Monday, June 01, 2020

10,000 Words for God

I’m starting with a photo, because it will give you at least 10,000 words for God. Being Gina, I am now steering by starlight. There's no telling where I will land or what I will write. I might do a poem, or some unwieldy tome. Or I could just come straight to the point and tell you about the azure blue Tree Swallows that have taken up residence in the wooden bird boxes at the edge of the meadow. The swallows love resting on the head of our sitting Buddha. 

A few minutes ago, wearing my powder blue bathrobe, and remembering fondly my brave Leah, I stepped outside into the incredibly chilly May morning and sat down in the lounge chair gazing into the meadow. Another swallow lands on the shepherd's hook long enough for me to take a photo. 
My fingers are turning icy, but I am determined to sit and wait for the bird to return.  I have in mind this very special friend, Kellie Meisl, who stands so still for so long in her garden that the chickadees land on her head and pluck out strands of her long hair! And then there are the hummingbirds who come to her hands!
Did I tell you about the two goldfinches that dance and fly back and forth in front of the meadow?
Rich -- whose third grade bird was a goldfinch -- is meditating now and I am writing so that I might feel calm and now there is glorious bird show for us to behold.
THERE HAVE BEEN THREE DEATHS THIS WEEK. Dear God the pain. First David. Then Barbara and now Doreen. I am wrapping them and me and everybody else in violet violet flames. There is no explaining death. There is just a deep appreciation that you have to keep going, and you have to stay firmly locked in this moment and this one and this. I keep coming back to the violet flames that cut through fear and longing and anything else in the human realm that holds you back. The flames transmutes the human insecurity into the Divine.

When I am fully immersed in violet flames, singing the mantra:
"I am a Being of Violet Fire, I am the Purity of God's desire," then the fear and anxiety just dissolve. I am not afraid of death, mine or anyone else's, because we are all together forever in Divine love. My ancestors are with me. I can see forever. I can breathe in English and in Italian "Posso respire e rilassarmi ed ester felice in quest in ogni momento."
I can breathe and relax and be joyful in this and every moment.
Exactly one month ago, on May 1st, I wrote the chapter about my Great Grandmother Clementina Ciucci, who told her daughter, my Grandma Michelina, to vaccinate her 9 month old baby, Dante Antonio. Writing that chapter threw me into such deep sadness I had trouble recovering. When I think about that chapter I see it like a dark tombstone in the cemetery of Saint Bernhard's church in Tariffville, Connecticut, where so many of my relatives are buried.
But I am not going to write a depressing book about death.  I am writing a book to celebrate LIFE! I am writing a joyful remembrance of all the extraordinary family experiences I have loved over my lifetime. I am celebrating all the brothers of my mother who lived and did wonderful things with their lives: The second Dante, Dell, Louis, Claude, and Paul.  I am celebrating all of their lovely wives, my Aunts Joyce -- WHO IS STILL ALIVE WITH A 92ND BIRTHDAY TOMORROW, JUNE 3RD -- Aunt Marcella, Aunt Mary, Aunt Shirley and Aunt Anamae. I am celebrating all 17 of my first cousins, and their children and now their great grandchildren.
And they are just a few of my many many relatives on my mother's side of the family. To see all the Rotondo's in one place you have to see the beautiful family tree that my cousin Pat Rotondo designed. (Pat who is also celebrating a birthday tomorrow, June 2nd!)

I will end with a plea to the Great Divinity that I may always STAY GRATEFUL for the oodles of family I am blessed to have.

Sunday, May 31, 2020


Oh these days in May

how endless and fleeting are they,
the present moment
of virus time married as it is
to the spring awakening, 
such a precious season to 
revel in the now: yellow and
red fleshed
flowers and pink trees
falling like gauzy ballet skirts,
tiny purple violets in the lawn
sky blue forget me nots
and clusters of white buds on pear trees,
and bleeding heart
and grass so green
the color sinks right through your eyes
into your soul.

OH we still don't know
will we have the 
world made whole again,
our lives, our loved ones
who have sunk into videos
as they shelter away.
Here and there, and feeling scared
we tiptoe outside and meet loved 
ones at three arms of distance. 

Meanwhile, all around 
is the message:
be mindful,
and so I am,
especially in meditation

and yoga,
I bend in triangle pose
and breathe deep
I keep staring outside
the window and soon
comes joy in the
form of hummingbirds 
the birds’ wings a buzz
they hardly land in the blur
of sipping the sweet nectar
on the run and sporting their
ruby throats.

Ah and on the lawn is a plainer
house finch, gathered pink
at the crown and nibbling
and pecking the grass seed we had

And yesterday, during meditation,
the splendor of a bird the color 
of a ripe blueberry dancing 
across the meadow and 
sweeping up into a pine tree. 

The world has slowed
even as it is 
so trembling and alive.
What might be commonplace
those limestone boulders
outside the window
becomes fascinating now
that we are belted into
our houses.

The irony of this mindful
time is this tricky business 
of not thinking:
so frequently the paying
keener attention takes you very
squarely out of your mind
and into your mouth
the inside of the cheeks
the tongue
all over the body, bare yourself
feel the air there
stand naked in the dark
staring at the stars!

Cool? warm? let it all swarm 
everywhere over your tender 
skin. And even
when your hot steaming
shower splashing your shoulders
is finished keep staying in your limbs
feel blood running in your fingers and toes
and most of all BE ALIVE
pulsing in the right now, 
see how slow you can 
look closely at what is in your vision

Saturday, May 30, 2020


Today being my half-birthday, May 29th, 2020, I was feeling a little buoyant.  I sat down to meditate this morning in front of the open door of my study/studio. Looking out the door at the meadow was delightful. Hummingbirds kept landing on the feeder, and a small deer pranced across the thick grasses. Flowers fluttered in the navy flower pot.


The cool breeze kept blowing into the room. But I was warm sitting there in my nightgown and bathrobe.
So first I took off the bathrobe. But I was still feeling hot.
That’s when I shed my nightgown. There I sat, bare-chested, sitting in meditation feeling cool breeze sweep all over my upper body and head. It was indeed exhilarating!
I smiled. Mary had once suggested to me that I should step outside the house some night completely naked, letting energy from the stars and the moon descend upon me. So here now, I was taking the first step.
What followed made sense to me. I started to think about Mary’s instruction about purple flames. She has talked to me about purple flames off and on for years. Whenever I am up against some conundrum, especially with family or friends, she tells me to close my eyes and imagine the situation completely immersed in violet flames.
“The flames purify the situation and then return it to the human dimension,” Mary says.
These are not flames that burn in the true sense. They are a sacred form of energy that cleanse whatever needs purification in the human realm. Have an argument with your sister? Imagine her and yourself immersed in purple flames and the situation will resolve itself!

“These flames consume all human weakness and fear,” Mary says. “They destroy the consciousness of the ego and the lower human realm. It’s a sacred fire and it would never harm anyone. They’re a type of energy devoted to creating Divine purity.”
So lately I’ve been surrounding myself and loved ones in violet flames. Whenever I hear about a friend in trouble, or a family member facing a difficult situation or an illness, I close my eyes and imagine violet flames inside and all around them. “It’s all about achieving purity,” Mary says.

So I’ve decided that I am now going to start imagining this book in violet flames. I want to let go thinking about its outcome and just yield my will up to the divine. BEING GINA, will make that a lot easier.
I’ll just let the universe steer my writing.

Friday, May 29, 2020

To Be or Not to Be Leah!!

At exactly 10:43 pm on Wednesday, May 27, 2020, as she is lying in bed trying to fall asleep, it occurs to Leah that her name is all wrong for the book she is trying to write. For one thing, Leah means "weary" -- a condition she may have had at the start of the book.

But now that’s all changed. She’s got lots of energy to write.
Leah tries to think back to how and why she chose the name Leah in the first place.
Frankly, it just came to her as she was playing with the first few chapters. But all along Leah was a stand in for me, Claudia.
I’ve been thinking about why a writer might decide to use a name that’s not her own. It opens up the possibility that she can falsify details in the action.
That combined with writing in the third person gives the author a lot of leeway. She can put considerable distance between her narrative and the life she is living and writing about. In short, she can mix fiction with the “truth.”
Why not just write in the first person? I certainly have done that plenty of times in the past, but it isn't right for this project. I want to introduce more uncertainty, a bit of mystery, as the readers have to piece together what is driving the character. I am using first person here, as I want to be crystal clear about my intentions. I use this voice in my journalism and in much of my poetry.

But for Pearly Everlasting, the new book, I want to be able to play with the truth of the situations I am writing about. I want to be free to mix up different genres. I want to fly off every which way, on different narrative tangents in the story.
The question arises, so why do I use everyone else’s real name? I don’t have a good answer to that question. Everyone else seems more fixed in my mind. For that reason, I feel like they have to be truthfully displayed in the narrative. 
Earlier in the book, in a chapter called “The Name Game,” we learn that Leah, a character in the Old Testament, had a daughter named Dinah, a name similar to my own mother’s name, Dina.

In trying to decide what to name my protagonist, I could choose to do what I did in the last novel, Sister Mysteries, and call my protagonist Gina, which means “Queen” in Italian.  And it rhymes so nicely with Dina. 
It wouldn’t seem to be such a big deal what you name your characters, but actually characters’ names are a really important part of writing a book. Sometimes characters arise out of no more than a name. The name in effect names a core trait, or how they behave.
Writing about her novel, Animal Dreams, writer Barbara Kingsolver has said she derived a character out of the name Loyd. Specifically, she wanted to explore what it would do to a young man to grow up with a name that is not spelled in the conventional manner, i.e. Lloyd. What would losing that second L do?
Talking to Mary just now the name situation became crystal clear. 
I am Gina, as I was in Sister Mysteries. Of course I'm Gina, because she is the part of me connected to the Divine. Ginais a Queen of the Heavens.

“In my rolodex,” Mary said, “I have you down as Gina!”
Interesting how I had “forgotten” about Gina!
And it rhymes with “Dina.”
Thanks Be to God…AND to Mary!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Feeling Grateful and Choosing Joy!

This morning a small group of us gathered at the Jewish cemetery in Great Barrington, where my dear friend David King was laid to rest. It was a beautiful event and the weather was just Berkshire Mountains perfect, a blue sky and a slight breeze to keep us cool under the hot sun. David's wife, Sharon Flitterman-King, looked so lovely and smiled in spite of her deep sadness. Joining Sharon were David's daughter, Betsy, and her husband Bob Bergantino. Also present in spirit was Sandy Flitterman-Lewis, Sharon's beloved twin sister, who was kept from attending because of concerns over COVID.

David's gravesite sits on the edge of a magnificent forest, and right beside a strong young maple tree. I had the feeling that we could have just sat there, peacefully meditating, all day long.

Our Rabbi, Neil Hirsch, led the service. There were beautiful prayers, and a Native American poem. To end the service, each of us lifted a shovel full of soil and dropped it onto the pine casket.

You couldn't ask for a more beautiful funeral. All of us were feeling so full of love for David, who had a joie de vivre that was profound. No matter that he suffered so very much, having to endure the aftereffects of polio most all his life, he kept his good cheer right up until the end.

Because of COVID, David's memorial service will have to wait. But we are going to celebrate his life in our hearts right now!

Sharon gave me something very special that had belonged to David: a small wooden plaque that reads "Choose Joy." It's very very sweet and it's particularly appropriate because David always loved my adorable little dog, Poco!

This plaque will sit in my study on the window sill! And yes, Sharon and David, I will continue to choose joy every day as I know you have!

After sharing a little lunch with Sharon and David's daughter, Betsy, I came home and planted. And I watered the new flowers in my garden and all of my houseplants with Miracle Gro. It made me feel so alive to see the sprinkling light blue water being soaked up by the plants.

I took this photo a few minutes ago after I noticed how the sunlight made the fruit bowl glow! There is no end to the miracles once you start to see them.

I am so grateful for David and Sharon's friendship all these years! My heart glows with love for both of them.

Later, the sunset over the meadow was spectacular. It might be the best sunset we've ever seen here! Heaven was definitely celebrating David King's arrival!

Tuesday, May 26, 2020


  Before she woke, about 4:30 a.m., Leah’s dreams carried her someplace exciting like Italy where she was chiseling limestone and then entering the sculpture into an important art show. She was working alongside other artists including her dear cousin Pat Rotondo, an exquisite painter she respects so much.
Leah loves those art dreams, when absolutely everything seems possible.
About 5:25 a.m., Leah got out of bed and made a protein shake and coffee. Then she sat in meditation. She sat in the front yard under the new robin’s nest that rests in the V of the pergola rafters.
At some point she took a photo of the irises that once grew in Grandpa Angelo Ricci's yard. Those irises were magnificent and these in her yard are going to be just as magnificent when they bloom. Fortunately Leah's sister Karen was wise enough to take some of Grandpa's irises years back. Karen carried them to her home when she moved across country to California
And then she moved them back when she returned to build a home in Massachusetts. That's when Leah got smart and took some to her own home.
Now she is sitting in her study staring outside at the limestone boulders beside the forest. They rest there with such equanimity.
That word, equanimity, is one she wants to chew up and swallow. She wants her mood swings of late to come to rest like a hammock strung between two trees. Why is it so easy for some people, like her husband, just to live day after day without so much emotional turmoil?
Leah keeps pausing, because she can’t stop thinking about her dear friend David who passed the other day. He was a fantastic writer. His books sold well, and were restocked in many stores over and over again. Curiously, though, when she thinks about his success, it isn’t the fact that he sold a lot of books. It’s the fact that he lived a joyful life, in spite of the crippling effects of his polio. David suffered terrible pain year after year because of the polio, and used crutches and walkers and wheelchairs to get around. But he never let on to friends that he was in pain and he never let his disability get in the way of enjoying his life. With the help of his incredibly loving and energetic wife, Sharon Flitterman-King, David lived a full and robust life, traveling and enjoying all kinds of outings throughout the years.
On the morning David died, at just about the time he expired, Leah saw a bird the color of a ripe blueberry dance across the meadow and go sweeping up into a pine tree. She has never actually seen a bluebird in the yard before. What a miracle this glorious bird is. And what a blessing David’s life has been.
When Leah focuses on what is important in life, she always comes back to the same thing: she wants to live in peace and love, feeling joyful and alive. She wants to share that joy and love as often as she can and bring it to other people's attention in her writing and her art.
Yesterday, Leah wrote a poem called “Awakening.” And today, after she finished meditating, she wrote a second poem called “Stay the Moment.”
She is comforted by both these poems.
         This being the week of Memorial Day, she will spend time thinking about loved one who have passed: Mom, Dad, David. She will go slowly through the day, planting flowers and watching hummingbirds come to the new feeder. She will watch other birds come to the wooden birdbox her husband attached to a post at the edge of the meadow. It is a bluebird box, but it is attracting other birds instead.
No matter. She and her husband will enjoy whatever bird decides to settle in.

Monday, May 25, 2020


RELAX exactly where you are
make everything possible of this
very minute. STAY IN IT STAY IN IT
become something
of a sloth, sunning on a rock.

Even when you feel pain,
heart, gut, shoulder, back, head
heart heart heart
just close your eyes be steady
picture it if you must
but most of all just hold the pain in your
senses and don't put any name

Sitting on the couch, 
I light a candle and

feel the breath
cool air into the nostrils 
warm air out from the mouth 
cool and warm
breathe now
in slow slow slow slow
slow motion.

After so many minutes
breathing that way
I begin
move mindfully down
the hall
one foot after

All I need is a mid-
afternoon snack with my
cherished cup of 
turmeric and cacao tea.
I try to drink it
as slowly
as the
the spoon
onto my peanut butter
cracker that I eat
with my tea.

How blessed I am to
have an eternity of time

to drink my tea and coffee.
thick on my tongue.

I am getting younger
all the time, more
and more focused
on experiencing
the world the
way my darling 
baby granddaughter
Dani sees and feels and
tastes it -- a blessed
moment at a time.

Friday, May 22, 2020


On the Friday morning before Memorial Day, Leah has her study door open. She sees a bird the color of a ripe blueberry dance across the meadow and go sweeping up, headed for a tree. She has never actually seen a bluebird in the yard before. What a miracle this glorious bird is.

Almost exactly at the moment the bluebird appeared, and Leah started writing this story, Leah’s dear friend David C. King, 86, passed away in a nursing home in Great Barrington, MA. David was an amazing man, the award-winning author of more than 80 books, and one of the sweetest and kindest human beings ever to walk this earth. He lived for many years with the crippling aftereffects of polio, which he contracted after diving into an infected lake after playing a sweaty baseball game during high school. David suffered terrible pain year after year because of the polio, and used crutches and walkers and wheelchairs to get around. But he never let on to friends that he was in pain and he never let his disability get in the way of his life. With the help of his incredibly loving and energetic wife, Sharon Flitterman-King, David lived a full and robust life, traveling and enjoying all kinds of outings throughout the years.
Among his many many books is a stunning hardcover called First People: An Illustrated History of American Indians. Published in 2008, the book offers a magnificent story of many of the tribes of North America. Every page is a treasure chest full of fascinating information and glorious photos.
 Leah recalls the week she got her brand new puppy, Poco, in February of 2014. David and Sharon came for coffee and little Poco – so tiny at the time -- fit in David’s cupped hands. Poco always made David so incredibly happy. Even towards the end of his life, when his suffering worsened, David would smile and be cheerful whenever Poco appeared!
Leah's husband was so sad to learn of David's passing. He wrote to Sharon saying: "He was such a wonderful guy, a miracle of smiles despite a life of pain. And you were so much the love of his life!. Now that he's out of pain, let's celebrate all the joy he brought us!"

David will be sorely missed by so many people. But Leah keeps reminding herself that he has passed on to an infinitely more powerful realm. He is at peace, and he will be remembered as a consummately peaceful man. 
Just moments before Sharon notified Leah of David's passing, Leah purchased a wooden bluebird house, and a six foot pole. She will always think about David when she sees magnificent bluebirds take up residence in the meadow!
We love you so much David, and we are cheering for you, and we will always remember you for the incredible gentleman you were!

Monday, May 18, 2020


So can heavenly positive energy!!!!!!
May splendor greets Leah when she wakes up on Sunday morning.  She pours herself coffee and then steps outside in her blue bathrobe onto the back patio, where the hummingbirds are diving this way and that over the feeders. She selects four pansies.
each a different shade, brings them indoors and places them in a tiny glass with water. “These are for

you, Mom,” she says, as her mother always loved pansies.
She takes her coffee cup out to the glass table, and sets it down. Then she lifts both arms straight up in the air over her head, just the way energy healer Donna Eden suggests. Leaving her arms there for several minutes, her hands begin to tingle. She is receiving whatever wisdom and energy the heavens are beaming down at her. Her husband notices her outside and he joins her. They end with their hands on their hearts. And smiles on their faces.

The next morning, Leah gets up as the sky is just starting to lighten.  She goes to her meditation mat, and sits cross-legged in her bathrobe.  It's so warm outside that she opens the door. A light breeze picks up and the flame of her candle dances. She breathes.  
Out of nowhere, she whispers, “I want help."  And this reminds her of something Rebecca, her yoga and meditation teacher, suggested at the last class.
“As you sit in meditation,” she said quietly, “just ask for help.  Try to make it a kind of intention, let the request go up with the smoke of your candles into the Universe.”
Leah had wanted to call out, “And then what happens?” 
But sitting here today, she doesn't need to say or ask anything. She is content just to sit. All of it, every single thing around her, is energy. That's what all the modern gurus say. 
Recently, Leah listened to a podcast featuring Caroline Myss, the famous energy healer and medical intuitive, who says that we should imagine that we are given 100 units of energy each day. It's up to each one of us to decide how we are going to spend that energy. 
Myss says it's important that people understand that ever since 1945, when the nuclear age began, we have had a radically different conception of God. God is ENERGY and energy makes up absolutely everything in the Universe. "This is no longer an off-planet God," she says. "The Divine is in everything around us, in our blood and bones, in all of life. We are walking through and living in the Divine at every single moment."

Leah glances out to the garden. The bleeding heart has started to bloom, and it's already two feet tall. The daffodils bend in the breeze. 
She continues to breathe. Her mind keeps floating back to what Myss said about being a "co-creator" with God. How we think, how we speak, are both of the greatest importance, Myss says. "Every thought is a prayer. Every single thing you say is a prayer. Every word is a sacred act of creation."
Listening to Myss, Leah felt reassured. For one thing, Leah realizes that she isn't the only person who feels frightened. When asked how people should pray, Myss replied, "You say 'I'm scared to death. I need to get through this, whatever this is. And I don't know how. So please God reach me in Dany way you can. I have no restrictions.'"
And she said all this before the pandemic!
After meditating, Leah pours herself a glass of ice water, writes down what Myss said in her journal. She translates the last quote into Italian.

"Dici che sono spaventate a morte, ho bisogno di superare tutto ciò che è e non so come. Per favore, Dio mi raggiunga in ogni brutta giornata. Non ho restrizioni."

She thinks about her book. She wonders if she is really writing a book. It's taking twists and turns that she never expected.

But suddenly Leah is flooded with a warm certainty that nothing she writes is wasted.