Auschwitz

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The photo above, cropped from a much larger original, was taken at 10 A.M. on May 8, 2015. Our group was taken through Auschwitz, the largest WW II death camp. We went through the camp mostly in silence, listening to our local guide and looking at the sad, respectful, horrifying portrayal of what one German doctor, who observed two “special actions” there, called, in accurate, appropriate Latin, the anus mundi. Auschwitz is a place that stays in my system. Recording what I saw on camera and keeping to the schedule of movement set by the site officials kept me, mercifully, preoccupied.

We were on a fast-paced tour, headed for two nights in Warsaw following two in Kraków. We were to visit the Jasna Góra Monastery that afternoon on our way to Poland’s modern capital. I took a photo similar to this of a large display table piled with brushes important to the victims: hair brushes, tooth brushes, a shaving brush… In Warsaw I opened a large wardrobe cabinet in our hotel room. On a shelf just below eye level was a hair brush, pale bristles upturned, and the impact of what I’d witnessed came back instantly and un-beckoned. I knew then that the time spent there would remain with me. Continue reading “Auschwitz”

Surrender

This kept calling until I surrendered
These kept calling until I shared my morning coffee with them.

 Morning through bedroom window

Tree and sun say, “Come.

Be present in reflection.”

I enjoy my back yard often looking at the migrating birds, but only occasionally do I go out and be present to it. Mowing the lawn or pulling weeds out from between patio stones represent the lion’s share of my back yard activity. I promised myself to get out there and enjoy.

The above sugar maple tree is now the best tree in the yard. It seems to be recovering nicely from the ice storm damage and happy to be out from under the ash.

After an early treadmill and tai chi session I made coffee and a usual light breakfast. I forgot about the back yard, but the autumn-coloured maple and spectacular sky stubbornly appeared again reflected in our glass-topped breakfast nook table as I sat reading and sipping. I couldn’t resist this second beckoning.

Barefoot, I went down the deck stairs and set out a very old redwood chair on the cool, dewy lawn. We slowly lost a 40 foot white ash tree to the invasive Emerald Ash Borer. Sadly, we had the ash removed last fall. I sat on the space where the ash once stood, enjoying the lovely, eclectic gardens that Anita has created and nurtured since we moved here in 1985.

I finished Helen Oyeyemi’s wonderful book, The Opposite House, in that chair. This book has contributed much to my sense of interconnectedness. Having appreciated interconnectedness for a long time, this morning I felt it with profound emotion. I could even smell the remains of the tree beneath me – or at least the fungus that was gently consuming its roots. It said “I am not all gone, just changed, and you are not alone.”

A bee checked out my coffee mug on the arm of the chair. I relaxed, grateful, in its company. I swatted no mosquitoes and, surprisingly, they did not take advantage.

The Cockleshell and the Camino

Sewer cover in Arzúa sports the Cockleshell symbol of the Camino Santiago
Sewer cover in Arzúa sports the Cockleshell symbol of the Camino Santiago

Last year in Spain on our Camino Santiago my wife and I noticed that many sewer covers in towns along The Way contained motifs that showed the ancient symbol of the Camino: the cockleshell.

This shape of shell is found on the Atlantic coast beyond Santiago de Compostela. Early on in the 1000 year history of this pilgrimage, pilgrims returning home used the cockleshell as proof that they had completed The Way.

Among the blessings one, whether religious or non-theist, experiences are the reflective walk itself, the ancient architecture, the completely unspoiled countryside in some parts, researching the crazy, sacred HISTORY (omg!), the making of new, lasting friendships and, an unnecessary but wonderful bonus for us, spending tons of quality time preparing for the challenge, sharing the walk and sharing the memories – and talking about our next one!

Check out my posts in my Category, Camino Santiago. They vary from brief to very detailed with lots of photos and tips.

A Glass Analogy For Today

There can still be beauty and hope in imperfection
There can still be beauty and hope in imperfection

Our one and only planet is under attack on so many corporate-driven levels. Some results, when we truly reflect on this, are overload, blurring, denial, tune-out, depression, or hopeful, perhaps quixotic, resistance – depending on whether you’re a “glass nine tenths empty or a  glass one tenth full” person.