Category Archives: Poems

The Cost of Our Current Conveniences

kinzua-damHere just before Thanksgiving, a national holiday that encourages gratitude for the gifts of plenty most citizens enjoy, I’m reminded of the First Peoples who lived here before European refugees, settlers, and immigrants arrived.

This past fall representatives of over 300 tribes have been gathering in prayerful demonstrations in North Dakota at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Their aim is to prevent an oil pipeline from crossing their land, threatening their water and the sanctity of their sacred lands. My grade school images of the first Thanksgiving where white and native peoples supposedly sat down together did not foretell the environmental racism that still continues 300 years since.  

All this and the fact that I now have a granddaughter who is Native American has caused me to look closely at where I stand and what I am willing to stand up for. The following piece is the result of what these experiences are making of me.

Floods No More

“Aren’t you afraid of flooding?” people ask

when they visit our home on the Allegheny River.

Floods can be monsters claiming everything you own and hold dear.

But our safety is insured by the Kinzua dam constructed upriver in 1965 on

Seneca tribal lands. 10,000 acres were flooded including ancestral burial grounds.

This broke the 1794 Canandaigua Treaty, signed by President George Washington.

The lake behind the dam is known as Lake Perfidy (treachery and betrayal).

Unaware of this cost, from the edge of our newly expanded deck

I’m convinced we have the best backyard in all of Pittsburgh.

That’s White Privilege.

 

Getting Back On The Horse

magnetIt’s nearly 5 months since my fall and it feels important to notice how far I’ve come. I can raise my left arm into the air almost as high as the right one. When my left hand is behind me, I can raise it slightly above my waist. There was a time when I couldn’t even get it behind me enough to try working towards this position. I’m moving through the world with more confidence, no longer afraid of falling when I venture out. I’ve been doing InterPlay movements more freely when I teach and when I practice alone. The next milestone will be going back to my Zumba dance class, something I have not felt ready to do until now.

Looking back over the past few months, I got some inspiration from one of the poems I wrote 20 years ago for my first book Stillpoint, which was on self-care. At that time I was visiting my son Kevin who was on the gymnastics team of his university. During the particular meet I was able to witness, each member of the team, when it was their turn, fell off their apparatus and was unable to complete their routine. I was struck by the dejection and disappointment in their body language as they exited the space.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 28:  John Orozco of the United States of America competes in the pommel horse in the Artistic Gymnastics Men's Team qualification on Day 1 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at North Greenwich Arena on July 28, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Trained as a dance, I was used to the practice of covering a mistake, or at least not reacting to it with a grimace, or some body language that in theatre would be labeled “braking character.” As a dancer in the chorus I was trained to not react to a mistake or misstep but to proceed as though that was the way the routine was suppose to go. I imagined that if I had been the gymnasts’ coach I would have tacked the following note to their dressing room door –

Hey Team

Falling is not a giant zap from the gods

meant to embarrass, humiliate, or hurt you, but,

falling is one of the things that happens

in the process of “going for it,”

as you move too close to your growing edge.

It is a sign that you have made an error

and you need to;

BREATHE…….as in keep breathing

LAUGH……… as in keep releasing

GET UP…   as in keep moving

LAUGH………as in keep enjoying

and get back on the horse,

ring, barre, or floor!

SMILE…………as you uncover, discover,

recover, the lessons of each particular fall.

Spaces In Our Togetherness

My husband and I were asked to give a talk at a neighboring Alanon meeting last evening. We’d given talks before separately, but never together. There was no time to prepare and I knew there wouldn’t be when I accepted the invitation. But I knew to say yes to this opportunity, a privilege likely to result in a blessing

We decided to divide the presentation into three phrases, and each speak extemporaneously, to each phase. The first was our introduction to addiction, particularly alcoholism, which for each of us occurred at very different times in our lives. The second phase would focus on our early experiences in twelve-step work, and the third with what has happened since we joined Alanon several years ago.

There were the words, and when we think of speeches we think of words. But the words move into the background of my memory of the evening because my awareness was of the spaces in between. It started when Rich and I were seated beside each other looking out onto the thirty or so people in the audience with the moderator seated beside him. I became aware of the molecules of air between us and then between all the figures in the room. It was like we were all floating in a sacred container of silence, the space between the words. I thought of the poem, “Marriage,” by Gibran. “Let there be spaces in your togetherness. And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.” http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/marriage

When the moderator opened the floor to the audience members to respond, I noticed the silence in between the statements that people made. It was like people needed time to come up from the depths of where they were, to collect their thoughts and say them out loud.

A friend who was present in the room told me later that Rich and I together made an impression much stronger than what we made alone. That confirmed what I felt in my own body and relates to what I’ve known for a long time, 1 + 1 equals way more than 2. Looking back, I didn’t say all that I might have said. I didn’t say it in the most articulate way that perhaps I could have. But it was what it was, and I relax into knowing that another message was being delivered, this one beyond words.

It seems a paradox – the more separate we are, the more connected we became. The more connected we became, the more separate we are. Like other lines from the same poem – “Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

I would wish for all my relationships to be like this, with my husband and adult child, my grandchildren and my friends, connected through the spaces in what we call in InterPlay, “a sneaky deep way.”

Becoming a savvy user of 21st century technology

It’s said that “when the student is ready, the teacher appears.” That’s either hog-wash or it’s sure taken me a long time to get ready to learn the “ins and outs” of  21st century technology. Andrea was my teacher yesterday and it felt so good to have a guide, someone to take me systematically from one place to the other on my developing website. I’ve just heard from a friend who is offering a class on working with spreadsheets to organize data. Wow. My time has finally come.

Prior learning experiences with computers, and software, and websites, and social networking, and smart phones, have usually involved what is called in typing, “the hunt and peck” method. People told me, “Just click around and you’ll figure it out.” But by now, I have figured out that that method only works for someone whose first experience with a computer or video game came before their 4th birthday.

I remember sending my 3 year old grandson an interactive game that was suppose to be played through the television set. Since he just graduated from high school last month, you can know that this was back in the days, now regarded in the world of technology as prehistoric. My daughter told me the story of the difficulty she was having connecting the game and getting it to work. She read the directions, (something my son always warned me against doing) and then called the 800 number for assistance. While she was on hold, the three year old in the other room begun pushing buttons in a random fashion, and got the game to work.

So I’m not saying the hunt and peck system doesn’t work – just not for me. I prefer the step by step, inch by inch approach, with lots of support and encouragement, like we had when we first started to walk or ride a bicycle. My technology skill quotient needs a lot of confidence building. I’m just learned to not immediately blame myself if a piece of technology or an operation doesn’t work. Since my goal in life is to dance with everything I found writing about my experiences helps me to ease the transitions. Here’s a 100 word poem I wrote after an experience with a computer security system.

I flunked the security check on Facebook this morning.

I’d been half proud of myself, gaining skills to enable

a giant leap over generational boundaries, not of the

“have and have-nots” but of the know-it-alls and the

klutzy clueless. Typing scrambled letters several times,

just as I saw them with difference configurations,

diligently hoping for approval from whatever robot of

the airwaves guards this gateway to inclusion.

Every time I receive confirmation of my failure to

measure up, each time I’m believing its condemnation.

I fail to achieve one of my heart’s strongest desires;

recognition as a real, regular person.