Tag Archives: magic

the soft song of the white beauty

Searching for the sacred in the midst of my second cancer diagnosis

“The sound we hear when it snows is the soft song of the white beauty!”
~ Mehmet Murat ildan

My mother, I think, realized that I was falling into a kind of despair. I professed that I had lost my faith, though I had not become someone who hates faith – it was just gone.  She had noticed my flailing to make sense of my world, again and suggested a trip up north. A trip that included good food at The Turquoise Room at La Posada in Winslow and drives up to Hopi.

I pondered her offer, and thoughts of how I always loved going up to Hopi as a child were recalled.

I grew up in a magical place, there is a reason it is the birthplace of magic realism. My move to the USA (because I refuse to call it America, because frankly there is North America and South America and the USA being called America has never sat well with me) was not an easy transition, the USA doesn’t understand that kind of magic. There are exceptions to that. One such place was on my regular visits to Hopi as a newly transplanted child. There were two Hopi women who brought me back that magic. One was Helen Sekaquaptewa and the other was Elsie James and interestingly enough I just learned that they were related.

Elsie was local, and I got to see her more often. knew my great-great grandfather from when they both were at the Indian School in Phoenix, as a matter of fact he apparently introduced her to her husband. Whenever I would see Elsie, she would smile and tell me how much she loved my grandfather. She taught me how to make fry bread, often sitting with me at festivals at the heard Museum – teaching me the right consistency of the dough and the best way to pat the balls into a good piece of fry-bread, poking your fingers just so in the middle to prevent it from getting too puffed up when put in the oil. I cried deeply when I went to her funeral, she was extremely special to me.

Helen was the person that showed me that the special kind of magic from my youth in the Andes was present in the USA. I was relatively new to the USA, when my family went up to Hopi for a snake dance (probably back before non-Hopi were banned from freely joining them). I remember sitting on the roof, watching the most amazing ceremony – if you ever get a chance to see a snake dance, you should – they are memorable. I remember being in her kitchen, helping her fix food, and then I remember her taking me outside with her great-grandchildren to forage for wild spinach. Pointing out things that she thought I would find interesting as we walked to the edges of the village on the mesa.

So it was with these two influential Hopi women in my life that gave me a tie to my ancestors and the ability to see the magic in the land that I said yes to my mother, regarding a trip to what I could call my most local sacred space. It was a pilgrimage.

The drive up to Winslow was nice, we took the route through Heber-Overgaard and Holbrook. The Hotel La Posada is a fabulous space, designed by Mary Colter. I have a friend who claims, and rightly so, that it is a space full of feminine power that one can draw upon. We dined at The Turquoise Room.

I struggle as I write the next parts, as I want to honor Hopi guidelines on etiquette and yet share my experience as it relates to coming to greater peace with my own mortality and my hopes that I am of a Pahana clan. I met a Hopi prophet once.

We drove up from Winslow through to Second Mesa and the Hopi Cultural Center (HCC), stopping at the Little Painted Desert (in Navajo) on the way.  One of the things I like about visiting the Hopi Cultural Center is that there are carvers at the edge of the park next door.  There is something special about meeting the person or their family when purchasing something from them. You can find baskets, teas, rattles, bows and arrows, sculptures and Kachinas. I was able to bring to my life, five Kachinas; Crow Mother, Grandmother & Long-Haired. and Snow Maiden & Warrior Maiden.

I didn’t bring Snow Maiden to me at first. We decided to drive to K-town and see what was going on. The story is that a bunch of MIT student drove through once and fixed up a bunch of their computers, promising to return only to not be seen again.  One of the people with me has a son that teaches there and so we went to take pictures to share with them and see if we could get some MIT students to return. The whole ride, the image of her was in my mind, she was beautiful. We drove back to the HCC and held in my heart that she was still there. She was. I talked to the artist and his friend (who made my Warrior Maiden). They shared that the dances were happening this week and that I might see the Snow Maiden if I visit the ones at Shungopovi.

Front and back of my Snow Maiden

There was some discussion about going, but I was given the ability to decide and I did, I chose to go. If you are unfamiliar with attending ceremonies, revisit my link  above for etiquette. We drove to Shungopovi and looked for people standing on a roof, and headed that direction. We found a place to park and walked toward the sound, following people who were headed toward it. W walked through half-finished houses, through water puddles and made our way to the ceremonies.    There were not many white people there, maybe four aside from the three of us.  We sat on a door step and watched the ceremony.  It was special, oh so very special. And it was more exciting that I actually did see the Snow Maiden.

One of the things I learned from my friends on Hopi is that in a ceremony, the Kachinas are the gods… so, being able to see the ceremonial Kachina of the one that called to me was extremely special.

I ended my trip with four female Kachinas and one male.

Another goal of the trip was to find my tumor rock. This is something that my boss entrusted upon me.  When she got cancer she was in Sedona and saw a colorful iguana-esque lizard on a rock.  This was a message to her and she kept that rock, it was a representative of the cancer experience she was going through.  She came back and told me about the experience. I was in a shop a few days later when I found a lizard that could be put on the rock, as a representative of the experience.  When I was diagnosed with my second cancer, many years after hers, she brought me the lizard and said it was time to entrust it to me, that I had to find my rock.  So, I looked for my rock. I actually found two, one just outside Winslow and the other near  Heber.

My tumor rock while Warrior Maiden and Crow Mother watch.

I feel more optimistic about everything now. Instead of saying, for example, “my appointment tomorrow will tell me if I have metastasis” I am thinking in terms of “tomorrow I will learn if we can rule out metastasis”.   A simple exchange of words, but they have so much power.

 

 

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whose boat is on the running stream…

“What should I possibly have to tell you, oh venerable one? Perhaps that you’re searching far too much? That in all that searching, you don’t find the time for finding?”
~ Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

ecbracletred22-020

We are cleaning house to host Christmas. And as is often the case on such endeavors (at least in my life) things have been found that elicit powerful and profound reactions.

I was tidying up our mantle and found a stone jar with a fossil lid. Curious, and willing to delay the tidying up to explore, I opened it up only to discover something I probably needed to find.

It was a 5 foot long string of red beads.

as i pulled the strand out, I thought back on when I must have bought it. 17 years ago, when I was in Quito and roaming one of the many folks selling things in the parks.  I remember picking this one out because it had two “gold” beads in it.  I twisted the string of beads onto my wrist, feeling a simple pleasure as I felt them wrap around.

It is a simple standard of beauty that has carried with me. Many of the indigenous women, of varying tribes, in Ecuador wear them. It is said to ward of evil and to protect the wearer. One will see these wrapped in various widths and on various ages of the women in Ecuador. Red bracelets are actually something pretty widespread and come in a variety of materials.  It is a familiar one to me, and I have worn it on my wrists for these past few days, a certain level of comfort in seeing its length wrapped around my wrist. I touch them, roll them against my skin, admiring the variety of sizes the beads come in.

Last night, I was in the bath tub and wondered if the string would suffer from getting wet. I rolled and untangled my bracelet and gently laid it out to dry.  This morning I picked it up and twisted it back on my wrist.  There was such a comfort in that ritual. I wondered how many other women had gone about starting their day by twisting these beads around their wrist, in a mix of superstition, habit, and because of the gentleness of it.

 

red beads
This is my red bead bracelet.

“For such is the way of it: to find and lose, as it seems to those whose boat is on the running stream.”
~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

a moment, but not the dream… a reflection of a gentle experience

“some moments are nice, some are nicer, some are even worth writing about.”
~ Charles Bukowski

I am reflecting on the gentlenesses that life has a tendency to bring.  Those moments that are often soft, quiet… almost imperceptible.  Moments, though, that are imbued with something that makes them stand out from other moments… not because they are nice, nor because they are even nicer, but because they somehow separate themselves from the other memories and cast a soft glow where they stand.  They don’t have to be personally significant, often one is a mere observer or pulled in by the experience.

I love those moments. I should write about them more.

This past March, sufficiently recovered (physically) to travel, my son (Squink) and I set off to Mexico to meet his student exchange family. A formal program through my son’s school that introduced kids to foreign travel and boosted their language skills. It was a delight. I got to know some parents much better and was reminded why there are parents that I would do best to avoid!

So, Squink and I hopped on a luxury bus with a ton of other parents and their children and made our way south to Old Mexico!

I had a glorious time, met some wonderful parents. Our Mexican counterpart (the parents) hosted us at a wonderful beach party. There was loads of laughter and fun. There was a lot of food, and chasing, and merriment.

A mother, one that had been Squinks soccer coach in first grade,  on the trip with us revealed that this was her first beach experience. She had never seen one before and how delighted she was to have the experience. She was a little timid about getting in the water though. She and another mom and I had all laid our towels on the sand together (me for protection from a mother in our group that I find to be insanely manipulative) . We shared our snacks and laughed… this was in and of itself, a great moment… but it was destined to be greater. We walked along the water line with the mother and managed to get her to put her feet in the water and seemed happy to stay there… but the other mother and I insisted it was not the full experience.  She was nervous, did not want to do it alone.. so the other mother and I looked at each other and declared that we would go in with her… and nervous exchange and we were tossing off our t-shirts and getting down to our suits, and we all ran towards the water and jumped in, all the way in.

We all raised our head from the water at about the same time, laughing and smiling. checking into how the others felt. Our kids had seen our mad dash into the water and we had them swimming around us.  In terms of being a mom, it was a rare experience, especially with  women who are not close confidantes. There was a purity in that moment that made that simple act of jumping in the water together something magnificent, something to be treasured. I equate that experience for the mom who had just had her first ocean experience with the first time I saw snow.  It had a magical mystery to it, and that first time I saw snow was magical.

While there are many wonderful memories from that trip, the one I describe here was magic.  On the long bus ride back home, I told the mother (with previous ocean experience) that was with us when we jumped in the water that it was my favorite part of the trip, she looked at me across the aisle and said to me “mine too”.

I know not to question it too much, to just accept that it happened and treasure it like I do.

This is of Squink and me just after the event, in Mexico
This is of Squink and me just after the event, in Mexico

“I like the posture, but not the yoga. I like the inebriated morning, but not the opium. I like the flower but not the garden, the moment but not the dream. Quiet, my love. Be still. I am sleeping.”
~ Roman Payne

The brutal art of being… is shockingly gentle

​Word of advice; do not, for the love of well made chicken soup and all other things holy, ever ever ever  Google the words and look at the images for “The brutal art of being”.

“There is brutality and there is honesty. There is no such thing as brutal honesty.”
~ Robert Anthony.

That said, living is brutal. It is hard on our bodies, what with that getting old crap… then there are certain aspects of how we treat one another. Why the fuck are we so stupidly cruel to each other?

 

There is another part of me that kind of finds this sentiment above a bit ridiculous. I mean, we are animals after all, it’s not like opposable thumbs and the ability to breast feed instantly granted us some sort of “nice card”.  As a matter of fuck   fact, I learned at an early age that life had this brutal part to it. Between friends with bodyguards, sleeping in the same room as my brother so one of us would have the chance to scream for help in case we were kidnapped, watching my dad routinely killing bulls through his grand love-affair with bullfighting… this were in my face demonstrations that life could have a nasty bitter after-taste. It is super interesting to note that the same place that gave me all this… hmmm….. brutality, if you will…. also gave me magic.  Beautiful, glorious magic.

 

I, at this very moment, am wondering if I lost the ability to see this magic? A temporary (I would hope) blindness? Or maybe I am seeing another side to the magic, and I need to learn to recognize it. Perhaps it left when my faith in the divine disappeared in a puff of smoke? When I used to feel this kind of angst (for the lack of a better work and to a much lesser degree) I used to think it was a part of my search for grace.  Maybe it is an extension of searching for grace? A more fevered search.

When I left my life behind and moved to Ecuador to attend medical school, one of the more incredible things that happened was that a boy followed me there. I had no idea that he loved me, but he did. My Ecua-mami (my mother figure in Ecuador) and I talked about how this made me feel… I was nervous and apprehensive, I had never even considered even an attraction to him, yet here I was planning a vacation with him. We talked about assumptions and implications. She told me that I would make my own decisions, but that life would, in a way, make them for me.  That is exactly what happened.

I never was able to love him the way I think he wanted me to. I learned recently, that he just earned a significant year chip in the Bill and Bob club.  This dramatically coincides with when he realized I was not going to spend the rest of my life with him. While I can’t confirm that his experience with me served as some catalyst, my gut tells me it plays into that. Life is brutal. I took so much for granted with him, though not in a shameful way. I still think about that experience traveling around Ecuador with him with a certain fondness. It was, however, rather brutal… thankfully it was imbued with a certain magic that the landscape provided and in some ways became one of those significant romantic moment of ones in my life.

So, fondness… there is a gentle art to fondness. I used to be a master of it… it being genuine fondness. Maybe this is where I should explore next. That area is a place in my experience, my life, where some hard truths about self are to be acknowledged (like the story of the boy above, for example). The nice thing is that fondness is gentle, and even the hardest of these truths are tempered with a certain gentleness.

Volunteering at the gala… (day 6)

I have been serving as logistics co-chair for the grand unveiling of a historic home in Tempe, AZ.  Doing so has been a labor of love for me for several different reasons. It was a historic home, and since my family has ties to Arizona back into its territorial days, keep that alive is important to me. The other facet is that it is a water conservation project as well. With my maternal grandfather building and working on many of the dams (in his era) and helping to make sure that Arizona got its fair share by giving testimony to the American Congress as it tried to deal with water rights for the Colorado River, this project seemed like a perfect storm for me.

The day of that gala came, a wonderful party that showcased how beautiful the house was to those who attended. The idea being that it will be rented out to the community for events. The home is an adobe house built in the 30’s, and it looked stunning on a hilltop with lights.

One of our needs for the event was traffic management. Since I believe that one cannot take on a job without being willing to do it, and no one wanted to volunteer for it, I went down and was traffic controller. It was a quiet time, but I had fun!  I was able to get a glass of wine to keep me warm and took a lot of selfies. I tried to photograph the house, but the phone did not really capture how beautiful it looked! 

There were fun shadows and I played with those instead:

I went back tot eh party only to be told that all the water conservation toilets were stopped up. Actually what it was is that the buttons for the flow were stuck and thus no one was able to flush – still, it was gross. Of course, it took 4 people to fix this issue, me to clean it, two men to look like dorks and watch, and my co-chair Debby to photograph it!

 

In the period where I had to live the life of a citizen – a life where, like everybody else, I did tons of laundry and cleaned toilet bowls, changed hundreds of diapers and nursed children – I learned a lot.~ Patti Smith

I did have a wonderful time, the grand majority of the volunteers were awesome and I  am proud of the event and my role in it!

 

the sleepers in that quiet earth… (day 4)

I woke up this morning in a jolly mood, probably because I was able to get relatively uninterrupted sleep for over 7 hours… considering I was averaging 4 – 5 hours, it was a vast improvement.

I lingered round them, under that benign sky: watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells, listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.
~Emily Bronte in Wuthering Heights

When I woke up, I listened to the silence in the still dark house, then took inventory of my body… which is a silly way of saying I paid attention to all my parts to take a chance to notice anything… usually it is the things like “headache”, “sore feet”, “happy heart”… Today it was just jolly, not from or at a certain spot, but just jolly.

I love silence, I love it very much. When I can be in silence with people is when I know we are good friends. Now, it isn’t that I demand we not speak, but when those moments that are silent, which can be as awkward as they can be beautiful… those moments are like a big reveal.

I love having a house full of people and waking up that next morning and taking my moment of silence, and being able to hear the love from the previous day still resonating off my walls.  I love those moments.

As I sit here writing about it, I realize that somehow I have forgotten this habit of mine this past year. How wonderful that it has returned.

A quiet moment
Let’s all sit, silently, and feel the magic in the room, the possibility of connection and the optimism we gain when we know we are in it together.
~ unknown

 

Another day without the dark tinge… sometimes, I imagine that the tinge looks like the gravelings in Dead like Me.

gravelings – creepy little shits

 

These gems have life in them: their colors speak… (day 33)

The Day 33 prompt is:

What is/will be the subject of your next book?

The story I am writing about centers around a young woman named Clara and how her life is filled with love… a gift imbued through some magical experience had during her parents conceiving her. It is a story about how love has so many faces and how it is so important for humans to experience it. The story looks at how love contrasts with so many different emotions (as personality types). It examines the duality of life, but with rose-colored glasses. It begins with a description of Clara and her family and how they fit in to her ancestry. It follows her as she navigates out of childhood and moves into maturity. It examines the people she loves and how they are part of the magic spell she was cast upon her conception. It is a story about the role of others in personal redemption stories. It is about love, all the different kinds of love.

Image used from this article.

I remember, as a child, sitting in my gated front yard in Quito, Ecuador, looking at the people passing by on the street in front of me. A mix of men in hats, women in indigenous clothing carrying a small child strapped to their back and leading a yellow dog on a rope used as a leash.  Considering the tremendous difference between the huge Spanish colonial home behind me and the various levels of poverty and status in front of me…

I knew the gate was to keep people out, in part because I was young and vulnerable and with a high potential to be kidnapped. I stared at the glass shards embedded on the top of the wall surrounding our property, and thinking that the sun glinting off the various colors of glass made them look like jewels.  This memory, combines with many others serve as background material for the story. I had a truly magical childhood. While it was not without some pain, it was still magical and I want to re-tell it in the style of literature that came from that part of the world.

These gems have life in them:  their colors speak, say what words fail of.
~George Eliot

My hat tip today goes to Laura Hile, because she had me at pirate!

The 5-Week Author Blog Challenge 2015 – Day 11

Prompt 11

Describe the research process for your book. Did you interview people? Travel? How prominent a role did the Internet play? If you didn’t do new research, how did you learn what you needed to know to write your book?

On going.

There are some major themes I want to use and one of those was/is love.

Love is an interesting philosophical topic and I started at Wikipedia for some thoughts… I used the Greek words for love as a start…. but at some point my own life experience intervened and I remembered that there had been some discussion of other Greek words, so I moved to google and found a list of six.

I liked the idea of the central characters to the story each representing these different kinds of love and how they can play out. So to this end I created a character spread sheep based on the specific aspects of each form that I wanted to use; who represented them, what was the conflict to illustrate it, how does the resolution show their aspect of love to be a higher state of being (this is magic realism after all, where emotions can have magical effects on the world).

If certain people inspire me, I talk to them, not as a strict interview process but as a way to see how the aspect of them that I am intrigued by affects their mannerisms and such. If there is something specific, like plane travel in the 1960’s , I look on-line and then follow-up with googling pictures and talking to people who experienced it.

Travel, since the stories I am currently working on are shaped by the landscapes of my youth in Latin America, travel was involved.. though not recent travel. I am starting to think that I should go back, with a keen eye… but the truth is that in many ways it is just a form of homesickness and I just want to go back.

In terms on doing that which did not involve research, I guess it is based on my very own experiences (which I consider a kind of research anyway and thus I find myself in a circular argument.

separ

The hat tip today goes to Mary Ellen Stepanich, PhD as she reflects on the changing face of customer service. I have to agree, the face to face exchange between a provider and a subscriber has changed rather dramatically.

The 5-Week Author Blog Challenge 2015 – Day 6

Take us through your writing process. Do you keep a regular writing schedule? Do you write on your laptop or longhand? Do you have a favorite place to write? Are you most inspired in the morning, afternoon, evening, or middle of the night?

Ohhhhh. Emmmmmm. Geeeeee.

I wish I thought I even had a writing process… or even a writing schedule. I have a bunch of files in google docs, separated out into folders. Some have ideas, other have actual writing, some have pitiful versions of outlines. I write on my phone, my desktop and even a laptop.. ok, in the interest of full disclosure I haven’t written at all recently. That is exactly why I am here today, doing this blog challenge… though it is easy to do when you have prompts. I can write the answers to the prompts, getting myself to open one of my folders is another story. I don’t do it. I get to the point that I rarely even think about it except as I am drifting off to sleep.

OK… I will just do it!

So here, for your perusal are the first two paragraphs (which is all I can bear to share, mainly from shame, but I do have about 70 pages of this story down in all kinds of stages of development):

Clara was a very happy child, this is in spite of her parents disdain for each other as well as her brothers most innocent oblivion.

She and her family, and all the servants, lived in an old home whose walls were filled with the memories of all who had lived and loved there before.  The memories were often made better by her mere presence in the house. It was amazing how hate or indifference seemed to shrink away in her vicinity. Couples arguing as they walked in front of the family home stopped arguing and would begin to giggle like young lovers, cars would slow down, and even the stray cats and dogs that roamed around her neighborhood would stop and rest against the walls enclosing her home; the cats purring, the dogs wagging their tails, and birds singing a lovely song.

Clara was conceived at the the apex of her parents love.  He mother, Katarina, and father, Victor, must have entrusted all the love their bodies could posses to her, as they never seemed to like each other much after that one spectacular night in which Clara was conceived. As a result of their magnificent lovemaking, Clara was endowed with fawn eyes, a generous spirit, and the ability to nurture love with a glance or a delicate touch of her hand. When the midwife, Clotilde,  pulled Clara’s small little body from her mother almost ten months later, she fell hopelessly in love with the beautiful baby and made a silent vow to Saint Raphael to help her protect this divine little girl.   In later years Clotilde would say that angels sang when Clara was born.

I would appreciate any and all feedback!

swirly

Today the hat tip goes out to Ashley Howland. She writes books for children and they all look fascinating! (note to self, add to wishlist – check)

A year in my life…

A year ago, I had sent my son off to Europe and missed him terribly.

I think it was the Starbucks app of the week that was a picture a day app. I downloaded it, because;
1) it was free
2) I was thinking about documenting how much I missed my son

So, I took the selfie… and time flowed and I stuck to it and yesterday I got a notice that I had taken 365 photos.

One year, one insane year.

A son sent abroad at a very young age and being diagnosed with cancer. Not really sure which was hardest at the inception.

I missed my son terribly and was so happy when I reunited with him.

And hearing you have cancer sucks, sucks, sucks… and somehow it infiltrates everything.

But I missed my son and that was the hardest thing ever, and yes.. in a way, it was harder than being told one has cancer.

But the cancer things has its own craziness, craziness that makes everything outside the norm seem so much scarier.

So here is that one year of selfies, and as I sit here trying to figure out what all to tell my oncologist when I call him tomorrow, I think I look so much happier now than I did when I missed my son so much!