Dust, dirt, time lurk in the corners of our lives

Neglected corners

Dust, dirt, time lurk in the corners of our lives.

Since spring, I have purposefully and energetically dug into many neglected corners of the house we have lived in for 33 years. That is when we decided to undertake refinishing our wood floors and freshening the paint on our walls. During the months of preparation, my home office, otherwise known as “the back kitchen,” got a pretty thorough purging and re-organizing: but Life instructed me to get deeper into its corners, then turned up some treasures.

I was rehanging a freshly laundered valence when the curtain rod slipped out of its fabric track and fell down behind a heavy wooden file cabinet. I pondered my choices, then reached for a yard-long dowel we keep handy for retrieving wayward spatulas that fall behind the stove. Reached next for a flashlight to see how the curtain rod had landed, and where to apply the dowel to moving it out of this tight and otherwise unreachable space.

 

An odd assortment of objects gone missing

There were other shapes visible, though I couldn’t make out what they were, so like a golfer teeing up one practice shot after another, I kept whacking away until all the items heaped up within reach.

Fallen leaves in various stages of disintegration from a Money Tree that had lived on top of the filing cabinet for years. The Pachira aquatica prospered my creative life until it grew spindly and tall. Repotted and relocated to another room, it no longer thrived.

A Palm Pilot that served as my right hand in the nineties and early aughts: it was my PDA (Personal Data Assistant) after all, with it’s quaint stylus: address book, daily list-maker and calendar. It met its demise not long after the Iphone debuted in 2007.  The sueded protective case is held together with carpet tape, much like my current Iphone case is held together by rubber bands. My Palm Pilot has a sweet heft in the hand, and holds mysteries of folly and wisdom: for several years I used it in place of a paper journal. No longer retrievable, the mysteries remain.

A small framed photograph of the sun rising over Mt. Mandagni (Fire Mountain) that I took during a1991 pilgrimage to Gurudev Siddha Peeth in Ganeshpuri. At that time it was not  unusual for me to be up at sunrise. The first Persian Gulf War began while I was there. On this trip I received the sole personal verbal command from my Guru: “Take rest.” A command I have practiced to great benefit from many angles, from the most literal to the probably fantastical over the years since then.

Three Perelandra Nature Cards carrying the following quite relevant “answers” to current life situations as well as to some long-forgotten questions:

The first, partly encrusted with something brown and unidentifiable, reads: Empathy – Moving forward with care.

The second lightly stained card reads: Balance in Partnership – The focus on the elements of one’s partnership with nature.

The third card, hardly discolored, reads: Woven Oneness – The serenity, softness and inner peace of a parent who is at one with his/her child. Supporter, teacher, nurturer.

The real treasure here is that time has collapsed in this odd collection of forgotten objects, these particulars, and pulled “me” right along with it. And so these objects are not the stuff of nostalgia-only, but speak to and act on the present moment. 

So whether your neglected corners are literal or metaphorical, keep your hands and heart open.

The healing I needed, not the one I wanted!

I regret and am embarrassed to report that the socio-drama in which I participated did not give me the healing I wanted. It only took me deeper into my grief, and left me untouched by the empathy that opened up for more than one of my friends, who could simultaneously see the terrorist in themselves and summon compassion.

Our group had selected a headline about ISIS from among five story banners in the morning’s New York Times. Our highly skilled facilitator then had us establish a time and place: we settled on Grand Central Station, 2:00 on a Friday afternoon. Roles were assigned: a shopkeeper, a cop, a businessman, a little girl on her way to see her first Broadway show with her mom, a terrorist. I watched as the players got into role, the shifts in body language, facial expression, as they moved through the space. Every once in a while, the facilitator invited our questions for the characters.

The story played out: the cop confronted the terrorist, shot him, detonating his explosive vest, raining havoc and death, and drawing forth strength and compassion among the walking wounded.

Here is the cop’s story: I’d only been on the job a week, I didn’t want to move in on him too fast. I didn’t want to fall into profiling him and overreacting. And the terrorist’s: my people, they are getting killed, I have to do something.

Here’s (some of) my story:

I can’t solve suicide bombings.

I can’t solve evil. Even we can’t solve evil.

I hope I never get to the end of my grief.

I know my own rage can rise up with a killing strength and desire in the face of the most mundane challenge.

I struggle with helplessness, despite the true and simple guidance I was gifted with by mentor Michael Broom nearly 30 years ago: You’re not helpless, you know.

I struggle to answer the question periodically posed to me: what is worth dying for?

I can delve into the dark history of racism and engage in education, in protest, in community action and turn away from inquiring into my own tribe’s history of pogroms – one of which drove my grandfather from his Polish village and then to America at a young age. From inquiring into the Holocaust, though my husband fled Germany for England in his mother’s arms just before his first birthday. From inquiring into the rise of anti-Semitism.

Amazingly, wonderfully, I can still be true to a life of practice, true to my imperfect humanity:

I have permission to be a fool and a wise woman.

I have built up some muscle for turning directly toward what terrifies me, and a passel of teachers, friends, and fellow-travelers to encourage me.

I can keep engaging, keep listening, keep wrestling with myself about when and how to speak up in my life, in the life of my city, my country, my world.

I can even love the healing I got – the one I needed – which points me right at the inner work at hand.