This past Monday the Electoral College confirmed the Presidency of the most awful candidate the United States has ever known—a fascistic, racist, sexist, narcisisstic charlatan. We are called to step up into a strong and effective resistance. We will each find our ways through this darkness. Perhaps I will meet you somewhere on the road.
How are we to bring our unique gifts into the battle of our lives, indeed, a battle for our lives? Are there gifts as yet unknown that want to come forward? These winter holy days offer us time to pause and reflect. As I live into the questions, considering my choices about where to direct mental energy and where to place my flesh and bones, I have come face to face with my vulnerability, the fragility of this life and the possibility of losing it all in a moment.
My Car Totaled
The Friday after Election Day, my 1997 Honda Civic was totaled by a hit and run driver barreling through a stop sign three blocks from my home. In one long second, my car and I were spinning into the postbox on the corner by the beautiful church I pass every day in my travels. A young bicyclist who had witnessed the crash tapped on my window to see if I was okay. I was rattled, but otherwise unscathed. He called the police for me while I called Wendy, my spouse. Neighbors emerged from the churchyard on the corner and from the sturdy stone house on the opposite corner—the little group stayed with me to wait for the police. My beloved Wendy arrived shortly after the police car.
As it happened, at the time of the accident our oldest son Gabriel and his Bella, our daughter-in-love, were on their way to share a family meal and comfort one another after the depressing results of the election. Our younger son Greg shared the meal with us too. Our take-out dinner was a little later than we had scheduled, but our little nugget of family was together. So sweet. Though shaken by the violence, throughout the evening and the following weekend I was surrounded and steadied by kind neighbors and close family.
The crash slowed me down—re-organized my time and expectations of what I was going to accomplish and how I might get around without my usual wheels, but mostly it left me grateful. And even more deeply in love, cherishing, with a bit more poignancy than before, the people I call family and the neighbors among whom I live.
However I engage in political resistance, I must remember the sweet ache of this love. I must carry it with me always like a compass and let it guide my steps. I know I am not alone in this knowledge. I have spoken with many of you about it and witnessed others sharing the same enhanced awareness.
A Sweet Life Taken
Last Tuesday evening, I was looking forward to a meeting of Northwest Philadelphia progressives gathering to move forward together into the challenges of a Trump presidency. It was the day our five month old cat Luna was being spayed. Letting Luna go that morning had been difficult for me. Her first vet visit…the trauma of transport and the indignities of procedures…her lithe, little body cut open…these images plagued me as we put her into the carrier early that morning.
At five o’clock that evening, eagerly anticipating Luna’s return home, I learned that sweet Luna’s heart had given out under the anesthesia administered for the surgery. Fifteen minutes of attempted resuscitation and an antidote to the anesthesia did not bring her back. Luna was dead.
First, disbelief. I am sure you can imagine it. Then the wailing, then the swearing, and the sobbing cycled through me all that evening and well into the next days, gentling as the week wore on. I never made it to that meeting of Northwest progressives.
Today is the eighth day of mourning. I pulled away from the news for a while, as people sitting Shiva are advised to do. The grief is softer now, but still with me. Little by little, I reconnect to my sources of political news.
Throughout this darkening Fall, throughout what, for me, was the nightmare of the general election followed by the worse nightmare of the election’s outcome, this kitten-love brought great pleasure to our home. All the ordinary objects in our house became the objects of her effervescent play—the swinging chains of lamps, our apron strings, every stray foil wrapper and plastic cap she discovered in the caves under the kitchen radiators, the sheets and blankets of our bed as we straightened them in the morning–our whole house, animated with her curiosity and her growing skills. Nose kisses and gentle paws on our cheeks greeted us each day as we woke. She gave us sheer delight.
I prayed as I wept for her, for us. And as I prayed, I opened to what might want to enter the chasm that little moon-baby left in my heart. Did I tell you, she came to us on the Harvest Moon of September and left us on the full moon of December? Her time with us spanned the deeply darkening months.
Sometimes when I pray, Hebrew letters come to me. I have learned to accept them as the myterious gifts they are. Poetry helps me unwrap and explore them. The day after Luna died, the gift in my prayer was the letter nun (our ‘n’ sound), the letter corresponding to the number 50, culmination of the forty-nine days of the Omer, the forty-nine gateways to God, the festival of Shavuot, the revelations at Sinai. Edward Hoffman, in The Hebrew Alphabet–A Mystical Journey, says the nun symolizes faith and begins the word for prophecy.
I wrote a new poem. (The line breaks won’t hold in this program, but you can find them on my facebook post, if you’re interested.)
Mourning the Little Cat Luna
Let all the letters come to you. Pay attention to their timing—not the time you ordinarily mark ,rather the rhythm you need, the time you must take, in truth, if you are to live your life, alive in this world, the you you barely know you are.
It is so easy to miss them, the little signs.They come with tender steps and wings you hardly notice, melodies you don’t quite get.
I speak of poems and silken black kittens.I speak of angels and prophecy—who can speak of that? There are messengers we do not recognize as our own, though sent directly to us. They come with news, stories we may not want or may not know we need to hear.
The luminous little cat left me with a letter: tiny, narrow shadow of herself, the Hebrew letter nun, or is it our lovely el? She brings me news of Faith, enduring,inexplicable. And sounds of Moon, her secrets and her hiding, the full glory of her face, how she comes and, when her time is right, she goes. And all the while she never leaves us.
She hangs in the heaven just above my head. I try to take her in through tear-clouded, dimly seeing eyes.I try to speak, her kisses in my mouth.
Oh dear ones, I don’t know exactly how to do this, but I must go forward into strong, collective political engagement with these kisses in my mouth.
Thank you for your presence in these pages. I send you many blessings as you wander in your ways.
All love as the light returns~
PS: If you would like to write with me this winter and/or spring, please see the Upcoming Events on this page for dates, and contact me to let me know.
- Sample Writing Circle at Big Blue Marble Books, Sunday January 8. 4-6 pm, 551 Carpenter Lane, Philadelphia, PA 19119.
- Wissahickon Sample Writing Circles (Weather Permitting): Thursdays, January 19 and February 16, 2:30-4:45 PM. The Cedars House (In the Wissahickon Park, Forbidden Drive and Northwestern Ave, Philadelphia, PA.) Fee: $27 for each session. $50 for both. Register by January 12 for one or both.
- Winter Writing Circle in Susan’s kitchen, Mt. Airy, Philadelphia. 7 Fridays, January 27-Mar 10 (Weather dates: Mar 17,24). $175 ($140 for registration by January 15).
- Spring Wissahickon Writing Circle at The Cedars House 8 Thursdays, March 23-May 18 (NO Apr 20). $216 ($200 for registration by March 16).
Through the Gates
Letters and poems illuminating each of the forty-nine days of the Omer, the ancient Jewish practice marking the days between the spring festival of Passover and the summer festival of Shavuot—for spiritual explorers of all traditions! Read more or purchase….