Monday, September 26, 2016

Gratitude on a foggy morning after a day when things didn't go as planned

With gratitude to Barbara Earl Thomas and Marita Dingus for their powerful healing work.

Yesterday, my old friend, Linda, and I got up early.  I picked her up at 6:30 a.m. and we set out to drive 1-1/2 hours south of Bellingham to catch a 1/2-hour ferry that would take us to Port Townsend.  From Port Townsend, we would be driving mostly on backroads and through farmland, crossing two bridges and then arriving on Bainbridge Island at around 10:30 in the morning.  We planned to visit our respective friends (my 95-year-old friend and Linda's friend and her friend's husband who was recovering from a serious stroke) and then meet up again to go to the Bainbridge Museum of Art to see the works of Barbara Earl Thomas and Marita Dingus.

What happened, though, was that while engaged in lively conversation with Linda, I missed the turn to the ferry.  About 20 minutes later, I realized what had happened.  We still had time to get to the ferry, but I became inexplicably disoriented and missed the turn again, backtracking about 20 minutes and effectively missing the ferry. At this point, I noticed that my car was nearly out of gas.  We arrived back in the town of Oak Harbor just in time to avoid completely running out of gas and pulled into a gas station.  Things continued to go awry.  I was baffled to find that I couldn't make the gas pump work and went to ask the clerk what was wrong.  She assured me that she would do whatever it took to make the pump work and pushed a few buttons.  When I went back to  my car, the pump still didn't work.  A man appeared, and I asked him for help, thinking I was still doing something wrong and that he would know what to do. He couldn't make it work either and went to talk with the clerk.  Two other kind people came forward to help. Although I had been feeling bewildered and confused, I began to calm down and feel grateful for human kindness.

Because of my earlier inattention, the day wasn't going to go as planned, other people who were waiting for use to arrive on Bainbridge Island would be affected, and I felt dismayed and remorseful.  Linda's cell phone was not working.  I had not brought mine and had neglected to bring my friend's phone number.  My friend, Linda, said kindly, "Maybe there is some reason for this not going as planned.  Maybe you need to forgive yourself."

Of course, she was right.

With the revised plan, Linda made the decision to forego her visit to the art museum and instead spend time with her friends.  We arrived at my 95-year-old friend's place just as she was leaving to go with her daughter to a farewell gathering for a friend, just in time for Linda to call from Rae's phone to let her friends, Louise and Walter, know where to pick her up.  So many things didn't go as planned, and everything worked out just fine.  I walked from Rae's place to the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art and reveled in the art work of Barbara Earl Thomas, Marita Dingus, and Alfredo Arreguin (I was delighted to find three of his paintings on display).

As I finish writing this, the fog has lifted and it's another beautiful sunny day in the Pacific Northwest.  I was able to take a short walk into Whatcom Falls Park and saw a Virginia Rail in the cattails at Scudder Pond after being alerted to its presence by its distinctive squeaky voice. Time to begin my day's work as a medical transcription editor.

So happy just to be alive.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Protection and Care / The Water That Gives Us All Life

Yesterday evening, September 12, along with many others, including children, I went to the Bellingham City Hall for the solidarity rally. Freddy Lane was one of the many speakers, including men and women, young and old, Lummi and non-Lummi.  Freddy Lane was one of those who stood up and made his voice heard about the coal trains a year ago.  That project has been halted.  Many members of the Lummi Nation made the 30-minute drive to Bellingham for this event.  If you are on Facebook, you can listen to what came after the speakers -- drumming, song, dance:

There is hope for the future.  It won't be easy.  A good many of the tribal peoples are not willing to give up now or ever.  Their ancestors survived because they were not willing to give up.  I look to them for inspiration.  They have survived against all odds.  They are saying, "We are not protestors, we are protectors."  They say, "We are one - black, white, yellow, red.  All the races can stand together to protect the water."

Friday, September 9, 2016

Together Through Life Totem Meditation / September 9, 2016

(Click to embiggen)

This morning I woke up at about 3 a.m. sensing something extremely painful throughout my body -- a sensation I couldn't identify.  It wasn't a new feeling.  In fact, it felt very very old -- something I have never wanted to fully feel -- something that would overwhelm a child and, if the child survived, those painful sensations would be triggered again and again throughout life whenever anything happened that even remotely resembled abandonment.

A DVD copy of "My Own Love Song," featuring a soundtrack by Bob Dylan, arrived in the mail yesterday. When it became clear that I wasn't going to be able to get back to sleep, I got up and watched it.  A major theme in the film is abandonment and healing from abandonment. Take what you have gathered from coincidence.

Just now I wondered about the etymology of the word "abandon."   

To put someone under someone else's control.

"- ment." Added to verb stems to represent the result or product of the action.

Abandonment.  Who abandoned whom?

Bob Dylan's collection of songs "Together Through Life" was released almost exactly a year after the death of the man I loved for so many years.  Perhaps it was back then that I heard that the songs were written by Bob Dylan for a movie but as far as I can tell, the movie was never released anywhere near where I live.  I do remember hearing "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'" and taking it joyfully to my heart because it reminded me of the man I loved who had died.  Then I saw the horrifying video of domestic violence that was paired with it, which broke my denial about the domestic violence I experienced when the man I loved who came back broken from the war in Vietnam abandoned me, or so I thought at the time.  His brother-in-law was trying to show me otherwise when he said, "He would have destroyed you."  I'm wondering if that abandonment was a fierce desperate kindness, impossible to begin to understand or accept until last night. Right now I'm recalling the film, "Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood," where the mother says:

"There are some things for which I don't expect to be forgiven, not by my children or even by God."

I can't find the other quote I am looking for, but my recollection is that the mother says that after she attacked her children during a drunken amphetamine-induced rage, she could never trust herself to be close to them again and pushed them away to protect them from her.  

The man I love hit me in an amphetamine-induced rage.  The "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'" violence is in the context of amphetamines.  My mother took a prescription amphetamine from 1954 until the day she died.  As I was being beaten up by the man I loved, it felt just like being beaten up by my mother when I was a child.  The difference was that I found the voice that I didn't have as a child, and I yelled as loud as I could, "YOU CAN'T HIT ME." I was not only yelling at him.  I was yelling at my mother.

He immediately stopped.  I don't know for sure, but I think that was one of the many things he did that he felt was unforgivable.  His own parents had beat him.  His sister told me that his father beat him and his brothers until they vomited.  He promised never to hit me again. Many years later he said, "You stood up to me."

We separated soon after that.  

I wonder why this is all coming up again now.  Now I'm remembering the time I was in my bedroom, home on a break from my first quarter of college, when I heard my mother chasing my youngest sister (who was 12 years old at the time) into the bathroom and begin to beat her as she had beaten both us throughout our childhood.  I clearly remember crouching in the hallway next to my bedroom the last time my mother hit me.  I am fairly sure that I was under 11 years old but not much younger.  I remember thinking, "That doesn't hurt.  She can't make me cry." I wonder if she sensed that she had lost her power over me when I didn't cry.  This time, I knew what I needed to do for my sister. I ran to the bathroom and looked at my mother and said in a quiet angry voice, "DON'T YOU EVER HIT MY SISTER AGAIN."  She stopped.  Nothing more was said.  I went back to my bedroom.

There had been no one to protect me.  I am the oldest of three daughters.  My middle sister says that our mother only hit her once and that, in my sister's words, "I deserved it." 

Where am I going with this?  I'm not sure.  I've come a long way since I woke up at 3 a.m.  Have I written anything new?  Each time I tell these stories, I learn a little more about myself and those involved.

I'll be 67 years old in a few weeks.  It is never to late to heal.  It is never to late to truly feel how painful it is feel abandoned and find that I can survive the pain that I couldn't feel until now.  To have reached the point where I don't abandon myself.  That I don't put myself under someone else's control.  That I am now freed to see that what I perceived as abandonment by someone else could be accepted years later as a paradoxical gift.  

Just before the sun rose, I heard a Virginia rail.

It's a beautiful September day.

A friend was giving out dahlia bulbs last spring.  Today my dahlia plant is blooming for the first time.  It looks to me as if it has wings.  A dahlia angel.

Dahlias are "the symbol of a commitment and bond that lasts forever.  The dahlia flower is still used today in gardens and flower arrangements to celebrate love and marriage."

Today I received a message from a distant cousin who lives in Zagreb, Croatia.  We are among the many people who have had our DNA tested and are discovering each other and are trying to figure out who our common ancestors are.  I also heard from a man in Italy who had an Irish mother and from a man from Germany who knows of ancestors from Dresden and from what is Poland today.

My eyes are just like my grandfather whose mother came from Achern, Germany, and whose father came from Stadtlengsfeld, Germany, in the 1800s.  A friend who was born in Dublin said that I looked more Irish than she did.  Although my father's side is almost entirely Norwegian, there is a great great grandfather on that side who didn't marry my great great grandmother and was said to have been German.  Perhaps his ancestors came north to Germany from Croatia or Italy.

My 23andMe results show:

Scandinavian   25.9%
British & Irish 25.1%
French & German 8.9%
Broadly Northwestern European 33.9%
Eastern European 2.8%
Broadly European 3.2%
East Asian   0.2%
Yakut           0.1%

My results show:

North Africa 1%
Scandinavia  44%
Great Britain 28%
Ireland 13%
Iberian Peninsula 5%
Europe West 4%
Europe East 2%
Italy/Greece 1%
West Asia -- Caucasus 2%

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Hupomone (Endurance) / An Open Space

If you go searching for the Great Creator, you will
come back empty-handed.
The source of the universe is ultimately unknowable,
a great invisible river flowing forever
through a vast and fertile valley.
Silent and uncreated, it creates all things. (Lao Tzu, Hua Hu Ching, 39)

In the open space, in the process of looking at a blank page, while waiting for a idea for my next mandala, I came across this, which sounded oddly similar to another song I had heard:

It prompted me to look for this photo of Bob Dylan:

Suddenly I realized that the sound of the Junior Birdmen song reminded of Bob Dylan in more ways than one.  I persevered in searching my musical memory and came up with this:

Can you heard the similarity?

up in the air
upside down (Up in the Air, Junior Birdmen)

and to sing and
dance and run (Tattle O'Day)

I know the joy of fishes
in the river through my
own joy, as I go walking
along the same river.
(Chuang Tzu)

Saturday, September 3, 2016


""... Nothing can describe the darkness behind Bob Dylan. Precarious, thunderous and risky are all good words, but there is also a vulnerability behind his character that many people don’t see today ..."

When my old friend, R, was undergoing chemotherapy for lung cancer, he was living on the couch in the living room of his parents' house in Modesto, California.  Without that couch, he would have been homeless.  During that time in late 2001 and early 2002, he would talk with me on phone up here in Bellingham, Washington, almost 1000 miles away.  One of the things he did to fill his time was watch hours and hours of movies on DVD. Something that he liked was to listen to recordings of Bob Dylan songs he had never heard before and which I could play for him over the telephone.  Over and over again he would tell me that he had watched yet another movie in which he was surprised to hear a Bob Dylan song as part of the soundtrack, and once it was a song I had just played for him over the phone, "Every Grain of Sand," which can be heard at the end of the harrowing movie, "Another Day in Paradise."  One of the first things we had talked about when we met at the ocean in December of 1966 at age 17 was Bob Dylan.  

In the article linked to in the above quote, the writer mentions several movies in which Bob Dylan songs are part of the soundtrack.  There are at least 245 movies and TV shows in which Bob Dylan's songs have appeared since 1965. 

(Photo:  Looking east on September 2, 2016, late in the day)