Sunday, August 31, 2008

Simple Joys

In Goldie Hawn's 2005 autobiography A Lotus Grows in the Mud she writes of driving down the California freeway in her '59 Chevy convertible towards the Mojave Desert on her way to Las Vegas .

She describes the extraordinary landscape with its 'rolling hills, parched brown by the summer sun, a few palm trees dotting the horizon. The wind is in my hair, the radio is now playing "Mr. Tambourine Man" by the Byrds and I feel so free."

She captures beautifully the possibilities of youth where worry and pain have not settled into the heart and optimistic eyes eagerly take in the happiness all around.

As my summer comes to a close and I prepare for another school year, I find myself reflecting on the summer that was. And the happiest moments, the moments that brought about youthful possibilities, are reminiscent of this passage from Goldie's (surprisingly good) book.

Namely, taking a drive in my '08 Volkswagen Convertible with the top down while listening incessantly to the impossible to find, but recently re-released on CD, first album by The Stone Poneys featuring Linda Ronstadt.

Funny how easily singing harmonies to songs that were recorded in 1967 can ease my spirit, calm my mind. Is that the power of music or the power of memory? Both are tied to the sun, the wind, the smell and the slower pace of summer.

I am beginning my 13th year as an educator and this was the 3rd summer that I availed myself of that enviable perk - two months off! Although I didn't get to spend it as I had planned, it was still wonderful to have time to just be; to read, to sleep, to write.

Each year I tell myself to hold onto this feeling when the chaos starts again. When I have deadlines, papers to write, meetings and my 4 hour (door to door) daily commute which sometimes causes me to walk around rather heavy lidded.

But like Goldie, I am driving towards my happiness and my calling in life. What better destination could there possibly be for any of us than that?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Magical Samantha

My five-year-old niece Samantha "Sammy" is a self professed healer.

She also has conversations with people no one else can see, provides detailed accounts of the unseen things she observes and shares numerous bits of information that are just 'off' enough to make my sister wonder "is she making this stuff up or does it really exist?"

Never one to discount anyone with a gift, I recently got on the phone with Sammy and asked her about it. Our conversation went something like this:

Gary: Hi Sammy. Mommy told me that you can make people feel better, that you know how to make them feel better.

Samantha: I can heal.

Gary: (thinking 'duh' don't talk down to her. Use the right word: heal.) Right, that you can heal people. How do you do that?

Samantha: I focus my energy and concentrate and touch them or go above them.

Gary: What do you mean go above them?

Samantha: Over them.

Gary: Oh. Well, do you have to be with them? Can you heal them by thinking about them?

Samantha: Oh, I don't know about that.

She said that last bit with a genuine puzzlement that seemed so in contrast to her age. I could have been having this conversation with a 42-year-old woman rather than a five-year-old. What impressed me was that during our conversation she remained confident in her abilities (which I believe in as well) and unashamed by the possibility that this could be considered odd.

I have heard of other 'magical' children who learn to edit themselves and squelch their otherworldly perceptive gifts. I hope that Sammy holds onto hers. After all, it is not a bad thing to have a healer in the family.

There are quite a number of stories about the things she has seen - like the "bad man" in the house that scared her so much when she was two that she cried hysterically while climbing up my sister like Speedy Gonzalez or when she was four coming into the kitchen and asking my sister why she kept whispering her name...but my sister wasn't and no one else was home - and these stories do freak me out a bit. I think of The Amityville Horror or other scary ghost tales. But Sammy seems okay with it and I have decided to take my sister's advice and just go with it. I want to know more.

If there is anything I have learned this summer it is that the universe is full of unseen forces. It is up to us to learn to tap into the positive energy in order for healing of all kinds to begin. Healing of the body, mind and spirit yes, but also healing of this world mankind seems so eager to destroy.

So when I hear a child say "I can heal" I pay attention and hope it is not too late.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Tips From My Mom #7

I have been sitting beside a hospital bed for the past 5 days and will probably find myself in this same position for many weeks to come. In these situations of stress and worry, with nothing to do but wait for healing to find its way to a loved one, the mind can wander.

As I watched my friend sleep I suddenly thought,

"I should give him something he can hold to comfort him."

Initially I envisioned a stuffed animal. But how crazy would it seem for a 47-year-old man to be found lying in ICU holding a stuffed Curious George (which by the way, I want if I am ever in a similar situation).

The reason for thinking I should give him something to hold felt so organic to me that I started to wonder why I thought of it in the first place. What inspired such a thought?

My mind swept back to my last hospital stay for the answer.

I was 6 years old and suffering through another endless little league baseball game that my 8-year-old brother Wally was playing in. Since I had no interest in this I headed off to explore the trees and paths that outlined the edges of the park.

I vividly remember singing to myself as I ran along the paths, stopping every so often to watch an anthill. In these wanderings I came across a little girl walking alone in the woods. She was a bit older than me, perhaps 10. I remember skipping past her on the narrow dirt path and waving to her as I went by. A few moments later I heard her yell something like "hey you". I swung around towards her and was hit in the left eye with a large stone.

I immediately put my hands to my face and blood flowed through my fingers. In stunned silence I watched the girl climb over the tall chain link fence without so much as an "I'm sorry". She was probably as shocked as I was because I do not believe he had meant to hurt me - she just had bad aim.

Seconds later I ran screaming back towards the ball field navigating the path using my one good eye. When everyone saw me they rushed over. I had succeeded in bringing the game to an end. The assistant coach, who was also a volunteer fireman, scooped me up in his arms and directed my mom to get in his car. He proceeded to speed through traffic with his siren blaring. As I lay on the front seat looking up I could see the traffic lights whizzing by on our way to St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson, New York.

The emergency staff told my mom that I would have to be admitted. My mom explained to me that this meant I would have to stay overnight in the hospital without her.

In the hospital WITHOUT MY MOMMY?!

When this sunk in I totally lost it. I felt betrayed by my mom when she said she agreed with the doctors who said that this would be the best place for me. I screamed and held out my hands while they dragged me down the hall.


It turns out that I had to have both of my eyes covered with patches for a period of time which left me blind and with strangers. I was scared. To my relief my mom did come back and when she did I refused to let her leave again. When visiting hours were over and she began her good-bye I cried and held on tight.

One day she said to me "I'm leaving but I'll be right back. I'm just getting something to eat. I will leave my pocketbook with you. These are my keys (which she jangled and let me touch). You know I can't drive home without my keys."

So, I let her leave and clutched that handbag tightly until I fell asleep. When I woke up mommy was there again. All was right with the world. And so it went day after day.

It wasn't until I was much older that she told me that it was all a clever trick. That was not her pocketbook at all. It was an old one she no longer used into which she put some found keys, an empty wallet and some other carefully selected items.

But the trick worked. It served its purpose. I found the comfort I so desired and she got to go home to take care of my dad and 2 brothers.

I wish I were as clever as my mom - to be able to take away worry and fright with one well chosen object. But I am not. I am out of ideas. What would my mom do?

Get well soon Ed.
Get well soon Dad.


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