"Lotus Opening" by L. Folk

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Massacre of the Innocents

It's unbearably gray, but warm, an anomaly of a day for December, or at least what December used to be.  I've been listening to the wind and trying to pinpoint what, exactly, it sounds like.  Not a whine, no.  Not a whistle or a moan.  It's the sound of some kind of mechanical undercurrent, of things going on behind the scenes, somewhere else.  This is how I interpret the spiritual world as well- an undercurrent.  In the light of recent events, I am not alone in turning my ear to assess those undercurrents and examining my faith.

The Newtown tragedy rattled me to the core.  I think I speak for many people when I say that.    Having just become a mother, I get it, how, every child is your child and how you must live knowing your heart will now "go walking around outside your body," to quote Obama, quoting Elizabeth Stone. As a parent, you are vulnerable; as vulnerable as one can be.  That vulnerability is terrifying.  But to be vulnerable is to be human and despite all we do to save ourselves from vulnerability, it is inherent to our nature.  So the problem lies in dealing with it.  We need to first be honest with ourselves; we need to take clues from the subtler world of undercurrents, the world of light and dark, good and evil, yin and yang that it's time to put aside our myriad distractions and wake up.
The title of this particular blog entry, "The Massacre of the Innocents" is the title given to Herod's killing of the Jewish children of Bethlehem in hopes of eradicating his threat, the newborn King of the Jews.  It was the Magi, three distinguished foreigners, who informed Herod of the child king and he in turn sent them to Bethlehem to find him.  They followed a star to the place where Jesus was born bringing him gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh. Having experienced great joy upon seeing the child and a vision of an angel, the magi opted to thwart Herod and return to their homes without giving him the whereabouts of Jesus.  Herod, in turn, ordered the killing of all Jewish babies under the age of two.  According to historical sources, the number of innocents killed is approximately 20, the same number of children killed in the Newtown massacre.

Is it a coincidence or a significance?  I have found other coincidence like this, for instance the Mountain Meadows Massacre and the September 11 terrorist attacks.  In 1857, the Mormon Militia, disguised as Native American Indians slaughtered a wagon train of 120 men, women, and children in southern Utah.  The reasons are unclear and debatable but the date is not; the massacre occurred on September 11.

Coincidences like these are cause for reflection upon the two dark and light forces, the seeds cultivated in our internal and external lives.  Thich Nhat Hanh, the famous Buddhist monk talks about this:

…there is a seed of anger in every one of us. There are many kinds of seeds that lie deep in our consciousness, a seed of anger, a seed of violence, a seed of fear, a seed of jealousy, a seed of full despair, a seed of miscommunication, a seed of hate. They're all there and, when they sleep, we are okay. But if someone come and water these seeds, they will manifest into energy and they will make us suffer. We also have wholesome seeds in us, namely the seeds of understanding, of awakening, of compassion, of nonviolence, of nondiscrimination, a seed of joy and forgiveness. They are also there.

We are all vulnerable to the dark seeds in each of us; we need to start there, with that truth.  In that way we eradicate the "us" and "them" attitude that alienates us, that allows for evil to rear its head.  Thich Nhat Hanh advises us to act, to change the environments that cultivate the dark seeds.  If Nancy Lanza had been vigilant and responsible, she would have examined other alternatives, hobbies more wholesome and enriching that she could have shared with her son.  As a parent, that was her responsibility.  Instead, she is an indication of what is happening in our society, how people are tuning out of relationships and taking the easy way out, be it by distracting themselves with technology or grabbing that low hanging fruit. 

Today is the winter solstice, the longest night of the year.  From here, the days will slowly get longer and we will have more light.  Coincidentally, today is also the end of the ancient Mayan calendar, interpreted by some to be the end of the world.  It's now 11:21 and that doesn't appear to be the case.  But before the day ended, the sky split in two; half of it was dark cloud cover, the other half a radiant light pushing up from the horizon.  I went downstairs with my boy in my arms and the light poured in through the sheer curtain causing the entire room to glow.  I felt the presence of God's mercy, of a promise, should I be mindful and act, He will match those acts with grace.  I can only hope I feel this way tomorrow.

Some believe that this night ends a dark era; we will be moving into a period of enlightenment.  One can only hope.  One thing's for sure, we have issues to confront, decisions to make on gun control, care of the mentally ill and the poor, illegal immigration, taxation, etc, etc..  It's time to honestly reflect, ask ourselves which seeds we are cultivating.  

I am attaching a link to a performance of O Come, Emmanuel.   I pray the light of Christ come and console the grief-stricken during this darkest night.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Brutality and the Network of God

I have trouble watching nature shows. While I love to learn about the animals and their ecosystems, watch with awe the subtle and not so subtle maneuverings of majestic landscapes found here on this relatively small planet hurdling itself through space, I cringe at the brutality of nature.
The camera follows a male polar bear swimming for hundreds of miles to find an ice patch or an island where he can hunt. Exhausted, he hurls himself up onto the sand where there are walruses. The walruses sense his arrival and huddle together. He goes at them with claws extended, tearing at their leather-gray skin, trying to bite their necks. They retaliate with their tusks, mar him and he is noticeably wounded with streaks of blood on his creamy white fur. I don't know whether I am rooting for the walruses or the polar bear. I have the thought of maybe one of the walruses sacrificing himself to the polar bear so that he could eat. But the polar bear is too exhausted from his swimming to effectively kill and the last we see of him, he is settling himself down into the sand to die.
There is this internal figuring going on inside me regarding the brutality of this world. It hums underneath my daily thoughts. I am looking for clear evidence of God; because if there is a God, the brutality would be somehow eradicated. I check boxes in my head, yes, there is a God because of this. No, there is not a God because of this. I think a lot of people do this, use logic and reasoning to find God.
In the evenings I listen to “On Point” with Tom Ashbrook. One of the shows this week covered the Travon Martin case. Ashbrook played the 911 tapes. “Sensitive listeners beware,” he advised. You could hear the anguish in Martin's howling before he was killed. Here was a boy with nothing in his pockets but a cell phone and Skittles; he was hunted down by a man whose killer instinct was suddenly activated. I was affected. A check went into the “no” category.
Carl Sagan talks about the reptilian brain in his book The Dragons of Eden. This is the part of our brain that dictates aggression. Scientifically we can account for brutality because of it. When a murder like Martin's occurs, we can say it was due to the reptilian brain gone haywire. It's the same for the polar bear, only the reptilian brain is justified here due to the survival of the fittest.
What would Emerson and Thoreau say about the reptilian brain? For some reason, the wolf stalking and killing a fawn has gone unnoticed by the transcendentalists and I wonder why.
Yahweh, the Hebrew patriarchal god would be fine with it. He demanded blood, sacrificial lambs, etc. When I was a child, someone bought an illustrated Bible for my brother and me. I loved to look at the colorful renditions of the biblical stories and remember one in particular, the story of Abraham and Isaac, where Abraham takes his son Isaac up into the mountains to sacrifice him to Yahweh. Just as Abraham lays the knife over Isaac's throat to prove his love and allegiance to his god, a ram shows up in the thicket and Yahweh tells Abraham to sacrifice it instead.
The Buddhists would say, why must there be any sacrifice at all?
In two weeks, Easter will be upon us; this is right about the time I will be giving birth. So there is the brutality of the crucifixion and the brutality of the birthing process looming. When I think of the crucifixion, I often think of Gibson's film “The Passion of the Christ”. It was a barbarous film of Christ's death, and I found myself sobbing uncontrollably at the end of the movie. But I wasn't sorry I watched it; my sobbing was more catharsis and I felt as if my spirit had gone that barbaric road with Christ and had every right in celebrating as the illuminated, resurrected Christ took his first step out of the tomb. Brutality was a necessary part of the journey.
I can only hope I will feel the same after the birthing process.
And with that, I think of Tom Robbin's Skinny Legs and All where he parallels the conflict and killings in the Middle East to the contractions of labor. Robbins believes there will be a time when the contractions/conflicts will end and there will be a new nation, peaceful and unified.
What would the Buddhists say about brutality? They would say it is a part of the spirituality of reincarnation. Brutality is a part of the process and the only way to find peace with it is to see beyond it. Yes, the wolf does kill the soft, delicate, helpless lamb, but in the devouring, the lamb becomes part of the wolf life-force and in this way, no longer lives in fear of it. It has crossed over from the feared to the fearless. It has ascended in the hierarchy. Christ, the Lamb of God, was sacrificed at the hands of men and this too was a transformation, from mortal to god. It too was an “ascension” in hierarchy.
Therefore we must view brutality not as an end, but as a means particular to transformations. 
I'm still stumped with regard to the Trayvon Martin case however. Where's the transformation there? We've seen killings like these all of our lives. Is this a contraction as well, prepping us for a new awareness? Was this awareness the dream of Martin Luther King Junior? That dream is obviously still being realized; it has not been brought to fruition as Martin's and many other murders imply. Or was this case not one solely of racial tension, but one of hubris, as well? It was through hubris that Zimmerman believed he could handle this issue himself. Enter Greek tragedians and Shakespeare and the brutality brought upon by the flaws of humankind. We are indeed hopelessly flawed and sometimes brutality is the result of that flaw, to fall victim to our chemical and biological make up, that reptilian brain, without taking a breath, a moment to question our actions.
I have to believe, however, for humans with “fully” evolved neocortexes (the part of the brain that cultivates nurturing, love, awareness, intelligence) there is a way around brutality and its various forms (murder, addiction, suicide, etc.) and that is through compassion and meditation.
Unfortunately the garden I cultivated through meditation seems to have shriveled up and died since I've become pregnant. I seem to be too uncomfortable to sit still. But there's always that spark of hope, everyday that I could get it back. Maybe if I can dig at its soil and plant something, I won't be so concerned with brutality and my logical search for the higher power. I would know it's not something one finds in the world, but in the recesses of the spirit. And that spirit acknowledges and responds to other spirits and therein lies the network of God. And that God looks not through a telescopic lens when he views the world.
He sees everything.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Thoughts on Impending Labor: the Balance between Science and Nature

I wake up on my back, the weight of the twins pressing into my organs. I can't breathe. I swing my legs over the side of the bed, attempt to push myself up. It takes all my strength and I feel the exertion in every ligament and bone. Sometimes I writhe back and forth, moaning from the pain, from that clutch of fear grabbing at me and I wake Richard up. He knows to give me a push, to help me out of the bed so I can go pee or pace the house, place myself in various positions to get the babies to drop away from my diaphragm.
A few months ago I met a woman who had just given birth and she strongly advised me to do perinatal massage. So I set myself up with a pamphlet from the childbirth class and tried it. I felt around inside the petals of the flower down there and tried to pull them apart. The petals resisted and a stinging pain ricocheted down my legs. I consulted the pamphlet and it emphasized how it was imperative I relax (it's always imperative I relax); there were pictures of women resting with their eyes closed, enveloped in an aura of calm, one in a tub of bubbles, the other in a bed. I tried again, feeling the flesh resist, the stinging pain. I panicked, struggled with the belief my body would open up on its own and told myself I have to make a regimen of this to avoid tearing, pull these petals apart until they loosen up enough to make room for their heads. I looked at the diagrams of circles, 1 cm, 6 cm, 10 cm; I could not, cannot fathom passing a head, shoulders, hands, knees, feet through this gate and then repeating the process again.
When my friend Susan was dying of pancreatic cancer in her hospice bed, I peeked at the journal she had left for visitors to read. In it, she wrote about having faith in her body, in its healing processes. And yet, ultimately, these were defunct. At the end, she wrote, I want to forgive my body.
I too seek that same faith, but I am skeptical.
There are women out there who are not skeptical. They write books, have websites, shunning the use of science in the birthing and postnatal processes (breastfeeding, etc.) and champion the natural way. They believe that “progress” has eclipsed the feminine power and spirituality that comes with labor; we are allegedly robbing ourselves of a transcendental experience, becoming soft. They cite the ancients, midwife/herbalists who practiced mysticism and herbal alchemy; they cite statistics on C-section babies, how they are more likely to become obese, and have other ramifications.
So there is that lingering guilt; you are not a whole woman if you opt out of a strictly natural birth and perhaps you are putting your baby at risk, as well. While I do wonder about these, I know first and foremost I want my babies and myself to be safe. Let's not forget that years ago, that transcendental experience was often death for mother or child or both. Also, the ethos of the herbalist, the midwife/healer is over; our world has changed. Those ancient women lived in a period when nature was less harnessed by mankind and there were less distractions. It was easier to get close to it and its rhythms, its elixirs for this and that. Nowadays, if you want to become a Thoreau-type and live in the bosom of nature, you'll need to develop an extremist attitude and extricate yourself from society; that's nearly impossible for most of us. We tend to take the easy road, embrace this hybrid of science and nature, often happily.
But that's the point, to figure out what's right for the time period you live in. Science/ technology has already infiltrated every aspect of our lives. Personally, I embraced it to get pregnant in the first place through IVF. The issue is not to eradicate science or nature, but find a harmonious balance between the two. This is the ethos we live in.
So I intend to initiate my own balance, opt for a vaginal birth for the twins if the opportunity presents itself, but I won't forgo the epidural.
I may give a nod nature's way, but I'm not stupid.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Secret Garden of Flesh and Heat

Morning. House. Plants grow wildly at the baywindow sill. Seraphim and cherubim writhe, ready themselves as my body steadies, blinks. It holds the weight of water behind its floodgates. There is the future beating above my head; its incessant, subtle motion sends a shimmer through my thoughts and bones.
Here, a foot. An elbow. You, little hub of life, you thump against me. Thump, thump. We await your faces.
Wait. I have more to say. Don't shut the door. Don't close the light. Don't forget me. There are snowdrops out on the lawn, delicate, forthright harbingers that speak the language of white. Remember this when the sky is bleak and the trees, leafless.
My nephew, bundled in fleece, perplexed by the world, turns his head toward the light, a resplendent pool where the fern dips its curled toe. I am overcome, gleefully observe his countenance as it regulates itself and morphs into sadness, anger, relief, ecstasy. Where did you come from little boy-face? What do you know of the place where my children unfurl? Hush. We have long forgotten this secret garden of flesh and heat.
Remind us.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

That Internal Record

There exists a place in our minds where records play. That is an obsolete term, I know. I could say internal itune, but somehow record seems to fit, perhaps because of its rotational motion. I've just finished revising the novel for Calyx Press and now I've got nothing to do but wait for the delivery of my twins. I am at this gray place again; it is March and I am in the house alone. I always seek this downtime and then when it comes, all I do is play the same record of worry, insecurity and discontent in my head. I'd rather not indulge myself in the lyrics. So, in order to pull the needle off the record, I've decided to spend lent rereading Rilke's Book of Hours (Love Poems to God). 
I have discovered, within the last year, that my spirituality is more transcendental than dogmatic. This blog has helped me do that. Although I respect and miss the traditions and ritual that go with religion, it seems the bad outweighs the good. Religion for me, seems to be patriarchal, confining, perfunctory, and political. I find more inspiration from a poem than I do a prayer. The link to God exists when I create or walk the woods, not when I piously bow my head in a pew. When I read the following poem by Rilke, my spirit soars. This is different from the confinement I feel at Church where I am a follower and a repeater, repeating the words I am told to repeat, executing motions I am told to execute.

I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world
I may not ever complete the last one
but I give myself to it.

I circle around God, that primordial tower.
I have been circling for thousands of years
and I still don't know: am I a falcon
a storm or a great song?

Joanna Macy, a renown Buddhist scholar and social activist writes about her discovery of this poem in the preface to the centenary edition of Rilke's Hours:

I felt a sense of release, as if I had been let out of a cage I had not known I was in. Rilke's images lent some pattern, even meaning to a life I thought had failed in its spiritual vocation...Rilke reminded me that if my spiritual appetite was greater than the tedious, cramped theorizing of the theologians, so was God. I could almost feel again the sense of belonging and purpose that I had thought I had forfeited.

I wholly agree with Macy about being “let out of a cage” and feeling “again the sense of belonging and purpose,” but it is a solitary effort. There is no sense of guilt to keep you in check, no demands of a community to keep you going back. You must go back by your own convictions and sometimes the record that plays in your head convinces you otherwise. It's doing that right now as I write this. I cannot, however, deny the line “I live my life in widening circles”; this speaks directly to the spirit and its maneuverings. It is a truth; the spirit is a seeker. And it is such a truth that parts the needle from the record, that sets you back on the creative/spiritual path. I need to remind myself now of my own words:

The purpose of being a writer is to rid yourself of the ambiguous, the gray, to pronounce your words with clarity and conviction. To crawl up from the void. To achieve the miraculous voice of unique self despite all the other amalgams of voices speaking in your ear.

Rilke himself told a friend in one of his letters that the process of writing “strengthened and stimulated the inspiration.” I agree with this entirely; the work of writing is itself inspiration. When I don't do it, I feel as if I have failed myself in some way. This is why I am somewhat conflicted about raising babies. Over and over again I ask, How do I keep this allegiance to myself?

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.


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.
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.