Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Low Hum of Purple Monkeys

Years ago in a writing class at the brain injury program with my friend Lee. He was a successful architect whose career and family disintegrated after a devastating stroke. He was and is a thoughtful, stoic man who has been bent, but not broken, which is not to say he doesn't laugh. It's just a rare, but welcome phenomenon, like rain in the desert that cause flowers to bloom. In the writing class that I don't remember he brings it up to me sometimes when I pick him up for the radio show (he is my co-host on "Don't Dis My Ability") that I came up with a title for a poem called "The Low Hum of Purple Monkeys"--a poem I never wrote. A smile breaks out when he says the low hum of the purple monkeys and asks me what was I thinking? I still have no idea.  This Sunday I am attending his 65th birthday party at the assisted living facility where he lives. My gift, although he is telling everyone to contribute to the radio station, is that a few days ago I wrote this poem which I will read at his party.
                                                       The Low Hum of Purple Monkeys
                                                                 They woke me up
                                                               Those darn purple monkeys
                                                              Ignoring the sign on the wall
                                                      "If you are a purple monkey, please do not hum."
                                                           Did the purple monkeys listen?
                                                             They could dance or sing
                                                              Even play the banjo
                                                        But all they wanted to do was hum
                                                                        We compromised
                                                         Something purple monkeys hate to do
                                                         After much discussion it was agreed
                                                             They could hum
                                                              But it had to be a low hum
                                                            Now, I can sleep through the night
                                                          Dreaming of lush jungles bathed in green light
                                                           Calmed by the low hum of purple monkeys

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

All I know is that I have to write this stuff down to get it out of my head

                                                    The Mathematician
                         There was a man with a head filled with numbers
                          But the numbers brought him no happiness
                          The more numbers he gathered
                          The more sadder he became
                           Many a friend tried to help him
                           The philosopher, the scholar, the doctor
                            All offered wisdom
                            But to no avail
                            He sat crying in a dark room
                            Counting the tears with his forefinger
                            Numbering the days left to him in this world
                            Clutching each number tightly to his chest
                            Then came a knock on his door
                            "Please let me in! I can help you!"
                            "No one can save me. I have only a few numbers left
                             The philosopher, the scholar, the doctor have all tried and failed"
                             "But I am none of those
                              I speak the language of numbers
                              I am a Mathematician like you"
                              "Is this a cruel Joke?
                              Surely your numbers are also slipping through your fingers?
                              And, like me, you will perish counting your tears in a dark room"
                              "All I ask is one moment of your time. Open the door
                               Surely you can spare one moment--one uncounted tear"
                               The door slowly parted
                                A blinding light blinded the mathematician
                                His hands shielded his face
                                "Just listen to the voice of numbers
                                 The only voice you can ever hear
                                 Hold out your hand
                                  I give back to you the one moment you gave me
                                 Each morning when you wake
                                 Cut the moment in half again
                                 Do this every morning
                                 And you will never run out of numbers
                                 You will never run out of numbers
                                 You will never perish
                                 Remember and tell others
                                 To the philosopher, I am the Philosopher
                                 To the scholar, I am the Scholar
                                  To the doctor, I am the Doctor
                                  To the motherless child, I become the mother
                                  To the lonely, I become the Comforter
                                   To those lost in darkness
                                    I become the Blinding Light

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

My brother's visions

I wonder if my brother's visions are related to my mother's visions? Is there a genetic link--once again more questions than answers. My brother was a loner with a capital "L". For example, he loved to play chess on a high level, but with a computer. My mother liked to frequently call him from Maine so he had the phone removed. He figured she could reach him at work. He subscribed to the Woody Allen philosophy of being part of a group. Woody said that he wouldn't join any organization that would have him as a member. I tell you this because he would be the least likely individually to attach himself to a belief wider than his outstretched hands. We would talk about God and religion--about being a Baha'i. He wasn't against it and perhaps believed there was some truth to the faith of his mother and brother, but there was no personal connection.Toward the end of his life he began to have visions when he slept. After one vision , he described a scene that reminded me of Baha'u'llah's home in Acca. It was like I was back reliving my two pilgrimages of years ago and visiting Bahji. He said Baha'u'llah was sitting at a desk writing and talking to him in an unknown language. Although he didn't know what the words meant, he still understood clearly what Baha'u'llah was saying. I have no memory of him explaining what the conversation was about. I think I would recall if he did. I always got the feeling that he was holding back for reasons that were private. Maybe he thought I would not understand. He did believe and would tell others that his brother was slow. I was and still am slow in many ways. I certainly could not do what he did like not go to physics class at RIT because it was too early in the morning and then read the text book the night before the final and pass. He became a firm believer in Baha'ullah, but felt no compunction to be part of the Baha'i community. I asked him why he didn't read any Baha'i books and he said if he needed to know anything it would come to him in a dream. I was puzzled and wanted an example. He usually wouldn't share much but explained that he didn't know where he stood in relation to Baha'u'llah. He asked the question and that night he had a dream of Abdu'l-Baha, the son and spiritual heir of Baha'u'llah. Ritchie said he was driving his car and came upon a long procession of cars at an intersection. He was about to break in and go the front when Abdu'l-Baha appeared  standing in the road and said he would have to wait because Baha'u'llah was in the lead car and no one was allowed to go ahead of Him. As I said , being a loner, he rarely shared these visions and had no interest in convincing anyone that they were true. He did tell me toward the end of his life that he knew what his job was going to be in the next world. I guess I'll find out in a few years--maybe its helping out slow brothers. His experience reminded me of a Hadith.  I'm paraphrasing, but it goes something like, "If you take one step toward Him, He will run toward you." . We like to believe that the reaching out is all done by us and maybe sometimes it is, but for some who can't seem to reach out, He runs toward them. I'm relying on old memories recalled by an old brain so take all of that into consideration when you read this. I'm sure I will meet him again and he will correct me in a kind way because he knows I'm slow.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Dr. Mary's Pilgrimage and vision-1970

I'll try to set the scene for this story. The time is late Dec., 1970. My mother is at the pilgrim house which is a very short distance from the Shrine of the Ba'b which is situated about half way up Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel.. She is with a small group of pilgrims who are taking turns answering a question put to them by Hand of the Cause of God, Paul Haney. The question was, "How did they find Baha'u'llah?". This is my mother's answer.
" When it came to my turn I told how I had a vision when I was five years old at the home I am now living in 125 So Chestnut St, Beacon, N.Y. which I own. I was playing in the dirt on the side of the house. Every once in a while I would look up at Mt. Beacon which I liked. All at once a gold door opened in the mountain and a woman came out of this door. She stood there holding a white callalilly in her right hand. She was wearing a veil and long dress. Biblical type of a woman. She smiled and smiled. I got up and went to get my mother. She did not want to come as she was entertaining her girl friend on the front porch, but I insisted she come and talk to the pretty lady. She finally turned left walking slowly had her face turned to me and opened another gold door in the mountain. She looked back for the last time her face was so warm her face was so radiant. She beckoned to me then the door closed. The mountain was once more a mountain. From that day til today I said I do not know what that vision meant. He (Paul Haney?) smiled and said nothing. Now all of us were taken to to the Shrine as we started up the path.You could not write your feelings on paper. We got closer and closer to the Shrine of the Ba'b. How can a mere human describe the inner feeling. Paul Haney went to the threshold and placed his forehead on it. I went along side of him and down I went on my knees. A force was so strong I wept and wept and couldn't stop. I prayed for a cleansing of myself to become selfless in servitude to God. Let me be a hollow reed. I asked forgiveness for all the wrong things I have done. The power was tearing me apart. I had to back off from the threshold and got into a corner and cried and cried. Everyone was was crying so. Prayers were said then we all backed out. And then we went into the Shrine of Abdu'l-Baha. Then it hit me--the two gold doors to Baha'u'llah. 48 years I wondered what it meant. The spiritual force was so great I was forced to go away from there.I had to go back into a corner. The tears went down the wall. I was touching-could not break away from the wall.Prayers were said--a Persian woman chanted. We finally came out. I was so weak I could hardly get back to the pilgrim house. We all once more sat around the room. Finally, I said to Dr. A. Furatan now I know the two gold doors to Baha'u'llah. He said yes that is true. You are fortunate to have this. He asked us to write down things like this so persons in the future will be able to read this."

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Reason # 856

I keep thinking of more and more reasons to live in Maine. Reason # 856 was added to the ever growing list today when Laurel, Samaya,Violet and I ventured like Old World explorers to Raven Hill Orchard, a two hundred year old farm about 45 minutes inland. The sun was winning its battle with the morning clouds. The last of the mist covered warriors faded into the apple trees as we parked on the grass. The ladies quickly took their bags and went on the hunt while I never left after spying a copper espresso machine in the hard times cafe. Stephen, the owner, made me some coffee  and told me all about how he ended up here by  following a lady to Maine and buying this farm. The dream ran away like the morning clouds although it took some years for that to happen--more like the dream stepped away one cross word--one look at a time. Faded newspaper accounts yellowing on the wooden walls spoke of happier times when love lived here--when people gathered here, when the cafe was thriving. I sipped my coffee (which I'm very adept at) and talked with organic families seeking bags for their organic fruit who came and went. The lost Stephen guided families to where they should go in the orchard while I picked up a jar of apple salsa and a homemade birthday card for Karen in a long abandoned rack. I resisted the flights of illusion that passed  by and refrained from cautioning the foreign tourists about teasing bears when they ate their mid day snacks from the trees. Stephen talked about the isolation of the farm when  there were no customers coming and going. I invited him to a gathering at friend's house next Saturday.  I thought about the impact of feeling alone in paradise-- somewhat like getting struck by a meteor listening to Don Maclean while watching Vincent paint the beyond beautiful "Starry,Starry Night."

Monday, September 16, 2013

Rediscovered Poem

Karen was going to give away a Baha'i book but noticed this poem on the inside cover. It's vaguely familiar. I know it was written for her. W.C Fields (sorry young people) fell in love with the word-"redundancy". He would say to one and all regardless of circumstances, "Pardon my redundancy". If I have posted this before, please, pardon my redundancy. I changed some of the lines though.
                                                          Once Again
                                                         I have a moon
                                                        If you have a June
                                                     I have a sea of flowers for you to sail on
                                                     Even a bed of roses to help you fall asleep
                                                     Oh, I know, you're an island
                                                    That at times I'm not strong enough to swim to
                                                    But on a good day
                                                     When the wind is right-the stars bright
                                                      Gold-not blue the light
                                                     I'll float on these words of love
                                                      To your waiting arms



Saturday, September 14, 2013

New poem-Trapped Water

It's been a while since I have visited my blog. Once in a while a poem comes to me and I have to let it fall out of my head. My hope is that it doesn't land on some poor unsuspecting innocent and give them a concussion. Random concussions suffered by innocent bystanders standing in the wrong place at the wrong time.

                                                        Trapped Water
                                          A walk on the Maine shore
                                          Unfettered water on my right
                                         Roaring with the joy of freedom
                                      Speaking with the clarity of a safe heart
                                     Standing tall driven by the moon toward me
                                             While on my left...
                                     A murky, circular prison
                                     Filled with whirlpool thoughts
                                      Surrounded by rock hard walls
                                              As all prisons are
                                       A tiny fish looks for a way out
                                         I scoop him in my hands
                                          And turn right

Saturday, April 6, 2013

My favorite poem and writer--Janet Ruhe-Shoen

                                        Kenzou Mai in the Millbrook Diner
                           Sitting at the counter in the Millbrook Diner sipping coffee, eating eggs and hash browns, listening to a child in the booth behind me disobey his mother who persisted in disobeying him. I stayed straight ahead at slices of pie in a chrome and glass container. I didn't want to catch the eye of the waitress or of the seedy fellow on my left, who kept blowing on his tea, but not drinking it. I didn't want to get caught in conversation about the unusually warm weather.

                           A little old spare Japanese man came in and sat on the stool to my right. He was like a dried leaf; seemed as if the big fresh wind blew blew him in, but outside there was no wind, just heat.
He wore a black kimono and had sandals on his feet.
                           His gray hair was neatly clipped. In a resonant voice he gravely ordered a cup of coffee and a piece of pie.
                         "Apple pie, cherry pie or rhubarb?" asked the waitress.
                        "You decide," he said
                         He looked at me gravely. "Hot out," he said, "isn't it?"
                         I nodded.
                       The waitress jumped in with eager information about the thermometer, the barometer, her husband's sinuses and her son's girlfriend's pregnancy. The seedy fellow on my left talked about the state of the county creeks: they were low. Kenzou Mai, the poet, ate his pie and sipped his coffee.
                       That was twenty-five years ago. I didn't know he was Kenzou Mai until yesterday when I came upon his book, "Cherry Pie". It told about about the waitress's husband and her son's girlfriend and the county creeks, and it mentioned the young girl on the poet's left,
                       her eyes the color of dark rain
                       like the county creeks in a good year.
                       So today I went to the Millbrook Diner. I haven't been there for twenty-five years. And I sat at the counter sipping coffee, eating eggs and hash brown, staring straight ahead at the slices of pie in the glass case and chrome container. There was no child behind me disobeying his disobedient mother. The fellow on my left wore a cashmere overcoat, smelled of aftershave and breath mints, and sighed continually. The waitress had a cough. It was unusually cold out.
                        And Kenzou Mai came in.
                        His kimono was blue.
                        Under it he had several other kimonos
                        and on his feet were very thick wool socks and heavy soled sandals
                        so he looked less like a dried leaf
                        than like a bundle of prayer sticks.
                        His hair was white and now he rode his traveling wind;
                        it didn't blow him around.
                      He sat down on my right and resonantly ordered coffee and pie.
                      "Pumpkin or coconut cream?" asked the waitress.
                     "What did I dream?" he gravely asked
                      She served him and he warmed his hands around his coffee cup.
"Cold out," he remarked, keeping his profile to me.
The waitress told about the thermometer and the barometer, her grandson's girlfriend's pregnancy, her husband's  heart condition. The man on my left sighed.
                      Kenzou Mai ate his pie the flavor he dreamed.
                      I thought of the county creeks in a good year.
                      Kenzou Mai turned and looked at me,
                     his eyes the color of dark rain.



Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Beginnings of a Presentation: Feedback Needed!

Walking the Mystical Path with Practical Feet

In preparation for a presentation I will do at The Spirit of Children conference at Green Acre this summer, I am sharing my preliminary thoughts here in hopes of getting feedback. Does it make sense? Is it clear? What suggestions do you have?

My hope is to condense in a few pages some admittedly deep concepts on a variety of issues that we all struggle with on a daily basis that can be of immediate help. My plan is to come up with at least four—one for each session. I’m hoping adults will be helped, but my dream is that, with the help of my creative friends, these concepts can be made accessible to children, junior youth and youth.

Day One: Learning to Cope with Painful or Tragic Events 
Most of us are puzzled on an almost daily basis as to the meaning of events in our lives. I suppose we spend more time asking 'why' while gazing heavenward when we experience painful or tragic events. I’m not offering a magic pill just some insights that can at least bring meaning to a situation where we see and experience only meaningless suffering. As always my inspiration is the Baha’i Writings:

“The purpose of the one true God, exalted be His glory, in revealing Himself unto men is to lay bare those gems that lie hidden within the mine of their true and inmost selves.” Gl.p.287

'What is the purpose of our lives?' Abdu’l-Baha was asked. His simple answer is very much related to what Baha’u’llah said in the above quotation from Gleanings. He said it was to:
“Acquire virtues.” (Paris Talks, p.177)
I take this to mean that every second of our lives and every event—good and bad--are immersed in a world of Divine Purpose designed to give the individual every opportunity to develop the infinite attributes of God. We may not understand the full meaning to what happens to us in life—how it will affect our health, wealth, or anything about our future or our relationships--but we can understand that the overall purpose of God for us is benevolent. We can hold on to this transcendent meaning even when we have nothing else. Why is this important? This vision of being enveloped by the warm embrace of Divine Purpose helps the individual to avoid a deadly trap. Absent the perception that all the events of our life have a deep underlying connection, we can feel disconnected from our own life, disconnected from the individuals that we cherish. We can feel isolated, totally alone, confused and filled with anxiety and a sense that life has no meaning and that nothing we do matters. If we do still believe in a God, it is God of whim who can wake up on the wrong side of the bed and is capable of inflicting enormous pain. This insight can still beg the question, I get it that we are here to acquire attributes but why are painful and tragic events needed?
I give you a Hidden Word of Baha’u’llah:

"O Son OF MAN ! My calamity is My providence, outwardly it is fire and vengeance, but inwardly it is light and mercy. Hasten thereunto that thou mayest become an eternal light and an immortal spirit. This is My command unto thee, do thou observe it." 

How can a painful or tragic event be “light and mercy”? I suggest not seeing the attributes of God as one-dimensional mirrors, but as diamonds with infinite facets. Some facets are developed in happy times; some are developed in sad times. See every moment of your life as priceless containing irreplaceable opportunities to develop the infinite possibilities of the infinite attributes of God that already exist in your own heart and are waiting for you to uncover their unique beauty. Get in the habit of asking the inner question over and over again in good times and in bad times:

How does this situation or event give me the opportunity to develop another facet of love, or forgiveness or compassion?

In such a way you can connect with meaning what before seemed like a series of random, meaningless events—even those events you would call a “calamity” that seemed to contain nothing but “fire and vengeance”. Do this and you will become “an eternal light and an immortal spirit.”

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Story time with Miss Nicole

Going to story time at the library made me ask myself did my brother and I ever have the experience of going to a library with a family member to hear someone tell a story? I don't think I ever knew there was such a place as a public library. We did have a story time experience, but it was at home in Iowa on a Saturday morning. We would bring my mother a comic book and try to wake her up which was almost impossible. She went to college and worked and studied constantly. Saturday morning was her one day to get some sleep. What worked was making her a strong cup of instant coffee. I'm sure we made it triple strength because her hair would stand straight up and her eyes would pop open. We would sit on her bed trying not to gag as she read Superman or Batman and we would be glued to every word. We would then watch the Saturday morning shows that ended at noontime. Saturday morning was a trip to far off lands, to another time long ago when men wore big hats and rode horses and the hero would only get shot in the shoulder which we knew would only take a week to heal because the following Saturday he would be good as new.We had spaceships that looked like ice cream cones wrapped in tin foil that sped to the moon and beyond. Again the hero would only get wounded in the shoulder which we knew only took a week to heal. So is this 2013 world a better place with Miss Nicole and her high sweet voice reading a story about astronauts flying to the moon than my 1950's world? I looked at Samaya's face feeling the loss of gravity along with the other kids making the journey to another world on a space ship. I leaned against the back wall with Violet on my lap who was surprisingly well behaved outside of the earth's atmosphere. I breathed in particles of disintegrating words coated in wonder that floated down from rows of wooden shelves.Is the world a better place?--such cosmic questions giants ask each other on Mount Olympus. I am a small man who lives in Eliot--no mountains or giants in sight. Here on this little corner of earth,I can try to make their world a better place. My first official act will be teaching them how to make a decent cup of coffee.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Lone Ranger I saw a commercial for the new Lone Ranger movie starring Johnny Depp in the Tonto role. Johnny Depp is a great actor but maybe he lost a bet and has to wear buffalo underwear on screen. That being said he will probably win the Oscar. The clip I saw has Depp saying "Kimosabe" and the Lone Ranger says, "What is wrong with you? I keep telling you my name is the Lone Ranger."(not true, sorry Johnny). And then he says, "You need to go out shoot another buffalo because you definitely need some fresh underwear. I am not camping out another night with you!"(that is not true either). In fact,this whole blog has been a tissue of lies. I was the one that lost the bet and was made to write this blog. Who knows? Truth is relative which reminds me of my grandmother(one of my favorite relatives). When I was very young I remember sitting in a dark living room with my brother and grandmother listening to the Lone Ranger on radio. He had such a rich deep voice and was such a good actor. I could imagine riding along side of him and Tonto chasing the bank robbers. I could see the canyons and smell the dry wind as it flew by. Take me with you,I would whisper. I would look over at my grandmother who was knitting--always knitting in the dark with her ear turned toward the radio and I thought it was all normal and that maybe I would grow up listening to radio shows and my imagination would build up and tear down worlds with the end of one show and the beginning of another feeling safe because my grandmother was right there--she would always be right there. I would wake up in the morning and my grandmother would be gone and I knew my mother was sleeping having coming home very late from the brick factory by the river that is now an improbable art museum. Now it's late at night and there is one lamp on and instead of the sound of clashing knitting needles, there is the sound of keys being poked.Karen is sleeping and upstairs my little Indians are dreaming of Mr. Rogers not knowing he is with my grandmother and she is teaching him how to knit his own sweaters.

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Small Visitor

I came home from working on Sunday day and night feeling glad to be in my new home with my old wife who is new every day. I was getting settled when a small visitor came in the door of our downstairs apartment. She had a wide smile and said "Hi Grandpa". I was pleasantly surprised, but then rational thought--pesky fun robbing rational thought intruded. "Does mommy know you came down the cellar stairs and through the garage to visit me? A guilt free I'm a big girl "No" was her answer. I called Laurel who was shocked. I brought her back upstairs for a lecture. I'm so glad my lecture giving days are over. I did nod gravely in support, but I was thinking of childhood friend Dickie Antalek. My grandfather had built four early houses and everyone else had to make a city around my grandfathers not always sober whims to build another house. Growing up my mother and grandmother lived in houses separated by a common driveway. A common lawn gently sloped down to the beginning of a dead end street--Miller street by name. It was like the city planner was a five year old adventuresome kid. No busy intersections to worry about. For some reason 4 year old Dickie Antalek was drawn to wander down Miller Street to the worn path to our back yard. There were apple trees to climb, grape vines to pillage and best of all 2 brothers to play with. We soon learned that we had a limited amount of time to play before Hazel Antalek came looking frantically for her son. Try as she may Dickie would always escape and make his way down to play with Ronnie and Richie. There came a time when she just gave up. I would like to write that the friendship endured, but the Vietnam war came along and Dickie was drafted. We stood on his porch and said goodbye impressed at his uniform and his still wandering heart not afraid to go down a much longer dead end. A dead end it was because although most of Dickie came home, the part above the neck didn't. He left with so much and he came back with so little. He had all these plans for the future. I don't know what happened over there. He tended bar on lower Main street down by the old factories forever. We would see him at the corner store every now and then but there would only be brief nods exchanged. I have a friend that I see at my 12 step food meetings. A few weeks ago she said "I saw something at nine years old no nine year old should see". She then recounted forty lost years struggling against demons. Maybe Dickie saw something. Maybe the four year old went looking for the soldier and saw something no four year old should ever see and it hollowed him out and turned him into a glass.I only shared with my daughter the fun part of the story about a frantic mother looking for her adventure loving child. Samaya and Violet came down later that morning and we read a book about bears. Friendly bears who love ice fishing while a red fox plays the violin and their cubs dance.Now I'm reading this story and the only part that makes a bit of sense are the ice fishing bears, the violin playing red fox, and the dancing cubs who, I'm sure, will always stay close to their family.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Reason #18

I have quite a few reasons for enjoying Eliot, the town in Maine where we live, and where we recently bought a house with my daughter and son-in-law. More about the new house later in a future blog. Thursday, I went to story time with Laurel and the kids at the Fogg Library. I joked with Susan the librarian that the library ought to have a sign, "Free coffee for broken down old men". She said, "Ronnie, I'll make you some coffee. Come into the kitchen." We drank coffee and talked about life and books and broken down old men. We walked around looking at my talented artist friend Cori Caputo's amazing colorful paintings of humid neighborhoods with fish gliding along a warm air currents. "Back in my day fish had the good sense to swim in creeks!". They didn't say it, but I'm sure those old library trustees thought it with nothing better to do then keep guard in stern silence. I was talking with Susan and I heard a sneeze--looked around and for an instant was sure an old painting had sneezed, but then I saw a lady on the floor behind a stately wing chair browsing the lower shelves--psychic event narrowly averted--a close call. "What if a recording device was hidden behind an old portrait that the librarian activates by pushing a button at her desk?" I asked Susan. I could see myself being a librarian if I could do stuff like that, but I would not enjoy putting books away or using the computer. We talked about the poetry reading my daughter and I did a few weeks ago, sipped coffee. She went back to work, reluctantly, I'm sure. I sat down on a wing chair and read the morning paper. Mothers and children began to say their goodbyes until next week. I went to warm up the car with two books under my arm. I thought I heard a stern warning in a hundred year old voice, "Be sure to bring back those books on time young man!" Young man? well I suppose age is relative. Maybe reason #19 is learning great truths in the home of great truths.