Mad as the March Hare

It’s March. Lost, mindless Oestre chicks. Hares gone Mad with abandon.

March Madness is a crazy time, a neither/nor time. Neither winter nor spring. An in-between time. Neither asleep nor awake.

Mad March targets the tales of those who hide behind the shroud of surety and secrets, takes hold of souls wrapped in remnants of reason, sending them into the mad March wind, freeing the poet’s wonder to unseat what is mean, what is mad, what is best left to the whinings of past seasons gone to seed. Beware the March Hare, unless she is your cup of tea.

A Labyrinth is Not a Maze.

From here:

A maze is a complex branching (multicursal) puzzle that includes choices of path and direction, may have multiple entrances and exits, and dead ends. A labyrinth is unicursal i.e. has only a single, non-branching path, which leads to the center then back out the same way, with only one entry/exit point.

These two structures have different, although related, meanings. Yet they are incorrectly used interchangeably all of the time

A labyrinth, while sometimes having very convoluted-seeming pathways, really only has one way in and one way out. Walking a labyrinth invites patience, focus, care, introspection. The goal is not to find your way out or in. That’s all laid out for you. You can’t get lost.

There is no set ritual for walking a labyrinth, but there are books and lectures to assist you in performing a labyrinth walk. The basic advice is to enter the labyrinth slowly, calming and clearing your mind. This may be done by repeating a prayer or chant.

A maze, on the other hand, invites you on a challenging journey to find your way in and your way out. Its pathways are meant to be disorienting and its goal is to confuse you. According to Wikipedia:

A maze is a path or collection of paths, typically from an entrance to a goal. The word is used to refer both to branching tour puzzles through which the solver must find a route, and to simpler non-branching (“unicursal”) patterns that lead unambiguously through a convoluted layout to a goal. (The term “labyrinth” is generally synonymous with “maze”, but can also connote specifically a unicursal pattern.[1]) The pathways and walls in a maze are typically fixed, but puzzles in which the walls and paths can change during the game are also categorized as mazes or tour puzzles.

The Minator lived in the middle of a MAZE – a maze with such complex pathways that Theseus, sent to kill the monster, might not have been able to find his way out after he completed his task. So he tied a ball of string to the entrance to the maze and unwound the string as he went in so that he could follow it back and be able to get out.

So, while a labyrinth can be classified as a “maze,” a maze is not the same as a labyrinth.

This is what I was thinking about the other night, waiting for sleep. (Sleep doesn’t come easily or me).

I am thinking that some folks seem able to walk the safe, set pathway of the labyrinth life-model. Some by choice, like cloistered nuns and monks, who are relieved of the kinds of personal choices that are constantly confronted by those who find themselves navigating various stressful life mazes. Others, because of personality traits or very careful controlled planning, find their lives moving within the ease of the Labyrinth. There are still others who allow themselves to be absorbed into a cult mentality that provides the boundaries and makes their choices for them, making hard life choices simply by giving them a labyrinthian framework to follow. If they don’t deviate, they will make it to the goal (however the cult defines it). Organized religion also provides that clear pathway, so much easier to navigate than that messy maze.

Most of us, however, can’t avoid the stresses from the constant choices with which we are confronted along the maze-like journey of our lives. We constantly bump into dead ends, go around in circles, sometimes just sit down wherever we are, too tired to go on. I also think that if you are a creative person who engages with life to find inspiration, motivation, questions and answers, you have no choice but to take your chances in those messy mazes.

Like a Stone Labyrinth

Life leads you.

You set your alarm,
choose your shoes,
gather friends for tea,
count your changes.

Until one day a corner comes,
slipping you a glimpse
of that line of stones
shaping your shadow’s edge.

And then a perfect black cat,
with eyes like glowing stones,
races across your path
and waits in the early ferns
for you to cross hers.

It’s Just Another Christmas Eve

How different my holidays are from when I was a child, part of a large extended Polish family, for whom Vigilia (Christmas Eve) was a major event, with all of the traditional foods and traditions.

The only thing I have left is one ornament that says Merry Christmas in Polish.

After I got divorced, since my kids would spend Christmas Eve with me and Christmas Day with their Dad, we started our own food tradition. I let the kids choose. They wanted a meat fondue. And we continue that tradition today.  Having to wait for our chunks of protein to simmer until ready means that we have to sit around the table for a while (unlike our usual “eat dinner together and then go our separate ways”).

 We tend not to eat beef, so we usually have chicken; but this year we broke with tradition so that Lex, my grandson, could try beef. (Which, unfortunately, he likes.)

We did manage to make and decorate some cookies — from Baby Yoda (which Lex devoured rather quickly) to the wreath “painted” by my art-major son-in-law. (I have to say that I love that Lex wears the “Jughead” hat I made for him all of the time.)

My daughter has successfully installed replacements for the traditions I left behind. Over the past week or so, she has cooked dinners from the various ethnic traditions of our genetics — German, Swedish, Lithuanian.  We often have Polish and Italian food, so there was no need to repeat those.  And it’s a Christmas Eve tradition for us to watch Polar Express together after dinner while we have dessert.   I decided to forego yet another watch and retired to my computer to struggle with this post.  (I am still have problems using this new fangled WordPress platform; but I’m intent on figuring it out; I have been at it for three  hours  now.)

Somewhere in Yonkers, my younger cousins are feasting on their home made pierogi, carrying on the old traditions,using recipes that have been handed down for generations.  I have yet to find store-bought peirogi that come anywhere near those our mothers made.  I’m too lazy to do all of the work to make my own.

I don’t know if they sing Polish “kolendy” (Christmas Carols), but I know they get their families together and share old memories.  I’m not in touch with them these days because he is their president, and he’s not mine.

I have fond memories of those Polish Christmases as a child.  I probably don’t remember them the same way that my cousins do.

I’m a poet.  I am all Eye.

December 24, 1948

There is no mistaking this immigrant clan
for anything but a matriarchy,
bringing from its Polish homeland
the fundamentals of family, earthy foods,
a deference to the will of the grayest female.

The men earn hard money, revere their vodka,
as it was on the farms of the old country.
The rest is woman’s right and work.
So, when the magical time of Vigil Eve draws near
the men disappear into their smoky enclaves
to share sad fatherland memories,

while the women gather in her kitchen,
a determined lineage of daughters,
by birth and marriage, armed with
the culinary legacies of generations.

For days, they roll, flour, fill, and pinch,
while we children sit on the floor, eye level to legs,
playing with scraps of pasty dough,
lulled by the soft humming of female voices,
the steady rumble of snowy urban streets.

The night flows with prayers and feasting,
as families gather at the gray lady’s call,
reviving ancient rites of pine and light,
singing the language and history of their people
carried across oceans of fear and hope.

They sing of homeland yearnings for freedom and faith,
of the tears of mountaineers displaced and despaired,
of the battles of heroes to free the heart’s land,
of mystical mothers and magical births.

Generations of voices in harmony
drift through the lace-curtained windows
open to the cold winter night, that night
when animals talk, wishes are granted,
and ancient rituals forge the primal bonds of blood.

The Eyes Have It

I crave the cosmic and the common,
refusing to sever half my soul.
I choose to grow in all directions:
to grow both fruit and edible root;
to glory in the ground and desire the sky;
to stretch roots across acres
and reach for the bedrock;
to rejoice in the changing shapes of the seasons.
I eschew the single minded vision.
I am all Eye.

I wrote this when I was in my mid-thirties, when life was an adventure. At almost 80, my life now is a different kind of adventure.

These are my eyes as of last week,  Something going on with with the right eye.  The eyes don’t have it any more.

And it’s more than the eyes.  The WordPress I used more than a decade ago is a different animal.  I’m on a very slow learning curve.  But they say that learning new things is good for the brain.  Maybe so, but it’s not always good for the stress..

As I get older, I need things to be more simple. Only nothing is simple these days.  Even though the “Ayes” had it in Washington and voted to impeach the Big Orange Turd, it’s still complicated, and it’s not going to be easy.

It’s obviously in the genes.

We are a family that has always valued and encouraged creativity.

My late once husband was a gifted playwright and director. I continue to write and publish poetry. (I just had two accepted for publication by the Orchard Street Press.) Our daughter is a published novelist who has branched out into designing publications as well. Our son, who was recently diagnosed as autistic, is a talented writer and photographer; he uses social media as his venue.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VeO7qkqMwAM

This is a film that my late once husband shot with an 8mm camera. B!X was recently contacted by someone who is working on a Netflix documentary on “The Toys That Made Us” to ask about using some clips, but that didn’t happen.

Since we all latched onto the original Star Trek television series with great enthusiasm, it’s not surprising that b!X’s bedroom walls became the Star Trek bridge (drawn with magic marker); a blue-painted foam board and a picture of the universe became the view screen.

There really weren’t any cosplay outfits available yet, so I painted the Star Trek logo on 4-year old b!X’s shirt (we called him “Kit” back then) so that he could play Captain Kirk, armed with laser gun and tricorder. The special effects are totally primitive, but the kids had fun making it and watching it.

As my kids were growing up, I would take a day off from work and let them play hooky from school every time a new Star Trek movie came out so that we could all go to the first showing. That tradition continues with my grandson, as we all go together to see all of the Star Wars, Avengers, and just about every sci-fi/fantasy movie that comes out.

My grandson has inherited those genes big time, and he and his mom are participating in Mastermind Adventures “Camp Half-Blood.” Melissa is Artemis and Lex is some character from Star Wars. They will both be in costume.

I’m the only one who has not been very creatively inspired lately; this is the first post I’ve written in a while. And I did create a little mini “Gnome Garden” in a spot near the driveway.

Little by little, I’ll get my groove back.

Adrift in Archetypes

The ancient Hanged Man is the center of attention, oddly modern in straight lines and upright, bloodless repose.

I am at a funeral mass in a church that is a testament to privilege, from the pale polished wood of vaulted ceilings to the delicate stained glass windows, graceful allegories of allegiance and ardor.

My dead friend rests in a simple urn among flowers and photos. I am here to honor him, but the incense filled air and steady droning of apocrypha ease me into images from my past life.

I am in fourth grade, sitting next to my classmate, Stanley Szymanski, enthralled by the drama and special effects of a Black Friar production of the “Stations of the Cross.” As our bones vibrate to the crashes of recorded thunder and our hearts flutter to the rhythmic flashes lightening that signal the death of that Hanged Man, Stanley reaches over, grabs my hand, and whispers “Let’s get hitched.”

I am somewhere in my pre-teens, standing next to my father, who smells vaguely of Old Spice and who subtly hums along with the inspiring choir. He is tall and strong next to me, and, for the first time, I feel stirrings of some kind of desire. Someday I will learn about Electra, and I will take courses in psychology, and I will understand.

When I return home after the funeral service, I finish reading a book I requested from its author because, these days, I am even more fascinated by death and the processes of dying than I was as a child growing up above the viewing rooms in my father’s funeral home.

I also am a fan of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell, so I tend to have an affinity for archetypes, and Polishing the Bones by Jungian Analyst Penelope Tarasuk tells of a journey that embraces both of my passions.

It is a unique story – one that can only evolve between two very creative, introspective, and unique individuals as they embark upon a shared journey to unravel and understand, first, who they are as patient and therapist and, finally, as companions on a final pilgrimage.

Tarasuk invests eight years in partnering with her “client” to prepare for the inevitable, which comes later than sooner and provides a richness of inner growth for both.

Theirs is not an experience that can be easily duplicated, but it does offer tremendous insight into how it is possible use the limitations of mortality to spark creative energies and insight.

More than 25 years ago, I was fortunate enough to pair with a therapist who used Jungian and Shamanistic techniques to help me explore my own dreams and demons. I wrote about it in an essay that was published in 1990 in a psychotherapy journal, Voices.

If you are interested, you can read it here: shadows2

Tomorrow is Veterans’ Day

Desert Storm: A Family Scrapbook

Someone’s son huddles
gravely under desert rain.
restless as his heartbeat,
he waits for signs in the sky
to turn the taste of metal
in his mouth to blood.

Someone’s daughter,
leather jacketed, baseball capped,
takes her place in U.N. Square,
lights a candle against the wind, and
joins her voice to the hymn
that pulses like blood
through the streets, through the night,
through the weary dreams of men
reduced to war.

Someone’s daughter runs
from classroom through snow,
stuffs her duffel to bursting
with camouflage and conviction,
prays for the chance
to set the skies ablaze with truth.
At the table of her father’s house,
she waits for orders
and watches the colors of dawn
melt like blood into sand.

Someone’s son
boards a bus at midnight,
sheathed in a confusion of
army surplus and disbelief.
He joins the dawn in Lafayette Park,
seeking solace – if not answers –
in the steady drum,
the solid hands,
the strong songs
of sons and daughters
refusing to bleed
for the dreams of weary men
reduced to war.

(Elaine Frankonis 2013)

An Ode to Hecate

My assignment to my writing group was to write a ode. Here’s mine:

Ode to Hecate

Even though you exist only
in the deepest shadows of our psyches,
your warnings persist in the stories
that drive our most ferocious dreams.
Rise, Hecate, rise.

Claimed by countless cultures,
re-created across eons of fear,
you resist easy efforts to define you
as other than the maternal primal force.
Rise, Hecate, rise.

I sense your counsel in the stirring of autumnal oaks,
hear your sorrows in the howling of midnight dogs.
Those who fear their longings, call you witch;
those who live your bounty, call you Crone.
Rise, Hecate, rise.

Isis, Kali, Lilith, Astarte, Brigid, Hecate.
You are who I need you to be,
standing with me at each challenge of choices,
listening for your call to wonder and power.
Rise, Hecate, rise.

You are who we women need you to be,
relentless truth-teller, fierce warrior,
stand with us at this dangerous crossroads.
You are what we need to be.
Rise, Hecate, rise.

My Medical Marijuana Mystery Tour Begins #2

I Never Was a Hippie

In August of 1969, when my younger cousins never made it to Woodstock because they got stuck in all of the other traffic trying to get there, I was married and living in rural suburbia with a 7 year old daughter and a son several months from his birth. While I was into the music of the era, I had neither interest in nor access to weed. I can’t remember whether I cared or not.

Fast forward to the 80s. I am a divorced single working mother during the day and disco diva at night. I have access to weed through a colleague who grows it in his urban backyard and shares the dried leaves freely. Smoking before dancing keeps me from getting out of breath (the THC opens up airways) and loosens my inhibitions. I love the nightlife; I love to boogie.

Those Disco Nights

Those were the nights,
tho she never did the coke
in the shadows behind the bar
where the blue-eyed bouncer,
strategically sun-bronzed and bleached
macho-hot in open shirt gleaming gold,
found new places for fast hands;
but she’d arrive already gone
from toking on the road,
primed for fast stepping,
skirt hiked high on thigh,
eyes that said “ready
to hustle me dizzy,”
spinning close and low
dropping now
all smiles
and sweat
and bass-booming blood
binding her to the heat
of those gone dancing nights.

But I am not being a great parent. I am trying to survive. As I move into my 50s, disco starts to poop out and so do I. It’s a little too late to fix what I messed up as a parent, but I do the best I can.

Fast forward to today. I am almost 76, have oseoarthritis and really bad insomnia. I have tried just about every available prescription, OTC, and herbal concoction to alleviate symptoms. Some never work. Some work but stop. Massachusetts has legalized medical marijuana to use for those conditions, and I know enough about weed not to be afraid of it. So, I go and get an official Medical Marijuana card. I get online and try to figure out how to take it, how much to take, what kind to take. It’s information overload. I commandeer a friend to accompany me, and we drive up to Northampton to the only MMJ dispensary available to me. And so begins the inspiration for this Medical Marijuana Mystery Tour. Keep checking this site for more stops on the journey.

Vigil Eve

I am no longer with my extended family for the holidays. Our life’s lessons have brought us to different places, literally and metaphorically. But there was an important time that we shared, and I celebrate those times of endearing family gatherings, before our realities diverged and they developed a need to pray for me.

And so I post these, remembering my extended family with nostalgia and also with an appreciation for even the tenuous connections that still exist.

They pray. I write.

Vigil Eve (“Wigilia’ 1950)

There was no mistaking this immigrant clan
for anything but a matriarchy,
bringing from its Polish homeland
the fundamentals of family, earthy foods,
a deference to the will of the grayest female.

The men earned hard money, revered their vodka.
as it was on the farms of the old country.
The rest was woman’s right and work.
So, when the magical time of Vigil Eve drew near
the men disappeared into their smokey enclaves

to share storied fatherland memories,
while the women gathered in her kitchen
a determined lineage of daughters,
by birth and marriage, armed with
the culinary legacies of generations.

Her enameled kitchen table, an assembly line
of dough, tools, bowls of rich concoctions,
filled with reflections of final farm harvests.
For days, they rolled floured, filled and pinched,
boiled, browned and layered.

We children sat at the floor, eye level to legs
in a corner of the steamy kitchen,
playing with scraps of pasty dough,
lulled by the soft humming of female voices,
the steady rumble of snowy urban streets.

The night of Vigil Eve flowed with prayers and feasting,
as full families gathered at the gray lady’s call,
reviving ancient rites of pine and light,
to sing the language and history of their people
carried across oceans of fear and hope.

They sang of homeland yearnings for freedom and faith,
of the tears of mountaineers displaced and despaired,
of the battles of heroes to free the heart’s land,
of mystical mothers and magical births.

Generations of voices in harmony
drifted through the lace-curtained windows
opened to the cold winter night, the night
when animals talked, wishes were granted,
and ancient rituals forged the bonds of blood.

———–

Heart of Rom
(an earlier version published in The Berkshire Review, Volume 4, 1996)

Cyganka! My grandmother scolds,
as I bound off the front stoop
onto the wet city street,
propelled by the promise of stolen kisses
and the musky taste of Tangee
still slick on my lips.

Gypsy. Even the word brings blood
blood rushing to the pit of my stomach.
How I wish for the wild hair,
dark eyes, skin like old copper,
for a power ancient as the land,
the sweep of continents
and countless untamed hearts.

She ruled us with her will,
that Polish grandmother –
a small strong-handed woman
with a voice of faith-forged mettle
and a back turned straight against
truths too bold to hold.

Yet, they tell me once, as I lay young and dying,
she revealed her family secrets:
holy candles, crystal cups, vials of spirits, leeches,
while my mother watched from shadows
fighting demons with her eyes.

They tell me, when the priest arrived,
surprised to find the child alive,
he never commented on the faint red circles
following the tender length of spine,
the scattering of blood marks along the back
like ancient glyphs on altar stone.