Thursday, July 31, 2008

Skywatch Friday

This is my 6th time participating in Skywatch Friday Kind of a lot of the same thing.... no nice pink skies this week - or none that I got pictures of.

Sky Watch Friday is hosted by Tom at Welcome to Wigger's World and I hope you'll make it a point to visit his wonderful site as well. He takes awesome photos.

Doesn't this one look like a heart? It was clearer in real life than it is in the picture.

Fable of the Month: The Miracle on Michael's Hill



Katherine E. Rabenau

The angel stood on the hill singing in her sweet high disembodied voice, and around her the world grew quiet and still. The beasts of the field, even the flowers and trees, paused in their living to listen to the sound of love, to let it wash over and into them. And in the town below, people paused and smiled at one another. Even those who a moment earlier had been quarreling bitterly, were transformed, forgot their angry words and, shedding a tear at their foolishness, embraced one another. Somehow the angel's song reached into their hearts. The sound of her voice let them see with her eyes, and when they looked at each other, they saw only beauty and light and perhaps most miraculous of all, they saw themselves reflected back in their neighbor's eyes through the light of love. They saw only that which was highest and best in themselves and their world was transformed forever.

Most of them, that is. Of course, as there must be, there were some who felt the tug of love and fought it with all their might. These were the ones who cried "witchcraft," "Satan," and other such foolishness and ran through the streets trying to shout down the magic of the power of Love. Sadder still, when they realized that they could not shout Love down, they tried to kill it. "Where's it coming from?" their leader shouted. "Michael's Hill," another responded and off they went, clubs and pitchforks in hand, ready to fight the demon of love with all their might.

As they reached the top of the hill, they began shouting as loudly as they could, "Death to Demon-spawn," and "Silence the Dark Voice." So raucous were their venomous cries that they almost did drown out the angel's song. But not quite. And in their fear and rage they were not prepared for what awaited them over the crest of Michael's Hill. They gasped almost as one being as they approached a vision of such radiant loveliness that she - for this particular angel seemed not so tall or majestic as angels are expected to be, but was rather small and delicate - and, yes, distinctly feminine. When they talked about it later, there was much argument among them about just what they saw. Some reported a raven-haired beauty with bright blue eyes, some a young girl with green eyes and fiery red hair. Others swore her hair was like spun gold and her eyes large and brown as a fawn's. She wore a soft flowing robe that shimmered with a rainbow of colors - or perhaps, like the angel herself, simply reflected back that color which most deeply touched and comforted the eye of the beholder, for as one man remarked "did you ever see threads of such fine silver," his companion gaped at him in astonishment and said, "Silver? It wasn't silver! Why it was greener than the greenest emerald." And his old mother, standing at his side, rebuked him saying, "Why you're both fools. Her robe was as blue as the bluest summer sky with just a hint of clouds in it." And so on.

But about one thing almost everyone agreed: The expression on her face was so tender and gentle, so full of love and compassion and goodness that all the anger and hate which had brought them surging up Michael's Hill simply disappeared. Most dropped their weapons and fell to their knees, not so much in awe, as in delight. And even when they looked away, it was as though the angel's loving gaze washed over and through them, cleansing away aches and pains, not just of the body, but more incredibly, even the most ancient wounds to their spirits and hearts.

Orphans felt themselves wrapped in a mother's love and knew themselves orphans no more. The lonely and bitter felt her hand in theirs and realized that they had never truly been alone. And the poor and hungry knew that from that moment on, they would be rich beyond material measure and their hunger no longer gnawed at them. This moment in the angel's sight made them richer than any king. And the rich - well, suddenly they saw their riches for the paltry treasures they were - and, both worse and better - they felt the hunger in some of their companions and were moved with compassion and a desire to share.

And at the same time they began to feel her song. Which is, of course how one must "hear" an angel's song, not with the ear, but with the heart. Then, one by one, they began singing too so that her song became part of them and they part of her song. They understood as they sang that she would leave Michael's Hill and bring her song to others, but that she would never truly depart because she was part of them now, in their hearts and voices - and, yes, in their eyes and their smiles.

At sunset, as mysteriously and unceremoniously as she had arrived, the angel vanished. But her song lingered on.

Among the villagers, there were a few who wanted to build a great shrine to commemorate the miracle of the angel on their hill, but wiser heads and hearts prevailed. "Don't you see, we are the shrine. We must keep her song always in our hearts, and if we must build something, let it not be some fancy, empty temple, but a place of good works: a school, perhaps, or a shelter for those who are hungry or cold, a place of companionship for those who are lonely and sad. Let it be a gathering place for love and healing. And let it always and forever be a place of song."

And that is the story of the day the angel came to Michael's Hill and sang her song. If you listen carefully, perhaps one day you, too, will hear and be glad.


The painting at the top of the post was painted in 1889 by American Artist Abbot Handerson Thayer.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

GENUINELY Wordless Wednesday: Mostly Birds & Plants

(Please scroll down for Creative Photography/Ruby Tuesday)


I DID it! I was wordless... except for this.... Have a great week

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Creative Ruby Tuesday.... Sort Of....

Maryt/The Teach over at Work of the Poet has something called Ruby Tuesday which featuring all things red and this week - I hope it's legal to do this - I thought I'd merge it the Creative Photography thing. Here's what happened (not that it matters, but)... I did have a couple of red things but I didn't really feel very happy with them and so I started fooling around with some pictures. I didn't want to just dye something red by colorizing it because that just seemed - I don't know - I just didn't want to do it. And then I remembered that somebody sometime posted something and explained how she did it and I thought, "hmmm... maybe I could try that. As a result. The crow on the wire in the first photo got a dye job and the purple flower in the second got very red in the blooms. Silly, but I kind I learned a new trick with Paintshop Pro and that always delights me. So these are weird and questionably creative, but, heck, I had fun and the are red. In fact I had so much fun that I added a third one... and then I thought maybe I should add the originals too...

Well this has been posted for about an hour or so and two people have said kind funny things but I have to say that I'm kind of freaked out about this. I'm crazy liberal politically, but sort of reserved and conservative in other ways. Messing with birds and flowers and turning them bright red sort of scares me. I just had to say that. And then I have to apologize for saying it because I'm supposed to be breaking the habit of apolgizing, so I'm doing it in very small type.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Alphabet Backwards: F is for Forgiveness with a little Responsiblity Thrown In

(Please scroll down for One Single Impression)

Well, I have to start with the caveat that this is not fresh and new writing. It's something I wrote in May of 2002 and published in the Agoraphobia column I wrote for Suite at that time. I thought it was one of the best things I wrote there and even though I have backslid as far as leaving the house, and some of this material is dated (in October it will be 20 year since my sister's murder), I still think that I actually have something to say here. (Dear Dianne and others who tease me... Please take note that I am actually not only not apologizing, but almost bragging.... uh, oh... now I'm going to get in trouble with the gods...) Anyway, rather than try and update it, I am posting as it was written 6 years ago.

"I am responsible. Although I may not be able to prevent the worst from happening, I am responsible for my attitude toward the inevitable misfortunes that darken life. Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have - life itself." ~ Walter Anderson ~ (American Trainer, Author)

Well, I was completely stumped for something to write this week. Just didn't have any ideas that really seemed to resonate with me until I received an email with the above quote in it. I had a fairly intense response to the quote both because I think it's a wise and true statement and also because it's author carries the same name as the boy - well, I guess he is a grown man now - who murdered my sister thirteen years ago. How very peculiar to see such words attached to his name.

Although the quote doesn't actually use the word forgiveness, that is certainly one of the talents we need to master in order to move past certain events in our lives. That said, forgiveness is one of those peculiar words which has been so laden with gobbledy-gook over the years that instead of being a source of healing, for many people it has become a source of perpetual pain. As with almost everything in this life, forgiveness is not - as most of us have been taught - about the other person. It is not about overlooking cruelty or injustice or even forgetting it. It isn't about letting the other person off the hook. It's about letting OURSELVES off the hook. Ours is the only life we have any control over anyway. Forgiveness is not about perfection on anyone's part. It is not even really about goodness as is so often implied in both cultural and theological teaching. In truth, usually no matter where our anger is aimed, it is ourselves on some level whom we do not forgive.

In an odd way, I think forgiveness - or maybe the inability to forgive - is about being stuck in time, about remaining hooked to a past which we refuse or fear - or simply don't know how - to outlive. How do we put something like incest or murder or any profound betrayal behind us? These things impact us to the core of our being. They change who we are. Often they shatter who we are, or - more accurately - who we think we are.

As I have written before, part of what held me in my apartment for the ten years when I had such difficulty leaving it, had to do with being unable to process (move beyond/forgive/let go of) a series of profound traumas (sex abuse memories, my sister's murder, estrangement from my brother, physical injury, the death of both of my parents, and so on). In the face of all this, I lost my sense of who I was and how to navigate through the old familiar channels by which I avoided dealing with many painful truths which I had spent my life pretending weren't there. I had been trained in that lethal form of pseudo-forgiveness which involves smiling sweetly, swallowing your own pain and keeping peace at all costs. I had been trained to live by a twisted version of "Christian love" and forgiveness that relieved everyone but me of responsibility for their actions. If being raped made me sad, what was wrong with me that I could not put it behind me? If my brother was cruel, where was my goodness if I expressed my pain?

This kind of false forgiveness, whereby we pretend to not have our feelings, traps us perpetually in those feelings and leaves us hopelessly unforgiven for our own exquisite humanity. I spent almost 40 years being generously compassionate to everyone but myself. The implication of what so many of us are taught in this life is that compassion and anger or grief and pain are somehow opposites, that it's an either or choice, but that's just not the truth. When we are incapable of having compassion for our own pain, when we box it up and refuse to own it, to take responsibility for it, then generous as our hearts are, forgiving as we pretend to be to those who hurt us, we are living an unconscious lie that ties us forever to our past pain.

Which brings me to the word responsibility. In my upbringing, responsibility was some sort of burden that I was supposed to carry around. To be responsible was to be to blame. It encompassed the pain of all humanity. It implied guilt. If there was pain in the world (including my own), it was my fault. I am not alone in this. It is, to greater and lesser degree, how many, if not most of us, are trained to function. Even in a positive context - "she was responsible for saving the world..." - there is something onerous and burdensome about that word. I know that it can be used in a positive way, but I would be willing to bet money that more than 90 percent of the population of the world, hearing the question, "who's responsible for this," hears it in expectation of some form of criticism.

So what, in a healthier world, what should responsibility mean? Most New Age books that I read redefine it as "the ability to respond," which I find a tad cutesy and not very helpful. I think that it's more meaningful to say that responsibility is about taking ownership of our responses, our feelings - all of them, regardless of what those feelings are. My wonderfully wise former therapist used to tell me that I stayed inside because I could not avoid having feelings when I went out into the world. (That's also, by the way, the reason that many of us over eat, particularly sugar-based foods - because it numbs our feelings.) No matter what anyone tells you, there are no wrong feelings. I've said it before but it needs to be repeated over and over because so much of the pain in this world stems from the false belief that there is something wrong with feelings of anger or pain or hurt or even hate. What's wrong is getting stuck in those feelings and what gets us stuck in them is the belief that we shouldn't have them, because it makes us try to pretend them away rather than letting them move through us and be gone.

This negation of our feelings, this false notion of responsibility, is how - hopefully I'm getting to the point - we get stuck in time and why forgiveness, especially forgiveness for ourselves is such a difficult task for most of us to accomplish. Many of us race through life trying to outrun these feelings. We keep our minds constantly occupied. We take on super human loads. We try to stop pain wherever we see it, partly perhaps from nobility, but also to stop our own pain from being awakened by it's siblings, from surfacing and overwhelming us. I think agoraphobia may often take over when the load of pain and guilt gets so heavy that we can no longer out run it. We are immobilized not by our pain or our sorrow, but by our fear of those feelings.

If we taught our children to ignore the pain of putting their hands into the flame of a stove burner, we would be very rightly locked up for child abuse. Teaching children to swallow their anger and sorrow is the emotional equivalent of holding their hands in the flames and praising them for not screaming in agony. It is a form of learned insanity which is passed from generation to generation. The good thing, the place where hope lies, is that it can be unlearned. We can teach our children (inner and outer) that it is not a crime to be human, that Love (God's and our own) is unconditional, relentless, all-encompassing and eternal. In the end, we can only truly treasure life, when we allow ourselves and those around us to live it in all it's random, awesome, mysterious, confusing, and exquisite beauty and ugliness.

I know I'm on my soap box today and it always embarrasses me when I find myself standing up there. I usually wind up there when I feel like I am touching on a vein of pain so deeply entrenched in both my own and our collective psyches that to tackle it feels like shouting into the wind, when something in me wants to run from person to person and lift away hurts which are so big that we almost don't know we are feeling them. We deserve better treatment than we give ourselves. We deserve to be forgiven for being fallible. We deserve love. And even though it embarrasses me to say it, even though I may not know you, I need to say that "I love you." And now I need to run blushing into a corner and hope you will forgive me for saying so.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

One Single Impression: Faces

This week's prompt for One Single Impression was "faces." A hodge-podge today. Eight haiku, two tankas (my first ever). . . and an old poem that I posted back in April. I tried to make a nice collage of faces - and I did - but then I was worried that I didn't have people's permission to show their wonderfulness and I couldn't figure out a way to disguise them without making it just ugly, so... no decoration today, just words... except for Memling, down at the bottom.

How did I not see
The ugliness in your face
When I still loved you


How did I not see
The sweet kindness of your face
Until I knew you


Faceless in the grave
I wonder what your life was
Centuries ago


Why won’t you face me
Why not say what it’s about
So I can have peace


Faceless demons taunt
Their hateful words spewed at me
From inside my mind


My sister’s children
In your faces I see hers
And know she lives on


It’s not the features
That make a face beautiful
It’s the soul inside


I want to make peace
With the face in my mirror
Why does she mock me?


Face it, he intoned
You'll never amount to much
Like he'd cast a spell
I believed that lie for years
Until one day I woke up


Just seeing your face
Tells me miracles are real
I'm not your mother
But I love you like I was
Deep inside my cells and bones

I'm going to add one more. I've posted this before - back in April - but it is truly about a face, so I thought I'd share it again here, with the accompanying art that inspired it. If you are interested in the story behind it, you can check back here.


I see your face
Staring across centuries of canvas
And I am drawn through time by your magnetism
I know I loved you once, or would have,
You look so much a part of me
With that quiet fanaticism
Maybe we were lovers in another incarnation
And it was so fine that neither of us has forgotten
In the five hundred years since you were you
And I, whoever I was then.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Saturday Wordzzle Challenge: Week 23

(Please scroll down for Skywatch Friday)

This is week 23 of the Saturday Wordzzle challenge. Anyone new to the process can refer back here to find out how it works. Special thanks to Jeff B who sent me a wonderful list of about 60 words and phrases to take me through the next few weeks.

The words for this week's
ten word challenge were: follow-up, buffalo wings, silversmith, furniture, as the crow flies, little red roadster, photograph, pencil pusher, argument, streaking

And for the Mini Challenge: Ireland, mashed potatoes, book worm, fog horn, T.S. Eliot

Here's my ten-word offering for this week.

Martha wished she could get to Dinkledorfen as the crow flies instead of having to drive her little red roadster on twisting mountain roads, especially since there wasn’t even any place for her to pull over and take some photographs of the scenery, which was indeed quite beautiful. She was not adventurous by nature. No, she was a born pencil pusher who preferred shopping for furniture to pretty much any other sport around. About the most daring thing she had ever done (by her standards) was to eat buffalo wings at a greasy spoon in Idaho followed up by the worst and greasiest french fries ever made. She considered herself fortunate to have survived. That was as daring as she got, unless you counted streaking her hair that time, but she had only been 13 and all the girls were doing it, so it hardly seemed… but back to the point… she was not adventurous. She was not a driving mountain roads in Germany kind of girl. She was, however, a woman who didn’t like losing an argument and she would prove to that snotty, dim-witted Belinda Bigshot (who thought she knew everything), that the famous silversmith of Dinkledorfen was, in fact, both a distant cousin of Paul Revere and the greatest llving craftstmen in the world today – that is, if she survived the drive up this stupid mountain and lived to tell the tale.

And here's my mini challenge:

No place has better writers and poets than Ireland, Susan stated, serenely convinced of the rightness of her words. “What about T.S. Eliot, you boring book worm,” her brother asked, just to annoy her. (She loved T.S. Eliot.) “Well, of course T.S. Eliot is great,” she sputtered, “but the Irish as a whole… “She was interrupted by her father making a loud fog horn sound followed by, “Why don’t you both shut up and pass me the mashed potatoes. And also I’d like some tomatoes… Now that’s poetry,” he slurred drunkenly, and the children knew that conversation was over for the evening.

And the mega challenge:

Preparing to do her follow up report on the local silversmith and furniture maker, Reginald Ireland, who reputedly also made the best buffalo wings in the Sullivan county (yes, they were doing a follow-up report!), young reporter T.S. Eliot, briefly considered driving her little red roadster off the nearest cliff. She had gotten into an argument with her boss about the assignment to no avail. “You want to be a reporter or a pencil pusher?” he had snarled at her. “If the answer to that question is ‘reporter,’ your next assignment is to interview that wacky bookworm woman who wants to restore the fog horn and preserve the Streaking Island Light House by turning it into a library. And I want lots of photographs.” That assignment at least had some potential, she mused, and Reginald Ireland did have the virtue of being quite handsome and rather witty. He had also once starred in a soap opera called As the Crow Flies. Apparently, the secret of his buffalo wings was coating them with – you heard it here first – mashed potatoes. There was a good chance he was going to ask her out and dating a handsome ex soap star who could cook was not an altogether unpleasing idea. Looked like things might be going her way after all.


This week's vanity wordzzle used the words: Recipient, rose quartz, UPS, yellow pages, the year 2000 computer problem, thermometer, flame, brandy snifter, electric toothbrush

What with the end of the world scheduled, Sylvia Johnson did not really see why people were so worried about the year 2000 computer problem. But then after she had had a few drinks, Sylvia tended to wonder why people worried about anything at all. She was not much of a drinker as a rule, but today had been one of those days, and she thoughtfully took another sip from the large crystal brandy snifter balanced between her hands. It has been one of the most horrible days of her life and she was tired to the bone. Aside from the fact that George had left her, finally, after years of threatening, the people at Publisher’s Clearinghouse had assured her that she was to be the recipient of a large sum of money on this very date. She had dressed herself neatly in preparation. (She did not intend to appear on TV in dressed only in a towel like some people.) And she had waited, and she had waited. Then finally, at 4:00 PM the bell had rung and she had run breathless to answer, only to find the friendly UPS man with a package for her neighbor. Some stupid electric toothbrush or thermometer or something according to the box. Insult to injury. The only delivery had been for someone else. Now it was 11:00 p.m. and as she stared wearily into the candle flame her eyes filled with tears. Sniffing them back she quickly gulped down the remaining brandy and rose shakily to her feet. Now what was she to do? At least with the money she could have hired a good lawyer, made sure she got her due from dear old George. Now she would have to resort to a lawyer from the Yellow Pages, if she could even afford that. It was so unfair. She hurled the empty brandy snifter against the wall and watched it shatter. It would be a nuisance to clean it up, but she had always wanted to do that or something like it, something high drama and passionate like they did in the movies. So perhaps the day was not a total loss after all, like her life. What had been the point, she wondered of all those years. A waste, a terrible waste. But even as she said that, here eyes fell on the large rose quartz heart that her daughter had sent her for her birthday last month and she realized with a start, that perhaps, disappointing and painful as this day had been, her life had not been such a waste after all. And picking up this rediscovered treasure, she went wearily to bed and fell into a gentle sleep clutching that precious heart against her own.


Special thanks to Jeff B for next week’s challenges. Thank you so much Jeff. Thanks to him I have a list of words that will last me for another month or so.

Next Week's Ten Word Challenge will be: ghastly, excrement, bill of sale, vague, thicket, precarious, life long ambition, gunnery sergeant, posthumous, bellowed

And for the Mini Challenge: lap of luxury, yellow-bellied sapsucker, quinine, generalization, abnormality

Thanks for playing. For those who are new, here are some guidelines to make the process more fun.

Enjoy! See you next week.


I don't know why Mr. Linky has vanished from sight. He is still there. If you click on the little empty square, you will find him playing hide and seek.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Skywatch Friday

Please scroll down for the Poem of the Week

This is my 5th time participating in Skywatch Friday after taking a week off last week because I didn't think I could do justice to both Project Black and Skywatch at the same time. That means I'm making up for lost skies this week, so to speak. Drop by and check out hundreds of links to awesome, varied and beautiful sky scenes from around the world.

Sky Watch Friday is hosted by Tom at Welcome to Wigger's World and I hope you'll make it a point to visit his wonderful site as well. He takes awesome photos.