Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Essence of Christmas by Maria Stepek Doherty

Christmas is not a universal feast, but the underlying spirit is common to all of us, regardless of religious belief.
It is the celebration of light in the darkness, the warmth of hope spreading in the cold winter of life.
Christmas is about gratitude and appreciation of all we have been given and are still to receive.

This is my idea of Christmas.

Christmas is the distilled essence of love.
It is a time of angel's wings on earthly bodies, a time when the soothing touch of a nurse lets a dying man know he is not alone.
Christmas is the distilled essence of all that is good on this earth.
It is a time for softly spoken words of love that reach into the hardest heart, for it is only in giving our love unconditionally that we release the heart song in others.
Christmas is the distilled essence of a quiet joy.
It rings out crystal clear in the singing of the soul. It is the music of heaven played out on earth in each carefully composed note of giving.
Christmas is the distilled essence of the innocence of childhood.
It is their laughter, their astonished delight, their belief in magic,wrapped up in the overwhelming warmth of the love we feel for them that sets free the child in us.
I will always believe in magic.Open your mind and let magic believe in you.
Christmas is the distilled essence of peace.
It is the profoundest stillness of the soul when it quietens the rampant chatter of the mind and hears the single heart beat of the universe. We are never alone.
In that stillness, we are one heart, one mind, one soul.

Hold the distilled essence of Christmas in your daily lives all year around.

Reach out in love to those around you.

Christmas is here and now and every day of your lives.
Live it !

Monday, December 19, 2005

You and me

Once shorn of
our egos and pretensions,
when the mirror castle
around us breaks,
you and me
are the same.
Like denuded chickens,
hanging on the bars,
waiting for the grill.

Vijay © 3rd June, 2005

Winter Blues

Same time a year ago, snowy driveways,
frozen roads, icicles on naked trees,
for several dreaded despairing days.
I dreamt of July and a summer breeze
as the dreary darkness wore out its stay.

But even through this darkness bleak, I sought
a break in time. I did not want these days
to end, ’tis the passage of time I fought.

And so it’s true of our fondest wishes:
Of highs, of moments of joy unsurpassed,
that trail gloom toward weary finishes,
where we choose to let go or to make it last.

Awaiting seasons’ ends and new tomorrows,
we watch each sunset with immense sorrow.



I regret
everything I have done,
leading you this way.
I wish all of reality
would fade away.
I lied.
I did!
Don't say you love me.
I want the pain to end.

Never regret
what has already been done,
what you cannot change.
Don't wish it were not.
Because it was.
It happened.
It did!
I told you I love you.
This is not the end.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

A Special Kind Of Christmas

Carol Roach

The Christmas season is upon us once again. The stores will soon be crowded with people frantically rushing around buying just about everything in sight. Though the season is meant to be a celebration of the birth of Christ, apart for the odd Christmas pageant at the church, or a child’s pageant at school, many people ignore this most important occasion and replace it with a shopping frenzy.

It does not matter that stores are piping Christmas carols and songs of joy through the airwaves when still allowed by law. People listen with one ear, no longer drinking in the wonder of these songs. They are the old standards, comforting to hear, but few give much thought to their content and what they represent. The retailers use these songs, and wonderland displays to hoist their profit for the year. Many years it makes a difference between making a profit or going into the red. Even Santa and his little elves are there for a reason; to delight small children and fill them with wonderment, but most importantly to get their parents to buy.

Commercialism has taken over our world during this most precious time of the year. People are nervous and anxious, especially as the days before the 25th of December rapidly approach. But what are they anxious for? Is it to celebrate the birth of Christ with their family and love ones?

For the most part, it seems they are anxious since they have not finished their Christmas shopping. What should they get Aunt Martha who has everything? Should they buy uncle Bob another shirt again this year? What possible toy can they buy Suzie? She has just about everything on the market as it. How do they overcome the problem with Peter, their teenage son; unless his gift costs $200 and over he doesn’t want anything.

The spirit of Christmas and the season of giving have been reduced to giving from the pocket book until it hurts. Unfortunately for many Americans and Canadians alike, finances are at an all time low. We no longer can keep up. I know in my family as well as many others, the adults have elected to gift exchange with one other adult in the family. They choose names out of a hat. It is just too expensive to continue to buy for everyone.

Every year we complain about how hard it is to buy gifts. We rectify the situation by choosing one name for an adult; so we cut down. However, we still go overboard with the children. We still must get a gift for Ruby and Frank; after all they are spending Christmas with us. How can we open presents and leave them out? The list goes on, but the fact remains, we still go over budget, if in fact we had a budget at all.

Every year we talk about the olden days and how Christmas was much better then. We remember how families truly celebrated the birth of Christ. We remember the stockings hanging from the chimney filled with goodies from the oven: oranges, nuts and grandma’s knitted mittens. We complain that the kids just would not accept those gifts anymore. Furthermore, who has time to sit down and crochet or knit? We live in a fast paced world and everything must be done quickly. So we are reduced to buying a ready made overpriced gift.

This year, I propose that we put the love back into the word giving. We can truly celebrate the birth of Christ by following in his footsteps. We can celebrate humankind in a healthy inexpensive way that will not limit the number of people we can reach out to.

I propose that we do make Christmas stockings for everyone. Instead of filling them with expensive gadgets we truly cannot afford, we fill them with well wishes. Each person in the household would write something good about the person whose name appears on the stocking. Each piece would remain secret until Christmas when the recipients open up their gifts. These pieces must be positive and celebrate the human spirit and individuality of the giver and the receiver.

Here are some examples:

From a child: You are the best daddy in the whole world and I love you this much.

From a teenager: Uncle Bob, you are okay but could you just once let me win at chess.

From a visitor to the family on Christmas Day: Terry, I have just met you a while ago and look forward to getting to know you. What I have remarked in our brief encounters is that you have the warmest smile I have ever encountered. When you smile the whole room lights up and you make every one feel so warm inside.

These messages of love will light up the festive occasion and create good memories for years to come. These gifts are priceless and more importantly come from the heart.

Merry Christmas one and all!

Peace on Earth

Morning stars glimmer
Softening the darkest hour.
Snow wraps us in peace.

Virginia C. Foley

A Christmas Story in Haiku - Maria Stepek Doherty

Bright star in the East,
Lamb of God, Light of the World,
Leading the way Home.

Divine spirit sparks,
Life flows through the empty Womb,
Holy Vessel filled.

Night of love made flesh,
Choirs of angels singing loud,
"Holy Babe is born".

December Haiku~Jodi Flesberg Lilly

Sun shines on bare trees
Mother Nature's gone to sleep
December morning
Children sing, bells ring
Red and green, silver and gold
Heaven smiles on earth
Mistletoe delights
Promising a kiss and love

Woman waits alone
Champagne bubbles rise
Looking innocent, delight
Pack a morning punch

Sparkling lights on trees
Reminder of the Divine
Blessings we receive


Winter Solstice - Maria Stepek Doherty

Dark of night deepens,
Light now slips into shadow,
The sun lies sleeping.

Winter solstice comes,
Darkest day of nature's night,
Gateway to the Light.

See the blazing fires
Drive away the deepest dark,
Warm the earth for Spring.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

your voice...

on tip-toe
your voice enters
and snuggles next to
my slumberous form
still lush with
your words
in my ears,
softly humming
a trance-inducing
lilting tune
that melts
and languidly suffuses
in me, all over…

it collects me closer,
gently pulls the
warm duvet
of your
lingering memories
around me
and whispers
“sweet dreams, pretty”
kisses me tenderly
on my eyelids
and a fond smile playing,
lightly withdraws
on tip-toe…



Cycle of Blues

A Blue note,
Resonating within my heart.
Extended arms open,
Like the welcome of my bed
I lay to rest.

A murky water,
Stagnant and festering,
Distorting the sound,
As rippled trails run down.

The hollow feeling.
Emptiness, pulsating,
Within my broken soul.
A darkness rises.

Raw anger,
Bubbled to the surface.
My vessel bursts, screaming
Begging relief from the heat,
And scalding liquid hate.

The cool, calm, and inviting,
Air, moist and soothing.
From a soft whisper,
I am renewed.

Every ounce,
Sliding down my throat,
A bittersweet sensation.
And yet,
It is still there.

The sound,
A chorus resounding,
Echoing boldly,
In the darkest chamber.
A single note.

(c) Steve Johnston

Saturday, December 10, 2005


Will you not watch one hour with me
In this dread garden of Gethsemane?
Oh, Lord, you have forsaken me,
Abba, father, set me free.

I wander twisting paths of madness
Lost in a shadowed shadow world,
As though in a mirror dark I see
The crucifixion of my mind.

The serpent coils within my brain,
An ancient darkness writhing here,
As fangs plunge deep into my soul,
The venom of insanity.

Here are demons dwelling darkly;
I fear the coming of the Night.
Hell spawned voices of delusion
Nail me to this living cross.

I ask their name, they answer Legion
Devils from the pits of hell.
I burn, I burn; put out my fire,
Put out this night, this life, this now.

"Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani",
Words from sacred woundings rise.
I hang upon this cross abandoned,
Eternal void of endless pain.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Being Shy

Carol Roach

I used to be a shy person. Today I am a quiet person, but I am no longer shy.
When I was a child I never went anywhere unless I had a friend with me. I was dependant upon my friend to make my evening a success. Of course I did not realize it, at the time.
So if I wanted to go somewhere badly and my friend didn't go, neither would I. Instead I stayed home and remained miserable.

Up until my divorce, nothing much had changed. I was 25-years-old, still shy, and still depending upon my friends to make my social life for me. I will say in my defense that I joined a group called single again, all by myself – imagine that!

I had no other choice. None of my friends were divorced at the time. I was finding my married friends and I no longer had the same issues and they looked at me as the odd one. I was a failure; they told me so. I knew from that point onward, if I was to make a new life for myself, it had to include new friends who shared the same interests and the same concerns.

A few acquaintances from the Single Again group talked about a single parent association which held wonderful dances. I was never a dance person, but was very much interested in the meetings and outings that the association had to offer.

We arranged an evening to go, but one by one, they cancelled out. One couldn’t get a baby sitter, another didn’t have the money, and one said she was sick. Of course I did not go by myself and they never brought up going to the association again. Who knows they probably decided to go without me. In any event, these new friends proved to be friends only for the duration of the course we were in. Once we no longer had that common bond between us, the telephone calls ceased and the communication between us ended.
I missed out on an opportunity to join a new group because I would not go anywhere on my own.

One year later, I still remembered the single parent association. I still wanted to go, but I was just too shy to meet people on my own. I found the location of the group and literally begged one of my single friends to come with me. She was not interested. I bugged her so much she decided to go, just to get me to shut up.

When we walked into the meeting, the first thing we noticed was that everyone was white. My friend is a black woman and felt out of place. We sat down in a corner and remained pretty much to ourselves the entire evening.

The membership director of the group came over to talk to us. We scoffed it off. It was her job to do just that, we rationalized, but what about these other unfriendly people?
It was obvious to every person in that room, that we had copped an attitude sending out the signal - leave us alone we don’t fit in.

We left that evening complaining the people were not friendly. Nobody bothered to say more than hello to us. “Who wants to be a member of this snotty group anyhow? We whined.

Personally, what had I learned from that experience? I learned to reinforce my own negative thinking and justify my behaviour by putting myself in the victim mode.
Was I really a victim? I was shy, but was I blameless? Hell no! I never made an effort. I didn't get up and mingle, I sat there without even a smile on my face, and picked fault with everything I saw.

By the following year I had taken self awareness courses and started to seriously look at my weaknesses as well as my strengths. I still wanted to be involved with the single parent association. But this time, it would be different. I was going to let them know who I was. I was not going to sit in the corner and be ignored.

I had decided that being shy was not working for me. I was unhappy and unless I created a new life for myself, I would continue to be unhappy.

This new life meant I had to decide, whether or not I wanted to continue to be shy, stay home and be miserable, or go out, push myself forward, and see what happened.
I chose the latter. I went to yet another meeting of the single parent association with my friend. The difference this time was that I wasn't depending on her to make my evening for me.

Lavenia assumed her usual stance in the corner. I went up to the group immediately and introduced myself. I participated in the ongoing conversation; Much to my delight, the people were very open and receptive. They invited me to join the board of directors that very evening.

However, they found Lavenia was very hostile. She refused to contribute to the conversation. When someone tried to talk to her, she would respond with one word answers. Needless to say, she did not enjoy herself and told me she was never going back again.

On the other hand, I was opening up to a whole new world and its accompanying experiences. I am now 50-years-old, and I still have two friends that I met through the association twenty-three-years before.

I took on different responsibilities within the organization. My favourite board position was membership director. I meet with the new people as they joined, processed their applications, renewal fees, and listened to their issues.

One of the biggest membership concerns was about being shy and not knowing how to open up to people. From my observations, I could see there were two ways of approaching this concern. Some displayed a positive attitude, taking responsibility for their behaviour. However, others pulled a “Lavenia and Carol” sitting there doing nothing and expecting everyone else to make their happiness for them.

I had the opportunity to share my own experience with some of the membership, and with others, I just stated,

“I understand exactly what you are saying. You are right. Nobody talked to you. I saw that myself, but while you were watching the others have fun, you were sitting with people who were just as shy as you are. Did you ever think that maybe they were thinking you were unfriendly because you were not bothering with them either?”

The proverbial light bulb went off for a lot of them. They promised to make an effort to take one baby step at a time; to talk to at least one person sitting beside them. It was necessary to coach some of them on how to start up a conversation with a stranger.

I began, “Start with Hi, I am Jane. It’s my first night. Then just see what happens.”

Quite a few came back over the years to tell me they made friends with Joe or Jim or Mary who were also new and just as shy. Later a veteran such as Fred or Lucy became their friend as well.

Isn't it amazing just how much a shy person can really do when they make an effort?

Carol Roach


Morning colors has just been played and Old Glory streams from the flagstaff. The morning muster formations are breaking up and the enlisted men and officers are heading for their duty stations. It’s Tuesday as I hurry to a meeting with the Ops Officer. We will discuss a proposed air show that we are considering for Armed Forces Day. The consensus of the senior officers is that we should put on an aerial, acrobatic display for the local community as part of the celebration commemorating the holiday.

At 0800 I meet with Commander Winfrey, Operations Officer at Naval Air Facility. This is the military side of a larger facility called NADC Johnsville. Here basic research is performed for the aviation wing of the Navy. The air facility part provides the men and aircraft to make the ideas a reality. Commander Winfrey is charged with the responsibility of providing men and equipment that are qualified to perform these tasks. The conversation turns from discussing the morning flight schedule to the proposed air show. Commander Winfrey informed us that there would be two pilots coming to do aerial demonstrations for us this morning. The first is due to arrive in about a half hour. He is the owner of Ransome Airlines flying a blue, single-engined, acrobatic aircraft. Ransome Airlines is a small commuter airline based out of North Philadelphia Airport and Mr. Ransome is a qualified airline pilot as well as an accomplished acrobatic flyer.

At 0835, the tower calls the Ops office and informed us that the Ransome aircraft has entered the flight pattern. We walked outside to watch him land. Shortly after landing we walked around the hanger to meet him. Commander Winfrey stopped to talk to the Maintenance Officer as I walked ahead to greet Mr. Ransome. We shook hands and chatted as we walked back to join the group of officers and men waiting to meet him.

After meeting all those assembled, he told us his plans for the aerial demonstration. It sounded like something the public would enjoy. At the end of his presentation, he asked about the necessary procedures to meet the Navy’s requirements for fueling his aircraft before he flew back to North Philadelphia. With all questions answered, he entered his aircraft and we moved to a safe distance while he started the engine. With a wave, he turned and taxied out to the taxiway and down to the approach end of the runway.

We can see and hear his aircraft as he runs through his engine run-up procedures and shortly thereafter; he takes position on the runway for takeoff. We can hear the power of his engine as he winds it up and then begins to roll down the runway. As he lifted off, he waved and turned to the right to gain altitude. And then he began his demonstration flight.

It was an impressive show as he made this blue bird climb and twist, roll and dive maintaining a minimum altitude of five hundred feet at all times. At the completion of his routine he came in for a landing, fueled his aircraft and left. The second aircraft was not due until after noon so we headed for the cafeteria to make up for the scant breakfast that we all had.

At 1300 we walked back over to the airfield just in time to see a bright, yellow biplane complete its landing. It taxied over to the parking area and the pilot climbed out wearing a Navy flight suit with a white silk scarf draped around his neck! He looked like he had just stepped out of a barnstorming magazine from the 1930’s. As we approached him, a black automobile pulled up in front of the hanger and two men got out. One was carrying a large movie camera and the other looked familiar. As they joined us, we immediately recognized one of the men as Tom Snyder from the local NBC-TV station. He does the nightly news in Philadelphia. Tom introduces his cameraman and Commander Winfrey introduces the pilot to all of us. He is a Lieutenant Commander in the Naval Reserve and lives in town He flies a Great Lakes Special, a biplane with open cockpit that has been outfitted as a highly maneuverable, aerobatic airplane. The instruments normally found on the flight panel directly in front of the pilot were also embedded in the trailing edge of the upper wing so that the pilot could see them when his head was cocked back doing aerobatic maneuvers.

The pilot is explaining the basic maneuvers that he will perform for the demonstration and they sound very impressive in deed. He finishes and turns to climb back into his aircraft. We walk to the corner of the hanger as the cameraman sets up his equipment. And then the yellow plane taxies to the run-up area. We can hear the throaty roar of the engine as he puts it through its pre-flight tests. And soon he is taking position on the runway.

The tower has given him permission to takeoff and he begins his roll. He is gaining speed and then he quickly lifts the plane into the air. It is racing down the runway at about one hundred feet off the concrete when he suddenly rolls the aircraft inverted and continues to fly upside down past us. The plane begins to climb but it’s upside down! He rolls up right and begins a series of spectacular maneuvers that make all of us stare in awe. And then he dives down to the runway rolling inverted again. Half way down the runway, he rolls upright and is increasing his speed. And then he pulls back on the stick and it looks like the airplane has just made a ninety-degree turn straight up! It keeps climbing and falls over on to its back and continues to fly inverted. Then it makes a ninety-degree dive straight down pulling out at the last possible minute and touches his wheels to the ground. The tires smoke at impact and he slows the plane to a crawl! He quickly turns off the runway and taxies back to the hanger. We just stand there with our mouths wide open, still not believing what we had just witnessed. A Square Loop! It can’t be done but we just saw it!

Tom Snyder is yelling at his cameraman. “Did you get that?”

“No! he replies. “I ran out of film!”

“I am going to ask him to do it again so load your camera,” responds Snyder. And he walks over to the pilot and talks to him. The pilot nods and climbs back into the aircraft.

“He’s going to do that square thing again,” yells Snyder.

We decide to walk out next to the runway to get a better view. About two hundred feet from the end of the runway is a concrete area called the Crash pad. Normally the Fire Trucks sits here during take offs and landings but it is down at the other end of the runway where the plane is preparing to take off and the truck is on that crash pad.

Snyder, Commander Winfrey, the cameraman and I are standing on the crash pad. The camera is loaded and the operator is focusing on the approaching plane. He makes his roll and continues toward us inverted and then begins his climb out. Once past the end of the runway, he rolls over and continues his climb for altitude. He then turns down wind and flies back to the opposite end of the runway. Turning, he begins to dive for the deck and races towards us at about 50 feet off the concrete! Just as he approaches us he begins a rapid rate of climb to straight up but as he does the lower wing separates and folds back along the fuselage! Simultaneously, the upper wing fold backs over the cockpit! Pieces of debris are tumbling down towards us. We are running to avoid being hit as pieces of the wing fall towards us. The momentum of the aircraft through the air continues, and it appears to continue to fly towards the end of the runway. It is coming down and fast! We start to run after it. Men who had stopped work to watch are racing from the hanger in the same direction. The plane is falling as if it was in slow motion. It hits just inside the airfield perimeter fence and bounces back into the air! It flips and comes down again, only this time inverted! And then there is stillness, broken only by the screaming siren of the approaching crash vehicles! Men have reached the airplane and in a Herculean show of strength they lift and flip the plane right side up!

Commander Winfrey turns to the cameraman. “Stay right there, we will need to develop that film for a formal investigation.”

The ambulance rolls down the taxiway and pulls up by the crowd. It quickly opens as the paramedics run to the plane. They carefully extract the pilot and lay him on the grass. And then the lights are turned off and we know it is over.

Commander Winfrey turns to me and says, “Emil, call the Chaplain. I am designating you CACO. I want the both of you to go and inform the widow of the tragedy and tend to her needs.”

“Aye Aye, Sir.” I replied. Gees, what the hell is a CACO? I wondered as I head back to the hanger. Chief Strunk met me so I ask him.

“Sir that is the title of the officer that informs the family and makes all of the arrangements if they need assistance.” He replied.

That’s great! I thought. What am I going to say to her? I have never done this before.

A few minutes later the Chaplain arrives and we speak. He offers to break the news to the family and we get into the car. This is the longest 2-mile drive I will ever go on. As we pull up in front of the house, we see children playing in the back. The front door is open because the weather is warm. A lady comes to the door and freezes! She looks at us and screams ”NO!!” She has heard on the radio there was an aircraft accident nearby and the two of us stepping out of that Navy car confirmed her fears!

Later that night my wife and I are watching the evening news. Tom Snyder is the anchorman. He hurries through the local news and then he looks into the camera and there are tears in his eyes. He slowly tells the story as the film begins to appear on the screen. Dubbed into the tail end of the film is some film taken by some observers at NADC that were filming from the roof of the main building. Their visual prospective is different than that that of the cameraman shooting straight up at the crippled plane. You can see the pilot. He is holding the upper wing up with one hand as he attempts to steer the crippled plane. It falls behind another building and Tom continues his story. “This man knew what was about to happen to himself but he also knew that there was a factory of people just off the end of the runway on one corner and a gas station on the other. When the crash crew got to the aircraft and looked inside, they found that the pilot had turned off the engine, and turned off the gas to prevent a fire in case he hit one of the buildings!” And then the screen went blank.

The air show was cancelled for Armed forces Day and in its place a tribute was staged for the deceased pilot. Some nights I wake up with a jolt because I hear her scream.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Season's Greetings

Season's Greetings

May this coming year be full of opportunities

To surrender our indifference

And engage ourselves in compassionate behaviour

Let's declare a war on self hatred and eradicate self doubt

We must decide if we are for self love

Or willing to harbour and support the downfall of humanity

This time of year is one of reflection and sharing

So why not resolve ourselves

To indulging in such behaviour on a daily basis

In the true spirit of Christmas let us give with an open heart

Receive with grateful hands and give thanks

For the smorgasbord of challenges and experiences

That we have been blessed with

May a sprinkling of fairy dust enchant the days ahead

Saturday, December 03, 2005


slowly like tears
down my face.
A black candle lit
in remembrance
flickers as rapidly
as my breath.
My body is molded,
melting downward
like my suppressed
emotions evaporating into nothing.
Smoke lingers, spiraling upward
then vanishes, until re-lit and born again.

Friday, December 02, 2005

New Beginning

All this while
I have been wasting my life
pondering at a world
full of wonders

All my life
I have been busy speculating,
someone else to
blame for

Putting my life on hold
too long-
I need to learn
to let go

To reach out
take hold,
venture out,
in the deep unknown
reaching inside my mind
seeking answers
deep within

when I find
the answers I seek
I will finally stop musing
have a
new beginning

(c)2005 Gautami S. Tripathy

Thursday, December 01, 2005


It is busy in the hospital cafeteria. The Christmas decorations are up and the brightly lit tree brightens the cool modernity of the room, giving it some welcoming warmth. As usual it is filled with a mixture of patients, their visitors and the staff.

It is good to see the patients out of their beds sitting with family and friends in a more stimulating environment than the wards. Even the ones who look deathly ill seem to be more relaxed here. I know that I am. This is my refuge, my still quiet centre of sanity, when I visit my brother.

From the moment the obnoxious stench of concentrated cigarette smoke greets me at the entrance to Ward 17, emanating in foul stale wafts from the smoking room, I am counting the moments until I am here. The image is like a beacon drawing me away from this sea of human misery to safer, gentler shores. There is something so intensely and instantly depressing about that death bringing stench and yet it seems a fitting signal that we are entering a circle of hell, even Dante did not prepare us for.

I walk down the corridor which sometimes smells of urine in spite of the cleaners' best efforts. Not all of the patients are continent. None are sane by any legal definition. I keep my thought shield vision of the clinically clean cafeteria to the forefront of my mind.

I smile at all of the patients who pass, regardless of whether they show any sign of even knowing I am there. Some shuffle past in their drug induced near coma states. Some stare at me aggressively and I rehearse avoidance tactics. There are some here that I have come to know bear careful watching. Ah, yes, we all come to know one another so well over the long years I have been visiting. Sometimes it seems as though we are all serving our time together, patients and families. For this is certainly our own little prison. Think hot soup and tea, Maria. Hold fast to the protective vision of that other place.

I may exchange a few words with the nurses at the desk where they tend to congregate with one another rather than with the patients. I may have a longer conversation with the family members of the other lifers. We share a common burden and grief. It helps sometimes just to know that there are others who understand the longing for the cafeteria.

When I have procrastinated as long as I feel able to, I look through the glass windows into the day room where the shadow people come and go. Some of the shadows are more substantial, lively and talkative than others; the strident noise of their hyperactive minds assaults me and I have an urgent need to retreat. Some have disappeared altogether from this reality and inhabit other worlds. Once they were like you but now they are the projections of their own interior darkness and I cling to the normality of the cafeteria as my talisman against being overwhelmed by their chaos.

Today he is standing in a corner of the room. He is jerking his head from side to side like a marionette whose strings are being pulled by a drunken puppeteer. His arms are held out rigidly from his sides and he is flicking his fingers. He mutters dark incantations so softly yet so clearly we can all hear them. His beard is unkempt, greying and when I kiss him, it feels like a wire scouring brush. His dark curls have long gone leaving a lank thinning mess of long hair tied tightly back in a short ponytail. Sometimes he wears one of his many caps but not today.

He is unbearably thin and his eyes are telling me that he has seen me, but is not yet ready to acknowledge my presence. I must wait until he has completed whatever ritual his voices are instructing him in today. Then he is still for a moment and those sad, mad eyes pierce me. I am impaled on the memory of a four-year-old boy’s huge brown eyes sparkling with the mischief of childish innocence. It is better not to remember who he was, to stay in the present moment of who he now is. It is safer and less painful to simply be with what is. It is the difference between the abyss and the rack. Neither would be my choice but I can survive the rack; I doubt if I could ever find my way out of the abyss, better to suffer than to be forever lost.

He stretches out his arms and twists his head again. This is his crucifixion. He tells me about how his body is being continually broken on the cross and that his work is to heal it over and over again. He is redeeming the world, taking on its sins, and setting us free. It is hard to be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. It is not so easy to be his sister and I long for the white walls of the cafeteria.

He tells me of the healing work he has done all through the night. He points to the little woman in the wheelchair who can now walk. He talks of the power that flowed through him into the young man admitted yesterday whose arm was broken in three places. An x-ray will show no breaks now. He asks after my son who has been unwell and tells me that worse is to come. We are the family of the Christ and we too are all eternally broken on the cross. At this moment, I am inclined towards believing him. I am one of the disciples who could not “watch one hour with him” in this Garden of Gethsemane. I want to escape to that calmer, saner place.

My head hurts. This is not one of my better days. Today my shield is thin and I cannot bear much more. I want to scream at him to stop his incessant shaking. I want to tell him that his pelvis has never been broken in three places. I need him to know that I don’t see what he sees and hear what he hears. I am ready to explode with the longing to deny him three times before the crowing of the cock or just the end of visiting hours. I also know that this would enrage him. I am not ready to be snarled at. I am not ready to walk away. I am not ready for any of this.

He stops as though he has read my thoughts. He looks sternly at me. Then he breaks into a great face-illuminating grin. He is that four-year-old boy again and I want to take him in my arms and spin him round and round. He laughs at me. “Come on Maria, I’m hungry. Let’s go to the cafeteria.”

I wrap my arm around his waist and we walk away from the psychiatric unit, up the hill in the cool liberating air. We stop to look at the beauty of the sunset and I tell him he should paint it. I only have words but he has art. I know he won’t but it is good for both of us to think that he might.

We walk down the long sloping corridor of the general hospital to my sanctuary. We sit at our table, he with his soup and me with my tea. We reminisce about some of the funnier moments of our childhood. Sometimes he borrows from other people’s childhoods, including mine, but that is so much better than being crucified. I do not contradict him. He weaves his own history just as he creates his own present and future from the rich material of his psychotic mind. We laugh together and if I am really lucky, we will get through the rest of our visit without any more twitching or visits from the voices.

Normality. That is what this place means to me. Here we sit surrounded by people visiting their sick loved ones. Some of the patients are allowed down from the wards. Some are in dressing gowns. Some are in wheel chairs. Some are still attached to drips and are accompanied by a nurse. It is all normality. That is what we are seeking here within these cafeteria walls.

In the far corner a large Christmas tree flickers with soft white lights. I smile at the sight of it. It grounds me in happier times. I will take him back to his ward in a moment, but for now I can pretend that we are simply a brother and a sister who love one another. We are out on the town in a quiet little café, sharing and catching up with our lives.

Here in our special place, schizophrenia is just the subject which I wrote my final year paper on. It does not exist outside of that yellowing document. It cannot enter my sanctuary.

Memories by Vijay Nair

Somewhere, in a chapter in my past,
you were the protagonist,
when your writ held sway.
The monsoons then
were relished in your fertile lap.
A thousand flowers bloomed,
creating a colourful camouflage.
Then you vanished, so did the colours.
Frantic, I searched.
Amidst concrete skyscrapers,
in artificial lakes,
with modern gizmos,
but all in vain.
the raindrops sprout,
invigorate, memories.
In the rainbow I can see,
your smiling eyes,
a reminder of happier times.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Just Being

I wanted to touch,
that place where love lies,
where tears never reach
and scars can’t disguise.

I wanted to heal,
the wound set so deep,
but words cannot move,
the dark treasure you keep.

I wanted to remove,
the symbols of your past,
the secret inscriptions,
in flesh and blood cast.

As I sat thinking,
the light slowly came,
these things were but letters,
that spelled out your name.

And so I embraced,
the sorrows and pain,
things I could not touch,
would never ascertain.

But that was alright,
I found a truer meaning,
for love is not wanting,
but sometimes, just being.

© 2005 Steve Johnston

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Article Review: Acorn Stomping Anyone??

Yesterday I read an article by Ian Frazier in the Nov. 7, 2005 issue of The New Yorker. The article is called: Pensées D’Automne and appears in the Shouts & Murmurs section of the magazine. I’ve read it several times since. I am fascinated by the way his words flow at a pace that’s as easy as the leisurely autumnal morning walk that he is describing. The closest analogy would be a train ride where each passing scene is framed by the window for an instant and then it passes as your eyes focus on something else. I was happy to board his train of thoughts for sometime.

Fall or autumn in America is always a memorable event, especially in the north east where some people are even described as leaf-peepers, they take to the roads in mid-September and head for New England just to stick their heads out of the window and absorb the fall colors at their peak, spotting hues they didn’t know existed in deciduous trees, interlaced with the greens in the evergreen gymnosperms; an innocuous yet magical activity that has the power to overwhelm, the power to soothe the soul.

Ian’s article, as the title suggests, is about his thoughts during a crisp fall morning walk. He talks about the special heavy, shin-high boots he’s wearing, a “Danner Foothill model with Vibram soles”, that he declares are perfect for, take a guess….”acorn-stomping”!! It was this talk of acorn-stomping that grabbed my attention in the first paragraph and I was hooked, I had to read on and discover for myself what acorn-stomping was all about.

Ian managed to convey the exhilaration that he felt at this favorite childhood activity. His Danner Foothill boots apparently have a “sweet spot” in the heels and as he walks along the oak-tree lined sidewalks of his New Jersey neighborhood he devotes considerable thought to a strategy that would maximize his satisfaction from this activity. He says, “Hit a single acorn just so and you get a satisfying, shivery tingle between the shoulder blades. Hit a series of acorns, first right, then left, then right, and so on as long as the random distribution of acorns on the sidewalk permits, each acorn struck square on the sweet spot, crunch, crunch, crunch, never breaking stride – well, that’s what you’re looking for.”

Now this article is really not all about acorn-stomping, it is about present day America, about the deep satisfaction derived from an effectively stomped acorn, the sound of its gunshot-like report and how disheartening and jarring it is to stomp on it the wrong way, in a way where one fails to make it pop and it just whooshes out its contents in a mess.

While walking and stomping he wonders about his reasons for doing so. Perhaps it is a way of working out his frustrations, his deep dissatisfaction with the rising healthcare costs in the country. But then again it can’t be because the more he thinks about the issues that are plaguing this country the more inaccurate his stomping becomes and the more unpleasant the activity. For an inaccurately stomped acorn, leaves one with a “jangling, teeth-grinding wrongness”. He compares this “wrongness” to the way certain theologians have described sin, as an “apartness from God”. This gets him thinking about the state of his own health which is why he’s walking in the first place. He talks about the obesity of this nation, a country where even the raccoons and squirrels are getting morbidly obese by rifling through suburban garbage cans, scurrying away with toaster waffles in their mouths. He talks about innocuous events that could shape the future. He thinks about these vast spaces, this land of plenty where deer are found dead on the road while we build homes in their natural habitats and the gourmet smells that rise up from our manicured, never-grazed lawns as we mow down the wild onions that are a part of many a lawn.

He talks about Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez’s visit to America and his comment about 99% of the cars, rather SUV’s, on the road being driven by a single occupant and how unsustainable a mode of life this really is. Hugo decides to sell Venezuelan oil to the poor in South Bronx, at half price, and an evangelist is prompt enough to issue a death threat on Hugo’s life.

As an American I can appreciate Ian’s concerns, I have felt the jarring, discordant note in many an aspect of my own life. A sense that things are essentially wrong and that this way of life cannot possibly be sustainable. However, thinking about comparing this to an acorn-stomping autumnal activity as a metaphor for contentment or discontent is what makes me feel like a stranger in this rather strange land. I could never write an article such as this one because this wasn’t my childhood. I have lived in America for seventeen years and this is the first time I’ve heard about this favorite childhood pastime. It is a detail I could never absorb, a metaphor I could never use.

This makes me realize how right Maugham really was when he said:

"It is very difficult to know people and I don't think one can ever really know any but one's own countrymen. For men and women are not only themselves; they are also the region in which they were born, the city apartment or the farm in which they learnt to walk, the games they played as children, the old wives' tales they overheard, the food they ate, the schools they attended, the sports they followed, the poets they read, and the God they believed in. It is all these things that have made them what they are, and these are the things that you can't come to know by hearsay, you can only know them if you have lived them. You can only know them if you are them. And because you cannot know persons of a nation foreign to you except from observation, it is difficult to give them credibility in the pages of a book. Even so subtle and careful an observer as Henry James, though he lived in England for forty years, never managed to create an Englishman who was through and through English."

But does this passage assume that one could feel at home, living and breathing the inherent, generational culture and memories in one’s so-called “homeland” as opposed to one’s adopted home? What if no place feels like home? Perhaps I should try some acorn-stomping along my own sidewalks and see if I can get to experience the sweet satisfaction of the shivery tingle that could start at the heel and travel up to a spot between the shoulder blades, perhaps practice could make me perfect at this exercise and then finally I’ll feel at home, enhancing the American dream by “living” the American "fall".

Saturday, November 26, 2005

A Shot in the Dark...

sometimes we trawl
back into those times again
through the tiny aperture
they call memories…

and scout from the shambles
some old photographs
those that we’ve
gingerly treasured as relics

hoping to filch some color
from those photographs
and vigorously rub
on the grayscale that tints today…

Thursday, November 24, 2005


It had been one hell of a day at my office. Here I was negotiating the traffic with an edginess I barely recognized. I had worked so hard on that particular presentation to pitch our sales, which had been sliding downhill. Despite my best efforts, the buyers were not convinced. There had been series of meetings throughout the day to discuss the ways and means to save our company. We tried negotiating with the bank. But nothing came of it. If this continued, we would go bankrupt. Not a nice prospect. Finally we decided to call it a day at 9.30 p.m. I was not looking forward to the long drive home.

Impatiently I kept waiting for the lights to change, tapping at the steering wheel, the day’s events passing through my mind like a bad movie. Lost in my thoughts, I did not notice the lights changing. The car behind me honked. I moved, slowly turning towards the left. A yellow Chevrolet followed behind.

It had been raining intermittently for 3 days. The dark clouds made my mood even bleaker. Barely glancing behind, I kept to my lane. Rains make it so difficult to drive. I felt my car lurching. The yellow car was still behind me. I kept driving straight ahead. The car behind me turned right and disappeared from sight. But after some time, I noticed it following me. May be it had taken a wrong turn before this.

But it was uncanny; the Chevrolet followed me closely wherever I turned. I too noticed the driver of that car making wild gestures. It was unnerving. I accelerated, so did he. I slowed down to let him pass but he too slowed down, waving at me to stop.

Without warning I swerved to the middle lane, and he did the same, waving menacingly at me. I shook my fist at him angrily and accelerated away. But there he was, faithfully following me, shaking his head. By this time I was getting a little paranoid.

Again I felt my car wobbling but as it was raining I did not give it much thought. Now all my attention was on the car following me. I kept changing lanes, without fail. The car followed me wherever I turned. I speeded up and took another detour. But there it was behind me. I was getting genuinely scared by this time. My palms were so sweaty; I could barely hold the steering wheel. It was pouring so hard. Not another vehicle in sight. Occasionally, a car passed by. In that rain, no one had any time to glance at what was going on. I tried calling the police but no network on my phone. My mind was in turmoil and my heart was hammering.

Suddenly I felt my car shaking. I must have drove over a pothole. Before I could react, the Chevrolet speeded up and stopped in front of my car. I had to brake swiftly to avoid hitting him. The driver got out. “Jerk,’’ I thought. He looked so sinister. He came towards my side of the window. He tapped and said something, pointing towards the rear end. I kept my window close, stared ahead resolutely, avoiding looking at him. I did not want him to know I was petrified.

I saw another car stopping behind. A woman got out and tapped on my window. I ignored her too. They looked at each other, shook their heads and then kept looking at the rear of my car. I smelled something. Throwing caution to winds, I opened my window and asked what was wrong. She said my left rear wheel was on the verge of coming off. She did not offer any help and drove away. I got down with a jolt and checked it. It would have come off in few more minutes, if I had been driving. And if I had not stopped when I did…………!!

I kept staring at the wheel like a moron, my mind blank… Without asking, he got down to the business of fixing the wheel. That made me break away from my stupor. We both worked at it, without exchanging a single word. By the time we finished, we were both drenched to the bones and looked like drowned cats! But he did not appear to be unduly concerned. When I offered my thanks, he brushed me aside and drove away, taking a U-turn, barely glancing back at me.

I started the car, changed the gear, and progressed slowly. My grim mood had disappeared. I was lucky to be in one piece. Feeling the tension ebbing away, I switched on the radio. Suddenly I braked, and sat there with my head on the steering wheel, numb to the core, thinking, thanking my stars and that man in the yellow Chevrolet.

Interrupting the song, there had been an important announcement……….. The old bridge ahead had partly washed away, some time back taking a few vehicles with it……...

What if?

(c)2005 Gautami S Tripathy

Innocence Recalled by Vijay Nair

Our innocence still lingers on
there, beneath that banyan tree
As if in an endless wait,
shadows of yesterdays roam free

Someone plays the flute again,
a lass dances to its tune, defter
the sweet jingle of her anklets
reminding me of your laughter

The meadows are still green,
like the scarf you used to wear
The butterflies flutter past teasingly
and the lake water is still clear

Children stream out in frenzy
when the school bell rings
like innumerable little sparrows
with just sprouted wings

Women in their colourful clothes
Men smoking, herded around a water pipe
Wind caressing the trees,
pleading to shed their mangoes ripe

This letter, I hope, brings to you
the earthen fragrance, as always
The raindrops on your windowsill
reminding you of our bygone days

Vijay © 7th September, 2005

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A Time of Gratefulness

It’s a cold and blistery November night, logs are crackling on the fire, and I am sitting here reflecting on that certain lady in my life…her name is Stefanie, and she’s my wife.

Ever since our first meeting in a recording studio, I believed in her, and knew she was destined for greatness. Of late, she has been building her strength up for the challenge – for the reward. She has always had a sense of purpose; a passion for life, and a love affair for the arts. She is not overly motivated by money, power, fame or success; rather she lives her life in the moment and loves to sing. Being born with the last name Singer, she has no choice but to pursue her namesake. It hasn’t been an easy road however, and she has had her share of struggles and obstacles to overcome.

The struggles have been that Stefi (as I lovingly call her) is not 21 and shapely. Rather, she is 45 and “pleasingly plump.” Consequently, she has not received due recognition as the wonderful singer she is. Believe this or not, some have actually told her point blank…”You are too fat and too old.”

I have seen the heartache and felt her rejection over this “finger pointing.” Nevertheless, I have stood by with loving support and suggested, “Stay focused on what you do best honey…writing songs.”
Succeeding in the arts is about self-empowerment – making it happen yourself for yourself. From my perspective, she is helping others understand their own lives better. I know she has had a positive influence upon my life, and I am now a better person because of her.

By listening to her perform, the audience discovers who they are and who they want to become – they affirm it with applause – as do I. She possesses all the tools; there is no need to wait any longer. She no longer needs to fear rejection or be dependent upon her mother’s approval. She was born a “Singer,” and a singer she shall forever remain.

Recently Stefi wrote both lyrics and melody to three contemporary gospel songs. Once the songs were "in the can," she sought out a producer on the internet super highway. After a two day search, she found one in Charlotte, NC. Smashing the piggy bank, we loaded up the ride and took off.The following day, Bill met us at the door, and invited us into his "studio..." his spare bedroom. We had sent MP3 files ahead so Bill could begin the "layering process" of producing the songs. Bill was a wonderful producer. Three days later we walked out with the finished product. The following day she met with a promoter who listened to the cuts. Of the three, she expressed an interest in the one that we actually liked the least..."This Time." With our funds nearly exhausted, we returned to Pittsburgh...a ten hour trip, with no deal and no "check in the mail."A few days later, Stefi received a call. The promoter had passed her song onto the record label EMI...a real biggie.

A “greater source” than Stefi has given her a special gift, and NOW is the time to open it. She is on her way to some new and exciting opportunities, the fullness of which is not presently known. But what is known is that she has optimism; she is organized, and passionate about what she does. Living life to its fullest requires a balance, and in order for all her dreams to be fulfilled, she keeps her focus on the creator…not the created. Today she is the sum total of all her yesterdays, and she just keeps loving, living and learning.

Stefi seems to have come to terms with the age and size barriers, and is now focusing on her song writing. She overcame these “obstacles,” and is now promoting herself as a songwriter…her true calling.

I love her more than any words I can write, and I am so grateful for her. She is the greatest woman any man could ask for. I believe in her….oh, excuse me, the phone is ringing…it just might be EMI.

-- Terry Ploeckelmann 2005

Diving Lessons

Dive deep into the darkness
Beyond dark
To the light
Where everything
You see
Is clear
And clean
And bright

Here you find your Self
Unscathed and serene
And brilliant
At peace with what has been

Ready to claim the life
You couldn’t imagine
Or dream
'Til you moved through
The sacred darkness
To the place
Where awareness gleams

©2003 Jodi Flesberg Lilly

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Can You Smell It?

By Carol Roach

Living in Canada, we celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October. I am told we do not celebrate it with quite the same enthusiasm as our American neighbours. We give thanks to our lord for the bounty he has bestowed upon us. And we remember the first settlers to Canada and the hardships they must have endured braving the cold Canadian winters. We remember the story of Jacques Cartier who in 1535, came up the Shores of La Riviere St Laurent (St. Lawrence River) to establish the first settlement for New France at Stadacona.

Stadacona was the native name for his village settlement. Later that named changed to Quebec City, the capital city of the province of Quebec which is the province in which I live. Many of his men died from scurvy before they had even reached our shores.

If it weren’t for the natives as was the case with the settlers in America, Cartier and the remainder of his men would have perished. The natives introduced maize (corn) and other supplements to the European diet, and taught the men how to survive the cruel elements. Later, they taught the settlers how to hunt, fish, and farm.
First the fur trappers came over for the lucrative trade in beaver pelts, and then “Les Femmes Favorise”, the elegant French ladies from France who were to wed the trappers and create a new life and new family in this brave new world.

But after all is said and done, I can bet that if I went out on the street and asked anyone the question, “who were the first people to celebrate Thanksgiving,” the majority would say the pilgrims of Plymouth Rock, coming over on the Mayflower.

Do we have our histories mixed up – yes, but is it because we were not taught our own history in school – no. It is because America takes more pride in that part of her heritage. The pilgrim story is reenacted in plays all over the country. The Internet is bombarded with jokes and poems and information galore. The day is also known as turkey day to many and nobody has to question what that means, it is a given.

Thanksgiving day in Canada is a national holiday. But you see I work for an American company as a customer service representative, in its only Canadian call center. For me my Thanksgiving was just another day to work. Though I was given a different day off to compensate for working on Thanksgiving Day, needless to say I did not have a turkey dinner. As a matter of fact I worked until 9pm and didn’t have much of a supper at all.

When it came time for the American Thanksgiving, I thought for sure that I would have the day off. But much to my chagrin, I found out that we were working. As stated before, we are the only Canadian call center, for my company. The American call centers in Omaha, NE, and Houston, TX, were running on skeleton staff of course.
To ease our disappointment, the company maintained they did not anticipate many calls and that we would have a very light day. Such was the case and we laughed and joked around most of the day. We wondered why Americans would take time from their special day with family and friends to bother calling in to say they wanted to order a movie pass, or to cancel their membership. On the other hand, we had many clients telling us how sorry they were that we had to work on Thanksgiving while everyone else had it off.

If anything, we are a great group of people and we laughed and joked all day long. There were jokes like “do you know the Americans call Thanksgiving turkey day” and the retort being “well it sure isn’t turkey day for me, I have my tuna fish sandwich right here.” Michael asked “I wonder if I ordered a special turkey pizza would they make it.” And Samira replied, yeah if you ordered it from the states.”

As the day wore on, we of course grew hungrier. However, the strangest thing occurred. The call center started smelling like food. Since the company cafeteria is far enough away, the aroma of food never reaches us. Yet today, November 28, 2002, the call center smelled of food. How could that be? Charles having the wisdom of Solomon, and the humor of Seinfeld, retorted “it’s the Americans cooking their turkeys that we smell. They weren’t about to leave us out on their biggest day of the year.”

The real explanation for the smell of food in the call center was never determined, but for this little group of Canadians who never got to eat turkey on either the American or Canadian Thanksgiving day, in our minds on the American Thanksgiving, we sure could smell it.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Thanksgiving: Some thoughts on love and gratitude

Today is a symphony composed by the Divine, weaving magical notes of joy, harmony, love and inspiration into a translucent, golden, glowing tapestry of energetic interplay.

Today is a blessing given generously to be received with eager open arms.

Today is a clean white sheet of fine hand crafted paper, gleaming with the invitation to write my life upon.

Today is mystical. Today is magical. Today is to be revered, treasured, loved, adored.

Today is to be lived at the top of my lungs, to the depth of my soul, to the utmost extraction and distillation of each precious second.

As I write, I am aware that my friends in the United States are celebrating Thanksgiving. I love the idea that a whole nation takes a day out of their full year to sit down together as family and friends, to simply give thanks for all the blessings in their lives. The practice of mindful gratitude gives us the gift of awareness of the treasures in our lives, the simple things that we take for granted unless we make gratitude a living ritual.

The daily mindful awareness of all I have to be grateful for, has seen me safe through some of the most challenging times in my life. It is about being fully present in the moment, chosing to focus on the light, rather than dwelling in the darkness. There have been times when tears of pain and fear have cascaded down my face as I spoke my words of gratitude out into the world and in speaking them, the tears dried and the pain was soothed. Gratitude gives the gift of healing.

The daily practice of gratitude has brought me another gift in the last few months, an ever increasing visceral feeling of reverential love of life which flows into every aspect of my presence on this earth, creating a deepening sense of joyful connection, so powerful that there are times when I feel as though I have entered another dimension of being. For those of you familiar with energy work, I would describe it as a massive energetic shift, a falling in love with life.

When you fall in love, everything is different. All of your senses waken up and your perception of the world shifts through the filter of that love. Suddenly you become acutely aware of the more subtle beauties of life, wonders which were always there but not observed at a conscious level. Emotions sweep unbidden and unfettered in response to stimuli you were previously deadened to. Everything is sharper, clearer, brighter, illuminated in glowing sacred colours. Radiant happiness shines out into the world and joy becomes your close companion. Life itself becomes the object of your passion.

I find myself allowing a deeper caring about the world around me, its joys, its sorrows, its triumphs and its pain. For the first time in years I am engaging with the wider issues of the day, speaking out boldly where there would previously have been the silence of unwilling acceptance.

I share more intimately who and what I am with an ever widening circle. I am no longer afraid of being known. Love has given me the freedom to express ever more clearly and powerfully the essence of my soul, who I am at the core of my being. Once I would have peeped out timidly into the world, revealing little flashes of my thoughts and feelings, then retreating back into the sanctuary of my privacy for fear of being swallowed up by the external world. This incredible gift of love has swept away those barriers of the mind's own making and I am ready for whatever comes. There is no going back.

What truth are you hesitating to acknowledge in your own life?
What passions have you been damping down for fear of the fire that it will light in your life?
What gifts lie dormant, awaiting your own kiss of life to blossom richly into the world?
What wings are aching with the desire for flight; what mountains to soar magnificently over; what wild thermal currents to drop down into, to be carried along on, trusting the journey and your own power; what savage joy in the freedom of flying free?

So look at life through the eyes of love; rekindle your passion for the great gift of life.
Take out those dusty dreams that became lost and buried in the everyday challenges of life.
Nourish those dreams with your love. Let them lead you out into the world , a world where your love will make such a difference.
Care with all you have and all you are.
Reach out to the world and love it.
The world has such a need for love and it cannot afford to be denied by even one of us. Start with those who are closest to you. Look into their souls and let them know how much they mean to you. When we are loved, we dare great things.
Through gratitude and love:

Dare to dream.
Dare to love.
Dare to act.

Maria Stepek Doherty

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Old Man, The Boy and Santa Claus

Old man D’Souza sat huddled over his glass of tea and a buttered bun at the Irani restaurant. Christmas is coming, he thought, as he carefully chewed the morsel he had dipped in the tea moments earlier. Not that Christmas meant anything more to him now than the need to line his ragged coat with newspapers to keep out the cold. The tea soaked bun he was chewing jabbed into his bad tooth and he winced.

It hadn’t always been like this. There was a time when Christmas meant family gatherings round the Christmas Tree, presents being exchanged, squeals of delight from his grandchildren as they tore open presents and their frugal mothers tried to save the wrapping. A brief smile flicked across his face as he remembered that a generation before, his girl had squealed in that exact fashion and Fiona was the one trying to save the wrappings. Maybe her daughter got that paper saving habit from her, he mused. It was like a dream now. The decorations, the cake, the wine and the rum and the whisky that had flowed. He felt his pocket to check if his bottle of cheap, countrymade liquor was there, the only thing he could afford on his meagre pension. He’d need the bottle tonight. The memories would not let him sleep otherwise.

How nice it was before the Big Fight. When Fiona was there, and they watched together with pride as their daughter grew, married, had children of her own. Why did we fight, I don’t even remember that, he mused. But fight they had and he had lost count of the number of Christmases that had gone by without those family gatherings. Or rather, of the number of family gatherings gone by with him absent. For she was surely carrying on the tradition of the family gathering. Fiona had taught her too well for her to forget that. If Fiona had been there the big fight probably wouldn’t even have happened. Even if it had happened, she would have got it all straightened out. She had been a strong woman and he missed her strength sometimes. That’s life, he thought, then corrected himself. No, that’s death. I’ll be coming soon, Fiona, he whispered.

The waiter roused him from his reverie, demanding to know if he was going to go soon, there were people waiting for the table space. He paid up and left, shuffling down the street. He wasn’t going anywhere in particular. There was nowhere to go. But he had learned long ago that as long as you keep moving, the urchins and the police don’t harass you. Every once in a while he stopped to rest and to retie the cord around his waist to keep his trousers up. He reminded himself to be on the lookout for a cotton cord. Nylon knots kept slipping and loosened the cord.

He was scurrying past a sidestreet when he heard a sound. He looked into the sidestreet and saw a boy apparently struggling with a large man. “Hey,” he shouted instinctively, the sight stirring up a protective paternal reflex. Without regard for his own safety, he stumbled into the sidestreet as fast as his arthritic knees would let him, shouting all the time.

* * * * *

The boy scrambled to help the fat lady pick up her groceries, effortlessly elbowing the other boys out of the way. He generally didn’t like to help the fat ones. They always haggled over the price. Somehow, the thinner ones seemed to be more generous. Well, whatever it was that this one gave, at least he would have enough to buy his next bottle of glue. He had lost the last bottle in a fight. He needed the glue for the times there was no food and for the nights when sleep wouldn’t come. Then a few sniffs from the bottle gave him enough of a high to forget himself until he could either get something to eat or fall asleep. He loaded the groceries into the car and she gave him a Rupee coin. “Five”, he demanded. “Are you crazy?” yelled the woman, “get going before I use my hand.” “Please,” said the boy. The woman raised her hand and the boy slunk away. That was another problem with the fat ones, he mused. They used their hands as readily as they used their loud voices. He looked around. Not many people around, and no one who looked as if they’d need help. He’d have to cross over to the other side, to the vegetable section.

He entered the sidestreet, on the lookout for the other boys who might decide to gang up on him and snatch his coin. He saw the bike and automatically looked at the petrol pipe. No lock! He looked around for a bottle. If there was no glue to sniff, petrol was just as good. He saw a discarded water bottle and, scooping it up, ran to the bike. He had just tugged the petrol pipe off the tap when he sensed a movement behind him. He turned, poised for fight or flight. If it was one of the smaller boys, he’d fight. It would increase his status among the urchins. But if it was one of the bigger boys or a drunkard looking for a quick buck, he’d have to run.

The figure loomed large over the boy, dressed in some kind of bright red costume. Too large to fight. He had turned to run when he felt a firm, yet curiously gentle grip on his shoulder. “Look at me,” rumbled a voice in a tone that was strangely familiar to him. It recalled to him the times his mother had called him for a cuddle. When he had a mother. He turned slowly and saw a huge bearded figure in a red suit. It reminded him of that fat man he had seen some years ago, when some well-meaning socialite had tried to organise a Christmas party for urchins. The fat man had been brought in to distribute gifts, but he’d turned up drunk, lurching between the women and generally making a nuisance of himself till someone wisely called the security guard, who took him into a back room to cool off. Was this one drunk too? The boy gripped the coin tightly, determined to retain it at any cost. His eyes flicked from side to side, looking for a stone, a stick, anything he could use as a weapon. Then he looked up again, straight into the fat man’s face.

Somehow, he sensed that this was no drunk or fancy dressed fool. The beard was all too real, the costume somehow not at all incongruous on the huge figure. He’d never seen anyone dressed like that in the relatively warm weather of his town. The suit seemed to be padded enough to make a man sweat, but the figure was cool and comfortable in it. The huge man smiled and the boy relaxed. He knew he would not be harmed.

* * * * *

Old man D’Souza picked up a stick he saw lying on the ground and shuffled towards the two figures, shouting all the time. He didn’t know if he would have the courage to actually use the stick, but maybe the man would let the boy go if he made sufficient noise. He came closer to the pair and the large man turned. “Don’t recognise me, Mr. D’Souza?” he said, chortling. D’Souza stopped short. It looked like… it couldn’t be! And then, like the boy, D’Souza somehow knew this was the real Santa Claus.

“But you can’t be,” he spluttered, “you aren’t real. You’re just a Christmas myth.” “If you believe,” said the figure, “everything is real. If you don’t, nothing is. Now won’t you help me entertain this young man? It’s Christmas season, and he needs to know life can be good even without glue.” “Entertain?” stuttered the old man, “how?” “Just like you entertained your grandchildren. They’re grown now aren’t they? I believe Alex has even started working”

“I don’t know,” mumbled the old man, “I haven’t seen them for a while.” “Oh, but you can,” said the figure, “all it takes is for you to reopen the dialogue. I know you want to, and the universe always helps someone who wants to do something good. Now come, let’s show little Xavier a wee bit of Christmas. Remember the Christmas cards you used to get?”

And suddenly, the old man, the boy and Santa Claus were in a winter wonderland. They saw snow for the first time in their lives. The old man felt like he was in a Christmas card as he and the boy romped in the snow. They had snow fights, the boy shrieking and the old man chuckling in delight. They rode a toboggan down a gentle slope and went on a sleigh ride, the silver bells on the horses’ collars keeping up a cheerful accompaniment to the boy’s squeals of pleasure. At his begging, the figure in red pulled a silver bell off one of the collars and gave it to the boy, who promptly began waving it near the old man’s ear. The Christmas carols came alive for them and the old man and the boy wished it would last forever.

* * * * *

The old man woke up, and sensed the warm little body nestled against him. He looked around. They had fallen asleep against a door in the sidestreet. “What a dream,” he muttered to himself. He couldn’t figure out how he’d got in the sidestreet, but that was nothing new. He’d woken up in strange gullies after drunken binges before. He just presumed he was waking after another binge. But at least he seemed to have made a friend, this little bundle of energy who, even now, was smiling and kicking in his sleep. “I must figure out a way to buy a present for the little chap,” thought old man D’Souza, “if I can’t give my grandson a present, at least I can give this boy one.”

The boy stirred and woke up, stretching. “What a dream,” he said, “what a strange dream.” Then he looked up at the old man. “You were in it too. Am I still dreaming?”

“No,” said the old man, “this is real. But… I have a job to do. I have to reopen a dialogue.”

“What does that mean?” asked the boy.

“Just that I have to find someone. They moved house long ago and I never bothered to find out where. But this is a small city. I’m sure I’ll be able to find them.”

“Who are they? Maybe I can find them for you.”

The old man smiled. “I doubt it,” he said, “but I’ll tell you anyway. It’s my daughter and her family I have to find.”

“What’s her name?” queried the boy.

“Margaret Fernandes,” said the old man, preparing to rise.

“Oh, I can take you to her!” said the boy excitedly, “I do odd jobs for her every weekend!” And as the boy jumped up to take the old man to his daughter, something fell from his pocket and rolled, tinkling, between the old man’s feet. The old man picked it up.

“A bell,” he said in wonder to no one in particular, “a silver bell!”

Copyright (c) Deepak Morris, 1998-2005

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Life is Beautiful

Life is beautiful when we can sit quietly and admire an ant

Marvel at a grain of sand and find splendour in a spider’s web

Life is beautiful when we can sample nature’s garden

Watch the glistening ocean and walk amongst the trees

Life is beautiful when we can laugh with friends

Share with strangers and have compassion for our enemy

Life is beautiful when we can create our dream

Pursue our passion and share our wealth

Life is beautiful when we can read to a child

Listen to a friend or volunteer our help

Life is beautiful when we can smile at our mistakes

Forgive others for letting us down and heal past hurts

Life is beautiful when we can love and be loved

Break free from oppression and embrace the miracle of our own existence

Life is beautiful when we can stop long enough to understand

That our presence on this planet is a privilege what we make of it is our legacy

Life is beautiful when we can appreciate the diversity of life

Respect and accept our differences and be humbled by our own magnificence

A Dream?

A warm embrace,
eyes, so young and innocent,
skin pale and soft.

The first time,
our lips joined in silent prayer,
the sound of water flowing.

The warmth of your breast,
full and ripe fruit of love,
the taste of salt and sweetness.

I woke up with an emptiness
cold, darkness beside me,
and the lingering smell of lilac.

(C) 2005 Steve Johnston


Silk. It reminded him of the glorious sea waves sliding over each other. Of her smooth body in perfect communion with his. Of her lovely coil of black hair snaking down her bare back. He picked up his pen and began to write. Swirling thoughts in his head made him incapable of capturing them on paper today. Exasperated, he pushed back his chair and with an impatient flick of his hair went outside.

The sky was a purple bruise over the dark ocean. He wanted her desperately tonight. Time stood by and watched him, as he lay down on the sand and stared at the velvet sky above. The stars twinkling there reminded him of the glittering lights that would adorn her huge mansion tonight. Through a film of tears, he saw the stars move from their places and drop upon him like liquid fire. His eyes burned, his heart was ablaze, kindled perhaps by the fire before which she sat, in her red and gold silk sari. Silk on silk, he would say, every time she had draped a silken sari around her silky form. He could never have afforded one. But, that had never deterred him. He would drape her form with gossamer words, he said, or with velvet kisses.

With a start, he got up and walked to the ocean. Of what use were his words now? He kept walking. Silk on silk… he smiled and walked on. He remembered those silky arms twining round his neck as the waves closed over him.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Breath by Maria Stepek Doherty

I breathe out upon this paper,
The beating of my heart,
Out into the wondering world,
A butterfly breath.

It shakes the forests of the Amazon,
Thunders on the mountain peak,
Stirs the distant oceanic deep,
One sacred breath, one heart beat.

I breathe out upon this paper,
In Black words etching
The whiteness of the universe,
Butterfly breath, breathing worlds.

Monday, November 14, 2005


Boring, blasé,
That is what night is today,
How could feng shui
Energy just slip away?

Quiet, a yawn,
Even sound has long been gone.
Time stops, eon,
Dreary-eyed waiting 'til dawn.

Time to arise,
Sunlight pouring in my eyes,
Workload, apprise,
Suffer through the lows and highs.

Caffeine, Pills to
Get me home to try anew,
Clocks roar, I knew,
Sleeping hours are far too few.

(c)2005 by Jack Huber


Man Rays Tears(1932)

I only want to know,
to dream
how your caress would feel
so dizzy for contact,
making me reel.
Unsure how to act,
not good at this game anymore.
sure that your love
will seep through my pores
expose my soul,
now in secret
grows a weedy garden
of needy wasteland.
angst and pain
flows like rain
through the dream-cluttered
gutters of my brain.
My mind
screams a silent
refrain of mistakes.
And in
my dreams,
all that I yearn
seems so far away,
on the highest summit,
out of reach.
for now
I have to teach
myself to wait,
willing fate to
deliver one day.

(c)2005 Gautami S Tripathy

My Island, My Love, and Me

By Carol Roach

The fierce angry heat of the sun gives way to the gentle seductive breezes of the evening. It is inviting; enchanting as it serenades my soul. I gaze into the sky set afire with diamonds,

Proudly glowing

Wickedly sparkling;

Oh the tales they could tell.
I do not want to tell tales. I do not want to speak at all. I stare into my lover’s eyes. He has the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen. The green of his eyes are the envy of all. The beautiful blue/green Caribbean Sea cannot compete with them. The water shines as the gentle waves splash against the shore.
The smell of the sea mist both salty and tangy appeal to our senses. The sea succumbs to my lover’s beauty. The great one gives up the fight for majesty and bows down in homage. Neptune himself gives orders to the gentle breezes

to tease our senses,

captivate our souls.

He is a gracious opponent.
As the waves sing their lullaby, I gaze up to the heavens. The stars are smiling. The moon is full and brimming over with pure joy.
I look again to my lover’s eyes, my husband's eyes. They too are shining; they are spilling over with love.
Quietly we sit at our table. We are oblivious to our immediate surrounding. We know there is much activity going on around us here at the Hilton Hotel but we are unmindful of it all.
Our beings are united as one.

One mind

One heart

One soul.
We are at one with love and at one with the sky, the moon, and the sea.
I feel his hand touch mine as we drink up this paradise, this bliss, and I truly understood the meaning of the song,
"Beautiful Barbados Gem of the Caribbean Sea. You'll find rest; you'll find peace in Barbados. So come back to my Island and me.”

If you are interested in other stories feel free to join her newsletter: Storytime Tapestry at: http://subs.zinester.com/98907 , or email her directly at winterose@videotron.ca

Friday, November 11, 2005

Come Fly With Me

Come fly with me
We’ve earned our wings
The time is ripe today

The game of life
Begun anew
Heralds another way

The sun and moon
The turning tides
Proclaim a pristine day

The currents shift
And jet streams flow
Clouds pass and drift away

Stars in heaven
Inspire and guide
Their gift a grand display

The dance begins
New trails ablaze
Spirits ignite in play

Eyes on heaven
With wings spread wide
We soar on golden rays

From high above
Observing earth
Its splendid disarray

In blues and greens
Our sphere revolves
Brilliance holding sway

Jeweled planet
Spinning through space
In sacred interplay

© 2005 Jodi Flesberg Lilly

Monday, November 07, 2005

Love Unspoken

I have no regrets,
Save the silent whisper of one,
That time on time haunts me
Like a timid well mannered ghost.
Slight shade of a choice once made.

I have no regrets,
Amidst a life serenely lived,
Save for the murmurs in the night
Of wilder dreams that could have been,
Had courage taught my heart to speak.

I have no regrets,
Save that lingering ache
For a path we might have shared,
For a love I left unspoken,
Silence severing what might have been.

Written in a Time of Sadness

Withdrawn from the world outside my window,
I watch through the cracks of the blinds.
Voices echo from below my window,
thunder rattles my walls.

I am alone and feeling the weight of my company,
seeing my own weaknesses in vivid color,
fearing my own shortcomings,
second-guessing my life.

Thoughts echo against the walls,
bare emotions surface exposing flesh,
vulnerable before my own eyes,
digging at myself.

Worthlessness takes root,
love and affection seem distant,
tears well inside,
I am alone.

The weight of my depression pulls at my defenses,
everything is wasted,
I hope you understand,
I am nothing.

There is a moment of light,
the wind blows,
darkness takes hold,
a frozen picture in oblivion.

(c) 2005 Steve Johnston

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Separated By Winter

Despite the cold winter's
Most desolate gloom,
My heart is full
There's simply no room,
Except for the warm
Sensual memories of
The woman whose sweet
Tender touch I love.

I remember embracing
Before my depart,
When the tear in my eye
Came direct from my heart,
I must keep in mind,
Regardless of snow
I will be with her soon;
That much I know

(c)2005 by Jack Huber