Friday, December 27, 2013

The Place Poem

When I was given an assignment to write a “place poem” in November, I thought it would be an easy poem to write.  It turned out to be the most difficult.  I thought about all the places I’ve visited: Rome, Berlin, Paris (sort of – which is yet another story). 

I thought too, of the White Mountains in New Hampshire, the Green Mountains in Vermont and of one of my very favorite places on earth – the Blue Ridge Mountains from where I looked down through the clouds at the breathtakingly beautiful Shenandoah Valley.  But no place seemed quite right for this assignment until I thought of the place I return to year after year.  Close to home, it is somewhere along the

Jersey Shore 


I’ve come here every summer
since I was a child
to take  in a breath of salty air
at the base of the Ninth Street bridge.

I’ve come here every summer
to salute the Ferris wheels
that stand like sentinels
against the rising tide of my life. 

I’ve come to remember the hootenannies
I sang to in ‘63, the boy I met
and might have married,
the Frisbees I tossed, but never caught.

I come to soak up the sun,
to walk the boards,
eat lunch at Chatterbox
and for yet another ornament to decorate my tree.

I come here as often as possible
to gaze upon the sea
until, at last, it diminishes me 
and all the things I come here to forget.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

A Little Bit of Christmas Cheer

Lately my moods have been like a yo yo at the end of a string.

Two weeks ago, I was miserable. I was bah humbugging everything. As I parked my school bus after my morning run, I realized nothing felt right. The story I was writing wasn’t working. The last one I wrote felt wrong. I was miserable about everything – even Christmas. Especially Christmas. 

A thought about Christmas shopping entered my mind but was stomped on immediately - my checking account balance too low, my credit card balance too high. I tried listening to Christmas music, but every song I heard sounded either too silly or too depressing. About an hour later, I reached for the book I was reading and realized I’d left it home. Perfect, I thought. Books have always been my salvation – my salvation and my escape and without one, I was desolate. By the time I got home that evening, all I wanted to do was skip dinner, fall into bed and hide under the covers.

Then the next day dawned and everything was perfect. That day I remembered I have never known a Christmas that wasn’t thrilling – no matter how much or how little I had in my bank account or, as a child, how much or how little I received from Santa.  That day I remembered I have never known a Christmas that didn’t come with its own magic, its own miracles.

That day as I drove my bus down Cheltenham Avenue, I was content. Behind me, four young students were talking about experiences they have had in fast food restaurants, comparing notes and disagreeing over which has the best food, which has the worst. 

Outside two birds flew alongside my bus before perching themselves on top of a street sign. A woman was walking her dog. A man was raking leaves. My book was safely tucked inside my handbag. “Mary Did You Know” was playing on the radio and I was singing along  softly. And in that moment I knew that all was right with the world and everything in it was exactly where it was supposed to be.    

Sunday, December 1, 2013

It Happened One Morning

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have been taking a course in Mindfulness.  The course, based on the teachings of Jon Kabat-Zinn, is being taught at the Bucks County Community College in Newtown, Pennsylvania.  The building we meet in is called the Orangery, which is located next door to the sixty-room Tyler mansion whose formal gardens lie between the two buildings.   
On the first day of class, one of our teachers instructed us to find an object outside as she guided us in meditation.  I had never before done a meditation with my eyes open and I doubted that this would work for me. 

It was a brisk but sunny autumn day with a breeze that was gently shaking the leaves from their trees.  A statue of a naked woman stood on the other side of the largest window in the room.  The woman was holding a jar on her shoulder through which a stream of water moved steadily. 
There was a short footpath at the base of the statue and, at the end of the path, was a solitary leaf sitting on the ground.  At first, I expected the leaf to blow away, but it never did.

The leaf was brown and brittle, about the size of my hand and it looked like the letter “C.”  For some reason, it held my interest as the instructor lead us, her voice so low she seemed to be whispering.  I continued staring at that leaf for a full ten minutes or for however long the meditation lasted until suddenly it seemed to become a part of me – a part of my consciousness. 
Hours later, when I was no longer anywhere near that leaf, I could still see it, not only with my eyes closed, but also with my eyes open.  It was an experience I had only heard about before.  The spiritual teacher, Deepak Chopra, calls it unity.  The Catholic Church calls it communion.  I call it beautiful.

Later, I realized I had experienced a feeling very similar to this one and that it had happened during a moment I write about in my memoir, Rude Awakening, when I fell into a love, which although it has swayed, dipped, spun around curves, evolved and transformed itself, has never ended.