Monday, April 25, 2011

What I Saw When I Closed My Brain (Revisited)



What you are about to read goes over the edge of reality.
[If you've already visited to read the poem, skip to the end of it if you're curious about its animal symbolism and today's additions.]

It's a vision I had during a meditative hour on Saturday. I offer it as my Poetry Bus ticket, which this week was to be something in excess. It's excessively long and excessively full of creatures. You'll find more excessive work on the Science Girl's blog.


What I Saw When I Closed My Brain & Opened My Eyes

Beneath the oak tree a century of decomposing leaves
softer than a mattress and malleable, sweet scented
with a sheet of new grass, cradles me as I lie down
above a swift-flowing stream rich from winter rains.
A snag of sodden limbs and twigs rises in midstream
like a shattered tree regretting its dissolution.
Three bickering crows alight on the far bank,
screeching their malcontent and striking one another
in a cacophony of bitterness that belongs elsewhere.
I reach with searching fingers for a stone but hear
Watch, and here he comes, my resurrected Christ
crunching through the mat of leaves in long white robes.
I bade him come but thought he wouldn’t, yet here he is,
dressed for someone else’s dream. No white robes,
I say and look away at the terrible crows, gone
quiet now, and I see in the sunlight the shining
green among tar-black feathers as they sedately sip
at the water’s edge. In worn blue jeans he reclines
beside me, shoulders broad in a tight T-shirt,
sandaled feet in the brown leaf mulch. His hand
touches my shoulder like the tentative nose of horse.
Watch, he says. I look again at the mournful snag
and I see there where the stream parts a rainbow trout
surfing the current, and just behind it, a smaller trout,
their colors glinting in the light. Upstream bushes
rustle and a brown bear lumbers into the water,
slogs unerringly for the snag and reaches a paw
for the trout as if it knew the trout were there.
With a small undulation, the first trout meets the paw
and the paw encloses the trout, and I see the two,
the bear and trout, agree to feed and to be fed.
The crows lift off and a white owl settles
in the place they left, fixing his yellow eyes
on me. We stare at one another like old partners
suddenly met in an unexpected place. Beside me
a lynx has crouched to watch the owl. A cougar
slinks down the bank upstream and dips its head
to lap the water, resting on a rock. I don’t know
what my Christ is thinking. The owl says something
in a soundless voice and waits with me, the lynx,
my blue-jeaned Lord, for whatever happens next.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Meanings & Symbolism

I was interested in all the animals who appear in this meditative dream, and so I looked a little into Celtic and Native American animal symbolism.
Among six animals there are:
12 references to insight and intuition
2 bearers of power and courage
2 guardians
1 guide
1 messenger
and a crow times 3

The facilitator of my meditation group uses no descriptive words, only such verbs as "breathe," "observe," "listen," and "be." She's a psychoanalyst and she tells us that the process of observing will allow the unconscious to speak. I asked what this meditation might be saying to me, and she just laughed. That’s what you have to figure out, she said. So here’s what I think:

What I Saw When I Closed My Brain & Opened My Eyes

Beneath the oak tree a century of decomposing leaves
softer than a mattress and malleable, sweet scented
with a sheet of new grass, cradles me as I lie down
above a swift-flowing stream rich from winter rains.

[The surroundings are serene, but a bad attitude affects my interpretation of the view in the lines that follow:]
A snag of sodden limbs and twigs rises in midstream
like a shattered tree regretting its dissolution.
Three bickering crows alight on the far bank,
screeching their malcontent and striking one another
in a cacophony of bitterness that belongs elsewhere.

[I see brokenness and regret, dissonance and discontent, but how true is my vision? The crow, despite my annoyance, represents a mass of good things, such as metamorphosis, clarity of vision, bearer of light and understanding, keeper of mysteries and wisdom. I don’t see any of that until my spiritual guide appears, wearing the wrong clothes.]

I reach with searching fingers for a stone but hear
Watch, and here he comes, my resurrected Christ
crunching through the mat of leaves in long white robes.
I bade him come but thought he wouldn’t, yet here he is,
dressed for someone else’s dream. No white robes,
I say and look away at the terrible crows, gone
quiet now, and I see in the sunlight the shining
green among tar-black feathers as they sedately sip
at the water’s edge. In worn blue jeans he reclines
beside me, shoulders broad in a tight T-shirt,
sandaled feet in the brown leaf mulch. His hand
touches my shoulder like the tentative nose of horse.

[This is a wonderful interaction to me. Like many of us, my belief system was instilled when I was small with simple picture books and complicated nuances. The 12-Step program is emphatic that we must come to a personal understanding of God, in whom we can entrust our lives and hopes. This scene tells me that process is at work in my life and my God is perfectly happy to “change his clothes.” His appearance in the scene changes everything for me.]

Watch, he says. I look again at the mournful snag
and I see there where the stream parts a rainbow trout
surfing the current, and there behind it, a smaller trout,
their colors glinting in the light. Upstream bushes
rustle and a brown bear lumbers into the water,
slogs unerringly for the snag and reaches a paw
for the larger trout as if it knew the trout were there.
With a small undulation, the trout meets the paw
and the paw encloses the trout, and I see the two,
the bear and trout, agree to feed and to be fed.

[The bear is a powerful guardian, with great courage and strength and a deep connection to the Creator. He also represents intuition and introspection, which is interesting to me. He looks inward with understanding and thoughtfulness, but at the same time he looks outward to protect and guard with his strength and courage. He represents healing, death and rebirth. The fish, an ancient symbol of Jesus Christ, sacrifices itself in a nourishing relationship with the bear. The snag stops being a mournful broken tree and becomes a shelter for the trout.]

The crows lift off and a white owl settles
in the place they left, fixing his yellow eyes
on me. We stare at one another like old partners
suddenly met in an unexpected place.

[The white owl has lots of jobs in animal symbolism. He’s a messenger that brings enlightenment, wisdom, or spirituality. Sometimes he foretells death. In this dream, it seems like we used to work together but our relationship ended. Now he has something to tell me but I can’t hear it, and so he waits with me ~ which strikes me as a kind thing to do, but maybe not.]

Beside me
a lynx has crouched to watch the owl. A cougar
slinks down the bank upstream and dips its head
to lap stream water, resting on a rock.

[The lynx joins me, taking a protective stance. When he appeared in my meditation I asked if he was a bobcat or a lynx since I didn’t know the difference between the two. He specified that he was a lynx, which I later learned is wonderful. In animal lore the lynx is both a guide and a guardian, equipped with keen vision and foretelling, and he’s the keeper of all secrets and mysteries. The cougar brings balance between strength, leadership, wisdom, and freedom, and is a sign of coming into your own power. I could use some of that.]

I don’t know
what my Christ is thinking. The owl says something
in a soundless voice and waits with me, the lynx,
my blue-jeaned Lord, for whatever happens next.

[In this meditation an awful lot of characters know things, except for me. But I learn something important ~ my perception of “life” is transformed when I bid my Higher Power to be with me. And all the possibilities symbolized by the animals who visit seem to be available somehow when my view changes from negative to positive. I don’t know how, but maybe I’ll learn more during “whatever happens next.”]

Have a great week, my friends. I’m going to try to meditate more without the facilitator, just to see if something happens next.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Hanging Pictures in the Sewer



Well, hail. I've had an overdose of harsh words running around in my head, and it got so noisy and poisonous in there that I took to my bed, that refuge of depression.

When I wasn't seeking the oblivion of sleep, I was outside in the yard, working among living, thriving beings, or finding respite from orneriness in AA meetings. I haven't been a happy camper inside my own soul. In that quiet place where I've found contentment through the years, a few words from a few unhappy people and a few sad situations wormed their way in and started putting down roots.

When I was newly sober 21 years ago in LA, I heard an AA speaker named Joe G from Venice Beach give his pitch one morning. I don't remember a thing he said except one: If you got a resentment against me, and you're thinking about me, you're giving me free rent in your head. Thank you!

Another man named Joe spoke in that same AA meeting hall one night. He said, "I'm an alcoholic. If I fall in a cesspool, I start hanging pictures." I married that man because of what he said.

While I've been lying in my bed, sleepless or sleeping, I've been licking my wounds and hanging pictures. A loved one with wounds of her own recently told me that I am a deeply troubled person. I immediately without passing Go became a deeply troubled person. Some of us give the most amazing amount to power to others.

There comes a time when you have made all the amends you can make, done your best to bring reconciliation and clean up your side of the street, prayed all the prayers you can pray, and things still are bad. Either you start hanging pictures and giving up that free rent, or you walk away. You have come to the end of the line where your power to change things is concerned.

I went to an enormously satisfying poetry reading last night, where I heard a lot of good work by some fine poets. Everyone was at the top of their game. I was glad to be part of the night, to be one among such people. There is no price for gifts like this. There’s no price for the soul-satisfying act of being who and what you are, and proud of it.

Today is Earth Day and Good Friday, a whole bunch of redemption packed into one little day. I won't notice the goodness of heaven and earth if I stay in the cesspool hanging pictures. So I'm out and about where there is plenty of love to share.

Here is a Flash Friday 55-word poem about a different sort of thing putting down roots in your mind. Go see the G-Man, the G-force behind this Friday madness. I call this piece “Obsession.”

When it should come to this,
that I should sit like stone,
not uttering a sound,
not twitching a thumb,
as the hours pass and think
only of your dark eyes,
I will know myself
a fool, unglued,
that it is time to don
the round red nose and play
for nickels on the corner.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Delirium



I spent the day with macro lenses on my eyes. With my camera, I stood among the low branches of the dwarf Gala apple tree outside my sunroom as bees lumbered around me. Then I meandered around the yard, finding happy bees everywhere. I finished on my knees, pinching the last and smallest weeds between my fingers among the dahlia shoots, having an imaginary conversation about trust with our oldest granddaughter. With your Tata and me, I told her, you are innocent unless you prove yourself otherwise.

She’s going to be 18 next month and she’s delirious with possibilities associated with legal adulthood. Her parents are strict. She has never been on an unchaperoned date even though she’s about to graduated from high school, and she wants to leave home to be the mistress of her own fate. I love her very much and I want her to live with us if she believes she must leave the fold. She’s a beautiful young woman, smart and motivated to be a teacher, worthy of trust. Her grandfather, my beloved, tells me we can’t intervene. I told the weeds that we will.

Spring is like this girl, ripening. The topic for this week’s Poetry Bus is Spring, ordains NanU, guest driver and science writer. My fellow passengers are linked here.


Beests

Who bee the beests upon the blossoms that bee upon the apple tree?
See thou what I mean? There, upon the leaves?
They bee everywhere, upon the tree, the bush, the lavender—
Busy little beests, with bulging thighs of pollen,
Harbingers of Spring.
Oh, sweet bee, where is thy sting,
Drunk amid the blossoms
Burgeoning on the tree?



Thursday, April 14, 2011

Dirty Power



When I’m feeling blue, it’s nearly always because I’m powerless to change something. This time of year, though, there’s a great antidote out in the yard called gardening. It might more truthfully be called weeding or soiling, but whatever it is, it boils down to power. I have power in the yard that I don’t have in the rest of my life.

I’m as ineffectual as a wet noodle in a lot of ways, but out there, I’m a goddess. With my hands alone, I can transform things. Today it was a piece of crap plot of ground. An hour later, it was a rich little garden bed ready for seeds. My whole attitude was transformed with it. I hauled those blue feelings off to the green-waste bin along with three huge bucket loads of weeds.

Lest I get a fat head singing my own praises, I remember that the sun, the rain, the spinning of the spheres aren’t mine to command. The essential force in power-gardening is the Creator who transforms the seasons in the first place. I’m thankful that He lets me work in concert with Him to turn weeds and dirt into flowers.

One of the major things I’m powerless over is another person’s ill will. Along with the weeds I yanked out of the ground today, I fiddled around with the toxic byproducts of an unhealthy relationship. I had fun whacking it with my metaphorical machete until it was no more than a Flash 55 for Mr. Knowitall’s Friday bash. See what others can do in 55 words over at the G-Man’s place.


Bad Blood

When you said I hate you
I saw a dam fracturing,
all that fierce water
surging down the gorge,
your accumulated
tragedies churning
like broken houses
in the flood.
I imagined a drop
of your venom
landing on my skin,
shivering there
before my pores
opened like a rose
and sucked it in.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Good Day for Flying



My local newspaper made me smile this morning when I opened it (not a usual occurrence) and saw its little list of historic moments. On this day in history, in 1742, Handel's "Messiah" was performed for the first time in public, and Dublin was the chosen city. I like the "Messiah" very much and I'm glad Handel channeled it from whatever angel gave it to him.

Also, on this day in 1970, Apollo 13 had nearly reached the moon when a mechanical problem erupted and threatened everyone aboard. But the disaster was averted and the men returned safely home. I like endings like that.

My newspaper's "thought for the day" proves that nothing new is ever thought of under the sun. In the 1700s, French philosopher Charles Louis de Montesquieu pondered happiness and decided:

"Happiness is not the absence of problems but the ability to deal with them."

That sounds like something I heard in an AA meeting last week.

And on this historic day, April 13, 2011, a flock of cedar waxwings paused for breakfast outside my sunroom, as they migrate north again with the coming of spring.


(P.S. The fine photo of a cedar waxwing is from a far better photographer than I but it didn't come with a credit.)

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Honeymoon Is Over



The bandages came off my right hand last week. Without them, the wrist had full range of motion and my palm was exposed.

My hand realized something traumatic happened in its carpal tunnel. Why does it now hurt so much? I asked my surgeon. The honeymoon is over, he said. Now the real work begins.

I’ll have to strengthen it, but my hand is beautifully, thoroughly alive! I put it to work, writing like a madwoman to meet my magazine deadlines yesterday.

Now I get to leap onto the Eejit’s Poetry Bus, on tour today under the wild command of the Bug’s Eye View. All poems, Dana ordained, will begin with the same five words. All of us miraculously have different voices. Mine addresses Alzheimer’s.


The End of Our Life
As I Knew It


I am a crooked line in your mind
I end in a pathetic dribble
near the inlet of your spine
I dangle on the tangles
that insensibly wind
in the miles of your brain
and there I pine.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Strange Story of a Goddess’s Daughter



Meet the archerfish. This wonderful creature watches the world above the surface and shoots down insects with jets of water spit from its remarkable mouth. The archerfish (genus Toxotes) is a physics and ballistics expert, able to hit an overhead target up to six feet away.

I happen to be an archery expert myself. At the age of 33, I won a crossbow-shooting contest in the Swiss Alps while under the influence of a large amount of slivovitz. I’m not kidding you. I have some kind of animal-horn blower thing to prove it. It’s true the competition consisted of a bunch of American journalists on a European press tour, but still. I was three sheets to the wind and a dead-eye shot.

I met the archerfish because I had to write a poem about one. The famous weekly Poetry Bus, invented by an Irish poet who calls himself the Totalfeckineejit, which he isn’t, is busy touring the animal kingdom this week.

This animal thing is the brainchild of Titus the Dog, a fine poet out of Scotland who is not a dog but a human named JoAnne McKay. She’s making a poetry booklet about animals to raise funds for humans who have arthritis. My dearly beloved beagle Riley has been crippled by arthritis. Someday maybe we’ll do a poetry booklet about humans to raise funds for animals who have arthritis.

So. On to the archerfish. This fish has very sharp eyes very close together by its snout, which allows the fish to hang about right at the surface of the water and look upward, without creating any telltale disturbance of the water’s surface. There, it slyly watches the overhead vegetation for the movement of insects.

It has a tongue-and-groove kind of mouth that can form a narrow tube and spit a forceful jet of water, but first, the fish somehow calculates complex physics problems that I know nothing about, regarding the refraction of light through water and the curvature of the jet of water as it is pulled down by gravity. Then the archerfish changes its firing angle to compensate, and whammo! The insect, struck by the water jet, is knocked into the pond, where it disappears into the fish’s mouth.

How am I to tell you all this bizarre engineering stuff in a poem? I decided I wouldn’t. So I turned the fish into the daughter of one of history’s greatest archers. You’ll find the rest of the animals roaming at Titus’s place.




The Archerfish Tale

I saw your daughter today, Artemis,
hunting with your bow and arrow
in a mangrove swamp. You would be proud
of Toxotes, if you had seen her stalk
her prey with your own cunning,
disturbing not even a ripple of air
as she moved. Your daughter is fierce
and graceful as you once were,
Artemis, when you served this earth ~
Goddess of the hunt, of wild creatures
and forest lands, She Who Brings Light
to the night, Slayer of men, Avenger
of maidens. Your daughter Toxotes
is the huntress now, the Bringer of Death,
She Whose Aim Is True. She honors you,
daughter of Zeus, daughter of Titans,
Mistress of the Moon. Take pleasure,
Artemis, in your child, the Archer
unsurpassed in all the kingdom. Tell
your friend Orion, your brother Apollo,
that the skill of Toxotes is supreme.
Her arrows of water, shot from the strange
bow of her muscular mouth, unerringly
find their mark. I watched her, Goddess,
as she bent laws of physics and gravity
to her will, as she conquered light itself
bending at the boundary of water and air.
She has your shrewd eyes.
Smile, Artemis, in your retreat
on the moon’s dark side.
In your daughter, you live on.

**************

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Don’t Insult the Doc

My dearly beloved has a birthday today. Please don’t tell him about this post.


My orthopedic surgeon flirts with women. When he fixed a tear in my hip two years ago, we saw a lot of each other beforehand, mainly because he had performed my particular surgery only once, on a cadaver. He was eager to have a live patient, and I trusted his hands, but the hospital was not eager to let him have a go at me, him not having actual experience and all. He got the go-ahead about three months after I first saw him, after he went down to L.A. to watch the surgery performed by its master craftsman and studied several of the surgeries online.


The morning of my ground-breaking hip surgery, he paid me a visit in the pre-op area. I had a visitor sitting with me, a beautiful Amazon of a woman from my AA fellowship. He flirted with her outrageously, ignoring me totally, for a very long time. They looked like Jack Sprat who could eat no fat and his wife who could eat no lean (just saying, not because I was jealous, even though I, really, was his ticket to a new lucrative specialty, and I was his FIRST, after all, but I am short and she is tall, and for Pete’s sake! she towered over him, being as he is a little guy, but he probably didn’t know that since she never actually stood up so he could see she was inappropriately tall). [gasp!]


So. Anyway, the orthopedist is a flirt. A shameless one. And usually he flirts with me, but not, apparently, when I’m accompanied by tall, good-looking women. This has happened to me all my life, or at least three times. My theory is that short women are invisible to men when accompanied by tall, good-looking women. It’s one of the crosses we little ladies must bear.


The upshot of all this is that I didn’t invite my tall friend to sit with me in pre-op last week for my hand surgery. I didn’t even tell her about it. So when Doc Do-Little visited me in pre-op, he flirted with me somewhat briskly, wrote YES on my right wrist in permanent marker, and vanished for an hour.


When next I saw him, it was in operating room #4, and I was supposed to be knocked out by an IV drug, but I wasn’t, and not only that, but he was running two HOURS late. So while he did harsh things to my carpal tunnel, which had been numbed, thank God, I yakked with him and the anesthesiologist. He, the outrageous flirt, let fly with an innuendo in answer to an innocent question of mine.


I might have been a little crabby about everything. When he said what he said, I said something back that wasn’t terribly innocent. And because the stupid drug wasn’t working on my sober alcoholic/addict brain, I remembered everything, so I wrote this poem a couple of days ago. I’m toying with the idea of giving it to him on Monday when he takes off my bandages.

Don’t Insult the Doc


Are you done yet? I asked the surgeon
who was cutting up my hand
(I was supposed to be unconscious
and adrift in lotus land).
That is not a pleasant question,
he said with some hauteur;
it could emasculate a man
if he were insecure.
I said I know of an inquiry
that is surely more adverse:
Asking a man, Is it in me yet?
must be infinitely worse.
Oh, good God! cried the orthopedist,
with a vivid reprimand ~
and thus I learned to never insult
a scalpel-wielding man.

Albert Einstein Quotes