Kundalini Splendor

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Sunday, March 29, 2020

A Twist in the Road––Poem by Dorothy 


A Twist in the Road

One day there was a twist
or turning in the road
and after that
I was no longer
part of the crowd.
Although to be quite honest
I had never been part 
of any crowd or group
or gathering.
Because I always knew
that I was different,
set apart as if
there was something wrong
with me,
a birth defect,
an incapacity that I had
no name for,
that I compensated for
by the knowing itself,
and thus defined myself
as the unfortunate other,
homeless in the sense
of one who has no home,
just a restless discomfort,
never fully assuaged.


Dante said, "Midway in the journey of our life
I found myself lost in a dark wood,"
and thus began his story of his
long journey home,
arrival at the place
where the angels danced,
where the air smelled 
of a sweetness 
like honey made by
sacred bees,
like perfume manufactured
by the apprentice gods
learning to be holy.
His journey took years (metaphorically),
lifetimes maybe,
but mine took only seconds,
or seemed to make a transition
from one state to the next
in the famous blink of
the famous eye,
and left me stunned,
immersed in rapture
before I had time
to name it or wonder
about it,
I knew only
that I was being overwhelmed
by an unknown force,
commanded by love
to release all remorse
and regret
and simply be
that which was happening
from which I could never return.

And now I was outside
the outsiders,
alien among aliens,
stranger even to that reality
of suffering I had claimed
as my own.

And so I became other,
both witness and alchemical subject,
experiment in progress
and new being in love with 
and loved by the invisible,
nameless suitor,
self rediscovered at last.

Dorothy Walters
March 29, 2020




Saturday, March 28, 2020

The Truth––poem by Dorothy 

The Truth

Do not forget
the truth 
you have been given.

Your scholarship
was 2,000 years
in the making.

Sages and prophets
have slaved for years
for this knowledge.

Only now
have the books of heaven
been opened
for humanity to grasp
their treasures.

Secrets are being whispered
into your ears
at night.

Do not forget them
when daylight
arrives and the veils
drop once more.

Dorothy Walters
February 27, 2020


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Chips in the brain? 

Chips in the Brain?

Technicians now are learning to insert chips in the brain to allow information to interface with the hard drive of computers.  They claim that this connection will allow the recipient to have more brain "bandwidth" and thus to function more efficiently in the world.  They also assert that this brain-chip arrangement will do wonders for paraplegics and Parkinson's victims and thus will serve a very worthy function in society.

However, there is a price to pay for these improvements.  The use of these artificial devices will diminish the effectiveness of your natural ability to cope with similar conditions.  This notion also raises the fear that a new "species' will be created through the fusion of human and AI elements.

Will a robot- like creature be the product of such joining?  Will the result be something that suggests a sci-fi-movie?  Will we as humans lose those essential qualities that define us as humans?  Who will supervise these basically experimental efforts?

All sorts of possible nightmare  outcomes suggest themselves as possibilities.  Will they aid those with certain disabilities as is claimed?  Will the result be instead unexpected side effects?

Once we tamper with nature  in this way, we may face serious consequences.  The prospects are sobering.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Jeff Carreira Free Seminar 

The "click here" button does not work on this copy, but I feel certain that if you e-mail Jeff at his address above, he will enroll you in the seminar.  Jeff is a major spiritual teacher who is well worth listening to.


Hi Dorothy,  

Thank you for registering for the 2 hour workshop 'Opening Your Heart to the Challenge of Crisis'

Opening Your Heart to the Challenge of Crisis
In times of crisis, it is possible to go in the opposite direction. Even under pressure we can open rather than shrink.

**This workshop will be recorded for those that cannot attend live**

View all details here
with Jeff Carreira

Date and Time
Saturday, March 28th: 11:00 am – 1:00 pm US Eastern Time

Location: Zoom Video Conferencing
>> Enter The Workshop Zoom Room <<
Or use meeting ID: 557 225 570

A reminder email will also be sent one hour before the workshop starts.

Sincerely,
Jeff

e: jeff@jeffcarreira.com w: jeffcarreira.com 
w: mysteryschool-memberscircle.com


Sent to: dorothywalters72@gmail.com 

Unsubscribe 

Emergence Education, P.O. Box 63767, Philadelphia, PA 19147, United States


Monday, March 23, 2020

Giant invisible beings working with Dr Joe Dispenza 


Sunday, March 22, 2020

Katherine Hastings––Corona ––poem 


Corona

Bursting red flowers

Invisible to the eye

Your beauty slays us

We lather our hands

And with only you in mind

Close ourselves from life

We listen for stars

For wind rapping at our doors

And discover peace

In our solitude

In the true present moment

It is all we have

It is all we need

Our essential bouquet


- Katherine Hastings 


Saturday, March 14, 2020

Lynn Ungar––Pandemic 

Pandemic

What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love--
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

- Lynn Ungar

Sunday, March 08, 2020

Jeff Carreira and the Future 








Hi Dorothy,

The ultimate goal of my work is to cultivate and nurture Artists of Possibility and that is the primary focus of my upcoming 12-week intensive. 

Please read this essay so you can understand exactly what I mean by that. 

I hope you enjoy it.

Jeff

(Jeff Carreira is one of the major spiritual teachers of our time.  He is also the co-publisher (with his wife Amy) of my books through their firm Emergent Education Press.  They are a delight to work with.)

~~
Calling in an Unimaginable Future

The aim of my work is to support people to serve the future as Artists of Possibility. That means supporting people to discover and develop their own unique expression of an unimaginable future. 

There are aspects of the future that are imaginable, almost predictable, but there are also things that happen that were unprecedented. These things couldn’t have been predicted and they usher in dramatic change. These are paradigm shifting events and they generally brought about by people who have a profound openness of vision. 

Think of a flat Earth to a round Earth, from the Sun going around the Earth, to the Earth going around the Sun, or from disease caused by evil spirits to germs. 

I believe the big paradigm shifting leap in consciousness we need now is from a universe of separation, to a universe of Oneness. Those who will usher in that dramatic leap are today’s Artists of Possibility. They are the paradigm shifters. 

The idea is simple. We exist as part of a living, conscious universe. The consciousness that we have as an individual is an expression of that higher, universal heart and mind. 

Our life, including our thoughts, our loves, and our actions, are already coming from a universal source, but how clear a reflection depends on how open a channel we are. 

The deeper source of our being is filtered through our conditioned mental, emotional, and behavioral patterns, and shaped by our deepest assumptions about the nature of reality. 

To become an Artist of Possibility we must relax our habits of reactivity and question our most fundamental assumptions about everything. Then we can discover and adopt new ways of understanding and experiencing the world. 

In short, we must learn to relax reactivity in order to creatively illuminate new worlds of possibility. 

If we embark on this journey, we will eventually find ourselves in an awkward position. We will see clearly that the world as it commonly presents itself, is not nearly the limit of what’s possible and we will want to share the riches of new possibility with anyone who is open to them.

The questions that arise at this point are: What do we share? How do we share it? And do we have the courage to stand behind what we see?

In my work, people use the practice of meditation to relax their deepest habits of reactivity and attain a profound freedom of spirit. By practicing what I call the Art of Conscious Contentment, they discover a profoundly calm and equanimous peace of mind. This liberates them from conditioned patterns of being and it’s an essential step on the journey to new worlds of possibility. 

The next step in the journey involves using paradigm shifting philosophical inquiry and experimentation to literally shift our experience of reality. The paradigm we currently exist within is held together by a few assumptions that are buried so deep in our experience that they seem unquestionable. 

By questioning assumptions such as the separation between us and the world, or the existence of the self, or the linear passage of time, we uproot the foundations of reality. And once we begin to free ourselves from these assumptions, we can consider different ways of understanding and experiment with different ways of being. This is the work of creatively illuminating new worlds of possibility.

As we relax patterns of reactivity and creatively illuminate new worlds of possibility, our sensitivity to the source of consciousness opens up. We become aware of realms that we were previously blind to. And we feel called to express the love, wisdom and majesty we find there.  

We are all reflections of a divine source, but we are not just open channels, we are unique channels, with particular interests and capacities. There is an expression of the cosmos that each of us was born to share, and our spiritual work ultimately means sharing it fully. 

What we find as we open to our unique gifts is that they have been part of our lives from the beginning. Even in a semi-conscious state we could not help but express some portion of our gifts. If we keep an open mind, we will see that we are in the perfect position to express our deepest wisdom and love right now. 

The different pieces of our life will fit together in new and exciting ways. We will understand why we’ve always been interested in the things we were interested in, studied the things we’ve studied, succeeded in the ways that we have, and failed when we moved to far from our gifts. 

Our work now involves choosing the best medium for expression, developing our voice, and allowing our passion to carry us into the life of an Artist of Possibility. 

~ end ~

Sincerely,
Jeff Carreira

Saturday, March 07, 2020

Kalidas (Lawrence Edwards)–– Wandering Through the Forest (poem) 

On Mar 7, 2020, at 4:28 PM, Lawrence Edwards wrote:

Wandering Through the Forest

Wandering through the forest
We come upon an open glade.
O my Beloved,
You suddenly let the fullness
of your Divine Presence
be known,
enveloping,
no, 
Being,
all I could perceive! 
You, the soft petal of the
late winter crocus, 
You, the scent of ground
thawing, leaves decaying, 
incense suffused with You
my Beloved!
Shafts of sunlight
amidst columns of trees,
You! You, my beloved!
Daffodil shoots 
and promises
of brilliant yellow blossoms, 
You! You, all You!
Who's experiencing all this!
Perceiver and perceived, 
mind and body,
You, You, all you!
Lover and Beloved, 
You! You, only You!
Nothing left but You!
Om Kali Ma! 
Om Kali Ma! 
Om Kali Ma! 


Love to you dear Dorothy! 

Kalidas 


Lawrence Edwards, PhD, LMHC, BCN Senior Fellow
www.optimalmind.net 
www.thesoulsjourney.com


Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Lorin Roche––The Radiance Sutras 








The Radiance Sutras––Lorin Roche

The Radiance Sutras is a lively version of a classic meditation text, the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, which describes 112 different doorways into meditation. The text appeared in Kashmir around 800 AD and is characterized by a wide-open embrace of all of human experience. It is addressed to people who live in the world and want to have rich inner and outer lives.  (from Amazon's description)  I consider this one of the most beautiful translations available.



vayu dvayasya samghattat
antah va bahih antatah
yogi samatva vijnana
samudgamana bhajanam

Pour one breath into the other,
Out-breath into the in-breath
Into the out-breath.

In the harmony of this fusion
Where one rhythm turns into the other,
Awaken into equilibrium.

Tend to breath in this way,
Claim the power
Of oneness with the Self.



yatra yatra manas tustir
manas tatra-eva dharayet
tatra tatra para ananda
svarupam sam-pravartate

Wherever, whenever you feel carried away,
Rejoicing in every breath,
There, there is your meditation hall.

Cherish those times of absorption—
Rocking the baby in the silence of the night
Pouring water into a crystal glass
Tending the logs in the crackling fire
Sharing a meal with a circle of friends.
Embrace these pleasures and know,
This is my true body.

Nowhere is more holy than this.
Right here is the sacred pilgrimage.
Live in alertness for such a moment, my Beloved,
As if it were your one meeting with the Creator.

asane shayane sthitva
niradharam vibhavayan
svadeham manasi kshine
kshanat kshena-ashaya bhavet

Sitting on a soft seat,
Or lying on your mat,
Experience the space below
As offering no support.

You are simply suspended,
Floating in space.

Structures of the mind release,
The reservoir of habits dissolves.
In an instant, lifetimes of patterns
Vanish.



chitti adi antah kritih nasti
mama-antah bhavayet iti
vikalpanam abhavena
vikalpaih ujjhitah bhavet

People talk about mind and ego.
Let’s just drop this whole conversation.

Consider instead:
There is no mind.
There is no ego.
There is only the incandescent reality.
At play, beckoning.

Adapted from The Radiance Sutras: 112 Gateways to the Yoga of Wonder and Delight, by Lorin Roche. Copyright © 2014 by Lorin Roche. Sounds True, August 2014.


Tuesday, March 03, 2020

To my Guru Who Did Not Come––poem by Dorothy 

To My Guru Who Did Not Come

(For those who tread alone)

O holy one,
I longed for you.
I wrote precious poems,
 said prayers,
yet never saw your face.

You gave me an assignment,
to follow a path that was, like you,
invisible,
trod by few.
You sent overwhelming
love
into my body,
to show me the way.
Often you came,
often we melted together
into one,
how beautiful, this
yab/yum of the soul.

Oh, my guru, my beloved invisible one,
little did I guess,
that you were my unseen guide.

Together we made our way
into the unknown.
You and I, we were wed,
two souls in one body,
secret union.

Oh, my holy one,
you are with me always,
even now.

Dorothy Walters
March 1, 2020





Monday, March 02, 2020

Milarepa––I Have Forgotten 





I Have forgotten

Milarepa

May I be far removed from contending creeds and dogmas.
Ever since my Lord’s grace entered my mind,
My mind has never strayed to seek such distractions.
Accustomed long to contemplating love and compassion,
I have forgotten all difference between myself and others.

Accustomed long to meditating on my Guru as enhaloed over my head,
I have forgotten all those who rule by power and prestige.
Accustomed long to meditating on my guardian deities as inseparable from myself,
I have forgotten the lowly fleshly form.
Accustomed long to meditating on the secret whispered truths,
I have forgotten all that is said in written or printed books.
Accustomed, as I have been, to the study of the eternal Truth,
I’ve lost all knowledge of ignorance.

Accustomed, as I’ve been, to contemplating both nirvana and samsara as inherent in myself,
I have forgotten to think of hope and fear.
Accustomed, as I’ve been, to meditating on this life and the next as one,
I have forgotten the dread of birth and death.
Accustomed long to studying, by myself, my own experiences,
I have forgotten the need to seek the opinions of friends and brethren.
Accustomed long to applying each new experience to my own spiritual growth,
I have forgotten all creeds and dogmas.

Accustomed long to meditating on the Unborn, the Indestructible, the Unchanging,
I have forgotten all definitions of this or that particular goal.
Accustomed long to meditating on all visible phenomena as the Dharmakaya,
I have forgotten all meditations on what is produced by the mind.
Accustomed long to keeping my mind in the uncreated state of freedom,
I have forgotten all conventions and artificialities.

Accustomed long to humbleness, of body and mind,
I have forgotten the pride and haughty manner of the mighty.
Accustomed long to regarding my fleshly body as my hermitage,
I have forgotten the ease and comfort of retreats and monasteries.
Accustomed long to knowing the meaning of the Wordless,
I have forgotten the way to trace the roots of verbs, and the
sources of words and phrases. 
You, 0 learned one, may trace out these things in your books

– Milarepa

Milarepa was one of the most celebrated of the early Indian saints. His life story is one of transgression and repentance, for he spent his younger years inflicting vengeance on those who had wrongfully stolen his inheritance, thus leaving his family in poverty.  Ultimately, he realized that his was not the correct path and sought to rectify his misdeeds.  The legend relates that, among other things, he lived in a cave and ate only nettles to survive.  He is said to have turned green from his diet.  He wrote countless poems/songs that are still remembered today.
I especially like this poem, for he abjures pedantry and dogma, and follows the promptings of his "Guru enhalowed over my head." 

Sunday, March 01, 2020

Mary Oliver––The Fawn 

The Fawn
        
Sunday morning and mellow as precious metal
The church bells rang, but I went
To the woods instead.

A fawn, too new
For fear, rose from the grass
And stood with its spots blazing,
And knowing no way but words,
No trick but music,
I sang to him.

He listened.
His small hooves struck the grass.
Oh what is holiness?

The fawn came closer,
Walked to my hands, to my knees.

I did not touch him.
I only sang, and when the doe came back
Calling out to him dolefully
And he turned and followed her into the trees,
Still I sang,
Not knowing how to end such a joyful text,

Until far off the bells once more tipped and tumbled
And rang through the morning, announcing
The going forth of the blessed.

      - Mary Oliver
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Saturday, February 29, 2020

Lisel Mueller–A Bulwark Against Barbarism 

Lisel Mueller––A Bulwark Against Barbarism

She was above all 
elegant, precise.
She was the observer
who saw what the others missed,
or forgot,
or felt was of no importance.

Hers was the subtle voice,
the delicate perception,
the angle that many
ignored.

Though her sensibility was honed
in the furnace of twentieth century
violence, her poems
focused on the personal
insight, the close perception,
the undeniable revelation,
a painting with significant
undertones,
the music with evident nuance.

She avoided certain controversial
positions––feminism, patriarchal deficiencies,
the egregious tactics of certain males––
and thus became a darling 
of male judges, critics, editors.

Still, her work was worthy
of the highest acclaim,
a model for the less famous,
a standard for the rest.
She took us where we had not been,
delivered us into unexplored territory,
made us feel wiser, more knowing,
more human.

Dorothy Walters
February 28

Friday, February 21, 2020

The Follower––poem by Dorothy 

The Follower

I gave up wife and child
to come to this place.

Now I sit here
with a straight back
and a loin cloth
as I say my mantras,
even the ones
I composed,
that just came.

A bit of rice
now and then for food,
recitation of sacred passages
for the master to hear.

Long walks
by the river,
the ground
to sleep on.

He tells me
that such austerities
will purify the soul,
bring the spirit
to enlightenment and joy.

Sometimes when I
am sitting
under the stars,
 their radiance
warms my heart,
and I feel something strange
open in my chest,
as if I were being kissed
by an unknown love.

I wait to see,
do not tell him.
He knows the way.
I must listen in silence
as he gives me more repetitions
and twisted moves,
more cold nights,
till I reach my goal.

Dorothy Walters
February 20, 2020





Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The Stranger––poem by Dorothy 

The Stranger

Something has carried me
into a new place,
a country where
I have not been before,
a language
I do not know.

This dervish on the screen
now turning in my heart,
spinning me
into newness.

This music from
an unnamed source,
its drumbeat of
unity and love.

These leaves trembling
on the tree nearby––
now they are me,
now they have invaded
and overthrown
what I thought I was,
boundaries dissolved,
cells all given way,
faded into
this familiar stranger
I have become.

Dorothy Walters
January 19, 2020

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

A Flower––poem by Dorothy 

A Flower

(for Rumy)

What shall I do?
I am become this flower,
this scent, this other
of who I am.

Sweetness flows from head
to foot,
a gentle stream of forgetting,
of becoming only this,
this fragrant reality,
this is of what is,
what I am,
what I am going to become,
this irrefutable evidence
of All.

Dorothy Walters
February 18, 2020

(Today I was still in an altered state from the excitement of the magical afternoon on Sunday.  Then, this flower caught my attention and as I held it near to enjoy its sensuous odor, I felt gentle but very real flows of shakti.  So this was my morning practice, as I moved my hands near but not touching my various chakras.  An hour later I stopped to smell it once more, and the odor was gone from it and also the remaining blooms in the vase from which it had come.   This transitory experience was like a brief visitation from the goddess, who is indeed Kundalini.)

Monday, February 17, 2020

Amazing Day 

Amazing Day

Yesterday was special.  A friend of mine set up a performance of music and poetry in a nearby city and it was a smashing success.  We had some very good local poets, music (flute and harp) from Val the organizer and harpist, and poetry from both Val and me.

Seventy people came––an amazing turnout for a poetry reading (often you get 10-15 for these.)  Every one seemed to love it and some even cried during the reading of sacred poems.

I am still vibrating from all the excitement.

I think it is events like these that remind us that we ourselves are in fact talented and creative and such community gatherings can help us survive during these difficult times.

Blessings to all,

Dorothy

Friday, February 14, 2020

Happy Valentine's Day––Penny Evans 

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY

Penny Evans

Love wears red tights, of course, and a long loose top so she can dance easily.  She rides a bicycle decorated with bells and flowers and carries chocolates in a big canvas bag which she hands out liberally.  Contrary to popular opinion, she does not own a bow and knows nothing of archery.  She also shares poems everywhere she goes. She’s a Quaker and loves silence but also is known to use curse words now and again when things don’t work out.     She doesn’t wear make-up.  She seems to cause people to fall and she has unusual disguises.  She likes to sneak up on YOU.  Sometimes people mistake others for her.  She has imposters.  Watch out for them!  They usually seem too good to be true – and often are.  When she’s done her work, she leaves you alone to figure out the hard stuff.  Because she’s real, she does have some warts, scars and occasional bad breath.  You have to take the whole package.  She can break your heart – but, that too can be a sort of gift sometimes.  She likes it if you prepare the way for her;  sweep the path,   expect her to arrive.  Be home.  And, if she came into your life long ago and you’ve begun to take her for granted – dust her off – buy her some flowers – ask her to dance.


Thursday, February 13, 2020

Garrison Keilor––An Old Man's Sunday Morning 

Garrison Keilor

An old man’s Sunday morning annotated

“Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet!” said the prophet Isaiah, which we read in church on Sunday, but nobody shouted. We are flatlanders, brought up to be still and behave ourselves and listen to instructions, but if the instruction is to shout out and raise your voice, wait to see if other people do it and then, depending on which ones do, maybe do it yourself but quietly. And we are Episcopalian so what would we shout? A poem by Mary Oliver? A recipe for bouillabaisse?

I would shout, “God help us and do it soon.” I was provoked last week to wonder where I would go if Democrats hand over the White House and the Current Occupant remains for sixteen or twenty years until he’s in his mid-thirties and I thought, “Iceland.” England is an obvious choice but I don’t understand Brits when they talk and Icelanders speak beautiful English. I was in Reykjavik once, driving around, lost, and saw a large white home by the sea and walked up and knocked on the door and it was opened by the president of Iceland. It was his home. He told me to get back to my hotel. He spoke perfect English, of course. Imagine knocking on the door of a white house and it’s opened by the C.O. The thought is depressing, not to mention his English.

But the Sunday service moved on to the confession of sins and I thought of my unfair bias against pop music of the past thirty years and the replacement of melody and harmony with rapping and tapping and my shameful bias against people with tattoos. This is wrong of me to dismiss my fellow creatures just because, on a crazy impulse years ago, they had enormous orange flames inscribed on their left shoulder. Or the young woman I saw in the grocery last week with green leaves tattooed on her neck. Just because she imagined herself as a trellis is no reason to look down on her. Someday I may be in a vegetative state myself and I hope people are no less kind for that.

I confessed this to Almighty God to Whom all desires are known and from Whom no secrets are hid, including my envy of a friend who lives in a majestic house with umber tile floors and rattan carpets atop a hill overlooking the blue Pacific, which he earned by cranking out mindless TV shows in which unattractive people snarl at each other to the accompaniment of a laugh track, which enables him to jet down to Brazil and hike into the rain forest and have more fun than I do and so I entertain hopes that he will fall off a ledge into a slough and be bitten by poisonous fish and catch a rare fish-transmitted disease that leaves the victim feeling lethargic and stupefied and for which the only cure seems to be fasting, chastity, and immersion in cold water. I imagine visiting him to express my insincere sympathy. I confessed the sin of envy but as you can see it is a continuing problem.

On my way home I remembered more sins, including a loathing of braggarts who cannot bring themselves to ever admit being wrong and a strong intolerance of ducktails on older men. I know of a man who is very committed to maintaining the swoop of hair with distinct comb tracks behind each ear, touching them up every fifteen minutes or so even though he is allegedly fully employed. I knew boys in high school sixty years ago who were dedicated to their hair but the habit tends to fade as one acquires children, wives, debts, etc. Barack Obama has zero-maintenance hair, unimpeachably so. Nobody imagines him spending time doing his makeup and sculpting his hair. The gentleman in question is also the biggest braggart in the history of America. When you hear him spout off about his perfections and you see the duck marks on his head, there is a cognitive dissonance like the sound of a stack of china dropped on a concrete floor.

Be that as it shall be, I am thinking that Iceland may be worth a look. My people left Yorkshire in 1774 and came here and it’s been good but eventually things run their course. Next Sunday in church I will say a prayer for the man and for his hair. I think baldness would be good. He is bald-faced so why not the top too?

The light bulb is out and needs changing

I flew into New York last week, descending over the East River onto LaGuardia, and outside Baggage Claim I was surprised to find men and women in official yellow vests guiding us tourists toward the taxi stand, helping with luggage, saying, “Welcome to New York” and “Thanks for using LaGuardia” and “Enjoy the city.” This is not the New York that we Minnesotans expect to find, but thank goodness the cabdrivers are still genuine New York cabdrivers, surly, scrappy, contemptuous of the stupidity all around them.

In Minneapolis, the cabdriver who drove me to the airport told me, without prompting, about his brief career as a guitarist in a band, his failed marriage, the difficulty of getting back to music. Call me a cynic but it struck me as a plea for a big tip, which I, a Minnesotan, duly gave him. In New York, no cabdriver would take that tack. He is a fighter who will get you from the airport to the Upper West Side five minutes faster than anyone else could.

New York is a good place to visit when you feel the country is falling apart. On the island of Manhattan, high-rises keep rising, water mains break, rush hour is crazy, you can’t help but feel the fragility of the complexity of the place and yet people cope. They cram into subway cars and find privacy in a book or a pair of headphones. I sat next to a woman once who, I swear, was listening to Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” while looking at a solid wall of people’s legs and rear ends. Everywhere, you see the resilience of the human spirit.

The country is splintering, farmers going broke, government stewardship of the planet is a dead issue, the Arctic is melting, we’ve come to accept dishonesty in high places, and in January we watched the cruel punishment of Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr., chained to a chair and forced to listen to the Senate’s impeachment trial, like making Wynton Marsalis listen to one hundred hours of air horns. But the president won a big victory, just as the state of Kansas did in the Super Bowl, and now we move on to other matters, such as socialism: what percentage of American voters consider themselves socialist? Five? Eight? Three?

My phone rang in the cab. It was a friend I’d recently been miffed with. She said, “My kid told me a joke and I thought of you. Knock, knock.”

“Who’s there?”

“Amish.”

“Amish who?”

“That’s funny, you don’t look like a shoe.”

It was the first knock-knock joke I’d heard in years: I don’t know many nine-year-olds. I am a mature American male, a tax-paying Episcopalian, and this joke kills me. It made me forget whatever it was I was miffed at her about. This is the beauty of jokes: if they’re funny, they erase bad feeling. “Why don’t Amish water-ski?” I ask. “Because it’s so hard on the horses.” She groans but she is amused.

I’m sad that the lightbulb joke has vanished in America, it was clever, often funny, but it made fun of categories of people and this was seen as offensive. How many psychiatrists does it take to change a lightbulb? (One but the lightbulb has to want to change.) Irishmen. (One to hold the bulb, nine to drink until the room spins.) Jewish mothers. (None. I’ll just sit in the dark and suffer.) Episcopalians. (None, we have candles.) Amish. (What light bulb?) Germans. (Nein.) Comedians. (This is not a joke, it’s a question.)

Trump is the first president in my lifetime who’s incapable of telling a joke, a remarkable thing about him, plus his inability to smile. When he refers to dissident Republicans as “human scum” and African countries as toilets, he’s not kidding. This is old-fashioned New York street talk. Trump is New York through and through, elected by Midwesterners who were charmed to find out that someone could talk like that and run for public office. They decided we needed an abusive leader. Meanwhile, the yellow vests at LaGuardia who said “Welcome to New York” were under strict orders from a powerful boss who can fire them in five seconds: this was not voluntary, trust me. I liked our cabdriver. He didn’t tell us about his problems, he just got us where we were going. Meanwhile, the big news is that Melania has put Trump on a diet so he loses five pounds a week. In a year, we’ll be rid of him entirely.

What goes on in Minneapolis on a winter night

I drove to the grocery the other night and there, near checkout, saw a freezer case with the sign, “Artisan Ice Cubes,” a bold new step in our march toward Preposterosity. I asked the checkout guy if maybe the sign meant to say “Artesian” and he wasn’t interested. Word usage is not his responsibility. To me, artisanal ice is in the same category as organic non-GMO ice cubes. I’m a Minnesotan and I appreciate the beauty of frost and snow but an ice cube is an ice cube.

I drove home and saw a man and a woman alone together on a neighborhood ice rink, skating as a pair, side by side, arms crossed, and I slowed down to watch. He swung in front of her and turned, skating backward, holding her by one hand as she lifted her back leg and struck a pose, then they turned in a wide arc, paired up again, and did a figure eight. They were in their sixties, no longer sylphlike, and this public display of artisanal skating was very romantic. Made me think of bell-bottoms in the Seventies and Elvis’s muttonchops.

This is the spirit that draws people to the opera. We live in the Age of Numb Disbelief, but the opera is one place where the heart speaks and passion rules and Aida descends into the tomb with her lover, who has been sentenced to death; she cannot live without him so she must perish with him. Meanwhile, they sing a gorgeous long duet that if you leave early to avoid traffic, you are missing the whole point.

I come from a family of Calvinists, my wife from a family of violinists. Twenty-five years ago, she and I were living together while my divorce went through and I brought her out to Minnesota to meet my elderly parents, I the scapegrace son bringing my illicit lover, and she, whose family are huggers, walked up to my mother and threw her arms around her neck and held her close and then did the same to my father, and that was that, they loved her from that moment on. Rational discussion wouldn’t have accomplished what she did with her own warm heart. When I came home from the artisanal ice cubes, she did something similar to me and, old as I am and slow afoot, it was thrilling. The full frontal embrace of the woman you love — let’s face it — can make a man forget about Ukraine and obstruction of justice.

The impeachment of Bill Clinton was so much more appealing than what we’re seeing now. It involved temptations of the flesh and who hasn’t been there? What we have here is a drug deal. A bundle of cash for a load of OxyContin. The Clinton impeachment had possibilities as a movie musical. This one? I don’t think so.

So when I got home (where we have our own ice cube maker, which is purely mechanical, not artisanal) and the woman embraced me and held on, it put the U.S. Senate entirely out of mind and made me want to go get my skates (which I do not have) and take her to an ice rink and do some figures in the dark. I’m a Minnesotan. Wrestling with girls in the snow was my earliest erotic experience. I was nine and “erotic” was not in my vocabulary but I knew that I was tangling with a mystery that would only get more and more interesting.

This is where the word “artisan” truly belongs, with matters of the heart, not with solid water. Every romantic engagement is a work of art and craft, especially a long and happy marriage. We walk into a room to find the other and we gracefully engage. The verbal back-and-forth has a cadence and music that is unique to us. We have our private laugh lines. I stand behind her as she makes a salad and put my hands on her shoulders, my two thumbs pressing on either side of her spine, and she says, “Lower,” and sighs with pleasure. I tell her about the artisan ice cubes at the grocery and it’s of no interest to her, she is engaged with her lover’s hands on her back. I’m an old man but I am an artisan when it comes to her shoulders. Now my job is to convince her to fly away with me to England in April when daisies pied and violets blue paint the meadows with delight. I could use a delightful meadow at this point.


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