Through arguments we drug our life
20 long years
You feign love, yet drown and warp it in duty
I yearn for you (?) or some one else to
Ease my female pain of yearn-link to feel
Infirmity and fear of fecundation
Renounce to life and bend toward piety without me
Excuses galore fine-tune my distress
Bust up and placate my keenest desires
Away and alone
Separation, communication gone bad, divorce. The title refers to the ink blots used in psychiatry. I choose this title because in an ink-blot each person sees what they choose to see. A relationship gone bad is similar. Rohrschach Moves is a poem cycle dealing with the death of a relationship without the grace of a return ticket.
I decided to go shopping anyway this afternoon. Originally I had planned to stay in bed. Today marks the anniversary of my dear father’s death. February is a tainted month. It has been eight years now. The sage responsible for “time heals all wounds” did not do his homework. With the shopping done and the groceries put away, I was just glad to have the luxury of retiring to my room and rest. Laying on my bed with my cat at my feet had a calming effect on my nerves. A purring cat transforms the vibrations in a room. Still, the silence hurt my head. Music. The supreme antidote for the low-ceiled sadness now descending upon my brain-heart. Wagner “The Ring of the Nibelungs”. A heavy choice, but so comforting. When I was 16 the librarian at our public library would not allow me to check out the boxed 33-rpm sets of these operas because she did not think that a kid my age would even listen to such music. She actually thought that I would try to sell them. It was my Dad who intervened for me. I do not know what he said to the librarian to cause such a rapid change of heart. My Dad oozed charm. As I write this memorial, Birgit Nilsson is coming to me loud and clear thanks to Spotify. Grief and loss are funny things. While I thought my heart would break anew, just listening to Wagner and allowing the home cinema of memories associated with this music, to my Dad, to play unhindered, I am not gazing blindly into this abyss of loss. Wagner is not a light evening salad. It connects the associations. I see myself on a weekend in the late 1970s laying on my bed with headphones and Wagner on the turntable. My Dad would peek in to make sure that I hadn’t fallen asleep. My musical eccentricities only made him smile. He preferred Big Band era tunes .
Grief and the resulting loneliness is insidious and tricky. One moment you think that you have it under control and the next thing you realize is that the wound has re-opened, the metaphysical scab had become caught on a memory, the furtive whiff of after shave on a city bus and the oozing picks up where it left of the last time. The trick is not to allow the sense of loss to rule your life. Easier said than done. My musings lead me down the path inhabited by questions about time and space. The passage of time. I often wonder about what we do not know about life after death. Does it really go on, the soul silently sandwiched between two (or more) dimensions? Despite having studied more theology than I care to admit, I prefer to keep my opinion, my ruminations to myself.
As my Dad lay dying of the cancer which had infiltrated his bones, I had many inexplicable and even wonderful experiences during the death vigil I kept. I’ll keep the mystical and murky nature of this to myself. If I am brave enough in the future, perhaps I can write up an illustration. Not now. There is, however, an event which bore down upon me twice in connection with my Dad’s last days on earth. The first time several months before he died and again a year after the fact.
Quite often, high above Daddy’s backyard, a large majestic brown hawk would circle in search of a little animal, a squirrel, a mouse, to scoop up with agile talons for its next meal.
Daddy often shared his hawk sightings which would evolve into anecdotes about his youth in the boot heel of Missouri. He loved nature. He loved its life and the wonder it beckoned in his heart.Though rapacious, he deemed the hawk a majestic beauty. Little did I know just how dear this hawk would become to me one day.
Early one summer morning in late august 2005, my daughter and I were early risers up with the sun. We were on the last leg of our month-long visit to Michigan to visit Daddy and for my brother’s wedding. As usual, the children and I stayed with Daddy. The wedding had been a wonderful three-day event and we were all still a bit tired from the festivities, especially Daddy, who had undergone a cancer treatment a day or two after the wedding. My son was still fast asleep like his grandfather.
The weather was especially balmy this particular morning so my daughter and I decided to enjoy our breakfast outside on the back porch. As I opened the door and stepped out onto the porch a figure swooped silently, but determined, out of the sky and cast an enormous shadow across our bodies. My little girl stood behind me, the door closed, but she saw the entire dream-like event unfold behind the screen. The hawk dove down from the sky above the backyard intending to grab one of the resident squirrels for his morning meal. Unfortunately for the hawk, the squirrel scampered towards the porch under which it obviously intended to hide until danger flew away. As a hawk is not equipped with brakes, it had no choice but to maneuver keenly, banking sharply to avoid crashing into the big bay window. I stood hypnotized on the porch wondering what would happen next. I was in the hawk’s trajectory and had no way to avoid the big bird. I held my breath and shivered with fear and wonder as the veering hawk flew past me, skimming the length of my arm with the back of its foot. Its razor-sharp talons of an egg yolk yellow hue were strangely warm, hard and smooth. After the foot came the soft, but rigid strafing of its wingtips against my forearm. No sooner had the hawk avoided careening into Daddy’s house, he completed his breathtaking acrobatics and flew off gracefully between the two big trees in the backyard. As far as I was concerned, it was flying off to an other planet. I watched the horizon suspended in that inexplicable and gracious moment. Even today I can recall the beautiful sound of the air surrounding me as it was parted by the hawk’s wings. It made an unmistakably, yet gentle, « whoosh ».
I still carry the invisible mark of the talons and feather tips on my arm. These elements have taken root in my heart. In a state of awe and shock, my daughter and I sat down on the porch, our hearts thudding in unison. We didn’t get around to having breakfast until later. We nourished our first pangs of hunger on the marvelous event which had just been presented to us on a silver platter.
One of my older brothers dropped by shortly after the hawk incident. Since he had studied forestry, I was sure that he would get a kick out of our hawk story. He laughed and informed me that « hawks just don’t fly that close to habitations in a city environment. » My daughter was defiant and informed her uncle that mommy was telling the truth. By this time Daddy had come out into the dining room and was having coffee with us. After hearing my brother scoff at the hawk story Daddy said « now, don’t go making fun of your sister. I see that hawk regularly and his behavior would surprise even you ». No questioning his word .
Segue: On February 15, 2007 in Luxembourg. A year exactly since Daddy passed away… the hawk returned.
I was expected at the office at 8.30. So overwhelming was this anniversary that I did not think that I could make it. I had spent the previous night weeping unfathomable tears. The grief completely overwhelmed my every nerve. Yet, I mustered up the necessary energy to get the children off to school and myself in the car. I wept and shook the whole way and thought of turning back several times. My puffed-up eyes impaired my vision. Working that day seemed too rough for me, too surreal.
I remember moaning, »Daddy, why did you have to go just now?» not reproachful, just mournful. As I wound my way up the long, serpentine driveway leading to my office something caught my eye. To my right was a tall pine tree and perched upon a branch at eye-level was a huge, brown hawk, beautiful and majestic. I was floored and stopped the car abruptly. The hawk took flight in my direction. By then I had rolled down the window and stuck out my head. The hawk flew directly toward me, gently cutting through the air… the familiar « whoosh ». As it reached the car it flew upwards and circled the car three times, in slow motion, it seemed. My car being equipped with a panoramic roof window allowed a breathtaking and detailed view : head, beak, eyes, talons. I savored the sound of the airstream disturbance created by the movement of its wings. After circling me the hawk landed upon a big tree to my left, looked in my direction and then flew off through an opening formed by the crowns of the tall deciduous trees skirting the driveway.
How could this event evoke anyone but my Father? My mind was preoccupied by the hawk and Daddy for many days to come. These images return regularly to my heart and mind. I do not attempt to ferret out an explanation. Perhaps grief renders our sensibilities more acute. I do not pretend to have an answer; not for a minute.
Think Global, Act Local, Think Local, Act Global
Pollution, waste, consumeritis. Back to me in my comfortable cocoon. Simpler than it seems. The fickle throw-away world we scrounge around in. Global is not on the other side of this pretty marble we live on, it is walking up our street and ringing our doorbell, nefariously taking possession of our houses. Non-Wasting and recycling is my hobby-horse. I cannot put the “kabosh” on world hunger, or stop the insanity in Syria, but I can live a life where I do not waste and greedily want the new and improved whatever. I am ranting. Sorry. My global-local story.
I used to throw every plate scraping, empty oatmeal box, splayed toothbrush and even plastic in the same garbage bin which inevitably wandered out to the curb and off to the garbage processing plant. The only items not making the cut at my house were car tires, Christmas trees,newspapers and dead batteries. The other stuff?…fair game. I didn’t change my ways until I was witness to an occurrence which STILL leaves me with my mouth open, chin on the pavement.
I live in Luxembourg and the municipality sets up recycling igloos all over the city. There is a container for paper, glass and in some areas yard clippings. There is really no excuse to lag behind the times. Before I changed my ways, I would force myself twice each year to assemble all the old newspapers, no longer used cardboard boxes and glass containers & bottles and zoom over to the recycling center where it took me a good hour to reclaim my car. Over the years I had gotten used to seeing stacks and piles of recyclable junk in my basement. Especially since my ex-husband was everything short of a hoarder. “That’s still good”, “I might need that one day…” Anyway, you dear Reader, get the drift.
(just an illustration..this stuff has since been recycled!!)
Sorry, I have gotten off track. My moment of shame, the “I-can’t-believe-I am a -polluter-a careless citizen” moment came one Sunday morning at my local recycling point next to the neighborhood soccer field. I drove up and parked my overflowing car next to the paper igloo.
Although it was before 9 am, I did not have the place to myself for long. A 3-ton moving van pulled up and parked next to me. The four men acknowledged my presence with a nod and proceeded to unload an entire kitchen! Yes, a kitchen, cabinets, appliances, the whole shebang! I could not believe my eyes and felt that I had to say something to the driver. I pointed out the sign detailing what one could and could not dispose of. The answer I got floored me. “Lady, it’s Sunday and we don’av time to take our load to the dump. So, mind your own business.” If there was ever a time when I wished I could make a citizen’s arrest it was that Sunday morning! In my city all one has to do is give the Hygiene Department a call and tell them that you need to dispose of a big, cumbersome or heavy object. They tell you to have it out on the curb by 6 am 48 hours later and there you are!
After this incident, I regularly drove by this particular recycling point just to check.The hush of Winter provides the perfect backdrop for anonymous polluters to do their dirty deeds. I have seen fridges, washing machines, irons, pots & pans, a red vinyl lip-shaped sofa and chair arrangement, bags upon bags of house trash and on one morning, a Sunday, surprising, eh?!, the owner of a restaurant (I recognized him because I used to give him my business!) unloading over twenty little barrels of used cooking oil from his establishment. Again, the city’s help is a simple phone call away. I don’t get this kind of selfish behavior! Enough to make you cuff someone or pull out your hair! Just a thought…..
It has been almost ten years since my conversion. Although I had always been aware of my environment, I did nothing about it. Change has to begin on an individual basis. I was lazy and disorganized. I now recycle just about everything. A corner in my basement hosts a mini recycling center A simple collection of bins which stand ready to be loaded in the trunk twice each month and driven 10 minute to the coolest recycling center in the World. My teenagers now realize that I will begin my trash-can sermon should they even think of chucking a glass jar or plastic bottle into the genuine house trash. They hate it when I preach, so they usually leave the empties scattered on the kitchen counter for me to commend to the basement. Behavior related to teenage selective hearing; material for a future post, or martial law. I do not want to create avoidable refuse. Google a bit to learn how horrible the garbage situation in the Seychelles Islands has become. Scandalous.
This is not only about how to dispose of empty tins cans and plastic water bottles. Mindfulness can be applied to almost every area of one’s earthly existence. If you have still useful,unworn clothing there is a way to pass it on in every community. Some department stores even pay for used clothing by the kilo and give the proceeds to a charity. I recently donated 300 lbs of no longer worn clothing from myself and my kids. It’s great! I now have much more closet space and there is someone out there benefiting from a lot of nice duds. A recent initiative in my area revolved around broken household appliances. Instead of trashing a repairable iron, for example, you could drop by a workshop set up in a vacant grocery store and learn how to make the repair yourself. With with a bit of patience and a soldering iron the job was done…at no cost. We need more of such workshops. It’s also a neat way to meet people and share a cup of coffee and conversation. Let’s all slow down. Pass things on to the next user.
To wrap up, this recycling trauma I experienced has led me to become an active citizen.
I make it a point to attend as many public city hall meetings as possible. You can’t know what you don’t know, right. And I have even taken to letter writing if I have an idea regarding a betterment which could be implemented in my neighborhood.
Not meaning to sound like a “Miss Goody-Two-Shoes”, but if we all take a moment to analyze how and what we throw away, I am sure we could discover areas where we could all make a difference.
You just might save a bit of money while you’re at it. My personal challenge for 2014 is not to buy a single book, magazine, or CD. The alternative is the public library and the lovely prospect of meeting new people, who live in my city. What do you think? It would be interesting to know how other people deal with garbage, recycling, and their own contribution.
So, what do you say?
p.s. Stay tuned for the sequel in a few months and while we are all mindful and on topic:
“Keep Our Planet clean. It’s not Uranus”