Beautiful Mama

Who you are and where you are is important in what you see as beautiful and what is not.
This beautiful mama will not lay her eyes (all puns intended) on her progeny. No bonding needs to take place for the tikes – in this case expected about the end of July – issuing forth from what is to my eye a hastily dug hideout/birth place. She will be far away and they will somehow make their way to her. I know I could do it by the smell alone except the first steps would be hard – she came from a place way beyond my olfactory abilities!

This one, however, is well within my reach! And when we walk around in our world with her, she is mightily sniffed! All manner of human experiments come close to place their noses on her head. She responds positively; luckily for us! I suspect the tiny turtles have the same response to their mom. For all I know she might be recognizable to them if met.

Common Bugs and Visitors

The last two weeks have been taken up with succumbing to and then getting over some horrid flu thing that I hear a lot of you have gone through. I put this photo of a recent sunset to give the send-off to it and a welcome to another chance for clarity of mind.
Another interesting bit of life here which I have not photographed is a veritable herd (hurd?) of turtles – Snappers – coming up the hill from the lake to lay their eggs. The first phalanx was discovered just as we were preparing for an Open House – yes, hide the dogs, box the cats, scoop everywhere and, oh, get the Snappers off the lawn and out of the flower beds!
Much hauling one at a time in the wheelbarrow – getting them in with careful precision of two long-handled shovels – down to the swampy stream and back up. No presence of mind for the great shot – just get them off, finish up and get out!
So today when some more came we were almost casual – almost – get the dogs and the cats inside, watch where we put Laila Rose who with mom Bimala is here for a summer time. We are all very impressed at the level of communication skills these elegant and prehistoric creatures share – not with us. We knew nothing of their coming until they were here.
These are some of my bed mates – also inmates and outmates. Eli is one of the best companions in my experience. So happy to be. So involved in his world, finding every opportunity to enjoy everything that is. He is always there to remind me to embrace everything I see with claws retracted. Thank you, Eli.

The Caste System

It is a privilege and opportunity to speak with many people who share with me their most intimate and life-threatening thoughts and actions.
“I was going to , but I didn’t.” “I didn’t think….” “It didn’t occur to me.” “I just thought…..”
These phrases often precede an action that did not take place. An act of courage, an act of compassion, an act of honesty: all what I call “mini suicides” because they are preceded by years of entrainment, of squelched purpose.
Often the perpetrator is a well-meaning boss or parent. Perhaps someone who doesn’t want you to be let down. Who wants to protect you.
How often do I hear of a friend, relative or parent who has undermined a step to a leap of faith by offering  a zone of comfort at just the time when a push was needed.
These are small steps taken to entrainment, to living within the system. System of what? Our own making, laid down for us by generations. And we accept the help in that moment and let ourself go.
It’s usually not as clear as the difference between a Brahmin or an Untouchable. Often a barely detectable expectation, a look, a nod. Sometimes as obvious as, “I’ll only pay for this and not the other,” and we think we can’t get what we want so we take the offering. It’s a deal.

The Message In The Medium

When I was in the formative years of my twenties, twenty-one in fact, Marshall McLuhan published his ideas about how what we learn, see, hear is influenced by its packaging. And, in fact we often don’t realize what the “package” is or take it that seriously.
I had found that out with men who took my grounded bookish-overthinking self and would twist their words to sound like something I wanted to make out with. I found it with women who went to the library before going on a date.
Those are just the ones I know, there may have been others…
We all look for what we want. I always told myself the editor or the gallerist wants to find the next popular book/painting/illustration as much as I want to be it. And when the roles have been reversed I find that to be true.
In the last couple of years I have happened to have in my family two twenty-somethings looking for answers – as Guy Noir (aka Garrison Keillor) says, “looking for the answers to life’s persistent problems.”
Like me, they are making their mistakes. And like me they will live with them. Unlike me they came to this country at the ages of seven and ten with a lot of living in them. Certainly by the time I was ten I had mapped out a life plan for myself that I followed until I was eighteen when it ended and my ten year old self had not conceived of time after. The intervening years had been spent dodging my alcoholic and suicidal family day planner.
No matter how good or bad it looks to the inside or outside eye, I knew it well and was adapted. This is not the case for my tender Nepali children. While I can’t explain everything – or anything much – by facts, it remains to say not being born here gave them a lot of adjusting to do in a short time.
Every child in every country is tribal, is habitual, is judgmental in some way. Every family unit has its own ecology. What is in each one of us encompasses and transcends our environment, our heritage. We may map our world but maps tend to be flat and sooner or later we come to an edge. How we engage in that discomfort is often defined by our connect or disconnect with our self.
As a parent I am torn asunder by the thunder of my children – all of them; biologic and adopted. They have all entered, signed in and my heart sees no boundaries, no passports or certificates.
All of us enter this life in our individual way, each is defined by our individuation. All children are possessed of the ability to hurt creatively, some are positioned to pierce all motherly flesh.
This is Mother’s Day coming to us. We are each of us destined for love, we are each of us mothers.
Love is not the flat map, love is the wrap. It is connection and harmony. And it’s vulnerable to everything human. And it is everything human. And it is all there is.
Happy Mother’s Day. Happy Letting Go, Happy Taking In. The sun will shine no matter. Might’s well take the message and let the medium go.

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Silence is Deadly

I’ve been quiet. I notice it’s hard for me to think what to say. This has happened before. When I am waiting for someone and something out of my control to make a decision that will change my life, I get really quiet.

A few years ago in 2004 I stood in front of a tribunal of congregates, my peers and colleagues in a Congregational church of which I was a trustee. A meeting was held among parishioners to vote whether or not Paula and I could get married in the physical body of the church. A number of parishioners turned out for discussion. Another group wrote notes and e-mails to the minister who had been preaching equality in sermon after sermon. There was a note to him mentioning that if Paula and I could marry then he could marry his grandson and keep his healthy retirement package in his family for as long as he could foresee.

And if I found that argument specious, there were more to choose, some I knew about, many I didn’t. People who knew me would ask me why I was attempting. Why was I in the church at all? The answer for me was that my daughter had asked – she later regretted it! – to participate in various church-related activities. Paula and I showed up. It’s what I say to anyone who asks – “show up, be reliable, be ready to love.” Now I’m more likely to add, “be ready to be loved,” and in its absence, vacate the space!

I didn’t come out until after Stonewall, after I had my children, after I had grown up not knowing there was “one more thing” to be different about. I appreciate that, I wasn’t ready to face the world of the 50’s with that much difference. In the spring of 1969 I was 25 with two children and as far away as I could get from my “upbringing.”

Later a lover’s mother would call my mother for support and succor. When asked how she felt about my being a lesbian my mother said, “oh, I have two other children, I don’t have to think about Pam at all.” She had said to me years before to “keep That in Boston, don’t bring It here.” I didn’t.

And that brings me to my wondering now, as we wait for DOMA, is our silence not helpful to those who would we were not here? I grew up where silence was the default for anyone not in the clear majority. When I would speak up it was assumed I was not telling the truth or that I was making it up. I truly think that today we have such “fast” change because we have been allowed the mainstream for a while. We have turned up, shown up, been counted and not made much of a difference. I used to joke when marriage was first an option that a line around the city hall in a few towns was about what people were going to see. We are not so many and our influence is not about sexual orientation. We are like everyone else. I think that’s what’s so funny to me, our perceived impact is huge compared to our mass.
The arguments against our civil rights would be funny if I weren’t dependent on them to tell me where I can stand.

How Can You Hear My Song

How can you hear my song
If I don’t sing?
How can I tell you  my love if I don’t speak?
What is in my heart
Can be shown, tasted, heard, felt and sensed
in a thousand ways
A thousand voices are mine
A million miles of connection
Are mine to show and yours to receive

But I have to show up
And you do too.

Authenticity

This bull was a bit scary for a lot of people who saw him. I can only guess about why, but I know when the man who bought him saw Red Bull he immediately identified with him. He saw the bull as his best part, his true nature and he was proud of it. I immediately liked him. Not just because he wanted the painting, because he was not afraid of himself. It made him gentle to me. I don’t know how it made anyone else feel, or his wife, I was told he wanted the painting over the bed. I thought it was a great choice for him!

Of course there is a time to show your Red Bull and there is a time to stable him. We all have a Red Bull I believe. We don’t all have access to him. And when he’s in the barn and we don’t go near the barn, don’t tend the stable, keep the doors intact, the hinges working, well, there can be an explosion.

There’s no sight I love more than a contented bull in a field of hay and grass. Yes, I’m keeping the metaphor going – I’ve been known to exhaust them! There is no room for trickle down. Our frustration and anger, when explored, can be a mighty friend. The kind you call on when you need someone really strong – where I’m from in Boston, we call on the “boys from Sommerville.” In my home growing up on the Missouri it was the guys from Black Jack – and yes, it really was named Black Jack.

I nurture that part of myself. That’s where Red Bull came from after all.

Thanks

My father always wore glasses. I think I was in my twenties when he told me he had never really needed them. They made him feel more secure. He was talking about his past insecurity, his past self, but the surprise of it didn’t keep me from noticing its current rightness. It made how I experienced him make more sense to me. I was grateful to be hearing it.

I am still grateful. Those moments of insight are so precious, however they come. Allowing the rightness of my feelings gave me strength in my perception, of him, of my surroundings.

Growing up I was compared to him, my looks, my attitude, my feet. All stood in a line of his making. And when I was told one of these comparisons, they were not supportive but rather were put-downs. “Your sister looks like Grace Kelly,” a look regarding me, “and you, you look like your father.” I did look like my father. And I acted like him too. My mother’s consternation was palpable with my refusal to brush my teeth, wear anything but jeans, work outside in the fields all summer. I bathed in her disapproval, her frown was my sun. My father approved. He thought it was funny. I thought it was great to have an ally. Until he wasn’t. Which could happen any minute, seconds, the glass would be in his hand and everything would shift.

I was born noticing, we all are I think. In my young life there was  really very little going on. My father left early for work. My mother stayed sleeping until noon, I would have either skipped school or been in the small classroom avoiding everything I could. I spent long hours by the river, with horses, dogs, cats. I roamed on foot and on my bike. So when my parents did say or do something I was ready for it. I noticed. It wasn’t in some river of activity where I wouldn’t see everything that floated by.

So when he said that about the glasses, I filed it with his need to take me around with him. See what he saw. Be witness to him when he had the final argument with my uncle who lived nearby and I never saw again until I was adult. He took me when he needed me, like a teddy bear I sat in the car and heard their voices. I was the silent witness, co-conspirator too young for judgement but not for memory.

I titled this “thanks” and I don’t mean it in irony. I am sincere in my belief that experiencing the craggy bottom of my father’s psyche  saved me many a stumble.

Clarity

When what is in focus is clear and when what is not in focus is clearly not visible there is a kind of justice and peace available. We can’t always see everything clearly, can’t always know what is ahead. Just as well most of the time. The moment is the most important and informative thing we have. When we reach from the present moment, any given present moment, we are more likely to achieve what we want. Takes vision of a goal, for sure, that’s where the looking ahead comes into play.

When I was growing up I would walk around with my father. Most every Saturday and Sunday he would walk his fields, his property. We would go out on the river, see how everything was doing. Check the valves of the pumps in the caves where we got our water. Check the height of the river upstream, see the sandbars and pilings. (the great bundled trees the Army Corps of Engineers pounded into the river’s banks to keep the channel open for barges)

We would count the turkeys, chickens and geese, the sheep against predators. It was a moment of clarity in our relationship. There was a yes and a no. A warning or an all clear. That was about the only time life was like that, his or mine. Though he never started drinking until five – his rule and the measure he and everyone took of his mind – the rest of the day was preparation for that drink.

When I feel tuned by something outside of me instead of in tune with who I am, my environment, the love of the day, the light, I know that’s a nudge to get right again. Like a sailboat needing a new tack to catch the wind, change direction. My father helped me with that, he was so clearly wrong. No subtlety, no wishyness, he was a wise man or not.

As thanksgiving comes I think of him and thank him for his clear message. “Don’t do as I do, do as I say.” He got that right.

I’m on the left, the hottie on the right is my best friend. She and I were born a few months apart and she’ll cry and laugh when she reads this! We had the time of our lives together.

More Appreciation

Poem For My Son

My young son

Is always in my son;

the sleepy boy, the super-correct teenager,

the inventive seven-year-old.

Always in my eye, his questioning gaze or

trusting lean, hand in my hand.

His the language of clarity

a straight line of the heart.

His shoes, always worn at the toes,

touched new places, old places, many hearts.

Wish: for the reach of the child to be

always within reach, when nothing else is.

When everything is.

For the rush of grace when life is tight,

the smoothness of voice when pressed

for astonishment in every moment.

There is a saying,

where the heart and the soul being

well traveled, tempered to lightness, honed to the hour

makes the Man. Without the boy.

And I say

Let the Man be the Boy

Let the Boy Be.

That’s where the son rises.