Beliefnet
The Bliss Blog

Photo: Tree hugging in Rhode Island with Courtney A. Walsh (:

 

Once upon a time, I would have considered some of the events of my life to be  fodder for Twilight Zone episodes, with the theme song (do do do do do do do do~) playing in my head when they would occur. I didn’t dare talk about them, out of concern for being thought weird or  committable. The more they appeared, the more I thought “hmmmm, perhaps this stuff is real and those who don’t notice them are the ones who are missing out.” Dream messages, thinking of someone and they call or email, singing a song and then having it be the next one played on the radio, reading license plate messages, always finding the perfect parking spot, having a book literally fall of the shelf into your waiting hands, are examples of what I am referring to. I’m sure you have experienced even more of what I call ‘cosmic coincidences’.  These days, they fall into the ‘of course, realm.” A Course in Miracles expresses this concept eloquently. “Miracles are a Natural Occurrence. When they do not occur, something has gone wrong.” I do see these as everyday miracles, perfectly orchestrated and placed for us to discover them as a reminder that life is truly wondrous.

This past weekend, I trekked up Rte 95 from PA to RI for the occasion of my niece Rachael’s gradutation from Johnson and Wales, which is a prestigious culinary arts school.  She had worked hard to earn both an Associates degree as a pastry chef and then a BS in Entrepreneurship, even in the midst of several family crises that were swirling around back at home. I am so proud of her accomplishments and sat next to my sister in the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence as she received her degree.  Besides ‘kvelling’ (Yiddish for bursting with pride) for Rachael, I was moved by two speakers in particular. The first was a UCC minister named Rev. Dr. Barry Fleet. I was moved by his ecumenical references;  sensitive to the fact and  in recogntion that he was speaking to an international, multi-cultural audience  about  ‘the One’ reflected in all of those here.” He acknowledged the “source of love and wisdom, and creativity and all that is good.” To seal the closing benediction after the ceremony, he offered the words “Blessed be and so it is,” which made my interfaith heart swell with joy.

The second was Steven Spinner who is the CEO of United Natural Foods. He shared this wisdom “Do what you love with passion and enthusiasm. Do it right and  and succeed with integrity. Treat each other the way you want to be treated.” He encouraged the grads to “Use the smell test. If it doesn’t smell good, walk away.” He then invoked the lyrics to the Pearl Jam song called Just Breathe, attesting to the blessings in his own life that he passes on to others.

Following the festivities, my sister and her family headed back to New Jersey and I decided to make a weekend of it in Rhode Island. The first stop was at the lovely home of Courtney A. Walsh, another wild word wrangler who I befriended via facebook about a year ago. Hand- rubbing- with -glee anticipation of our face to face meeting, I walked in and felt welcomed right away with a boisterous hug, rippling laughter, a big glass of a healthy concoction of juice, herbs and  a dash of love blended in for good measure. We spent hours talking, completing each other’s sentences, business brain and heart storming, comparing notes and even kvetching a bit about things that we felt weren’t as we might have them be, but ultimately life lessons that made us stronger and more resilient.  One of the concepts we laughed about was that of  ‘woo woo vs. whoohoo!’,  to which we both ascribe, which is that amazing experience of accepting that what we might have considered ‘airy fairy cosmic foo foo’ was indeed as ‘real’ as that which we can take in with our five senses.

I slept on the comfy sofa in her living room and when I turned in, I had turned off the lights.  In the wee hours, I opened my eyes and saw a string of Christmas lights that were illuminated. I wondered if Courtney got up in the middle of the night to turn them on. Once the morning sun shone through, she came in and noticed that they were glowing too. She told me that they had stopped working awhile ago and I guess she had kept them up because they were pretty anyway. We laughed as we mused that the energy we had called forth had turned them back on. In the past, that would have been a woo woo moment for me. It was a similar occurrence when I had visited my friend Nancy Smeltzer in MD a few months ago. We were immersed in the warm, soothing waters of her outdoor hot tub and looked over at the clock and saw that the hands were spinning around and around the entire time we were out there. It hadn’t done that before, she laughingly informed me.

On Sunday, Courtney and I did some strolling in a local park where there were beings of all ages and configurations, people and critters enjoying a mid Spring day. I felt cradled by the light green tree leaves that hovered above and was fascinated by the tree trunks, some of which were wrapped around each other, as if in an ancient embrace.  I couldn’t resist engaging in one of my favorite activities; tree-hugging; gracefully aging hippie that I am. We sat under one and did a facetime chat with another kindred spirit, Goddess sistah named Jenny Perry who lives in NJ. Courtney had introduced us a few months ago. It was lovely to be able to connect through means that would have been sci-fi when we were kids. We are coming up with all sorts of juicy ways to collaborate on teaching together.

 

Heading back home, crossing over into Connecticut, I made a stop at a cultural icon that I had wanted to visit ever since I saw the 1988 film Mystic Pizza. Legendary cuisine indeed, as I enjoyed a  small broccoli and eggplant gourmet delight; half of which I took home with me for dinner.

I had the added pleasure of watching it on a screen in front me while I munched.

Where is the line between what might be considered other worldly and weird and what is simply out this world wondrous?  For me, there is none.

http://youtu.be/YzkZPI-HKsk  Just Breathe by Pearl Jam

 

 

On Mothers Day, my son Adam took me to see Oz The Great and Powerful.  Having grown up watching the Wizard of Oz, I was eager to immerse myself in the prequel in which the Wizard takes on the mantel. Some critics have lambasted it, others have waxed poetic. This eternal child still finds delight in yet another of what Joseph Campbell called ‘the hero’s journey.’

As it begins, Oscar Diggs is a conniving, womanizing carnival magician. When he gets caught  in flirtation with The Strong Man’s wife, he escapes into the hot air balloon that whisks him skyward, up into a whirlwind and landing not so gently into a rampaging river. There he meets three witches, she of the North, she of the East  and she of the West (wonder what happened to the Southern representative?)   a talking bellhop costume wearing winged monkey (not one of the Wicked Witch’s minions….”don’t make me call the flying monkeys.”) and a little china girl doll.  They become his companions along the Yellow Brick Road; some more welcome than others.

He meets the doll when her village is destroyed  by the Wicked Witch of the East and when Oz finds her, she is underneath a broken tea pot, her little legs separated from her body. He just happens to have a bottle of glue in his pocket to reattach them and once he does, the cracks are still visible, but she is able to walk on them and they support her for the balance of the movie.

I won’t give away the rest of the plot in case you haven’t yet seen it, but what I gleaned from it was worth its weight in the gold that was offered to the potential protagonist for killing the Wicked Witch of the West. Even if we seem broken, we can be put back together and even if our cracks are showing, we are still beautiful  and can keep on ‘easing on down the road.’  Appearances can be deceiving and what might look shiny and alluring on the outside can hide a dark secret. Small can be mighty.   Together, tinker, farmer, and munchkin can save the day. Even the most self serving person can be redeemed, and ‘omnia vincit amor’-love conquers all.

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

http://youtu.be/EpzJQoWm6Nk  Movie Clip from Oz the Great and Powerful

http://youtu.be/-JIUQ76L0YA Almost Home by Mariah Carey

Photo: Take a moment and listen to Dr. Maya Angelou read her unforgettable poem "Phenomenal Woman”: http://bit.ly/YWQh07.

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.

I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size

But when I start to tell them,

They think I’m telling lies. I say,

It’s in the reach of my arms

The span of my hips,

The stride of my step,

The curl of my lips.

I’m a woman Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman, That’s me.
I walk into a room

Just as cool as you please,

And to a man,

The fellows stand or Fall down on their knees.

Then they swarm around me,

A hive of honey bees.

I say, It’s the fire in my eyes,

And the flash of my teeth,

The swing in my waist,

And the joy in my feet.

I’m a woman Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman, That’s me.
Men themselves have wondered

What they see in me.

They try so much

But they can’t touch My inner mystery.

When I try to show them

They say they still can’t see.

I say, It’s in the arch of my back,

The sun of my smile,

The ride of my breasts,

The grace of my style.

I’m a woman
Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman, That’s me.

Now you understand

Just why my head’s not bowed.

I don’t shout or jump about

Or have to talk real loud.

When you see me passing

It ought to make you proud.

I say, It’s in the click of my heels,

The bend of my hair,

the palm of my hand,

The need of my care,

‘Cause I’m a woman Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman, That’s me.

Maya Angelou

According to her website: “Dr. Maya Angelou is a remarkable Renaissance woman who is hailed as one of the great voices of contemporary literature. As a poet, educator, historian, best-selling author, actress, playwright, civil-rights activist, producer and director, she continues to travel the world, spreading her legendary wisdom. Within the rhythm of her poetry and elegance of her prose lies Angelou’s unique power to help readers of every orientation span the lines of race. Angelou captivates audiences through the vigor and sheer beauty of her words and lyrics.”

When I first read this poem by octogenarian cultural icon Maya Angelou, I was moved by the unabashed struttin’ her stuff way she expressed her confidence in the woman she had become when once upon a time, she may have had her doubts. Like every woman I know, full of accomplishment, fire and passion, piss and vinegar, it is possible that these words reinforced her desire to live full out. I hung it up in my bathroom and read it every day and then when I renovated the room, down came the paper tacked up onto the wall. The words are emblazoned on my heart nevertheless. I remind myself often that my place in the world is only limited by my willingness to name it and claim it. Fear sometimes rattles my cage. (an allusion to Angelou’s class I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings) “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.”

I shared the poem last night at a women’s support group that I facilitate at a substance abuse treatment center and asked each one to take a paragragh to read out loud and some amazing revelations came to light as a result. The women laughed knowingly and were able to begin to accept their phenomenal-ability. They knew that they were not ‘there’ yet, but were willing to rise to the challenge of self love that may have evaded them before.

What is YOUR very own personal sonic expression?

Mine is varied, with tones and notes that dip and soar. It is sometimes loud and rowdy, sometimes whispery and ever so quiet, that you need to listen with the ears of the heart to take it in. Sometimes I am jumping up and down boisterous in my expression of it and other times, still and silent, barely moving, lest I disturb my own serenity.

www.mayangelou.com

http://bit.ly/YWQh07  Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou

 

 

 

As I listened to the sophomore release (her first CD  which debuted in 2010 is called Red Dress)  of New York City by way of Baltimore singer songwriter Karyn Oliver, I thought of it  as ‘the many moods of KO’ , since her vocal stylings are reminiscent of Crystal Gale, Eva Cassidy and Norah Jones and the songs range from the light and playful to the poignant and painful, from the wistful to the sweetly seductive. A hybrid album: country-folky-bluesy; altogether gutsy.

The cover and liner note photographs reflect those emotions as well, with the effervescently tumble curled, black leather clad song-bird gazing in a beckoning ‘come hither’ look that greets the listener initially and then welcomes them through the lyric pages with images of Oliver playing her guitar, staring in profile out her high-rise window, looking heavenward, smiling playfully and then, revealing perhaps a wee bit of sadness.

Another photo that peeks out from underneath the CD is of  her furry four legged companion. According to Oliver:  “The cat has a few names. I named him for the Steve Miller song “The Joker”, so his name is Maurice – we call him Mo. So we also call him The Gangster of Love and The Space Cowboy.”

The title song tickles with clever references to the historical namesake: “Your name for me was Magadalene. I am the keeper of your sin. I will always be your martyr. I’m not strong enough to call your bluff. I’ve never learned to walk on water. I can’t even swim, but I dive right in.”

A piece that powerfully points to the impact of domestic violence is entitled Weeping Willow Road. “Mama said it was all her fault. Every blow was lessons taught. A preacher’s wife must follow every little rule.”

Slip Away With Me which appears twice (once in accoustic form), is a tantalizing little treat; that invites a friend-into-lover  into an interlude “Slip away with me, slip away with me. Give me one long night….”

A love song that questions the nature of  a relationship and her place in it, called Before You Came Along offers the lines: “I was happy by myself before you came along. For all I know, you only want to live inside my songs.”

The cooing Fooling has the glorious recognition “Even if you’re miles and miles away from me. Even if we never touch again. Your heart turns up on my doorstep. And I let it in.”

All of the pieces, except for two were penned by Oliver.  She covers Baby Come Back with her own sultry style. Written by J.C. Crowley and Peter Beckett, it is typically performed by Hall and Oates and Player.

The version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah that Oliver has made her own, is now one of my new favorites. Rising and falling vocalizing carresses the ear “There’s a blaze of light in every word, it doesn’t matter which you heard. The holy or the broken hallelujah.” It ends with one long sustained note.

The sensual imagery of Water paints a word picture with “I remember the evening swims. Laughter and long  tangled limits…..I’m dry,” sung in an eyes closed throaty moan that is utterly irresistable.

A heart melting dedication by the newlywed Oliver is to ” ‘The Frenchman’, without whom these songs would not have been possible. You make me want to sing. I love you.”

Magdalene is indeed a religious experience as Oliver holds up an overflowing chalice in a sonic salutation and worships at the altar of love. The listener is blessed.

www.karynoliver.com

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