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.

FULL DISCLOSURE in the face of recent events

Version 2

The bumblebee I have been eyeing is having a hard time of it with the evening primroses, whose petals at high noon have mostly collapsed into soft mush. Every 3rd or 4th wilting bloom she lands on, she manages to work her way in to where the nectar is. Soon she gives up and goes for the easily accessible stalks of liatrus.

This morning, I am working at having a FULL DISCLOSURE heart and soul with myself. Because that collapsing evening primrose bloom is the body-mind of my country, spent, folding in on itself, and ready to fall to the ground. And I am the bee who insists: there is still nectar here, there is still something important to be gathered here. Don’t move on just yet.

To stay here, stay here, stay here long enough to weep, that is the challenge.

Last week I was full up with working against multiple deadlines. So when I came off an involuntary news fast the news from Baton Rouge was 3 days old, from Falcon Heights 2 days old, from Dallas, 18 hours old – an eternity in social media time. My heart rose to my throat and dropped to my feet all at once. My body went into its default state: dissociation.

Sorrow and determination, the same two words now rise in me again as they first did after the Freddie Gray Uprising in my home town, and then a few months later after the Charleston church shooting.

And something else, a fierce love for Baltimore.

A Mason-Dixon line city. A gritty city.

The-park-bench-with slogan-at-bus-stops-city: The City That Reads. Believe. Charm City.

Home of Shake and Bake Family Fun Center and HONfest.

The city of Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Lenny Moore, Thurgood Marshall, Henrietta Lacks, Eubie Blake, Billie Holiday. And the city of Francis Scott Key, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Enoch Pratt, Philip Berrigan, Wild Bill Hagy, Barry Levinson, John Waters.

The history of my city and the goodness of its people are both rising up.

Native Americans have lived in this area since the 10th Millennium BCE, but were probably not inhabiting the land when David Jones settled a claim in 1661 on what is now the East Side. Thomas Cole settled the West Side in 1665, then sold it to Jones 14 years later. East and West Bawlamer remain vital cultural distinctions to this day, with Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland “Health Systems” the respective dominant land-holders.

We became the Port of Baltimore in 1706 and Baltimore Town in 1729.  By the early 19th century we were a major port for the slave trade, attracting  slave dealers from Kentucky, Georgia, Virginia and Tennessee. They built slave pens – yes, pens – near Pratt Street, now the major east-west thoroughfare that passes the Inner Harbor, a commercial development and community event and gathering place with a modern history of being inhospitable to groups of black youth.

I get the feeling that most any place I might step in the city I am obliviously treading on history, even holy ground, ground sanctified by suffering.

As individuals, we heal when we come out of memory into the present moment. We do this when we remember. When we bring into awareness our forgotten, suppressed, and frozen griefs and rages. When we feel them in our bodies. When we permit them entry and integration into our psyches and lives instead of acting them out.

This is the journey we seem on the verge of beginning as a nation. Towards naming our disappeared, both owned and owner.  Towards feeling slavery and all its repercussions in the civic body. Towards FULL DISCLOSURE. 

How can safety, justice, freedom,  reconciliation, possibly be realized in its absence? 

And this is likely to be a rough road, given how difficult it is to agree on “facts.” Given how poor we adults are at listening. Given our tendency to make the world over in our preferred image. Given the ways our tribal bonds have taught us to see the “other” as suspect if not outright dangerous.

I sit here, watch the bumblebees, hope the sunshine will thaw me into weeping.

Meantime, in this thirst to know my city, I sip bittersweet nectar, begin to gather historical facts to dignify some few drops of the lifeblood of all those who have been erased from my city’s narrative and living memory.


A wealth of historical facts is available through The Maryland State Archives’ Legacy of Slavery in Maryland – case studies, interactive maps, and a searchable database: http://slavery.msa.maryland.gov