Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Soul Food

Sometimes a blogger can’t find one damn subject to blog about.
Other times, there are so many subjects, topics, issues, events and persons of interest that
it's overwhelming.
Either way, a blogger can be placed in the same dilemma:  What do I write about?
What is my readership hungry for?
When I left the park, I left a plethora of stories; left them right there in the middle of the street. Left for the next manager to pick-up, dust off and appreciate.
The daily shenanigans and the characters that resided there; those individuals who we tend to turn our heads from, pretending they don’t exist.  Well, they were in fact, colorful, unique souls and their daily lives gave me something fun and rare to write about.

Alta died last week.  I read it while I was sitting in the waiting room of The Nancy Ausonio Mammography Center, waiting to have my boobs squished.  The local paper was lying on the table next to me, wide-open to the obituaries and there she was. 
Space 32.
Stunned, I instantly could hear that gravelly voice of hers calling me at all hours of the night.  Let me tell you, that  b*!@!ch gave me so much grief…constantly complaining about each and every pothole in the road, the sweaty man she knew was spying on her when she showered and her endless by-passing me when I didn’t respond to her demands quickly enough; going directly to the management company’s owner for things like rent increases, trimming of trees and yes, the potholes.  She swore like a truck driver and reeked of Pall Malls and vodka.  Her long acrylic nails were a hideous bright pink. Her rag muffin mutts were her coveted babies and she had lived in the park longer than any other resident.  Funny though, that spitfire always waved, always gave me a Christmas card each year and Meyer lemons from her tree. 

When someone dies, what they actually do is drop this enormous, boulder-like burden called ‘reflection’ down on top of us. It lands heavy, like a slab of concrete and forces us to pause, then look back on all the past interactions we’ve shared with that person.  
And in doing so, we are left determining if, in fact, we had truly been the very best person we should have been.
This ‘pause,' I have come to believe, is an essential and key component in learning to be more human; More human in the sense of, more of the soul.  Of course, one cannot come to this without a great deal of contemplation and deliberation.
It’s as if a light finally goes on and you realize there’s more to a person than you took time to see or experience, and there’s more to yourself and your own depth than you were willing to expose.
That ‘more’ is heart.  That ‘more’ is thinking before you speak.  That ‘more’ is the ‘ole "do unto others as you’d like them to do to you."  And of course, you get the gift of a huge lesson.
Unfortunately, what you don’t get is a second chance.
At least, with that particular dead person.

Space 32 was all right.  She walked the road her parents walked and their parents before them.
It's the only road she knew.  She made me laugh out loud often.
She gave me subject matter for my writings.
She took the “What the hell!” attitude when it came to rules and booze.
And I liked all that about her.

Now her kids cry.  A cry, I do believe, comes from their souls because I know that cry.
I know that ache.  I know that finality.  And so what binds Alta's kids and me now has nothing to do with our differences and everything to do with our commonality.
They are left with her triple-wide to keep or sell, left with her two mutts, left with her smoky clothes, left with boxes and boxes of black and white photographs, left with bottles of her medications, her bills, her Caddie, her Meyer lemons.   All they have are these things and their memories, some good and others not so good.
And one more thing.  They too now have that boulder; that burden of reflection to carry. 

So, I sent a card to the family.  That’s the human thing to do, now isn’t it?
Well, what I'd actually like to do is sit down again with Alta, have a cup of coffee or a vodka on the rocks, but it’s too late for that, now isn’t it?  Instead, I chose her as the subject of my blog this morning.  But this time, it’s an accolade; a tribute to Alta Mae, but also, it’s a tribute to life and to the serious side, which I suppose is the ying or yang of ‘the poke fun at’ side.
Her obituary, in part, was simply stated,
She enjoyed her job, crocheting, playing her piano, listening to jazz, traveling in her motor home with her daughter, son-in-law and her two babies, Dolly and Bubu (her dogs) and shopping with her granddaughter, Stacey.”
Donations were requested, in lieu of flowers.  Cancer research.  Bladder research…
And the local SPCA to whom I sent a small check in her name, just as so many did when my own mom died. This is how it works.  This is how we humans roll.  This is how we attempt to make something sad and insignificant...significant. This is how we show sympathy and compassion.
No matter how late we are in doing so.

Last week’s blog, for those of you who partook, explored the "F-word". 
I’ve written a couple hundred or more blogs, but never has one caused such a ruckus!  Never has one sparked so much discussion. Yee haw! Though I appreciated the comments and emails I received, the responses really blew me away because, though much of my writing may be seen as meaningless fluff, I believe there've been a couple more worthy of conversing and debating over, than one about a silly four-letter word.  Certainly important issues I’ve written on such as homelessness, poverty, the environment are all worth joining in on a discussion over, but oh no!  Oh my!  It was the “F-word" that got y’all uppity!
Well, that’s okay by me.
But today’s blog is perhaps worthy of something far more imperative than discussion:
sweet silence.  Perhaps, noiselessness is what's required more than anything else;
A silence to crawl into, with eyes closed, and just privately reflect.  I'm guessing such reflection will fill our hunger and nourish us with the soul food we might need.
Today's blog is one girl’s quiet tribute, but more than that, it’s a call to a weaponless battle;
a march, a rebellion, a double-dare to be more human in each and every interaction that comes on way.
It's a battle that must erupt deep down in each of our souls, before we might lose that opportunity.

This disappearing world.


  1. To Alta.....
    Water Falls, crushing downward.
    Blooms, reaching upward.
    Sun, heating the soul.
    Hearts, a bit more loving.
    Silence, the great healer.

  2. I've never experienced your writing as "meaningless fluff", nor ever deleted one without first reading it like a tasty morsel saved for just the right moment, because I know what it is to take the time and care to write. But this one is a particularly poignant keeper.....
    I've been sitting in that "pause" for a couple days as I await the right words to put on a card to a dear friend of mine who just lost her mother. My friend Ellen is the leader and heart center of the Lakota Tiospaye that I am privileged to do sweats and ceremony with each month, but I never met her mother. But knowing the daughter, I can feel the mother's quality in my bones. And it gives me pause to appreciate that I have come thru many a hard journey well, and so to extend that appreciation to my mother as well. Knowing the daughter, I can feel my mother's quality in my bones.
    So I'm sitting in the silence, waiting for something genuine to say, fighting the impulse to do it by email or in some quick way 'cause it seems expected. Thank you Valerie, and it brings me great pleasure to picture you and Wen adventuring in the springtime desert!! Safe journey, safe return.

  3. A reminder to pause. Today. Right now. And drink up all the goodness of those I love and those I don't. Thanks, Val.

  4. Read your blog three times now...a worthy read indeed. So how big is our love for "the other" like Alta? And why do we hesitate to expose our heart? A short poem I recall from eons ago comes to mind:

    Why is it so hard to tell you who I am?
    Because if I tell you who I am
    you may not like who I am
    and I'm all I've got...

    I, too, have felt that enormous boulder-like burden called reflection after someone passes on...not necessarily that I did something wrong, but that I failed to do something more...as you sald, perhaps failed to listen....really listen. This is a lesson in heart-work, one to share with friends. So your soul-food thoughts have taken root in me, Friend, and I thank you for that. And your reflections. A worthy reminder that we are only in this world for a second, but oh my, the possibilities of learning to be more human are endless.