Is neither warm nor cold.
It is neither black nor bright.
It is slightly too large.
My footfalls echo when I am pacing.
But I am not always pacing.
Mostly, I sit in the center,
Emptying my mind
Listening vaguely to
Of my Evolution
In the quiet
For the brilliant butterfly of my existence
On the outside
Of my cocoon.
Dark streaks on the window pane
The rivulets stutter
And absorb the filth
Before pushing relentlessly downward
Continuing the purposeful journey
To soak the ground
To enable growth to spring forth.
At times they are trapped by manmade
Rendering them useless to their mission.
There they wait
Until the sun collects them
Anticipating the chance to try again.
I was there. The 1984 Olympics in LA. As a younger version of myself I had been interested in watching the Olympics on TV even though I have never been a particularly sporty individual. In 1976 I painted a large collage on butcher paper commemorating some of the more highlighted individuals that won medals in those games. I closely followed the 1980 Olympics. So, in 1984 when my sister asked me if I wanted to attend the Olympics with her, my answer was a resounding yes. Her interest lay in the field hockey competition as she had recently landed a college field hockey scholarship. We lived in upstate New York at the time, she was eighteen, I was nineteen, and we headed off across the country for a grand adventure. I have to say that it was an amazing experience. The thing that stands out mostly in my mind is the electric atmosphere and the cheerful camaraderie of everyone around us. People from all over the world at the events, on the buses, at restaurants, at shops and on the street were bubbling with enthusiasm and friendliness. We stayed in a dormitory room at a sorority house that was renting rooms to travelers for this event. Each morning we would hop on an hour long bus ride to East LA to watch the Men’s Field Hockey competition. You are probably unaware that Pakistan ultimately won the gold medal for this tournament. Now you know. After each game we would head back on the bus and meet up with a childhood friend of mine who was attending UCLA. She would take us to have dinner and such at the swanky hotspots in the surrounding area. We would then try to catch up on the results of some of the other competitions from that day. It was a bit more challenging to find out what had been going on with all of the hubbub of being in the middle of it all and the fact that in those days we didn’t have all of the portable electronic devices that we have now. That’s right; no cell phones or internet. We managed, though, and had a great time doing it. It was an awesome trip and kudos to my sister for organizing it.
Unfortunately, for some reason, I don’t seem to have any pictures from this memorable event, but I do have two souvenirs that I will always cherish. One is an ’84 Olympics t-shirt that I am afraid to wear and wash because it’s so old. I did don it for the picture for this post, however. It’s nice to know that it still fits! The other is an official silver pin from the 1984 Syrian Olympic team. It was given to me by a member of the Syrian Olympic committee when they asked my sister and my friend and I to join them at their dinner table at The Cheesecake Factory in LA on one of those Olympic evenings. Three young American girls sharing cake with the Syrian Olympic Committee. Unusual in most circumstances, but just right for the occasion.
The spirit of togetherness and the desire to put differences aside in the pursuit of friendly completion was so palpable and evident those few days that I spent at the ’84 Olympics. I have fond memories of being in the middle of this concept and atmosphere. I send well wishes and a hearty cheer to those participating in and attending the 2014 Olympics that have commenced this week. May these games and this spirit always continue.
That dark, lonely place
Away from life bustle
Away from the love and joy we know
Can be charcoal gray with frayed edges,
The deepest black with no sides or depth.
A cocoon of despair,
We lay engulfed and alone within our mind,
Lost in time and place
Wanting only numbness.
We have all felt depressed. Eventually, most of us can gather the fortitude to take our own hand to ascend back into the daylight to continue moving within life’s bustle and accept the love and joy we know exists for us and realize pain is just part of the whole game. Oftentimes, it does take a kind touch or word from someone else to pierce the darkness and coax us back into the realm of positive function. Depression is a universal tourist trap that we all have visited solo in our life travels. However, some people get lost there and cannot fully reemerge onto the highway and shake off the lingering blackness. Be aware of those with such a clinging cloak, look closely through well manufactured facades. It will be their undoing. Perhaps a bit of sun or aid offered will be the salve that is needed to pull them out of the pothole and back on the path. Perhaps it will not be enough. But our eyes should not be blind and our hands tired of trying. And if you find yourself in a seemingly impenetrable state of depression, try turning it on its head by being there for someone else who is struggling. You also must let your loved ones in to help you because, believe me, they do want to keep you. And of course there is always professional help as well.
Joan D. Chittister goes so far to say that “Darkness deserves gratitude. It is the alleluia point at which we learn to understand that all growth does not take place in the sunlight.” Depression happens, but it must not be allowed to move in and stay. Use it and then lose it.
It was a beautiful, sunny day in Key West, Florida. The temperature was perfect. The palm trees and pristine white architecture beckoned and smiled upon us. We were seated on the Conch Train surrounded by merry and boisterous tourists. We were on our way back to our cruise after a half-day excursion in Key West. It was obvious that many of the passengers had partaken in local spirits from their loud and rambunctious behavior. I was snuggled next to my youngest daughter on a bench behind my husband and our two older children. My older daughter and husband were busy snapping pictures and I was chilling. I had placed myself in that mental zone where my mind was mostly off and my senses heightened. I let the rumble and bump of the train, the soothing tropical breeze, the exclamations and laughter of the strangers around me, and the passing scenery fill the space in my brain that was normally cluttered with planning, questions, observations, worries, ideas and philosophies. I absently glanced at the carefully tied plastic bag at my feet that contained the portion of my unfinished lunch. It was at an angle. Not a good position for spiced shrimp cocktail. I leaned over to survey the damage and in the process juggled my purse, which promptly plopped right out of my lap and into the street. And the train was moving. It was moving slowly, but nonetheless moving. I exclaimed to my husband that my purse had fallen off of the train. Before he could answer, and seeing the blank look on his face, I shoved my drink into his hands and jumped off the moving vehicle. Without thought. I rarely do things without thought. In fact, I usually tend to apply too much thought before I do anything. This was instinct. I could not lose my purse that contained everything. This was no little bag. It was a heavy, fully loaded collection of very necessary things as well as a plethora of unnecessary items. As my flip-flop laden foot hit the pavement, I remember being unsure for a few seconds if I would be able to keep my balance under the strain, but I used the momentum to hurl myself into a run. I ran in the opposite direction, in traffic, and did not look back. I didn’t hear the uproar on the train as the others thought I had fallen out. I was focused and I ran after my purse. It flitted across my mind that I didn’t know how I would get back to the imminently departing boat, but I dismissed the thought figuring that I would have to address that issue later. As I sprinted down the road I saw a passing motorist scoop up my purse into his car. Moments later, I caught up to him and he handed it to me without a word. I thanked him breathlessly and turned around to speed back in the other direction. Would I be able to catch my train? I would surely try. I did have to slow my pace for a couple of moments to manage my scattered and jagged breathing. I was definitely winded. I could still see my train in the distance, and after a brief reprieve, I doggedly continued chasing my ride in my sundress and flip-flops.
I did catch that train and had only one near miss with a car that wasn’t expecting a crazy pedestrian attempting to jump on a train in the middle of the street. After I heaved myself back on the train, I held my purse aloft and received cheers and applause from my fellow passengers. The man next to me said he almost jumped out after me and his friend said he videotaped the whole thing to add to his other views of the Key West scenery. I just hugged my purse to my chest and felt happy and satisfied that I had it back and that I had summoned enough guts and stupidity to rescue it.
It was damp. It must have rained earlier, but she hadn’t noticed. Droplets stood poised on the blades of grass. The shadows were stark between the erect figures reaching to the distant dark sky. There was no moon; or if there was, it was shrouded by unseen clouds. The tiny stalks looked sharp and harsh in the dim light that was fitfully emerging from the battered streetlamp. She surveyed the uninviting carpet that was to be her bed. How odd to be here. In this place. To be contemplating the wet grass as a place to rest. She was bone tired. Perhaps she might not feel the wet soak into her clothes as she tried to sleep. Perhaps she was too exhausted and numb to feel anything at all. Perhaps she could hide in the back of her mind and create a cocoon of happy circumstances to sleep within. Maybe then she would not feel the wet, the hardness, the dirt underneath, and most importantly, the despair beyond. She moved, slowly and listlessly out of the sullen glare of the streetlamp. It was best not to be seen. She found herself grateful for the unusual quiet of this night. She tried to be part of it; to step so softly to stir no sound herself. She breathed the silence and imagined herself as an island surrounded by the protective sea. She just had to get through this night and vowed to never be here again. She toyed with the idea of just trying to stay awake through this night; not sleeping at all; to wait for the morning to come with open bleary eyes. But her body rebelled. The grass began to look comforting and inviting. It beckoned, promising a few moments of peace from colliding thoughts and emotions. The used droplets of rain offered to cleanse and refresh. She lay her weary body on the earth from whence it came and from whence it would eventually go. She settled in and vaguely felt the dampness begin to seep. But her mind was wandering into a warm place; a place of laughter and smiles, of embraces and dancing firelight. A place that she would go and belong to. A place that she would fight and strive to create for herself. Tomorrow. But for now she would sleep. Here, in the wet grass. Just for a little while. And when she would wake again, she determined that she would remember this feeling, this place, and never experience it again. Tomorrow was a new day. And tomorrow would be a new future. No matter what.