Showing posts with label Parents. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Parents. Show all posts

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Sunday Times

Both my parents were avid consumers of information. My mother, a speed reader, read five library books a week for decades. When she was too frail to go to the library, her neighbor would deliver fresh books to her and take a sack of used ones to return. She read everything from physics to history to pulp fiction. Her mind was an encyclopedia. She did not need to leave the charms of her home, with its big trees and garden, to see the outer world. Books brought her adventures.

My father was engaged all his adult life with social matters and remaking America into a fairer and more just society. No wonder then that every day three newspapers arrived at my parents home in Santa Barbara, California: The New York times, the Santa Barbara News-Press, and the Los Angeles Times. When he passed away, his obituary and an article appeared in the same papers. (See my blog, I Always Loved Him)

I inherited some of my parents intellectualism. I am an artist, a designer, photographer, business owner, writer and world traveller. When I am at home I have a weekly ritual of going on Sunday morning to a well known local coffee bar and newsstand, called The Downtown Subscription. I buy a pastry, cup of coffee and the New York Times. Then I sit by myself and enjoy the ambience of art exhibits on the walls, music, and conversation all around. The Sunday paper is thick and full of timely and interesting content. I take it home and read it thoroughly, taking a week to finish—in time for another.

Eleven years ago I wrote a similar piece about going for the Sunday paper: (See- Sunday Times and Dried Leaves)

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Darkness and Light

The ultimate task for me is not an external goal. Rather it is gaining wisdom and inner peace. Sounds simple enough but if we understand that it may take many years to understand just one dream we have had, then we see some of the difficulty.

I had a startling epiphany during a particularly crucial time in my life. During my late teens my mother had just finished reading books by the esteemed psychologist Karen Horney (German/American, 16 September 1885 – 4 December 1952). She had gained insights and lauded them. Two hardbound volumes by Horney were on our bookshelves: Our Inner Conflicts, and The Neurotic Personality Of Our Time. I was a voracious reader and had read classic literature, so read both books—though the language was dense and sometimes almost indecipherable. 

Through reading, I grasped that neurotic people identify themselves with an idealized image and will go to great lengths to maintain an unreal position. Their pain is unconsciously knowing they are not the idealized vision. The gap is unbearable. 
I realized I had been doing the same by blocking out undesirable aspects of my "hidden" self in favor of a superior.

I entered a trial period of just letting thoughts and emotions float to the surface without judgement. Even nasty stuff appeared but I did not bury it. Rather, I accepted and witnessed without judgement. Although difficult, this process lifted me to greater strength. I breathed deeper. 

At that time, I had also delved into religion and enjoyed the ideals in the Baha'i Faith. Furthermore, great emphasis was on unity, freedom from prejudice, purity—away from materialism and towards spirituality.

As I continued my experiment, I remember coming to a crossroads. The difficult emotions and feelings continued arising and I wondered if I could go forward in life feeling such dark forces yet being a person of light. I wondered if I could live with the dichotomy. Should I block the gate and keep the devils locked away, concentrating on adhering to a religious and pure way of being? Or continue withholding nothing and feeling like I was in a Hieronymous Bosch painting of The Last Judgement with depictions of rebellious devils led by Lucifer, or Garden of Earthly Delights.
At this particularly sensitive time in my development, I chose to block the uncomfortable dark feelings and urges. Instead, I would concentrate on immersing myself in religion as a way of evolution and salvation.
I would adopt thinking similar to what Emanuel Swedenborg, (Swedish, 29 January 1688; died 29 March 1772) wrote: The amount of goodness we receive from God can only equal the amount of evil we remove from ourselves as if by our own power, which is done by both working on ourselves and putting faith in the Lord. 
This fateful decision led me into a colossal war of light and dark forces. The more I sought to dispel the anger, frustration, pain and malevolence within me, the more it insisted on knocking at the door of my consciousness. No amount of praying, being with religious people or studying holy texts could slay the monstrous beast terrorizing the kingdom of my being. My light side hated my dark side. I was divided and suffering. 

My family history is an interesting study in light and dark. My mother came from a disturbed upbringing. She lived in foster homes at times. Her mother went from husband to husband; eventually going through ten of them. Mom was beautiful and hardscrabble when she met my father in Chicago. My father grew up the son of doctor and a sensitive Jewish mother, was brilliant and entered the University of Chicago at the age of fifteen. He finished graduate school with a degree in criminology. Human darkness fascinated him and he was a problem solver. He went on to an illustrious career in social engineering, implementing great changes in American society.
Perhaps it was fate that I would be a problem to myself and have to unify my original archetypes.

These days I find myself embracing non-conflict. I have come again to allowing all feelings, memories, thoughts and perceptions. They come and go without a fight. I am a changed person. I continue in my religion and gain great inspiration from it, as well as from other sources of the same Divine light.

A few days ago, I wrote in my journal:
Essentially, I will stay in a state of peace. If my pristine and calm being is tested by unruly ego or illusion of duality, I can override the challenge. It is as if I am at last taking the throne of command to my own kingdom. No longer driven by intractable and wayward passions..
Thank you Lord for giving me what I ask for.

So I embrace all and realize that all is necessary. Nothing drives me but the urge to understand the puzzle of life and be near God.

The darkness and light inform each other. Any great work of art must have them both.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

The Jig

A few days ago, I received a phone call from one of my mother's caretakers who sounded urgent and exhorted me to think of going straightaway to her side at her home in Santa Barbara, California; although I live 900 miles away in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Immediately I became troubled and doubtful. My mother has had close brushes with death in the past. How could I be sure of the right time to be with her when she passed away? I asked the other caretaker as well, who concurred that my Mom had suddenly declined and might be on the way out. She suffered irregular heart beats, and her body was retaining fluids, although medication helped somewhat. She was on oxygen as well. I explained that I could not be going back and forth, but that I would come if the opinion was that I might not see her again.

I booked a one-way ticket, not knowing the course of future events. In one day, I arrived at my mother's side. She was sitting in her favorite chair at the dining table, next to a big picture window where she can watch the birds in her yard. Beautiful roses were in vases on the table, fresh from her garden. We hugged and she said, "Steven, I am so glad you came!" By the evening, we were playing gin rummy—and she beat me.

Sometimes, her sentences wander off into nonsense, but most of the time, her mind works normal.

My daughter Sarah was concerned enough that she has also arrived to pay last respects . . . but maybe my mother will be doing the jig next. She barely walks, but I don't put it past her to dance at her own funeral.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Created With Loving Care

The yard around my parent's home on a corner lot in Santa Barbara, California is a mature and stately oasis of greenery. Assorted tall pine trees watch over the humble house that is surrounded by lawn and a magnificent hedge that is thick and high, and gives the property a sense of privacy. Jade plants are in blossom, an orange tree is laden with fruit, some roses are in their last bloom before spring, and birds are always at the feeder outside the dining room window. It is nice to be able to sit in the gentle mid-winter sun and feel the balmy air amid this blissful scenery—all of it created with loving care.

I imagine that when my mother dies, and my father dies, the property will give a collective sigh of remorse. Especially when my mother passes. For years, she has glorified every blade of grass and tree leaf; and this is how she has talked with God. It is through His creation that she has gone to Him and given praise. I know she has done this every day, and when I have visited her, have seen her go around the house and speak intimately to the roses and trees, saying, “My, aren't you wonderful! How beautiful you are!” My father told me yesterday that the roes were especially spectacular this year. Now, my mother cannot see them, except when they are cut and brought indoors.

Chloris and Dick Boone, a couple months ago.
Both my parents need full time assistance now. I am visiting them from my home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and came on short notice when I heard that they are now getting hospice care. My brother and sister are often at the house, and it seems to take an army to keep the place running. Thankfully, everything is kept clean, and order prevails. But my parents are in steady decline. My mother is in rapid decline and remarked this morning that she is shocked at her sudden deterioration. While my sister and I were getting her up from bed and into a wheelchair, she commented that she thought her rapid downfall was the result of shock, hearing that my father has aggressive lymphoma.

I walked slowly by father's side as he pushed his walker into the street and around the house this morning. He wanted to visit his office, which is attached to the garage. The neighbors waved and said hello, and he smiled and waved back. Another woman, walking her dog stopped to say hello. My parents are well-liked . . . anchors of the community.

Soon, I will have to leave the house on the corner, and I know, when my parents go away at last, the property will sense the loss and grieve at their passing.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Emblems Of Love

Usually, when I visit my parents in Santa Barbara, California, I also set up my easel and make a painting in their yard. They have cultivated a garden and take care of their corner lot, with its giant pine trees, orange and lemon trees, and tall hedge that guards the perimeter of the property. The last time I spoke with my mother and talked about her beloved rose plants, she said, “Oh yes, they are beginning to bloom. You know Steven, I have eighty rose bushes and they each have at least ten flowers . . . that is 800 flowers!” 
I know the yard well—and all the varieties of color and scent of her roses. She has a special relationship with the plant life around her, and holds conversations with the growing things that exist in her surroundings. 

Although my parents are advanced in age and becoming frail, they take deep satisfaction in their surroundings. The bird feeder outside the dining room window is replenished, a man comes regularly to mow the lawn and trim the hedges, and my mother prays every day in thanks for the elements and nature around her.

I know that the jasmine outside their backdoor is now finishing its bloom. Its unmistakable fragrance is etched in my memory.

Hopefully, I can arrive there again in the next few months . . . and make another painting. I always call it “Mother's Backyard” and after I bring it back to Santa Fe, it always sells to someone who finds emblems of love within it.

"Mother's Backyard"   oil on linen,   16 x 20 inches

Sunday, January 24, 2010

An Ounce Of Blood

“An ounce of blood is worth more than a pound of friendship.” ~Spanish Proverb

The last several years I have been single and living alone, so now, temporarily sharing my parents home for a month makes me more aware of family and how bonded are human beings by blood lines. Sharing ancestry brings a familiarity so fundamental that it is different from other friendships. “You don't choose your family. They are God's gift to you, as you are to them.” ~Desmond Tutu

I am strengthened by my parent’s wisdom, and while I am here, we enliven, support and extend possibilities for each other. Mainly, I am readily available and present to my mother and father for support, and because I am their son, it is comforting. I am teaching my mother to use a computer, and being a companion for my father on a daily brisk walk to keep up his conditioning. While we walk, we share good conversation and are invigorated.

Nations are like families, and I dare say that nations that are open societies that allow the free flow of ideas and encourage bonds of love and trust between their citizens prosper the most and are strongest. This is why it is disconcerting to see one of the biggest countries, China, choosing to maintain strict control of its peoples communication with the rest of the planet. Certainly, the masses of Chinese yearn to be free and broaden their intellectual horizons and awareness of other cultures. This is so easy these days because the Internet exists. Recently we have learned that Google is complaining of Chinese government censorship and meddling that is so offensive and unjust that it might have to close operations there; and this would be a blow to our fellow human beings that want to have easy access to all the information we in free world take for granted. (See article in Wall Street Journal)

Iran is another nation that can be likened to a family with a controlling, abusive father that keeps everyone cowered and afraid. Information is strictly controlled as the government tries to insulate its people from ideas coming from outside. Even new ideas coming from within the family are disallowed. Iran is the birthplace of the Baha’i Faith, and although it is the second fastest growing religion in the world with adherents in virtually all corners of the earth, still, Baha’ís in Iran are constantly under threat of arrest and even execution.(See a recent NY Times article about Baha'i Persecution in Iran.)

In the end, I believe, as Baha’u’llah has said, “The earth is one country, and mankind its citizens.” We are all one family and although there are disagreements and even quarrels, truth will win in the end and civilization will blossom as it is destined.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Wrapped In Wonder

Now that I am traveling again, the world speaks to me in new ways, and I listen. My parents have provided me a room, but it is barely large enough for a bed. I cannot fit my suitcase or clothes, so my belongings are half in their house and half in my car. In THE DREAM, material things are of no concern, for it is consciousness of unfolding time and events that are most important. It seems the moments are wrapped in wonder.

It is a revelation to me how my parents have slowed so significantly. Both of them are acutely aware of and concerned for each other. “Age does not protect you from love, but love to some extent protects you from age.” Jeanne Moreau (Fr. born 1928). Their dog is a fixture, and after my mother prepares the food, my father gets down on his knees to hand feed the old creature. Each day they carry forth; last night my mother prepared dinner for ten people, and my father does 20 minutes of difficult calisthenics each morning when he awakes, and continues working from his home office.Since we are living together, we take three meals and a nap each day. I walk the dog with my father. It is funny to think I am going to raucous Rio De Janeiro and carnival in a few weeks; something opposite of the life I am now living.

I am able to see myself in my parents, and get a close-up picture of aging. One thing I realize is that in youth we take our strength and stamina for granted and push forth with many projects. But in old age, as the body weakens, people are often forced to pay less attention to what they want to do and more attention to the simple task of getting from point A to point B, and surviving another day.
Really, in the scheme of eternity, a human life of 90 years is less than a blink of an eye. My dear daughter Naomi died when she was nineteen, and my father might part when he is eighty-five . . . it is essentially the same length of time: less than the flash of light from a falling star.
Here is a video clip from The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, honoring my father, Richard W. Boone: Video