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Archive for June, 2007

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This is my dear friend and companion on the path, Patricia. Let me tell you about her in pictures rather than words…

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HAPPY 84th BIRTHDAY, DAD…Your love and dedication to family, your appreciative view of life, your wonderful sense of humor are your gifts to your children and grandchildren. Here’s to our time together…all we need is love!

BEDSIDE MANNERS

How little the dying seem to need—
A drink perhaps, a little food,
A smile, a hand to hold, medication,
A change of clothes, an unspoken
Understanding about what’s happening.
You think it would be more, much more,
Something more difficult for us
To help with in this great disruption,
But perhaps it’s because as the huge shape
Rears up higher and darker each hour
They are anxious that we should see it too
And try to show us with a hand-squeeze.
We panic to do more for them,
And especially when it’s your father,
And his eyes are far away, and your tears
Are all down your face and clothes,
And he doesn’t see them now, but smiles
Perhaps, just perhaps because you’re there.
How little he needs. Just love. More Love.

– CHRISTOPHER WISEMAN –

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This is a birthday card that I bought for my Dad four years ago and promptly misplaced. I loved this card and thought, “I’ll find it sooner or later and give it to him next year.” When the following year rolled around I did find it, but decided to give him one of the replacement cards that I bought the year before. Last year I didn’t give it to him either. I’ve been having a secret nonsensical thought that if I have the intention to give it to him and don’t…well, he’ll just have to stay alive for another year.

Tomorrow, he turns 84. I’m in a bit of a quandry. I like the card. I like the sentiment. Last week when I took him to my nephew’s graduation, he said, “I don’t remember my graduation, do you?” I told him, “Dad, you graduated from University of Virginia in 1947. I was born in 1948.” He looked perplexed. “No…no…I thought we were only three years apart.”

He has good days, not-so-good days. He’s winded and has a hard time moving around. I think it’s time to give him the card.

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On Saturday, we gather again for Gratitude. A circle of women, sharing from the heart. We share our challenges; we share our delights. We see our commonality. We offer support; prayers; laughter. When we leave, our friend Kathleen gives each of us a beautiful pink rose.

When I was in college, I sang in a small chorus–we performed this Frost poem set to music and I’ve never forgotten it. I woke up the morning after our gathering with it running through my mind…

CHOOSE SOMETHING LIKE A STAR

O Star (the fairest one in sight),
We grant your loftiness the right
To some obscurity of cloud —
It will not do to say of night,
Since dark is what brings out your light.
Some mystery becomes the proud.
But to be wholly taciturn
In your reserve is not allowed.
Say something to us we can learn
By heart and when alone repeat.
Say something! And it says “I burn.”
But say with what degree of heat.
Talk Fahrenheit, talk Centigrade.
Use language we can comprehend.
Tell us what elements you blend.
It gives us strangely little aid,
But does tell something in the end.
And steadfast as Keats’ Eremite,
Not even stooping from its sphere,
It asks a little of us here.
It asks of us a certain height,
So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid.

– ROBERT FROST –

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This morning I walk with my friend, Sunny. Even though it’s early, the heat is on–humid, soggy. Summer has arrived. As we turn away from the River and walk up hill, we come upon this small sculpture–this altar…taking time to pause…to look…to imagine.

THE OLD POETS OF CHINA

Wherever I am, the world comes after me.
It offers me its busyness. It does not believe
that I do not want it. Now I understand
why the old poets of China went so far and high
into the mountains, then crept into the pale mist.

– MARY OLIVER –

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At sunset, I go for a short walk along the Hudson River. The air is thick, visible moisture suspended…the sun, a flat orange disk. Everything seems beautiful and at peace…the shoreline is arranged with small altars–sticks, rocks, feathers, glass. Today, I receive news of four more people with cancer…one a friend, the other three are friends or family members of friends. I pray in my own way, sending light, hope, blessings…

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Write Into the Present Moment–2

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Today, a group of courageous students gathers for an experience of writing practice. We spend the day together exploring the bottom of mind where “first thought” and creativity reside. We meditate, we write, we read aloud and observe the wonderful landscape of “No Comment” that allows us to simply listen to one another’s writing without praise or criticism.

I continue to be surprised and delighted by what my students write–how rich the writing is–how vulnerable; how funny; how intriguing. Their voices are diverse and fascinating. I’m happy to have a captive audience to share my passion for poems and literature–something I never grow tired of.

Here is a poem that I mentioned to them, but did not have on my hard drive. I love it because it’s filled with detail and is so reminiscent of my public school experience. Enjoy!

M. DEGAS TEACHES ART & SCIENCE AT DURFEE INTERMEDIATE SCHOOL
Detroit, 1942

He made a line on the blackboard,
one bold stroke from right to left
diagonally downward and stood back
to ask, looking as always at no one
in-particular, “What have I done?”
From the back of the room Freddie
shouted, “You’ve broken a piece
of chalk.” M. Degas did not smile.
“What have I done?” he repeated.
The most intellectual students
looked down to study their desks
except for Gertrude Bimmler, who raised
her hand before she spoke. “M. Degas,
you have created the hypotenuse
of an isosceles triangle.” Degas mused.
Everyone knew that Gertrude could not
be incorrect. “It is possible,”
Louis Warshowsky added precisely,
“that you have begun to represent
the roof of a barn.” I remember
that it was exactly twenty minutes
past eleven, and I thought at worst
this would go on another forty
minutes. It was early April,
the snow had all but melted on
the playground, the elms and maples
bordering the cracked walks shivered
in the new winds, and I believed
that before I knew it I’d be
swaggering to the candy store
for a Milky Way. M. Degas
pursed his lips, and the room
stilled until the long hand
of the clock moved to twenty one
as though in complicity with Gertrude,
who added confidently, “You’ve begun
to separate the dark from the dark.”
I looked back for help, but now
the trees bucked and quaked, and I
knew this could go on forever.

– PHILIP LEVINE –

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