"My Story Lives is a cornucopia of hope and optimism in the midst of challenging and sometimes dark circumstances. You're doing great work!" Dr. Mel Waldman, Psychologist'

"In my opinion, this is one of the BEST LITERARY sites ever created!!" Camincha, San Francisco Bay Area poet and writer

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Unspeakable

In that vast terrain
that is her brain
she is
at a
loss
for
words.
until one day when
she opens her mouth to
try to speak out pour
some weird red marbles
jelly-like to the touch much
like the chewy brain inside her head.
Seeing the marbles and certain that
she is losing the mind inside her head
she goes racing determined to gather the red
the red the red the red the red the red the
red explodes
she has to catch to gather to run to paddle
the kayak is running in white water bow in
and stern out now out of nowhere she is certain that if
she opens her arms mouth legs wide enough the words will follow
the faster she runs the faster the words leakspillexplodesurgenow

One thing is certain: she will have a difficult time recreating the
unspeakable desert through which she has travelled. How can she
possibly tell others who have not visited the land of NOT that there is no way you can
possibly describedefinedeter the word that she cannot say.

When finally it lifts, the sand the heat the white barren landscape,
the heavens open, the rivers flow, the ocean throws up its
cool clear glorious waters in colors
too numerous
to name.

Here now
Hear now
she is catching
she has caught her
breath she is picking up
the paddle that is her pen
slowly she skiffs the boat
slowly slowly she banks the ocean
waves she picks her way through
the waters she is finally ready to
go ashore to tell others where she has been.

Alas,
the first
words
out
of
her
mouth
have
to
be

{silent}

Friday, August 22, 2014

Chapter 69, Sister Mysteries: "A Miracle in the Courtroom"


The sky is a milky blue color when Renata and the others wake up.  Kitty has already been up an hour, feeding chickens, gathering eggs and then, baking muffins for the breakfast meal she will serve downstairs in the cafe, promptly at eight.

Renata is first into the kitchen. Kitty is spooning corn meal dough into a cast iron muffin tin. She puts the spoon down and wipes her hands on her apron. Then she takes hold of both of Renata's hands. "I can't believe you're back," Kitty says.

"Nor can I.  Sometimes I think that we may very well be making a giant mistake." Kitty turns back to her stove. Renata yawns, covering her mouth with the back of her hand. "But I can't live on the run. And I shouldn't have to, because I didn't kill my cousin."

Teresa appears in the kitchen. "Katy you still have that old coffee pot? I need a lift this morning."

"Of course." Kitty reaches into the pantry for the pot. "Coffee is in the decanter beside the sink."

She finishes filling the muffin tins and takes her bowl and spoon to the sink. "So what's the schedule this morning?

Renata settles into the rocking chair that Kitty keeps in the corner beside the stove. "I'm supposed to be there by nine, and the judge says he'll give me an hour to present the new evidence."

"And that evidence consists of the missing pages of your journal, right? The pages that lay out exactly how Antonie died."

"Yes." Renata rubs her forehead. "I know it's a longshot, but I've got to do it. I have to try."

Katy slides the muffins into the oven. "I don't  know much about the law, but I have my doubts that..."

"I know, Katy. I know." Renata pauses and then she whispers. "We can't be too hopeful but I have no choice. I cannot live my life on the run."

******
At exactly ten minutes to nine, Renata opens the door to the small courtroom. Teresa and Art follow her into the stuffy room. No judge. No sheriff.

"So where shall we sit?" Teresa asks.

Renata shrugs. "It makes no difference, does it?" Her face is pale and pinched. Teresa wraps an arm around Renata's shoulders.

"My dear sister, this is not the face we need today. You must stand up to them, find your voice, convince them that you deserve your freedom." Renata bites her lower lip. And nods.

Teresa whispers. "All you have to do is believe in your heart and soul what you know to be true. You didn't kill Antonie and you have proof now. Trust in yourself and in God. He will take care of the rest."

At that moment the judge and sheriff stride into the courtroom. The judge in his black robe takes a seat at a table that stands higher than the rest of the tables in the room.

"So I said we'd give you an hour," the judge says, folding his hands on the table. "So what magic tricks do you have up your sleeve to show me today?"

"To tell you the truth, Sir, I have the evidence hidden beneath my skirt. So if you don't mind turning away for a moment...." The judge, smirking, turns around to face the wall. The sheriff does the same.

Renata unties a piece of twine at her waist. A thin package, wrapped in brown paper, makes a soft thud as it lands at her feet. She reaches down for the package. "Alright, you can turn back," she says.

"'And what would that be inside the package?" The judge leans over the table, one covering the other.

Renata steps closer to the judge.  "Before I let you see what's in here, I think it's only fair that we reconstruct the evidence used against me in the trial."

The judge clears his throat. "We are not going to retry this case, if that's what you had in mind."

"No, of course not," Renata says, her voice strong and commanding. "I'm not looking to do that. I simply want to remind you that virtually every piece of evidence presented at the trial was in the form of writing: my journal entries, and my cousin's wild stories casting me as a dancer and worse, a seductress."

The judge folds his hands together.  "Yes, well, if you recall, no one ever established that those stories were the work of your cousin's pen. There was every reason to believe that those stories were ones that you composed."

"But that's foolish. Why in heavens name would I implicate myself in a murder I didn't commit?"

The judge slaps his hands on the table. "I said it before and I will say it again, we are not going to retry this case. So get to the point."

"My point is that there wasn't a single witness presented."

"And again, you are trying to reopen the case. I am quickly losing my patience!"

"All I am trying to establish is that all of the evidence was in writing, writing that I did, writing that I claim my cousin did. Some of that writing carefully lays out my cousin's last hour."

"So what is new about this? Yes, it was writing that prove the case, but how does..

"What I have here is just more writing. But it is the part of my journal that I would never before share with anyone. Tthree pages that I ripped out before I was tried. Pages that I vowed I would never make public."

"And why is that?"

Renata sets the three journal pages on the table. "Because they directly implicate...." Here, Renata's head drops forward. Teresa, standing to her right, puts an arm around Renata's waist and squeezes her arm.

"Go on."

"They reveal the truth about how Antonie died and they make clear that the person who..." She is trembling now and Teresa squeezes her tighter. "...the person who completed the act, finished the suicide that Antonie set in motion with his own razor...was..."

The sheriff stands. "Your honor, we've already established that her cousin was murdered. Where does she get the right to call  it a suicide. It's just her overactive imagination...."

The judge, ignoring the sheriff, takes his eyeglasses out of his breast pocket and picks up the journal pages and begins to read. Renata interrupts right away. "I guess I don't have to point out to you that the yellowed paper, the ink, the slant of the handwriting, perfectly match that of my journal."

Leaning back in his chair, the judge pauses. "No, ma'am, you don't need to point this out to me." He continues reading. When he comes to the third page, he reads and rereads it and then sits back in his chair. He places his hands together and rests them on his sizable stomach.

"And pray tell, how is it that we never saw these curious pages during the trial?"

Renata closes her eyes, inhales and then slowly releases her breath. When she speaks, it's in a whisper. "I refused to implicate Senora. I wanted to... protect her."

"Well, well, what we have here is a most interesting turn of events." The judge takes the journal pages and hands them over to the sheriff. The pages are lost on him because he doesn't know how to read.

"Please give me the full name of this woman you call Señora."

"Must I? Isn't it clear from what you read here that my cousin was hellbent on killing himself?"

"The name please..."

"Señora Maria Cuorocora de los Ramos."

"And where can this woman be found?"

Renata closes her eyes. "She is in her final moments of life, weak as a kitten, residing at the convent where she can get the care she...."

Suddenly Teresa gasps and lets go of Renata's shoulders.

Renata looks up and there at the back of the courtroom stands Señora, wrapped in a black shawl and leaning on a cane.

The two nuns are aghast. "Judge, this is...this is...this is Señora, but just hours ago I saw her so close to dying that she could not possibly appear here."

Sister Teresa flew to the back of the room and helped support the hold woman. Soon she is standing beside Renata. They embrace. Señora's face looks so thin and pale it has a purple cast. She reaches into a pocket and brings out a sheet of paper. "Una oracion," She whispers. She hands it to Renata and raises her hand to tell Renata to read it aloud.

Renata looks at the judge. "Part of it is a prayer she has written. Shall I go ahead?

"Don't ask my permission, this is your dog and pony show."

She begins, translating as she proceeds: Dio mio, madre mio, my God my holy mother Mary holy father and son and holy spirit to whom do I ask forgiveness? To whom do I confess? The priest, Father Ruby?  The last time I slid the little door in the confessional I saw the black screen between me and the priest and I lost heart. I wanted so desperately to unload myself, I wanted to scream 'I have sinned in the worst possible way, I have sinned by taking the last bit of life from a man I knew and raised from childhood.' But I lost heart. I left the confessional and I visited Renata at the jail; I begged her to tell the world the truth, but once again she refused."

Renata raised her head.

"Please continue," the judge said. "Dear God help me. Help me help my dear Renata to go free. No one but me can help her. I kneel here and beg you to hear me, from my humble position on this cold floor in the kitchen. I ask not for me not on my behalf but for her, she who faces hanging. I am determined to find a way to tell the world the truth, that I was the one responsible, I pressed the blade and severed his throat. I only continued with what Antonie started but of course I could have tried to get help for him rather than hasten his death. What I did was unforgivable. I dared to take the place of God, deciding whether a man was going to live or die. Please God please forgive me for what I did!"

There was perfect silence in the courtroom. The judge stood and gazed long and hard at Señora -- she seemed to shrink in his gaze. "I am afraid that you leave me no alternative but to take the old woman to the jail."

Renata protested. "She is close to 85 years old. She rose from her death bed to speak her truth. She only finished what Antonie set out to do. He wanted to die. She raised him from the time his mother -- my aunt Eliza -- died from small pox -- he wasn't even walking. Can't you see that arresting this woman makes no sense?"

Before the judge could answer, the sheriff stepped forward and put Señora into handcuffs. She offered no resistance. "Are we through here Judge? Can I take her away?"

"I would like to ask the nun one more question." He turned to Renata. "Why for God's sake didn't you make it clear what happened? Why this long drawn out affair when you knew there was a killer and that killer wasn't you?"

"I wanted to protect the woman who raised me. She is my mother, my grandmother, my savior. I couldn't forgive myself if I lived and she was put to death."

The judge shook his head. "Let's go, Frank, there is no point in sitting here any longer."

All of a sudden the sheriff screamed. He lifted the handcuffs into the air. Señora was no longer in the cuffs. Nor was she anywhere to be seen.

The judge roared. "What the blazing hell is going on here?"

Renata looked at Teresa. Art stood back and shook his head.

"I expect an explanation," the judge said, slamming the table, but even as he said it, the command sounded foolish.

"We have seen the hand of God at work here," Renata said in a whisper. "The work of God and the work of the Virgin Mary, to whom we pray every day."

"Well I don't give a damn about any of your foolish religion," the Sheriff said. "Stupid magic."

Renata smiled at the Sheriff. "Well then I invite you to find the old woman using whatever magic you happen to muster." She smiled at the judge. "May we leave now?"

"Don't leave town until we have gotten to the bottom of this foolishness," the judge said.

Art and Teresa and Renata were soon on the wagon heading back to Kitty's. Renata and Teresa held hands and prayed the whole way.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Mystical Mistical Pond!

This is the pond after a heavy heavy rain.

What a gift Mother Nature is.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

A NYC church praying for deceased soldiers

Strolling along 29th Street in Manhattan the other day, I came across a very moving project. It is the work of Marble Collegiate Church, best known for once hosting the sermons of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale.

In 2006, the church decided to start praying for all the American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Every soldier's name and age are typed onto a piece of paper, and slipped into a plastic sleeve. The name tag is then tied to a long golden ribbon which hangs on the wrought iron gate outside the church.

The church also prays for the thousands of people in Iraq and Afghanistan who have perished. Those ribbons are blue.

Finally, green ribbons denote prayers for peace.

The railings are crowded with ribbons. Seeing the names of the soldiers -- most of the whom were in their 20s and 30s -- really brings home the painful loss of life connected to the wars. The project is reminiscent of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., which names more than 58,000 soldiers who either died or went missing in Vietnam. The names are engraved on the memorial's black granite wall.



The church has worked hard on the prayer project and they are to be commended for raising our awareness.  The ribbons force you  to think hard about war and the terrible loss of life that goes with it.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Perfect Day, Count the Ways

My mother said it best: today is a ten out of ten day. Crystal clear blue sky, perfect temperature. With all the rain, the garden is lush with lilies: yellow, butterscotch, salmon, orange and my favorite, sizzling red.


The only problem on a day like this is how do you take it in? Never mind saving it, how can you savor it?  Maybe the only way to enjoy this day is to stay in the now, breathing in and out and counting the special moment as a blessing.


One of my blessings is having a small pond, filled with giant bullfrogs. Incredible the sounds they make. Back and forth across the pond, the deep humming sounds coming from these frogs sounds like some crazy symphony instruments warming up for the performance!

As day ends, light turns the maple leaves a brilliant green. The pond is bright and shimmery. No better place to be.


Wednesday, July 02, 2014




By Camincha

It is always summer when Alba thinks of Miraflores. The sun is always shining when Alba thinks of Miraflores although she knows very well it wasn’t so. The fact is that the climate was capricious, in the summer often foggy, cold, grey with a fine garüa, a mist, good for vegetation but not for Alba because she liked to go swimming and the garüa made her cold when it settled on her skin and frustrated, especially if she had plans to go to the beach to swim, which she enjoyed. But she and her friends would go anyway and walk into the freezing water, some days not even holding on to the rope set there for those worried that the violent surf would rough them up, tumble them, push them against rocks and deposit them bruised and cut on the stones under the surf. So what’s that got to do with caigüas (a plant that bears fruit similar to bell peppers.) Both happened in the summer.


 
After swimming, still shivering, they would make their way to the dressing rooms. Still damp, and by then hungry, their wet hair sticking to forehead, shoulders, neck, clothes, they carried their heavy uncomfortable bags with their wet towels and bathing suits up the hill to El Malecón (seawall.) Hug good bye before going on walking to their respective homes. Alba felt lucky, she had only four more blocks to walk to her house at Porta Street where a delicious lunch of caigüas stuffed with meat, black olives, bits of hard boiled eggs, sauté onions and garlic awaited her. Or caigüas soup. Or purée of caigüas. Caigüas stew. Caigüas...cooked in as many ways as was possible for they grew in such profusion that mamacita had started to invent some recipes of her own.

This situation with the caigüas came about because their house front was flushed with the sidewalk, no front garden. But mamacita loved to garden. And was good at it. Knew all the plants -- the secrets of roses, dahlias, geraniums, carnations, lemon trees, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, garlic, corn. She grew all of these in an eight by eight space in the center of the house built for that purpose. She also put to good use the three and a half square feet of dirt next to a wall in the middle of a raised cement border walkway that nurtured a jasmine so fertile that it had spread all over and looked like a beautiful lace tapestry. The little yard and the small patch were full of black, rich dirt that mamacita kept fertile by periodically mixing it with compost made of blending chicken droppings with vegetable cuttings and crushed eggshells. And caigüas? Oh! the caigüas. Well the compost, the black dirt and the regular watering she gave it produced, out of a few seeds she had dropped on it, an enormous amount of succulent caigüas. And they harvested them in such abundance that years later were still talking about it. It was a miracle the jasmine survived the intrusion.

Alba remembers mamacita directing the servants to fill boxes and baskets with caigüas and sending them to friends and neighbors and finally to the owners of the vegetable and meat store on their block that smelled of fragrant herbs and fresh meat. Owned and operated by two Chinese men who if Alba happened to go by while they were having lunch could be seen eating a couple of light color sticks in one hand, from porcelain bowls they lifted to their mouths, while their dark eyes above the bowl peered at her. The Chinese did not live in Miraflores, Alba knew this because she had seen the tall men get off the bus from Lima at the corner of Avda 28 de Julio and Porta half a block from her house early in the morning and walk in their gaunt manner. Their heads up in the air like testing the wind trying to divine what the day would be like. Deliveries on time? Enough sales to cover the expenses? But on the day of the caigüas Yin Yin and his partner had a smile on their faces for Alba’s mother sent the caigüas as a gift.

Meantime The Baths, which is what everyone called the beach at the foot of the cliffs in Miraflores had very little sand, mostly stones that hurt your feet so it was necessary to use sturdy foot wear and certainly a thick towel to lie on. It was rough, some days more than others. Like when the rope that ran from a pillar at the edge of the surf to about a hundred feet into the ocean was helpful to the timid and not good swimmers. Because when the tide was high the waves that angrily came to explode at the beach sometimes were monumental. Other times they had lost their strength just as they arrived and barely rolled in playfully before going out again. But the ocean was always cold, thinking of a warm lunch of caigüas in any form was most welcomed.

Camincha is a pen name for a writer living in northern California. 
                                                                                   

Friday, June 27, 2014

No More Poisonous Dog Treats From China!

It just so happens that I was all out of dog treats yesterday (we have been using a ton of them in a wonderful new puppy class with our darling Poco) when this story popped into my inbox. It was a petition asking me to join thousands of other pet owners who want Target to stop selling poisonous dog treats from China.

I have stopped buying just about anything that says "made in China," but it never occurred to me to be on the lookout for tainted dog treats on the pet store shelves. 

Thankfully, a woman named Tracey Bagatta, from Center Moriches, New York, 
    1. has launched a petition campaign to make sure that nobody's pet joins all the others who've gotten sick or died eating jerky chicken pet treats. According to Tracey -- whose own two dogs got sick this way -- a total of 5,600 dogs, 24 cats and three humans have gotten sick from the contaminated food (why three humans I'm not sure.)
    2.  
    More than 1,000 dogs suffered "horrifying" illnesses before succumbing. Those who survived will have lasting health problems.

  • Tracey's dog Ginger was so sick with bloody diarrhea and vomiting that she made two trips with her to the vets' ICU. Tracey's second dog, Sophie, was tested, and her liver enzymes "were off the charts!"


    Even though they survived, both dogs -- like all the rest of the pets affected -- will have lifelong liver problems and will require daily meditation just to stay alive.

    The FDA is now actively investigating the problem and has issued warnings and cautions to consumers. Meanwhile, a class action lawsuit is in the works, to set up a fund to compensate pet owners who have suffered this tragedy. 

    What is the poison? So far, nobody knows. But it doesn't matter. It's time we sign Tracey's petition and spread the word as far and wide as possible. Make sure you know where you are buying your treats!

    So far Petco and PetSmart have removed all China-made treats. But Target has refused to do the same? Why?

    Please sign the petition right away. It reads:

    To:
    Target
    Dustee Jenkins, VP of Public Relations, Target
    Jeff Jones, EVP, Target 
    Petco and PetSmart just took the lead to remove all treats from China to protect our dogs and cats from future tragedies. Why won't Target do the same? PROVE that you care about pets – and that we can trust you! Stop selling pet treats made in China!

    Sincerely, 
    [Your name]

    Spread the word. Tell all your friends. And while you're at it, call Target corporate headquarters yourself and tell them to get their butts in gear and throw out this disgusting pet food.

    Later today, I'll be going to my favorite pet store in Great Barrington, MA -- called Pawsh -- to buy Poco's favorite chicken treats. But it makes my heart ache to think of all the heartbroken people who have lost their pets in this sad sad way!!

    (P.S. Pictured here are (top) my pupster, Poco, and my daughter Lindsay's adorable Milo.)





    Friday, June 20, 2014

    Hummingbird Mind


    There are two hummingbird feeders outside the window and

    every so often, one iridescent green bird comes soaring to the feeder, setting its long thin beak into the sugary water. Sometimes, one hummingbird will dive bomb another, trying to lay claim to the feeder.


    I sit in meditation near the feeders, aware of the birds as they come and go. I hear the soft thrumming of their wings as I try to stay present with the in-and-out of my breathing.

    But today, like so many days, I find my mind defying all attempts to quiet it down. My mind keeps bouncing from one thought to another, chattering endlessly. It skips from thought to thought faster than the hummingbird’s wings.

    It’s so difficult to meditate sometimes.

    Eventually, I get up off my meditation pillow and go into the house and get my camera. I sit on the grass watching the birds, camera poised on my knee. 

    But I have no luck with the photo either. (The one pictured here is one I took another time.)

    Maybe I will just try meditating again later. 


    Monday, June 02, 2014

    I Promise Not to Publish too many Baby pictures....

    I know I know, grandmothers go overboard sharing photos of their revered babies.

    I promise I won't overdo it.

    But I had to post this one. Because no matter how many times I look at it, it cracks me up. And in the spirit of sharing a good laugh and an incredible baby, here you go.



    When my daughter Jocelyn, Ronen's mom, posted this photo, she wrote:

    "Oh, the night I just had...."



    Friday, May 30, 2014

    Who Is Hans Hofmann?

    HE WAS A GERMAN- BORN ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONIST PAINTER.

    MY TEACHER SAYS I PAINT LIKE HE DID.

    I AM NOT SURE I AGREE.

    ONE THING WE ALL AGREED ON IN CLASS TODAY --

    IT IS VIRTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO TALK ABOUT PAINTING IN WORDS.

    HERE IS HANS HOFMANN'S WORK.

    Here is some of mine: