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Today's rhaps is on ... The Blackbird


It is the last "lesson" in the little blue notebook, the one I started a week after my daughter was born. In the fall of 1990 I was walking down East Barstow Avenue to my office at Fresno State, pushing the baby stroller in front of me. It was the Volvo of baby strollers—a Graco—sturdy and dependable, better made than our car. And the sky was a flawless California blue, no clouds.

Life was out of control. While I gracefully manage two, sometimes three disasters at a time, I was hitting critical mass. I looked up and saw a tiny blackbird high above me in the blue sky. Glancing up again several times, I waited for its wings to move. They did not. I had to stop finally, eyes glued to this fantastic creature. Then I saw it, saw it, not a tiny blackbird at all but an enormous bird gliding on the wind, a hawk or eagle soaring, not tens but hundreds of meters above me. My suddenly cold spine shivered and my gaze shifted, accommodating the new distance. Would you want to control that? Its heart beating, its circulation, the physics of its flight, the curvature of the wind carrying its wings through the variable atmosphere? The precise weight of each skeletal support of its astonishingly perfect feathers?

No. I cannot control my own passage through this human spacetime. And though I can control much in my baby girl's environment, this will decrease as she grows. Her father's relapses into the angst-free zone? Nope. Al-Anon's pretty clear about that. Even the musical genius that grants him a life within this mad national racism cannot protect him from its cruelty.

Serenity prayer be damned! I got the courage-control part but I suck at the accepting part and royally fuck up the wisdom to know the difference.


The lesser stressors this past year are medical, financial, legal. Perhaps they are here to distract me from the soul-crushing ones. The fact that my mother was here in Lisbon when I was born, clearly not my idea, has made the bureaucratic insanity of my dual citizenship, well, not Kafkaesque, which is no longer funny to me, not even Chekhovian or Borgian, but more like a kind of medieval Moriarty onslaught through secret tunnels under the moat. Actually the last time I encountered such a bureaucracy was in Moscow, East Berlin, Warsaw—when Putin's Playbook operated smoothly across all its fiefdoms, 'back in the USSR. It's especially not funny to me right now that many of my own relatives take the word of Russian mafia murderers over me, the dumb logic professor, the sinful freaky girl who won't get called up in the imminent Rapture now that the embassy's finally back in Jerusalem.


Odds were against this remaining ovary back in 1989, but when my miracle child was born, her ghosty Senegalese and European ancestors cradling her future dreams, I looked down at her and thought, "if she had to endure a rape like mine it would not be her fault." It would not be her fault.


Can't raise a daughter like this.

I thought I was having a boy. Her Dad chose a name to fit either gender, but I had thought, if she's a girl I'd like her to be Alma. Still, I was afraid to have a girl on this planet. When we ended up alone together, our little family shrunk to mother-daughter, the broken bicultural bisexual parent trying to raise a biracial baby in a country broken by racial and sexual intolerance—I felt like a failure before the journey even began.


Her birth did send me to a St. Paul Selby & University rape group, though, where the counselor promptly greeted me with "be thankful for everything you have done in your life that brought you here today." Even the destructive addictive stuff? Yes. Whatever got you through the night.


My baby girl's life also sent me into a candle, where I could find a meditative tranquility and begin to receive the little blue notebook lessons, first deep in a cave and later on a wild Southwestern mountain long predating the Plymouth Rock Puritans. I injected my slaveowner Nazi heritage with an Inca lineage, maybe a stowaway on a Jesuit ship who made it to Switzerland, I don't know, someone, anyone who could diffuse this cruel Caucasian blood with a drop of ancient wisdom.


Though I am happier now, years later and back on this side of my Atlantic, life still goes out of control sometimes, as it has in these past months. My problem-solving self hates the impasses. Then an angel came to me this week with the word Surrender and I got so angry. She gave me Teresa of Avila's Interior Castle about the mansion full of many rooms and the soul like a diamond of many facets, like a crystal reflecting the love and goodness of a million spheres and I was so angry. I am tired of learning, tired of lessons, so very tired of whatever it is I'm still here on the planet to finish, my mother's favorite verse "for me to live is Christ but to die is gain" ringing in my ears like a broken record. Make it stop!


Today I read from Santa Teresa that finding it harmful to receive the goodness and light into one's soul means one is lacking in humility and love for others. I hate this! But I remembered the Buddha-concentric circles of compassion that must begin at center with oneself or nothing can be transmitted outwards. My grown daughter took me to hear this years ago at the Yoga Studio just down from Pizza Luce's, one brisk St. Paul autumn morning.


St. Teresa's good friend, St. John of the Cross, knew well the Dark Night of the Soul, my hiding place, where I barely breathe to remain unfound, uncaught, unseen, as long as possible, safe in the cabinet at the end of the hall in that yellow stucco house in Leiria. But it's not safe anymore. I will now die like a dispirited POW if I do not breathe the shared oxygen of this our human condition, the exasperating exceedingly abundantly and above all human ether that binds our lives and breaths together. I am so angry! Everyone and their idiotic two-bit folk psychology irritates the hell out of me and I really want you all to go and shut the fuck up.


Except you won't. I know.


Thank you.


6 NOVEMBER 2019

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