Shadows From My Past

Vietnam War Memorial

On a startling sunny day in April, 1984, I stood before the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C. overwhelmed by the experience of thousands of lives reduced to letters chiseled out of stark black granite.  As if shadows of children cast upon the wall as they lay mementos of their loved one wasn’t enough to bear, four fresh young men came to vigil, their uniforms creating a macabre dance of shadows both real and anticipated.   I wept then and I weep now.

On this day, March 7, 1965, the first U.S. combat troops were sent to Vietnam.  My spiritual practice today will be to take inventory of my commitment to nonviolence, and to make reparation by revisiting the Wall.  I will call those men by name and ask forgiveness.  I will call to mind all who lost their lives in that war.  I will ask for God’s gracious mercy toward all of us who had the need to wage that war.  Most of all, I will hold dear the broken lives of my peers who returned from that war hopeless and who still need us.

The Wall of Faces:  http://www.vvmf.org/Wall-of-Faces/

In Celebration of Telephone Lines: A Response

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In Celebration of Telephone Lines: A Response

                                    They stretch for miles,
                                    all those lines and spaces waiting
                                    for the notes to arrive, for the music
                                    to begin from blues and golds of the Sound:
                                    winds and crows, careening swallows,
                                    cedars swaying to tunes heard
                                    in hill tops and valleys: tulips, crocus,
                                    dancing white magnolia blossoms.
                                    So many messages of joy they carry.
                                    Yes, yes we honor those lingering lines
                                    and spaces of song.

    Kay Mullen

In Celebration of Telephone Lines

Flaws, faults, and faux pas
Line the landscape of human character
Like telephone poles stretching toward
A much-desired vanishing point.
We can wish them gone, but
They stand guard over the
Authenticity of our humanity.
They are the contours which
Showcase Beauty.
Honor them.

rita h kowats

“Invictus” February 11, 1990

mandela

In July of 1990 I was released from a county jail on an island after serving ten days as a federal prisoner for illegal trespass  on a naval subase to raise concsiousness about possession and deployment of nuclear weapons.  I was inmate number four in a cell block intended for three.  Constant chatter, and piped in heavy metal music from the likes of The Prince of Darkness himself, Ozzy Osbourne, provided a fitting backdrop for drug dealers, identity thieves and pacifists.  Or so they thought.  I coped by sitting on the floor against the gray cinder block wall and breathing myself to an inner world beyond the mayhem.  “You’re meditating, aren’t you?  Cool.  What ya in for?” my companions asked.  One day they brought in a sorry excuse for library books, one of them scarred with horrific racial slurs.  I slipped it to the guard and asked her to remove it.  She did.  Ten days passed quickly.  It was nothing.

On February 11, 1990, Nelson Mandela was released from Robben Island Prison in South Africa after surviving twenty-seven years.  It was a sacred and unbelievable survival.  One wall of his tiny cell had been painted white to reflect the blazing South African sun.  Mandela walked out partially blinded.  This was one of their more subtle tortures.  With concentrated effort, I could shut out mayhem for ten days.  I didn’t suffer constant torture and debasement.  It was nothing.  Mandela held onto these words from the poem, “Invictus” to hold him together in his suffering.  While they could touch his body, they could not touch his soul, if he did not allow it.  I am in awe of his strength and commitment.  Amanda!

Invictus – the poem

by William Earnest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud,
Under the bludgeoning of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

photo credit:  http://www.scmp.com/news/world/article/1374898/nelson-mandelas-struggle-freedom-inspired-world

Shifting Images

This reflection comes to us from my friend Ardine Martinelli, who lives in the beautiful NW where she is a Spiritual Director and retreat leader.  She enjoys gardening, hiking, travel,
and good conversation with friends.  May it speak to us in ways we can hear and heed.

dancer now

Shifting Images

While meditating I received the most amazing message, “Change your image from Warrior to Dancer.”  This jolted me back to the present as I began to reflect on what that might look like.

I have been a warrior most of my life. I felt I needed to prove, achieve, master and do.  I lived life like I had to conquer it. I moved out into the world, believing I had to make things happen.  This mode served me well for a long time.  I built a successful career and business, and created a sense of competency and worth around my achievements.  I am now 71 years old and this image no longer serves me, in fact, it drains me.  I am tired of pushing through, I want to rest and let life come to me.

Ah, this is the image of the dancer.  As I began playing with the dancer image I realized I craved the idea of letting life flow through me.  As a dancer, I am a partner with life not a conqueror of life. My dancer waits, trusting in life and knowing all is well.   My whole body relaxes as I let this image flow through me.  It is hard for me to imagine waiting for life to come to me.   Trust is not a quality that comes easy.

Warrior is my default mode.  When I feel stressed, anxious, frustrated, I move into the warrior, take-charge mode.  It is my warrior energy that creates the struggle of believing I “should” be “doing” more.  With awareness, I can allow my warrior to rest. It is not either/or, it is a dance between my warrior and dancer. The shift of image is a process and I trust in its slow movement through my being.

 Photo Credits:

“Amazon ” www.wikigender.org;     “Dance Silhouettes” free vector clip-art

 

A Prism

Please enjoy reading and relishing this lovely poem by my friend Kay:

Kay Mullen’s poetry has appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies.  She is the author of three full length poetry books, Let Morning Begin, 2001, A Long Remembering: Return to Vietnam, 2006, and more recent, Even the Stone, 2012.  She earned an MFA from Pacific Lutheran University in 2007.  Kay lives and teaches in Tacoma WA, USA.

A Prism

hangs from a kitchen window.
Shapes of refracted light sprinkle
through the room, illumine
the space with the glory of gold.

On the way into town,
a prism dangles from a cord
in the car ahead, rainbow colors
sparkle as the crystal shifts.

These shimmering seconds, these
pinpoints of jewels and unspoken
gems fill reserves of the day
the way perceptions
pass through a painting or a poem.

When darkness appears, moon bows
fill the night and in the blend of a life,
sun softly mirrors itself
in sleep.

In morning, these beams of light
disperse in the seconds and hours
of another day.
The awakened know
this candescence cannot be owned

but flows from reflections
content that even the night holds all
that is needed,
know the light passing through
makes itself more visibly present.

Kay Mullen

photo credit:  www.artexpertswebsite.com  Sonja Delanney

Elevator Interludes

Life in 55+ housing has no dull moments.  I’ve lived on the sixth floor of such a building for two years, and the adjustment has run the gamut from the sublime to the ridiculous, sometimes all on the same day!  The elevator provides a rich assortment of spiritual practices around patience and compassion with others and oneself.  For example, I’m learning to laugh at myself after I have walked halfway around a hallway in search of my apartment which is on another floor.  Hey.  If I’m having a lively chat with a neighbor who gets off on floor five, why not continue the conversation?  You would think that by now I would have memorized the paintings in front of the elevator on each floor, or at least, look at the floor number before I get off.  Then there’s moving days, when through no fault of their own, departing tenants hold up the elevator on their floor.  Patience.  Tenants on wheels slow things down.  Tenants standing in the open door talking or holding it for someone down the hall slow me down.  Several times a day I have to let go.  It’s ever so good for me;  however, my internal dialogue can become quite colorful at times.

We have a custom of putting out unwanted items by the elevator for anyone to pick up.  When my cat died I put out her little pink carrier and it was gone within ten minutes.  So, on Saturday someone on my floor put out an antique end table with three drawers which I thought could nicely replace the inadequate one I had.  I carried it to my apartment and rearranged everything.  Excited to re-gift the end table I replaced, I put it out by the elevator.  Finally, I settled down to read with all my accoutrements neatly organized nearby.  Alas, within the hour I had an allergic reaction.  The end table had mold in it.  Upon examination, I also discovered a dangling leg.  Another opportunity to learn patience.  I decided to try taking the high road.  I’ll retrieve my inadequate end table and take this one down to the recycling, I thought.  I went in search, and you guessed it, the table had already been snatched up.  My disappointment was eased by the knowledge that I helped out someone else, just as I thought I was being helped out.  The office opening at day’s start yesterday, found me there checking out a cart to take the broken and moldy table downstairs.  Outside my apartment, where the table sat, I met Mandy, the house cleaner.  She asked what I planned to do with the table.  I told her.  “Oh, she said, I’ll take it for my daughter’s room.  I’m a cabinet maker.  I can fix this easily.”  And she already had decorating plans for it.

There are days that I long for my spacious condo, sans elevator, but I wouldn’t miss these little opportunities to let go, for the world.  I’m convinced that we grow old the way we live.  Life in a 55+ is the playground of the sublime and the ridiculous.

Exposed

railroad tracks 2

This poem comes as gift at midnight when it would not leave me alone until it was born.

In winter
Leafless trees
Permit the sound of
A train at sea level
To escape through spaces between branches
And traverse hills to settle in my ears,
Where the clickclickclick blends
With the swishswishswish on I-5.

trees

In winter
Unadorned Essence
Permits the pristine sound of
Virgin truth to
Break through superficial debris,
And unlock the ears of consciousness
Where it couples with compassion
To awaken and prod the unsuspecting Soul.

© rita h kowats  2014

tree drawing by buchi-nei-calzini.blogspot.com – tumblr

What Color Is Your Soul?

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Saffron threads of thoughts
Dangle in wispy plaits,
Jangling as they swing to a
Sunshine-saturated rhythm
Not yet heard.

Royle blue peacock- prone,
She struts her stuff with a
Trip over duff and dale,
Hale and hearty in
All things veiled.

Pained purple lives in the
Obituaries of his lost dreams,
Holding vigil while blind to
Today’s possibilities.

Cat’s Eye green,
Wide open surroundview.
No slinking in on “little cat feet,” then
“Moving on,” for you.
Electrifying,
Awe-inspiring green for you-
Bring it on!

Splashes of vermillion
Dashes of dark brown
Blue violet
Magenta
Maroon…
What color is your soul today?

© rita h kowats 2014

Thanks to Carl Sandburg for his priceless image:

Fog

The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.