Friday, July 10, 2020

LEAH ONE, CIRCLING BACK ON HERSELF

EDITOR’S NOTE: I wrote the PROSE that follows ("LEAH BLOCKED AND IN SHUDDERS") 
in December, 2019, and while it felt delightful 
to write it, IT SEEMED AT THE TIME THAT IT CARRIED ME NOWHERE. There wasn’t the least bit 
of forward motion!
BUT NOW I REALIZE THAT ISN'T TRUE!


SUDDENLY THERE WAS LEAH AND LEAH LED ME SOON ENOUGH BACK TO GINA….the voice
of my heart, the voice of my most recent novel, Sister Mysteries

Gina is the voice of the

SACRED 
NOW

the voice
of more 
and more
of my poetry.

Gina is also
the voice of

this novel, "PEARLY EVERLASTING"


This novel HAS LED ME DEEPER AND DEEPER INTO THE NOW 

WHERE TIME IS ALWAYS IN THE NOW YOU CAN ONLY EVER BE IN THE NOW NOW NOW

BUT ALSO

GOD IS ALSO ALWAYS IN THE NOW ALWAYS AT YOUR ELBOW LOVE HER HIM HER HIM IT

deeper and deeper into

THE

PAST TO MOM AND DAD 


AND ALL OF MY 



ancestors, “I miei antenati” and TO THE EXTRAORDINARY LOVE THAT I FEEL FOR MY FAMILY 
AND MY HERITAGE AND YES, to my learning Italian. And now, this journey has led me to see

time
collapsing
and stories
going
around 
and 
around
in
circles
connecting 
one with another
one with each other.

So here you go, 

NOW

the story that started it all:



I. LEAH BLOCKED AND IN SHUDDERS
The coffee’s gone cold but no matter. She holds the turquoise cup in both hands. It’s past two

in the morning and still

now
she hasn’t gotten anywhere in three hours.

Not true. She has the lede. But the Sunday desk is expecting 
her goddamn piece by noon on Friday. For the Sunday magazine. That means in less than 
24 hours she needs to produce something like 2500 goddamn words. And instead of writing, 
she is sitting here shuddering in the light of the lovely stained glass lamp that her mother, Dena,

made for her. She never appreciated her mother's glass making enough, She touches the lamp 

NOW


and it is caked in dust she MUST clean it but first she must finish this freakin' story so here it is:


"ORCHIDS ORCHIDS EVERYWHERE"

When Shelley Lefkowitz decided to grow her first orchid in February of 2013, she was sure of absolutely
 nothing. She hadn’t even taken a book from the library. And yet, here she is, some six years 
later, and she’s the captain of a half million dollar empire, poised to move into a flower “campus” – 
her word -- with six gigantic greenhouses overflowing with orchids.
            Leah pauses. All in all it’s a competent start. So what’s the problem? Why can’t she go forward 
the way she has countless times before? She's been a goddamn reporter for god knows three decades

NOW.

Something is going on and Leah is hard pressed to understand it.
She likes Shelley. Indeed, she and the orchid grower had had an immediate heartfelt connection. 
And she loves the idea that this silver-haired midget of a woman has, without any experience, 
launched an enterprise that went from zero to 100 so fast that she’s landed in Forbes magazine.
            Leah types:

             So how did this miracle occur? You can ask her all kinds of questions, but Lefkowitz
            is hard pressed to answer in ordinary English. She prefers what she calls her 
           ‘vocabulary of light.’ 

            Take for example this question: how did you come up with the idea of growing orchids?
            Shelley smiles as she answers: “I was meditating on grey trees one winter day that February. 
I was just sitting there very calmly in my living room drinking a cup of coffee. And then I picked an 
angel card off the top of the pile and it asked, ‘What Do You Desire?’ 

I closed my eyes and suddenly I was sitting in a warm pale blue zone that hovered over my heart. I 
started yearning for warm pink flesh. Then I realized I was staring at that pink flesh and it was a deep 
rose-colored flower. And then there was a second blossom. And a third. And they were all sitting in a 
greenhouse, steamy, the glass all fogged up. And soon enough I was sitting cross-legged surrounded 
by an ocean of orchids. All I knew was that I was the one who had to grow them.”
            Leah glances at the Forbes clipping: an itty bitty Shelley is sitting cross-legged on a table in 
one of the mammoth greenhouses. She has an impish smile on her face. And surrounding her are 
dozens and dozens of orchids of every imaginable color.
            Leah inhales. Her hands are stiff and her fingers are cold and trembly. She rubs them, hands 
and fingers, together. She is full of anxiety. Then she does what the therapist Mary told her to do. She 
closes her eyes and taps on her forehead, and then next to her eyes. She taps on all the points Mary 
described to her. And at the very end, she imagines a massive ball of sparkling light right over her head.
 And when she breathes in, she brings the light into her nose, her mouth, her heart. She lets it seep 
through her chest, fill her lungs, her shoulders, her arms; she watches it flow right into the tips of 
her fingernails. 
            She opens her eyes. Smiles. Types: To understand the way this orchid empire arose, 

you have to suspend your disbelief. Or at least I did. You have to learn another language. SHE THINKS
ABOUT THE FACT THAT HER MOTHER DENA AND HER GRANDMA MISH SPOKE FLUENT 
ITALIAN ALL THE WHILE SHE WAS GROWING UP, SHE USED TO SIT IN THE KITCHEN OF HER 
BELOVED GRANDMOTHER'S HOUSE LISTENING LISTENING LISTENING TO THIS BEAUTIFUL
LANGUAGE and absorbing it into her soul.
She takes a sip of cold coffee from the ocean-colored mug she and Tommy bought in the 
Caribbean. When she reads what she last wrote it hits her: She has to write this piece in the 
first person. She has to lay out the way she herself went from doubter to believer.
She has never written a first-person story for the newspaper before. Well hell, maybe it’s time. 
SHE YAWNS. IT'S TIME TO STOP

it's 4:34 a.m.

And NOW , she happens to be exhausted.


Thursday, July 09, 2020

WHATEVER HEAVEN OFFERS, a poem
This is how the dream feels:
simple but full
of a strange
mystery too.
I keep reaching into some
kind of bottle or box
for new

blue contact lenses.
I lay them in my eyes
to see
the color of a pale sky.
I am seeing myself 
as a teacher of writing again too.

When I wake up, absolutely
everything feels possible.

I am skywriting
I am rewiring
I am uncluttered and
bathed in
rays of buttery light.

I tell Mary about the
dream and she says
think about this:
contact has a double meaning:
it describes the lenses yes
but it is also the condition
of new touching.

YOU ARE TOUCHING THE NOW!
You have fresh vision in a
blue that is

BRAND NEW
cleansing and purifying.
It’s a wash that makes you
ready to deliver
whatever heaven
offers up.

NOW.

Editor's note: I decided this morning to scroll back through past blog posts to see what would 
come up. This one ran on February 2, 2019, a year before I started writing the new book, 
"Pearly Everlasting." It feels like it could be any moment, RIGHT IN THE NOW. Today, 
July 9, 2020, we are starting the Journal Discussion Group on Zoom. There are six amazing 
women in the group. It's exciting to think what this group might produce and share. I want to 
tell the group that I rely heavily on my journal for many reasons, but perhaps the most important
is to reinforce my SPIRITUALITY AND MY impulse to stay in the NOW.



No comments:

Monday, July 06, 2020

Who Was My Great Grandfather's Father?

Despite the years of research that my cousin Donna Ricci has devoted to searching for facts about my Orzo ancestors, she hasn't been able to come up with any concrete information about who fathered the family patriarch, my great grandfather, Pasquale Orzo. We know that his mother, Filomena Scrivano (Pera), was unmarried when she gave birth to him on November 3, 1870. The municipal officials gave him the name "Orzo." But who was the father?

My grandmother, Albina Orzo Ricci, and her sisters -- Pasquale's children -- were reluctant to talk about their father. His illegitimate status was the source of great shame for them, and thus, it was a subject to be avoided or talked about in whispers.

However, there were a few stories passed down by the sisters about who fathered their father. It seems as though the sisters wanted to believe that the man in question was of noble birth, or at least, that he had money. Donna writes about this:


"The family narratives regarding Pasquale's father that were passed down through the sisters to their children vary slightly, but there are some consistencies. The heart of the story was that Filomena was employed as a servant by the [man's] family at a summer home in Paola on the ocean. Pasquale's father was not from Paola, but either Florence or Naples." One sister suggested that the father "was a member of the Swiss Guard and a [tall] horseman who traveled frequently." An article of his clothing was kept for many years by Pasquale's wife, Caterina. My grandmother's youngest sister, Natalie, told the story that this man of noble means "was back in Filomena's life later on -- possibly marrying her -- and setting her up in business."

It is understandable -- and yet sad -- that Pasquale's descendents felt the need to think he wasn't born of humble peasant stock, but rather, a strapping nobleman from a northern region of Italy.. Perhaps the shame of Pasquale's illegitimate birth didn't sting quite so much if he had a father from a higher social station.

Still the shame that my great grandfather must have endured growing up must have been enormous. In 2012, Donna and her husband Dave, traveled to Southern Italy so they could track down the birth records for Pasquale, and his wife, Caterina Amendola. They encountered prejudice even then!

Donna sent me an email recalling the trip to Paola to retrieve Pasquale's birth record:


"We visited the municipio [in San Lucido] to obtain Caterina's birth record and the woman was just so helpful and kind. However, when we moved onto the municipio in Paola trying to obtain Pasquale's birth record we encountered two very difficult women. We had difficulty convincing them that I was his great granddaughter--even though I had your dad's Orzo family tree with me and showed them that I was a direct descendant and should be entitled to see it. They eventually found the record but told us it wasn't him because the birth date was off by a few days. Dave could see it in the book on their desk and knew it was Pasquale, but when we asked to see it anyway, they ridiculed his name (she made motions of eating soup suggesting "Orzo" was a food and laughed), and said in Italian the record was "for our eyes only" - I wasn't entitled to see it. 


"It was our last day there and we had no choice but to leave empty handed. Dave was so disappointed not to get the record. For me, it drove home the humiliation that these people were capable of 150 years later. Just think what he must have gone through as a child in that town and country. In the end, six weeks later, at two o’clock in the morning, Dave found the record online. The number of online records for towns in southern Italy back in 2012 was miniscule and it's not much better today. Just luck that someone decided to scan those old leather books back then.



"We walked through countless cemeteries looking for relatives (found none) and walked through the town centers of Paola and San Lucido and were struck by how empty they were. It was as if entire towns were abandoned like in a horror movie. Eighty percent of the turn of the century Italian immigrants were from southern Italy. When you go to those towns now, you see how much they lost.  I look at what Pasquale had to overcome in his home country and how grateful I am for whatever part Filomena was able to play in being sure he survived. She must have been so proud of him knowing how he had prospered with his family in the U.S. when she sent that picture to him in 1919. She must have been in touch with him to get him that picture. That alone tells a story. I haven't given up on looking for more info on what happened to her and if we have family from other children she may have had. I plan to use my stimulus money to try to take my search a step further with a professional genealogist. Fingers crossed I find something new, but genealogy, like writing, can take a very long time!"
At a time in history when it's no big deal to have a baby without being married, it may be hard to imagine what our great grandfather endured (and also what his mother endured!) Their lives could not have been easy. And it must have been very hard for my grandmother and her sisters to live with the shame.
I'm just so glad that my cousin has had so much curiosity and determination to pursue the truth about our great grandparents all these years.

And I'm just so glad that my great great grandmother's last name, Scrivano, translates as "scribe" in English. I am so glad she is inscribing herself here!

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Finding God in the Now

There is a tiny chipmunk right outside the window scurrying around the thick dark mulch in the new garden plot. I have not purchased any plants for this garden yet. But I know that it will eventually be a beautiful garden. There is something about the fact that it is carved out between three boulders. It is beautiful without flowers. It is something magical for me just to sit here, contemplating its outline. Studying its emptiness.

Sometimes it's hard to be in the moment. We have doubts, or anxieties, or disappointments or fears about the future or money or our health or the health of somebody we love. We feel lonely or longing or deep sadness over those we have lost. But if we can take a big breath and just stay with whatever these difficult feelings are, we can move into an amazing realization of life at its most basic level. We can begin to feel the UNIMAGINABLY POWERFUL ENERGY of the NOW. Eckert Tolle writes endlessly about the NOW. I've read and reread and reread his book. I've copied down quotes.

I just opened one of my recent journals and came to this Tolle quote:


page 130, The Power of Now

"When you can feel the inner body clearly as a single field of energy, let go, if possible, of any visual image and focus exclusively on one feeling. If you can, also drop any mental image of the physical body. ALL THAT IS LEFT IS AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING SENSE OF THE PRESENCE OR 'BEINGNESS,' and the inner body is felt to be without a boundary."

Tolle wants us to stay connected to that inner body at all times. "When every cell of your body is so present that it feels vibrant with life, and when you can feel that life every moment as the joy of BEING, then it can be said that you are free of time."

I can never say enough about the NOW. I try and I try and I try. I write all kinds of poetry and take a forever number of moment by moment photos. I say things like this: How cool the air feels on my skin. How dazzling the blue of the sky can be. How grateful I am that I can breathe. Think. Talk. Smile. Hear. Walk. See. Write. How grateful I am for all of this, and for all the love in my life. All the bounty of blessings.

Mary says it, over and over again. STAY GRATEFUL. STAY IN THE POWER OF THE DIVINE. STAY IN YOUR HEART. Because GOD IS LOVE.



I will keep trying to stay in the NOW. Because it is in the NOW that I encounter the unimaginably powerful force of the Universe. The Force of NOW we can call God.
No matter that I try and try
I cannot ever really be
completely
in the BEING
or can I?

Sitting here
in this exquisite
cool morning
MOMENT
in my
WHITE BATHROBE
and my writing nightgown**
just waiting for
another hummingbird
to come along.


**I ordered this grey nightgown 

on-line not realizing that the fabric was covered with "a few of my favorite things, including coffee, fireflies, climbing mountains, sleeping under the stars, and
MORNING MEDITATION!!!!"


Sunday, June 28, 2020

SWADDLED BY LOVE

NOTE: I should have posted this poem on May 11, 2020 when I wrote it. BUT THEN AGAIN WHEN I THINK ABOUT THE NOW AND HOW TIME IS ALWAYS PRESENT IT DOESN'T MATTER THAT IT'S SO MANY WEEKS LATER! Sitting here today and reading it out loud to my husband I see that i really HAVE COME FACE TO FACE WITH SADNESS.  I really did/do let love envelope me.
I have Mary my spiritual therapist to thank for all these years of instruction: live in your heart, stay in the present moment and wrap yourself and all others in love. And NOW as I try to post this poem, another coinkydinky occurs: the computer screen pops up with a message that Word has had to close because of some malfunction. Another overload of the electronics in my life! This is the screen I faced:



I AM GRATEFUL TODAY FOR THIS SCREEN AND FOR EVERY MIRACLE THAT HAS BEEN HAPPENING SINCE I FIRST STARTED NOTICING THEM AND ESPECIALLY SINCE I STARTED WRITING THIS BOOK IN FEBRUARY 2020, FOUR MONTHS AGO.

So here now is the poem:



I am grateful today for this poem, which is kind of an experiment,
You might call it MY NOSEDIVE
into expressive writing,
I’m desperate to see if 
I can finally stop fighting.
If I can surrender up
my 
absolute 
terror
of the big D!
No No, not death
But DEPRESSION.
Can I use this writing to
to yield up to DIFFICULT EMOTIONS
USING DIVINE POWER?
Right now
Write in this moment
I am determined to allow in
All the fear I’ve been
running away from
all these years.
And all the sadness
I’ve tried to stuff under
The pillow of my heart.

Before today, I really
THOUGHT IF I JUST RAN FAST 
ENOUGH AND WROTE
LONG 
and OFTEN ENOUGH
Somehow I could keep
Pain and sadness at bay.
I would not 
KNOW THE PAIN 
OF 
THE FLESH OF
DEAD FLOWERS
AND THE ABSENCE 
OF DEAR LOVED ONES.
I WOULD BE SPARED
UTTER LOSS AND DESPERATION.


I’ve been working so
hard to deny it.
SADNESS. 
But now I know that
I can fight and fight and fight 
Morning noon and night
And 
I can write and write and write
a hundred thousand
novels
and 14 million poems
and still I must at
some point come home
to the death of joy
and life and laughter.

After eight weeks of isolation
I woke up a few days ago 
FEELING DEEPLY DEEPLY LONELY.
Depressed, and ANGRY dammit, missing
My family and friends.
Every time I imagine
hugging one of my children
warm to my chest,
I FEEL DESPERATE.
Every time I see my
new granddaughter
DANI on a video,
Her little mouth,
Her teeth, 
her chubby cheeks wet
from dribbling. I yearn
to hold her
on my lap
and kiss hers and Ro’s foreheads
and their
blessed tiny faces.
OH GOD HOW LONG
will this isolation last? 
At those times, my patience evaporated,
My unhappiness seems endless
and downright dangerous. 
LIKE IT WILL SWALLOW ME UP!

That’s why I am writing this poem
So that I can face it: 
I have to own my sadness.
The squeeze of the heart
And the gaping hole in the chest.
OH GOD IT IS RAINING NOW
BRING ON THE DOWNPOUR
CRASH THE LIGHTNING
AND THUNDER,
While I let my tears water 
My face and heart.
I AM FEELING THE LIQUID PAIN
RUNNING UP AND DOWN
MY ARMS AND LEGS.
But I am also feeling a dribble
NO, A WASH OF WARM LOVE
IN MY CHEST
AND I CAN HEAR IT TOO.
I CAN FEEL LOVE WHISPERING
AND NOW ROARING
IN MY EARS.
MY FEAR IS REAL BUT SO
IS MY LOVE 
IT SWADDLES
MY HEART.
I will move very slowly
through this day
I WILL KEEP THE LOVE 
CUDDLING UP THE
FEAR.
I CAN DO THIS:
I CAN WRAP 
MY DESPERATION UP
I CAN
PLACE
IT
HERE
 IN A 
GOLDEN
SHAWL
OF 
DIVINE
LIGHT AND LOVE.
MY GAUZY PROTECTION
STRETCHES 
FROM HEAVEN
ABOVE
TO EARTH
BELOW.
So here now
I am going 
VERY
VERY
SLOWLY
I am 
GOING 
TO 
STAY
IN 
THIS 
DIVINELY
SACRED
NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW
AH
SEE HOW NICE IT FEELS TO WRITE THAT!
SEE HOW NICE IT FEELS
TO FEEL THAT LOVE
IN EACH
AND
EVERY
MOMENT?
I VOW
NOW: 
I AM GOING
TO
FEEL
MORE 
AND
MORE
ENERGY

I’m going to 
EXPAND 
PRESENCE
AND
COMFORT
AND
LIGHT.
I FEEL 
SOME
IN MY
FACE 
--SMILE –
I FEEL IT FLOODING 
MY ARMS
MY 
LEGS
AND TOES
AND
ANKLES
AND
NECK
AND 
WRISTS
AND
EVEN THESE FINGERS
AND MY NOSE.
WRITING THIS 
EXPERIMENTAL POEM IS WORKING!
THE PAIN IS STILL COMING ROARING 
UP FROM MY 
MY GUT BUT 
RESTING HERE
IN MY CHEST
LOVE IS SWADDLING

ME
==COMPLETELY==
THANK YOU GOD!

AMEN!

May 11, 2010