Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Four occurrences with birds

My daughter, Hope, and her four year old left yesterday after a delicious month of their company.
They lived in the new TeaHouse and came up for breakfast most mornings.  I felt like the luckiest person.   We are  all trying to remember happy again after digesting sadness last year.  I have been thinking of grief as a machine, an engine that chews its way through the dense material and manufactures something more refined.  Maybe an alchemy or an assembly line, not sure.I read that every grief is the most important one.

As we are leaving, driving to the airport, Corina comes up and finds a large bird in the house. She has no idea how it got in but nabs it in a bedsheets and sets it free.  That's one.

Then today Mike goes to get eggs, and comes across a mother hen and a clutch of chicks.  She must have sat on the eggs in the weeds outside the chicken coop and yard.   I wonder out loud if they will escape the hawks and coyotes.  That's two.

I stop to tell Myngo, my neighbor about the chicks. He has been seeing so many bluebirds, the ground is a carpet of blue.  Blue birds are signs of a healthy ecosystem, or so I've been told.  That's three.

This morning, sitting in the house we hear the familiar and dread bird-slam against the window. There should be a word for bird hitting window despite a  decal silhouette of a hawk.  We go and look and it is a hawk, taking a few last breaths.  On my table the book H is for Hawk sits unopened. What's going on, Corina wonders.

Before Hope left she found a tiny rabbit, carried it in her hands, though I am fearful of rabbit fever.  It was the cutest of creatures, and after she put it back, the mother seemed to reclaim it.  Who eats who?  Texas is flooding, we are now in a bird wonderland, they are feasting now on the refilled feeder.

Creatures coming and going all around us. My daughter is flying back to my old home. The hawk to hers, the hen making herself at home.  We are cleaning the house, grateful to have one. My friend's husband about to or already crossing over.

And of course, our spirit baby, Jade Bird.  Her ashes buried here in the best garden on our land.
Succulents and petunias and morning glory.  A hummingbird feeder still a-buzz. That's the place I go and feel most alive, into the sadness and the vitality.
That's invisible and indivisible. That's another One.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Perked Up

My  now four year old grand daughter Kaleia told me one late night avoiding bedtime,  that she was perked up, she illustrated with thumbs up.  She wasn't perked down, her two thumbs pointed the reverse. This has been my months long effort.  My friend Sharon taught me one can control one's attitude.  I am trying.

Today is sunny, not yet windy, the dishwasher humming, the birds fed, the hummingbirds on schedule.  We have 20 baby chicks and two baby turkeys in the greenhouse. Yesterday we went to Earth Day at Northern New Mexico and as we sat through talks on solar building, we nodded to one another.  We had done almost everything right.  Of course, there's room to improve but this lecture sure helped me perk
  My friend Julie Bennett took this Singing in the Rain photo after writing class at Pueblo of Pojoaque Library.  It's right by the Wellness Center where I swim and which locals call "The Wellness."  I am perked up after I swim.  My inspiration and role models are Osh who told me he's 85 and sometimes swims a mile.  He does a leisurely back stroke, all the time in the world. He dresses well and is cheerful.  He is living a perked up life.   I like also Helente who is in that age range.  Sometimes she arrives with her lanky Australian friend in his Speedo.  I want one of those guys to help me perk up when I am in my Eighties. I notice all the folks older than I am who are perked up.

I always felt perked up after a visit to Barbara and Alvaro.  Life was worth living and the Truchas immoveable feast they provided uplifted and inspired many. I bet many feel that he was a very close friend, as he had the gift of attention and heart.  Today I go to Alvaro's memorial   It has been hard to grieve enough for how I deeply feel at this loss. He died in August at 89.  Our last talks were that he wanted to do a ZEN service and make a Japanese garden at the grave of Jade Bird, our beloved birth and death grand daughter.  He's the one who told me, "Short is short, long is long, each life is complete."  I recalled those words in the Children's Hospital during the most baffling and dire of times. I think we wrote it over her crib. There were moments of perking up even then and this Alvaro teaching which he passed on from his own Zen teacher did help.

He twice insisted he would do a Zen Ceremony and the kids said, "Say yes , Moma.  How can you say no to that offer?"  Even though I knew he was in no way up to his generous nature and impulses, I said yes. He wrote to apologize he would be unable, as his own son died.

When Alvarao died, a few months after this generous offer, my grief hollows had been stretched so big by loss, his death fit inside the emptiness.  I was spared the dreaded response I knew I would have. I could handle it.  I dread losing Robert Bly, Gerald Stern, Gioia Timpanelli, these dear stars and my own personal best friends, too, I will lose.   Alvaro was a true Zen teacher, living so presently and elegantly, and knowing death was always right there, in those Truchas views, in the books that he wrote, in the music that would sound and then disappear, in the paintings he made.  He was living between the eternal and the ephemeral.  He was one of the best men, to me, I ever knew.   He's alive as long as I am, according to my rabbi. His own work will live on, of that I am convinced.  He was so focused to finish his translations of Diego Rivers's interviews by his brother.  He completed that important project which now has found a publisher.

Today I am perked up to drive to Truchas and remember Alvaro.

"The beekeeper kissed me,
the kiss it tasted like honey."

 "Besome el colmenero
que la miel me supo el beso."

translated form Spring Has Come: 
Spanish Lyrical Poetry from the Songbooks of the Renaissance

Monday, March 27, 2017


 My daughter Hope sent out a photo of a rainbow over our house.  This is not an uncommon sight, as we live where the rain meets the sunlight, but this photo by our dear Carol Neukirk came at a time, out of summer season, but still in grief season.   It is the first Yahrzeit of our baby Jade Bird's life and death on April 1-5.
I posted this on Facebook, always with my doubts about bumming people out in this already fraught world.  But when I heard back from 83 people,with many amazing comments, my second guessing calmed down.  You should see how quiet I have been, in blog, real time, and poetry world.

My old friend Ellen Schmidt spoke about playing on all the 88 keys, we don't just tinkle along merrily in the right hand of it, but submerge in the left handed bass, all the octaves of emotion. I think of the most famous koan of one hand clapping.  I think of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing  Maybe if we embrace the darkness and light, we don't get into the politics of denial and separation, we'd have a better chance.

I also recommend to myself to be kind and open hearted to I and Thou, to not second guess so much and just move.  I have all along been saying I am not writing, and doing nothing.  I open my computer, sigh, close it.  But little by little and since only October when my childhood friend Darry and his wife Tricia, the poet of the Urban Wild,  set up my new computer, I have been entering scraps of writing about Jade, and my own reaction to her absolute purity and infinite loss.  When I printed them up, with no thought of good or bad, there were pages and pages.  The miracle of my own perception of nothing being indeed something.   Was Jade nothing, or a being of intense beauty and a gift beyond our understanding.

In one of the writings I call her a female savior.  My husband says she came to break open out hearts and reiterates all the blessings she brought. He has not been the same, and in a good way I think.  Sita Jameson, singer of kirtan and sacred chant said that Jade did more in her brief life than many people ever do,  At nine months, Hope and Leland came back here to New Mexico, their fourth visit from their Pittsburgh home to their heart home.  Their friend  would lead a ceremony.  People in their community of friends had planted corn in the spring in honor of Jade, a special white corn used in Mayan ceremonies of birth and death.   To even see the corn they harvested was a miracle.  Noble, large white ears of corn, scraggly little cooked ones four inches long.  Hope, my daughter and mother of two daughters now, one on earth and one in the spirit world, said the sight of the corn is something she never expected.   It was a great beauty.

Our right hands did know what the left hands were doing. It was many hands for two days, shucking, roasting, grinding, preparing.  This little spirit was so honored in her brevity, so present and so alive in us.  At one time I stood full of gratitude for her and knew I would not be the same without her coming and going.  Still I sobbed deeply when her story was told.  The left and right hand together make corn grow and fire catch and prayer fly.  I have felt almost mute, but today was moved to write, thanks to the Facebook "Likes" and responses of friends on this crazy internet world in this crazy life and time of it.  Men and women too, both hands. Yes and No, the duality and just us sitting around today with plum tree in bloom, and the flowers we planted a year ago for Jade's burial, blooming again.

Traditionally everyone would fly in for an unveiling, within the year after a death, to see the head stone and say Kaddish.  The cousins, the aunts, they all traditonally gathered to weep a little more and then eat.

 We have a beautiful headstone, which I will keep private for now, and the poems I wrote will be my unveiling for my daughter and family.  There was a time last summer when I  was so weepy I thought should wear a veil.  I read in a grief book that once, for six months to a year  women did wear veils to show they were in mourning. I felt as if I had a virtual veil. I too wanted a warning sign that it was not business as usual. I wanted people to stop asking, "Are you writing?" Then, weeks later, floaters descended over my left eye, and days later, my right. I had an interior or somatic veil and could not see well for 6-7 weeks.  I am grateful that gradually, during my own trip to Pittsburgh, my eyes cleared.  So now I see, gratefully, in stereo.  I write to all of you,  unveiled.

A tile of a jade bird Hope found in Mike's workshop,
another of the minor miracles which reassure us.