Monday, December 5, 2011

New Zealand, Dec. 2011

For weeks before I came to New Zealand, I’d been saying, “If I die there, I’ll be cheated of a whole day! Gone! It’ll be as if the sun didn’t rise or set, the stars didn’t shine. And that’s not fair because I will have missed out on something big.”

Never mind that something big is always happening—consider the fidelity with which my heart beats, the tenacity of my diaphragm contracting and relaxing in synchronous breaths, the plasticity of my ever-changing brain, the ease with which my muscles type these thoughts. The demons of obesity haven’t come to claim their share of credit for a heart attack, a drunk driver hasn’t crashed my skull into the dashboard. Furthermore, only infrequently over the course of several decades has this happened to people dearest to my heart—my beloved family and friends.

We all know it only takes a fraction of a second to change a life time. One diagnosis, one mis-step, one electric irreversible emotional jolt. When a loved one says, “I have something to tell you,” we have all felt our hearts pound our ribs, our eyes mist, our muscles tense into near rigor mortis because we fear that moment has come. We all know that each day is a revelation of the unknown and that even the predictable is unpredictable. And yet I never think about it, until I come to New Zealand.

Sitting here at BWI on December 1st, I’ll arrive at my sister’s home on December 3rd, although it won’t be that long in real time. What is still weirder is that when I leave Auckland, I’ll be home in Baltimore that very day, despite having spent 24 arduous hours en route.

Coming to this little strip of land beyond which there is nothing but Antartica, has always been a refreshingly disorienting experience. Words I often utter—such as, if I could live again, if I could do it over, if I knew then what I now know—feel real and materialize into a poignant illusion of a second chance.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Meditation on the Tibetan Mandala

After three days it is beautiful—delicate as lace—symmetrical, triangles and squares in different colored sand overlaid with the most intricate of curlicues, patterns, loops, baubles and a 3-dimensional pattern over pattern, taking several hours a day, four monks at a time, four days of the week. I watch it grow, day by day, a thing of beauty, of infinite patience, of utter impermanence, because two days from now, it will be swept into a pile, a mound of multicolored sand, each grain a different color to be transported to a Jones Falls stream in a procession of eight monks in flowing saffron and maroon, and Anjali in deep blue leading the way—a girl born half American, beautiful like a female monk herself—and the participants of the ceremony in the rear, men, women and children bringing “peace in our hearts and in our city.” (the motto of Anjali’s Baltimore Yoga Village.) And at the river, the sand will be poured and swept away by the stream. And there will be no mandala any more. There will be nothing but the cloudiness of a swept broom, and after the mattress has been swabbed, only the even tone of permanently dyed blue will remain.
So, here at the meditation, the yoga studio is packed to the brim, eyes closed, utter silence except for a collective breath. And yet, the mandala isn’t even complete. God hasn’t even finished creating the world. We gather, each of us, a grain of sand, scattered through the world in rectangles and triangles, cities and continents, on land and islands, each of us a different color, a different faith, different voices, different talents and failings, clustered together, speaking the same of different language, an ordered mosaic with incredible intricacy and capacity for love and forgiveness. In my dream, I see it from above and marvel at this forming world—all of us sand, only as different as location, space and time. But in my dream, it begins—a whirring, a breeze, a sneeze, a blurring of lines, rolling into gigantic waves—-waves of rainbows—-not blending, but mixed, roiling up under a blue sky. The ocean is filled with rainbow waves, cresting, breaking , gathering momentum,, and scooping more sand from the bottom of oceans and seas, rivers and lakes, cresting, flowing into deltas of color, churning and churning, and finally flowing from sea to land, onto rocks and under rocks, into corners, finally reaching the shore where it all began.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Life in Me like Grass on Fire: Love Poems

Launch of the MWA Poetry Anthology April 25, 2011 at the Towson Library; 6:30 to 8:30. Come,listen,read (open mic)and eat! Edited by Laura Shovan, there are 50 poems by 90 of us, Maryland Poets, reading about the many facets of love. Will post a sample later.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Taken from "Yellow as Turmeric, Fragrant as Cloves"


for Maria

I see you in kernels of rice,
palisade cells of leaves,
humble mustard seeds and redwood trees,

xylem veins carrying water, not blood,
phloem with sugars and minerals,
stomates like nostrils flaring, respiring,

transpiring, anchoring roots to earth,
branches to heaven. When you shape clouds, flood plains,
rain upon a parched palm,

you are half god, half woman,
yellow as turmeric, fragrant as cloves,
constant as the eventide.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Why this blog name--"Fragrant as Cloves?"

"Fragrant as cloves" is a line taken from my poem, "Mustard Seed," which was written in memory of Maria, my 5-year old little sister. Hers was the first funeral I attended when I was 11 years old, my first experience of the permanence of death. She sits in a little silver frame on my dresser, still a little girl of five. The poem was published in an anthology entitled, "Yellow as Turmeric, Fragrant as Cloves," (Deep Bowl Press, 2008) where the editor, Anne Marie Fowler, also used Maria's poem to title the book.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Getting Started on Blogging

Am excited to get started. This is day 1 of getting frustrated. I do like the colors on my blog, though!