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Today, we are rising on a new dawn after elections across our country. May we and they know the sacredness of each new dawn. May we, the voters and citizens and the elected perform our responsibilities in the magnificence we can bring forth. May we listen to the whispers of wisdom, stand with the lessons of age and ancestors, envision what could be as we take even tiny steps toward common sense mixed with a passion for change that is for the good of all, supported by the sacred power of a God and Goddess of love.

It is time. We are the ones. The American dream awaits this dawn. And we are the creators.

 

Whispers at Dawn
By Gloria Burgess
Hush now.
Listen.
Lean into those voices
That whisper at dawn.
Stand gently
Proudly
On the broad bones
The great shoulders
Of the grand mothers and fathers
Who dreamt you
And held you
Keep you
And walk with you
Stroking your face
As dawn paints
That canvas of sky.
(from Legacy Living by Gloria Burgess © 2006, p. 47)
Congrats on getting back in the saddle!
Sara Pranikoff
sara@artandwritingcircle.com; http://www.womenwriting.org

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The Essential Wound

This book is about having an essential wound,
and having it at the beginning of my life.” Hal Zina Bennett, author and writing instructor

Hal Zina Bennett and I have three things in common. One: We both love to write from our heart center. Two: We both had an essential wound. Three: We both had that wound from the beginning of our lives. I am striving to have a fourth thing in common with Zina Bennett: We both have published books. My writing below was intended to be the Preface of my memoir, Journey Girl, Steps in Secrets and Sanctuary, but I have restructured the beginning of my book and I am striking it, so I give it to Napkinwriter to share with you.

In his example of the student remembering how he was when he witnessed the unbelievable (at that time) happening of the Kent State National Guard’s shooting of four students on campus, who were peacefully protesting the Viet Nam War. I remember it as well. It was exceptional and unbelievable at that time, but not shocking anymore in our time now.

In his book, Write from the Heart, author Hal Zina Bennett describes giving his class a short writing assignment about having an essential wound. One student tells him he will write it but he is not sure he can read it to the class. Yet the very next day, this student is the first one to pop out of his seat for the readings.

He describes a scene of a young woman on campus holding her friend’s bloody head and limp body. She is hysterically shouting at the National Guard soldiers nearby. That exact historical and iconic scene played out on television and in newspapers across the nation, during a particularly troubled time in 1970. It was the May 4th shooting that took place on the Kent State college campus during the Vietnam War Protest era.

Barry, the writing student, had witnessed the horror, terror, confusion, and disbelief of violence thrust upon the students by military might. It resulted in four college students lying sprawled on the ground in their spot of instant death. Once the students in proximity to the shooting recovered partially from their shellshock and temporary paralysis, Barry and most of the other frantic students scrambled for pay telephone booths to call home (cell phone technology and social media were not products and methods of communication in student hands in 1970).

The phone booth lines were long and when he finally gained access, Barry called straight to his father’s office. He told the secretary to interrupt his father, who was in a meeting.
“This is important,” he insisted, in a begging tone of voice.

Barry’s father, a veteran of the Korean War, of which he never spoke, responded rapidly as he picked up the receiver. “Make it fast because I am in a crucial meeting.” The father’s staccato directive exploded upon his anxious, terrorized, and stunned son.

Then Barry’s father listened to the fast, rambling crescendo of his son’s recounting of what became known as the Kent State Massacre without saying a word or interrupting. When the son finished, he paused, letting the rest of his energy flow onto the floor of the phone booth, his legs weak and wobbly. There was only silence on the telephone line for what seemed like a long time to the dazed student.

“Dad, did you hear me?”

“Yes, I heard you,” his father replied, detached and distant. “Are you okay? You’re safe?”
His son replied he thought he was. “I haven’t been shot or anything.” And that was it. As Barry stood cramped and crouched in the restrictive phone booth, his father matter-of-factly informed him, “Good, then. I have to get back to my meeting.”

Hal Zina Bennett contends that being present to the horror of the campus shootings would be enough to last as an essential wound for any one of us. But Barry, the student writer, went on with his story about how he carried the essential wound around inside of him for many years to follow. He never felt safe anymore.

The memory of that day haunted his dreams over and over again. He was still upset for not being able to get over it. He realized many thousands of people saw these kinds of horrible things and seem to have lived with it. He blamed himself for continuing to suffer. That is why he was not sure he could read it to the class.

A usually quiet, older woman student, perhaps somewhat past the age of seventy, whom the instructor knew to be a keen listener, spoke from her desk in the back of the room, breaking a hushed silence and the palatable feeling of respect floating in the air.
“Your father dropped the ball,” she said. “That’s your essential wound and I think you know what I mean by that.”

Barry kept his eyes down and nodded slowly, tears freely flowing. Because Barry had noted on paper the history of his father being in the Korean War but never speaking about it to his own family or anyone else that he knew of, the woman went on to describe it as his father’s essential wound. It was something that his father could not face or release. She continued to say the same had happened to Barry regarding the Kent State shootings.

“But you have broken the chain today and escaped from your own history by having the courage to tell us this story.” She offered him thanks, for this story healed her as well. “You didn’t drop the ball.”

Bennett, the instructor, admitted to not knowing exactly what all went on in the classroom that day, but he remained convinced that the essential wounds we all carry are powerful within us. What had just happened in the classroom among the students was more than a lesson in writing.

This incident made Bennett think about the phenomenon of the essential wound. From his vantage point as a writing instructor, where students trusted their personal stories with him, he saw these wounds expressed in the majority of his classes. Surely, most people don’t get through life without an essential wound. The youth of his students most likely meant these types of wounds still lay ahead in life for many of them also.

This was a whole new way of looking at his students and their writing. What was there to be said for recovering from an essential wound after they gained the courage to talk about it? What were the protections offered for these wounds, which could still burst open and cause so much pain? How choices were made in whom to speak to about certain wounds, for it was a trust that could be so betrayed and produce ongoing regrets in the future life of the wounded.

Many people who begin studying their genealogy find stories, all too quickly, of “misplaced people” on their family tree; a surprising “crazy uncle” who was never talked about, perhaps even a rich heiress that disappeared from the family. All of this new news could probably be traced back in time to an essential wound that would not be talked about in generations going forward. Most of us know that sense of not quite being able, even though willing, to support another in deep emotional grief and turmoil. Past history, over which we have no control, plays a large part in our inability to “be there” for another at some time in our lives.
Bennett writes in his book, “it is our perceptions of the world, the inner vision of what we think life is about that is challenged in every essential wound.”

He says we must start trying out our perceptions, see what the wound mirrors in us, and seek out what we need to learn from the wound. Most importantly, we are to discover what we need to learn to embrace to take ourselves out of the role of victim. In other words, there is actually a blessing in these essential wounds. We need to have courage and ask for the grace to find it.

I had an essential wound at the beginning of my life also. But I didn’t have a name for what it was and I didn’t know what it was. I just knew it was there—for as long as I can remember. It was difficult, for me, to admit aloud that an essential wound of a lost and unknown mother, shrouded in mystery, lived within me.

But it wasn’t hard to recognize. William Faulkner wrote: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” And a time would come when I would begin to connect my past truthfully and freely and find the grace and gift within my wound.

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“Meaning does not come from what we do. It comes from what we are. If we are lovers of beauty, then beauty will fill us all our days. If we are committed to justice, then justice will drive us past all fatigue or failure. If we are devoted to building human community, then we will find meaning in the people whose lives we touch. It’s when we are driven by nothing other than our daily schedules that life becomes gray, listless, and dour.

Life happens quickly but the meaning of it comes into focus only slowly, slowly, slowly. The challenge is to keep on asking ourselves what it is.” These words are taken from author and Benedictine nun, Joan Chittister, in Songs of the heart, Reflections on THE PSALMS.

She offers a simple and profound book of poignant and challenging reflections on twenty five of the 150 songs of praise found in the psalms. Each of the twenty-five chosen reflections offer a spiritual oasis away from the stresses of a world that demands more than the human soul can sometimes bear and have rich meaning for people today.

In my memoir, Journey Girl, Steps in Secrets and Sanctuary, I too offer at the beginning of each chapter a brief pause for the reader that is like the spiritual oasis Joan Chittister speaks of. I call them Islands of Silence. They are easy and accessible to the at-home mother who needs a private pause from combined child-care, taxi driver, medical emergencies and unending upkeep of home responsibilities.

They are equally beneficial for the students of all ages (we are all students of life) and business and corporate ladder climbers who can find an instant cubby-hole within to take stock and quiet the busy and overworked mind.

The first Island of Silence I offer in Chapter One is…..

 

The Breath
The Easiest of All Practices of Consciousness
Wherever God lays his glance life starts clapping.
Hafiz

Your breath is an Island of Silence that is with you at all times. You cannot live without it. A baby’s first important work to do when he/she arrives and separates from the maternal umbilical cord is to… breathe.

There are many meditative practices that focus on different ways to engage with your breath for stress relief and relaxation, but taken down to its simplest level, one may just choose to watch one’s breath.

If you don’t want to go to a gym, if you are not ready to engage in Pilates or Yoga (where the attention is put on the breath), you are perfectly free to sit comfortably alone, turn your thoughts inward, seek the quiet and simply breathe… in… out… in… out.

You will see this Island of Silence will come to you and you will appreciate the restoration it gives. Beautiful scenery will not take your breath away. It will give you more breath.
If you don’t wish to sit, you may walk in one of your favorite landscapes, amidst flowers and trees, birds, and animals, still focusing on your breath coming in… going out… coming in… going out.

You may be stuck in traffic with things to do, but still… you are stuck in traffic and you can breathe in… breathe out… breathe in… breathe out.

Return to this Island of Silence many times during the day. It is perfectly fine to take short stay vacations of breathing tranquility. It is low cost, efficient, and brings rewards of renewed energy and purpose. Turn your attention to your breath daily and give this a try.

This is an Island of Silence that begins the first chapter of an at-risk emergency birth where the child is saved, yet the young twenty-nine year old mother dies. Life and death do, indeed, both happen quickly. I am the child who lived. The meaning of it and the grace held within the loss of my mother all happened very, very slowly

 

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“There are only two ways to look at your life: one is though nothing is a miracle; the other as though everything is a miracle.” Albert Einstein said that.

These are a few ways I live my life and I suppose my belief system is that indeed everything is a miracle. That is hard to see though.

The following are five door-openers for living life as the miracle that it is:

1. Be silent. Become silence. Minimize your personal impact on the moment.

2. Be curious. Do you feel a need to explain, interpret, tell or exclaim. Let all your thoughts begin and end with question marks.

3. Be accepting. Be discerning. Don’t stand in harm’s way, but for now suspend judgments. Let it be as it is.

4. Be open. Bask in the mystery. Are you attached to knowing? Learn to be comfortable with not knowing. Warm yourself in the shadows, instead of the sunlight. Be awed by the beauty of the thorn, not just the rose.

These words were a writing instructor’s words in his advice to writers. But they serve how one views life as well. There are plenty of opportunities one’s voice is needed. There are many other times where no words serves one well. Where silence, not noise serves the highest purpose. I have learned to recognize these times in my own life. Yet, sometimes, I don’t.

 

 

 

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It is fun to draw because it really does affect how you see. We often draw on paper what we think something looks like. But we are seeing with our brain, not our eyes. When we stop to draw what we are observing, we make an entirely different image…it might be an exact representation or it may be subtle hints and shapes of the object that help the viewer also see the object more clearly.

Not much in our world is clear these days, judging by the large picture. New memes seem to be forming and staying that cloud our perspective that good and kindness and wisdom still exist. Too much constant shouting, too much “me too”ism’s, too much random violence wrought upon the innocent. Everyday in every way, we are witness to what we wish would not be. Just when did human communication focus and grow upon harmful, hateful expressions. Words have power. Words are real. Hateful words are sticks and stones and they do hurt others.

But there it is. How do we see clearly? How do we see beyond the appearance? How do we stay balanced? How do we define the world we live in right now? Officials speak about not letting violent outbursts and killings “define us”. Yet when it does occur it has devastating realities that run through the victims’ family and community far into the future, long after the cameras and newscasts have left. They leave behind their observations “that this community is beginning the healing”…yet they are still in shock before the real, lifelong journey of healing actually begins with each painful day of loss that didn’t have to be.

Most often, in pain and sorrow, even beyond the pain and sorrow that may hang suspended for s long time, most seek some kind of genuine love to express. It seems so huge, this hole of hurt cast upon them. And while everything hurts, they find the energy to move step by step into each new day, redirecting their purpose to live their own life in a genuine way, not covering up this horror they have been asked to bear.

Those of us untouched by what we see has touched others redirect as well. I hunker down and practice more acts of kindness, find more ways of listening intentionally, and remember that  “I and “they” are dear ones, treating them as such.

“Dear one, I am here for you”

 

 

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“It’s been a long day for you,” the angel said to me. It was only 7:45pm but this angel knew the length of my day was not truly measured in the minutes on the clock. “Yes,” I agreed. “And it is the third long day this week with two more likely ahead of me.”

He listened quietly and nodded his head. This angel was the driver of the hospital shuttle bus that had picked me up to drive me across the street to the parking garage I left at 8:30 am this morning. I was his sole rider going back, just as I was the only one on the morning shuttle, most unusual.

This ride was very short and I was burdened down with two carry bags and my purse. In the course of this short ride, he learned today was my 54th wedding anniversary date, and my husband lay in the hospital, possibly awaiting the insertion of a pacemaker for his tired, slow beating heart. The conversation dribbled on between the two of us – me telling him we came to Lexington the day after we were married for Tom had gotten his first job out of college at the IBM Corporation.

“Oh,” he said. “I wished I would have gone with them. I had a chance, but I stayed in printing a long time.” The only trouble is, he lamented, was that the pay was good, but there was no retirement for him at the end.

Well, I told him, I worked in public relations so I had many interactions with printers.  Our lives took many turns after Tom left IBM, and with Tom’s health challenges and our own financial limitations I hoped God had me somewhere in the Big Picture.

“Oh, that’s certain. You believe he does.”  Yes, I said, I do.

So much in such a short trip. An old man still making his way on earth. Me, still hanging with it. I know I thanked him and told him he was kind as I stepped down the loading ramp of the shuttle.

Afterward at home, I was, sitting tired in my lounge chair, heading for bed, I thought about him again. Either as man or angel, he is why I don’t believe what they are telling us about living in a hateful, spiteful world. I, myself, keep bumping up against kind and thoughtful people like this one encounter with a perfect stranger.

I wished I had said to him, “You are doing a very important job now. Thank you.”

 

 

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It was once a fantasy. Then a dream. A puzzle, perhaps. How would I tell the story? A story of silences and secrets encased in a contemporary contemplative silence of support from which the story grew and took on a voice of it’s own.

It is a story that lived in my heart and needed many years to grow to tell me how it wanted to be told and how it was lived. My book is no longer a wish or an untold tale. I have written this book that tells of a mother lost and mothers found. Blessings and guidance along the way and the determination to speak it in my own voice, not hindered by judgment.

Along the way I have met teachers and mentors….all along the way over many years. I have been feature writer, photographer, columnist and founding editor writing stories of so many others. But one time just two short years ago, when I entered a room I was asked my name and the second question was, “Are you an author?”

The woman’s name was Angela and she and her daughter headed up the meeting and their intention was to inspire those of us “wanna-be-authors” to go ahead and BE ONE. When I left that meeting, where I briefly described the story I wanted to write, I knew the intention was deeply set within me that I would do everything possible to become an author.

It was not a false start this time. I reached back into the many inroads to my story that I had formed and then stalled out on and brought what was meaningful forward. I enrolled once again in Janet Conner’s Intersection for Writers on-line course. I indeed worked toward achieving her AIC award — ass in chair — because that is the way you become an author.

I carved out a writing schedule around which other things were second on the list. This was a mainstay of the day, every weekday. I had to settle for best-effort on other things like cleaning our living space, planning and preparing meals, scheduling medical appointments, and physical exercise at the Y. Writing no longer happened “when I had time.” It now happened all the time. I got in a groove and it felt right.

I’ve had two very important editing and publishing professionals with me from early on in the writing of this book. Both were invaluable and we are still connecting our work together because now that the book is written, the very tedious task of getting it published and to market lie ahead. It has taken 18 solid months to write. I now begin the second rung of the journey. I am in brand new territory now but as I navigate through these open waters, I set my new intention to doing well in this phase and seeing the successful publication of my book, at which time I will be able to answer that second question, “Why, yes, I am an author.”

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