Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Josephine's mandalas: #5 of 21


   .  .  .


After my mother died without warning of a massive heart attack on December 3, 1994, on the day before her 46th wedding anniversary, I found one of her books of poetry bookmarked at a poem by Kenneth Rexroth.  The poem had been written to his daughter.   The book was sitting in a prominent place, in what appeared to be a deliberate manner.  Underlined was:

Believe in Orion.  Believe
In the night, the moon, the crowded
Earth.  Believe in Christmas and
Birthdays and Easter rabbits.
Believe in all those fugitive
Compounds of nature, all doomed
to waste away and go out.
Always be true to these things.
They are all there is.  Never
give up this savage religion
For the blood-drenched civilized
Abstractions of the rascals
Who live by killing you and me.

(from "A Sword in a Cloud of Light")

("Boy with Amaryllis and Orion," a track-pad drawing by am, from the winter of 2008)

I'm looking for patterns in the dating of my mother's mandalas.  She made the first two of her mandalas on consecutive Wednesdays and the other two on a seemingly random Thursday and a Tuesday.  I wonder what kind of mood prompted them or what events in her life.  I can't remember exactly when it was that she showed her mandalas to me, but I am fairly sure that the series was complete when I first saw them. I understand that she showed them to my sisters, too. It isn't likely that she showed them to my father because he was opposed to her interest in Judaism. After he expressed his disapproval, she continued celebrating Jewish holidays in secret and found solace in the seasons of the Jewish calendar.

It seems that when she made this mandala, she was acknowledging and pondering paradox.

My mother loved the night sky.  Gualala is a coastal town which is a 3-1/2 hour drive north of San Francisco -- a splendid place for night sky viewing.  That is one of the few places I have been where the stars and the Milky Way can be seen as our ancestors must have seen them. With nothing blocking her view of the sky from the zenith to the western horizon, she could study the moon and stars and constellations and planets and befriend them.  The last time I saw my mother she told me in a matter of fact way that she had no friends.  "That's just the way it is," she said.  But when she died, her friends grieved deeply.

Even though Bellingham is a small town, the city lights are bright enough that night sky viewing is limited -- even when the frequent cloud cover lifts.  Only the brightest stars are visible here.  The clearest night sky here doesn't come close to the brilliance of the night sky in Gualala.

On one visit to Bellingham many years ago, my mother was drawn to a pretty little yellow house up above a busy street that runs between where I live and downtown Bellingham.  She said, "I'm going to live in that yellow house someday."  With her red hair and freckles, she didn't mind cloudy or rainy days, but I know that she would have missed seeing the stars if she had moved here.

After about a week of 80 degree weather, things are back to normal here in the coastal Pacific Northwest with a light rain that has been falling all day today.  It wouldn't be unusual if it cleared up by evening. It's always startling to see the first leaves falling in late July.

I'd like to take a walk but am hesitating due to the rare occurrence of thunder and lightning that is predicted.

Before dawn on the day that my mother died, Orion was setting.  It was just above the horizon in the western sky.  My star book says of those pre-dawn hours , "Don't search for the Milky Way:  it is too close to the horizon to be seen well."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I understand your mother's love for the sky. Makes me wonder if she ever saw halos and iridescent clouds. Her mandalas are such a treasure.