Straw Flowers

Straw Flowers
"Straw Flowers" by L. Folk

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Abandonment of Charms and Chalices


March 12, 2011

My ego is inflamed, my mind is inflamed, my stomach is inflamed. I can't separate myself from my words. I writhe with the dream of the yellow toy car. It was my car; I drove it on the road, even though it was about one eighth the size of other cars. There was a key in the ignition that I turned to make it go. I can't remember the details of the first dream; only a snow covered roof and almost falling off of it. It was the high roof of a captain's house in Salem and my childhood friend Laura Veraha was with me. We were trying to accomplish something, God knows what, and I became so absorbed in what I was doing I forgot I was some one hundred feet off the ground. I wavered over the edge and then through myself back onto the roof. I scrambled, wondering how I got myself up here in the first place.
In the second dream I wanted to drive the toy car on the highway. My husband Richard was with me and he wanted to rollerskate on the highway. We approached the onramp and noticed a cop who looked like John from CHiPs, wore the same sunglasses and beige uniform. We snuck past him and onto the highway, but we were tentative, looking in every direction to see if he had followed us. He had, only this time he wasn't on a motorcycle, he was in a wheelchair. He reprimanded us from a low height. I looked down at him and told him I knew very well the force of the cars on a highway and how they could kill you; I had inspected highway bridges and witnessed first hand the treachery of speeding cars. The CHiPs cop in the wheelchair thanked me for saying that. He disappeared then with Richard who came back with the tickets he issued us, one for fifty dollars and another for eighty dollars. Richard was so angry, he tore up the tickets and threw them down the sewer. His hair was long and blond in the dream; he looked like a criminal and I was especially attracted to him then. Then, I ran down the highway, nude, crouched down slightly to hide my private parts. I hugged myself to cover my breasts. As I ran, I imagined what my ass looked like as I was running, if, perhaps, it jiggled too much. I came to an off ramp and took it under the highway where there was a comedian who played the guitar with his toes. I settled myself around the crowd to watch him play; I had clothes on my body again. I made note of how his toes manipulated the strings; he was laughing as he played. The crowd and I then got on a bus that drove us down Route 101 A, Amherst Street in New Hampshire where I used to live as a kid. I told the driver I needed to get to Greenwood Drive, and then I remembered this was not right; this was the street we used to live on in New Jersey. I told her no, Watersedge, I needed to get to Watersedge to go home to my house. And then it occurred to me someone else was living in it. I had nowhere to go.
I cannot separate myself from these words, nor my inflamed ego. I sit on the mat.
OmGodOmGodOmGodOmGodOmGodOmGodOmGodOmGodOmGodOmGod.

March 13, 2011

I ask God if God's name will push through the dirt. I sit in vespers, thinking of the Japanese with their broken bodies and broken hearts and broken buildings and broken lives. I hold them in my hands. They are afraid to go to bed, afraid to wake up. We eat steak and potatoes for dinner and they wonder where their house is. We hear the news, look at the images of water, the rebar sticking out of concrete, the mud, the flotsam and jetsam. God never promised us a rose garden. Really. There is no record of any such thing.
I sit on the mat and writhe and meditate. I breathe and picture the waterfall outside Jefferson Township where there is a sign that says, “Leaving Jefferson Township, Come Again.” There is the convenience store where my father went to get jugs of milk, the high diving board at Morskioko and the face of a black and white rat terrier. There are former houses and former lovers. At 41, my life is crowded with dead images. A space opens in my heart, like a clearing in the forest where light touches down and warms the grass. We call this grace. We pray for the clearing in our own lives.
My grandmother's mirror is always in the back of my mind. It was old and whatever substance that caused it to be a mirror was losing its strength. When you looked into it, the glass seemed to be misty and you were a ghost, fading.

Mechtild of Madgeburg writes this in The Flowering of the Godhead:
A Song of the Soul:
Lord, You shine into my soul
like the sun glows on gold,
and when I rest in You,
what rich joy I have.
In fact, You clothe Yourself, God,
with my soul.
You are her most intimate piece of clothing against the skin.

Hadewijch in Poems in Stanzas writes this:

The birds that winter oppressed are singing today,
joyful now.
That's us!
We thank Love that before too long we-
proud hearts who've felt great pain-
will be joyful, too.
Our confidence in Love assures us this is true.
Love's power is so great
she'll reward us in ways
we can't begin to imagine.

We are all fading ghosts until we bathe ourselves in love.

March 14, 2011

Crush in a Dream

You are a crush, a gravity
a symbol other than love.
As I breathe here aside
my husband
I feel your semi-bearded face
pressed endearingly
against my cheek.
Inside my abdomen
are small uprisings
but these are not for you,
only your youth,
folly and free
for days I've wasted,
life unexplored.

March 15, 2011

My sister tells me how courageous I am for doing the fertility treatments. I tell her I am anything but courageous; it's cowardice that's pushing me forward. I am afraid of the rest of life and its impending meaninglessness; of my own mortality. Having a child would fill the void. This is the short answer to my cowardice. The long answer has something to do with faith and the suspicion of a deeper connection to life, to resurrecting family, to beginning again with not the role of daughter or sister, but mother. Everyone around me tells me I should have that role; I would be a good mother. They don't know the Edna Pontellier side to me; the one who recoils from childbirth, diapers, and the ball and chain of dependency.
Yesterday, as I sat reading Thoreau and feeling that kinship with an author through space and time, I thought not having a child would be tolerable. My mortality shrunk a little. I could delve into my work, search out the Transcendentalists and write a book, devote my life to this writhing, writing thing, only switch genres and focus on non-fiction for awhile. What would Thoreau and Emerson and Fuller say about our age? How would they cope? What does modern day transcendentalism look like? My spirit leapt, yes. This has everything to do with my new life. Catholicism and its charms and trances is of the old life. It was the deaths, my father's and aunt's, that pulled the rest of the roots; living its traditions seems to be pretentious and inorganic now. I'm bored to death in the mass for the masses, trying to make sense of the homily and how I can fit it into my life. But the key no longer fits the lock. In the days of old, when we sat at the long table in my grandmother's dining room under the portentous tapestry of the Last Supper my grandmother won at a church raffle, Catholicism worked in my life. It was the hub around which our lives spun. We made the proper motions, prayed our prayers, sang our songs, kissed each other peace, sang our songs again, received God in our mouths, and went home to discuss the proceedings of the mass over dinner, pontificating on the eccentricities of the priests. Now the elders are dead or estranged. I am at the helm. But the vessel of Catholicism has holes in it and the water is flowing in. I can't pretend those holes aren't there.
(Should I have a child, however, this situation needs to be reevaluated. Children need the structure of religion as a foundation for their character. Or do they? Discuss amongst yourselves.)
Thoreau's soliloquy on ice crystals on Walden pond affected me. He says, “Ice has its grain as well as wood,” and “Many of the phenomena of Winter are suggestive of an inexpressible tenderness and fragile delicacy.” I too have looked closely at the majesty of ice crystals. I have walked along Walden pond in the spring and heard the tinkling of these crystals like bells. I had never heard this before, and I stopped and listened and had my husband listen. “Shh, listen, what IS that?” It was the current and the wind over the melting crystals; the lake had taken on an ethereal sound. I too have looked closely at nature's motif's of leaf veins. I have seen them in the tributaries of water at the ocean, have observed a maple leaf and its similar tributaries. I have thought of the shape of atoms and particle motion and the shape of planets and planetary motion. Nature establishes harmony in its motifs. This harmony is not worked with charms and chalices and myths and crosses; its the real evidence of nature. And it brings me peace.

March 16, 2011

My imagination has brought me to all sorts of places, wondrous and terrifying. Does my imagination bring me to God as well? The story of Jesus is a romance. All my ex-boyfriends resembled Jesus, long hair, beards, etc. Is the story of Christ, the glory of the Resurrection non-fiction or fiction? The sage in me says all fiction is just a collage of non-fiction, what does it matter; do you need the play by play exactly how it happened? But I say I don't want to dream up the glory of God like I dream up a character. I want to recognize it. I know the forces of my internal life. I know what I am capable of. I remember how intense my break ups were because I embellished the characters of lovers. I simply cannot deny the need for external evidence. The religious call on their faith in the unseen and Christ lectures us on doubting Thomas. But the star design in a tulip cup or the face on a crab shell or the empyreal read of the cardinal or the monk-like meditation of the firs is the true manifestation of spirit. Why do we need stories to help us see spirit when it is all around us? It's no coincidence that the story of the Resurrection happens in spring because it is spring.
Thoreau says, “I think that we may safely trust a good deal more than we do.” He says, “Nature is as well adapted to our weakness as to our strength. The incessant anxiety and strain of some is a well nigh incurable form of disease.”
Nature doesn't fret or worry, it just is. Before my dog Ralphie died, I watched him closely to see if he knew he was dying, to see if he exhibited any anxiety or agitation. He was tired, sure, but he exhibited none of these things. He was more anxious and agitated when he went to the vet. The day he collapsed with a tumor on his heart, he got right back up again to continue his day. He was not curled in a corner shaking. When he came to me in the kitchen and sat in front of me and nudged my hand, I interpreted this as, “Well, this is just what happens.” One might argue that he didn't really know what was happening to him. Animals don't pontificate, so they don't have anxiety. They deal in urges; stimuli and response. Well I'm not particularly sure about this, I'm not a dog psychoanalyst, but I'm pretty sure he knew he was dying, just by that one moment we had together in the kitchen.
Once Ralphie found a fisher cat in the woods. The animal was trying to dig itself in the earth. I pulled Ralphie away from the thing in fear that he would get bit. The next day I went out and saw that it was dead. It was trying to dig itself into the earth to die. It wasn't screaming and trembling; it was going to its death like it was going to take a sip of water.
Ralphie started dying two days later when I was on my way to take him to a heart specialist. We got there and he was nearly passed out in the back of my truck. When they carried him out, he looked like a big drunk puppy. I was destroyed and he was drunk. They asked me if I wanted to revive him, pressed me for an answer, he's going to go you need to tell us what to do, you need to tell us now- but I had no information. My heart said let him go and my mind needed more information from the doctor. I told them to revive him. The next time I saw him, he was hooked up to large plastic tubes. I was numb. It was not a profound moment; I couldn't wait to get out of there, away from those tubes. Later when I went back to sit with the body one more time, I didn't want to leave. I sobbed and stroked his cold, soft fur. I was more comfortable with the corpse.
When my father died I was proud of him for doing it so well. I did not want him to die alone in the hospital hooked up to fucking tubes. My sister and I administered the morphine and he lie in the living room in a drug induced haze. There was no terror or anxiety, even when he had all of his faculties. The night he died, his spirit mourned us. He never said goodbye to us; there was no tender moment when he told me he would always be with me, etc. He just slipped casually into an alternative universe where people, places, and things were not what he thought they were. His mind was malfunctioning as a computer malfunctions, spitting out nonsense when it has a virus. When it went into sleep mode, the soul took over. The heart spoke. You could hear the moaning everywhere in the house and could not go anywhere to escape it. My mother went up to her room and closed the door. My sister and I sat on the couch in the living room where his bed was and waited for his spirit to go. Finally, after hours of incessant moaning, he was gone. I was relieved. We were all relieved. I went to cover him with the sheet because his face was contorted like Munch's The Scream. The soul had slipped out the mouth and left the door open.
This experience was ineffable. I can only say I was a child then and my father was dead. The world felt too big and we were alone, bitterly alone, without him.
But the next day the sun was so radiant and the sky so brilliantly blue and the winds so caressingly soft, I could think of nothing else but the Resurrection. The trees were vermillion and gold and the grass still green. Outside lady bugs covered the house; I had never seen such a thing, thousands of lady bugs all over the siding and windows. Lady bugs have always been a good omen, a symbol of protection; they eat the bugs that destroy plants. I felt as Magdelene did when she found the shroud. He lives. He lives.
Anxiety over death is nothing but self abuse. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we let fear and the mind pummel us when we need most the heart's compassion? Why do we not take advice from Nature herself? Thoreau says, “The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling. Yet we do not treat ourselves nor one another thus tenderly.” This is what we most learn to do.

1 comment:

  1. I really liked your 3/15 post. The only religion I was brought up with was that god was nature, and being with nature was being with god. To me, the miracles of nature and the consistency of it are preferable to the God of the stories.

    Thanks for another thought provoking post.

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