Azalea, In Detroit

 

Lately I haven’t been able to shake it off. You know the feeling when something is supposed to be, but isn’t? Oh, it’s there all right. But you can’t see it. You can sorta feel it. Know that’s it watching you, but from somewhere you can’t see.

This morning I tried to shake it off and decided to go to Joe’s and have my regular, a Pumpkin Latte Fallout. It’s not yet fall, but Harry at Joe’s caters to my needs come spring, summer, winter or fall. Harry’s a good man, as my father would say.

I come from Polish stock that settled in the Detroit area around the turn of the twentieth century. The first batch came through Ellis Island. But after that, since family was already here, others had a more direct path. Either way, everyone came through Detroit, whether or not they stayed. Some stayed. But most went on, mostly West. Some landed in Denver to open a shoe shop and radio repair. Some fanned out to Los Angeles where they changed their names and melted into the big pot of stew where no one ever heard from them again.

And then there was my family, the gypsies. They didn’t settle, as a true gypsy Jehovah Witness Truckwould never do that. They traveled for a generation or so not calling themselves gypsies but attaching themselves to the one group who also traveled – Jehovah Witnesses. My great grandmother was one of those women who stood on street corners next to a car with a large bullhorn attached to the top. While the men shouted repentance, she handed out pamphlets hoping to save the world.

I often wondered if her heart was in it, in Jehovah’s that is.

My mom told stories of family gypsies in Poland of which my great grandmother, grandmother, and mom had the heart. In Poland my great grandparents would travel in sunshine and camp and sing and cook over open fires. Even though I grew up in Globeville, I always felt my mom was really elsewhere in her thoughts.

Well, I guess that’s where my heart comes from. Since the time I was born the stories of the Gorniak women echoed in my ears. Even when my grandmother was hospitalized for “being crazy,” I listened in full belief to the stories.

The Blessed Mother Mary appeared to my grandmother telling her that her job was to take care of her six brothers and sisters. She was the youngest and listened. You always listen to the Mother Goddess. Right?

I believe my mom wanted to belong to the gypsies of the sixties and seventies, the hippies. But she was just a hair too young to act on it. And being an only child she never felt brave enough to be her own person and strike out one her own with her gypsy soul bared to the world showing who she truly was.

Then came me, Azalea, the one who watched all of this and just couldn’t stay any longer. When I was sixteen, my mom handed me her gypsy heart and sent me off to Detroit. Yep. Detroit called, if only to see what I could find. Were there any remnants of those first arrivals and did they have something to offer my gypsy self?

I stepped onto the porch. Cool morning air drifted by and I locked the door behind me. Today I ad-libbed my outfit more so than usual. It was going to rain, a bleak day, a grey-cloud day. Factory smoke hung low.

This called for color.

So, with my eyes closed I chose each piece of clothing by feel. Nothing matched and by good luck most pieces added bright color and patterns that would shout at the passerby, “SMILE, BUDDY!!!!! It’s not as bad as you think!”

I decided to take the quick route to Joe’s since it was starting to sprinkle. That meant some shortcuts through a few alleyways.

Umbrella in hand, closed, not opened, I started my trek.

The umbrella belonged to my great grandfather. It had been carefully wrapped in brown paper and tied with string, well knotted so it wouldn’t come lose. It was packed away in an old steamer trunk that sat in the basement of my parents house until it was time to sell after both of my parents died without any notice or my permission.

It was as if my great grandfather was waiting for me to find the umbrella. When the steamer trunk arrived at my apartment, I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. But I was afraid to open it. For days, I just watched it. That’s when the feeling started, you know the one I mentioned earlier, like someone is watching me.

The day I finally opened the trunk, it was raining like crazy. There was a stream of water running down my window so thick I couldn’t tell if someone was looking in even if they were standing nose to nose with the glass.

I made myself a pot of coffee and plopped down on the footstool that I stationed by the trunk when it first arrived. I would spend a few minutes a day sitting on the pouf making up stories of what was inside, using pieces of stories from my mother that her mother had told her from the stories her mother had told her mother.

At this point who knew what was true in their stories. It’s kinda like the bible. Jesus was real. He said beautiful things and did miracles. His words were carried by mouth for a long time before they were written down.

I believe truth is distilled. When the honest soul tells a story, truth thrives even if details wander.

What I had hoped was contained in the trunk was the scarf that once wrapped my great grandmother’s hips. The one with bundles of cascading roses in every shade of red and pink – maroon, scarlet, fuchsia, magenta, and mauve – with touches of green leaves tucked here and there. All sitting on a background of creamy ivory and trimmed, not in black silky fringe, but the deepest blue of midnight one could imagine.

Or the shoes.

Yes, the ones with the pointy toes and delicately carved heels that a princess could dance all night in at the ball with her prince without nary a pinch. The ones my grandfather carved and cobbled for his new bride’s wedding day.

But inside the trunk among the hodgepodge was the umbrella. Black silk tied with a curiously red braided cord from which swung a beautiful tassel of the same color. The handle was made from white willow. It was smooth, golden and very light. It was the point at the other end that gave it presence. A sterling silver tip about four inches long narrowing to a fine end capped with a small wooden knob completed its form.

I carried it closed.

In Detroit I learned quickly that one needs some form of protection.

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Author’s Note:

Back to a bit of fiction.

Our writing group, although there were only two of us at the breakfast table, met to write using Bonnie Neubauer’s Story Spinner. Our setting was Detroit. The beginning line was “Lately I haven’t been able to…”. And we needed to include the words: pumpkin, ad-lib, sunshine, and azalea.

I’ve never start writing my fiction narratives in first person. I’ve always changed it to third. I guess I wanted the distance. But I took the challenge.

This challenge led to using family stories. Now with my parents and most of my immediate relatives deceased, I think I might want to write about a little family history. I might also use this at the beginning of the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge in November.

Lots of pots on the fire right now. Feels good.

Magdalene

 

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Lamentation over the Dead Christ, Detail of Mary Magdalene, 1490-1500, Sandro Botticelli

It was quiet. For one deafening
moment, silence draped its arm
heavy over me. I couldn’t breathe.

The space between then
and tomorrow widened,
a berth so deep and high
nothing could fill in the colors
that faded away.

There was no pain, just stillness,
alone. Only two feet now
to stay the course.

Tomorrow’s sun to far to see,
yesterday’s grief dripping away.
I wait in solitude,
I wait holding your promise
like a fledging dove opening
her wings to fly.
I wait for morning’s sunrise.

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Author’s Note:

Today is the feast day of Mary of Magdala. I have been journeying with her for the past two years, researching, praying and writing. Finally, I am now performing a one-act play I’ve written based on the gospels of John, Mary, and Philip.

She brought me to an understanding of the Gospel of John that I once had no way of connecting with. I now understand the love Jesus, our Elder Brother and Risen Lord, came to share with us. The root command – love one another.

My journey now, to live that love.

If you are interested in bringing me to your community to share my work, please visit my page The Magdalene here or click on the toolbar above.

Peace and may the blessings of Mary Magdalene be with you today.

Take Your Poet To Work Day

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Today is Take Your Poet To Work Day sponsored by the delightful folks over at Tweetspeak Poetry.

Today, Rumi joins me on my travels. I am a teacher on summer vacation so he is along for the ride. First up, practicing the piano. Lunch on the deck will follow. Then rehearsal of The Magdalene, which is coming up this Sunday. And finally, a meeting with Fr. Scott. I’m sure Rumi will be a welcome guest to our meeting.

It’s not too late for you to grab a poet and take her or him with you. Also, while you are there check out the GIFs created for today. They are a hoot.

Oh, and just for the fun of it, here is one of my favorite Rumi poems, The Guest House, translated by Coleman Barks:

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Bellona

If could take it all back,Bellona,_&_count's_coronet,_C19th_floor_tile,_in_a_Wiltshire_church,_UK_(i-phone_photo_2014)
present it a different way,
maybe you would understand

I would start with a whisper
not a growl
I would offer my hand
not a fist

I would listen,
yes,
listen until you were
empty

I would understand

Then we would
walk side by side
weapons left behind
arrows dulled
fire burning only to warm

Yes, I would hear
your heartbeat,
the one that sounds
like mine

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Author’s Note:

War. Anger. Greed. They all begin in the same way. Not listening. Thinking I am only right. Not seeing the Divine in everyone.

Yes, everyone. Terrorist and lover alike.

It sounds simplistic. Naive. Ignorant. Childish.

But maybe that is where I need to stand. Like a child in trust, listening to learn, yearning for your tenderness.

Bellona is the Roman goddess of war. May she put down her shield, become vulnerable, and listen.

It begins with silence. Observing, not judging. Being open to recognize the Divine in you.

Peace this day to you.