Thursday, March 28, 2013

Marriage Equality: Let Love Be

"No one knows for certain how the arguments...will go, nor do we know how the Supreme Court will rule in June. But we  know that the day will soon come when LGBT individuals, couples, and families are equally protected under the law. We know it won't be long until we are fully and wholly included in the lofty American ideals of liberty and justice for all. And we know that we will win this fight." 
  John Becker, "The Weight of History: Marriage Equality before the Supreme Court,"
 Huffpost27 March 2012.

John Becker of the Huff Post is right: It's just a matter of time.  Like the century-long struggles for equality for women and African-Americans, it's about completing the American civil rights agenda. 

If you are a man and a woman over-55 and want to get married, but not have children, is it against the law?  Is "marriage" by definition only between a man and a woman, more specifically a  heterosexual couple who want children? Fertility tests required?  Judge Sotomayor has asked some of these kinds of questions about the gay marriage cases now before the Supreme Court.

For me the main question is:  Aren't all Americans equal under the law? Why is the government in the marriage business at all?   Aren't all Americans guaranteed "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" by the Constitution, including the 14th amendment, which as I understand it applies to everything and everyone, animate and inanimate?

Let the angels do their work. People fall in love, want to make a commitment, get married, so be it.  Do it. And hope, I guess, that you don't fall under the marriage/divorce ratio ramped up by heterosexual couples. As for families, some of the most loving families I know, and the most stable, are gay and lesbian couples, many of whom have been together a long time, are raising children who are wanted and thriving, and lead happy middle-class lives. Why in the world treat them like  3rd-class citizen without rights, discriminate against them, and then create ridiculous arguments for maintaining such injustice? 

I don't know if the Supreme Court will move on marriage equality and the (archaic) definitions of marriage yet (born in the days of primogenitor and concern with the transfer of property, as I see it, more about property than what Fox's Bill O'Reilly calls Bible-thumping).   But I do think public opinion is way ahead of the Supreme Court and the courts, and Congress and state legislators.  The Gen X-Y-Zers don't care; they have real issues to worry about, like the economy and jobs, education and housing. Families, they know, most from experience, come in all kinds of configurations.

Human beings are wonderfully diverse. All Americans have equal rights protected under the Constitution. It's a free country.  Let love reign. Let equality and justice reign.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Connecting with Mystic Rumi

“Your task is not to seek love, but merely to seek and find the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

“The wound is the place where the light enters.”

"Don’t grieve.  Anything you lose comes around in another form.”

"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field.  I'll meet you there."                                 Rumi, 13th century Islamic Sufi poet 

These are some of my favorite quotes by Rumi, the 13th century Islamic Sufi poet and mystic from Persia (born near what is now Afghanistan). Rumi is the ancient root of the Order of Whirling Dervishes and their dance known as the Sama ceremony.  

It was my friend Doris, a devotee of A Course in Miracles (ACIM), who took me back to Rumi. We were talking on the phone after many months, even years, in different parts of the world, with little communication.  We were friends in Toledo, but she’s lived in California for a long time, and is now in Berkeley, and I’ve been all over the map.  All we have to do is email, phone, touch base somehow, and we pick up from where we left off.  Our friendship is beyond space and time.  She’s a soulmate, like my brother Loren and sister Andy.  We are always connected.

Doris reminded me of Rumi and Rumi reminds me of Loren, whose spirit has perhaps come round in another form, perhaps in the form of Doris herself, whom Loren adored.  

So when Doris quoted from Rumi, the line about the field beyond wrongdoing and rightdoing, I had a rumbling in my brain.  I know that name.  “Is he somehow related to the Whirling Dervishes?” I asked Doris, drawing deep from an unconscious memory. “I think so,” she answered, “a wise man.  Wisdom comes from many sources."  .

The Whirling Dervishes!  I saw a group of Whirling Dervishes when I was in Istanbul with PCV friends Jud and Jason.  It was one of the most wondrous evenings we spent in this beautiful city that is both Asian and European.  We had a wonderful meal, listened spellbound to sacred Persian music played expertly on ancient traditional instruments, and we followed the spinning Dervishes, round and round, their white skirts billowing around them. Incredibly moving. Mesmerizing! .

With the Sama ceremony crossing my mind, Doris told me about ACIM and her experiences on this path.   I went back and forth between lessons in ACIM and Rumi.  I remembered that he too wrote of the entanglement of the soul in the material world, and how to find love and harmony  along the way.  He taught about reconnecting to the source of life, from which we become separated, and with which we long to reconnect.   So by turning and turning to the sounds of sacred  music becoming the sound of silence, a dervish grows through love, abandons time and ego, and arrives at a point of perfect serenity, a field of exquisite harmony with all things.

Aha.  So this is the field about which Rumi teaches.  It's the field beyond the barriers we build to the love we seek.    

A Course in Miracles seems like a good path for Doris. She’s happy, and so are her adult children. From her unique perspective, Doris gave me another way to see my Peace Corps experience in Ukraine, where I felt connected in such profound ways to the people and country, even though I couldn't speak the language, very little. "We somehow connected beyond language," I told Doris.  I was just there, taking life as it came, one day at a time, without judging, without a lot of thought.  I was beyond my comfort zone.  Completely psychologically naked, as it were.   

"How amazing and wonderful, Fran," Doris remarked.  She understood. "Without language, in the dark, beyond your comfort zone, you had to connect on other levels.  And you did!"

Yes, that's it! We "connected on other levels."  Without the ability to speak and participate in daily conversations beyond "good day, the weather is good,  I don't understand, but yes and no,." I felt a kinship beyond words, a bond that neither time nor distance nor language barrier can sever.

So this too is the field Rumi told about.

Thus did the mystic Rumi become our bridge, the eternal bridge between Doris and me.  We are on similar paths, not identical but in harmony, in the same field or close to it.  

Ah Mary Oliver!  You're there too.  You write about it in your poetry. So this is why I love your poetry; this is why I read and reread your poems, like a dervish in a Sama ceremony.  I feel it; the field where wisdom resides, along with the souls of all those we have loved and lost.  A field of light and love, and miracles.

I haven't felt this close to Loren in a long time.

What is There Beyond Knowing, by Mary Oliver (New and Selected Poems 2, 2005) 
What is there beyond knowing that keeps
calling to me?  I can't

turn in any direction
but it's there.  I don't mean

the leaves' grip and shine or even the thrush's
silk song, but the far-off

fires, for example,
of the stars, heaven's slowly turning

theater of light, or the wind
playful with its breath,

or time that's always rushing forward,
or stanind still

in the same -- what shall I say --

What I know
I could put into a pack

as if it were  bread and cheese, and carry it
on one shoulder

important and honorable, but so small!
While everything else continues, unexplained

and unexplainable.  How wonderful it is
to follow a thought quietly

to its logical end.
I have done this a few times.

But mostly I just stand in the dark field,
in the middle of the world, breathing

in and out.  Life so far doesn't have any other name
but breath and light, wind and rain.

If there's a temple, I haven't found it yet.
I simply go on drifting, in the heaven of the grass
   and the weeds.

White Owl Flies Into and Out of the Field, Mary Oliver, Owls and Other Fantasies, 2003
Coming down
out of the freezing sky
with its depths of light,
like an angel,
or a bhddha with wings,
it was beautiful
and accurate
striking the snow and whatever was there
with a force that left the imprint
of the tips of its wings--
five feet apart--and the grabbing
thrust of its feet,
and the indentation of what had been running,
through the white valleys
of the snow ----

and then it rose, gracefully,
and flew back to the frozen marshes,
to lurk there,
like a little lighthouse
in the blue shadows--
so I thought:
maybe death
isn't darkness, after all,
but so much light
wrapping itself around us--

as soft as feathers--
that we are instantly weary
of looking, and looking, and shut our eyes,
not without amazement,
and let ourselves be carried,
as through the translucence of mica,
to the river
that is without the least dapple or shadow--
that is nothing but light--scalding, aortal light--
in which we are washed and washed
out of our bones. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Fort Meigs and Ohio History

Fort Meigs is a War of 1812 battlefield located in Perrysburg, Ohio. A reconstructed fort and museum help bring history alive. Fort Meigs is one of fifty-eight sites within the Ohio Historical Society, now managed by the Fort Meigs nonprofit organization. Along with school tours and interactive displays, a number of reenactments and special events take place here throughout the summer. Dedicated staff and volunteers allow Fort Meigs to bring fun and education to hundreds of visitors each year.

Bob Smith, board president, Sylvania Area Historical Society (lower right)
 introduces Rick Finch, director of Fort Meigs,at March 20 SAHS program. 
"It is observed by all the officers that I have had any conversation with who have been a long time in the service, some of them in the Revolutionary War, that this is the most disagreeable encampment they ever saw,"  wrote Lt. Joseph Larwill in his journal in March 1812, describing the building of the huge Fort Meigs site in Northwest Ohio. Hard to believe it could be worse than a Revolutionary War encampment, when we think of General George Washington and his troops! 

Rick Finch, director of the Fort Meigs historic site and museum, shared journal entries of soldiers and war veterans during a program about the War of 1812 at the Sylvania Area Historical Society (SAHS). Fort Meigs witnessed some terrifying encounters with the British and their Indian allies. The American soldiers at Fort Meigs  were a super-hearty bunch. "These guys had no coverage but thin canvas tents," Finch said about a winter campaign.  "They were huddled six to a tent in freezing weather."   At another point Finch told how the soldiers had to hike through mud and swamp lands up to their knees, inch by inch, and how they fought side by side in forests and unfamiliar territory without enough supplies or reinforcements. 

Finch presented an interesting history of the building, and re-building, of the Fort, a strategic site on the Maumee river and important battleground in the War's "western theater."  He spoke about the reasons for and the geography of the War, which few Americans know much about, and the military battles, which were fiercely fought and resulted in much hardship and many deaths. 

The War of 1812 was a 32-month military conflict between the US and the British Empire and their Indian Allies.  The Indians were led by Shawnee confederation leader Tecumseh, who sided with the British in hopes of building an independent Indian nation.  Americans at the time thought of the War of 1812 as a “Second War of Independence” against the British, and perhaps that was its greatest outcome.  America had asserted its autonomy, seizures of American sailors and goods stopped (as Europe became engulfed in the Napoleonic War), and an "Era of Good Feeling" followed. Otherwise the War of 1812, in spite of its brutality and devastation, including the burning of Washington, the new capitol, ended with a stalemate and no changes in territory.  It pretty much settled the American border with Canada as well. 

It did have another important outcome for the nation, and for our region, however, Finch concluded: “It opened the Northwest territory, the Great Lakes region and the  Midwest, to further settlement and growth.”  
Romanticized painting of  Tecumseh,
 leader of  Shawnee confederacy, by Benson Lossing,
 based on a pencil sketch by Pierre le Dru (wikiiphoto)..

America’s relentless westward march to the Pacific continued throughout the 19th century, through the Civil War and beyond, and with it the destruction of Native Americans,  who were forced off their lands and pushed ever-Westward or onto reservations. Fort Meigs helped clear the way West for the expanding new nation.  Among the biggest losers were not the British, but the Native peoples of North America.  Tecumseh was killed during the War, in 1813. His death marked the end of the dream for uniting and saving his people.  
American  history encompasses a complex process of evolution and change, war and peace, achievements and disappointments. It takes place on many levels: political, military, economic, social and cultural.  It includes the diverse stories of natives and newcomers, migrants and immigrants over time.  It begins with our local histories and our family stories, woven piece by piece into the fabric of the common narrative we all share. Rick Finch reminded us that Fort Meigs and the history of Ohio is an important chapter in this narrative.    

Fort Meigs is commemorating its 200th anniversary this year (1813-2013) with lots of programs and special events. Site descriptions note that "Ohio's War of 1812 battlefield is home to the largest reconstructed, wooden-walled fort in the country." It also has a great bookstore, full of books and information on Ohio history.  See you there!

For more information about Fort Meigs go to  For more information about the Sylvania Area Historical Society go to Join the SAHS and learn about YOUR history! 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Welcome Aboard!

Train travel is alive and well in the US.  Nice to know.  Last week, my friend Teddy and I went to a Lifelong Learning lecture at Lourdes University on the world of trains, more specifically passenger trains.  William Gill, regional coordinator of “All Aboard Ohio” reported on the current status and future vision of rail travel.  We learned that the Obama administration has given stimulus funds to 13 high-speed rail projects in 31 states, including Ohio.  These are the kinds of projects we need to know more about, and support.  The stimulus funds give Amtrak a much-needed boost and the means to examine  long distance routes like the Capitol Limited, a daily train between Chicago and Washington, DC that stops in Toledo, which Gill said  has the busiest train station in Ohio.    Didn't know that.  

Dr. Gill, at 80, remains an avid, active, and articulate advocate for the history and use of railroad  service up to present. He’s a volunteer lobbyist for rapid rail transport in Ohio;  friends with our representative to Congress, Marcy Kaptur;  a  member of the National Association of Railroad Passengers; and an enthusiastic  supporter of Amtrak and it’s “Reconnecting America” initiative. His enthusiasm is contagious.  He even had us singing “Dinah Blow Your Horn,” and “I've been working on the railroad.”    

There is a lot more going on in this busy universe, which sees over 30 million travelers a year, than meets the eye: constant: infrastructure improvements, connecting privately owned lines and Amtrak lines, increasing capacity and service on different routes, and working on the next-generation of high speed trains.  Three brief but informative videos upped the audience’s excitement.

Gill handed out Amtrak timetables so we could all think about  money-saving train travel in the not-too-distant future!  I’m studying the schedule now.  I took the train from DC to Toledo, when I moved here to Sylvania two years ago, a fine experience, reminiscent of train rides I took as a child  between Rochester and Buffalo when my grandfather Curro worked on the railroad, and we got free tickets.  It was such a thrill.  I remember train rides to Boston and to Wisconsin, too, as a college and graduate student.  Trains were also the  main mode of transportation in Ukraine, and I had plenty of overnight and long-distance train rides from Lugansk to Kyiv, and to and from Kyiv, Odessa, Chernigov, Lviv, Crimea, the Carpathans and all around. The trains were mostly very old and the tracks were in need of upgrades (I was especially aware of this on a train ride to Kyiv with a broken arm and nothing but a few tylenol),  but the service was terrific and the trains were always on schedule. Woe be the passenger who arrived a few minutes late, as I did, once.. 

Friends Teddy and Marilyn with their Amtrak timetables.
at Lourdes University. 
So now I'm thinking about a train vacation across America. How about an exciting train trip along the Northern route through Chicago to Minnesota, North Dakoka, Montana , over to Portland and  up to Seattle and Vancouver? or how about  the  popular  “Coast Starlight,” which runs along the west coast, a beautiful route from Seattle down to Sacramento and San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara.and LA. 

"Passenger rail in America is very much alive,” Gill concluded.  Won't it be super to have those rapid rail lines up and running!  I'm writing a letter to Rep. Marcy Kaptur now.  Join me fellow travelers!    .

Contact Marcy at:, or 202-225-4146, or 2186 Rayburn Bldg, WDC 20515.....  

National Train Day in Toledo this year is May 11. Learn all about trains in America.  Elissa takes grandson Philip.  I think I'll join them this year!  

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Habemas papam

Prayer of St. Francis, yahoo image

It’s black!  It’s white! Habemas papam.  We have a pope. I love the drama and the pomp.  And the Latin, which takes me back to Mrs. Bullard's Latin classes at Harley School in Rochester, NY,  a language hardly taught now. How many people have read the Aeniad in Latin?

I like that the new pope was selected on my birthday, that he is a Jesuit from Argentina, and that he calls himself Francesco, Pope Francis. My grandmother is Francesca, and my Dad, Francis Frank, after whom I am named.  I’m Francine but love Francesca, and find when I’m traveling that it is easier for people to say than just plain Fran. But my family naming patterns notwithstanding, I love that the new pope chose the name Francis after St. Francis of Assisi, a simple and humble friar who loved animals, nature, and all human beings, who embraced the poor and vulnerable, and who prayed for us to love, to understand, to give.

Pope Francis is an international pope, too.  The first non-European pope ever, attesting to the remarkable growth and vitality of the Catholic church in Latin and South America, over 480 million people strong, and also in many countries in Africa, Southeast Asia, and around the globe.  A pope of the people, maybe like John XXIII. 

A good choice, it seems.  Timely and thoughtful.  I’m not Catholic but I understand the power of this religion for millions and millions of people.  I love the Catholic cathedrals of the world, their architecture and history, how they were built, how they were used, the good, the bad and the ugly. I have stopped to meditate in many of them, in Krakow, in Budapest, in the Vatican and at Notre Dame,  and most recently in San Miguel de Allende with my grandson Josh.  He followed me into the oldest Church of San Francisco. I told Josh the denomination didn't matter.  Just a place to pause, reflect, think about loved ones. For me, also, these cathedrals, from magnificent to humble, are places to feel connected to something larger than we are, the great transcendent cloud network where all religions merge into one.   .

Although my mother’s dad, my grandfather Loretto Luchetti, studied briefly for the priesthood, according to family lore, he was happy to escape its clutches at the time, in the early 20th century, leaving Rome and his family to come to America, a talented, multi-lingual, musical shoemaker.  My grandmother Julia was related somehow to a family of Waldensians, Italian protestants, and was devout.  My grandfather’s job was to take her to church every Sunday, but as far as I know he never went in with her.  In fact, he’d drop off grandma then  run over to see my mom, his daughter, have a shot of whiskey in his coffee, and play the horses!  He was funny. His green eyes sparkled. We adored him.

The other side of my family is equally religiously infamous, my grandfather Leo Curro from a line of  French Huguenots who fled to Sicily, and my grandmother Francesca Curro a convert here (this is a bit fuzzy).  The Curro's, too, being Protestant, were a minority among Italian immigrants in America.  They held their own, that's for sure. I remember lots of heated discussions, in Italian of course, over great meals, about il papa, and his being just another guy “like you or me.”  Such glorious irreverence, earthy and exuberant. . I remember my dad once  pulling out his Bible (he read every word) to demonstrate the illegitimacy of the pope!  "We don't need a Pope to get close to God," my father, the Baptist deacon and revered Sunday school teacher,  would say.

So I have this fascination with the Catholic church, the Vatican, art, religion and rebellion in general.  I think I'm closer to Judaism than anything else; think I may have been Jewish in another life, maybe in Palestine itself; and admire Jewish traditions and stories. I visit Jewish communities wherever I travel, drawn to their history and struggles. I've given up trying to understand these feelings. It doesn't matter.  They are just there, part DNA, part heritage, part cultural tradition, part subconscious memory.  In my family, religion and rebellion, reverence and irreverence, faith and doubt go hand in hand.

Pope Francis will accept it all.  He will be tolerant.  He will be a busy man, an instrument of peace.  He  has a lot to do, a full agenda, but something tells me he's up to the challenges, both practical and spiritual.  He went to get his own luggage today; took streetcars in Buenos Aires, lives simply.  I think he will want to cut the Vatican down to size, literally and figuratively, so that it is transparent, accessible. He understands the poverty in the world, as well as the glory.  So many of us, no matter our backgrounds or religious beliefs or where we live, will look to his leadership to end poverty and bring social justice on earth. Maybe I'm being overly optimistic, but I think Pope Francis is a dove, a messenger of hope and peace on earth as it is in heaven.   .      

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Birthdays Sure Add Up!

A portrait of me in yellow straw hat, reading, by Roz Farbush,
some 20 years ago in San Miguel (right), and self-photos of me today,

playfully edited  with colors, angles and moods.      
Birthdays are special, but they sure add up.  Another March 13 rolls around and I'm another year older. I'm still going forward, just at a slower pace maybe. Not that time is standing still.  Au contraire.  Time is moving faster, much faster than ever.  I’m slowing down; time is speeding up.  Does this have something to do with E=MC squared, Einstein’s theory of  relativity, of energy, time and the speed of light?   There's certainly some law at work here, an inevitability.  "Oh, that's just glimpses of mortality," my friend reminds me, bringing me down to earth, which Pisces need from time to time..

I look at a portrait of me painted in the 1990s by artist Roz Farbush,  youthful, serious, happy, in my colorful element. It was my first time in the sunny Mexican mountain town of San Miguel de Allende, where I met Roz, and I was enthralled. She was painting on a street corner.  She'd set up a lawn chair, her paints, a canvas. She painted every day. I  walked past  that corner almost every day.  I loved watching the progress of her paintings.

“Buenos dias. Como esta? Otra hermosa dia!"

"Thank you, and good day to you!"

Ah, an American!  "I love your paintings," I said. We struck up a conversation and became friends.  She asked if she could do a portrait.  Sure! It was a delightful experience, watched by a half dozen or so friends I had made in San Miguel.  From a blank canvas to a joyful painting, like life itself.  We saluted Roz with margariitas afterwards.  I’ve lost track of Roz, who was from the Boston area, but I still have her portrait and two other paintings of San Miguel scenes, all bright, breezy, evoking Mexican culture.  I don’t know if Roz is still with us, but I know her paintings are everywhere. 

These are the moments and memories that make up a life.  They add up over the years, too.  I'm lucky.  I don't look like I did in that portrait, more lines and wrinkles, but I feel the same.  And so I play with my own self-photos now and then, which don't look too good unattended but kick up a notch or more with Picassa edit to add colors, shades of light,. shapes, and moods I feel inside.    It's not what I see but how I feel.  I am drifting along with the spirit of times past enriching the times coming.  An inexorable march of time. I look at my youthful self, and marvel at the vitality.  I look at myself now, and wonder about mortality.  We come full circle in more ways than one. Life goes on, and we go with it.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Being Pope

Yahoo photos of  the Vatican's Sistine Chapel. Imagine
doing your job in such awesome earthly beauty. 
I don’t have strong feelings one way or the other, and I’m not Catholic by faith like my daughter Elissa, who finds such comfort in its rituals and beliefs,  but I never knew a Pope could just resign.

I thought being Pope was a calling sent from on high, the representation of God on earth, a connection that only death can sunder. The Pope was the shepherd and the rock of the Catholic church, from the time of St. Peter.  He couldn't  just resign.  I thought Pope’s channeled God’s word to his earthly flock. He couldn't just give up.

But being Pope, I guess, is just a job.

With Pope Benedict's resignation, the conclave of some 115 cardinals (up to age 80) from around the world will meet in the breathtakingly beautiful Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo at the height of the Renaissance in Western Europe. What lucky fellows (no women among them, yet).   I felt such awe when I saw it for the first time. Was I closer to God? I'm not sure. I was as close to a Pope as I ever was or would be, and joined thousands in the square for an Easter mass.

Being Pope is not just about giving a Mass; however; it's not an easy job. The Vatican, as beautiful as it is,   is full of intrigue and politics, both in story and history.  Some popes themselves have been more secular than spiritual, their claims to spiritual authority and infallibility notwithstanding.  They have succumbed to life's temptations, have sat in denial of temporal tragedies, even encouraged them or conspired to cover them up. Such human transgressions have tainted the Holy See, from  Medieval  times and the Renaissance, through World Wars, up to the present.  The papacy is not immune to Machiavellian quests for power and the human emotions of jealousy, greed, pride.  .

There's nothing holy about the job, in other words.  As Pope, you have your supporters and your opponents, those you trust and those who betray you, like Pope Benedict’s butler.  A Judas in his midst.  Nor are  ordinary priests down the bureaucratic line immune to human emotions. One priest recently burnt a picture of Benedict during a Mass, apparently in anger about the resignation. During a Mass!
Pope Benedict XVI had had enough of it.   He seemed to be a smart and kind man, but he didn’t have the brilliance or stamina of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, the travelling Pope who went all over the world and increased the Church’s flock, which today is more diverse than ever before.  John Paul drew crowds in Mexico, East Asia, Africa, wherever he went, like a Rock star, filling football stadiums. John Paul spoke many languages, embodied papal authority, loved one and all, even his enemies. Can't say this about Benedict. He did okay but he wasn't as charismatic as John Paul.

Church in Istanbul where Pope John XXIII
preached for 10 years, while the Vatican's
 ambassador to Turkey and Greece.
From here he saved
Jewish people fleeing the Nazi holocaust,
a little-known story of courage and compassion. .

Nor did Benedict have the down-to-earth warmth and humility of John XXIII, my favorite pope, who while in Turkey helped thousands of Jewish people escape to Israel, and throughout his time as Pope gave comfort to the poor and marginalized, taught peace and inclusion, convened the Second Vatican Council to support human dignity and justice..  I was thrilled to attend John XXIII’s church in Istanbul on Christmas Eve 2009 with PCV friends Jud and Jason..  We felt  John XXIII's spirit and were deeply moved.  The people’s Pope, the Pope of peace.

Pope Benedict XVI , in contrast, seemed more introvert than extrovert, more intellectual than accessible apostle.  Of course, he had to deal with 21st-century conditions and issues, in the glare of 21st-century technology and social media, and with painful realities such as wayward priests, pedophilia and sexual abuse.  Talk about betrayal.  These priests betrayed hundreds of young altar boys whose parents couldn't believe that priests would do such things. The anger runs deep.

Benedict himself  admitted  that the job was "difficult" and it sometimes seemed that "the Lord was sleeping."  Mother Teresa felt this way at times while serving the poorest of the poor in India.  "Where is God?"

For Benedict, the job was more than he wanted to handle. I  think Benedict longed simply to be a preacher and teacher of Catholic doctrine to true believers, not the CEO of a complex bureaucracy with multiple secular responsibilities, and scheming underlings. His butler's betrayal might have been the final straw.

A younger, tech-savvy, well-traveled cardinal from Africa or Latin America would be just the ticket for the job in these times.  Not that I think those more traditional Cardinals, serving as the search committee, will select such a pope, not yet.  The pope will look like them, like the majority of them.  Boards tend to clone themselves.  They'll need someone tough, however. They'll need a devoted professional who can work 16 hour days, 24/7, with the endurance of a long-distance runner. They'll need someone politically astute, too, even cunning.

It's just a job, after all. .  .

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Nothing Nicer than Renewing Old Friendships

I reunited with my dear old friend Teddy Wilson from my Toledo days (1967-1985).  She's still beautiful, smart and spunky after all these years. It was wonderful catching up.  We picked up from where we had left off 28 years ago, as if we had never lived miles apart for so long. We skimmed along the outlines of our changing lives, our children, now grown with children of their own; our jobs, our retirement; our highs and lows, our journeys and travels, internal and external, close to home and far away.  

We could only touch the surface at our first reunion, we had so much to say, so we met again at  Barnes and Noble.  We chatted over tea and then browsed the books, zeroing in on the poetry and music sections. Just like old times. I didn't find any Van Cliburn recordings, but Teddy got a volume of Mary Oliver's poetry.  We shopped for our grandchildren, too.  Our lives intersect in so many ways.  We're going to get together every two weeks we decided.

There's nothing nicer than renewing an old friendship.  It's a waltz down memory lane, a slow waltz.  We danced back to the times when we were young mothers, neighbors on Robinwood Avenue in the Old West End, confidantes.  Teddy, now retired like me, was a public school teacher, taught English, loved literature and poetry, developed currculum for the County, and tended to her beautiful house with its elegant Spanish-tiled entryway and lush garden.  I was a community activist, finishing my dissertation, teaching women’s history, and working on a  pioneering battered women and family violence prevention project. Those were the days of the War on Poverty, against a backdrop of  the peace movement, the Civil Rights movement and a powerful women’s movement.  America was changing, and so were we.   Teddy and I took long walks around our neighborhood and had long talks about our lives and dreams during those turbulent times.

We recalled all of it.  Up to the present. We toasted  the recent reauthorization  of the Violence Against Women Act that Senators Barbara McCulsky and Joe Biden, among others, have long supported.  Teddy stays current on all things political, and she brought me up to date on the sequester, looming budget cuts, the hearings on gun control, the eloquent testimony of a Chief of Police who supported it and stood up to some Senator's harsh questioning.   We had both watched the excellent PBS documentary  "Makers, Women who Make History," and loved it. It hit so close to home, this sweeping social revolution.

Two old progressive Democrats sharing the same perspectives and worldview,  who always enjoyed ranting together, and still do!  It was like talking with my brother Loren, and I reminisced about him and told Teddy how much I miss him. Teddy understood.

We’ve survived “the bloody sharps and flats of life,”  the ups and downs, learned from our achievements and our mistakes, and moved on.  Like Mary Oliver’s poem "Wild Geese," we are flying home again, home to the center of our true selves.  How blessed to reunite with such a good friend, and to learn we are still on the same page, older but wiser.  

Friday, March 1, 2013

The last poetry night at Dragonfly

Some of us at the last Poetry Night at Dragonfly, 20 February 2012, remembering
 Jennifer's contributions, and a photo of my daughter  Elissa  &  Dragonfly  logo on Thanksgiving Day. . 
Dragonfly has closed.  Sylvania has lost a community treasure. Last Wednesday night, more than a dozen  people gathered for the last Poetry Night.  They  read their poems, shared memories, told funny stories.  George played the flute, a medley of Celtic, Native American, and African songs, as well as well-known songs that are part of “the standard repertoire.”

Bittersweet.  An evening of mixed emotions, like all endings that are new beginnings. 

Like Arnie’s “Dem Dry Bones” and  “More than A Wish,” lovely poems for Jennifer, in a unique voice.   Like Jennifer’s reading "the gifts from the Holy Spirit.,” which I think she said was a Bible verse from Isiaah, citing a list of universal virtues that she's learned along the way, like kindness, patience, wonder, understanding.  “....Against such things there is no loss.”

Gordon shared the "archetypal" story of Perceval's search for the holy grail, about humankind's "inner journeys,"  and underscored the meaning of the words from "the holy spirit."   Jim Fahey, with his usual great voice, gusto and dramatic flair, read from his poetry and stories, sounding themes of  joy, longing, and humor (“Toledo, Michigan”!). Others read poems and told stories. 

It felt a bit like “The Last Waltz,"  the last concert of  The Band  in San Francisco in 1976, and that fabulously-produced album.and Martin Scorsese’s documentary.   “After 16 years on the road, it’s time for a change,” Robbie Robertson had said.  .  

Change can be a good thing, but it's not always easy.  I’ve been in Sylvania for 2 years, arriving in April 2011 from Ukraine, after having lived inn Florida for 10 years.  I’ve loved getting to know my new neighborhood, it’s people, architecture, walks and parks, its Main Street businesses.  Dragonfly became a favorite spot for tea and friendship,  and had a good community spirit.  I wish it could have gone on for some 16 years, like The Band.  But “to everything there is a season,”  and Dragonfly had a good run.

To Jennifer
February 20, 2013

Thanks for Dragonfly.
For soothing tea and good food,
A place to share poetry, art and stories,
To enjoy the company of others,
Listen to music and 
the sounds of souls in tune
with the vibes of a special place. 
A labor of love.
We’ll be with you as you travel on.  
Find joy in good memories. 
Take us with you wherever you go.

My sister Andy at Dragonfly when she visited
me from Tallahassee, FL, last June 2012, with the original  Dragonfly sign.
She was sad to hear the news.

"What happened," my sister Andy asked.  The Dragonfly cafe, which Andy loved when she visited me last year, could not make it financially, I told her.  The regulars are sad.  It was a place to meet and greet, enjoy healthy food, music and art, the companionship of good people.  This is what made Dragonfly a part of our community life.  We all believe in the slogan "shop locally," and we tried to keep it going. It was more than a business, it was a gathering place.  It was more than a store or a shop.  It was  a community art center, where anyone could walk in, relax with a cup of tea, feel at home.  We know Jennifer will find that as one door closes another door opens, but we will miss  the "Fly."  

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