Exploring life without Providence

Too Close? (Haiku)

Once you laughed my laugh,
Living close inside my heart.
When did we step back?

-gjt (c) 2014


Harvesting Blueberries

The best bowl of berries is harvested slowly
First sought by size though this varies so much
Scanned for a color that signals maturity
Finally tested for ready by touch

Size matters somewhat but varies by cultivar
Still find the first hint of readiness there
Each breed is different but should grow consistently
Check the expected size then test with care

Sometimes obscuring a pale immaturity
Dappled light hides the true color away
Slowly the branch must me turned to get fuller light
Patiently leave some for some other day

Even deep color is less than dispositive
Weak stem adhesion determines the test
Though it looks ready it can’t be plucked strongly
But falling to gentle touch signals the best

So the best blueberries aren’t gathered quickly
But slowly selected by one who’s aware
Wooed with a light touch and great sensitivity
Gathered with diligence patience and care

© 2014

Corona (Haiku)


Corona (Haiku)

The late-Summer sun
Crowns the tow’ring evergreen
Like a Christmas star

© 2014

Expansive Possibility

I dwell in Possibility – (466)


I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose –
More numerous of Windows –
Superior – for Doors –

Of Chambers as the Cedars –
Impregnable of eye –
And for an everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky –

Of Visitors – the fairest –
For Occupation – This –
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise –

Reprinted electronically (at http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/182904) by permission of the publishers and the Trustees of Amherst College from The Poems of Emily Dickinson, Ralph W. Franklin, ed., Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Copyright © 1951, 1955, 1979, 1983, 1998 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.

Source: The Poems of Emily Dickinson Edited by R. W. Franklin (Harvard University Press, 1999)

From the beginning, the words I read propelled me along a constantly expanding experience of Possibility, with no suggestion of retreat from the world (so frequently read into this poem). The relentless repetition of identical rhythms that begin each of lines 2, 3, 4 and 5 knit them for me into a unity of motion and meaning:

  1. the more numerous windows, exposing more vistas,
  2. the “[s]uperior” doors (superior of number, it seemed, resounding as those words did for me with identical rhythmic motion, suggesting a parallel generosity of opportunity for receiving expansive contribution to the dweller(s),
  3. the generous — expansive — proportions suggested for its ‘Chambers as the Cedars’,
  4. all leading into a sense of increase, of receiving from outside such a wealth of life-giving experience that “impregnation-able” leaped out insistently as I read the word “impregnable” in the fourth of these lines, seeing all that was allowed into this House of Possibility as germinating something teeming with life,

until it all but “blew the roof off”, revealing the almost infinite expanse of this House that could not contain its gestation in any semblance of isolation. With that explosive liberation, I saw from a new perspective, from the outside looking back in at the occupants of the House, those dwelling temporarily as visitors, greeted as “the fairest” (being those, perhaps, who naturally gravitate to Possibility) and those dwelling permanently like the poet, the “I” with whom the poem begins. Finally, I saw the poet gesture toward the work of this House: “the spreading wide my narrow Hands/To gather Paradise”, to draw in, not hide from, all that is good and life-giving and leading on to ever more and more growth: the continual flowering of Possibility. The sentence that comprises this poem presents a litany of the features of this House, the last of which is its Occupation, which is illustrated for the reader by describing its occupant’s own activity in the final couplet.

Panic Attack

I remember feeling totally helpless. The sense of panic was so suffocating I could barely breathe. Short, tight breaths made it impossible to maintain even the appearance of suitability on the job while I was in the grip of the panic attack. And I was, in fact, totally unsuitable: I couldn’t think, couldn’t plan, couldn’t make decisions – all necessary capabilities for the Director of Finance of a $20,000,000 non-profit arts organization.

With what little physical control I could exercise over my body during these attacks, I would quietly leave my desk and move to an unoccupied floor of the building, to pace the length of the empty corridor until I could still my heartbeat, regain minimal control of my head, and calm the fear in my breast enough to return to my department and finish my work day. Sometimes it took the better part of an hour to recover enough control to return to my desk, and I was acutely aware that if I weren’t the department head — and my immediate supervisor out of sight due to the remote location of my department — I could not have continued to find temporary escape from my panic in this way.

This pattern went on for weeks, during which I faced each new workday with increasing dread. Trying to “talk myself down” from this irrational panic on my own was not working; in fact it seemed constantly to be getting worse. Eventually it dawned on me that I might be clinically depressed, and needed to get professional help.

Fortunately, my wife was a psychologist, as was our best friend, so although neither of them could treat me due to our relationships they both understood the severity of my symptoms and our friend was able to suggest another colleague with whose work he was well acquainted and whom he recommended as very likely to be a good fit for me.

Without that recommendation, I might not have had the confidence to do the work I needed with a therapist. A knowledgeable recommendation from a trusted professional is invaluable, and proved crucial for me in becoming able to move ahead quickly toward regaining control over my life – not total healing in one fell swoop, as witness the fact that I have returned to this therapist at several crisis points in my life since, but sufficient improvement to allow me to return to work, and to my family, as a suitably functioning member of both.

If someone experiencing debilitating psychological symptoms doesn’t have family members or friends with this background, well acquainted with local psychologists, his or her primary care physician (PCP) — the “family doctor” — should normally be a reliable resource to tap for recommendations. I strongly recommend discussing symptoms with the PCP, and requesting a referral to suitable psychologists for talk therapy (ideally three candidates, to allow selection of one that feels like a good fit).

In most of the United States, the therapist selected, or the PCP, might also recommend a psychiatrist to prescribe medications if those prove necessary. This division of roles is prevalent in the United States (as of this writing, although there are active proposals to afford prescription privileges to suitably trained psychologists.  I don’t know how these responsibilities are arranged in other countries.

– gjt

© 2014

Originally posted (to Red Room) – SEP.29.2012 – 4:51 PM

When Kwame was born two months pre-maturely, no one was sure he would survive; he spent his first month in the outside world inside a neo-natal intensive care unit.

When he came into our family at Christmas time, in a perfect world he should not yet even have been born for another month.  And yet, when he came into our world he made our world much fuller, more perfect — more complete (which is the definition, the very etymology, of the word “perfect”).

Lying in my lap, tilted slightly upward, pushing his tiny feet against my belly as if to support his diaphragm the way a singer would, he would growl in a surprisingly deep and strong, un-childishly gravelly voice.  And when I responded in kind his eyes seemed to light up, and he would launch into a reciprocal call-and-response game, seeming to revel in the joys of recognizing, and being recognized by, a kindred spirit.  His world was expanding, and my world, too, was becoming yet more perfect.

At first I’d responded the way I did from a desire to draw him out, to get him to exercise any faculties he had, hoping he would thereby free himself from the burden of potential deficits with which he’d been brought into the world.  But gradually I found I was fully engaged, madly in love (besotted!) with this tiny child, who made me feel as loved as I loved him.  Trying to nurture him, I discovered that the game had shifted, and he was nurturing me.

Months later, his oldest cousin Laure took the picture I use for my blog.  Standing beside the huckleberry bush in our garden, I had begun to pick berries, feeding alternately first him and then myself.  Suddenly he took the next berry I handed him and stuck it into my mouth instead of eating it himself.  Once again the game had shifted, and we began alternately feeding berries to each other.

Further expanding his power over his world, he stopped waiting for me to hand him the berries and began picking them himself — popping them into my mouth as fast as he could reach them.  Yet again, my own world had become still more perfect, and my oldest and youngest grandchildren together produced the iconic image of the moment.

(1) See Diane Kester http://www.wisdomcommons.org/users/2523-diane-kester


Summer Rain (Haiku)

Summer Rain (Haiku)

Watercolor sky,
Painted with a pillowed brush;
Large drops through still air.

© 2014

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