Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hands of God and Chopin

Sometimes a snippet of synchronicity is all you need for salvation.

With time on my hands, I decided to use them in a labor of love. There are pieces of great literature written for the piano that I have never learned to perform to my satisfaction. One of these towering infernos of virtuosity is Frederic Chopin's Fantasie -Impromptu in c# minor. It is a bear of a work which begins with arpeggiated triplets in the left hand dueling for space in time with a quartet of 16th notes in the right hand. So your left hand is tapping three as your right hand plays 4. Now, if you think this is easy, think again especially when Chopin's accelerator pedal is to the metal.
For days, like Schrodingers Cat observing the double slit experiment, I have been waiting for the Zen of the piece to take over. That magical moment when, after the agony of left brain sweat and tears, the right brain victoriously plays the piece and your are, momentarily,Godlike,Queen of the Universe. I marvel at the state of grace Chopin must have lived in when he wrote this. A welcome respite from the agony he inflicted upon himself while in exile from his beloved Poland. Maybe he couldn't own it's beauty. He never published it during his short lifetime.
Once the performer has quelled the savage beast of the first two pages Chopin throws her a bone. The minor key is exchanged for a mystical, romantic fantasy. A melody borrowed many times to snare a theatrical audience towards the catharsis of love viewed and once morphed by Harry Carroll into a pop song of the 40's with the lyrics "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows". It is satisfyingly playable on the first try.

I abandon the piano to load the 100 lbs of clothing I have made myself part with into the car for a farewell trip up the hill to St. Louis de Montfort Catholic Church where they will find new homes via St. Vincent de Paul. During the ascent the sky begins to lighten and far to the west a patch of sun is doing the double slit dance, particle and wave begging for me to observe. Catlike, I turn my neck to the east and there it is, in all of God's glory-- my rainbow.
A little synchronicity and the observer is transformed.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Impermanence: and all sad goodbyes

It is the ultimate risk.  Sometimes a decision, often a swirling force, wheel within a wheel, that sucks the soul irretrievably towards it's vortex. The force has a name, it is called Love and once you have surrendered to that cosmic pull you are tethered  by the heart to the risk called loss.  Despite the ever present possibilities of pain inherent in the act of  loving we all take the risk, for better or worse; hedging our bets that the joy, connection and gifts of loving will outweigh the pain and disillusions of love's loss.   

Impermanence is the life lesson inherent in loving anyone or anything. The special bonds that we form with the creatures of our domestic existence are especially poignant teachers of this lesson. The love for a pet is in everyway as potent as our human love relationships. I am writing this on the day that death ended my 11 year relationship with Paddington Bear, my gray and white cat friend. His life span, as a cat, was a constant reminder that, no matter how much I loved him, I, as a human, would probably outlive him and ultimately, have to grieve his loss from my physical life.

He choose a bad time to leave. He was comfort in the suddenly very long, lonely days resulting from the loss of my teaching job. Like Paddy's sudden death I had no time to prepare for this sudden solitude.The vacuum created by the loss of the daily friendships of my colleagues is painful. Paddington Bear was always there, speech was not his gift, but listening certainly was.

I buried him in the rain this afternoon, under the trees at the corner of the woods where his predecessors in companionship, FB and Preston Nichols lie at rest. Will I take this great risk again? Probably I will. I have yet to master the great teachings of the Zen Masters.

Thank you Paddington Bear, for being one of my teachers.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Wood Wars

It is beginning.  Last week  an absence of electrical power, internet , cable TV and all things virtual in nature, forced the residents of the suburban burg where I have lived for the past 39 years out into the streets. A small gaggle of people, who normally keep very private lives, were drawn together by the unforgiving litter, inconvenience and snarly devastation of Hurricane Irene. Now, Cedar Avenue is not your average suburban idyll. During the past three years we have weathered the likes of 3 SWAT team invasion, complete with full battle regalia and tanks. All spawned by an our neighbor's sadly unconquerable substance abuse problem. But, that is a story in itself to be later told. There were occasional police force visits to quiet the wrath of the elderly woman across the street who suffered from some form of mental illness.She has now passed from this world into more peaceful surroundings. The aged locust tree she left behind however, spawned the beginning of this saga.
Early Sunday morning, about 2 weeks ago, she, the tree, fell with a splintering shuddering tremor that rivaled the earthquake which had struck days earlier. The morbid felling of the tree, and many more like her, forced me, trembling, into the basement of my house where I waited out the remaining 4 hours of thunderous, windy terror huddled next to my washing machine. My own fault for trying to play Superwoman by weathering such a storm alone. I survived, as did the other human and animal residents of the street. Many of our towering, sheltering trees did not.
The comradery of the cleanup was novel and welcome and, sadly short lived. The ever present wailing of chainsaw and generators has given way to an inharmonious and mal-tuned chorus of chain sawing. From dawn to dusk these monsters are dismembering the corpses of the mighty trees furosiously felled by Irene. They are also quickly disbanding the chivalrous comradery amongst the men of this neighborhood. Three of my neighbors have wood burning stoves that they use constantly in winter months to supplement the raging oil bills of the Northeast. My immediate neighbor to the left, has a most voracious wood burning habit. That wonderful smell of woodsmoke is ever present as soon as a chill nips the air.  Consequently, he is forever gathering wood and always has an  impressive pile adorning all corners of his property. The other 2 homes heated by wood, have less impressive and downright puny piles.  All three of these men have fallen prey to the slumping economy and are living on unemployment benefits. This is important only because they are at home, generally all day.  Thus enters the hunting and gathering phase of the saga.

It begins around 7:00 every morning. A distant saw strikes up a crescendoing wail and I hear the truck engines power up. The race is on. Whoever is the first to hunt down the source of the dissonant wail is the victor. He claims and brings home the wood. Age is in the favor of the man with the biggest stash and so he always wins the prize. Now, this was tolerable for a few peaceful days but then the trouble started. Grownmen reduced to the status of 2nd graders pushing to be first in line. No words were exchanged but, as Rich's pile of logs grew to the greed stage, looks were drawnl like swords everytime his log-loaded van dumped another pile in the driveway.

Today the crew came to dismember the giant tree which has lain across my neighbor's fence since the hurricane. The prime gatherer was at bay chasing another saw and my friend, with the puny pile, came down , in the absence of the gatherer,to stake claim on his catch. They sawed her up and I came out to count the rings in the circles of trunk which were placed beside the road. My heart wrenched as I discovered that her rings outnumbered the years I had lived in the shade of her presence. Glenn and I were discussing how we were going to get the heavy wood up the block. Neither of us is young and spry. I went in to change into work atire and when I came outside the workers had loaded the tree into Glenn's van for him. We all smiled, another dose of chivalry had been shared. Suddenly, two vans came screeching to a halt in front of my house and without words spoken, it became apparent that ownership of the wood could easily become a call to arms. A truce ensued and Glenn, who truly needed the wood more ,went home the victor.
Later, playing the part of the peacemaker, I reminded Rich of the huge hoard, that I had protected his latest stash, felled from my woods by the Brookhaven cleanup crew, when they were about to dump it, via bulldozer, into a dump truck to be hauled away as bounty for another hunter.

It is beginning. In New York City a threat of men terrorizing each other on an awful anniversary. Is this the way the world ends? Revenge is child's play run amok.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Times of Wonder

A great storm is approaching. For 2 days, though the sunny August sky and fall- like temperatures belie it, a crackling apprehension, tinged with a sense of wonder, has crouched over this fragile island that I call home. Still miles away, Irene  is crawling up the Atlantic Coastline, catlike, huge spine arched, hisssing and spitting with feline ferocity,waiting to pounce upon her prey.

 It was a flamingly beautiful October in 1954 when Hurricane Hazel paid our little upstate NY hamlet in the foothills of the Catskills a terrifying pre- Halloween visit.  I remember my father boarding up the windows of our little Victorian house where we all cowered for many hours waiting out the great storm.  We played board games, my Mom cooked on our gas stove, my wonderful Grandmother told great tales, my little brother hid under the diningroom table. We survived. When it was over I promptly went to the Sidney Public Library to feed my book addiction. There I discovered "A Time of Wonder" by Robert McClosky.

For the past few days I have been fondly remembering that book. Written in 1953, Mr. McClosky uses the eyes of a small child to recount the approach, arrival and departure of a great Hurricane in Penobscot Bay, Maine. I read and re-read it to my children during and after Hurricane Gloria's attack on Long Island in 1985. It delicately outlines our survival instincts both during and after great storms, both literal and figurative.

I remember Gloria as a wonderful respite from the world where children created their own schoohouse in the woods in the 10 day absence of real school. There amongst the trees, with nature as their guide and imagination as their master, they learned far more than in the constricting walls of Miller Place Primary school.
My late friend John and I combined our resources and cooked on my Hibachi. A great frozen fish, gifted to me by a member of the church choir where I worked, kept us in ice longer than any of our neighbors. On day 8 we roasted it's smelly, melted carcass and fed it to my cats. It was a time of true communion, a time of wonder.

Is this a time of wonder too? Most of my life has been restructured. My teaching contract of the past 10 years was not renewed and I am frantically trying to reframe both my financial stability and my sense of  personhood. This autumn will be a new horizon for me, unframed by the constricts and apprehensions which usually herald a new school year.  My life will follow a new calender. It is both terrifying and exciting.  So like the approach of a great storm.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My Mom

I was supposed to fly to Florida today to visit my Mom. She decided to fly home instead. At 5:35 a.m. her spirit sailed out her body where it had been entombed and navigated home to be with my Dad. For two weeks I have been begging him to come for her.  They were greatly in love for 60 years, in truth, most of my Mom died with my Dad in 2005.  Loves like that are rare and I have faith that he scooped her up from the ethers with Godspeed right away. I am imagining how, enraptured with new love, they are getting reacquainted with on onother, my Dad valiant, tall and handsome with his sleek, thick black hair, my Mom radiant with her post-war pageboyed hair done up in a perfect roll.

I was not her favorite child, my talents didn't lie within her realm of understanding. I wonder if, in her newfound wise vision, she sees me for who I am.  I loved her and her unique talents. She taught herself to paint later in life and her home was filled with memories of the places whe had visited with my Dad. Hawaii, the mountains of the western United States and the lush woods of upstate New York where I was born are all immortalized in oils as well as seascapes and lighthouses.  She was a draftsman for Bendix Aviation and has a patent for th navigational grips on the Black Hawk Helicopters. A replica of that grip sits on the nightstand in the room in which ,until this morning ,she lived out her final years.
 Why it was fated that she died on the very morning I was to go and be with her I will never know but I imagine that her real desire was to be with the love of her life again and she just couldn't wait.

Love is eternal and great loves transcend even the infinite. Goodbye for now.

Monday, March 28, 2011


Your wings are formed by sacred geometry, a lustrous filigree supporting your flight through space and time.
You appeared to me in a fleeting vision during a meeting of the meditation class I have been attending for several years.  A small, supportive group of mostly middle aged women, all of us seekers of truth, bouyed up in fanciful guided journeys by each other.  It was here, in safety, that you, Dragonfly, first appeared. I had constructed a veil-like fence with the latticework of your wings.  The fence was attempting to keep at bay an all pervading evil misperception which was threatening my very livelihood and peace. Your wings, subtle and sacredly beautiful were not sufficient to keep this evil on the outside.  Ugly fists punched at your Fibbonacci means and soon they crumpled like so many stained glass ornaments. So went the contents of my meditative musings. But, always wishing for belief in the protective constructs of the metaphysical, I still carried you into my waking life in hope of gaining solace, or very real help against the writhings of untruth.

Alas, my protection proved to be too weak and this afternoon very real stinging words and acusations tumbled my sense of self like seismic tremors. I must find armour made of a stronger mail .
Farewell little dragonfly.