Saturday, September 24, 2016

Past, Present, and Future - Gifts for the Arrival of a New Baby

Is there anything better in life than holding a child in your arms? Your child, your grandchild?  I am blessed to have witness a miracle recently, a miracle that changed my existential status. From now on, I'm a Grandma, Babcia. 

These words seem rather abstract at the moment, as I think of my own Grandmas/Babcias and how ancient they seemed to me, when I was a child spending summer vacation in their village homes, eating strawberries and cherries in their gardens and orchards... No matter, age is not important. The new life of the new person just entering the world and opening his eyes to see the universe - this is what is important.

To welcome my Grandson, Adam Marcin (born in September), I spent the last month before travelling to Poland for this monumental occasion writing a long poem, entitled "I Give You the World" and illustrated with all sorts of photos - of family life and things I love to take pictures of, leaves, petals, clouds... There is a lot of personal material in that book, so I'm not going to make it publicly available. In fact, it has been printed in ten numbered copies and that's it. 

But some fragments of the poem can be pulled out to become independent pieces, and shared with readers. So here they are.

I Give You the World. A Poem for Adam

I saw you 
with eyes closed

waves, shadows
changing direction—
where are you?

Adam, the first man
I give you the whole Earth
to name

I give you my world with veins of gold
slicing through the drab clay of hours,
drops of amber hidden in sand,
bright turquoise among slabs of granite,
and pure diamonds in charcoal.

I give you the strong scent of the Electron rose
with its hue of vermilion flames.
Here’s the gift of wings of the butterfly
shining yellow on a pink hibiscus
and the busy buzzing of bees
in the crape myrtle tree,
overshadowing my Sun-Land patio.

Can I also give you the ancient linden tree,
all awash with the bees gathering nectar
in my Grandma’s yard in Bielewicze—
the sweet noise of honey and July?

Careful, don’t catch any bees!
They die as they sting you.
Better save them from drowning
in the pool, bees are precious
they give us honey and fruit, lots of fruit.

I give you rocks in the riverbed, 
white, grey, and veined with pink —
so you step on the solid foundation
and grow up with both feet on the ground
strong and stronger each day.

I give you water laughing in the stream,
so your laughter spills over 
the waves of air, lightly, in silvery droplets.

I give you the hummingbird’s feathers
ruby–red and emerald green —
their feisty owner suspended in mid-air
on invisible wings, drinking nectar
from a butterfly-shaped flower of bougainvillea
in the intense shade of magenta.

I think you will love
my gifts of the pink grapefruit 
and juicy oranges fresh off the tree.
This one is funny! It wears sunglasses 
made of shadows. It is good to laugh at shadows…
And look! Is this a flower or a bird in paradise?

I give you the patience of a lizard, sunning itself on my pathway, 
and catching flies — no, I do not give you the gift 
of catching flies,or maybe…  it could be useful!
Well, let’s stay with the hard-working habit 
of waiting for the right moment—Yes, do everything 
at the right time— do everything right.

You may like the intense hue of the California poppy
a wildflower of the hills. As orange as laughter,
with delicate green leaves of the spring, it comes back
year after year, without rain, after fires.  
Like this poppy, never give up!

I am sure you will like the taste of red cherries 
right off the tree in Jelonki, in my childhood garden
later demolished  to build a street for those tall 
apartment blocks that are as ugly as machines 
to live in—but cherries, ah, cherries, with juice 
flowing down your fingers and your chin—

I give you all the riches of the clear, crisp air
in the fall, when gingko, maple, and poplar
leaves are yellow and crunchy under your feet,
when the last peaches are getting wrinkly
and too sweet on empty branches in the orchard.

I give you the heady scent of needles
on the Christmas tree, a Douglas fir covered
in handmade ornaments, hidden behind
a mountain of gifts in crinkly wrapping paper
green, red, gold, and navy — next to a row
of stockings waiting for chocolate on the mantel.

Please, accept the fragrance of resin melting in the hot sun, flowing 
in large drops down the branches of my juniper and cypress —
and down the trunks of pines that lined the sandy road to 
your Great Grandpa’s family house in Bielewicze,
where storks welcomed sunrise, ferns unfolded 
and stretched  in forest shadows, and silence rang 
like crystal bells at noon.

This is the time for trees to dream of sleep 
and for birds to map out long flights 
along mountain ranges, above green waves 
of forests, white-crested waves of the ocean,
soaring on waves of air.

I give you the chirping of the cricket 
behind my chimney — their summer song,
the kind my Grandma heard in the freezing,
snowy winter in Trzebiesz√≥w—
I wish you always have a cricket 
behind your chimney— let it sing,
if it wants to sing!

I give you the majesty of sequoias, tall and ancient
with heads in the sky, roots stretching down 
inter-connected. Solid, immobile, above and beyond 
it all. Theirs is the gift of nobility, strength and resilience.
They do not die in forest fires — just get singed and grow
new branches — that’s what I give you today.

When you grow a bit bigger I’ll give you wings 
to fly in planes, across oceans to distant cities —
London, Paris, Rome, Barcelona and the City of Angels, 

and to the white coral sand under coconut palms 
on Pacific islands, and to the waterfalls 
and volcanoes of Hawaii—Come on! Grow! Let’s go!

We’ll enter magnificent cathedrals 
and listen to angelic voices and heavenly 
sawing machines of Johann Sebastian Bach.

We’ll climb the world’s most famous tower
To look down at the rooftops and streets,
Eating ice-cream, and almonds, and crepes.

We’ll admire crystal mirrors of rococo palaces
with the thrills and trills of coloratura sopranos 
and the Magic Flute by Mozart.

We’ll waltz in the rain with Chopin 
and rest under weeping willows
of his Mazovian plains. We’ll visit the willows

reflected in Claude Monet’s ponds, 
full of clouds and water lilies. We’ll spend
the dawn and the dusk in his garden.

At noon we’ll stand in the rainbow 
of stained glass windows on stone menagerie 
carved into the floor of Sainte Chapelle.

We’ll travel through the primary colors 
and black lines of Mondrian to the upside down 
world of Magritte, where dawn and dusk 

are the same.  I wonder if you’d share 
my admiration for the smiles of Gothic Madonnas 
with blue-winged angels in gold-relief heavens,

nodding to the swinging rhythms of Brazilian samba 
and classical jazz, the luxury of mellow voices.
Ella and Frank forever.

I give you the rush of understanding,
the “aha” moment when you get it 
and things fall into place where  they 
should have been from the start.

Stuffed into this junk heap of ideas
is a gift of making cosmos from chaos
in the pristine, strong light of your mind.
And don’t forget the white kernel 

of fresh walnut after you peel off its yellow 
wrinkly skin. All the bitter flavor is gone, 
only sweetness remains —
just like in life, when lived right.

So yes, I do give you the true gift 
of living right, capturing each moment
and dissecting it into what to keep
and what to discard.

My gift is unique and hidden.
You’ll find it inside you, when your bare feet 
touch the new grass and your eyes follow 
shifting clouds in the blue-grey Polish sky.

This is the gift of seeing and knowing 
what is true, how grass grows, how clouds 
become scarves for the hills, sneezing in winter.

How to be present to changing sunlight 
on the mountain slopes with patches 
of shadow moving through distant canyons
and meadows.This is my gift.

Of things I have not touched 
with my feet or the palms of my hands
I share with you Norwegian fjords 
and Alaskan glaciers, the glistening
black-and-white skin of my totem orcas, 
the whale-song and dolphins.

Play a tune on the teeth of a plastic comb,
immersed in water and a dolphin will come 
to investigate this new language 
of clicks — and will spit water on you 
if he does not like what you have to say—
maybe a dolphin’s insult?

They are smarter than humans, you know.
So, instead of playing, set them free. 
Yes, please, do.

So, my dear first-born grand-son
son of my first-born son, I give you 
the colors, scents, and flavors
of fall, winter, spring and summer.

Know that what becomes old dies out,
letting flowers blossom and turn
into the delicious golden fruit 
of experience and memory.

Well, I never thought of memory as a jar
of pickled pears with cinnamon sticks 
and cloves ready for a winter feast.
Apparently, that’s what it is.

Thus, I give you some pickled pears 
of your Grandma,great-Grandma 
and other, greater grand-Grandmas,
with family recipes and stories to keep.

I give you the bells of sailboat tack 
ringing against the mast on your boat
in the harbor, waiting for another adventure 
on gently undulating grey waves of a lake.
That’s for a summer day.

For winter nights, I give you 
ten billion suns in each of ten
billion galaxies as your playground.
You will find your way from sun to sun.

I give you the shape of hand-written letters,
the spirals of sunflower seeds, and a snail shell,
the cycle of seasons, the living breath of our planet,
the fractal veins on a rose petal and on 
tributaries to a river you will see from the orbit
through electronic eyes of machines.

I give you the multitude of seeds 
in a pomegranate, each seated 
in its own ruby-red juicy pod, 
squished into the tightest space.

This is how tight knowledge 
will be packed into the neurons and cells 
of your brain,so you can squeeze 
its sweetness into words 
of supreme wisdom.

I give you the gift of my language, many languages, really —
Two for certain, maybe three, four, five, or six 
I could have spoken if I tried harder, made more time.
So now you can do it —learn more skills, get more knowledge,
expertise, beauty. Let’s not forget beauty, the true meaning 
of life—see the snowflake star crystals melting on your glove? 
That’s what it means being like the lilies of the field that are clothed in glory 
and stretch their heads to the sun, breathing in the morning dew,
absorbing the golden essence  of life with each leaf, root, and petal.
So, there.

I wish you the murmur of waterfalls
and the silver resonance of Tibetan chimes,
slowly swirling through the evening air
with the smoke of frankiscense.

I wish you the halo of light-filled sound 
and the brightest fragrance to keep you 
enveloped in a shield of light,
your armor against the dark.

I wish, I wish, I wish for you 
the most precious gift
of them all —the great 
river of light and 
the luminescence
of golden white love.

I give you all the beautiful and good things I can find.
What you do with my gifts is yours only—
store them in the treasure chest
of your allotted time to do this and that,
and this much, and just enough.

May every step lead you to greater 
understanding and compassion 
for all living beings,to greater 
wisdom, higher awareness,
and more intense connection with all
others— plants, animals, people.

May your song echo widely
across the Universe.
May you learn to sail and swim,
and climb mountains,
and write sonnets, or paint, or plant.

May each day be full of hours
flowing by, like the feathers 
of a peacock—in delight and bliss.

I give you the invisible secret of the universe —
cords of light tying it all together,
sand, stars and waves, tree roots and clouds.

The warm softness of the nose of a puppy 
or a baby kitten—would you like dogs or cats? 

And a myriad of happy eyes, looking at you
with the warmth of affection —
all one, all one, all one.

I give you the gift of compassion,
the hazel light shining inside.

Close your eyes —you will see it 
in silence —you will hear it

in your heart’s gentle whisper
of love, nothing else, only love.

So, I wish you the gift of un-feathered flight, 
the treasures of night sky, diamonds scattered on the water 
by sunlight as you swim in the lake.

The pearls of what, exactly? You go figure out 
your pearls, get together your plan for your life 
and own it.

Don’t forget where you came from
and why — to link, connect, span the globe 
and shine, yes, just to shine.

May the beautiful luster of your un-excelled essence 
be known to all. See, I just read the story 
of Buddha and I’m writing like one, already – 

with millions of suns, dazzling star crowns,
constant bliss, serenity, supreme joy, and the lotus 
of wisdom dissolving into clear light.

If you are an artist at heart,
make a living, be grateful
for your gifts,and give back in kind.

If you are an engineer, invent things 
to help people,or animals, or plants,
or to heal the water and air.

Make them happy, hear their song —
that’s what we want most of all,
to be happy, to love, to be loved.

When you choose,  choose wisely
and follow your heart,
always follow your heart.

Since boys love machines, I thought I'd add to this tribute to the newborn a humorous short story that's a life lesson in old computer language. 

I find it amusing and accurate - this is what we all have to do:  

Install LOVE on the HUMAN Computer

by Author Unknown

Customer: I really need some help. After much consideration, I've decided to install LOVE. Can you guide me through the process?

Tech Support: Yes, I can help you. Are you ready to proceed?

Customer: Well, I'm not very technical, but I think I'm ready to install it now. What do I do?

Tech Support: The first step is to open your HEART. Have you located your HEART?

Customer: Yes, I have, but there are several other programs running right now. Is it okay to install while they are running?

Tech Support: What programs are running?

Customer: Let's see... I have PAST-HURT.EXE, LOW-ESTEEM.EXE, GRUDGE.EXE, and RESENTMENT.EXE running now.

Tech Support: No problem. LOVE will gradually erase PAST-HURT.EXE from your current operating system. It may remain in your permanent memory, but it will no longer disrupt other programs. LOVE will eventually overwrite LOW-ESTEEM.EXE with a module of its own called HIGH-ESTEEM.EXE. However, you have to completely turn off GRUDGE.EXE and RESENTMENT.EXE. Those programs prevent LOVE from being properly installed. Can you turn those off?

Customer: I don't know how to turn them off. Can you tell me how?

Tech Support: My pleasure. Go to your Start menu and invoke FORGIVENESS.EXE. Do this as many times as necessary until it's erased the programs you don't want.

Customer: Okay, now LOVE has started installing itself automatically. Is that normal?

Tech Support: Yes. You should receive a message that says it will stay installed for the life of your HEART. Do you see that message?

Customer: Yes, I do. Is it completely installed?

Tech Support: Yes, but remember that you have only the base program. You need to begin connecting to other HEARTs in order to get the upgrades.

Customer: Oops. I have an error message already. What should I do?

Tech Support: What does the message say?

Customer: It says, "ERROR 412-PROGRAM NOT RUN ON INTERNAL COMPONENTS." What does that mean?

Tech Support: Don't worry, that's a common problem. It means that the LOVE program is set up to run on external HEARTs but has not yet been run on your HEART. It is one of those complicated programming things, but in non-technical terms it means you have to "LOVE" your own machine before it can "LOVE" others.

Customer: So what should I do?

Tech Support: Can you pull down the directory called "SELF-ACCEPTANCE"?

Customer: Yes, I have it.

Tech Support: Excellent. You're getting good at this. Now, click on the following files and then copy them to the "MYHEART" directory: FORGIVE-SELF.DOC, REALIZE-WORTH.TXT, and ACKNOWLEDGE-LIMITATIONS.DOC. The system will overwrite any conflicting files and begin patching any faulty programming. Also, you need to delete SELF-CRITICISM.EXE from all directories, and then empty your recycle bin afterwards to make sure it is completely gone and never comes back.

Customer: Got it. Hey! My HEART is filling up with new files. SMILE.MP3 is playing on my monitor right now and it shows that PEACE.EXE, and CONTENTMENT.EXE are copying themselves all over my HEART. Is this normal?

Tech Support: Sometimes. For others it takes a while, but eventually everything gets downloaded at the proper time. So, LOVE is installed and running. You should be able to handle it from here. Ah, one more thing.

Customer: Yes?

Tech Support: LOVE is freeware. Be sure to give it and its various modules to everybody you meet. They will in turn share it with other people and they will return some similarly cool modules back to you.

Customer: I will! Thanks for your help!

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