My aunt is 86, anemic, subject to dizzy spells and shortness of breath.  Oh, yes, and always up for an adventure, so long as it is wheelchair accessible.

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Aunt Loena with my sister Lee and my son Elijah

Our first adventure was a trip to Seattle.  We knew she had a great time, because wherever we went, she hummed to herself like a purring kitten.  That trip was just a warm-up for her dream trip to New York City.

Aunt Loena in Central Park with Bea and me.

When it was time to leave New York and go our separate ways, it was too sad to say goodbye, so instead we said, “Where to next?”  She’d always wanted to go the Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario.  So that’s what we did.  My son Eli flew in from college in Maine, I flew from Seattle, and my sister Lee joined us from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

 We went in October, to take in the fall colors as well as the plays.

I chose our motel for its name.

https://i0.wp.com/i1176.photobucket.com/albums/x334/nbaltuck/IMG_7280-1.jpg

In Stratford I discovered the secret to longevity–a nightly dose of Miss Vicky’s Salt and Vinegar Potato Chips!  Aunt Loena is a teetotaler, but she’s not afraid of a little salt and grease.  Got sugar?   Bring it on!

Each time we part, I fear another long drive or a cross country flight will prove too much.  We make a date and look forward to it, but  I always check before I make plane reservations.  “You’re sure?”  And she always says, “Oh, yes.  As long as I’m sitting down, it’s almost just the same as sitting at home.”

We promised to bring her to Seattle for fish and chips this summer, but Lee couldn’t make it.  I asked my friend Monica, also a Detroiter, if she’d consider escorting Aunt Loena.  The next morning I got her reply– she would be delighted!  What a gift to us all!  We couldn’t have pulled it off without her.  Monica and Aunt Loena had been hearing about each other for years, and felt like they already knew each other.  We kicked off a week-long PJ party by attending a performance of Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes.”   We also enjoyed Teatro Zinzanni’s very silly but impressive dinner theater show, “Gangsters of Love.”

Aunt Loena made her famous egg salad sandwiches.  Years ago, when we all drove to D.C. to visit our sister Miriam, we weren’t out of Detroit yet when Mom said, “Who’s ready for an egg salad sandwich?”  It was 10am, but so what?  We were ready for another one by lunchtime.

We picnicked at Green Lake–egg salad sandwiches, my brother Lew’s homemade cookies, and Salt and Vinegar Potato Chips.  We couldn’t get to a picnic table, because we didn’t have an all-terrain wheelchair, but from our park bench we had a gorgeous view of the lake.

I would love to take Aunt Loena to Hawaii or Europe; even she feels it might be too far.  But her eyes lit up when she said church friends had gone to a casino, and she thought it might be fun to try her luck just once–if there was a smoke-free one with wheelchair access.  I don’t know anything about casinos, but an internet search and a few phone calls was all it took to locate a smoke-free casino in Toledo, not far from their wonderful zoo.  I sent Aunt Loena home with a roll of quarters and a promise.  Guess where we’re going next spring!

Saying goodbye is hard.  Aunt Loena said Mom always told her, “Whatever happens, we won’t cry.  We’ll smile, kiss the kids goodbye, and stop the car around the corner to do our crying.”  And that’s what they always did, she said.  But this time we all had to cry, just a little.

Most people in my aunt’s situation prefer the security of a recliner, the proximity of their own doctors, and to be in control, even if that just means the remote to the television.  Who can blame them?  With advanced age, circumstances often change, especially where health, finances, and family support are concerned.  Aunt Loena lives her life as an adventure, and adjusts the size of her dreams as necessary.  But for her, everything is icing on the cake.  New York is as good as Hawaii, and Ohio is as good as New York.  But she would be just as happy humming quietly and playing cards with a friend while snacking on a bag of Miss VIcky’s Salt and Vinegar Potato Chips.

I want to grow old like Aunt Loena, to go out swinging or at least singing.  When I told her she was brave for coming all the way to Seattle, she laughed and said, “All I need is a wheelchair, and someone to push it.

You got it, Aunt Loena.  And you don’t even need to ask.

All words and images copyright 2012 Naomi Baltuck

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

Posted in General Interest, Naomi Baltuck, Photo Essay, Photography/Photographer

Two Subjects (and one important thing to remember)

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

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

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

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

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

All images and words copyright Naomi Baltuck

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

Posted in Naomi Baltuck, Story Telling, Photo Story

Mine (yours, and ours)

My child…my world…

My wish is for her to grow up in a world where people are judged for who they are, and not by the color of their skin, not for who they love, who they worship, by their gender, or the size of their bank account.  My wish is for this world to become our world, where ‘live and let live’ is only the starting point, and where my children, your children, all children become ‘ours’ to educate, to heal, to care for so they are prepared and able to help make our world a better place.

And because it’s the right thing to do.

 That is my wish.

All words and images c2012 Naomi Baltuck

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

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

Posted in Essay, memoir, Naomi Baltuck

Mom Always Said…

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

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

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

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

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

“Why?” I asked.

“I’m memorizing it,” she said.

“But why?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What did you say, Mom?” I asked.

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

“Mom, do you see someone?”

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

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

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

All images and words c2012 Naomi Baltuck

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

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

Posted in Essay, Naomi Baltuck

Today (we are all survivors)

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Naomi Baltuck

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

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

Posted in Culture/History, Essay, Naomi Baltuck, Photography/Photographer

Remembering Uncle Lewis, A Memorial Day Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

copyright 2012 Naomi Baltuck

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppiNAOMI 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

Reflections, In Honor of Mother’s Day


Once, when we were running late, I was waiting impatiently to lift my little boy Eli into his car seat, while he studied a bug on the driveway.  “Hurry up!” I said.  “We’re going to be late.”

Puzzled, my little boy looked up at me and said, “Mommy, why are you using that tone of voice?”

Such a grownup expression from the mouth of the babe!  And it took my breath away.

“You’re right, honey,” I told him. “It’s not the end of the world if we’re late to pre-school, and it wouldn’t be your fault, if we were.”

Eli and I had a good look at the bug, while I quietly reflected upon what kind of parent I wanted to be.  Which memory of me would I want my kids to look back on and remember me by?  My mother once told me, “The best friends you’ll ever have are the ones you raise yourself.”  Bless her!  Bless them!  Bless us all!

I love that tee shirt that says, “Please let me be the person my dog thinks I am.”   But I aspire always to be the person my kids think I am.

All words and images copyright Naomi Baltuck

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppiNAOMI 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 Culture/History, mystic, Naomi Baltuck, Spiritual Practice

The Stairway (to Skellig Michael)

When we traveled to Ireland we visited Skellig Michael, a monastery founded by Christian monks in the 7th century.  Life there was remote and harsh, the weather often severe.   The monks collected rainwater to drink, raised a few animals and imported soil from the mainland nine miles away so they could grow vegetables on that barren little island.

If a monk made a rare crossing to the mainland for supplies, rough weather might strand him there for a week or a month.  To return to his spartan life in a cold stone beehive hut, he would have to climb 700 feet up these winding stairs, bearing whatever supplies he had fetched home.

On our life’s journey most of us earn our bread, raise our families, and pursue our passions.  Sometimes, like water flowing down a hillside, we take the path of least resistance.  What in your life do you care enough about to be willing to make this climb?

– Naomi Baltuck

All words and images (including the portrait below) copyright 2013 Naomi Baltuck,All rights reserved

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppiNAOMI 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 Bardo News

Welcome and Congratulations …

This evening we get to share some wonderful news with you.

  • We have a new and exciting collaborator, our Resident Story Teller, Naomi Baltuck, and
  • We are pleased to announce that our Chaplain and Site Co-Administrator, Terri Stewart, was just awarded a Master’s in Divinity from Seattle University.

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppiNaomi tells us

“I was raised in a family blessed with good stories to tell. Mom told hers over the kitchen table, while Grandma Rose spun her yarns with a kid on each knee. After college I packed my diploma into the saddlebag of my bike and headed west to see what adventures my own story held in store. I taught canoeing in King’s Canyon, worked at the Bar 717 Ranch in the Trinity Alps, and waited tables in the Tetons.

In Seattle, I became a teacher, a professional puppeteer, and a Wet Apple Clogger. It was there that I discovered storytelling, first as a teaching tool, then as a profession. That was almost thirty years ago. I met my husband and raised my family in this silver city by the sea, writing books and telling stories all the while.”

51kAqFGEesL._SY300_31X0wf8BuLL._SL500_Since storytelling is one of Naomi’s major interests and special gifts in life, it’s not surprising to know that she charms us each week with a story in photographs on her blog, Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. There she shares life and travel adventures. Among her published books are: six books including several on the art and practice of storytelling. Her Amazon page is HERE.

Naomi, an award-winning writer and story-teller, has been a contributing writer here in the past. We love her posts:  they are perfectly executed works of art: careful and caring, symmetrical and clear. Lest you think we are her only admirers, here is what others are saying:

Baltuck is a master storyteller.  Story time is a very special time when Baltuck does the telling.  As she talks she is part mime, part actor, part singer… –The Seattle Times

Perhaps the quality that makes Naomi Baltuck such a fine storyteller is her affinity for and ability to communicate the beauty in life. — The Palo Alto Tribune

Storyteller Naomi Baltuck weaves magic with words…Yakima schoolchildren were treated to a taste of virtuoso storytelling as the West Coast’s best tale-spinner visited Yakima. — The Yakima Herald Tribune

Storyteller Naomi Baltuck makes sense of the world. — Pacific Northwest Magazine

With song and pantomime and the lilting cadence of her speech, Baltuck seemed to have no trouble sweeping her audience away to a world where the myths of the Pacific Northwest came alive. — The Bellingham Herald

Please join us in a warm and grateful welcome to Naomi …

…. and a proud “Congratulations” to Terri who says,

Terri Stewart
Terri Stewart

“An MDIV is a four-year general theology degree. I was terrified when I went back to school. I came from a scientific writing background and landed in territory where you are supposed to use personal pronouns in your papers and in your expression! Whoa!

After the first set of classes, I figured it out and also re-discovered my inner poet and artist. I began writing poetry again, doing art, and stepping into contemplative photography. I took to the more spiritual classes with such a passion that I decided to add on a certificate in Spiritual Direction.

34710_4202703680911_185804454_nI finished the two courses in 5 years except for one silly class that I had dropped earlier and had to take this last January-Medieval Church History. Now there’s a fun topic! In fact, it was a blast. My major papers were on the Court Beguines of the Flemish territory and on Christine de Pizan. I learned so much about women, spirituality, and what real community is by spending time with the Beguines and with Christine. It was amazing. I was also struck by the similarities in our current times and the time directly prior to the Renaissance. Polarization. Duality. The big lie. Denigration of education and intellect. Whisper campaigns. I spent half this particular class going, “Holy moley, batman!”

Anyway, my diploma says that I have rights and privileges earned with this degree. I’m not quite sure what those things are other than I have a student loan to pay back! But I am taking the education that I received and using it in two ways. One, working with incarcerated youth. Two, encouraging people to develop diverse spiritual practices.

I am blessed and privileged to have been able to travel this path. I look forward to the next rabbit trail! (Is that a PhD calling?)”

Terri has been fabulous, actively involved in Bardo from day one. She has a fine sense of timing and is a collaborator in every sense. We are more grateful for her presence here than we can say and know everyone is enjoying her wise, wonderful, and often witty posts.

Posted in Essay, Guest Writer

A dear lesson offered in story and photograph by the talented writer/blogger/world traveler, Naomi Baltuck, whose daughter is attending college just down the road from us. The link will take you to her blog to see the whole piece. Naomi is the author of a novel “The Keeper of the Crystal Spring,” which is available in English, German, Spanish and Italian. Her anthology of storytelling , “Apples From Heaven,” is an award winning collection. Jamie Dedes

Writing Between the Lines

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…

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