Portrait of the Blogger as a Young Child

Ruth posted a lovely oil her mother painted of her when she was a young girl. This moved me to post one my mother painted of me when I was 8 or 9. This had been stashed away in a storage room in my mother’s apartment building, then I took it and many other paintings of hers that I loved when I moved into my Park Slope apartment in the early ’90s.

When we moved to Florida I packed up paintings and objets d’art, family treasures and mementos, from my great-grandmother’s clock circa 1888 to a ceramic bowl and little jet plane my son made in school. I took what art I could remove from frames to box up or put in my zippered portfolio. This painting was longer than any of my boxes could accommodate, and it was damaged, by exposure to sunlight I suppose, with paint cracking and flaking off. So I pried off the lath frame, cut it out of the stretcher bars, and put it in the portfolio. I’m so glad I posted it on my mother’s website so I could copy and paste it here, as it was before it was badly damaged.

My life is very challenging now, and if you’re in my life now, you know that. But the art that graces our home reminds me that I was loved and cherished, and my love for my gifted parents will always remain in my heart.

Spared By Dorian, Buffeted by Dementia

Compare this photo and the following video I took today with the video I took two weeks ago here. The walkable beach here in Naples on the Florida Gulf coast is narrower, and most of the shells I saw as I walked along the water’s edge were broken. The wind was very strong and you can really hear it. I had brought my lunch to the beach and settled at a covered table where I could see the water. I had to hold onto my purse, sandwich and drink while I ate to keep anything from being blown away, not easy to do with two hands. We are about 125 miles from the Atlantic coast of Florida and much further from the hurricane itself, and have been getting some effects from the outer bands, but there’s no danger to life or property here as far as I’ve heard. The east coast has been hunkered down for days, and we were briefly. Unfortunately cognitive impairment prevents some from understanding here from there, or us from them, or safety from danger. I am so grateful for the people and organizations here who understand this and provide so much help and support.

When I saw videos of the devastation in the several of the Bahama islands after they were strafed by category five hurricane winds for over 48 hours, I could hardly take it in. The drone view was from a height that made much of the debris field unrecognizable, but it’s hard to imagine how many people can have survived. This devastation strikes me as being analogous to that being visited upon the brain suffering from progressive dementia. It’s hard to imagine anything surviving, and yet much does, at least for a while. And for any of this, and for all those who help us weather the storm, we are very grateful.

Red Winged Blackbird

Photo courtesy of David at Incidental Naturalist

He sings, he cheekily sounds an earsplitting chirp, and he rasps like a rusty gate.

Displaying his red and yellow epaulets, the Red Wing Blackbird wakes me daily, calling back and forth with his peers, from the tall grasses dividing lawn and lake to the grassy tussocks across the narrow inlet behind our house. Dawn to dusk they make their presence known to me. My Peterson’s Birds of North America, an app worth every cent of the $20 charge, says they are here in Southwest Florida year round, but they arrived late last fall and if past is prologue will soon be gone again.

How I love the birds who grace my life with their songs and movement and flashes of color. From waders to raptors to songbirds, we have them all here in our pond. Even a Brown Pelican sometimes finds us, patrolling the perimeter and dipping his huge beak in the water to get his fill of the small fish. A Kite soars overhead, easily identified by his forked tail. An Osprey descends to clutch a fish and fly off with it firmly in its talons, head first, like a bomb under a military plane. After Hurricane Irma and we were still snowbirds, we returned in October to find scores of statuesque Wood Storks perched on rooflines and in the trees, and ringing an overflow catchment filled with fish. We saw them here and there this past winter but they’re long gone now.

A couple of weeks ago I spotted a smallish bird perching on a woody stalk by the water’s edge, and consulting Peterson’s I tried to identify it. At first I thought it was a Least Bittern or American Bittern. Then I decided it was a Green Heron. I played its call and it oriented towards me. Eureka!

Let us notice and savor the natural world around us, even if only a trail of ants along a city sidewalk. We are not alone here. We can turn from our personal troubles, large and small, along the day and know this.

Be well.

A Day to Remember

Today is Memorial Day, or as it was called in my youth, Decoration Day. It’s a day to remember our veterans, those injured or killed in the service of our country, and our dear departed loved ones. All over the United States people visit cemeteries and place flags, flowers and even fancy “grave blankets” on the resting places of the dead. My father and my husband served in the US Army. I’m very proud of them and grateful for their service. Somewhere in the albums we shipped south I have photos of them in uniform. Here’s one of my maternal grandfather who was a Navy officer and served in both WWI and WWII. He died before I was born, and although the family lore is pretty negative about him, I thank him for his service as well. As I once wrote in a poem,

I thank thee fathers past for all thy pain, Thou vital links in my eternal chain.

We live in Florida, thousand of miles from my father’s grave in the Garden of Valor in a cemetery in California and my mother’s in Maine. My in-laws are buried about 1,500 miles north in New York and New Jersey. We haven’t figured out where we want our mortal residue to rest. It doesn’t seem to matter all that much.

I just published a post in my mother’s art blog, and here’s a link for all who wish to see her striking work that blesses our home and those of many others today. Many are on display at the Marietta Museum of Art and Whimsy in Sarasota. My cousin Mary owns and fills this amazing place with a fine collection of paintings, statuary and colorful crafts that must be seen to be appreciated.

Enjoy the day and remember that this is a great country that has weathered worse than what threatens us today. But climate change is real, and we all need to get serious about it or we won’t be leaving this land as good as we found it. Love to you all.

Thus Have I Read

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An American flag and photograph of the Buddha are prominently displayed in the barracks of the Portland Livestock Exposition Building, where Japanese Americans were interned. May 31, 1942 | Photograph courtesy The Oregonian / Barcroft Media

This morning I read an article in the Tricycle magazine and found it so forceful, I wanted to assure more people read it. That’s where you come in, and hopefully you’ll direct your friends and followers to check it out as well. For immediate, present moment relevance, just notice the crib in the above photograph.

At this time in our nation’s history when children as young as infants are being separated from parents at our southern border and held in tent encampments and other dreary facilities, we need to remember where this country has been. We may have thought we had moved beyond the paranoid ideation leading to the ensiling of the different, or alien, other. Au contraire. Here we are. We are being led by an individual who hawks lies and hatred purchased wholesale by the incurious and the uninformed. That there are so many of them appalls and frightens me. So, as Duncan Ryuken Williams quotes Nyogen Senzaki in this Tricycle piece,

The Buddha taught that identity is neither permanent nor disconnected from the realities of other identities. From this vantage point, America is a nation that is always dynamically evolving—a nation of becoming, its composition and character constantly transformed by migrations from many corners of the world, its promise made manifest not by an assertion of a singular or supremacist racial and religious identity, but by the recognition of the interconnected realities of a complex of peoples, cultures, and religions that enrich everyone.

Namasté,

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Revisiting the Why of What I Do

My Manhattan Office

How my New York office looked from where I sat for many years

Reposted from August 2016

[The panorama above of my Manhattan office shows so much of what has been important to me. The watercolor over the couch was painted by my mother, an accomplished artist, may she Rest in Peace. The stone Buddha head was a cherished gift that I gave a colleague when shlepping it home on the subway proved too daunting. The glowing shape near the far window is a Himalayan salt lamp. The green mid-century modern chair is the only furniture I brought with me to Florida where I now live and work. It sits in my garage awaiting refurbishing, its woven tape faded and badly snagged often and enthusiastically by the cat after I brought it home.]

In New York City where I practiced for over twenty years, it seemed as if everyone knew what psychotherapy is, even if they hadn’t ever experienced it personally. Occasionally I’d meet with an older patient whose primary physician or psychiatrist had referred them to me for treatment, and they’d say something like, “I don’t know why I’m here or what I’m supposed to do.” A discussion would follow, and soon we’d be “doing psychotherapy” every week. But many elderly people are psychotherapy-savvy, a case in point being a ninety year old woman in New York who had undergone a lengthy psychoanalysis fifty years before she came to me to address a current issue.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So these days, I’m explaining psychotherapy a little more often, and helping shed a light on experiences that have baffled, frightened, confounded or annoyed my patients. I’m describing how certain medications treat depression and why they aren’t good for people with the mood swings of bipolar disorder.

photo of head bust print artwork

Photo by meo on Pexels.com

I’m cataloging symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and helping patients gauge how much those symptoms interfere with functioning and their overall quality of life. Sometimes just asking a question about obsessions triggers access to a deeper emotional issue never before spoken to another. As I was psychodynamically trained, I enjoy helping a patient explore a dream for its value in clarifying issues, past and current. I take my role as therapist and guide along this most challenging journey very seriously.

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Flatiron Building, Photo by Kai Pilger on Pexels.com

As we prepared to move out of New York, I considered retiring. For about five minutes. I got a late start on my career as a psychologist so there’s a practical, financial incentive to continue, but there’s an even more important reason I am still actively working as a clinical psychologist who provides psychotherapy: I love the work. I enjoy meeting new people and sitting down with them to see what we can do together to alleviate their distress, resolve their conflicts, arrive at healthier alternatives to their problematic habits and behaviors, and find greater and deeper meaning in their lives, both in terms of the past, the present, and into the future.

person holding compass in forest

Photo by Tobias Aeppli on Pexels.com

I find it to be a great blessing helping people traverse very intense points on their path, such as dating, marriage or divorce; pregnancy, miscarriage, or birth; seeking, losing, improving or getting new jobs; illness, accident, treatment, death and grief, and as the late death and dying pioneer Dr. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross taught us, acceptance. Acceptance of what has been and of what is, even when we wish it were different. Acceptance of what we’ve done and who we are, and acceptance of our ability to learn and grow and change despite the past, even though it can be extremely challenging and a lot of hard work.

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I alway have ended these posts with the Sanskrit word namasté, which basically means, “The goodness in me bows to the goodness in you.”

And so it is.

Namasté,

 

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No One is Above the Law

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything.

Life has been busy here as we continue to unpack, put away, and sometimes even donate or discard the contents of the many boxes of original art and many other things we shipped to our new full-time residence. As I’ve said before, we once were snowbirds and now are flamingos. Every week we’re cutting up cardboard to put out with the recycling. Medical appointments, regular exercise with walks, gym and pool, and endlessly shopping for fresh and healthy food as we eat to improve our wellbeing, all have taken up much of our time of late. It is what it is.

We voted here in Florida on the first day of early voting and watched the coverage late into Tuesday night. We’re thrilled about the blue wave of progressive women and men, veterans, many of them very young and some LGBT, some Native Americans, and all patriots. As an aging lefty, I am so glad the new guard has stepped up so energetically for our collective good. But that wave didn’t make it down here, unless recounts change the senate and gubernatorial races. And yesterday’s unhinged WH press conference, subsequent AG firing, and later the pulling of a journalist’s hard WH press pass after he stood his ground, should leave no doubt in our minds that an autocrat is swinging a cudgel wildly and is very, very dangerous.

If the firing of Jeff Sessions and elevation of a staffer who has called the Mueller investigation a “witch-hunt” to the position of acting attorney general has caused you to fear for our republic, take heart from the protests being held today at 5 pm local time nationwide. Check here to locate the gathering nearest to you. Even in very red SW FL, we have one right near us. It’s never too late to suit up and show up.

Namasté

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