A Thousand Mornings (Weekly Photo Challenge: Humanity)

Banaras, India (c) 2011 Emma E. Glennon

Two seasons after her father died, one of our daughters took this soothing, solemn picture at dawn on the other side of the globe.  Banaras, also known as Varanasi, is one of humanity’s oldest living cities.  It rises from the holy River Ganga in southeastern Uttar Pradesh.

The same month, when everything remained so dramatically off-kilter in all our lives, one of my sisters-in-law sent me a book of poetry.  It was a gift for the birthday my husband Jim–her only brother–had known he wouldn’t live to celebrate.

I contemplated the title–A Thousand Mornings–and my mind lingered briefly on the vastness of the days and years likely still laid out ahead of me.  A thousand mornings, and more, teeming with concrete tasks I wasn’t remotely equipped to face.  A thousand mornings followed by dwindling sunlight hours in which I alone would be the one to teach a child to drive, to pack up our home and move to another, to move children into schools, to tend to illnesses and injuries and sorrow.  And a thousand sleep-disturbed nights.  A thousand mournings.

I read the book right away, and turned the page to reveal the title of the very last poem.

Varanasi.”

My daughter had just given me the gift of being able to visualize this very place:

“Early in the morning we crossed the ghat,

where fires were still smoldering . . . . 

A woman was standing in the river up to her waist;

she was lifting handfuls of water and spilling it

over her body, slowly and many times,

as if until there came some moment

of inner satisfaction between her own life and the river’s.

Then she dipped a vessel she had brought with her

and carried it filled with water back across the ghat,

no doubt to refresh some shrine near where she lives,

for this is the holy city of Shiva, maker

of the world, and this is his river.

I can’t say much more, except that it all happened

in silence and peaceful simplicity, and something that felt

like that bliss of a certainty and a life lived

in accordance with that certainty . . . .

Pray God I remember this.”

In my daughter’s photograph I see a different kind of vastness than the black hole in which I dwelled: a never-ending human homage to faith, to “peaceful simplicity,” to the “bliss of a certainty and a life lived/in accordance that that certainty.”

Jim had such a life.  In living it and leaving it, he helped me to see the larger human  picture and to try–assuredly not always successfully–to let go of the world’s more rarified worries.  Yes, I’m alone to do so many things; but how lucky I am that my children are so like their father, and have moved on to far-flung places where they, in turn, will serve others, whether teaching, researching infectious diseases, or sharing an angelic voice.  How lucky I am that we’ve all had found medical care for our assorted crises.  How embarassingly lucky we are to possess a home to fill, and a car my little girl can be taught to drive.

Since that November day I’ve lived those thousand mornings, and found moments of peace and satisfaction, of light and love, that somehow still linger in each day.

 

 

 

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Vicarious Adventure

Annapurna, Emma E. Glennon (c) 2014

She has seen white nights in Russia, and a Queen of the Night near the equator.

In one photograph she is at the bottom of the sea; a neon-striped bright blue and yellow fish obscures her torso.

In another recent photograph she beams against a backdrop of temples in Myanmar.

My sons and I tagged along with her to Kyoto, and last summer my experienced young world traveler planned our great adventure to another continent with her father’s ashes.

(“Mom,” she said to me last spring, as she was planning her summer research.  “How would you feel about my catching plague rats in Madagascar?”)

This daughter occasionally sends photographs of her travels, allowing me to drink in what she has seen.

I am unlikely ever to experience the other senses these places fill–the smells and tastes of German and Spanish food; the feel of uncut sandstone; street sounds in Bangalore; drenching humidity in Bangladesh; cadences of speech in more languages and dialects than I can imagine.

But it’s such a treat to share her windows on the world.

Nepal2

Nepal, Emma E. Glennon (c) 2014

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A Little More Conversation . . . .

 

 

Half light, half shadow
Glasses half filled or emptied?
Living leaves on brick
A swath of cranberry bog
Breaking blue to bright white sky

 

My favorite photo challenge sought unspoken dialogue between two pictures.

So, with apologies to Elvis Presley, I’m adding a little more conversation–this time more of a conference call than a dialogue . . . . in tanka form.

Continue reading

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Discerning Dialogue

 

 

 

 

I attended a talk by poet laureate and poetry professor Billy Collins earlier this year. Someone asked him whether anyone can produce a poem, and he noted that one thing that cannot be taught is metaphor.

Thinking metaphorically seems to me to apply to images as well as words: you either see a connection or you don’t, and I imagine most people will see wildly different things.

This week’s photo challenge is wonderfully open-ended.  It asks us to present dialogue between pictures, for beholders to contemplate.  It’s almost too much fun to come up with such visual combinations.

I call this pairing “Burst”:

Some Sunday sloth:

“Caught in the Act”:

 

 

Possibly my favorite pairing:

Cupcakes, anyone?

For whom do the bells toll?

Of these two pairings, only one (in each) should be eaten:

Some architectural pairings:

 

 

Art is everywhere:

 

Some morning stars:

 

 

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