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Archive for August, 2008

Last night, when I heard Barack Obama’s speech, I wept. Not because I believed his words; his promises; his point-of-view. Not because I identify myself as a democrat, or because I deal in the currency of hope. Not because I want him to be president or because I don’t want him to be president.

I wept because I remember. I remember growing up in the South. I remember “the coloreds” and their low slung weathered homes at the edge of town. I remember their porches with rounded refrigerators, threadbare couches. I remember the chickens in their yards. I remember the separate restrooms and drinking fountains and how hard it was to make sense of it all.

To see an African American standing on that podium moved me in ways that I never expected. I wept. Because I remember.

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LISTEN

with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridge to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water looking out
in different directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you
in a culture up to its chin in shame
living in the stench it has chosen we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the back door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks that use us we are saying thank you
with the crooks in office with the rich and fashionable
unchanged we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us like the earth
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is

– W.S. MERWIN –

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How do you put 85 years of life in a shadow box frame? Sunday school at the Methodist Church; high school and college football and basketball; WW II on a ship in the Pacific; graduation from the University of Virginia; global travel–Mexico; the Caribbean; Central and South America; England; Scotland; Wales; France; Switzerland; Italy; Spain; Germany; India; Australia; Japan; China; tennis; golf; family…not to mention, a sense of humor and a boundlessly appreciative, loving, positive perspective on life?

With a little velcro, hot glue and patience, we did our best…

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POEM: BY THE WILD-HAIRED CORN

I don’t know
if the sunflowers
are angels always,
but surely sometimes.

Who, even in heaven,
wouldn’t want to wear,
for awhile,
such a seed-face

and brave spine,
a coat of leaves
with so many pockets—
and who wouldn’t want

to stand, for a summer day,
in the hot fields,
in the lonely country
of the wild-haired corn?

This much I know,
when I see the bright
stars of their faces,
when I’m strolling nearby,

I grow soft in my speech,
and soft in my thoughts,
and I remember how everything will be everything else,
by and by.

– MARY OLIVER –

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THE BOOK OF PILGRIMAGE, II, 22

You are the future,
the red sky before sunrise
over the fields of time.

You are the cock’s crow when night is done,
You are the dew and the bells of matins,
maiden, stranger, mother, death.

You create yourself in ever-changing shapes
that rise from the stuff of our days —
unsung, unmourned, undescribed,
like a forest we never knew.

You are the deep innerness of all things,
the last word that can never be spoken.
To each of us you reveal yourself differently:
to the ship as coastline, to the shore as a ship.

– RAINER MARIA RILKE –

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Dashiell, native of Los Angeles, didn’t know about thunder storms. He was here for the hot and steamy days of July and like his Mama, he loves the sound, the smell and the feel of summer rain.

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Tonight at Yoga School, we meditate. As we deepen our breathing and settle on our cushions, the instruction is to “do nothing” and “be nobody.” To drop our roles and responsibilities; to breathe, feel and be.

I breathe. Thoughts of my father arise. I breathe…

The years, the layers of responsibility–some of it accepted unconsciously; some of it accepted in a spirit of generosity; some of it becoming increasingly challenging.

He calls daily. Several times. He seems restless; ready to move on. To where? He no longer walks; can stand, but barely. He has a foley; needs oxygen periodically; takes countless meds. His memory is good ’til the end of a sentence…usually. He demands financial updates; wants to take control of his checkbook. Lord help us. I imagine him putting his checks in a “really safe” place. Wherever that is, when the day comes that he remembers, we will find his wallet, credit cards and at least four keys to his scooter. Of course, his bills would also be put in a “really safe” place; might get paid but not mailed. All requests from sketchy organizations offering greeting cards and personalized note pads would be considered urgent and would be honored immediately with a $25.00 check.

I breathe. My “daughter” identity drops away. The last nine years; really, the last seventeen years; maybe my whole life as his caretaker drop away.

I am humbled by his losses and his dependency…by his absolute and unending love for me…

I breathe. Thoughts become silence. Breathing…being….doing nothing…being nobody.

SWIMMING, ONE DAY IN AUGUST

It is time now, I said,
for the deepening and quieting of the spirit
among the flux of happenings.

Something had pestered me so much
I thought my heart would break,
I mean, the mechanical part.

I went down in the afternoon
to the sea
which held me, until I grew easy.

About tomorrow, who knows anything.
Except that it will be time, again,
For the deepening and quieting of the spirit.

– MARY OLIVER –

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