Yesterday was a false start. Or a false ending, rather, as dad didn’t make it to the crematorium. Like any other business, it too has its busy days, and I guess, as the old joke goes, yesterday, folks were ‘just dying to get in’. So I took the opportunity to arrange for the obituaries, making sure his name was correct, the date of death as we wanted (and not as it must legally be forever recorded), and of course, making sure everything was paid for. Amazing the costs involved. A small fortune just to run the obits. “This is a long piece” one woman at a paper warned me. Yeah, and dad had a long, full life. Can’t skimp now. Gotta share as much as I can. With the papers taken care of and other tiny distractions we made it through our day, but the phone call never came. That last call from the undertaker, the siren of that final trip, it never came. So I find myself here, on the morning of New Year’s Eve, my brother’s birthday, and the final day of the year, awaiting the news. It’s still something I dread, and if I think too much about it find my heart beginning to beat faster and harder. Still his beautiful hands lie folded on his chest, still he looks as he did. By tonight, by the time I’m on the train platform welcoming my young son back into my arms, my father’s body will have been transformed…

This blog feels to be getting a bit tedious by now; just how much pondering of one subject, no matter how important to me personally, is too much? It kinda feels like I’m pushing things here. But since I mean to document my adventure through life accurately, and since I am still living through this event, I’ll continue, in hopes that it doesn’t put people off. And if it does, skip it. I’m writing more for my own healing than for anyone’s amusement at this point. But if you’ll stay with me for one more paragraph, you may be uplifted to read what follows shortly….

As I was checking the stats this morning, I saw that an old post – a writing that even predates this blog – had been read. I remember that night, that journal entry. I remember Elihu singing to Mr. Roosevelt, his giant red rooster, downstairs in the office. He’d been trying to draw him, and was coaxing him to relax, to stay put, to allow Elihu a moment of stillness. Luckily, I’d had pen and paper and was able to scribble down what Elihu had been saying to his bird. My son often speaks like this. He is a thoughtful, loving and reverential boy. But it’s not often that I’m equipped to take down his wisdom as I was that evening. I feel lucky. And, in reading my young son’s words (he was six when he spoke them) I take comfort from them. His words speak to me, to my father, to the feeling of love and peace that must await us in that next world… Somehow, it almost feels as if my father has gently directed me to re-discover these innocent, healing words.

Elihu, age six, speaking to his rooster…

I come in peace, I come in peace, you can relax, I am coming to be with you in peace

To know your soul, I’m coming in peace. I come to warm your soul and to warm the soul of the earth

I come to warm the face of planet earth, I come in peace, sit and relax and do not worry

I come in peace, I mean no harm. I really don’t. Sit and relax by my side.

As soon as I’d entered the last line above, the phone rang. The funeral director told me that dad had left, and was now on his was to Bennington. And at noon, he said, we should be ready with that glass of wine… Here we go. Here goes dad, and here comes the conclusion to one part of the journey. And hopefully with it, comfort and peace.

Big Year

I’m feeling the need to write some sort of summation, some sort of re-cap of this past year. There’s just so much to remember… too much. Lots of people we know and love have died. That’s the first thing I think of. The world didn’t end. That’s the second thing I think of. And it just continues to go on and on…. that’s what I think next. So what do we take away from 2012? I’m not exactly sure. But I do think something new is underway…

I do think we’ve turned a corner, that energetically we as a species have changed our trajectory, but I admit, it doesn’t necessarily look that way from today, New Year’s Eve, 2012. There’s been plenty of violence, pain and ignorance this past year to make it seem as if it’s business as usual on this silly planet. Yet still, I believe – call me naive if you like, I’ll accept that – that we as humans are no longer on the downswing. There is now a critical mass of people on this earth who share a witness to the corruption and inequity all around us. There has never before been a time in history when so many are so educated and informed about the world in which they live. And although the number of folks in communication with each other thru social media and other devices may still represent a minority of the planet’s population, I believe the global trend is moving towards mass connection on an order we can’t quite envision even today. I dunno. Could be incredibly optimistic here. Maybe. But maybe not. May as well keep hopes up, keep expectations high.

For me personally, this year meant the end to my four year divorce process. I also got my first real job in a decade. I quit smoking in earnest too. No more bummed smokes here and there to take the edge off of life. Took the death of a friend to get me there, but I made it. So this year has been good. Heartbreaking, poignant, but solidly good and forward-moving. I’m surprised, however, that I don’t find myself in the high spirits I thought I might be today – could simply be that my son is gone and my house has taken on a quiet, solitary mood. Could be that my day to day reality still seems like a challenge; the magic of the coming New Year doesn’t necessarily mean it will be any easier to resist a smoke, workout daily or miss things and people absent from my life.

I’ve said it before and I say it again now, this is a tough planet on which to live. In order to try and help us all along here, I’m going to do my very best to right the wrongs I’ve committed, to take the hopeful path when doubt arises, and if all else fails, watch a Monty Python skit if I just can’t wrest myself out of a hopeless funk. !

It’s been a big year, yet the future’s much bigger still. I wish for us all the very best and brightest adventures ahead…


“So what is Memorial Day really about?” Elihu asked me yesterday. Hmm. I gave him the simple answer for the time being, and told him it was a day on which we remembered the people from our country who served, fought and sometimes died in the wars. A churning of conflicting thoughts on the subject began inside me. I needed to get to this one. I needed to express my feelings to him, as mixed as they are, on war and the culture around it. For now it would wait, but this conversation would happen soon.

The Fourth of July, Memorial Day and such patriotic occasions always bring forth a swirling mix of ‘yes, buts’ in my mind. Yes, we should remember, bless and thank the people who served, but weren’t these wars for the most part just crazy, vain and wasted efforts created by a few insane leaders? When my son was born, we’d just stepped into the mire of a fresh new war. I remember being on bed rest in the final days of my pregnancy, lying on the couch and watching in disbelief as bombs were dropped in the far-away Middle East on cities and towns that no doubt contained women just like me, in the last stretch of their own pregnancies. I was stunned and heartsick. My baby would be born as a new war began. Shock and awe indeed.

Shortly after Elihu was born I had a what folks these days like to refer to as ‘a light bulb moment’. It was more of a paradigm shift, really. Now holding in my arms a tiny babe, a creature that manifested pure vulnerability and love, I could no longer remotely even begin to justify – or understand – war.  I watched George W. on the screen and searched for the father in his eyes. How must he have felt the moment he first beheld his two tiny daughters? Did his heart truly stir with that certain, specific and intense love that only one’s own child can inspire? And if he did understand that love, as I’m sure he must have, did his own feelings about the children everywhere in the world not profoundly change as well? I mean, just how can he possibly sanction the bombing of a community that will no doubt result in the absolute terror and physical pain of young children, and the loss of their beloved parents?? As a parent it was sealed for me now. I could no longer accept the need for war. I could no longer justify the injury or death of innocent people – of any people. I could no longer keep their tender humanity vague, fuzzy and cloaked by geographical distance. Everyone, every last person, is someone’s baby.

When I lived in Dekalb, Illinois I would attend the town’s Fourth of July celebration in their beautiful municipal park, on the sweeping lawn under the canopy of ancient elms and oaks. The beloved and white-haired band leader of the town would lead the orchestra under the large, clam shelled roof of the bandstand. Fireworks would accompany the final number, the classic 1812 Overture. Before that flashy conclusion the orchestra would perform a medley of armed forces themes. The conductor asked that those who’d served should stand and be recognized when the theme of their branch of the armed services was played. As soon as the new familiar melody sounded, men all over the audience would stand. I was amazed at my own feelings in witnessing this. It was touching, it was tearful, it was good. I wondered at all the personal stories behind these figures. At the conclusion of the theme, the audience would clap for these heroes, and then they would sit, to be followed by the next group of soldiers. What really stuck with me was one man in particular. I’d passed three Fourths of July there in that park, each time in my own little spot by a certain tree from which I could easily see the stage, yet could avoid the thick of the crowd. Beside me, about twenty feet away, I would see the same man, sitting in his lawn chair, bedecked with pins and emblems on his casual summer outfit. He sat alone. He registered nothing on his face. Yet each year, when the Navy theme played, he slowly rose from his seat and placed his hand on his heart. I saw in his face, read in his entire body, a story of intensity. What his story was I will never know, but the meaning was hard and real. I watched nothing but him, as carefully and tactfully as I could so as not to make him aware of my attention. But nothing could have distracted him from the world he was reliving in that moment. The first year I saw him I was intrigued. My second year there I was happy to see him, the third year I was fascinated. Talking to people is usually quite easy for me, but as I pondered how to approach him, what to say, how to even begin, I just gave up. It just didn’t feel right. My witness was enough. Enough to honor him, enough to open me up to a world I’m usually quick to disdain.

I think of that man now each Memorial Day, each Fourth of July. Through the ether I send him my love and my gratitude for the actions he took, but mostly I thank him for the conviction of his beliefs – the sense of real purpose that inspired him to serve in spite of the fear and danger he faced. I myself believe that not one war since the Revolutionary War has been about the protection of our country’s freedom. In my mind, this man served a false cause, a reality contrived by very few, but bought, sold and believed by the multitudes. The need to protect was real for him, and so it was real on some level. But for me, war can never be real. It is a game played with living chess pieces, flesh and blood pawns that serve not their own interest, but those of the men choosing the strategies, making the rules. The only rules on our tiny planet should be to live, love, encourage the same in other creatures, and look for understanding when there is none. If everyone had the same shared goals of helping their neighbors to live as well as possible and if no one could find it remotely tolerable to see fellow earth-citizens living in lack, war would not be an option. If these truly were core, unshakable beliefs in each person, if we treated the welfare of others exactly as our own, then we wouldn’t need a Memorial Day. Many may say I’m naive, that it’s not that simple. But I believe it is. When one is tuned in to one’s connection, one’s similarity to all others, one knows that war is simply not a choice. Sadly, the folks we look to for rule-making and value-setting have a lot of airtime and money. These influential people have lost their sense of connection to fellow humans and found instead a malignant yet seductive substitute for it in the realm of power and self-protection, which in their minds fully justifies such violence. It looks like it’ll be awhile yet before we can experience a world-wide paradigm shift together. But it’s coming. This internet world will reach further and further, connecting more people than we can imagine today. When we are all finally able to see each other, to connect, to witness each other’s sameness, each other’s humanity, then we will all realize the illusion for what it’s been all these insane years.

But my sincere thanks and gratitude go out, nonetheless, to all those who willingly accepted the duty of service in the armed forces. And my love goes out to all the families torn apart by the loss of those who chose to serve.

God Bless America. God Bless Afghanistan. God bless every last one of us. Even George W.

Eggs of Hope

It seems I’ve not mentioned an endeavor which has become rather the foundation of our homestead here in Greenfield. Months ago, when Elihu and I and realized how little money our eggs sales actually generated after we’d met our expenses, we pondered what to do with that money to maximize it’s usefulness. We came upon a book entitled “One Hen” by Katie Smith Milway in which we learned that a little can do a lot. And so Eggs of Hope was born. With our small profits we’ve begun to ‘purchase’ starter chicken flocks through Heifer International.

While the accompanying video and newspaper article at the bottom may be over a month old – very old news indeed – the business is just beginning. Today we registered our domain name and will unveil a new site soon – if dear old mom can manage one more task on her plate.

Lest you think the talk of home-grown eggs being better is all hype – as I was apt to believe once upon a time – I can tell you that the eggs of home-raised chickens are much, much better than those of their poor factory cousins. I might not have been such a believer had I not used a carton of store-bought eggs recently, as our personal use eggs had been earmarked for the incubator. Yup, our eggs’ yolks are a superb orange color, are much plumper, and lastly, they taste very much like an egg should. (Recently we learned that guinea fowl eggs have the very best egg flavor of all, but a sad footnote to this story is that Clara, our only resident guinea hen and sole producer of these delicious, miniature eggs, was recently lost to a wild animal. We miss her. See our you tube channel ‘elihusmom’ for a little cameo of Clara in the video of our chickens on the first warm day.) But life on a farm is like that. It’s sad to lose a member of our flock, but we find peace in knowing the ones we’ve lost had lived happy, healthy lives and furthermore, died that other animals, equally deserving of a meal, should eat well. We just hope they went quickly. !

Chickens are the most miraculous recyclers. Once, in the beginning of our egg pursuits, I found the idea of eating our chickens’ eggs rather gross (and that was even before they began eating bugs!). I can admit this here, because I know many others have felt the same. Before, I’d thought it was just me. Intuitively it makes no sense that the eggs one buys at the store are somehow more edible, safer, cleaner – more whatever – than the ones that just popped out of your hens today. One knows that these eggs have got to be better. Right? Yet for me, eating that first egg was not exactly easy. That was then, this is now. Now I watch with great joy in my heart as our flock happily scratches away in the grass and leaves, gleaning little insects here and there all day long. I watch their progress as they cover the wide expanse of our property, in the woods, in the field, and sometimes, to my chagrin, in my garden. I am always astounded at how much less feed I buy each month – 50 pounds less – when they are allowed to roam free and forage. I am grateful to be an integral part of this process, grateful to know that in some way I am linked to them, and through them, to the land. Hopefully, with our growing little business, we’ll be able to extend that connectedness out into our great big world. Eggs are made to hatch…

A frustrating post-script:
After spending a good 15 minutes trying different methods of inserting the link to the Saratogian article into this post, I am giving up, and asking readers to simply search for “Elihu Conant-Haque” and you will easily find the link for yourself. Sigh.