Straw Flowers

Straw Flowers
"Straw Flowers" by L. Folk

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Human Womb of Adoration


As a writer, now, I feel crooked and lame. My sentences, trite and flimsy, fall apart on the page. Sure there was a fine snowfall to brighten the landscape, to contrast with the sentinel firs. But I have finished. There is no poetry for the blanketed stone wall or the harrier come to perch. Something in me is packed away for now. Energy flows to other immediate mouths. These babes float by their chords in water and I am suspended as well. Fatigued. I touch down and feel a wave wash over me, taste the salt in my mouth, awaken, only to fall back to sleep.
These babes are helpless creatures, but stunning. We close in on the first one, all of us, form a human womb of adoration.
Look at him.
Look at how he wrinkles his face. Ripples and reflections of spirits manifest themselves in his features. There are his parents, of course, and there is, somehow, each of us.
I walked the beach and imagined him playing there, plopped down to amuse himself, a white hat on his head. Later, he will run toward the waves and feel their sudden chill at his ankles. We will all be there, a different beach, and different bodies but our perspectives will be the same, of the immutable sky, of the waning sun, and the lull of the ocean, keeping time.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Portals and Angels



Last night I sat with my sister and we watched as her belly moved in crests and troughs- waves rippling across the skin. Zachary seemed to be restless. We flipped through the pages of her childbirth book, with its diagrams of women's torsos, the queer shapes of the insides before and after pregnancy, how they are squished by the baby. On one page there is a pelvis floating in mid air with a baby passing through it. What struck me is how precariously close that precious baby head is to the bone. There are also diagrams of unsightly tears of the perineum area, how the abdomen is cut for a Cesarean, etc., etc. and again I wondered, why childbirth is so...perilous. Couldn't nature afford a little more space between the baby's head and the mother's pelvis? Why must we be ripped, torn, cut into like a cantaloupe? And then I thought, well, if this world itself is perilous and seemingly always on the edge of destruction (famines, wars, ice ages, epidemics), why would the portal to it be any different?
I have sat next to people on the verge of that second great portal- death. I have watched them moan and thrash about. They too exhibited a restlessness, an awareness and apprehension of moving over a threshold. John O'Donahue, the Irish poet, philosopher and former priest talks about “thresholds” or the demarcation lines between two territories of spirit. Birth and Death are the grandest of all, but there are many others that occur during our lifetimes, lesser situations where we seem to move from one spiritual/emotional/mental plateau to another. The reason for them is inherent in the etymology of the word; threshold comes from the word “thrashen” which means to separate the grain from the husk. O'Donahue says that if we “cross worthily and heal all patterns of repetition” there is an “emerging fullness, a greater sense of grace and holiness.” This seems to me, soulwork; thresholds are passages for the spirit to move though in order for it to find its essence. Birth and death seem to be milemarkers of some sort. I wonder, though, if the soul is in someway assisted through these tricky junctures.
This morning I was walking my dog and I came upon a crumpled piece of garland. It looked like an angel's halo after someone had run over it with their car. Shortly after that and most coincidentally, I sat down to meditate and read a passage from Incandescence. The woman mystic of the day was Hildegard von Bingen; here is a verse:

O, angels with shining faces who guard the people.
O, archangels, who take honest souls to heaven.
O, virtues and powers and principalities and
dominions and thrones.
O, cherubim and seraphim.

Are these helpful intercessors real? Are there angels whispering in my nephew's ear to comfort him before he moves through the portal? Before my father died, he wept so passionately for the dead who had suffered and passed on it was almost as if they were in the room with him. He used to see them on television, in the stands of a Red Sox game, on the evening news. He was both astounded and comforted by their presences. So maybe angels are real and not the winged, fairy-like creatures of lore but boiled down essences of love and charity. They have successfully completed passage through all of their thresholds.
O'Donahue says the “visible world is the first shoreline of the invisible world.” This gives me a great deal of comfort as I sit under the ficus tree, asking my father's now angelic soul to help my nephew's burgeoning soul through the birth portal.
Maybe every birth is a miracle and every death is a miracle. Maybe what makes them miracles is the element of perilousness in conjunction with the elements of God. And these elements of God present a love and a faith so steadfast, the soul is soothed and able to progress through its portals. Maybe you can call these entities angels, by their purity, by their charity, by their evolution.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Letter to My Nephew In Utero




Dearest Zachary,

Seriously, enough is enough. I don't know what's keeping you, but you need to know you are causing quite a row; we're all on edge here, waiting for your arrival. I know this is a bit much to put on a baby, but you should probably get used to the guilt trip now, while you're young.
Perhaps you have some misgivings about the birth process? I can understand that; it's probably very comfy and cozy where you're at and you don't want to retire such agreeable circumstances. But I'm telling you, you need to move toward the light, Zach (can I call you Zach?) because where that light is coming from, well there's something called love. Okay, so you've got a little bit of a trip ahead of you; there's that, for lack of a better word, tunnel, and it can be tight, but it is really not very long at all, maybe only a few inches and you'll have plenty of lubricant. Listen Zach, everybody does it. So you squeeze through this mini tunnel into the light, yes, you got it and do you know what's going to be waiting for you on the other side? No, not a slap; they don't do that anymore. Your mother's face and your father's face will be waiting for you. They are your parents, Zach, and they're actually pretty good looking, so you're lucky. No really what I'm telling you is this is the beginning of your life! And a life really isn't so bad, no matter what the papers tell you. Okay, so the economy is still in the shitter, and Iran is close to creating nuclear weaponry, and sadly, the Republicans control the House, but don't worry about this stuff! You're just a baby and babies have the easiest lives on the planet! Really, I wouldn't kid you.
First of all, you get this really cool room all to yourself. It's called a nursery and there are duckies and froggies and boats and other interesting things to gaze upon. Doesn't that sound better than the blood vessels you've cozying up to for the past nine months? Jesus, Zach, there cuddlier things out there than long, spindly blood vessels. And then of course, your mom and dad; I promise you, when you are in their arms, everything is right with the world.
Well, almost everything.
No, but seriously Zach, you've got to get the ball rolling or your grandmother is going to lose her mind. You don't want this to happen; grandmothers are important and it's crucial they keep their sanity so they can give you every little thing your heart desires. They make your small, burgeoning world that much better. You want that little doggie in the window? He's yours. You want that bunny or lamby friend; take 'em. Grandmothers, at your age, are the answer to everything.
I know, Zach. Your Auntie Laurette can relate: she's a Capricorn too. We are somewhat averse to change. We are stubborn. We are wary of wild schemes and go-nowhere jobs. But you can't fight the inevitable; you've got to take the bull by the horns (or the goat, for that matter). I, for one, did not exactly do this during my “coming out” process and my head was a bruised melon from the forceps digging into my skull. Don't let this happen to you! I was afraid, Zach, or at least this is what the shrinks tell me (that and I should get myself to the nearest immersion tank and have another go to resolve some issues).
Listen, Zachary, all kidding aside, if you don't get moving, I'm going to call upon your grandfather to give you a good ol' metaphysical boot in the ass. I have that kind of pull with those in high places, if you know what I mean. So move toward the light, Zachary. Please, please do it soon. For your mother's sake.


Love,

Auntie Laurette

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Love Delivers: Reflections While Waiting for My Nephew


January 2, 2012

The typical thing to do at New Years is to reflect on the year past, its blessings, sorrows, trials, but I feel as if I have been doing that all along, writing this blog, and to reflect on reflections is sort of redundant.
We smoothly slid into the New Year, surreptitiously, my husband and I; I fell asleep on the couch and he in his man-chair, before a show on the apocalypse until a few minutes before midnight where he poured some ginger ale and we toasted and kissed to 2012 while watching the revelers at Time Square. Then we went to bed.
On New Year's morning I sat down on the mat before the ficus tree and read the January 1st entry from Incandescence: 365 Readings from Women Mystics. Here is the entry:

On New Year's Day,
we hope the new season
brings new flowers and new joys.
But- come what may-
those who suffer and worry for Love
will live joyful lives.

Love's rich power is creative and friendly.
Love is kind and has a sweet temperament.
Love soothes with compensation
every new sadness.

Love knows the repeated blows
I must endure for her.
From now on, though, I'll rely on Love.
totally,
with a sad heart, joyful.

-Hadewijch, Poems in Stanzas

Hadewijch of Antwerp was a woman poet mystic, part of the Beguine movement which included semi-monastic communities (no formal vows taken) of the Roman Catholic faith during the 13th and 14th centuries in and around the region of Cologne, France. According to the text, “Hadewijch's most famous statement is that 'she wanted to become God with God.'” (Someday I will write a non-fiction book on these women mystics because there seems to be much to explore). Well this was an appropriate poem to read, given the blessings I had received this past year. While I do not feel the need to write about them because, somehow, it downgrades their potency, I do bow my head in deep gratitude for the twins I carry, for the book accepted for publication, for estranged family connections renewed, for my husband, family, friends, and small daily blessings. I have discovered that gratitude is a highly personal thing and is difficult to keep. Life's flow has a way of undermining it; the mind can't help but look for the next best thing. So I carved a box somewhere inside myself and wrote gratitude on it and went away to live my life. And then it occurred to me I was neglecting the thing, entity, energy, if you will, that brought me these things. I was neglecting love. (Note: A writer has to be very careful with love because you straddle the fence of cliche, and that is a fate worse than death.)
So I started thinking about love and its components passion and compassion, passion the fiery part, the dynamic; compassion the nurturing part, the steadfast. One of the exposition essays I have my composition classes read is Anastasia Toufexis's “Love: The Right Chemistry” in which she discusses the passionate and compassionate aspects of love as the results of the chemical and biological evolution of our brains. I would like to add physics to that. Love is always a force of attraction, like gravity. The Universal Law of Gravitation states “Every mass in the universe is attracted to every other mass.” With love, the lover seeks to be near the beloved, be this a person or persons (any sentient being actually) or perhaps a mode of expression, an occupation, as in the case of the artist. This nearness settles the inherent anxiety we all have due to our physical and mental separateness (space). But love has a component to a component: compassion has a component called gratitude. So often we neglect this because we are an over-stimulated society; passion is more the ticket, will get you where you want to go.
If passion is a phoenix, compassion and gratitude is an oasis where you may float, but it disappears too quickly. I think meditation can help with this. Put yourself in that oasis, feel its cool water, hear its lapping waves. Rest there.
On a different note: for weeks now, we have been waiting for the arrival of my nephew. I went to have dinner with my family at my mother's and my sister sat at the table immense and emotional. She was frustrated; she wanted to see her baby's face, but the contractions weren't coming. The undercurrent of anxiety and hope that filled our holiday season had now swelled where we could see it. She says she feels the baby moving and that's a consolation, but she's having a hard time dealing with her mind; she doesn't know what to do to induce herself (tried herbs, eggplant, sex, walking) and distract herself.
We are now, suffering and worrying for love, as the above poem states. What I want to emphasize here as that the impetuses of love, passion and compassion, deliver and we shouldn't forget that. Example: This past week we had a visit from my mother's brother and his family. We have been, for the better part of fifteen years, estranged from them for reasons I won't get into. I never thought I would see the day my uncle would be at my doorstep, but there he was and it was as if time had not passed. As we all gathered around the table and laughed and reminisced, I realized that love had done this, brought us together (well, love and facebook).  It lay dormant for awhile, like the cicada who lives years underground until that day it is prompted by Mother Nature to rise up and sing. We tend to forget about the singing part. And so love will bring that baby, despite our fears.
I have, in my study, a rose bush that I kept in the yard for the summer. Instead of planting it in the ground, I took it inside. Now it is blooming again and this, together with these reflections have prompted a poem:

Watchful and cool, a rose twists
toward the window like a periscope
spying on the place where light was.
It blooms this January day, a festive red,
a smaller face than summer's,
but just as potent.