Archive | Essays

A Matter Of Heart. . .


(It was after a family wedding that I was getting thank yous off to everyone.  I kept letters to those I wrote so I would not forget anyone.  In rereading journals I came across this one to my mother,  Jenny,  that I would like to share.  It spoke my heart and on this Mother’s Day it speaks to all mothers who in fact parent whether they gave birth or not.  Parenting is a matter of heart.  I have edited due to space.)


Dear Mother,  My thank you is felt from my heart.  It is my heart that speaks and my arms that reach to you and say good job, well done.  We come full circle at some point and the important thing is that we stayed the course to finish it up.  Our thanks along the way include all who helped become who we are.  And I love who I am right now.  I love me because I love from where I came.  I came from you.

I have often maligned from what it is I came from because I have known it seems nothing but hard work.  My hard work has produced three fine sons and with courage took the hand of one and walked him out of this earth when my instinct was to wrap him in my arms and keep him here.  I helped shore up his two brothers whose worlds were falling apart from hurt.

I have created a home where people love to come and do not want to leave.  I have been testy and submissive, argumentative  and assertive and unlovable.  But kept on loving.  I can see what I am because I see from where I come.  From you.  Of you,  of my brothers and their wives, all sisters.  All of you open your arms to me and I find I can walk right into your hearts.  No doors are closed, no secrets are held and we speak.

You are a testament in courage.  You are the good news in generosity and sharing and love.  I don’t know who could have done what you have so well.  You have created memories for so many that the heavens will declare you lord of memories.  You have been safekeeping them for all of us.  You are a lady worth the knowing and a mother worth the praise.

We pushed against you and made it hard for you.  But we had to strengthen ourselves.  Life demanded much from you and we knew it would be hard for us.  You did not abandon and because you did not, we stayed the course.  We too crumble and cry and because you did what was necessary,  we do too.

It is of good stock I come.  It is of earth and skies that are deep, horizons that stretch farther than eyes can see.  People who walk among each other and heal one another like balm on a wound.  It is love that bends down to touch the head of a child when the back finds it painful to bend.  It is the arthritic hand that touches the cheek of the fragile.  It is love in a gruff voice that shouts and sisters who wrap their arms around each and say ‘I know.’  It is family and it is my heritage and you gave it to me though orphan you were.

You imbedded lessons in my heart and taught us all well.  I thank you.  No one could have lived it better than you did with what was yours.  I went home this weekend and found the likes of me everywhere.  It is a good feeling.  I am privileged.  I have family.  And looking at you I am proud.  I am you.  Thank you for having me.  I love you.    Your daughter,



artwork by
Claudia Hallissey


A Place Of Rest. . . .

There can be less stress and stronger heartbeats if the persons involved could call upon what it is they know to help relieve situations,  and if not situations,  then relieve themselves .

In every place,  in every nook and cranny that houses a soul,  there is a place to go.  If not physically,  then within.  To be able to turn to it, whether there is a window or a corner holding an item of interest or rest, or within where there is a place that has a familiarity surrounding,  there is a respite.

For however brief the instant,  it is always a place of rest.  And in this place there may be tears of relief,  of sorrow, of joy and a minute of gathering one’s resources to continue on where one is,  but with a visible difference.

And the difference will be an attitude or direction, or a concrete, so it would seem, act.  It is important to have this place.  It is a holy place within, inviolate.   All people have it, but do not think of it this way.  In a crowded situation it may be a bed no one is sharing at the moment; a place to recoup one’s losses.

The window overlooking a noisy street, or a patch of snow or green,  with perhaps a tree,  or even a piece of crockery,  or a basket on a shelf,  just a thing of rest to pull one together time  and time again.  It is necessary regain footing,  to focus inwardly,  to call all component parts of self together,  for a homecoming.  It is as necessary as the next breath we breathe.

And going back we learn to draw on what sustains,  what satiates the deep thirst and not what crushed our spirit.    And doing so we are equal to another run, another try at what gives life and does not take life.  We fulfill the reason for being,  our wish to make a difference.

Soft Wisdom. . .

Heretofore wisdom
had come slashing
across the mind and
in its wake, devastation.

Ravaged emotions
left one naked,
awash in body tears,
stripped clean and vulnerable.

Like a caress, soft wisdom
finally arrives
compassionate as a lover

to find the moment quiet.


Time For New Thoughts. . .

July 30, 2014 journal entry scribed . . . . (we do not want your readers to think that the hero’s journey can only be undertaken when one has free time.  We want them to see that it can be undertaken when one is in the midst of chaos and that it does give some kind of civility as well as calm to what is going on in the midst of life.  It was not as your friend did taking to the woods for the good of nature as well as inner life.  You had an inner life as well as public life and were the parent on premises to a trio of sons, good as they were.  The ten year illness and horror of what awaited with your son, the office every day for 10 years and the last 22 years of a mother in law’s life ((the arrival of my inlaw who lived to be 97,  the birth of a preemie grandson at 1 lb 13 oz. and the transition of our David happened in a 3 month period))  and still considered were home and property maintenance.

 Most of the males who had a cosmic experience through the centuries had groupies or what today would be called gophers (go-fors).  They were mostly of a religious bent or philosophers.  A woman occasionally was mentioned though anonymously.   If Jesus’ time were now, the disciples would be called groupies  .)

 When my world crashed long before all the above happened, the word mystic was only a cloudy, wispy,  ancient term.  But when different doctors used the word,  I took note.  It is a person who never completely left the world they came from.  One foot is always in another world or worlds as they step over boundaries not seen.  Today’s quantum theories are no mystery.  Mystics live them.   In mental dialogue the exchange given is day long thought.  It often  is called prayer. It requires mental agility to work the work that living requires and keep one’s balance.

Physically,  it is just plain hard work.  And it has cowed many an able body down. The mystic I am inclined to think is born thus.  It is the child who upsets the family and has parents blaming each other for the difference.  Not mine!  Oh yes, just like!!!!  More often than not,  a head is closed up and evolution stagnates and the world tips easily into another war.  What should be welcomed is shunned and hidden.  And a world waits and cries in the night.


Old Comforts. . .

Exhaustion is the state
with the barbed tongue.
I would smite to the death
with what I hurt
and am angered by.

I will use my anger
to force a new attitude of thought
on those who wallow
in their comforts.

Old beliefs are
a security blanket.
But already they become
bare from nervous fingers
pulling the fluff out
in straight lines.
The nap has been neatly picked.
It is time for new thoughts

to cover old butts.

(July 2014)


Never More Than A Heartbeat Away. . . .

Never More Than A Heartbeat Away . . .

The wind had blown over the huge tomato plant and he was out of patience with his mother with her directions as to how to support it.  Her instructions were explicit and he shouted it’s only a plant!  And she almost in tears shouted back, it’s alive!  And ended up doing it herself.  And the reason was sufficient.  It’s alive.  With due respect and gentleness,  it’s alive.

And that is the difference, as small and as large,  as it is with perspective.  Where to draw the line in outlook because it takes time,  energy and may take your life eventually.  It is no easy task to discern what is important enough to warrant attention to make a difference.  As small as a plant or as large as a human life.  There are only so many hours in the day and everything seems to demand the immediate now.  Many told me  I took the fun out of life because everything to me was important.  And important in itself that it did not need exaggeration.  But each has to discern whether the action should be pulled through one’s heart.  I would caution with this that when the least has no importance, it is sooner than one thinks that all things assume little importance.

I asked a friend who was a nurse,  why do you go to church Kath,  and she said because I hope what Jesus said is true.  I say that life is a continuum,  that it is everlasting and all is god.  And for me it is not a hope but it is knowledge and I know that what meaning there is in life I bring to my corner of it.  The thundering, noble force that rumbles through all is put within the each and here as I create my wonky wall quilt of evergreens and am accountable in my declining years as my conscience demands and  body enables me,  I have also created the world I worked for all the days of my life with the talents given me.   And I will give a hand to pull you over if you have doubt.  Because if there were not worlds as my mentor said,  I would care enough to create one and I would pull you over.

Excerpt from
We Can Go Home. . .

When the cardinal sings
I will acknowledge his song
to show that a life can be lived with
a mind open,  to hear muses sing
their songs of joy or pray their
mourning songs. . .

. . . to show that a heart
can be stripped of itself
like layers of onion skin
and still keep a steady beat.

I’ve taken the long way home and
nearing the gate, please catch me I say
and pull me on through.
I will answer c’est moi, it is I,

to prove we can go home again and again.


To Want The Priceless Gift. . .


I Want For Mother’s Day. . . a grown up world. . . .

As I approach  my 86th birthday in a few weeks, and  on the eve  of another  Mother’s Day,  I hope I am closer to understanding what life is about and maybe have you understand why  this white haired woman sees nothing in the playthings of life that seem to enchant others.  What do I want and what do I need  are one and the same.

Simply,  a grown up world.  Children who are children are a wondrous thing to enchant.  But big bodies in motion with childish emotions are an eyesore and they break my heart.  How to help raise adults to be examples for the young?  Be one.  Just be one.  You all have played the field with your games and have been doing the bedroom gymnastics around the world.  Now look at yourselves in the bathroom mirror   and please, without alibis,  say from this moment on I will be the example I never had.  Grow up or go sit in the corner until you do.

We have seen the heartache engendered by your antics and even those who have been innocent hurt beyond repair.  Now from this day onward a new set of rules.  The powerful will not take advantage of the young and innocent.  And those who are not well endowed with monies or looks will be given a self esteem that will demand others to behave with decency and  above suspicion at all times.  There is a scorekeeper lest you think not.

We will see mothers who will  mother and fathers who will  father.  And we will see children with open heads being given a childhood that will surely enchant  them.  And we will see a world where steps will be taken and people will grow to maturity with a range of motions and emotions befitting adulthood.  I want a grown up world.

There will be chaos in the bedrooms and there will be arguments at the dinner table and there will be a change in behavior when people are given to know what behaviors engender what consequences.  It will not be done overnight,  but I was asked what I wanted for Mother’s Day and I have told you.  I want children growing up adult who are true humans.  Human and divine.  True beings of whatever system of belief is held by them, but true humans.  I have pulled my life through my heart and given it my best shot.   This is a big want.   Make it happen.


To Richly Endow. . .

To Richly Endow

My head swiveled when I heard the elder blurt out, ‘but you are lucky you like to pull weeds!’  I stared openmouthed because she was serious!  I thought of the past hot week where the sun did not blink and the temperature and humidity hovered at ninety.

Upon her arrival for dinner she marveled at the lush lawn and neat garden.  It wasn’t by magic but by adherence to a vision in my head of other lawns and gardens.  A vision so firmly held that my hands worked while my mind was in dialogue.

Property to me was as far down as I dared to think and as high up as I could see.  Large enough to raise children and then one day too large to keep as I desired.  But that Sunday afternoon the conversation turned to those poor people she said who only had one or two interests.

I ventured to say that was what libraries were for and fields and parks and many things free.  Parents were supposed to expose children to these things so that interests would expand.

‘Not everyone is lucky enough to like to pull weeds’ she reiterated.  Across my mind were the hot summers growing up where our livelihood demanded that we work together to cultivate cucumbers, vegetables weeded if there was to be produce for the market.  And I thought of my mother who listened to us harangue about friends who went to the beach while we worked!

But early on secretly of course,  we enjoyed our siblings.  We learned what it meant to contribute to everyone’s well being; our contribution was meaningful.  We had fun with each other but our hands did something of value.

I followed suit with our children as my siblings did with theirs; an added dimension to life that sustained us all.  Taught we were to learn to do useful things.  Preceding beautiful was useful.  In time we found a certain comfort in what our hands could do.  In trials and crises when Spirit needs comforting, we turn to those things learned with hands that were practical and creative.  Mother’s patience endowed her children to a degree she could not have imagined.

A priceless gift was bestowed.  Our confidence was affirmed though I am sure the initial attempts were more bother for her than help.  She could not foresee the carpentry or the iron sculpting, the artistry in her children’s lives.

Our minds paint pictures for us.  Some dismiss them without thought.  Others of us try to duplicate what we see in our heads.  As I walked and saw early attempts in the first balmy days of spring the efforts to make beautiful,  I wonder the people’s early teachers.  Who loved them enough to stay the early pains to set the example.

The elder relative perhaps was right.  I was lucky I liked to pull weeds.  To go beyond the sweat to see the beauty in labor, the virtue in making beautiful.  I have been lucky to be able to appreciate the wonders of life and the great good luck in helping to keep it beautiful.


photo by
Kathy Qualiana


This Road Traveled. . .

It was a very vivid dream and I wrote of it in detail.  I was moving the garden hose on the front lawn and looked up and David was walking up the sidewalk.  Oh David,  you are alive and well I said,  and he said it is a wonder.  They make as many mistakes as we do.  And I remembered Jesus saying along with on this rock I will build my church  he also said,   that whatever is loosed in heaven is loosed on earth and whatever is loosed on earth is loosed in heaven.  Conveniently forgotten.  I have known since I was a child and remembered the place from where I was born,  this dream visit was real .

Heaven is not a font of wisdom and they make many errors.  Proof is the world we inhabit.  We do what we can while we live here to make it better.  Whatever we do with all the compassion we can muster is better than leaving things as they are with little thought.  Now having said that,  what do we do now.  We keep on working, keep on keeping on.  Joining the host workers who in the past gave their utmost to promote human welfare.  Who wrote the music to remind man from where he had come.  Who worked to keep man upright and off his belly in the mud.  Who made water pure and drinkable and still  working on that.  Who grows food in arid land to put bread, not cake, on the table.  Who write and teach and feed the minds of men to lift my brother up.

There is no effort as great as man’s effort.  There is cooperation with man’s god only insofar as man works in cooperation with his fellows.  And there is no rhyme nor reason anywhere unless there is reason where man is.  The majority of my generational peers grew up in prejudicial homes where bigotry and racism were rampant.  Our parent  gods  said they hated what they were taught to hate.  Doesn’t every generation?  When do we put a stop to it? The changes have been slow in coming.  We are running out of  time and resources.

Let us hide God the three wise men said.  The ocean, said one, because man would never go deep enough to find him.  The sky, said another, for man would never go high enough to find him.  Within, said the third, for man will never think to look there.  Within.

Dante took Virgil on his journey to the heart of himself.  Virgil was a philosopher of note and took up the challenge though Dante was a Roman Catholic and did not take the Christ.   Christ was not real but Virgil was.  I, being, uncredentialed,  took the highest and best frame of reference I knew and that was the Nazarene.  In my independent study of a lifetime I found  him a man to be of no thought except to release man from the prison he was kept in by other men who themselves were also imprisoned.  He showed me that to be utterly human and utterly divine was a concept that man carried and so long was it hidden that to uncover it was such a heartrending process that few attempted.  It is a long journey and a hard route.

And never ending.  A grandson said to me in awe that you are not afraid of anything, are you grandma.  Fear is the hangman’s noose.  Knowledge gives one freedom from fear.  It is accessible through the everyday tool of learning.  It is man’s choice to use it.  Now is a good time to start.


art by Claudia Hallissey


Connections. . . everything teaches. . .



The Dinner Table . . . Everything Teaches. . .

There was a little boy who sat at the holiday table with all the family and their friends.  The table was set with the white cloth and the numbers of gathered friends were many.  The little boy sat high on his chair and when the little hand shot out uncontrollably and the cranberry juice spread its stain over the white linen,  the face of the little boy crumpled and he said,  ‘I can’t do anything right!’

And the mother of the little boy said everyone has accidents and we can make it right.  So the paper towel sopped up the juice and another white napkin was placed over the stain and the little boy never remembered the incident.  It was an incident but the mother remembered and the little boy was more important than anything at the moment.

The dinner, one of many, would be forgotten and so would the incident.  That scar never formed except in the mother when she remembered the face and wondered who told him he couldn’t do anything right?  He has done many things right in his life and some things in error.  But that incident he never remembered and it formed no keloid because there was no scar.

The rest of mankind will also wash out.  The stain will be bleached and man will not hang in the sun and wonder how he can possibly get that stain out of his soul.  Too many centuries in the process and no nearer now than when he first catapulted into waiting arms,  if he was lucky enough to have those arms waiting.

A son wondered if he should drop Philosophy.  He was told that there was no other class worth taking.  Except History.  And Humanities.  And maybe a couple of others like Biology and Literature and the Religions of Man.

Excerpt from . . .

Philip Framed The Mystery. . .

Our tears filled the rivers with fatigue
which filled the oceans with frustration
as the fruits of our fields were dispersed.
All the while we continued to labor
for redemption.

Ahhhh. . . .the mystery?

Who first told us we were no good?


Where Are You Going Absalom? . . . .

I’ve Been Before To Paradise. . .

I was told that you cannot wait for anyone else to do what is yours to do.  They do not have your particular understanding nor your vision.  The future  will be turned one page at a time and you will find your name on it.  But do not scythe every blade of grass with one fell swoop.  It cannot be done.  You will do those things closest to your heart.  This is all the universe requires.

This time in March memory appoints itself guardian of a time that forever changed us years ago.  This was the quickening time for our David’s departure toward the month’s end.  I don’t  need journals to freshen conversations because I do not forget those.  By rote I did the maintenance of body and house and mercifully have forgotten the dailyness of driving to the hospital and the visual encumbrances.

There were hot months preceding and the cold months succeeding.  On the way to the hospital in the  city,  Michigan Ave. separated the poor, the destitute and those with no hope on either side.  Nothing to ease  their days and not a fresh towel to dry themselves.  Not a bath of water to ease the hurt body nor a clean pair of underwear.  Such was the poverty.  Not a hot meal in the winter nor a glass of cold something because the refrigerator did not make cubes.  It bogged down my thinking and there was no separation between what surrounded me and the even bigger loss awaiting me.    It leaked through my skin and my blood circulated my misery.

The skyline with its new buildings and skyscrapers seem no more than makeup on an aged skin filled with lines and creases.  There was not a time lapse but a raging against what pushed us all.  It was the quest for immortality that one expects from one’s children.  What I was then involved with on a daily basis as a parent should not have been in my frame of reference.

I do not function alone.  I am privy to the minds who have linked history of man to his future.  But I am mother to those sons who considered themselves a triumvirate.  When one sneezed, another withdrew his handkerchief and the third said God Bless no matter what part of the world they were in.  To watch this dis-rupture in this union was to watch this union disrupt.  It should never be part of a mother’s bank of memories.

Yet never were there those who were far enough into the perplexities of modern times where the questions arose, even subliminally.  And where I know now that there are no answers anywhere , except in our Self.  I make my peace with that.

Where Are You Going Absalom?. . .

‘to where the moon
can melt the sun,
the cactus blooms at high noon
and the darkness bids good morning. . .

where cowled thoughts
and taut skin need never cover
hot bones and the cactus
no longer pricks. . .

to fly wingless to the mind’s ankh,
taking only me, only me,
and find that I suffice. . .

I’ve been before to Paradise,
but forgot.
Reaching in, I reach out,
touching my own nimbus.
I’ll not be gone long.’

David wept.


Photo by
John Holmes


No Place To Go. . .

No Place To Go. . . .the children have to grow up. . . .

As I look back on things,  as we are apt to do when we wish to make sense out of a life that at times held little,  I find more things connect.  Yet small incidents were crucial  for the larger events to play out.  When I think back on the arguments that have taken my energy,  I still have difficulty understanding where sacrificing one life so that another can live is fair or rational. Religions have been based on this principle.  I put myself in the time of the Nazarene and think as I did when I wrote the poem,  Day of Decision,  and he said He has sent me to

‘proclaim release to the captives and recovering
of sight to the blind . . .
and to set at liberty those who are oppressed.’

And I think you idiot!  My lungs gasp an
intake of air for it will be my last.
He has hung us all.
You sell yourself to a hungry multitude
and you will never be free.
They will clutch you to them
and never be the wiser.

My friend you are crazed.
They will never buy what you give away.
Better were it for you to go away
with knowledge baking your brain
and rotting your heart.’

It was never self  sacrifice to me when a child was concerned.  One’s child of course had a lifetime to live and there was no question whose life was more important.  But a world of big bodies who refuse to grow up and be accountable learned nothing when all they had to do was never to sin  again because there was a god to forgive them who let them off scot free.   My upbringing had the hymn in the Methodist  Hymnal,  What A Friend We Have In Jesus ….
all our sins and griefs to bear.
What a privilege to carry
everything to him in prayer.

And 2,000 years later,  the same wars are being fought, ancestors’ anguish they say never appeased.  For all we know, we are killing our mothers and our fathers and who is to say we don’t?   Jesus fulfilled the old testament by giving people what they wanted.  His life.  He mortgaged himself to fulfil the readings.  Do the people grow up to be accountable?  They hang on to the child in them for they believe as the Book says,  such is the kingdom of heaven.  And the forever little boy and girl go to the end of their days the way they came in.   Childish.

In the course of days I learned that only when one views this world as the only world does it seem insane that one would sacrifice one’s life.  In the larger scope, knowing this is but an instant in a universe of many worlds, does giving your life for your brother  take on nobility.  Physicists already give credence to parallel worlds and quantum physics heralds others.  Life balances itself so that nothing is ever lost,  including self,  then the following I wrote  makes sense in. . .

Old Friends Breaking Bread. . .
Everything gained they agree.
Lives lived splendidly
according to script.
Lives mortgaged knowingly
so that the Other could know
their moment in the sun.
They needed to learn they were worthy.

 Also in the poem. . .
You Must Not Think. . . .
It’s useless to have trudged
the overgrown path
to make a road
easier for the one to follow.
We must develop discipline
to house the night’s pleasures
and discipline to work our days.
Evolution is the name of the game,
but it really is life;
a way station only to the stars,
On the way home.

And in the poem, 
You Stayed the Course. . .
And the ancestors will rest
and man will look forward
to what he can accomplish.
And the world will blossom;
all worlds and all times.
The path in the jungle has been cut.

And finally in
A Great Gain. . .
It showed me true
that life is everlasting.
Where else to have learned that?

Has it changed much in 85 years?  I learned that the smallest incidents were necessary for the larger ones to be played out.  I learned much, but to make a difference?  Only in myself.  Only.


Photo by
Joe Hallissey Jr.


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