it’s hard to bow to the vastness of the sea when being pulled under

I was walking our dog during the pandemic, the neighborhood empty, the clouds heavy, and, through my headphones, the music of a man now gone, the love from his soul helping me keep my head above water. And though it’s hard to bow to the vastness of the sea when being pulled under, hard to believe in the merit of light when lost in the dark, hard to wait on love when painfully lonely—these larger truths never stop being true. Even as I voice this, someone is dying in the hall of an overcrowded hospital, while another is lifted from their own hell by the grace of a kindness no one saw coming. As if the spirit of the one dying arrives like pollen in the heart of the one stuck in hell, giving them just enough to begin again. If we could only give the extra warmth we receive to someone who is shivering. If we could shed the masks that keep us from ourselves, there would be enough to save the world.

~ Mark Nepo, “Sheltered-in-Place” (FB, April 5, 2020)


Notes: Photo – Axios. Quote: Thank you Make Believe Boutique. Inspired by Ray’s post: It’s all about Perspective

Riding Metro North. Searching, for Important.

Jenny Offill : “To live in a city is to be forever flinching.”

Tuesday morning.

A brisk walk to train station.  32 F feels like 26 F.  No snow, no slush, no sleet.  Dry.  January.  I’ll take this all day, all winter long.

5:48 am train to Grand Central.

Plenty of empty seats.

I slide by her into a seat next to the window.

She offers me a smile, and tucks her legs in to let me pass.

I nod, offering my thanks.

She’s reading a soft cover book, verses of some sort. I can’t make it out. 98% of the rest of us are heads down into our gadgets.

She’s wearing a long (long), black puffer coat, that drapes down to the top of her black boots. A black knit cap. A knitted scarf wrapped around her neck.  She’s in her late 60’s to mid 70’s would be my guess. She turns the page. Why am I so distracted by her? Her elbows and knees are tucked in, and she’s sitting comfortably in her lane. Lady @ Peace comes to mind.

But for the industrial heaters blowing warm air through the ceiling vents, the train car is silent.

She gets up in anticipation of her stop.

The vestibule is crowded with passengers waiting to get off.

She waits quietly at the back of the line. [Read more…]

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

It all matters. That someone turns out the lamp, picks up the windblown wrapper, says hello to the invalid, pays at the unattended lot, listens to the repeated tale, folds the abandoned laundry, plays the game fairly, tells the story honestly, acknowledges help, gives credit, says good night, resists temptation, wipes the counter, waits at the yellow, makes the bed, tips the maid, remembers the illness, congratulates the victor, accepts the consequences, takes a stand, steps up, offers a hand, goes first, goes last, chooses the small portion, teaches the child, tends to the dying, comforts the grieving, removes the splinter, wipes the tear, directs the lost, touches the lonely, is the whole thing.

What is most beautiful is least acknowledged.

What is worth dying for is barely noticed.

Laura McBride, We Are Called to Rise: A Novel


Photo: Patty Maher, with The Red String. “Based on the Japanese legend that a red string ties us to all those with whom we will make history and all those whom we will help in one way or another.”  Laura McBride quote from A Sea of Quotes.

Go ahead — you first

I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes…
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder,
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead — you first,” “I like your hat.”

Danusha Laméris, from “Small Kindnesses” (NY Times Magazine, September 19, 2019)


Photo: agent j loves nyc with Crowded Car

Walking Cross Town. Small gestures with big tailwinds.

Late to bed Tuesday night, following long return flight from Phoenix.

Late jump Wednesday morning.

4th morning train to NYC.

Light misty rain.

And, Terry Tempest Williams continues to lay tracks.

In the end, it’s rarely the large gestures that count, it’s the small ones.

My antenna is up.

On train, a middle aged man gives up his seat for a lady. She’s not young. Not old. Not pregnant. He just does it. And stands for the entire 55 minute ride.

At Grand Central Station, Construction worker, hard hat under his arm, looks behind as he crosses the threshold of the exit, sees me coming, holds door open. I was several yards back. Let’s say 10 yards back. Rare occurrence. It was a conscious act.  Everyone is exhausted with political attacks, the lack of civility. How about some decency today?

And the gestures, small, keep coming.

Flight to Phoenix. Elderly lady sits in aisle seat. Not her seat. “Would you mind taking the window seat.” She gestures asking him to lean closer: “I have a bladder problem.” He slides across and takes the window seat. “No problem.” She exhales.

Susan out for a morning walk in Phoenix. She returns to tell me “the most unbelievable story.” I roll my eyes. Can’t wait to hear this.  She comes across a lady walking “Sunny”, a Golden Doodle.  Lady asks where we’re from. Susan explains. “Here to visit my husband’s younger brother. He’s hospitalized and breathing with the aid of a ventilator.” Lady pauses to assess the receptiveness of her planned gesture.  “I’m sorry to be so forward, but would you mind if I said a Prayer for him and for you.” And then proceeds to reach for Susan’s hands, and Prays.

I walk across Fifth Avenue. It’s 7 a.m. E.S.T. and 4 a.m. in Phoenix.

He’s sleeping now, machine pumps oxygen into his lungs.

I stand waiting for the cross walk sign to turn.

I look up, light drizzle brushes my face, three flags flap over a major hotel entrance.

I inhale deeply, and then exhale, and this Agnostic fires up his own Prayer.

Breathe Bro. Breathe.


Photo: Mine with smartphone. At Times Square yesterday morning, at the end of my cross-town walk. NYC awakening.

 

Waiting. At The Star Market. Trying to Bend the Image.

7:05 am. Stamford station.

I’m waiting for the 2151 Acela to Baltimore. Overhead board flashes On Time, Track 2.

There are two empty seats adjacent to a scruffy, long bearded old man. He’s wearing a heavy jacket, way too heavy for August. A rollerboard stands to his right. His head bowed, sleeping. You’re asking for trouble. Find another seat. I look around, and can’t find another seat. I catch others watching me, judging, ‘The Suit won’t come near That.’

And Mind, ever so efficient, calls up a Marie Howe poem, The Star Market:

“The people Jesus loved were shopping at the Star Market yesterday. An old lead-colored man standing next to me at the checkout breathed so heavily I had to step back a few steps. Even after his bags were packed he still stood, breathing hard and hawking into his hand. The feeble, the lame, I could hardly look at them: shuffling through the aisles, they smelled of decay..Jesus must have been a saint, I said to myself…stumbling among the people who would have been lowered into rooms by ropes, who would have crept out of caves or crawled from the corners of public baths on their hands and knees begging for mercy. If I touch only the hem of his garment, one woman thought, could I bear the look on his face when he wheels around?”

He lifts his head, turns towards me and stares.  I freeze.  The Others are now watching. I pause, and make my move.

I take the seat next to Him.

Others watch for a moment, eyebrows raised, and then go back to their smartphones. Did you do it because you wanted a seat? Or because others would think less of You, or that you didn’t want this Suit to meet their expectations? Or because you didn’t want Him to think you thought any less of Him?

There’s one empty seat between us. But there’s tension in the gap. He turns to look at me, I can feel his eyes on me. Here it comes, Can you help me out with a few bucks, Sir?”  

He sits silently. [Read more…]

What are you going through?

All around me were strangers. I knew no one. And as far as I knew, no one had any idea what I was dealing with….As I turned away and stared at the Pacific Ocean through the little window from my seat on the plane, I was left with a bunch of grief and two big questions. What burdens are all the people on this plane carrying? And how would I treat them differently if I knew?

~ Carl Richards, from “Ask Yourself This: What Burdens Is That Other Person Carrying?”

 


Post title and post Inspired by: “I remember reading some works of Simone Veil, a French woman who lived in France during the war and she said there’s only one question worth asking anybody and that question is, “What are you going through?” ~Leonard Cohen, From Leonard Cohen interview With Stina Dabrowski (Thank you Make Believe Boutique)

T.G.I.F. (from another seat)


A migrant, part of a group intercepted aboard two dinghies in the Mediterranean Sea, rests after arriving at the port of Malaga, Spain. (Jon Nazca, Reuters, wsj.com, April 26, 2018)

Walking Across Town. Blinded By the Light.

Isabel Miramontes, Come On

Mid July in Manhattan.

I step out of the Metro North car onto the platform, and walk down the tunnel in Grand Central. There’s zero transition from the air cooled train car @ 69° F to This. The body is swallowed by dampness, cool to not cool, Bam. The softness of the pressed shirt turns to less soft, to not soft, to moist, to sticking to the chest. Feet, are choking from their leather wraps, swollen from weight gain (6.3 lbs in less than 30 days) – chafing is coming, oh, it’s coming, by days end, or sooner. There will be blood.

I exhale little puppy breaths to pass the heat, trying to keep cool. Fail.

It’s 6:28 a.m. Tourists mingle in midtown, coalesce around the network TV studios and their Morning Shows – holding their cups of coffee, hoping to spot a celebrity, or better yet, get a cameo for the folks back home. Hi, Jane from Iowa! [Read more…]

Feeling Trapped

spiritual-board

When William Campion was in the intensive-care unit (ICU) this month after a double lung transplant, he felt nervous and scared and could breathe only with the help of a machine.

Joel Nightingale Berning, a chaplain at Mr. Campion’s hospital stopped by. He saw that Mr. Campion had a tube in his neck and windpipe, which prevented him from speaking. The chaplain held up a communication board—not the kind used to check a patient’s physical pain and needs, but a “spiritual board” … The board also lets patients rate their level of spiritual pain on a scale of 0 through 10, from none to “extreme.” Mr. Campion, a 69-year-old Catholic, indicated his spiritual pain was acute: 8. Using the picture board, he signaled that he wanted to pray. The chaplain recited the Lord’s Prayer as Mr. Campion followed silently.

ICUs have evolved in recent years and even the critically ill are being sedated less than before. As doctors came to believe that heavy sedation—once the norm in such units—could be harmful, many patients are now breathing with the help of machines, and are conscious…more ICU patients (are) awake and alert.  The fact that these patients can’t communicate adds to their frustration…many patients on these machines feel “trapped.”…They have been intubated, meaning they have a tube in their throat, attached to a machine that is breathing for them….

The 32-year-old chaplain, who is nondenominational, persuaded a fellow chaplain—Seigan Ed Glassing, a Zen Buddhist monk who had studied art—to help illustrate the board. The two included a range of faiths and belief systems, including Christian, Jewish and Hindu, as well as New Age, Pagan and agnostic. Colorful icons offer patients the option of a prayer or confession, or simply to have someone hold their hand. Chaplain Glassing said he loved figuring out “what would a blessing look like,” or how to draw “make [me] an altar.” A favorite: depicting someone asking to be read a poem.

The study, with results published last August in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society, looked at 50 ICU patients who were offered spiritual care through the board. Researchers measured patients’ anxiety before and after the chaplain came, concluding that “anxiety after the first visit decreased 31%.”

Among patients who survived, 81% “felt more at peace,” while 71% felt “more connected with what is sacred.”

~ Lucette Lagnado, excerpts from A ‘Spiritual Board’ Brings Comfort to the Critically Ill


Post inspired and triggered by two of my favorite movies: The Bell and The Butterfly and The Sea Inside.

All That We Share (Watch!)

Walking Cross-Town. 47th, wrong side.

walker-photography-mist-fog-light

6:32 a.m. I exit Grand Central onto 47th. I glance at my watch, plenty of time for the 7 a.m. breakfast.

The crane’s steel arm groans and stretches up four floors. One worker guides the load of sheet rock in through the window. Another waves off the early morning commuters with his red caution flag. He looks me in the eye and directs me to the other side of the street.

I cross.

Have you ever walked this side of 47th? Ever? Eight years. 100’s of cross-town walks. Zero recollection of ever walking on the other side.

I glance over. It’s now free of construction. The wind whistles. Come back. Now. Come Home to me.

I lean right but resist. No.  Not today. Live dangerously DK.  Go way out on a limb.

I walk.

The legs and feet are heavy. I trudge on alien ground. The Amygdala twitches.

I pass delivery upon delivery truck offloading the day’s supplies.

“Fiji Water. Fiji. Untouched by man. Every drop is green.”

I pass the jewelry district

“Time in Motion – Watch Repair”
[Read more…]

Walking Cross-Town. Blink, Damn It. Blink.

It’s 7:38 am.
The train pulls into Grand Central.
I lift briefcase – oh, oh. It’s unusually light.
Meeting notes and reports were left behind on the nightstand.
Late jump. A mere hour difference from your habitual start and you’re unhinged.
First morning call is scheduled at 8:15.
Maps signals a 30 minute walk from Grand Central to the Office.
Cab v. Foot?
I check the vitals.
Temperature? Rain? Cross-town traffic? Mood? Criticality of call?
Vitals check out.
I can beat 30 on foot.

Heavy construction lines the arteries, 48th cross-town and 7th downtown. Tourists crowd the sidewalks and hover over the filming of the Live Morning show – a shapely aerobics instructor flanked by two middle aged men wearing hot green lycra pants.

I glance at Maps. I’ve lost time. Arrival time now estimated at 8:13 for the 8:15 meeting.

I accelerate the pace, and this against a wall of foot traffic heading uptown. A hurdler off-step, I hit each Don’t Walk sign.

I glance at Maps: 8:17 ETA.

Humidity surges.  I loosen tie.  My neck moistens the shirt collar.  Fresh? Not.

The morning sun beams. A smooth thin film coats the forehead, legs and back. [Read more…]

feed him for three days before asking who he is

rice-cilantro-food-meal

The Arabs used to say,
When a stranger appears at your door,
feed him for three days
before asking who he is,
where he’s come from,
where he’s headed.
That way, he’ll have strength
enough to answer.
Or, by then you’ll be
such good friends
you don’t care.
Let’s go back to that.
Rice? Pine nuts?
Here, take the red brocade pillow.
My child will serve water
to your horse.
No, I was not busy when you came!
I was not preparing to be busy.
That’s the armor everyone put on
to pretend they had a purpose
in the world.
I refuse to be claimed.
Your plate is waiting.
We will snip fresh mint
into your tea.”

Naomi Shihab Nye, “Red Brocade” (1952)


Notes: Image Source: Rice Nice Recipes, Every Hour. Poem Source: “who are you really, wanderer?” (via Schonwieder)

 

Life’s most persistent and urgent question

martin-luther-king


Source: Apple.com landing page (Jan 18, 2016)

T.G.I.F.: It’s Been A Long Week

The footage is being widely shared on the Wild Wings Safaris Facebook page – nearly 15,000 shares at the time of this post – and generating feedback that’s almost as touching as the footage. A random sampling of the comments:

  • “Leave it to the smart old women to solve the problem!”
  • “I feel like the mother was trying to allow he baby to figure it out on its own, but the other elephant was impatient. Elephants are stinking adorable! And they stand on their tippy toes!”
  • “I wish humans would look after their kids so well. Why oh why do we treat animals so badly?”
  • “Maybe it’s the mom in me, but watching it just stressed me out even though I new he was gonna get out.”
  • Aren’t animals awesome? We need to realize they have feelings like us.”

Source: Grindtv (Thank you Susan)

Thank You For Being a Friend


Loved this. And can’t seem to get Andrew Gold’s song out of my head:


Source: Grindtv.com

 

Plant myself at the gates of Hope

woman-portrait-hair-black-and-white

I have a friend who traffics in words. She is not a minister, but a psychiatrist in the health clinic at a prestigious women’s college. We were sitting once not long after a student she had known, and counseled, committed suicide in the dormitory there. My friend, the doctor, the healer, held the loss very closely in those first few days, not unprofessionally, but deeply, fully — as you or I would have, had this been someone in our care.

At one point (with tears streaming down her face), she looked up in defiance (this is the only word for it) and spoke explicitly of her vocation, as if out of the ashes of that day she were renewing a vow or making a new covenant (and I think she was). She spoke explicitly of her vocation, and of yours and mine. She said, “You know I cannot save them. I am not here to save anybody or to save the world. All I can do — what I am called to do — is to plant myself at the gates of Hope. Sometimes they come in; sometimes they walk by. But I stand there every day and I call out till my lungs are sore with calling, and beckon and urge them in toward beautiful life and love…

There’s something for all of us there, I think. Whatever our vocation, we stand, beckoning and calling, singing and shouting, planted at the gates of Hope. This world and our people are beautiful and broken, and we are called to raise that up — to bear witness to the possibility of living with the dignity, bravery, and gladness that befits a human being. That may be what it is to “live our mission.”

~ Victoria Safford, excerpt from “The Small Work in the Great Work


Notes:


It is an issue of private shame

Hungry-Child

James Harrison, New Statesman: The Foodbank Dilemma:

“…A young clean-shaven man leads an older, grey-haired, battered-by-life-version-of-himself to where Tony stands. Tony greets them kindly and asks the younger man who referred them to the food bank. There’s a moment of startled silence. Then the younger man says gruffly, “It’s not for me, it’s for my dad”, and looks down at the floor. The colour flushing his face makes clear his embarrassment…”

“…School holidays are the hardest time because you have to feed your children three times a day. That’s why I am coming here now…”

“…Normally I eat porridge in the morning to fill myself up and then often I don’t eat at all myself in the evenings. But today is the start of the kids’ holidays and so they don’t get the school meals, they have to eat all their food at home and I just can’t manage…”

“…Not having enough food is a very private issue…It is an issue of private shame. People eat mostly within the home, and so what people eat, and the ways in which it is inadequate, people keep to themselves. And it is an issue of private suffering. If you are not getting enough food, or the right kind of food, you absorb the misery yourself. The cost is embodied by you. It is your body that becomes unhealthy…”

“…people turned to food aid as “a strategy of last resort”, when they have exhausted all other possibilities, including cutting back on food and turning to family and friends. No one I met used a foodbank lightly. Louise had been skipping dinners for months before she went to Coventry Foodbank. She finally attended so she could feed her children during the school holiday…”

“…I saw a young woman break down into floods of tears when the food was brought out. She was overwhelmed by the idea that she could feed her family properly that night…”

“…Another man, too shy to talk to me, told the volunteers he had walked miles across the city to get a referral and then a few miles more for his food that afternoon. He didn’t have enough money for the bus fare. He sat, exhausted, cradling a cup of tea, rocking backwards and forwards, before making the same trip home again. This time laden down with his bags of food…”

“…I am down to the last pound or so on my electricity card and I am really starting to worry about that. And so I have been going to bed really hungry for a week or so. It’s my second trip. I was really worried about coming the first time. I was ashamed, but everyone has made me feel so welcome, and told me not to worry. This time I feel more comfortable. I hope my benefit issues will get sorted out soon so I don’t have to come again…”

Read full article here: The Foodbank Dilemma:


Image Credit: shescribes.com

 

As you prepare your breakfast

candle-flame-light-dark

As you prepare your breakfast, think of others
(do not forget the pigeon’s food).
As you wage your wars, think of others
(do not forget those who seek peace).
As you pay your water bill, think of others
(those who are nursed by clouds).
As you return home, to your home, think of others
(do not forget the people of the camps).
As you sleep and count the stars, think of others
(those who have nowhere to sleep).
As you express yourself in metaphor, think of others
(those who have lost the right to speak).
As you think of others far away, think of yourself
(say: If only I were a candle in the dark.)

— Mahmoud Darwish, “Think of Others”

 


Credits: Poem – The Journey of Words from Darwish’s book Almond Blossoms and Beyond. Photograph: bdak89

%d bloggers like this: