poetry

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Only Love

I took this photo in Sevilla, Spain on Valentine's Day 1996.

Last Valentine’s Day, I posted that this day is Dennis’s and my first-date-iversary.

This morning, the three of us woke up to sweet surprises thanks to Hallmark, Little J’s unending enthusiasm for candy-related holidays, and the one thing that keeps this family moving forward no matter what: Love.

Last week, Dennis and I talked about how this would be a special Valentine’s Day. Instead of awkwardly wooing each other over gimlets in North Beach, we’d hold hands and make each other laugh while we embarked on our next cancer-venture: the Morab-003 trial. Chemo on Valentine’s Day might seem cruel to some, but for us it’s perfect. Love is our secret power. So today is an auspicious day to get this leg of the journey going.

But perhaps it is not meant to be.

We got a call this morning from the trial coordinator saying my white cells are too low to qualify for the trial. They’re supposed to be 1.5. They are 1.25. So I headed out into the rain to get a STAT blood test at Sugartown Community. And as I type, we are waiting to find out if my neutraphils have risen another .25 since Friday.

Can a girl get a break? I mean, PLEASE. Enough already. This trial looks so promising, and I am going to admit to you right now that I will be heart broken (broken) if this doesn’t work out for me.

While we’re waiting for the phone to ring, let me share some photos with you. I took these in Morocco in the Spring of 1995. I had been living in Spain for several months and needed my passport stamped because it was illegal to live in Europe without a visa that long. And back then, they were more strict about it. I also went because I’d been in love with the idea of visiting Fez ever since I’d read Anais Nin’s writings about the ancient walled city:

Fez. I have just left the balcony where I stood listening to the evening prayer rising over the city. Overwhelmed by all I have seen.

Mystery and labyrinth. Complex streets. Anonymous walls. Secrecy of the houses without windows on the streets.

Fez is the image of my inner self. This explains its fascination for me. Wearing a veil. Full and inexhaustible. Labyrinthine. So rich and variable I myself get lost.

Fez is a drug. It enmeshes you.

The layers of the city of Fez are like the layers and secrecies inside of me. One needs a guide. Traveling, I add everything I see to myself. I am not merely a spectator. It is not merely observation. It is experience. It is expansion. It is forgetting the Self and discovering the self of affinities, the infinite, limitless worlds within the self.

Here is a photo I took of the entrance to the old Medina of Fez or, فاس البالي:

And once inside, I took a photo with a different camera, one with black and white film:

And this photo is my most cherished of all non-family photos, of all travels. Ever.

This morning, I took the picture out of my jewelry box, where I keep my wedding hair clip and treasured string of perfectly matched pearls, a college graduation gift from my parents. I need to look at and share this photo with you this morning.

Who knows how it came to be that this little girl was standing alone, in the darkness, in this tiny alley, in a walled and roofed city that one could get lost in. Forever. Maybe, even at her age, she knew her way around the twisting, turning, walled-in cobbled pathways of the old Medina better than most.

You can’t see it, but she is smiling at me. I remember sneaking this picture because I’d been told Moroccans find it offensive to have their photo taken. But I had taken out my camera and aimed it down this corridor before I knew anyone was even there. The flash revealed her. And in the quickly fading burst of light, I saw her smile.

I’ve treasured this photo for fifteen years. Not because of its quality. Because of its mystery. Because of the confidence, bravery, and beauty of this little girl, standing in a dark alley, alone with one tiny light bulb. She’s almost like a little ghost, or an angel.

I feel that Anais Nin would have loved to have seen her there. Or maybe she saw her, too. Maybe she’s the inner self that Nin finds in the city, in her travels. Anyway, she’s my symbol of bravery and hope right now. And now I’ve got to go.  A tiny doorway just opened on my own twisty path. The coordinator just called, and my white cells are 1.7. Morab-003 is on.

Hugs and Happy Valentine’s Day.

Jennifer

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I laughed inwardly last week when I heard myself mentioning to Dan that I was a trained yoga teacher. The truth is, I haven’t had a steady yoga practice in a couple of years. There, I said it.

Part of the reason is that my body (on the inside) is filled with scars. My lungs, from malignant fluid. My abdomen, from tumors now gone, from cutting and stitching and clamps that still remain. But this isn’t the only reason.

The thing that keeps me from doing a yoga regularly is a fear of being still with my body, of breathing into it and feeling what’s there the way I used to.

Yoga, for me, used to be a path to inward seeing. Eyeballs on the inside. When I was preggers with Lil’ J, I could rest in supported child’s pose or sit in meditation and not only feel him in there but see him, see the energy field that surrounded him and how he curled snugly between my pelvis and my ribs.

Now when I do yoga, my inner eyes clamp shut when they travel anywhere near my abdomen. They do this because I had to leave my body several times during painful procedures and sickness. I learned to just check out of my physical self, float up out of it, and wait in a corner until the pain was over.

But now I’m fully back in my body, occupying every brilliant cell and healthy tissue. And my inward eyes are slowly opening again. Yoga is coming back to me.

So the next seed of intention for 2011 is renewal. I intend to renew my connection with yoga, one breath at a time.

I start with the breath because I know that taking one conscious breath per day has the power to transform. Seriously. If you stop once per day, close your eyes, and follow your breath all the way into your body, just feeling where it goes, then release, you’ll start to become attracted to the feeling. Then addicted. Then meditation happens. At least for me. I bet for you, too.

So I’ll start with a few conscious breaths per day, follow them throughout my healing, healthy body and begin to open my inward eyes again. The yoga will follow, and my connection to practice will be renewed. It’s my intention.

Here’s a beautiful video by Four Seasons Productions. It features Coleman Barks reciting Rumi’s poem, Only Breath. Enjoy with a few conscious breaths.

Hugs,

Jennifer

*painting credit

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This morning, I was so inspired by Dennis’s playing music, then I read this poem from one of my favorite books, The Illuminated Rumi:

(Click on the image to enlarge.)

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Ikkyu

In the summer months, the moon shines right into our bedroom and bathes me with its gorgeous light. I feel so lucky when I wake up in the middle of the night and see it covering me, protecting me. It makes me think of this poem by Ikkyu:

Every day, priests minutely examine the Law

And endlessly chant complicated sutras.

Before doing that, though, they should learn

How to read the love letters sent by the wind

and rain, the snow and moon.

–Ikkyu

(Ikkyu and the Crazy Cloud Anthology, translated by Sonya Arutzen)

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