Archive for February, 2010

I am (my ancestors)

February 28, 2010

I am (my ancestors),

They are carried deep within,

Embedded in my memory

are all the places they have been.

I am – my grandfather

reciting the Lord’s prayer,

in his low and formal voice,

with his head bowed low, 

I am – his courage,

hiding behind those German lines,

on a secret frightful mission

trying to make it back home,

I am – poor Dutch farmers,

moving south from Chicago,

selling vegetables in the summer time,

and trying to get by,

I am immigrant, I am Hollander,

sailing here with hopes and dreams,

I am 17-year-old great-grandmother,

on a ship from the old country,

I am also Scotch-Irish,

or English as the case may be,

migrating westward from Ohio

to the southern hills of Indiana,

I work for the Monon railroad,

working hard for my family,

move them a little farther north,

follow the tracks to industry,

I am poor boy in the north end,

studying hard for my degree,

first one ever to go that far,

first one to earn a PhD,

I am farmer, railroad worker,

car mechanic, security guard,

domestic worker,  church janitor,

painter and professor,

I am — all of these and more,

they are a part of me,

Stories of struggle embedded in my bones,

DNA memories mapped onto my own.

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I am my ancestors

February 28, 2010

Went to a Book Fair in downtown Columbia today, w/ my hubby. Listened to poets read their own work, & got inspired to try to write something. Also heard an excellent session by women from USC who collaborated on a 3 vol. series on Women of South Carolina.

Both of these sessions got me to thinking, & to connect the dots between the two, who are we really? People from South Carolina take such pride in being that. It’s like, you’re from here, or you’re from the rest of the world. To be in the “club” you got to be from here for at least 3-4 generations. Though so-called educated folks like to think they are above and beyond that, they do the same thing. It is fine to be proud of your roots, to write a book on women who contributed to whatever is South Carolina today, because their stories are left out of the history books. We have to write “her-story” because they are left out of his-tory. And I was fascinated with what I learned.

But there is more to my thought.

People speak of their ancestors. It is good to know who you are, where you are from. We are all connected to those before us. There are some who believe we have some sort of memories embedded in our DNA, so to speak, which are connected to generations past. For example, I may be drawn to water because my ancestors lived near the sea, and not have any understanding of that in a conscious way. It is an interesting idea.

But most of us don’t know much about our ancestors other than 2-3 generations back at the most. So my thought is to write a poem that expresses connections to those I consciously knew, or knew through stories that have been told by someone I knew. And that will be my next post.

parties

February 27, 2010

This time in the Baha’i Faith calendar, Feb. 26-March 1st, is a time for “charity, hospitality and the giving of presents”.

Today Al & I went to 2 Ayyam-i-Ha parties. The first one was one hour north. When we lived in Newberry, we were in that cluster. Most of them live near Laurens, which is 45 mins. north of Newberry. There, we were 2 out of 6 or 7 Bahai’s in a 3-county area. One of those couples has now moved to Texas. One new person has moved into that cluster, and there are 2 women who live nearby, so they come to gatherings of this group. They are a wonderful, fun and interracial group. We had a long discussion about racism in the 50s compared to today, and tried to think of more unrecognized African Americans for Julian to add to his Black history game he is making for children. We came up with some inventors, Thomas Edison’s sidekick, the one who invented the filament for the light bulb, the inventor of the 3-way traffic light, Matthew Henson who went with Admiral Peary to the North Pole and without whose aid Peary would not have survived. There was a famous football coach Al knows about, named Fritz something, who was also the most decorated WWII hero, something like that. We ate lunch and played a game. The game was about how to survive all these various things, like what’s the best way to survive quick sand (put a stick under your hips and float out on your back?) — and Al played Aziz a game of chess. (Al won last year, Aziz won this year.)
 
Then we drove down PAST our home, to Columbia’s celebration. There must have been 50 people at their Baha’i Center. It was packed. About 10 little girls running around, and 2 boys. The children were hosting the event. They said memorized prayers, sang the calendar song (at my suggestion, thank you very much), and one young boy played a Persian song on clarinet. Then they passed out cupcakes they had made & decorated. The rest of the time they chased each other around the Center.
 
We are starting to know the friends here. There are a few Persians, mostly older people who don’t speak English well. Not too many but some African American believers and families. Lots of rural South Carolina folks, some from the “city”– Columbia, & a few internationals. Most people here are from the south. Some of the folks from little bergs who never come to the city, do so for these special holidays. We are about 15 miles north of this main community. (Still basically isolated ourselves.)
 
I came home, had a cup of Rooibos red tea (not as good as cherry but it’s okay) and we are going to bed. Tomorrow Al wants to attend a book fair where they are having some people read some of their work.

Note: our daughter was moving to a new place today, back on the school bus route, closer to town. We hope she hears she has a job Monday.
 
OH– I dreamed last night we took in a little boy named Toby. No idea why. But I am often with children in my dreams. Lots and lots.

ancient one

February 24, 2010

here are a few lines that will be a poem, someday:

Sometimes I feel like a very old person.

Someone different from all the rest,

some wise old ancient one,

older than the hills,

who sits and watches the younger ones,

I feel like someone who has outlived

the rest of my family,

someone whose experiences

no one can relate to,

they are so far and beyond

what most people see,

and there is no way to explain them

to those around me.

Is it a curse,

or a blessing?

Only God knows,

To me,

it is only a blanket of sadness

from which there is no escape.

back home in South Carolina

February 21, 2010

The lake gulls did not miss us. They flew around today with their high-pitched sound, like they did while we were gone. They do not get a vacation.

It was nice to come home to this peaceful setting, where we live. The high hit the mid-to-upper 70s today. Bright sunshine all around. Al & I bought some groceries, got a light dinner at Zorba’s and pretended like we weren’t out of money as of tomorrow. I needed to go into my office but decided the heck with it & will just go in early tomorrow morning. Did some laundry at home, then went out to dry it at the local laundromat, as the free washer and dryer we picked up is really only “free washer”. The dryer doesn’t work.

Then I took a late evening walk around the pond and neighborhood, as the dark deepened and the moon came out. I’ve been playing on facebook, and my husband the early riser went to bed before dark! He is wiped out from the trip. We got home around midnight last night.

The frogs are slowly coming out of hiding, or hibernation, if they do that. Heard some loud treefrogs today.

I am happy here, and this is where we will stay.

Dixieland jazz memory

February 19, 2010

We are still in New Orleans, where I presented at the Race Gender and Class conference in honor of Pres. Obama. Though small in number of participants, it was a mixed group and very interesting sessions. All about where we stand with race class and gender identity at the time of America’s first African American president.

But tonight, I want to write about a little-known bit of information about me, and probably somewhat unusual for a white girl raised in the Midwest. I grew up on Dixieland jazz. Satchmo, clarinet and saxophone are what I heard as a young girl growing up, on my dad’s record player which he designed and put together himself. I don’t know why, but that was my dad’s favorite music. I personally have never been able to take classical music. It bores me to tears and doesn’t touch my heart. Can’t freaking stand opera! Blues or certain kinds of jazz touch my heart. Motown and soul get me going, makes me want to dance. Dixieland jazz brings back a flood of memories of life with my father.

Tonight we walked Bourbon Street, early in the evening. Bourbon Street is always a trip. Music blasts you from every doorway. People sing, play music and tap dance on the streets for money. You can’t stand around too long, or people come out and bug you to come inside so they can hit you up for a drink. You can’t make eye contact on the street with locals or they see a dollar sign and start giving you a story. My husband even got CAUGHT tonight when a man struck up a conversation with him and challenged him with a joke! He fell for it! The guy ended up shining his shoes, of all things, and my husband handed him the $7. in his pocket! I couldn’t believe it. They’re so quick & then you have a glob of goop on your shoe and then you feel obligated.

We decided to go in and sit down tonight & actually hear some music. So I picked an old style jazz place. It’s ALL live music, bands, singers, this is New Orleans after all! We sat down, the waitress came by, and we each ordered a coke, one by one. She gave us a rather knowing, disgusted look and went to get our cokes (non-drinkers). Then I got into the music. The man sang real old New Orleans tunes. Sitting there brought back a flood of memories of listening to this music with my dad. There was one night he took only me and my mother to downtown Philadelphia. The place was called “The Red Garter”. I remember because it was a little embarassing for this 13-or-14-yr-old girl. We got there so early, they played a set just for US. My dad sat there totally uninhibited that we were the only ones in the crowd, and clapped his hands. He always encouraged me to move however I felt like it to the music. It was a fun night. Sitting at the table in New Orleans tonight brought back that memory. I expected to turn and see my dad sitting at my table. Brought tears to my eyes, it was so strong a memory.

My father died about 2 weeks after my 16th birthday. I still thought he was King of the world. Never did get over it. It’s been so long though, that it is rare that a memory of his presence returns with such clarity. Tonight I remembered being with him, turning and seeing my dad in full enjoyment, clapping his hands to the music, when we were the only customers in the place.

poem from my husband

February 16, 2010

My husband never does anything –and I mean anything — for Valentine’s Day. In fact that includes birthdays, and any holiday. Even Baha’i holidays where we give gifts, he does not. This is a source of a certain resentment on my part, but we’ve been together so long, you learn what things to let go and accept as part of a person. Logical thinking tells me the reason why (Holidays are manufactured and promoted by the media as times you feel obligated to buy a gift and it’s all part of glitzy, capitalistic America.) But it’s hard to go through life never recv’g a gift from the one you love. It’s just tiring. After awhile, you don’t really care so much about logic.

However, this Valentine’s Day, after a snowstorm, which is rare in South Carolina, he wrote me a poem. Two rarities in one week! It’s called “Blanket”.

Blanket

I love the peace of a snowy windless night
That falls as a sky tossed blanket
Over the nakedness of my town
Each flake laughing – oh, so quietly
About a myriad acts of kindness
Angels descend with white crystalline
Blankets sewn of water diamonds

I love the peace that Carol brings
She covers my shivering soul
With our quilted marriage blanket
Each fold a joy – a pain – a challenge won
Thirty eight years and counting
Our memories the threads that stitch
The fabric covering our nakedness

(Al Black, 02/14/10)

I would take flowers

February 14, 2010

I would take flowers any day of the year,

Fresh cut flowers in my home at all times,

It doesn’t matter that they bloom

just for me to cut them,

admire them in the vase before they die,

They are worth it.

Beauty is a human need.

It doesn’t take much, but you know it when you see it.

There is nothing like a deep red rose,  I am partial to those

— and white —  for the purest souls.

Not for virgins, but for those

who LOVE purely,  without greed,

 

The fragrance – so sweet – I can smell them now.

snow in South Carolina!

February 13, 2010

Last year we had one light dusting of snow, on Inauguration Day of the new President Obama. I remember because my college closed and Al and I had a great day at home, watching the festivities on tv.

This year, we got 6 inches — last night. The children of the neighborhood swarmed outside this morning, all morning, because this is South Carolina. though we got 6 inches, the high today would reach 40 or above, and it would melt by nightfall!

Parents and children built snowmen or women. I say that because I saw one complete with a set of breasts. Snow covered the tops of palmetto trees and pines. Down here, people do not own snow shovels, salt, or boots. Many don’t have gloves. I saw kids outside “sledding” with trash bags, down a hill, having a blast. Kids and parents threw snowballs at each other and laughed. Someone took a 4-wheeler, hooked up a long mat behind it, and gave kids rides on the mat, swirling them around until they fell off. They did this for a couple of hours straight. I took a couple videos of their fun. Most of them were out in sweats and a light jacket. Some did not have gloves. They were obviously SO inexperienced at this, but it didn’t matter. It mostly melted by this afternoon. There are now patches of snow left inside the woods and in shady spots. By tonight, all the snow creations were melted down to one small ball. It was a happy morning of play and delight. By this afternoon, older kids were walking around the neighborhood, down in the dumps, because it was already disappearing.

Eventually one kid got hurt when they went over a rock and he hurt his knee. (It was a mat, remember, not a sled!) Then some people took the kid home in a golf cart, which is the main mode of transportation in our neighborhood. Cracks me up.

This was a nice vacation day to remember. Rain is predicted for tomorrow night.

Seven Valleys

February 12, 2010

One of my poems got a couple of comments recently. The following one is the only other one inspired by a small book by Baha’u’llah, “The Seven Valleys”. The 7 valleys are the journey a soul takes, on its way to the Creator. Moving to higher and higher levels of understanding, through pain and love, the soul in the end, gives up the self entirely, voluntarily.

I WOULD LIKE TO OFFER TO SEND ANYONE WHO WANTS ONE, A FREE COPY OF THE LITTLE BOOK, SEVEN VALLEYS, by Baha’u’llah. If you would like a copy, send me your address on my e-mail, ladybahai2@gmail.com 

The last valley is called “True poverty and Absolute nothingness.” Each person can interpret that however they want. For me, personally, I do not think it is that we enter a realm of nothingness in the sense of void, empty, nothing, kind of like the “nothing” that approaches creatures in the film, “Never Ending Story” and absorbs them into an empty void. (In that film, people were losing the ability to dream, to imagine, hence “the nothing” was erasing the dimension of imagination and dreams.)

The 7th valley, to me, is a voluntary giving up of all the importance of one’s own desires, and rather, giving that over to the Ancient One, the Creator.

Baha’u’llah was writing this for the Sufi’s, a mystical branch of Islam. Famous Sufi poets include Ru’mi. (My favorite line by Ru’mi: “Thinkest thyself a puny form, when within thee the universe is folded?”) I was very attracted to the Sufi mystical way, and studied them for awhile. They reject the laws of Islam, and Muslims consider them to be heretics. They describe themselves as those who are delirious with the love of God and care about nothing else. (Some there are who worship the pools of water left on the beach. A Sufi is one who dives headfirst into the waves, drowning himself in the sea.)

So here is the little poem that came to me for “The Seven Valleys”:

Seven Valleys

Let us SEARCH for the good in all things,

Letting LOVE for the truth bind our souls,

Let KNOWLEDGE protect us from ignorance,

and UNITY be our goal,

Let CONTENTMENT rise up from the heart

filled with WONDER at nearing its quest,

To give up the self, to understand

TRUE POVERTY, ABSOLUTE NOTHINGNESS.