My Life As Compost!
This thought popped into my mind yesterday as I was being given Reiki by a dear friend and colleague of mine. My life should be looked at as compost! At first this made me laugh. Where did this idea come from?? What this means (I think) is that the beauty of my life, of everyone's life, is that we have stories to share, lots of stories and that as we share stories, our life experiences can be used as fertilizer for everyone else! As I write and put forth stories, experiences, and things that I have learned, let them have wings and go forth sending seeds of ideas, understanding, love and connectedness everywhere. So if I write about something that you really like, find interesting or meaningful, please feel free to share it anywhere! Post it, blog it or tweet it. What I write I let go of to have a life and a meaning of its own to whomever wants to read it. I have always felt that life was a seed to enrich the world with. Someone once told me that the universe is a very economical place....nothing goes to waste.
I had lunch with a dear friend today who told me that it was also a sacred teaching to spread your life story and experiences for others to learn from and perhaps to save someone else from the pain and trouble of a bad mistake. The Dalai Lama has said that one of the aspects of the horrific invasion of Tibet by China was that it spread the wisdom and sacred knowledge of Buddhism to the Western world. Before China invaded Tibet all their sacred wisdom was held in secret, protected and not available to the West. After the invasion Tibetan people had to immigrate to places around the world and brought their practices with them. Now look at us. So many people have been exposed to these sacred teachings we can hardly remember a time when Buddhism was not part of the mainstream and used as a tool for building and sustaining the healing aspects of mindfulness, meditation and compassion.
One of my fondest hopes is that my life and the incredible journey of living that I have been on will be of use to others to read about. We spend so much time during our lives locked up in our own heads and hearts. There are so many things we could share with each other but stop short of doing that. Why? Some of us like the privacy of not sharing, some us can't find the right words or time to write them or feel uncomfortable speaking them and some of us just forget how important life is and that it is a gift meant to be shared, at least that is my philosophy. I feel that everything that happens to us is meant to be shared and put into the great compost pile of life to add to other stories so we can all learn together. This is what life is about, to share big and small stories that connect and hold us. I realize this is not a new or original idea. Storytellers and sacred scripture have been doing this since the dawn of time first through oral history, music, cave drawings etc. But for me I have learned the most when the story is an unpolished heart felt attempt to share one person's life with another. So here I go, with as much honesty and courage as I can muster to share my life, thoughts and journey.
I would like to dedicate this telling to my children and grandchildren so that they may have my words and life experiences to nurture themselves with and maybe see my humanity (good and not so good) more closely and know that above all that love can heal anything. To my husband John who has lighted my path with so many gifts I never thought I would ever experience: unconditional love, loyalty,companionship, forgiveness, humor and more political awareness and opinions than I thought I would ever have! To my brother, sister, nieces, nephew, spouses and cousins who have stood by me, rallied me and loved me. To my dear friends whose friendship support, love and concern for me and my family has been unwavering, courageous and pure gift .
I have been the lucky beneficiary of all these gifts and with heartfelt gratitude, appreciation and reciprocity give you all in return stories of my life. I hope you enjoy them.
I was born in Rochester New York at 1:17pm June 13, 1951. I was the the third of three children. I think my arrival was a surprise for my parents. I think this because my brother is nine years older than me and my sister five years older than me. In those days this was a fairly long time frame between kids. Add to that, that my dear brother always taunted me with "your adopted, your adopted" when I was as little as three or four and well I kind of felt like I was an accident. The next rude trick of fate was that I was named Dale. I never, ever felt this was my name.
I was told that my brother named me after of course, Dale Evans. Yikes! I was named after a cowgirl from a popular Saturday morning kids show who had a horse named Buttercup! My whole life has been over shadowed by this. First I was made fun of by kids in school because I was Roy Rogers wife. Then kids would taunt me about my horse being called Buttercup. As an adult I ran into problems because before people met me they would think I was a man. Or worse when I would call about credit card information or billing I am often asked to put my husband Dale on the phone. Or when I go to use my credit card I get questioned with " is this your husband' s credit card???" This would elicit a huge rant on my part about how proud I was to be single and self sufficient thank you very much or that I was not my husband but an independent woman named Dale.
I went through a time I wanted to change my name. With the world wide open to me after my divorce, I was free to change my first name and last name. I thought about earthy hippie names like Piari Luna. I have no idea why I thought this would be a good name except that Piari was Sanskrit for beloved and I liked that idea of being a beloved. My friend Kay from Denever nicked named me Piari Moongarden and once when I went to visit her in Denver she had me paged through the terminal "Pairi Moongarden, Piari Moongarden please come to the baggage claim". That was a seminal moment. I never called myself that again.
Growing up in Rochester, living in a two family home with my father's parents felt good to me as a kid. We lived on a street called Roycroft Drive. It was in the middle of a Polish neighborhood. I had cousins who lived in the two family next door to us. I lived for there for five years until I was 5 years old. I lived in a nice cocoon of cousins to play with and my Aunt Janet and Uncle Peter who sometimes babysat for me. My grandmother who dotted on us kids . One of the interesting features of this tiny two family house was that each side had only two bedrooms.
I shared a bedroom with my brother and sister.The three of us aged four, nine and fourteen were all in one room. My sister Lynn and I shared a bunk bed. I got the top. It sucked being on the top. Climbing the ladder wasn't always fun especially when you needed to use the bathroom at night. The good news was that I got a birds eye view of my neighbors tv set across the street in their living room through the top of the bedroom window. If my parents were watching the same tv show like Bonanza, I could follow it along easily because the tv downstairs provided the sound and my neighbors tv provided the picture. This was a great reason to go to bed and not complain. The bad news was if my father was angry at us kids, which happened off and on he might chase us upstairs threatening to hit us with his belt and I was the unlucky one who would have to race up the ladder backwards to my bed to be sure he couldn't hit me so easily.
I guess that is one of the sad parts I remember about growing up. My dad was an angry guy. As the son of Polish immigrants he had a lot of demons chasing him and sometimes those demons chased us kids or our mom. I wish he could have been a happier person but he was more inclined to rant and rave when dealing with his stress and fears.
Recently I looked at our two family home on Google Maps. I think the address is 172 Roycroft Drive. It is a very run down scary neighborhood now. The beautiful garden my grandmother planted and weeded on the weekends no longer exists. The shed my grandfather built for my brother, sister and I with a slab of concrete announcing "This is the Home of Gary, Lynn and Dale" has cracked and most likely discarded years ago. I do know that the three of us loved that shed/playhouse even if grandpa kept his push lawn mower and sprinkling can in it. The inside of the little shed always smelled of cut grass, metal blades and the oil can that was kept in the corner. The back yard also had a double bench wooden glider swing. It was painted red. My father loved this swing and often at night in the summer would go out and just glide back and forth on it. If I went out and sat with him he might croon "skeeters are a hummin on a honeysuckle vine, sleep Kentucky babe". it is an old lullaybye from the South made popular again by Dean Martin back in the 50's. It was a world of dichotomies as most worlds are.
I do have a few good memories of my Dad. My brother and I discuss this point over and over again. My sister and I saw or felt more deeply our father's rage and demons when they came out. But one thing I have learned being one of three children is that everyone of us has a different and unique experience growing up in the family.
I have great memories of my grandmother. She loved to take my sister and I shopping on Saturdays. We would walk with her the several blocks to the city bus stop. Grandma was a tough little Polish woman who was a tailor for a local company that made high end men's clothes. She always dressed well and wore high heeled shoes with seams in the back of her stockings. No matter how far we had to walk grandma always wore these shoes. It was the fashion of the day and she wanted to be fashionably proper. Her shoes made a loud click click sound and you could always hear her coming by her walk.
She loved to shop for hours at the department stores with us. Anything my sister and I touched or looked at she insisted on buying for us. It was crazy! We would say, "grandma no I don't need that. I was just looking at that." and she would say in her highly accented English,"no Leennie, no Dalee I want to buys this for youse. How much eeze it?". Grandma was a trip! We loved her but feared looking sideways at anything in the stores because she really would buy us anything we showed the slightest interest in. Often whatever she bought us she told us not to show or mention it to our grandfather. That was a little tricky since we lived practically in the same house. She and my grandfather always fought like cats and dogs. She mostly won the fights always ending up calling him a "diablo" which I guess is Polish for "the devil". The fights were always kind of funny to us kids because they were in Polish and didn't seem too serious. Grandpa would always steam out of the room knowing he had lost the battle and go to the basement and fix things at his work bench. Grandma would go to the kitchen and make pork chops or Polish sausage and then invite us over for dinner.
The truth be told I felt more at home in my grandmother's side of the house then the side I lived on. My parents fought too but it was in English and not as funny. I remember one Sunday dinner my mother served a steak. A big family sized monster. It was not an expensive cut of meat. My father was in charge of carving it. He got so made at the steak, the knife and my mother for buying the tough piece of meat that he stabbed it with the fork and flung it at the wall were it stuck for a few seconds and then slid slowly down the grey and green leafy wallpaper covered wall to the floor. Now that was funny but no one laughed that I remember.
So I lived in this Polish microcosm with parents, siblings,grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles and Polish speaking neighbors until I was five. Then we moved out of the city and into the suburbs. It was the spring of 1957. It was the beginning of a new kind of life. There was lots to learn.