Sunday, June 29, 2008

Hope is a thing with feathers....

By Judi England

It all started in the first days of June. A few extra twigs appearing in my front door wreath. A quick glimpse of wings darting away from the house when someone approached. Within days the nest was finished - then came the eggs - first two - then another - then a few more - 5 in all. Small and fragile and absolutely beautiful. Not robin's egg or Tiffany's gift box blue, more subtle than those - with little flecks of brown. The Finches had selected us as landlords/trustees for their next family.

That's when the worry started.

That nest looked like a bit of a cob job - how would it support babies? The nest was on my front door - something that opened and closed pretty regularly. And the mailbox was there too. Every time there was human movement within a few feet Mom flew away. Our guess was this was a behavior designed to lure predators away. But we worried. Would she come back? Would too much activity make her abandon her quest for parenthood? If she did leave for good how would I live with the guilt?

But maybe the finches knew more than we gave them credit for.

It was actually a pretty good spot. One of those man-made/natural world interfaces that can serve both. The wreath was a very sturdy foundation. It backed up to glass so we could keep tabs from inside or outside the house. The roof overhang blocked rain, strong winds, and baking sun. Our huckleberry tree was busy making tons of fruit for easy pickens. There was a a bird bath and as homeowners we were a pretty quiet pair.

And so we waited and watched and ran interference. Like the time we had old furniture to move out and new furniture to move in. I made sure the door was opened only once, and held it steady lest we create a mini-omelette. Our mailman had already identified the nursery and offered to drop our daily delivery in another location. He's a "good egg".....

And we waited.

And then they arrived - a few at a time. Homely, reptilian looking little things with bluish skin and bright yellow beaks and a few springs of straggly looking stuff that bore no resemblance to feathers. How anything so small and vulnerable could survive was a mystery. We would do "baby bird patrol" each day to monitor the progress of our winged god-children. I remember one morning my guy noticed that the nest was very still - no open beaks, no wiggling around - still. I remember how sad that made me feel, how disappointed, as if a promised gift never materialized.


But they were fine, and spent the next couple of weeks growing up, getting cute, and preparing to leave. Finch parents and human occupants reached an unspoken understanding that close observation was OK a few times a day. How neat it was to see those tiny bright black eyes looking back at me. They grew these long tufted feathers over their eyes so they looked like little crazy mad scientists.


The nest was deconstructing itself more and more each day, almost as if it were timed to give added incentive for the first flight. I wondered if human parents whose offspring never seem to want to"leave the nest"could take a cue. We put a blanket under the nest just in case the first attempts didn't quite cut it.

So they've gone now..but not far. All seven come to the feeder in the backyard, like old friend dropping by for a visit. We are sort of thanking each other for the brief intimacy of our shared experience.

If you've read my other blogs you know I'm not a big fan of plane flights. But in my very best dreams I fly - solo - under my own power - coasting and gliding and looking down over the world. It is the most wonderful feeling of freedom.

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chilliest land
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me. -
Emily Dickinson -

Peace - Judi England, RN, LMT Kripalu Yoga Instructor, 6/29/08

P.S. If you want the right gear to attract birds to your home, go talk to the people at Backyard Birds (926 Troy-Schenectady Road, Latham, New York- Peter Harris Plaza). They are friendly, the shop is beautiful, and they know way more about birds that I ever will!

Writer Judi England is a massage therapist in Albany, New York. This piece appeared first on the Holistic Health site on the Albany Times Union blog page.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

How do you heal a broken heart?

By Claudia Ricci

What a question, huh? Perhaps, though, it is the most important question of our lives. We all suffer heartache at one time or another. We have all lost loved ones — mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, best friends, and so tragically, children.

Yesterday morning, an email arrived in my in-box and my heart has been aching like crazy ever since. A friend’s daughter, in her mid-twenties, was killed last Saturday in Argentina after she was hit by a bus. She died instantly. Shahnaz, brilliant and beautiful and so deeply loved by her adoring parents, was a graduate of Columbia University. She was vacationing in Argentina with her fiance just before heading off to law school and he to medical school.

I have had my share of heartache, and I have faced a life-threatening illness, but honestly, when I think about losing one of my three children, a deep and terrifying chasm opens up in my chest. I think about my friend this morning and the gaping, endless hole of darkness into which she and her husband have been dropped and I stop breathing.

After meditating this morning, I found myself doing something I used to do daily when I was in treatment for lymphoma six years ago. I stood at the kitchen counter with my greasy pastels and colored pencils, my glue and scissors and stacks of colored paper. I stood there in my bathrobe making collages. I drew wild pictures of big red aching hearts. I drew hearts clinging to green trees. I drew hearts standing alone. Hearts dangling in the sky.

Why do such a thing?

I think because, it made my heart hurt just a little bit less.

Last week, I had the great privilege of going to a conference in Denver called “The Power of Writing.” Organized by Kathleen Adams, whose specialty is journal-writing and therapy, the conference brought together some 350 writers, art therapists, creative expressionists and others (including a research scientist!!) all devoted to the notion that writing and journaling and ARTWORK, can mend the heart. I brought my own aching heart to the conference (oh, it’s a long story, but more than anything, I am in a protracted dance of agony over my very empty nest.)

The best thing to come out of the conference wasn’t, for me, the notion that writing is healing. Writing of course is healing, but lately, it has become clear to me that writing is just not enough. I need more. I need color. I need strong visual images. I need paint and photos. I need to stare at beauty.

Beauty comforts the heart. Art heals the soul.

But that’s not the only thing I realized. I need people.

Healing the heart starts, and continues, when we open ourselves up to love. When we open ourselves to other people, all people.

I met a couple of incredible people at the conference. One woman, Mary Durning, from Maryland, was my writing partner in an amazing workshop held in a park set in the spectacular snow-covered Rocky Mountains. What happened in that workshop (we each were assigned to make friends with a tree) was nothing short of a miracle. (I will write about that workshop --and another amazing TREE STORY-- in a future blog entry!) For now, though, let me just say that Mary Durning is a social worker whose background is pediatric oncology, meaning, she’s worked with children suffering from cancer. I am a cancer survivor. By the time Mary and I had finished working together, I was in tears!!! And we were connected in an astonishing way.

I met another woman too. Actually, she was someone I had met before. Her name is Anjana Deshpande, and she is a poetry therapist in Philadelphia. On Friday, the last day of the conference, I slipped into one of the last open seats in a very crowded room, to hear the morning speaker. I took a sip of my coffee and turned my head to the left, and there was a woman staring at me. I stared back. Incredibly, it was Anjana, a woman I had met at another conference four years ago. A woman who had talked -- and cried -- me through much heartache after my illness. Stunned and delighted, we stood up and hugged. Later, over lunch, we caught up (she’s getting her MSW and is working with Iraqi war veterans who are suffering from PTSD, an issue that I had independently decided that I too wanted to pursue.)

Well, so, what does all this have to do with the heart? Everything.

Life can deliver us stunning blows. Sometimes we don’t know how we can possibly go forward, how we can deal with the loss and heartache we feel. Sometimes life seems so fragile and tenous that it is terrifying. When we feel this kind of tragedy and incredible heartache, how do we move forward?

By opening ourselves. By stopping. By breathing in, very slowly. And out. And by focusing on our hearts. By filling them with love for others. By dwelling in those moments of love. By celebrating the love we have, in our families, with our friends, even with “strangers” we meet briefly at a conference.

Yes, we sometimes wince with pain. We cry our hearts out. And then, we take a tissue from a loved one and we wipe our tears. And we take a crayon, maybe, or a paintbrush, or a camera, and we start, slowly, making art, to heal.

P.S. the image that appears here is a digital photo of one of the collage paintings I did back in 2002 when I was in treatment.

Monday, June 16, 2008

A blue tree sees me through misery

By Claudia Ricci

I have a huge blue maple tree in my front yard. As I explain why it is blue, I will ask you to keep an open mind.

The story of the blue tree involves faith. And the belief in the power each of us has to heal. If you’ve read anything about the so-called placebo effect, you will know what I’m talking about. If you are told that you are taking a very potent medicine, one that will cure you, then oftentimes it works, even if that medicine is just a sugar pill.

The mind is a very powerful thing when it comes to controlling the body.

OK. So the tree in question is a giant old maple that used to tower over my front yard, not far from my lovely old white farmhouse.

Anyone who knows me know that I have a deep affinity for maple trees. I wrote my first novel, called Dreaming Maples, after I “saw” the main characters acting out their heartbreak beneath a set of imaginary maples.

The key maple tree in my book is one I referred to as the Mother Maple, because it was a pivotally-important tree for my characters (the novel is a mother-daughter story.)

Anyway, the tree in my front yard served as a model for this tree that inhabited my mind. I spent five years writing Dreaming Maples, and a few more years revising it. So I have what you might call a close relationship to this tree in my yard.

OK, so this is the part that’s a little hard to explain.

On a warm night in July of 2003, I had to leave my home to drive to New York City. I had to go to Sloan Kettering for a biopsy. It was the second summer in a row that I was dealing with cancer (Hodgkin’s Disease, a type of lymphoma.) The doctor at Sloan Kettering had told me a week or so before that I had a “new” spot of cancer, and that I absolutely had to have a stem cell transplant, a rather drastic procedure that scours your immune system.

The thing about the stem cell is that it can kill you just as easily as it can cure you. And since I was feeling perfectly healthy, and had been for months, I was understandably reluctant to submit to the stem cell treatment.

OK, so I left the house with my husband under a perfectly clear blue sky that evening in July. I don’t remember if I was crying or not as I left, but I know I had terrific heartache. It was easily one of the scariest nights of my entire life.

My children stayed behind. My children are the ones who reported the weird episode with the maple in the front yard. Within minutes of our departure, the kids reported that the blue sky disappeared and in its place, a vicious lightning storm whipped up out of absolutely nowhere.

“Mom,” my daughter told me the next day, “It was the strangest thing I ever saw. You left, and everything was absolutely fine one minute and then the next thing we knew, lightning and thunder came crashing down, and then, all of a sudden the tree just collapsed.”

Just as fast as the storm hit, it vanished. The maple, a tree that had seen a century of storms, was split in two, the top half fallen across the yard.

When I got back home the next day, there were giant green boughs lying like mammoth arms across the lawn. I started to cry. To me, it was though that giant motherly tree I loved so much was reaching her arms out to comfort and protect me. She had seen me the night before get into the car and drive away, to do one of the hardest things I’d ever had to do. It was though she was calling out to me, throwing her biggest boughs half way across the yard. She had laid herself, her life, right down there for me in the front yard.

To honor that sacrifice, I decided to paint the remaining portion of the tree blue.

I hired a guy to come in to saw up the biggest boughs, and then I went to Home Depot to buy a gallon of sky blue paint. I asked the salesman behind the counter what kind of paint I should buy for “outdoor use.”

“Well, so, ma’am, what are you painting?” he asked me.

I scrunched up my face. “I am...painting...a tree,” I said, hoping he wouldn’t laugh.
He smiled. He sold me the right paint, and a long handle for my roller.

Over the next few days, I painted. Once I’d climbed as high as I dared on the stepladder, I phoned a young man in town and he donned a leather harness and hoisted himself up 30 feet and swung there, right above the main road, and he painted the very top of the tree blue. The neatest thing about the blue color of the tree is that it is exactly the same color as the sky, so that if you look up, the top of the broken tree seems to disappear into the ethos.

When my sister arrived from California, she was so moved by my project that she asked if she could help me add a little extra color to the bottom of the tree. Together, we used the roller to add sea green and sun yellow to the tree, using leftover paint we found in the basement.

Painting that tree helped me face the trauma I had to deal with that summer. It reinforced my faith in all kinds of ways. It helped me find the courage to stand up to the doctor at Sloan and say, “Look, I don’t care if you think I need a stem cell transplant, I disagree, and I want to get a second opinion.” (He was very arrogant and insisted I didn’t need a second opinion! "Why do you need one? I'm the national expert in this area.")

Painting that tree gave me the strength to go to Dana Farber in Boston to see a second oncologist.

The night before I went to Boston, I held a healing ceremony beneath the blue tree. I invited my closest friends and told them to bring drums and shakers. We sat in a circle as the sun went down. We lit candles. We sang. We banged on drums. We asked for healing. We offered up ears of corn. We read Native American poetry. We prayed for health, for me and others. We even had a woman there – a professional photographer— who insisted on capturing the event in pictures.

When the evening ended, I felt at peace. I knew I had to go to see another oncologist the next morning. I knew I was probably going to get the same message from him that I had gotten from the doctor at Sloan, that is, that I needed the stem cell transplant, that I would have to be in the hospital for months, and face the dangers associated with the most invasive high-intensity chemotherapy possible.

Despite this looming reality, however, the healing ceremony beneath the blue tree filled me with peace, and a deep certainty that I would be cared for. That somehow, some way, I would be healed. I felt I had the arms of all of my friends, and my blue Mother Maple, supporting me.

The next day, the most amazing thing in the world happened. Sometimes I still cannot believe what happened that day.

My sister, my husband, my daughter and I drove to Boston, and when we finally got in to the examining room to see the doctor at Dana Farber, he told us that he knew the doctor at Sloan, and that he disagreed completely with his opinion.

I didn't think I was hearing correctly.

But he was saying what I thought he was saying. He said that the doctor at Sloan had treated me the summer before with an experimental chemo regimen (called the Stanford Five.) He said that he suspected that the radiation I'd had in 2002 probably didn't do the trick.

As my family and I sat there in total shock and amazement, he said that he would need to review my CT scans, etc., but that in his opinion, I would not need the stem cell transplant after all.

It’s hard to put into words how I felt when I heard this news. If you have ever faced a life-threatening illness, or know a loved one who has, then you might understand how I felt. I know I sobbed tears of joy. I know my husband and my sister and my daughter did too. And I know even though there is no proof that the blue tree helped, in my mind, it gave me the faith I needed to make it through.

Well, so, it turned out the doctor at Dana Farber, a remarkably kind and wonderful man named George Canellos, was right. I did not need the stem cell transplant. I can't say how grateful I am to this day, to that doctor. I also can't say how grateful I am that I have enjoyed enormously good health since 2003.

I also can't look at my beloved blue tree without stopping and staring at her, and thinking, "thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, for what you did for me."

Friday, June 13, 2008

Parkinson's and my shopping obsession!!

By Dina Harris

My Parkinson’s brain has a crush on shopping. It’s a bit like any adolescent’s crush on a rock star. At 11 o’clock at night there I am in front of the computer in my office. My bleary eyes quite sensibly want to close - but my brain wickedly coaxes them to stay open for “just ten more minutes,” which can sometimes stretch into another hour as I search for bargains. Then I suddenly fall asleep, waking with a terrified start to find the floor looming closer to my nose. My neurologist says, “the brain and the mind are in the same box.” It’s true. And I can usually get them to talk to each other. But not in this situation. This behavior has been increasing, and I know it is chemical, caused by a new type of Parkinson’s medication called an “agonist.” The drug came on the market in 1997. I began taking one in 1998.

A dopamine agonist is a drug which “mimics the effects of the brain chemical dopamine.” Mirapex ® (pramipexole dihydrochloride) is the one I take. It is the first new category of drug for PD to appear since 1969. That’s when Sinemet (synthetic dopamine) first broke the iron grip of paralysis that had made people with Parkinson’s helpless prisoners of their bodies.

Sinemet (carbodopa-levodopa) is still the “gold standard.” But it doesn’t work forever. The more you use, the less effective it becomes. So my taking Mirapex allows me to use less Sinemet-and still be to be able to work, travel and go out on the town with family and friends. My choice to take the agonist is not unlike the choice Hans Christian Anderson’s “Little Mermaid” made. That hopelessly romantic sprite traded in her fish tail for that painful set of legs, so she would be ready to dance with the Prince- in case he ever asked her. I totally get that little half-fish girl.

The side effects of taking this drug can include compulsive behavior. Compulsive gambling often receives media attention, because those who develop this compulsion taking their Parkinson’s drugs often lose house and home, life savings - the works. Compulsive sexual behavior is another documented reaction. By comparison, my dorky crush on shopping sounds pretty respectable! Hasn’t the Bush/Cheney team made shopping a Patriotic Act? (Yuck.) What does it mean, I wonder, that I read only sale catalogues; on-line I only look for bargains? When I can move well - and even when I can’t -I make the rounds of local thrift shops, swap shops, and consignment stores- before I buy the groceries or put gas in the car. If my brain gets harder to talk to about this, will I start to play the slots in a Vegas laundromat instead of breaking the bank at Monte Carlo? Will my wildest sexual fantasy only get a PG Rating?

Is it possible that the mind is talking to the brain after all? What causes some of us on agonists to fly over the cliff - and others of us to somehow resist? I rarely feel virtuous. Am I really that well behaved - even unconsciously?

The solution, after the fact, for the people with PD whose relationships have been ruined or their savings depleted by their response to agonists, is finally to stop taking them; the behavior stops. Only recently, agonist drug manufacturers have started to list compulsive behaviors on their packaging. For now, my mind and I want to keep the choice open. I think we’ll hang in a while longer.

Dina Harris is a playwright who lives on Cape Cod. Last month one of her plays was presented in the tenth Boston Theatre Marathon.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

STOP! Red Light Moments

By John Paige

I hit the brake pedal and coast to a stop. I start to get annoyed but tell myself not to bother. It’s a red light and I’m in a car…only one thing to do: make the most of it. I close my eyes for a second and try to imagine what the protagonist in my latest story would do in this banal situation.

After conjuring a scenario or two, I settle on an answer and in an instant, unbidden, an insight whirls into the back door of my brain and suddenly I understand why I was stalled with my hero’s progress. How could I not have seen it?! The light turns green and I move ahead. And so too, now, can my character.

And so it occurred to me today that in our mad, madcap, million-mile-an-hour world, full of errands and tasks and multitasks and work and leisure time that feels like work, there remains only one moment when we as human beings are fully and guilt-free justified in sitting on our duffs and dreaming: in our cars at a red light.

Think about it: isn’t it really the only time we’re forced to sit with no company but our stray thoughts for a collection of seconds without actually wasting time? Dentist’s chairs don’t count – too stressful. Trains? Planes? Too much downtime to qualify. On trains and planes you can read, work, sleep, blog, eat, and do everything else you can’t do in a car at a red light. No comparison. Even waiting rooms don’t count – we’re usually too busy feigning interest in last December’s Special Grappling Hook issue of Climbing Quarterly. The charm of a red light is its immediacy; its suddenness and speediness to change present those sublime instants of possible insight and wonder.

Red lights aren’t long – no more than a minute or a minute and half. You can’t read a chapter of your spy novel in that time or do a Sudoku. Even at those long, multi-stage batteries of lights at highway junctions you’d be hard pressed to snatch up your iPhone in time to check your stock portfolio. That light could change at any second! Gotta at least pay enough attention to avoid a cacophony of irritated honks behind you should your eyes wander too far for too long. Maybe you’ll fiddle with your radio dial, but not likely in this age of pre-set hot buttons and MP3 jacks.

So what is a red light? I humbly submit that it’s a few seconds of pure bliss. It took me a long time to understand this. Red lights used to enrage me like any impatient person too concerned with Points A and B without thinking about the space between. But I see now that red lights grant us any number of random moments of duty-free downtime. With a little practice I discovered even 20 seconds of sweet, sedentary nothingness can yield mental and psychological gold. The trick is to use those seconds to stop thinking about the wheres and whens of things and more about the hows and whys. You can use these red light moments to do just the right amount of dreaming to produce some amazing results.

At some recent red lights I have successfully recalled the monikers of all the seven dwarfs and the entire list of prepositions I had to memorize in eighth grade. I thought up names for two characters and a villain in a story I’m laboring over, contemplated the beauty of ice rings forming around the moon, thought up a rhyme to complete the last stanza of my latest poem, remembered where I left my lighter, and finally figured out why I don’t like Colin Ferrell. Waiting at a red light outside a public school recently, I conjured the perfect analogy finally to defeat my boss in our ongoing argument over the economy. I came up with a title for a story that has been title-less for over a year. I recalled a hilarious joke I hadn’t told since college involving a bear and Don Henley’s song, “The Boys of Summer”. I settled on my top five favorite wines of all time…so far.

The point is, it got easier every time. I forgot about my destination and just thought about “how?” and “why?” and occasionally even “what if…?” I learned to use and even exploit these serendipitous pauses in my day. And, I’m grateful for the opportunities a steady stream of green lights never would have afforded me.

Don’t get me wrong: there are times when red lights are a nemesis. Your wife is in labor in the back seat. The best man took a wrong turn and you’re lost on the back roads to find the church. You’re late for that big presentation. The train is leaving and you’re not on it. In these moments red lights don’t serve us well. But they’re the exception. The rule is that red lights give us moments – moments to think about all the stuff in-between; those 20-second subjects that get lost in the noise of the everyday.

As kids, we had lazy summer Sundays and late afternoons to put life on hold and just drift and float and wander and think. As adults – ages 16 and up! – we have none of that. Even out on the deck in the early evening with a nice Sancerre at hand, we still feel obliged to plow through that 14-day loaner from the library or scrawl a To-Do list for the week. But those red lights on the road force us to be alone with ourselves – if only for a few seconds – and that should offer solace when too often it invokes only annoyance.

So when we grit our teeth and press on the brake for the sixth or seventh red light of the trip, we shouldn’t stress. Nor should we regret. We’ve been given a gift here, a chance to stop – something we simply don’t do anymore – an opportunity to think, listen, ruminate, ponder, dream, and drift – not for long, though. The green light is coming, and all that lies beyond is motion.

Writer John Paige, of Albany, New York, is a freelance writer who pays the bills selling wine. He is currently at work on two short stories and, in his words, “some hideous leviathan that may very well turn into a novel.”

Thursday, June 05, 2008

All Hail the Bride

By William J. Broad
The New York Times

I love strange weather. My bookshelf holds such must-haves as “Tornadoes, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena,” which chronicles things like giant snowflakes and clouds that hiss like snakes. Not to mention big hail, a personal favorite.

As an adult, living in the East, I have suffered hail deprivation, which, from a practical point of view, is just as well, given the damage hail can cause. But still, I have missed it, until recently.

Over Memorial Day weekend I attended a wedding in rural Minnesota. The day of the ceremony was hot, the air moist and still. The bride, my sister Carole Anne, and her groom, Steve, are meditators and halfway through the outdoor ceremony asked the guests to close their eyes at the sound of a chime.

Distant, rolling thunder began a moment later. Then, far off, came the wail of a storm siren to warn of possible danger. People shifted in their chairs.

To read the rest of this amazing wedding crasher story, go to:

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Mermaid Beach

By John Grey

The sea still explodes with soda pop fizz,
here where fun greets the sun greets the sand,
and castles fall but no one weeps for them,
not least the child splashing giddy with his shovel.
That everything else has little meaning
the brine exalts in its own brute honesty.
A man in a business suit is dumped by the breakers
and rises wet and laughing.
The sea's never read one novel,
not even the book where it's the star.
It cares for no particular philosophy.
It drowns the existentialist, the parish priest equally.
It takes for granted how much the world is water,
and the preening bathers also.
Toss in some salt, mix and stir, explode
in soda pop fizz, where bodies almost care to differ.

John Grey is a Rhode Island-based poet and a frequent contributor to MyStoryLives.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

I am a Jew

By Mel Waldman

I am a Jew, born in Brooklyn, New York, United States of America in the early forties. It’s just an accident of Fate that I was not born in Vienna or Germany or Poland in the late thirties or before.

I was merely a conscious or unconscious thought or a dream in my mother’s psyche during Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass (Crystal Night), and the Holocaust. Mother was in America during Kristallnacht, on November 9-10, 1938, when Nazi storm troopers, members of the SS and Hitler Youth assaulted, beat and murdered Jews.

Throughout Germany and parts of Austria, Jewish shop windows (made of expensive crystal glass) were smashed. There were shards of broken window glass in front of Jewish stores. Thousands of Jewish businesses, homes, and synagogues were ransacked and destroyed. (Some sources say that 7,500 businesses were destroyed, 1,228 synagogues were ransacked, 267 synagogues were burned, and 177 synagogues destroyed.) More than 91 Jews were killed and 30,000 Jews were sent to concentration camps. (Some sources say that 25,000 or 26,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps. In any case, it really happened. Evil swept over Germany and Austria and was not stopped. Why not?)

Mother was here -- in Brooklyn -- during the Holocaust. My family and I were safe. But it could have been different. We could have been there. We could have been murdered during Kristallnacht or in the concentration camps. It wasn’t our time or place to die. It wasn’t mine!
Yet I’ve noticed in the past few years that anti-Semitism is spreading surreptitiously-right here in Brooklyn and in other parts of New York City. How can this be!

My gold eyes reveal dark revelations almost every day. And although I pray to Hashem, the evil surrounding me is growing exponentially like a malignant tumor.


The nightmares began last year. And now, they consume my soul.

Each night, I dream I am in Vienna in the thirties, perhaps in the 9th district near Sigmund Freud’s home -- Berggasse 19. We have never met, but I feel this kinship with him. Of course, we are both Jews. Yet I believe he is an atheist. (I do not know what I believe. Sometimes, I believe in Adoshem. Sometimes, I am an agnostic. The remainder of the time, I am a full-fledged atheist. I want to believe. In fact, I pray that G-d exists. If not, I’m afraid that life is meaningless. Or must we create our own meaning? Must we?) Still, I am drawn to him. Too bad we have never spoken. There is so much I wish to ask him. He is the Master!


Tonight, they will come for me. Hitler’s soldiers will come! (And Freud has already fled to England! I can’t reach out to him. He’s gone.)

It is only a dream, you say. A nightmare I will awaken from. But will I? I have this premonition that I shall never return. It is no longer a dream, I believe. It is my metamorphosis! My entrance into a wormhole-taking me on a phantasmagoric journey to Vienna-a few days before Kristallnacht. Before…the concentration camps. Before…The Final Solution!


If I vanish, please search for me. Don’t forget!


I vanish! It’s just an accident of Fate (is it?) that I’m there-during Kristallnacht and later-the Holocaust. Just an accident of Fate!


I’m in a cattle car going to an unknown destination. (Later, I will discover it is Auschwitz!) I survive the eternal trip. But we are packed inside a small car-a sarcophagus for some of us (inducing claustrophobia or death or a broken soul).

I can’t breathe! The stench is oppressive-unbearable! The dark walls are closing in on us…me! Yet I survive.


On the Auschwitz ramp, some of us march to the left-some to the right. Where am I going?


Goodbye. I am marching to Death or something worse. My soul is broken. Still, I am a Jew. And now, I belong to History. No longer do I belong to Brooklyn, New York, United States of America in the 21st century.

I am one of 6 million Jews! I belong to History-Kristallnacht and the Holocaust! Don’t forget me. Please. Don’t forget!



I am one of six million Jews! But how do I approach the end of my days? How do I confront evil? Do I rebel? Try to escape? Alone, or with the others? My soul is broken. Do I try to fix it? The universe is shattered! Do I perform tikkun olam, the repair of the world?

I am one of six million Jews! Will I transcend the horrific evil that wishes to steal my soul and final breath? Will I?

I am one of six million Jews! If I die, I will die with courage and nobility. If I die…

Dr. Mel Waldman, a psychologist, has authored stories in numerous literary reviews and commercial magazines. His mystery novel, "Who Killed the Heartbreak Kid?" was published by iUniverse in February 2006. "I am a Jew," a book in which Dr. Waldman examines his Jewish identity through memoir, essays, short stories, poetry, and plays, was published by World Audience, Inc. in January 2008.