WORDS FOR MARCH

Story: a painting by six year-old artist Grace Halmshaw

I. THE FINISH LINE

Paul Kalanithi’s message to his infant daughter, written mere weeks before his death:

“ There is perhaps only one thing to say to this infant, who is all future, overlapping briefly with me, whose life, barring the improbable, is all but past.

The message is simple:

When you come to one of the many moments in life where you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does  not hunger for more and more but rests, satisfied. In this time, that is an enormous thing.”

 

Aging is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.”   -David Bowie

II. WHO WE ARE

The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering. ”
Ben Okri

Hiatus:
A painting by six year-old artist Iris Grace Halmshaw

III. THE WRITTEN WORD

I still believe in man in spite of man. I believe in language even though it has been wounded, deformed, and perverted by the enemies of mankind. And I continue to cling to words because it is up to us to transform them into instruments of comprehension rather than contempt. It is up to us to choose whether we wish to use them to curse or to heal, to wound or to console.”
Elie Wiesel, Open Heart

***

In a secular age, I suspect that reading fiction is one of the few remaining paths to transcendence, that elusive state in which the distance between the self and the universe shrinks. Reading fiction makes me lose all sense of self, but at the same time makes me feel most uniquely myself.”

-Ceridwen Dovey, “Can Reading Make You Happier?”

***

The poetry dispensary doesn’t fit into any framework for “ordinary relationships.” It is not therapy, though I’m a psychotherapist. It’s not friendship or teaching. Is healing happening? Art? At once, playful and deeply serious, it’s a performance and exchange. I rely on people’s willingness to share their stories. I rely on the poem to reflect what might not be articulated any other way. Though its efficacy is uncharted, I rely on it the way you rely on art to do something when you need something nothing else can do.

– Ronna Bloom, “On Prescribing Poems for the Sick, the Dying, the Grief Stricken”

Anima:
A painting by six year-old artist Iris Grace Halmshaw

Final week in “Christian’s London” Part 3: PORTOBELLO ROAD !!

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Do you know the lyrics to “Portobello Road” from the movie Bedknobs and Broomsticks?

I remembered the tune straight off, and the first couple of lines, but I had to look the rest up.

They proved to be absolutely true:

Portobello road, Portobello road
Street where the riches of ages are stowed.
Anything and everything a chap can unload
Is sold off the barrow in Portobello road.
                                                You’ll find what you want in the Portobello road …

Christian actually took me to Portobello Road twice: once on a week day, on a kind of reconnaissance mission (and a night out at The Electric Diner that I’ll never forget), and then again on a Saturday afternoon, when it transforms itself into a legendary street bazaar that stretches as far as the eye can see, over the heads of  hundreds and hundreds of happy, jabbering visitors, shoppers and gawkers.

September 27th Facebook post:

Christian took me once again to Portobello Road,  a place that is the best of London in its energy, its openness, it’s eccentricity, and most especially in the way that Londoners and visitors from around the world intermingle there with ferocious energy and spirit.

We shopped with success! We tried to take in every sight and sound and smell (as well as a few tastes). We felt part of something great!

*****

 

In fact, Christian steered me through the roiling multicolored human river as though from the prow of a ship. I don’t remember ever feeling as delighted and safe in a crowd.

It was the best of times.