Tuesday, January 24, 2017

...before somebody else gets it

Perhaps as our tribes get smaller and more specific and vulnerability increases, 
some of us link in an effort to bolster our ranks for protection. 
Whatever the means of the union, 
when the driving force is fear, animosity spirals upward. 

We walked on Glass Beach 1 in Ft. Bragg, CA a couple of years ago. Beaches 2 and 3 are in nearby inlets where waves crash through tall rock formations that tumble broken bottles and polish the pieces. From the park website: "It is hard to imagine this happening today, but back in 1906 when Fort Bragg’s streets were filled with rubble from devastation caused by the San Francisco Earthquake, using the ocean as a dump made perfect since. Seaside towns around the world have done it for centuries. From 1906 to 1967, everything from cars to batteries to bottles, cans and appliances were unceremoniously pushed over the cliffs into the ocean — a common practice of seaside cities for centuries. Mother Nature responded to this abuse with a nice surprise in the form of smooth, colored sea glass treasure in a rainbow of colors. However, it was finally in 1967, the North Coast Water Quality Board realized the mistake, the impact on water quality, and plans were begun for a new dump away from the ocean. If the sea glass is actually trash — from broken bottles and car tail lights, isn’t it free for the taking? Yes and no. Outside the state park, yes. Inside, no. Search for rare ruby reds (from pre-1967 auto tail lights) or sapphire gems from apothecary bottles. Snap a photo, but leave the glass behind for others to discover."

Full disclosure: even though we didn't walk on the park beach, we didn't pick up any of the shards that had been rejected by Tupperware-toting scavengers. It's not illegal outside of the park but the signs do ask visitors to take pictures, not sea glass. As we watched the surf, a family of five climbed and sorted, stuffing their pockets. The oldest boy pointed to the sign and the mother responded, "Take it before somebody else gets it." 

The paradox is that the polished sea gems so treasured by collectors were once no more than detritus. If we are willing to submit, our own broken bits are refined as time and experience grind away at the jagged, broken edges. In the process, we become wiser, humbler, kinder, more deliberate. The way is rigorous but this I know: when I review my own life - the whole of it - I am less apt to judge others. I know how it feels to be judged and I wouldn't wish that pain on anyone.

This cry for mercy is possible only when we are willing to confess that somehow, somewhere, 
we ourselves have something to do with our losses. 

Crying for mercy is a recognition that blaming God, the world, or others for our losses 
does not do full justice to the truth of who we are. 

At the moment we are willing to take responsibility, even for the pain we didn't cause directly, 
blaming is connected into an acknowledgement of our own role in human brokenness. 

A heart that [seeks mercy] knows that this human brokenness is not a fatal condition of which we have become the sad victims, but the bitter fruit of the human choice to say "No" to love.” 

Henri Nouwen 

Before somebody else gets it...a sad path to an epitaph

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Dishes from Mom (Bill's grandmother) are the perfect touch.

We are rich. Our accountant wouldn't agree. But this morning we sat down to coddled eggs, applewood bacon, and Dave's Thin-Sliced Killer Bread with Twenty-One Grains and Seeds. I haven't counted but, by all accounts, Dave's an honorable fellow. Did I mention that every single grain and seed of the hot, buttered toast was slathered with apricot preserves?

Coddled eggs are my latest passion. I've also been hanging out with jalepenos and introducing them to old friends - chicken salad, stir-fries - but I digress. Back to coddling: butter the coddlers, pour a dollop of cream into each one, then slip in a raw egg. Top with a hint of salt and pepper, a scattering of chopped chives, and grated Emmentaler cheese. Bring water to a boil in a saucepan lined with a pot-holder. How much water, you ask? Enough to surround the coddlers but below the lids. Add the loosely-lidded jars, turn the heat down to a healthy simmer, and let those eggs spend a few minutes basking in the hot tub water bath while the bacon cooks and the toast, um, toasts. The result: a civilized Sunday morning coming down.

I confess. The kitchen is my happy place, a playground. I find cooking the perfect marriage of art and science. Good memories of my mother and grandmother hover near stoves and mixers. I can't remember the last time I bought processed foods, more a case of "made-from-scratch tastes better" than diligence. Prepping soothes me: I've chopped bad thoughts to pieces and kneaded Yo-Yo-Ma's melodies into dough. Mistakes?  More than you could count. I'm either a glutton for punishment or a willing student because the call of a good cookbook quickly beckons.

Bottom line: a good meal shared with others is communion. In my book, if everyone in the whole world had coddled eggs in the morning, peace would breakout. Hyperbole? Maybe, but this velvety delight would be a darn good start.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

...moving through the land of suffering

...The land of suffering feels like a land that blessing has never touched
Eternal Echoes: Celtic Reflections on Our Yearning to Belong. John O’Donohue.

The past and present walk hand-in-hand with us into our future and, with them, our shadows. Marcella Jayne, cousin of my friend, Marcella Salisbury, shared these memories of her journey...

When I was seven years old, I was in the kitchen of our really old farmhouse/duplex looking for something to eat. There were mice, lots of them. There were those moths that eat pasta and their larvae that crawl on the ceiling. I found a single packet of ramen noodles. I was elated, but then I saw the corner had been chewed open by a mouse. The flavor packet was still intact. It grossed me out but not enough. I pulled a chair to the stove. I pulled a pot of stagnant water from the stove and rinsed it out. I turned the burner on. It was electric. I touched it with the palm of my hand. It burned a spiral into my hand. I had my ramen. I poured it into a mug and ate it in front of the TV.

Last night I ate a $50 pork chop. I drank sixteen-year-old scotch and twenty-year-old wine. I would have been eight years old when the wine was made. My friend treated me. I tasted the best olive oil I have ever tasted. We had great conversations.

I was so angry today and I couldn't figure out why. Everywhere I went they kept fucking up the coffee. I went to a pharmacy to get a prescription fill and the guy was being a jerk. I was so angry. I went home and then it came, that lava in my blood that rages. I can never make what was wrong right. I see myself throughout my life behind soundproof plexiglass. I want to reach in, to help her, to stop something, to give her something, to hug her, to hold her, and to protect her...and I can't. It is through these juxtapositions, when I feel well fed, when I feel safe, when I feel respected, that I am forced to confront the antithesis of each sensation.

There is no soft healing. There is no gentle reconciliation. There is gradual mending. There is a girl with lava for blood. Her skin is molten hot. You cannot touch her. She cannot even touch herself. She is in a white room flipping tables, hurling buckets of red paint against the walls. She has no fear left. She taunts her torturers. She leans into the implementation of pain, whatever it may happen to be, she leans into it. She laughs just to piss them off. No matter how good the food I eat is, it never makes it way to her. She stays starving. She only knows about deprivation. And if I am on a massage table enjoying a benevolent touch, it never gets to her. She only knows about violence and mutilation. If I am dancing in a man's arms and feeling beautiful and free, it never gets to her.  She only nows about rape, exploitation, and misogyny. She stays angry and she deserves to be.


The ravages of abuse and poverty are time-travelers, passing ruthlessly from one generation to the next. J. K. Rowling's description of splinching in her Harry Potter novels comes to mind: "Splinching, or the separation of random body parts [in this case, the separation of the self] occurs when the mind is insufficiently determined. You must concentrate upon your destination, and move, without haste, but with deliberation." I give these words to Marcella, words that helped me determine my mind: when bad memories knock on your door, acknowledge them but don't invite them in to spend the afternoon. We acknowledge and we heal, I believe, by helping others.

Part of healing is telling the story. I am grateful for Marcella Jayne's honesty and for her courage. I wish her strength for the journey. And I am grateful that Marcella Salisbury shared her cousin's powerful words.

If this subject touches you, you might be interested in this link:
...the name of the room is Remember

NOTE: "According to Jungian analyst Aniela Jaffe, the shadow is the 'sum of all personal and collective psychic elements which, because of their incompatibility with the chosen conscious attitude, are denied expression in life...the shadow must never be dismissed as merely evil or demonic, for it contains natural, life-giving, under-developed positive potentialities'."