What I #amwriting and photographing
Blog posts, reflections, poetry and essays from over the years
Sometimes I think that the Muse of Poetry had her time with me 20 years ago and then packed up and left me for a young college coed.
The Muse has a way of surprising me, though.
Tonight I was on the couch, with my iPad, scrolling through Facebook mindlessly like I often do. I read a post by an old friend who shared one of her poems. In high school, she and I used to share what we’d been writing. Her poem tonight brought a flood of memories of summer writing and sparked a place inside where the Muse once had residency. I went to the back room of our house and brought out my dusty poetry journal and binder.
And then I remembered — before I was anything else, I was a writer.
I have notes dating back to 2003, poems back to 1997, and raw memories as far as I’d been bold enough to put on paper. There’s some really tough stuff in these papers — memories that had been shaped and modeled into artsy free-form poetry; its presentation made to either mask or accentuate the pain, depending on the flow of the poem.
It’s not any new realization for me to admit that I fled from my emotional pain into poetry. With poetry, I made a new language so I could share myself, while hiding critical details, but still not have to hold on to everything alone. Like any inventor, I used what I had to make something new.
Poetry was my disguise and my tool.
Looking through just a few of these poems and notes, I started to feel bad about not ever publishing them or taking the notes and turning them into something concrete and complete, while the memories were fresh enough that I knew what some of the notes meant. Today, I don’t remember the sensations behind words like “Logan’s Road House — sacred breakfasts — Christmas lawn ornaments and gun racks.” The notes were dated 2002. I know what was going on that year, but what they meant to me then, means very little to me now.
Those pretty little details never made it into anything full. They were just seeds that didn’t get planted before I moved on to start another garden of a different variety.
Though the language is rough, the memories are raw, and the fire beneath it all is weak, it seems like a waste to keep everything for myself and let those seeds die before even having a chance to turn into something else. (And it’s not in my nature to hold back much.) What I write about is what I’ve experienced. Not to preach or teach or moan on, but to share and to hold witness to the gift of being present for another human being in all his or her vulnerability.
That’s the most precious gift of our existence anyway.
Visiting my grandparents in the nursing home (working title)
Gramma has the wild look in her eyes,
if she looks at you.
She looks at the walls, reaching
for her shadow, or pointing
at the imaginary girl, or commenting
on kayaks as if I weren’t there.
But then, she’ll look at me, or at Grampa
and laugh at the joke about
“It’s a long way to Tipperary”
because she can remember
Grampa telling that joke at the Sunday supper table,
our mouths full of ham and milk.
She doesn’t remember saying the Rosary
with Grampa last night
and she talks like her mouth’s full of pound cake.
So I ask her to sing an old-time song
to try to connect with the Gramma I once knew
because even though she won’t remember,
“Que sera, sera.”
And Grampa looks at her
tenderly, seeing her as the
20-year-old he fell in love with,
though they are both 90,
wearing armors of sinking skin.
There is a slowing down. Mind is calm, as if it were resting in a pocket of my heart. As if my heart were wearing a suit coat, and my mind was easily tucked into the breast pocket of that coat.
My body is at ease. Grounded. Rested and comfortable. Comfortable in my own skin. From that comfort, freedom. I am open, soaring. I breathe in big airy breaths that fill all the spaces of my body.
When feeling loved, I feel my femininity. I feel the softness of me.
The receptivity of me.
The flowing ease and grace of me.
Which is ultimately bigger than me.
The femininity is the goddess within. My soft, receptive, sensual self.
Being loved vs. feeling love
There is a difference between these two.
Feeling LOVE is the wide open, chest expanding full breath in — breathing in and through everything around me — and gawking at the beauty all around.
Feeling LOVED, I first turn inward — sinking down into the softness. Mind into my heart’s pocket. Body into a crystal singing bowl while it is resonating its song.
All is absolutely wonderful.
There is a definite child-like quality of feeling loved. I am being taken care of. I have a protector. I can rest.
BEING LOVED is partly about being seen fully and received unconditionally into the arms of those who love me — folded into their embrace.
Ice vapor towers snake from the chimneys of the office skyscrapers, the hospital, the Starbucks.
Charmed by the below-freezing air,
they are flares into the January sky,
yet reaching up and out from anywhere there is an opening.
The skyline looks like a Dickensian stage set
with the night-blue velvet curtain as backdrop,
smoke stacks and rooftops support tall silvery billows of exhaust.
Is there a chimney sweep above? A street boy with fingerless gloves below?
In this cold, we only move for necessity.
This is how we adapt
to the rigidity of winter.
I wanted to share some stories about what a special person Grampa was and still is to me.
The first story is the one I think back on most with marvel and awe. It didn’t happen that long ago either. It was June 2012. I went to visit Grampa at Emeritus, and I had lunch with him. I had just gone to Reiki training the day before and, a month before that, I had a transformational experience at a spiritual retreat. At lunch that day, I was eager to share the Love that I was feeling inside.
Grampa was the kind of person that I could tell anything to and know that I’d be not only be listened to, but fully received. We talked about the energy healing practice of Reiki, the interconnection of all things, the new movement of Human Evolution, and Oneness of a spiritual nature – certainly deeper than most conversations had over ravioli and green beans at Emeritus. And it wasn’t just me talking to him about these esoteric topics – he had so much to contribute too.
He too felt a connection to all living things – he said he’d been feeling strongly this for some time, but never knew that others felt this way too. He said “Ours is not to reason why; just be.” We held each others hands and cried a little bit.
Looking into his eyes, I felt I received a piece of heaven – and I sense he felt the same. He was so relieved to hear that there are others that can sense the Oneness and have a deep connection to God – and that there was this resonance within our family. He said “I look in your eyes, and I know it’s true,” and then he said he felt such ease, such forgiveness and that he was OK to just BE.
Grampa had the gift of being an open, receptive, aware and spiritual person, as well as having a keenly analytical, intellectual mind that was always “on.” He was the first person I knew who wrote computer programs – let alone being the first person I knew who owned a computer. He spoke to groups about financial planning for retirement and he assisted seniors with health insurance questions. He strongly believed in equality and human rights. As a fantastic writer, he wrote opinion pieces for the Worcester Telegram on the right for all to marry and the right to death with dignity. He also took me to my first yoga class.
Grampa was already one of my heroes with his forward-thinking and heart-centered passion for humanity. To experience a spiritual connection with him was an added bonus to our relationship of granddaughter and grandfather.
When I visited Grampa in the nursing home a few times during the week before he died, I gravitated to his bedside. He wanted to hold my hand. And in came the memories of Grampa and Gramma caring for me and my brother so many times when we were little kids. It was my turn to care for him then, in even just a small way.
Another story — I had a cassette tape once that had our voices on it — Grampa, Gramma, 4-year-old me, and 2-year-old Dennis. Gramma and Grampa were babysitting us, and Grampa was amusing us with the wonders of the tape recorder. He recited the nursery rhyme “Sing a Song of Sixpence,” and Gramma sang Christmas carols. I thought of that recording – hearing it in my head – as I sat beside Grampa in his nursing home bed, and quietly sang Christmas carols to him. Even when he wasn’t making much sense in that week, he could still hum Silent Night with me and my husband.
Sometimes, when we’d stop singing, he’d open his eyes. Once or twice, I got a nod and a small, closed-mouth smile. It’s a familiar gesture in the Crommett family. In his eyes, I saw that same person who talked about oneness and universal energy –smiling back at me. Even though he didn’t say much in those visits, he freely and easily said “thank you” and “I love you.”
Grampa’s great capacity to love and his gentleness toward all people is his legacy. We don’t have to look far to see these qualities living out. My dad, for one, embodies them all. My dad too has a depth of love, kindness, gentleness and passion for humanity that is easy for anyone who meets him to feel.
I could probably go on and on talking about Grampa. But for now, I leave you with this blessing for peace – which I wish for all of us who grieve and for the soul of my Grampa, Alfred Crommett.
Live in peace by Ralph Marston
Peace is not something that happens to you. Peace is a part of who you are. Peace is not something that can be taken away from you. Peace comes from the way you choose to be. Though the world around you may be filled with confusion, noise and turmoil, you can choose to be peaceful in your own heart. Though life is filled with difficult challenges and setbacks that pop up out of nowhere, you can choose to move through each moment with a peaceful heart. When you live only for the shallow, fleeting, frivolous things, then true peace will most certainly elude you. The way to choose peace is by investing yourself in real and lasting values. No one can force your heart to be at peace. And no one can chase true peace away from you when it is there. Imagine how powerful it would be to live each day with peace in your heart. And know that it is always there for you to choose.