On the page for today’s date, the 29th of December, my poem Equipoise appears in the global datebook, We’Moon 2014. This has me musing about what kind of folks start using a datebook the week before the new year starts— maybe the kind like me who like to ride the glide.
This is the week of time out of time, the days before we jump, next week, into next year’s newness. Whee! It’s the cusp of the year! It’s the end of emptying for the year of 2013, and the start of filling up for the year 2014. Time to ride the new moon sense of poise. Time to listen deeply to guidance from your greater consciousness.
My guidance is steering me toward service. In January I start the Literacy Project training and I’m looking at a voluntourism project near Belem, Brazil for spring or fall. If you are so inclined, please comment on what guidance you are receiving for 2014, regarding how you might contribute to the great changes afoot in our world.
She has many names, the woman who appeared on the hill in Tepeyac in 1531, and spoke in the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs. At that same site, she was worshipped as Tonantzin, Venerable Mother, by the much earlier ancestors of the indigenous man to whom she appeared. Among other names, the Virgin of Guadalupe is also lovingly called La Morena, Empress of the Americas, Queen of Mexico, and Our Lady of Tepeyac.
Some say that, as a virgin, a woman belonging only to herself, La Morena reflects the blessing of moonlight to women everywhere. Some say that this Goddess Tonantzin, who painted her self-portrait on Juan Diego’s cloak, is the Matron Saint of Artists. Many attest that she can help anyone, especially those who have been unable to find help anywhere else.
For the sake of the world, call on her magnificent compassion today on her feast day. Call on her as the great alignment comes to completion. Ask her help to create a planetary shift, ask her to help humanity jump the synapse from here — our current breakdowns, to there — our future of amazing possibilities.
My process in writing Tales from My Teachers on the Alzheimer’s Unit was both lightning fast and haltingly slow. The story-catching happened while I was working full-time on the Alzheimer’s Unit, so I jotted notes during lunch, on breaks, on the bus. But the emotions stirred up in me by the residents whom I came to love as family, and by the daily vignettes I witnessed in their presence, those deepened at their own unfolding pace like flowers.
As I say in the preface to this book, the tales were initially a way for me to listen differently to those who were thought to have lost their communication skills, and to counter the institutional tendency to “write them off,” to see them as a diagnostic category or a problem to be solved. Writing this book helped me see them as whole. It put me in touch with the irrational side of human experience, with mystery. I found that elders with Alzheimer’s, living so immediately and completely in the present, have a spiritual gift to share. As witness and participant in these tales, I was gifted with a profound education.
It wasn’t an easy book to write, and it certainly wasn’t perceived as flattering by the institution in which I worked at the time. Now that nearly two decades have passed, the struggles don’t seem to matter. It is these teachers who for me have stood the test of time. They still teach me.
When her sister Carrie, who is dying of TB, asks Jesse to describe her heaven, and Jessie says it smellslike freshly baked biscuits, only you don’t have to bake them, this rural story had me hooked. The author creates scenes intimate enough for the reader to hear the baby clank his spoon on the tray of his high chair. She makes me love this family by zooming me in close and deftly employing historical period detail throughout.
Life and death questions in the book are balanced by coming-of-age ones, like whether to stay on familiar ground with her sweetheart or whether to go out into the unknown to follow her dream. The challenges faced by Jesse feel as relevant today as in the 1922 North Carolina setting. When Sophie asks Jesse what she needs to be happy, Jesse’s first reply is one today’s girls might well make: I’m not sure. Nobody ever asked me before.
What brings Jesse through more than her share of hardship for any fourteen-year-old is her passionate spirit. Here is a heroine whose conflicting feelings tear her apart, one whose gumption puts her back together and on her path.