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life

The Shape of Memory (A Love Letter)

Dear Friends,

There are hours of silence here, in which there’s ample time to sit under the tree of memory. Often in repose, memories shade me, and when I lean against the thickening trunk of the tree, a leaf of the past will drift onto my lap. When one can sit undisturbed, it’s wonderful how much one recalls.

There are incidents, places and names, I’d love to remember, but they are unreachable; other memories are shrouded and webbed; then, there are some, like those today, that are easily plucked and ready to be appreciated. I wouldn’t expect my memories to be of interest to anyone but myself, those who helped to create them, and the minority who ae interested in the past of another. Memories are personal and precious; yet (hopefully), we all share moments of riotous showerings that leave us amazed and happy or weeping from the impact, and those we must share. This letter contains such leaves.

As a girl of four, my safe place was under my mother’s dress, holding onto her legs. I remember my favorite dress of hers from that time was a long, green dress; she smelled of cocoa butter, perfume and cinnammon flesh; she was as warm as the sun outside her skin; and, she let me stand there in peace. For how long?– that detail is insignificant. Some memories– even the best ones– are incomplete and a bit fuzzy, but full of scent, warmth and shadowy light.

Memories are time-travel, which enable us to simultaneously live in the past and present. Looking closer at the same leaf of memory, I encounter my other mother, my godmother– the woman chosen by my parents to love me as her own. Aunt Yvonne. It’s all there: the long train ride on the #4 train to Moshulu Parkway, getting off the train and walking the block and a half to Tracey Towers, her apartment, 12J, pink and plush, three rooms with all the TVs tuned to NBC, the smell of Tone soap, her smooth hand holding a snifter of brandy and orange juice, eight gold bangles on her right wrist, eight silver bangles on her left, her small feet in satin Chinese slippers, the smell of toasted Eggo waffles, fruit cake with hard icing on the dining room table, and pictures of her nine godchildren on every surface. ( I was on her fridge, her TV, on her cabinet, in the den). I can clearly see my mother sitting on one of her kitchen stools drinking coffee, while she stood over the stove frying something. Both, vital, laughing and beautiful.

This isn’t a story– no turn of events, no plot, no conflict. This is simply a page of recollections that have fallen from my tree. When you ask me, “How’s the ashram? ” I’ll tell you that this letter reflects ashram life– a chance to feel your heart expand, everyday, and remember who you are, and from whence you came, in the quiet of the mountains. While the sun sits alongside me, I’ll close my eyes and reflect on those who have loved me with every thread in their heart, and of whom I’ve felt the same. Maybe, when you have free time, you can sit under your tree of memory and do the same?

“Of course I love you,” the flower said to him. “If you were not aware of it, it was my fault.” (The Little Prince, p.41)

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Love,

Val

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life

“If They Say Why, Tell ‘em…….”

Dear Friends,

My mother sent across many seas and rivers another package of “a few of my favorite things” (Chippies banana chips, lipstick, books, magazines); in the box was my copy of The Enlightened Heart. I haven’t read this “anthology of sacred poetry” in some time, and upon reading, I remembered why its poems are a daily must read.

The Golden God, the Self, the immortal Swan leaves the small nest of the body, goes where He wants.

He moves through the realm of dreams; makes numberless

forms;

delights in sex; eats, drinks, and laughs with His friends; frightens Himself with scenes of heart-chilling terror.

But He is not attached to anything that He sees… – The Upanishads

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These last few weeks have been contemplative. There’s nothing  major occurring, but there’s the feeling that something’s about to happen. Something great. In my anticipation of something wonderful on the brink, each day has become more joyful and positive. So, I think the “thing” that is supposed to happen is what has already become. This now, not tomorrow.

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my new orchid Violetta

A good traveler has no fixed plans

and is not intent upon arriving.

A good artist lets his intuition

lead him wherever it wants. Lao Tzu

Life is like a canvas and we paint our lives with each thought, word and action. Light and dark moments. Vivid and bright. This life, thus far, I’ve called the dream series, because of how impressionistic all my memories have become. Blurry images undefined, but the idea’s there, some faces are there, most importantly, the feelings are there. (Even in this short time that I’ve lived in Japan, friends have come and gone in every respect– a blur.)

I used to think that I was “a traveler,” but it seems that the need to get up and be “anywhere but here” has flickered out in me. I’m not quite sure if it’s good or bad, something I should worry about or not. Is it stability or boredom? What does this mean? I think it means that I should get up and move around more outside of Tokyo prefecture, see more than the already known streets and alleyways. When collecting the paintings of my life, the written words, the canvases, the love amassed, there should be huge splashes of color. A collection of which to be proud.

Are you looking for me? I am in the next seat.

My shoulder is against yours.

You will not find me in stupas, nor in Indian shrine rooms, nor in

synagogues, nor in cathedrals:

not in masses, nor kirtans, not in legs winding around your own

neck, nor in eating nothing but vegetables.

When you really look for me, you will see me instantly– - Kabir

So much divinity and beauty all around us, in us. Sometimes, I meet people and find them so adorable that I feel love and want to express that somehow: students, people on the street, strangers of all ages. (I wonder what someone would do if I actually reached across and gave them a squeeze or pinched their cheeks.) A few days ago, I followed an old couple, at a safe distance, because of their appeal.

Reaching out to touch a stranger… I like living this way, I like loving this way. – Michael Jackson (Human Nature)

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Super sweet taxi driver-- Watanabe.new 029

Tell em… - MJ

This journey is becoming filled with “oh, I get it” moments. How?

1) Meditation

2) Love and gratitude. (*If you’ve opened your loving to God’s love, you’re helping people you don’t know, and have never seen.Rumi)

3) Avoiding negativity as much as possible: Situations, and sometimes people.

4) Creating thoughts, creating reality.

5) Silence, and music.

What they undertook to do

They brought to pass’

All things hang like a drop of dew

Upon a blade of grass.W.B Yeats

Take care, and much love,

 

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life, People (Unreal life)

On Love: How It Lingers, How It Lasts

Was there a garden or was the garden a dream? – Jorge Luis Borges (Adam Cast Forth)

My mother skypes me in the morning (my morning, her night), and fills me in on the hummingbirds who’ve flown into her house and act like its theirs, her garden and its beauties, the concerts or shows she’s been to, the latest Jamaican political news/scandal, her latest writing projects, and how hot it is in Kingston. A few days ago, when she was talking about the “pleasant” heat, and the sweat beading on her forehead, I said something to her that I’ve never in all my years said, not even as a teenager when it was always on the tip of my tongue (and thankfully stayed there),—“Mummy, shut up.”

However today, her aim wasn’t to torture me with the glorious sunshine and heat that she’s reveling under, but to share stories on love. When she starts to talk about the past, it’s when I’m most attentive.  She didn’t say, “Let’s talk about love,” but she did start talking about one of her favorite subjects, her father. I never met my grandfather DJ, as he died decades before I was an egg/sperm cocktail; but when my mother shares stories of her childhood and her father, I think of how love lasts; I think of how the smallest acts of true love never leave us.

It’s amazing how one’s life can boil down to a few often repeated stories—the ones we choose to remember, the ones we can’t let go or the ones we choose to relate. This morning, my mother told me (again) the story of my grandfather bringing home treats for her, her sisters and brother. This isn’t my story to tell (maybe), but I will anyway… He didn’t have much money, due to life circumstances, but on Wednesdays, he would bring a small carton of ice-cream home for his four children to share. A little ice-cream may seem insignificant for those of us who have so much, but for his children, it was an incredible joy. At nine or ten, to my mother, that vanilla ice-cream may have been just a wonderful delight (“Yay, ice-cream!”), but as an adult looking back, that ice-cream was more than just milk and sugar. It was pure love. He brought what he could, sometimes it was a bag of yellow plums, sometimes a bag of cane… sometimes, it was as simple as sharing rice from his dinner plate.

In February, where romantic love is pushed like crack on an urban street corner, I can’t help but think of love in all its manifestations. I’m not in love, so I’m thinking of those I love/loved in a non-romantic sense, how much I’ve been loved and how love never leaves. I’m thinking of laps that were always open and waiting for me to lie in, arms that held me, broad backs that I piggy-backed on, shoulders that I swung on, dinners that were kept warm after a long day, patient ears and minds that listened, and special trips for ice-cream on Sundays.

It’s much to have loved, to have known true joy,

To have had– if only for just one day–

The experience of touching the living Garden. –  Jorge Luis Borges (Adam Cast Forth)

p.s For my mother:

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life, People (Unreal life)

Letter from Kingston: The Hibiscus

Did you know that a hibiscus folds into itself at night? All of its radiant peach and red and gold wrapped around itself until the morning sun swoops in. I realized this morning at 1am, when I looked at the hibiscuses flanking my mother’s front door, that in the U.S I was a closed hibiscus, and in Kingston I’ve blossomed. A flowering.

It has been so good to be home. For one, it’s nice to remember that I have a “home,” and am not the vagrant that I’ve always considered myself. No matter how long I stay away again, I know where I’ll ultimately return. As my friend Kamali commented recently I tend to “romanticize everything,” and that is most definitely true; however, although I recognize that Jamaica may not be perfect for many, it’s perfect for me.

It’s perfect for me: pale butterflies dancing in trees outside my window, nature’s gold, the sun, the sun walking with the breeze, lip balm mixed with sand, steamed fish swimming in broth of okra and pumpkin, my beautiful friends with hearts bigger than the island, a land built on the beat of a drum, music in every corner (rewind: music in every corner), a warm plantain tart from Brick Oven, guava ice-cream with chunks of guava, roses trailing iron grills, kisses from men that can’t be lovers, toothy smiles from street vendors, the Gleaner man, the plum man, quick rainshowers in open sky, hugs from God’s children, and my mother’s voice calling, “Darling, come for breakfast.”

To echo Nancy Wilson, I’m so glad to know that “my love has no beginning, my love has no end.”

* My mother– energy personified.

Kisses,

Valerie

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