The Black and White Pinto Pony

Mary and Rita.jpg enlarged
One spring day in 1949 a man strolled through our lazy Seattle neighborhood, leading a black and white pinto pony.  I left my little heart on 50th St. in West Seattle that day.  “Hey, kids, you want to ride my pony?”  Duh.  We ran into the house and wore Mom down with begging.  After all, for just $5 she would have a swell portrait of us.
I remember that day as the happiest of my childhood- not the details- I didn’t know until recently that my sister had wanted to wear the chaps, but she let me instead.  It’s the experience of ecstasy I remember.  It’s there on my face, bursting through the dimples.

I also remember sitting on the floor in front of the book case at age seven and a half, ecstatic at my re-discovery of a book, If Jesus Came To My House.  It portrayed a child leading Jesus by the hand through the house and neighborhood, pointing out the most special people, places and toys.  I remember feeling so close to Jesus as I read, and the yearning for him to come to my house and stay.  The seeds of mysticism planted.  A remodled house now, an evolved image of Jesus; nevertheless, the same yearning.

Jesus arrived at my house the day the black and white pinto pony came, and every time since then, when I watch toddlers play, and my cat chase her tail.  This old shaker song ,“Simple Gifts” was written and composed in 1848 by Elder Joseph Brackett.  It says it all.

 

‘Tis the gift to be simple,
’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gain’d,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

Mary and Rita close up

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Reclaiming Love: The first monologue about my life

This recording of Eddie telling the story of coming out to his family is profound and brave beyond any words I have. Eddie exemplifies all that I said in my post about millenials. Please read and watch and send Eddie your support.. Thank you.

My Life in Blog

I don’t know why I said yes to presenting my story to a random audience, but I’m glad I did.

I’m a shy person with a really soft-spoken voice. You will have to ask me to repeat myself a few times before you’re able to understand what I had just said. It’s that bad. So instead I stay quiet hoping nobody will talk to me. I think that makes me socially awkward.

My public speaking skills are terrible too. I sometimes leave my hands in my pockets throughout the presentation and don’t remember to take them out until the very end. I think that gives away my inexperience with public speaking. Or possibly when I start talking fast, start stuttering, or begin rambling; one of the three.

One day I was asked by a coordinator of a Men Can Stop Violence program at school if I wanted to present “my story” for…

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Naked Truth in the Blogosphere

take off the mask

I bare
my nakedness
to the world
that the world may see
who I am;
not the mask that hides my flaws
not the mask that hides my beauty.
I bask in the light and
I take off the mask.

– Jocelyn Soriano

Do you see what I see?  Retired, and contemplative by nature, I have the time to dedicate an hour each morning to read posts relating to spirituality, poetry, justice, psychology, and LGBTQ  concerns.  I try to be present to bloggers’ experiences and expression.  Often their stories stay with me throughout the day, and as I recall them I am in solidarity.  A pattern has emerged which gives me hope in the midst of the incessant ego-driven political chatter and gratuitous violence our world continues to spew out.

This is the hope I see:  a longing and a commitment to be real.  Where my baby boomer generation learned to wear masks, the millennium, (generation “Y”) and generation “X” bloggers, are unafraid to show their mistakes, even their deepest wounds.  I am not talking Dr. Phil Show here…What I read is not for show; rather, the sharing seems to come from an authentic desire to grow.  They face the truth with courage.  They do not wait for a guru to tell them their “truth.”  They strip down until they find it themselves and they bask in their humanness instead of cowling in shame.  When I was their age the false humility I was taught made me ashamed of being human and kept me from growing.  The masks I wore became very heavy.

I put my hope here.  Do you see what I see?

Submarines and Food Stamps: Called to Nineveh

“Jonah” is a poem I wrote during the first Gulf War, which was raging during my tenure as a nonviolent resistor to the nuclear weapons at Subase Bangor in Puget Sound.  Living beside the railroad tracks leading into the base, I witnessed monthly  shipments of missile propellant fuel destined for Trident submarines.  Admiral Trost said that the subs were necessary to “protect the lifestyle to which we had become accustomed.”  Nevermind, that most people do not share that affluent lifestyle, and they are in poverty partly because taxes are allocated to these weapons, while food stamps are drastically cut.  My spiritual practice is to try to live a lifestyle that doesn’t depend on the weapons to protect it.

The poem reflects the despair I felt then and now, but it offers hope that resistance can breed resistance.  It was dedicated to Steve, a submariner who applied for, and received, conscientious objector status. We are called by conscience to go to Nineveh.  Will we go?

Jonah

JONAH

For Steve, Who Broke the Silence

How obscene.
How obscene that submarines slither through unseen.

Journalist to Pentagon briefer: “Sir, is it true that
A cruise missile was fired from a submarine?”
General Kelly:  “We never discuss submarines.”
They slither through unseen.
As unseen as the bodies in Baghdad.
How obscene.

Today I sit on Hood Canal-
Mountains, sun, spring wildflowers.
Euphoric, here where
Submarines slither through unseen.

As if to confirm the paradox
Two patrol boats pass.
Do they escort the Leviathan?
I can’t hear it.
I can’t see it.
The beast breaks silence,
Its dark, hulking frame mimicking the
Great Orca of Puget Sound.
Sacrilege.

Shivering, shedding silent, shame-full tears…

I re-member:
When the beast descends this time
It goes down depleted.
Another Jonah has tumbled out,
And his “No” will echo forever in
The belly of the whale.

© rita h. kowats

The Golden Kiss: A DreamPoem

Golden Kiss Skeleton

dream

I descend cracked concrete stairs into a tunnel that winds under the streets of NYC.  I have some fear.  It is very dark and feels hollow.  I hear subtle rattling in the distance, the sound pinging off the damp walls, calling to me?  With every step comes a commitment to the journey and curiosity about the destination.  The longer I walk the louder the rattling.  Light ahead.  Closer…to what?  Silence.  I gingerly walk through an aperture and am greeted by several skeletons.  Each one has a gold kiss on its cheekbone.  Light from a crack in the tunnel’s ceiling wraps them in warmth.  I feel embraced, welcomed, as if they have been waiting for me for a long time.  I know I am home.  There are so many questions:  Who are they?  Why are they here?  Why have they waited for me?  Who left the kiss on their cheeks?  Before I can ask, one skeleton steps forward and offers me a loaf of bread, saying, “For the journey back up.”  I don’t want to leave, but waking life intervenes and I “feel it in my bones” that the tunnel has brought me to the mountain top.

pOEM IN DREAM

Bare Bones Truth filters into the soul
Between the tendons of our lives,
And like a hungry dog, doesn’t let go
Until it has done its work.

It gnaws down,
Pulls up,
Seals us with its golden kiss,
And heaves us back into the thick of life,
Stark but strong.

 

Adaptations of the Soul

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While looking for food, a nomad in the Namib Desert might see this little Fringe-Toed Lizard doing his gymnastics to survive the otherwise unsurvivable heat.  He lifts one appendage at a time, removing it momentarily from the sand’s heat.  At noon he will burrow into the cooler sand beneath the surface.  At dawn our nomad would enjoy the cool mist blowing in from the ocean, and with many other plants and animals, sip from its moisture left on leaves.  The Sidewinder snake adapts its behavior by heaving  its body across the sand, touching down in only two places at a time.

Adapting.  And how do we human beings adapt our souls to meet the overwhelming challenges thrown at us by our environment?  Like these desert animals, we are a resilient lot.  We survive and we often thrive.  Adaptation of the soul is analagous to adaptation to environments; however, unlike other animals, we can make choices- choices which get us and others into dire situations, and choices which redeem us.  Apartheid imprisoned Nelson Mandella for twenty-eight years, and his spirit adapted and thrived.  I can only conjecture about the details of Mandella’s adaptation.  You have developed your ways of adapting to spiritual challenges, to “The Dark Night of the Soul,” as John of the Cross called it.  These choices have redeemed me at times:

1.  Be Faithful

To mantras that focus me, affirmations, rituals, other prayer forms.

2.  Be Helpful

Seek out viable and positive service opportunities.  Service takes us out of ourselves.

3.  Be Creative

Paint, draw, write, compose music, play music)  Creative activity often puts us into an altered state where we can forget our despair for a while, and unite with the Other.

4.  Be Communal

Talk with a spiritual guide or trusted friend.

These adaptations get me through the heat of the day:  Old truths embedded in a new metaphor.

Pieces to Peace: Redemption

free photo of desert

I have banished pieces of my soul
To distant places in the desert of my life,
Where no predator can sniff the scent of shame.
Parched, pale remnants of miscarried experiences,
Are separated, not cut away
As Tibetan Buddhists
Dismember their dead to honor life.
These are abandoned out of fear of life.

The Seer inside weeps for the missing pieces
Until the time for action replaces grief.
She lifts up her mighty frame, and swaying across the desert,
She swoops up the cast-off pieces
And with one sound kiss, redeems them
With her love.

What was separated is seamed.
Pieces to Peace.

c. rita h kowats 2013

Published in presence, An International Journal of Spiritual Direction: Vol. 20, NO.1. March 2014

Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ story about La Huesera, The Bone Woman, has walked with me in this meditation.  A Jungian psychotherapist and a keeper of the stories, Dr. Estes is a read you will not easily forget (http://www.clarissapinkolaestes.com/index.htm) .  The Bone Woman, as the legend goes, lives in our souls and does the work of collecting bones from the desert so that she can sing life back into them.

THE PIECES

Walk with me in meditation for a time.  What experiences have you hidden away out of shame or anger or disappointment or revenge?  If your experience could talk to you, what might it say?  What do you want to say to it?

SENDING FORTH

Look deeply into your soul.  What do you see?  Can you find the Bone Woman?  What form does she take in you?  What qualities does she have- courage? intuition?  “holy audacity?” forgiveness?  perseverance?  Do you have faith that she can redeem your lost pieces?  Is it time?  Which particular pieces can she bring back to you at this time?  Which ones need to stay in the desert until you are able to make a home for them?  Can you release Bone Woman to do her work?  Do you need help?  Who would you ask to help you?

HOMECOMING

How can you ritualize homecoming- a feast, with a friend, perhaps a reconciliation? (“For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” Lk, 15:24.)  Make a welcome- home card and keep it in your journal.  Write a dialogue with your soul-piece, forgiving it and asking its forgiveness for abandoning it.  If you are a painter, paint the return!  Just do something to mark it.

PRAY

In the presence of the Holy, I shed the shroud of shame and fear.  I commit myself to live in one peace.  Amen.

Feather and Shadow

hope is a thing with feathers

Canada geese cast
Quilt-like shadows
On the now-rumpled lake,
Announcing Autumn’s Advent.

My soul
Flys with the geese,
Her feathers borne
On the breath of God
Rescued for the moment
From shadows of
War.  Hate.  Greed.

Alleluia!

This moment of ecstasy was shattered by the loud, strident voices of three homeless men who arrived at the lake eager to party.  Imagine, life getting in the way of spiritual revelry!  All efforts to keep my feathers flying failed, so I continued on my walk.  Once disappointment faded, I realized that this is life: feather and shadow.  I resolved to use these gifted moments of flight to prepare for battle with the shadows of injustice.

Thanks to my soul-sisters, Emily Dickinson and Hildegard of Bingen, for the loan of their sacred images of hope and feather.