altar-nate inspiration

On September 11, 2001, the phone rang and it was our old roommate Samantha calling from Texas to tell us that the World Trade Center had gotten hit by a plane. Darryl threw a walkie talkie at me, and ran up to our roof. I mustered up a light tank top and my preggie jeans and sauntered up to the roof to join him. The first thing that hit me was how beautiful the morning was, how crisp. It was completely surreal to look towards downtown and see all the smoke from the first tower getting hit. My neighbor, Gary Suson, was on top of the roof taking photos. He ended up publishing an exquisite book called Requiem, Photos of Ground Zero. While he did give me a copy of myself 9 months pregnant, a stupid grin on my face, and the WTC burning behind me, the one of my husband and I’s back sides and us looking out towards the catastrophe did make it into the book. Too bad he didn’t capture the look on my face when moments later my waters broke. It wasn’t a dramatic pool of water at my feet, but it was like nothing I have ever felt before, nor hope to feel again (kegels women, kegels!). My son came into this world in a time of deep tragedy. Though really there are insufferable things happening every second of every day somewhere on Earth.

A former student of Swami Satchidananda, I finally understood his words, “Absence of turmoil is not real peace. Real peace is when you rise above the turmoil and stay peaceful in the midst of it.” During that first labor of mine, I never made a sound and was practically able to fall asleep sitting on the toilet backwards. Backwards because I wanted to rest my head on a pillow and on the toilet because the whole time I was laboring I had this horrible feeling that I had to pee, but I couldn’t. Because my midwife was so scared that I would end up at the hospital and there was still so much confusion about the WTC, she made me drink castor oil to bring on my contractions, which by the way..WORKS! After emptying out my garbage truck, my contractions came quickly. Fortunately, I did most of the laboring at my apartment, but I couldn’t bear the pain my bladder was causing me and so begged for us to walk over the Elizabeth Seton Birthing Center (which sadly is no longer there). They were barricading 14th street where we lived and it was around 11 p.m. when we walked the three blocks. I remember one female officer exclaiming, “WOW! THAT WOMAN IS ABOUT TO POP!” And she was right, for as soon as I checked in, they checked and said I was 9 centimeters dilated and that all there was left to do was to fill the bath tub and PUSH!

By the time my son Kai was born, all the news was terrifying but all that mattered was that I had my beautiful baby boy in my arms, and therefore I could hold an image of peace for the world. I shrouded myself in a bubble so that none of the tragedy would be transferred to his induction to the world. Even so, sometimes I would still cry about it and worry that my tears were draining all the way into my breast milk and they would somehow mark Kai’s character. 12 years later, he is a wonderful human being. I have never met a little that does not adore Kai. He is so loving towards the young people.

This latest massacre of children has really gotten me down however. Senseless death, innocent lives, and I can’t help to think of the gaping hole that would sink my heart if that had happened to the children I teach, nor can I even fathom the loss of my own children to such bitter tragedy. The writing from Jack Gilbert helped me. I think it is true that we must honor ourselves to honor our lost. After the grief clears up, appreciation for what is left must suffice. I’ve got my Imbolc inspiration now. I will have things on hand for each of us to make a mini shrine. Whether it be to a departed, the goddess, your handsome lover, or children, of course, is up to you….

“REFUSING HEAVEN”

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies

are not starving someplace, they are starving

somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.

But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.

Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not

be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not

be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women

at the fountain are laughing together between

the suffering they have known and the awfulness

in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody

in the village is very sick. There is laughter

every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,

and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.

If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,

we lessen the importance of their deprivation.

We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,

but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have

the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless

furnace of this world. To make injustice the only

measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.

If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,

we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.

We must admit there will be music despite everything.

We stand at the prow again of a small ship

anchored late at night in the tiny port

looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront

is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.

To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat

comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth

all the years of sorrow that are to come.

-Jack Gilbert

While the altar for Imbolc 2013 was to honor the masculine, going back I remember now the reason I wanted to make altars in the first place….It was right after the Sandy Hook massacre. There is such an influx of horrible news in the world, that honestly I am a bit numb to it. As a teacher and mother however, the news of the death of so many innocent children deeply saddened me. This December, hearing about the massacre of over 100 children in Pakistan, I couldn’t comprehend that amount of suffering. My tears did not flow for them because it can’t fathom such insanity anymore. It sounds callous to an extent to not weep for the suffering of children and those who have lost them. But what I can do in exchange is offer the joy I have to the children I teach, to offer my own children my listening, to smile at the babies I see. The above was a  previous email about the birth of my own son who was born during the insanity of 9-11 and the words of Jack Gilbert who so eloquently insists that “we must risk delight.” Let us all hug our children a little closer in 2015 and be thankful for the innocence that we bring into the world. Happy NEW BEGINNINGS!

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