I know I am Connected

I know I am connected because I understand the volatility of this spring is evidence…because my life’s work is relevant…when someone mistakes me for a nurse…birdsong wakes me…patience permeates my senses and expands my pores…when I tell people what I do and they continue to talk…I am connected even when I am unable to discern the connection. I am connected.

Putting words out there is how I learn – the learning comes by the way people respond (or react), if they do at all. I rarely put words out in a devil’s advocate kind of way; that seems insincere. I write what I believe during the moment of writing. I express myself with conviction but am open, eager even, for responses that help me change and grow.

I know I am connected because I understand the volatility of this spring is evidence of climate change, of the planet’s pain, of the illness of the human species’ addiction to speed and power, which are really only symptoms of the deeper addiction to the illusion of control. Continue reading “I know I am Connected”

stay awhile, and go easy

Graffiti in Beirut, Lebanon.

When I Am Among the Trees

by Mary Oliver

When I am among the trees,

especially the willows and the honey locust,

equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,

they give off such hints of gladness,

I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

The power of suggestion (graffiti from Beirut, Lebanon)

I am so distant from the hope of myself,

in which I have goodness, and discernment,

and never hurry through the world

but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves

and call out “Stay awhile.”

The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,

“and you too have come

into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled

with light, and to shine.”

Infinitely Tender

Most of my lessons the past year have involved living with uncertainty. Against the desire for permanence Andrea Fella reminds us, “Things are ending all the time.” Too often my sentiment has been one of ‘always saying goodbye’ – as expressed in Rilke’s 8th Duino Elegy. This is, ironically, quite the opposite of the attitude I prefer: “I don’t care if I am possible . . . ” (Ursula LeGuin, “Newton Did Not Sleep Here”).

Farewell 2011, full of unclear memories yet infinitely tender. No clinging to reflections in the mirror; all things change – are always, forever, changing. “Impermanence . . . is the one thing really worth seeing, for one who fully sees it in himself is Free” (Phra Khantipalo).

I am listening to Andrea Fella on death and impermanence.

Feline state of post-bellyrubbing bliss.
Feline state of post-bellyrubbing bliss.

“It’s not a depressing thing, actually.”

Most of my lessons the past year have involved living with uncertainty. How can a person root when reality requires constant adaptation?

Fella describes the lesson of physics that tells us everything is always changing, everything is made of atoms – and they aren’t even atoms – they are particles in constant flux. “It’s hard to be in touch with this kind of change,” she says. Generally, Fella continues, people tend to stay at the surface – dealing with change only when it rocks assumed solidities – the World Trade Center is attacked, earthquakes and hurricanes happen . . . however, if we notice the subtleties occurring all around us: “Things are ending all the time.”

Snuggling.
Snuggling.

Quoting* The 8th Duino Elegy from Rainer Maria Rilke (who inspired me, most deeply, many years ago), Fella wants to spin grief on its head:

Who formed us thus:
that always, despite
our aspirations, we wave
as though departing?
Like one lingering to look,
from a high final hill,
out over the valley he
intends to leave forever,
we spend our lives saying
goodbye.


Too often (dwelling in insecurity), my sentiment has been one of “always saying goodbye” – which is ironically so much the opposite of the attitude I prefer:  “I don’t care if I am possible . . . We must learn to trust thin air” (Ursula LeGuin, “Newton Did Not Sleep Here“).

One of Fella’s antidotes is to adopt the stance of Don Juan (at 18:22):

Laps are for crossing over.
Laps are for crossing over...

… The thing to do when you’re impatient is to turn to your left and ask advice from your death. An immense amount of pettiness is dropped if your death makes a gesture to you, or if you catch a glimpse of it, or if you just have the feeling that your companion is there watching you. Death is … a wise adviser that we have. Whenever you feel, as you always do, that everything is going wrong and you’re about to be annihilated, turn to your death and ask if that is so. Your death will tell you that you’re wrong; that nothing really matters outside its touch. (You) have to ask death’s advice and drop the cursed pettiness that belongs to men that live their lives as if death will never tap them.

“A Strange Consuming Happiness”

...sometimes with a pause for kneading.
...sometimes with a pause to knead.

Fella says joy comes from contemplating death, from living as if each act in the world — no matter what it is — might be one’s last. This attitude increases care and ethical action. I suppose one might call it mindfulness, or perhaps grace.

Working with “Broken Bits of Information”

Broken bits of perception are “the base level of our experience,” Fella explains, describing how our mind uses vision to perceive and make sense of light. Referring to a particular experiment she adds, “if you’re moving your eyes at the right speed.” Always, then (I extrapolate), there is coordination (or lack thereof), whether it is the eye-mind or some other sensory perception with consciousness, or two people having a conversation. Coordination is the essence of communication. “When we cling to what we construct in our minds through this perceptual process,” Fella warns, “we suffer.”  Off I go again – “understanding,” “meaning,” the abstract subtle and relational ‘things’ we believe we have communicated or comprehended – these too pass into impermanence.

Farewell, 2011.

[The animal] is not exempt from an unclear
memory-which subdues us as well:
the notion that what we seek was once
closer and truer by far than now…
and infinitely tender.

No clinging to reflections in the mirror; all things change – are always, forever, changing. Fella completes her talk with a quote from “A Walk in the Woods” by Phra Khantipalo:

Everything and everybody — that includes you and me — deteriorates, ages, decays, breaks up, and passes away. And we, living in the forest of desires, are entirely composed of the impermanent. Yet our desire impels us not to see this, though impermanence stares us in the face from every single thing around. And it confronts us when we look within — mind and body, arising and passing away.

So don’t turn on the TV, go to the pictures, read a book, seize some food, or a hundred other distractions just to avoid seeing this. This is the one thing really worth seeing, for one who fully sees it in himself is Free.

______________
* Andrea Fella reads the last two stanzas of Rilke’s 8th Duino Elegy (at 13:24) from a different translation than the one I found online. The comparisons are interesting – I prefer certain phrases from each version. My curiosity about synchrony is piqued by the fact that the poem, overall, compares the animal and human gaze upon death and things (“objects”). Mei Mei remains among the living as I type, an acupuncture treatment granting yet another temporary reprieve.

Jackshit Rainbow

At the grocery store, I had just snatched up a bunch of bananas when someone said, “Hi.” (Yes, Lucasz started it.) He was stocking in the produce section. I was surprised by how happy he seemed. I had felt assailed when we entered the store – the smell was incredible – like someone had sprayed powdered sugar in the air. I remembered someone in Antwerp telling me a story about an immigrant who, after years of labor had finally earned enough to bring his mother over. When she arrived, he took her to the weekend market, where she burst into tears, inconsolable at the sight of so much excess when she had scrabbled along her entire life on so much less.

“I was busy trying to change the future!

Do you know how lonely that is?!”

I didn’t say that, but I had just been describing my experience growing up. Paraphrasing is an excellent interpersonal response!  Roomie and I were arguing over who had paid the most attention. She could not deny that she was into all kinds of things always, noticing and learning. In the end, we credited my survival with Star Trek, blogging and seltzer.

1

At the grocery store, I had just snatched up a bunch of bananas when someone said, “Hi.”  (Yes, Lucasz started it.)  He was stocking in the produce section. I was surprised by how happy he seemed. I had felt assailed when we entered the store – the smell was incredible – like someone had sprayed powdered sugar in the air. I remembered someone in Antwerp telling me a story about an immigrant who, after years of labor had finally earned enough to bring his mother over. When she arrived, he took her to the weekend market, where she burst into tears, inconsolable at the sight of so much excess when she had scrabbled along her entire life on so much less.

I responded to Lucasz, commenting that it seemed kindof slow.  “No, it’s busy,” he said.

“Really?”

“Yes, it will get busier around six.”

“Is it slower in the morning, then?” He hesitated.

Maybe he said it depends, or something else to indicate it wasn’t necessarily so.

“Is there no predictable time when it’s quiet?”

Another noncommittal gesture, apparently not  . . . “You’re not from around here?” he half-asked me.

“I am! I’m just not always paying attention.”

“It’s because the music is off.”

Aha! Is that why the atmosphere felt different than usual, I wondered to myself. And, he’s really paying attention!

“Always at this time?” I asked.

He shrugged.

“Oh, something’s broken then.”

He might have agreed.

“Where are you from?” I asked him.

“Poland.” He grinned.

“A student,” He added.

“At UMass?”

“Yes. One more semester.”

“You’re almost done!”

Big smile.

“What will you do next?”

“Go home.” Another grin.

“Oh right, the immigration law. You can’t stay.”

“I could stay!” He insisted.

“But you want to go home?!” His certainty surprised me.

“Yes.” He explained he has family here, as well as back home. But also the buddies he grew up with: “half of them are there.”

“You wanna hang with them!” He nodded. Grinning.

“Is it a pack thing? Testosterone?” The question blurted out before I thought to censor it. “Sorry.”

“I don’t know.” He grinned again.

Turns out he’s been studying architecture.

“Oh, you have a better chance of a job there?”

He didn’t say, but probably.

Hmmm, I thought to myself. Europe is good.

2

The sensory shopping assault continued as I strolled the aisles, considering what’s actually seasonal now, wondering about fruits and vegetables being so large and uniformly shaped, considering that globalization has made it so we can pretty much buy anything anytime (if you can afford it), and the products scream for attention in a cascade of color, as if trying to out-brilliance each other.

I examined the rice, a staple: what brand? I have no idea what mom used to buy. Or anyone else. I’m familiar with Goya; I kindof like the idea of challenging protectionism. Then I think, yea, but its carbon footprint sucks as bad as everybody else’s, doesn’t it? The right kind of solution would be to shop local. Not ‘buy American’ – no implication of ‘buying white’ or ‘from citizens only.’ But to shop and by from the people who live here. Whoever they are. Wherever they’re from.

3

Fellow shoppers pass, intent on lists, scouring the shelves for desired items. We do not speak or make eye contact with one another. Without background music to mask the shuffle of carts and cartons it is less easy to ignore each other but we manage to do so. The smell of sweet vanishes under a boosting-disambiguationchemical barrage – should have held my breath and dashed past the cleaning aisle, ignoring it as firmly as the health and beauty products, the HBP as Beh told me later, teaching me about boosting as she checked my groceries out.

I believed her but wondered if I’m the only one out of touch enough not to know what it is so maybe I should put in a link. …. Yea, wikipedia’s disambiguation entry on boosting is enough.

Beh is a sharp cookie. Not only did she tell me about the theft economy working right under our noses at the Amherst Stop and Shop (they’ve got a detective on it) she’s pretty sure the cash from street sales goes to drug cartels. Who would guess amidst the massive glut of bootie that the underground economy is occupying the self-same space?

4

Roomie was taking her sweet day-dreaming time. I re-entered the store with the remaining empty shopping bags, curious about the guy still by the front door who I had overheard talking into his phone like a walkie-talkie when I had exited moments before. “Are you the detective?” I asked when we walked out again a few minutes later. “Oh yeah,” he joked, saying he was the Chief. Now I notice the Salvation Army sign. Reaching into my pocket, I commented that I had never contributed in this way before.

“They helped me out a lot,” he said.

“They helped my brother for awhile, too.”

“For awhile. Something happened.” He asked without asking.

“Things happen.” I replied. “Take care of yourself.”

“You too,” he said. And wished me blessings.

“Jackshit happens.” Roomie repeated.

What inflection is that, I wondered.  “Nonsense,” she said. Light, like teasing. Except sometimes it can be harsh, “I guess it’s in the tone?” I mused out loud.  “There’s a whole range,” she offered, “It can mean anything, a whole jackshit rainbow of meanings.”

Making It Real

Tribute.


All grown up and ready to lead, shake it up!

Make it real – compared to what?

Getting shot at, it’s all left up to us.

The hip hop generation, our generation

We’ve got the longevity, educated enough to know

No time for sorrow, gotta share all the love

Love the way it should be.

Not let our minds get trapped in time.

We can change how the world turns.


A remix of lyrics from songs performed by John Legend and The Roots, from the album “Wake Up!

Credits:

Salamishah Tillet, Digital Booklet, Wake Up! Sept 2010.

Eugene McDaniels “Compared to What”

Leon Moore “Our Generation (The Hope of the World)”

Mike James Kirkland “Hang On In There”

Lincoln Thompson “Humanity (Love The Way It Should Be)”

Bill Withers & Ray Jackson “I Can’t Write  Left  Handed”

Billy Taylor & Dick Dallas “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free”

John Stephens “Shine”

Ahmer ?uestlove Thompson “Wake Up Everybody”

as she wished

I settled on roses because peonies are out of season. (Mom’s mother, Rosaline, used to take peonies on family outings to her parents’ graves on Memorial Day.) The lavender was broken by the hot air balloon upon landing; the bit of sage was a gift from Ceremony. A male goldfinch had greeted me in Caroline’s yard upon return from Ceremony, and the necklace was a perfect find at Mama’s Minerals.

Rio Rancho
New Mexico
19-21 & 25-27 August

Tommy and me
On the morning of 27 August, mom’s surviving boyfriend and I released her ashes into the Rio Grande river from the Alameda Bridge north of Albuquerque.

I had a lot of help, every single step of the way, from the wonderful women of the New Mexico Women’s Chorus, through friends from Ceremony, to family members including especially my brother. Mom herself guided me through the places she wanted to visit one last time, and made sure I checked in on Tommy.

Up

inflationMom wanted to be released from the air, but it is against FAA regulations to drop anything over the side of a hot air balloon.  So I just took her up in my backpack. We were framed by the rising sun to the east and the setting moon to the west. river and moon (turtle sighting!)Skimming down low over the Rio Grande, I saw a turtle swimming fast ahead of the current! balloon shadow under the three sistersMy co-riders were great. Vicki was taking care of ‘Mom’ before she knew what I was carrying in my backpack. Her sister Joann was having the time of her life. Roger and I had a nice conversation about doing the work of connecting (people to other people, within themselves, to larger contexts), Jean was being the adventurous one of her trio of friends/family, and Yong was enjoying tourism while her husband worked. Karen and I both managed to draw the hardest labor tasks involved with initial inflation and final packing. Joy might someday send me a photo of some of that!

Around

ABQ yard artI drove mom along her favorite road, Rio Grande Boulevard through Los Ranchos de Albuquerque. She loved cruising leisurely along at the 25 mph speed limit, gazing at flowers and fields and landmarks near and far.  Welcome to Los Ranchos de ABQflowers along Rio Grande Blvdhorse along Rio Grande BlvdCorrales

Down

Eventually we would turn along Alameda, cross the Rio Grande, and turn to wind up through Corrales. I found a spot that captured the view of the Sandias that she loved so much. There, I tended the objects I would use to send her finally on her way.9 roses, necklace, & goldfinch

I settled on roses because peonies are out of season.  (Mom’s mother, Rosaline, used to take peonies on family outings to her parents’ graves on Memorial Day.) The lavender was broken by the hot air balloon upon landing; the bit of sage was a gift from Ceremony. A male goldfinch had greeted me in Caroline’s yard upon return from Ceremony, and the necklace was a perfect find at Mama’s Minerals. About 9:30 the next morning, I warned Tommy that what we were doing wasn’t usual.  “Okay,” he said, and accompanied me onto the bridge.

Away

Lavender first, followed by a scoop of ashes. Alternating between a rose and ashes, I spoke a few words about each person’s relationship with Mom – highlighting when it was at its best or what seems notable about it to me.  Rich’s rose first, then Dad’s. Next came John’s, then mom’s siblings, Jane and Ed.  I included a rose for Bob Cockrum, one of mom’s childhood friends who is still in touch, and also for “Uncle” Sam. I included the wee bit of his cremains that Lee had given me: if their two spirits ever mix, the results will be awesome! Tommy had opted to keep his rose when I presented it to him the day before. Mine was last. We watched it float away through the shadow of the new bridge and out of sight.

Rio Grande looking north from the Alameda Bridge in Rio Rancho

She sang!

Elaine Johnson Kent
August 18, 1934 – September 30, 2009

Mom and I had many conversations in the 1990s about euthanasia. She was afraid of pain and did not want to suffer. I took a bunch of notes back then about what kind of service she would like, what to do with her body and such, trying to anticipate the kinds of information I would one day need. Eventually the topic slipped off the map.
When she went to the Emergency Room last spring, I began to watch and wait for her to let me know when it was time. I thought I was paying very close attention, but she fooled me for quite a while. I learned more about my mom’s parenting style in the last two weeks of her life than during the previous forty-six years. Through my childhood and adolescence, she had displayed no maternal instincts that I recognized. Her deepest lover, Albuquerque John, got it right: “You and your brother raised yourselves.” Whenever Mom told stories about how she had agonized over my brother’s and my safety, and felt our pain as hers, I was astonished at the disparity between our perceptions. I could not reconcile our respective versions of reality.

Abducted by Aliens
Mom called three weeks ahead of schedule to tell me she was ready to move from her beloved Albuquerque, NM to live the rest of her life with me in Amherst, MA. Within 72 hours, she was here. That very first night, I met my roommate in the hall at 4 am. “Did you just hear the front door?” he asked me. I had; what was going on? Mom burst back in. “Honey, we’ve been had!” She was in a state of total panic, convinced our lives were at stake. “That man” had made her sign a paper, and “they” were coming to get her. I tried to understand what was happening. The story she told was fantastic: a hidden life of crime, things done to her blood, how she would soon disappear without a trace. Over the next day and a half, she slowly came down from the double dose of prescription medications that she’d swallowed in an attempt to end the pain (of bone cancer, of increasing fatigue, of fundamental loss…). Mom had thrown me quite a curve! I wasn’t even looking in the right direction.

Call it Coincidence?
“If I had to say,” Mom explained to the social worker from The Hospice of the Fisher Home during the intake interview, “I believe in music.” Anticipating that I was going to need help at some point, friends had provided resources and I had done just enough homework to know who to call for help. Within hours of what looked to me like instant dementia, we had visits from the Clinical Director of the Hospice and from a representative of Elder Protective Services. Mom was reassured, “Massachusetts has the best protection in the country!” Between myself, my roommates, Hospice staff and a sweet neighbor, mom immediately had 24/7 companionship. It took a full two days to get Mom into the health care system, but by Wednesday evening she had suitable medication and proper referrals. Mom was lucid again, and it seemed we were getting the situation under control.
By Thursday afternoon the pain was back. My gaze was becoming clearer, but I still couldn’t see the ball.

or Carefully Coordinated Choreography
I didn’t tell Mom that she had called for rescue within a half-hour of my preliminary visit to The Fisher Home as I checked out potential (future) resources. I never expected Mom to qualify for palliative care so soon. While I was still in the mode of imagining us settling into some kind of home routine for at least a few months, the Hospice offered a couple of nights of respite care over the weekend, since the transition had proved to be so rough – and they happened to have a bed available. They were already gently facilitating my process as well as easing Mom’s. As Mom and I went to bed in my apartment Thursday night, Mom reassured me – despite my goof that had delayed a timely dose of painkiller: “Things are going to work out.” Of course I agreed, oblivious to the fact that our definitions of “working out” were hardly related.
The next shock came at the doctor’s office Friday afternoon, where Mom met her new primary care provider en route to the Hospice. “Not to be too blunt,” he said, after Mom told him in no uncertain terms that she wanted to die sooner rather than later, “but it’s going to happen. You’re going fast.” Cognitively, I processed the information, asking if he was talking about days or weeks. Emotionally, I could not absorb the answer: “Days.” At the Hospice, I said a teary goodbye to Mom, afraid she would die before I returned on Sunday but not believing it. I was also still struggling with my selfish desire for more time with her, despite her obvious and persistent clarity in not suffering the unendurable any longer. She made it through the weekend, relieved to be in good, constant care. Sunday and Monday were tough days, as no pain medication proved effective in catching up with or controlling the bone pain. Monday morning, one of the nurses explained that they were hesitant to start increasing the morphine because Mom was “still so alert” but all the alternatives were failing. As soon as they cranked up the dosage, Mom would begin to move closer and closer to unconsciousness.
Mom was calm as I explained the situation. I wanted her to agree that if we could find another way to control the physical pain, then maybe the emotional aspects could be addressed? “I don’t see any difference,” she told me, “they are mixed up together.” According to the Hospice guidelines for care, “Pain is what the patient says it is.” As long as Mom experienced pain, and told them, they would continue to provide medication. “It’s all done, sweetie,” she told me. Finally, I had caught up.

The Hospice Experience
Each nurse and care provider told me only as much as I needed to know, judging what they sensed I could comprehend, at each step along the way. The attention, time, and energy they provide to patients is extraordinary. Mom and I talked for hours over ten blurry days, sharing memories, moaning and groaning about the freaking pain, laughing, teasing apart selected biographical details, and choosing to leave others forever unexcavated. In the end, I realized how consistently Mom chose not to impose herself on anyone, how deeply she respected others’ autonomy – including that of her kids, and – ultimately – how much she was willing to suffer in order to honor these family values. She did her best to protect us all the way through to the very end.

Goodbye, Mom
I asked Mom what she felt was important in her own life. She answered seriously: “She sang.” I revisited the idea of a service, and Mom scoffed. “She did this. She did that.” I asked if she remembered the choral numbers she had mentioned before. “Those were sung at Mamma and Daddy’s funerals,” she explained. “Do you want to keep the tradition?” I was curious. She just snorted. Probably her most characteristic moment had already occurred. When I bid her farewell for that weekend of respite care, I told her that I was glad she had been my mom.
“I’m glad,” she replied, “that we straightened your teeth.”

“August”
by Boris Leonidovich Pasternak

As it had promised, not deceiving,
The sun pierced through morning and ran
As one bright slanted stripe of saffron
Across the drapes of the divan.
It covered with its heated ochre
The nearby woods, homes in the place,
My bed – and even my wet pillow, –
A patch of wall by the bookcase.
And I remembered why the pillow
Was slightly moist. That very eve
I dreamed you all came through a forest,
One after one – to see me leave.
You came in crowds, in pairs and singly,
And then someone was heard to say:
It is, old style, the sixth of August,
The Lord’s Transfiguration Day.
Usually a light that’s flameless
Comes from Tabor this day each year,
And autumn draws eyes to her beauty –
An omen, marvelously clear.
And you passed through the tiny, trembling,
Bare and beggared alders into
The graveyard’s red-as-ginger forest
Which burned like pressed-out cookies do.
Importantly the great sky neighbored
With those tall, calmed-down tops of trees;
The distance for some time had echoed
With sounds of rooster’s reveilles.
Death stood like some state land-surveyor
Amidst the trees in that stilled place
And scrutinized me for my grave size,
While looking in my lifeless face.
And everybody heard it really –
The quiet words of one nearby:
My former, clairvoyant self was speaking
Which no decay can falsify.
‘Farewell, blue of Transfiguration
And second Savior Day’s rich gold.
Soften for me with woman’s kindness
The bite this last sad hour can hold.
Farewell, years of prolonged stagnation.
And you, woman, let’s say goodbye –
You who challenged humiliation!
I am your battlefield and cry.
Farewell, spread of the wings out-straightened,
The free stubbornness of pure flight,
The word that gives the world its image,
Creation: miracles and light.’

written between 1946-1953
translated and edited by Vladimir Markov & Merrill Sparks in Modern Russian Poetry, 1966

Brief ceremony to be held Tuesday, October 6, at 4:30 pm at The Hospice of the Fisher Home, Amherst MA. Join us there to nurture griefs and celebrate memories of your own loved ones, and/or come for dinner at Panda East (Amherst) (@ 6 pm). Mom loved sushi!
Obituary to be posted in The Albuquerque Journal, The Kansas City Star, The Denver Post, and the Mt Carmel Daily Republican Register (Illinois). Elaine was the oldest daughter of Roy and Rosaline Johnson of Mt. Carmel, IL.
Embedded: Requiem Aeternam by John Rutter
No gifts, please. Contributions can be made in Elaine’s name to the New Mexico Women’s Chorus, P.O. Box 40703, Albuquerque, NM 87106 or to the Samual W. Achziger Memorial Endowment Fund at World Learning, The Experiment for International Living, School for International Training.

Sam Achziger Fund
c/o World Learning
Office of Philanthropy
1 Kipling Road
Brattleboro, VT 05302

juxtapositions

Rio Rancho (Albuquerque), New Mexico

Americans smile a lot. It feels good! 🙂 Occasionally someone gives a fake smile, one of those that is offered up because it is socially expected, but most of the smiles are accompanied with eye contact that acknowledges, somehow, what a pleasure it is to recognize mutual presence. No more carefully-controlled neutral (or somewhat suspicious) “European” expressions. warning mountainous road.jpgI mentioned to mom that I’ve hardly heard any Spanish – the monotony of English only accents how accustomed I became to the patter of diverse tongues. Now conversations around me unfold with too much information – I understand all the words, even if I lack context or background. She says people aren’t shopping (we’ve been taking multiple daily walks in the mall or Walmart), and I wondered if there are measurable effects of the bad economy according to language group.
After dropping mom for her PET scan I drove off to find a glass of iced tea. The Tomato Cafe was still under construction, so I wound up in Stoneface. I wondered how to reconcile their gang warning sign with the Lavender Festival.
no gang signs.jpg
Dad called to explain that the first thirty pages of Deaf Sentence (by David Lodge) describes perfectly his life with hearing loss.
Between medical appointments, spectacular sightseeing. We began with local architecture, specifically contemporary modern, in a new neighborhood with a bit of everything, even the hint of gargoyle.
owl.jpgThe Lavender Festival was in Los Ranchos, with its long river-to-road lineas or tripas lots. We hooked up with my old pal, Laurel, and met some of her friends. I enjoyed the predatory bird exhibit.
From there, Laurel, mom and I took off to drive the Jemez, which turned into a long wander. We stopped at the Zia Pueblo. (I snapped the picture before the sign forbidding photography.) The New Mexico state flag features

“an interpretation of an ancient symbol of the sun as found on a late 19th century water jar from Zia Pueblo. This red symbol is called a “Zia” and is centered on a field of yellow.

Four is the sacred number of the Zia and can be found repeated in the four points radiating from the circle. The number four is embodied in the four points of the of the compass, North, East, South and West; in the four seasons of the year Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter; in the 24 hours of each day by sunrise, noon, evening and night; by four seasons of life, childhood, youth, adulthood and old age. The Zia also believed that with life came four sacred obligations: development of a strong body, a clear mind, a pure spirit and devotion to the welfare of people/family. All of these things are bound together within the circle of life.

The red and yellow colors are the colors of Isabel of Castilla brought to the continent by the Spanish Conquistadors.”

We then took the historic Jemez Mountain Trail National Scenic Byway winding up through gorgeous red stone and lush early summer greens – mom kept exclaiming at the abundance of foliage due to the higher than average rains this year. We stopped at the Walatowa Cultural Center, learning about the “4 climate zones, 5,000 years of human history and millions of years of geological ferment” (quoted from the museum timeline). This land is home to the Hemish, who built some 62 major villages, with 9-12 major pueblos, since 1275 (the approximate time they began to build permanent dwelling places in these areas where they already lived). I didn’t imagine my camera would do justice to the majestic views (although now I wish I had tried, sigh) of huge vistas, majestic stone, and the magical open vista of the Valles Caldera (see wikipedia for a few decent shots). We drifted on through Bandelier National Park, marveling at its mix of beauty and destruction; the Cerro Grande fire of 2000 still much in evidence.
Los Alamos .jpg
There was to be no science tourism, unfortunately. Security did let us in with no fuss (three white women in a old minivan apparently not enough to warrant more than the most casual wave-through – perhaps we fit the profile of “one of those liberals from Los Alamos” which we saw on an adopt-a-highway sign on the way down from Bandelier). Eventually (after what felt like a few passages through Area 51) we found the Science Museum (which closed two minutes prior to our arrival) but managed to enjoy the museum shop. I’m failing to capture the quality of the day’s light banter covering subjects ranging from family histories, genetic forecasts, singing fish, incidents and moments that didn’t happen, what we don’t know about geology, and other assorted random topics but I will say it was an entirely happy day!
mom's sashimi.jpg

References/Resources:
About Los Ranchos
The New Mexico State Flag
Nee Hemish, a History of Jemez Pueblo, by Joe S. Sando
Cerro Grande Fire, National Park Service
Area 51, wikipedia