Category Archives: robbery

THE LIGHT IS CALLING

NB. I have held off publishing this post for a week because I felt torn as to whether this was an appropriate time to share some of the content. Today I decided to go with it. Why? Because I trust that my readers are capable of accepting that the nature of reality is complex; that we have no control over any of it; and that while it is important to acknowledge the negative, it is imperative that we return to the positive.

30th October 2016

abstract

Good news! I got out of the wheelchair 10 days ago after another round of X-rays showed excellent healing of the fractures. And I was determined to get out the damn brace, in spite of the doctor telling me I needed to wear it for another month. Another month? Are you kidding me? I was out of that wheelchair so fast and moving across the room, waving the “broken” hand at her. “Look,” I said, “Don’t treat me like a 70 year old biddy.” “Look,” I said, showing the 6 inch scar from my once broken neck. “Look,” I said, doing a stiff-legged pirouette . “I was a dancer, I know my body.” I won.

What joy, to return the wheelchair and crutches, to throw out the plastic bedpan, to walk through the garden gate and down the steps, to be able to navigate the whole house again. Sure, there’s work to be done, probably another couple of months of physiotherapy before the shockingly wasted muscles return to normal. Sure there’s pain. I’ll take it, with gratitude on top.

Two days later we took ourselves off to a local spa for 5 days of thermal waters and massage. Situated on its own hilltop in the Val d’Ocia, Castello di Velona is not only gob-smackingly beautiful but has a staff that is as kind and spirited as they are professional. My wonderful physiotherapist visited 3 times to give me treatments and work me out in the water and it was amazing how quickly the knee and hand achieved the next level of recovery.

spa-pool

panorama

I’m always slightly embarrassed to share these kinds of privileges. Perhaps its because, just as I don’t want to be viewed as “old,” neither do I want to be seen as privileged, when in fact I am both. It has to do with judgment, of course, and judgment always separates us from each other. I’m proud of my working class roots and am grateful to have experienced poverty as an adult. The range of experiences I’ve had in my life have, I hope, made me a more compassionate woman. Still, I’m always quick to let people know that my life wasn’t always so blessed. Truth is I’m not that comfortable around lifelong “haves.” I like when the dirt shows.

Talking about dirt, I’d like to comment on the response women receive when they finally talk about sexual harassment years after the fact, the response usually being one of disbelief, as in, “If that really happened, how come she waited so long to report it?” The same response is also leveled at men who were raped as boys by priests or teachers. I’ll tell you why we keep it to ourselves: because we know nobody wants to believe such horrors. Sure, there are, and always will be, false accusations and there will be men who unjustly suffer as a result. However, it’s time we listened to each other. All these women coming forward with regard to Bill Cosby and Donald Trump, they need to be heard. How easy it is for people to say, “Oh, these women are just trying to cash in on some fame and fortune now.” Maybe some are…but ALL of them? Come on. The reason we don’t come forward at the time is exactly because these are powerful men and who wants to be “raped” all over again in the press or in court.

There are a lot of ways to suppress the voice of women…as Hillary Clinton well knows. But I say, watch out. People are rising up against injustice now because as Michelle Obama says, “Enough is enough.” Whether you are a black citizen fearful of being shot by the police or a woman afraid of being raped and then accused of making it up, the time has come to get it all out in the open. So, here’s my rape story.

I was 21. Living in Vancouver. I’d just lost my job and desperate for money, took a gig as a cocktail waitress. My shift was from 5pm to midnight. My ‘uniform,’ supplied by management, was a green satin mini-dress that barely covered my breasts or my bum. At the end of my shift I would go to the staffroom to get my bag so I could smoke a cigarette while adding up the tabs and tips, then I’d return to the staffroom to change into my street clothes and catch a cab home.

On the 5th night, I finished up and went to change only to find the staffroom locked. Deiter, the maître d’, said the manager must have thought I’d already left and had locked up and left, taking the key with him. Deiter, who was very tall and slim but athletically built, had struck me as very professional; courteous, but distant. He retrieved a man’s raincoat that had been left in the cloak room, gave it to me and offered to drive me home I gratefully accepted. I lived about 20 minutes away.

About 10 minutes into the ride he asked if he could make a quick stop at his apartment to get something. I said ok. He parked the car in front of his building and said why didn’t I come up for a minute. I said no thanks. He came around to the passenger side, pulled me out of the car, put his hand over my mouth and dragged me up two flights to his apartment. Terrified, but trying to play it cool, I asked if I could call home to let my mother know I’d be late (my mother lived in England). His response was to rip the phone out of the wall.

It was now about 1:30 a.m. For the next four and half hours he raped me. While he raped me he told me his parents had been Nazis. While he raped me he told me how he’d take care of me for the rest of my life. While he raped me he told me I could never speak to my family and friends again. While he raped me he told me he’d buy me new clothes. While he raped me I pretended to be happy.

At around 6 a.m., he finally fell asleep with his arm across my chest. It took me nearly an hour to inch out from under him, freezing every time he stirred. When my feet finally hit the floor I ran, grabbing my bag and the raincoat, I ran naked down the stairs and out into the middle of the street where I waved down a VW. The driver said, “Get in the back.” I started to explain. “I don’t want to know,” he said, and drove me to a taxi stand.

When I got home I called the police station. After I finished telling the cop what happened he asked, “Did he come in you?” “No,” I said. “Nothing we can do then,” he said and hung up. I ran a hot bath and sat in it for a long time.

rape

When we got home from the Spa, Silvia and Vincenzo were harvesting our olives. What goodness, to see these farmers, who are also our landlords and neighbors, up in the branches of our trees, doing what has been done here for centuries.

vands

Goodness is what we must turn to every day now. It’s time to turn from the drip-line of the “news.” It’s not new. Like goodness, the dark side has been with us forever. The details may change but the story is the same. Those who are fearful of owning their fear will continue to be the bullies, terrorists and dictators.

silvia-1

Yesterday was a turn around day for me. The night before I had shared with Joel that I was afraid of becoming more negative with age. That there was something about the accrual of events during the last couple of years that had wormed its way into me: the robbery, my months long illness, then my daughter nearly dying, then Joel being incapacitated for months and then these recent injuries. That steady drip had me unconsciously beginning to brace for the worst . It’s a thin line between bracing for the worst and starting to seek it out. I realized yesterday, that I had been indulging in tapping into the continuous cycle of negativity we call the news. I decided to stop. I’ve cast my vote, I’ve donated money, and beyond that it’s out of my control. No matter who wins this election, that which we fear will continue to exist. Better to rejoice in the perseverance of beauty and kindness.

Two days after the olives were harvested they were taken to the local frantoia to be pressed. We would have gone but we’d invited new friends we’d met at the spa to come here for tea. I made a pot of verbena ginger, the verbena picked fresh from the garden. We nibbled on pecorino cheese and pan co’ santi, the annual harvest bread studded with raisins and walnuts. We talked of creativity and openness and the beauty and light of Tuscany.

This is the good news we must spread: that light is everywhere and when we turn to it and absorb it we become it and reflect it back into the world like the sunflowers and the grapes and the fresh-pressed olive oil, glowing with goodness in the new day.

oil

 

ENOUGH IS A FEAST

October 1st, 2015

autumnvista

I hardly know where to start. When I open my journal I see I managed a single, small entry on 24th September:

Every day is just another line in the poem

 

Today, when I read that, I wonder what on earth I was thinking, and then I remember that that day was our 25th anniversary…indeed another line in the poem that is us.

Joel anniversary

L1009646_Maggie Anniv

Since then, summer has swiftly changed into autumn. Unlike the gentle autumn one associates with late September, early October, this one has more of a November feel to it; There’s a mean bite in the air that has swallowed up those lovely breakfasts under the pergola, never mind the possibility of an afternoon tea on the sun patio. Although we haven’t yet resorted to turning on the thermostat we have lit a fire every evening for more than a week now. And this is where I sit this afternoon, on the couch by the fire, to gather thoughts like kindling; writing being the vehicle I use to hear myself think.

fireplace

Any of you who have practiced meditation will know that we humans are constantly thinking in repetitive circles, obsessing about what we want instead of feeling gratitude for what we have. Monkey mind, they call it. How tiring. How non-productive is such thinking. Each thought leaning on the next, demanding instant gratification.

We had our friend Ember and her 3 year-old son, Chayton, visiting us for 10 days recently and so it was that we found ourselves watching Frozen one evening and Mary Poppins the next. Those 2 films would make for a good essay on the nature of our changing values and the way in which entertainment has become an impoverishment of complex ideas. But I’ll leave that for another day. Suffice it to say that Frozen gave me nothing to think about whereas Mary Poppins, herself, uttered many priceless throw away lines, one of which has been reverberating through my being for 4 days. I quote: “Enough is a Feast.”

Chayumbrella

Enough. It’s one of those words that the more you say it and look at it, the more it begins to shift shape and meaning until one finds oneself asking “what is ‘enough?’”

It’s a huge question isn’t it? Especially in today’s culture where so many of us have access to more: more food, more clothes, more gadgets, more real estate, more money. All of it taken for granted as the right to have it all.

For quite a while now, Joel and I have been saying what an awful year this has been to the point where we’ve almost come to believe in Murphy’s Law. The truth is some days and some years are better or worse than others and even though we are quick to point out all the good things that have happened we find ourselves loathe to admit that the crap seems to have the upper hand. And then, if one isn’t careful, one finds oneself listing all the crap – as if to back up the evidence – until one wants to scream “Enough already!!!”

But here’s the thing: when I stop and apply the “enough is a feast” principle to many of this years events I can see that some of them happened because I/we didn’t stop at ‘enough’…no, we continued on toward ‘more.’ Here’s an example. In February, we were returning to Tuscany from 2 weeks in Provence. We had a car full of lovely treasures we had found. In truth, we had enough. But no, we had to stop at another antique store on the way home in the quest for “more.” During that 5 minute stop our car was broken into and many personal belongings were stolen. So, the flip side of Enough is Too Much and Too Much will bankrupt your soul.

Becoming conscious of what is enough on a daily basis doesn’t just apply to the material. It also means accepting when we’ve spent enough energy. And this is the place where I, personally, have work to do.

I don’t consider myself a material girl. Sure, I like beautiful things, but I don’t have to own them. I wear the same earrings every day, we have one good car and own one piece of property. Where once I couldn’t have enough pairs of shoes, I now have a hard time resisting a new lip-gloss! But the one thing I always want more of is energy…hence cocaine having been my drug of choice. In spite of being told by many that I have great energy, I still want more. And this is want drives me to the brink of exhaustion, the arrival at which place would have a sane person taking to their bed for a couple of day. Me? No, even though I’ve been saying for weeks how tired I am, how I’d like to just curl up on the couch for a few days and read, do I do that? No. I want more.

It is from this place of exhaustion that two days ago I insisted on being able to work on the revision of my manuscript (in order to ready it for press) while at the same time supervise the crew I’d hired to prune all the trees and hedges surrounding the garden. So I showed the workers what I wanted and then headed back to my desk for 15 minutes of revision before going back outside to see how they were doing and found that while waiting for the pruning equipment to arrive they had busied themselves with butchering one of my Mediterranean gardens. This beautiful bed I planted last autumn was, until yesterday, a thing of glorious beauty. It gave us joy every day and we marveled at its growth. Plants that were a foot tall a year ago had reached nearly 6 feet and would have kept flowering until December before lying dormant until spring, at which time I would have pruned back perhaps 9 inches. In the 15 minutes I took to work at the computer this garden was pruned back to stubs.

MG beforeBEFORE

MGcutAFTER

I found a fluency in Italian I had hitherto not possessed. The pain and fury that screamed out of my mouth and hurled itself at the workers literally blew them back and then rooted them to the spot. And still I didn’t learn. Still I couldn’t accept that my need to have it all…the perfect garden and the perfectly revised manuscript…was what was keeping me from having enough. Which is why this morning I told myself that I just needed to go outside more frequently to oversee their work and continue work on the revision, just in shorter spurts. Which may account for the fact at some point this morning, nearly half of the revised manuscript disappeared. I mean, it completely vanished. A hundred pages of revision, 3 days work, just up and left. I guess it had had enough.

And so have I. Finally, I surrender. Gratefully I know it’s time to stop. Stay still. Look up. Look around. Breathe in all that is and all that I have. Reconnect with the truth, which is that I am tired; that I want to relax; that it’s more important to do less and enjoy more. If the book is a week late to press who cares? Better it’s late than I’m dead. I’m not ready for that ‘enough’ yet.rocks 5                    ROCKS #5

PS. I cried on and off all day for the loss of that flower garden. Felt like I just couldn’t bear to look at it. Then, in the evening, I realized it was bad enough that the poor thing had been brutalized, but more than that what it needed was my love. So I put a candle in a glass and headed out the door, but the wind was so strong it threatened to blow out the candle. I saw an old pitcher on the outdoor table, a lovely old thing I’d bought earlier in the summer. I put the glass with the candle in the pitcher and continued on to the garden. The now exposed rock beckoned me and I set the candle down with a whispered “I love you.” And low and behold, a flower appeared. Sometimes the best you can do is enough and if you do it, it becomes a feast.

L1009763_Garden candle flower copy