Root medicine 1

Undeveloped rolls of film, under my bed. Faces emerge from the liquid dark. Memories I forgot I had remember me. Jet lag pushes now into the past, the past into the now. I am here. India rising indeed.

The children are with me this time. Where did they come from? The seven years between this visit and the last are soft drinks fizzing and cutting the sweet scented jolt of whiskey I have been longing for. The India I have been keeping in my heart looks back at the real self she is the reflection of, and is pleased, “The years have been good to you.”

3am silence has begun to crumble as four year old and six year old tummies remember that it’s dinner time half a world away. As I pad quietly into foreign yet familiar kitchen to forage for pre-dawn here/evening there sustenance, memories of awakenings past prickle across my brow. I used to keep quiet, tell no one, wake no one, brain whirling, stomach howling, when it was I who was American grandchild come home. No close in age sibling to share my ravenous insomnia.

Already this is different for them, because they have each other. And because I am here. I know what this is like, the fear–love pull of roots on far flung branchlets. They are emboldened because I am here to anchor. Already they have giggled, snuggled, checkered, ribboned, and serenaded their ways into my Indian family’s loving embrace. Fed by hand, carried on tall uncle shoulders-newly anointed Prince and Princess.

Whether or not they remember, they will never forget. I never did.

He Feeds Her

He loves his babies. Always has. His hands perfect for holding small heads. His long flat chest a place to rest and hear the thump-tha- thump just like it was in mommy’s tummy.

I hated breastfeeding. Never enough milk. What did come was so often vomited back onto those bags I lugged heavily on my frame. She’d scream with acid pain and empty belly.

He’d soothe her patiently.  Rocking, and shushing and swaying. Cooing, and patting, and humming.  Loving her with every inch of himself.  She’d sleep fitfully. Reluctantly convinced into rest.

Midnight feedings were hazy nightmares. He wanted to help.  But the best milk was in me.

Breast is best. Breast is best.  Breasts are beasts. Breasts are beasts.

After each feeding, I’d wake him, saying, “Take her.  I can’t do this anymore.”  He’d rouse himself. Sweep her up in the darkness. Pour sweet nectar into her ears.

Delirium twisted mother’s milk into mother’s bane.  But the shame, the shame seemed worse than this.  The shame and the failure:

A stay-at-home mom who does not breast feed.

Unspoken damnation whispered into my mind’s eye. “You’re a bad mother. Selfish. Weak. She will suffer forever. It’s all your fault.”

He said, “You don’t have to. It’s OK.  Don’t listen. I love you. You’re good. You’re good.”

No. You’re good. I am bad.

He said, “I want to help. Let me help. Let me feed her. You can rest. You can sleep. No more pumping. No more soreness. Let me help.”

Every day for months, we three danced this way.  And I felt myself pushing away from the child so waited for. Now, so hungry, always so hungry.

And me with nothing left to give.

So I let him help.  Knowing I was bad. She would suffer. He would leave me.  All good things, as they say, would come to an end.

But instead.

When the clock struck 10 I’d be fast asleep. A night-owl, he stayed up for the midnight feed.  And I, the early bird, took the 4 am, happy to be with my girl.

So rested, body mine, no pumping, no resentment.  Just the everyday trials of new parenthood – shared equally by two.

My burden had lifted.  And his was increased? Would his baby love stay so strong in the face of the feeds?

When I asked,  he said, “You don’t understand. You have given me a gift.”

“I hold her in my arms, bottle in hand, and she looks at me.  I see in her eyes something different, something new, something real.”

“‘You feed me.’ she says, without words.”

“I am her father, and I feed her. Don’t you see? We men are not supposed to feed. But I want to feed her. I need to feed her.”

He feeds her. To this day, he feeds her.  And she knows it.

And we are all free.

 

 

 

He sings

Little brother can’t get a word in edgewise.
Big sister is a talker, a performer, a deep thinker, a sly joker, a tantrum thrower.
His words are still mumbled, all jumbled, and soft.
When he wants something he whispers, “I wan dat one. Please.”

But if you ask him to, he sings.
He sings about pumpkins and apples and sheep.
He sings abcd (but gets lost in lmnop).
He sings happy birthday, he sings little star.
He sings if you let him, if there’s space,
if there’s silence to fill.
He sings words he can’t say yet.

He sings
and the words matter less
than the feeling inside them,
than the message they send,
than the stories they tell.
He sings.

Rest. Rant.

Riding through Italian Market on my bike, watching vendors lay out winter squash and imported lychees,  a red-lettered sign catches my eye.

REST   RANT

Early morning brain prevents me from getting the joke for a solid minute and in that time I try to follow this new rule set forth by this unknown guru.

REST.

I begin to breathe deeply,  clear my mind.  Relax my muscles, feel the damp fall air lick my skin.

RANT.

Whatwillhappenifwedon’tgetclimatechangeundercontrol?!!!!!!!!

REST.

A wrinkled, crisp leaf circles in a wind swirl and my mind follows its delicate dance.

RANT.

Incomeinequalityisnotsustainableandwillleadinevitablytobloodyrevolution!!!

REST

I imagine my son’s third birthday candles glowing in front of his face. Maybe we should decorate it with the left over Halloween candy.

Forests of lollipops on fields of kit-kat crumbs, a three-year olds heaven.

RANT

Thiscountryissoracistanditsthechildrenwhosufferwhatcouldpossiblybewrong

withfundingfgoodpubliceducationforall?!?!

REST (AU) RANT!

Now I get it.

One hundred years

In one hundred years, what will we know to be true?

Gender is fluid.

Human bodies are not machines.

Pluto is a planet after all.

Borders have no place

in a world where humans are free.

Animals have consciousness.

Flying cars still cause traffic jams.

But we know all these things already. Don’t we?

Two birds

There were two birds on the Broad Street subway this morning. Sparrows swooping from handhold to seat back. I did not know how to help them. How did they get there? Flew in when the train was above ground maybe. Swallowed by the tunnel to the underground.

Without the sky to guide no sense of what “out” looks like. Opening doors set them darting away in fear. The way out as perilous to them as the way forward. Two birds on the train on this cold Monday in November. I leave them behind, walking through the opening door I know will take me to the sky.

We went to the temple today

This place did not exist when I was a kid. The White stone crown crusted with statuettes juts out from the golden tinged fire of the midatlantic fall foliage. Heart skips. This. Is. Here.

We walk up to the entrance- four in splendid festival finery. My mom and I both have been eager to take the kids for their first visit. Diwali seemed the perfect time.

Shoes come off. Bare feet touch cool marble. Amplified sounds of temple chanting cause three- year old boy hands to clap over three-year old boy ears.
Daughter five clasps Patti’s hands. Time to meet stone deities in fine silks.

Time to press foreheads to earth in obeisance. Time to tell priests of lineage and stars. Time to eat temple fare, simple and hot and abundant.

Time to run giggling through grownups legs breathing in incense soaked air. Time for flame-warmed hand to hairline and holy water in hand.

Time to remember that stone and fruit and water and words and food and family all hold the divine.

This is what I wished I’d had. This is what I hope they feel. This is why we went. This is why, to the temple.

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“we are also heirs to those who won the peace”

On Monday morning, in the bright light of a cold January Martin Luther King Day, President Obama gave us an opening. Like many presidents before, he honored the sacrifice and strength of our soldiers, but then, he turned the tables:

“…we are also heirs to those who won the peace, and not just the war. Who turn sworn enemies into the surest of friends. And we must carry those lessons into this time as well.”

He reminded the world that bravery can mean something besides a willingness to engage in violence:

“We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully. Not because we are naive about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear.”

He affirmed that an investment in peace everywhere is the key to security at home:

America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe. And we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad. For no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation.”

He linked our country’s security to peace and justice for the most marginalized:

“And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice. Not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes; tolerance and opportunity, human dignity“And we must be a source of hope to the poor and justice.”

In his first term, President Obama often relied on violence, assassinating Osama Bin Laden, authorizing drones, increasing detention and deportation of immigrants. But, in this moment, at the start of his second term, the most high profile figure in the world challenged the narrative that says violence is necessary to build security.

I reject that narrative.  I embrace this one.  My work has always been and will always be this.

Obama’s actions do not reflect his words, but I am happy he said them all the same.  I believe he is struggling as I do, as we all do, to walk the path of nonviolence.  In his speech, he also spoke of the evolution of humanity. Ending our addiction to violence is a part of this.

In our daily lives we each wrestle with moments of choice.  How do I respond when my child is screaming in my face?  With a spank, yelling back, walking away, manipulation?  My boss has sent me an email that makes me upset, what do I say to respond?  This driver just cut me off, do I give him the middle finger?

These are the weapons of everyday, every moment.  Few of us must deal with the availability of a vast army at our disposal and the righteous anger of millions fueling our impulse to use it.

He gave us an opening. He gave himself an opening. I want to walk through that door.

Nightmares I remember

giant octopus

Age 4:

I am at school. It is empty in my classroom.  I walk through the long halls out to where the playground should be.  Instead there is a forest.  I see the kids and teachers hiding in the trees. I know what they are hiding from. I climb a tall oak tree with huge branches.  I hear a sound like a huge dream beating.  An enormous egg shaped purple dinosaur monster approaches me.  It says,”‘I will eat you and everyone here.  If you don’t want me to eat you, go get me some ice cream.”  I run inside the building.  I search and search and search. I find the ice cream in an old canvas magazine rack.  I carry the cold tub of Breyers chocolate out to the backyard forest.  The monster is gone.  The kids are gone. The teachers are gone.  I stand alone with the ice cream as it begins to melt. I am hungry, and it is my favorite flavor, but I will not eat it.   My stomach churns. Did I save everyone? Did I save no one? Did I save myself?

Age 16:

The sun glares off of the sand dunes.  I feel the power of the dark horse beneath me. My hair is whipped by the wind. My robes flap and flail behind me.  My people ride behind me with urgency.  We must return quickly for the ceremony.  I arrive at the longhouse.  There is trouble, famine,  war approaches. I am the clan leader. The high priest tells me that it is time.  We walk out to the side of the building.  A long iron rod sits in a bed of hot coals.  The starshaped brand will mark me forever. I I raise my bare right foot. He places the brand against my sole. I do not cry. This is the only thing I can do.

Age 23:

I stand on a sun-drenched hillside.  The bright green grass blows lazily in the breeze. There are dozens of children around me giggling joyously, at play.  A gray cloud moves across the sun and the breeze turns cold.  Over the hill crest, I notice water rising.  A bulbous form the size of a hot air balloon emerges.  The tentacles reach toward me – so many I can’t count them. They grab small bodies, lifting them into the air, squeezing them.  I fight one arm at a time. I can do it.  I free one child, and the now empty arm seeks out and plucks another child.  This will never end.

Age 36:

I sit in the driver’s seat of my old four door silver Honda civic.  My husband, my two children, my parents, my grandparents and all my kin by blood and by spirit, sit in the car with me.  I am excited to take this journey with them all.  We are taking a vacation to Ocean City, M.D.  I pull onto the bridge that crosses over the water.  I can smell the salt air,  feel the summer heat on my skin.  The radio is playing “Miss Independent” .  Then, right in front of me,  a silent wall of water, 10 stories high, appears before me.  Above me, the arching water touches the blue sky where seagulls soar.  In the car, we are all silent.  There are no words

Dear Justice

He loves him.

Never apart. Never without

the tickle of whiskers, the feel of fingers, the  

coffee breath pontificating

the warmth of forever embers glowing.

He loves him.

She loves her.

Once eyes locked.

Heat rose.

Something inside her went click.

That was it.

The moon never leaves the earth.

She loves her.

He loves him. She loves her. He loves him. She loves her.

She loves her. He loves him.

Please. Open. Your. Eyes.

Sincerely,

We, The People

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