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Gypsy Child

Love always brings difficulties, that is true, but it also brings energy. ~ Vincent Van Gogh

“Do you think somewhere out there two kids are looking at the stars in our direction? You know, like, we could wave and if they had super vision they could see us?” Sandra asked.

Pondering this for a while, I imagined two beings sitting on the edge of an orange desert, with purple skin and a gentle intelligence beyond our own.  I stood and started waving, yelling “Hey! If you are out there we want to know about time travel, like in the book A Wrinkle in Time!”

We both started to giggle but an instant later our laughter was met with my father yelling from his bedroom window, “Be quiet, God damn it Kimberly, or I will come out there!”

Sandra and I looked at each other stifling full-blown laughter. My dad always yelled and never did anything; it was my mother we were afraid of. While trying not to laugh I snorted loudly, which made it even harder to keep quiet.  After we could finally look at each other again without bursting we lay back down on the blanket spread across the lawn to resume marveling at the night sky.

Looking straight into the sky without the hint of a question, as if bestowing a mere fact upon me, Sandra stated, “There are many worlds like ours and when we are ready to move on from here we go to the one that is next for us.”

“Do you think we will go together, to the same planet or world?” I asked.

There was a long pause before she replied. “Probably not at the same time, but maybe the same planet.  We can meet each other there and watch the stars from a different view and wonder if two kids are looking our way.”

At this thought we both giggled again.

Quite seriously I said, “Okay, but let’s promise not to leave each other. I wouldn’t want to go to another planet without you.”

She hastily promised as we both spied the first shooting star, brief and fleeting across the night sky.

“Let’s tell our wishes at the end?”

“Let’s not tell just in case they won’t come true,” she replied.

“We can take turns wishing on each shooting star. There might be only one wish per star. If we wished on the same star at the same time it might cancel both wishes,” I added, to which Sandra nodded in agreement.

We lay silently, anticipating our respective turns to make wishes.

My first wish was that Sandra had her leg back and didn’t have the ‘phantom pains’ anymore; the second was to see my grandmother who lived so far away; the third was for a new skateboard, the bright blue one with the red wheels; and the fourth, and last wish, was that Billy Blowers liked me too.  As we climbed into the tent well after midnight, Sandra told me about a girl she had known that had recently died of brain cancer.

We began our séance promptly, hoping to summon her spirit before it left into the beauty of the night sky.  Sitting face-to-face, knees touching, I began repeating softly the “ohhhmmm” sound in reverence, while Sandra called for the girl’s spirit to visit us or give us a sign she could hear us. At that very moment, a police or ambulance siren screamed through the neighborhood; she let us know she was among us.  We told her ‘safe travels,’ and ‘sorry she was leaving so soon.’

I had anticipated more. I thought she would reveal herself in a translucent shimmering beauty beyond my mind’s ability to fully comprehend, something never seen before. I wanted to speak with her, to ask her what was it like to shed her body and leave it behind? Was she scared? Did she know where she was going?

In my sleeping bag that night I asked ‘God’ if I could be taken and give Sandra back her leg.  Continuing, I counted all the things I could take with me if ‘God’ would allow it.  I could give someone eyesight and take their blindness, another person an arm, someone a brain with no tumors, someone a heart, and my mother her hearing. I could take several diseases into my body and prevent much suffering I thought. I hated to see people or living things suffer. I knew even then we were, and are, all connected through feelings and thoughts, though time and life’s experiences would eventually mute that understanding.

Sandra died anyway. I couldn’t save her with my wishes.  I couldn’t carry her pain and disease and give her life.  It was my first true feeling of failure, of permanent loss.  Now I see that pain and suffering are a part of life, it deepens the soul with its caverns of cracks. To take someone’s pain or suffering away is to take away the very thing which makes their life unique. There is a tragic beauty in life to which we each are given a share, some more than others.

P.S. I am still a star watcher. Every clear night, no matter the temperature. It comforts me to think Sandra is out there living on one of them planetary bodies. Often I remember our promise and wonder if she is still with me, hanging around, shaking her head at my failures and laughing at my humanness.

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St. Lenny, patron saint of Love

In life Saint Lenny was a hoot! He made everyone feel special. I am not ashamed to say I loved him in all his complexities. I’m certain many hearts broke the day Lenny died. He was a lovely human.

My argument for his sainthood is as such: on the day he died, I lay under a clear nights sky. I was hoping to see a meteor, as it was the end of the Perseid Meteor shower. It was 1:08 am Lake Superior standard time.

I was laying flat on my back enjoying the breeze after a hot day of nailing trim down in an attic. The constellation, center stage, was Pegasus.

The foot, heart and wing of the constellation Pegasus lit up from west to east, bling, Bling, bling. Just like a movie trailer advertisement would do; enhanced with light effects.

I had nothing to drink, smoke or eat, except turkey jerky. Maybe I was dehydrated? I’ve seen signs before in my life. This ranked up there. I knew something big had happened, but I was trying to reason it.

I figured it had something to do with a passing… and the person was letting me know it was okay.

St Lenny on the 1:08 photon flight to everywhere.

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Stages of Grief: Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler

The five stages of grief associated with loss: 1) denial, 2) anger, 3) bargaining, 4) depression and 5) acceptance. These stages are a part of the framework for understanding the psychology of the process of grief, they provide a set of tools to identify what we, or another person, may be feeling when loss presents itself.

The stages of grief are presented in a linear fashion for better understanding but seldom does anyone go through the stages in the same order or in the same time period. They are not stops on some linear timeline of grief, there is no prescribed order. Understanding grief ’s terrain provides us the opportunity for the exploration of empathy and compassion, with others as well as ourselves.

The five stages have evolved since their introduction yet they are still widely misinterpreted. They were never meant to help tuck messy emotions into neat packages. The five stages are typical responses to loss with the understanding there is no “typical” response to loss. All loss is the disassociation of our human needs, and the memories therein, created by individual neural networks; our grief is as individual as our lives.

1. Denial

This first stage of grieving, denial, helps us to survive the initial loss. In this stage the world becomes meaningless and overwhelming, life makes no sense, it is the stage of shock and denial. There is an overall numbness to the world at large. Thoughts of ‘can,’ ‘if’ and ‘why’ should I go on. The focused effort is trying to find a way to simply get through each day.

Denial and shock help make survival possible, it paces the feelings of grief. There is a subtle grace in denial as it is nature’s way of letting in only as much as we can handle. As you accept the reality of the loss and start to ask yourself questions, you are unknowingly beginning the healing process. You are becoming stronger, and denial begins to fade. Upon this process all the feelings you were denying begin to surface.

2. Anger

Anger is a necessary stage of the healing process. The willingness to feel the anger, even though it may seem endless, is essential. The feeling of anger will begin to dissipate over time but it is essential to feel and express these emotions.

***There are many other emotions under the “anger umbrella” and all will be touched upon in time. Anger is the emotion we are most use to managing. The truth is that anger has no limits. It can extend not only to your friends, the doctors, your family, yourself and your loved one who died, but also to God. You may ask, “Where is God in this?

Underneath anger is pain, your pain. It is natural to feel deserted and abandoned, but we live in a society that fears anger. Anger is strength and it can be an anchor, giving temporary structure to the nothingness of loss. At first, grief feels like being lost at sea: no connection to anything. Then you get angry at someone, maybe a person who didn’t attend the funeral, maybe a person who isn’t around, maybe a person who is different now your loved one has died. Suddenly you have a structure again, within anger toward them.

The anger becomes a bridge over the open sea, a connection from you to them. It is something to hold onto; a connection made from the strength of anger feels better than nothing. We usually know more about suppressing anger than feeling it. The anger is just another indication of the intensity of your love.

3. Bargaining

Before a loss, it seems like you will do anything if only your loved one would be spared. “Please God, ” you bargain, “I will never be angry at my wife again if you’ll just let her live.” After a loss, bargaining may take the form of a temporary truce. “What if I devote the rest of my life to helping others. Then can I wake up and realize this has all been a bad dream?”

We become lost in a maze of “If only…” or “What if…” statements. We want life returned to what is was; we want our loved one restored. We want to go back in time: find the tumor sooner, recognize the illness more quickly, stop the accident from happening…if only, if only, if only. Guilt is a companion to bargaining. The “if only” causes us to find fault in ourselves and what we “think” we could have done differently. We may even bargain with the pain. We will do anything not to feel the pain of this loss. We remain in the past, trying to negotiate our way out of the hurt. People often think of the stages as lasting weeks or months. They forget that the stages are responses to feelings that can last for minutes or hours as we flip in and out of one and then another. We do not enter and leave each individual stage in a linear fashion. We may feel one, then another and back again to the first one.

4. Depression

After bargaining, our attention moves squarely into the present. Empty feelings present themselves, and grief enters our lives on a deeper level, deeper than we ever imagined. This depressive stage feels as though it will last forever. It’s important to understand that this depression is not a sign of mental illness. It is the appropriate response to a great loss. We withdraw from life, left in a fog of intense sadness, wondering, perhaps, if there is any point in going on alone? Why go on at all? Depression after a loss is too often seen as unnatural: a state to be fixed, something to snap out of.

The first question to ask yourself is whether or not the situation you’re in is actually depressing. The loss of a loved one is a very depressing situation, and depression is a normal and appropriate response. To not experience depression after a loved one dies would be unusual. When a loss fully settles in your soul, the realization that your loved one didn’t get better this time and is not coming back is understandably depressing. If grief is a process of healing, then depression is one of the many necessary steps along the way.

5. Acceptance

Acceptance is often confused with the notion of being “all right” or “OK” with what has happened. This is not the case. Most people don’t ever feel OK or all right about the loss of a loved one. This stage is about accepting the reality that our loved one is physically gone and recognizing that this new reality is the permanent reality. We will never like this reality or make it OK, but eventually, we accept it. We learn to live with it. It is the new norm with which we must learn to live.

We must try to live now in a world where our loved one is missing. In resisting this new norm, at first many people want to maintain life as it was before a loved one died. In time, through bits and pieces of acceptance, however, we see that we cannot maintain the past intact. It has been forever changed and we must readjust. We must learn to reorganize roles, re-assign them to others or take them on ourselves.

Finding acceptance may be just having more good days than bad ones. As we begin to live again and enjoy our life, we often feel that in doing so, we are betraying our loved one. We can never replace what has been lost, but we can make new connections, new meaningful relationships, new inter-dependencies. Instead of denying our feelings, we listen to our needs; we move, we change, we grow, we evolve. We may start to reach out to others and become involved in their lives. We invest in our friendships and in our relationship with ourselves. We begin to live again, but we cannot do so until we have given grief its time.
At times, people in grief will often report more stages. Just remember your grief is a unique as you are.

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Glial Cells of the Brain and Dark Energy of the Universe

For years I have looked to the stars, there bright and mysterious presence caressing my imagination. I had assumed the vast darkness that separates the stars of no consequence, it was merely space. I assumed it as inert and overlooked or discounted any value it may have in association with the whole.

The dark regions around the stars are vastly more important to the structure of the universe than the orbiting stars and planets we are able to see. Take into account that 73% of the universe is dark energy who’s purpose leaves researchers baffled. The parts of the universe we are able to see as opposed to the dark energy that eludes our best scientific instruments is strikingly similar to the neurons and glial cells of the human brain; i.e. Glial cells is to neural cells as dark energy is to visible constellations.

For years researchers have focused most attention on the brain’s 100 million nerve cells called neurons. These neurons, like the stars, provide a current of energy that can be seen and examined by the human eye. Recent research suggests the powerful role glial cells perform in brain cell communication and the development of human intelligence itself.

After legendary genius Albert Einstein died in 1955, his brain was removed from his body and placed in a jar of formaldehyde. For the next 30 years, scientists examined small slices of his brain, hoping to uncover clues to the great man’s genius. Most people expected that Einstein’s brain would be larger than average. But it was not. Nor was there anything unusual about the number or size of its neurons.

Then, in the late 1980s, a scientist discovered something that was different about Einstein’s brain. It had more glial brain cells, especially in the association cortex, an area of the brain involved with imagination and complex thinking. At first, scientists found this discovery surprising and confusing. They had long believed glial cells served solely as support to neurons. Glial cells performed tasks like carrying nutrients to neurons and cleaning up dead nerve cells and other debris, and so were, after all, seemingly less important.

Recent research, however, has redirected the spotlight onto glia. Glia are now known to be active players in the formation and function of synapses, the tiny gaps between neurons that allow them to communicate with each other. Ongoing research in this field is leading to:

A better understanding of how brain cells communicate and process information.
Insight into brain development. New approaches to treating neurological disorders, including chronic pain.

One reason why scientists underestimated glia for so long was because they saw no evidence that these cells communicated with each other. Neurons “speak” across synapses by generating action potentials, electrical impulses that trigger chemical communication between neurons and prompt more impulses in other neurons. But glial cells lack the ability to generate action potentials. Recent advances in imaging technology helped scientists discover that glia were actually communicating, although by chemical and not electrical means.

Research soon revealed that glial cells were “talking” not only among themselves, but also to neurons. Neuroscientists found that glia have receptors (receiving docks) for many of the same chemical messages used by neurons. These receptors enable them to eavesdrop on the neurons and respond in ways that help strengthen their messages.

(Like the neurons are sharing with the glial all the sensory input information.)

Studies have shown that without glial cells, neurons and their synapses fail to function properly. For example, neurons removed from rodents were found to form very few synapses and to produce very little synaptic activity until they were surrounded by glial cells known as astrocytes. Once the astrocytes were introduced, the number of synapses jumped, and synaptic activity increased by 10 times.

Additional research supports the idea that glia are important in the formation of synapses. Researchers have discovered, for example, that astrocytes secrete a chemical called thrombospondin that encourages synapse formation in neurons.

Glia also contribute to the normal destruction of synapses that happens during brain development. Like trimming an overgrown tree, the developing brain cuts back unnecessary connections to simplify its circuits. Recent studies suggest that glia may encourage this process with the help of the immune system. The abnormal “pruning” of healthy synapses may be a factor in neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, making it all the more important to understand how glia contribute to this process.

A note of interest must be emphasized here however. There is a natural pruning of neurons that occur at early stages of life. These neural clippings cut back the neurons that are not used allowing for the individual to strengthen those neural pathways that are vital for a specific individual.

In addition to helping build and destroy synapses, glia may be involved in brain functions like learning in a more direct way. Some varieties of glia wrap around axons, the “wires” that connect neurons, forming insulation called myelin. When animals are raised in learning-rich environments, myelination increases, suggesting that glial cells may actively contribute to learning.

Understanding the how and why of glia cell communication is helping scientists rethink how the brain operates and how to treat it when it malfunctions. Glia cells have been associated with such varying neurological disorders as dyslexia, autism, stuttering, tone deafness, chronic pain, epilepsy, sleep disorders, and even pathological lying.

As research into glia continues, these formerly less understood brain cells will emerge like a new frontier.

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“Among School Children” by Yeats, a timeless lesson

You are a sixty year-old Irish poet walking through a school in County Waterford. It is 1926, and you are part of a committee addressing the school. Walking amongst the children you begin to ruminate on the 50 years of life’s experience between you and the young. Perhaps you begin to recollect your own school days, looking about and wondering if any of the girls in class resemble the girl you had consider your soul-mate, your twin flame. A smile might spread across your face as you recollect your own youthful passionate heart which believed every soul is split into two and housed in separate bodies, but which, when reunited, creates a sublime single entity. If only age and experience could manage to keep the dichotomy of life from skewing the beauty of it. Maybe you are just predominantly thinking of modern education or what the school looks like and what changes or compliments might be offered as your mind merely skims the comparison of your sixty year-old self to the young children. You were once a child full of life’s promise. Your mind stops and lingers on a single thought, “was your life and the pain of your birth worth it to your mother? Have you lived up to her expectations? You might wonder whether there is meaning to life, looking at the exuberance of youth surrounding you. Their limitless opportunities spilled before them for the choosing, or perhaps not, perhaps the opportunities ahead of them still lead to the same oasis, just by a different path.

I.

I walk through the long schoolroom questioning;
A kind old nun in a white hood replies;
The children learn to cipher and to sing,
To study reading-books and history,
To cut and sew, be neat in everything
In the best modern way–the children’s eyes
In momentary wonder stare upon
A sixty-year-old smiling public man.

II.

I dream of a Ledaean body, bent
Above a sinking fire, a tale that she
Told of a harsh reproof, or trivial event
That changed some childish day to tragedy–
Told, and it seemed that our two natures blent
Into a sphere from youthful sympathy,
Or else, to alter Plato’s parable,
Into the yolk and white of the one shell.

Queen Leda and her folly with Zeus, how his beauty seduced her. The trivial event of giving her heart and body to Zeus in a moment of passion took her youthful innocence. Impregnated by both Zeus and her husband she gave birth to twins. Zeus was a soulful, wistful love of spirit vastly different from her husbands earthly, protective, possessive love. It is here, in Leda’s tragedy we see the duality of life. The body and the soul, two natures blent, into a sphere, the most efficient form of matter. Or perhaps, in youthful innocence we find our soul mate, or the other half of our souls, only for life’s experiences to pull the halves apart with the earth bound needs of the body.

III.
And thinking of that fit of grief or rage
I look upon one child or t’other there
And wonder if she stood so at that age–
For even daughters of the swan can share
Something of every paddler’s heritage–
And had that colour upon cheek or hair,
And thereupon my heart is driven wild:
She stands before me as a living child.

The youthful soulmate love, ethereal and magical in design, gone and destroyed in the present creates a brief feeling of grief at the loss. Looking about the school yard, wondering which of the children could perhaps be the love story, pure in form, he once experienced. The next generation, despite differences in what life offers, will undoubtedly experience their first soulful love. In so imagining, the mind travels back to the very moment when love was singular, the duality of life not having yet pulled it apart. The thought quickens the pulse and takes the mind back through time to his singular love.

IV.

Her present image floats into the mind–
Did Quattrocentro finger fashion it
Hollow of cheek as though it drank the wind
And took a mess of shadows for its meat?
And I though never of Ledaean kind
had pretty plumage once–enough of that,
Better to smile on all that smile, and show
There is a comfortable kind of old scarecrow.

Imagination, memories of ones life, alas is not the present day reality. The wind blows through the mind’s thoughts, shifting the sands of time back to the present. The brevity of life is fully comprehended. We all “had a pretty plumage once,” best to accept the inevitable and brim with hope and optimism the passage of ones life and how each part of it creates the full tapestry.

V.
What youthful mother, a shape upon her lap
Honey of generation had betrayed,
And that must sleep, shriek, struggle to escape
As recollection or the drug decide,
Would think her son, did she but see that shape
With sixty or more winters on its head,
A compensation for the pang of his birth,
Or the uncertainty of his setting forth?

The emphasis from the personal to the universal provides the opportunity to acknowledge various ages and how different people spent their heart and mind. Envisioning a “youthful mother,” are the pains and sacrifices worth the outcome. Do we not see the infinite in the young but become disappointed as they age and the orbit with infinite possibilities as become a finite orbit, they have chosen. What is the real value in life.  Life is but suffering, and to live is to suffer.  The last line of the stanza addresses the mother’s uncertainty about the child’s future. She knows, as I do, that someday the child will come of age, realizing the many faults of the world.

 VI.

Plato thought nature but a spume that plays
Upon a ghostly paradigm of things;
Soldier Aristotle played the taws
Upon the bottom of a king of kings;
World-famous golden-thighed Pythagoras
Fingered upon a fiddle-stick or strings
What a star sang and careless Muses heard:
Old clothes upon old sticks to scare a bird.

Desiring to somehow find peace in aging and death, we look to great men and women of the past.  Plato’s Cave Allegory, with its “ghostly paradigm of things,” minimizes the importance, showing how Plato thought life was a mere shadow of reality. Aristotle’s work with Alexander the Great, saying he was merely playing “upon the bottom of a king of kings.”  Pythagoras’s work, by saying he only “fingered upon a fiddle-stick or strings.” These men were nothing more than “old clothes upon old sticks to scare a bird.” Though each of these men are world-renowned, they too grew old and died. Man can produce lasting works, but they themselves can never be lasting, and in the end their lasting words do us a great disservice by bringing about false notions of the true essence of the artist by mere interpretations of their works.

VII.
Both nuns and mothers worship images,
But those the candles light are not as those
That animate a mother’s reveries,
But keep a marble or a bronze repose.
And yet they too break hearts–O Presences
That passion, piety or affection knows,
And that all heavenly glory symbolize–
O self-born mockers of man’s enterprise;

There are two distinct types of love—a motherly love, earth bond with ego, and religious (or spiritual) love, free and full in all of it’s soulfulness. In their respective ways the expectations placed upon the loved child and cherished god will eventually lead to disappointment. Overly high expectations bring nothing but discontent and the mind often holds onto to the best case scenario of future endeavors. Everyone who worships any type of perfection, either earthly, or heavenly, will become “self-born mockers of man’s enterprise.”

VIII.

Labour is blossoming or dancing where
The body is not bruised to pleasure soul,
Nor beauty born out of its own despair,
Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil.
O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?

People are the sum of their separate deeds, their life a full mosaic. Life can not be viewed in parts, like “the leaf, the blossom, or the bole,” but it is a continuum, a whole. Akin to the inability to separate the “dancer from the dance”, one cannot separate life from death, they are dependent upon each other. No one has life, without death. If we have loved a person once and that love turned to indifference, or perhaps even disdain, it is still true we loved that person. The mosaic of a life will show both.

Daily Journal, Daily Thoughts

Apeshit

I was granted the experience to understand the full meaning of the word apeshit just after my oopsie baby was born.

I was off from work.

Skipping the myriad of small details which change a story entirely, I will just stick to the main points.

It was morning

I (new mom after 12 years) was tired

I was getting my older kid out the door for school when my husband walks in the kitchen and says, “All I really expect from you is to at least do the dishes.”

This was the magical moment of comprehension.

I went all ‘apeshit’. I ranted about his disillusions with it being the 1950’s and if he wanted a 1950’s woman he should have knocked someone else up. Then I took myself out in the garage and proceeded to kick the crap out of his car.

My nephew drives it now. (Many years later.)

It still has the dents.

As of the origin:

In the early 1930’s Charles Ledbetter Fenworth a local steel magnate (a man that made a fortune off of the earlier laborers without any rights and with little regard for their life), was commissioned to build an Ape House in New Jersey. The ape house was designed in such a way in which it would allow as close of an “in the wild” experience a person could have.

Opening, day May 27, 1931, there was a delivery of rotting and fermenting bananas to the 40 chimpanzees occupying the new Ape House. The apes consumed the bulk of the bananas. I imagined they were a little put off by their accommodations as they  proceeded to run riot about the exhibit flinging feces as if it were a contest. Even the Mayors wife was spattered with “sticky noxious fecal matter with a stench as foul as a hen house on a hot August day.”

A newspaper reporter, Wink Adams, is credited with the first use of the term APESHIT when describing the incident to his editor from a nearby phone (now thought to be extinct).