Monday, March 22, 2021

 Dear friends-

I would like to complain and then I'll stop, k? 

It's cold and rainy here. Every day. Ug. I am a tolerant woman but sometimes it's just too much. My sister who has braved northern NY for years is now in Florida and planning to move there. I get it. Florida summers might be a bit much but she breezes out of the house in shorts and sandals while I'm up here gearing up in rain clothes and boots (again). Sigh. 

And I'm to 'isolate' until my endoscopy tomorrow. Covid test negative. Well, there's that. 

It's not dribbling outside. It's actually raining big rain drops. I know, first world problem. But day after day, c'mon. 

Because I can't leave the house until my procedure except to walk the dog (there's nobody out there, trust me) I have one day to get myself together to leave for Cal. 

Oh gawd, I am truly whining. 

In other news, I give a bit of money to causes I care about. They are monthly donations that come out of my account automatically. You may know that I facilitate two weekly meditation groups and one of the participants sends me money for each session. I always offer these sits for free and I told her she didn't have to send money but she does, every week. So I just pass it on to Buddhist nuns, a Dharma teacher and the Duwamish tribe (for 'rent') as I am living on their unceded land. 

See how that is? 

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”                                                                                                                                                      MLK

It adds to my understanding of karma, which I partially understand. The idea of passing it on, passing it through. That how we are in this life affects everything with implications for the future, our descendants and theirs and so on. And we're reaping actions from the past, sometimes the long past. Maybe there is 'instant karma' but I think that is a truncated understanding. 

We don't know how far and wide our goodness and generosity will travel. I do know it feels good to do good. To be a good person. I have often said that I don't know about enlightenment (or nibbana or nirvana or whatever). I aspire to be a mensch, a yiddish word for good person. 

I'm starting to counsel women who have had traumatic birth/postpartum experiences. I remind them that I'm not a therapist and I don't charge for listening. That is what I do, listen. I had my first person last week and I have another woman before I leave. Trauma lodges in the body and telling the story can help. I don't try to fix it or minimize their experience. I listen with kindness. There is so much pain in this world!! In a tiny way, perhaps this activity can alleviate a bit of suffering. 

Friday, March 19, 2021

 Dear friends-

I'm listening to Gabriel Byrne reading his memoir, "Walking with Ghosts". Beautiful writing with an Irish brogue. 

I talked to Dena, my brother's wife a few days ago. We told each other to stay in touch. What does that mean, stay in touch?

I talked to Eden this morning. She has a new dog who has behavioral problems (ha). She noted that we talk to each other more now. And it's true. As hard as it is to change the habit of a lifetime, the pandemic has changed my ideas of self preservation and self protection. Just as my brother turned his back on all of us, I did the same thing to my younger siblings. And, I now know, to my kids too. Parting from them was so painful and in those years when they went back and forth between their father and me so unbearable, I would close up...

So here I am, a mother who regularly talks to her kids. Eden's month with me loosened up our relationship too so that connection is more solid as well. 

I'm in a writing group now so I'm writing much more. It helps to be with others who are writing. One woman knows her word count (!). I fear I don't understand the relevance of that but maybe it's a publishing thing.

Time for a spring walk with Felix. He is sitting by the back door looking out. It's his Buddha pose. 

Sunday, March 14, 2021

 Dear friends,

I am reminded anew that my/our childhood was, in a word, fucked. My older half brother is in a memory care center and he is currently dying. I have not laid eyes on him since the 80's when my youngest brother invited all of us to visit him in Philly to meet his new wife and step kids. It was there that I learned that Dave (oldest) was told that his mother was dead when he was a child. Later found out she was very much alive and he tracked her down and developed a relationship with her. Stated that he hated both our parents, especially our mother. At the time, I thought, jeez, they're both dead. Now after all this time, I know how the damage done has long lasting effects. Dave effectively stopped communicating with the rest of us and we all scattered to our separate lives.

Geoff, youngest brother, spend that weekend completely drunk, as was his custom. Needless to say, it was not fun. My sister and I escaped as often as we could, to drive around the neighborhood and get away from the drama. 

So learning that Dave is not long for this world, I reached out to his wife. I have no quarrel with her, remember her as someone who was kind and loyal to Dave. There is much more to Dave's story (military school, jail time) that I won't go into here but suffice it to say, he survived by leaving and never coming back. We all did in our own way. Too much toxicity. 

All this to say. I've been thinking about him ever since my sister called with the news. Memories of him when I was quite small and the 'golden child'. He might have hated me, envied me, I'll never know. I idolized him, esp when he was in high school and I thought high school was the height of glamor and sophistication. I do remember several scenes of abuse and cruelty involving my mother and him. 

In the last several years, my middle brother has made a concerted effort to befriend and repair our fracturing. Dave wanted nothing to do with us. Geoff was gone to suicide. But we three-me, my sister and Dirk, have made an effort to connect and communicate. It has not been easy. But we've seen each other, we call each other and we stay in touch. I think all those years of pain and sorrow kept us running. Now we've decided to stop and stay. Before we too shuffle off this mortal coil, we can say we are family together. We may be weird as shit but we survived, we made lives for ourselves and we didn't perpetuate the damage. 

Dave's wife may not want to talk to me. So if she doesn't, that's ok. I can write to her, to apologize, to offer her good memories of her husband of over 50 years, to connect. And that's something.


Saturday, March 13, 2021

DOMi & JD BECK - Live at The Moroccan Lounge, DTLA 1/18/2020

What the actual fuck. Listen to the whole thing. The kid on drums is 16...

Sunday, March 07, 2021

 Explanations May Vary

                                                                       from Stories That Could Be True

Tinnitus. That's what it's called. One moment she could hear perfectly well. Then the mishap. Something stupid, really. She had been digging up bachelor's buttons in the garden. Ubiquitous blue flowers that spread everywhere, hard to contain. She was in her muddy garden clothes and big boots. Breaking up the root ball was hard work so she stood on the edge of the shovel, wooden handle in her hands. Jumping up and down when the handle leapt from her hand and whacked her on the side of her head. A shattering of the bones of the middle ear, a rupturing of the tympanic membrane. Sound was suddenly gone, like water in the ear. If she hopped on one leg while tipping her head, she could feel water drain out of her ear canal after her swim in the lake. But this was different. Permanent.

What returned was a high pitched whine, a thousand mosquitoes. A loss of stereo. No more discernment of direction.The audiologist told her the brain makes adjustments between her hearing ear and her deaf one. But if someone called her name, she could not tell where the sound was coming from. Right? Left? Behind her?

Ambient noise made conversation impossible. She said what a lot. What did you say? It's too noisy in here. I can't hear you.

When one of the senses is lost or destroyed, the others compensate. Deaf/blind people have an enhanced sense of touch. Their fingertips translate and record. When she delivered a baby for a deaf/blind woman, the mother and her deaf/blind friends absorbed the experience with their hands, their very skin. They felt the newborn's tender body. They smelled blood and amniotic fluid and latex gloves. They held and hugged each other. They talked with their hands.

Gradually she adjusted. She could still hear, after all. Sometimes the ringing was so loud, she couldn't ignore it. It was irritating. It filled up all the space in her head. After a while, she noticed whole days would go by without her attention captured by her loss. That's how she thought of it, her loss. Her mother had lost her hearing as a young child to the mumps and meningitis. She and her siblings grew up speaking slowly and distinctly so her mother could read their lips. This renewed compassion for her mother, a difficult woman. How had she raised five children? She couldn't use the phone. She couldn't hear music or car horns. How did she drive safely? How did she know when her babies cried?

Crows were easy to hear. They were loud, their croaks creaking hinges. She lived on a ridge line by a greenbelt and hundreds of crows flew overhead twice a day. They went north in the morning and south in the evening. She thought about it as going to the office during the day and coming home to the family at night. She imagined trees along the banks of the Green River thick with crows as the sun set.

Hearing loss is invisible. When she had surgery for torn ligaments in her knee, she became acutely aware of others using crutches and canes and wheelchairs. There was a bead, a thread of recognition between her and someone else who hobbled. Her injury was temporary. For others it was their lived reality; the persistence of stairs, the pitch of hills, the narrowness of doorways. Even getting out of bed, using a toilet, taking a shower became a prolonged process.

Then the plague happened. Everyone in isolation, hoping to stay healthy. Masks, distancing, obsessively watching the news. How many dead in Europe, in India, in New York? Nursing homes emptied out, refrigerated trucks to hold the bodies. Wave after wave of deaths, people dying without family or friends to witness or comfort. The planet shrank.

The ringing grew louder again, more insistent. As she sat in her living room day after day, waiting for something, anything to swerve or change, her ear roared. The crows cut through the buzz that was more like a shriek. Distant traffic from the freeway could have been the ocean. Sirens were a reminder that death stalked her town, her street; scything the old, the vulnerable, the disadvantaged. Days turned into weeks into months. The calendar became a new year. And still enforced loneliness.

If she put on headphones, she could quiet the restless ear for a time. She took walks. She noticed the rise and fall of the garden through the year. She became attuned to the timing of flowers and plants. Daffodils sprouted before tulips. The dogwood bloomed later and preferred cooler weather. Honeysuckle was prone to aphids. Peas and spinach could be planted early. Carrots and beets needed to spend a long time underground before they were big enough to harvest. Seasonal change became more vivid. She noticed humming birds often. She watched the elderberry flourish bouquets of tiny flowers that gradually became purple berries which she made into syrup. Good for the immune system, they say. She thought to herself, maybe good for the immune system in the before times.

Relentless. The howling in her ear was relentless. It was there when she slept. It was there when she woke. She welcomed the crows and their raucous conversations. She turned her attention skyward in the morning and at night. She bought a bag of seed for songbirds which the crows helped themselves to liberally. She had heard that crows recognize faces and she wondered if they still could with masks. She did notice a few crows waiting for her when she went out to throw a handful of seed in the driveway.

At night, she would stand on her back porch facing the greenbelt to hurry the crows home, especially if the weather was turning and the wind was cold. One night she stood there a long time as the light faded and the street lamps from the town below flashed on and off through the wavering trees. As it grew darker and the sky turned to indigo, large clouds billowed, forming and reforming, obscuring then revealing the Big Dipper. She experienced a feeling of being untethered. Was she moving or was the sky? The clouds were moving fast towards the North as if they had an important meeting and they were late. She imagined horse or pig or fox but as she continued to watch, clouds began to elongate into human shapes, trailing long night shirts or winding sheets. As her sense of familiarity enlarged, she began to hear voices, indistinct and cacophonous. Murmurings and laments. She clutched the railing as she continued to look up.

The dead. Hundred of the dead, thousands of the dead. Lifted from their lives swiftly and brutally. The virus that stalked the land prying elders, children, young men and women from their solidity and purpose into this endless trail of sorrow. Flying overhead. She could hear them. She could see their cloud bodies being drawn inexorably to some magnet, some point in the atmosphere beyond her sight or understanding. Perhaps they were being pulled by the North Star. And they were speaking, singing, wailing. For who had spoken for them? Without memorial or funeral or the touch of a friendly hand, they were gone.

It is said that the dead roam the earth when they are unlamented. It is said that clouds weigh thousands of pounds. They are made of water. Water is heavy. When they come close to wreath mountains, hikers will walk through misty air. And clouds descend as rain until the water is lifted up and they reform as clouds again. One of the movements in TaiChi is called 'cloud hands' which is a sidestepping motion while waving the hands in slow circles. . It mimics the movement of clouds as they appear and disappear.

As she stood there in the dark, she listened intently, willing the storm in her ear to form into discernible words. The great unwinding. Was it the suddenness of their deaths? Was it the collective fear of the living? Was she being summoned?

Faster and faster, clouds hurried along. She stood, unable to move, feeling the cold air on her face.

Rain. At first small scattered drops, one drop on her hand, another in her hair. Then it began to rain in earnest, wetting and then soaking her sweater and jeans. The cloud shapes dissolved into an amorphous mass as the rain obscured her vision. But the voices continued their insistent chatter. She closed her eyes as the rain dripped off her glasses and ran into her mouth. She felt herself absorbing the disembodied lives of the dead. They were touching her, flowing along her skin. She could feel their weight, their sorrow, their confusion and lost direction. How had they found themselves in such company, so many of them? She turned her palms over to catch the raindrops, willing herself to stay, to stand in the wet dark.

Eventually she went inside, stripped off her wet clothes and went to bed. She couldn't sleep. She lay in the dim light of her bedroom with her eyes open. Listening. Waiting.

In the morning, she arose to a streaked pink and gold sunrise. Puddles stood on the deck and in the garden. She had forgotten to turn the wheelbarrow over. An inch of rain had collected there. She slipped on her gardening shoes and went outside. Before she tipped over the wheelbarrow, for a moment she saw clouds and her face reflected in the rusty water.