Wednesday, March 31, 2010

We had a mini Seder tonight, just Ruth and Chris and Liam and I - very sweet and right for us this year. We talked about the overwhelm involved in trying to heal all the brokenness in the world and about transperency in our personal lives. That is a big goal for me at this time in my life - authenticity. I shared a poem I wrote in Palm Springs.


Warsaw, Burundi, Rwanda, Darfur
Men bought concert tickets,
Boys led cows down mountains.

Jews, Tutsi, Hutu, Christians
Women planted beans, taught children
Girls arranged white flowers.

Armenia, Berlin, Palestine,
Children learned songs, shared sweets.
Lovers flirted, carressed, climaxed.

Mothers saved letters, told stories,
Fathers led praters, planned futures,
Families blessed babies, buried elders.

Until glass shattered, machetes flashed,
priests murdered parishoners,
neighbors, neighbors, principals, students.

Before genocide, people simply lived.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Second day of Passover, Ruth and I walked under the huge full moon. Actually she biked slowly and I walked. It is so good to have time to be with her in the ordinary course of events. I miss the years Joanna worked for me and I saw her on a regular basis. She is so busy with her family, we talk, but I miss the dailiness, the incidental contact. It would be hard for me to live across country from adult children the way I lived from my parents. I've been reading the letters I wrote them during those years though and every detail is there, a rich commentary on our lives. Still, it's nice to brush up against each other without really trying, to just BE in each other's lives.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Passover begins tonight. Ruth and Chris and liam and I cleared the last of the hametz (puffed up food, symbolic of ego and pride) out of the pantry and fridge earlier today. Tonight as the doves coo and the beautiful bereezy spring day winds down, I think about spiritual hametz, the stubborn self-importance that clings and sticks in the corners of my essence and which I persist in examining and trying to purge each year at Passover. I really believe that my personal freedom, freedom both to enjoy life and to do good works is impaired by extra spiritual hametz, so the clearing is important, but difficult. Real is better than perfect, in this as in everything else. Perfect isn't going to happen.


No matter how many
springs I sweep out crumbs
of puffed up self importance
I still want to be seen as special,
need to be needed, want to
control choices and outcomes
that are not my own, yearn for
safety, wish life were fair.
No matter how many years
I sweep out crumbs, crumbs remain.
That is why, come spring, I take
broom in hand and sweep again.

Victoria Hendricks, March 27, 2010

Sunday, March 28, 2010

I recently learned the definition of an alarming set of initials "WIFM". It means "What's in it for me?" I am not completely niave. I know peopld including myself do have natural survival impulses and self interest - but oin my mind most of what civilizing us is about - definitely what my spirituall path is about, is getting away from "What's in it for me?" to "What is best for the whole?" The idea that self interest would be considered acceptable enough to be given it's own set of intials and normalized as a motivator that it is OK to play to makes me very sad. I think I see some of that in response to the recent health care bill. I see people thinking about it more in individual and less in collective terms, some of those who are happy about it as well as some of those who are against it. I know I can't get away from self interest completely. I do care more if Liam and Andrea starve than if faceless babies in Africa starve, as they do, every minute. I don't expect to get away from that level of self interest. I think it is probably hard wired for survival when circumstances are life and death. But the application and normilazation of self interest to the point of catch phrases in situations that aren't life and death is deeply disturbing to me.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Today has been one of those magic days that seem to have 48 productive hours - Tuth and I worked hard and successfully in the yard and garden. We went to lowes and bought a yellow jasmine, and met Ruth's and Joanna's preschool teacher there, a woman we have been friendly but not close with for years - pleasant to let her see Liam at about the age Ruth was when she first knew her. Liam was charming as usual. I'm also making great progress going through and organizing old letters. I really have had a sweet life so far, so many moments catalogued through the years of births, worries, loss, accomplishment, meals, gardens, tears, laughter. Life is hard, yes, and life is good. Tonight the good rings louder.
Freedom - Personal definition, March 6, 2010

Freedom is neither
rebellion or compliance.
Freedom rests on
foundation of mindfuless.
Freedom is bounded
by ethics, values, empathy.
Freedom is enacted
through choice, determines
what I do, think, say,
not how others respond.
Freedom requires that
I hold my own mirror
Freedom accepts paradox,
individuality and interdependence.
Freedom take for granted
is dangerous, world wrecking.
Freedom wasted, unemployed,
is dangerous, world rotting.
Freedom, employed in conscience
can save us all.

Victoria Hendricks - March 25, 2010

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Liam is an English speaker now - just amazes me, this little guy who was just a cuddle of an armful a year ago, the barest beginning of a person, understnads so much of what we say now, and talks back to us. The sweetest new feat of receptive language is his entusiastic response to "Liam, can you dance?" He does a darling jig - also spins and claps and gives five when asked. He, and all my other grand children, make me even more concerned about the state of our country in terms of polarization and ugly comments and death threats, thrown bricks, cut phone lines, in response to health care legislation. I personally have great hopes for health care improvement, but that isn't the issue that disturbs me. People can have doubts, disagree, argue, protest - but the violence, the hateful feeling, freaks me out. This isn't the climate I want for my dancing boy and his laughing cousin.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spring storm tonight, thunder and lightening and rain soft at first then hard falling. We've had a number of drought years, but not this spring. it's lovely so far, still blossom time but increasingly green. The leaves on Danny's maple are beginning to unfurl and the babies' apple trees are leafing out a little. Ruth and liam fell on the bike today because of a badly behaved dog. They are both unhurt and the good news is that the bicycle baby seat and helmet stayed properly secured. Liam stayed on the bike when it fell, as did Ruth. She just had to get up and right the bike with crying Liam on it and ride home. The unfortunate thing was that the woman whose dog ran at them causing the accident did not stop to check if Ruth was OK or offer help. I wish people in general behaved better - could be trusted to behave better.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

It was a good quiet Tuesday - a calmer than usual work day. I still feel behind with my life, but a little less so. It's good to feel some progress. It is blossom time in Austin still - white blooming trees, redbuds, now the purple trees and wild flowers, including a fresh profusion of blue bonnets. I'm so glad Bob and I took the trouble and time to learn most of the common hill country wild flowers. It's fun to see them come up each year, no struggle to identify old friends.

I'm enjoying seeing that my blog has more followers these days. Those of you I don't know, welcome (and of course welcome too to those I know and love). I'd enjoy it if those of you who I don't know would introduce yourselves in comments - nice to get to know you. I also hope people will refrain from using the comment feature to promote any goods or services for sale. I will delete comments that don't make sense to me, or feel like advertising. Comments about your feelings about the ideas and events in the blog are very much welcome. It feels good to throw the pebbles of my thoughts, ideas, poems into the water of the virtual pond and watch the ripples.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Ruth and I pulled all the beggars' tick out of the back yard today, which is a very good thing early in spring because it means no burrs later, especially in the fur of the dogs and the feet of the babies. I feel disoriented, like time is passing too fast, even faster than usual. I can't say I'm especially busy or have any reason for this feeling. Bob is back at school safely, had a decent first day teaching after spring break, though the kids talked too much during the afternoon. I didn't accomplish half, even a quarter what I hoped, but we did get a sweet walk in with Liam and Duffy and pulled up the beggars' tick and talked about future house changes. Still, I wish I were more efficient.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I hope readers will check for back posts later this week. I'm chasing my tail. So much I want to write and so much time spent enjoying family I haven't been witting to write it. Bob has gone back to Corpus now, spring break over. Ruth had her birthday today. It is truly odd that I clearly remember the feel of her in my arms, brand new, exactly where I sat on the couch to nurse her the first night we spent at home together, and now her son is one and she is designing deck additions and teaching college classes and altogether wonderfully grown up.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Spring kissed Austin while I was gone. I saw my first blooming redbud this morning, and a few more fruit trees blooming. Most trees are still bare. I love watching spring start. I will also always remember that Mira died during red buyd time. And I still will always love red bud time. One of the hard things about getting older is that every time of year is associated with a loss now, as well as with births and other joys. There are just so many more memories to make so many more associations.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Not very inspired tonight but happy to have had a functional first day back. I am deeply refreshed by my week off, even if still a little sleep deprived. it's funny to feel the freshness underneath the surface fatigue. Today actually was a very good work day. Ruth and Chris bought Liam a bike trailer at an REI rummage sale - an amazing bargain. It also can be used as a wagon to cary baby and groceries when pushed by a walker. Tonight RUth and Chris took Liam up to the store in it to get a few items and I walked part way with them, walking Duffy on the leash. I turned back with Duffy in order to talk to Bob and get to bed at a reasonable hour, which I will now do. It was a fun walk though. The trailer is easy to push,especially considering its size.
I'm safely home. Just need a bath and at least a little sleep before a long work day tomorrow. What a vacation I had. More poetry written then will start showing up here over the next few days. For now, time to rest.

Monday, March 08, 2010

I'm writing this on the way home on the train, just two and a half hours out of San Antonio and hugs from Ruth, Chris and Liam. I'm glad they were willing to come for me since I didn't get a room. It's tough to spend two nights in the chair car, not so tough to spend one. I'm in the club car now because I can plug the lap top in here, and I'm a little taken aback by all the loud people, drinking, complaining about smoke breaks not coming often enough and about the train running out of beer. I have circled back to my "princess" theme - feeling out of place with people who are drinking and noisy, who use bad grammar and cuss and it just doesn't feel comfortable, so I'm closing off my computer now and going back to my chair. This has been a wonderful trip, but the bemoaning about the dirth of beer is hard to listen to. I'm so glad I have the life I have. Life is hard and life is good and I know I get more than my share of the good.

Friday, March 05, 2010

I loved the Museum of the Desert,with its miniature trains, humming birds and butterflies, foxes, cheetahs, eagles. Ann and I took a hike into the pale dry hills up to the San Andreas fault, locus of so many earth quakes, so much damage, but beautifully calm today. It is still winter in the desert, with just the barest burst of spring, a leaf here, a yellow bud there. We did not see the chuckwalla, a fat little lizard who expands his chunky body to fit into whatever crevice someone is trying to pry him out of. I wanted to see a chuckwalla. Maybe next time. We did see a long blue black lizard with more tail than body and a bunch of short striped lizards, active across the rock. I learned that the small dunes which form at the sides of larger living dunes are called shadows. Maybe there's a poem in there - shadow dunes. And then there is desert varnish, the special glow which forms on rocks at the scars where the forces of nature crack them open. And we saw the road runner, fast across the sand.

I woke up happy, physiologically happy, just free and good and bouncing on the balls of my feet the day we explored the museum of the desert. It felt so good, that rare happy feeling that isn't attitude or choice, but just comes and fills body and soul with a state of well being. it would be great to feel that more often, but I don't think it's something I can control. like the blues, it comes when it comes. It's the attitudes, the self talk, the beliefs, the choices I can control and that's enough, though it is great when the spontaneous happiness comes.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

I find it extraordinary to be one of a group of writing women with whom I have almost daily contact. We encourage each other to write and deepen our friendships. We challenge each other to grow as writers and as humans and are tender with each other in hard times. Once every year or so we meet face to face, for focus, inspiration, and connection. This year our gathering was both especially personally sweet and particularly helpful to me as a writer

. I had come up with a theme for a possible chap book, a collection of poems. I wanted to write them "deep and dark," The theme made sense to me, but I didn't quite understand it. It's not that my writing was shallow, but I wasn't quite writing about what I really wanted to write about - at least not enough of the time. The first day of our workshop, Judy taught us a technique for mapping ideas and themes and as I sketched and wrote words I made a map of what I really want to write about. When the world can never be the same again, either because of catastrophe or because of revelation, what do we humans do? How do some of is find fresh starts in desperate circumstances, and how is it that some of us never find new ways to thrive? It's not so much that I have answers to these questions as that the questions define territory that fascinates me, territory I want to explore in poems and by the way I live.

Why does this seem so important? I think because I do believe the Cabalists that every word, deed, choice each of us makes moves the world one step closer to or one step farther from the day on which we will all be able to sit under our fig trees and no one will be afraid, or one step closer to destruction of life on earth, And it is impossible to know which act, however tiny, will push the balance either way,

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

I strongly recommend Tracy Kidder's newest book The Strength of What Remains, the extraordinary story, amazingly told, of Gratias Deo, a farm boy and medical student from Burundi who survived and is thriving and doing important work in his life today. Ambushed by a genocidal attack at his medical school, he fled physically on bleeding feet, in the very shadow of the machetes and the percussion of gunshot, near starvation, in terror, not caring emotionally whether he lived or died.. He believed with good reason that most of his family was dead. He fled from a medical school where tutsi (his ethnic group) were murdered before his eyes, and was able to survive with help from unexpected acquaintance and strangers, to escape from war torn Burundi, Rwanda, Burundi again, and finally to survive penniless and without English in New York City. He was able to eventually thrive again. This is the strongest story of the personal impact of genocide I've read in a long time - maybe since The Diary of Ann Frank. More than that, it is the strongest story I've ever read about the ability of an admittedly remarkable individual to break the bonds of post traumatic stress syndrome, even in the most extreme circumstances. The profession of psychology didn't help him at all, but he followed his story enough times with witnessing and found a way, through Paul Farmer's Partners in Health, to convert the energy of his suffering into service for people suffering direly. That process of healing is available to all of us who suffer trauma, no matter how extreme. Eli Weisel is another example in my pantheon, of one who made a similar journey from terror, rage, helplessness, to service. Deo believes it is not possible to make the promise "Never Again" which Jews and Rwandans made after being victims of genocide as long as structural violence exists in the world, as long as some groups live in hopelessness of poverty - where life is cheap, and others have so much. I believe him, though I don't know the answer.

I have a poem on the topic though

Questionable Thirst

We, plump and privileged
claim we thirst for justice,
truth, righteousness,
knowledge, hope, peace.

Given the prevalence of
poverty, persecution, war,
intolerance, starvation, deceit,
We tolerate thirst damn well.

Monday, March 01, 2010

I arrived in Palm Springs Sunday, only a little sleep deprived, and relished my long quiet day in a hotel room, mostly napped and read and just treasured the quiet. First I explored the little city and marveled at the care of the landscaping and the presence of petunias as big as saucers - reminded me of my own Southern California yard, all the petunias Mama and i planted over the years there, and the pride she took in their huge blooms. Palm Springs streets were very quiet on a Sunday morning, a little busier by noon. It's a funny town, set up for tourists with money I think. So many banks, restaurants, car dealerships heavy on Lexus and Mercedes. And yet there are poor people in Palm Springs. When I shopped in the drug store I noticed several signs proclaiming "Rite Aid does not condone solicitation of money from our patrons." Sure enough, as I left the store a woman about my age asked me if I could spare any change. I gave her two dollars, because I would rather be taken advantage of than leave a need unmet. then I walked past a store devoted to rip off designer sunglasses. We humans are so odd in the way we think about resources - what we need, want, how we'll spend for an apparent bargain. ,

I bought dates at a candy shop and remembered Daddy stopping for dates every time we went through a palm desert oasis. They tasted as good last week as they did in my childhood. The sweet stickiness, even the hardness of the oval seed took me back to the best moments of Texas to California and back again road trips before car air conditioning..

Sunday, before my room was ready, I explored the little Plam Springs history museum and learned that the Agoura Caliente Indians long capitalized on the presence of the oasis and settled near it. The white man who first bought land from them with intention of building a home the oasis was a desperate father. He hoped the dry desert weather would prevent his third and last son's death from tuberculosis. The boy died anyway the springs suffered from drought, and the parents died without any pay off from their investment. One of the dead boy's surviving sisters (and the Indians who had retained ownership to alternating squares in the checkerboard of land purchased) got rich off the desperate father's investment. I sure got to enjoy the elegance which grew out of the original risk taken and many investment and development choices made since.At the museum I saw man pictures of the movie stars of my parents' generation playing at Palm Springs. my favorite was Shirley Temple, who had her sixth birthday party there, but there were also pictures of Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, Doris Day, and of course, Bob Hope. We could actually see his huge, mushroom like party house up on the hill overlooking the resort where we stayed. This seems like a city designed for pleasure. I especially understand the pleasure people from cold parts of the country get coming here in winter. There was no color on the fields I traveled to get to Palm Springs - winter prevailed, but not once we entered the resort. I enjoyed walking around without my coat for the first time in way too long,