Winged Lion



Words & Music


Trudi Lee Richards

What to do when (you see me) drooling

 

I want to tell you about a fright I had today - and I know you’ll relate, because we’re all afraid of the same stuff: poverty, sickness, old age, insanity and death. Today’s fright was in the old age and sickness bracket - but it could have been any other. Because all frights leave us the same place: teetering on the brink of the Abyss of Meaningless Suffering. 

The day started out fine. Since I love the sound of the alto recorder, and kind of know how to play one, I thought I’d write a little piece for it. I picked it up and played a kind of meandering lament, recording it with the voice recorder on my iphone. 

Then I commenced to transcribe the melody with my music-writing app. That went fine too, until I filled up the last empty measure, and needed another empty measure before I could go on. Usually that’s no problem - my fingers know how to press the right keys to create a new empty measure to continue in. It’s like riding a bike, turning on a light or the hot water. Once you learn how, you just do it. 

But this time, suddenly, my hands had absolutely no clue what to do. I was floundering in a totally alien landscape - completely lost.

For a moment I panicked, then I gave up and Googled it, and dear Google gave me the answer, and it all came back to me. 

So what’s the problem? It all turned out ok, right? 

Well - maybe, for now. Or maybe not… maybe I’m already on my way to memory care and just have no idea! However you look at it, I’m old and getting older, and this is the kind of thing that is reputed to happen more and more when you’re in that bag. Tiny frights can mushroom into total helplessness, and there’s nothing we can do to foresee or prevent it. All we can do is say is “yikes!” and then go back to living the best way we can, and do that with everything we’ve got. 

But I’m pretty sure that if I do start drooling, I’ll need some help in doing my best job of living. If you notice that that’s the case, please just do this: put on some Bach for me. Preferably the album “Bach Jazz” by Manel Camp and Ludovica Mosca. Really it could be anything by Mr. Bach - jazzified or otherwise - but today I’m in love with this particular album.  It’s from way back in 2008, when we all thought we should move to South America to escape the financial panic. What were we thinking? That craziness is there too - and it’s way bigger than money. By now it’s one of those colossal blow-up monsters, a mad, swaying tower of existential doom ready to topple and squash all of us flat…. 

Which is why, more than ever, everyone should have a special place to escape to. For me a musical paradise will do nicely.  But if you haven’t got your escape figured out yet, any place consisting of whatever makes you really happy ought to work - as long as you remember to go there.

To finish my instructions about that album, “Bach Jazz,” I want especially to hear the cut titled the Capriccio sopra la lontananza del suo fratello dilettissimo, No. 1. 

No idea what that means, I Google translated it - and it coughed up “Capriccio over the distance of his beloved brother.” Huh? That doesn’t sound like any Bach I ever heard of… 

But it doesn’t matter. Whatever that piece is called, and whoever really wrote it, the important thing is that it makes me dance - I have no choice!  Drooling or comatose, when I hear it I will dance all the way to my grave, dive straight in and play dead until the coast is clear - and then, when no one is looking, I’ll leap out and go flying through the universe.

And I won’t stop until I find you - all of you, my loves, whether you’re already “dead” or still waiting for the big day. Yes, you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll see you again, when we all - everyone, everyone, everyone! - find ourselves amazed to be alive like never before, in our real body, the one that doesn’t ever die, because it’s made of nothing but joy.

 


On the Embarrassment of Not Being

 

Excuse me, dear unfortunate reader who has by whatever fluke of chance stumbled upon this page - excuse me, but I feel a need to confess something - something I hesitate to admit, but why not, the truth is all I’ve got, so I’ll just say it outright: it is deeply embarrassing to be me.

Just as deeply embarrassing as it is to be you, I’ll warrant - and I know you’ll understand me, even if you would rather not.

Because we will certainly be in agreement if I say...

But first, before proceeding, let me apologize ahead of time for getting overly carried away with the complexities of sentence structure, and for overusing the word “as," of which I am admittedly overfond. 

And secondly, let me clarify to whom I am speaking. If upon reading this you feel a pang in your imaginary gut, you'll know you are one of the “us” or the “we” to whom I refer from time to time.

That said, let me resume: We will certainly be in agreement if I say that as an ego, as a "little i," one wants to be credible above all. One wants, one needs, one craves to be seen, to be recognized, to be welcomed in the world as a causative factor - and one is constantly embarrassed because one cannot be seen, cannot be recognized, cannot be welcomed, because one is invisible. One doesn’t know why one is invisible - other people are visible, one says to oneself, but that makes no difference…

But there’s no getting around it: it is just in the nature of things that it is embarrassing to be a "little i," as some like to condescendingly refer to us. Because we all know deep down - at least if such egoic non-beings as our nonselves can be said to have a “deep down” - we all know exactly why we are invisible. We are invisible because we do not exist. Indeed, the most that can be said of us is that we are fictitious characters who “live” under the conceit, the inglorious illusion, that we exist. 

That’s right, you understood me correctly. I am saying that every one of us is simply an invention. We may appear to exist, and we may sincerely believe that we exist as living, conscious beings - but this is nothing more than an appearance, an image caught in the crosshairs of memory, perception, and imagination.

Because that is precisely how the illusion of our egoic existence is formed: through the intersection of various memories, perceptions, and imaginings, all produced within our living and enviably human hosts.

Not that it’s a bad thing to be fictitious, to be a nonentity. But if such a nonentity perversely insists on investigating its own origins and its own nature, it can only expect to be ruthlessly crushed - in other words, smashed, ground into a powder under the heel of merciless Truth, and ultimately obliterated. 

And even if what is crushed may theoretically have a chance of eventually becoming a comparatively delicious wine, the experience of being crushed can only be unpleasant, to say the least. Worse yet, recognizing that truth must surely offer a devastating blow to any nonentity that has hitherto believed itself to exist, and not only to exist, but to exist as the center of the universe…. 

And so you see the reason for my apologetic manner. If you have never before asked yourself about such matters, and have only just learned that you are not real, I do feel for you, with all my imaginary heart. 

But if you have fancied yourself a "responsible citizen" or perhaps, toward the other end of the spectrum, an "artist," or even, at the far extreme of the plausible, some kind of "spiritual seeker," and if, in doing so, you have dared to believe in your own aliveness, your own substantiality, your own creativity, your own value as the source of at least something useful and worthwhile in this world - as was my own case until my ill-advised recent incursions into the opinions of late thinker and writer Silo, aka Mario Rodriguez Cobos, whose work I very unintentionally unearthed on the Internet - then I must apologize even more humbly, if a nonentity can indeed feel humility, which I might argue is perhaps the only emotion such as we can feel. 

Now, however, the cat being out of the bag, so to speak, if you are not happy with the bedraggled mouse it has dropped at your feet, all I can suggest is that you entertain the possibility that you were perhaps “destined” to “know” - to be the recipient - of this poor, bedraggled truth. That perhaps there is some reason you and I and others like our unfortunate nonselves have been condemned to imagining our nonselves capable of consciousness. That there might be some mysterious "plan" to the whole charade, some arcane "intention" capable of imparting some semblance of "meaning" to what otherwise must simply be the hopeless torture of striving for something impossible, or perhaps attainable only by grace.... 


Photo by Lionel Gustave on Unsplash.com

In any case, dear reader, you might want to think twice before reading any further.



….Advice you clearly did not heed - and now it is too late. Because, like myself and like our legendary foreparents, you have obviously already eaten of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Since this is the case, I can only commend your ill-advised courage, and wish you luck. 

Perhaps you and I can at least take comfort in sharing our mutual hopelessness. Indeed, in the unlikely event that you were to agree to such an arrangement, such a sharing of hopelessness might paradoxically offer us both some meager semblance of hope! Of course for my nonself even to posit such a possibility may profoundly offend your own sense of your inviolable nonexistence, and if that is the case, such an oversight on my part undoubtedly betrays my own egoic shallowness - but it is what it is, as they say, and I believe you can relate… 

In any case, were you to accept, it would be a silver lining to a very dark cloud, for the situation is indeed bleak. In reality - a word I use here merely as a figure of speech, since it denotes a condition alien to our kind - in reality the more “aware” I become - and I must apologize for the meaninglessness of declaring that I, a nonentity, can be truly aware of anything...

Goodness, I seem to have again lost my train of thought in the complexities of my own inept speculations. As I believe I was about to say, the more “aware” of all these contradictions I become, the more acutely I feel how deeply and irrevocably I am caught in the grip of my own neediness, my love of grasping, of holding on, of making something out of nothing…

Ah, ah, ah - dear friend, if I may make so bold as to venture into such uncharted waters as suggesting that “friendship” might be possible for such as our nonselves, who are clearly incapable of the remotest inter-subjectivity - this whole paradoxical nonexperience of ours is, after all, a kind of bittersweet tragedy…


Ceremony for Peace 

Ceremonia por la paz



Ceremony for Peace

- to be read aloud by one or two people

 

Reader 1:

Welcome to this ceremony for Peace. This is a ceremony for peace of all kinds - inner and outer, personal, interpersonal, and global - because all kinds of peace connect in the human heart.

 

Reader 2:

We've all had moments of personal or inner peace, no matter how rare or how fleeting. Even if we seldom feel that peace in our daily lives, peace is always there in our hearts - in that still, calm place from which all life springs.

 

Reader 1:

So let's start by connecting with that peace. Just for a moment, let's set aside our usual concerns as much as we can, and with our eyes either open or closed, let us simply rest our attention on our breath, as we breathe slowly in and out...

 

- pause - at least 5-6 calm breaths -

 

Reader 2:

By now, if you've been able to relax and just follow your breath, you are probably experiencing a deeper sense of calm and inner peace.

 

Reader 1:

From this peaceful place, let's think of the people we care most about, the people we love. Let's feel our connection with them...

 

- brief pause -

 

Reader 2:

Sometimes close relationships can be easier, sometimes harder - but if we can feel the human in ourselves and the other, it can become easier to understand and accept each other. So let's take a moment now to do that. Feeling our connection with our loved ones, let us silently tell them:

 

"I feel the human in me..."

 

- brief pause -

 

"...and I feel the human in you..."

 

- brief pause -

 

"...and they are exactly the same."

 

- brief pause -

 

"In you I recognize someone very much like me - someone with hopes and fears, with beautiful aspirations and regrets, with strengths and challenges. Even if we don't always agree or understand each other, I know that just like me, you always do the best you can at the time, even under the most difficult circumstances, and I honor and appreciate you for all the ways you contribute to my life.

"If I've ever hurt you, I meant you no real harm. I may have felt like I wanted you to suffer in the heat of the moment, but I was angry, and didn't know what I was doing.

"And I know the same is true for you - that you care for me, and if you ever hurt me, it was just in the heat of the moment, and not because you wished me any real harm.

"Finally, if I have hurt you, I pledge that I will do whatever I can to make up for that hurt, and that I will not go down that road again."

 

- pause -

 

Reader 1:

Now, at peace with ourselves and with those close to us, let us open our horizons to include everyone around the world who is suffering from violence.

 

Reader 2:

When we say "violence," we are referring not only to physical violence, but to violence of all kinds - economic, racial, sexual, religious, moral, and psychological. We are speaking not only of war, but of domestic violence; of child abuse and abandonment; of all forms of sexual abuse; of human trafficking; of cruelty to animals. We are speaking of discrimination and of every hate crime, whether in the name of race, ethnicity, religion, political belief, age, gender, whom or how you love, or any other characteristic. We are speaking of the corporate exploitation of human beings and of nature, and of all abuse of power. In short, we are speaking of every cruelty imposed by the fearful in an attempt to control others, our world, and the future. 

 

Reader 1:

We want to end the violence in our world and bring peace! And we recognize that there may be little we can do directly, on a practical level. But there is one important thing we can all do: we can ask the best for all those who are suffering. Together, we can go inside ourselves and ask for peace and wellbeing for all people, both for the victims and for the perpetrators of violence, everywhere in our world.

 

Reader 2:

So let us ask. In silence, let us ask with all our hearts and all our strength for an end to war, and for an end to violence of every kind, everywhere in the world.


- longer pause -

 

Reader 1:

Thank you, friends - let us all give thanks that we were able to come together today for peace. From this day on, let us make this peace our way of life. Let us always greet our friends, our neighbors, and our loved ones in peace and kindness, treating them as we would like to be treated.

 

Reader 2:

In this way, carrying peace in our hearts, and bringing peace to everyone we meet, we can begin to build a true and lasting peace within us, with each other, and worldwide - a peace that flows from the hearts of caring and courageous human beings everywhere.

 

- Written at the beginning of the 2023 Israel-Hamas War

- Inspired by Silo's Message



 

 

 


Ceremonia por la Paz

- para ser leída en voz alta por una o dos personas –

 

Lector 1:

Bienvenidos a nuesta ceremonia por la Paz. Esta ceremonia es por la paz de todo tipo – la paz interior y exterior, la paz personal, interpersonal y global - porque todos los tipos de paz se conectan en el corazón humano.

 

Lector 2:

Todos hemos tenido momentos de paz personal o interior, no importa cuán raros o fugaces hayan sido. Aunque rara vez sintamos esa paz en la vida cotidiana, la paz siempre está en nuestro corazón, en ese lugar tranquilo y sereno del que brota la vida toda.

 

Lector 1:

Entonces, empecemos por conectar con esa paz. Por solo un momento dejemos de lado las preocupaciones habituales lo más que podamos, y con los ojos abiertos o cerrados, simplemente atendamos a nuestra respiración, mientras inspiramos y espiramos lentamente...

 

- pausa - al menos 5-6 respiraciones suaves –

 

Lector 2:

A estas alturas, si has podido relajarte y seguir tu respiración, probablemente estas sintiendo una sensación de profunda calma y paz interior.

 

Lector 1:

En ese lugar de paz, pensemos en las personas que más nos importan, aquellas personas que amamos. Sintamos nuestra conexión con ellas...

 

- breve pausa –

 

Lector 2:

A veces las relaciones cercanas pueden ser fáciles y a veces difíciles - pero si podemos sentir lo humano en nosotros mismos y en el otro, puede ser más fácil entendernos y aceptar al otro/a la otra. Así que sintamos lo humano en nosotros y en nuestros seres queridos. Imaginemos que están aquí con nosotros y en silencio digámosle a cada uno lo siguiente:

 

Siento lo humano en mí...

 

- breve pausa -

 

Y siento lo humano en ti...

 

- breve pausa -

 

Y es exactamente lo mismo....

 

- breve pausa -

 

Te reconozco como a alguien muy parecido a mí - alguien con esperanzas y temores,

con bellas aspiraciones y con pesares, con fortalezas y desafíos. Aunque no siempre estemos de acuerdo o nos entendamos, sé que al igual que yo, siempre haces lo mejor que puedes en ese momento, dadas las circunstancias.

Si alguna vez te hice daño, no fue realmente mi intención. Puedo haber querido que sufrieras en la intensidad del momento, es que yo estaba enrabiado/enrabiada, y no sabía lo que hacía.

Y sé que es lo mismo para ti - que me quieres, y si alguna vez me lastimaste, sé que fue en lo intenso del momento, y no porque quisieras verdaderamente hacerme daño. 

Por último, si te he hecho daño, te prometo que haré todo lo que pueda para compensar ese daño y que no volveré a hacerlo.

 

- pausa –

 

Lector 1:

Ahora, en paz con nosotros mismos y con quienes nos rodean, abramos nuestro horizonte para incluir a todos los que en el mundo sufren violencia de cualquier tipo.

 

Lector 2:

Cuando decimos "violencia", nos referimos no sólo a la violencia física, sino a la violencia de todo tipo: económica, racial, sexual, religiosa, moral y psicológica. Hablamos no sólo de la guerra, sino de la violencia doméstica; del maltrato y abandono de niños; de todas las formas de abuso sexual; de la trata de seres humanos; de la crueldad hacia los animales. Hablamos de discriminación y de todo delito motivado por el odio, ya sea por la raza, la etnia, la religión, las creencias políticas, la edad, el sexo, a quién o cómo se ama, o cualquier otra característica. Hablamos de la explotación corporativa de los seres humanos y de la naturaleza, y de todo abuso de poder. En resumen, hablamos de toda crueldad impuesta por los temerosos en un intento de controlar a los demás, a nuestro mundo y al futuro. 

 

Lector 1:

¡Queremos acabar con la violencia en nuestro mundo y traer la paz! Y reconocemos que puede ser poco lo que podemos hacer directamente, a nivel práctico. Pero hay algo importante que todos podemos hacer: podemos pedir lo mejor para todos aquellos que están sufriendo. Juntos, podemos ir a nuestro interior y pedir paz y bienestar para todos y todas, tanto para las víctimas y los victimarios en todo el mundo.

 

Lector 2:

Pidamos, pues. Pidamos en silencio, con todo nuestro corazón y todas nuestras fuerzas por el fin de la guerra y la violencia de todo tipo, en todo el mundo.

 

- pausa más larga –

 

Lector 1:

Gracias, amigos, demos gracias por habernos reunido hoy por la paz. A partir de hoy, hagamos de esta paz nuestra forma de vivir. Siempre saludemos a nuestros amigos, vecinos y seres queridos con paz y amabilidad, tratándoles como nos gustaría que nos trataran a nosotros.

 

Lector 2:

Así, llevando la paz en el corazón y llevando la paz a todos quienes encontremos, podemos empezar a construir una paz verdadera y duradera en nosotros, con los demás y con todo el mundo - una paz que fluya del corazón de seres humanos afectuosos y valientes de todo el mundo.

 

- Escrito al comienzo de la guerra Israel-Hamas de 2023

- Inspirado en el Mensaje de Silo



A Private Matter


As anyone 

can see

I am a calm 

and well-adjusted 

human being

who is

fully seasoned

to this reality


And so I wonder why 

a friend

keeps asking me

if I’m ok


“Are you ok?” 

they ask

peering in my door

to where I sit 

in perfect 

privacy


"Why do you ask?"

I ask


"Just checking"

they say


So 

to be polite

I testily reply

"Thanks, I’m fine..."

while muttering inwardly:


"...the truth 

is plain to see -

clearly you're the one

who's not ok

or why would you 

even think

of asking me?"



The poet at the pensive age of one year -

Photo possibly by her father, CW Richards, or her grandfather, SF Bush



I will not entertain

the other possibility:


That they might actually 

have seen

the hidden me:

the terrified child

trembling

in the dark

afraid to face

the day

Like the cat


Rushing 

and rushing

I hurtle from one

thing to another to another

 

Wanting and wanting

I keep doing and 

doing and 

doing

 

Yet

success

leaves me empty 

flaccid as a spent balloon

 

Why not simply be like 

the cat asleep

in the

sun

 

and

lie here 

at peace, basking 

in my own sweet being?



Photo by Lies Vergauwen on Unsplash

Photo by Sammy Sander on Unsplash

No Teslas for criminals

When a friend invited me to the theater the other night, I was delighted - I don’t venture out that much anymore, being a woman of my age, but I do love my shows. The only problem was that this one was downtown, which has gotten pretty iffy in the last bit of time, and I didn't relish the idea of parking in some dingy parking structure and then walking all by myself who knows how many blocks in the dark to the theater. 


But I had the idea, smart if I do say so, of driving into town and parking in one of the better neighborhoods, and then calling a Lyft. Which is what I did.


I found a parking place under a nice street lamp outside a lovely victorian, managed to make out the tiny little street signs at the intersection, pushed the Lyft picture on my telephone and put in what they wanted, and like magic it blinked and told me my ride was on its way. The driver would be driving a Tesla, and here was his picture - a young man with a long face, long wild beard and long wild hair. 

Well. I’m pretty open minded, but when it comes to getting into a car with someone who looks like that, I know enough to have a second think. I mean he might simply be unkempt, but he might also be your typical deranged loner, the kind who without even bothering with a haircut gets a job as Lyft driver for the sole purpose of viciously attacking old ladies, torturing them and finally depositing them, dead and traumatized, in some lonely, abandoned place where no one would ever think to look. And then he reappears the next day, no one the wiser, in his fine Tesla, to torture and kill yet another helpless victim who has done nothing wrong but remind him of his grandmother… 


Well of course I thought seriously about canceling that ride.


But then I told myself that he couldn’t be that bad if he really was driving a Tesla - I mean he would have to be fairly well off, and I don’t know if Tesla even sells their automobiles to criminals, in fact that might well be illegal and should be if it’s not. Besides, I really don’t like to rock the boat, especially when it’s on its way. So in the end, I decided to take the risk.


The young man arrived spot on time, and even though his name was Ezekiel - not exactly normal - he did seem quite nice. In fact, he was almost too nice, so I kept a good hold on the door handle while he provided me with detailed answers to my small talk questions, telling me all about his past, who knows how much fabricated, including his four years in the Navy in some southern city, and his recent return to his hometown, here where I live. He did seem to want to make me feel comfortable - though that could certainly have been just to get me to drop my guard so he could do his terrible business with me after all. But he appeared to be taking me in the right direction, not out of town which would have been the sensible choice if he were still planning on disposing of my mutilated body somewhere...


All in all, he managed to soften me up to where I was beginning to relax and think that I might not have to open the car door in mid-transit and leap out (actually he probably would have had the child locks on, but I didn’t think of that at the time) when suddenly he turned right around in his seat, looked me right in the eye while continuing to drive blindly forward almost giving me a heart attack, and told me, “You know, I'm giving serious thought to the homeless option." 



Well. Goodness. That took the cake! This possibly nice and marginally normal young Tesla-owning ex-Navy pseudo hippie was considering choosing to be homeless?


All I could say was, “Oh! Oh my. And where would you go?"


"Right here!" he exclaimed joyfully. "The doors lock, I can sleep in here, nobody can get in, I can shower at the gym, and I'll save a ton of money. A lot of Lyft and Uber drivers are doing that now. Maybe in a few years I’ll save enough to buy a mobile home..."


Heavens. I could only stare at him. It didn't compute - but what does nowadays? 


At last, thank heavens, we pulled up at the curb outside of what did indeed look like the right theater. Gazing at me beatifically while I opened the door and set my foot on the safe, solid sidewalk, my driver told me, "Enjoy the show!"


"Thank you dear,” I managed to reply. “And good luck with your new adventure - it sounds quite outrageous and possibly very foolish...." 


“Oh, I’m really, really into it!" he assured me, happy as a clam. Then, waving at me cheerily, he pulled out into traffic as if he were any normal driver. 


Poor fellow - I was relieved that he hadn’t murdered me, but he was clearly not all there. And I don’t know where he got that Tesla…

Almost Perfect Love

                     to a dear, self-deprecating friend                                                                                                         

Photo by Kevin Gent on Unsplash

Sometimes, 

my friend,

it marvels me

how happy 

the two of us

manage to be

with each other's

immortal company


We almost seem

a perfect match 

unlike some

you find online

that cannot strike

the meagerest spark

but only fizzle

in the soggy dark


Who knows why

we fit like this

with such a pleasing 

leggo-click

but let me say

what I believe to be

the agency 

of our curious 

harmony 


And if you blush 

and disagree

I'll understand 

it's just your

faulty memory

so buckle 

your seatbelt 

and listen to me


In you good friend

I see a being 

not only kind 

and wise 

and strong,

but also keen

as the finest blade

in the drawer 


For when I read 

to you

the stuff I write

you understand it

through and through

better at times

than even I do


Bright in you

is the power of the Light

but tho that's true

humility too

is part of the glue

that binds us two

for your light 

is crowned 

with innocence

 

But what about me?

Could all this be

mere excess flattery?

Well, in reality

as far as I can see

there is 

no difference

between you and me

 

In your solemn

laughing eyes

I often recognize

some kind of 

long-lost me

and if time and space

were not so limiting

I'd be happy

you to be

 

But you are you

and I am me

and so my heart 

can only sing

to see your joy 

in what you love to do

 

And I send you

all my gratitude

for those you serve 

are my beloveds too


Of course we each 

must also be 

at least a little flawed

but that is hardly odd

having been raised

in this zoo


Anyhoo, what we do

to make life good

is enough for me

and clearly

enough for you

 

So to conclude

these timeless truths

I here and now

without further ado

or any further 

hullabaloo

do dedicate 

these lines 

of almost perfect love

to you.

On the Playful Void - two poems

Don't avoid the void

Don’t try

to avoid

the void


that’s where

the juice is

the gems

the joy!


Take 

the plunge


Sink down

deep


Rest 

in the cradle

of yourself


Reflections in the monolith at Red Bluff Park of Study and Reflection

Justification for playing number games on my phone


2 2 pop

8 8 fizz

0 0 poof

each time I match

two same amounts

and see them cancel 

each other out

i drop

into the void

with a pleasant

tiny

plop


To my Guide

 

Your kindness as deep 

       as a deep summer’s night

       your joy complete

       as the sun’s clear light

       you are all and

       everything

       I need


When in a dream 

       you visit me 

       my cup over-brims

       with sweet wellbeing 

       and I can scarce believe 

       that such as you have come 

       to be with such as me


Yet you are 

       for me

       the only true 

       reality


So in joy let me 

       affirm this truth I sing

       until my life expires 

       my heart within me

       blossoming


Seeing the Sacred in all things

As far as I can see

just one thing

is necessary:

To try

and keep on trying

to see the Sacred 

in all things.


Then as this body-mind 

increasingly declines

may I stay strong 

in gratitude for all the years 

this life has given me

to think and feel

and speak and act 

and see.







And if one I care for

leaves

before I do

then too

may I stay strong 

in gratitude

for all the joy and tears 

we shared

before they gave their life

to all humanity.


When at last

I too have given my best

and done my part,

and that bright door opens 

with deep music 

in my heart

then let me enter joyfully...





And let me leave behind

no trace of anything

but love

and an endless, 

rich and timeless

peace

Dancing with the Wolf 

of Happiness

 




On the one hand

I’m not ready 

to die.

I have faith

and everything

but 

I just don’t like 

that much change…

 

On the other hand

I’ve been expecting to die

all my life

and now that I’m old

i expect it even more

in fact

any day now

 

And to those who tell me 

not to say such things

I say it is 

the simple truth

and not

to be silly

 

So this morning 

as I was dancing 

in the garden

to the invisible music

of JS Bach 

on my hearing aids

I started thinking

as usual 

of my death


Usually 

when I think of dying

I just think of it - like I think

of anything

 


 


Photo by Courtney Clayton on Unsplash



But this time

probably because of Mr. Bach

the moment I thought

of dying

this crazy earthquake

rushed up

seized me in its teeth

shook me like its favorite toy

and tossed me right

into the center

of the sun

 

And there I saw that

when I die

this wild joy

will come howling 

up out of the depths of me

like the wolf of happiness

looking for his beloved friend

who all these years

has been sleeping

like the dead

 

And my wolf 

will pounce on me

and nuzzle me 

and leap with joy

and we will play until 

we’re plumb tuckered out

and then lie down

and rest in the garden 

of our love

in the warm deep night

 

... And seeing 

this reality 

I laughed aloud

with the joy of a child -

for only then 

was it clear to me

that the death we fear

is no death at all

but the wondrous dawn 

of the very first day 

we truly come

Alive!


 

 

 



Clarity


The other day

as I sat contemplating

the endless suffering

of always holding on 

to everyone

and everything,

a strange lucidity

passed over me


What if -

I thought -

I could know

for just a breath

of a breath

how it would feel

to relax my hands

and unclench

this grip 

of death?


What if 

I could take

just one deep drink

of the mythical 

peace

that might come

with true

release?


So 

that

is what I did:








I took the moment

like a jewel

in my hands,

held it, 

inhaled its gleam,

knew 

its immortality,

drank my fill

of its light


And that one taste

of clarity

seemed to me

enough

to quench my thirst

and all eternity




Canticle of Light*




i.


Today

for no particular reason

I woke up happy


Maybe it was

the dream I had -

something

about dancing 

to a triple rhythm - 


I’ve forgotten

the rest of it

like I forget so many details

these days


but forgetting

is no reason

to be unhappy


The only thing

that can really

make me unhappy

these days

is this movie

we’re all making -

especially 

all those painful 

personal scenes

that never fail to

suck me in


And this is so 

even though

not so long ago

I turned around

and noticed 

the Impossible Light

streaming in from behind 

that makes

the pictures




ii


My little i 

was not the one

who noticed 

that resplendence

though she claimed 

it was she


My little i

is a dear

but totally illusory

and that thunderbolt

of luminosity

would have

snuffed her out

entirely




iii


No, it was I,

myself

who noticed that Light -


but all I did 

to notice it

was read the manual

and follow its advice:


“Try to see the light

inside your eyes”


the key word being

“Try”




iv.

 

I’ll admit that

at first as I tried

I saw nothing 

but a few imaginary 

flickerings


But then one day

as I was peering

over my shoulder

to the right

the Light

sneaked up behind me

on the left

and slapped me silly


And then 

all I could do

was lie there

listening

to the little bird of joy

singing 

in my heart

 



Photo by Jonathan Duran on Unsplash.com





v.


As I said

seeing the Light

giver of all possibility

of being free

is really

no difficult feat


But seeing the Light

won’t do a thing

as long as we keep 

objecting

to the transitory nature

of this place


And until we embrace 

our mortal state,

we’ll just keep running

on the treadmill of our days

struggling to outrace time

and escape the loss 

we fear




vi.


Nevertheless

here we are

all doing our best

by lots or by little, quick or slow

each of us learning

again and again

so many secrets

we thought we knew


Now at least

when I get sucked in

by any new misery

I do remember 

more frequently

to turn around and try to see 

the immaculate Light

that makes this life

as it streams in

from behind


And whatever the balance

in my life

of joy and agony,

all that I can say is this:

I’m here,

oh sweet, immortal Light

now and forever

here I am -

Do with me

as you please.



* "In reality, Light is the only thing that exists.... Light is eternal; it is the origin and the end of all that exists..." - from Siloism, Definition of Light




The Importance of Taking Things Seriously

... a DMV fable


This morning I bit the bullet and went early to the DMV. I only moved back to California six months ago, and I've just been putting off renewing my automobile registration - but yesterday when I finally looked it up, I learned that you have a mere 20 days, and that if you are so heedless and foolish as to wait six months, they can impound your vehicle. Yikes. Maybe I should take these things more seriously…


So today I went, planning to get my driver's license/"Real ID" at the same time. If I had to wait outside in a long line like last time, it wouldn't be so bad if I went in the cool of the morning.


This turned out to be a very nice DMV, no lines, just people sitting in chairs inside, waiting. I took my place among them, and before long, my number was called.


The fastidious young man behind the glass began his interrogation, and I started out doing fine, even though he had to keep shouting at me through his face mask because in my hurry that morning I’d forgotten to wear my hearing aids.


“Do you have the title?” he yelled. Title? Nothing on the website had said anything about bringing the title… I plowed through my bag, knowing it wasn’t in there. I had no idea where it was - where on earth could I have put it? 


“Bring it in when you find it!” he shouted, and went back to his electronic files, completely absorbed, while I waited for him to tell me what else I had to do.


Then suddenly he looked up in shock. 


“Wow!” He stared at me.


“I just ran across an old picture of you from maybe 20 years ago - you had pigtails!” 


“Oh, yes, I did,” I agreed.


I knew that picture, it was one of my favorites, from a former incarnation. I also knew it was not the pigtails he was amazed at. It was my current, incredible disguise - this faded, eyebrowless, cheerfully wrinkled face. He kept staring back and forth from my current apparition to the long-ago image of that gorgeous, smiling, happy young woman…

For long moments the hand of death hovered over us both, ready to touch either one of us on the shoulder - “Come…”


Snapping himself out of it, the young man handed me some stapled papers and told me, not unkindly, to go to window such and such. 


“Good luck,” he shuddered, still in shock.

Window such and such turned out to be the picture window. There another young man, this one fattish and bored out of his gourd, told me simply, “Stand over there”…


I stood, ready to take off my glasses, something they’d made me do last time - but he couldn’t have cared less, so I left them on. After a couple of half-hearted takes, he waved me off to the DMV’s very own Purgatory: the Exam Room.


Although I’m not crazy about tests, I wasn’t worried about this one. After all, I had studied - kind of - by reading through most of the Driver’s Handbook a couple of days before, and skimming the rest while waiting in line. And I’ve been driving for over 50 years, surely I knew enough to pass their dumb test!


In the exam room, a new young man, this one friendly, nose-ringed and tattooed, and charged with keeping an eye out for cheaters, ushered me gently toward a computer terminal, uttering the hushed blessing: “Good luck.” 


I thanked him and sat down. I hadn’t really thought about what would happen if I didn’t pass - but I wasn’t going to worry, I wasn’t that far gone.


I read the instructions on screen, took a deep breath, and hit start.


Ummmm… yeah. 


Yeah.

There were way more questions than I’d expected - all multiple choice, and a lot of them demanding the pickiest answers, about things that had nothing to do with driving or safety. My favorite went something like this:


"What is the punishment for injuring or killing someone with your bad driving and then running away from law enforcement officers? A. 10 years in prison; B. a $5000 fine; C. Apologizing and never doing it again; D. Following a police car at a respectful distance for 100 miles..."


Every time I gave a wrong answer, the computer would kindly mark it with a red X, and place a green check mark beside the correct one, just to let me know. This happened a lot, and it wasn’t helpful.

Long story short, the test ended with the large letters on the screen: “You did not pass. You have two more tries.”


I collected my things and made for the exit. As I passed the nose-ringed young man, who must have noticed the many times I squirmed and cursed under my breath as I sat bungling my way through the exam, he gazed at me sympathetically - “Didn’t pass? it’s ok, you have two more tries…”


Well. 


Maybe I do need to take things more seriously. Maybe it is somehow essential for me to know what punishment to expect if I someday knock down some other old woman at an intersection, then tear out into traffic, tires screeching, and lead the cops on a wild car chase?? I haven’t been planning on that - but you never know…

Pronouns

 

Today I had 

an interesting conversation 

with my son

who happens to be a he

and who asked me carefully,

How do you identify 

inside?

 

Having been a flower child

I had to say

that while identity is something

many people never doubt

I've been asking who the hell am I

and what's going on

ever since being strapped alive

into the roller coaster ride

of my most apocalyptic acid trip

during which I doubted everything 

especially my soundness 

of mind

 

When I came down 

I rushed to join 

every cult I could possibly find

from the Catholic Church 

whose fathers wouldn't let me in 

to the Abilitists 

who simply grinned

at all my sins

and none of them 

could resolve my plight

but only left me wailing

into the black of night:

why am I here?

who am I and who are you

and where oh where

are we headed to???

 

Back to the question

of Identity -

when asked who on earth

we think we are

the godliest of us old hippies 

generally give one 

of two replies:

I'm nothing

or 

I'm everything

 

While the humble hippies 

of today

give one of three:

my pronouns are he/him 

because I am a he;

my pronouns are she/her 

which means I am a she;

or finally

my pronouns are they/them 

which means 

I'm one of those 

elusive old/new entities

who call ourselves 

"nonbinary" 

 

Which brings me back

to my conversation

with my son

when he asked me

how do you identify

inside?

 

Just to help me out

he said

imagine you woke up

not a woman

but a man -

how would that 

make you feel?

 

Pretty weird I guess,

I said

but in reality...

 

And then I gave the answer

most predictable for my age:

 

After thousands of retreats

in search of 

the "essential me"

and after finding 

not a thing

but emptiness inside

I can only say

I really don't identify

as anything

 

And so he said

well then

maybe you are perhaps

at least a little

mildly nonbinary?

And if that is so 

perhaps you might

- just maybe -

want to go by

them and they?

 

To which 

I hurriedly replied

Oh no

because I really do not care 

if people see me as a she -

the error's understandable 

and hardly bothers me 

and anyway

(and this part I didn't say)

what would 

everyone think?

 

So my son raised his eyebrows

and said oh really?

and I said

yes

and thinking 

that was that

went home

 

And there I found

the same old me

all questions 

and no answers

because in reality

there seems to be 

no more to me

than a need to be true 

to myself and you 

and all the royal we

of the human family

 

So then I thought

that maybe 

the best way to be true

to me and you 

and all the royal we

would indeed be 

to act in solidarity 

with all my queer

extended family

by proclaiming "they/them"

as the pronouns

I want listed by my name

 


Photo courtesy of Unsplash.com - by Olena Kamenetska - Reykjavík, Iceland 


And I was willing, too

for tho I  know

such daring-do

would bother those

among my older friends

who have recently converted

to the hallowed new religion of

Pronomial Tradition,

such a proclamation

would be accurate and true

for I've never felt

my inner self to be

any kind of 

gendered entity

 

However - then I see

the counter-argument arise:

that since it scarcely bothers me

to be called a "she"

(femininity 

being just another aspect

of the illusory 

little "me")

perhaps I simply 

am not qualified

to be a bonafide

nonbinary?

 

Which may be true

and yet again - 

on yet another 

of the many hands 

of many of the gods -

my mother always rooted

for the underdog

and my extensive queer 

extended family

certainly deserves

my loyalty -

and so perhaps again

it would be good

to take a stand

in devotion to my clan

 

But then I think

of still another possibility:

that my apparent femininity

could just possibly be 

a convenient disguise

for shining the light 

of the Feminine Divine

into the night

of toxic masculinity?

 

So on and on

and back and forth I go

flipping-flopping

among so many possibilities

each one as meritorious

as the last

until I'm almost ready

to choose the one

I resist the most -

to call myself nonbinary -

because that's always

a good approach

to self-improvement

 

But then I realize

that every true believer 

needs to hear to a call

and a call is something 

I really haven't heard 

at all...

 

So even though 

I would enjoy 

taking the river-ride

down the rapids of surprise

so I could shock 

my relatives and friends 

by mildly insisting

that they speak of me 

as "they" and "them,"

in the end I decide

that unfortunately

I might as well just sit here

with good old 

"her" and "she"

 

And that is my

bland conclusion until

the very last split second

when a finer thought 

occurs to me:

that since I always take

the greatest joy

in attempting the 

impossible feat

of pleasing everyone,

the most interesting choice

might simply be

to abandon all responsibility 

and just tell anyone who asks:

 

Hey, I'm fine with anything

you choose

so why don't you decide -

call me anything that you feel

most accurately describes 

this other being whom you see 

sitting here 

outside your own reality -

and whatever you decide

I promise I will 

happily oblige.

 

Which does quite

satisfy me

because it leaves me free

to stay right here

inside myself and me,

comfortably ensconced 

in my center of gravity,

which is so wonderfully

empty 

of everything

The Day of the Great Change

 

No one ever knew exactly how it happened - only that it did: that one day everything changed...

 

That day, in every place where there had been fear - which was pretty much everywhere - all the people, from poorest to richest, oldest to youngest, happiest to saddest, woke up knowing something had changed. Something was missing - something dark, whose absence brought light and a soft smile of unreasonable joy to every heart.

 

In places claiming to be "at peace," where the simmering violence was constantly erupting, shattering life and sanity, worried mothers woke up feeling strangely gentle, tender toward everyone and everything - toward their own bedsheets, toward the trees blowing in the wind, toward themselves.


Anxious fathers woke up thinking of jokes, and looked around for someone to tell.


Children lay dreaming happy dreams, and when they woke, they lay for a time watching the dust motes afloat in the sunlight, and then got up, made their beds, and went to make breakfast for their parents.


On that day, in every place where there was war, soldiers on the killing fields gasped, looked at their hands and at each other, dropped their weapons and fell into each other's arms, laughing and weeping. Then they went to find all the others who had been fighting, and when they met, no matter which side they were on, they grinned shyly and told each other their names, and asked if they and their comrades were ok and if anyone needed anything, and gave each other little gifts, knowing they had found the best of friends.


 


Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash.com



So it was that everywhere in the world, in all the cities and villages where there had been war or violence of any kind, the fearful people woke for the first time in years refreshed from a deep sleep, knowing that they and their children and all their friends and loved ones were safe. In the sweet silence broken only by the trill of birdsong, they lay for a long time smiling, tears flowing down their cheeks, until at last they rose and opened the doors and windows, and stood in the sun, full of thanks, breathing deep.

 

And everywhere, all around the whole wide world, all the children ran outside to explore the great magical world together - the world that was theirs to love and cherish and protect for all of timeless time.

For Susan, 

Queen of Sheba and Beloved of God



Rise up, my love, my fair one, 

and come away. 

For lo, the winter is past, 

the rain is over and gone; 

the flowers appear on the earth; 

the time of the singing of birds 

is come, and the voice 

of the turtledove is heard 

in our land…*



They told me you had died,

kind friend,

but I know it is not so

because you are here with me

right now

loving me as I love 

speaking to me as I speak

granting me

your sweet

immortal company 


I laugh with happiness

to see you free

no longer trapped 

in morbid rationality,

but enthroned in peace

riding the fiery skies 

in your chariot of joy

your sweet Jesus

and all your loving children

by your side


For you are indeed

the great Mother

whose tender voice spoke

on your answering machine:

“Hello, this is

the Queen of Sheba,

I’m out with all my children now

but please do 

leave me your name…”


Humble and

resplendent diva 

you played your part

with all your heart

in the sacred tragedy

weeping an eternity of tears

for the agony you reaped

and all the while

swooning

with a love so deep

for God and all the world 

that it made no sense at all

but only left you prostrate 

with gratitude

saying Thank You Lord

no questions asked

Thank You

for everything.



*from “The Song of Solomon.” Some say the Queen of Sheba was one of King Solomon’s lovers…




To my friend who has gone

 

I remember you

less from the sad years

of your decline,

than from the days

when you reigned

most gracious of goddesses

in the mountains of light

 

I remember how 

to my astonishment

you welcomed me

a complete stranger

and wrapped me in your embrace

and took me into your 

intimate circle 

of compassion

 

And I remember when

shattered by terrible wisdom

after both your children 

had died

you would sit down 

beside any stranger

clothed in rags and filth 

and hold him close

and speak softly to him

 

Now 

seeing you beckon

with nothing but love in your eyes

I sit wondering

how on earth I will ever get

to wherever

you are.


photo by Jackson Hendry, courtesy of Unsplash.com

Om Shanti 

adventures with the fear of death

a short story in poetic form 

I must confess

that normally

I don't take risks

of any physical kind.

However, the other day

in order not to just 

let old age roll over me

and squash me flat,

I agreed to go camping 

with my son and a few 

of his friends

all of whom are

comparatively bursting

with the juices of youth

 

The first problem

was that there were bears

where we were going

so I brought along

not just one air horn

but two 

and though my son 

and his friends 

all looked at me 

with amusement

I slept well

that first night

 

It was on the second night

when someone said

It’s a beautiful night for rafting

that I knew I was in for it

 

Of course 

if the others all went out

on that enormous

dark lake under the icy stars

I knew I would go along

not because

I love lakes and stars

which I actually do

at least in theory

but because I knew

that if I stayed back at camp

I’d just spend the whole time

imagining everyone 

drowning

 

So I watched while

with great labor

the youngsters 

inflated the mammoth 

rubber boat;

then I followed them

as they carried the monster 

down to the lake

and set it lovingly

in the gently lapping water;

and when they invited me

to be the first to board

I clambered

into the wobbly bows

and sat 

holding on


At last 

when everyone was settled

we pushed off into the darkness

under the milky black sky 

with its millions of stars,

and I told myself

it was indeed a beautiful night -

I would love this

 

We glided into the darkness

long oars dipping soundless

but for an occasional

plash 

until we were far far out

miles it seemed

from the invisible shore

 

That was when two 

of the youngsters 

began trying to light a

peace lantern -

one of those where you

set a wedge of wax alight

under a fragile paper dome

so that eventually

the hot air will lift it 

gently into the sky - 

which is a lovely idea

and a lovely thing to watch

when it works


Patient to a fault

they kept trying

and trying

and failing and failing,

the fragile tissue fluctuating

in the tiny fitful breeze

until at last it 

caught fire


 


 


and they had to drop it

like a hot potato

into the black water

and start over on a fresh one while

the rest of us watched

some perhaps enthralled

others skeptical

and myself dutifully

imagining everything

exploding in flames

like a small aquatic

Hindenburg

 

Needless to say

in reality there was

no danger at all,

our craft was as sturdy

as a floating elephant -

but nevertheless

for no reason at all

I felt a hungry 

black nervousness

gnawing at me

 

Perhaps sensing

my unease

someone kindly asked me

how are you doing?

and I told them

oh i’m nervous - 

but then 

I’m nervous

about everything - 

which made them laugh

which in turn

made me momentarily 

happy

which was good


But of course 

when that distraction passed

my nerves were waiting

gnashing their 

unreasonable teeth

 

Regardless of my mood

on and on we paddled

deeper and deeper into the darkness

until at last

we reached its very middle 

and drifted gradually

to a halt

our lonely little world spinning slowly

on the fathomless

black depths


And the silence

pressed

like a weight

heavier 

and heavier

and heavier

until finally

at the limits of tolerance

the dam burst

and everyone began talking

all at once 

cracking jokes

talking and laughing

more and more desperately

until the flim flam became

so vehement

that I feared 

it might explode

 

Then 

like a life buoy

the thought came to me 

that if I could 

just hear the silence

I might be able to

relax


So I said

“Excuse me but

could we 

just for a moment

maybe listen

to the quiet?”

 

And instantly

as if I had opened the door

and caught them rioting

all the youngsters

stopped talking 

at once

 


 


And there they sat

in perfect silence

like chastened children, 

the water lapping

and the stars shining

and the darkness brooding

in all its mystery


and the only sound

in all that deep stillness

was the mewling 

of my nervousness

 

The long minutes passed

and the silence stretched its arms

to encircle almost all

of the empty 

black night...

until at last 

my courageous son

spoke up:

“No one is going to speak

until you tell us

it’s ok”

 

And we all laughed

and I told them they were

good children

and they could talk now

 

But apparently

I had robbed everyone

of the power of speech

because still

we floated silently onward

into the silent night

everyone 

utterly mute

the silence broken only 

by my nervousness

grinding her teeth

 

The wordless silence continued

and continued

and would have gone on

forever

had someone not somehow

changed the channel 

so that 

we could all hear 

the calm voice 

from the other end of the boat

as it began to sing 

the sweet, 

incomprehensible Sanskrit 

of a Vedic chant

 

Listening 

we glided on into the night

while

in simple obedience

to some learned goodness

the singer chanted

on and on...

 

The singing was heartfelt

and sincere

but what was to me

most wonderful

was this: 

that from the moment 

it began,

though I had no idea

what the words meant,

the chanting set me perfectly

at ease

washed away my anxiousness

with a clear flood

of warmth and safety

that filled my heart 

with gratitude

 

At last 

with words of peace

the chanting

came to the end:

om shanti

om shanti

om shanti

om

 

Then

there was nothing

but the silence

of the endless

sparkling night

and the sacred universe

slowly turning

all around us

(A poem for anyone who worries about losing their marbles)

Poetry, being magic, can transform pretty much anything - even the worst fears...

Granted, it can take a powerful need to produce an effective poem. So, for many years after seeing what dementia did to our mother, I contented myself with just agreeing with my siblings that our mother's case couldn't be hereditary. Other than that, I got pretty good at not thinking about it.

It's only as I continue, at 75, to get older and weirder and more forgetful, that I've finally come to the point where I've been driven to the extremity of writing a poem.

Although it's a pretty good poem, I'm not going so far as to say it will protect me against losing my mind. I'm just saying that it might give me another perspective - one that I hope might help me find a way through that experience, if such should be my lot.

It was my mother herself who gave me the idea for this poem. No one would ever have imagined that she, of all people - for she was a brilliant, outgoing, joyful human being - would fall prey to dementia. But she did, and it caused her and all her loved ones great suffering for many years.

At the same time, however, there were moments during those years when I was sure I saw something else - something wonderful - burning in her eyes. 

I remember the first time I saw it. We were in the kitchen, and she was standing beside me while I washed the dishes. She'd said something about helping, and I'd given her a dishtowel - but she had long forgotten what to do with a dishtowel, and was just standing there, far off in her own world... 

It was when I turned to look at her, just to make sure she was ok, that I was almost blinded by the light pouring through her eyes.

No wonder she  could no longer  function in the world - her ego was being incinerated! And in its place, something else was clearly rising from the ashes - the fierce light of a totally unreasonable joy, like a phoenix on wings of fire...


Beyond all boundaries


Sometimes these days

I catch myself completely

vanishing from this place

as if I've slipped

through some wormhole

into another time and space

 

The place I land -

just another pearl 

on the string of time -

might be so full and sweet

that I'd like to stay

for all eternity 

 

But once in a while

I also have to do 

a double-take:

Dear me, where am I now,

and what could this strange

dislocation mean?

 

Luckily, before I can begin

to truly doubt my sanity,

I remember the story 

of a boy who loved to climb 

as high as he could

in all the very tallest trees

 

On high he’d look and look 

and see and see and see

before moving on 

into a new reality

at another place 

in the leafy green...

 

He'd stay up there for hours

moving from scene to scene, 

until, his curiosity appeased,

he’d clamber down 

and go inside 

to think

 

When his elders asked  him

what he was doing up there 

all that time, he'd simply say, 

I look and look until I find...

and then I move, and look,

and find again...



Eventually the boy 

became a man 

who was strong and wise, 

and above all, kind,

and as different from me or you

as anyone could ever be

 

Yet I’ll wager that 

whatever name he used,

whatever reality he chose to see,

the one who looked 

through his clear eyes

was never just his personality 

 

I'll venture that

he shared his gaze

with that Kind Eternal Being

who looks through all our eyes

and feels 

through all our skins

 

The very same 

who waits so patiently 

for all of us to see

each other and the world

with peace 

and equanimity

 

And since above all else, 

I love that possible Destiny,

I hardly care 

if my "I" arrives alive

on some familiar beach

or loses herself entirely at sea 

 

All I truly ask

is that my vision 

become so clear 

that I can always see

that Greater, Kinder Being 

smiling in you and me

 

Smiling while we wonder:

Are we many? 

Are we few?

Or are we just One Light

unfolding in eternity

beyond all fear,

beyond all grief,

beyond all boundaries...


All my thanks to the following  artists and to Unsplash.com, where they have made their work freely available to the public. Top to bottom:

Jeremiah Lawrence 

Angelina Litvin 

Glen Hodson

MT ElGassier

Above: a few of the Luminous Beings who inhabit Red Bluff Park of Study and Reflection in Northern California. (Photo from 10 years ago - left to right: Fernando, Carol, Janet, Charles, Mary - who now accompanies us from another time and space - and Sinthya). 

Red Bluff Park 

is open to all non-violent visitors for much-needed respite from the spirit-crushing grind of a system that believes in death. For a well-earned break, come mid-morning on the third Saturday of any month and spend a day celebrating Life and Friendship in the company of other luminous humans... 

Luminous Beings


You and I

oh sweetest of sweets

are no machinery

but luminous beings

loosed on the world 

to shine and shine

our limitless light

as we gently croon

a sweet release

to lull 

sad little Mortality

back to sleep.


And no false god 

of reasonable doubt

shall ever unmake our tribe

For we are plentiful 

as the waves on the sea

and powerful as the tides,

and like the grass 

we bend with grace

when blown 

by the winds of time

and we softly surrender

to the weight of space

that weighs 

sans reason or rhyme


So argue your fill

for death and despair

and we will stand 

patiently by 

chuckling in all 

our illogical peace

For our way is deathless

and endlessly kind

and the Light we bear

leads everywhere 

through the humble union

of heart and mind.

Enigma

Now

having taken this latest 

foolish

inevitable leap

off the cliff of my years,

I find myself here,

tumbled in a heap

beside the wild river

of my life

no place else to go -

all bridges washed out,

all roads blocked,

fires raging on every side.

Who knows?

Perhaps  

the river will rise

and sweep me away 

or perhaps

I will forget myself entirely

and turn into a pelican

or a redwood tree…

It matters little

as long as you 

oh Benign Enigma

are here with me

saying nothing.



My Story...

What to be - a writer, an artist, or a musician? That was my childhood dilemma. You had to choose, or become that shameful thing, a dilettante. 

I could never choose. So I drew and painted, played music and sang, wrote stories and poetry, and dreamed of growing up to live alone in the woods. At least there, alone in the woods, I would be a writer... 

And at last I did choose writing. When I dropped out of college in order to devote myself to finding the love of my life, I abandoned all other artistic and intellectual puruits, and only continued writing.

Over the next several decades, I wrote my way through four husbands and three children, and through the inevitable parting of our ways. Through all of that, words were enough...

...Until, in my seventh decade, I found myself suddenly obsessed with becoming a musician.

I don't know why it took me so long to set out on that quest. Music had always been my secret Holy Grail.

That was because of two people: Mary Helen Richards and J.S. Bach.

Mary Helen was, first and foremost, my mother - as well as the mother of my three younger siblings. She would incidentally also become the infamous and beloved developer of an educational philosophy called Education Through Music, for which others seem to remember her more than for being our mother.... But it must be admitted that she practiced on us, singing and playing with us incessantly from the time we could squeak, which was how music became as natural to all of us as breathing. It was also why, even though I devoted much of my life to writing, music was always the ground I stood on.

But if it was my mother who stood me on that ground, it was Bach who made that ground Holy.

My conversion took place one day when I was 12. I was a strange, lonely child who was happier spending time alone, listening to classical music or wandering in the woods, than with other young people. Accordingly, just to enjoy myself one day, I put on a recording of Bach's Musical Offering and lay down on the floor to listen... 

I don't know how long I lay there, letting the music wash over me - I only remember that after a long, timeless interval of simply being suspended in the unfolding purity of the music, I was all at once flooded with an overwhelming joy. Because suddenly, for no reason at all, it was as clear to me as day that all was well. That no matter how bad things might look, Life was Good, and there was nothing to fear. 

Fifty years passed. All that time I listened devotedly to Bach, as well as to a multitude of other musics - but it never occurred to me to do more than listen. 

Until a few years after the last of my children had left home and my beloved husband of 25 years had died, when a friend gave me an old electronic keyboard. That was when a novel thought surfaced in my head: maybe I could learn to play the piano? .....

I googled "easiest Bach keyboard pieces" and came up with the Prelude in C major. Then and there I sat down and stumblingly began to learn it... 

That was the beginning of the end. It didn't take long for me to become disgusted with the cheap keyboard and buy a decent digital one, the kind that actually sounds like a piano. Over the next few months I took up alto recorder, joined a Renaissance vocal group, found a voice teacher, and began to study songwriting and composition...

Today, I still write words - that's just how I deal with living. 

But now I'm equally drawn to music - and in a very different way. I think it's because music has a unique power to reach deep, deep inside us - to fuse, almost on a cellular level, with both our grief and our joy, transmuting even the most painful experiences within a new context of joyful meaning...

Joy cries out to be shared. That is why I'm putting together these pages: to share the joy of words and music with you, and perhaps, also, the certainty that Life is Good, indeed, Sublime.




Home Today...

A melody and words that crooned in my ear one morning, echoes from my distant Irish roots...

Recorded at Resound Northwest, Portland, Oregon by Trudi Lee Richards and Daniel Buchanan:

Home Today a joyful lament - 1:31:23, 3.46 PM.mp3

Lyrics:


Home today I go to die

For my heart is breaking,

Thousand years have passed me by

While I lay un-waking.

 

Love of mine come hold me close,

Feel my heart a beating.

Treasure all we’ve laughed and lost

Caught up in life’s leading.

 

Dearest friends, embrace me long,

For this life is fleeting -

Yet beneath the sorrow of loss,

Hidden joy is sleeping.

 

Children mine now gather near,

Feel my love enfold you.

Though I am no longer here,

Still my love will hold you.

 

Let your heart be open wide,

Kind and wise and strong.

May you live your fullest life,

Sing your truest song…

 

Home today I come to die, 

Heart both full and breaking,

Shadows meet the morning light,

And... ah, now I am waking.




Me after four years on the earth

 Words & Music...

Experiences are slippery things. 

Even the most profound and beautiful of them always vanish instantly into the past, leaving us bereft and stranded -  unless we can somehow capture their essence, their deep register. Then we can return and drink from their life-giving waters... 

That's why I write poems and stories and music. Like a magic carpet, the arts can carry us into the sacred realms of heart and mind, to the place where we are immortal, and all is eternally well. 


Below: 

Mary Helen, 

Johann Sebastian, 

and Trudi Lee


all quite some time ago...









my father's love

even though

I was already ten

my father held me

in the old rocking chair

and we rocked

in silence

and didn’t say

a thing




Our family - left to right:Me, Trudi Lee; my little sister Zanny; my father Ricky; my littlest sister Robin; my mother Mary Helen; and my little brother Johnny. Photo by Art Garrison, 1958 or so.

Another time and space


Outside, the sun is rising

and the multitudes of birds

sing and chitter

over the shimmering meadow


Yesterday I came here 

with my worry about dying 

and left it at the portal

with my other excess baggage


Today my entire life

weighs the same

as the sublime quiet

inside my heart


Time enough tomorrow 

for death -

Inside this plentiful kindness

life is eternal.



Red Bluff Park of Study and Reflection, April 2023


Silo

In 1984 I was a basket case. A young mother of two, I was consumed with terror that the world was about to explode, and I would have to watch my beloved baby twins burn alive before my eyes. In despair, I was on my way home from my secretarial job in San Francisco one dismal afternoon when a poster caught my eye. “Peace is Possible,” it said, “It’s Up to You.”

That got me. I called the phone number, and ended up meeting the Siloists, young volunteers working to spread awareness of the need for peace and nonviolence, both inner and outer, through the Humanist Movement. 

Hesitantly, I joined them – and to my astonishment, the minute I began to work to change things in the world, beyond my own small self, my obsessive fear vanished. It was crazy. Illogically, I knew that all would be well...

Suddenly free of fear, how could I do anything but dedicate myself to this remarkable work? The teachings of Silo have since been central to my life and wellbeing. The distillation of his life's teachings is Silo's Message, a small book that has inspired many worldwide to form small "Communities of Silo's Message" that meet weekly to study and do simple ceremonies together. Personally, I recognize and honor other awakened masters of our time - but Silo is the one I always come back to...

His life and work impacted me so strongly that I spent 12 years writing his biography, On Wings of Intent, below. https://www.amazon.com/Wings-Intent-biography-Silo/dp/8416747334


Additional resources:

Silo - His Message, His Work, and His Public Life: www.silo.net

Silo's Message: www.silosmessage.net







Poems for Jorge...


In the River House 

 

Oh my dearest love

Was it a trick of my mind

that you died and left me,

escaping into realms

I could not penetrate?

 

For here you are beside me

Alive in this very moment

in this yellow kitchen

at this long table with friends

in the house that goes

down to the river.

 

Here you are with me

alive and smiling

sad that I left

but glad to the brim

without a trace of rancor