Clouds and Solteras

OK, I admit to an experiment of sorts.  I’ve stashed myself at the foot of a spectacular cloud forest in Costa Rica.  I’m alone and even the birds are a bit shocked at my rather meager collection of Spanish phrases,  but hey, that is what experiments are designed to be: meanderings into the unknown.

While other expats spend way too much money sitting at perfect sites along the beach, drinking inordinate volumes of umbrella drinks, I count the toucans and ask them to keep on soaring.  I’ve walked this walk before:  solitary (soltera, single babe) on other jaunts worldwide.  Some might be way too quick to view me as some wizened old bitty with wiry hair and smelly old thrift store clothes.  I have to confess:  I brought the whole enchilada:  just in case I was invited to meet el presidente or you know the drill, a night out among them.

A night out among them at this stage of the gig is a bit tremulous.  I live up a long muddy cobblestone road, and then down another equally precarious jaunt down a dark path.  No thank you.  I’ll hang with my toucans.  Oh and I adore my mosquito net which I hauled in my suitcase.  Twenty bucks at Amazon and worth every penny! I recline while mosquitos wait eagerly outside to pounce.  I picture myself as Meryl Streep in “Out of Africa”….waiting for Robert Redford.  He hasn’t arrived yet but one can light the lamp and hope.

Writing retreats are cool.  They engender comradery and so many thought provoking inlets while writing buddies wax poetic.  The solitary route bespeaks of monks and monkettes and talking to God.  Hell, I’ll talk to the wee hummingbirds that buzz my laptop daily.  Napping when I wish, rising in the middle of the night to write, wandering along the path next to the thundering river?  all mine and no I don’t spend multiple hours sharing on Facebook.  It’s my walk for now.  When I need to engage with another human, I’ll put on my happy coat and meander beyond the gate.  My Spanish is somewhere between horrible and hey she’s improving.  Expats are few and far between.  It’s kind of a difficult choice I’ve made, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

A gecko just crossed the doorstep.  He is always watching me from the ceiling and then meanders down to stare at what I am writing.  I wish I could do that ceiling maneuver but as a homo sapiens, it just isn’t our gig.  So I”m here.  Sometimes I listen to the beating of my own heart.  Sometimes I remember God knows what of my rather unique life.  Memoir? maybe but I’m actually not that self-absorbed.  I’ll stand at a distance and write someone’s story but with another name attached.  For now, this is more than enough,  yes, enough is a tremulous word,  MORE THAN enough suits me just fine.  And Mr. Redford, if your GPS has misdirected you to another cloud forest, so be it.

 

Freedom Earned

It was now clear that the door was swinging open widely:  “Catch me if you can” was the prime directive.  Suddenly life had become more alive. Nothing surrounded me except my own personal joie de viv. The need to behave, conform and worst of all fit in were now shed like last summer’s stretched out bathing suit.

The sheer guts it took to keep walking, in fact, skipping forward was now a game of spiritual aerobics.  All the happy camper things I had learned so long ago, that had been shelved for enforced behavior mod and believing in the corporate song and dance were now awakening again.

Life would certainly be intriguing. If nothing else, I’d do what I’d always wanted to do:  live off shore in a cool place (to be defined) and WRITE!  Wheels up!

 

 

To the End of the Earth

A very stately elder gentleman friend of mine has recently stated that there are few people for which he would travel to the end of the Earth.  I pondered that statement and then said  “Tell me about this.”

He closed his eyes for a few moments and then tried to explain.

“Well, there are a lot of babes in my past:  You know, the good-looking girls with little to say, the  intelligent ones that could really converse, the good friend types that were comfortable, but I have to admit, I wouldn’t have gone to the end of the earth with any of them.  This one, this gal, I am willing to put my money on the line and see where it goes.  And yes, it feels different.  This feels different.  This feels like love.”   I stood up and gave him a standing ovation.  After all, I have been in his life for twenty years, and seen him in and outside of a marriage and wondered.  I never thought in a million years that he would find someone for the happy ever after.   And now he’s pondering the end of the earth junket?

I love the thought:  to the end of the earth.  I’m glad Galileo figured out that it is round, or we’d fall off for being goozy with someone and yes, following them to the end of the earth.

But wicked humor aside, it is a lovely thought.  I have to wonder how many people really have ever felt that way about anyone in their lives, even their spouses.  It caused me to sort of workshop my own history and so I went over a mental list:  no, never, you’ve got to be kidding, maybe, huh, d’know, another weak maybe and then I screeched to a halt.

OH YEAH!, John.  I would have gone to the ends of the earth for that fine fellow, and in many ways I did.  He’s gone now, left way too soon, or I would still be doing “Same Time Next Year” with him, somehow, even if we got to walkers and guide dogs.  But why John? why not the man I married? why not that other dreary list of maybes and d’knows?

I think it has to do with serendipity, magic, and the ole tried and true, falling in love.  Things look different from the other side of rose-colored glasses.  The practical to do list of a relationship simply flies out the window.  It makes no sense to make sense of any of it.  So maybe it also has the attribute of surrender, to a what the hell, I’ve never felt quite this way in my entire life.

Now some may run far from this realization.  Some may hide in a stable of wannabes…men are particularly good at that option,  But ever so now and then, the bug bites and the “victim” surrenders.

But I need to get back to the End of the Earth gig.  Sure, falling in love is written about in just about every category of existence.  It’s the bug bite thing, the itch that needs to be scratched, the feeling of falling…not rising…falling, through space, with a kind of out of control lack of direction.  I’ve always counselled that this feeling this falling in love thing lasts eight or so weeks.  The can’t live with out it business gets dusty about then and a more practical side sets in.  ……for most…..but then there are those rare couples that stay goozy for a life time.

I remember an old actor once talking about his marriage of 50 years.  He said, “Hell, I still want to grab her in into my arms as soon as I hear her key in the lock.”  WOW.  That’s impressive.  But, hey, that’s how I felt about John.  Every time I’d see him, even after thirty years, I just had to catch my breath.  The sex had gone to the retired end of things but the wow moment hadn’t.  I cherished him.  That’s it.  I cherished him.

So back to the 8 weeks of falling in and out of love for most, it takes a transition of sorts. Falling in love is some sort of whaky mechanism to get pheromones cracking toward the perpetuation of the human race.  Let’s face it, and let’s blame pheromones.  But science aside, loving is a completely different ball of wax.  It requires some sense of time, wounding, losing, finding, staying the distance but it ain’t falling off the rooftops with passion. …….unless it is.

After all the ins and outs of trying to figure out my life of princes charming, dark knights, cool dudes and just plain fabulous men, I guess the Ends of the Earth statement brought me to my knees.  TWO out of 50 or so (no I am not a trollup, I just have years on this one), made the cut.  TWO!  But John, could take all of my frequent flyer miles, if he had asked.

My proper gentleman friend is pondering this as we speak.  He and his sweetheart are going to Antarctica together on a boat cruise.  Now that’s the test of a lifetime, for me at least:  a boat surrounded by water for many many days, a tiny stateroom, and lots of folks we don’t know.  It can mark disaster or the most wonderful adventure of all time, but yes, it is to the ends of the earth, and he knows it.  Smitten? oh yes,  smitten.

As I sit and drink my second cup of coffee, I stare out at freshly falling snow.  Suddenly, I am sitting with John somewhere in time and the feeling I had has not diminished.  He passed some ten years back and I still love him to bits and will so far beyond my years.

And when it comes to the End of my earth?  You bet your sweet ass, I’ll be looking for him on the other side.

Confessions of a Closet Novelist

I’ve read copious volumes of how-tos on writing, publishing, writing a proposal and diving into social marketing. Call me a rebel with a cause but I find most of it a bit dreary and a buzz kill.  Still, I shuffle on to some ever-present voice suggesting subtle innuendos.

I once attended a fabulous workshop for Mystery Writers.  At the time, I was more interested in the fluffy side of things….you know, fantasy, happy ever after stuff.  But I threw myself into a milieu of fairly creepy individuals for three days and three nights.  Yes, wine was involved after 5.  It was a grand experience in climbing out of one’s zone and into another.  Hey, there was even a class entitled, “How to commit murder and get away with it.”

I’m not at all implying that the class about getting away with murder was a how-to per se.  But I have to tell you, the attendees jumped in with both feet.  What I concluded is that we all have parts of us that meander into some pretty freaky realms.  So I sat in the back and listened.  That room was filled with “what if” specialists.  A good mystery isn’t worth a damn without surprises and twists and turns.  That is the business of a “what if” specialist.  For the first time in all my writing years, I was in the room with people who definitely climbed out of their boxes on a daily basis.

One of the best workshops was a dialog with someone from the CIA sitting opposite another person from the FBI.  Priceless!  It caused a stirring, not in my loins, but in my what if? o meter.  I started me thinking about writing a thoroughly creepy novel.  It toys with me to this day.  It will not write itself unless I am in a room full of creative writers and have a prompt.

The first page started in a precious group of women seeking joy and peace.  As we proceeded around the room to read our treasures, I wondered if I would be thrown out for sheer shock of what I had on the paper in front of me.  They had read about their search for self, climbing of the obstacles of being a woman and the general healing of female comradery.  I, on the other hand had written something that was a cross between a spy novel and a potential murder mystery.  When I read it aloud, I looked up.  Their faces were shocked but a good shock.  One of the writers asked, “How on earth did you write that cool thing?”  I responded, “I haven’t a clue”.   She then asked, “What happens next?” I answered: “I haven’t a clue”.   And so my career as a mystery writer is still on the outer edge of possibility.

I try to surround myself with “what if” specialists but I guess it is up to me and my muses to keep going on this one.  Recently, I met a woman in her fifties and I paused and stared. There she was!  I couldn’t help myself and commented.  “Wow, you look exactly like the main character I am writing about.”  The woman is a very serious medical doctor with a minimum of creative humor.  She said, “What on earth do you mean?”   I bowed my head and said, “Forgive me, but I am writing a mystery novel and you fill the part of the protagonist.”  True to form, she smiled dimly and walked on.

So here I am, wondering.  Will my babe in question be an MD with a secret, one that will get her killed, or will she in her flowing cape save the world?  I’ll answer again, “I haven’t a clue.”

Back in Scotland, when I was writing my Merlin novel, I had the habit of going to the pub of an evening.  In defense, it had wi-fi.  It also had the best fish n chips and draft brew in all of Scotland.  I would stare out at the waves and write.  The publican, also a writer, would ask me to read to her.  I did so but softly so not to disturb the locals.  One night, one of the locals asked:  “Where is Merlin now?”  I smiled.  He had actually heard me reading.  I responded:  “He’s been riding his horse in the middle of the night for three nights.  I can’t figure out how to get him off the horse.”

One day I had lunch at that auspicious pub.  Again, I was reading to my helpmate who would suggest things to me.  A fellow over to the side spoke. “I know where you can get that published.”  I smiled.  “Really?”.  He gave me the name and I wrote it down.  I then, the scientific side of me said, “Off hand, why this person?”  The fellow went into somewhat of a lengthy story about the frugality of Scots.  I finally stopped him and asked, “Sorry, I don’t get what you are trying to tell me.”  He smiled. “The publisher lives very frugally and loves your kind of writing.  I know him.  He will love your book.  And by the way, he is the one who took a chance on Harry Potter.”

Now you’d think I would have grabbed him and got his name et al.  I didn’t.  I just sat there and loved the moment.  Call me naive.  Call me a dreamer but I plan to hand deliver my manuscript to that very publisher this summer when it is done.  Oh and it is a mystery fantasy so I’m still dealing with the what ifs.

Maybe what I have learned is writing is a journey.  Like little Red Riding Hood (Writing Hood????), I follow the bread crumbs along the path.  Maybe that was Hansel and Gretel. Hell, I don’t remember, but bread crumbs along the path are actually clues and I am wide open to clues.

This summer, I’ll jump back into that mystery gig of 4 days.  THIS time, I’ll be one of them.

Dueling with Insideous Writer’s Block

Maybe the most agonizing aspect of being a writer is the challenge of the ever looming writer’s block. I’ve dueled with it many times in my career and have finally come to some sort of detente with it.

Like kids with lots of energy need naps, so do writers.  Some operate on the premise that after all, it’s a job.  They get fairly ritualistic over it all.  You know:  2.3 cups of freshly ground coffee, toast with avocado to be followed by a shower and then, of course, the uniform…something that respects the craft.  These prissy individuals, some on the best seller list by the way, feel that one must respect one’s craft.

Years ago I went kicking and screaming from corporate suits, panty hose and the ever present time clock.  In my world, that combination was anethema to my creativity.

So I set up a writer’s nook at home, complete with a desk that had a view of the garden outside.  I’d tidy my desk top, line up my pens and then hopefully stare out at the hydrangeas.  It didn’t work.  Command of the craft was like ordering a Prince Charming on sale at Amazon.  It wasn’t my way.

So I took a wilder route:  spontaneity.  I figured that if Ernest Hemingway could write on cocktail napkins, as the bulls raced through the streets of Pamplona, I would try this raucous free-lance gig.  It stuck.  I wrote on backs of bills, in dollar store nothing books, and grabbed anything I could with a surface.  I even tried dictating to a recorder.  I felt like an ass speaking into it so now I just press record for ideas that fly into my brain. Never, repeat Never, on command.

Eventually, I had what shrinks might call a psychic split.  Words would spontaneously arrive, sometimes in the middle of the night.  Sometimes in the shower.  Sometimes driving 90mph on I-5in the middle of nowhere.  By the way, it never occurred to me to pull over at a rest stop.  That would ruin the moment and fortunately on that particular day I had someone beside me.

This is God’s own truth.  I politely asked my friend to steer while I wrote.

If someone from the DMV reads this, I’ll deny it all.

The process, however, worked.  I had some cool music on the CD and again, politely asked my dear friend is she could steer one more time while I read aloud to see if the music and words worked together.  It was a slam dunk.

I need to explain that I-5 goes through a helluva lot of boonies so it wasn’t as dangerous as it sounds.

When we arrived at my home, I knew I still needed more.  After all, it was a script for a presentation on Mother Earth and Mother clearly had more to say.

At 3AM I crept out into the living room and wrote the second half.  Order? ritual? no just taking time to honor my muses.  And therein lies the option of psychic split or honoring my muses.

I found soon enough that there was a serious and scientific me an then, Whoa Nelly!, the muse, actually the muses arrived cackling with laughter, sometimes sobbing in agony, anger at the way things appear or wildly passionate with descriptions of wonder.

My “marriage” with my muses is a wonderful love afair that never ends. But freedom is the quintessential agreement.  I don’t get to push.  Deadlines are for dead folks.  Timelines are for those who think they can control the process.

Freedom means admitting to my feeble scribbling hand that sometimes my muses need to take off for the Bahamas.  They reside there in some elegant BNB, snooze in beach chairs and drink umbrella drinks until they get the inclination to return.

In the meantime, I’m on shore looking anxiously through the fog.  But they do return, Always, but Never EVER on command. That’s the way they roll.

A few years back, I wrote a novel about Merlin and the Lady of the Lake.  I was also attempting to finish a fabulous novella that I had started in the Himalayas. I just couldn’t figure out how to finish it.

I received an invitation to Scotland and I jumped at the chance.  After all, Merlin was a Scot.  I had to travel through the mirthless Heathrow airport and was vetted as a Yank who might want to make money in the UK.  I was asked:  Will you be making money while you are here?  Fortunately I answered, O heck now:  I’m praying it will become a best seller down the road.  I’m only here to write.”  Just in case you are wondering, had I answered some egocentric b.s. regarding fame and of course, I’d be making money, they would have put me back on a plane to the US.  That actually happened to someone foolish.

After a few days in Glastonbury and ….. I eventually made it to Highland Cottage on Iona, in the Inner or Outer Hebrides.  I never figured that one out.  That first night I was alone, it stormed and high winds tossed the waves. At 2:30 AM I heard “whisperings”, repeat phrases, sing songy repetition.  I growled, “Go away!.  The sing songy phrases continued.  In desperation, I grabbed my journal and pen and wrote in the dark for over an hour.

When the words stopped, I reached for the wee lamp.  Pages lay before me.  The storm had not abated so I climbed out of bed, turned on the overhead light and read it all aloud to the storm and the crashing waves.  Half way through, I started to sob but kept the reading pace going.  I had finished the last two chapters of my beloved novella.

I promise you, I could never in my scientific half come up with such a spectacular ending.

From that day forward, I deeply honor my muses and try not to notice when they are throwing stuff in their suitcases and preparing for the Bahamas.  Maybe that’s the trick, not pushing. ….waiting and napping until the return.

The Quintessential Writing Tool

As a budding corporate marketing specialist, some 40 years ago, I lived a screaming, stress-filled life of early rising, getting the kids off to school, freeway madness and the thorough nonsense of a job that didn’t fulfill me.

I began the search for the quintessential writing tool.  It was a board to fit across the bathtub to enable me to have a wee glass of wine and write.  My daughter, seven years old at the time, found the perfect match.  This board supported my glass, journal and pen.  Both of my girls knew that this time in the bath was MINE.  Aside from the return of the Apocalypse, I was not to be disturbed.

During that healing time, I realized something profound:  it helped me heal all three:  mind, body and spirit AND I did not punch into somebody else’s time clock.  Lord, I hated that time clock!

Sometime that year I started a “Be Do Have” workshop.  It was pretty much the beginning of what came to be known as the New Thought Movement.  Heck!  This kind of stuff was ancient.  We robot humans had simply forgotten.  It ignited my longing for change.

So I soaked my sorry backside while I balanced the board and wrote whatever I pleased. Wow!  No more stunningly boring reports on chemical processes or biomedical white papers.  I now have come to suspect anything that has to do with white papers.  They signal pontification and falling asleep after the third paragraph.

So I wrote poetry, free-lance anything that came to my pen and it was delicious.

When I had enough of time clocks, I escaped to the orient and eventually to Kathmandu.

…..

As the water was draining from my current bath, I realized that the precious board enabled me to write without getting water spots on my pages, so I am now putting out a call for someone with a board of precise dimension (29 inches x 7 inches, x 1 inch width).  Looking back, I have no idea how my daughter found that exact dimension which fit perfectly across the enamel enclosure.  I even wrote a resignation letter from that board.  It was time to move on and explore other options.

What I then remembered was a wish I have always harbored:  to be a syndicated columnist…you know,  one that writes pithy stuff that is quick to read.  Abby made a ton of bucks advising folks and she was the queen of pith. I’ve never really done the Dear G stuff but I’m kind of a fantasy historian story teller hybrid.

When I was twenty-four, I got bored with a research position at UCLA.  It was prestigious but also hideously repetitious.  I looked to the horizon and asked for co-ordinates to the best escape route I could find.  Since a friend was signing up for “Project Hope”, a hospital ship that cruised (do ships themselves cruise?) to parts unknown, I applied as well.  All I knew is I didn’t care about the somewhere.  It was pretty much anywhere.

So I interviewed and when my walking papers arrived, they said Nicaragua, Central America.  My boyfriend and I had to take out a map to find Nicaragua.  So much for U.S. Citizens and their knowledge base of even the Americas.

At that time, the Sandinista revolution was on the back burner.  The esteemed Anastasio Somoza was running the country. That year was what I call my before and after year.  I came back changed forever.  I would never be happy with North American status quo again.

And as for the after, I’ve continuously longed for far away places. I have become the High Priestess of frequent flyers. I’ve written in the dead of winter on an island in the outer Hebrides.  I’ve sat behind mosquito netting in Kenya and read to a local tribal woman.  I’ve also been accused of a certain addiction to travel when I hopped on a plane to go do a video documentary on a pig farm in Uganda. That is the gig that had my wings clipped for awhile.

But back to Nicaragua.  My mom and dad bought me one of those fancy reel to reel recorders.  I would sit out on deck at night and dictate letters.  There was no email or Face Book then and it was either dictate or write a letter and still chance it getting lost.

When I returned stateside, my mom handed me the letters I had written home.  Without telling me, she had contacted a journalist with the newspaper and yes, he had a syndicated column.  He shared my stories word for word and never gave me a byline.

Mom told me that when I went on hiatus for a while, this same journalist called frequently for more stories.  Readers had loved the pieces and wanted more adventures of the wild dame in the tropics.

As I write this today, that journalist is likely 6ft under, (turkey that he was and is).  He stole my credit, my byline.

But hey, I still somehow qualified  a “syndicated columnist.”

Reading the day to day of that year is now priceless.  A girl friend honored me by mixing her famous margueritas and asking me to read those letters aloud.  It was my birthday somewhere in my sixties, and well, she loved the stories.  It was magical as I stood and read them, sipped the marg and shed a few tears.

So I’m calling for the board.  I just found a shelf I could improvise. besides, who needs more doodads on a shelf when I just might write the Great American Novel with that shelf in the tub.

I’m also packing a mini laptop and sorting through my frequent flyer options and still valid visas.  Before I escape, however, I’m going to gather all my stories in one place and honor them.

Time passes far too quickly and Emily Dickinson, eat your heart out.  I’m not dying with my boots on with a trunk load of writing to be honored posthumously.

Get out of the way snooty agents and publishers.  I’ll do it myself and yes, I’ll take the by line.

 

 

Looking Back on Mother

This Sunday, September 4, 2016, Mother Teresa will be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.  In simple language:  She will be declared a saint in Heaven, as is she didn’t already occupy that zip code a long time ago.

I spent an incredibly powerful time in Kolkata some years back and Mother Teresa featured highly in that experience.

Looking Back at Mother  

We arise at 4:30a.m.

We will be walking the dark streets to Mother Teresa’s house.  Mass begins at 6.

As we pass through the back alleys of Calcutta (now Kolkata), winding through the Muslim sector, we see many people sleeping on the cement. Early tracings of dawn reveal a city awakening to business as usual. Many later up at gushing fire hydrants. goats hang in the market place. Vegetables lie in piles ready for sale. Slowly, locals rise to get their wares organized for yet another day of haggling.

Beggars sift through the eternal trash in line with a dump truck that races them for scoops. The scent of peat, combined with urine and rotting garbage hangs heavily in the air.

As we turn down the alley, we see the door marked Mother Teresa’s.  Entering the main courtyard, a large statue of the Virgin Mary greets us. Nuns move quietly about their business, readying for Mass and their duties which will take them to the House of the Dying, Home of the Children and other centers near Calcutta, including the leprosarium one hour out of town.

We remove our shoes to enter the chapel and a sense of excitement arises. I am at her very door, this precious woman who has guided my heart for so long. Sisters enter quietly while incessant crows squawk outside the windows midst a cacophany of horns and street noise.

Mother, herself, kneels unassumingly. She appears much tinier that I expected. As I gaze at her feet, I see they have hammered toes. This must be painful. Her severely rounded shoulders and upper back bespeak of osteoporosis. Still the very presence of this extraordinary soul inspires all to quiet smiles of awe. Very much present, this little woman adjusts the light switches above her.

At communion, she leads the sisters and then takes the Eucharist to dispense to lines of postulants, sisters and volunteers. Memory of the sight of her at prayer still thrills me. After Mass, Mother leads the sisters in singing and prayer. They seem almost childlike in their recitation revealing a remarkable innocence.

Later, in an uncommon time alone, she takes my hand and holds it for a long time as we speak together. I ask her if I can videotape some of her centers. “Go photograph the children, photograph the living!” she insists. Before I know it, Mother has arranged a nun to personally escort me to Shu Shu Bhavan, the place of the children.

Later, my companion and I take a taxi across town to the House of the Dying. Entering the huge wooden door, I say to my attorney friend, “Be prepared to walk to the edge of your soul.” This sacred place can be a confrontive experience for anyone. The first time I served here twelve years ago, I spoke with Sister Dolores.

“Sister, I hope I haven’t been in the way. I’m new and just followed in the footsteps of the other volunteers.”

Sister Delores smiled and said,  “My dear, you can carry a body to the morgue, feed an old woman, change bandages, paint beds for the Pope’s visit or just stand at a distance and love them with your eyes. It’s all the same”

We find aprons and gloves and quickly immerse in cleaning plastic mattresses and pillows. I stand at times and simply witness the scenes before us. Encounter of the heart, between volunteers and the sick and dying reveal an amazing experience of compassion.

As the morning wears on, we go from bed to bed, offering a hand, sometimes administering medicine, stroking, feeding or just sitting and holding. While massaging an old woman’s feet, I suddenly ask myself, Why can’t I do this for my own mother? Why do I have to go halfway around the world to experience compassion?

Determined to seek permission to somehow invisibly videotape the “Moments of the Heart”, I return to my hotel with a homework assignment from Sister Priscilla, the lead organizational nun. I must write a letter to explain what I want to do, for what use and who, in fact, I am. Late this night, I search my soul for the words.

A rickshaw driver delivers me and my handwritten letter to the convent. sitting outside the door marked “Private”, I gaze at the simple blue checkered curtains separating within and without:  the points between rest for Mother and greeting the ever-present devotees.

Now, sitting in the wings, I’m not seeking photo opportunities as I watch Mother at work, greeting souls, ruffling baby hair, tickling a child. I see some tiredness behind that tiny arthritic frame. Who protects Mother form exhaustion, a personal Jesus? Who sends her energy? Batteries that just keep on keeping on like the Energizer bunny?

Sister Priscilla suddenly appears and sits down beside me. She delivers the permission signed by Mother, which will enable me to proceed with my video work.

On our last day in Calcutta, I’m not expecting to see  Mother but she suddenly emerges from behind the curtain. She smiles and I say, “We’re leaving today, Mother.”

She hesitates and asks, “Where are you going?”

I answer, “Home, to the U.S.”

She takes my hand and holds it gently and look up. “You are coming back, aren’t you?”

I promise, “Of course, Mother.”

Suddenly she asks, “How many houses do you have?”

“One, Mother, why?”

She laughs and answers, “I have over 500 in 105 countries!”

I counter, “Good Lord, I hope you have someone to clean them all. I have trouble with only one.”

We laugh together and then she speaks quietly to me of dying with grace, dignity and love and how important it is to have support.

And….I hold her hand one more time.

She’s gone now like a whisper on the wind, my beloved Energizer Bunny, who kept on keeping on. She’s left me with a smile, her wonderful business card, medals which keep multiplying, a picture of One Moment in Time and her gentle hand in mine.”

 

The House of the Dying

Looking down on the roof, one can view Kalighat, the temple of the Goddess Kali. It abuts the very walls of the House of the Dying. Here, animal sacrifices take place and the energy is quite Hindu.

In the beginning, the head Brahman of this temple, quite opposed Mother’s work and sought to prevent her from proceeding. When he contracted cholera and lay dying, no one in the temple would touch him. Mother collected him and nursed him herself. After he survived and healed, he became her chief proponent.

After washing and scrubbing, we return to the hotel to change clothes. We immerse our sandals in bactericidal solution. Are there risks working at Kalighat? TB, AIDS and other diseases are rampant in the back streets of India. Still, precautions taken can withstand most challenges.

I soak my sandals for two days, hang them up to dry in the harsh Calcutta sun and give them to the rickshaw driver as a gift. By this time, I’ve purchased rubber sandals that are far more practical.  Geri Lennon

I’m a video producer and author who lives in California.  I’m currently co authoring a bio book on Pandemics and working on a video documentary based on the work Mother Teresa began called “Moments of the Heart, the Path of Compassion”. Over the last several years, I’ve worked as a lay volunteer with Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity whenever I can get to India.  I wrote this article after three weeks in Calcutta in 1996.

Another Face of Mother

 

 

 

 

 

 

Requiem

I’m sitting in a fabulous place in Berkeley.  In fact, I’m house and pet sitting and enjoying the spring weather.  My heart and soul, however, have flown to the Himalayas.  I have had the joy and sacred experience of walking the hills and villages of Nepal as well as the villages on the Indian side of the great peaks..  It is my favorite place in the entire world.  It is my touchstone.

Hearing the news of the earthquake and decimation, I find I can’t shake the sadness and loss I feel so personally.  Mountain climbers and trekkers are in enormous strife, but a nation, a country and her people are in mourning.  I am in mourning.  May the miracle of prayers and loving kindness heal my beloved home of the heart  and her wonderful people.  There just aren’t any words….except maybe this:  Life changes in a heartbeat.  There just aren’t any words……