Dollar Snow-Cone

The August summer heat would not relent as she defiantly arched her elderly frame to rise from the cracking concrete stoop in this ignored part of the city.

I walked up the block with a crumpled dollar bill for the ice – without the syrup.  Sweat scattered from my hairline.  My face and neck burned scarlet.

The makeshift plastic table was wobbly-arranged for quick sales anticipated from the two buses of people who visited for a mere afternoon, scheduled in to clean up the neighborhood through a service agency.  All in the name of peace and solidarity.

A battered aluminum urn, dented from years of use, held ice that would shave pieces into a forbidden Styrofoam cup – a cheap fix.  A neat row of glass bottles with plastic pumps each waited with their blaring color of sugar syrup attentively for its snow-cone debut – chartreuse mint, tangerine orange, bright violet grape – nothing known to Nature.  My only wish was the frosty shavings to melt my dusty, gritty throat.

She rose from the stoop as I smiled deeply breathing in front of a torn plastic umbrella, offering some shade.  Her cocoa-colored skin clenched hard onto muscles whose strength was all but gone from years of sacrifice.  Her knotted, ebony hands buckled from years of toil…fields, factories, mills?  I couldn’t imagine.  This heat would not stop her today.  Nope.  No way.

“Just ice please.”  I handed her the dollar bill.

She pulled the black plastic lever to shave the ice into slivers of cool relief.   Gently she extended her arm giving me a cup filled with ice shavings and started to count out change – one worn quarter, one dime and three nickels.  Her hand trembled as she counted and then my eyes rested on her wedding ring encircling the on her left hand.

The simple band was of thin gold, but the worn beveled edges reflected the mysteries of a previous life filled with more joy than today brought.   The pattern of the bevel was exactly the same as the wedding ring belonging to my grandfather which I wore in the middle of my right hand.  I had asked for it and wore it every day without fail since his death.   Nonu’s hands were the worker’s hands of a turn-of-the-century Italian immigrant – massive, skilled and unfaltering.  They could crush rock, melt brass or graft five different apples on to one tree for autumn pies Noni would make each year.

I reached for her left hand with my right so she would see my ring as I touched hers.    She slowly lifted her eyes to meet mine.  Her heavy blink under sagging eyelids gave way to a weakened smile as time and space held us united in some unexpected enigma made for this day.

“No change”, I said, “and God bless.”

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The Night of the Mantis

2014 sept miguel n laundry room 009

as summer ends and autumn begins, the prayer of the Night Mantis soars to heaven that it may be heard even amid the destruction.

Kindness

Kindness

feels so good. Take a moment to give. Distribute it widely and the Universe shall repay in kind.

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Tau of St. Francis

Tau of St. Francis

In an exhibition gracing the tiny church of Santa Maria delle Rose in Assisi , mystical sculptor Guido Dettoni della Grazia displays the signature of Francis, last letter of the Hebrew alphabet and symbol of caring for those emarginated (lepers) … Continue reading

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Giving thanks

Giving thanks

for that which we share in our lives is part of the Plan that connects us with the world surrounding us. Take a moment to acknowledge your gifts by placing them in service on the Altar of Gratitude.

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Trust the Stars

Stella had tasted the bitterness of poverty and the sting of hopelessness which never quite seemed to permit her to enjoy the present without the looming fear of their return until one day.   Her disabled father for whom she had been caretaker, bedridden for much too long a time, was nearing the end of his  life.  Stella’s  love yearned to make his last days as comfortable as possible for he had been in pain for many months.   She decided that cool cotton bed sheets would help to give him some comfort  along with her care.   She had been able to do without the sheets, the added expense,  placing just a duvet cover over the bed padding to ease her father’s weary muscles and bones.   But now, his delicate skin, the aching muscles, the life-tired bones exaggerated every  pain and scratch…comfort was difficult to provide.

Stella checked in a local department store for the highest thread count that would guarantee the softest natural cotton bed linens – 600 count:  $80.00 – 800 count:  $100.00 – the prices increased as the sheets became softer, more comforting for her father.  But she could only scrape together $50.00 from her last paycheck and some loose change she had received for some extra errands she performed for a neighbor.  $50.00 – there was nothing that Stella could find within her means that would guarantee the softness she had so wished for a touch of comfort.    She left the department store, disheartened and wondering what to do.

As she was walking home from the bus stop, she passed a discount department store, not particularly noted for its quality merchandise.  A bright orange and black sign shouted a 20% discount on all purchases for this day.  Taking a look might not hurt, she mused, and she diverted her step to the discount department store.   Strolling through the aisles of bed linens, microfiber  100% polyester  filled the shelves in all colors, all hues, all sizes.  Eyes sifting through each shelf , Stella stopped at a small package of white cotton sheets with delicate patterned white stripes at a thread count of 400 for $32.99.  She thought that 400 was not an extraordinarily high thread count to be soft enough,  but the reasonable price, minus an additional 20% gave her pause for consideration.   It was the only package of its kind in the aisle;  the only pure, natural cotton; the only plain, pure white; the only price within her budget.  As she slightly unzipped the package to feel the fabric, she smoothed her fingers across the cotton weave.   The tips of her fingers slid over the fabric like warmth over silk and she was assured that this package was meant for her to offer to her father in comfort and in love.

Getting home, she changed the bed linens for her father  whose broken body absorbed the cool smoothness of the cotton with tranquility unmatched.   Stella’s fears had been assuaged.  The Universe had provided the opportune moment and results.  Oh, the other packages of 600, 800, 1200 thread count may have been just as smooth or even better, but as events unfolded with a sense of trust and purpose,  just the right package at just the right price with just the right results unfolded as effortlessly as it took for The Universe to bring Stella to where she was meant to be all along.

Trust is such an elusive virtue for some to master, but in hindsight, as you grow in its light, even in poverty, you rest assured a little more each day that The Universe is indeed there for you.

 

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talent plus…

talent plus…

I’m not a huge fan of rock music, but when I meet a young person who has incredible talent and a huge heart, I become an instant promoter! Jesse Kinch will once again grace our youth talent show tomorrow evening … Continue reading

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Long Island Food Not Bombs

Long Island Food Not Bombs

Amid the torrents of cold December rain, two of my students braved the elements to participate in an end of the year gesture of kindness in giving of time to volunteer in this remarkable “food share” program. What a beautiful … Continue reading

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Lessons from Feast of the Fishes

Lessons from Feast of the Fishes

Despite a nasty customer, impatient, insulting just in front of me in the seafood line at this upscale market, Ben gave me a smile. “So, maybe you can give me some advice,”I started, “I need to get clams and shrimp … Continue reading

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