Poet John O’Donohue writes that there is a quiet light that shines in every heart. “It draws no attention to itself, though it is always secretly there. It is what illuminates our minds to see beauty, our desire to seek possibility, and our hearts to love life.”
O’Donohue’s poems are beautiful and in the preface to his book of poetry entitled To Bless the Space Between Us, he writes that . . .”A blessing is a difficult form to render. I have endeavored to write them as poetically as possible, but they are not poems. A poem is an utterly independent linguistic object.”
He further writes that each of us can bless. “When a blessing is invoked, it changes the atmosphere.”
One of his lovely blessings below, contained in the poem MATINS:
May I live this day
Compassionate of heart,
Clear in word,
Gracious in awareness,
Courageous in thought,
Generous in love.
from A MORNING OFFERING:
May my mind come alive today
To the invisible geography
That invites me to new frontiers,
To break the dead shell of yesterdays,
To risk being disturbed and changed.
Book Lust. Now and then, one reads of someone who has stolen books from libraries or museums. John Charles Gilkey stole a fortune in rare books and author Bartlett has written a compelling story about this book thief. He primarily stole from sellers of rare books. A quote from the book jacket by Larry McMurtry: “Bartlett has written a meticulous and fascinating book about a serial book thief and the persistent sleuth who dogged him for years and finally caught him. It is especially gripping for those of us who trade in antiquarian books, who owe much to Ken Sanders’s persistence. A fine read.”
A few days later, on April 21, Detective Ken Munson struck gold. Search warrant in hand, he decided to investigate the Treasure Island address Gilkey had provided. Munson rang the bell, but no one answered. He used a key he had obtained from the apartment’s management office, and as soon as he opened the door, he knew he was in the right place. The address was indeed Gilkey’s, and every surface was covered in books. Moving through the dreary, government-subsidized three-bedroom apartment, Munson and his three accompanying officers found books in the kitchen, on the bookshelf, in the bedroom, on counters, on dining room chairs. Some of the oldest items were an illuminated leaf from a Book of Hours, circa 1480, encased in a plastic sleeve; a land deed from 1831; and a signature of Andrew Jackson. Along with the books were coin collections, stamps, documents, baseball cards, posters, and autographed photographs. There were also books, advertisements, and articles throughout the apartment related to these items and their value. The officers found what appeared to be shopping lists of book titles and authors. They also found receipts for hotels, and cards and papers with the names of auction houses and bookstores, several of which Munson recognized as having been victims of fraud within the past three years. Receipts for various hotels and travel documents were also among the goods. It appeared that both John Gilkey and his father, Walter Gilkey, were living in the apartment and in John’s bedroom they found a manila envelope with Saks Fifth Avenue credit receipts and pieces of paper with credit card holders, credit card numbers, and expiration dates handwritten on them.
We all need (and, in my opinion, should want) to be aware of and learn more about this Soul Thief. “We are all invested in the function of memory–in cultivating its development and maintaining its capacity. It is central to our daily life, and Alzheimer’s disease poses a considerable threat to this cherished possession. . . . We do not all have to be directly involved in Alzheimer’s to participate in creating a climate in which, ultimately, knowledge, awareness, advocacy and a compassion can grow to override this devastating disease. It is a collective, worldwide effort, and every citizen counts.”
Recently, I’ve re-connected with Carol, a friend I’ve known more than fifty years. Well, I shouldn’t say we have re-connected, for we have always kept in touch (with Christmas cards, occasional e-mails, school reunions) and when we were both living in Denver, we now and then saw one another and visited – and knew what was happening in our lives. Friends are always friends – whether or not we are in constant contact.
Carol and her husband Richard have moved back to Denver near her daughter. Richard, whom I have also known for more than fifty years has Alzheimer’s disease and it is progressing rapidly. When I think of Richard, I especially remember his wit and humor and his tennis talent. Richard was a very very VERY good tennis player (could have probably been professional). These friends are two of my husband’s favorite folks to visit with – and I heartily agree with him.
It is sad to think of Richard now enduring this insidious disease. It is heart-breaking to think of Carol’s heart breaking and the trials she has endured and is enduring as she fights Richard’s disease alongside him.
God bless my friends as they travel this road.
Lisa Snyder is a clinical social worker at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC) and has written a book based on interviews with people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The interviews in her book Speaking Our Minds were taped in-home with Alzheimer’s patients who offered their reflections about the impact of the disease.
Lisa Snyder writes that “. . . Although we have a wealth of valuable scientific, professional, and caregiver literature, literature that addresses the various complex dimensions of the disease, we are only beginning to explore and make public a crucial perspective: the subjective experience of the person diagnosed.”
Richard Taylor writes in Alzheimer’s from the Inside Out that first-hand accounts of the disease are few, “and all end about the same time in the progression of the disease: Stage 3–when the disease forever blocks the individual’s ability to provide self-reports of the disease’s impact. On the other hand, there is a growing body of personal journals by caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s.”
He further writes that . . . Like the Gospels of the New Testament, these recollections attempt to recapture the essence of a loved one through a collection of the loved one’s words and actions. Like the Gospels, they are more the reflections and perceptions of the writers than the loved one. When placed next to each other, they do not always agree. They sometimes contradict each other. They do not all include the same words and events.
“We were all going along quite productively in our lives until we were confronted by memory loss, confusion, nervousness, loneliness, and isolation. It’s as if you’re reading a book and someone has torn the pages out.”
“Sometimes we can laugh about all of this instead of crying, but I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.”
“It seems like Joe’s having to do too much, but I can’t do anything about it.”
“I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have my faith. That’s the only thing that holds me together. I know that all I have to do is call on the Lord and he’s right there. I ask him if it be his will, to take this Alzheimer’s away but if it isn’t, help me to accept it.”
“But sometimes it seems like everything frustrates me and I want to throw something across the room. So I do. Then I feel like a goof when I have to pick it up.”
“The worst of my affliction is not being able to speak. When I try to speak, I see what I’m going to say in my mind, and then the words turn around and go further and further out of sight, and I can’t pull them back. Then when I go to speak, they aren’t there!”
“I’m almost 71 and I’m not amazed that people die. So it isn’t the death. It’s the loss of oneself while you’re still alive. There are other ways to go through that process, too. There are all sorts of illnesses where one could have no control over themselves, and I would cry if I had one of them too.”
“Poor Erika has to do all of the driving, thinking, and putting things together. Instead of my doing things for her, now she’s the one who jumps in and gets things done. I can’t do the things to help her that I could do previously.”
“Sometimes I give Erika a hard time just to be nasty. I guess it’s because I’d like to be doing things myself instead of having someone telling me to do this or do that. I’m a little boy now. I have a mommy to take care of me. It’s not a very good feeling.”
“You cannot physically fight Alzheimer’s. You have to acknowledge what’s going on and get with other people who have the same problem. Help each other as much as you can.”
“If I forget something, I want people to be mild with me. Do what you have to do, but you appreciate a touch of love rather than a touch of hostility. Hostility will cause you to rebel. Treat others as you would like to be treated. You wouldn’t like me to be beating on you all the time.”
“A person with Alzheimer’s disease is many more things than just their diagnosis. Each person is a whole human being.”
“I hope that there is a rainbow at the end of the tunnel.”
Although The Red Tent was published years ago and my Reading Friends encouraged me to read it, I never did. Recently, I borrowed the book from a New Friend (a delightful and spiritual friend) and can’t imagine why I had passed it by all these years (The Red Tent was first published in 1997).
Anita Diamant did her research about the Jewish culture and daily life. It was a great read. James Carroll (author of An American Requiem) writes that “The oldest story of all could never seem more original, or more true.”
An excerpt, describing Dinah’s grandmother, Rebecca, wife to Isaac and mother of Jacob:
I do not remember my father’s formal greeting or the ceremony to present my brothers, one by one, and then the gifts, and finally my mothers and me. I saw only her. The Grandmother–my grandmother. She was the oldest person I had ever seen. Her years proclaimed themselves in the deep furrows on her brow and around her mouth, but the beauty of youth still clung to her. She stood as erect as Reuben and nearly as tall. Her black eyes were clear and sharp, painted in the Egyptian style–a pattern of heavy black kohl that made her appear all-seeing. Her robes were purple–the color of royalty and holiness and wealth. her head covering was long and black, shot through with gold threads, providing the illusion of luxurious hair, where in fact only a few gray strands were left to her.
The book is fiction as Anita Diamant tells readers; however, Diamant has studied Jewish culture and history and her descriptions are quite vivid. The ‘red tent’ itself is a piece of fiction that the author invented, an illustration of the separation of women.
Susan Jaslow, in her review of the book, writes:
The story is fiction, and while it differs from the scriptural account in many ways, it was true to the essence. There are two very marked differences, one of which I won’t reveal. The other is that Dinah doesn’t disappear after the events at Shechem, as she does in scripture.
I think that anyone interested in either religious or social history would find this book fascinating. I found it involving and evocative. I liked all of the characters, except for those who were decidedly unlikeable, and would most enthusiastically recommend it. It’s a heck of a good read.
Anita Diamant, the daughter of two Holocaust survivors, was born on June 27, 1951, in New York City. She spent much of her early childhood in Newark, New Jersey, before moving to Denver, Colorado, at age twelve. She attended the University of Colorado for two years, then transferred to Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, where she received a bachelor’s degree in comparative literature in 1973. She went on to earn a master’s degree in English from the State University of New York at Binghamton in 1975. She settled just outside Boston, where she lives with her husband and teenaged daughter, Emilia.
Diamant began her career as a freelance journalist in the Boston area in 1975. Over the years, she has written for local, regional and national magazines and newspapers, including the Boston Phoenix, the Boston Globe, and Boston Magazine, as well as New England Monthly, Yankee, Self, Parenting, Parents, McCalls, and Ms. In 1985, she began writing about contemporary Jewish practice and the Jewish community, publishing articles in Reform Judaism magazine, in Hadassah magazine, and on the webzine http://www.jewishfamily.com. She has also written seven handbooks on contemporary Jewish life and lifecycle events.
Interviewers ask famous writers why they write, and it was (if I remember correctly) the poet John Ashbery who answered, “Because I want to.” Flannery O’Connor answered, “Because I’m good at it,” and when the occasional interviewer asks me, I quote them both. Then I add that other than writing, I am completely unemployable. But really, secretly, when I’m not being smart-alecky, it’s because I want to and I’m good at it. I always mention a scene from the movie Chariots of Fire in which, as I remember it, the Scottish runner, Eric Liddell, who is the hero, is walking with his missionary sister on a gorgeous heathery hillside in Scotland. She is nagging him to give up training for the Olympics and to get back to doing his missionary work at their church’s mission in China. And he replies that he wants to go China because he feels it is God’s will for him, but that first he is going to train with all of his heart, because God also made him very, very fast.
So God made some of us fast in this area of working with words, he gave us the gift of loving to read with the same kind of passion with which we love nature. My students at the writing workshops have this gift of loving to read, and some of them are really fast, really good with words, and some of them aren’t really fast and don’t write all that well, but they still love good writing, and they just want to write. And I say, “Hey! That is good enough for me. Come on down.”
. . . My deepest belief is that to live as if we’re dying can set us free. Dying people teach you to pay attention and to forgive and not to sweat the small things.
~ Anne Lamott
My long-time friend Don Welch is still dancing . . . and winning Swing Dance Competitions!
There are so many nationalities coursing through my veins that I am sometimes in a quandry as to what to circle or mark on questionnaires that ask the Nationality Question. The worn-out saying that “my ancestors met your ancestors” who floated in on the seas applies; my Cherokee ancestors were here in order for my Scottish ancestor John Foreman to marry Susie Gourd “Kah-tah-yah” /Gourd (Rattling-gourd), a full-blood Cherokee of the Paint Clan (at least my point of view is that it Was Meant To Be).
My great grandfather Robert Walker “Bob” Sammon left Georgia (with short stays in Texas and Oregon) to settle in New Mexico and marry my great grandmother Maria de los Santos Leal, whose Leal family was in New Mexico long before it was a state. Quite likely (haven’t connected all of the dots yet), my Coca ancestor was with Don Juan Oñate when he traveled from Spain to Mexico to New Mexico and this Coca ancestor’s descendants were the recipients of a section of the Mora Land Grant.
Now – all of this genealogy ‘stuff’ is of interest to . . . probably only me . . . but here ’tis (in the event that there are other Hughey – and related families – researchers Out There in the Blogosphere).