Archive for the ‘postaweek2011’ Tag

Creating the world anew   Leave a comment

Dearest Mary-chan (and other friends, known and unknown),

Do you have a link, through Emily perhaps, to what is happening now amongst the young in Egypt, with the world (as it were) to be remade by them — now? Can you imagine —if it were us? How can anyone sleep a single wink or pause for anything with such a great challenge? Educare: How would you prepare your very own group of people??? If the medium were the message. I can’t remember when I have ever wanted anything as much as I would want, now, to be one of them, with both the vitality of youth and whatever I might have learned in all of my life about — everything!!!! Remembering back to summer of 1971 on The Farm — in all of my ignorance: The Movement for a New Society!!! That’s what we were supposedly part of; Elise had brought us together under that rubric… Do you remember? That seductive smell in the air? Of possibility?

Last night, from my bed — where I think about Endings — I hosted a Seder; I imagine you must have been part of one also — focused on Egypt, on the Egyptians overthrowing their own Pharoah — and being now in the very position of the Hebrews in the desert; well, no, not really, because they’re in their own homeland. I was thinking of the chaos that ensued after The Great Escape, the infighting, Moses tearing his hair out because his people complained they were better off in Egypt as slaves than wandering in the desert with nothing, and how he went up into the mountains while they prayed to the God of the Egyptians — and he brought back a fragment of social/political organization, the Ten Commandments, which only got as far as to say Don’t kill, Don’t steal, Don’t commit adultery; Respect your parents, Be faithful to the God of your tribe, Keep the Sabbath (a really brilliant commandment) — but even when multiplied into the 613 laws of Deuteronomy and Leviticus and later the thousands of pages of commentary by all the men in the lineage that sought to discern God’s intent for his people, it wasn’t enough (lo dayenu) and even later, later, later, with the Lefty thinkers continuing to think about how to bring about the Peaceable Society, and Quakers and Jooboos, etc., etc., and law schools and, by now, I’m sure, doctorates in comparative law that would bring together the best, the deepest thinking of all people of all times, does anyone know? If so, can we get a quick summary, and send links to anyone whose name we can learn, as input into this Great Process, this Great Moment?

I know I’m being silly; it must come from them, what is real for them, that this is just another moment in a perhaps endless, incompletable process —- but I yearn for it so badly: I am grateful to my mother and father who, in their way, instilled in me this passionate thirst; it keeps me going despite much and worsening pain. An alter kocker, I watch from the sidelines, cheering the team on, against such odds…. Go, team, go: Learn right now how to love one another so that the least are empowered to speak and are listened to and given their due, so that every kind of crazy diversity is respected…so that brilliant strategies are imagined to even include “the enemies”……………. . . . . .

Those times, forty years ago, when we caught one another’s gaze and had to look away, or when we started laughing uncontrollably, wasn’t it about this, the gorgeous silk purse to be made of this old sow’s ear of a world — that we could almost see?

I wrote this to you, special friend of that special moment; we met when both had such naked eyes. Having written this inspired by the memory of those times, I feel I should also post this letter in my blog, which is my present Work, my attempt to squeeze out a few drops of honey from so many lemons. I hope that doesn’t diminish it as a personal message to you.


Posted April 20, 2011 by judybloomgardener in Uncategorized

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Pain   1 comment

I have so much yet to learn about what it is to be a person, the wildness that is in us. Part civilized and part savage. Today I heard a terrible story — about pain — that gives rise to a prayer, first, and next, the need to investigate further why there is such a powerful force — pain — in us.

My friend’s mother in law had been feeling very weak and was hospitalized for immediate treatment as well as extensive testing. As feared, it seemed the cancer she’d battled years earlier had returned. A PICC line was installed to get urgently needed blood into her system as quickly as possible while a treatment plan was being worked out. Who knows what, who knows why, but while my friend and her husband were away from the hospital overnight, Edna pulled out the PICC line and when they arrived in the morning she was extremely agitated, demanding that they get her out of bed and take her home. When they couldn’t agree, she became extremely hostile, particularly shocking because they had been such a close family. My friend persuaded her husband and his sister to leave the room; she couldn’t bear their pain as their mom, in her delirium, turned on them. Better, she thought, that Edna rage at her, the daughter-in-law. The nurses were finally able to calm Edna’s agitation with high doses of morphine. Whether because of the morphine or the trauma of her having pulled out the PICC line or something else, Edna died the next morning, never regaining consciousness, her last interactions with her most beloved people a crazed assault of blasphemy.

“May I be spared!”, I think. I remember my first experience of intense pain, in labor with my first childbirth. Left alone in the hospital room with horrendous, incomprehensible, things happening inside my body, I looked desperately for a way out, and saw my clothes, the clothes I had replaced with a hospital gown, on a hook, by the door. “Simple!” I thought. “I’ll just take this gown off, put my own clothes back on, and leave! I’m not a prisoner! They can’t stop me!” Unable, for a few minutes, to comprehend that the pain wasn’t in the hospital; the pain was in me. The nurse did stop me, of course. Despite having entered the hospital with the strong intention to have “natural childbirth” (my husband and I had taken a course to prepare ourselves), I succumbed, shocked by the experience of pain, to the nurse’s offer of “a little bit of demerol”. I thus missed out on my daughter’s birth, during which I was completely unconscious. The demerol was amnestic, leaving not even a memory trace.

Ten years later, on what would turn out to be the last day of my husband’s life (although he had been severely ill for several months, I simply hadn’t grasped the possibility he would actually die of the illness), I walked into his hospital room in the morning. A nurse was opening the curtains. “Such a beautiful day,” she says. My dear, gentle husband, who never cursed, bites her head off. I reprimand him, “She was just trying to be pleasant [still a very young woman, I haven’t a clue about sickness, pain, powerlessness].” — “There’s no reason to yell at her.” My husband, a skeleton, raises himself up in the bed, to roar at me, “Nothing matters! NOTHING!”. And that is the last conversation we ever have. And in my mind, that last conversation, despite fourteen years of amicable marriage, has a very disproportionate weight.

Now I am ill. Sometimes, the pain is like a roaring in my head that drowns everything else out. To make myself heard — to myself — above the uproar in my head, I have to yell. It seems as if I’m yelling at my caregivers, at my friend, who gives to me so generously. Afterwards, I beg their pardon, explain that my yelling has nothing to do with them, it is just the pain. I can see that they are shaken, but I can’t help it; I can’t not scream. So far, there has always been time afterward to clarify, to apologize, because, so far, the pain has subsided, and I have returned to my civilized self.

So I pray: Oh Holy Spirit, please spare me from having paranoia on top of my other problems. Let me never blame someone else because I am in pain. Help me, Source of All Things, deeply to understand the function of pain. I wish to accept it with grace, but, so far, can only wish it away with all my might.

Posted April 10, 2011 by judybloomgardener in Uncategorized

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A Really Different Stage of Life   1 comment

This stage of life is really different than others I have known. I keep thinking of how I’d like to partake of a whole economy organized around needs associated with being in an end stage, rather than a beginning, or even middle stage. There are so many things I DO NOT want, that others want, that are widely considered to be desirable, things that have to do with long term improvement or durability. I do not want an education. I do not want a house, however quaint, to improve. Although I adore permaculture, I do not want land, to develop wisely, complexly, over time. I do not want a van, however cleverly fitted out, for camping. I don’t want to start a non-profit, however urgently needed. I don’t want to develop a craft involving paper or textiles, however delightful to make something out of nothing (where would I put it?) . I don’t see any point in learning yet another language even though I am utterly fascinated by the different ways different cultures have symbolized their lived experience. This list could go on and on, and now that I’ve thought of it, I’ll probably go on making it! (Please, if commenting, add your own items!). “If only….”, dreaming about what might lie just beyond the horizon, is where my gaze has most typically fallen, all my life. The possible, not the actual. But now, since it’s all I have, my focus is on the here and now, or, at most, what could be tomorrow, or next week, or, stretching it, in six months…. For me, that is. For others, for the world, I can take the long view. But the short view, the immediate, is what is most compelling. It’s spring; let me eat asparagus: Like that! Next Thanksgiving, Christmas, are impossibly far off, irrelevant. The way things might turn out in the Middle East. I prefer to think about the half century plus I have actually lived through: what it all means…. Well, I say this, but I am simultaneously wanting to dig deeper,deeper,deeper, way back into the origins of human societies, where the idea of “rights” comes from. Feeling into my relationship with other kinds of creatures, creatures I myself might become, shortly, this finger to a caterpillar, this head of hair to an old man’s beard fungus. I’m deeply engaged with the rights of non- humans, on how we all get to cut the pie. Because even if I do shuffle off this mortal coil, I’m still in the universe, right? Still part of the earth ecosystem as long as that is happening, right? So I want to get clear about what rights I might have if I turn up next time as some weeds, some Bermuda grass, let’s say, in my daughter’s back yard. Does she have a right to pull me out and throw me on the dung heap? What if I were a beautiful wildflower? If I were good for the local ecosystem as now constituted? Or bad….. These questions interest me. In my imaginary society organized for old codgers, there would be a lot of discussion groups to discuss important matters like this. These are very preliminary thoughts on What is Special about My Present Life Stage — but I notice that if I let my thoughts season, they tend to just disappear, like smoke….

Posted April 6, 2011 by judybloomgardener in Uncategorized

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Home After an Adventure: Addressing Injustice   1 comment

I’ve been sidetracked for a month by issues outside of me that absorbed my attention, leaving little time for introspection.

I’d spent two or three years writing my life story.  It was a very dynamic process while it was happening.  I did not choose what to write about; instead, something in the present triggered the memories which were intensely vivid, as if I were back in that other time and place.

Many of the memories had to do with my zig-zagging path, responding to a sense of being called to do battle on behalf of a series of underdogs.  But once the battles were played out and the stories were written, they lost their force for me, and so I just left the stories, unpolished, unedited, in the drawer, to focus instead on the present, both living it and writing about it.

In the past month, however, what has happened is that past and present have fused:  A month ago, a grave injustice was laid on my doorstep — like an infant needing to be taken in. The injustice concerned a worker at the housing complex where I live who, as a very young man, the child of poor farmworker immigrants, had made the mistake of joining a gang, had committed a crime, and had spent some time in jail, unfortunately a very common sequence of events in these parts.

What was unusual was that he came to his senses quickly.  As soon as he got out of jail, he married his high school sweetheart (also a former gang member) and got a job here as an entry level maintenance man.  Over sixteen years, through steady day by day work and faithfulness, he became a model husband and father, and a highly respected and well-loved keystone of this senior community.  But he’s Latino, big, tough-looking, and dogged by stereotypes.  When, last spring, the police rounded up for questioning every one they could find who had ever been part of the particular gang to which he had once belonged and which had recently been engaged in a lot of street activity, he was caught in the dragnet, even though he’d had nothing to do with them for nearly twenty years.

He was the only one of the dozens of suspects to get his photo, handcuffed, being dragged off by the police from his apartment in our Village, splashed all over the front page of the newspaper.  With the photo as all the evidence required to prove his dangerousness, he was summarily fired.  I won’t go into the details, but it felt like rocket thrusters were ignited underneath me and that I had no choice but to get involved in the struggle on his behalf.

A month later, the struggle is over, and, in the short run, we  have lost, completely, and the villains, the white bureaucrats, won.  I am left, as countless times before, disbelieving that truth and justice could be swept aside like so much garbage, although I think I know that the tide of history is on our side.  In my mind, I am marching, again, with the peasants of America Latina: “El pueblo, unido, jamas sera vencido!”

I got very tired doing this, very, very tired.  And I questioned whether it made sense for me, in my circumstances.  But I don’t think I could have done otherwise.  No, once I have exhausted my resources, I can let go.  But not until then.  A grave injustice was committed.  On my doorstep.  To not adopt the case would have been like leaving a foundling in a basket to die on my doorstep.  While there is breath, there is hope.  When there is nothing more to be done, I get to practice the virtue of equanimity.

When East becomes West and West becomes East   Leave a comment

When East is Not Always East and West is Not Always West

I think I made a mistake, a big mistake. An immature mistake that many warned me about.  I put away the memoir I had spent nearly three years writing, thinking, “That is an old story.  It is stale.  It is finished.  I will devote myself to writing the fresh story of the present me, the disabled me, so different from the me who was always careening about, having Important Adventures (rather like Rabbit, in Winnie the Pooh).”

I began this blog as a record of lemonade-production, since life appeared to have given me an unending supply of lemons.  I was making a lot of Self-Reflection lemonade.

But all of a sudden, what should appear on my doorstep but a grievous injustice!  I didn’t have to go anywhere looking for trouble; trouble, in the form of a Grievous Injustice came to me.

I am galvanized, the feelings of outrage like rocket thrusters beneath me.  I cannot keep quiet. I call a meeting of my nearest neighbors since I can’t attend meetings called by anyone else. Suddenly, I am five years old again, and my mother is banging on the radiators to summon neighbors to a meeting in the hallway outside our apartment.  This is winter in New York and there is no heat.  The neighbors yell in anger. Word comes that the landlord (“He should burn in hell!”) has showed up in his limo to bribe the super.  The meeting disperses so that neighbors with windows on the street can throw vegetables on the idiot in his homburg, while my mother gives me the phone to talk to the City Health Department. Trembling, I attempt to tell the lady on the phone what my mother is shouting at me in Yiddish.

So I don’t know if anger at injustice is inherent in our species, if it comes out of ideas about “rights”, or if it’s just how I was brought up.  In any case, it’s clear that disabled or not, I’m not done with it.  Looking back, I see that switching between accepting things as they are (or trying to) and fighting like hell to make them turn out the way I think they should be has been a dialectic (to use a fancy word) throughout my whole life.  The first, most important thing I did in my life was discover the East, that is the East of classical China and Japan.  I studied, I went, I practiced.  Zen, tea ceremony, flower arrangement.  Beautiful, wonderful activities.  But before very long, I was in rebellion:
“What are you doing on this mat uttering high-minded phrases in Chinese about ‘saving all beings’ when there is suffering out there you might actually do something about?”

I leave and I come back and I leave, etc., as if action and meditation were in conflict.  It’s thirty years since but I have a vivid visual memory of actually seeing, from a railway platform between London and West Sussex, the braiding of the tracks:  The train headed west switched and headed east, while the eastward bound train switched and headed west. Since I’ve done this so often myself and, looking around, see that we, collectively, seem to be doing this in countless different ways, I’ll venture to say it is a natural thing to do, a fine thing to do, following the Tao, in fact.  And that my life story, far from going out of fashion, is completely with it, and here I am, dusting it off.

Posted March 2, 2011 by judybloomgardener in Uncategorized

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I Like Caregivers; They Care!   Leave a comment

There was an animated consultation today between my caregiver, Ana; Maureen, the woman with the industrial sewing machine; and my friend, Barbara — all passionately engaged in the question of how to rearrange the pulls on my leggings so that I stop straining my shoulders, which have lately been on fire. As I use the pulls differently in at least six different moments in my process, there were many subsets to the general question and a torrent of opinions, some wildly innovative and out of the box. The women jostled one another to get at my badly attached pulls to show how they ought to be redone. Voices were raised in competition. What fun! Innovation in action! I know that many people feel sorry for me, being cooped up as I am — and, if I had my druthers, I’d step away from this situation any day of the week, but, even so, people are people, and I notice that people in the caregiving world tend to be caring people, and that, faced with the challenge of helping a person overcome pain, their compassion often manifests in wonderful resourcefulness and creativity. Thousands of miles away and on a world historical stage, humble Egyptians were rising up to throw off oppression. The oppression here was different, but pain is pain, and I appreciated the vibrancy of the life force as it showed itself right here in my room: From pain to fullness of life! Yay!
– by Judy

Posted February 7, 2011 by judybloomgardener in Uncategorized

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Fire burning brightly again   Leave a comment

I can breathe again — full breaths, without coughing.  How sweet!  And I can eat again, diarrhea gone.  How sweet and salty and sour!  And I found someone with an industrial sewing machine to make the desperately needed adjustments to my garments that might save my shoulders.  AND my beloved grandson says he may well be going to graduate school nearby instead of faraway Scotland.  Suddenly the fires of life are burning merrily again — after fading last week to embers.  The denser parts of the body no longer compelling all my attention,  I can return to the parts that are fun, that is, the adventures of the mind.

Note to self:  Everything changes.


Posted February 4, 2011 by judybloomgardener in Uncategorized

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