Lightning

Diary 6/28/20

It has been the perfect hot and humid weather for the fireflies. Most of us remember magical clouds of them appearing on summer nights when we were children. I had never seen them before on the northwest corner of my well mowed little lawn at Kendal. But Friday night, after I turned off the lights preparing for bed, I was about to lower the blind on my open window and there they were. They were not exactly blinking in a mass but there were enough to spark joy in the spectacle. I sat down on the floor beside my bed and watched their flashing dance as an invitation to meditate.

Eventually I began to grow sleepy and so lowered the blind and settled into bed. A couple of hours later I heard the growl of thunder. I rolled over to sit up and close my window in case of rain and noticed repeated flashes of light in the sky as if someone were rapidly flicking on and off a light switch. I opened my blinds to check it out and saw lightning captured within storm clouds well to our north. It was dramatic to see even with no actual zigzags of electrical discharge visible to me. In fact, the storm slowly moved away from us altogether and I saw only damp ground in the morning with a few glistening drops hanging on the leaves.

This became a metaphor for me- the microcosm of tiny lightning bugs presaging the macrocosm of lightning in a thunderstorm. The planet receives forty-four lightning strikes every second. Beyond the light of hope that I endeavor to hold within the small microcosm of my personal window on the world, there is always a concurrent release of light elsewhere in the macrocosm. This sort of light is not recorded by satellites or material instruments, but I have faith that there are millions of other small lights holding hope and taking positive action in the midst of the tragedy, destruction, injustice, ignorance, and fear that surrounds us.

I am not alone in seeing opportunity within the dark revelations that the spotlight of outrage has revealed. As frightening as the uncertainty of chaos may be, there is also an uprising of many people taking a visible stand for real change around the globe. I am well aware that the destructive ripple effects of these historical events will be with us for a long time. Substantial change may not happen in my lifetime, but then again, I also did not foresee this level of crisis due to the pandemic in my lifetime.

Because of changes in the environment, fireflies have been disappearing, but they are not gone. Addressing the losses of planetary health and freedom and justice for all people is hard and uncomfortable work. Fortunately, there is no going back to what was considered normal. The foundations for a new way forward are not gone but still there to be built upon. Meanwhile, I look towards the gradual accumulation of millions of small lights, hoping we will one day re-cover our wounded world.

Chocolate Mint

Diary 6/24/20

Today would have been Richard’s seventieth birthday. He was a year and half older than me so it already felt strange to have been the same age as he was when he died. Next fall I will turn sixty-nine, the same age my mother was when she died twenty-seven years ago. Chronological markers fixing time seem less and less meaningful as I age. Given that years lived indicate a multitude of experiences, the numbers seem less relevant as a measurement of time passing.

I must admit, numbers always seemed very fluid and slippery to me. When I was around six years old, I remember that the numbers one through twenty had distinct cartoon like characteristics. They were either masculine or feminine, had color coded costumes and a wide range of personalities. They did not like to be restricted in school. Richard, on the other hand, loved the specificity of numbers and his memory for dates tied to life experience was remarkable. Therapy clients meeting him casually on the street some ten years after they terminated their work with him, would be astonished when he asked after their ill aunt who had featured largely in their lives back then.

Richard could tell you the date that he bought that particular claw hammer, how much it cost, and which dog was sitting in his truck on that sunny day in spring as he drove it home. He was fascinated by the ages of his friends and family and celebrities that spanned his life. He was my calendar by which I could spark my memories to line up in the proper order. I apologize in advance to my children that I will not be leaving behind an accurate linear chronicle of our lives together. I can no longer tell them, “Ask Papa.”

But this date today holds a particular swirl of loving nostalgia remembering our thirteen years of celebration before children and then the following years with their own special contributions. Early on, I remember discovering his love of all desserts with chocolate chip mint flavoring. I made him just such a cake in a lamb mold belonging to my sister-in-law. He was so delighted, and I knew I had scored a hit with this boyfriend of mine in our first year together.

Today, my daughters and I will toast him with our own chocolate mint desserts shared in cyberspace. I am still in room quarantine for two more days at Kendal having spent a delicious twelve days with my older daughter and her family two weeks ago in nearby Lakewood. I have limited access to goodies right now but happen to have an organic chocolate mint cream candy leftover from a Christmas party. Together the three of us will share the sweetness of our beloved husband/father.

A Day of Gifts and Protests

Diary 6/4/20

I have received a huge gift during this painful time in our country. I fervently asked for and was granted permission to go visit my daughter and her family in Lakewood, which is about a 45-minute drive from Kendal. I said that on my return, I would self-quarantine in my room for two weeks, and I shall. That part will be way less fun than what I am experiencing right now at my grandson’s home. He turned six months old on Tuesday and I arrived here Saturday evening, just before his bedtime. But my stay here has been worth any small sacrifice when I go back to my own home.

His reaction to my coming in and sitting down in his kitchen was priceless. He was in a front facing baby carrier on my daughter and then his dad walked in after bringing in my things. There I was, the first new person inside of Max’s house for many weeks. He knows my voice and face somewhat from our daily FaceTime connections. I always make a silly buzzing trumpet sound when I see his face on the screen. He was staring at me with his mouth wide open. I sounded my “trumpet” and he looked up at his mom, then over to his dad, then back at me and grinned. Then his mouth opened up again in a little round “O” of pure astonishment. He happily stood on my lap for a bit before fussing for his bedtime. It was a deep draught of joyful reconnection all around.

For another week or so, I happily live in a baby dominated household. Dad works from home as does mom when she can grab a few coherent moments, based largely on how much sleep she got the night before. I am up by the time I hear Max’s morning baby babbling and have mostly learned to sleep through any of his nighttime wake ups. The best part of being a grandma is that your grandchild is not your total responsibility (unless, of course, you are a main caretaker as well.) At this stage his schedule consists of two awake high-octane hours followed by naps of indeterminate lengths until his bedtime. Then we share an all adult dinner and evening lasting a few hours before I turn in.

Two weeks ago, I was asked to join Kendal’s New Normal Planning Committee as a representative for the Stephen’s Care Center. The SCC includes sixty-seven residents in the Assisted Living area, the rehabilitation area, and the Jameson House for residents with more advanced cognitive impairment. Our whole committee for all of Kendal also consists of new and old residents, and a variety of staff members. As the governor of Ohio opens up nursing homes, retirement communities, and businesses, we are given new opportunities to follow suit. Having had zero cases of infection on our campus of three hundred and forty or so residents, with hundreds of staff coming and going while working in all areas of running such an institution, that is a pretty remarkable testament to how quickly we took precautions to be safe. We want to remain safe as we open up to off campus visitors, using the pool, or safely making music together.

This committee has met by zoom twice a week since I joined and we have fielded hundreds of emails asking for information, clarification, and expressing great frustration from the community as old protocols are replaced, sometimes changing on a daily basis. And we are a community of deeply caring people. A quote from our daily newsletter distributed to all residents stated that today “approximately 100 residents and staff gathered six feet apart in a silent protest, standing quietly around… (our large circular driveway) for five minutes. More gathered near their workplaces. Some carried posters with phrases like “Racism Kills,” “Justice,”, and “Black and White: ONE United States.” They joined Kendal affiliates across the system, (in many states across the country) standing together in peace related to our shared values. As an organization, Kendal at Oberlin supports peace and unity for all.”

A day of gifts and protests.

Memorial Day

With gratitude for David Benzing’s skillful gardening

Memorial Day at Kendal in Oberlin 5/25/20





I wrote to my PTSD warrior/medic brother

he reminded me to also think of thousands

of lost service men and women

I do

this hot and summery day





In the quarantined garden

of my nursing home

into the gazebo

when a sudden shower descends





Bumblebees bombed

by water-propelled gravity

shelter in place with me

ozone enriched

floral and dirt smell

dead pink azalea blossoms detach

glistening golden mushrooms of decay

snow white, fuchsia, and coral bushes remain

unfurling their glory

purple columbines stand at attention

beside tall bearded iris

fiery poppies bursting in air





The breeze picks up

percussive body slaps

puddles dumped as

canvas tarps snap over the terrace

the steady marching patter slows

wind chimes toll and toll

for thousands

and thousands beneath the ground

and thousands more civilians

who lost the viral war









Blue scraps above to the east

a persistent robin

silhouetted on the enclosing rooftop

summons an opening cloud to the west

bees return

softly ringing the flower bells

pollinating

breathing

stillness in

living and dying





By Judi Bachrach


	

What is and is Not

This Poem is Not a Poem
                                 BY JUDI BACHRACH
This poem outside my window
is the shad tree that is not a shad tree 
exuberant in white lace for spring 
an unidentified shrub
reminding me of the tree that bloomed 
for twenty-five years
outside my old bedroom window


This poem is the husband
who is the not the living husband
holding me
my empty bed
remembering
our love of almost fifty years
now a vast horizon
where the sun stunningly
dips down behind the ocean


This poem is a deadly pandemic
freezing in place
chaotic days and nights
that are not our days and nights
sheltering nostalgia for what was
compelling history
searching for
the right use
of our time
our actions
our hearts

This poem unmasks
a world of sighs and sorrows
a fierce skin-to-skin embrace
of love and beauty
in every hope and fear
a shimmering possibility
sweet breath by breath
creating what is
and what will be

Never Alone

Diary 4/29/20

This poem arose in me during our last Quaker meeting.

The more

I hold myself together

The more

I forget I am already held

Let the pieces fall where they may

Here

I am

The following song was written and performed by my dear friend Jason and is offered as a gift of gratitude for those who struggle on our behalf. Please listen and help it reach those who need to hear and know that we are never alone.

Earth Day

Diary 4/22/20

As the writer Arundhati Roy observed in a beautiful essay (click on beautiful essay to read it) in The Financial Times last week, “historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.”

“We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”

Diary 4/21/20

Headlines for The Fiftieth Earth Day

                                    Judi Bachrach

Canals Clearing in Venice!

Smog Lifting in Cities Around the World!

Seismic Activity on the Earth’s Upper Crust Quiet as Christmas Day!

If it were not a pause due

to tragically manhandling nature

we would be cheering at last

Help me to believe

fifty years from now

my grandson will congratulate

the successful generation before him

handing off the healing baton

to those coming up behind

Sustainable life on earth overcoming short term politics and financial gains!

All life thrives on our beloved planet!

Adrift

Diary 4/13/20

A dear friend’s birthday today. I sent her an ecard– poor substitute for last year’s flight to New York and in person hugs and kisses and chatting with her friends and family– but so it is in these times. Love is boundless as we know, as is time, though that last bit is harder to believe. What we know on an everyday stage is that time flows from the past through the present into the future. Mostly, we spend a great deal of time going backwards or projecting forwards from where we are right now. To stay in the right now takes practice, and even after fifty years of meditation, I find it challenging to stay still in silence.

I am profoundly grateful  that sometimes Silence blissfully rises up as an almost impenetrable barrier to accessing the non- stop flow of brain processing. But every sit is a different one and sitting with open expectation is forever spacious and non-specific. Now I go to zoom my Buddhist meditation group. Today I just hit the potential of deep quiet when the hour was up.  So it goes. I heard the rain splattered against my window in this windy weather. So my thoughts splattered against that momentary ceiling of quiet. Passing and gone.

Thoughts “good” or “bad” slide on by. One thought I had was that all living things share the movement of oxygen and carbon dioxide in and out of their bodies. Whether it is in the air, within and on the land, or in the sea, this is true for ALL living things. The simple act of paying attention to every breath is our binding connection to life on earth. Breath itself is neutral, and the movement of that bodily exchange is going on sleeping or waking, for as long as we live. The last gasp is literally the end of our sojourn on the planet. Inside that thought I felt that I was being breathed, which is a familiar sensation/realization and always comforting to experience. To know that in this moment all I need to do is pay attention to each breath becomes such a refuge. I will make that phone call, read that article, connect with this or that person, eat my lunch- but not now. Now I am only focusing on that inbreath, that exhale, and the next and the next. Simple difficult work but with such rich rewards.

I wrote to another friend that anchoring in Love is what I work at every day. I am anchoring in my heart so that I am not drowned in statistics but can stay open to acknowledge the loss of the thousands of humans who have departed en masse from our world due to this virus. I felt seen and so moved by a poem sent to me by another friend doing the same work we all are while we safely find our groceries, cook, clean, use our computers, stay physically fit, and keep breathing every day.

spring in the courtyard garden three days ago

Adrift 

Everything is beautiful and I am so sad.

This is how the heart makes a duet of 

wonder and grief. The light spraying 

through the lace of the fern is as delicate 

as the fibers of memory forming their web 

around the knot in my throat. The breeze 

makes the birds move from branch to branch 

as this ache makes me look for those I’ve lost 

in the next room, in the next song, in the laugh 

of the next stranger. In the very center, under 

it all, what we have that no one can take 

away and all that we’ve lost face each other. 

It is there that I’m adrift, feeling punctured 

by a holiness that exists inside everything. 

I am so sad and everything is beautiful.

—Mark Nepo

Last Night

Diary 4/9/20

Snowy rain fell all morning, melting within minutes of contact on grass or road. A chilly dreary spring day after brilliant sunshine yesterday. Then I gazed at a thousand bees in the flowering tree. Today streaks of sunshine are embodied by goldfinches at my bird feeder. Sweet greedy little creatures fussing at the larger sparrows and the other males for their grip on a perch. I am awaiting to tune into the Buddhist meditation group by zoom, my new daily ritual during the week. I am so glad to share this hour with others in silence.

The above image is waves on a Kendal pond by my friend, Rebecca Cardozo

The following poem came about as I noticed how closely all three religions of Abraham’s descendants were celebrating their holy days of Passover, Easter, and Ramadan. It moved me to include the very Buddhist metta invocations beginning with “May all beings…” as well. Each verse includes specific references to the individual holy day.s

Last Night

                        Judi Bachrach

We were glad the Angel of Death

did not come to our door

we came together asking why?

we remembered ancient oppression and freedom

Are we still oppressed?

Are we free?

May all beings be free.

This Sunday

we will awake at sunrise

Light resurrected

once more from dark

the manifold paths of

Love and Compassion

embrace mortality

May all beings awaken.

In thirteen days

we will maintain our fast

remembering the Source

remembering those less fortunate

small sacrifices of gratitude

we share with those we love

May all beings be nourished in body and soul.

Ancestors of Abraham’s children

knew death and renewal

of every season

rituals, sacrifices, celebrations

cracking open the egg

May all beings inhabit fully the Mystery of Life.