Spring arrives every year…

We need the part of spring when the sun and the air feel new

We need that flash of renewal to stay with us and keep us alive

We are so very needy… and why not

The idea that we’re a super race contains flaws. -JSmith 03/08/2022

******

Author of “Love After Love”

******

This is all random today as the world rages around us, because…

And sometimes understanding accompanies the reruns.

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What they wanted…

Artist Credit: Bozorgmehr Hosseinpour
"We wanted to help people
We were smart and driven
We loved science and physiology, humans and disease
So we made a commitment
We signed up
It was an honor

We read thousands of pages
Attended hundreds of lectures
Pulled all-nighters
Took more exams than we thought possible
Finals week felt insurmountable
But it didn’t break us
It made us stronger

We learned statistics and biochemistry
Immunology and pathophysiology
We mastered genetics, virology and pharmacology
We read scientific papers and learned how to dissect them
Papers, not videos
It was an honor

We came running when you needed us
Literally, running down the hallway
To the ICU, the trauma bay, labor and delivery
I need help, you said
We can help, we said
It was an honor

There were moments that we thought would break us
Moments that drove us to journaling, to therapy, to nightmares
Broken babies.
Paralyzed children.
Dead pregnant mothers with three kids at home.
The wail of a mother whose son just died.
We bent but we did not break
We returned because you needed us
And we could help
It was an honor

Then there was fear
Fear of walking into our place of work
Fear that we’d be killed by going to work
Fear that we’d kill a loved one because of our work
There were tears and sleepless nights and anti-anxiety medications
But you banged your pots and pans
You sent us pizzas and called us heroes
You needed us
We could help
So we wore our masks, and our gowns, and our gloves, and our goggles
We decontaminated ourselves before going home and isolated ourselves from our families
We almost broke
It was an honor

How quickly the joy turned to defeat
Elation to rage
You’ve learned to do your own research now
You know better than we do
Gaslighting is your language
Your selfishness is astounding
You don’t want our help when we ask you to stay healthy
Yet you arrive at our doors begging for help at the end

You stole our resources
You hobbled our ability to help those who did what they were supposed to do
You killed our patients by filling our beds and using up our ventilators
We can’t help any more
You broke us
There is no more honor”

- Anonymous

A poem written by a physician after reflecting on the veteran who died in Texas because of the ICU bed shortage. 
Artist credit:
Bozorgmehr Hosseinpour

*****NOT A DISCLAIMER: I read yesterday that people are simply done with COVID and all its iterations, finished, through, sick of hearing about it, and I know in my bones that's a fact. But it doesn't change the equal and opposite fact that COVID doesn't care, it just wants to eat, sleep, live, and reproduce, and will for as long as we allow it. Our refusal to deal with facts is bringing our amazing, incredible, unmatched, behemoth of a healthcare apparatus down on our heads and the implosion will be... simply beyond. We've been warned... and warned... and warned... and we do not care. Sars-cov-2 is now part of the warp and woof of human existence, and the cost will be incalculable. "The fall thereof was great... "

There's nothing you nor I can do about any of it now, unless you're unvaccinated. You have the power to do that much and it isn't too late yet. The variants are becoming increasingly uglier, but the vaccinated are staying out of hospitals when they do fall ill. However tired you are of knowing about it, the death toll goes on relentlessly. And the people who once had the tools, energy, and incentive to help are finding other ways to stay alive. May whatsoever gods there be have mercy on us.

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Forward in small steps…

My grandmother once gave me a tip:

In difficult times, move forward in small steps.

Do what you have to do, but little by little.

Don’t think about the future 

or what may happen tomorrow.

Wash the dishes.

Remove the dust.

Write a letter.

Make a soup.

You see?

Advance step by step.

Take a step and stop.

Rest a little.

Praise yourself.

Take another step.

And then another.

You won’t notice, but your steps will grow more and more.

And the time will come when you can think about the future without crying.

***

Author: Elena Mikhalkova 

Photo Artist: Rosanne Olson

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On the stroke of midnight…

On the stroke of midnight tonight, you can resolve to be better, if you like…

to be fitter,

to be healthier,

to work harder.

On the stroke of midnight tonight,

you can resolve to become a whole new you,

if you so choose.

Or, you can take a moment to acknowledge what you already are.

All that you already are.

Because it’s a lot.

You’re a lot.

And you deserve to be seen.

On the stroke of midnight tonight perhaps you could congratulate yourself, for coping.

For breaking, again,

and for rebuilding, again.

For catching the stones life has thrown at you,

and for using them to build your castle that little bit higher.

You have endured my friend.

And I don’t see the need to resolve to become a whole new you,

when you are already so very much indeed.

Happy new year.

You made it.

Donna Ashworth

ART by Sherine Tolba

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She let go…

The other day, scrolling online, I saw a concise little 30-day challenge, formatted in such a way as to enable us to dump all our angst before New Year’s Day, and I didn’t even save it to my False Hopes folder because…

  1. those things always seem a little too pat
  2. I get halfway through and wander off
  3. more failure… who needs that??

Better that my conscious self show up in the right place at the right time to get precisely what it needs.

She Let Go

She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.

She let go of fear. She let go of the judgments.

She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.

She let go of the committee of indecision within her.

She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons. Wholly and completely,

without hesitation or worry, she just let go.

She didn’t ask anyone for advice. She didn’t read a

book on how to let go… She didn’t search the scriptures.

She just let go.

She let go of all of the memories that held her back.

She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.

She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.

She didn’t promise to let go.

She didn’t journal about it.

She didn’t write the projected date in her day-timer.

She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper.

She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope.

She just let go.

She didn’t analise whether she should let go.

She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter.

She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment.

She didn’t call the prayer line.

She didn’t utter one word. She just let go.

No one was around when it happened.

There was no applause or congratulations.

No one thanked her or praised her.

No one noticed a thing.

Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.

There was no effort. There was no struggle.

It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad.

It was what it was, and it is just that.

In the space of letting go, she let it all be.

A small smile came over her face.

A light breeze blew through her.

And the sun and the moon shone forevermore.

Here’s to giving ourselves the gift of letting go…

There’s only one Guru ~ you.

―Rev. Safire Rose

Oops, found it. See? Entirely too perky for present company.

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Broken world…

a_broken_world_by_elsilencio-d3735pv

the world got broken

we weren’t sure that could that really happen

but it did and now

we’ll probably get blamed

JSmith 12/07/2021

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Life forces…

No force on earth holds the power of a single word

spoken in haste from the human heart,

no blow strikes so sure

no arrow so deep.

.

I love you, says DNA, tho I do not like you

so let’s speak no further lest we uncover truth that will end us.

Mayhap someday this core we’re protecting will acquire a name…

a bold new label for the ages.

.

For now we call it personal choice, my world my rights, freedom,

as it divides and plows asunder

the stuff of life that won’t be regained once gone.

Labels will not cover it.

.

Becoming the predominant species has not in turn

prepared us for being fully human, for living, for crossing boundaries on our way home.

Our spirit of adventure has been jaded by the journey

and we settle for the dull, the well-worn… the safe.

.

As a winning animal we are shabby and embarrassing, an unworthy victor.

Octopi outdo us for sensitivity and gentleness…

Crows and elephants care more deeply for their dead…

Nurse ants lick the wounds of fallen comrades.

.

Humans have evolved beyond such weakness

and we are right or we are nothing at all.

The Proud are highly amused by our

acts of love and goodwill…. all weakness and lies…

.

No force on earth holds the power of a single word

from the mouth of one esteemed.

Nothing after will hold the power to restore what is lost

in that searing terminus.

.

No force on earth holds the power…

so we disarm the words by assigning better motives

cutting slack

dissembling…

.

… and surrendering our inherent dominance,

we let the words gouge, stab, wound, and defeat us,

while the power of unconditional love goes unspent, unused, unemployed

in the pursuit of happiness… and freedom.

JSmith 11/14/2021

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Sifting sprites…

We are geologists, combing layers of life’s sediment,

scuffing our feet across forgotten expanses left behind

as sprites stir, sleeping off grudges just beneath the surface…

and they are not happy.

They like neither themselves nor what differs from self…

and they are not happy.

Life is too long and too brief to provide shelter and light

to zealous sprites who after long sleep exist in the world to

insure greatest maximum distress for earth’s other inhabitants,

because why should any existing thing find what sprites can’t have.

.

So we go in search of other worlds… pockets of benign welcome where

we finally drop the shoulders, unclench the jaw, and free our tongue

from the roof of our mouth.

We say the words that hold life and mean them… words that rescue the Happy…

and we are happy.

We find the ones who get us… and in knowing us, they heal us.

Valuable trust is carefully rationed until we find that not everyone we knew

has turned spritely…

and with all the world gone dusty and dry

a cooling rain shower to the heart regenerates what matters.

JSmith 11/11/2021

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Ravenous butterflies…

In Silence Known – Andrea Kowch

“She did not need much, wanted very little.

A kind word, sincerity, fresh air, clean water,

a garden, kisses, books to read, sheltering arms, a cosy bed,

and to love and be loved in return.”

starra neely blade

********************

Art by Seb McKinnon

I hope I told you
How much you meant to me
And
How much I would miss you
When you were gone
I hope I told you
I hope I did

by Athey Thompson

********************

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Beautiful day…

It’s Monday morning after a good weekend, the sun’s shining (but I haven’t looked at it yet), the coffee’s icy, as it should be, and I’m savoring an Everything bagel… the M-day and I have it going on so far. Kim’s over in NoLaw hitting PickleBalls with a big bunch of people he enjoys so I have a couple more hours to wake up before the day actually kicks in. Then… it all stretches out before me as an absolute blank… and is there anything better for weary minds than a day when nothing happens? This particular introvert’s greatest joy is a skinny calendar with whole blocks of time when there are no appointments scheduled, no deadlines to meet. I went underground sometime in mid-quarantine and I kinda like it down here, it appeals to my hermit personality… but it does nothing to improve my social skills, so there’s that, and I’m trying to surface again.

We have a need as humans surviving on an often hostile planet to connect, to understand something about our purpose here. When the connections are broken, by us or by others, the resultant hollowness goes on and on, becoming part of life’s daily fabric, and the older I get, the harder the spaces are to fill… because I toss out everything that doesn’t ring true. And yes, I do intend to live long enough to be somewhat of a problem to my progeny, although he did nothing to deserve that.

*****

You too? Or just me…

Having been made freshly-conscious of the fact that I’m “better in theory than real life,” let me just say, via someone whose name I regretfully don’t know…

This is the grace I want to extend to all. That, too, takes a lifetime to learn.

*****

And somehow, this thought is affirming and soothing…

This too, from my wise Twitter friend…

It all simply goes on. We live and are happy.

But… I stubbornly want to understand why people choose to follow ugliness when we live among wonders in the world:

Butterflies can’t see their wings.

They can’t see how truly beautiful they are, but everyone else can.

People are like that as well.

~Naya Rivera

Photo ©Petar Sabol

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Good hearts are safe homes…

I have brazenly committed a crime this morning and I have no shame, because I stole a piece of writing (and life) that’s too exquisite to keep to myself…

Naomi Shihab Nye

Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement: “If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately.” Well — one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.

An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing. “Help,” said the flight agent. “Talk to her. What is her problem? We told her the flight was going to be late and she did this.”

I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke haltingly. “Shu-dow-a, Shu-bid-uck Habibti? Stani schway, Min fadlick, Shu-bit-se-wee?” The minute she heard any words she knew, however poorly used, she stopped crying. She thought the flight had been cancelled entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for major medical treatment the next day. I said, “No, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just later, who is picking you up? Let’s call him.”

We called her son, I spoke with him in English. I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and ride next to her. She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know and let them chat with her? This all took up two hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling of her life, patting my knee, answering questions. She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies — little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts — from her bag — and was offering them to all the women at the gate. To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the mom from California, the lovely woman from Laredo — we were all covered with the same powdered sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookie.

And then the airline broke out free apple juice from huge coolers and two little girls from our flight ran around serving it and they were covered with powdered sugar, too. And I noticed my new best friend — by now we were holding hands — had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing, with green furry leaves. Such an Old Country tradition. Always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and I thought, This is the world I want to live in. The shared world. Not a single person in that gate — once the crying of confusion stopped— seemed apprehensive about any other person. They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women, too.

This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.

~ Naomi Shihab Nye

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Seasons of change…

***

Three Songs at the End of Summer
by Jane Kenyon

A second crop of hay lies cut
and turned. Five gleaming crows
search and peck between the rows.
They make a low, companionable squawk,
and like midwives and undertakers
possess a weird authority
.

Crickets leap from the stubble,
parting before me like the Red Sea.
The garden sprawls and spoils
.

Across the lake the campers have learned
to water ski. They have, or they haven’t.
Sounds of the instructor’s megaphone
suffuse the hazy air. “Relax! Relax!”

Cloud shadows rush over drying hay,
fences, dusty lane, and railroad ravine.
The first yellowing fronds of goldenrod
brighten the margins of the woods.

Schoolbooks, carpools, pleated skirts;
water, silver-still, and a vee of geese.

*

The cicada’s dry monotony breaks
over me. The days are bright
and free, bright and free.
Then why did I cry today
for an hour, with my whole
body, the way babies cry?

*

A white, indifferent morning sky,
and a crow, hectoring from its nest
high in the hemlock, a nest as big
as a laundry basket…
In my childhood
I stood under a dripping oak,
while autumnal fog eddied around my feet,
waiting for the school bus
with a dread that took my breath away.

The damp dirt road gave off
this same complex organic scent.
I had the new books—words, numbers,
and operations with numbers I did not
comprehend—and crayons, unspoiled
by use, in a blue canvas satchel
with red leather straps.

Spruce, inadequate, and alien
I stood at the side of the road.
It was the only life I had.

**

Jane Kenyon, “Three Songs at the End of Summer” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 2005 by The Estate of Jane Kenyon. 

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The Gift of Letting Go

to live in this world

you must be able

to do three things

to love what is mortal;

to hold it

against your bones knowing

your own life depends on it;

and, when the time comes to let it go,

to let it go…

©Mary Oliver

*****

The inimitable Ms. Oliver’s punctuation choices make us slow down… read that again… count the ways… just as she intended. She subtly reminds us that poetry and prose are different animals, meanwhile enchanting us with her grasp of the world.

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Thrill of the unknown…

Someone always has the words… and isn’t that a gift when we do not. Thank you to my beautiful friend Mark Zimmerman for sharing.

********************

FORGETFULNESS

The name of the author is the first to go

followed obediently by the title, the plot,

the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel

which suddenly becomes one you have never read,

never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor

decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,

to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye

and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,

and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,

the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember

it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,

not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river

whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,

well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those

who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night

to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.

No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted

out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

Billy Collins – 1941

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The Hunt…

Sometimes you can want something too much,

and in overreaching you out yourself as the one

clinging to what no longer exists.

The human drive to possess what we can’t have,

to understand the incomprehensible,

to make sense of cataclysmic change,

takes us, ironically, to where we didn’t want to be… a place by ourselves.

Is life simpler in the animal kingdom…

where the citizens are guided by instinct alone,

no motives, no emotions cluttering the landscape?

They live, they die, the world rolls on.

Life as it spools out doesn’t shock or dismay them,

their days are an endless struggle for simple survival,

existence distilled to its essence.

Is it better to live a life of awareness,

with all the heartache attached,

or to cruise like a lioness on the hunt,

defending your territory,

staying alive through experience and cunning?

On the windy days when the sky is more tan than blue,

my heart is on the grassy savannah.

©JSmith 09/13/2021

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