Friday, October 28, 2005

All Saints


Listen more often to things than to beings,
Listen more often to things than to beings -
Tis the ancestors' breath when the fire's voice is heard,
Tis the ancestors' breath in the voice of the waters.

Those who have died have never, never left -
The dead are not under the earth!
They are in the rustling trees,
They are in the groaning woods,
They are in the crying grass,
They are in the moaning rocks -
The dead are not under the earth.

So, listen more often to things than to beings,
Listen more often to things than to beings -
Tis the ancestors' breath when the fire's voice is heard,
Tis the ancestors' breath in the voice of the waters.

Those who have died have never, never left -
The dead have a pact with the living:
They are in the woman's breast,
They are in the wailing child,
They are with us in the home,
They are with us in this crowd -
The dead have a pact with the living.

So, listen more often to things than to beings,
Listen more often to things than to beings -
Tis the ancestors' breath when the fire's voice is heard,
Tis the ancestors' breath in the voice of the waters,
Aah. . . ahh. . . ahhhh.

Adapted from poem by Birago Diop
Set to music by Ysaye m. Barnwell

At left is a prosphora, a wooden seal used to mark altar bread in a Greek Orthodox church. In the early days of Christianity, the word prosphora (offering) was used to designate the food offered by the community to be shared - after the best portion was set aside for the Eucharist, the remainder would be used for the agape (love-feast) after the liturgy. In modern times, the remaining bread is distributed to the koinonia, the people in communion, to take a bit of blessing to their homes. A seal like this one is the only thing I have that belonged to my great-grandmother, Georgia Vergounis, a faithful, founding member of the church in the Ohio town to which she immigrated around 1915. It's so fitting, that this is what was left to me - all my memories of her revolve around her cooking, her warmth, her feeding people.

My grandmother, her daughter, told me of her other gifts - how people would come to the house in the middle of the night, seeking charms for healing, laying on of hands, quite outside the circle of orthodoxy, let alone "modern" America. How such things had to be done in secret - women's work, like birthing and attending the dying - only spoken of with hushed voices.

I can hear the whispers still. . .

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


"I love inseeing. Can you imagine with me how glorious it is to insee, for example, a dog as one passes by. To insee (I don't mean inspect, which is only a kind of human gymnastic, by means of which one immediately comes out again on the other side of the dog, regarding it merely, so to speak, as a window upon the humanity lying behind it, not that) -- but to let oneself precisely into the dog, the place in it where God, as it were, would have sat down for a moment when the dog was finished, in order to watch it under the influence of its first embarrassments and inspirations and to know that it was good that nothing was lacking, that it could not have been better made. . . . Laugh though you may, dear confidant, if I am to tell you where my all-greatest feeling, my world-feeling, my earthly bliss was to be found, I must confess to you: it was to be found time and again, here and there, in such timeless moments of this divine inseeing." --Rainer Maria Rilke

Yesterday I walked through early fall woods for two hours with my two greyhounds as companions, a favorite activity I haven't been making time for lately. Silly me, because I probably received as much re-creation from that two hours as I might have from a day at a spa. There is something inherently calming and sustaining about being with my dogs, and especially seeing the world through their eyes.

Nearly every early culture acknowledges a goddess with a dog as her companion - and very often, the dog is portrayed as a "threshold" animal, one who guides souls to the next world. If I still my own ego and become attentive to what they have to tell me, I often do find guidance. And being in the woods with them, in a place where a Civil War battle occurred, was quite instructive. The older dog, Connor, was seeing something - something I only sensed, after a few minutes' stillness, by the prickling of the hairs on the back of my neck.

I am taking on as a spiritual practice Rilke's idea of "inseeing" - much more challenging with my fellow humans than it is with my sweet doggies. But, I suspect, it may be the only way to experience the divine here on earth.

Photo above is of a watercolor I purchased from Ron Krajewski. I didn't commission it, but could well have, as it is the spit and image of my dog, Connor.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Tag, I'm It!

Thanks to my warm & wonderful friend Neela (Life in Paris blog), I am revisiting my poor blog. While I made no conscious decision to abandon it, life just seems to have gotten in the way lately and I have not been able to focus on writing anything. So today, here are 20 random things about me...

1. I know the first AND second verses of just about every Christmas carol of note - and the third, fourth, fifth, etc., to many.

2. My Myers-Briggs type is INFP - Introverted Intuitive Feeling Perceiver. According to Isabel Briggs Myers, introverted feelers "have a wealth of warmth and enthusiasm, but they may not show it until they know someone well. They wear their warm side inside, like a fur-lined coat."

3. I stopped eating meat about 3 years ago because I don't wish to participate in the inhumane American agri-business. I do eat seafood sometimes.

4. I learned to read using ITA, the Initial Teaching Alphabet, a phonemic alphabet that uses 44 sound-symbols to represent all the sounds of spoken English.

5. I learned to drive in my dad's 1973 candy-apple red Dodge Charger. And yep - 'bitchin' is the word.

6. I can whistle Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik pitch-perfect.

7. I like my job so much, I sometimes feel guilty. Rarely, if ever, do I think, "Oh, I *have to* go to work today."

8. I read Gone with the Wind 13 times the summer I turned 13.

9. I am the current guardian of my great-grandmother's secret recipe for kourambethes (Greek butter cookies), which I have vowed to reveal to no one except my own daughter.

10. I read tarot for fun & insight.

11. I write poetry, but don't let anyone else read it.

12. I'm afraid of heights, but about six years ago, I jumped 30 feet from the top of a huge boulder into a deep pool where we had stopped to take a break while whitewater rafting. I only did it so my kids wouldn't think me a coward. I was terrified the entire time.

13. I can't stand "collectibles" of any kind - figurines, commemorative plates, thimbles, what-have-you. The only things I collect are things I can use, like baskets, scarves, books and perfume.

14. I hate to fly.

15. I've been married for half of my life.

16. I bowled the best game of my life - 186 - when I was 8 months pregnant.

17. I have been known to use the word "boughten" - as in, boughten chicken, the kind you get from a take-out place.

18. I can make a fire with flint, steel & tinder.

19. I've had both of my 'big toes' crushed in freak accidents - one involving a dropped stand-mixer - I told myself, "Better my toe than the expensive ceramic kitchen tile" - the other in a bizarre kid's-birthday-at-a-bowling-alley caper, in which a 12-pound ball mysteriously dislodged itself from a rack and, succumbing to gravity, impacted my poor toe. Both methods are quite painful, and I don't recommend them.

20. The single most useful course I took in high school was Typing I. Who knew, back in 1978, that the advent of personal computers would make 10-finger typing such a valuable life skill?

Well, this has been pretty random. Interesting, though, and more difficult than I thought it would be. I'd like to continue the game, but all my friends with blogs have already been tagged. So, if you'd like to be next, just post in the comments :>)