Monday, June 27, 2011

End of an Era: Closing of Local Video Store

Movie PostersImage by MLHS via Flickr

Within the last few months, several local establishments have closed.  The first to go was just down the street.  The local video store that provided what Hollywood had to offer, along with a few specialty sections.  The latest, Pleasant Street Video in Northampton, MA, leaves a huge hole in the fabric of our community after 25 years of faithful service.

Pleasant Street Video wasn't your common variety video store.  The folks at Pleasant Street were the purveyors of hard to find documentaries, classic film noir, as well as films by the great directors such as Bergman, Fellini, Ozu, Wenders, Ford, Tarkovski, Buñuel, Scorsese, Varda and the mother of American avantegarde films, Maya Deren.  Also available at this little corner shop in downtown Northampton were films from around the world.  

The staff, especially Bill and Dana, both of whom Roger and I saw the most, were aficionados of film, who could recommend films that built on an interest or idea one was researching.  We learned as much from them as we did from the films.

I will always remember watching the movie by Iranian director, Samira Makhmalbaf, Blackboards about the struggle of teachers to reach students on the Iran/Iraq border.  The teachers literally carry the blackboards on their backs to wherever the students might be living.  

I never would have seen this powerfully emotional saga if it weren't for Pleasant Street Video.

Other films that deeply touched me were
  • Wings of Desire
  • Far Away So Close
  • Tokyo Story
  • The Man the Fell to Earth
  • The Gleaners and I
  • Seventh Seal
  • The Sacrifice
So, why are so many of our local video establishments closing?  Simple answer - the internet.  Online companies - you know their names - have driven the local market out of business. This is something we are witnessing happening to local businesses around the country.

Americans forget that we vote with our purses.  We also forget that when we support giant corporations, we turn our backs on our neighbors, sometimes even undermining our own livelihood.

 Forbes Library, Northampton, MA
The good news for those who frequented Pleasant Street Video is that their collection of films will be given to the Forbes Library in Northampton.  This assures that those of us who enjoy film - artwork in video form, not simply mindless entertainment - will still be able to find works that stimulate, inform, instruct, question, criticize, admire, admonish as well as entertain.

Those interested in aiding the transfer of films to the Forbes Library may donate at Save the Catalog.  On this page, you also have the option of saving a specific film.  Thanks to all who already have helped preserve this amazing film legacy.


Photo Credit: By Free Public Library Commission of Massachusetts [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Poems for Father's Day

Today, I will share Father's Day poetry. I wrote the following poems for a poetry contest.(I know it is the day after the observance, but I believe these special days should be celebrated every day.) 
First, it has been three years now, since my Dad left this plane of existence for the next.  While I know he is physically dead, I still feel him around me.  It is no wonder, then, that when I sat down to write the poems that potentially could be made into cards, that I began with one for my Dad.  

The second poem I wrote is from my brother.  Less than a year younger than I am, we were/are close.  His life has not always been easy, but he has continued to move forward.  Today, I am so proud of him.  I know my Dad is, too.

Finally, the last poem I wrote was for my sons-in-law.  They are wonderful fathers.  Each gives so much to their children.  I love to watch them play together, laughing and giggling.  I didn't have that as a child.  My dear Dad wasn't around much and when he was, we didn't play.  So, seeing my grandchildren blessed with the gift of an involved father warms my heart.

By the way, the poems were accepted by the company, but I didn't sign the contract because it was too limiting.  I would rather share my writing with others free of charge, than to have someone else make a profit from it after giving me a pittance.  

That said, here is my Father's Day poetry. 


You weren’t around much
when I was that little kid
with the runny nose and
the skinned knees.
You didn’t tuck me into bed
or, read me stories,
or, play catch with me
like some kids’ dads.

But, as we grew older together,
you became my buddy,
my friend, the person
I turned to when life got
difficult, or if I had questions.
You were always there
for me. So, just in case
I haven’t said it before
or, often enough…


Thanks for being the best
Dad you could be for me;
it’s made a difference in my life.
I love you, Dad, Happy Father’s Day. 

LMRN © 2011


Who would have thought
that the little boy who
pulled my hair,
refused to play dress-up,
taught me to swing a bat,
and to throw a ball,
would grow up to be the man
you are now?

Who would have thought
that the little boy would
grow to be the man who
listens with compassion to my sorrows,
shares sage advice,
makes me laugh till I cry and
can still be a little boy from time to time?

Watching you father has been
one of the joys of my life.
I am so proud of you, brother!

Happy Father’s Day…with love.

 LMRN © 2011


From the day, you took my daughter’s hand
walking strong and confident beside her,
I wondered how you would meet
the challenges of fatherhood

As you held my grandchild in your arms
on that first glorious day of life
I knew the father you would be…

Gentle, yet firm when needed
kind, wise, and loving
strong, yet flexible to change
tender, silly and patient

You are the father I dreamed
you would be…so proud of you,
son of my heart.

LMRN © 2011

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

How to Survive the Death of A Child

Many subjects are taboo, even though commonsense tells us that talking about them should help us to cope. As a writer, educator and mother, I believe we must speak about the unspeakable for it is by sharing our pain and sorrow that we heal.  

Today, I have the honor of sharing the thoughts and advice of Madeline Sharples, a talented poet and memoirist who began writing as a means to find comfort and understanding after the diagnosis of her eldest son’s bipolar disorder. Later, in 1999 after his death, she turned once again writing as a means of healing and comfort.

Her book, Leaving the Light On is a touching memoir of Madeline’s journey with Paul. She candidly and honestly shares the strain of living with mental illness, as well as the grief and guilt experienced by survivors of suicide.

Leaving the Light On is a testament to healing after the death of a child as well as the strength it takes to move forward.

I remember seeing the back of my mother’s head in the window as we, the last of the mourners to leave after my father’s funeral, drove away from her house. She was sitting in the corner of her couch, and for the next twenty-seven years until she died at ninety-four she spent a lot of time in that spot. I could have opted to live out the rest of my life that way. Instead, I began to pick up the pieces almost immediately.

The morning after Paul’s funeral, after everyone was gone, the house cleaned up, the leftover food given to a local homeless shelter; I threw away the flowers. I couldn’t stand their smell of death. Then, I opened the windows and let in some fresh air.

Next, we had a heart-to-heart talk with our son Ben, in his mid-twenties and in his third year of grad school. Ben felt uneasy about going back so soon. He wanted to stay home and grieve a while longer. But, my husband Bob and I, a united front, told him if he didn’t go back right away, he would find reasons to never go back. He was in his last year. He couldn’t throw away all the work of the previous two.

Soon after Paul’s death, Bob and I joined a Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services Survivors After Suicide support group of ten survivors, two facilitators, and one licensed therapist. I came away from these sessions with the feeling that my story, as horrible as it is, could always be worse.

More important are the three ways that helped me find peace after my son’s death.

I Wrote. 

Even before Paul died, I started writing about him and his bipolar disorder. Journaling got out the frustrations of dealing with his episodes, hospitalizations, and erratic behavior, and I continued my journaling after he died. I also took classes through UCLA Extension’s writing program, a private instructor in Los Angeles, and at workshops at my healing place, Esalen in Big Sur, CA. This material and my new-found passion for writing poetry became grist for my memoir. Writing helped me recover, and it enabled me to keep Paul’s memory alive.

I Worked. 

I rehired into the company I had retired from in the mid-1990s. My job as a proposal manager was challenging, meaningful, and very stressful. Having to meet stringent deadlines, kept my mind on the job rather than on my feelings. Work helped get me through the hardest of times.

I Sought Out Diversions. 

Through all these years, I’ve learned to fill up my time with diversions. I read. I watch movies. My husband and I go to the theater and opera. We travel. In addition, I pamper myself – workouts at the gym, long walks on the beach, Pilates, Yoga, facials, Botox, anti-aging creams, manicures, pedicures, massages. It feels good, helps me look good, and boosts my mood. Taking care of myself has become tantamount to my survival.

Learn more about Madeline Sharples on her blog: Choices , her website and at The Red Room

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Friday, June 10, 2011

The Blessings of Mother Earth

"For Everything There Is a Season..."

As I walk each morning, I have come to appreciate the beauty the Creator surrounds us in.  Watching the changes of the seasons over the past few weeks, gives new understanding of how amazing Mother Earth is.  A short time, two months to be exact, life here looked dismal.  Today, it is vibrant with growth, and birdsong.  We have so much to be grateful for in this life!

The following photos show the progression of the seasons here in and around the Enchanted Cottage.

April - sudden glimpses of new life

Enchanted Cottage

One of our many gardens

Garden at the front of the house

Striped pansy!

Spring coming to the neighbors farm

Entrance to a Neighbor's Garden

Fields Waiting for the Plow

May - splashes of color everywhere

 Tulips and Daffodils Brighten the Path

Path to the Fire Pit

New Flower Bed in Progress

Kitchen Garden

Garden at the Front of the House

The PGM Rhododendron in its Glory

View of Our Neighbor's Fields from the Mountain

Tulips and Grape Hyacinths Dress up Sign

June - lush growth everywhere

 Enchanted Cottage in Bloom

Roses after the Rain

New Garden Sprouting Forth

 Kitchen Garden coming to Life

 Old Fashioned Wild Rose

Neighbor's Farm Stand Up and Running

 Entry to Neighbor's Garden

 Contemplative Angel in Neighbor's Garden

Corduroy Corn Fields

Neighbor's Field with Horses in the Background

Watching the progression of the seasons brings acute awareness of how fragile, sacred and beautiful the natural world around us is.  May we all remember that, "For everything there is a season," and strive to preserve, protect and heal this Earth, our Mother.

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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Center of Calm

Vermont College--College Hall Image via Wikipedia

 Vermont College Quad - Site of the Council of All Beings

This past week, I spent an amazing day with some of the Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers. The Grandmothers are a group of indigenous elders from around the world, who come together to teach peace, understanding among people and healing of ourselves and Mother Earth.
The trip to see them was unexpected, as I had learned only a week before of their visit to Vermont.  I traveled up to Vermont with two dear friends, who also were eager to hear and see the Grandmothers.

As we walked across the beautiful campus of Vermont College to the site of the Sacred Fire, the sun was shining.  People from around the world were gathering around the Sacred Fire. As the fire was being lit, the wind picked up.  Clouds billowed high and dark around us.  Only the sky overhead stayed blue.  

Earlier in the day, I wrote to the woman who was one of the organizers to ask if there was still space available for the day's program.  She had written back immediately to assure me that we would be able to join in the program.  She prefaced her remarks with, "Pray the rain stops."  As soon as I read the email, I offered a prayer that the rain would not hamper the Grandmothers' celebration.

As the Sacred Fire began to blaze, the clouds got darker and higher; however, they remained around us. Thunder rumbled. In the distance, we could see lightening.  For the Native Peoples gathered, the thunder beings were greeting the Grandmothers.  

As we prepared to offer prayers at the fire, a little rain fell -  just enough to anoint everyone.  It was as if the Creator was throwing Holy Water on us all.

For the remainder of the day, the weather was glorious, even though the forecast was predicting rain.
Image via Wikipedia
 Grandmothers Bernadette, Margaret & Aggie Pilgrim

At the end of the opening ceremonies, my friends and I were blessed with an invitation to join the Talking Circle with the Grandmothers as well as to share a meal with them.  Again, this was completely unexpected.  Our gratitude continues to spill forth.

Just before we ate, we heard about the tornadoes in Springfield, Massachusetts, where my friends and other at the gathering lived.  Everyone called home; thankfully, all were safe.

We arrived back in Massachusetts quite late.  In the morning, the devastation caused by the tornadoes became evident.  Many homes were destroyed, trees were torn from their roots, and power lines lie dangerously on the streets.  Many people are still without electricity.  Some are without homes to live in.  


As I sat, yesterday, meditating on Thursday's visit with the Grandmothers, I wondered how we could have had such glorious weather where we were all gathered, yet, a few hundred miles away, our brothers and sisters were suffering great destruction.  

Someone commented that it was the energy of the Grandmothers that kept us all safe and out of harm's way.  Perhaps.  The Grandmothers do have a connection to Spirit that is highly advanced.  They have been sharing their energy for healing and peace work individually and collectively for years, now.  

I don't know the answer.  But, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to spend time with the Grandmothers.  I am grateful that all my friends who live in Springfield are safe, their homes untouched by the fierce winds and flying debris.  I am grateful that we live in a land where the Grandmothers can unite others, inspire them and speak their truths without fear.

One thing I learned on Thursday.  Our lives don't always go as expected.  There are times when terrible trauma and events beyond our control can bring fear and terror into our lives.  However, if we are connected to Spirit, if we place our hearts and minds in the hands of the Creator, we become the center of calm around which the storms of life blow.  

Within the center, we are able to see what needs to be done.  We are able to gather resources, even if the only resource we have is prayer.  We are able to face the days ahead with the knowledge that all will be well, in spite of destruction, disease, trauma or other negative forces.

In the center of the storm, we can shine our light, guiding others to safe harbor.

Many thanks to all who organized the Council of All Beings and the visit with the Grandmothers.  Aho.


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