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Sanctuary (written after the summer shootings) by Kayleen Asbo
There is only one safe place: The heart.
Bullets will find you in the cafes of Paris, the synagogue in Pittsburgh, the elementary school of the suburbs, the disco in Florida, the food festival in Gilroy, the parking lot of Wall Mart.
Thieves will steal your backpack and your phone and even your identity. Your mind will slow, And your wits will dull. Your body will bend and shrink and Your eyesight and hearing will both fail.
But the memory of your love Can never be lost. If you feed it truth and beauty, Your heart will continue to grow, Expanding until your dying breath. No matter how confined your quarters, The sanctuary where you love Will bloom and blossom Until you follow its petals To the farthest star.
The River of Joy Kayleen Asbo January 9, 2020 Australia is burning, And the President threatens war, Missiles shoot Canadian planes from the sky, And the homeless camp stretches for over a mile Along the creekside trail. But today, the mist covered mountains Played peekaboo with the sun, And I just could not stop singing with joy As my peony-petalled heart Kept opening again and again with love. Part of me felt almost guilty To feel so much happiness Knowing how much the world is suffering. But then, I thought of all you have been through And how the time has come for you To be lavished with tenderness and ecstasy. . We have each known so much sorrow And no doubt there will be dark days ahead. Let us linger while we can in this stream of light While it rains upon our hungry hearts, Drinking in all we can -- And then find a way to share it With this thirsting world.
Listening by Maya Spector
In the dark pre-dawn mornings, I listen to the trees. Sometimes I hear nothing, but feel their reassuring presence. Sometimes words sail into my head, like the goldfinches landing on my bird feeder. Today they told me: Ground! Ground deeply. You will know people who get ill. You may know some who will die. You could even be one of them. Your task today is to ground and be a solid presence on this patch of earth. Watch us and follow suit.
- Maya Spector
The Blackberry by Kayleen Asbo
I remember my grandmother during the sultry last days of summer Sending me out to the blackberry bushes by the stream Insisting that every last one be gathered and brought inside.
“Pick it clean”, she said, “ we will need each and every one” And on and on we picked until there was no more light, Our fingers stained purple , Our bare legs scratched from thorns. It seemed impossible, during the bounty of August That one more berry would make a difference.
But months later, During the harshest blizzard in one hundred years, Grandmother took the last canning jar from the shelf. That afternoon, we carefully made crusts the size of quarters Placed a single berry inside Silently holding our breath while they baked, Paying fierce attention Lest they burn.
We gathered around a glowing candle as night fell and the wind howled outside Our tiny pies cradled in our hands.
“Remember”, she said “Remember that day When you thought there would be never be lack, never be need. Remember every detail- The laughter in the creek The sun on your skin The smell of the dog. The lilac blooming.”
As slowly as we could, We each placed the tiny tart on our tongues And sacramental tears Flowed down my cheeks.
Oh my darlings, begin now. Harvest every last word, photograph and song that is within reach. Inscribe upon the walls of your memory Each precious and juicy morsel of the sacred and ordinary times we have known Days are coming when they will have never tasted so sweet.
What exactly is 6 feet? 72 inches, 1.8 meters, 1/100th of a mile. Slightly more than the average height of a human. 5.9 x 10^9 light seconds. The length of 2 arms outstretched to meet. As of late, it became, for the first time ever, a safe distance between 2 humans. It won’t stop a bullet, or a birdsong, or a smile but it will, they say, stop a virus. I’ve never considered how close or how far 6 feet would feel. I’ve never felt the push or pull of that small distance. Now that I have, I long to fill the void with kindness, joy and beauty. And now it contains - a poem, a song, a blossom, a ray of sun, a friendly hello, an offer of support, a blown kiss, a virtual hug, a solemn prayer, and a knowing smile. Once given, these things can never be taken away. They reach far beyond this short distance to connect each and every one of us. And so I ask myself, ‘Are we really 6 feet apart or 6 feet together?’ Indeed, it all depends on how we choose to fill this space every day.
This Desperate Week, The Orchid Reminds Me by Rosemerry Wahtola Traumer
It looked dead, the orchid. After long extravagant glory, the blossoms dropped quickly, one by one. The stem shriveled, dried. Every time I looked at it, all I saw was what wasn’t there. People said it would reset. They said it needed rest, a little bit of extra care. But eight months later, the plant still looked dead. There are times we lose hope. Times when our eyes tells us we’re fools to believe beyond what we see here now. But from what seemed like nothing, a long dark stem appeared, lined with buds. And what a fool I was to doubt, to let the eyes lie to me. Already they’ve remembered how to see what will be. Already they remember how to see the beauty of exactly what is here.
Today I had ambitious plans for Making Beauty. I combed the beach for intact sand dollars, Unblemished white pebbles, Rare jade.
I picked the perfect stick, And carefully measured out a precise circle, Placing each treasure from the sea in an intricate design, Like a precious jewel.
I was almost done, When a wayward dog came bounding through, Trampling everything And crushing my creation Into shattered fragments buried in chaos.
Dark frustration and anger surged inside, Followed by the tug of hopelessness.
Despairing, I turned around. And saw the most subtle and beautiful light Dancing on the water. Birds soared and dove in feathered clouds. Foamy waves kept coming to kiss the shore.
“There is a secret to this art of living,” they sang to me. “Give yourself wholly to the tides of passionate dreaming, But when you fall (as we all must), Let yourself be carried and Lift up your face to praise the sky”
As our little dreams fall Let us learn together like the waves, How to let the currents carry us To become one sea beneath one shining sun.
Lockdown by Fr. Richard Hendrick
Yes there is fear. Yes there is isolation. Yes there is panic buying. Yes there is sickness. Yes there is even death. But, They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise You can hear the birds again. They say that after just a few weeks of quiet The sky is no longer thick with fumes But blue and grey and clear. They say that in the streets of Assisi People are singing to each other across the empty squares, keeping their windows open so that those who are alone may hear the sounds of family around them. They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound. Today a young woman I know is busy spreading fliers with her number through the neighbourhood So that the elders may have someone to call on. Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples are preparing to welcome and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way All over the world people are waking up to a new reality To how big we really are. To how little control we really have. To what really matters. To Love. So we pray and we remember that Yes there is fear. But there does not have to be hate. Yes there is isolation. But there does not have to be loneliness. Yes there is panic buying. But there does not have to be meanness. Yes there is sickness. But there does not have to be disease of the soul Yes there is even death. But there can always be a rebirth of love. Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now. Today, breathe. Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic The birds are singing again The sky is clearing, Spring is coming, And we are always encompassed by Love. Open the windows of your soul And though you may not be able to touch across the empty square, Sing.
Image from Carl Jung, The Red Book
Cargo by Greg Kimura
You enter life a ship laden with meaning, purpose and gifts sent to be delivered to a hungry world. And as much as the world needs your cargo, you need to give it away. Everything depends on this.
But the world forgets its needs, and you forget your mission, and the ancestral maps used to guide you have become faded scrawls on the parchment of dead Pharaohs. The cargo weighs you heavy the longer it is held and spoilage becomes a risk. The ship sputters from port to port and at each you ask: "Is this the way?" But the way cannot be found without knowing the cargo, and the cargo cannot be known without recognizing there is a way, and it is simply this: You have gifts. The world needs your gifts. You must deliver them.
The world may not know it is starving, but the hungry know, and they will find you when you discover your cargo and start to give it away.
ANCESTRY ~ Alfred Lamotte My DNA results came in. Just as I suspected, my great great grandfather was a monarch butterfly. Much of who I am is still wriggling under a stone. I am part larva, but part hummingbird too. There is dinosaur tar in my bone marrow. My golden hair sprang out of a meadow in Palestine. Genghis Khan is my fourth cousin, but I didn't get his dimples.
My loins are loaded with banyan seeds from Sri Lanka, but I descended from Ravanna, not Ram. My uncle is a mastodon. There are traces of white people in my saliva. 3.7 billion years ago I swirled in hydrogen dust, dreaming of a planet overgrown with lingams and yonis.
More recently, say 60,000 B.C. I walked on hairy paws across a land bridge joining Sweden to Botswana. I am the bastard of the sun and moon. I can no longer hide my heritage of raindrops and cougar scat. My mud was molded with your grandmother's tears. I was the brother who marched you to the sea and sold you. I was the merchant from Savannah and the cargo of blackness. I was the chain.
Admit it, you have wings, vast and crystal, like mine, like mine. You have sweat, dark and salty, like mine, like mine. You have secrets silently singing in your blood, like mine, like mine.
Don't pretend that earth is not one family. Don't pretend we never hung from the same branch. Don't pretend we do not ripen on each other's breath. Don't pretend we didn't come here to forgive.
The Galaxy of Grief by Kayleen Asbo How very many firsts we accumulate over the course of a lifetime- First words First steps First day of school First kiss First breakup First job
Today will be the first day my mother wakes up And there will be no yellow post it love note on the coffee pot. The first day she will not hear his whistle As her husband tends to the yard work The first day there will be no “Love you, Babe” after a shared meal. How can it be, she wonders That you go to bed one day a wife, And the next, you are a widow? How quickly a crack opens in the universe Big enough for a whole life to slide through Where you find yourself a lone astronaut on a far distant planet A place where time and gravity are all so very different. A place where what seemed so urgent yesterday- politics, the stock market crash, the rising pandemic- have no more weight And where even food Has no meaning or substance. It would be so easy here to float out beyond the tsunami of memory and loss And never come back to yourself. Let today then also be a new first: The first day I begin to weave a braid of beauty To let those who have slipped into the galaxy of grief know They are still tethered and bound By love.
"This Kiss is for the Whole World" by Gustav Klimt, inspired by the Ode to Joy of Beethoven
Ode to Joy by Kayleen Asbo May 2019
The old ones knew that relentless tragedy could also be the beginning of transformation - could become paint on the cave wall, song in a scarred throat the drumming heartbeat of a dance of lamentation that would lead us to a deeper truth.
I think of that long scream of terror that opens the last movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, the cacophonous descent that signals the end of the world and how the orchestra tries so valiantly to recapture the past recapitulating one theme after another from the first three movements.
How each time, the Greek Chorus of the orchestra says:
No. This will not do. We cannot go back to where we have already been.
And that moment --when all seems lost in utter chaos and darkness-- how slowly, tentatively, ever so gently emerging from the soft underbelly of the strings is the simplest of tunes-- Childlike, almost embarrassing in its utter transparency and open hearted vulnerability
And how the goosebumps rise upon my neck as the melody begins its sure ascent Higher Higher Until it blazes with triumph, blossoming into the Ode to Joy, Shattering all notions of what a symphony should be What a symphony could be. I wonder if Beethoven, gripped with liver disease and completely deaf knew as he flailed his swollen hands that his agony had opened the door to a new vision for the entire human race.
I imagine how his sad eyes would open wide with wonder If he could see his simple tune sung at Auschwitz, as Chinese students faced tanks in Tianenman Square, if he could hear it sung at the fall of the Berlin Wall, and see the choirs all across the world after 911 uniting the world into his lifelong dream: a chorus of common humanity, resounding with love.
Let us sing with all we have in us no matter what storms rage all around, and know this in our bones: If a deaf and dying man (who believed his whole life was a failure) could give birth to such miraculous starshine as this, surely, surely, there is still hope for us all.