friends

E.B. White & Winding the Clock
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E.B. White & Winding the Clock

Of late things have been hard. 

My heart is broken. Broken again, for the 3477th time this life.

“Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time,” wrote E. B. White, to a despairing Mr. Nadeau. The actual first paragraph of White’s letter said:

“As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.”

I must say, on this journey, I have met some extraordinary people. Amazing, wonderful people. They hail from disparate walks of life, different races, different cultural backgrounds. Some  are immigrants, no two from the same country of origin.

They share a love for Freedom.

They are passionate. They are quirky. They are independent. They tend to be wildly intelligent and creative and brimming with life.

They tend to be honest.

Right now some feel inconsolable.

I feel fortunate to have encountered these souls, who are all, as I am, beset with difficult feelings.

People I considered friends have shown their true colors. I know now who really has my back. It’s painful and it’s good.

I counseled some lovely friends: “We must think of ourselves as the Londoners during the War. They thought God had forgotten them. God-Goddess-All-that-Is hadn’t forgotten them then, and hasn’t forgotten us now.”

But E.B. White that masterful wordsmith said it better:

It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.

Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.

So tomorrow I will rise too early, as always. Luminate coffee with coconut creamer and coconut sugar, beguiling and delicious. I will wind the clock.

Hope
Love and chaos in the time of the coronavirus
anarchy | apocalyptic | dystopian | friends | hard work | healing | hope | life and death | missing people | passings | vulnerability

Love and chaos in the time of the coronavirus

The world is rife with panic and pandemic.

People are sick. People are dying. The COVID-19 respiratory illness is sweeping across the globe. No place will be spared.

Italy is quarantining. Have the Italians stopped their millennia-old practice of bussing on both sides of the face in greeting? 

I bet they have. Kissing is for the inviolate.

The macrocosm is a mess. In the microcosm, in the tiny whimsical, poignant slice of All-That-Is that is my personal life, a chaos stew bubbles.

One friend died of a drug overdose. 

Did she intend to die?

I was close to her during grad school. I remember her talent, her intellect, and her bright smile. Could I have done anything else to help her?

A beloved family member succumbs to cancer, by degrees. He’s in palliative care now. It’s hard to watch a good man die.

A beloved friend is mentally absent. Something has claimed her wonderful intelligence. She tells me the same stories over and over, sometimes beginning the anecdote mere seconds after finishing it.

I have pulled away from a friend whom I love. I can not tolerate her lack of truthfulness and lack of consistency right now. Usually I can shrug off her failings because I remember my own flaws, and because I have in mind her many wonderful qualities: her extraordinary generosity, her capacity for lovingkindness, her playfulness. But right now, the lack of truthfulness and lack of dependability feel like too much chaos, in a world that is seething with chaos.

Asanas, a poem by Traci L. Slatton
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Asanas, a poem by Traci L. Slatton

ASANAS
by Traci L. Slatton



My hat warned of twisting postures
breathlessness
an old rag, really, but after a quarter century
imbued with my fondness.
It was suddenly gone, vanished 
as if it had never been yet it was 
full of my cranium, and my hair, and various 
dreams that had rattled through while it wore me


A pair of sunglasses featured 
in favorite photos, me kissing my little daughter
growing in front of my eyes
asking to board away at a distant school
posing
next to my friend the blonde Countess
she of evanescent visits

All that is 
transient
even my yoga 
studio closed, the community
and the classes I enjoyed
the shala of my heart
a pair of suede boots my husband bought me. Will I ever find 
them again?
all that is 
ephemeral
like the close touch of a mate who has shed 
himself
over another woman,
younger than me,
and that faith misplaced
along with haberdashery and footwear and other 
miscellany, even people. 


Another warrior, a longer dog, a deeper backbend 
to open my heart.
I move through until the body trembles denying 
myself reprieve.
It is loss that is union.
My friend’s grandson passed
friends | healing | kindness | life and death | love | marriage | maturity | Memorial | missing people | passings | real friends | vulnerability

My friend’s grandson passed

Today was the memorial service for a dear friend’s infant grandson.

There were photographs placed around the room in the funeral home. It was a room for congregating, with neat rows of chairs for the visitors and tissue boxes placed at strategic intervals.

Mourning is excruciating anyway, but yoked to a child’s death, it is insupportable. There are no words.

This friend of mine has been in my life for nearly 20 years. He was my advocate and counsel, and slowly, over time and mutual respect, he became a friend. Then a dear friend, someone with whom I can always share a joke. He and his wife have gone to dinners with me and Sabin; they’ve come to visit us at various summer rentals, and we’ve been to visit them.

He’s a good man. He loves his children. I can’t imagine what was harder for him, watching his daughter grieve her tiny son, or his own grief about his grandson.

It’s not my first experience with the loss of a child. My sweet nephew died 25 years ago. He simply died one day. It was years before his pediatrician figured out that he’d had a rare genetic problem.  I respect that my sister continued on after his passing. I just don’t know how she did it.

I sat in the memorial service and thought, This is the essential stuff of human life. This is it–stripped bared, down to the marrow in the bones–what life is about: loss, love, family. Togetherness. Having each other’s back when the worst happens, the unimaginable strikes. The solace of community.

It’s easy for people to get lost in a fantasy about life. It’s easy to get stuck in the quick and shallow pleasures. Especially in our culture, where there’s a cultural ideal of a beer commercial life, all frolicking in the sunshine with the hip gang. It’s a glib and seductive path.

It’s also all too easy to allow mundane problems to take over so that this moment now isn’t enjoyed and lived fully–with the juice squeezed out over your hands.

This moment now is never going to be perfect. But it can be savored–for those who are alive. I pray that I will always be alive until it’s my turn to pass.

“Remember that my son lived,” said my friend’s daughter. It came from her heart and pierced mine.

I had sent gifts but hadn’t yet met him. Still, I will remember that little guy.

 

Returning to Source and Writing Again
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Returning to Source and Writing Again

Write again, they are telling me. You must write, Traci. 

It’s the new theme: writing again.

The past twelve months have been excruciating. I am struggling.

It’s been a year of comings and goings from my life; intermittency like a suddenly thrown grenade blew up my peace of mind. It has been a year of travel, loss, loneliness, bad advice, uncertainty, sadness, emptiness, tough choices, betrayal, humiliation.

It has also been a year of joy: the birth of my beautiful grandson, deepening friendships, richer closeness with my sweet middle daughter. A lot of yoga! Books newly cherished. A beautiful place that has come into my consciousness as a home.

Change is afoot.

Write again, my husband says, as if that will erase everything that has passed between us. His eyes are soft and his voice is loving as he counsels me. Write again. He holds me often throughout the day.

His hands on my shoulders, my arms, my breasts, my belly help me. He is kind. And I am still struggling.

In every moment brims the fullness of the spiritual imperative: We are here to love, to learn, to work, and to play. We are here to choose love over fear.

Why then this heart ache?

For what reason did I come here? I’ve asked myself a thousand times over the last span of time.

What is the imperative that I am mindful of it?

How have I betrayed myself?

I suspect it’s the effort to answer these questions that will heal me. It’s the journey itself that will return me to Source–whatever the destination may be.

 

 

On Love
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On Love

On Love

Of late, I think about love. The nature and meaning of love, the kinds of love.

References to love abound in our culture. Mostly those references concern romantic love. If you play American music, you will hear all manner of songs about romance, its thrills and heartaches. Other shades of love, like agape love, are mostly ignored.

Certainly, the dizzying rush of falling for someone is a kind of love. Taking a lover to bed and opening…opening…opening to the passion of merging is a kind of love. The great poet Rumi uses that merging to lift readers into an exaltation of love, the profound love of the omnipresent Beloved.

But there are other kinds of love and it is those less heralded varieties that are rolling around my thoughts. For example, love is forgiveness. In this world where we are all imperfect beings doing the best we can, forgiveness is essential. We are all going to hurt each other. Your family members will badmouth you or fail to support you or steal your inheritance, your friends will lie to you, your spouse will threaten to divorce you or, devastatingly, will stray.

Forgiveness is love in action. It’s love that says, “I may never again put myself in the position to be hurt this way by you, but I release myself from re-experiencing this pain over and over again, and I release you to your own karma, which is between you and God.”

Forgiveness permits—encourages—the one who made the mistake to recover their dignity and self esteem. Forgiveness is understanding that we are all prone to err. As painful as it can be, forgiveness is a blessing for both the forgiver and the forgiven.

Another kind of love is allowing someone to project their shadow onto you. Parents and therapists know this kind of love all too well. Sometimes, in the process of integrating themselves, a child or client is scorched by his or her own dark side. That person needs to disown it and project it outward onto someone else. It’s a pure and great form of love to hold that until the person can own it for herself and heal.

Life is a great journey. A friend of mine told me that the basis of love is respect and kindness. At the time, I agreed, though I thought to myself that it was a tepid basis for something so vast and protean. Now I realize, respect and kindness are the basis for friendship, and friendship is an integral component of every love relationship. But those aren’t necessarily love.

Rather, love is giving everything when called. It’s saying, “Yes, I’ll be there for you as you need me, no matter what the cost is to me. So if you need me to sell my house and take up residence across the street from you to catch you when you fall, I’ll be there.” Following through on that promise: that’s love.

Love is that you’d lie down in a street and let a truck run over you if that saves your kid. And you feel grateful for the opportunity. That’s love.

Love doesn’t wait to be given to first; it doesn’t negotiate; it doesn’t play tit-for-tat. Sure, yes, relationships between flawed human beings require constant negotiating. But love isn’t negotiable the way people aren’t fungible.

Love’s accounting is about giving and offering and surrendering. It’s about giving everything, everything, with hope but without expectation, and allowing the chips to fall where they may—because we humans can’t control everything. All we can do is love and allow.

On Love