On this day, I remember a musical priest whose sermons I still read in the notes of his songs. We will miss you dearly, Leonard Cohen.
Priest: Leonard (Cohen)
We heard his syrupy voice as black as pitch …
preaching his dark sermons
in smoke and fire
in open ditches and underpasses
somewhere in the land of somewhere
under the veil of nowhere.
We realized it was a revival,
complete with tables and
tent poles and lost souls,
though there were no white canvases, no white lies.
He drained us of everything we had,
all our internal resources, all our desires,
all our false hopes, drowning in a sea of
questions marks, ash, and splinters,
but somehow, when we came up out of the
we came up clean.
– Gina Marie Mammano
It’s a good November day to think about author and poet Wendell Berry and things familiar- things to be grateful for- the miniscule, the often unnoticed. He once wrote: “The search withholds the joy from what is found” in his poem “Boone”. It seems like a great time peek around the corners of the everyday, the familiar, and utter a small or extra large helping of “thank you”, even though it may be hard in times like these. I’m in the city of Seattle as I write this, grateful for every person who opens a door for another, every smile given gratis, every face of every color and shade. Let’s keep opening the door for one another, and say “thank you” to every kindness or a glisten of light that comes our way today.
A dear friend of mine and I were talking about the antidote to a toxic climate in this election. I’ve resolved to come up with one or two or more, much like the rriiiiipppping! sound of tearing off a prescription in a doctor’s office. My first prescription for myself was a poignant reading written by Richard Rohr on his “Center for Action and Contemplation” site. My second one is this: small things that reflect light. What small things all around you are reflecting light today . . . including you?
Feel free to post a picture or description on this site- let’s share the love, and the light!
I asked the whitebark pine
a question, and he said to me,
“aren’t you glad we don’t all talk?”
And in silence he spoke:
a million voices whining, droning in
each other’s ears like a carnival madhouse?
Each leaf, each tendril, each rooty spine spinning
sounds, yabba, yabba, yabba, yabba.
The quiet madness of the mosquito multiplied
more than a million times over?
Aren’t you glad some of us convey
by bark, by bearing, by Being?
Aren’t you glad some of us commune
in the quiet witness of Living?
and in Silence, I understood.
- Gina Marie Mammano
Today is Mother’s Day. A wonderfully garlanded, beautifully decorated day. Filled with big fat bouquets of bright spring flowers, dewy with sweet sentiment, and big fat boxes of chocolates and deep-dipped love, reminding ourselves and the matrons we honor what a daring and delightful thing motherhood is . . . and was.
Like many robins this time in spring, I am a new empty nester. The waxy crayon-scrawled “Hapy Muthers Day” cards created at school and posted on the refrigerator are long gone. The special brunches and outings of this day are left to glances back and forth between my husband and I ocularly asking, “wanna go out today?”
And though my dear son and daughter and law sent me a wonderful thoughtful beribboned gift, and I know I will receive a sweet sweet loving message from my lovely daughter as well, there is something about waving to the sky and the flight patterns of long-flown children that is so different than huddling and cuddling then waiting for drippy undercooked love-laced pancakes in the nest.
So to all those mama birds who have waved their twittering, free-flying offspring off into the world, I salute you! The bridges cross back and forth in and out of our feathered lands, so in the meantime, blow kisses from afar and listen joyfully to the sounds of familiar migrant birds . . . .
Up here in the Pacific Northwest, we have a plant called, “skunk cabbage”. You may know it, as it sprouts up in other parts of the country as well. It appears as a yellow sconce of slick petals housing a small “wick” of seeds. It can be quite startling passing by a “barren” patch of a mud hole for most of the year, then seeing these “surprises” pop up as a roomful of yellow lights, populating the ground with color.
The other name for this plant is “swamp lantern”. I prefer this name. I think it represents the plant more elegantly, and truer to its form. A thing of beauty. A thing of brightness. The unexpected emerging from the thick and lightless.
For those of us who traverse often or not so often, through the mud, we are grateful for swamp lanterns as they appear- yellow and bright, a sudden burst of glow from seemingly out of nowhere. This metaphor can reach into so many corners. A loving, energizing phone call or email in the middle of the day. The peeking out of the sun, creating seams of light on hems of dark clouds. A kind gesture, simple and human.
May swamp lanterns appear in the muddy places throughout your week. And may you, yourself, be a swamp lantern as well.
Just a couple of days ago, a dear friend crossed one of the two ultimate thresholds; in his case, death. I think one of the most refreshing things I have ever heard, came from him during his last days. So honest. He said, “I really don’t know how long this will go on, hours, days, weeks?” He was truly present for the unknowable threshold that was unfolding. We sat with him. Enjoyed some well chosen words, planned on returning the next day with some requested tulips and chocolate, and then he slipped into unconsciousness, ultimately moving on to his next adventure. I wrote a poem about this moment I would like to share with you.
It is here.
You always wondered how you would go.
At a gas station with heart in flames, the ticking stopped,
then down for the count, a quick and simple death.
Or outliving your spouse, wandering the lonely halls
of forest and bedroom, your own soul, wondering
how you would manage as you slowly trickled away.
I’m sure in childhood, like the rest of us, you were sitting
in a rocking chair, on a porch, in some soft form of robe
or blanket, slowly disappearing into a long, long sleep.
But here you are. And even on your death bed, you say,
“I really don’t know how this works, how long I will go on,
will it be hours or days or weeks?” And you smile as we offer
you a tomorrow of flowers and chocolates alongside a book to read.
“That sounds lovely”, you say, then words slowly slip
from your veins and you go very quiet; and life slowly
drips from you body and you go very still; and now the
soul slowly seeps from your self, and
it is here.
– by Gina Marie Mammano
Being here. That’s all we can truly ask for every moment. May we all be here right now, together.