Many of us have come through a very rough year. In this experience we discovered how to stay awake, be aware we are still here, acknowledge we HAVE come through, and comfort ourselves and each other. Fragility, loss and resilience were common experiences
Comfort begins as a personal activity made up of childhood experiaces of attachment, family memories and deeply personal and interior connections. The person who has wronged or harmed you cannot be your comforter but you can learn to comfort yourself and accept new comforters. Sometimes it’s better to make new ways to parent ourselves through to kindness. As we practice interrupting the negative and ruminating thoughts with lovingkindness we relax into new ways our being safe.
Comfort wears something soft
you saved from the goodwill bag,
with a bit of raggedy velvet at the wrist.
Comfort sings a lullaby
or the blues. Maybe she lived
in New Orleans before she came here.
Comfort turns you into a one-note crooning
Southern woman with a voice
full of rain and dirt.
Comfort IS dirt. Good dirt.
Things grow here.
Comfort is rain so hard
you can’t hear your thoughts.
The air blows in fresh
and riverlets happen up
all through the yard
washing everything downhill.
Comfort is seeing 5:00 a.m. on the clock
and knowing you’ve slept all night.
Comfort is dog fur,dog breath, dog warmth
and dog smell. How they connect you
to the Earth they never left
just when your heart is taking off on bat wings
into the darkest part of the cave.
Comfort reminds you there are
people who are saner, kinder, simpler, funnier
who love you and who still come around.
Comfort is reading Rumi and Hafiz,
the old Avila Hotsprings
soaking out weary joints since 1907.
Comfort is Monday coffees by the beach,
and dolphin sightings. Comfort is
and seeing your face
again and again, my friend.
If you are chilled
there is a quilt here for your knees.
See, I have laid us a carpet
of poppies and mountain sage.
Shall we see what compassion has hidden
in the pantry?
Please, my friend,come on in.
This poem was published in an earlier version in If &When Vol. 1. 2013. I wrote it at one of the Veteran writing workshops.
Please let me know if you would like to come to a Writing and Stillness workshop in January..
Roslyn Strohl 2-10-2013 copyright.
It is an honor and delight to have this poem published in If & When journal vol 2 .
When it is dark enough, you can see the stars. –Ralph Waldo Emerson
At night we watched
that dash of fallen sequins
tumble from the sky
that blue black blanketing
the quilting gone awry,
a passage to heaven
a rip in the firm flesh
sharp as the shrapnel
through the dome
the skin and bone
of my grandfather’s head.
Or the inside flash
of my son’s night brain.
The comfort of darkness
is a trillion eyes of grace
needled across the night
when all the little stars above
hold still, don’t fall.
When my brother in law passed away, he was just 59. He died of ALS and frontotemporal lobe dementia. It was his sweetness that remained as his essence, as his mind and body slipped. I was honored and silenced to see this, and to watch his daughter tend him nightly, feed him and leave him feeling safe. I want to draw attention to this kind of dementia, but I want also to honor my neice at age 26, who mothered her father. Here is my tribute.
The Soul’s Midwife
Coming into this Earth body
Thick dark hair flowing
Mouthing her first wails
Leaving the warmth
of her Mama’s body,
her brown eyes found his,
green like the ocean
like a field in summer
looking down at her
falling in love.
Isn’t she beautiful? he said.
This is my daughter,
She is so beautiful.
He cradled her,
and sang her first lullaby.
Today, crippled in his Earth body
almost ready to leave
he looks up at her
face glowing with love
Isn’t she beautiful? he asks.
She is my daughter,
she is so beautiful, he says.
She spoons his food gently for him
He opens his mouth like a baby bird.
His green eyes are full of trust.
He knows she will see him safely through,
midwife his soul’s passage.
This is my beautiful Jessica,
he repeats, like a lullaby that calms him,
She is my daughter.
In this quiet setting of a therapy hour we can reach a level of reflection and trust that revives a belief in one’s own imagination and character. No fancy tricks, just deep presence and reflective conversation. From honesty with one self in a supported environment, courage and resolution can arise and become action.
Look for me in Psychology Today for directions to safe online sessions.
As the winter descends this week and the fierce retail seduction sets in, we can succumb to sadness and feelings of deprivation, or take a breath, change the thought and proceed with gratitude, humor and joy…..more moments practicing builds resilience and resistence to the onslaught. Through the toughest times I have learned to say, “Watch for the miracles”.
Hold to the beauty of gathering together before descending into the cave of winter. Find and polish your favorite symbols, perhaps one candle not twenty, a branch not a tree, tea not champagne, if money is tight or you are already busy.
Symbolically winter is the time for sleep, poetry, renewal, dreaming, the North, the stripped tree as well as the evergreen and the dark giving way to the light. By savoring this time we are ready when the Birth and rebirth occur.
While our fearful, addictive culture says keep all the lights on, party and decorate, Nature says gather the Beloveds, stay simple, feast on what you have already harvested, believe.
Here is my Winter Solstice offering to you.
Thirteen crows perch
on the wires
above the persimmons.
These fruit have sung to me for months
with their bright refusal to be melancholy
I have watched their curves fill into sweet polished cheeks
their orange clarity against the dying leaves.
It is past Thanksgiving, almost Winter Solstice
and so the crows and I are gathered here
to a communion of ripeness.
Who will eat first
the raven priests or I?
Who will feast on these last fruits, robust
while leaves show their age
take one last spin to Earth
The persimmons glow.
They hold a star within,
almost too sweet
not orange, not apple.
It takes years
to bend the tough persimmon wood
into the tea boxes of Japan.
Yet these most prized.
I have written too long.
Up in the persimmon tree
five crows are feasting.
The fruit yields empty baskets
orange skins hold to branches
like tiny lanterns.
Some amazing photographs were published in the NYT. The subjects were ordinary acts by families and individuals. But when the storm Sandy swept them up they were transformed and ethereal and spoke to me of life’s transience and of what endures. I wrote this for a poet friend…little haiku to hold my thoughts.
Do not wait for great
Chop onions, sort laundry;
write when the heart says write.
The great storms are here
What if yours is the poem left behind.
The flotsam found on the beach.
Write in indelible ink.
Speak of our friendship, my dear.
How it survived.
In our angst driven society so often I hear people self diagnose and identify with their diagnosis, “my depression” or “my OCD”. One of the things I like about Narrative Practice is the idea that the problem is the problem. You are not the problem. This allows for a collaborative problem solving and some interesting new possibilities. There are many ways for persons to engage in therapeutic conversations that strengthen and expand a personal knowledge of one’s resourcefulness.
Read about narrative practice from the originals. The Dulwich Center in Australia generously shares material in their library.http://www.dulwichcentre.com.au/what-is-narrative-therapy.html
I awoke this morning to the twittering of the tiny hummingbirds in the sage outside my window.
In my kitchen hangs an etching of a hummingbird by Rosey Rosenthal from Los Osos,Ca.
The hummingbird speaks of highly focused attention, all that energy to be still and gather nectar.
There is grace in taking only what we need. We are not deprived, because the sweetness is already distilled into nectar waiting for us. That was the work of sun,earth and flower.
Life still is sweet even after trauma. It may not stop the suffering around you. But there is reason to be still, to be kind to yourself. It will give you delight and strength to do your part.