December 31st, 2014
A wonderful warm and fastidious kind happy end to 2014 to you all, Dear Readers!
I realize I have decided to communicate my ramblings as if it were a conversation, but mostly I have had few and far between response. My fear of course is that I must and deem my writing invisible, and may be falling on deaf ears. If this is the case, I will worry not, for I have the power of imagination in which to carry me merrily along the path of the age old habit, of talking to myself. If you are indeed along for the ri, feel free to send out a canary song, from the mine shaft.
I will still employ you, Dear Reader, for I must insist you exist in a realm of rapt engagement, and high intellect. Well, if I am to feel good about something, then I will make you perfect and happy and delighted with the course of your life, and that will guide you to possibly read between the nooks and crannies of my wierd and wonderfully curious yet sometimes dark mind.
Today, Dear Reader, I would like to talk about steps. The walking kind, not the sacred 12, or instructions, but the kind taken when one foot is placed in fron of the other. Human steps, baby steps, dog and cat steps, working steps, casual steps, fast escaping steps, married walking from the altar steps, children running in the park steps, and jerky quirky chicken steps. I am told, by my handy electronic step counting device, that I am sedentary; that I need to take more steps. I am told, after inputting my specific personal information, that at 52 years, with a history of cancer, depression, a bad back, bad knees, bad hips, and arthritis, that taking more steps throughout the day, will help me be happier and will help me hurt less and live longer. Sounds easy, and it sounds cost effective.
This all comes one day after having the cable and Internet finally installed, (being without it for a month) and all I want to do is really just heed the siren call of "how it's made" or "cosmos" or reruns of "Downton Abbey " or "independent Lens" with s sprinkling of "judge Judy" and maybe even some "Cops".
I have faults, and I have things I call indulgences that are really time and soul sucking activities I use to numb my intellect and, perish the thought, at the same time possibly even increase my intellect. But to my own defense, I am also a visual person, and my soul is fed by film, photography, paintings, and every kind of imagery I can get my eyes on. Case in point, the independent Irish film "Frank". See it. It's not describable.
I also have a brand new ergonomically perfect bicycle sitting in the other room, ridden once so far, hissing at me every time I pass by.
I also have joy and graditude that I am alive, and that is the emotion I choose to use as fuel for my new year.
2014, as you may know, was a year of erasing phone numbers of deceased family and friends from my phone book. A lot of friends. a few acquaintances, and many admired, but not met people that I felt the pang of heartache for the families they left behind. I still can not believe Tracy is gone. And each year, it seems there are more suicides. With this knowledge, each year, I vow to keep my own mental health in order. And as this excercise in communication with you, Dear Reader, is part and parcel of my mental health, I thank you for playing even the smallest part in taking the time, in your own busy and electronicly enhanced lives, to sit with me and be grateful.
Grateful for legs to walk, and if there are no legs, or if the legs don't work, then grateful for wheels or prosthetics. And if no wheels, or prosthetics, grateful for the brain to imagine, and for lungs, to take the steps of in and out and back and forth and in and out, to keep the soul elevated and progressing on this road to ..... Heaven.
I wish you safe travels, hearty laughter, abundant touching, and all things in moderation; even electronicly sound and helpful divices should be used in moderation, especially at the check out counter.
With this being said, I shall clip my toenails, layer my clothing approiately, find my comfortable shoes,and take the dogs for a walk.
With Love and Graditude, and prayerful thoughts for all who are suffering heartache, or loneliness, or the bitter wind of indecision, I say, put on your shoes, or wheels, or synapses, and go for a walk, as Mr Emerson would employ, into the wild woods.
I remain, ever in your debt, Dear Reader, for the hopeful optoimism you embody.
Sincerely, Michelle M Engelman Berns
Wednesday December 31st, 2014
Long Beach CA
December 17th 2014
A very kind good evening to you, Dear Reader. Let's talk a little about Compassion.
There resides within my personal DNA, a strong link ( or maybe it's a kink) that that compels me, at random, to literally give another person ( or animal) the shirt off my back. This seems to be a quality native to the Engelman family, as I was reminded recently by my Uncle Tim ( my Father Mike's brother, rest in peace Dad) who is, along with my Aunt Patricia, and cousin Gordon, the last of that generation of my patriarchal blood relitaves.
My Grandfather Phil, (my Fathers'Father) always had a smile on his face, always. He was round and German and lived in anticipation of Polka Dancing to Polka Music and golf and fishing. Out of those three, that I know of, I personally only love to fish.
Grandpa was the man in Fresno who painted his little 1920 California bungalow bright lemon yellow. And just because he was a stylish man, he painted his 1967 Monte Carlo the same shade of yellow. There were no yellow leisure suits, that I know of, but only time and list and found photographs can tell.
My Grandpa painted his house yellow because it was a happy color, but also because kids had started forming gangs in the neighborhood, and Phil was the guy who would have a beer with you, and talk to you about why it was not cool to tag people's houses, especially his. The key to this secret was that he provided the beer.
Anyhow, somehow it worked and his house was left alone. Someone had compassion for the old German guy, living in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood in Fresno, the old guy who worked at Gallo scrubbing the vats day in and day out and took care if his morbidly obese housebound wife . The man who loved to polka at The Edison Social Club, and eat real German sausage, and laugh a good belly laugh at whatever joke anyone told.
The compassion stories I have are far too many to mention, but I will say, that tonight, when I saw the neighborhood kid on my block, riding in a homemade big wheel made out of a deck chair attached to the roller wheels of a desk chair and a front wheelbarrow wheel, my heart soared. I felt somehow that I would befriend this young man, maybe not give him a beer, but maybe I'd keep some candy in a jar, or find an odd job for him to do for some pocket money.
Maybe I'd ask him if he knows any jokes,
Maybe find out his favorite color.
I reminisce today, because of the compassion in the world arena over the mass slayings of children while in prayer at school, and that it's the Popes birthday and he helped world leaders see that compassion is not outdated.
Compassion is alive, and if we have to think about it, we may not have enough of it.
Take compassion with you, dear reader. it's much needed, even if rebuked, the heart of it stays alive... I promise.
December 4th, 2014
Good morning, Dear Reader. Let's talk about questions.
I had both flavors of teachers when I was a young student. I had Coach Garrison, who was the women's track and volleyball coach who did double duty as a Sociology teacher, who was the first person of authority to say to me "there are no stupid questions, a person is only stupid if they have a question and don't ask it". Next I had Mrs Hardwick, the Home Economics teacher who was nimble as a cheetah on the sewing machine horizon, but told us girls that we should keep our questions to ourselves and figure out answers on our own.
I am grateful for both these schools of thought, and wonder if Coach perhaps thought because I was a girl I needed help, but I don't think so. He was more of a world traveler, go get 'em kind of person who challenged our little Aurora Hound Dawgs hometown brains to think outside the grain mill box. Home Economics meant we needed to understand there were actual financial economics at work so, being smart meant being resourceful as well as informed.
My questions over my lifetime thus far, run the gamut from what is String Theory, my own human potential, the fragility of compassion, and most recently, what happens when a freezer chock full of several kinds meat expires due to a faulty compressor motor, and explodes in a closed up overheated postage stamp apartment.
It's not something I would ever want to imagine that I would deal with, because I imagine it is similar to the carnage of war,even though I realize this is a first world problem, tying a tag over my mouth and nose in haste to remove the contaminated material felt pretty third world at the time.
So finding out first hand, the first answer to that question, is one of disgust, repulsion, and both fight and flight in the same instant. And all this immediately after the bliss of a two week vacation which the culmination was attending my son and his wife's beautiful wedding.
The forensics of the happenstance are mind boggling. The odor is in essence free floating bacteria the penetrates and permeatiates every fiber of everything that air touches, which is essentially, everything. The things labeled "soft goods" got hit hardest. You know... underwear, clothes, The bed, our shoes, towels, our leather sofa set, my favorite Ethyl Birnbaum red velvet chair and ottoman, paperwork laying about, the grandsons car seat, MY PAINTINGS! The list is basically everything I now have to be grateful for that I HAD, because a lot of it is going to go away forever.
So the first immediate answer to the question, "Did I have renters insurance?" the answer is YES. Because back in 7th grade home economics class, Mrs Hardwick was instrumental in stressing to our collective overy count, that what we work for in our life as women, is a valuable asset and needs to be protected. Perhaps her husband was an insurance salesman, I don't know, but I have had AAA insurance pretty much since I was 16 and now at 52 years young, and that practice has made itself a worthwhile endeavor.
Today I wait for "the Team" who will descend upon our now uninhabitable apartment, and categorize things into two sides, what stays and gets fumigated; and what goes into the incinerator.
Do you think this is drastic?
I kind of wish my survivor mode didn't kick in so fast once I discovered the carnage in the kitchen, ( the bits of rotten chicken, beef, fish, pork flesh covering my home ) so I could have taken a photo. There was no time, besides my iphone permanently displays "cannot take photo, manage storage bla bla bla" anyway so an instant photo is a mute point, which is ironic for a photographer...it was fight or flight and I needed that carnage out of my house.
Six double bagged garbage bags later, my life as I knew it, along with my homemaking skills are now taken to a new level.
So as I sit In the very comfortable and clean accommodation provided by the quick and helpful employees of the AAA California Auto Club Insurance Department who placed us in the Residence Inn for up to a month ( my hope it it won't take that long) ... as far as questions, you might ask, " am I grateful? "
I answer is yet again, yes. I am.
So, young people, if you value the contents of your home, or apartment, or yurt, get yourself some contents insurance. Because you never know what card the universe will deal, in this crazy game, and I think they stopped teaching Home Economics a long time ago. Keep in mind, one of the possibilities for a claim is also a category called "Strange Disappearance" and I do not wish to find out what that means... sounds like some questions can not be answered.
With Love and hot coffee, I say, Dear Reader, Carry On.
Michelle M. Engelman Berns
Long Beach, California
Aug 7th 2014
As is the way of my people, I am currently working on several projects at once.
one, I am trying to get this website in order so it makes sense.
two , I am working on my first adult fiction novel, Mourning Pages and will be self publishing, stay tuned.
three I have a documentary in pre pre-production By The Hand about connecting the age gap between fiber artisans, from traditional to contemporary.
four always looking for an opportunity to exhibit my photography and always have camera in hand.
all inquiries can be sent to:
Michelle Engelman Berns
Poem For The Ocean
Michelle Marie Engelman Berns
Jan 15 2014, Today,
no instant digital phone photographs
of the veil white marine layer iced over a calm emerald ocean
and the distant looming islands.
On this day,
the investigation of salt and water and air
will be of the first time variety
as if the small Kindergarden girl had hung
her coat on the peg with her name for the first time, ever.
That peg smelling of freshly sawed pine
glued perfectly still
with a tacky drop of sap hiding underneath.
The girl's first name above the cubby
was written in bold red marker
on a striped piece of writing paper
with a curly detail on the 'y' of "Shelly"
as if the teacher could forsee her need for whimsical escape.
holds and releases
fifty plus years of hard survivor worn
human living in its photoless moment.
The need to reach for the digital devil
squeals in the back recesses of the brain.
The naked white glass
set to mute
as the pure beautiful laughter of the girls' wave riding husband
is carried on the wind,
flooding the mental poetic photograph
with light and these words, "be here now".
Michelle Engelman Berns
A light is shining,
There through the stoic alder tree;
A glimmer of morning, of an ever present dawn.
The dense moment of time rests inside the light,
it passes so quickly we seem only to feel it's warmth and beauty.
We close our eyes.
The Loving Light gently blows a thought beside us;
passing softly on our cheek....
perfect and innocent
on his way
to the Divine invisible ocean.