Monday, December 22, 2008

Blue


Blue came home to reside with me tonight

carving a space built for two

and a cubby full of spices

filling the air with their warmth

and my heart with a promise



Blue came home to rejuvenate my sight

placing a homeful of boxes

and a bag full of dreams

into my space with their breath

and my mind with their might



Blue came home to touch my heart tonight

smiling a prairie full of prayers

and an ocean full of beams

into a dance made for lovers

into my soul made for life

Cadiz


Love flies into eternity

like the singer

wailing his cry

from the turrets

calling all to prayer




twirling down

corridors of history

blending past and future

into a seamless garment

woven in turbulence

laid to rest in time



spilling out of

Earth's pores

an ageless chant

echoing through the distance

like a scirocco

wailing from the south

carrying the voices of thousands

from the beginning of the age.

Tower of Ivory


Arising out of mist

darkness swirling 'bout its walls

Strident memories striking fear

fading glances off the pall

soaring higher than the sky

stronger deeper than hell

softer cooler than breathe

sweeter center its well.



A seashell at its base

a sudden wave at its door

a secret blessing within

pouring sound from its core

transparent light raining down

mountains rising from a grave

movement swifter to flight

sound that speaks His name.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Cavern of Souls


a moan settles in the distance
a cry out for the ones they love
a hope enkindled in a fiery light
a place of waiting they're reborn...

mastery of my mind you make
beholding of my eyes you create
a cinderbox in time set ablaze
and only you hold the match to my rising

an angel stands beside the heart
a soul begins a fiery start
an echo feints inside the part
as your touch pulls the veil for the sighting

a moan settles in the distance
a cry out for the ones they love
a hope enkindled in fiery light
in place of waiting they're reborn...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

caterpillars and honey at oceans tide




One night a few years ago, I had a dream ...…..

The atmosphere was ridden in grey. Shapes were dull and indistinct. The sensations I was surrounded by were ashy and powdery at best. As I journeyed indiscriminately in this non-space, a creature began to solidify out of the mist. In fact, not only did it solidify, but it was also emanating an incredibly bright and happy light. It began to bounce as it drew closer and as it did, I discovered that it resembled a caterpillar, but not any kind of caterpillar I've ever encountered in waking life. It was somewhat cartoonish in appearance, and it looked like a fat, bobbing string of neon colored balls arranged in rainbow order.... sweet happy pink, followed by a lively pulsing orange, followed by a shimmery incandescent yellow, a crisp, verdant green; and an electrically brilliant blue ball followed by a tiny little tail. Each ball pulsed with a light coming from the center of them making the greyness surrounding the creature that much more unreal. Topping off the bright light, which was this creature, was an immensely comical happy face... in fact, it reminded me of those buttons people wore in the 70's. On top of its head bounced these sprightly antennae.

It turned its head to look at me and smiled this incredibly broad grin, then turned toward some object in the distance and began making its way towards it. It wasn't walking so much as it was floating in space... or so it seemed. I had the impression I was supposed to follow this funny and amusing creature, so I walked behind it. As we continued along.... light began to push back the grayness surrounding me and I found myself walking on sand, on a beach. To my left, water was crashing not far from my feet and as I looked out over the water, the sky surrounding me lightened and brightened. Flicks of light shimmered off the crests of waves and it felt as though everything surrounding me was laughing and beckoning me forward. There was nothing angry or crazy about the ocean, but instead a gentle undulating rhythm that seemed to push itself into and underneath my skin and muscles.

As the energy increased, my eyes turned toward a luminescent golden object lying partially in and out of the water. I noticed that the colors of the water deepened and intensified closer to the object. It was at a bit of a distance, but as I drew up upon it, I discovered it was rather large and resembled bars of gold stacked one upon the other in the shape of a pyramid. Each bar appeared to be perhaps 20-30 feet in length with a circumference of about 6-7". Altogether, the stack rose about 10'-12' in the air. From the side, it appeared the greater part of its length lay submerged in the water, but the last few feet of length arose out of the water and onto the shoreline. Like the caterpillar it was putting off its' light from the inside, rather than the outside. As I drew closer I discovered they weren't so much bars of gold, as molded honey that glinted with diamond filaments blended into its mass while exerting a softness that belied its crystalline appearance. How to describe its color? It was as though the softest, palest and lightest of yellows were blended in perfect harmony together with peach, tenne, nectarine, and various other vibrant oranges. At each bars center a circular hollow core had been bored and pouring out of these cores onto the beach were hundreds, if not thousands of tiny baby caterpillars that seemed to be singing some tune I've never heard of before. It whispered around my ears and sounded like a thrumming echo coming from a distance, while at the same time enveloping the air around the object and myself.

As the sound increased, more caterpillars poured out of the honey and many of them began seeking me out, then crawling up my legs. As they did so, the large neon-colored caterpillar spun itself a chrysallis, then morphed above my head into a very large and even more brightly colored butterfly. A rhythmic pulse of light and vibration buffeted outwards from the bars of honey and as it increased, the butterfly took flight and shot towards the heavens like a falling star in reverse. Somehow, I found myself attached, then absorbed into the creature as we climbed in altitude and into space. Morphing into a starlike material, our speed picked up as we flew past galaxies into the farthest reaches of the universe. As we began to reach what seemingly could be its' end and the density of pressure intensified, everything began to shimmer and burst in upon itself…. a supernova.

I awoke laughing

Harbor


Sometimes
When the light
Fades into night
I wonder what will come
Tomorrow

Will I go
Towards heaven
Till quarter past seven
My promise left dry
In the meadow

Then I turn to you
And breathe a deep sigh
Did you know
My patience is idle?

You hold me
You love me
Guiding me closer to you
You move me
You take me
To the harbor of His love…..

Shark Bait


(this is an earlier blog from Apr.13- a special day for my mom, but as I'm a water baby, thought I'd repost it. All my posts have double meanings (if not more). Can you figure out what this one is?)

It's cooler today. After the tornado watch of yesterday, the heat broke and an icy breeze is cutting through the streets and freezing our toes. Nevertheless, spring reasserts itself and turqoise colored flip flops come out to challenge the cold air.

My own toes bore a bit of that brunt as I ventured out with cheery thoughts to meet my friend Midori regarding some project ideas we're working on. Notebooks out and pens at the ready, we were settling into a booth at Qdoba when we ran into a bunch of other friends. Standing around and trading comical stories, I flashed upon a memory that seemed disconnected to what we were talking about. After leaving, it occurred to me it might not be.

When I was younger I used to spend my summers in Hawaii..... Now, don't get the wrong idea. It's not that we were super wealthy or anything (though, we certainly had enough). Simply, my mother is from there. She was born and raised by a sugar cane farmer on the tiny ....island.. of ..Kauai..... Much of my maternal family is either directly from the Phillipines, or situated throughout the islands. She moved to the mainland when she came of age and for the most part didn't return there unless she was visiting (or for the brief period of time when she and I moved there when I was a child).

Like any other child during summer vacation, I was carted off to visit the relatives. It just so happened that my vacations were spent running through Grandpa's sugar cane fields, watching illegal cock fights(hey, I didn't know that at the time!), leaping over lava rocks and splashing in the water 90% of the time. From the moment my cousins and I awoke, it was sheer play time. Shoes became obsolete. To say that we got a little dark would be an understatement. Pidgeon became my third language. =)

Being island kids, my relatives are natural fishermen. My Uncle R. would deep fish as often as the weather permitted. He'd rise at ..3am.., stock up the truck with gear, guzzle back guava juice, grab a few nephews and head out to the marina to release the boat into the great deep blue. As a child, I wasn't allowed to go. Also, it was an all-boy activity. Nevertheless, I found a way to weasel myself into the pack. This consisted of harassing my aunties and uncles, as well as the staunch belief that I could go anywhere the boys could. Finally worn out by my continual attacks of "Can I go? Can I go? I'm just as strong as Craig/Jamal etc. Please... please.... I'll do ANYTHING!!!".... they finally relented. I was 12 by that time, and assumed to be a bit more responsible and mature. However, the first time I went out I jeopardized my chances of future trips.

The morning began with the shaking of my shoulders in the darkness of 4am and a rough "Time to get up. Let's move it. If you're not ready in 5-10min?....." Thinking ahead the night before, I had gone to bed dressed for the trip. All I had to do was brush my teeth?? Nah... who needs that? (note: ah..to be a kid. My dental hygiene is 1000x's better now!! Perfectly straight and white.)

So launching out of bed with my hair flying, I hightailed it to the truck and wedged myself into the tiny space behind the driver's seat in a position where even if my Uncle had changed his mind, he wouldn't be able to pull me out. With my auntie's assistance the night before, I had packed a bag of munchies for the day. I was set and ready to go.

As we made our way to the marina on the southeast side of the island, my uncle began running through the list of do's and don'ts. Now, there is a strong chance I didn't hear some of it. I was just so excited to be there. As it was, I often operated under the assumption that if I needed to know something I'd figure it out. I always did after all. (brother… what a pain in the neck I was!! or am... was... am??)

It was early morning. The air was warm, lightly scented and velvety fresh. An island dawn was breaking. The clouds danced in various formations and colors began breaking across the sky in vibrant chorus. It was brilliant and clear. All of creation was conspiring to open a day full of promise.

When we got to our destination, I ran onto the boat uncle pointed out and quickly began following instructions. Anything to speed up the adventure. There had been concern that I would get sick going out (a common problem when going out that far), but as providence would have it, I didn't. In fact, the rocking motion of the boat cutting through heavy waves almost put me back to sleep. I had to pop candies into my mouth for a quick sugar rush.

As we raced towards our destination, I hung myself over the edge and watched the colors change and intensify as we progressed into deeper waters. Spray dampened my clothes, and my lungs filled with the scent of ocean. Different shapes and sizes moved and crisscrossed underneath us. One of my cousins began identifying some of them for me. Mahi Mahi. Blue Marlin. Different kinds of tuna. Squid. Sharks.

When we reached the 3-4 mile mark off the coast, my uncle cut the engines and coached me through the process of strapping on the belt that anchors the poles around my waist. Then he showed me how to cast correctly and pull in. Being little, it was important that I concentrate on leverage and cementing my center of balance so I could reel in the larger fish. (This can cause some intense bruising to the solar plexus, I might add)

As luck would have it, I caught one on my first cast. I needed help reeling it in though, because it was rather large for me… about an 18 pound Mahi Mahi. Leaning my weight into my feet, angling my body, and positioning my arms in a certain position prevented the pull from being more strenuous than it needed to be. Combined with my uncle's strength and skill, we landed the fish in the boat. Admiring it's bluish-green sheen in the dappling sun, I was ready to take on the ocean.

Flushed with success, I spent the next few hours happily catching a few more fish. Sometimes, they were small enough for me to reel in and other times, no. (my largest was about 28 pounds.) When they got larger than 14 pounds (and believe me you can feel the difference) or were feisty Skipjack Tuna that refused to be guided into the boat, my uncle would take over and pull them. I lost a gorgeous and spirited marlin to him, which took awhile to reel in as it was flying all over the place. How he didn't lose that one I have NO idea. Chalk it up to fisherman's expertise.

As the morning wore into afternoon and the sun rose higher, we began stripping off our layers and pouring water on ourselves. Sunscreen? What's that? After a few hours, the heat and the hypnotic colors of the water began wreaking havoc with my equilibrium. It felt like this force was exerting itself to compel me to come in….. just come in. My cousin J., seeing my eyes widen with the anticipation of diving into that sweet, cool water… began teasing me and daring me to jump off the 2nd story ledge of the boat into the water. Getting my uncle angry didn't register. All I could see was that I needed to … swim… just swim and disappear into those deepest shades of blue. When I saw my uncle was distracted with flushing the deck, I climbed up by the driver's seat, stepped onto the ledge… prepped myself, flew into the air, then jackknifed into the water.

Slicing through the water in a clean motion, my heart screamed in silent celebration relishing the sensation of perfection. How to describe those first few moments in an alien environment? Initially, there was a moment of discombobulation… an unsurety of which direction was up.
Blinking my eyes underwater and moving past the sting of salt, I began to see movement all around me. Dolphin kicking downward, the water felt slick, heavy and peaceful. Quietness pressed in upon me. Fish brushed past my feet, as my hair floated in the undercurrent. If I could've stayed down there, I would've stayed down there forever.

Looking up through the water towards the boat, I saw my uncle gesticulating wildly for me to get out the water. I tried to stay underwater for as long as possible, but my lungs craving for air propelled me towards the surface after a time. My uncle looked like he was going to have a heart attack. Or maybe he was? Poor man. The moment I drew closer to the boat and reached my arm out of the water, his hand flew out and wrenched me back into the boat with a force that pushed any remaining air out of my lungs. Sprawled on the deck with my shoulder stinging and still clueless about the fear written all over his face, I turned to my cousins for answers. The one who dared me to jump had his eyes fixed on the surface of the boat at his feet as though he had never seen anything more beautiful in his life. Everyone else's jaws were hung open like so many jacks in a box.

As my uncle walked away to catch his breath and recover any sense of control, my older cousin Craig walked up to me and kindly began explaining why what I just did, was ...the .....STUPIDEST thing anybody could've done. CHUM…. Shark bait. I almost became shark bait. It turns out that I picked the worst possible time to go in. For those who don't know, "chum" is leftover fish guts left from cleaning. It's used to attract more fish. Naturally, with the fish .... come .... the sharks. It was still being washed off the boat at the same moment I hit the water. Running to the edge, my uncle and cousins saw 2 separate sharks circling the vicinity. Whoops.

Needless to say, I was banned from the boat until I could prove myself more trustworthy. My uncle was so traumatized from the experience he couldn't look at me for at least a week, let alone talk to me. In a spirit of conciliation, I learned to like all the seafood I had refused to eat prior to that time. Squid… yeah, sure… love squid. Raw fish… yeah, sure I'll try it. Picky eater? Who's the picky eater? Not me!!

My uncle and I gradually worked past that mind-numbing fear. In fact, it only took a few years before he consented to me staying under his roof again. =)

Looking back now, I understand more deeply why he reacted so strongly. Naturally, he was concerned for my welfare. Of course. But I'm sure the thought of telling my dad didn't exactly inspire a lot of internal peace. Lesson learned. On reflection, I'll admit I find it pretty hysterical. My poor uncle.

Word to the wise…. If you're ever on a fishing boat, in the middle of the deep blue sea… and chum is being washed off the deck… DO NOT… under ANY circumstances, get it into your head to cool off with a nice little dip into the sea. No matter HOW inviting.
On that note, the same can be said of certain kinds of people and relationships. Shark bites can be deadly. =)

Protection

In spirit's womb light fills a cavern

unbound by reality's confines

freedom's breath its walls

pillowed strength its halls

its limits unbroken passages

paving a sky without constriction

sinking into the tenderest oblivion

light eclipsing the brightest sun

Sweetness melting the hardest heart.

Liquid Fire


I once walked
A quiet road
With nothing much to hear

And then passed
A quiet storm
Then everything was clear

A light shines
A love pines
Awakening desire
A heart breaks
A soul makes
A quickening of fire

Your love rages through me
My heart's in awe of you
And when the night
Grows cold
You run through me
Like liquid Fire…

(in honor of the feast of Pentecost)

Visitation- Guadalupe and the Star of the Sea


Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, in a little town called Cuauhtitlan (or "the place of the Eagle") not far from Mexico City, there lived a sweet, gentle and devout man by the ironic name of Juan Diego. (I say, ironic, as the english version is John James. St. John, the apostle is considered the eagle of the gospels, the brother of St James, as well as enjoyed the distinction of being a special son of Mary.).

Born into the middle class of his day, he grew up in relative comfort, inherited land, worked in a decent trade, and married. Unfortunantly, his wife died much too early and in a desire to assuage his grief, he drew closer to a last surviving relative, an uncle. Juan Diego, being a religious man who had turned to the faith many years before, made it a habit of walking the distance of 9 miles to the local church on Saturdays and Sunday. For us, this might be a bit far, but in that time and place, it was not unusual to willingly make such a trek.


Not long after he had lost his beloved wife, he was making this journey on a particularly special feast day. He had drawn closer in devotion to Mary since his wife died, and wanted to give her his attention and care. As he walked, he heard a voice call out to him.

"Juanito, Juan Dieguito."

The story I'm about to recount, has been told many times. I'm nowhere near capable of giving it justice. Nevertheless, I will share what I can about what I have found to be ...one of the sweetest, tenderest, merciful, and haunting calls to love I've ever encountered.

The image that we're given as the result of that call, is a portrait of a lady, in middle Eastern dress, between 6-7 months pregnant, draped with a map depicting the night sky emblazoned on her mantle. The images that cover her dress flowed out in a poem understood by the natives of that time, as describing truth, poetry and philosophy; the very things considered doorways to the divine- "flower and song". In loveliness and beauty, God is recognized.

In reading her dress, the natives would understand the truth of what Juan Diego was soon to convey. They tell the story of the fire of new life offered by a God who beckons and pleads for the hearts of men. They speak of the Morning and Evening Star, the one whom they understood to be the figure of the one who sacrificed himself before entering into Heaven.

Isn't it ironic that in an image that to this day, is a mystery to those who study it, this woman is presented to us in the figure of the Lady of the Visitation, ... pregnant, traveling a long distance to encounter those whom she carries in a deep and intimate place in her heart. In the same way that she approaches her cousin Elizabeth, she approaches us.... unweary, unflagging, bright with the Presence that resides within her, causing our weary souls to brighten, and find new courage.

Will we recognize her Son in the same way that John the Baptist did, leaping at the sound of her voice? Excited knowing who we're in the presence of?

Over her womb, one flower, a Quincunx, the "flower of the Sun", as well as the Constellation, Leo, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Over her womb, the symbols that convey the message of who resides WITHIN her, as she speaks to us. Not off to the side, not in the sky, not behind her, not below her... WITHIN her. Completely vulnerable, completely dependent, completely transparent, HE chooses to approach us WITHIN her. The God of the universe approaches us not even as a child, but as a baby that is totally immersed in His mother.

This tilma, which carries this image, should have deteriorated hundreds of years ago. There is no chemical, there is no preservative, .... only a miraculous Image that reveals and makes transparent our hearts, our intentions, our fears and most importantly our hopes. In a time, when the natives of what we now call Mexico were on the verge of violent and open revolt against the European invaders who engulfed their land, there appears a mediator,.... a simple woman, whose unequivocal "Yes" to God long ago, ushered in the truest revolt against all that wishes to destroy humanity, in order to reassert who is truly Creator and who is Created.

In a place of violence, of that hatred, of that anger... there appears simply a mother. Patient, sweet, gentle, loving, nurturing, tender, entreating... mother.

In the image of the visitation, she doesn't approach out of her own need. In a time when most mother's are holing into their homes and nesting,.... she takes it upon herself to make an arduous journey to minister ... to someone else. To assist someone in THEIR need. To give of her overflowing abundance of grace, care and love which literally pumps through her own veins, from the child that plays in her womb.

She approaches us, in this image… with the same intent, and the same overwhelming understanding of what we need. She approaches us as …. Mother.

"Behold thy Mother."

The last command given by Christ on the Cross…. Behold…. Thy….. Mother.

The Lady of the Visitation, the Lady of Guadalupe…. Is Mother. To us.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I have two mother's. One, physically brought me into this world and gave me a deep appreciation of the hunger of life.... , and the other…. I've described above.

I didn't fully realize how much this was true until about 2 years ago, February 2006, my consecration month. In one moment, I pieced together many seemingly disparate events and situations that have occurred since my youth…. Into one cohesive whole.

Many years ago, when I felt called to consecrate myself to Jesus through Mary, (and that's a literal description, because at the time it didn't make ANY sense to me), I was given the task of praying one decade of the rosary to be prayed every day for the rest of the life. I was given the Visitation. I often wondered why that was as it was the mystery I understood the least. It was a mystery full of joy, connection and intimacy. At the time, I knew little about all three. Yet, soon after that, I discovered this mystery kept following me. Priests and nuns I knew were always giving me the Magnificat to pray. And the image of Guadalupe began appearing…. Everywhere.

Time would pass and the frequency of both along with the image of the SeaStar would ebb and flow consistently throughout my life. Even my middle name which I THOUGHT was of my own choosing, prior to any knowledge of religious things, turned out to be little more than Divine intervention…. AGAIN. (let's just say it has to do with Mary and sea stars)

2 years ago, I found myself being surrounded by all three, almost on a moment to moment basis. In exasperation, I finally went into the Adoration Chapel and knelt with the complete intention of asking God what He was trying to say through all three. I went into a pew, looked down, and immediately in front of me was a large book on Our Lady of Guadalupe.

As I read… I had an experience. I don't know how to describe it. But let's just say, that sometimes in life we can all have moments where we realize that all that we thought was of our own doing, really wasn't. My name, my mother, my father, my childhood, my decisions, my choices, my hopes, my dreams….. my interpretation of all of it…. Was little more than a response to an invitation initiated by one who for all intensive purposes, could've easily overlooked me.

Instead, what I found was that every detail, every small coincidence, every thought and feeling I have ever possessed …. Were all allowed so that I could recognize who I really belonged to…. Who I was really formed by. I had often wondered how it was that I could be who I was. Anybody who knows my family, is often bewildered when they look at me. I look like my mother, but who I am…. What I am…. Is an enigma to her, and to my father. The choices I make, the way that I think, is …foreign to them. There was a time, when I felt like an orphan…. Without sanctuary, without roots. I love my family and want so much to share with them many of my experiences and thoughts in life, but it's like…. We're of different places, times, beginnings, … almost everything. I share memories, but little else. It's clear someone or something else took over, but …. It became very clear in the chapel that one day, who, what, how and why that happened.

The world became silent. Time rolled through my mind and heart, and I finally began recognizing His and her hands in ALL my life. I was physically alive ... because of her protection. And I needed to know that. I needed to know who my Mother was. There's a long story behind that one, but suffice it to say, in one blinding moment, I didn't just think she was my Mother… I KNEW she was my mother. I felt her as my Mother. And I never had felt that experience…. Ever…. In my life. I finally understood what it meant, when I would hear my friends talk to me about their mothers. I finally knew what they FELT. Safe. Protected. Covered. Connected. Real. Clear that no matter where they were or what they did, they had a sanctuary to come home to. For how can one be a mother, if they have not been a beloved child first? If they have not been allowed to be that "little one"? Little ones, are unafraid of looking you in the eye. They can love and be loved. They know how to give. They know how to receive. They swim without fear in the ocean of His mercy.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is the Merciful Mother, the carrier of the Sea of Mercy, which is her womb. In her, all is received, all is given. She is the Star of the Sea of Mercy. She is ... home. If she is home, it doesn't matter where we go, because Guadalupe is the quiet place that resonates with the sound of His heartbeat.

Guadalupe... thank you for being my mama. Please help me be a better daughter. I have so much to learn.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

From the meditation before Mass on this day:

Unlike a simple visit, a visitation is different owing to the purpose intended by the get-together. A visitation aims to accomplish something. Specifically, a visitation is an encounter that carries within it a meaning that is exceptional. In the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that meaning is not a "message" but rather the exceptional presence of the Son she carried within her womb. We can be certain that the mystery of the Visitation is effective in our life if we do now, before Jesus is born, what Christ will command us to do as he dies: "Behold your mother."

Without You

Rain scatters on the pavement

And my mind runs slipshod over memories

When it was hard to find you

I'd slip and hurt myself on the walk

Saying I could do it without you…

Has always been a lie



There was that time, one among many

When I'd dive into the deep-end

For the millionth time

Only to discover the water was shallow

And all I'd end up doing without you…

Is hurt myself once again




Without you, I'm a fool

Without you, I'm slipping in the rain

Without you, I'm falling down the mountain

And I'll sit and cry out till you pull me up once again



Finding you was never so hard when I realized you found me....

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Visitation

Finally, I get the chance to stop and blog a tiny bit this morning. Last night, I tried, but I started falling asleep as I was typing, so I gave up and went to bed. After a long day, I was thankful to win a deeply desired rest that has been evading me the last few weeks. Allergies and a frenetic schedule have been chasing me crazy. =) This morning, I feel a sense of restoration that is beyond appreciation.

Part of that restoration comes to me (other than the wonderful Claritin-D, that I have to swear by!!) through a reminder of what life truly is about. I had spent yesterday going to mass, catching up with good friends, sharing some pretty crazy stories over brunch and a lot of laughter. After brunch, I had been somewhat emotionally exhausted. Between a lot of intense writing the last few days, struggling with breathing while singing (allergy induced asthma), then seeing an old friend of mine who I had been concerned about now involved in a healthy, happy and solid relationship... I was going through a roller coaster of emotion. Happy for them, yet..... also, something else.

Towards evening though, I got a phone call. An older lady friend of mine (a mom figure in my life) called me and told me that her sister-in-law (a lady I've spent quite a bit of time with the past year) was in the hospital in a coma. She's been battling cancer for quite awhile, but went into a coma the last couple of days and has only 1 or 2 left. While her doctors are stunned that she has lived this long, those of us who know her realize it is not so strange. I had prayed I would have the opportunity to help send her off and was so glad to get the phone call giving me just that. As my friend and I hung out with her, I had the opportunity to sing her a few songs and pray her well on her journey (Divine Mercy chaplet). As I sang to her, I kept calling to mind her story, and all that she's been through in this life. If I ever get the opportunity to write about her life one day it would be an honor.

You see.... she is one of those individuals who truly has much to say about life and suffering, hope and death. To say her life has been remarkable would be an understatement. She was born in Poland, the eldest child of Russian exiles and a survivor of a Nazi Labor Camp. To give a tiny bit of history, the Nazi's were quite intent in wiping out the Polish people. There are many who forget that they were just as focused on achieving this goal, as they were in exterminating the Jewish race. Some of what she went through during that time is beyond words. In the midst of complete and total deprevation, and in the knowledge that most of her family was being wiped out, she became a woman of God. She went forward dedicating her life to giving everything she possesses so that others might have hope. Literally. She brushes it off and states it was an easy decision to do so, but I realize the magnitude of that statement.

I was lucky enough to spend quite a bit of time with her this past year. While preparing meals for her and chatting, I have watched her and I have learned. Intensely devout, fiercely intelligent, deeply respected and a charismatic leader, she has traveled far and suffered greatly, with a spirit that I can only say is indomitable. I am often amazed to discover who she knew/knows, and the impact she has made on all those who have come into contact with her. Not that she didn't have her moments, of course she did. But through it all, her attitude always remained fixed on the knowledge that her beginning and her end centered on one person. She knew the full meaning of "Who am I?".

Naturally, being with her also reminded me of others who have left. Those who have died. Family. Friends who have departed so young. Others who have not died, but remain with me in spirit, while they remain physically seperate of me. All those who you say goodbye to, but it's not really a goodbye. It's a "till we meet again".... "till we meet again and share a meal in heaven together". (well...lol...provided we all make it, but I will leave that consideration to God... I mean, Who am I?)

As Nell and I chatted, we had the opportunity to talk a little about that and share some good stories about special people who have come into our lives, that we'll never forget. Can't forget.
It's hard not to think of all of that, yet for me, it's a blessing. A blessing to be with her towards the end. A blessing to be reminded of special people and that .... we aren't limited by our bodies. We aren't limited by our space. We are only limited by our faith... or lack of it. Life can get crazy, and life can be hard at times, but it is ALWAYS amazing because of all of the above. BECAUSE there's difficulties, BECAUSE it isn't always easy... Life can be that much more gorgeous if you know how to see.

Tyna knew how to do that. Walentyna Narowski ... knew... and knows. And I wish her well. Save a place for me Tyna!! =)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------Update: Tyna died at 3:15pm, during the hour of mercy, the next day.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Nine Days

The past few days, I’ve been having a nagging feeling.
Even in the midst of laughing my head off over something (I have the goofiest and most entertaining friends), cramming to learn 13 pieces of music in just a few days (Mozard, Handel, and Proulx among others) and feeling tremendously hopeful about a great many things ….. I’m feeling …. What is it? Anticipation of something about to happen?

Do you ever wish you knew more… about a situation, about a person, about a relationship, about SOMEthing in particular. Have you ever wanted an answer… a resolution to something moving your heart, mind or both? At the very least, perhaps a certainty that you are heard, that someone bigger than you sees everything and reassures you that everything is in GOOD hands. Or maybe your gut is telling you something, but you’re not 100% clear how to interpret it.
Well, when these things happen to me I pray.

Yes, I believe there is a God. No, let me clarify. I know there is a God.

Many years ago, I didn’t know that. I wasn’t raised with a faith in anything, except what a person can do by himself and for himself. Spirituality was discussed, but only in a generic, vague sense… or in a way that had to do with being in control of one’s environment (my father studied martial arts intensively due the requirements of his work and wanted me to embody those tenets).

But then one gorgeous summer day when I was 14 and "browned out" from a long summer in Hawaii, I experienced a moment of "strange". I felt compelled to do something. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it was important. (something close to what I’m feeling now)

I decided to go for a walk and found myself at the front door of St Jude’s in Westlake Village, California. I found myself planting my feet in the middle of the doorway, looking around to see if anyone else was in the church "building" and found myself saying pretty loudly,
"Okay, if there is a god, and this place has anything to do with this god or gods, then I need you to prove you’re real. Because from where I’m standing, you’re not. I don’t know if there’s a "you". I don’t know if "you" can hear me, but if there is a "you" and "you" exist, prove it." And I turned on my heel and walked out. I figured I had nothing to lose so why not put it all on the table? Right? I had no idea………

Fast forward, a few months later… and I found myself in a position of being talked to… A LOT … about God, faith, religion,… everything, by people who suddenly just "popped up". (It’s ironic how this kind of thing happens when you ask the kinds of questions I asked that one day.) This gal came forward and volunteered to answer as many of my questions as I could throw at her. I kept asking, but I wasn’t convinced. It seemed a pleasant entertaining fiction, but little more. Intellectually, it was making a certain amount of sense, but emotionally… it wasn’t registering.

Then she asked me to go to something called a "retreat". People pray and talk at these things, so I figured…. What the heck, why not see where they’re coming from? I went. Naturally I was curious, but the first day I simply observed and kept my distance. People were throwing themselves into these open-hearted devotions and I was a bit amazed at how fearless they were in wanting to express their hearts towards this God I wasn’t even sure existed ....in front of everyone (being public about what I considered "private" was a no-no in my book at the time). It was new to me. Nevertheless, the next day I woke up and …. I knew. KNEW. I even understood that KNOWING can’t be confined to a dictionary. The word itself... has a magnitude I can’t express.

It was a Sunday morning. I woke up and found my mouth uttering prayers, and my heart was echoing. Crazy. My body felt completely rested, to the point that I didn’t even recognize it. I don’t think I received that kind of rest since I was … oh, 4 maybe??? By nature, I was incredibly energetic and I’m sure that was a factor in not resting completely. There were other factors, of course… but that morning it was as though I woke up for the first time. I remember it as though it just happened.

I found myself dropping on my knees and making a very clear statement of commitment and acknowledgement that I would spend the rest of my life giving myself over to … this. This person. That I would do whatever it took to understand and love them, to figure out how to do it … NOW, in my lifetime. Strange, no?

Now, there’s a lot of people who would say that my experience was the result of "suggestion". Or that my body and mind were simply awakening to their true potential as a result of my efforts to discover and understand what was driving these people. That I had simply uncovered my own potential capacity for divinity that is innate in all creatures... etc etc ad nauseum.

I know all the rebuttals. Trust me, in almost 20 years of trying to walk this life, I’ve heard them. I have a father who is ultra-"rational". ULTRA. He raised me to question EVERYTHING. Nothing is sure, nothing is impenetrable, nothing is unattainable, nothing can withstand the pressures of life, all things change ... and love is never enough. There are no absolutes. (Except that statement of course. =))

But one moment, all of life is a question mark and blurry… the next everything is crystallized in form, shape and matter. REALITY. Pure unmarrable clarity. Incredible energy fully grounded. It was so fantastically sharp and filling that I started crying from the intense beauty of it.

I had heard from a few people it could be like that, that it might be like that…. But I’d just nod without understanding, because what could I say? That what they said made SENSE to me? Of course they didn’t make "sense"! They were talking about something I couldn’t even see… let alone believe? Absolutes. There’s no such thing. But, in that moment, I saw everything.... heard everything..... felt everything... at the same time. Reality.
It was so many years ago. Since then, I’ve questioned and I’ve read everything I could get my hands on. I had to know WHY I was so clear. I had to be able to back it up. As time went on the more I learned, the more I discovered how and why everything made sense in that one .... small.... moment.

Have I been tested? 100%. It’s a guarantee, when you make that kind of commitment. Even when I want to give up on it, I can never shake the clarity that doesn’t come from me. I’ve done some ridiculous, idiotic stuff (really, really, really dumb), but through it all the commitment has remained. Remained and intensified.

Have I learned anything? Well, I have an unusual amount of tools and access to knowledge and resources that most people wouldn’t be aware is there. It’s quiet, it’s behind the scenes, but it is very strong. But honestly, I, as a person, am now only at the beginning. I’ve been preparing to end up at this starting line.

Which leads me to today….. and this nagging feeling. This deja vu.

There are some prayerful people who exercise something called a novena. This novena is basically a concentrated effort of praying for a particular intention for 9 days. Everyday, the person goes to their knees and offers up a sincere prayer for the same thing. There are many forms, many expressions of different kinds of prayers and different kind of patrons (people who have gone ahead of us, who understand and identify more closely with what your heart is praying for…. And are "experts" in knowing HOW to pray more truly for those intentions).

I hear 9 days calling to me…. I wonder what’s about to happen? =)

"Give reason for the hope that is in you."

Friday, March 07, 2008

ROMA





(About 5 years ago, I made a trip. In October of last year, I finally felt the comfort and peace to sit down and digest all that occurred by writing this blog for the first time. Somehow I get the feeling that now is the beginning of the fulfillment of the promise I was given Oct. 21st, 2003. Today... for myself, I'm republishing it with a lil' bit of cleaning.)

This might seem a strange way to start blogging, but I wanted to start with an event that occurred 4 years ago. For some reason, it's been heavily on my mind the last couple of months.... and increasingly more so, the last 3 weeks. I've been so caught up with emergencies, I haven't been able to "process" or "sit with" any of the experiences which I recognized as laying a foundation for my future. My intuition tells me it's important I do so.

I apologize in advance if this seems badly edited and rather long. It is. I'll clean it up later, but for now need to let it come out on its' own.

In October 2003, the Holy Father arranged to coincide the timing of his 25th anniversary (16th), the Beatification of Mother Teresa(19th), and a Consistory (21st- 22 bishops were made Cardinals).

For some strange reason I ended up going. It was strange for the simple fact that 1) I couldn't afford to go, 2) Was probably the worst possible time to plan for this kind of trip on such short notice and 3) I knew I was going to go anyway.

My travel story began in the end of September 2003, not long after my birthday. I was working in this quaint little Catholic bookstore at Domino's Farms in Ann Arbor, MI. Being a lifelong bookworm, surrounded by books that contain my favorite subject matters; a chapel I could duck into at any time less than 5 metres away; a catholic radio station next door to throw ideas around; and with the ability to talk about the faith all day to different kinds of interesting people ... and get PAID… gave a tremendous sense of relief. Granted I made next to peanuts, but in my mind it was a SERIOUS upgrade from the bookkeeping desk job I had quit the year before. Between the store, Legatus and a small bookkeeping job on the weekends with Steve Ray, I was making ends meet and was very, very content. I felt I was getting my sea legs back and was eager to see how God and I were going to move forward from that point.

Well, one day as my friend Angela and I were checking in new product and re-arranging the store, another friend of ours who worked at the radio station popped their head in, stared at us for a second and proceeded to say, "soooo..... I was just praying in the chapel and it became very, very clear that not only am I supposed to go to Rome for the Beatification, but you guys are supposed to come with me. "

We laughed and exchanged looks, but inside I knew she was right. I hadn't been to Rome yet. I was waiting for the right time, and often told people that I wouldn't go until God made it CLEAR that it's what He wanted. I don't like to force things. I've learned that my strongest experiences happen when I treat them like catching the right wave at the right time. You sit on your board in the water, gauge the currents, and when the moment is right you angle your board into that sweet spot in front of the wave, balance and pop up.

Traveling, has always possessed this dynamic for me. "Hey, what do you think of driving cross country with me in a month?" "Oh sure, it just so happens it works out that I can take the time off, and just got some xtra money." "Hey, I can't make the trip up to Vancouver, mind if I switch this ticket in your name?" "funny, I was just praying about that 10 min ago." "Mo, are you up for a trip to Mexico this weekend? We just got some time off." "Oh yeah. Funny thing, so and so just cancelled our plans, so I'm free" and so on and so forth. Every time I've ever tried to PLAN something, 9 times out of 10, the "plan" falls through at the last minute.

This time how was I supposed to afford going, let alone take the time off?? etc. etc. etc. But……

Do you ever get the sensation at times that something is happening for a particular reason and even though you don't completely understand what the reason is.... you go with it. Your hair prickles, and your body is resonating as though you were a bell that had just been struck. You just... KNOW.

Well, the snowball rolled quickly after that. One friend invites us and another person paid for the plane ticket insisting that I'm supposed to go. Then another friend pops up and says they just located a nice rental apartment above the Vatican in Monte Mario for less than peanuts. I don't have to pay for lodging. Everything materializes in less than a week. Surprise??

The entire time, I'm holding in my mind "Why am I going? Why is it so easy for me to attend, and what exactly is God trying to show me? to tell me?" "Is Mother Teresa orchestrating some kind of meeting I need to know about??"

I've always admired her but certainly nothing to justify her praying for me like this. So I began looking at her life again and one word bannered itself in my mind…. "JOY"… true joy. It's not an easy concept in today's world, and certainly not one I apprehended well. The experience is much different for me now, but when I went to Rome I was more deeply immersed under that silly cloud called self-reliance. "I create the situations that determine where my life will go... I make my heart ready, my spirit ready... noone else is responsible". Meanwhile, God is tapping his foot at the front of the classroom and clearing His throat in preparation to tip over my pride. And ... with a HUGE smile on His face.

So that was Rome… a joyful experience. People I hadn't seen in years ended up crossing my path during that week. Old bosses from Cali; Old friends I hadn't seen in over 3,5,10 years; some of whom instigated key changes in my life; an old best friend with whom there had been little resolution in an odd break that occurred when I left Los Angeles in 2001; friends from my local area (Ann Arbor, MI) who didn't have to call me to coordinate meeting up for dinner/lunch/breakfast, because we crossed paths at St Peter'/NAC/St John Lateran/the bench in the middle of the road near the Piazza del Risogimento, or any of the other numerous places in Rome. Who needs a cell phone when God and your guardian angels are coordinating everything? You name it, it was as though the last 10-12 years of my life converged in Rome during this one week.

By God's providence, we got on a Scavi Tour at literally the last minute with a very holy priest. When my friend and I requested to spend some private time alone with St Peter's Bones, it was given. None of this was normal. Neither getting on the Tour last minute (this is a private catacomb), nor the type of guide we received, let alone the private minutes of just 2 of us left in an underground cavern with only a piece of plexi-glass separating us from the "rock". We were given tickets to the Consistory the day before it happened after bumping into sisters we're friends with back home; and were invited to a private screening for the official film on the life of Mother Teresa the day before it was screened.

Every day, carried little unexpected surprises and coincidences. The day of the beatification my friend Angela and I ended up getting down to the Vatican late. The trains were off schedule (this is a normal thing), and we ended up making friends with this beautiful lady (a judge in her native Spain) who had rather intimate contact with Mother Teresa. We discovered we had many things in common as I translated back and forth hearing some amazing stories, including her own son's healing of a spinal deformity just a couple of years back through Mother Teresa's intercession. Due to an emergency, she was flying out immediately and would miss the beatification. She offered us her 4th or 5th row ticket, but as there was two of us and only one ticket we thanked her and exchanged hugs instead. It was a blessing of Providence to make the acquaintance of such a gracious, elegant and refined woman. She's the personification of who I would like to become.

We finally got down to the Vatican and found ourselves at the back outer edge of the Colonnade closer to Via Aurelia. It was packed to that point, but I couldn't shake the thought that I was to act in faith and move closer. Upon explaining this, to the English-speaking gentlemen in front of us, he began cracking up in laughter and made the announcement to anyone who could hear that we were delusional. Everybody around us was shaking their heads at us and chuckling. "Yeah, GOOD LUCK!! Take a picture for me, will ya??" "Well, you never know!! Anything can happen =)"

So with a quick prayer for the impossible, I took a moment to step on a pillar to overlook the crowd and figure out what to do next. After looking around and snapping a few pictures from that height, I heard my name being called from below. Looking straight down, the faces of some of our friends in the media materialized. What are the chances?

After a bit of laughter upon jumping down, they mentioned they had 2 extra press passes that they hadn't planned on possessing. Would we be interested in using them?? Hmmm…. Access to all areas, complete lack of obstruction to any vista point and freedom from being crushed in the masses?? Let me think about that….. =)

As it turned out, I was able to get some fantastic shots I wouldn't have otherwise gotten. And…. Bumped into many old friends I hadn't seen in years in the media section. It felt like reunion central. Individuals I had shared some of my most powerful spiritual experiences with back in the day, appeared out of nowhereand the joy of running into them on such a day and in such a place was pure delight. In fact, the woman who took me aside into her private study when I was 19 y.o. to evangelize me about Mary being my Mother, appeared at the end. She told me many mysterious things in her study years ago, and October 19th, 2003, she's standing next to the reuters crew and smiling at me. That was certainly a SURREAL moment.

Would you believe everyday was like that? Now, I've never believed in coincidences, and am accustomed to "strange" situations occurring. But Rome took that to the next level. I didn't have anything to do with it. All I did was wake up each day, say a little prayer and ask God and my guardian angel where He'd like me to go that day and who would he like me to meet and voila…. Hello, old friend. =) Doors opening left and right... and everything working out perfectly.

Going with the specific intent as going as a pilgrim had its' fun moments though. It was hysterical trying to explain to the Immigrations Officer as I boarded the flight, that "Yes, I only have $120 on me, no credit cards and one small suitcase." "No, I don't plan on doing much shopping." "What are my plans? Other than the Beatification, I don't have a plan. I'm a pilgrim. I'm going to pray??" "I'm staying with friends not a hotel." "Yes, I plan on coming back to the States… when? Uh… about a week and a half?". In regards to my dark skin, "What's my ethnicity? Everything???" "I'm going as a pilgrim, isn't that what you do…. Bring little, take little, keep your eyes open and hang on for the ride?"

Naturally, he stood there confused with a comical look on his face. I'm standing in front of him dressed from head to toe in a simple black top, long thin black skirt and flip flops (it was my comfy travel gear) and little to no plan. (Hey, I was ready for a God adventure. Past experience tells me, "strap in, keep my hair from getting caught in anything and have fun") It would've cut through the red tape to pull my Dad's business card out, but experience has taught me that's not always the wisest route.

So I had this mantra going through my head--- "He's only doing his job. He's only doing his job. It's OKAY." After "20 questions", and quite a few passengers staring at us as they walked past in the corridor, he finally gave up and let me board the plane. Hopping over to my seat in coach, I happily kicked back and got ready for another pleasant plane ride.

The journey began, ..... and during the course of that journey a roadmap was unveiled that unexpectedly brought me back to my roots… my own family. How is it that a person can travel a few thousand miles only to wind up facing the very place that they came from? My last full day in Rome, before heading for the countryside, was a series of revelations I still am unable to put into any "real" context. Today, it's a little clearer, but there is quite a bit that needs to reveal itself.

Starting with the Consistory, the day was one odd occurrence after another. By the end, all I could do was go and sit in front of the Trevi Fountain, eat a lemon gelato and veg-out. I kept feeling my attention being pulled to yet another strange occurrence, but I couldn't have handled anymore. Steam was rippling down my body, and I remember saying "God, I'm sorry. This is too much. I can't handle learning anymore. I wouldn't know what to do with it. I don't know what to make of what you've been telling me all day. Please… if you really want me to pay attention to this…. "Situation", can you save it for me later? It's so different than what I planned. I need a little time. Please, give me a little time to adjust to it all."

He was kind. The Fountain was beautiful. I had time to breathe (well, sort of). And I had free entertainment in this adorable curly haired Mexican boy of 2-3 yrs old who kept swinging around the metal bar at the edge of the fountain trying to get my attention with goofy faces and making me laugh. His giggles topped off my day. Pure uncomplicated sunshine!!

The day I got back from Rome, I found family nobody knew existed. And the situation I was told about that last day, partially proved itself within 1 week. Which told me, the other part would be coming… someday. (one door closes,... another one?....)

That "thought" I had while sitting at the Trevi, was that the past, present and future really does converge in the Eternal City. Actually, it would be more accurate to say "knowing". I went to Rome and was reminded .... that beginnings and endings don't really exist, there is only Presence. It's only Him. His will is forever being fulfilled .... always!!! Especially when it comes to our families.