Sunday, August 31, 2008

new moon in virgo

according to lisa dale miller , this "New Moon in Virgo and the subsequent waxing two-week phase to the Full Moon in Pisces (the Moon of the Bodhisattvic intention) is a time for serious inner reflection and planning toward becoming an agent of service and healing for yourself and the world."

this is the first new moon of my life without my grandmother in it. she died hard on the heels of last month's new moon in leo, a new moon that coincided with a solar eclipse, and was, according to ms miller, "a metaphor for the personal ego at it’s (sic) most selfish, greedy and narcissistic, overshadowing the critical needs of the many...a New Moon to look deeply at the nature of desire and how it feeds the most destructive aspects of human life."

my grandmother was such a metaphor for me. in the way she lived her life, in the choices she made, or refused to make, the ideas she believed in and the beliefs she clung to, she gave me the gift of showing me how not to live, how not to choose, in what not to believe. it cost her greatly to teach it to me. it made her sad and miserable and angry all her life. it made going to see her like crawling over glass.

but, oh, how well, how thoroughly she taught me.

and so, dear roey, as a new moon rises and the old world turns, and you recede ever further into the mists of time and space, may fire consume you, may water sanctify you, may air purify you, and may earth receive you. may your Spirit know the Peace of all eternity, the Joy of all that is. the memories may be bitter, but the Fruits of the Lesson are sweet. namaste.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

what about writing?

gentle readers of this blog may wonder... and certainly Beloved has been asking... what about writing?

ive been wondering that myself.

i have an inkling where it's gone - buried under a mound of drywall dust, moving boxes, new appliances and my grandmother's old possessions. i am not at all the neat-nut libby is, but i find it hard to think in straight lines when the chaos is unrelenting. at this point, the mess is just spilling everywhere, the detritus of the construction mixing with boxes of kitchen-stuff and my grandmother's old things.

just trying to keep track of where it all is now is making me crazy, let alone trying to decide where it's all going to go.

but its true, what Beloved says - except for this most self-indulgent of wallows, i've been doing no writing at all to speak of for WEEKS.

i gave some thought this morning to why this might be so, and i realized that here i am free to play in a way that makes fiction seem like Work. this is MY voice i hear coming through the screen, echoing back, a voice i only dimly recognize at times. a voice i didn't know was me.

there is an aspect to blogging that feels like not only have i been given one of those giant boxes of crayons... and a huge white wall, but also permission to fill it up ANY WAY I PLEASE.

the Writer-Child in me smiles in glee and with fingers fat as baby jake's continues to scribble.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

and if you have a moment, scroll down and see what your fortune cookie says! mine said i had the best life ever~!! guess i can't argue with that! LOL

Friday, August 29, 2008

an hour of deep content

autumn has invaded, bringing chilly nights and nippy mornings, nippy enough to send me inside for socks on my daily march up and down the drive. three laps of the driveway, from the house to the street, is a mile and i am determined to walk at least seven miles daily by winter.

though if the seasons continue to change at this rate, there will be snow by october.

last night the chill and a loaf of nearly-stale bread, plus a plethora of eggs, inspired me to bake a bread pudding. (lest my gentle readers wonder what the Angels would think, please be assured that the Angels who have everything but physical form, take divine delight when WE savor something as delicious as homemade bread pudding.)

as the oven warmed the kitchen, and the smell of cinnamon and ginger filled the upstairs, libby and i snuggled on the couch. we ate the pudding still steaming while we watched Nanny 911.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

eating like an Angel - day three

the best part about eating the Angel Way is that after a few days, you really don't want to eat any other way. at least that's been my experience, and laura's experience, and a whole host of other people who've tried this approach and liked it.

it's so simple, ruth said.

that's one of the other Best Parts.

so just for the record... (and it's only noon)

i've had -

bkfst - one smoothie with blackberry yogurt, frozen raspberries, lo fat milk and chocolate paleomeal, coffee with cream

mid-morning snack - handful of almonds, handful of cranberries and a cup of coffee with cream

noon - oatstraw and mugwort infusion, handful of almonds.

i've also walked four laps up and down the driveway today. yesterday, i walked two miles - it seems the only form of exercise of my right elbow and shoulder will allow.

this afternoon im meeting laura at passiflora. there'll be steak and more sauteed veggies for supper. i'm certain today will be another two-rainbow day!

these happy golden days

baby jake speaks. his first word, appropriately, perhaps even prophetically, is BALL. we know he means BALL because he crawls after his big green one, yelling BAWW BAWW. he also plays catch, rolling the ball back and forth to a partner with a deep chuckle and an expression of self-satisfied glee.

i can do this, he seems to say. look at me, i can do this.

i am always careful to say "yes, you can do this"...and then i must confess i send him an image of a baseball stadium on a sunny summer day, surrounded by cheering crowds and the smell of cracker jack, and an announcer in the background booming ... NOW PITCHING FOR THE NEW YORK YANKEES... BABY JAKE PERCIVAL...

and the crowd cheers, while baby jake giggles.

i am thrilled to report that my olive oil-impatiens-plantago creation, coupled with the salt soaks, seems to have completely cured my itchy, irritated eyelids. it also had such an efficacious effect on the rash on baby jake's face, that katie called me last night to find out what i had used.

what did you do to jake, mom? she asked.

now, considering that katie is an Investigator for DCF, this question coming from her has a darkly sinister ring that makes even my well-intentioned grandmotherly heart quail. i mentally reviewed his day - catch in the morning, long delicious naps, colorful foods. he did have a poopy diaper when i brought him back, but that was because he did that in the car.

about what? i asked cautiously. sometimes katie forgets she is not my social worker.

his rash... it's almost gone. he's had that for months. nothing i've tried worked. what did YOU do?

just a little green magic, honey, i said. a little olive oil, a lot of love. a few weeds.

weeds?! squeaked katie. you put weeds on jake's face?

clean ones, i assured her. field-grown.

i could hear her rolling her eyes as she hung up with a groan.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

eating like an Angel

baby jake and i ate like Angels today. we were so good! here's what we had:

Breakfast - scrambled eggs, sliced banana, cranberry juice for him, coffee with cream for me.

mid-morning snack - 6 oz baba for him, i wasn't hungry

lunch - leftover grilled rainbow veggies (green squash, yellow squash, celery, carrots, purple onions) with leftover fettucine, blackberry yogurt, lemonade for me, cranberry juice for him

mid-afternoon snack - 6 oz baba for him, handful of dried cranberries and sea-salted almonds for me, coffee with cream.

supper - half grilled chicken breast, sauteed spinach in lemon and garlic, basmati rice.

after supper - the last of the fudge. im ashamed and embarrassed to admit i scooped out all the fudge crumbs, too! :)

i thought i managed two rainbows today.... (purple onions, blackberry yogurt, spinach, squash, celery, yellow squash, bananas, lemons, carrots, cranberries and tomatos... but now i see im short a serving of orange. perhaps a glass of orange juice might be nice before bed...

first day of school

this time last year, my grandmother was my major preoccupation, and my grandson but an anticipated joy. this year, my grandmother is a memory and my grandson is 30 lbs.

last year libby started high school...this year she starts tenth grade. the end is in sight - some day soon, there'll be no need for me to drive her to the end of the drive, wait with her for the bus to trundle around the corner and down the hill. the rhythm of my days will take on a new shape, form a new song.

but until that day comes, for all the mothers (and fathers) and all the women (and men) who stand and wait and wave, to new-minted school children in shiny new clothes and dirty sneakers, i reprise this poem i wrote for my sister, on her birthday:

i am a woman
who stands
at the end of a driveway
with a child
waiting for the school bus
to rumble up the road
while the sunlight flames
through the trees.

i am a woman
who waits
at the end of a driveway
looking for the school bus
to tumble down the road
spilling children
while the shadows darken
across the fields.

i am a woman
who sees
at the end of a driveway
the seasons rise up,
then fade;
and school buses come and go
churning children
across the years.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

some things i did today

as summer days go, this one was pretty good.

i began the morning at my physical therapist, where my shoulder and upper arm muscles were first pulverized and then lasered.

i came home and checked on the baby holly trees. there's at least a dozen of them, roughly six males and six females. so far, so good. the rooting hormone seems to keep the water clear, but i think im going to need rooting mix and some sturdier pots by the weekend. they are prickly little suckers, literally, reminding me that holly leaves are prickliest near the bottom.

i harvested four good size bundles of white sage and gathered fresh plaintain, wild impatiens and mugwort. the wild impatiens and the plaintain, i mascerated in my mortar with olive oil and used it on my eyelids along with a hot salt soak a couple times today. im not sure what got them so irritated - i think allergies and generally "gunky" eyes - my opthamologist assured me this is the correct medical term - caused a tear duct to block.

i used the mugwort in an oatstraw and dandelion root infusion i drank at noon. i wasn't planning on adding dandelion, but the most adorable little plant with the cutest little roots jumped into my hands while i was weeding, and so i chopped it up and added it to my brew. the oatstraw tasted gently green and soothing.

i worked on the outside of my dollhouse. who'd have thought the outside would be such a bugbear to paint? im thinking of switching color schemes. i wanted the dollhouse done before the real house and now im thinking the latter will be done long before the former at this pace.

i gathered all the weeds and cuttings i couldn't use and left them in a bundle on the bridge as an offering to hecate, a little late, but an offering nonetheless, in thanksgiving for my grandmother's finally-swift passing. she told her care coordinator the day before she was taken to the hospital that she was ready to die, and less than a week later, she was dead.

i did three loads of laundry, cleaned in all the zones. i walked, napped and ate like an Angel all day. this evening im attending the psychic development circle at the purple rose while Beloved goes to fight. there's pork chops and sauteed veggies for supper tonight - im hoping to get in another full rainbow.

as summer days go, it was a very nice day.

last day of summer...

vacation, that is.

it dawned late and dark, it seemed. snuggled under the quilts with Beloved, i noticed it didn't get light until nearly six o'clock. this morning the light is gold, the mist is steaming off the ponds. i hear the geese calling overhead and the crows screaming in the trees. the heat of my coffee mug feels especially welcome today.

tomorrow my youngest daughter begins her first day of tenth grade. tomorrow baby jake comes to stay.

this morning the world seems still as a swimmer poised before the plunge.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Monday, August 25, 2008

tickle me, dear reader

...go read my new blog... make me happy... say hello!

The Cranky Crone

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

just when i thought it was safe...

... to pay attention to politics, the democrats give me reason to despair.

obama picked biden?

biden? biden as in joe biden the plagarist from delaware?

i guess i will have to console myself by remembering we've had satan incarnate as the veep for the last 8 years.... and plagarism isn't even one of the seven deadly sins.

i guess you might say washington is coming up.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

back from the beach

we arrived at the funeral as the priest was processing down the aisle, and thus i got to enter the church where my parents were married and where i was baptised, communed and confirmed right behind the official celebrant. how ironic, i thought, and that was only one of the many delicious ironies that has attended my grandmother's departure from this life.

i am happy to report that the statues neither danced nor the roof fell. at various points throughout the service, there WAS a very peculiar raucous noise - i attributed it to baby jake, my mother to a raven and my brother to the chicken he assumed i'd brought along to sacrifice. (funny guy my brother is.)

at the grave site my mother recited pslam 119 with such gusto i expected her to fall on the ground beating her breast, but she managed to control herself. she did, however, accept the condolences of all and sundry - especially the priest's (he'd never met my grandmother and so his were a bit cliched but obviously completely sincere) - with a sort of solemn dignified grace that made me want to stick a pin in her butt.

the only mourner who shed an obvious tear was a mentally-challenged woman who'd been kind enough to be one of the few people who'd visited my grandmother faithfully. rose didn't like the eagles, she declared when i thanked her for being so good to my grandmother who'd said so many terribly mean things both to her and about her.

no, i agreed. she didn't.

the food was as mediocre as i remembered, redeemed only by the bread pudding and the strong drinks but i am happy to report that my mother's half-brother had the decency to stay away. even i, who strongly feel that the disposition of the dead and all their attendant ceremonies should be done at the convenience and preferrment of the living, would've drawn the line there.

but it was not until the following morning, when Beloved and i went down the beach, as the sun was coming up, carrying the small bag of roey's ashes that i felt my grandmother's spirit finally depart.

the sky was perfectly blue, the sun blazed a beam of light across the water. in a gesture that was as fierce as it was final, i kissed the bag of ashes and let them go in a shower of silver that sparkled on the foam. they swirled, coalesced and then dispersed, falling away into the sand they so resembled.

and finally, i wept.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

laying roey to rest

we leave tomorrow at five am to arrive in time for the funeral.

my brother said he'd see me at lunch.

funny guy, my brother is.

i asked him if he thought it would bother my mother if i did a little ritual over the grave. he suggested i wait til she leave. i said it wouldn't have the same effect.

funny girl, he said.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

pardon my rant

i woke up this morning cranky and annoyed. the last weekend of the summer before labor day is the last weekend i want to spend at the shore. the last sunday of the summer before labor day is the last sunday i want to spend driving home.

the reason my grandmother's funeral had to be scheduled on this weekend of all weekends is because my mother has Plans for labor day weekend, and the weekend AFTER labor day is too late.

for what, i inquired.

it's just too late, she repeated. now the priest says the funeral has to be at ten.

that's too early, i said. i have a workshop to give on thursday night that's been advertised. i can't change the date. i will have to come down friday morning - through rush hour traffic around new york. ten am is too early.

well, that's when he says it has to be, declared my mother with all the definiteness of One Who Knows the Lord is on Her Side.

and so, at my mother's behest and the insistence of the catholic church, i find myself in the position of having to go tearing like a madwoman down to the jersey shore on what will possibly be the most crowded weekend of the summer, in order to crawl home in what will most likely be the worst traffic of the summer.

on monday, meg's classes begin, and baby jake will be here, bright and early. libby begins school next week, the house is torn apart, and the dust from the sheet-rocking is everywhere. my elbow is refusing to make itself better at any rate faster than a snail's. the beds at my mother's left my neck feeling like a crinkled piece of paper.

tuesday i spent half an hour dealing with my mother's madness over the fact the obituary wasn't going to be published until today. what difference does it make, i asked. everyone who matters knows she's dead.

it's too late, my mother insisted.

for what, i asked, genuinely bewildered.

it just is, she said before she started to cry.

this morning the bach flower essence that leapt into my hand was OAK - the essence that "allows the naturally strong to take a break rather than struggle on without rest." i added IMPATIENS - the remedy that "helps you deal with people or situations with good humor rather than impatience or irritability."

i meditated this morning for a few brief, grounding and splendid moments. i realized that i have everything at hand to do what i need to do today. how i choose to do these things is up to me. from essence of oak, may i draw my strength. from essence of flower, may i draw sweetness.

and furthermore the war must end. blessed be.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

the shack

last night, the cosi girls' book club discussed the shack by someone or other. weeks on the new york times bestseller list, it was one of those books that leaves the Writer in me shaking my head. this? i wonder to myself. people like this?

i guess they do.

lest i sound bitter, let me assure the reader i am simply puzzled. i just don't understand the appeal of such a story. the Event that frames the story - the murder (sacrifice?) of a pre-pubescent girl (even a fledgling feminist like myself can see all sorts of interesting cultural and societal Truth being revealed unbeknownst to the author) is simply so horrific that i - as the mother of four young women - found it hard to wrap my mind around. the way in which the characters dealt with it simply didn't ring true for me. and the way this Event is used - as a literary device - in such a horrific way - in the world of the shack, such an Event (such a sacrifice) is required for God to make manifest in the world - simply chills my soul to the bone.

it tries to explain why God (who requires Sacrifice) lets bad things happen to good people, said one of the women.

i guess that's the piece that speaks to most people.

it offers an awfully narrow answer, i said. if the author is going to present God in a story as a character, i would expect that author to be a bit more universal in his presentation. there's other answers than the one in this book.

like what, challenged another woman. why on earth would god let something like this murder happen to this poor girl in the story?

maybe her Soul choose that fate, i said. as a lesson, as a challenge, as some form of karma. maybe she was the person who murdered anne frank.

oh, said the lady. i never thought of it that way.

neither has the author, obviously, because he spends a very earnest 300 odd pages attempting to explain and justify in excrutiating detail why a Good God - though why a god who requires sacrifice in order to manifest in the world is construed as a Good God is beyond me - allows Bad Things. The whole book reminded me of the movie Contact with jodie foster, that i saw with my friend, lorraine.

people really believe heaven is UP? i whispered in the theatre.

i remember how she looked at me, as if surprised. yeah, anne, she answered. they do.

i wonder if these are the same people.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Monday, August 18, 2008

home again, home again

i got home around noon time today... to a spotlessly clean house - well, nearly, considering the amount of upheaval in it - a fresh pot of coffee, and a pan of brownies.

i came home with a new dress for the funeral, three packages of taylor pork roll, a small bottle of lourdes water, and a potholder from provence. sam and buddy were beside themselves with joy at their reunion and poor buddy didn't know who to slurp first - me, or sam.

one of the sweetest surprises awaiting me is that i see that my friend rose of WHAT ROSE TODAY (among other places) has apparently become a newly adopted puppy-mom! congrats and best wishes to rose and The Boy on this new totally adorable addition! yet more incentive to start baking Granny Annie's Wicked Good Cookies for Wicked Good Dogs - and put them in my etsy shop. (you didn't know i had an etsy shop, did you, gentle reader? you may not even know what an etsy shop is.)

this afternoon libby and i did a spot of back-to-school shopping and this evening, Beloved is taking me out to dinner. tomorrow my book group is coming over and i need to do some thinking about what - and where - to serve them. if the weather warrants, it might be nice to be outside.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

troubled by the Right

last night, i sincerely hope and pray that i was not the only person in america appalled and sickened by the spectacle of the two presidential nominees baring their souls on national television in front of a crowd of evangelical christians.

pick me, pick me, was the undertone of both men, and it came across to me as a shameless pandering to the side that likes to believe it has a lock on Truth, Justice and the American Way.

they are, to my way of thinking, as potentially dangerous a group as any islamic terrorist organization.

the reason i think this is because they share the same fundamentalist outlook - evangelical christians, like the islamic fundamentalists, believe that the Bible is Right. about Everything. they, like the muslim extremists, believe that God wrote the Bible, and God couldn't have written anything Wrong. Therefore, every word in the Bible is TRUE, and the degree to which you are a good or bad person is the degree to which you also agree that the Bible is Right about Everything. it doesn't matter whether or not what is in the Bible leads to Wrong or Hurtful Actions - for example, the suppression of women or the burning of witches or even something so minor as the snubbing of a friend. people who do bad things based on what they claim is in the bible are labelled as misguided but the Truth of what is found in the bible is never, ever to be questioned.

there are parts of the bible that i would agree ARE indeed, the inspired Word of God - for example Paul's beautiful passage on the nature of Love. but there's also parts of the bible - like Paul's diatribes against women, jesus's exclusionary "iamthewaythetruthandthelight" passages (all very beautiful and poetic but words that have been used to justify more persecution in the last two thousand years than probably any others) - that should be excised, deleted, ignored, and yes, burned. and the reason i can say this with such absolute surety is because i believe there is very basic way to tell what passages are Divinely Inspired and which ones aren't.

but the evangelical christians, like the muslim fundamentalists, admit no such possiblity. and in the process, they don't much care who they hurt, or why, as long as they can justify it before their god.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

sweet synchronicities

among the pile of reading material i brought along with me is a yoga journal magazine that i purchased last month on my way to california and never read.

one of the articles is about the ancient yogic practice of yantras - meditations based around colors and forms. given a choice of nine designs, the article suggests you choose the one that one that most appeals to you on an intuitive, or gut level, and then outlines a simple series of meditative practices around them. try it, the author, sarah tomlinson, advises, and see what happens.

on tuesday, i sat in the sunny quiet of my mother's white-walled patio, listened to the bees drone and the lawn mowers rumble, and followed the steps ms. tomlinson describes. the form that appealed to me had a six sided star of david in the middle (how fitting, i thought, considering my little brother's name is david) and was colored pale pink, soothing blue, calm lavendar and warm cream. interestingly enough, the qualities associated with the yantra i choose do reflect qualities i am currently cultivating - nurturance, sustenance, and compassion. i sat with the form, followed the author's suggestions, and waited to see what would happen.

on wednesday, the doorbell rang unexpectedly in the middle of the afternoon. Beloved sent flowers - a delicious mix of pale pink, soothing blue, calm lavendar, and warm cream.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Friday, August 15, 2008

absence of malice

the terms of my grandmother's will have not made my brother happy. i didn't expect that they would, but my intention was never to keep everything for myself. my brother does not believe this of course, nor does he know that in her later years, my grandmother was quite definite about who she wanted her money to go to (me) and who she didn't want it to go to (anyone else.) she knew, of course, she was setting me up for a potential war... she knew she wouldn't have to deal with it. she hoped, i suppose, that i would prefer to stand upon Dead Principle, than attempt to navigate upon the tides of the feelings of the living.

i wonder if my grandmother really intended that i should be that cruel. did she truly think that i would take it all and hoard it, gloat upon it, dangle it? i guess, on some level, she did... because, after all, that's what she thinks she did.

on the one hand, i think my grandmother must not have really known me, because when all is said and done, and all the slates wiped clean, when the money is mine, i intend to do what i think is right, not what she did.

but on the other hand, i like to think that perhaps there was a part of her that did know, and trusted me to do the better thing, the thing she could not bring herself to do, and so therefore knew she could rely on me to make it right.

at least, i like to think she did.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

a day of doing nothing

one of my favorite ways to tease my grandmother when she'd launch into a litany of complaint in recent months, was to point out to her that she was in a beautiful place, surrounded by people whose job it was to attend to her every whim, provided with food, clean laundry and as many of her beloved possessions as i could cram into her apartment. plus, i was there to visit her. roey, couldn't you just pretend you've died and gone to heaven, i'd ask.

the first time i said it, she gave me a horrified look and then started to laugh.

this morning, as i was throwing my clothes into my mother's super-duper, extra-heavy, industrial strength washing machine in her tastefully decorated lavendar laundry room with the happy little wash-maid wallpaper border, that now my grandmother really has died and gone to heaven (presumably), i could pretend the same thing.

except for the presence of Beloved, my mother's house is probably as close to any heavenly paradise as is reasonable for most people to expect. spotlessly, immaculately clean, surrounded by small patios spilling over with tumbled flowers and herbs, organized, and impeccably provisioned, the only expectation of me is that i will more or less preserve the order, and make sure nothing happens to my little brother.

and david is far from a difficult charge - in some ways, he's easier to please than my children. he doesn't whine, he does his chores with minimal prodding, and he more or less tends to himself. he has his schedule, he loves his music. he was happier at the idea of taking the chocolate chip cookies we made yesterday in to his coworkers than at the thought of eating them himself. driving in to work, we sang a rousing chorus of heigh-ho, heigh-ho and then one of oh, what a beautiful morning.

in the past forty-eight hours, in addition to cooking two meals, baking the cookies and doing two loads of laundry, i've finished reading three novels, played the piano a bit, walked the puppies and napped.

heaven is a beautiful place.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

happy birthday, mamma mia

my mother, or, as my sister and i sometimes call her, Mater Maxima (big momma in latin - literally "biggest mother") has safely landed in france. at least, i have to assume so because i have not heard from her, and there've been no reports of airplane crashes, terrorist attacks or other disasaters, natural or not.

as a matter of fact, it's a beautiful day.

the Great Shadow of my grandmother's presence that has always stood between us is gone now - no longer must i be tormented by the suggestion and suspicion of divided loyalty. i am no longer anyone's grandaughter - i am simply my mother's child.

and so, quite simply...happy birthday to my mommy. i hope in lourdes you find the peace and healing you deserve.

and futhermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Monday, August 11, 2008

off to see the wizard...

today i leave for a week-long stay at my mother's. she's going to lourdes, i'm staying with my baby brother, david. david is a sweet soul. the presence of his company is like a balm in gilead...

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

perfecting your shot

last night i dreamed of roey*. i was sitting on the old bleachers that used to rise above the grassy field at sixth street, across from the old high school. it was close enough to the beach that when the field was empty you could hear the ocean and the gulls.

she was playing basketball, dressed in a funny bloomer outfit, with dark sneakers, her hair dark as mine once was, held back across her forehead with a clip. there was a gangliness about her, that only moving morphed into grace. about half way up the court she paused, turned, and tossed the ball with effortless ease into the basket and it fell so perfectly it didn't even touch the net.

the ball bounded back to her, and she dribbled it over to me. did you see that, she said. i thought i was out of practice but it's all coming back to me quick.

it sure is, roey, i said, marveling at her hands, the size of baseball mitts. in her face glowing with youth, i saw my own wide mouth, my own square jaw.

i'm sorry i was so mean, she said. i know i gave you a lot of trouble, and i want you to know i'm sorry for hurting your feelings, because i know i did. but that was my job, you know. i was a guard. i was there to...

to do what, i asked, maybe a bit sarcastically. keep me from what i wanted?

i was there to help you perfect your shot, she answered. and then she faded, dribbling, away.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

* roey is my name for my grandmother...she was a most accomplished basketball player in her youth, so much so that she was made captain of her high school basketball team as a sophmore, and under her tenure, the team enjoyed three undefeated years. her position was guard. she died last thursday at the age of 95.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

occasion of grace

when i was a little girl, growing up in catholic school, one of the ideas that seemed to stick was something the nuns called "an occasion of grace." an occasion of grace was an opportunity to act in some way that went - at least to my childish mind - above and beyond the call of duty or courtesy, ties of family or friendship.

people who present as occasions of grace are frequently very difficult people to be around, because, as the nuns explained it, they are empty. in their very emptiness, they invite all the people around them to become channels of divine love, to become, in a word, Grace.

if ever there was a person who constantly issued such an invitation to me, it was my grandmother. i don't think i successfully rose to the occasion all the time - i'm a Witch, after all, not a Saint - but i know i always tried to do the best i could with what i had to work with at the time.

there's a peaceful weight and an unexpected warmth to my grandmother's ashes. they sit now, on my altar, wrapped in plastic, encased in plastic, entombed in bronze, awaiting their final disposition. one set will go into the ocean, one will be buried on the grounds of her house, the largest will rest forever in the plot beside my great-grandparents. but one set will remain here, with me, in a garden i will make, a living reminder that even from ashes of emptiness, flowers can grow.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Friday, August 8, 2008

today is the first day...

...of the rest of my life. it dawned with a fitful migraine brought on by the weirdly fluctuating changes in the atmosphere. i'm tired today, but there's work to be done before i go away next week. just about a year ago, i was collecting things to move my grandmother here. today i began the process of dismantling her little apartment.

when my friend lorraine died last year, i experienced the shock of her death as the deepest grief i'd ever felt. so i was not prepared for the profound shock of the loss of my grandmother's presence as i stepped over her threshold, made acute against the backdrop of her things.

the staff came in, one by one, shook my hand, hugged me, told me how she'd been happy, how much they loved her, how much they'd miss her.

i held her pillow to my face and breathed the last of her scent in - ivory soap and dove shampoo and johnson's baby powder. i packed up her pillows, her quilts, her afghans. i brought home one of her nightgowns, some of her sweaters, and all the pictures.

tomorrow she returns to dust.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

free at last

in memoriam...

lucy "rose" anne castaldi
february 4, 1913 - august 7, 2008
finally, at rest.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

almost there

my grandmother, for all intents and purposes, is giving in and giving up. she is no longer responsive, she has stopped taking food or water. it is only a matter of hours and days... they have started to give her morphine.

to paraphrase hamlet, this is a consummation devoutly to be wished.

outside the wind is picking up. a sudden rain sluices straight down, even while an errant wind whips the trees into a froth. the ghosts have gathered - i feel the presence of my great-grandparents, aunt babe and uncle tom, aunt katherine and uncle jack. betsey and johnny wave from the background. there are other faces, other presences whose names i do not know.

all year my grandmother has declared she doesn't want to be here - she wants to go home.

she is about to get her wish.

answers to prayers

i fell asleep last night saying the rosary. there is no deeper nor truer prayer, i think... than the final lines... mother of god, be with us now and at the hour of our deaths.

this morning, in quite an unexpected place, i was led to these words:

To take refuge in the Buddha is to take refuge in someone who let go of holding back just as you can do. To take refuge in the dharma is to take refuge in all the teachings that encourage you and nurture your inherent ability to let go of holding back. And to take refuge in the sangha is to take refuge in the community of people who share this longing to let go and open rather than shield themselves.

The support that we give each other as practitioners is not the usual kind of samsaric support in which we all join the same team...It's more that you're on your own, completely alone, but it's helpful to know that there are forty other people who are also going through this all by themselves. That's very supportive and encouraging. Fundamentally, even though other people can give you support, you do it yourself, and that's how you grow up in this process, rather than becoming more dependent.

--Pema Chödrön

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

letting go

...of expectations, of hopes, desires, needs... allowing what will be to be, and allowing all that is not to simply dissipate like dream-dust. we are such stuff as dreams are made of, after all... and our little lives are rounded by sleep.

or so i believe.

last night, i asked the Angels for guidance, for help, for anything that might bring a quick and easy release to this Wheel upon which i find myself bound, this Albatross i bear around my neck, this cross i struggle under.

you have to let her go, i heard lorraine say. remember how you had to let me go? you have to let her go, now, too. you have no ability to make things better in your grandmother's world... and you never did.

but i didn't really let you go, i said back. i feel you with me even more than i did when you were alive.

you have to let your grandmother discover that in her own time, said lorraine.

i think it's sad, i said, that a woman of such purported faith has no Faith in the end. she can't even pray.

but you can, said lorraine.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Monday, August 4, 2008

what i did today

- laundry - five loads, including white towels, colored towels, dark colds, sheets, and throw rugs
- dinner - chicken pot pie
- garden - weeded along the driveway
- my bathroom and bedroom - scrubbed, mopped, dusted and linens changed
- entry hall and steps - dusted, vacuumed and mopped
- game room - contents of closet and room sorted, items trashed or set aside for donation, rugs vacuumed and deodorized
- meg's bed and bath - tidied
- living room - mopped and vacuumed
- car - bumper fixed
- dogs - fed, walked, brushed, loved
- grandmother - visited
- mother - called
- sisters - emails answered, phone call returned
- baby jake - cuddled and kissed
- meg and libby - treated to books, ice cream and lunch
- katie - extra pot-pie made for dinner tomorrow
- Beloved - given Best Husband Award for sundry and diverse virtues

i remember my father said to me, shortly after he took over the primary responsibilty for the household after my stepmother's diagnosis, "my goodness, honey, i had no idea women worked so hard!"

oh, daddy, if you only knew.

unexpected pause

the day begins with a short meditation and a silence broken only by birdsong and buddy's barks. Beloved met an early-morning client, libby is sound asleep. meg, who came home for chicken soup and a night in her own bed, has already left. the air is crisp, but the leaves are still. the faintest veil of mist drifts off the pond.

today is a day to get things done, a day for laundry and sweeping, weeding and working. i have dust bunnies to chase, a mountain of towels to confront, fox tail, mugwort and sweet annie running rampant in the gardens. the builders will be here soon - today, with its low humidity and fair skies so far - looks to be a good one for drywalling. meg and baby jake will come later; my car's going in to the shop to get the front bumper fixed - at last. i think i'll make pot-pie for dinner with all the chicken from the soup Beloved made last night.

my grandmother's battery of tests begins this morning.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

first of fall

the weather took a decidedly chilly turn last night. at some point, i remember reaching for the heavier blanket at the bottom of the bed, and by the time i woke up, the fan, for the first time in weeks, raised goose bumps on my skin.

it feels like the first day of fall.

Beloved and i spent the morning foraging up and down the aisles of home depot. the trip was successful - we got a new door, new screen door, dishwasher, inside and outside lights and all kinds of plugs and plates and sockets. but the change in pressure, coupled with the peculiar intensity of the light, gave me a migraine. i took a nap but the feeling is still with me... it's so pretty outside i couldn't resist pulling a few weeds in my sorely neglected gardens.

im going to rest on the couch with something restorative...and then, if i feel up to it, drive over to see my grandmother. they did some of her tests today... i can't help but feel if its something serious... they'd have called by now.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

the long journey home

just about a year ago, i started this blog, mostly out of a need to express my thoughts and feelings regarding the dissolution of my family's home at the jersey shore, and my grandmother's subsequent removal to an assisted living facility here in connecticut.

it seems ironic to me, that as the sun sets on lughnasa, and my bond to my irish grandmother feels reinforced, my italian grandmother is admitted to the hospital. one can only hope they find something wrong with her, something against which she can be medicated into a palliative haze. she's been telling us how sick she is for as long as i can remember. now, finally, we can only hope she's right.

what my grandmother has taught me is that a miserable life of any length is not worth living, and a miserable long life is a particular kind of hell. she's terrified of dying, terrified of what comes after, and yet, she was equally terrified to live. she spent her life truly trapped. her greatest gift to me has been to show me the effects of binding one's Self too tightly to any instituition created by minds of men.

some years ago i came to the conclusion that there are some souls, like mother theresa, who come into the world to show us their Light. and then there's others, who come to show us their Shadow, so that the people around them have a chance to polish up their own Lights. it is relatively easy, i would think, to be one of the Light-souls. people around you love you. but to be a Shadow-soul must be a very difficult thing. i think of my grandmother and my exhusband as my own particular Shadow-souls, because they are the ones who taught me the most painful lessons of my life. if mister ex taught me how not to love, my grandmother taught me how not to live.

whatever the test results show - and they may show nothing - i feel at last a kind of detached yet deep compassion for my grandmother in her last days. like my little dog sam, whose past is beyond her ken to communicate, my grandmother, too, remains beyond my ability to alleviate her suffering in any meaningful way. what remains for me to do is to simply be kind to her in the way i would want people to be kind to me in a similar position.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Friday, August 1, 2008

asking for a Sign

a few weeks ago, a very Wise Woman advisor of mine suggested that much of my suffering around my grandmother might be alleviated if i accepted the fact that the person who is my biological grandmother is not much of a Grandmother at all. you need to find yourself another Grandmother, she said. a Real Grandmother, she amended. not the one who's been impersonating a Real Grandmother your whole life.

i have another grandmother. she died when i was ten, and so i don't think about her much. i didn't see her very much when she was around due to the strange, controlling nature of my mother's family. what i have from her is as spotty as my memories - a hand-knitted blanket, an old-fashioned baby doll named peggy, and my daughter meg's name.

when i first allowed my self to open to my psychic abilities, she was among the first three who came to me. i didn't even recognize her at first, when she said she was my grandmother. my grandmother's not dead, i remember thinking. oh yes, she is, i remember the small voice whispered. your other one is.

i have felt my grammy much around me in the last few weeks, her presence as palpable as the scent of jean nate and cashmere bouquet that sometimes overwhelms me. before i went to california, i asked her for a Sign. just a little something, i asked. nothing much... just something so i know you're with me. for real.

when my father spontaneously and for no reason i could discern suddenly decided to cook dinner one night, using one of grammy's old recipes, i figured i had my sign. i paid attention, noted what he did for future use, and let it go.

this afternoon he called me, quite out of the blue. he had a call from my uncle joe, his older brother. apparently uncle joe had a suitcase, taken from my uncle john's house, my father's second brother, when he died. it's been sitting around uncle joe's house for the last 20 years or so. a couple weeks ago, he decided to open the suitcase. inside he found an envelope, with a ring inside, marked "mom's ring."

my father choked up when he told me that uncle joe wanted me to have it. you were her only grandaughter, my father said. i wish grammy had the time to know you better.

i wish she had, too. but i think i have my Sign.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

except for some touchups...

the interior is done!

now to tackle the exterior....