Tag Archives: greed

WE ARE THE SENTINELS

18th February, 2017                   WE ARE THE SENTINELS

 

Each time I was pregnant I would read the section in Dr. Spock’s book on how to cut the umbilical cord. I would read it over and over, trying to remember where to clamp and where to cut. The thought of having to cut the cord held more terror for me that the thought of giving birth, as if to clamp and cut incorrectly would be the fatal mistake. As it turned out, my first child would be still born, some fatal mistake already made.

My second daughter arrived alive and well and with a striking aura of independence which rendered the cutting of the cord somewhat redundant. That said, when a few days later the remainder, still attached to her naval, fell off, I put it in a little box as if to have eternal proof that we had once been so attached to each other. Of course, it too, eventually returned to dust, as will all of us one day. What I was not prepared for was how the bond between mother and child can never be severed, no matter how either may act toward the other over a lifetime. That bond, as ineffable as a gossamer thread, tugs at the hearts to which each end is connected. So when I said goodbye to my girl a week and day ago, a tremor of distress vibrated between us.

We form so many bonds to so many people and places and beliefs during our brief stay on earth. Sometimes these bonds are rent asunder: think of the refugees. But on a deeper level they resonate forever. We are living in an age where, for many of us, the attachments we have to truth and decency and honor, are being sawed through daily by those whose power is fueled by fear and greed. As much as I couldn’t wait to get out of New York and the US in general, I also felt the pang of attachment as the plane took off. Not only to my family, but the large part of my life spent there. Also, for three weeks I had experienced being part of the mighty, righteous, resistance movement of millions of citizens and would-be citizens as we found our courage to fight for our attachment to goodness. It isn’t a tug of war; the rope frayed long ago. But as the new administration severed one tie to decency after another, the people immediately forged a new one. And the bond between us that we now know to be as necessary as the umbilicus, will not be broken as long as we acknowledge it and fight for it.

Yet, how easy it is to sever oneself from responsibility. How easily I came through the garden gate here in my Tuscan paradise, and felt relieved to be “away from it all.” How easy to believe that here on this farm I am protected; the fire lit in the hearth for my arrival; the fresh eggs on the table; the joyous greetings from friends and shopkeepers, “Ben tornati!” It is deeply satisfying to be here. To see the light play on the vibrant green hills, the roses already leafing out, the birdsong of early spring, the first brave camellia flaunting its crimson petals.

Here, where the attachment to family and food is still the basic attachment to life. I feel the distance between me and my family, but our bonds are strong, too

All week I’ve busied myself with errands and cooking and gardening. The new couches arrived, made and delivered with an attention to detail that reflects centuries of pride in craftsmanship.

My dear Teddy Bear who is as old as I am, traveled in my suitcase and now sits happily in the library, the bond between us unashamedly recognized.

The weather is so glorious that yesterday I lunched outside with friends, the three of us sitting at the old table, the sun so hot we stripped down to T shirts. And in the middle of it all I wondered when was the last time that any member of the U.S. government or the new administration, or the Prime Minister of England, or the European leaders of the far right, or a terrorist, when was the last time any of them enjoyed the bond of friendship, the connection to nature, the attachment to simplicity?

Once again, I urge all of us who are fighting the good fight, to take regular time out. Turn away from your screens for a day; turn your face to the sun. Feel the gossamer threads that link us to each other, threads as powerful as the strands of our DNA. We are giving birth now to our courage and the labor is long and hard. But we can do it. Even from afar. We are the sentinels.

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