hope, living, mental health, moments, nature, time

Conversations with My Father

by Carmen H Gray

From the novel, Wild Animals I Have Known, by Ernest Thompson Seton

How do you have a conversation with your father when he isn’t quite himself? I’ve been learning to navigate this recently. Tonight I called him to check in on the state of things. He informed me that his sitter had been ensuring that he eats and drinks. He also gave high praise to the people working at the hospital, telling me that they were kind and helpful, but not too helpful because they had to push you do things for yourself as much as you could. He told me about his foibles and again brought up the name of one nurse named Rosa, whom he particularly favored because she was “perhaps even bossier than your mother”.

“What are your big plans for the night?”, I asked him.

“Well, they’ll give me medicine soon that’ll knock me flat,” he answered.

“What will you do in the meantime? Have you attended any classes today?”, I inquired.

“Nope, I just stay in bed most of the day and think about things,” he answered.

I then remembered that I had in my possession several novels by one of his favorite childhood author’s, Ernest Thompson Seton. He’d given me these books 3 years ago and I remembered him telling me he thought my students may enjoy them, but I never did take them to my classroom.

I am glad I didn’t, because I decided maybe it would be a good idea to read to him. So I found the novel, Wild Animals I Have Known in my upstairs library. The first story in the novel is about Old Lobo, a very clever and powerful wolf who evades the exasperated humans. It was written in 1898 and the setting is in Northern New Mexico. My father has always been a nature lover. I stopped every couple of paragraphs to reflect on the story with him and he knew all the characters and the highlights of what we were reading-he told me he’d memorized all of Seton’s stories. I enjoyed reading to him and after about 30 minutes or so, decided it was time to stop and save the next chapter for our next phone conversation. He told me he really liked hearing the story and that it made his evening even better. Before I got off the phone I told him about a dream I’d had two nights ago. I was at the home of his parents. I walked around all of the rooms and though I did not see them, I felt their presence in their home. I walked him through each of the rooms with my words and he recalled those places in his own mind.

After we got off the phone, I remembered a poem a friend had posted recently, The Peace of the Wild Things. And it gave me pause because it is exactly why my father has always held an affinity for nature. I look forward to more adventures with Old Lobo, for he has more days to live yet.

The Peace of Wild Things

by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

hope, living, moments, poetry, time

Half Moon

my hand outstretched in half moon pose today

Half Moon

by Carmen H Gray

Today, as I leaned down into the ground

Connecting to the floor with the right hand and foot

While lifting the other half of myself skyward

Gravity pulled drops of sweat down

To puddle together near my right fingertips

I was invited to remember

How two opposing energies

Generate a power that is greater than its singular parts

And how each difficulty we encounter

Requires an equanimous state

Though we have toppled over many times

We are drawn to keep seeking

That pause in a perfectly balanced pose

Between the Moon and the Sun

It is quite exquisitely powerful and subtle both

Like a knowing look

Shared by companioned hearts

ethereal, poetry, time

What Lies Inside

What Lies Inside

by Carmen H Gray

What stirs her

Only the burs that stick inside the lace lined white socks

Oh the flutterings of the old, burned burrows

Drawn in the straw colored grass, they come out

Reeling from thorns that are still sharp

Yet certain steps retrace forgotten paths

Altering the trajectory of the stars, as it were

Never to be known the same again

That is what lies inside

Like chards broken into bits

A mosaic of light and sound

Sometimes dimmed in an overly bright world

Too fast, too demanding

Get off of the merry-go-round

Stand still in the centripetal force

Felt on the periphery

Or be that force itself

That is what lies inside

hope, living, nature, poetry, Uncategorized

Suspended

For it’s our grief that gives us our gratitude,

Shows us how to find hope, if we ever lose it.

So ensure that this ache wasn’t endured in vain: Do not ignore the pain. Give it purpose. Use it.

-Amanda Gorman

Suspended

by Carmen H Gray

Fold yourself gently into it, my love

Suspension is the pause

Before you let yourself step further

Even if you trip, have confidence

In the fall

The sweet earth

Contains a purpose for you:

Soft grass reminds you to lean into her for comfort

Icy streams awaken your senses that are dulled

Vast meadows with their worlds within worlds

Show you there is always more to examine

And even the harsh desserts

Where the sea once was

Have vestiges of a former way of being

To teach you

Life can change

And shift, yet even so, it adapts

Everything you need is

Where you are

Let yourself fall a little back to earth

Forces pull you downward, inward

For a reason

art, hope, letting go, living, moments, time

Dark Night

profile                                                     Art & Poem by Carmen H Gray

I wrote the poem below 25 years ago. Found it today rummaging through old things this morning and it inspired a self-portrait. Although I am quite sensitive/empathic, in all these subsequent years, but especially in the last 5 ones, I have learned how to shore up my psychic boundaries, practice self-care and self-compassion. This has created a firmer foundation for me to explore who I am and what I feel, apart from others around me. It has led me to shed the burdens that I have allowed others to place upon me. In other words, I have a better sense of me. I read this poem now and realize, I no longer feel these emotions. I absolutely can and do sense the grief and heaviness in others, especially I can tap into this during my reiki sessions with my clients. I hear the feelings/experiences that are present in their subconscious.  But, there is no need for me to take on another person’s healing process now. I am there to reflect it, but not to feel it for them. For my own healing unfolded, and for this I am grateful.

Dark Night

To be alert and eyes wide open,

Heart exposed, vulnerable organ that it is,

Is to be both cursed and blessed.

But it is the only way to truly be

To truly live, and see and feel and die.

As I witness sad souls beat down in this world,

My heart feels heavy with the weight of their sorrows

How insignificant it may be, that in my life

I am present when your restless soul seeks

The warmth of another, reaching, hands outstretched, searching, searching…

How common that I mourn for you

When nights are long and painful

The senses are heightened

For every smell is sickening

And even silence is too loud

How simple to share moments of despair

When a blanket of nothingness surrounds you

Groping, blindly for hope

Hope, hope…this is what will save us

Returning to our human condition

Sharing our dark night of the soul

 

art, beauty, hope, living, moments, mystics, nature, time

Autumn

Art and Poetry by Carmen H Gray

Autumn

The clouds opened up in October

Fay beings in my garden

All of the old souls summoned from the cold, misty northlands

Landing hither and thither

On that one flower that overshadows me

It grew from seed, you never know what will happen

When you send seeds forth

Into their future states of being

One might become

The one that surpasses you

To stand in that hushed intermission

Of fluttering souls

All Soul’s ShadowSelves

On a steady path south

To a mountain where I have lingered in this lifetime

cancer, hope, letting go, living

11.20.14

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by Carmen H Gray 

the waves lapped at the shore

industrial waste in a place

where freshwater meets saltwater

the bright sky viewing a town that feels like a story I’ve written

like time stopped here, somewhere in the 1970’s of my childhood

and it may as well be a repeat of those chaotic times these days

except here I am, a woman now

with a daughter who can celebrate

a date that has past

and here we are

souls brined

hearts preserved

bodies intact

and this is better than any man made holy day to me

 

 

 

 

 

hope, letting go, living

Today

Today

by Carmen H Gray

 

It’s Easter Sunday and April Fool’s

I came across an old birthday card

A token of a time when I was the perfect mother

In my daughter’s eyes

Before the cancer and the heavy stuff

Before the hormones and the teen angst

Now it’s all eye rolling and pfftsss

You Fool

And families are a funny thing

All those egos parading with divided perspectives

We thought we had already traded them in for prizes

From the fortune cookie wisdom

“You will make great advances in life”

But time is a funny thing, too

One shift in our clutched-tightly-guarding-it-nightly story

And suddenly we are that little child again

From 40 years ago

Finding our footing

Can I just say even if it’s all a joke

I’m so glad to have laughed and cried

And lived and sighed

With you today

 

 

living

Love In The Time of Everything

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Love In The Time of Everything

by Carmen H Gray

When I was little

I wrote about a heroine

In one of my silly chapter books

Writing and writing

My favorite escape

She had auburn hair

And striking green eyes

I didn’t know

She would materialize

That one day she would

Come to be

And how this little sprite

Would change me so

I did not know

It was not all sugar and spice

It was laughter

But also tears

And tumors and fears

Inward reflection

Rejecting affection

I knew

Love

In the time of the highs

That’s the easy part

But my heroine

Showed me how to find

Love

In the time of the lows

And how the cracks

Are certain signs

Of wholeness

Being born

letting go, living

Pearls to Swine

Pearls to Swine

By Carmen H Gray

 

Don’t throw pearls to swine

He told me

What does that mean?

She asked

Give only to those who deserve you

As the wholeness of you

Shimmers with milky luster parts

Beholden to spectators

Begging for the shelter of your light

Light does not choose where it shines

She said

Or to whom it may fall

Knaves and doves

Are indistinguishable

In the shadows

And each of us can be swine transformed

To a pearl of light

That we once beheld