Empowerment through Language...

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Lost & Found: An Epilogue

My favorite the living room
So I told you about my penchant for stuff. Heck, I can't even pack light to travel. You see, I have great stuff...especially the art, because I have so many friends who are artists. Since they are so very loving and generous, my home is blessed with beauty and inspiration.

I like odd combinations and love antiques. A great deal of my furnishings are hand-me-downs, gifts, or from estate sales, all mix 'n match funk but that is me to a tee. When I turned 50, I made a ritual of removing the last piece of "furniture" fashioned from cinder blocks, my facsimile of a t.v. stand. It is fine to have cinder blocks on the deck but within the confines of a grown-ass woman's home, hell no.
Library full of poetry and music/media

People often chastise me or question my attachment. When I bought my house, many asked if I was going to get rid of a lot of my belongings as I packed. I told them no way. What was I buying a house for if I could not have my familiar all around me? Of course, it is 14 years later and there are boxes in the attic that I have not yet unpacked but part of that stash includes books that I have no wall space left to display. Another issue: I am not big on dusting frequently. Oh well.

Although I love looking at my doodads and paintings, my collections of angels, boxes, elephants, and hearts, my rocks and crystals, I have no illusions about it:
  • Number one: I am a bit eccentric, even neurotic, and my stuff soothes me in very particular ways known only to me in the deepest recesses.
  • Number two: my collection of stuff is a reflection of the inside of my mind. Some people even know how to determine my mood or state of being by reading the interior of my home. 
  • Number three: someday I will die and my stuff will go back out into the universe, which is where it came from when it came to live with me in the first place. Some of it will become landfill. Some of it will go to friends and family as a way to remember the light I have held for what is now 60 years. Some of it will be sold to people looking for cool shit or a bargain. I would like the art to be returned to those artists who created it, if I predecease them.
I am merely the steward of this home, this land upon which the house was built, and all the goodies inside. I derive much pleasure from it all. And it is just on loan from the universe.

A few years back, I starting asking my beloveds to tell me if there were things in my collections that they wanted when I pass, items they either have always admired or those that may remind them of me in particular, that would draw me close when I am no longer tangible. I was completely surprised that my innocent query freaked a number of folks out. They would not discuss it. They asked me not to utter such things.
Pie safe in kitchen
But the truth is, none of us gets out of here alive. And contrary to the notions of the pharaohs, the emperors, the popes, and the Koch Brothers, we can't take our shit with us, no matter how elaborate our crypt or how many might be sacrificed with our remains.

I know I am just holding all of this for someone for awhile. I also know it is time to catalog it all. Then, time to finally draw up a will. And figure out who gets my archives. Oh...certainly, my work is cut out for me...namaste...       


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Lost & Found...A Parable in Ten Parts

As so many know, I love stuff. My home is full of it: art, rocks, knickknacks, books, CDs, plants, kitchen gadgets, shoes, photos, more books, pens, ceramics...did I mention books?

I have an attachment to everything that I ever touch and I suffer from a severe issue with paper. Paper just piles up around me in weird ways. I cannot watch those hoarder reality shows because they scare me. I feel so uncomfortable because a part of me so thoroughly understands. But I am not going to explain my neurosis to you or detail the patterns. It is something else that is teasing my sensibilities.

One of the issues of being so attached to physical things has to do with when I lose something. I have had so many lessons from losing things I cherish, mostly in how mysterious the universe is, how inexplicable and marvelously irrational. Sometimes things are just lost forever but sometimes life works in one's favor.

A couple of years ago, I met the marvelous poet Kwame Dawes at the AWP conference. A brief and delightful encounter, somehow we wound up discussing losing things and finding them again. I shared that I have had many moments that gave me reason to pause at the mystery. If I remember correctly, Kwame had also experienced little miracles similar to mine. After mentioning a couple of incidents, I told him that I would share the events more thoroughly when we both had time so, Kwame, in case you are wearying of the Olympics, ponder these weird incidents from my long history of lost and found:

1) Jewelry falls off my body when I need to change my vibration. You folks who have experience in the metaphysical belief systems similar to mine know what I mean; I have had gold bracelets fall off my wrist with no break on more than one occasion after wearing them for months or even years. Once one disappeared while I was on a sofa-surfing reading tour of SoCal. I discovered that it was missing at a reading so it could have been anywhere. Although I had a few moments of distress, I realized that I could do nothing, that it was gone, so I just had to accept that it was gone. I adapted quickly but I have had much practice. After the reading, returning to the apartment where I was staying with friends, as my hosts opened the door, I noticed something shiny on the door jam. There it was, stretched right before me and fully intact, the clasp unharmed. I put it right back on and wore it for a long time, until...

2) The bracelet fell off again, somewhere in my daily running once I returned to Central NY. I looked all over the house. I called a couple of places where I had been. It was gone. I had a little indulgence in my grief and adjusted. One day, many weeks later, I happened to drop my hand along the side of the driver's seat of my car. I do not even remember why I did so but my fingers rested on something thin and familiar. The bracelet was back. Again, unbroken; it had just disengaged from my body. I did not put it back on.

3) Several other bracelets have broken and fallen away but I have found them. I chose not to have them fixed or I waited for a long time. I can take a hint.

4) My dear friend Stazja McFayden went to the UK on a reading tour and to meet up with poets she had met in her many years of organizing and publishing poetry. Shortly after she returned, I received a gift in the mail, a beautiful pair of earrings that had been made in India. I loved them and wore them frequently over the next few weeks. The problem was that the earrings were the kind that just hook into the ear and it was winter, with a need for scarves. One day, I noticed one of the earrings was missing. I was struck with disappointment, especially because of the fact that they were a gift. I looked under the seats of the car repeatedly, remembering the previous experience. I looked everywhere and finally resolved to accept the loss.

Months later, I was vacuuming the house a bit more thoroughly than I often do. I pointed the hose attachment under a small bookcase in my front hall but there was something that it just would not pick up. I thought it was a pebble or something brought in from the outer world. I tried several times but whatever it was just refused to be sucked into the belly of the machine. I bent down to determine what this substance was and, wrapped in a dust bunny was the earring that had been missing. I was so excited! I called Stazja to tell her that her gift had returned, with great relief and gratitude.

5) In 2001, I had the honor of teaching a week-long workshop in Tuscany on behalf of Il Chiostro. On the last day of our time at Villa Dievole, I discovered that the antique white gold wedding ring that I had been wearing as a toe ring for a number of years was missing from my foot. I tore the room apart, shook out the bedding about 20 times, looked under the mattress, stressing, of course. I finally remembered that I had been sitting with my feet dangling in the pool a day or so before. It was worth a shot, especially after some profound prayers to St. Anthony. Deep in the water, below the spot where I had sat, I saw a very small glint. By a miracle, it had not been sucked up into the filtration system. I was able to communicate with the grounds keeper who spoke almost no English that my toe ring was lying on the bottom of the pool at the deepest spot. He took much pity on the sad woman I was and ran to his took shed, where he fashioned some sort of small hook at the end of a long rake handle. He tried over and over to nab the ring, to no avail. I tried to convince him that it was ok, I understood it was too difficult so don't try anymore but he kept poking the stick down into the water, refusing to be defeated. And he wasn't! Joyfully, he brought the little circle up through the cool water and retrieved my grateful smile along with it.

The next day, in a small chapel in Rome, I made a generous offering to the shrine of St. Anthony. It would have been foolhardy to not do so.

6) Another earring tale: a friend gave me earrings for Christmas in the mid 90s. That day, while visiting friends for the afternoon, I discovered that one of my brand new earrings had fallen prey to the scarf factor. I was decidedly bummed, until I discovered the earring on the ground in the snow next to my car.

7) I have a treasured personal item that I have kept close since I was 16, a little nothing other than it means so much to me and has been with me for so long. On the tail end of a trip to NYC, I discovered it was missing. I called my friend in Brooklyn who I had visited the night before but my little doodad was not there. I looked around the apartment where I was staying over and over as I packed up to no avail. I jammed my hand into every pocket of the backpack I had been lugging around for the weekend. Nope. I called my friend in New Haven to see if I had left it on the end table in her livingroom the night I stayed with her. Nope. I was convinced it had slipped out of one of the pockets of my pack while I was rushing the Manhattan streets or jamming onto the subway. When I returned home, I took everything apart and shook the luggage and pack hard but nope. This was a sad loss because so many of my memories seemed to be connected to this one small item. I just could not believe it was gone, no matter how much I tried to release.

Two years later, I was looking for a tissue in the compartment between the front seats of my car; my fingers touched on something small and familiar. There was my little talisman. It had been with me all the time. Go figure.

Now for the three most significant losses, the biggest lessons of just how ridiculously odd and undefinable the universe is:

8) My birth father gave me a silver charm bracelet with I was a little girl. About 10 years ago, I dug it out of a box and asked a friend who deals in vintage jewelry to take a look at it. He said he had links that matched well enough to expand it so I could wear it once again. There were all sorts of emotions tied into the bracelet and memories but I was pleased to have it be a part of my life and I resumed the tradition of adding charms that represent new memories to the collection from my youth. On another trip to NYC, I woke one morning in my hotel room to discover the bracelet was not on my arm. Again, panic. I mean, I was in Manhattan! After combing the room and bathroom, pockets, purse, shoulder bag, some internal whisper told me to pull back the sheets. At the foot of the bed, almost under the mattress, between the top and fitted sheet, I found the bracelet. My heart stopped pounding and I thanked St. Anthony again. Ironically, a few years later, two charms that I had added both fell off without my noticing. Oddly, both charms were connected to individuals with whom I had experienced a falling out. I did not argue with the obvious. But I wear the bracelet as I type, its jingle a soothing melody.

9) After my mother died, there were very few of her possessions that I was able to save for myself and my siblings, who were all quite young when she passed. One piece I did manage to retrieve was a small gold ring with a single pearl that her father had sent her one year, fashioned by an Asian jeweler when she was a young mother. I wore it for years. One summer in the early 90s, I went with my dearest friends, Linda and James, and their daughter Adelle, for a vacation at our favorite spot, Sunset Beach, NC. We stopped at Linda's sister's in Virginia the first night of the journey, since it takes 12 hours or so now to get there but then the speed limit was still at Nixon's 55 mph so it was a longer journey. Plus, we had a kid with us and no air conditioning in the van.

Generally, when I go to the ocean, I remove all my jewelry the first day so I can play with reckless abandon. The last day of our 2-week stay, I was packing and started to put my adornments back on. Everything was there but Mommy's ring. This was devastating. My mother had been gone since I was 14. It was losing a part of her body, one that protected me in some odd way. Again, the tearing everything apart, the alarm sent out to everyone in the house, the pain of loss, the frustration.

We could not find the ring and I resigned myself to the fact that the loss of the ring did not diminish my memory. It was time to become much more of a Buddhist and I eventually resigned myself to my bare finger.

Fast forward 3 years. Linda came over one evening to hang out. We talked for nearly an hour. All of a sudden, her hand caught my eye. I asked her if I could look closer and then I exclaimed, "You are wearing my mother's ring!!!...The one I lost at the beach!!!" I looked again in case I was delusional but was Mommy's ring on my dearest, longest-term friend's hand. How to explain that?!

It turned out that Linda's sister had visited a few weeks before and, for some reason, brought her jewelry box with her. The sisters had compared their bling. Linda noticed the sweet little gold and pearl ring in the box, which her sister said she had found it around her house with no idea where it came from. Linda suggested that she would have the worn pearl replaced as a birthday gift to her sister so she was wearing on her finger until she could get to her favorite jeweler. She was planning to see him to drop off the ring the next day. If she had not come over for tea and a chat, I would never have seen the ring. I would never have experienced the miracle and the wonder of it all, the synchronicity, the serendipity, the WTF?!

And now, for the last and most recent:

10) My lovely and profound friend, Jill Ouikahilo, took a life-changing journey to India at the end of 2013, which she chronicled on Facebook and Twitter (@jill44heartsjourney). She brought me a gift of, yep, you guessed it...earrings. Gorgeous earrings with small amethyst beads. I loved them. Jill is a deeply spiritual woman and a great source of guidance and strength for me so the earrings were particularly dear. She is also the person who nominated me for the Unsung Heroes Award. The ceremony was just a week after her return. I wore the earrings that evening, again a night that required bundling up against the cold. When I undressed for bed after the glorious evening, one of the earrings was missing. You can anticipate my emotion...

I became obsessed. Shook out the coat, hat, scarf again. Walked out in the bitter night to trace my steps from curb to door searching the snow. Tossed and turned all night. Planned to call Carrier Dome the next day to see if someone found it under our table. That was not likely; there had been 2,000 people at the dinner. I was going to ask the friend who drove to search under the seats of her car. I was going to call every person I hugged to see if it had gotten tangled in their scarves. I had nightmares. I prayed to St. Anthony.

In the morning, as I unloaded the dish drain of the dishes from the day before, I heard a clunk against the stainless steel. There was the earring! I gasped. I immediately said a prayer of gratitude to the saint once again. I was relieved and amazed.

I was also still recuperating from pneumonia so I was housebound. I took a shower, dressed in winter warmth, wrapped my throat with my pashmina from my trip to India in 2007, and put the earrings back in my lobes. After a couple of hours of puttering and reading, I needed a nap. As I prepared to climb back into bed, I was going to remove the earrings. One was missing! AGAIN?! Come on! What was this about? And where could it be? I went nowhere. How could I have lost it again? I searched my chair, digging my hand deep into the springs beneath the cushion. I moved furniture, swept and vacuumed thoroughly. I reorganized my piles of yarn and knitting. I searched for a couple of weeks. I just could not admit that the earring was gone. It was too illogical. I can see if I were in the Big Apple, but my livingroom? No way.

Again, we fast forward to late last week. I was doing some chores around the house and, as I walked past the pie safe in my kitchen, something caught my eye, a glint, a bauble on the top. Bear in mind that I look at the top of this furnishing daily multiple times. I store all of my dishes on its shelves. I walk through that door next to it countless times daily. This time, for no reason that can be rationalized, there was my missing earring. Strange but true. I was reunited with my gift. Once again, I made my offering to the saint. Once again, I marveled at the inexplicable. And this time, I put two little stoppers on the hooks behind each lobe. I have not taken them off since.