A Garden For Bella & Tommy: A Short Story of Enduring Love

This short story brought my emotions to the surface and warmed my heart. The writing is wonderful. See what you think!

Do Not Annoy The Writer

The snow had fallen heavily overnight, and the residents of the garden – the tiny nightingale with its enchanting song, the speckled song thrush, the scarlet-breasted robin, the bushy-tailed red squirrel, fleet of foot and fur of flame, the little hedgehog and the great spotted woodpecker – all woke to find their home swathed in winter’s white veil. The grass, once green, was covered by a thick blanketof unspoiled snow that glistened in the sun as she spread her warm fingers of light over the frozen land. The ivy, dark green and bejewelled with frost, sparkled too; stunningly beautiful, like ivory on jade. A fir tree, wreathed and garlanded with winter’s stole, offered shelter amongst its emerald fronds, whilst the old-fashioned wishing well which stood beneath had frozen solid, entombing the hopes and dreams cast therein, until the Spring thaw would set them free.

At the far end of…

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 9

 

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This week has brought the usual ups and downs, plus a deep down or two. Friends and family haves lost loved ones to death, and others have disappeared off the radar screen. Hearts are hurting. This tune by Holly Macve taps into that feeling, even if the words are rather dark and troubling.

But the sun has continued to shine and the birds have pursued their true loves with raucous and reckless abandon. We’ve seen and heard the noisy mating dances this week of boat-tailed grackles, graceful tricolored herons, and mockingbirds. Ah, Spring!

One of our downs: The post office misplaced the overnight mailer we sent to the accountant with all the tax documents. But we were able to speak to the postmaster who found it, with no idea why it was never delivered nor why it hadn’t been sent back to us. It was delivered that very day. So a down followed by a giddy up!

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Image courtesy of Dustin’ Shelves

Couldn’t resist that one!

Political highs and lows abound. The crazy continues but keeps running into roadblocks, thanks to highly principled jurists,  determined public servants and indefatigable civil rights advocates.

Some deserve more diversions than others, and all my followers and friends certainly do!

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Searching for ways to become more emotionally strong? Eric Barker provides some useful questions to ask ourselves, ups and downs notwithstanding. I’ve shared this with clients this week.

Hawaiian musician Kalani Pe’a provides the gentle swaying of this week’s closing number. You might find yourself transported to a beautiful Hawaiian island, kissed by the sun and gentle breeze and tantalized by the scent of its flowers as you listen.

Namasté

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Success

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She leaned her forehead against the cold metal of her locker, wondering what she should do next. Mrs. Carter said she could go home, but her mother would be at the hospital and her little brother would be at the day care. A bell rang and kids came streaming out of classroom doors and flowed past her laughing and talking, clutching their books, animated and unaware of her. The polished floors squeaked with the rubber of their sneakers. She turned away and fumbled with the lock, failing to get the combination right until the third try. As the door opened, her mirror swung into view and she saw her face. Skin pale and wan, eyes rimmed red, hair curling wildly as it always did, mouth grimly set and devoid of color. She pulled out her backpack and found her makeup bag. She grabbed the silvery pouch, shoved the backpack deep into the locker and slammed the door. Just as she turned on her heels to head for the girls’ bathroom, she bumped into someone.

“Sorry,” she mumbled.

“No prob,” said a towering guy with bad skin and a nice voice. “My bad.”

“It’s okay,” she said and tried to smile at the boy she’d never seen before. He wore a varsity jacket. Basketball. No surprise being he was so tall. “See you,” she added, hurrying to the bathroom to get out of the awkwardness.

“I sure hope so,” came the voice as she pushed open the door and almost ran in.

She set her makeup bag on the counter and took another look at herself. The pallor was gone and her cheeks were as pink as if she’d already put on her blusher. She leaned against the counter, wondering what she should do next. It wasn’t going to be an easy day. She put her hands through her long hair, combing the stubborn curls with her fingers. She’d been brought to the office to take a call from her mother. They had this stupid rule about cells in the classroom, and she’d had hers confiscated too many times to bring it out to check for texts or leave the ringer on.

Yesterday her dad had had brain surgery and they’d all been there, except for Tommy who was too little to be allowed in. Mom, her boyfriend Bill, her aunt Mary and Mom’s best friend Alice. Dad always said they’d had a friendly divorce, and she supposed this was proof. The doctor had come out in his green scrubs, just like on tv, cap on his head and mask down around his neck. The surgery was a success, he’d told them. They’d gotten the tumor and he had an excellent chance to recover fully.

Dad had looked really funny last night as they wheeled him from post-op to recovery, wearing what looked like a big white shower cap on his head. He’d smiled at her and she’d squeezed his hand, and he’d told them he felt great.

“See you, kid!” He’d said with that funny, crooked smile.

And then Mom was leaning in to give him a sort of hug and kiss him, and they’d all said, “See you!”

But that was yesterday. Today he wasn’t doing too well, Mom said with tears in her voice. Something had gone wrong. He was unconscious and they weren’t telling her anything but acting like it was really bad. His face was swollen, her mom had said.

“You can come,” she said, “but I don’t want you to feel you have to. If something at school today is important, stay. I’ll let you know if anything changes.”

She played that over as she put some gloss on her lips and pressed them together. Yeah right. If anything changed she’d be pulled out of class again. Forget that. And she took her things and walked out and headed for her locker. Opened it in a flash, stuffed the pouch into her backpack, swung it onto her shoulder, and slammed the locker closed.

She strode down the hall, oblivious to anyone else around, and out the front door of the school. The sun was shining fiercely. She rummaged into her backpack and pulled out her Metrocard and her cell.

“Mom? I’m coming up there. Tell Dad I’m coming, okay?

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For The Daily Post

Tears and Till Kingdom Come

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Yesterday was a day of pain and tears. Pain from inflammation in two nerves in my lower back. Pain from seeing the sadness and grief of a family all too accustomed to grief and loss burying their son, brother, father, husband, and uncle well before his three score and ten. He was 46. I began to weep seeing his stoic father, Vice-President Joe Biden walking towards the church behind the hearse with arms around his granddaughter.

image Seeing the family in their grief broke my heart. Most of my readers must know the story of young Joe losing his wife and infant daughter and nearly losing his two sons ages two and three in a car accident when he was just 30 years old. To bury the oldest of his sons has to be one of the most painful experiences anyone can undergo. My physical pain paled, and yet I found it hard to bear, unable to find even a halfway comfortable position.

 

Chris Martin of the group Coldplay, having learned that Beau Biden had liked their music, gave an acoustic rendition of “Til Kngdom Come” that reached into our hearts.

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Here is a video of Coldplay performing “Till Kingdom Come,” with the lyrics, which I found to be stirring, apt and entirely appropriate for this solemn occasion. I heard several reporters say they wept as they listened.

This music is evocative and poignant, the words ambiguous enough to fit any number of painful situations. Another in this genre that is very frank is “O Death” by Ralph Stanley whose haunting a capella performance I featured on this blog in the past.

My back pain is somewhat better today, as I hoped it would be. The Biden family’s pain is in its infancy, to be felt and honored and processed this whole next year, as Father’s Day, birthdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas come without Beau. Eventually next year at this time the corner will be turned, only a little, but turned, and life will begin to open its doors of beauty and joy to the grieving again. Whatever we may believe about an afterlife, it does get better. And yet, we never forget our ancestors and other loved ones who have gone on before us. How can we?

I will end this post with some words of Metta:

May all beings be free from suffering,

May all beings be at ease,

May all beings be happy,

May all beings have peace.

 

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Thanksgiving Thoughts

 

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Thanksgiving is one of those conduits through this life I’ve been living since 1951. No, I don’t remember each and every one of them, but I do remember many. Here are some of those:

  • The turkey dinners ordered from Zucky’s kosher deli with all the trimmings
  • Mom learning from Gracie how to stuff and truss a turkey, with needle and button thread
  • The lentil loaf we had one year instead of turkey when Mom was a vegetarian
  • Thanksgiving dinner with Granny at the Santa Ynez Inn
  • The year when Lucille put her turkey on the counter and our cat and hers dragged it onto the floor and gnawed on it
  • Making my first pumpkin pie in high school from canned pie filling and a store-bought crust
  • Learning to make pumpkin pie from canned pumpkin and scratch crust
  • Jumping up on down on a scratch crust that refused to turn out, and starting all over again
  • Finally making pumpkin pie from a fresh pumpkin and a frozen crust
  • Getting the Betty Crocker Cookbook and making the turkey and everything for the family
  • Discovering the ubiquitous green bean casserole with French fried onions on top
  • Spending Thanksgivings during boarding school with my aunt and uncle in New Jersey
  • Discovering the ease of the disposable foil roasting pan, learning to put a cookie sheet under it
  • Adding a roasting bag and making the whole thing so much easier
  • Wanting to go to Dysart’s (inspired by Tim Sample) but new friends insisted we join them
  • Spending more than one Thanksgiving serving turkey at a church covered dish supper
  • Realizing there are many different Jell-o salads and Ambrosias, all with lots of whipped topping
  • Becoming a vegetarian briefly and actually making a lentil loaf for our Thanksgiving one year
  • Going on Atkins and eating way more turkey than anyone else at the table, and not much else
  • Watching a Mercy for Animals video on factory farm cruelty to turkeys, cows and other beings
  • Becoming a vegetarian again and eventually going vegan and remaining so
  • Making my first vegan Tofurky Feast, lots of work but good, especially the stuffing and gravy
  • Enjoying the Gardein Holiday Roast, a tasty turkey substitute

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And that brings me to this Thanksgiving. It was supposed to snow all over the northeast but in New York it only rained yesterday, and Wednesday is a very bad day to try to drive from New York to Pennsylvania, a Gridlock Alert Day, because everyone wants to get out of town at once. So this morning we drove to PA and once we hit New Jersey it snowed the rest of the way. There was about a foot of snow on the back deck, and although our driveway had been plowed this morning, there was another inch or two of fresh snow on our walk and driveway. The house warmed up fast with the fireplace and heat pump working beautifully. I put on my apron and started cooking. I roasted a turkey leg for my husband according to a recipe with rave reviews (it was disappointing), and I made stuffing in the crockpot, mashed potatoes, gravy, and green beans, and a wonderful Field Roast Celebration Roast as my vegan main dish. We had a lovely loaf of cranberry bread, cranberry sauce and olives. I turned to Mary McDougall and the Happy Herbivore for my recipes. Last week I had made butternut squash soup in advance for today. Dessert was a three-berry crumb pie from Fairway, with decaf. Delish!

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The food was fine, but I am so thankful for my family, our health, my recovery from back pain, our cat, our friends, my Buddhist practice, our material blessings, my work, and so very much more. And this year, as my teacher Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh lies in a hospital in France recovering from a severe brain hemorrhage, I am so thankful to have learned so many valuable lessons for my life from him. I hope and pray for his full recovery. I also understand that at 88 he may transition from this life before long.

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Namaste

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How Do You Feel About Death?

Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

I previously wrote and posted O Death here and recommend it now if you haven’t read it yet. A beautiful rendering of the Appalachian hymn “O Death” by now 87 year-old bluegrass musician and national treasure, Ralph Stanley concludes that post.

So, how do you feel about death? It’s a fair question, in my view, since we all will experience it eventually, whether we like to admit it or not. This is a loaded question, perhaps, since the prospect of our own death is rarely a pleasant one, nor even a neutral prospect for many. But this can be an opportunity to think about a tender topic for any who contemplate their own death or that of someone near and dear, now, soon, or in the past.

Please choose all answers that apply to you, and feel free to add an answer of your own that best reflects your view.

After you take the poll, I invite you to take the time to leave a comment here, too.  Thank you for visiting this blog.

Namaste

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O Death

Muerta, courtesy of Rachel's Tacqueria, Brooklyn

Muerta, courtesy of Rachel’s Tacqueria, Brooklyn

O death, where is thy sting?  O grave, where is thy victory?

–1 Corinthians 15:55

O death.

We have been socialized in our Western culture to fear death, to shrink from confrontation with it, and yet we also experience a fascination sometimes with stories about death and loss, morbid curiosity, as it were, although many would deny it.

Today, as every day, in the news, we can see the hand of death everywhere:

  • The Malaysian Air flight missing in the South Indian Ocean with over 200 souls on board
  • The landslide in Washington State that has swept away neighborhoods and taken many lives
  • A man killed on the train platform in New Jersey as he falls before the coming train, amid a crowd of horrified fellow travelers
  • Four healthy lions euthanized in a Danish zoo to make way for a new lion coming into the zoo

Our life experiences eventually bring home to us the fact that all life forms are temporary, and that all living beings will die. As children we may first learn about this truth when a pet dies. Next it might be a grandparent. In our middle years or later, typically, we lose our parents to death. Although it seems that it should never happen, we may lose children to death long before there is any sense it might be “time.” But of course, for most of us, it never feels like the right time for death, except perhaps when we or a loved one are ravaged by illness. Then there is suicide, a potent reminder of how sudden and seemingly permanent death can be and how painful for those who remain behind, trying to figure out why and how and what might we have done to prevent it. And similar, but different from suicide, is the self-immolation of monks making a stark statement about injustice. This is usually accompanied by deep meditative concentration and thoughts of words of the Buddha such as the Heart Sutra.

And for all those dear friends and loved ones who touch our lives for good before their time on earth is done, we find ourselves remembering and missing them intensely until time, a great healer, takes much of the pain of loss away. And so it is.

As we study the wisdom of those who have lived and died before us, we may find peace in believing we all will pass through the gate from life to death and into life again. And all will be well, whether or not we truly understand it now.

O death, how we wish away your reality and only meet you on your terms when at last we are ready to understand your truths. I leave you with the immortal music of Ralph Stanley singing “O, Death”:

And today, this is my practice.

Namaste

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