Monday, December 26, 2016

BROKEN BEADS BLUE SKY

The beads had broken and scattered over the backstage floor. They had been her mother’s—four strands, with a tiny crystal between each rose-colored iridescent bead, and a gold filigree clasp. She remembered gazing at them, touching them, rolling them in her small fingers, as she sat on her mother’s lap. That was so many years ago.
When she was 21, her mother had warned, “Don’t marry that man,” but she did. 

On her wedding day, only a few months after her mother had died from an aggressive cancer, she had begged her father, “Don’t let that woman sit next to you where Mom was supposed to be,” but he did.

On her honeymoon, under a clear blue sky on an island beach, she lay on her tie-dyed scarf, the sun beating down, with a cool breeze off the surf as the tide came in. She called to her husband as he walked along the waves. “Don’t be long,” but he was. She waited alone until the sun was going down—the wind chilling her to the bone. The once clear blue sky seemed to resemble her transparent scarf, now wrapped around her shoulders—fading blue, streaked with gray and yellow, which made her cry.

Since then, he had been “disappearing,” leaving her to wonder and worry: Where does he go? How long will it be until he returns? Does he ever realize he is missed, or even that he is expected back at all? Doesn’t he remember that he intended to finish fixing that door, that he was supposed to meet me for lunch, that he will miss dinner with the family—again? Whenever she tried to figure out the how and why of it, her thoughts raced to a vanishing point. She told herself it didn’t matter after all.

What worried her most was her husband's patients showing up when he might not be there to receive them. One day the few remaining appointments were cancelled, and he “retired” from a dwindling career. Later they learned there was good reason for her husband’s seemingly inconsiderate antics. Finding the reason did not change things much, even with medication and therapy. It could not be fixed; She would have to adjust to the new reality—and struggle to transform her denial into acceptance, her impatience into tolerance, and her resentment into understanding—the contraries! 

These were the thoughts that arose in her as she looked for and collected the scattered beads. She had brought in some of her mother’s jewelry for the high school girls to wear in their roles as aristocratic, Victorian ladies: the beads, broaches and earrings. One of the careless girls tugged at those strands of memories, sending the beads into the shadows behind the stage curtains. Christina would take them to a shop for repair. The beads would be back on all four strands—like new. What was wrong with that girl anyway?

She liked finding use for what she had salvaged from her childhood home in a forlorn, upstate New York town. Besides the jewelry, she had a yellow Bakelite clock in the shape of a teapot hanging in her kitchen above the stove. There were six ruby red wine glasses, a set of dishes trimmed with dogwood flowers, hand-painted Italian bowls—arranged in the glass-front cabinet, as her mother kept them. Most cherished were old letters and cards she had found in her mother’s desk after the funeral—touchable memories to take in her hand, hold to her heart for comfort  when she could not mange be accepting, tolerant or understanding.

Driving home this night, she kept thinking, Things are breaking, coming apart, irreparable. That very morning, as she dressed for the long day, she had brushed against and dislodged the small plate hanging on the wall—the one her mother had given her before entering the hospital for the last time. On the sky-blue and white memento, written in silvery script was: “Baby Christina Marie - Born November 10, 1974 - 7 pounds 3 ounces.” She left it shattered on the floor.

Almost home now, she loosened her fingers on the wheel as she drove down the tree-lined street. She recalled the sense of freedom she had once felt, driving east on the Massachusetts turnpike to her uncharted life—to all that was still ahead of her, singing out, “Boston, you’re my home.” 

Later, she found she had to get away from her new home when, once too often, her husband didn’t show up for dinner, or she had to make excuses to angry patients, or he had forgotten to call for heating oil, and she came home to a frigid house. Then there were those maddening, one-sided conversations—constant interruptions, with unrelated questions and non-sequiturs until she had to laugh or go insane. Who am I living with anyway, Salvatore Dali? She usually laughed, but when she could not, it was time to flee.

She would pack up the car and head west with her two small children to visit her father, but that also meant seeing the woman he married—the one who had seen fit ,without consideration, to take her “rightful” place as the new wife next to Christina’s father in the church pew—the one who ever-after resented the futile request of the motherless bride.

Once, during one of those spontaneous trips, that awful woman had called Christina selfish and disrespectful when she had said, “I’d like the kids to eat before Dad gets home. They are usually in bed by eight, and it’s been a long day…with the drive.”

“Well, your father won’t be here ’til eight-thrity, so they’ll have to wait. It won’t kill them to not get their way—for once!”

Christina had already laid a crisp white cloth, as her mother had always done. She began to set the table with the her mother’s dishes, she found pushed to the back of the kitchen cabinet. The plates were pure white with a border of green ivy. “I don’t think he would mind if the children ate early, Charlotte,” she tried to reason, and called the children to come to the table, but before her words out, there was the sharp sting of Charlotte’s hand across her cheek.

“You never could show respect. Well, you don’t get your selfish way around here anymore!”

Christina dropped the plate she was holding, put her hand up to her face and blinked back the hot tears welling up, so the children wouldn’t see, but they heard Charlotte’s harsh words. They saw the broken plate and their mother lean over to pick up the pieces.

Charlotte grabbed plates already on the table and the shards from Christina’s trembling hands. She tossed them into the trash can. “There! I’ve been meaning to throw those old things away.” She removed a set of drab brown dishes from the cabinet and held them out to Christina. She pointed to mismatched glasses on the shelf: a Coke glass, one with Peter Pan and the Darling children flying away, and three others painted with watermelon slices. “Now, finish the job, and we’ll wait for your father to come home!”

Christina mechanically went around the table with the dishes and glasses., taking solace in thoughts of her mother’s thin-stemmed, ruby-red glasses in her own cabinet at home. Can people be replaced like broken china? In the quiet of night, she returned to the kitchen, took the plates out of the trash and put them in her suitcase, intending to mend the broken ones when she got home.

She loved her father deeply, despite his betrayal and “o’er hasty marriage” where,” the funeral baked meats did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables,” lines she had quoted from Hamlet to her husband on the day of what she had referred to as the “unholy union.”

Thoughts of the incident lingered as she parked the car. She shuddered at the memory of it, but hurtful as it was, she also remembered that, when her father arrived home that evening, he had smiled, hugged her and said he was glad she had “come home.” It never felt like home again without her mother. Home…is it a place or a feeling?

She was glad the day was at an end, and that there was a parking place to be had.  Gathering up the bags in the back seat. she heard the rustle of leaves from the chestnut tree at the curb’s edge—a welcome in the balmy night air. She stopped and looked up the front steps with a sigh, worn out and on edge. At least a small weight had lifted with her director duties over for the year. She climbed the steps to the front door, and up the staircase to the second floor landing, where she faced the two rooms: one was open to the shadowy office where streetlights cast dark reflections. Branches and leaves danced on the ceiling and walls, like a crazy light show in the room in the abandoned room.

She pushed open the other door to the living room with her foot and dropped the plastic bags containing a plaid smoking jacket, a blue chiffon dress, brown suede heels, a silver cigarette case, a blonde wig, a straw handbag, a bunch of yellow paper roses, a wooden box with jewelry and a pink satin bag containing the broken beads.

She had intended to go straight to bed, but the sofa looked inviting. Besides, she was too tired to walk the extra few feet to the bedroom. She flopped down, grabbed the remote and found a favorite old movie. Staring at the TV screen, her mind drifted to a meeting with a friend a week ago—the worst day of her life.  As they walked along the beach, the tide rolling in over the deserted, narrow shore, 

Christina told her friend the news she had heard that day at the dreaded doctor’s appointment. There was a long silence.  Then her friend had said, “If we could see things from the highest perspective, it would all be good.” It was thoughtless and rude of her to say that. Hadn’t she just heard the bad news? 

For many years, the women had confided in each other, discussed everything from babies to books. They had pondered whether life had any meaning, and, if so, what it could be. They would look at each other and say, “It is what it is; it will be what it will be.” But now it was different; she knew what was to be.

Together they had read about karma, considered it a more rational alternative to heaven/hell, or nothingness. They neither entirely believed, nor disbelieved that souls chose the circumstances of their existence before birth—ones that would provide the context to live out their karma. They agreed everyone’s life seemed to have theme and pattern, with recurring questions, and challenges to guide them, maybe even a destiny, but also there were choices to be made in life, informed by increasing consciousness and self-knowledge.

Still, Christina thought for her friend to have suggested that anything could be good about the diagnosis was wrong. Is this my destiny? Did I choose it? Can I change it, fix it, get well? Is the highest perspective heaven? And why do I have to sink so low to get there? As thoughts crowded in, she looked around at the cluttered room. She didn’t know what to believe.

Her husband shuffled in and stood in front of her. She was surprise to see he was still awake. Usually, he would be on the sofa asleep or already in bed. After twenty years of marriage, there was no still predicting what she could count on him for, yet he loved her and she loved him; that was never in question.

He was not unfaithful. He was not unkind, and he always wandered back home to her. It had just taken a those years of adjusting and lowering expectations to realize that she could depend on him only for the things he was able to do, and not always for those she wished for or needed. Is it part of my karma, or his? Her mind fogged over with the mystery of it all. She was happy to see him and grateful for those things he could manage.

“How’d it go?”

“Oh, the kids did a great job. We packed the house, and they loved it, but I’m glad it’s over.” Though she was still upset about the broken beads, she didn’t have the energy to tell him about it.

“Want something to drink? There’s some leftover pizza.”

“No, I’m fine. Hey, are you coming with me tomorrow?”

“ Ehh…what time?”

“My appointment’s at two o’clock. I’ll be home around one.”

“I’ll go with you,” he said, padding back into the kitchen then came back with a glass of cranberry juice and a cold piece of pizza.

“I…I don’t think I can eat….”

“I’m going back to bed,” he interrupted, and walked away.

“Okay…I’ll be there in a few minutes,” she called back, wondering whether he would be around the next day, go “AWOL,” as the family came to refer to his absences.

She leaned back against the soft cushions and closed her eyes, listening to familiar banter between Tracey and Hepburn. When she opened them again she saw “THE END” in big white letters on a grainy black background. She roused herself, and, though exhausted, she dreaded another sleepless night. She sat up staring at the bags on the floor, thinking again about high perspectives, low places, broken beads and dishes, karma and cancer treatments.

She felt she didn’t have the strength to undress, but picked up the nightgown she had thrown at the foot of the bed that morning. She saw the shattered pieces of the plate on the floor, and turned away to eased into bed edging back toward her husband until her legs touched his, as was her habit.

Tomorrow is another day, but not an ordinary one. Images of her children’s faces appeared. It had been the hardest thing telling her family—their sadness and apprehension of grief. There was a long silence. Her daughter was in tears, and her son said, “I want you to get well.” Her husband put his head down.

The oncologist had told her she would not get well, and would be “in treatment” for the remainder of time she had left. Since then the talk was only of practical matters: treatments, appointments, and the details of “getting things in order.” She shielded her son and daughter from most of it, taking on the burden of their pain, as well as her own.

Still, she had hope; she had the will to live, if not the strength to think about whatever she had to endure ahead. She wasn’t sure how miracles fit into her life’s theme, her free will or her destiny, but she believed in prayer…and in miracles.

It was another uncharted place—being caught between hope and despair.

“Out of everyone I’ve ever known,” her friend had said, “you are the bravest, strongest, most positive person.” Funny though, she didn’t feel strong, positive or even like a person—but rather like a shadow of the self she tried to build and sustain in this lifetime. She felt parts of herself were missing, wavering, like the quivering branches on the ceiling of the abandoned room at the top of the stairs—a shadow of something real, but not real.

“You love life and live life,” her friend had said, as if 

Christina needed a reminder, especially now. She also was left to hold on to the other thing her friend said, “It’s not over ’til it’s over.”

She closed her eyes, listening to her husband’s quiet breathing, as these thoughts, feelings and images swirled together, faded into the dark future and then into sleep.

In the hospital waiting area the next day, she gazed out the window at the vast, clear blue and cloudless sky.

“Christina,” a nurse called and came over to stand in front of her—blocking out the blue. “We’re ready for you; come on back.”

She got up, looked at her husband—lost child—not even pretending to be strong for her. He smiled and lifted his hand. She carried his smile with her down the long corridor and into the sterile room.

The nurse got her settled on a bed turned up to a sitting position and prepared an IV drip of a bright red liquid. Christina was grateful to be opposite a window with a view of blue sky.

In the closed palm of her hand, she held one of the rose-colored beads. She loved the feel of its smoothness. It had nothing to do with the rest of the beads now. It was beautiful and perfect all on its own.


She closed her eyes and imagined being bathed in the glow of its color and felt herself to be looking down from a very high place—a place where she could see everything exactly as it was

Thursday, May 26, 2016

A MATTER OF TIME

He had given away every last penny of an enormous inheritance—fifty-thousand here, ten-thousand there. He was homeless, but that didn’t matter, only that he missed being able to help others, as he once had done. I found this out when a stranger called me and said Kenny had given him fifteen hundred dollars and told him to see me for as many therapy sessions as the amount would cover. I remember thinking at the time: Inheriting a fortune is everyone’s ultimate fantasy, and Kenny just handed his out like cupcakes at a birthday party!
So, Kenny must have gotten the windfall from his Aunt Molly who had never married, and, as I remember, there was no other family. I met her once when we went to stay at her place on Martha’s Vineyard. And what a place it was! I guess he gave that away too.
“Wait, now let me get this straight,” I said to the caller. “Kenny is broke and homeless, and you are using his last $1500 to get help from me?”
“Oh…well, yeah…I guess… I mean, he said you’d be able to help me. I wasn’t sleepin nights since my dad died, and a lota other things happened too—lost my job, that kinda thing. Kenny said you would help me, and I believe him. He gave me the money before he was homeless though.”
“Yes, I see, that makes all the difference,” trying not to laugh out loud, or cry. I felt bad for being sarcastic, but I don’t think he noticed. “Let’s see what I’ve got here," looking at my calendar. “Next Tuesday at 2 pm, is that good for you?”
“Sure thing, Doc.”
I jotted down his contact info gave him directions, “Okay, see you next week.” After we hung up, I was sorry I hadn’t asked at least a couple of million questions I had formulated in those few minutes on the phone—some of the same ones I’ve had since I last saw Kenny. I knew it would be odd asking my new client questions when we met for the first time. He was the one looking for answers, but I figured I would get at least some of mine answered over time—that is, if he even showed up.
Not that I didn’t want to help the caller; Sam was his name. It’s what I do. I ‘m a therapist, and a pretty good one at that, but, I already resented Sam in a way for taking Kenny’s last dime. I was looking forward to finding out what had happened to my lost lover—lost in every way it seemed. We hadn’t seen each other in a few years, and we didn't part on good terms. It all got too bizarre and too complicated to deal with—even for me.
I told him he needed therapy, but I wasn’t going to be the one to help him sort out his life. That’s when he said, “There’s nothing to sort out, so fuck off.”
It was the last time I saw Kenny. I left in a huff never wanting to see him again. When things had simmered down, I tried to get in touch with him again (and again) over the next few months—texting, calling, emailing, and even writing a good old-fashioned letter—no response. I finally got up enough nerve to go to see him; I really wanted to see him, but he had moved and couldn’t be found. The city is a big place, but it’s still incredible to me that a person can’t be found—even if he doesn’t want to be found. He obviously did not want to be found.
So, Sam did show up for his appointment. We shook hands, and I invited him into my inner sanctum—a quiet room with big cozy chairs, muted colors, diffused light coming in the windows in the day time, and warm, soft lighting at night. I had created a place where my clients would feel comfortable and safe (I despise those words, “comfortable” and “safe”), so they would tell me their life stories, or at least the part of the story before the turning point, or after it as the case might be.
“Hey, Sam, before you tell me about yourself, I’d like to ask something about Kenny. Do you mind?”
“No, Doc, no, I don’t mind at all. Whadaya wanna know?”
“Well, you said Kenny gave you money before he was homeless, but how do you know he is homeless now?”
“Well, I saw him a few days after that night I was at his place...the night he gave me the money. Boy, was I surprised when he did that, but I wasn’t surprised to see him on the streets.”
“Oh? why was that?”
“Well, 'cause I didn’t even know he had any money.”
“No, I thought you meant that you weren’t surprised to see him homeless. Were you? I mean…you were friends, right?”
“Not surprised…no, we weren’t exactly what I’d call good friends or anything like that. He hung out with us at the shelter downtown, so we all knew ‘im, and he was always so nice to everybody. But when I saw his place, it was a mess, and I kinda felt I was in better shape than he was, and he didn’t look good."
“So, you are homeless too, Sam?”
“Oh, no, no, just kinda down on my luck these days. I have a place, but went to the shelter for meals sometimes after I lost my job, and that’s where I met Kenny. He talked to us…never seemed like he belonged there though. I kinda told him my sob story, and he took me back to his place that one night—probably on the worst night of my life. That’s when he gave me the fifteen hundred and told me to call you. I went back to thank him again a coupala days later. I knocked and rang the bell, and just as I was ready to leave, the guy across the hall comes out and tells me Kenny didn’t live there anymore. I saw him on the street about a week later, and he told me he was homeless. I lied to ya,Doc, ‘cause Kenny…he really gave me two thousand dollars cash, but I used five hundred of it for my rent. I asked him to take the rest of the money back ‘cause he needed it more than me, but he wouldn’t. That’s when he told me he inherited money and had given it all away. He said he only wished he had more to give. He said he didn’t need it.”
“Why didn’t you just keep the money and not come here?” I asked, sort of wondering out loud.
With an almost child-like innocence, Sam said simply,       “Well, Kenny told me to come to you; that’s why he gave me the money. He said you would help me.”
“I will certainly do my best," and we began the session.

It felt strange—taking Kenny’s money for my services. I offered to charge half the amount for the sessions, so Sam could go beyond the fifteen weeks it would cover at my regular rate, but he wouldn't hear of it. As the weeks went by, I didn’t learn more about Kenny, but I learned a whole lot more about Sam. He was a simple soul and honorable. I knew I would keep Sam on when the money ran out and hoped he would agree if he felt he needed more time. He was making progress though. He had found a job to keep him afloat, so he didn’t have to go to the shelter for meals, but told me he stopped by there from time to time to see the old gang, but there was no sign of Kenny, and, apparently no one else had seen him either.
“He just disappeared.” Sam said.
“And how did you feel about that? I asked but was thinking, Yeah, I get it. That’s what he did with me too—just disappeared.

Kenny and I met when we were at Columbia, finishing up our degrees—his in philosophy and mine in clinical psychology. It was love at first sight you could say. I was amazed to realize there was such a thing—unexplainable—that kind of attraction. He was intriguing, quirky, quiet mostly—not the small-talk type, but I liked that. I thought later, if I had wanted “normal,” I would have looked for “normal.” No such thing anyway. I know that for a fact!
His hair was dark and wavy, and his eyes were kind--a soft, misty brown. His skin was clear and smooth, like a boy's, but it was his hands that made an impression. They were perfection—a monk’s hands I thought—made for writing on parchment with a feather pen dipped into a pale blue glass ink well. Later, I saw that his handwriting had a grace and elegance about it, reminiscent of those Medieval illuminated manuscripts. And he did a lot of writing— all by hand. He wrote on various, obscure and abstract subjects—scholarly critiques on philosophers or theologians. He was intrigued with the lives of saints. All those original ideas and imaginations he had, and expressed them in such beautiful images, precise analogies, lofty metaphors and clear logic.
Who cared if it were only hormones or pheromones? The attraction was immediate, and I knew he felt it too. I don’t know how he would have described me, or what part of my body he thought was perfection, if any, but the feeling was mutual, passionate, intense—and ultimately doomed. Looking back, there must have been a genetic code for disaster in the nature of our relationship. We were too different, and he gradually ascended, or descended, depending on the way you looked at it, into an unreachable place, intent on becoming a saint himself.
It wasn’t going to work. His mind was like a black hole—sucking everything into it—and nothing escaped—all the facts, knowledge, ideas, probabilities and possibilities. Mine was more like a sieve, holding only what I needed to get through each day—the rest sifted through. Anyway, it’s how I came to think of “us”—opposites. Despite the chemistry, or maybe because of it, it all came crashing down.
“You know what your trouble is, Kenny?” I said during one of our increasingly heated arguments. “Despite your knowledge of philosophy and religion, you don’t really believe in anything, do you?”
We were sitting on his bed in the little room he was living in, piled high with books, strewn with empty wine bottles, half-written papers on his desk, ashtrays crammed with cigarette butts. He stood up, bare-legged in his white boxer shorts. I was already sorry I said anything, and wished we were still in the bed together, so I could put my fingers through his dark, matted hair and wrap my legs around his. He put his hands on his hips, made a half turn away, then back again, glaring at me with those eyes, always shining with an unearthly—maybe even heavenly look. Quietly, almost in a whisper and with a look on his face as if he just had a revelation, he said, “It’s not that I don’t believe in anything. I believe in everything!”
It was hard to have a saint for a boyfriend, as it must have been hard for him to have me, a born therapist, analyzing him in a way no therapist would if she wanted to keep her client. But I wasn’t his therapist; I was his lover and his anchor—I believed that. I had this weird thought—I was him trying to get in, and he was me trying to get out. I needed his ability to soar above it all—to what he might have called the “world of ideas” which encompassed the whole of creation—the only reality to speak of, according to Saint Kenny.
  If he needed me at all, maybe it was for my ability to focus on one thing at a time, to plan and to follow through. Kenny said we complimented each other. He said I thought inductively— from the specific to the general, and he thought deductively—from the general to the specific. Boy, was he deep, which I figured made me shallow. I guess I was shallow in my ambition for my own practice and to make a good living, shallow in my wish to own a piece of real estate in some remarkable location, shallow for my need to take vacations from time to time. My desire for and my pleasure in material things, and all the rest of it, was in direct opposition to what Kenny stood for.
  Like I said, we were doomed.
That became clear after those few days at his Aunt Molly’s. To me, it was paradise— the island in the sea, the blue sky above, brilliant sun pouring through a dream house. I made a big fuss about it. I told Kenny I could see us living life there. I was like a mystic in ecstasy, but not the kind Kenny read about in his Medieval texts. I knew he could have been just as happy in one of those remote, monastic beehive huts on Skellig Michael, off the coast of Ireland —happier most likely.
I snuggled up to Kenny on our first night there. The ocean breeze was cool, the full moon over the ocean—visible from our bed. The fragrance of beach roses and hedge wafting in, and our bodies warm together. I put my head on his chest—which I also thought was pretty perfect.
“What do you say, Ken? Let’s live here. I’ll set up a practice. You could write too, maybe finish a book in the quiet of this place—that book you’ve been working on.”
“It isn’t a book; it’s my theories and my musings.”
“You’ve just been musing all this time, really? Didn’t you ever think of sharing what you’ve learned, what you know?” I’d been wondering about where he was going with his work for a while, along with a lot of other things I didn’t dare mention.
“No, I haven’t thought of it! I’m happy doing what I’m doing, and I don’t want to leave the city. I like the noise and the grit of it and the people—all of them coming and going, even the ones lying on the subway grates. I’ve been thinking about doing something else too, instead of living only for myself. There is so much need out there.”
“You mean like I do—live for myself.” I thought I knew where this was going.
“No, I didn't mean that; you do help people, and that’s a good thing. I wanna do that too.”
“I didn’t know you thought of me as helping anyone. I mean, I certainly try.” I was touched by his comment, as if he needed me for an example of “good,” as he called it. “But, I don’t think I am the greatest example of good, that’s for sure.” I reminded him, “You’ve read, and know so well, the best of the best for inspiration on that score: Socrates, Plato, Augustine, Aquinas, I mean…”
“Well,… I have their ideas, yes, and now I feel like I need to do something with them.”
  I silently agreed.
     When we got back to the city, at first he continued to live in his dark room, thinking and writing. He did some work part time in a library, earning enough to subsist—subsidized by me, which I didn’t mind. I admired his ideals, and I loved him, which meant I made sure we could both live the life I wanted—dinners, plays, weekend getaways—none of which seemed to matter much to Kenny.
Soon after, he took to walking the streets at night encountering all sorts of people who needed help. I began to question his judgement when he would bring back a bag lady or some other disheveled person with wild eyes.
"You may be giving these poor souls something to eat or a coat to wear, but are you effecting any real change in their lives?" I had to ask.
“It doesn't matter if they change their lives,” he almost shouted. “That’s your goal, not mine. I’m happy to help in small ways in a moment of need. You manipulate people and want them to live as you do.”
“You said I did good before, and I thought you meant it. Why are you being so hostile now?“ That’s when I said he needed a therapist—the last thing I ever said to him—a long time ago. We parted ways, and that, as they say, was that. I eventually came to accept that it was all for the best. Kenny was right; I did want him to live as I did, because, I didn't want to and couldn’t live as he did.
Exactly on the fifteenth week of the sessions with Sam, he told me it would be his last one. It kind of took me by surprise, but I had to agree; he was in a good place. “Well, you let me know, Sam, if you need to come in, and remember what I said—no charge, okay?”
  “Yeah, yeah, sure thing, Doc,” he said in his usual matter of fact way.
I had come to look forward to our sessions. I liked Sam. He had a natural kind of wisdom about him, and it didn’t take much to get him to think about things in another way, and he was able to make some changes because of it.  He had been in a rut, but was easily budged out of it. I would miss him; having him around made me feel close to Kenny, strange as that sounds.
“Okay, Sam, you take care, now."
Sam hesitated, then he pulled an envelope out of his pocket and handed it to me. “What’s this?”
“I dunno, but Kenny said to give it to you when we had our last meeting, so here it is.”
  I still can't remember Sam’s leaving the office. I stared down at the envelope in my trembling hand, and fell into one of those cozy chairs to open it. So much time had passed, but no love lost on my side. Was it a suicide note? I found myself thinking crazy things the moment before I opened it, desperately hoping it was the impossible—an invitation to meet him somewhere, anywhere. I wanted to look into those eyes one more time. Those old feelings and memories had been stirred up over the past weeks—rushing in and swirling around flooding my head and heart. 

*****
That was two years ago. I’m settled into my new practice on Martha’s Vineyard. The letter Sam brought from the law firm was a shocker. Kenny willed Aunt Molly’s house to me! When I went to see the attorney, he said he had met with Kenny only once, and didn’t know that much about him, except that he had been sick, even before the inheritance from his aunt. That explained his giving a fortune away, but why will the house to me, after all that time?
I may never know, but I was hoping to find some clues here among his papers left in the room we slept in overlooking the sea: the desk piled with his writings —and shelves full of books, boxes overflowing with his papers—all there for me to live with—alone.
Today, I found that letter I had written to Kenny years ago. When I unfolded it, a small piece of parchment fell out. On it, in his beautiful handwriting, he had written:
     I cannot live with you
It would be life,
And life is over there
Behind the shelf. 

     Wasn’t that the truth! But the lines weren’t exactly a clue—just a confirmation of what I already knew, but now I can’t get those them out of my head.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

MOSS ON STONE - An Excerpt



an historical novella based on the diary of 
Susannah Norwood Torrey (1826 ~ 1908): Publication Fall ~ 2016

Prologue

To have a dream is to remain hopeful—a vision of some future time when all will be well and worry ceases. I have found that when dreams fade, there are other ways, if not to cherish thoughts of the future, or to reflect upon regrets of the past, then to sustain us day to day with a small measure of light—mine were things of beauty—moss on stone.
Now, from this distance of space and time, indeed, the absence of those illusions that do not exist here, I linger, preparing to return to life anew. What did I leave behind? A portrait for others to look upon, a scrapbook of moss designs, a diary, and a stone cottage by the sea. I review my life as one would a colorful tableau, and find that mine was a life worth living. I will tell you something of that life—of dreams,, and dreams fading; of time passing; of dear family and friends, loved and lost; and of people and places changed. Through it all, there were the immutable gifts of nature to renew my soul with unequaled joy, asking nothing in return.

Between the thicket and the wood, lay the sought for valley covered with rocks piled one about another….and these rocks were covered with the most beautiful mosses that I ever saw. 
(Oct. 17, 1849)



Sunday, April 10, 2016

VULNERABILITY

Vulnerability is not a weakness, a passing indisposition, or something we can arrange to do without, vulnerability is not a choice, vulnerability is the underlying, ever present and abiding undercurrent of our natural state…. To run from vulnerability is to run from the essence of our nature, the attempt to be invulnerable is the vain attempt to become something we are not. (David Whyte Poet/Philosopher)

I love these thoughts by poet, David Whyte. They remind me that vulnerability is partly what allows us to be fully human and feel a sense of belonging. Our tendency to try to remain invulnerable prevents us from taking the risk of connecting with others. We are vulnerable when we share our creations in any of the arts; when we are committed to relationships with others, when we empathize with the pain, sorrow, grief and joy of others. We are most vulnerable when we hold ourselves accountable to our highest ideals.

David Whyte suggests that vulnerability is our natural state, because no one of us is in control. We all must face the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” So, it would seem we must change our tendency to remain invulnerable and choose to fulfill our potential to become fully human.

We are the only part of creation able to choose to BECOME.

Does the Biblical verse which says we are made in image of God partly mean that we have the capacity to participate consciously in and contribute to the creation by being creators ourselves--even of our own being? I believe so.

The rest of creation becomes what is meant to be without choice or consciousness: a seed becomes a flower; a larvae becomes a butterfly. All things fulfill their nature without choice or reflection. Humans have the opportunity to choose consciously in small and large ways throughout a lifetime to be better, to be more than we are, to be more whole, to become more true to our higher selves.

We are capable of bringing all manner of new things to creation--first through our unique individuality, then through evolving and transforming, which always involves allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. There are many times when are vulnerable through no choice of our own. Then there are many opportunities to make the decision to allow ourselves to be vulnerable through living fully, loving unconditionally, taking risks and trusting that all will be well.