It is Pesach (passover) and as the goya amidst a partially Jewish family, I have been thinking deeply about Mitzrayim (the Hebrew word for Egypt) and Exodus. I struggle with biblical readings. I, like Jacob wrestling with the angel, want the deeper meaning, my real name, catharsis. Without this deeper resonance, dogma is dust in my mouth, offering little nourishment amidst the matzoh and wine. So I study. I read. I reflect. It is the path of a mama who adores all traditions, not for the tradition itself but for the deeper calling echoed within it. The call of consciousness longing for itself.
Mitzrayim actually translates into "a place of constriction". AHA! Now that is something I can relate to. Constriction. The bud wrapped, before the bloom. The caterpillar tight in chrysalis...bound.
What is it in us that rebels against constriction on one hand and is lulled by its known security on the other. Nature doesn't resist the bud or there would be no flower, no fruit. The caterpillar would never take wing, the egg become bird, the seed become tree. What in human nature resists this process. Mitzrayim becomes something to expel OR surrender to. In our complacency, numbed to our discomfort, we shrivel as buds unblossomed and songs unsung. We become comfortable in our slavery...uncertain. Commerce, capitalism, politics, medicine, media, concept, belief, should, shouldn't, right, wrong and the almighty right to "more"---we labor, lost. Then a voice within us urges.. to the edge of that constriction. Tightly bound, afraid, we leap toward the unknown, pursued...by past, status quo, habit, fear, powers of might. We struggle against limitation, bounded by beliefs and we bloom ... again and again... not a flower in isolation, but life pressing outward, life becoming life.
Give yourself to that simple process.
Give yourself to that resounding call... "Let my people go!"
I saw this painting at the art museum in Chicago, amidst hundreds of other marvels. I am always impressed by the impressionists and pre-post-and pseudo impressionists. I am in love with light and the portrayal of illumination. It draws me into its depicted warmth and suddenly even the subject is secondary to the experience of luminosity. I appreciate this same quality in photography, enthralled by radiance and captured brilliance. At times like these, I remember my years at the University of San Francisco through the remembered fog of youth. I do recall, however dimly, a biological psychology lecture in which the professor talked about the visual/auditory-wave theory, which suggests the world "out there" doesn't exist in the way we imagine. In fact, it postulates that the world is an array of "waves"(think auditory waves and light waves) which are interpreted by the brain into "meaningful data". If that is true than we are constructing our world through the lens of our own consciousness, in much the same way that mystics have been alluding to for years. This was one of those rare college lectures in which I sat up and listened. I have always loved anything that questions my constricted, conceptual reality and I experience that same existential uncertainty each time I view a painting, like the one above, and topple into it's brilliance, reflecting the uncertainty of liberation.
One of the things that continues to inspire and confound me in life is perspective. We take so many things for granted, assuming that our given vantage is correct, real and true and yet from a slightly different angle something seen one way..
can be something all together different.
A corn feild
becomes a mass of texture...
And a may apple,
becomes a giant
A cloudy sky looking up,
becomes a viewer when the perspective shifts.
Yet, in our presumption we believe in the singularity of our vantage point without pausing to explore the infinite angles and possibilities inherent in every moment. Wouldn't it be interesting to adopt a "what if" approach to life, softening our gaze and relaxing the narrowness of concept and belief to allow for a glimmer of the mystery of it all.
A trip to Aunt Bertie's is like stepping into a fairy tale, complete with a musty old farm house and a magical godmother whose lilting spirit seems to remedy all that ales you with the wave of her hand and a prayerful ditty.
In the past year her eyesight has dimmed. She is blind in one eye and the other sees through a hazy "white out". She hears only when the speaker is shouting and laughs, saying "Eh?", with full appreciation of her joke. She struggles to walk now, tottering slowly from one chair to the next, all the while affirming in her sing-song voice, "I am walking upright and with confidence"or "I give thanks for my perfect sight and hearing, my limitless strength and energy, and my perfect health". She smiles often.
When I first arrived she said that she hadn't really played the piano in months but soon she was seated on her familiar bench pounding out songs with gusto, groaning at her missed notes and smiling brightly while singing songs of yore.
She can not stay upright for more than 10-15 minutes before she finds a little nest on sofa or bed and smiles peacefully while meditating, her lips moving silently, blessing us, all of us, with a love so big that you dissolve into it. She still lives alone.
While she rested long hours, I took long walks through corn fields and prairies, woods and dales. I smiled at flowers and cloud banks and cried wide rivers of salty tears.
My Bertie has been my Godmother all my life, in her eyes I have always been beautiful...not beautiful through worldly eyes that ebb and flow with time and fashion, but a beauty that is unchangeable, unspeakable and divine. When standing in her gaze it is as if everything the world has ever said of me or thought of me was a lie and all my pretense at littleness has been a laughable farce. In her eyes I am radiant, I am whole, complete and perfect. In her heart I have always been home, without effort or apology. And to me she is beauty and light personified. She is ninety-four with a body approaching it's final rest and a spirit so effervescent that it leaves you glowing and vibrating in its wake. Leaving her this time was one of the hardest farewells I've ever made. I have been growing in her sunshine and taking refuge in her shade for so much of my life that I can hardly imagine it without her. She is one of those fundamentals in my existence, like oxygen, water and rest. She talks of leaving with a gentle peace, like one talks of moving out of a well loved house that is growing small. She talks of life with the grace and ease of a life well lived.
I love her with abandon and I pray that in some small way I will always see myself in my Bertie's eyes and perhaps I will learn to see you as she has seen you, through a heart intent on God, smiling.
Where oh where have I been? Well first things first, I began Spring Break in Chicago for an AMS conference and Reggio/Montessori presentation with a few of my co-workers (I didn't even vomit while presenting which was a miracle in itself). It was a fabulous trip- cold, blustery, disorienting and beautiful.
These are a few of my gal pals and coworkers posing smartly...
Next, a few shots of cityscapes...
And a trip to the Art Institute...
by way of the bean...
and a fabulous supper at Studio 110, a friendly little french bistro near our hotel on the Magnificent Mile.
All in all a fun trip...or beginning of a trip...next stop Olney and Farmhome.