Untitled, by Diana Maus, http://mosaicmoods.wordpress.com/

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Half Awake

We walk through half our life
as if it were a fever dream

barely touching the ground
our eyes half open
our heart half closed.

Not half knowing who we are
we watch the ghost of us drift
from room to room
through friends and lovers
never quite as real as advertised.

Not saying half we mean
or meaning half we say
we dream ourselves
from birth to birth
seeking some true self.

Until the fever breaks
and the heart can not abide
a moment longer
as the rest of us awakens,
summoned from the dream,
not half caring for anything but love.

~ Stephen Levine ~

(Breaking the Drought)

What can the heart abide?
One thing I am seeing as I get together with my senior friends, is the importance of friendship, love and activity in our later lives.   Friday, F said with a nod, "You've got to be tough to grow old."  Yes, but is there more...?   This was followed by a short silence and someone answered, "And say a prayer of thanks in the morning for every day given you."  We dropped our knitting into our bags, rose from our chairs and hugging one another, parted for another week, or more. 

There are those in the group who are quite willing to share some feelings, but I must admit, as a group, it is difficult and rare for us to share much at an emotional level.  By the late seventies and eighties we have a layer of the cultural restraints of our age, and also the reluctance to allow ourselves to feel--we have hurt too often.

Steven Levine's work casts a light on why we are the way we are and what we can do to help ourselves:  As he says in the above poem, "when the fever breaks".

 Born in 1937, Levine has immersed himself in almost all the religions including sufism, Christianity, Buddhism and others.  In other words, he is an inclusionist, which is where I find myself.  To quote Goethe, "What is genius but the faculty of seizing and turning to account everything that strikes us,"  and here, I believe we can use the older meaning of 'genius' as one's most basic personhood. Goethe continues, "the greatest genius will never be worth much if he pretends to draw exclusively from his own resources."  "Every one of my writings has been furnished to me by a thousand different persons, a thousand different things."  So much for Michelle Bachman's recent remark that "let's get rid of the gray."  It is the openness and inclusion of other people, thoughts and experiences that allow us to work through these later years with a positive, healthy attitude.

Without this, as we age,  Levine says, "Our ordinary, everyday grief accumulates as a response to the 'burdens of disappointments and disillusionment, the loss of trust and confidence that follows the increasingly less satisfactory arch of our lives. In order to avoid feeling this grief we "armour our hearts," which leads to a gradual deadening of our experience of the world."   A Half Life or a life?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Do You Feel Lucky?

Humility causes me to modify my belief in the strength of our creative spirits to see us through the rough parts of aging.  I have to admit that the parents, who spoke to their son as he was hurtled like a firey bomb into the second World Trade Center, have a right to depression and a sad old age.  How one faces the loss of a grown son, daughter-in-law and grandchild so tragically, and still manage to go on, leaves me silent.

9/11 has had many editorials, essays and speeches spoken and written today, and that is as it should be.  Ten years ago today was the day when the United States of America had to grow up.  I'm not sure that these ten years have proved that we've done such a good job of that, but here we are, and we have two choices:  give up and give in, or go forward. 

FDR was right; the thing we have most to fear is fear.  Fear and anger have caused us to spend trillions of dollars in an effort to feel safe, and, yes, to get revenge--to act in ways that we may regret in an effort to even a score.  These emotions have caused us to squander not only our financial future, our cultural heritage, and our wise judgement, but  fear now convinces our businesses, banks and individuals to hold tightly to their cash in fear that even harder times are ahead. 

Just as we say goodbye to our loved ones who have gone before us, it is time to praise, thank and say a fond farewell to those who gave their lives on 9/11.  Instead of the fear and anger generated by this sad, sad day we must replace those emotions with solid good sense and a positive attitude.  Basic economics tells us that demand is the engine that powers an economy and gets it moving.   I don't know how we will be able to generate enough energy and enthusiasm to begin new businesses and invest in markets that will make it a necessary for business to hire and train new workers, but we must.  It won't be the first time we've done something impossible. 

History is full of hard times and tragic events. Pearl Harbor was a tragic event much like the World Trade Center disaster, and it followed a more severe depression that we've had of late.  Yet we sold war bonds and paid for WWII and the rebuilding of Europe and carried ourselves into a healthy post war period.  Consider too, those who lived in Dresden, Germany must have felt much like New Yorkers, only more so, after our bombs almost totally destroyed that city in WWII.  Now, however, Germany has become one of the more solid economies in Europe.

Mike Littwin, columnist for the "Denver Post", wrote today, "I go to see an outdoor movie at Brayant Park, across from the famous New York Public Library on 42nd Street.  The movie is "Dirty Harry." and the picnicking crowd of maybe a couple of thousand chant together, 'You've to to ask yourself one question:  Do I feel lucky?  Well, do ya, punk?'

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Down near the bottom
of the crossed-out list
of things you have to do today,

between "green thread"
and "broccoli," you find
that you have penciled "sunlight."

Resting on the page, the word
is beautiful. It touches you
as if you had a friend

and sunlight were a present
he had sent from someplace distant
as this morning—to cheer you up,

and to remind you that,
among your duties, pleasure
is a thing

that also needs accomplishing.

An excerpt from "The Word" by Tony Hoagland, from Sweet Ruin, 1992

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Sandpiper

I watch him as he skims along,
Uttering his sweet and mournful cry.
He starts not at my fitful song,
Or flash of fluttering drapery.
He has no thought of any wrong;
He scans me with a fearless eye:
Staunch friends are we, well tried and strong,
The little sandpiper and I.
Comrade, where wilt thou be to-night
When the loosed storm breaks furiously?
My driftwood fire will burn so bright!
To what warm shelter canst thou fly?
I do not fear for thee, though wroth
The tempest rushes through the sky:
For are we not God's children both,
Thou, little sandpiper, and I?
                   (Poet Unknown)
 Standing archly on his tall, thin legs, lifting them one by one as he stiffly walks through the water and mud of the shoreline, the sandpiper addresses us with the shrill sceeep, screep of his song.  Long of body, often brown and gray with a proud spotted belly, his long legs and pointed beak allow him to find his meals virtually untouched in the watery world he calls home. 
It is said that when one is sad and walks along a beach the sandpiper’s song will bring you joy. 
It is said that he or she is a proud little bird, and others whisper that he sees below the surface of the water and plays with the waves as though in search of more than food.  
Although I lived in the Eastern United States for only a short period of my life, I sense the tides and the waves breaking on the normality of my life.  I sense an affinity with the magic of the ocean; in my dreams I often walk along a shoreline, seaching below the water’s surface for the hidden frankness and honesty of our natural world.  Why are we so blind?  What are we searching for?  Does the sandpiper sense a need for further knowledge, or is he content to wade in the shallows?
Yes, I am drawn to the sandpiper.  I love his ability to stand above the muck of the shoreline and still be able to adequately feed himself and live his chosen life.  I admire his fearless contemplation of breaking waves crashing onto his world.  I covet his dispassionate appraisal of life and his sense of purpose as he lifts his long legs and stubbornly moves them forward, ever forward.  Little sandpiper and I.