June

June. It used to be the month we celebrated my husband Richard, first as a father on Father’s Day, and then a week later for his birthday. Now it is a month for memories and four years after his death, sweet nostalgia. My daughters and I have each our own Papa-stories and I look forward to sharing some of them with his grandsons as they grow older. I am thinking today of our time down by the Sawkill river that bordered my grandmother’s field in Shady, N.Y. We moved boulders out of the way together to make small swimming holes contained by our newly constructed rock dam. We often cavorted there as teenagers, young adults, and later as parents when we brought our two daughters to experience the joys of a Catskill mountain stream.

I have always been stunned by the unfolding beauty of June. The excitement of early spring bursts of color gives way to fully leafed trees, exuberant newborn critters, and a steady progression of flowers no longer worried about sudden frosts but perhaps a dry spell. So far, we are experiencing unusually hot weather for northeast Ohio but nothing like the deadly heat in the south and west of the country. We also do not lack for water where I am- Kendal at Oberlin was built on wetlands which required strict legal adherence to the proper way to construct our seven ponds around the campus. Water lilies abound at the edges of the ponds and the waterfowl have easy access to the grass and lawns that surround them. Rows of goslings line up behind goose and gander for swimming and grazing lessons, with little regard to our human presence. Frogs glurk and croak while the occasional turtle steadfastly makes its way across your path. June.

In contrast to this orderly blossoming, our world is painfully engaged in war, political, and financial upheaval, while COVID still flourishes in its destiny of viral mutation. Islands of sanity prevail as the January 6th committee hearings are staged for primetime American audiences- but who knows if reason-based reality TV will make a difference when it comes time to vote. Our Ohio governor has made it legal for schoolteachers to have 24 hours of training for them to have guns in the classroom. It is very hard to bear the mentality that supports such thinking. It is easy to say things like America values guns over children. Or that it is easier for an angry young man to get legal assault rifles than a frightened young woman to get an abortion. True, as of right now, but I am wary of all reductionistic thinking. I do not want to feed soundbites on either side.

I know where I stand but find the work of keeping my mind and heart open as we head into this heat wave of anger a fulltime background to my daily life. Getting outside on my scooter as often as I can to circle Kendal’s campus is my touchstone to ground that inner work. I have been writing many haikus whenever a thought strikes me. I write about everyday happenings and find the structure of limited syllables a great support in saying what I mean to say in a clear and direct manner. So, I’ll end with this one from May:

Morning Raga   5/23/22

The drone is mowers

Songs of praise from all the birds

The tabla, my heart

May

Celebrations in May 2022

May 01: May Day, Beltane

May 05: Cinco de Mayo, Kodomo-no-hi (Children’s Day in Japan

May 08: Mother’s Day, V-E day in Europe, My youngest grandson’s fifth month on the planet

May:09 Russia Celebrates End of War (different time zone)

May 26: World Dracula Day (who knew?)

May 30: Memorial Day

Here we are in May. The earliest spring flowers in Ohio have been and went and now we are well into the next phase of bushes and flowers and leafing trees all anticipating summer. We had early morning frosts last week, but it feels as if those may not return and we might finally settle into enduring warmer weather. Or not. It is hard to predict what the weather is supposed to be like anymore.

And it is hard to predict what will happen on the geo-political front as well. We are dreading May 9th with good reason. What will Putin do to show his policies are succeeding in confronting the West? It is frightening to contemplate as he continues to decimate what he can of Ukraine. We are cheering the Ukrainians on as we watch the destruction of their country in sadness and horror. The world focuses on their valiant struggles for freedom and democracy vowing support and unity in unprecedented ways.

Meanwhile in America, we are watching the erosion of our own fundamental democratic ideals. The insistent rhetoric of lies has become acceptable to the Republican party. (By no means are Democrats always truthful, but this current trend is on a different scale.) Truth is no longer the basis for making a case for your beliefs. The efficacy or lack of efficacy of proven results in government no longer matters. The fear of living in such a distorted world is rampant and fear is the food that feeds autocracy. When the world runs amok people crave rigidity to counteract being so out of control. Much of the world is leaning towards or already in the grips of autocracy. We might well be on our way there ourselves as we appear to be so apathetic as a nation.

Now we know about the leak of the Supreme Court draft laying out the archaic reasons for overturning Roe vs. Wade. Perhaps it is my turn to feel like the minority as millions of other Americans have felt for so long. Some small percentage of ultraconservatives  will sigh in relief as their beliefs are confirmed, while mine are devastated. I live in a progressive bubble in a progressive college town while in my state of Ohio senators in Trump’s camp are being voted back in.

What to do? Where lies hope? I explore my own fears and hopes. How do I contribute to fear or hope in my daily life? Where do I turn away from facts and insist the world be as I want it to be? Where do I make a difference and contribute to the world? How do I participate as an American and as a world citizen?

I invite myself to the party of hope and belief in the fundamental truth of love. This month, l’d rather celebrate that in whatever large or small ways that I can find.

Spring Bride

The doors to our Stephen’s Care Center area where I live in Kendal at Oberlin, were finally reopened on the 1st of May. They had opened for a few days and had to close after a staff member who worked among us tested positive for Covid. Now again we were able to move around the rest of our community. Several people stopped to say- “Oh- you have stepped out of your zoom box. Amazing!” It was a terrific feeling to be part of the whole and to freely speak to others free of being timed or escorted as we had been according to Ohio health mandates.

On the day before Mother’s Day I was picked up by my son-in-law to spend a week at his home with my daughter and grandson. I no longer have to quarantine inside my room for two weeks on my return to Kendal. I hope to return here for weekends around the influx of friends finally able to come and visit them and for their own summer travels to visit friends and family in Texas. My time here is full of the delight of watching my grandson and his parents grow as a family unit. I am so nourished to partake of the flow of life in a vibrant young household.

Spring Bride 5/1/21 to the open doors in SCC at KAO

A redbud tree from the garden plot next door

has dumped a flower girl basket of pink petals

all over my patch of brown mulch

I looked to see if I could catch a glimpse

of Spring’s bride passing down the aisle

I saw a brownish fuzzy creature

perched between my stone frog’s bulbous eyes

turning its head from side to side

joining me in my search

With binoculars in hand

I saw it was a juvenile robin

half downy feathers

fluffed out against the stiff breeze

Darts of sunlight streaked over his head

disguised as goldfinches

flitting back and forth to ride the swinging birdfeeder

the robin’s ground-feeding parents

likely raised him on their fallen seeds

A small rabbit scurried across the ground right in front of him

likely late, late, for a very important date

and without his parents

the robin fluttered

off to find his fortune

Looking across the road at the trees

waving wildly with the groom’s sprouting new green love

their joyous uplifted arms

may already have welcomed the bride

and I may have missed her earliest procession

Sister Summer wafts along behind

and by her grace I renew my life vows 

once again released from these quarantined halls

I see the wind has already swept away every last petal

making way for new paths

Judi Bachrach

Freedom

How do I engage with inner freedom that is stable, independent of outer circumstances?

Outwardly, my life in the care center is shifting. Now we can rejoin the larger community and though we are all vaccinated, we from the care center must wear masks at all times, and stay distanced. To sit outside in the sun chatting with a friend, looking out on the pond in front of the main entry to Kendal, with no one to time me, or escort me, was like being on vacation. I relaxed in ways I hadn’t known I was missing. It has been very nourishing.

What is freedom? I wouldn’t recognize this gift if I didn’t already know it deep inside. Gratitude for the slow reintegration with other Kendal residents is blooming with the tulips.

Though still masked and distanced, I am reveling in new-found freedoms. leaving the care center to see the campus, friends, and community gathering areas once again.

Molting Goldfinch

I am shedding

my olive drab winter feathers

growing new ones of

aconite, forsythia, crocus, daffodil yellow

glinting in the spring sunshine

I dominate the bird feeder

propagate my species

crack open my sunflower seeds

while she delights in watching me

her seeds from a package

on top of her morning oatmeal

She is also molting

shedding gray prohibitions

of a pandemic

and growing new feathers

of golden hope

in trust for her species

I write from Ohio and am not sitting beside Lake Erie, but my body knows the waves.

Sitting on the Shore

4/7/21

Yesterday in the high wind

thoughts rose up

rising from the surf

of a thousand white stallions

crashing down on the shore

their flashing hooves

disappearing into sand

the foam sizzling away

only to arise and return

over and over again

Today my feelings are at low tide

the gentle slap and sigh

slap and sigh

lulled by waves

that come and go

to and fro

freely within

the greater body 

Sitting still

I gaze

beyond the horizon

from east to west

sitting still

what remains

beyond rocks that spawn each earthy grain of sand

beyond drops of all the rippling waters, salted and fresh

beyond photons of light radiating from our star’s fire

beyond molecules of oxygen blending into outer space

Sitting firm and utterly still

breathing in and out

freely like waves

within the greater body

Judi Bachrach

Flight

Diary 3/22/21

I have been a grouchy bear this week. I felt the spring call to emerge from my cave as usual but- the assisted living cave administrators are still bound to impose muzzling face masks, fenced in the enclosed garden, and no interactions with other any of the other bears in their independent living caves even though we have all been vaccinated. The rising sap has irritated me in ways I did not anticipate.

As I look towards July 4th weekend, which Biden bids us to hopefully celebrate as close to normal as possible, it reminds me that date will mark the start of my third year at Kendal. The continued restrictions confine my memories and my heart hurts. The arrival of spring used to mark lambing season for our flock of 23 Icelandic sheep, the transformation of fluffy peeping chicks into feathered hens, the yearly care for our horses, the careful transplanting of indoor seedlings and direct seeding of flowers and vegetables into the garden each according to their own temperature needs.

That connection to the seasons regarding working the earth and tending to animals under our care is gone. And truthfully, my own body was failing way before I moved preventing me from my attending to the active life of a homesteader. I was not aware of how much it all grounded and nourished me until this spring. My childhood and most of my adult life with Richard all happened in the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson River Valley. The Catskills are ancient rounded mountains. The energy there stood firm beneath my feet and was slow, measured, and weighted with a deep gravitas that rose up through the forests as they also embodied the seasonal changes of the northeast. Northeast Ohio has a very different feel altogether.

Kenda was built mostly on wetlands requiring the creation of seven different ponds. Settlers coming to what is now Cleveland, died by the droves of malaria. This is a wet claylike area south and west of Lake Erie with a lot of sandstone in various counties. The local wildlife no longer offers emerging black bears looking to raid our garbage deli for their spring hunger, nor are there wild turkeys scrabbling their scant nests to lay their eggs helter-skelter beneath some hemlock tree, or coyotes or foxes drooling for chickens- but there are a few deer, bunnies, muskrats, chipmunks, squirrels and a large variety of birds. Geese and ducks on the ponds, including a brief touchdown of trumpeter swans last week, complete the list and l have heard of the troublesome raccoons and skunks from those living in cottages around the far end of campus.

I have not yet had the opportunity to get around the campus (see grouchy bear above) and can only hope the new Covid19 mandates will loosen up our restrictions by the summer. Meanwhile the sun resurrects emerging growth everywhere as Eastertide approaches.

Hallelujah.

Diary 3/24/21

I am glad I waited to post the above. Today the amendments to our Ohio nursing home mandates arrived in full- in two weeks we will be allowed to leave the Care Center hallways- masked and distanced in the presence of our independent living residents- but we can go down to the central meeting area of Kendal to meet friends there. Best of all, we can be free of our own caves and venture out onto the entire campus to meet friends anywhere outdoors as well. My grouchy bear is rumbling with pleasure and anticipation. Visiting with my family will still be a timed, well sanitized, bureaucratic affair, with lots of paperwork for the staff to be able to track possible infectious problems and my daughter and grandson will be escorted to and from my room or even to outdoor assigned areas- but if the trend of less illness and hospitalizations continue all around us, eventually this, too, shall pass.

Sounds of Flight

The flight paths

are noisy again

birds returned to summer here

they weave a hammock of sound

that rocks me

before sunrise

air friction of larger manmade wings

have bested Covid withdrawal

to tear through the sky

ripping away away away

free to come and go

I prefer the bird sounds

but then again

nested on the ground

I am not yet

ready to fly