Archive for December, 2013


The Letter

Perhaps it is the long cold isolating winter this year, or perhaps it is a seasoned Maturity marching to an old and distant drummer which is somewhat at odds with, and questioning of, the fast pace and material focus of contemporary life. Perhaps it is a personal longing for communication with grown children who live busy lives elsewhere as parents and professionals and a puzzlement as to how things have become so intensely busy that even a 3-line e-mail is too long to ponder and respond to with presence or care.
 
 It seems that the social forces want everyone to link up and “connect” but to do it as quickly as possible…get in and get out, skimming over the surface of life with sound-bites of information/touching base that become trivial because there is no time to pause, go deeper, reflect and dialogue for the fuller, more complex and truthful story. And that may be okay for some, but for others it simply is not enough to satisfy the longing for the treasured communication that was often inherent through the more personal presence and practice of letter-writing. In fact, I would go so far as to say that in these past several days of Winter isolation, I have been pondering the lost art of letter writing, as a sweetly archaic form of personal communication that is unknown to the generation of the 30 year olds and younger, and which has been almost forgotten by many who are older and now tech-saavy.
  
 
As a youngster and a teenager, one of my greatest delights was the rhythmic correspondence between myself and my beloved cousin Edmond in which we shared endlessly about books, youthful and deepening philosophical ponderings of the meaning of life, teasings and humor -an ongoing lively in-depth dialogue that started about age 10 and continued through his tour of duty in Vietnam and my marriage and new life as a wife, and mother. In a real sense, these letters to each other were like diaries in which we shared with each other great trust and patience, depths of intellect and for sure, depths of Soul in spite of our youth.

In my teens also, I had a handsome pen-pal named Sujit Banerjee from India who sent me marvelous and intriguing pictures of himself in school uniform, riding an elephant and visiting exotic holy temples made of polished glass and sparkling mirrors. How exciting it was to receive the mail and see his paper-thin air-mail letters with unusual stamps and to open it with news and Kodak photos from a place so far away in miles and in culture!

In the years of my marriage and motherhood 3 states away from my own family and my in-laws, letters flew back and forth on a weekly basis to both my Mom and Dad, and my beloved Italian Mother-in-law, Maria, filled with stories of our life and the babies, and the joys and struggles as a young couple while my husband attended graduate school at the University. My parents and my in-laws were connected to us and we to them across the many miles with those stories which gave them an ongoing “picture” of their children and grandchildren allowing us all to feel, know and experience the continued unfolding of our lives as family, through words, images, thoughts, sharings. And they told their stories to us too as parents do…you know, the weather, their health, the state of the changing world. In these letters, we spoke, were listened to and were heard. To get a letter, to open it and read it was a bright spot in the day, and no matter where we were, it was a a reminder that we were connected to those who knew us.

Not that ALL letters were sweet and warm…in times of family or relational stress, letters could come that challenged the calm, drew lines in the sand or broke the heart. However, the letter carried the truth of the moment of a situation and the truth emerging from the heart, and allowed one voice to speak without interruption, interception or deflection. The letter allowed a period of listening time, and if a bond was not irrevocably broken, a possibility for ongoing, albeit sometimes scary or courageous, reflection and dialogue in the service of reconciliation. The point is, the letter always had the potential for authentic communication…which takes TIME, and a certain spaciousness for thought…and perhaps, a certain conscious elegance that could nurture and deepen Relationship.

Of course, the teasing, passionate or longing and SEMI-PRIVATE e-mail or FB announcement of ardent devotion can never match the treasure and intimacy of the Love Letter straight out of the depths of the heart, to be read and re-read and kept secret and personal under the pillow or tucked away in a special box, with a key…to save for years if love is true. And if love is fickle, the solemn ritual of tossing the letter with its personal handwriting into a roaring fire is much more powerful and magical for healing than pressing the “delete” button!

Letters, letters of all kinds…the paper, the pen, the stamp, the time it takes to write, the time it takes to read…there is an element of beauty, honesty, respect and genuine contact and communication directly from the heart and head and through the hand that offers a human touch and presence that no e-mail, twitter or texting message can match.

And like taking the time to prepare and sit down with a cup of tea, the writing/reading of a letter is an opportunity for a centering “Time Apart” from the world, so fast and full of noise and invasive chatter about so many things that do not matter.

The Letter. It is an art and a craft worth reviving.

(Christine Phoenix Green, January 2011)

Coming up next

The Art of the Letter

Part 2

Please respect my ownership of all writings and photos on this site, and  credit me and this source if passing on or sharing this in any way. Copywrited material is part of a book in progress. Thank you.

 

 
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IMG_0695 (4).jpg Frost on Glass

The Art of Deep-Seeing is the practice of slowing down, paying attention and being present to the Miracles and Magic that surround us all the time, every day, every place, no matter where we are.

To some, the Art of Deep Seeing comes naturally.This is especially true if one’s personal pace and daily schedule offers the opportunity to not just “look” as we dash through on our way to somewhere else,  but rather to stop and allow things to surprise us. When that happens these seemingly ordinary “things” capture our attention with their beauty, their patterns and colors, and especially their metaphors..that is, what they simply are and  what they suggest to us symbolically.

The morning I captured this picture, or rather…it captured me…. was one on which a sudden sharp dark-night frost unexpectedly coated the windows of my car, the blades of dried grass and the glass jars I had washed and set out on the deck to drain and dry. Yes, in the early morning,  I had to scrape the windows of the car, scatter ice-melt on the front steps and mourn a potted rosemary plant that had taken the sudden freeze to heart, and sadly died.

But then I noticed a slant of cold early morning light beaming through the bushes and across the railing of the deck…and in all crystalline brilliance and color, was a feather-thin pattern and sparkle of ice on those glass jars.  Looking closely at them, I could see the icy crystals in a pattern of radiating stars as if  the frost had captured and imprinted the night sky full of twinkling bodies of light upon the surface of the glass.

The magic of camera went one step beyond the naked eye, and the editing program of cropping and color went several steps beyond the camera. And what do we see once again but the ingenuity, the beauty, the creativity, the mirroring of stars and sky upon earth and in water:  crystals, gems, snowflakes, stars, the sparkle of mischief, humor , intelligence  and LIGHT in the eyes of humans and all creatures on earth. Wealth and abundance of spirit everywhere. .and a multitude of Possibilities!  Is it actually possible to count each individual ice crystal upon that small patch of glass, let alone all the individual ice crystals of that morning?

Rev. Matthew Fox, author of “Original Blessing” often says “Where there is Awe, there is prayer”. (Awe as in “oh wow! Look at THAT!”)

I guess this was a morning prayer.

Move slowly, and with Presence. Be surprised when what was hidden because you looked but didn’t see, suddenly reveals itself to you in your rare moment of stillness.

It’s always about Magic.

Christine, The Greening Spirit

Hat 5

One of the  literary options available to a  Writer is the “Memoir”. Why do we write memoirs? Well, party to more fully understand and process personal life events of deep meaning or confusion,  partly to share with others so that they may recognize parts of their own stories in ours and find comfort, healing, celebration, affirmation and connection… and most significantly, to follow the most important virtue of writing, which is to tell the truth as we remember or experience it at any one time. The Greening Spirit is about life and the cycles of the seasons as well as the cycles of the many seasons we live through emotionally, spiritually or physically. This is one memoir of a season of letting go, of remembering and honoring when things have been difficult.

                                                      
                                                             My Mother’s Hat

When the box arrived from my brother a number of months after Mom’s death, I knew it was going to contain her “furs”.  He really wanted to send them on, saying they were part of my “inheritance” but I really did not want them for  a variety of reasons, both simple and complicated.

One, I don’t wear furs (who does these days?)  and secondly,  I would have to find a place to put the large box in my already-cluttered tiny house while I figured out what to do with the contents and where to dispose of them. (Donate to the theater department at the University?  Take them to a consignment shop? Give them to Goodwill?)

Those are the simple reasons. The complicated ones have to do with emotions and unresolved wounds from our very unfortunate, if not tragic, contentious and dysfunctional relationship filled with disconnected-ness, hostility, punishment, disappointment and pain. My mother was a very complex person.  A very difficult, angry and punishing person. The fact was, I simply did not want anything that belonged to Mom at this time. There was no one treasure or keepsake that I longed for as a reminder of our pained relationship, no one item that I longed for as a memory of a close, caring or supportive mother/daughter relationship, because really though I had longed for it , it just had not been.

When I opened the box, there they were, neatly folded and flattened: a tiny golden mink coat that had been my Nana’s  (my mother’s mother) and passed on to Mom when Nana died. Were they both so TINY? The coat looked like it would fit on a 12 year old child. Next, a grey stole, soft and classy, of the kind worn covering the shoulders in the 40’s through the 60’s before animal rights activists cursed such  apparel, this item of clothing replacing a coat or cape in glamorous style. Underneath that,  a fluffy white rabbit fur jacket that I remember her receiving one Christmas. From Dad, I think. (How did he know? I’d think she bought it for herself, “from him”).  A golden mink hat to go with the mink, all items that I would not wear for sure, although the grey fur stole with satin lining would be kind of stylish “retro” if I were going to a party. I sat looking at these items with a *sigh*. What was I going to do with these things?

There was a canvas bag with zipper which I opened, filled with gloves…tiny ones  for such a tiny pair of hands. Really, I never remember noticing how small my mother’s hands were. I do remember them being deformed at the knuckles from degenerative arthritis and I remember the operations on her knuckles to try to correct them and the ruby ring on her finger that she inherited from her sister Gina who died in Europe. None of these gloves would fit my larger hands, but I knew that these gloves..smooth leather, or felt… had kept her hands warm as a necessity in the brutally cold winters of upstate New York. I also remember that there was a time when gloves were a part of dressing up appropriately for important appearances like church on Easter Sunday when I was very little. Not now. We only wear gloves in cold weather, and mine are stretchy woven things purchased at Job Lot. Warm. Inexpensive, easily replaced when inevitably I would lose one of the pair..  But not classy. No, the gloves would have to go, along with the coats.

Then…then…a small pile of many colored fur hats. Except for the hat of golden mink that apparently matched the fur coat, they were of several varieties of more contemporary and politically correct faux fur. These I lifted out of the box, taking myself and them to the mirror in the bathroom. One by one, I tried them on…each decorated with a flirty little pin on the side. I remembered how in both the dresses, and the pins on the hats, and the “tilt” of the hat on the head, there was always  a sassy slant of decoration or position…a kind of stylish flair that expressed the drama, the theatrical, the “Glamour” of the maternal Family women: the “actress, the attitude, the “posturing” of glamour. Sometimes it embarrassed me greatly when in the presence of my friends, seemingly false, untrue or melodramatic. But now, far away from those times and Mom’s actual presence, and after looking through the albums and pictures of the her family of origin way before I was born, I can kind of smile about this, appreciating both the  valid expressions of high style in the manner of show people and entertainers, and the longing to incorporate beauty, color and drama into the Personas and presentations to the world. No “hausfraus” in smocks  in this side of the family.

So back to the hats. Three of the four..all faux fur of different colors…were a little small and tight for my head size. But one of them, a mix of brown and grey fur, with a silver pin  attached by Mom for “upping the ante, style-wise” or as she would say “you know, for a little ‘décor’”…fit quite nicely. I turned it this way and that to see where the pin might look best, and I guess true to the genes and lineage, tilted it to the right at an angle..a little off-kilter stylish sass…yes, a touch of glamour. And that’s where it looked best.  And…I liked it.

This was new for me. I don’t usually wear hats. And I was uncertain and more than a bit uncomfortable wearing a piece of Mom’s personal clothing. It felt a little spooky, it brought up memories that made me quite sad. But somehow I needed to wear that hat, which I did for two days whenever I went out. It really seemed to be perfect on my head, looked good, and kept thoughts about Mom…always thoughts of confusion and emotional complexity… in my awareness re things between us that have slowly mellowed from anger into sadness so far. Things that simply were and best let go of, and things that “could have been” but never were. But wearing the hat seemed to have a certain connection that was gently opening a feeling of appropriate grief, acknowledged in its own time. Which apparently is now.

Yet there was something about this hat, or wearing this hat that was not comfortable. A subtle scent of it when held in the hand, or when I wore it…a  faint combination of someone else’s natural fragrance, a hint of cigarette smoke and a remembrance of a light cologne. I never ever could bear the smell of cigarette smoke or the ashes, and my eyes always stung and watered when around Mom and her habit,  I constantly moving out of the range of the drifting smoke from the cigarette. And Mom, in her self-centered ways, would become angry with me for this, asserting her right to smoke when she pleased whether or not it was hurtful to others in her presence .We did not have the right to breathe fresh air and not have stinging eyes, but it WAS her right to smoke without interference,  and  for us to ask for it not to be was taken as direct and unfair criticism by her, resisted with hostility.

What to do? The scent though subtle, barely detectable and elusive was nonetheless real, and the feelings and memories associated with it, would not allow me to accept this hat as a fitting keepsake. But I did want it, for in truth we all need a mother….

Not knowing if it would shrink the hat, I took the risk to wash it. I washed it in an organic dish soap (Mrs. Meyer’s) that is very pleasing to me, with the scent of rose geranium. I let it soak for a bit in cold water, squeezing gently for the water, soap and scent to thoroughly cleanse away what was not mine and should be let go of. (Maybe a cleansing of memories as well..?)  I hoped that the hat would not shrink, and handled it gently and with care, rinsing away the old and absorbing the delicate and loving scent of rose geranium. Gently squeezing out the moisture, shaking and fluffing it, it was then  hung over the shower head to dry, and on the third day, hung outside on the brambles of the wild rose bush that crawls over my deck, for the cold and fresh air to add a new aliveness.

Hat

The hat still has Mom’s energy in it because she wore it, in and out of the car on her short and busy trips here and there, and on her head in those fierce winters going in and out of the house to scrape and brush ice and snow off of the car, or shovel a path to it. I’m thinking of her when I see this hat on the shelf her or if I place it on my head, with the silver pin tilted stylishly to the side. It smells of fresh air and rose geranium..an herb of love and beauty and healing of the heart. I think this is a “Remembrance and forgiving in its own time, after a death with un-resolved loose ends”.  It feels gentle.

And that is the story about my mother’s hat. Now mine. Or rather, “Ours”.

Moi hat 2

“O Whole-y White”

Snow posOur first real snowfall is here today, blanketing the brown and burnt sienna of dried oak leaves, softening the limbs of branches and tree trunks, gently drawing us inward, listening to the music of silence as we watch the flakes fall straight down wordlessly but with  messages that we hear nonetheless.

Shhh! Shhhh! Be still. Pull in and cozy up. Push your indoor garden closer to the window so that they can see the whiteness and celebrate their year round green-ness  in the shelter of a warm kitchen.

Snowpost 3

Polish up the crystal teapot and take out the herbs. A special tea for today, a creative and sensuous blend, just because…Milky oat tops, red rose petals, spearmint, a thin wedge of orange and a little honey. Snowpost 2

Listen to Vivaldi, softly, in the backround on Pandora. There is celebration and quiet crystalline lushness outside…

And magic and mystery as well.  A good afternoon to read Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince,  feet up, disappearing from the usual path and pattern of a Tuesday schedule.

But mostly, it is a day for rest, for pulling in and down without distraction if your life allows that today..centering, listening to the silence of snowfall and within ourselves, breathing deeply and inhaling the fragrances of rose and spearmint and honey..becoming WHOLE again…and a prayer:

“Thank you Oh Whole-y White.”

(If the only prayer you say is “thank you!”..it is enough. ~ Meister Ekhart)

Snowpoat 6

With love, from the Greening Spirit

NOTE: Today’s “Sensuous Snowday’s Tea”  recipe is on Sensuous Soups and Suppers blog! http://sensuoussoupsandsuppers.wordpress.com

Crunchy Cranberry Relish! A Greening Spirit Recipe!

IMG_6987
Want something to SNACK on or take to a pot luck and become a culinary Star? Try my special Crunchy Cranberry Fruit and Nut specialty! On my companion foodie blog:

http://sensuoussoupsandsuppers.wordpress.com

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