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moments of wonderSometimes my breath catches

Somewhere near my throat

And my heart leaps up

In there too

So my breath

And my heart

Mingle and touch

Like a little bit of heaven

With a whole lot of earth

Like a veil pushed aside

Or ripped from top to hem

And I see clearly

Or maybe not so clear

The transient moments of life

Weaved with the eternal essence of love

The poignant blend

Catches in my spirit

In my throat

Makes my heart leap

And spirit, soul, heart

Me

Mingle and wonder if that isn’t

Perhaps

The way it’s meant to be

 

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A Comparison of “Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost and “Storm Warnings” by Adrienne Rich

In “Storm Warnings” and “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” nature is an overarching theme. In both works, the poets write of nature as a powerful force that mankind cannot control; each writer uses different aspects of nature to bring out their theme in unique and poignant ways. Nature is portrayed as ephemeral, fleeting and unpredictable, yet also showing strains of predictability in its repeated cycles and seasons; the reader can infer the implications of nature bearing similarities to mankind as a whole as well as to the individual. Both Robert Frost and Adrienne Rich seem to respect the power and magnificence of nature at the same time that they recognize in its deeper elements certain parallels with humanity. True to the general personality of poetry, “Storm Warnings” and “Nothing Gold Can Stay” can be taken at face value or delved into more deeply to unearth symbolic truths of a figurative nature.

“Storm Warnings” by Adrienne Rich weaves together a message that nature cannot be controlled by writing of two related concepts – the weather of the heart and weather in nature at large. Neither form of weather is completely predictable, nor are they controllable. Weather in nature, the poem points out, has been charted and can be predicted by the dropping of the “glass” – the barometer – but it still cannot be controlled: “Between foreseeing and averting change / Lies all the mastery of elements” (ll. 15-16). Breaking the barometer cannot destroy the oncoming storm, just as destroying a clock cannot stop time, as Rich points out in the following lines: “Time in the hand is not control of time / Nor shattered fragments of an instrument / A proof against the wind; the wind will rise” (ll. 18-20). The poem seems to speak of the inability to have power over elements of nature, no matter how much humanity might make such attempts.

The narrator of the poem appears well aware of the weather that can sweep the land, and is wise to the knowledge that her only defense against the onslaught of nature is closing the doors and remaining protected or barricaded inside with the lines, “We can only close the shutters / … / This is our sole defense against the season” (ll. 21, 26). Even then, increment elements seep through the keyhole, an ominous portrayal that mankind cannot completely control any part of nature – neither weather nor time. Adrienne Rich writes of man’s learning to cope with the weather as a way to almost “settle” with mankind’s inability to control the elements of nature.

“Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost also speaks of the uncontainable authority of nature, yet brings out a different idea than Adrienne Rich’s poem. Frost’s work speaks of the ephemeral elements of life by using parallels in nature – its “gold” that is the blossom of spring and the perfect dawn of a day: “Nature’s first green is gold, / Her hardest hue to hold. / Her early leaf’s a flower; / But only so an hour” (ll. 1-4). The poem rings of the poignant character of all things earthly, which seem to fade almost before their time. The implication is not only those transient elements in nature, but also within the fleeting lives of humanity, which come and go so quickly.

The poem by Frost also brings in religious undertones when referring to the Garden of Eden and its perfection at the dawn of humanity; yet its’ eventual sinking to grief, bespeaking the fate of nature itself, with the lines, “Then leaf subsides to leaf. / So Eden sank to grief” (ll. 5-6). Nothing man can do would have the power to change this; the unspoken message of Frost’s poem seems to be that it would be useless to try to wrest nature to serve one’s own purposes, for “nothing gold can stay” (ll. 8). The poem seems almost sad in its portrayal that nothing gold within nature is lasting or eternal.

Both “Storm Warnings” and “Nothing Gold Can Stay” utilize similar themes of the power of nature and its pervasive influence upon humanity in spite of mankind’s manifold abilities and progressing technologies. The idea or message at first glance almost cheerless, yet an underlying significance can be wrought from both poems. This more hopeful undertone whispers of the ability of both nature and man to be recreated in a way that is also uncontrollable and almost beyond understanding. Nothing gold can stay, yet each new day another dawn rises; each new season welcomes the “gold” of blossoms and spring’s unique beauty. In “Storm Warnings,” although people who live in such “troubled regions” (ll. 28) batten down the hatches and hole up in protection against oncoming storms – of nature or of the heart – the unspoken truth is that the storm will pass. The sun will be seen once again … or hope will rise once more.

Although both poems convey the power of nature to destroy or be destroyed, to fail and fade with the passing of time, both can also be taken with the hope that nature always cycles around to rebirth and renewal. However, when the storms loom low and fierce, and when dawn gives way to a day that scorches the sky, it is difficult for anyone – poet and pessimist alike – to see beyond the harsh and inclement parts of nature. At such times, as Rich writes, one can only “Draw the curtains as the sky goes black / And set a match to candles sheathed in glass” (ll. 22-23). Her words give credence to the idea that – whether someone is facing the storms of nature or of the heart – there is always something to do to welcome a little bit of light, a fleeting glimpse of gold, into one’s life as protection against complete despair.

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broken heart mendedA thousand broken promises

As many shattered dreams

You wish that you could find somewhere to cry

But you must put on a smile

And keep it there a while

No one permits you to ask the question, why

 

Endurance now a trademark

And sorrow still your cloak

You try to brave the storm and fiercest gales

Raindrops mingle with your tears

Which have seemed to fall for years

Each one telling their own sad and lonely tales

 

Dreams no longer now a hope

Just an effort to cling and cope

As a fragile cry pours from your spirit

It seems all that you can do

Calling out that you are through

Your strength is gone. But hush now, can you hear it?

 

A voice like many waters

In the whisper of the wind

Its very sound embracing, holding tight

A gentle warmth transcending

Pouring healing, mending

Bathing you in iridescent light

 

With words soft and kind and wise

From one who heard your deepest cries

He brings peace into your very soul

Giving joy where there was pain

Cleansing guilt’s pervasive stain

The process has begun to make you whole

 

What message, though, was spoken

To a heart so deeply broken

What words brought healing to a hurting life

Words from one whose sacrifice

Paid forever the only price

Restoring hope where once was hate and strife

 

“Some disappoint

And some bring pain

And some will break their promises and vows

Although it stings

The hurt it brings

Is something that my love and plan allows

 

I have a plan

And it will span

Beyond the threshold of this passing time

Love will endure

And all that’s pure

And one day you will see my perfect rhyme

 

‘Til then, believe

You will receive

Grace to keep upon the path you tread

When your strength wanes

And life brings pain

Do not forget the things that I have said

 

My love is ever near

My peace will cast out fear

My presence in your life will ne’er depart

My promise is for you

It will hold forever true

For I will never, ever break your heart”

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double rainbow in cloudsEvery cloud is silver lined,

Or so the stories say,

But how and why, I sadly pined,

My best friend passed away,

Does the cloud reach out a hand,

To dry a tear-stained face?

Turn the hourglass so the sand

Returns from its pain-filled place?

No, said a voice within my heart,

It cannot do these things,

But it shows that though raindrops start,

There’s one who sees all things,

Perhaps the storm will pass your way,

Quench your joy in chilling wrath,

But when again the sunbeams play,

You’ll find more illumined your morning’s path,

For as your tears awaken your soul,

And cleanse your heart from errant ways,

As the heartbreak makes you whole,

A treasure on your path now lays,

And as you walk the way that’s shown,

You’ll find the storm left in its wake,

A treasure that you sought to own,

But from another could not take,

Treasures of love that come only through pain,

Treasure of joy only sorrow can bring,

Treasure of peace through the wind and the rain,

Treasure of flight, like a bird on the wing,

Delight in the treasures laid on your path,

For only therein may your heart awake,

It is in love and not through wrath,

That nobler form your trail take,

And when your heart seeks for the joy,

Evoking serenity through pain,

When deepest dreams you will employ,

Realized only after the storm and rain,

Hidden truth your thoughts expose,

And lift them as diamonds from a cave,

As thorns would hide a lovely rose,

Yet a lover’s hand would risk to save,

Thus see the yonder morning’s glow,

As radiant light outshines the storm,

Lift your eyes to colored bow,

Take in the iridescent form,

Let your gait hold steady now,

As the morning’s path you tread,

Not seeking shallow joys somehow,

But treasure you’ll find instead.

(Written in 1999, dedicated to Trina)

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It was mid-July when I heard some great news: the family I had traveled with to India and had been staying with were planning to move to Lonavla. They invited me to come along and I jumped at the chance. They had found a bungalow outside of town, and we planned to move in early August.

Besides this family, another young couple with a newborn baby planned to move with us. They were good friends of mine and I was happy about this turn of events.

We traveled back and forth between Mumbai and Lonavla over the next couple of weeks—cleaning, packing and moving. We arrived just in time for monsoon, the rainy season. I loved the magical feeling of rain falling all around, green fields and hills in every direction. The walks and hikes we took were great fun and full of discovery. We often made it home just in time to watch the afternoon downpour from the safety of our cozy home; we didn’t always make it back in time, though, and ended up looking as if “the bridge fell in.”

After a couple of weeks, Jonathan and his family asked if I would be willing to return to Mumbai for a couple of weeks to help with a couple of projects. Of course I agreed. The couple of weeks passed quickly, involved in projects and programs for the underprivileged.

Mid-August found everyone back in Mumbai to celebrate India’s Independence Day together. We had been invited to a friend’s house for dinner. “I could get used to this,” I remember saying to a friend over the dinner, which was arguably the tastiest food I ever had; it ended with fresh mangoes and vanilla ice cream—still a favorite of mine.

The family was returning to Lonavla the evening of August 18—my seventeenth birthday. I had originally planned to return with them, but a friend asked if I could stay on in Mumbai for one more week, to plan her mom’s birthday. So I stayed an extra week…it passed very slowly. The highlight of that time was a birthday card and letter from my best friend. She hadn’t forgotten my birthday, and I was so happy to hear from her.

It was at the end of the week that I got the phone call, which came from Lonavla, letting me know that my best friend had passed away. (Read the full story, “We Shared a Heart”)

Two days after that, I was still reeling from the shock when the young couple returned to Mumbai, on their way to the airport. Their newborn baby wasn’t granted a visa, so they had to return to the States.

I wished I could go back to Lonavla right then, but there had been a misunderstanding and those I had been staying with in Lonavla were under the impression that I had wanted to stay in Mumbai for good. They wouldn’t be able to pick me up for another two weeks.

It’s not easy to describe how I felt during those couple of weeks. My best friend had died; any other close friends or family were thousands of miles away. I felt every comfort had been removed and the familiar ground pulled from beneath my feet.

Had I done something wrong? Did I make a big mistake somewhere along the line to bring me to where I was now standing (and felt like falling)? Why was everything crumbling apart around me? I had nothing to hold on to, and I never felt so alone. I wanted to call my mom—to whom I could always talk and find some form of comfort—but she was away from home at the time and I didn’t have a phone number to reach her.

I had only one place to turn. It’s strange—almost funny if it weren’t so pitiful—how, when everything is going fine, we find it difficult to draw close to the only one who is always with us. Yet it was at this time that I grew to a deeper understanding of God’s grace and the depth of His love, a comfort that could only be felt through deep sorrow and a peace that could only be understood through great turmoil of spirit.

I realized that no matter how alone I might feel, how far from friends and family I was, how distant from the comforts in which I always found solace—I still wasn’t alone. Beyond feeling, I knew that there was a purpose. Perhaps it would take time to find it. Perhaps there would come more sorrow and difficulty. Perhaps the path of life would be just that—a path—with rocks and boulders and hills, rocky and cold mountains, lonely and sunless valleys.

I knew I was meant to walk the path and I knew where the path led. One day the path will eventually lead to a home where no tears will again dim the eye, where pain will finally be drowned out in abiding joy. Yet I knew that as long as I traveled this road, I would not be home, because there were still many things to experience, learn and understand upon this path. Sometimes I would feel I walked the road alone, and sometimes I would have those beside me with whom I finally felt at home. The journey beckoned, and I was only just beginning.

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misty sky over forest and hills

Future: unknown, exciting, foreboding, yet beautiful

One old, large suitcase that couldn’t decide whether it was red or purple… Maybe it had known in years past but by the time it came my way, it had lost its sense of identity.

One steel-string guitar, with colors deeper and richer than any tune I ever played on it—complete with a plush lined black case. I remember the day I spent with my dad as he drove from one music store to the next helping me to choose the perfect instrument. The fact that I didn’t play guitar was non-essential at the moment. I planned to learn and anyway, I had to spend my babysitter money somehow before making the “big trip”.

One green backpack, lined with brown leather. You just got a feeling it was worthy of the name. I still own it and it’s still my preferred bag for any journey.

Each piece of luggage was stuffed to the full, to where I and a friend had to sit on my suitcase while another person finally managed to zip it.

Then there was me. I knew what I wanted to do with my life, but how to do it was another matter entirely. I knew where I was going, but what to focus on once there was beyond me.

Just a few months before the journey, I had been thinking of different friends and siblings, comparing myself with them—as we all know we shouldn’t do but most of us do anyway. My perception of myself became smaller with each person I considered.

She sings and plays guitar.

He’s great with people and always knows what to say.

She writes beautiful poetry.

He has an awesome sense of humor, and is an artist to boot.

I was familiar with the story of the talents in the Bible. My question at the moment was, what about the person who didn’t have any? Like not a single one. What are they supposed to do? I had placed myself in that lonely and disadvantaged category, and I did not know the answer.

I made it through the first week or so in India. Jet lag had been overcome, the tummy bug passed, and the toughest phase entered—culture shock. For me, it wasn’t so much as case of,

“OMG! Is that a cow walking down the street?”

Or:

“Seriously, that guy is peeing on the fence.”

It was more a case of, “What am I doing here and what am I hoping to accomplish?”

I have since realized something I wasn’t quite aware of at the time—a part of my personality. I think ahead, like, way ahead. I always like to have things planned for way in advance. I remember when I was seven and my parents told me we would be taking a camping trip. I packed 26 days in advance, taking my toothbrush out of my backpack every morning and evening for the next three weeks. It’s not always a conscious thing, but I run through tasks mentally in my head, or the step-by-step plan of what I will do that day.

Having just arrived in India, I didn’t know what was next. I knew we would be involved in projects. A part of me was happy just learning new things and experiencing life. Another part of me was reeling through space, not knowing what the future held, and not sure I would be able to just wait around to find out. I realized that I didn’t have a choice but the feeling of “not knowing” was disconcerting.

Other things took some getting used to as well, which just compounded the perpetual hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach. I was used to the dry heat of California’s central valley, not the extreme humidity of Bombay. My nature took to wide open spaces and I found the density and congestion of the city suffocating. I loved the blue sky and clouds of every color. When I went to the roof, no matter what time of day, it seemed as if an artist had made a photocopy error and created the vast expanse in “grayscale”.

“Give it six months,” a friend told me. I can do that, I told myself.

Little did I know my experiences over the next six months would leave my emotions stretched thin to the point of drooping, and then squeezed back again into a tight wad, like a piece of silly putty in the hands of an experimenting child.

Or maybe it was akin to something else. Maybe it was like a piece of clay in the hands of a potter, who had a particular creation in mind, but had to start with the squeezing and molding before he could get into the shaping, polishing and finishing.

After all, He doesn’t give the talents we think we need or that we are sure we deserve. He gives us what He knows we need, when He knows we need it most and will decide to use it for a greater purpose than we might originally understand or plan, to make for an exciting and wonderful future.

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ice cream dipped in chocolate

It was vacation time, and my husband and I were driving with some coworkers to a beach resort for a greatly anticipated week of relaxation and fun. It was a sixteen-hour drive from our city to our destination; although we started before the sun was up, by noon we were not even halfway there. Our car recently had an overhaul so we couldn’t use the air-con, and it was getting hot, really hot! Our co-workers had three young sons, and the long car ride was starting to get to them a little. After one too many “Are we there yet?”s, we decided it was time for a break.

 

We found a roadside restaurant and got a round of coffee to keep us awake and a round of ice cream for the kids to keep them happy. Jerry, the youngest, had just turned three. He was so eager to pick out what ice cream he wanted: vanilla dipped in chocolate, on a stick.

 

“He is going to make a mess,” cautioned one of the parents.

 

The other one said, “It’s okay. This is the one he wanted, let him enjoy it.”

 

With great interest we watched the race between Jerry and the heat. Jerry clutched his ice cream with both hands, trying his best to eat it before it all melted. The hard chocolate covering kept up a strong pretense, while the vanilla ice cream inside slowly melted away, dripping down his arms and onto the plate. The more it dripped, the tighter he held it. Finally, the chocolate shell couldn’t stand the pressure; it imploded, leaving a mound of melted mess, and a little crying boy, distraught at his loss. His mother picked him up, wiped away his tears and cleaned the mess. She set him down again, this time with a bowl of ice cream and a spoon. A wiser choice, we all agreed.

 

As we continued our drive, I thought about the significance of that event. How many times have I had a dream, a desire, or something that filled my entire focus? I was sure that it was the right thing for me and would make me happy.

 

I can now picture an angel or wiser being telling God, “Don’t give it to her; she’ll make a mess,” and then God replying,

 

“Let her make her decision; she’s old enough.”

 

Then when I later find myself holding a pile of broken dreams that shattered (or melted) around me as I tightly clung to them, He picks me up, wipes away my tears, and gives me that thing that He wanted to give me all along, that thing which was actually better for me, but in my intense focus, I didn’t even give a second glance.

 

I finally take what He has to offer, and I realize that it was really what I wanted all along or something better than I could have even hoped for. After all, having created me, and all good things, He would know best what I need in my life, wouldn’t He?

 

So, will it be vanilla or chocolate? Next time, I’ll try to get His advice before making my decision.

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