"I am playing with myself,
I am playing with the world's soul,
I am the dialogue between myself and el espiritu del mundo.
I change myself, I change the world."

Gloria Anzaldúa

01 November, 2015

We are Born and Born Again

I have a wisdom tooth inside my crowded face
I have a friend who is a born-again
Found his savior's grace
I was born before my father
And my children before me
We are born and born again
Like waves of the sea
That's the way it's always been
That's how I want it to be 
Paul Simon

I have always loved this song--it's one of my favorites. It combines my love of the romantic era and the concept of the wisdom of children that is lost with age, "I was born before my father and my children before me," with the truth of my own experience, "We are born and born again." This morning--this all souls day--I am hearing this song again. 

This morning I clicked on one of those silly Facebook things. It looks at your profile pics over the last few years and picks the most representative profile pictures to show your change over the years. The picture for 2014 was one of my favorite baby pictures.

I jokingly said to my friends, what? Was I born again in 2014?

Almost immediately I realized, of course I was. I was pretty sick the last few years--mostly, it turns out, because of my diet. In November of 2014, when we could no longer control my blood sugar with the pills I had been taking, I started cutting foods out of my diet and testing my blood sugar frequently. Finally, I realized I had to give up anything that contained sugar or wheat, along with a number of starchy things. And so, I consider my "sugar sobriety" to have begun December 1, 2014. I was born again in 2014.

One of the changes I've made in my life is a re-commitment to building a community of spiritual family. I've made changes in the way I pursue my life as an alcoholic in long term recovery. I am trying to become more "in the middle" of the group I regularly attend. This is hard for me. I tend to distrust people.

I've also gone back to my church family. Thankfully, they have been accepting of the fact that I leave and return on a regular basis. I am, I suppose, the prodigal daughter.

So, after the Facebook epiphany this morning, I get dressed and go to church, where the sermon was on rebirth and resurrection. And here's the thing: the resurrection is now, says my pastor. The resurrection is now. We can walk away from death, from addiction, from isolation--we can be unbound.  And we are born and born again like waves of the sea.


10 December, 2014

happy birthday, Miss Dickinson. and thank you.

When I was an undergraduate, I read an essay by Adrienne Rich about Emily Dickinson. "Vesuvius at Home," the title taken from an ED poem, shattered the image of the shy, strange little woman sitting in her bedroom and hiding away from the world.

And I began to read Dickinson. Then I began to study Dickinson. Her syntax, her precise and startling use of words, her understanding of the human mind, of my mind, were sustenance to me.

And still, I think that there is no one who touches my heart as much as Dickinson.

On this day, the day after the congress released its report on torture, a day when racism and violence and lawlessness seem ever present, a day when I think that perhaps my country has lost its soul, I remember that Dickinson wrote the bulk of her poetry during the years of the civil war; another time when America was paying the price for its original sin.  It seems appropriate to share the best poem about grief I've ever read:

After great pain, a formal feeling comes –
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs –
The stiff Heart questions ‘was it He, that bore,’
And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’?

The Feet, mechanical, go round –
A Wooden way
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought –
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone –

This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –

J 372

Poem copied from Poetryfoundation.org

19 November, 2014

all goes onward and outward, nothing collapses

my dear departed Alice and Dinah--the old guard

Tomorrow will be a week since Alice died. It sometimes surprises me how deeply I feel the loss. It's probably because she was my last old girl--the last dog who knew my mother. But whatever the reason, it is a loss I sometimes experience as a pain in the chest. I first experienced that after Mom died. My therapist at the time said, "Why do you think they call it a broken heart?" And so I will grieve. As long as it takes.

But I know this. There is no death. There is no end to the energy and the love that was my mother, or Dinah, or Alice.

A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is, any more than he.
I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven.
Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer, designedly dropt,  95
Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark, and say, Whose?
Or I guess the grass is itself a child, the produced babe of the vegetation.
Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic;
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,
Growing among black folks as among white; 100
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I receive them the same.
And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.
Tenderly will I use you, curling grass;
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men;
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them; 105
It may be you are from old people, and from women, and from offspring taken soon out of their mothers’ laps;
And here you are the mothers’ laps.
This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers;
Darker than the colorless beards of old men;
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths. 110
O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues!
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths for nothing.
I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken soon out of their laps.
What do you think has become of the young and old men? 115
And what do you think has become of the women and children?
They are alive and well somewhere;
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death;
And if ever there was, it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceas’d the moment life appear’d. 120
All goes onward and outward—nothing collapses;
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.

"And to die is different from what any one supposed. . ."

It is odd that the more we learn about life--about the universe--about physics--the truer Whitman's words are. I have always known this to be the Truth--with a capital T-- the metaphorical truth-- the spiritual truth. But now we know that the universe continues to expand, that energy never dies, it only changes form. Science, spirituality, and poetry are not mutually exclusive. Thank you, Universe.