Wednesday, July 27, 2016

On Clear Skies, Summer Sounds, and the Secret Weight of Words

once upon a time
pink trees flowered under the azure 
of deep, clear expanse

It is almost the end of July, a strange summer of chemtrails, clear skies, heat waves, and wildfires... In recent weeks, I was delighted to again see beautiful blue, clear skies above my head, after months and months of criss-crossing chemtrails.  It was a "Victory of Light" in the hidden war above our heads, a short respite from the chaotic graffiti in the sky. I call these failed artwork "graffiti" -gang signs marking territory where gang enforces its rules - in my photo albums, documenting the shifting patterns, and colors of my California sky. That's how I noticed them, by taking pictures of no-longer azure skies...

no, no, I do not
allow these strange graffiti
to taint my sky

the white haze -
iridescent like fish-scales
in polluted ocean

how deep is the blue?
only the sunrays will know
after piercing the sky

The summer sounds... I was raised with the clacking of the storks and the noise of their wings. Both sets of my grandparents in their villages in different parts of Poland had stork nests on their property: one on the barn roof (a wheel off an old wagon, on which storks piled up branches), and one on the top of a pine that had been struck by lightning and had a bent branch up there... I remember coming out at 6 a.m., sleepy and disoriented after being woken up by the wild ruckus up the tree not far from my window. The wooden porch was sunny and warm, and the world was waking up to yet another day of peaceful summer.

Ambika Talwar, a poet-friend, commented: "This is eternal and true wherever you may be. Claim it! Hold it in your heart. Speak of it. Say it out loud. Awaken someone who needs this now. Sing it so the birds listen to you. Be your dancing self."

Photo from Poland Forever group on Facebook.

The  storks used to follow my uncle in the meadow, about two steps behind, when he was cutting down the grass with the scythe. This is one of my favorite images of Poland, not a photo since I did not have a camera yet: the two storks following my uncle and picking up frogs and what not to eat for breakfast... Peace, and communion with nature, that's what it was (except for the frogs).

Another delightful sound of my childhood was the noise of the bees, and I liked it even though I once had 21 stings in my head and was very sick with their venom.  Maybe, by now, I'm related to the bees... In my California garden the crape myrtle tree is flowering with beautiful purple blossoms that attract hundreds of bees, busily collecting the nectar and making the most heavenly sound I remember from my Polish childhood. When I went for summer vacations to my Grandma's house in the "colony" of Bielewicze (not even a village, but a scattering of houses in the fields by the forest, on the eastern Kresy of Poland), I admired the intensity and patterns of the buzzing of bees in the majestic linden tree in the middle of the courtyard. In Polish, this tree is called "Lipa" - hence the month of "Lipiec" when it flowers. In English: July. Here, under the azure and turquoise cupola of California's skies, there are no linden trees, but the bees sing their songs quite as happily: busy, busy, busy, bzzz, bzzz, bzzz...

The bees go to sleep in the evening. Their familiar and beloved sounds are replaced by another guest from the past, or a couple of guests: crickets that have moved inside the house, sit behind the bookshelf and play, play, play - to their heart's desire.  The Polish village tradition of having a cricket behind the chimney stemmed from the habit of these sonorous critters to seek shelter from cold autumn and winter days in the warmth of village house kitchens: hence the saying, "to be comfy as a cricket behind a chimney," or "swierszcz za kominem."

Here, in the middle of California summer, it is very hot outside, perhaps too hot, so maybe the bookshelf, right by my empty and cold fireplace, provides a shaded and safe shelter from the heat? No matter what reason, I love listening to these critters. They rub their legs to make this lively noise, they do work very hard. Imagine if I had to rub my legs to speak at such a speed! Amazing! What onomatopoeia should reflect the chirping of the crickets? chir-chir-chir is too slow, szuru-buru is too low, so let's leave this translation aside and enjoy.

Chinese scholars used to catch crickets, put them in little cages and make them sing by poking them with a stick. I saw a whole assortment of such cricket cages at the Pacific Asia Museum and was quite offended at the presumptuous human "jailers" who should have set their crickets free, to have them come and play at will, as guests, not prisoners.

A Cricket Sings
The intricate opening
carved into patterns
of ancient elegance
lets feeble light
into the ornate cage
the smooth brown cask
is a luxurious coffin
for insect freedom

How sad for the cricket!

Tickled to sing,
it awakens in a box
held by sweaty hands
of an imperial scribe
who listens to the memory
of distant farmlands
in his own gilded cage -
a tiny room hidden by
the splendor of ancient
palace walls

How sad for the cricket!

(c) 2009 by Maja Trochimczyk

I'm sure that the songs of the captive crickets was not as happy as the one that I'm listening to right now. Alas, I cannot record it, as my house is filled with another, somewhat louder noise, that of the old. fridge. While I tried to come closer to record my evening music, the result was silence: the cricket realized it was not alone and stopped its night-time serenade altogether.  Thus, I learned that "the presence of the observer changes the phenomenon being observed" - a variation on the Heisenberg Principle, heard in my living room, on a summer evening! And my friend tells me that, had I been able to record the cricket and slow down the recording I would have heard singing, just like human voices:

As physicists have told us, the Uncertainty Principle, a characteristics of all waves, states that you can either know where something is, or how fast it is going, but not both at the same time. In other words: "the more precisely the position of some particle is determined, the less precisely its momentum can be known, and vice versa."  This explains the position of my keys, sunglasses, and stick-drives in my reality, since I do not know where they are at the precise moment of leaving my house, they must be accelerating with intense momentum to reach the speed of light and disappear forever on the other side, in the universe of left socks, assorted pens, hairpins, sunglasses, keys and umbrellas. There must be such a universe, given the hundreds of items that disappear without trace each year.

Seriously speaking, we do have to be serious when speaking: words have weight. So few among us understand the power and potency of words in creating realities. Millions of people have read "The Secret" where this idea is popularized, yet they sought another "get rich quick" scheme and overlooked a fundamental principle of human reality. Words create Worlds. Is it said in the Gospel of John:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not..."

Manuscript in the Badische Landesbibliothek, Karlsruhe, Germany, 1220.  Cod. Bruchsal 1, Bl. 1v 

That's a pretty important statement about  the true significance of words, filled, as they are, with the Divine creative power. Words create human reality.  We live in the Universe we made of words. Poets do, philosophers, scientists, scholars, politicians, business people, do, parents and children do - we all define our realities in words. Spoken aloud, words can become enchantments or curses: "I hate you, go away" breaks the heart of a child, and may lead to a life-time of trauma. "I love you, you are beautiful" brings an instant flowering of gladness.

On the website of Dr. Masaru Emoto (1943-2014) we read: "We all learn valuable life lessons at our own pace, but there is one basic truth we all learn early.  Positive, compassionate words comfort and heal; negative words and insults hurt. Until recently, we knew this only because we could feel it.  Now we can actually see it.  Thanks to the experimental work of Dr. Masaru Emoto, we can look to water, and its frozen crystals, to confirm the healing power of beautiful music, positive thinking, uplifting speech, and prayer."

"By exposing water to a particular word or piece of music, freezing it, and photographing the ice crystals formed, Dr. Emoto has shown that from beautiful words and music, come beautiful crystals, and from mean-spirited, negative words, come malformed and misshapen crystals. What is the significance?  It becomes clear when we remember that the adult human body is approximately 70% water and infant bodies are about 90% water.  We can be hurt emotionally and, as the water can be changed, for the worse physically, by negativity. However, we are always closer to beauty when surrounded by positive thoughts, words, intentions and ultimately those vibrations."

Dr. Emoto’s theories are articulated in his books: The Hidden Messages in Water, The True Power of Water, and The Secret Life of Water.  Some of his experiments involved writing or saying "I love you" and "I hate you" to various samples of water, with the effect showing the creative, organizing power of love and the destructive, chaotic nature of hate. In other experiments he compared crystals formed in frozen samples from pure stream water  and from microwaved water. Just looking at them makes you want to throw out your microwave... It just is not right.

In any case, believe it or not, water, or not water, the healing power of self-talk, affirmation of one's own value, beauty, goodness, and happiness is well established. But then, what about all these curses, uttered at random, casually? So many "F-bombs" dropped on the waters within the listeners and the speakers alike... What is the damage? We do not know for sure yet, except that "grating" effect, that feeling of being "taken down" a notch, somehow diminished.  I was cursed out by someone not long ago in a phone message I saved, thinking it would be a good start of a book, and not realizing that words could be used with such venom. But then, I thought - why bother? If I transcribe and publish those curses, I'll add to their hidden power, I'll make them go out to the world and do the work that they were designed for: to destroy, to diminish...

Instead, I decided to write an entirely different book, of "Poems and incantations" leading the readers Into Light, with its 30 poems and 12 prayers... I wrote them for myself, but also to share. Enjoy!

Crown Jewels

I am an onyx of grounding
I am amber of attraction
I am a topaz of resilience

I am a rose quartz of affection
I am a turquoise of expression
I am an amethyst of insight

I am a sapphire of faith
I am an emerald of hope
I am a ruby of love

I am a crystal of clarity
I am a pearl of understanding
I am a diamond of light
This book is now available in the following formats:

Paperback (trade, 6 by 9  inches), ISBN 978 0 9963981 8 3

Pocketbook (4.22 by 6.88 inches), No ISBN, available on

and E-Book in ePub format,ISBN 978 0 9963981 9 0

Thursday, June 9, 2016

My Favorite Wildflowers in California - A Photo Essay (Haiga Sequence)

When spring stretches its days and falls into the hot weight of the summer, it is time to visit the heroic blossoms of the chaparral  yucca, reaching up to the sky, against all odds.  This flower, so abundant in the valley where I live, is a survivor on the go. The plant with thin, blade-like spiky leaves (with extremely sharp tips, like needles), sends up one thick stem that grows and grows and grows until it starts unfurling a cascade of white flowers, off white maybe, ivory or cream, and the whole valley fills with these gigantic candle-like blossoms. Then they go to seed and die, and the seeds sprout anew nearby and a new flower points at clouds, and the cycle continues...

in a green desert 
yucca blossoms open -
a skyward ladder

tall yucca blossoms
point to cloudy desert sky -
magic without rain

spring desert delight
coconut and whipped cream  -
yucca whipplei

sharp spikes and shadows
the silver galaxy of yucca leaves -
enter at your peril

the magic of symmetry
moves in a blur of  lines
into yucca's heart

a blue jay in the blue sky
watches the world go round  and round
from the flower top 

serene after sunset -
aqua, fuchsia and violet sky
pierced by whiteness

flower triplets 
born of sand and rocks 
reach for the sky 

this dot is the moon -
prim yucca patiently explains
to disheveled clouds

yuccas at sunset -
spikes and blossoms unfold 
against the dark

here it is 
my yucca on the tip of my finger
in my valley

My other favorite flower grows here and there in the wild, but it is also planted in garden. This is the white and yellow poppy growing on two meter tall stems with silvery green leaves: The Matilija Poppy (Romneya coulteri). I like it so much, I put it on the cover of the anthology, Meditations on Divine Light. It does look like a sun with a corona of light, and  rays, doesn't it? Or maybe the ballerina, or Marilyn with her skirts floating on the hot air from the subway vents? But certainly not an egg, surely not an egg...

breeze lifts the skirts
of a shy ballerina -
Marilyn reborn

the thrill of frills
unfurling from a tight ball
into a sunburst

petal and clouds
float above my head - I squint, 
flooded by sunlight

Hello, Ms. Bee
we both love gold nectar and honey -
I eat yours

...but then, there other flowers growing in the wild, including the rare Plummer's Mariposa and the Humboldt Lilies (Lilium humboldtii) photographed high up in the San Gabriel Mountains by Kristin Sabo. Both lilies are endemic to Southern California and extremely rare. 

Plummer's mariposa
discovers the triune symmetry
once again

wild mountain lily -
fuzzy geometry of dusk
in three petals

twin jellyfish  -
lilies swim through the sunset
to the night's ocean 

And, of course, there is an abundance of flowers, not so wild, in Descanso Gardens, starting from an forest of camellias, imported from Japan and bought by Mr. Boddy from a Japanese nursery at the time of deportations in the 1940s.  I wrote about those camelias already and even made a collage of the Sunbloom, with a white corona and golden rays:

camellia stamens
dance, twist, wave, turn
seeking the sun

ever calling - never heard
ever seeking - never seen

But would there be flowers, if there were no leaves? We had visited the sharp spikes of the yucca already. Here are some wet leaves in the rain in Descanso Gardens. I do not know what they are, but sure they shine brightly, like polished jade.

smoothed by raindrops
emerald leaves stretch and sigh -
a green heart of spring

line after line -
the elemental breath exhales 
oxygen into air

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Meditations in Light, for Peace, under the Trees

Try it, just try...

Sit, or lie, or stand quietly, not moving, but not tense. Relax, close your eyes. Imagine....

Meditation on Light

Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Relax. Imagine a bright, golden-white light right above your head, a miniature sun. Its golden rays shine all around you, through you. You are surrounded, enveloped, protected by light. You are Light.You are Love. You are safe. 

Now, breathe in this light. See how it starts to shine inside you.With each breath, the bright star descends into you, inside you. Light enters and fills you. It shines inside your head. You see it in your mind's eye. Light particles scatter and flow in waves. All your thoughts are pure light. There is no darkness. Only light, only peace. 

Now, the white light expands and settles in your heart. You have a sun shining in the middle of your chest. It stays there. The pulsating sun-heart is moving the golden white, dazzling light into all the parts of your body. Your blood and veins are full of light.  Its warm glow spreads all over.All darkness disappears. Light is everything. 

Streams of light flow through all your organs, muscles, skin. Light rays purify, heal, and cleanse. They flow to the tips of the fingers, the tips of the toes, eyes, ears, mouth, nose. From the top of your head to the soles of your feet, you are all made of light. The energy flows and pulsates. 

You feel lighter, fuller, brighter, calmer. You are thankful, full of joy. You feel alive, full of light energy. You are peaceful, serene. You rest in the golden glow of the white light.

Breathe deeply. Breathe in, breathe out... Breathe in, breathe out. Rest in the tranquil rhythm of your breath.  Your heart beats like a pulsating, bright, golden sun. 

You say YES to the light, YES to the life this light brings. Here you are, a bright, living, breathing star, made of stardust and starlight. Here… Now…In this moment…. Next… 

You are light.  You are love. You are peace. Still.... silent ... serene. 

The shining star.

Now, open your eyes. Feel the earth beneath your feet, see everything around you. 
You have arrived. Now you are here. 

(c) 30 April 2016 by Maja Trochimczyk

This imagined enlightenment came to me during a reading of poetry in a rehab, for men that just recently left prison or jail and bore the scars of their past lives on their bodies, on their faces. I asked them to close their eyes, relax, sit comfortably and imagine. I said this is a meditation poem for peace... Those that followed the direction, and were able to stop being vigilant for these brief minutes, stop expecting to be attacked, to be had - they were happy, moved by this experience. The mood in the room changed tangibly. So I decided to write this meditation down and start doing it myself. Only in this version, I tell myself: "There is a large, bright, white golden star right above my head..."

One morning, I got stuck in my head, I just could not imagine the light entering my heart and becoming this golden, white, bright star in the center of my chest. Instead, what I had was a hollow sphere of darkness. Nothing, no feelings, no joy, no light. I was very anxious and worried that day, too much to do, too many things to deal with, too many ugly people had attacked me. I felt worn out. Empty. So I left it at that. Light in my mind, no light in my heart?  Fine, at least there is some light, somewhere...

The next day, as I went for a walk in the Big Tujunga Wash I was passing by gardens filled with trees. Purple jacaranda starting to bloom, with its peculiar shade of blue-violet known as "periwinkle" - the funniest name of any color I know. Big clouds of Italian pine, floppy new leaves forming the canopy of the mulberry already filling with fruit that birds and passers-by like to snack on. The magnolia in one yard, the orange tree in another. Then the oak, the liquid amber, the row of Italian cypress.

Looking at their varied shapes and hues of their leaves, I thought how much I love trees, from the maples of my childhood, lining my way to school, to the towering chesnuts in my grandparents' backyard - the endless source of entertainment, making patterns in their richly-lined seven-fingered leaves. The apples with their enchanting, delicate flowers, and the miraculously soft, sweet and juicy pears, "klapsy" that were so delicate they would not last more than a day...

A Pear in a Tree

In a fruit orchard
By the sandy path
I climbed a pear tree
To watch the road
Melt into the horizon

I ate a golden pear
Juice stained my dress
My day dream of white
softness cut short
by the buzzing of wasps

They, too, longed for
The sweetness
Of warm summer pears
They, too, dreamed
Of endless sunlight.

(c) 19 July 2012 by Maja Trochimczyk

I wrote quite a few poems about the beauty of fruit trees, here's one about peaches:

A Box of  Peaches

You locked your Wisdom in a gilded box
Placed copper flowers 
Where metal bars cross, to hold them

You made a window for Compassion 
To look out onto the silent world 
Glowing with the Unseen

Would the talisman of the Smiling One
In your pocket save you? Draw luck 
To your game of cards?

Let it be. Let the ancient words fall
On a carpet of bronze petals on your path
Dappled with tree shadows 

Walk slowly through the magic
Orchard filled in an avalanche of peaches, 
Ripening in scarlet sunrays 

Stoop down to pick one, feel its warmth 
In your hand, taste the mellow richness 
Beneath the fuzzy, wrinkled skin 

Say to no one in particular 
The sun maybe, or the tree, or this late hour –  
Thank you, yes, thank you very much

(c) 1 August 2011 by Maja Trochimczyk

Pears, peaches, oranges, pomegranates, as beautiful as planets... all this lovely fruit. These trees give us a lot more than oxygen, we tend them like shepherds their herds, they are there for us, we planted them for their fruit. But then, there are the sycamores I see daily outside my office window, from bare branches, through buds, bright green new leaves, to changing colors and those rusty "balls" of seed pods. The purpose of these trees is to give shade, but first and foremost to be beautiful. To be.

The Sycamores

I will take my confidence
from the tranquility of trees

the sycamores stand tall
in winter’s light – silver

leafless branches bear
brown prickly balls of seed pods

like rusty ornaments
after long-forgotten Christmas

the sycamores have strength,
nobility even, a well-earned 

pride I could only imagine
looking out my window in the rain

(c) 24 February 2009 by Maja Trochimczyk

I am so connected to these tranquil, ancient giants. Our lungs. They give us oxygen to breathe, we give them carbon dioxide to feed on. I love my trees. I love all trees. I've never hugged a tree yet, I just look at them and love them. I sit in their shadows, admire bark patterns and the endless variety of colors. A strange thing happened when I thought "I love these trees" - my heart filled with light.

The moment I looked at my trees and loved them, the meditation on light I had tried to force myself into, and ended up with an empty heart, returned. Suddenly, this extremely bright star appeared in the middle of my chest, my heart started pumping particles of light through my veins and I was peaceful and happy, full of love. They go together, I forgot. Love and Light. That's why spiritual healers, like Kimberly Meredith, ask you to repeat these simple words in meditation: "I am light, I am love, I am safe." Try it. Or, rather, don't try. Just do it. Think of something else, someone else you love, if you do not love trees. Of course, everyone should love trees, they are our brethen, our lifeline, our roots.  But if you cannot, you cannot. Surely, there is something or someone you love? But it cannot be food, something you destroy. A dog, a cat, a person, a parrot - a living being.

What's the point? one could ask. What's the point of all that in our horrible, divided, tormented world? We made it so, we can undo it. If enough people meditate to fill themselves with light, there will be light. If enough people meditate for peace, there will be peace.  And, on the other end of the spectrum, if we teach our children to kill and hate, and spend endless hours killing light-made specters on their screens, filling their minds with images of virtual violence - there will be more and more darkness, hate and violence.

Artwork by Toti O'Brien

A Romance, Pure and Simple

                                                - inspired by the art of Toti O’Brien
the world was on fire
the trees charred already
the sky burning crimson
in my dream last night

Apocalypse did happen
you left, I was in ruins
in an empty landscape
of ashes, burnt feelings

memories that could not grow
into the greenness of new love
its fresh, dewy innocence
denying the char of hatred

I buttoned it up, you see
I enclosed the nightmare
in a magic, handmade frame
with khorovod lines of circles

eighteen and twenty-two
twenty-two and eighteen
minus one – I kept the last
in my pocket to remember

how I poured my words
over flames to conquer
the terror, invincible
to all, but your love

(c) August 20, 2010 by Maja Trochimczyk

We made the world we live in. We can unmake it. How do we start? Where do we start? In the heart. Through a conscious effort to not be torn, tortured, tormented. To leave it all behind. I found this beautiful animation art on Facebook (courtesy of Mary Frances Spencer) - it is good for something, not just bragging about publications and honors - that shows it so sucintly:

Peace Starts With Me from Magali Charrier on Vimeo.

Magali Charrier created this animation, called "Peace Starts with Me" on commission from PUMAPeace, alongside 7 other artists, for  Peace for the World Peace Festival 2011. Fascinating, to see the mess of blobs the person becomes when she's not peaceful within, composed into a stellar song.

I have not invented anything I wrote about here. I just rediscovered it for my own. There is an ancient Native American tale, a wisdom teaching for the young, that I particularly like.

Two Wolves. A Cherokee Tale

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandchild about life. " A fight is going on inside me," he says. 
"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego." He continued. "The other one is good - he is joy, peace, hope, love, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion. The same fight is going on inside you- and inside every other person, too." 

The grandchild thought about this for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf will win?"  The old Cherokee replied: "The one you feed."

Notice the list of traits that the first animal carries within - regret, guilt, empty pride. Some oriented to the past, some to the future. None focused on the beauty of the present. What matters is expanding the present. Being truly immersed in the here and now. Being here, full of light. Being light.

A Universal Lesson

                                      ~ for Madeleine

Your eyes touch the sky. Look higher.
Over millions of light years, to a constellation of galaxies 
twirling, dancing across the universe.

Your mind stretches – 
Magnificent, magnified, cosmic.
You are the light of the world. You are cosmos.
You are…
at least to the bacteria on your skin
fingertips, tongue.  No matter. You cannot see 
the ones living within you. The billions inside.

Look higher, then. 
Your eyes touch the stars on the midnight sky.
Your consciousness flows towards them,  
dances with them.
Seated in your favorite chair
you fly through space – 
a minuscule dot  on the spiral arm of the galaxy.

Compose yourself 
into the mirror image of cosmos.
A constellation of your own.

(c) 17 April 2016 by Maja Trochimczyk

We will not have to chose then. Life begins beyond "either/or" - that's where we find the Divine, too, as Kierkegaard discovered. It is beyond making choices. It is how we are found. And find ourselves where we have always been.

... from Little Gidding by T. S. Eliot

The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree
Are of equal duration.
 A people without history
Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern
Of timeless moments.
 So, while the light fails
On a winter's afternoon, in a secluded chapel
History is now and England.

With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.

Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

NOTE: Photos from lilies and camellias in Descanso Gardens, roses and trees in Sunland. Poems previously published in various journals, except for the Universal Lesson and Meditation on Light which are new...

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Easter in the Rose Garden with Poets, Mazurkas, and Mimosas

Spring Garden Party with J. Michael Walker, Lois P. Jones, Rebecca Richardson, 
Christopher Vened and Maja Trochimczyk, Photo by Kathabela Wilson, March 27, 2016.

Easter has come and gone, and we can read poems and browse through photos. What fun! We celebrated the joys of spring in my garden, at a Sunday Luncheon Garden Party" filled "with wonderful flavors of Polish and international cuisine, in a company of artists, poets, and creative free spirits." We listened to a CD of the Prusinowski Trio's ancient and edgy mazurkas while eating the chocolate walnut mazurka, and the mazurka wannabe, my apple cake (szarlotka) decorated with willow branches for a change...

Easter table with lilies, mazurkas and pisanki, 2016.

Now, there are two traditional Polish Easter cakes. The first one is the babka - a yeast cake, baked with raisins and candied orange peel, so tall and delicate, you cannot make noise or run around in the house when they are cooling off, with babkas in danger of a collapse into a culinary disaster (this extra tall and fragile muslin babka was the specialty of my grandmother, "Babka" or rather "Babcia" Marianna - I never mastered it, so I do not even try making them). The second, the one I know how to make, in several variants, is the mazurka, the cake named like the folk dance. Is it the dance that mimic the cake? Is it the cake that mimic the dance? Is it the dancing cake? You decide. "Mazurka" comes from the root for "Mazur"- inhabitant of the central part of Poland, Mazowsze.

my orange sun mazurka  
and willow branch mazurka-wannabe
will dance in your mouth

Thanks to the culinary and artistic talents of painter Debby Beck, we also had a unique cake, which I will call the "Rainbow Mazurka" - "rainbow" because of its colors and "mazurka" because she designed and baked it specifically for my party....

Debby Beck and David Long with Debby's Rainbow Mazurka.

inside and outside
all colors of the rainbow 
and delicious, too!

I had asked my guests to bring their poetry, art, or something special to show-n-tell: "What Joy? what Beauty? What Meaning? Of your Life." To make sure there is not too much food left-over, I asked for something to plant and something to drink, instead. I got beautiful lilies, tulips, a fragrant pelargonia, basil, squash, and a friendship plant.  Here is a basket from Kathabela Wilson

a friendship basket -
planting flowers and poems
that's what spring's about

Kathabela and Rick Wilson, selfie.

We drank red wine sangria with frozen mango, berries, and pomegranate juice, and mimosas of freshly squeezed orange juice with proseco, courtesy of Rebecca Richardson and Christopher Vened. The mimosas reminded me of my children: only Ian was at home this Easter, but I had my first mimosas with Marcin and Ania at Easter five years ago... It is because they moved away, that my home is now filled with poets, artists, musicians and friends, my new artistic family!

mimosa delight -
joy bubbles up in sunlight,
on Easter with kids

With Ian, Easter 2016.

With friends and their mimosas at Easter 2016. Photo by Kathabela Wilson.

With renowned tapestry artist Monique Chmielewski Lehman and JPL Manager, David Lehman, selfie.

With Elizabeth Kanski, President of Polish American Film Society and Lucyna Przasnyski, 
artist and photographer.

It was Easter Sunday, but not everyone is Christian and my guests came from different traditions, to share the celebration of the arrival of Spring, the Equinox, the time of Rebirth, Love and Friendship. Several poets shared farewells to their mothers, a topic dear to me since my parents were shot by robbers in their summer home on April 4, 2000, very close to Easter, and I always think about their ordeal and bravery during this holiday, of Death and Resurrection (my father died on May 11, 2001, my mother lingered to 4 July 2013). 

I have not written much about it - it was too painful, but I remember their stories, how bright, cold and distant the moon was, when my father went to find help, after the robbers left, and he walked with a bullet wound across his stomach, to return back to the house in three hours, crawling after midnight, since nobody offered help, all doors were locked and all windows closed. And the phones were not working that early spring night in Poland. Yet, they lived, they refused to be victims, they reclaimed their dignity and love for each other amidst this horror. It would be wrong to define my parents' lives by this tragic turning point, and yet it has to be written. Evil has many faces, this one wore a black skiing mask, black overalls and gloves, and spoke with a lilting accent of a local peasant boy, not even twenty...

Mari Werner (L) listens to Toti O'Brien read, with me, Judy Barrat, 
Debby Beck, Kathabela Wilson and Rick Wilson. Photo by Lucyna Przasnyski.

While I did not read my Easter poem, Mari Werner was brave enough to start the poetic rounds. She brought her moon poem, the first one she ever read at the Village Poets gathering back in 2010. It was previously published on the Village Poets blog, announcing Mari's featured reading in 2011. 

The Moon

A crescent moon floats above the horizon.
“You can totally see the rest of it,”
she says, as though the moon is cheating.

And the moon is cheating.
A crescent moon should be 
what a crescent moon looks like
in a bedtime story illustration,
a crescent clear and simple,
no dark sphere to detract
from its perfection.

Under the smile of the crescent moon,
she sleeps in fluffy comforters,
winked upon by stars
cuddled by a curled up cat,
guarded by a sleeping dog.

That’s the bedtime story version,
but here on the surface of the planet…
you can totally see the rest of it.

(C) 2010 by Mari Werner

Mary Torregrossa reads her poem to be published elsewhere.

Among various gifts, Mary brought a basket of eggs she colored using multi-hued dyes and masking tape to create artistic patterns and stripes.

Eggs by Mary Torregrossa. Photo by Kathabela Wilson.

I colored the eggs by boiling them in onion skins, the rich dark reddish hue is an Easter tradition. We then used needles to scratch patterns on the eggs, but I did not have time this year to do it (my daughter continued the tradition in Berkeley, see below). Instead, I added to my bowl of red eggs  the colorful wooden ones, painted in Poland in a variety of patterns. The brightest newest ones (top left) came as a gift from Lucyna Przasnyski, made in her native beloved Krakow. The ones I already had were made in Krakow and Warsaw, but years earlier - even in folk art patterns and fashions change, while the tradition stays alive!

Polish-style Easter eggs - real (red) and decorative (painted). 

Judy Barrat reads

Judy Barrat recited her Winter Woods from memory; since I cannot remember my poems and have to read them each time, I am in awe of this accomplishment, and the lovely rhyming narrative poem, so different from what I write.

Winter Woods

I ran one day through winter woods.
   Dry leaves covered the ground,
crackling beneath my running shoes;
   I heard no other sound.

Shards of sunlight pierced the trees --
   golden arrows from Cupid’s bow,
And on a verdant hill ahead
   the trees appeared to glow.

On that far hill awash with light a            
   silhouette took shape
of a man in perfect archer’s stance;
   I watched, my mouth agape.

I reached the hill, climbed to the top, 
    so curious was I.
And there he stood, a half-clad man, 
    a banquet to my eye.
A light around his presence glowed,
   though mortal he appeared to be.
His movements caused the wind to sing;
   and I trembled when he looked at me.

Now I’d know Cupid anywhere
   but no winged cherub did I see; 
And this perfect sculpted god-like man
   most certainly wasn’t he.
So stunned was I, no words came forth
    my mouth felt filled with sand.
Struck dumb, I lowered my eyes to find 
    a sunbeam in my hand.

He plucked the sunbeam from my hand,
    and with no malice I could see,
He threaded it in a twisted  bow, then         
   aimed it straight at me.

With eyes tight closed I stood tall and      
   proud like St. Joan at the stake.
I told myself “If this is a dream, now is      
   the time to wake”.

And wake I did to chilling wind, leaves      
   swirling all around;
No man, no cupid, no golden glow
   only me upon the ground.

Darkness had begun to fall;
   where the time went I don’t know.
I looked around, and against a tree
   I saw – the twisted bow.

Cautiously I picked it up and held it          
   close to me;
The chill wind stopped, the air grew still     
   and warmth washed over me    
Some months have passed since that 
    day and I notice more and more
Real beauty in the simplest things I           
   hadn’t seen before.

I believe in this frenetic world there'S 
   still more love than hate
And hope it’s true that good things come   
   to those of us who wait.

This tale won’t be believed by some          
   though every word is so, 
For  in my dreams there is no end to the   
   places I can go.

So I run each day in the winter woods
    looking for that man,
And chasing sunbeams with a child’s        
   hope to hold one in my hand.

(c) by Judy Barrat

Ed Rosenthal reads, framed by his sister Ann Podracky and David Long.

Ed Rosenthal, of the "Poet-Broker" fame, brought a new poem about a boulder and his fascination with rocks during his six and a half day ordeal of being lost in the desert. His poetry book about his experiences, The Desert Hat was published by Moonrise Press; his memoirs are still pending.  The book's title comes from the canvas hat that Ed had with him; he wrote messages to his wife and daughter on all sides of the hat, thinking he would never see them again...

Love on the Rocks 

by Ed Rosenthal

I knew a boulder like you when I was lost and tired
as pitiless Sun and stars changed places in the sky
Like you he had a scratched face and beige crown
And wore a large patch of amber near the ground

I’m not ashamed to pet you in tribute to my pal 
Who like you endured a billion years below ground
Cataclysmic magma emotions and tectonic grinds
before hitching to the surface in a  boiling lava ride.

It wasn’t his past pain that made us rock solid buds
It was his clock on eternal time- he’d seen oceans fall
One week without water watching the racing skies
Like a galaxy rotation meant nothing to rock at all.

Now I see you resting on the roadside of this park
The safe marked trails where families take a lark
Let them stare as I pet you for bringing me back
To Mr. Boulder who  ticked the cosmos in my heart.

(c) by Ed Rosenthal, 2016

The selection of a "boulder" poem was quite appropriate for the conversation, including the story about the Oldest Rock of Sunland-Tujunga told by its "discoverer" David Long. (Incidentally, the Oldest Rock rides in our Fourth of July Parades and has its own page on Facebook, with over 440 likes).

Jean Sudbury recites her poem

J. Michael Walker reads

Kathabela Wilson reads, Rick accompanies her on a Slavic flute.

Kathabela Wilson read another poem from her series about her mother who died last year. The poems will eventually form a poetic biography of an exceptional woman with an exeptionally rich and long life, written in haiku and tanka. Rick Wilson accompanied Kathabela on one of the new flutes from his ethnic flute collection, a Slavic instrument, curved like a bough of a tree from which it was made.

Ends and Beginnings

I made her the old
dishes she used to make
for Thanksgiving
she brought nothing to her lips
but my hand she kissed it

she curls on the bed
like a restless fetus
my mother
from a bedside chair
I cradle her with my legs

after her long life
such a quick demise
was it a hoax
in the warm room
I see her breathing

my mother
goes her own way
in the eye
of the fox

(C) 2016 by Kathabela Wilson
Published in Ribbons, Spring, 2016

Lois P. Jones, of an individual, erudite and intensely sensual/spiritual voice, read a poem about her peach tree.

I Want to Know When

my peach tree will bloom so I can lose
my mind in its fragrance.  Will they be white

or pink, Redhaven or Harmony?  And if it’s true
all babies learn their mother’s scent, will its flowers

hold the perfume of its fruit?  I want to know how
the yield will come, what I’ll feel as the globes grow

and ripen beyond my door. How the fruit
will enter my dreams and I’ll awaken,

shaken with longing. I want to bite
into its golden flesh to the red tinge that nests

the stone and see it burst like an ode –
to name its glistening taste, hook my hands

on my hips and drawl hey mister, we’ve got the best peaches
west of Georgia.  I want to feel the weight, its navel soft

as a baby’s belly. To know how something so small
could yield so much and with all

my flowering, I did not bear fruit. And I will lie
down near its roots, stretched out among tansy

and marigolds, dusk-winged as a night pollinator  
and dizzy above this rolling earth.

(C) by Lois P. Jones

Previously published in Tiferet.

Performance by Rick Wilson and Jean Sudbury, "Szla dzieweczka..." Photo by Kathabela Wilson

There was music, lots of it. In addition to listening to the Mazurkas CD by the Prusinowski Trio, a fantastic admixture of the antique and unadorned folk melodies (as gathered and recorded by scholars since the 1920) with modern traditions, from the Balkans to jazz... Here you can listen to some of my Prusinowski favorites: Serce (The Heart), Mazurek od Ciarkowskiego,  and the Meadow Mazurka. In 2013, I wrote about them on my Chopin with Cherries Blog. 

Jean Sudbury and Rick Wilson serenaded the guests with several selections, including a rendition of that old Polish chesnut, "Szla dzieweczka do laseczka..." (A girl was walking to the forest...), taught to all schoolchildren and sung by all amply partaking of libations at parties. Here it is in a version by the State Polish Folk Song and Dance Ensemble, Slask.

Then, let by J. Michael Walker, my guests spontaneously burst in song, upon my arrival in my white hat, eerily reminiscent of Judy Garland's in the Easter Parade: In your Easter Bonnet. It was so amusing to hear so many people knowing all the words to this delightfully sweet ditty, sung by Garland with Fred Astaire in the film, and Frank Sinatra and many others, later.

Photo by Lucyna Przasnyski

I read the last poem of the cycle.  Instead of a tribute to my parents (that would have been quite fitting as they were shot by robbers on April 4, 2000, and taught me more about love, sacrifice and bravery that I could learn), I shared a new version of the staple of this spring, that I read everywhere I go. "Repeat After Me" is inspired by a prayer to Fukushima Waters by Dr. Masaru Emoto, apologizing to the great ocean and all the living creatures for the damage we have done... His prayer is simple, in four parts:

Water, we are sorry
Water, please forgive us
Water, we thank you
Water, we love you

I was amazed to realize that this four-part spiritual journey - from remorse and apology through forgiveness to love - is based on the same framework that underpins the structure of the Mass, the most Catholic of all rituals, moving from apology (Act of Contrition, "Mea culpa"), through asking for forgiveness (Kyrie Eleison - Christe Eleison - Kyrie Eleison), to gratitude, the essence of the Eucharist, and to love embodied in Communion... The latter one might be a stretch for non-Christians, since Communion seems to be a very strange cannibalistic ritual a symbol of eating the body and blood of another human person. I always wondered about that, finding blood-drinking very unappealing and cannibalism itself, well, unpalatable. So I decided that the Body and Blood are of the Divine Essence of the Creator of the Universe - and as we lovingly eat a piece of bread and sip the wine the Divine Power enters us filling us with starlight, the bright energy of billions of suns and galaxies in-between...

With Toti O'Brien and Debby Beck. Photo by Lucyna Przasnyski

But, I my poem, I used the framework of "sorry - forgive - thank - love," and was very pleased with the amusingly uplifting results. What troubled me in the previous readings, was the poem's ending: 
I give you all the love 
of my tired, aching heart

I give you all the love
of my tranquil, grateful heart.

Not that this ending was false or inappropriate. It is through giving love away that we heal our aching hearts, so that's easy to say, for me, at least. In previous readings, however, some jaded, cynical, extra intelligent and erudite poets cringed when hearing this most insipid word, "love" repeated so many times in the row. I changed it, then, to give it some wings, and also make people laugh. Laughter is good, uplifting. The "repeat after me" pattern of the responsorial poem works because the lines are separated in short segments, easy to say. The new ending, though, is different, and catches everyone unawares. May we all repeat it daily!

With Toti O'Brien and Debby Beck. Photo by Lucyna Przasnyski

Repeat After Me

                     After Prayer for Fukushima Waters  by  Dr. Masaru Emoto.
                    Water, we are sorry / Water, please forgive us
                    Water, we thank you / Water, we love you

Yes, you can find it. /your way out./
It is so simple. /
First you say:/

We are the guilty ones,we are all at fault!
What happens next? /The door opens./
We stop at the threshold and say:/

Forgiveness erases all your guilt,/
all my fears, all our sorrows /– the burden
of dead thoughts is lifted./ 
We float up into brightness.We are 
sparks of starligh
t, /a constellation
dancing in the sky
as we say:/

Filled with gratitude /
for every cloud, leaf and petal, /
every breath we take,/ every heartbeat, /
/we are ready, at last,/
to say what’s the most important:/


I give you all the love /
of my tired, grateful heart!

Good, let's say it again./


Let's do it step by step, one word at a time!

                                                                          © 2016 by Maja Trochimczyk, rev. March 2016

As powerful and uplifting as it was, my poem was not the end of the festivities. Toti O'Brian read a short story about nesting habits of the mourning doves. As she showed us, these birds are not sad at all, but happy and worry-free, inspirational in their endless optimism... The story fit in the garden very well, as it is filled with mourning doves, as well as mockingbirds and humming birds, all trying to establish precise borders for their territories...

Finally, Christopher Vened treated us to an excerpt from his solo show, entitled Human Condition, performed among the roses, and sometimes even, as a rose, when seen through the lens of Kathabela's camera.

"The world is my oyster" 
he says, with out-stretched arms -
Through her camera lens 
she sees the soft rose petals
welcoming the sun 

Photos of Christopher Vened by Kathabela Wilson

Photo by Lucyna Przasnyski

The late-comers included Susan Rogers and Ambika Talwar. So with Ambika, Lois, Susan,  and me, we had the Spiritual Quartet, or the Four Birds present for an annual photo-op: 
Peacock, Phoenix, Humming Bird, and the humble Dove of Love.

The reading was over, but I asked invited poets to send something for the blog. Susan's poem is about flowers:

Saving Flowers
         by   Susan Rogers

Once a month I arrange flowers at the regional headquarters of Sukyo Mahikari. Last Sunday, I did my best to use flowers that were asking to be displayed: three wide-faced sunflowers, elegant birds of paradise, orange petals fanned—and several stalks of irises, purple-tipped with color so deep I wanted to drink their ink like wine. No room for the beautiful lily so I cut its stem and placed it where it could be used another day. Then I took care to gather all the fallen blooms, the “filler” stems and shortest flowers that could not be placed in a giant vase and took them home with me  On my way out I chanced to look at the shelf for shoes. There lying across a shelf so low I needed to kneel to reach them were forgotten flowers—violet gladiolas and long stemmed daisies, almost gone. Perhaps someone left them there thinking to take them home. I felt their waste in my heart. Not wanting to accept their loss, I lifted each gently as I would a hurt bird and brought them to the entryway. Using a scissor I cut them, surgically, trying to give each a chance to survive. Then I placed them one by one, in a vase to greet visitors by the door.

            tree planting
            the troubled teen volunteers
           I talk to her about college

And then, there those who did not make it through the Southern California freeways. Margaret Ute Saine's habit of writing haiku as a daily journal, has flowered into this series:

Spring Haiku [2016]

erratic flow of 
wind sweeps in to offer 
us a roaring spring
from the safety of
spring’s raft we look back with a
slight frown on winter
we walk with the wind
or against, our rustling clothes
produce their own song
a rain falls bathing 
every word here to make
it grow and shimmer
your writing a sea
of words cradled by fountains
rising to heaven
setting my notebook
on edge I have two walls of 
a room: my shelter
burgeoning, budding
spring, my body surmises
a do-gooder you                    you, benefactor

(c) 2016 by Margaret Saine

"Electric" rose. Photo by Maja Trochimczyk