Passage

A hawk circles
catching drafts
glides into the distance
high pitched screeches
pierce invisible air

dying trees on a ridge
bare branches
glow in the sunlight
like sculptures
reaching for the sky

a perch for hawks
to hang out
large dark eyes
ocular wonders
zeroing into dry grass

last week
in the distance
barely audible  
the unmistakable buzz
of chainsaws

today
mounds of wood chips
a hawk flies by
skimming tree tops
close enough to touch

a flash of recognition
the hawk
the piles of wood chips

the trees are gone
empty spaces hold
their ghosts

stunned
I take a moment
to pause
find my breath
connect the fragments

to be present
feel the loss
see the beauty of the trees
hawks flying
to and from their branches

a moment to mourn
to honor
to be grateful
to
be
with

a prayer
a wish
may you all be safe
may you all find home
may you all come back

Trees on Ridge-4Hawk on branch-2Tree Ghosts 1-3

 

Orchids

Back in the 90’s
now a fading dream
we lived on Maui
soft tropical island

I placed orchids
in trees 
and beneath a trellis
in a garden
surrounding our home

I installed small drip lines
to bring them water
offered them food
and watched them thrive

Now in the Bay Area
I see orchids indoors
seemingly out of place

In the grocery store
a field of orchids
carries me home

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The Dancer

The last Word Press Weekly Photo Challenge for 2017 is Favorites.

The first of the following photographs was originally posted on June 25th.
I’ve had such a rich experience with this image
what it has shown me about myself
my inner journey, inspiration and creativity.

Last summer I was on vacation
a time for rest, quiet and contemplation
for leisurely walks along the Fox River.
A time to slow down 
to practice mindfulness and presence
awareness of my surroundings.

That’s when I saw her.
At first I didn’t recognize her
standing there
just on the edge of the woods
near the river.

What I love and moves me about this experience
is that I actually saw her.
That I chose to pause
to be with her
to allow a transformation to happen
for the images to flow into each other
and into my camera’s eye.

She was just there
stillness and movement
happening simultaneously.
I saw the grace of a dancer
making her way through the woods.
I came back to visit every day
watching her from different angles
like a dance that progresses
slowly over time.

This week as I look at her image
she dances once again.
I imagine her in black and white 
her movements subtly changing
as she glides from one realm
into the next.

Then she appears fully alive
in vibrant colors
dancing through the woods
toward a carnival in Rio.

For the first time in years
I paint
and paint
for hours.

A Christmas gift to myself.

Dancing Tree - original 1_3695

Dancing Tree - BW vignette-2Dancing Tree - painted 5-3695Word Press Weekly Photo Challenge: Favorites

The Window Washer

He comes from Peru,
and reminds me of the Incas
with his short compact body, round face,
brown skin, dark eyes and straight jet black hair.
People connected to the earth, to rituals.
Images of the Andes and Machu Picchu drift by.
This is the second time he washes these windows
that expand space into redwoods and sky
transforming this flat into a tree house.

I sit at my computer while he works.
He comes out of the back room
Usted medita? Do you meditate? He asks in Spanish.
I pause, surprised, wondering what brings up this question.
Oh, I think quickly he saw my altar, the images of Amma and the Buddha.
Yes I do, I reply.

I love to meditate, he says.
It feels so big
like opening my mind to a wide space
so quiet and calm.

I hardly meditate anymore though.
I got married, my wife is Christian.
Christians don’t meditate, he adds.

I feel dumbfounded, at a loss for words,
confused, wondering who these Christians are.
I think of meditators
who have found solace in Christ for centuries.

Christians don’t meditate?
I ask
No, he responds
She says meditation is brujeria – witchcraft.
I miss it, he says
heading towards the kitchen window.
Pero que se le va a hacer?
But what to do?
We argue about this a lot
and I don’t meditate anymore.

My heart aches as I hear his words,
and witness him give up a precious part of himself
in an attempt to create peace with another being.
The cost seems so unbearably high,
one that is paid
by many of us
time and time again.

 

How does rage live in me?

Sometime back in October I received an invitation from Sreejit over at the The Seeker’s Dungeon to submit a piece for his “Rage Against the Machine Month”. Every day during the month of November he would post from different writers a piece  based on this theme.
Initially nothing came to me, and I decided to pass.
But the idea kept tugging at me.

Memories of my father,
how afraid we were to trigger that place of rage in him
how life was easier when he was gone half the year on business trips.

Then my exploration shifted.
A new journey began for me.
I realized that I wanted more than anything to give voice to an old rage that had recently resurfaced deep in my being.

It began when precious, powerful women started speaking up, going public,
giving voice to their pain
the pain of having been sexually harassed, molested, abused, raped
the pain of burying these experiences in their beings for years, and years, and years.

It has taken me weeks to dare
to have the courage to put my experience out there on this blog
to be vulnerable.
I didn’t complete the writing in time to make it into Sreejit’s invite.
But then, clearly, this piece was going to write itself
in its own time.
I only needed to show up
to be willing.

I made a date with myself to drive down to Capitola by the Sea
to spend the afternoon writing at Mr. Toots
an old hang out from years ago.

November 16, 2017
the first big storm of the season
I made my way slowly, rare for me
over the Santa Cruz mountains

And here I am.
Only a few souls came out on this rainy afternoon
to randomly place themselves around tables.
Hot chocolate and pumpkin pie
the first ones of the season.

Simon and Garfunkel offering the tunes of years ago.
A comforting container for the words, images, memories welling up
longing to be expressed
to be held with care and gentleness.

Memories, absent for so long
floating to the surface
in all their vivid details.
This time they came up like a torrential flood
begging to be seen
to be written about.

I was twelve
we lived in Mexico City
my parents were gone a lot of the time
they left my sister and me in the care of a woman we named Ma Lupe
we would stay at her apartment in la Colonia Condesa.

Breathe Arati, Breathe….
Breathe….

Ma Lupe’s grandson Mario and I would play in the neighborhood
there was a mechanic’s garage on the corner
the mechanics were nice
and invited us to play in their shop.

One man gave me a lot of attention
one day he took me to the grease pit area under a car
he started touching me and putting my hand on his hard penis
I didn’t know what was happening
I was so scared
I remember the strong, acrid stench of oil and piss
how it burned my throat
I wanted him to stop
I can’t remember why he stopped
maybe I spoke out loudly
I just can’t remember
but he let me go
I ran up the steps
kept running

He told me in Spanish.
Don’t tell anybody or you will get into trouble.

His friend was watching and laughing above us
this is what sexual molesters do
they talk about it with their friends
like Trump and the guy on the bus, the conversation that got recorded
how the other guy colluded with Trump
this is what these guys do…
they brag
they pump each other up!

Mario and I never played in that area again.

Don’t tell anybody, no one will believe you, you will get into trouble

Breathe Arati, Breathe….
Deep breaths….

The music at Mr. Toots filling my ears, my soul….
“Come together” The Beatles ….
wanting it to be louder, bigger, to fill every cell of my body.
Music is a great healer, a balm for my soul.

When I was twelve I was in a riding club and would sleep over at my friend Alma’s house
her fifteen year old brother Rufo would come at night and get in my bed
He would touch me and try to get inside me
it was all so confusing
feeling scared, alone
wanting closeness, care and comfort.

One afternoon his family was gone
he took me into the bathroom
he sat on the toilet seat
pulling me down
pulling my head down.
His family came home
I ran out of the bathroom
made up a story about us smoking
ran out the front door.

His brother and friends knew.
This is what molesters do
how they keep doing what they do
they brag
It doesn’t matter if they’re in their teens
their seventies, or anywhere in between
in the family, the neighborhood,
Mexico City, Hollywood, New York or Washington
people cover for them
collude with them.
Did Alma know?
Did her mother know?

I stopped going to Alma’s house
I never saw them again
I got my parents to take me to a different riding club on the other side of the city
I don’t know how I managed this, what I said to make this change happen
there was only havoc in my being, in my psyche.
Eventually I stopped riding.

Don’t tell anybody, you will get into trouble, it’s your fault…

I told Ma Lupe and she told me I shouldn’t let boys touch me like that
they would think I was a puta, a slut, a whore.
She didn’t do anything to help me!
Where are the adults, my parents?

I WAS TWELVE YEARS OLD!

I WANT TO SCREAM!
IS    THERE    ANYBODY    OUT    THERE?

In 1991 Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment at work. He was being nominated for the US Supreme Court. Anita testified at the The Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Thomas’ nomination. The Committee was made up of all white men, including Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden.
They went after her!
These hearings were like the inquisition, a witch hunt!
As if she were on trial, as if she had committed a crime!
Clarence Thomas was confirmed and has been sitting on this country’s highest court ever since.

Don’t tell anybody, no one will believe you, you will get into trouble.

Keep it inside, feeling dirty, unlovable
bury all this deep down where it blossoms into shame
like a fungus
feel the despair, the loneliness of the dark place of shame
watch it seep out in your inability to have close relationships
only you don’t recognize it
you just know you can’t bear the closeness.

I’m here…
In Mr. Toots… The music…. Cat Stevens …..  Bob Dylan….my twenties….
“How does it feel to be on your own, like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone… How does it feel?”

Breathe Arati, Breathe….
Slow deep breaths
Five      long      deep     breaths
breathe in pain, darkness
see/feel Amma hold it
breathe out peace, light
breathe in pain, darkness
see/feel Amma hold it
breathe out peace, light ……..

And then along come men like Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein being called out by the women they abused relentlessly over decades.

These incredibly courageous women who are standing up, speaking out, encouraging and inspiring thousands, maybe even millions of women around the earth to find strength in each other and speak up.

All these women who were told:
Don’t tell, you will get into trouble, no one will believe, you asked for it,
you will lose your job, your career…

Women have come forward accusing Alabama Senator Roy Moore of sexually molesting them when they were fourteen, sixteen years old and he was thirty two.
In an interview about this issue I heard a woman in Montgomery, Alabama say she didn’t care about the fact that these were young girls, and she redirected the conversation to the Democrats and what Bill Clinton had done.

HELLO!
IS THERE ANYBODY HOME!
WOMAN HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND!
CAN WE HAVE A REALITY CHECK HERE!

ENOUGH!

And it all comes back, the smells, the darkness, the fear, the utter loneliness and despair
the despair of thinking I am dying, ceasing to exist.

There   is   no   one   there.

Don’t tell, you will get into trouble, no one will believe, you will be called a puta, a slut,
it’s my fault, if only I hadn’t, I should have….

And whatever you do, don’t write about it for others to see!

Rage is despair bursting forth!
It starts in the pit of my stomach
a thick mass pushing up, into my chest, my esophagus, into my throat, my jaw, my ears
despair that begs, implores to be released
I feel my mouth opening wide
hear this gut wrenching sound
deep and guttural
from a wounded wild animal
a lioness or an elephant cow
emerging from the depths of my being
coming from another universe
a sense of vomiting sound
thick and viscous.

Sound that morphs into weeping.

The Hulk is a perfect manifestation of rage,
rage is like a tsunami
first the emotions get suppressed, recede and then return
a massive wave that can topple buildings
wipe out cities, communities, families.

I know and understand my rage.
Years of therapy, Al-Anon, the practice of Nonviolent Communication,
mindfulness, meditation,
learning to hold myself
to hold my rage with compassion, understanding, empathy, gentleness,
deep loving care and acceptance.

Being willing to feel, to be with the loneliness, the despair, the shame.

Healing my rage:
In my late thirties I allowed myself to contemplate having a child
would it be okay for me to have a baby?
I spent several years processing my fear,
fear that I would be an abuser,
that I would not be capable of being a mother, of loving a child.

At forty one I gave birth to my son Andrew
through him I have found redemption
I can at times touch, see, feel, experience myself as a loving, lovable being.

When Andrew was six months old we met Amma
How to begin to describe how Amma has held, consoled,
healed my despair, grief, rage through her embrace?
Over time her compassionate, tender darshan hugs began to sink in.
I started feeling her hand stroking my back
gentle firmness, up and down along my spine
the way she looks into my eyes.

Her eyes
deep brown pools
holding me
opening into a peaceful universe
Amma has you
Amma loves and protects you
You are lovable and beautiful
Amma sees you as a loving, caring mom
You have done nothing wrong
Amma sees your childlike innocence
Amma believes you
Amma sees your pain, your despair, your rage
Amma holds it all
Amma’s got you
Amma loves you

All this and more she has made known to me over the years.

I have read that if you put bacteria on a petri dish and place it in the sun it will die.
I think shame is like bacteria.
Shame lives in the dark and when exposed to sunlight it can be transformed,
transformed into love of self.

Amma is my sunlight,
to Her I offer my pranams.

Thank you Sreejit for your invitation to participate in “Rage Against the Machine” and the opportunity for healing it brought me.
I am immensely grateful to my NVC empathy buddies, my triad and dyad partners for the support and care with which you have held me during these past few weeks.

Shanthi

November 30, 2017