Friday, November 23, 2012

A Seasonal Saga

Today is "Black Friday". The post Thanksgiving celebration has begun. Pagan parades of greedy shoppers trek towards a materialistic mecca, armed with the belief that a sale will buy the indulgence of salvation and a transient high. Or, for those of us bitten by the seasonal spirit of verdant green, it is the day to begin the quest for the perfect Christmas Tree.

Many seasons ago, when my boys were small, we began a tradition of heading eastward towards that one special tree which we knew was waiting for us in the woods of the East End. I think I even composed little extemporaneous songs about a little tree yearning for the perfect family. Well, the perfect family, we weren't.
We were slowly going from poor to destitute and one Christmas, in particular, has become a family legend of sorts.

Over the years the designer trees of the North Fork had risen beyond our lumberjack coffers and miraculously, not wanting to abandon tradition, I had discovered a little Greek woman who lived right on25a in Wading River. She and her husband had a small grove of pine trees which they offered for cutting and sale for a mere pittance. I think they just loved seeing the little families come and select their treasures. There were candy canes and hugs for the kids, exclamations about how they had grown. It was pure Christmas nirvana and it fit my dwindling budget.

As the Christmas of family legend approached the three of us bundled up and headed out towards Wading River where, we trusted, our perfect Christmas Tree had been waiting all year. This was a really lean year. My light blue Chevy Cavalier station wagon was aging, it's stick shift refusing to go into reverse. For weeks I had been driving back and forth from Riverhead to work praying that I would not get into a situation which required backing up because, it just wasn't possible. Much to my chagrin in remembering this tale ,we had even been adopted by a large insurance agency as their Christmas Family. It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving and it was snowing lightly. Perfectly festive. I pulled into the Greek lady's crescent driveway and we paid her our $5. It was evident that she too, had fallen on hard times. Her husband had passed away during the spring. The lawn was not mowed and a gutter was hanging mournfully from the garage roof. Even sadder, however was the poor, scraggly collection of trees left in the grove. Charlie Brown's tree was a Tiffany jewel in comparison to these. I heard "Mom, these trees stink" and raised a hushing finger to protect our aging friend. "We have to pick one, I admonished so it's your call. Which one do you want?"

We made the default selection just as it really began to snow. That thick, wet stuff that sticks and builds up fast on the roads. The rust encrusted saw that my father had given me years ago made the cut and panting and freezing we began to drag the tree back towards the station wagon. We tied it to the top of the Chevy and thanked Mrs. M  for the candy canes. "Merry Christmas!" We trolled. And then it struck me like a ton of ice. I couldn't back up!

There was but one solution. Eric, who was 13 and the eldest got behind the wheel with Ethan, his younger 6 year old brother manning the passenger seat. I put the car in neutral and showed Eric which pedals to step on as I took my position in front ,wedged between the garage door and the bumper, ready to push the car into a position where I could steer it onto 25a. Elbow grease ready I yelled "Okay Eric, step on the brake." He queried, always a little obsessive compulsive about doing things the right way "Which pedal is it, Mom" to which his brother answered "It's the long one stupid". The gears slipped, and well, you get the picture. Some piece of Grace saved me from being  forever one with that garage door beneath the one armed crucifix of the hanging gutter. We changed places and the boys righted the position of the car with me at the helm. I wish this saga stopped here and we travelled Westward home, but it didn't.

Once out on the highway it was evident that seasonal had turned to treacherous. The car slipped and slid and suddenly there was a flying swatch of verdant green and a sickening thud. The tree had gotten lose and was scattering traffic in all directions. I stopped the car by the side of the road and while laughter and tears shared the same breath space, stopped traffic and retrieved our tree from its snowy grave in the middle of 25a. "What are we going to do now, Mommy," my little one cried. "We're going to shove it into the car and take her home" I cried. The three of us shoved the poor, spindly, bedraggled tree into the back of the station wagon and, in 3rd gear, it was Westward Ho!

Act III of this saga proceeds as such.  I drive Eric to our church in Mt. Sinai for his JPF meeting and Ethan and I proceed to drag the tree into the house and attempt to make it stand erect. The magnificent mockery of a tree is at least 3 feet too tall for our living room and after sawing , pruning and pulling it erect Ethan offers with great mockery "Mom, this tree REALLY stinks." "Isn't that the truth" I reply and we promptly give our tree a "home" complete with stand, in the front yard where we will later trim it for the birds, and go to the nursery around the corner where I  use plastic to pay for a perfect tree, cut by some lumberjack who knows his trade.

Will I cut my own tree again this year? The season is early and that remains to be seen.

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Shunning In Cyberspace

This week I was "blocked" by one of my Facebook friends. It was not just a casual friend but someone who had shared the daily minutia of my life over a period of years. Someone I truly expected would be there, sharing in that unique female bond of friendship, until one of us perished. I was either too naive or too blind to perceive the truth. I was expendable. With one quick check in a small box I was categorically "dead", non-existent, shunned from the community of friendship we had shared.

In the real world, where I grew up and learned how to maneuver the social mechanisms of civilized life, eye contact, verbal exchanges, hugs, explosions of laughter or tears were the tools of friendship's trade. A letter or perhaps a telephone would make a connection through which some difficult waters could be maneuvered. However, a final breakup, the end of a love affair, the end of a marriage, a dissolution of a friendship, was conveyed face to face, or at least voice to voice. No more. Today cyberspace has enabled the era of the anonymous coward or the cyber buddy. Can't find the right words; borrow someone else's, pre-packaged and ready to be "shared". Emoticons replace real hand holding and wiping of tears in a crisis.

Perhaps I was a Luddite for too long. I was the last person I know to actually get a cellphone and mine is a phone. I don't text.  I joined the community of Facebook initially so that I would have easy access to the blogs my son was writing. For nearly a year I was able to be a part of his daily life because I was reading his story.  Distance prevented daily real time interaction and the blog was a high point in my day. I am not sorry that I now have learned to be a participant in that virtual world populated by actual flesh and blood people.

When the loss of my job, a year ago, eliminated daily contact with the people who populated my world, I was grateful to be only a keyboard away from loneliness. I know some of my former colleagues' children only from their photos however, I still feel connected.

The need for companionship and community is integral to human health. In some cultures, shunning for a transgression of group laws, is the ultimate punishment, worse than death. Jail time, stoning, public humiliation in the stockades were the tools of isolation of past centuries. Today we can simply "block".
Being the recipient of such a modern day tool of humiliation is the equivalent of a crossbow- sprung arrow through the heart. It hurts.

I am fearful that we are becoming a society of anonymous cowards. Shielded from our fellow human beings by the armour of hefty  SUVs on the road and weaponized, with harmful words via our computers and cellphones in the privacy of our homes, we participate in virtual games where intimacy is certainly not the victor.

My connection with the person who spawned my need to write this blog was of a highly spiritual nature. I trust that the purity of that connection still exists somewhere beyond this virtual extinction.

Saturday, June 30, 2012


... “Let us try to live again and be happy even though Sylvester, our angel, is no longer with us.”

I have been haunted by this line from William Steig's children's book about a family of donkeys all week. While grieving the loss of their son Sylvester, Mrs. Duncan issues this plea to her husband to try to find normalcy again even though their beloved child is no longer with them. In Steig's story Sylvester has disappeared after finding a magic pebble which will instantly grant his every wish. Fear extends her slippery hand when a lion chases Sylvester and he impulsively, wishes to be a rock. Unfortunately his wish places him in some type of metaphysical limbo, invisible to everyone he loves but ever so near in his parallel universe of rockdom. As is the way with fairy tales, there is a happy ending. If one believes in a God or angel thoughts it is precisely that which prompts Mrs Duncan to set their picnic lunch on the rock which is Sylvester and then draws her eye to the magic pebble. The miraculous transpires when she places the pebble on the rock as Sylvester, in his rock state, wishes to be his real self again. It is a reunion which speaks of that profound love which exists in  families cemented by love.

My son and daughter-in-law are grieving. Their baby daughter Scarlett has disappeared into some metaphysical ether through the process we call death. She is now an Angel Baby. We can feel her all around but cannot see or touch or hold her. The sorrow is palpable. My heart aches for them. My heart aches for me.
We will live and be happy again in time. I'm sure of it. Perhaps Scarlett will seek us out again to be her parents and grandparents. But for now she watches from somewhere so close, yet so far.

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Venusian Encounter

transit of venus

Rare cosmic events excite me. Tonight Venus made her historic transit across the face of the sun. An event not to be duplicated again in any of our lifetimes. In pursuit of the Divine Feminine that her transit is purported to usher in, I drove the short distance from my house to Cedar Beach.  One needs a panoramic venue for such events. Not owning a telescope, I concocted a solar viewer from an old Vera Wang shoebox and some aluminum foil. It seemed a fitting manner in which to view the black beauty mark of the Goddess of love moving across the face of the great Ra.

It was cold for June and the sky was playing host to everything from cumulo nimbus to cirrus in the way of clouds. I was not optimistic about my chances of viewing Venus in flight. I was also a bit reserved about sitting on the sand with my improvised shoebox viewer. It is too easy to strike the appearance of an aging crazy woman these days when either Goddess or Crone can prove victorious. I am always amazed that so few people gather on the beach to witness celestial events.

The baggage of my old life has been hanging heavily around both my waking and dream life sucking my energy and self image into dark places. Off to the west, end of the school year events play out without me. Enough!!
I tether the gathering energies of the power of the feminine and vow to release the toxic past. Innocently, I ask for a sign, a recognition from the Divine that my intention has been acknowledged.  Suddenly I feel like I am being watched from behind the reeds at the side of the Nature Center. The Nature Center where my children and I went, long ago, in the evenings to visit "our friends" the horseshoe crabs, mussels and fluke in the dirty water of the holding tank in the midst of those reeds. I surmise that I may be sensing the the etheric presence of "Us" that still lurks there.  The reality of the watcher greets me eye to eye when I turn to look over my shoulder. Five feet away, her elegant body shielded by the reeds, the doe has been keeping vigil. She snorts twice, lifts her tan tail in warning and bolts off through the beach plums and  honeysuckle. Another Goddess in flight.
The thick clouds begin to part and I scramble to use my cardboard observatory, struggling to find the pinpricked circle of light where I hope to have captured the transiting Venus. How many real life experiences have I missed while being in the "box". Taking photographs instead of committing reality to memory; looking for truth on the Internet when it abounds all around me. The Divine nags for my attention and I again, look behind me to behold the most intense double rainbow that that I have ever seen. It is almost neon in its intensity against the backdrop of dark, rain-filled clouds. Yes, I requested a sign but this is a celestial semaphore!
The sun viewing aperture in the clouds has disappeared and I gather my equipment and seek the path that leads through the primroses, honeysuckle and yellow beach cactus flowers back to the parking lot. Connecticut  is still there watching as the sun sets. And then it happens.
Next to my car is the most beautiful telescope manned by a sweet middle aged guy wearing glasses and a sky jacket. He responds to my query about Venus with such enthusiasm and for an hour we talk about the stars. He shows me his celestial app on his smart phone, we talk with his buddy in California who is charting Venus as well. We wait for the clouds to part one last time to get the teardrop view of the sun as it dips into the sound for the night, taking his loving passenger along for the ride. I don't feel alone. We have shared something fleeting and precious that won't happen again for 105 years.         

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Moved or Manipulated, or does it matter.

Those experiments at Princeton University which measure the coherence of randomness during public events  capturing  wide public attention must have gone crazy this week.

I don't watch reality TV shows.  As a matter of fact,  I barely watch anything on television anymore.  However, just this week I was captivated by two live performances aired on network TV. Like polar opposites, the yin and the yang , Niki Minaj's Grammy Awards performace and Whitney Houston's funeral service played havoc with my emotional center, reminding me of music's power over the soul.

To clarify, I was horrified by the performance of "Roman Holiday" on such a widely watched network presentation of the "best" in popular music. Nothing short of a "Black Mass" using the stage to deify Minaj's alter ego.  I was frightened. The devil , if he truly exists, had cast his minions for his cause on prime time TV.

Being a performer, casting lots for the adulation of the public eye, is a career path frought with stresses which can tear holes in even the strongest of talents. Last weekend I was discussing Whitney Houston's demise with my former husband who is both a singer and a spiritual man.  I was shocked when he said that these highly emotional, black performers with deep roots in the Gospel Churches are foder for the Devil's lair. In retrospect, I think he is right. What more powerful tool could Satan need than a pricelessly beautiful voice, of God's creation. Ply it's owner with the fuel of fame, tempered by a shakey self image and the elixors of courage, drugs and alcohol, step right in and take over. However, sometimes even the devil  gets thrown a curve ball when the irony of good takes center field. Such was the case at Whitney Houston's funeral.

Her faults forgiven, and her loving nature praised, Whitney's funeral service became an international stage where the power of Christ, working through the community of the church, was aired publicly. The message of her music, if you missed it during her life, was broadcast loud and clear through her death. And the message was to" love one another as I have loved you".  It was a celebration magnified by the power of music. I was taken to a pure time from my own childhood where belief was strong and God was a personal companion. And, for the cynics amongst us, I did not feel manipulated. Something pure and Holy spoke to me this afternoon as a voyeur in that Black Baptist church in Newark. I'm fairly certain I was not the only one.

So devil take the hindmost. At least for today, you have lost.