Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Words I Never Wanted to Write

V. Krishna Swami, 1925-2010. Go in peace.
At 7:20 pm on January 26, I lost my father, or perhaps he found his way. He slipped away while my mother and I held his hand, stroked his forehead, and talked to him, all the way to the end. I'm blessed that he held on until I got to his bedside. I'm blessed that he was a part of my life. He leaves a hole in my heart that nothing will ever quite fill.

I think Appa would approve, in his own quiet way, of my decision and my mother's--that I, his only child, should perform the last ceremonial rituals for him that a son would have carried out, if he'd had one. It was not an easy choice. I realize that for many, including some in our extended family, it was a shocking choice. I didn't aim to shock, only to do what seemed obviously, to me anyway, my job and mine alone.

I will not describe the ceremony itself. That emotional space is not for public viewing. But I will say that halfway through, under a clouding sky with raindrops coming down like needles, I experienced a stunning clarity, perhaps from some intersection of fasting and focus. I realized that because of the generosity of priests who were willing to bend the orthodox rules, friends and family who helped with time and resources and footwork--so much footwork for one very long day--and above all because of women who led the way, I could touch a small piece of a tradition thousands of years old that perhaps was once open to women but for much of its history has not remained so. I believe that can change. I believe it must.

Because all rivers flow to the sea and in the end there is only the stardust of which we are all made.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Six Words at a Time

I meant to write something about the January VCFA residency--sun on snow, and a rich delight of words and ideas and community. I meant to write about the opening of Tea With Chachaji.

Instead I'm writing about my father, who's ill and in intensive care and I'm dropping everything to fly to India to be with him as soon as I can.

At the residency Kathi Appelt spoke about writing memoir. It's not something I'd ever considered and yet I walked away wondering if that might be a kind of writing I could embrace, or if it would welcome me. I suppose this is a start.

Qwerty, I clattered
on my father's
old Remington Rand.
Yuiop, the keys sang, and zxcvb
I was five in my universe
dancing to keystrokes.

To my friends and to my writing family, thank you for keeping me and my parents in your thoughts at this time. If I can, when I can, I'll post more here. Perhaps, as Kathi says, six words at a time.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Betsy James blogs on Listening at the Gate

Author, illustrator, rockhound and chai aficionado Betsy James launches a new blog this year, Listening at the Gate, with posts on language, writing, walking, rockscapes, and lots more.

The novel for which the blog is named was a James Tiptree honor book in 2006.