someone should whisper the names of the fallen ones…

Such a provocative line from Helen Burke’s poem about her auntie’s dog, the ‘black as black can be’ Flossie.   Flossie, you see, will whisper the names of the fallen creatures that the boys shoot during their hunt.

Poignancy comes to life in contrast with cruelty.

A birds falls from a nest.  Another flutters into a sun-glared window.  But birds blasted from flight by boys for fun is wanton sport and the dog as witness testifies to the injustice.

This line in Helen’s poem set off a cascade of feelings.

Am sitting in Sunday mass, hearing about sparrows falling to the ground, learning that even this insignificant death is known.  I don’t care ‘who knows’ only that it is known, that nothing is lost, hidden, forgotten.

I’m not drawn to biblical references or imagery but this one about the sparrows falling has stuck.  It is from Matthew 10 (yes, I looked it up).

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father knowing.”  So the dog is doing god-service by naming the birds, recording their existence.

And then I recall this snippet from attending many, many Sunday masses, “and even the stones shall speak.”  I literally see stones voicing, witnessing, participating in events.  Who hears them?  Those who can.

Looking this one up as well, I see a version by Luke:

But some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples!” “I tell you, He answered, “if they remain silent, the very stones will cry out.

Again, the stones.  Can’t you feel how the Pharisees might feel the slightest anxiety at Jesus’s response?  Or maybe not.  He may be the ‘fool on the hill’ already.

And as I uncovered this NT quote, a reference to older stones suddenly waved at me on the biblical page sidebar, ‘Read this!  Don’t pass me over!’  Old Testament old.  Habakkuk 2:11 old:

10 You have devised a shameful thing for your house By cutting off many peoples; So you are sinning against yourself.  11 Surely the stone will cry out from the wall, And the rafter will answer it from the framework.  12 Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed And founds a town with violence!… 

(This quote came from biblehub.com, what else!)

By the way, who was Habakkuk, oh Wikipedia?  “The book of Habbakuk consists of five oracles about the Chaldeans (Babylonians) and a song of praise to God.” That’s all they/we know.  We’re talking about 6th century BC.  He was a prophet.

Again, injustice can incite the very stones to cry out, shout, reveal evil deeds.  And, please note, dear reader, this refreshingly enigmatic addition: So you are sinning against yourself.   Habb doesn’t condemn only; he points out that these shameful things hurt the doer.  By the way, it seems that the ‘doer’ who builds a city with bloodshed/violence is also self-inflicting harm.

Conclusions can be multi-faceted.  My simple mind summarizes:  ‘Nothing is hidden from the grand scheme of things.’  Or the small scheme of things.  ‘Everything is everything,’ a grad school friend would say.

I’ve heard about a seeker who was told to pray to the diving presence in complete isolation. The seeker hiked and hiked to the vast wilderness, found a cave, sat to pray.  No good.  The seeker returned, concluding, “There is no place where the Presence is not with me.” Nothing is hidden, everything is everything.

Remember, centuries ago most thought the earth was center of the solar system. No, poor Copernicus knew the sun was central but was reluctant to publish his views fearing persecution.  He finally published  prior to leaving his place on earth, On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres (in Latin), and set off the ‘Copernican Revolution’!

Wikipedia: This revolution was ‘the paradigm shift from the Ptolemaic model of the heavens, which described the cosmos as having Earth stationary at the center of the universe, to the heliocentric model with the Sun at the center of the Solar System.’  (Paradigm: Greek for ‘example’.)

Geocentrism, a scourge then and now! (Read about today’s flat-earther proponents.) It also feels like that prevalent affliction – egocentrism…

We still think we’re the center of the universe and, in a small sense, we may be. We’re like those windowless monads that Leibnez conjectured. Well, if this is the case then we’d better scrape a peephole in our monad shell; enlarge our orbits to include everyone – even the sparrows.

The drawing, ‘Tears Down My Face’ is by Helen Burke.

My poem from ago:

Permit Wonder

Electrons wander orbits tipping the cosmos.
Planets in weary tread stoic a pace unshared
Embryos slide into time chasing desire & find.
The mind awakens from its cloister to canopies
of sensations that blaze and speak within.

We lay in twilight harbors moored to mysteries,
Netted between the sureness of a soft breeze
And moments capsized.

Wandering these many roads is the heart,
Orphaned or welcomed, in song or moan,
Backpacked, stowed or falling loose
Around another’s clear gaze.

Could someone run ahead — secure lodging
Corner a spaciousness
Of no particular place?

And trim the smooth to manage the harsh.
Concede the fine points forever displayed.
Unargue differences that winter a summer’s day
And doubt every open door closed.

Breathe in, exhale
And permit wonder
To rest on the tongue.
*
Jan Keough Copy write, rev. 2017

Winston Churchill – A Twitter encounter

“Winston was always a lover of animals – he even reportedly said one Christmas dinner ‘you carve [the goose] Clemmie, he was a friend of mine’”  I didn’t expect this from Churchill.  So humanizing.  He walked right up to me with this quote.  And, now, into this blog space.  

This remark was posted by the Chartwell, Kent Twitter account.

  Chartwell was the family home of Winston & Clementine (Clemmie) from 1922 until his death in January 1965.  The country estate, in South East England, enticed Winston with its “extensive views over the Weald of Kent.” Weald is Old English for woodland.  I’m charmed just by the word!

   Winston’s portrait (shown here) hangs over the fireplace of what looks to be a study or living room.  Done by Oswald Birley (or Sir Oswald Hornby Joseph Birley 1880-1952), it feels as if  the “public” veneer of the man was washed off and the human was revealed.  The image presents a somber soul, neither about to give a speech, confront a foe, inspire an audience or engage a dinner guest.  Birley was a friend of Winston’s which might speak to the portrait’s quiet accessibility.  He also gave Winston some painting advice.

   Winston was known for being assailed by a ‘Black Dog’ (i.e. depressive mood).  This is the name Churchill gave to “the prolonged fits of depression from which he suffered.”  I’ve also seen it described as despair and melancholy which are more appealing and accurate to my sensibility of his predicament.  (His inner situation, so to speak.)  He confessed that he never stood too near the edge of a train platform.  Candid, startling admission don’t you think?  His Black Dog was kept away, he felt – or knew firsthand – by painting and brick laying, “200 bricks and 2,000 words a day.”

  I’ve since read (in a Wikipedia entry) that Churchill only used this name (in writing) in a 1911 letter to his wife.  If you see the 2017 film, Darkest Hour, you will hear Winston speak of this Black Dog.

   A Man for All Seasons: The Art of Winston Churchill, an exhibit of some 24 of his paintings along with photographs are on display in Palm Beach, FL for a month from Dec 2017-Jan 14th 2018.  The National Churchill Museum had this to say about Churchill’s oil painting:  

Winston Churchill was 40 when he began to paint. In June of 1915, shortly after he was forced to resign his position as First Lord of the Admiralty during World War I, he picked up a paint- box belonging to his young nephew, John Spencer-Churchill. It was the start of a life-long passion. Over the next 45 years, Churchill went on to create more than 570 works of art. It was a “joy ride in a paint-box,” as he described it.”

   Joy ride in a paint-box –  Perfect depiction, isn’t it?  He could have said something more befitting his background or station in life but joy ride says it all.

When my husband Kevin sat down at a piano left by previous owners in his family’s new home, he felt much the same way.  He was five or six at the time and his mother figured the “kids can bang around on it.”  And while others were playing in the backyard, Kevin was playing, or figuring out how to play, before dashing outside to join his friends.  Without hesitation he spent hours lost in the music he found in the keys.

Here he is, decades later, warming up for a gig in Florida.

*

   Since making this entry I’ve ordered and started reading the first two volumes of Churchill’s The Second World War.  I’m reading to experience Churchill’s writing style, his word choices, and, yes, his view of the events he experienced.  I will admit that wading through the post-WWI years (V. I)  of peace treaties, economic devastation, and pervasive misery among the victors and vanquished is sadly fascinating. 

   And I appreciate learning about Churchill’s approach to history as proposed in John Keegan’s introduction to The Gathering Storm (book 1, events leading up to WWII):

   ‘Like Clarendon and Macaulay, he saw history as a branch of moral philosophy. Indeed, he gave his history a Moral.  Its phrases have become some of the most famous words he pronounced – “In War:  Resolution; In Defeat:  Defiance; In Victory:  Magnanimity; In Peace:  Goodwill.’

After all, if our catalogued time here on earth is not viewed with a sense of ‘moral philosophy,’ then we’re left with a kind of chaotic meaninglessness.  It is better, I think, to give context to our actions, purpose to our goals.

to be continued…

 

 

Churchill Photo: NT / Nick Dougan

I’ve Fallen A Day Behind

Yes, I’ve fallen a day behind.  Yesterday is gone and today is approaching noon and the sun will lower itself in the sky for evening to take the stage.  I cannot imagine how I lost the day.  This may the last time – the final moment in my conscious existence – that I mention “falling behind.”  I pledge to avoid even looking in that direction…  behind.  Oh, of course I’ll fall behind again.  But I’ve retired the harping chorus.  They’ve wanted a new assignment anyway. 

No need to berate oneself or to enter a confessional box where the listener is probably dozing off.

At this time yesterday, I was driving an acquaintance to a PEN Women’s holiday gathering. I met this gal in my local exercise class.  More of a stretch to remain stretchable session 3 times a week.  Hearing pop music from the 60’s and nearby decades is almost the best part – particularly on ‘triple threat’ Wednesday.  If a muscle is stretched while humming a cute song it just elongates better.

The festivities were held at a member’s home in Rockledge.  My stretching friend had nicely invited me to attend.  Perhaps I would like to join the local chapter of PEN (National League of PEN Women – creative women’s group). I’d only heard of the group.  I’m not much of a group joiner.

Well, my trusty cellphone app, Waze, provided turn-by-turn navigation which allowed my passenger to fill me in on fascinating periods of her life.  She is both mystery novel writer and watercolorist.  Quite a gal.

 I can barely remember how we got there but suddenly Waze announced that we’d arrived at our destination.

In times past, making such a drive, being at a gathering with unknown people, having to stay as long as the “friend” wanted – would’ve felt like being on a Rocky Ledge.  Less so this time.  Micro-inch by micro-inch I am comfortable with the predicament.  Solitude may be preferred but chit-chat is an amusing game of social Tiddlywinks. 

And to practice listening with attentive interest is good exercise in being human.

This artwork is by Lauri Burke.  See her bio page under ‘artists’ on the www.origamipoems.com site.

“I found an easier way to be…”

“I found an easier way to be.”

I copied this line onto a yellow sticky pad weeks ago and finally tore it off the page, managing it into a slender strip.  Now the quote lives inside my cellphone cover where dollar bills spend time, waiting.  During one of my financial withdrawals I re-read this and remembered how it calmed me.  The simple elegance, lack of elaboration, the self-awareness.

But now I can’t remember who made this their comforting cornerstone.  Or why.  Maybe it will come to me – maybe not.

I do know what it means to me.  It confirms a desirable truth and challenges my restless self.  And what was ‘found’ is of great worth  –  ‘an easier way to be.’  Pretty wonderful.  Easier, not better, but the better-ness is implied.  The often-dissatisfied  mindset is allowed to pause.  Many of those sticky demands, barnacles slowing the voyage, are sloughed away.

Not to become, but to be.  (No, not going to quote Hamlet here.)  An easier way to be varies for each of us.  And yes, it may be abhorrent to some.  But knowing that someone out there chose this as their truth means it’s possible for me, too.  Possible and satisfying.

At some point in our life we need to proclaim freedom from the intricacies of needless wanting.  Just to hope for an easier way to be is a beginning.  A road to walk clear of restless fussing or the wanting to fuss.  Clearing out the stickiness.

And hopefully before life abandons us.  What I mean by ‘life’ here is the inner drive that propels us hither and yon.  Sometimes it feels that we’ve run aground; our boat scraps the shore’s coral footing.  We’re moored and stuck.  We may feel secluded and at peace – or simply stuck and lost. But we can always declutter, redefine ourselves.  Find our way again.

I’m remembering a story of a baby girl placed in the shade of a tree.  The parents watched her, delighted, as she kept reaching for something just outside her grasp.  Her fingers wiggled to touch.

We reach out to grasp, we grasp to touch, we touch to feel, we feel to connect with all around us.  And the all around us, we may realize, or not, is always there.   Waiting for us.

Kevin took this at my request. It was posted in the window of the Gutter Book Shop in Dublin.  Love Oscar Wilde but wasn’t familiar with this quote.  Again, it feels like a pronouncement of someone who knows self-acceptance – that portable, inner acceptance.

* * *

This is how the above meanderings translate into ‘poetry form’ –

 

Our Glimmering Selves

 

Pervading the space between the stars

like a space lingering between us

streams our silent, glimmering selves.

 

Awake, we orbit in a galaxy of possibility –

retrieval trembles through every pore,

a slurry of outcomes glistens with relief.

 

If by slipping, our heart stumbles

and the grasp falls from our reach

we exhale desire but not relief.

 

Adrift through this measureless oasis

in a state of complicated grief

from so much wanting betrayed.

 

Astonishment stares back at us,

days move through in their shy increments,

months cluster around all that we love,

 

Years revive every respiration we offer to the world

and carefully sighs

to begin, to love, again.

11 December, a Monday

And a happy birthday to my sister.  Here she is at her first wedding.

Today is her birthday and I texted her a Happy Birthday well-wish – unadorned except for a heart – and she responded a plain, ‘Thanks.’  Even if I’d followed this response with chit-chat I doubt that more about her day, her celebration, thoughts, feelings would be revealed.

To be or not to be – a sister.  That may  be the question.  Depending upon the mood, the circumstances, the answers vary.

We are always ‘being’ something… animal, vegetable or mineral.  Minerals appear static but I can’t quite accept that they are.  Perhaps they’re enormously patient.  Seeing us scurry for bits of them that we call rare or valuable. Often turning the continents upside down to wrench them out of their nesting.  Same for vegetable and animals.

Here’s a poem I wrote after my sister and I were estranged.  Or should say after my sister and our parents were estranged. I was included in the outcome.  Sometime I’ll write about what happened – according to my heart – but for now, will not.

*

Sister-mine

They brought her to the waiting room crying

and cries on the ride home.

She cries as her new daddy kisses her red-fisted face

and cries as her new mommy wraps her in a pink blanket.

 

I sing her all the lullabies I know

and whisper her name so she’ll remember.

I tell her that she’s ours

and promise to wait for her to love us.

 

There’s a picture of her in a dressy dress

trying to pet a kitten who doesn’t want her touch.

She looks to the camera and is surprised

to see us watching her cuteness.

 

I wait on the sidewalk by her stroller

while mommy buys something special.

I want my sister to see only smiles

on the faces who stop by to look.

 

Then she’s in first grade

then she’s in high school

then she’s a graduate

then she’s a bride.

 

But she doesn’t trust

that we love, I love, she is loved.

 

Her birthdays now come and go.

The holidays are empty of her.

The calendars never mark her visits.

 

Sister is a word for someone who

may love you or may not.

We never know.

 

/jk © 2010

Dianne as Matron of Honor at my wedding ca. 1994

ivy day, 10th of December

Let’s begin with ivy on a blue wall and celebrate finding ivy thoughts that wanders through our days…  And, perhaps, helps us find ourselves.  Ivy is persuasive, compliant and always roaming, seeking.  The blue wall remains blue as long as the ivy allows it.  Both need space to be seen.

*

In Response to a Friend’s Email about Hair Washing:

Yes, I, too, dread hair washing, hair appointments, hair brushing a – or worse, not brushing.  The hair brush is padded with hair that has escaped my attacks.

For weeks  I’ve been hemming and hawing to make a hair appointment.  I need to revisit either my “old” hair dresser or go back to my older “old” one.  The Older Old one clipped a bit (and I mean big) chunk of my hair in the back because she wanted it to be thinner back there.  I have lots of hair but it was like having something, well, amputated.  But she loved dogs, really & truly.  She was a hoot to visit, had a great personality.  She also had a beautiful chandelier in her room that charmed me.

Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday

Today is the 8th of December and my previous comments on the ‘future’ 8th are moot.

Why did I indulge in the pre-day entry yesterday?

This morning I remembered.  I was caught in a memory byway…  half-seen, half-unknown.  I was standing in my Auntie Helen’s kitchen reading a saying hanging by the door.  I am repeating it to myself. It is an easy quote to remember:

Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.

See the smiling woman in the photo, that’s Auntie.  Her completely wonderful husband Harry smiles next to her.  Uncle Harry taught me to pick bouquets of wildflowers for the dinner table; something I love to do to this day… as they say.   The photo captures how I remember them best; happy, at ease, loving.

Auntie was actually my mother’s aunt as Mom didn’t have brother or sisters.  It wasn’t until my mother was at the end of her life that I found, and met, mom’s half-brother, Richard Renshaw.  Richard and his wife actually attended my mother’s funeral. I made sure that he knew how welcome he would be.  Less than a year later he too had passed.

It was truly a pity that my mother would not consider learning about her father’s second family decades earlier.  I only learned this family fact from my father in a rather secretive conversation years earlier.  He’d reached out to mom’s dad but mom wanted no part of him.  From my grandparents’ wedding certificate and my mother’s birth certificate I surmised that my mother was a love child.  The marriage was not a love match and by mom’s 3rd or 4th year her parents divorced.

Well, Auntie and Uncle Harry stepped up and became the stabilizing hub of our family wagon wheel.  Holiday, vacation days, birthdays, celebration days and sad, funeral days were often spent at their home.

So.  These sayings that people hang on their walls – encouraging or not, funny or not – are like the memes we see on Facebook.  Memes capture your attention.   To me, child that I was, words were as important as anything… except ice cream.  Both comforted, confirmed existence, encouraged thoughts.

This particular pre-meme (painted on a 1 1/2 foot x 8 inch board, if I remember) was on display in my aunt & uncle’s kitchen of their ‘camp’ – the Dawson family’s summer house by a lake in Groton, Mass.  Or perhaps it was in their main home in Stoughton.  Carol, her daughter, would know. (Update – per Carol, this sign was in the main house.)

How deliciously helpful.  I repeated this to myself many, many times – prior to taking tests, going to dentist appointments, entering a middle school classroom where the loathed Terry O’Toole waited to ridicule or bully, or when any such undesired experience loomed.  Thank you, Auntie.

And I can confirm, unequivocally, that today is the tomorrow that we all worried about yesterday.

 

For the future 8 December

I’m getting a day start on tomorrow.  I will be busy in the morning and my loquaciousness ebbs as the sun moves along its wintry path.

So…

Hmm, most of life is learning what to call things.   See those faces hovering over you – mom, dad, perhaps the family dog.   This is why the onset of forgetfulness in old age causes the not-quite-so-old to look upon the “forgetters” with pity and a bit of horror; fearful of what may be their fate.

At the end time – our exit from the body – we will forget it all for a time, so I’ve read and so I believe.  Unless my/your consciousness can transcend its bodily encasement while living it will slumber for a while until reawakening in a new setting; be it physical, astral or whatever.

I’ve been having, since early on, a kind of mental stuttering when it comes to recalling a word or name.  Honestly, I am simply bored with trying to match the name of the person/thing with the internal identity of this ‘thing’ that I know.  I know for sure who ‘Susie-x’ is and recalling her name accurately doesn’t interest me sometimes.  Other times it does.  Other times I am please to see how igniting the name of a person we both know and identify is a pleasing experience.