My Big Brother

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John & Dianne 1965 (1)

John & Me 1947

MY BIG BROTHER

            I have a big brother.  He’s 4 years older than me – precisely 3 years 358 days older.   His birthday date is exactly one week before mine or two weeks before the Christmas holiday.  The family celebrated our birthdays together as a shared event on my brother’s birthday.  Presents were absent and reserved for Christmas since it was only a few weeks away.

I don’t remember when I realized this tradition wasn’t the norm.  I do recall complaining that I wanted a ‘special’ birthday just for me and feeling unappreciated.  My mother told me I was being selfish and sinful by taking away money from my siblings’ Christmas presents.   They, however, had their own birthday celebration.  My big brother didn’t complain and suggested that we switch every year so that we took turns sharing which day was celebrated.  He is smart, affable and practical.

My big brother had several names – John and Richard.  When we were young he was called Dickie. After high school, he insisted on being called John, and would only answer to that.

One of my first memories with my big brother was playing in front of our ‘cracker box’ house in Lexington, KY.   I was enthralled with watching a steam roller paving the road when a pipe burst loose from the motor at my feet.  I quickly ran to pick it up and return it to the driver despite my brother’s shouts to STOP.

My hand throbbed from the burn while my brother shuttled me through the front door of our home.  My mother began screaming at me for being so stupid but my brother calmly told her to get a bowl of cold water and immersed my throbbing hand in it.  I remember, it immediately felt better.

There was a church at the end of our street which hosted a daycare center in its basement.  I was enrolled to give my mother some rest since she was pregnant again.  My big brother was tasked with escorting me daily.  The entrance to the daycare was down a set of steep stairs in the back.

There was a surprise snow one morning which layered the stairs like a ski ramp.  My brother insisted that we could easily slide down.   He found a piece of cardboard and placed me on it while pushing it over the edge.

The ride was exhilarating.  However, once at the bottom, we discovered the daycare door was locked and I was not able to climb back up the slippery stairs.  My big brother left to get help and returned with a bed sheet.  The sheet was lowered and I was instructed to hold on tight.  After several attempts, I reached the top.  My big brother saved my life and once again became my hero.

My early years were filled with exploits following my big brother.   I remember when he allowed me to partake of a mystery quest with his friends hiding behind the garage.  I played the part of the kidnapped victim and placidly sat in a chair secured with rope.  My brother and his friends danced around me shouting threats.  I was told not to talk or I would have a sock put in my mouth. I remained silent for what seemed like hours, even when everyone had left the area.  Finally, my brother returned and threatened to inflict pain if I told our mother about the adventure.  I was happy to comply as long as I could be included in my brothers play.  I never told anyone until today.

My big brother introduced me to the magic of fairies shortly after I began kindergarten.  We had been moved to the attic to make room for our new siblings.  I was terrified to stay alone in the remote attic space without my big brother.  He would escort me upstairs and invoke spells of protection around my bed.

One night he found a small note next to my bed. I couldn’t read yet but was enthralled with the message as he read it to me. It stated that the fairies were also living in the attic and would protect me with their magic.  I believed and was never afraid again.

A few years later our father was given a new job in OH.

The move from KY to OH took place on a sleeper train.  I shared a unit with my brothers while our mother rode in a separate unit with my new baby sister.  Our father followed in the car behind the moving van. When we stopped at a station, I would peer out the window and wave to everyone outside.  In my mind, we were the only family on the train.  I felt like royalty.

John was in charge of converting the seating into sleeper bunks.  He pulled the shade down on the window and we prepared for bed.  Once the night had darkened the sky, the train stopped again and I pulled open the shade to see out.  Everything was reflected in our car including me in my night gown.  I screamed in shock and John once again rescued me by pulling down the shade.  My scream brought the train porter who was reassured by John’s story of a shade release accident.

In OH, we lived in a converted brick school house in the country.  The house had a coal burning furnace room in the basement adjacent to a large room where old wooden school desks were stored.  We used this space to play school.  John was the principal and I was the teacher with a yard stick for keeping discipline.  My younger brothers were told they needed to learn how to behave and sit at their desk or I would have to smack their hands with the stick.

The rural public school had mixed grades with one teacher in the same room so that my third grade was shared with the fourth grade.  Prior to moving to OH, my brother and I attended a Parochial school which had a more advanced curriculum.  This resulted in my already having completed the third-grade courses.   I even had all my finalized workbooks which my teacher admired.  She asked me if I could ‘teach’ my level from the workbooks while she focused on the fourth grade.

I was thrilled to be given the responsibility of enacting the role of a teacher just like in the basement classes, although I was not allowed to use the yard stick to disciple my classmates.   I bragged to my brother who wisely saw the problem with the situation and told our parents.   The following year both my brother and myself were enrolled in the Catholic school in town.  I later learned that the Catholic school tuition was initially too expensive but after our family was established in the Parish we were given a special discount.

The following year my brother and I were transported to school by our father.  Since he didn’t get off work until after the school was dismissed, we were instructed to wait at the public library for our ride home.  I was bored setting in the library which felt like an extended school day and complained to my brother.  He asked if I would prefer walking to the dairy for ice cream.  He told me our family had an account with the dairy for milk delivery and we could charge purchased to the account.  I was thrilled with the concept of a charge account and enjoyed ice cream treats daily until our parents received the bill.  Unfortunately, my big brother was held accountable since I was considered much too young and a girl to understand a charge account.

In 1958 we moved to Bethesda, MD a suburb outside Washington, DC. and attended a Catholic school initially.  It was very punitive.  My brother was frequently struck with a yardstick because he asked questioned (he was very smart) and I was expected to know the advanced curriculum from their earlier teachings.  We were both miserable and pleaded to attend public school.  My brother was transferred to the public high school but there were no openings for my grade level.

That summer we moved to a new suburb with a nearby public high school and junior high.  I remember thinking the schools looked like factories.  Once school started, it was like my brother and I was living in different cities.  We rarely saw each other.  I became obsessed with horses and John tinkered with electronics in his basement room.   He even invented his own telephone.  I was very proud of him.

The culture in the Washington, DC area was very different from rural OH.  It was more sophisticated with a diverse population from many countries.  I was attracted to the small farm next to the High School that had horses and would frequently walk to the fence to pet the horses.

One day the farmer invited me to come to the barn to get better acquainted with them.  I followed his truck up the lane and entered the barn where he began feeding the horses.  He said that I could have the small filly I was admiring when she was older. He then showed me how to groom her while standing behind me and guiding my hand.

Next, I was aware of his mouth on my lips and his tongue in my mouth as he forcefully kissed me.  I tried to push him away but he was too strong.  I began to sob and he stopped.  With tears clouding my eyes, I fled from the barn and ran home.

When I entered the house, I called my mom and found her resting in her bedroom.  I told her what happened.   She rose from the bed with a scowl on her face and slapped me. “You’re a whore.” she shouted.  I didn’t know what a whore was but realized it wasn’t something good.

I left the room still crying and ran into my big brother.  He told me to go next door to the neighbor’s and offer to babysit for them.  He said he would come over soon.

The neighbor was delighted to get a break from her toddler.  My brother arrived and asked me to tell him what had happened.  After I repeated my story he assured me I hadn’t done anything wrong and informed me my father, who had arrived a few minutes ago, had called the police to interview me. He again assured me I wasn’t in trouble and volunteered to stay with me during the interview.

My brother directed the interview and reminded the policeman that I was young and unaware of the implications of the forced kiss.  He also told the policeman we would not be pressing charges or testifying.  My father had come into the room and received a stern look from my brother.  He verified that he would not be pressing charges.

I later learned that my mother had become hysterical and was confined to her room with medication.  When I returned home, my brother came to my room and explained that our mother was frightened about the incident and didn’t know what to do. “She was out of her mind and will not bother you again.”

I remember thanking my brother for his support and wondered how he knew what to do while our parents were so clueless.

The following year I graduated from junior high and began attending the high school closer to our house.  John had also graduated and was scheduled to attend the University. I knew he was glad to move away and remember his parting words to me. “Remember you’re not crazy.  They (parents) are.”

The baton had been passed to me.  I was now responsible for guiding my sibling’s welfare.

I am forever grateful to my big brother for creating a safe path for me through the perils of a dysfunctional family. His protection and empathy provided a firm foundation for my growth.

I love you John Richard – my big brother.

 

Love Where You Are

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Love Where You Are

LOVE  WHERE YOU ARE

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Once again, I woke with a ditty playing in my head. “If you can’t be with the one you love, Love the one you’re with”.  (I can’t remember who originated this song.  If you do, please credit.)

            As I focused on my feelings, my mind transformed the words into my recent thoughts. If you can’t be WHERE you want, Love where you are.   I had spent days searching for a new place to experience life, out of town, out of the country and even streaming shows with exotic settings.

            I moved back to New Mexico a few years ago.  It is a familiar place where I birthed and raised my children. I thought I would feel comfortable in my mature years in a familiar setting but I was bored with the scenery despite its tourist appeal; irritated with the politics and feelings of not belonging.

Motivated for a change, I began searching the internet for places to go and found this web site. –  [ http://www.bestourism.com/items/di/7319?title=Christ-in-the-Desert Monastery&b=293 ]   It was advertised as THE BEST PLACE TO VISIT IN NEW MEXICO, USA / Christ In The Desert Monastery.

Memories flooded my consciousness as I recognized this locale.   When my first born was 4 months old, my friend Suzie volunteered to do a survey for the Sierra Club of the Chama river canyon and invited me and my newborn along.  Our base camp was located across the river from the Christ in the Desert Monastery.

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Chama River Canyon

 

It was 1975 and the Monastery was new with a small store selling wine, local produce, and inspirational material.

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     Following is quoted material from the tourist web site that describes the landscape uniquely and better than I can imitate.

” Monastery Christ in the Desert is located in Chama Canyon, an amazing landscape, in the northwestern New Mexico. . .

The Monastery … is surrounded for a long distance only by untouched wilderness, . . . The place is one of the most beautiful places in New Mexico, and the monastery is a very welcoming and embracing sacred place, that offers a great energy and renowned spirit even after a short visit… It offers . . . an amazing view that opens the valley. . . creating a majestic ambiance. The Monastery is the place that makes everyone to feel graceful, simple and grateful for being a human being in this world. Everyone should definitely visit this spot, even if . . .  not a religious person. . . This monastery is truly spectacular, isolated from the society, giving for everyone the opportunity to change the world, by changing themselves, because, this is the place where the pilgrims can meditate in peace and change their mind, charging their souls with positive energy. The isolated monastery is in a perfect harmony with nature, in this picturesque wilderness region.”

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chama-river-canyon-20Monastery of Christ in the Desert

     Suzie and I informed the monk in the store we would be camping across the river for the night and planned to leave the next day after completing the survey.  That evening we ate from our prepacked picnic and enjoyed the soft Pinon perfumed breeze.  Suzie laid her sleeping bag on the shore under the star filled sky and I prepared the back of the Jeep’s tailgate with my sleeping bag and a blanket for my son.  The sound of the river’s flow lulled us to sleep.

I felt my son breaking free of his covers and heard him begin to whimper.  Suddenly the camp site was surrounded by howling which was drawing closer.  My son’s whimper became a wail as if answering the approaching sentinels.

Suzie slides into the Jeep and reassures me all was safe.  The coyotes were just alerting me it was time to feed my baby.  I began nursing my son and the coyotes hushed.  The feeling of being in “perfect harmony” with nature and connected to my furry friends was awesome.

And yes, like the tourist site promised, I felt . . .  “graceful, simple and grateful for being a human being in this world.”

 

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WATCH THE DONUT NOT THE HOLE

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WATCH THE DONUT NOT THE HOLE

            Have you ever had a song pop into your head and wonder why it is there?

This morning it happened to me.  The ditty was from a Burl Ives record of children’s songs I played for my kids because I couldn’t sing and wanted my children to have songs in their background as they played.

Now one of the songs has come back to haunt me and I know why.

           The song is titled ‘Watch the Donut Not the Whole’.  I’m pasting a snippet to jog your memory.

 

            The hole is the round empty part of an old fashion donut and represents negativity – what is lacking.  This leaves the donut to contain all the yummy circle of delicious fried dough – what is present.

            My soul was reminding me to focus on the positive.

            When the song appeared, I was remembering an unpleasant event from my childhood – a parental demand to perform childcare task for younger siblings.  I felt abused for lacking my own independent time with myself.

With the ditty playing in my head, I could easily switch to remembering the fun I had with my siblings inventing games like rock school, races, and storytelling.  I also appreciated the early training for motherhood childcare provided.

Now that I am in the ‘elderly’ category, I welcome my memories and recognize the opportunities to focus on the donut.

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FATHER’ DAY

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MY FATHER’S DEATH GIFT

My father was a mean and stingy daddy. Through the years, I maintained a relationship with him from a distance both physically and emotionally.   I knew I did not feel love or respect toward my father like other people had.  I did know the socially acceptable way to behave toward parents. I also made it a point never to ask for anything.  I knew there would always be a price in the receiving I was unwilling to pay.

After my mother died, I spent a week with my father getting him settled in.  I did not leave my husband and career to live with him as he asked.  I did visit when he had a medical emergency and helped him get settled in an assisted living facility which he hated.  He then decided that he would spend one year living with each of his six children.   I declined the rotation.

The year my husband and I moved to FL my father was living with my youngest sister.  She asked me if I could take him for a few weeks over the holidays to give her a reprieve.  Since my house did not have room for my father, the plan was to find a temporary rental where my father could stay.  As I began preparing for the visit, finding space, a home health aide, and meal services, I realized that this was a bigger expenditure of energy than I was ready to give. In addition, my father was now talking about staying permanently.  I felt like I was in the lights of an approaching train and I was tied to the tracks.

I was already consulting a life transition coach weekly, so I presented the issue of my father’s visit at the next session.  It was not difficult to realize that I was dreading his visit, what was a total surprise was why I didn’t just say NO. The justification for my inability to say no was that I was helping my sister.

This awareness brought the learning “It is never acceptable to abandon oneself in order to save someone else.”

I would like to say that it was very easy to pick up the telephone to tell my father no.  It wasn’t.  I first had to confront all the patterns that held me to be a giver and a non-receiver that allowed me to abandon myself, patterns that were set down years ago to protect and now restrained me.  I knew the nature of my father. I would be foolish to willingly get poisoned like the frog carrying the scorpion across the river.

Once I decided to love and protect myself, it was very easy to say no.  I could say it out of love and not be compelled to rationalize or explain my decision.  It was just NO.  Later that week I read an article about having the right to change our minds.  I had changed my mind about what I wanted.  I had spoken my truth.

My father decided to move to FL anyway.  He moved back to the area that he and my mother had lived – a three-hour drive from my home.  He initially lived with his accountant. Later he bought the house next door.  He created a wonderful community in a neighborhood with friends who visited daily.  He found a compassionate doctor who listened to him and hospice nurses who relished in his “fierce independence”.   He was adored.  He would have missed this wonderful opportunity if I had allowed him to live with me and not spoken my truth.

A little after my father’s return to FL, I received a call from his hospice nurse informing me that my father was being placed on continuous care to evaluate his condition. His health had been slowly failing for years due to congestive of the heart.  Now he was unable to walk unattended and was easily confused.   We, the family, would need to decide about his continual care based on the results of this observation.

I am a homebirth midwife and know that death like birth is a process that cannot be precisely predicted only anticipated.   In both events you can prepare the environment and wait.  I knew my father, like my pregnant women, wanted to stay in his home.  The next day I traveled to his home to prepare it for his death just as I’ve prepared many homes for birth.

After I arrived my father was doing better and the hospice nurses thought his death was no longer imminent.   I made arrangement for in-home health care to begin  My older brother planned to arrive later in the week.   I was able to tell my father that I would not stay longer than the extended weekend.

During the weekend, I administered flower essences, burned aromatic oils, listened to 1930-40’s music and watched him nap. I talked about my work and birth and the strong conviction that we are spiritual beings.   My husband visited and provided acupuncture.  My niece brought crab cakes, one of my father’s favorite foods.  Sunday, the day I was preparing to leave, my father could not get out of bed.  I agreed to stay another day to give my older brother a chance to arrive.  The hospice nurses decided to continue the continual coverage.

Death was now imminent.

Although it was never vocalized, I knew my father wanted me to attend his death because I did not fear it.  He was afraid. He had said so often.  Once he told me of an out-of-body’ experience that had terrified him.  He is the only person I know who found this a frightening experience.  As I stood by his death bed, I recognized the familiar feel and flow of life energy moving.  I could hear it in his breathing as the rhythm changed, reversing a newborns gasp for air and independence.   In the same method, I coach a woman to release her baby’s body, I coached my father to release his body.

My older brother arrived later that night, adding a strong presence to the process.  My youngest sister, who shares a birthdate with my father, called and said her goodbyes again.

I asked her if she had any thoughts on why he was ‘lingering’ and she reminded me that he was a geologist as well as a Virgo.  She suggested that I get some rocks from his Bonsai garden and place them at his bedside.  I found three rocks and placed one in each hand and one over his heart.  His accountant friend sat by his bed and told him that he didn’t owe any more taxes and that the stock market had made him a rich man.

My father died peacefully and gracefully in his own bed.  I was very proud of him and touched by the stories his new friends and neighbors had to tell me.  Even his doctor liked him.  The stories told of a different man than the father I was raised by.  The stories were of generosity and kindness.  I was so grateful that he was able to transform his life.

I was very proud of him and touched by the stories his new friends and neighbors had to tell me.  Even his doctor liked him.  The stories told of a different man than the father I was raised by.  The stories were of generosity and kindness.  I was so grateful that he was able to transform his life.

A week later, one of my clients stopped by my office and gave me a Bonsai tree.  She had heard that my father had passed and wanted to offer me something to remember him with.  She said the tree liked lots of sun.  She wasn’t aware that my father also grew Bonsais but she suggested I call the plant Jack after my father.  It wasn’t until after she left that I wondered how she knew my father’s name was Jack.

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Thank you for the opportunity to express my father’s day memories.   Now that I am elderly and distanced from my children, I wonder if they have unresolved “parent” issues.

 

 

A Murder of Crows

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      Yesterday evening a murder of crows descended on the roof of my apartment cawing obscenities in shrill tones I couldn’t ignore.

         I dashed onto my patio peering up to discover the object of their fury when a single crow looked down at me cocking its neck in curiosity.

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         The cawing fell silent followed by the flapping of a thousand wings ascending into the night sky leaving me alone to contemplate their visit.

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http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/a-murder-of-crows-introduction/5838/

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HUMPTY DUMPTY – USA Health Care

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A frequent refrain sung in today’s USA health care services reminds me of Humpty Dumpty – “It’s broken and can’t be put together again.”

The Medicare system mandated for our elderly is a cogent example.  Enrollment is required, deducted from Social Security benefits and administered by the Federal Government.

When I first encountered Medicare, I was delighted. The cost was less than private pay insurance and Federal Law guaranteed services. My hospitalization for a heart attack was covered. I also learned the Original form was more economical and I saved the difference in cost of add-on premiums.

And then the fissures started to appear. They were not restricted to Medicare but permeated the whole structure of health care.

My first glimmer of flaws occurred in reviewing a claim where Medicare was charged and paid for services I did not receive.

I dutifully filled out and filled the fraud section of the Medicare claim. When I tried to follow up on the results, a Medicare agent told me I could not have access to the information despite the claimant’s billing me for co-payments. Perhaps it was not cost effective to retrieve the money. I wondered how many $200 payments were not retrieved a year and what % accounted for the cost of Medicare.

Last month I had an annual exam. Yesterday, I received my electronic claim history. It contained the annual exam and an additional charge for the same day. The additional charge paid by Medicare cost more than the annual exam and was charged as a ‘facility fee.’

I contacted Medicare to find out what this was for. After several hours, I finally reached a representative who read a statement authorizing ‘facility fees’ from an unknown source. Since, I had not been charged a facility fee before, and my exam was in a clinic, not the hospital, I questioned the charge.

Ascending the ladder of Medicare supervisors did not resolve my questions. Why was I & Medicare charged a ‘facility fee’ for a routine clinic visit?   No one could explain this charge.

I called a Practitioner friend to determine if she had any insights. She said she had a non-Medicare patient complain about the same issue when billed for an office exam.   The fee for the exam was usual however the facility fee was additional and more than the exam.

Can you hear the CRACKING sound?

Who authorized these facility fees and the spending of my tax money? Why does the facility fee equal more than the professional service exam?

Please advise if you have information on the shattering of our health care system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WELCOME TO WESTMINSTER ABBEY – PART ONE

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            The bells from Westminster Abbey summoned me with their promise of Christmas Magic. I was exploring sound vibrations as a healing tool and revisited earlier studies of tones to balance the body.   An Internet search produced links to songs, instruments and ancient methods of inspiring wellbeing through toning. The sound of a bell was frequently cited as the purest healing form.

Inspired I hunted for this sound to experience for myself its ability to stimulate.   Tinkling, ringing, dinging, jingling vibrations emitted from my speakers. The emotions they produced were not unpleasant but did not feel therapeutic.

Then I clicked on – chiming.   My being was filled with the sound of Westminster Abbey’s bells and I was enthralled.   The vibrations reach out and connected me to humanity.   It embraced my being with a deep knowledge of belonging and bliss.

            As I read about the bells, I learned they have been ringing from the Abbey for almost a thousand years announcing events and binding the community.   One event was consistent in its yearly celebration – Christmas Day.   I wondered how it would feel to stand in the Abbey surrounded by the sound of the bells. Would I be transported through time to experience the vibrations of the past?

My life was filled with a purpose – to hear the Bells of Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day. I have been told that the preparation for a quest is as transformative as the actual journey.   Certainly mine exposed me to multiple decisions and required choices of the heart as well as awareness of my own fears.   Where would I stay, how would I get to the Abbey, what would I wear?

Finally my journey was set. My reservations made. I choose to fly first class through the night to arrive in London on the day before Christmas. A hotel for two nights within walking distance of Westminster Abbey and a reserved place at the hotel’s traditional English Christmas meal completed my preparations.

Some believe the journey is more important than the goal. I disagree. It is not an either/or situation but an and/both event much like a musical counterpoint.   I followed the melodies presented to me with each step and was filled with magic.

I savored the attention and ease of first class flight.   Beginning with my wait in the comfort of the First Class lounge with luxurious seating; continual supply of food and drink; lavish restrooms with real cloth towels and a consigner to remind me of my departure time.

I felt the thrill of boarding first and the personalized attention to my seating. Legroom for my 5’8” frame and being offered three course choices for dinner completed the introduction steps of my journey. I knew the increased fare had purchased this treatment and chose to appreciate and savor every moment of this gift to myself.

The sensation of flying always inspired a quickening of my heart. My favorite part is the take off with that little thump of exhilaration as the wheels leave the tarmac and the plane ascends on pure air.

I am seated next to the Pilot’s wife. We chat as if this is a common voyage and perhaps it is for her. I notice the other first class passengers also vibrate a relaxed ease and appreciate the inclusion into the group. We arrive at Heathrow Airport.

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My memories of a youthful sojourn to England burst unbidden as I recalled my attendance at Porlock Vale Riding Academy to attain a Horse Master’s certificate.   My three months of training were filled with indescribable adventures and an introduction to a different way of being. My instruction was intense and packed with praise that didn’t prepare me for the failure notice from the British Examiner at the end. Now I was back having been inoculated with the pain of failure and had created a fearless life of successes.

A modern train ride followed by an English style black cab brought me to the entrance of my hotel.   It had a cozy old fashion ambiance with all the amenities of a larger establishment.

Navigating to my room reminded me of passing through a rabbit warren turning left and right up two stairs and down three. There were no straight shot halls or elevators from the ground floor.   On the outside it was clear that several buildings had been joined together to assure equal accesses to the windows. Safety was assured since a stranger could not predict a guest room’s placement by its number.   Room 206 could be across the hall and one step down from 307.           

Blue Berry Tea

 

Hungry. I was enticed to the hotel bar for a small meal with tea. My waitperson noticed I was undecided on the type of tea and suggested Blueberry Tea, which I had never experienced.   Its base is a brandy glass 1/3 full of steaming black tea to which a slice of orange is added and stirred.   Another third of the glass is filled with Grand Marnier Liquor. My waitperson encouraged me to inhale the aroma first then slip slowly to allow the warm liquid to perform its magic.

It was time to introduce myself to Westminster Abbey. I spied her towers a few block away but felt her presence as soon as I stepped from the hotel lobby. The doorman reminded me of the change in traffic flow and to look RIGHT before crossing.   This small change in pattern added to the exotic feeling surrounding me.   As I approached the structure I had an overwhelming desire to bow. A deep reverence for its symbolism and strength of character reminded me of the bond between nature and man.

I walked around the Abbey noting its brickwork and garden gates guarding the interior.  Finally, I completed the circle and was back at the main entrance with its worn brick walkway leading to the arched entry reminding me of hands folded in prayer.

Nothing had prepared me for the actual experience of stepping into the Abbey.   It felt like entering a sacred shrine constructed to provide sanctuary. The smell of candle wax and incense floated in the air among the wooden pews and prayer stalls. The stone walls lit by stain glass windows created a mood of protection. Here was a safe place to connect with one’s soul.

My feet moved slowly along the aisles stopping occasionally to read the placards covering the walls commemorating people for their achievements.   Several elaborately carved casket filled grottos along the way and alerted me to the possibility that the Abbey was also a burial chamber or crypt for generations of notables through the ages.   I recognized several novelists like Jane Austin and poets as well as musicians and politicians held in memory.

When I glanced down at my feet I became aware of another surface dedicated to memorializing people of the past. The first inscription I read on the floor was to a plumber at the Abbey in the 1700’s.   More names, dates, and achievements spread about me. Some had the inscription “Here lies…” reminding me that there may be bones beneath my feet.

I returned to my hotel filled with anticipation of the morning much like a child expecting St Nick.

 

 

WESTMINSTER ABBEY – PART TWO

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The Christmas morning service was scheduled for 10:30 AM followed by the Bell Ringing.   I arrived at the Abbey early to ensure seating. The flow of celebrants reflected multiple nationalities and covered the full spectrum of age groups from toddlers to the elderly. All appeared filled with Christmas cheer and smiling faces. A cherub-faced usher handed me a program and escorted me to my seat.

A middle-aged couple with two preteens filled the seats next to me and introduced themselves. They were from Belgium and attended the services yearly claiming that London was very close.  Shamefaced I realized I didn’t know where Belgium was located or where London was in relationship to other European nations.

I shared my inspiration to hear the Bells and felt their supportive understanding. Once again the emotion of inclusion embraced me and reminded me I was connected to a larger group. The Abbey satisfied its alternate title -“Parish of the World”.

The service was Anglican and very similar to the Catholic mass I was raised in. It felt familiar, yet contained elements I wished for in the Catholic practice. There were female priests and attendants. English was spoken. The sacraments were up close and personal.  The pageantry was celebratory and richly presented.

Again, remembering my earlier trip to England, I had attended an Anglican church with another student for several weeks before I realized it wasn’t Catholic. I even confessed my error believing I had sinned by missing Sunday services.   Fortunately, the priest I confessed to assured me I had not sinned since my intention was present.   Afterward, I found myself excusing my presence from mass offering my intention from my bedroom.   That was my first introduction to meditation.

The choir was uplifting and charismatic.   It filled the space with an unanticipated magical resonance.

WestminsterAbbeyChoir

            There was an inclusive non-punitive quality to the sermon I had not experienced in the Catholic rituals.

The emotional energy of joy mirrored that of the birth rooms I attend as a trained nurse midwife. This awareness produced a smile on my lips. The Christmas service was a celebration of Christ’s birth after all. The ritual drew all the connecting vibrations to heal mankind, as it should.

The sound proof quality of the Abbey’s walls became evident as I exited and was greeted by the urgent pealing of the bells. The sounds wrapped around me and lifted my spirit. I inhaled deeply eager to absorb every vibration into my pores. This was the moment I had been waiting for and I allowed my imagination to flow.

            The ringing had no agenda other than to link humanity in awareness of the moment.   It didn’t discriminate or profile its audience by sex, race, age or monetary worth. All were included in its offering. In my mind’s eye, I could see the expression on its recipients’ faces – a look of hope, of belonging to something greater than the self.

Returning to the present, I observed my fellow listeners outside. They were sprinkled like cookie crumbs beside the Abbey and across the street. I enjoyed watching the walkers moving briskly then suddenly slowing down to listen caught in the bells’ spell.

A young man with floppy hair approached me and asked what I was doing.   I pointed to the bell towers and explained about the Christmas Bells. He told me he’d lived in London for several years and had never listened to the Bells. He thanked me for sharing my story and moved on.

It was time to return to my hotel for Christmas Dinner. I was delighted to have my favorite Yorkshire Pudding with Roast Beef and green beans.

English Christmas Dinner

            When the meal was complete the poppers were pulled sending streamers to nearby tables. Some of my streamers landed at the adjacent table where two young women were seated. They immediately retaliated with giggles and a burst of confetti from their own Poppers.

Christmas-Crackers

The women asked if I was American and introduced themselves as also from the States. Soon we were deep in conversation. They invited me to join them on an evening walk about of the London sights.

The night lighting and presence of memorial structures like Parliament and Big Ben created a timeless setting which the women filled with details.   I was treated to a tour of Harry Potter sights and entrance to all the open lodgings offering Holiday parties.   The Royal Horse Guard’s housing was spectacularly decorated. Its elderly residents welcomed us to chat by the live fires without qualification.

The women were anxious to cross the Thames and ride the Eye.   I was ignorant of much of the changes in London’s scenery. When we walked on the bridge across the Thames, I thought it was London Bridge and was shocked to learn London Bridge had been dismantled and purchased by an American. The Eye looking like a giant Ferris Wheel was closed, as were all the sites along the Thames.

We focused on the sculptures and again the women introduced me to the art of bringing solid monuments alive and personal.

London birthing

Jubilee Oracle

   by Alexander 1980.

(inscription)

Mankind is capable of an awareness that is outside the range of everyday life. My monumental sculptures are created to communicate with that awareness in a way similar to classical music. Just as most symphonies are not intended to be descriptive, so these works do not represent figures or objects.

***

 

December 25, 2007 London

Midwife Dianne births new friend through the Jubilee Oracle sculpture.

The great EYE is waiting in the background to continue its circular voyage. Big Ben chimes the hour across the Thames River.

 

 

 

WHAT IF ?

Standard

imagination

            My daughter taught me the game of What If?   I don’t know where she learned it and wouldn’t be surprised if it was a product of her genius imagination. She instinctively knew that she created reality from her thoughts. She created a companion named Charlie when she was a toddler. Charlie could do many astounding things and was never consistent in his/her behavior, age and feelings.   Charlie existed for my daughter.

He/she provided alibis for any perceived transgressions. If my daughter was confronted with misbehavior she would proclaim her innocence with , “Charlie did it.”

Imaginary-Friend

            During her preteen years Charlie faded away to be replaced by an imagined horse that soon became a high maintenance reality .   Triffy was a white Half Arabian who adored her as much as Charlie had.   They formed a visible bond that performed with grace and won horse shows.

Triffy imagination

           The What If game appeared during her late teens along with an attraction for boys and proceeded into the college years.

Quote-Imagination-Coming-Attractions-Albert-Einstein

            A typical game would sound like this:

“What If humans didn’t have arms? Would we pick up food with our feet or eat on the floor like the dogs. Maybe we would have caregivers who feed us. . . Ewww – that would be gross. I’m happy to have arms with hands. “

“What if a man on the airplane gave me his first class seat, would I take it? Really mom, it happened. I flew home first class from college. I like first class. No I don’t have his ticket we switched seats on the plane.   Why wont you believe me?” Maybe it was her delighted grin but I eventually did believe her and learned that the magic is in believing What If can become reality.

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