The doctor’s doing fine …

It happens this way …

There’s nothing like filling out the annual “Medicare Wellness Checkup” list to make me feel great. Here are some of the questions that gave me a kick this morning:

  1. During the past four weeks, has your physical and emotional health limited your social activities with family friends, neighbors, or groups?

I checked “Not at all,” but there was no white space to explain that I have no family friends out here. (Maybe someone forgot the comma after “family”?) Or that my neighbors are wonderful, but we rarely socialize other than meeting outside to rake leaves and chew the fat about who’s feeding the feral cats and what’s causing the latest ruts on our street. As for “groups,” I’ve been to several poetry readings that were fun, but, as soon after they were over, I headed for the exit because the crowds were overwhelming. An introvert’s challenge!

  1. Can you go shopping for groceries or clothes without someone’s help?

“Yes,” I checked, although Kathy does most of the grocery shopping and I hate shopping for clothes.

  1. During the past four weeks, how many drinks of wine, beer, or other alcoholic beverages did you have?

Although I checked the “No alcohol at all,” I did have 1/3 glass of champagne with two neighbors the other night. (Oops, I forgot. We did our annual holiday socializing with these folks for two hours last week!)

But here’s the thing about drinking, even a few sips of wine go right to my brain and disconnect it from my tongue. The fact is I’ve never been drunk, except maybe once: when I was in the convent at Georgian Court in the late 70s. We were having a Passover meal and I must have downed a whole glass of Manischewitz too quickly. I started to laugh uncontrollably and had to leave the table. I ran to the garden outside the kitchen door and, I’d like to think, delighted the stars. Sister Sheila finally came out to see if I was all right. She used to call me “The Kid,” and I certainly felt like one after I calmed down. So much for drinking!

I’m happy to report “things have been going well [for me] during the past four weeks,” I’m having no difficulty driving my car, and I’m confident I “can control and manage most of [my] health problems.” That is, if I had any.

I can’t wait to share the list with my doctor at my appointment on Christmas Eve. We’ll have several great guffaws about the fact that I can prepare my own meals, do housework without help, and have had no denture problems.

 

 

 

A Buddhist Detective?

It happens this way …

Ten

I just started to read a detective series by Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay about an ex-Buddhist monk turned LAPD cop turned private investigator. The main character, Tenzing Norbu (Ten for short),  is one of those fictionalized people I love to love: unique, flawed, vulnerable, committed, funny, intelligent, and on a steep learning curve.

What is so delightful about the first book, The First Rule of Ten, is not only does it have a good plot and a host of colorful good guys/gals and bad guys/gals, but the authors weave bits of Buddhist philosophy throughout. They affirm the fact that you can take the man out of the Buddhist monastery, but you can’t take Buddhist philosophy out of the man.

For instance, Ten’s first rule is “Don’t ignore intuitive tickles lest they reappear as sledgehammers.”

Can you relate? I can. How many times have I felt a gut-nudge to make a call, send an email, do whatever, and not followed through? There may not be immediate repercussions, but I do know that whenever I listen to one of those “intuitive tickles,” the results are gratifying. Someone will say, “I was just thinking about you, too” or “How did you know I needed that support today?” Curious how that works!

One other bit of Buddhist wisdom: In the midst of confusion about who the real scoundrels are and what motivates them, Ten prays, “May answers come to me by easeful attraction rather than stressful pursuit.”

Of course! But “stressful pursuit” is a much more dramatic way to live, no? I feel virtuous when I’m actively pursuing. However, as I’ve aged, I’ve discovered there’s peace and comfort in “easeful attraction” – putting out to Source/God/the Universe what I desire and allowing it to ease into my life. Keeps the blood pressure down and makes for a  less harried existence.

Who says it’s a waste of time to read light fiction? I’m off to the library to pick up The Second Rule of Ten. Can’t wait to find out what that is!

 

Lot’s Daughter Earns a Pushcart Prize Nomination

It happens this way …

What a way to start the week! The editors of the Gyroscope Review just emailed to say that they nominated one of my poems from their Fall 2018 edition for a Pushcart Prize.

First of all, what is a Pushcart? According to editor Bill Henderson,

The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses series, published every year since 1976, is the most honored literary project in America. Since 1976, hundreds of presses and thousands of writers of short stories, poetry and essays have been represented in our annual collections … . The Pushcart Prize has been a labor of love and independent spirits since its founding. It is one of the last surviving literary co-ops from the 60’s and 70’s.

Secondly, the poem is called “Twenty-Five Years After Sodom and Gomorrah: Lot’s Older Daughter Makes Her Case” and is written in the form of an interview.

If you remember the Bible story, Lot was a supposedly righteous man who was told to hightail his family out of Sodom and Gomorrah because God was going to destroy this sinful place. The one caveat: No one was to look back. Remember Lot’s wife and the pillar of salt?

Well, stuck in the middle of the story is the fact that two men (actually angels) visit Lot’s house to urge him to leave. The townsmen hear of the visitors and demand Lot hand them over for a little hanky-panky. Being the upstanding man he is, Lot tells them not to go after the men, but they can take his two virgin daughters instead. Great dad, no?

Anyway, I imagined what Lot’s eldest daughter would say twenty-five years after that event, and after she and her sister take revenge on their aging father by bearing him two sons.

Here’s the poem. It will appear in my next collection, A Penchant for Masquerades, coming out early next year.

1024px-John_Martin_-_Sodom_and_Gomorrah

John Martin, Sodom and Gomorrah, 1852

 

Twenty-Five Years After Sodom and Gomorrah:

Lot’s Older Daughter Makes Her Case

(This interview has been edited for clarity and length.)

 

Incest? Call it securing legacy.

When your world is pulverized,

what else would you expect?

 

Our plan? Two nights plus two daughters

equal two sons to carry our bloodline.

Brothers/sons, sons/grandsons.

How’s that for lineage?

 

On the ridge in a cave.

Oh, what an ugly thing: a soused old man

with lusty dreams that weren’t dreams.

At first dawn-light, I remember how he glared,

rubbed his grizzled frown, glared again.

Scared? Confused? Aroused?

We hid our laughter in the waking wind.

 

Guilty? Of what?

What father offers daughters to a mob?

Our rape for his guests’ sodomy?

Call that righteousness? We called it treachery.

Anyway, those strangers in our house?

They weren’t men … Angels, of course.

If you’re up on the literature, they arrive

when their god seems like he cares.

Ask our cousin Isaac. An angel called off

his father’s knife, but what god even asks?

 

Our mother? Now there’s a tragedy.

Don’t look back. Did she even hear?

When you’re wrenched from home,

senses collapse and there’s no time

for reasoning out a consequence.

A pillar for an over-shoulder glance?

All she did was send a last good-bye

to friends she didn’t criticize.

Where’s the wrong in that?

 

No. I don’t know if he ever saw himself

in Moab’s eyes or in the way Ammon frowned,

or if he realized what their names meant.

You’re interested? … “from my father”/“son of my kin.”

Want the truth? I don’t think he ever thought to care.

 

Write this down to set the record straight:

we never walked behind, never looked back.

A Maestro Is Born

Sam

It was an honor to conduct an orchestra. But with about 600 eyes staring at you, it’s a wee bit frightening but very exciting. At first it felt like I left my stomach at home – not to mention my brain – but on stage, it felt like the musicians and I were connected.

– Sam Lighthart-Faletra, guest conductor

Last Sunday night at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, OR, fourteen-year-old Sam Lighthart-Faletra made his conducting debut with the Metropolitan Youth Symphony Orchestra. The son of our dear friends, poet Annie Lighthart and medievalist Michael Faletra, he is an 8th grader at the Waldorf School in Milwaukie, OR. He is also a percussionist with MYS’s Interlude Orchestra and was chosen to conduct “O, Sole Mio” with the 102-member Symphony Orchestra.

After receiving coaching from Raúl Gómez, MYS’s Music Director, and practicing diligently by himself, Sam had only two run-throughs with the orchestra before the performance.

When he walked on the stage in front of more than 500 audience members (that’s 1000+  eyes, Sam!), he exuded poise and confidence. Bowing to the concert mistress and the orchestra, he raised his baton and the classic Italian song soared to life.

I sat there in awe as I watched a boy I’ve known for four years transform into a young man who had internalized the technical score; used broad, confident gestures to lead the musicians; and thrilled his parents who were sitting near me.

I asked Annie what it was like to see her son up on stage. She said:

Sitting in the dark audience, I swear time both stopped and ran forward simultaneously. As I watched Sam, my mind flashed back to the day he was born –  his tiny, tiny face and serious eyes. I registered that image with such surprise because there he was in front of me too – tall on the stage, all in black like a  symphonic Johnny Cash, lifting his arms with such bold movements, calling out big amazing music. I really felt struck by lightning, by time, rooted to the sight of  him, feeling the truth of the old quote about parenthood: that to have a child is to   let your heart go walking around outside your body – or in this case, standing up far away, waving a baton, bringing music out of the air.

Leave it to a poet to collide the past with the present and to describe her son as “a symphonic Johnny Cash”!

Would Sam like to conduct again?

“I would love to conduct again,” he said, “especially Holst’s The Planets. ‘Jupiter’ is one of my favorites. When you conduct it, there would be lots of gesture in the baton!”

Here’s to all the young people in our lives who enjoy our support for their creativity. Whether their “gestures” are made in the service of music, writing, art, theater, cooking, designing, whatever … They are walking outside our bodies to bring joy to themselves, us, and the world. Bravo! Brava! for them and us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Create or die

It happens this way …

I have a new addiction: alcohol inks. What an ironic name, no? But they’re not for drinking; they’re for creating new types of artwork that I’m exploring via the Internet.

Here’s the thing: I believe I have to create or I die. When I can’t write, I’m out in the yard planting, dead-heading, and moving plants around. Or, I’m taking photos for our annual print album or for making greeting cards. Or, I’m coloring postcards as an excuse to watch TV. Or, or, or … .

I used to be a type-A personality addicted to work. Now that energy has been transformed into a different kind of work: a more peaceful, self-paced, creatively-productive work.

A dear friend of mine told me years ago when I began to write poetry in earnest after retiring, that writing was now my job. It took a while to absorb that statement. Now I fully believe it – and have added a  list of other creative adventures to the job description.

My only regret is that I don’t have more friends to give my new creations to. If anyone can use a set of Carolyn-original coasters, let me know. I have some already made and will happily  create more. Go to my website (www.carolynmartinpoet.com) and click on “Let’s connect” at the top. Leave a message with your address and I’ll put them in the mail for you.

Below are a few examples of what they look like. I’ve either pasted cards on rubber-backed wood-squares or painted directly on them. They’re sealed so all they need is a gentle cloth-surface-cleaning. No dishwasher.

PS: What’s your creative outlet? Please share if you like.

Don’t blame the lettuce

It happens this way …

In twelve days, we’ll celebrate our 26th anniversary. It’s been a fabulous journey of self-discovery and other-discovery, and of learning and re-learning lessons we were drawn together to teach each other.

One of the latest – and biggest – lessons we’ve tackled is how to stop our incessant blame- storming.*

You left your dirty plastic bags on the counter again.

They’re not mine. They’re yours.

*

Please clean up the mess you made on the stove top.

I didn’t cook anything tonight.

*

You left the heat on again.

You were the last one downstairs. Why didn’t you shut it off?

And so it goes.

What is it about blaming the other that seems both satisfying and self-protective? (If you’re up to it, note how many times politicians blame others for situations they create.)

We just discovered the best remedy to release the blaming habit. It comes from Thích  Nhất Hạnh. He explains:

When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun.. Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change.

Now, when we start to blame, we use a code word to bring it to our consciousness. We simply say “lettuce.” This will make the next 26 years so much more productive!


* The process of assigning blame for an outcome or situation

Steeped in Words at the Chinese Garden

It happens this way …

DSC06407Yesterday was a perfect autumn day at the Chinese Garden where we gathered in the Scholars Room to share beauty, camaraderie, and poetry. Thanks to all the folks who came in body and to all of you across the miles who were there in spirit.

Here are a few unedited audio clips to give you the flavor of the day. Since this is a public garden, the ambient noise reminds us of the world outside. Enjoy this wondrous fall wherever you are!