Personalities!

 

We all have them.

In plural.

For every truly disturbed individual, in the grip of dissociative identity disorder, there is the vast remainder of relatively normal society. And, society, whether we are ready to admit it as fact, has shaped personality.

The earth is populated with so many nations, within them so much distinct culture. And, what each civilized group of persons grows accustomed to is a set of mores, actions, and reactions which are profoundly influenced by the behavior of those who founded and perpetuated them.

Enter DNA. We are still learning, and most of us not privy to, the exact nature of genetic expression. What we do know is that we inherit much which will shape how we choose, act, and react to the world around us.

But, the essence of who we are as demonstrated within our interactions has come to be known as personality. Within that, there are potentially many subsets of behaviors, all influenced by those with whom we have to do.

If we are encouraged, from infancy, to express a wide range of emotion – smiling, laughing, crying, giggling, as well as reactions including surprise, shock, and even dismay – we will develop habits which include these expressions. Moreover, if we are rarely taught to suppress emotion, we will become capable of spontaneity. If, conversely, we are taught to stifle, we will become characterized as stoic.

Back in the 18th century, Scottish philosopher David Hume developed his theory of social behavior and led his citizens to assimilate it. He believed that a people is profoundly marked by its public persona, and established a specific protocol for interaction. As such, the Scots as a society became characterized by Hume’s notions of what was both a healthy and proper comportment.

But, what of emotional range? Could a correlation be made between the degree of emotional expression and the capacity for multiple aspects to personality?

Some scenarios seem to call for grace, latitude, and acceptance; yet others demand assertive action, such as those of sudden health emergency or public threat. The degree of importance one places upon each social issue as it emerges might call up any number of varying personality expressions. It is highly likely that the Scots, in the 18th century, never had to endure either challenge or threat to their social securities.

And, what of intellectual expression? How do distinct personalities demonstrate the way they think? And, how is this valued in a society?

Perhaps we might reflect upon those who seem different from ourselves. What are the aspects which distinguish us? Which among these could be encouraged, deemed of value?

America is unique, in that we have been attempting to survive as a society within which innumerable social mores and personality expressions have coexisted. Proximity has proved a challenge, for many. Judgments have been made. Inherent bias has ruled outcomes of disagreement. Crime has become a hallmark, instead of a rare aberration.

Consider these points for contemplation, the next time you register the following thought: “I don’t like that person.” Perhaps add a Why? And, then, take that additional, sometimes painful but objective step. Find something worthy in that personality. Then, inspect yourself.

Each of us has so many glorious features. Even as we celebrate diversity, let us broaden that resolve to include the details of multi-faceted individuality. We would feel so much better about each other, and our collective personality would become something of a masterpiece.

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© 12/15/18   Ruth Ann Scanzillo    All rights those of the author, whose personality you may not favor but whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting original material.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

LIFE…..on Facebook.

 

I’d crawled out of bed, after sleeping long enough to face another day.
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Following twenty five consecutive years of hitting the ground running and crashing after midnight this had, for the past six or so since early retirement, become the new normal – and, far closer to “normal” than its previous incarnation.
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Yet, on that particular morning sometime last month I’d padded over to the laptop to log in –  and, a startling announcement appeared.
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It was Facebook.
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They were posting to say “Congratulations!”
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I’d been on the site for ten years.
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It only took that moment. I stopped breathing and sat, motionless. My eyes went into my head. Searching, almost frantic. Ten years. A whole, God forsaken decade of……what?
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And so, in some pathetic attempt at justification, I began to catalog those ten years.
Herewith, the results of one, peculiar life on social media.
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1.) OLD FRIENDS.
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I’d never been a very good friend. At least, not the kind one learned about in first grade. I’d not been particularly friendly. I didn’t do things for other people. I wasn’t thoughtful. Oh, I was full of plenty of thought – just, not the kind which included other people unless one could count mulling over why boys farted for fun and girls laughed at other girls, categorically speaking.
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And, I wasn’t naturally social. Friends, to me, were best selected one at a time, and I chose the kind who had the patience to listen to my unending prattle. The Apple Jacks Club comes to mind. Held at my house, on my turf, complete with instructions on where to sit and what to do next, I can recall only two meetings before the whole thing was suspended indefinitely (with tears, and mum’s irritated declarations). Or, I picked the loner, the one for whom nobody else seemed to have any interest or time. Was this instinct? I prefer to think it just selfishness. Or, maybe I’m just depressed today.
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But, dejected or hopeful, I had to admit: Facebook had put me in touch with: a.) scores of former classmates, teachers, and colleagues; b.) dozens of relatives, scattered across the country; c.) those from the old church fellowship, also living in just about every state in the union and, best of all d.) a still vastly incomplete list from among the four.thousand.former students. In total, having been careful to accept the connection of only those known personally to me (or, to those known to those), I had amassed, to date, over thirteen hundred “Friends.”
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2.) NEW FRIENDS.
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Remarkable, however, were the number of new friends. These were those known to others, who would join a conversation thread. Many a long, healthy debate would ensue, the same enjoyed to this day. In fact, several have become confidantes, one or two especially so. (Interestingly, these have proved the most loyal, as well.)
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And, this is true of every Facebook addict. Oh, yes. We are.
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But, beyond the obvious dependency, there is something else.
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3.) PUBLIC IMAGE.
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Whether any of us realize it or not, the most transparent among us are become subject to a rather insidious force.
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Because, by its design, all members being encouraged to post, like, and comment, the most vulnerable are exposed. Bare.
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I’m talking about those of us who, whether by nature or intent, have no filter.
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Maybe it’s because of being deeply committed to the truth, our own truth, and the truth as it is capable of being apprehended. Granted, there have been times when I have spoken merely from belief, rather than fact; and, ready and waiting, there has always been somebody quick to correct me.
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But, over time, this kind of interaction has chipped away at something. And, that something is rather critical to human perception of human relationship. I think that, without having been able to predict it, we have subjected ourselves to public scrutiny. We have been silently assessed, even judged. And, those of us who have said too many unsettling things, alarming things, or just said them too often, have also been silently rejected.
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In short, the image we have portrayed in print has become the essence of our alleged character. There is a Scripture: “Out of the heart, the mouth speaks.” But, is what we say in print, minus any tone or inflection, not profoundly subject to the interpreter’s own, inherent biases?
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I used to write Letters to the Editor. But, our local newspaper was bought out by some conglomerate, the new panel of editors also bought by those intent upon monopolizing public perception of relative value and I cancelled my subscription. Left without that vital vehicle, with all my unfiltered flaws there has been only one intent on my part, that of using Facebook to play the role of public protector. And, I know exactly what has motivated this.
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But, those who prefer to live in denial may have been offput by one too many words of warning. And, a smaller subset of readers might have concluded that I am just a completely unpleasant person.
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In person.
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Am I?
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Apart from the bad breath, thank you to the boyfriend for so thoughtfully pointing this out, am I really the world’s most rejectable creature?
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Just how much has Facebook contributed to self – perception?
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How many suicides have taken place, predicated by preambles on…..Facebook?
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I mean it. Let’s get off.
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Can we remember the week we sent the laptop in for an overhaul? I can. I think I stocked the entire larder and cleaned the whole house. I might have even spent time with actual, live, in person humans.
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Maybe it’s just because I am a writer. Perhaps this propensity carries an inordinate, uncommon desire to say it all on virtual paper. But, do take this as my closing warning, and accept it from somebody who really doesn’t want anybody to be rejected in person for any reason: pick up the phone, and call somebody. Get out of the house, and go do something just because, today, it isn’t burning fire or freezing snow.
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If we don’t, another decade might pass, and we might not live to see anything else but the next Facebook post.
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© 12/3/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. Please visit littlebarefeetblog.com, when you have nothing else to do. And, thanks.

The Menagerie.

 

He said it, again.

“I need to be alone.”

Well, he might.

But, according to my calculations and a bit of simple math, he’s not.

At last count there were – first – two, large dogs. Brody and Bella, lab mix and Rottweiler each, occupying as much space stretched across the king mattress as another human slightly larger than his broad shouldered, 5’ 6” frame.

Then, little Fitz Willie (Fritz), the cat.  I’m severely allergic, but the anti-dander creme allowed us a sweet fondness.

Oh, but let’s take a walk outside.

Down across the grassy stretch of the first acre, just to the right of the pond we reach the fenced in coop. Four fluffy, extremely well nourished laying hens. We bought them, together, from the little store down the country road which closed last summer, when they were just chicks, days old. There were six, but Bella got one and a hawk the other. I brought home several scarecrows, to protect the remaining four who grew into beauties.

Follow me, back up toward the house. We’ll pass the gardens. Squashes, spinach, arugula. A whole row of red raspberries, still bearing fruit into November. The pear tree. The next, raised beds, framed with leftover wood from my front porch. Asparagus, first every spring, surrounded by gladiolas. More spinach, red and green leaf lettuce. Beets. So many radishes. A row of onions. A couple carrots. And, kale. So much kale, most of it left for the rabbits.

Another row, this one blueberries. I remember netting these, to try to save them yet again from the early birds, who got their feast even before the tiny fruit had matured.

The apple tree. Helping to gather them, soft green and sweet, and the applesauce later which needed no added sugar.

Stand with me, and turn. Gaze back down the yard, all the way past the four hundred foot hose I found so he wouldn’t have to haul sprinkling cans. Rows, and rows, and rows, and rows, of tomatoes. Red, and green, peppers. This year, added chilis, and a whole line of tall garlic.

Now, stop, and listen. Hear them? The birds. Cardinals, wrens, robins, bluejays, finches, Baltimore orioles, red winged blackbirds, chicadees. Hummingbirds.

The bird feeders, filled with sunflower seed – four, maybe five, of these, circumventing the entire house. I won’t forget the sight of their banquet, last winter at the first snow.

And, if you stay ‘til dusk, you’ll hear the final chorus:

Tree frogs.

For these, there are simply no words.

Yes; this is where he spends his time, “alone.”

 

For the past nearly two years, I’d spent much of my time there, too.

Never in my life had I ever been surrounded by the fruits of one man’s labor. Not ever had I been with a man who was truly self made, who needed nothing from me. I treasured every minute he permitted me presence, the true opportunity to share in his little world.

I was just, however, another form of life. Just one more. Letting me go, for him, would be comparatively easy, maybe even welcomed. One less mouth to feed. One less need to meet. One less voice, to interrupt the serenity. Hardly missed, one less heart to break.

But oh, how I will miss him. And, the dogs, Brody Ode and Belly Belle, mommy’s two velvet babies. And, Fitz Willie, preferring the guest room by day but padding across my fleece covered body, poking at me until I crawled out to feed him before the sun came up. And, the chirring hens, their abundance of eggs more than enough for both of us.

And, the birds.

I had tomatoes, this year. They all bore fruit, without once watering. And, in spite of neglect, last year’s kale shot up just ahead of the first frost.

I have birds, in my tree. And, the trees down the street. They offer me their own chorus, at summer’s end and, again, crackling in the spiraea through winter.

But, the tree frogs.

What will I ever do without them?

My love, and his menagerie. God, protect them all.

May they never be alone.

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© 11/28/18   Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose story it is, whose name appears above this line and whose menagerie is glass.

littlebarefeetblog.com

How To Grieve During The Holidays — and, Keep Your Sense of Humor.

R.A.UglySadFace

I used to have a wicked sense of humor.

Meaning: at school, R.A. was the funniest girl in class.

Of course, this was in that archaic phase of history formerly known as “junior high”. And, maybe the cusp of sophomore year. But, details don’t matter. Once life kicked into high gear, the end began.

Yes. Somewhere between the first side impact car accident and the onset of the migraines, something started to chip away at the old edge of wit. Perhaps the newest pain medication, intended to act on serotonin receptors. Whatever. Once I got to college, a secular state university, all my energy was required just to function semi socially and remain a virgin. Well, technically, anyway. While still a sitting infant I’d plopped down, on top of a phallus sized, lead painted steel truck from my elder brother’s collection, and broken my hymen.

But, yeah. Directly proportionate to the degree of accepted responsibilities, any vestige of humor pretty much konked out, was a burgeoning skill as a tedious bore. Add to that a vocal cord surgery, in ’98. Losing my hallmark guffaw was the icing on that cake; I was the most profoundly unfunny person in the world, and couldn’t even laugh about it.

By way of outcome, or perhaps some damage to the central amygdala, across the multiple decades hence there emerged one topic about which I could speak as a veritable Rhodes scholar: grief.

It’s true. If any girl knew anything about sobbing her way through a workshop on teaching the gifted, it was I. Even attending a lecture presented for local women and hearing Nelson Mandela’s absolution on letting your light shine, I cried like a blubbering baby.  As for the dark of pre-menstrual night, and that old familiar fetal position, there would be me, screaming into the pillow like nobody’s mama.

Interestingly, grief being directly the result of loss, I seemed to have cornered the market on losing loved ones. Whether grandparents, parents, relatives, or significant others, I had spent more on funeral arrangements in the course of the gift giving budget than anything else. Add to that far too many failed attempts at intimate relationship and you had Doctor Ruth, minus the short legs and the cheery grin.

Now, as self appointed spokeswoman for the wisdom of aging, I come to you on the better side of post menopause with a seasoned appreciation for synthesis. Perhaps the out of pocket orthodontia to cure tempo-mandibular joint dysfunction gets the prize, because the migraines have significantly ceased and, with them, the need for brain chemistry altering medication. If there is anything to be gleaned from it all I now offer the following: grieving — with a sense of humor.

Herewith a list of tips. (And, no. Mind altering substance ingestion is not required.)

1.) CATASTROPHE.

As we all know, the state of the planet and the world upon it hanging on for dear life, we don’t have to look very far to find the latest disaster during the holidays. In fact, sudden horrific events seem to emerge out of nowhere just as the malls open for business. And, even if we’ve had to say goodbye to the one person we were sure would be holding our hand when we croaked, there is nothing quite like a tsunami on the Pacific rim to jolt us back into relative reality.

I recommend finding the channel which covers the latest world news, and scrolling til we find something geographic. There is a surreal comfort in gaping at massive destruction, particularly if we find ourselves a.) reasonably clothed; b.) sufficiently nourished, and c.) able to adjust the internal temperature of the room to our liking. Allowing ourselves to sit quietly and attune, as the warm surge of relief that none of what we are witnessing is actually happening in any remote proximity, can resemble momentary bliss. It can also gently nudge our better angels to remind us that we could count our blessings.

2.) CHARITY.

Speaking of taking a tally, even if we retired way too early to collect enough to pull us out of a declining demographic, sending twenty bucks to help victimized children does wonders for the dopamine. Contributing to these, as well as those who manage to survive catastrophe, is the most guilt free (and, grief releasing) pleasure on earth. We can do so joyfully, with absolutely no concern for subliminal self righteousness, which can lead to self loathing which, in turn, can frequently cause us to dial a friend and vent. Venting on friends, during the holidays, is the perfect way to get crossed off the last party list that held out hope for the most wretched among us.

But, be cautious; if we do send money, be sure that we have decided with certainty that we hate holiday parties. Sometimes the cascade of cause and effect is too powerful to quell and actually accepting that the phone won’t chime an invitation, at all, must be adequately addressed and confronted with a mature resignation.

3.) GORGING.

Everybody drowns their sorrows in consumables. I suspect that appetite is triggered by a gaping sense of loss.

That said, congratulating ourselves for being sufficiently devastated, we can set about the table before us with any number of syrupy, savory, and textured delectables knowing that – now that we are utterly alone in the world – we don’t have to share them with anybody.

However, keeping various protein sources at arm’s reach is strongly suggested. Every twenty minutes, as the eyelids begin to flutter, stuffing a block of cheese into the face will cut that glycemic rise, effectively preventing ten minutes of sudden coma. During grief, every ten minutes missed is ten minutes lost. And, we all know that the objective is to indulge, for as long as we can remain coherent and capable of sudden wailing and gnashing of teeth. Keeping a glucose monitor handy is also prudent.

4.) PUBLIC DISPLAYS.

Five days ago, I had to endure the excruciating extraction of my entire self from an environment into which I had voluntarily placed myself for twenty months. Granted, the psychic abuse of living in suspended disbelief, instead of squarely facing that hope for a future of committed mutual trust was likely a serious joke, had been preferable for a remarkably protracted period of time. Denial is the pablum of the pathetic.

Since then, to my personal chagrin, I have dissolved into tears in two, distinct Post Office service lines. Completely uncontrollable sniffling and face wiping, with the back of a fading red glove. And, this year, I cannot even blame a single hormone for the rush; all mine are externally introduced, on call or in the stickered ziploc.

The woman with the most empathic reaction actually allowed me back into my queue, after a failed attempt to help another customer carry her packaged burden to her car. The man in the next line who spoke the most encouraging words to me was none other than the service department manager at the car dealership where I’d purchased my Pontiac, with the lemon engine, whose six or seven gaskets had been replaced and for which I had successfully sued GM for five grand.

No. We truly cannot make these things up. Reality really is stranger than fiction. For this cause, I highly recommend that the grieving take it to the streets. Cry, out loud, whenever and wherever we go. Displaying raw, authentic emotion will spur the most outrageous outpouring of human altruism most never knew they possessed, including being reminded that crying is good because it detoxifies the body. A room full of weeping people could ensue. This would provoke entire gaggles of clasping hugs, grinding all commerce to a dead halt and shutting down the economy. Cars would remain parked, people choosing to walk, arm in arm, forsaking their petty materialisms and inviting one another in for a hot meal and some group singing around the piano, revolutionizing society for an entire generation.

So, throw back your head. Squeeze your wet eyelids til they squint out the last tear. Tomorrow will never come. Instead, you will wake up from your sleep, when your body is finally done resting, and your today will be waiting right where you left off.

Isn’t it funny how that works?

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© 11/27/18  Ruth Ann Scanzillo. Thank you for respecting the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line.  Try not to laugh.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

Euphemisms.

 

“I’m treading water.”

“We could both use a break from the ‘unhealthy pace’.”

“I need space to process feelings, desires, choices and goals.”

And, to add, the operative noun:

“Imperative”.

 

All euphemisms.

For never coming back.

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The tenacious ones always get hurt.

Being a barnacle. Hanging on, trying harder, being mindful, vowing to practice good listening skills. Harvesting scraps, from dinner.

Denying how much the one so loved wants to leave.

He’d been talking about “incompatibility” for months. Good listening skills notwithstanding, I’d refused to hear it. Compatibility was a small thing; heck, I’d been “matched” for it at eHarmony.com in 2006, spending three weeks with a bona fide, raving psychotic. You laugh?

I thought that really caring, providing nurture, being helpful around his house, thinking of his needs first whenever I entered a store, trying to find solutions to an endless litany of problems, and being willing to drive the twenty three minutes each way to his place three, four times per week were the ways to show love. Oh, and, the big one: forgiving him all his sins. Past, and present. Repeatedly.

I was mistaken.

In the end, everything I said or did, and how I said and did it, drove him away. He couldn’t stand being around me. He only wanted me there when I wasn’t.

And so, he treated me in kind. I often found my words dismissed – grammatically and syntactically correct texts, each one requiring an intolerable twelve seconds to digest – deleted because there were just too many of them; my overall behavior frequently subjected to declarations tinged with sarcasm and outrage; sweeping generalizations about what was “normal” regularly put up as the barometer against my every act. And yet, to sum it all up, this was “just me”, and who was he to try to “change” me?

By now, with the single exceptions of downhill skiing, skydiving, scuba, performing surgery, and giving birth, everything about life had happened to me. There’d hardly been an experience to which there hadn’t been at least some tangential connection. I’d hiked to the top of Mt. Washington, reeled in a mahimahi off the Honolulu coast, and played on stage with YoYo Ma. Taught competitive marching band (not very competitively, being a poet and aesthete), choir, chorus, hundreds of strings, scores of private students, and coached/produced/directed childrens’ drama ten times in ten years. In 1984, traveled alone to Scotland, England, France, Germany and Switzerland. Written and illustrated three childrens’ books. Bought my own house at age 29, my own cello at 28, and my own Steinway at 57.

But, being dumped as a single woman, at age 61. That smelled more like terror. Who wanted an old woman, for a partner? Surely not an old man. Men were largely unteachable, to begin with, unless groomed by a registered Suzuki instructor by age 4; how could they be expected to adapt to anything, by this time?

I suppose that, just like I myself declared in the musings of a prior piece, beginning again at age 61 might entail going more solo than ever before. That multiply published author, as she traveled the college keynote circuit, never made mention of either a husband or even children. But then, the tiny one, in the bookstore. Carefully laying out all the major novels as her world for the remaining winters of her solitary existence.

So, what did I want? And, what would it be? Serving at the soup kitchen, on Christmas day? My own mother had regularly helped do the very thing, every week in the final few years of her life. She died, anyway, at age seventy six, not a day older than she was at seventeen.

Ask, and ye shall receive. But, isn’t it better to give?

Well?

I’m tired of giving. Giving up, that is – most of my entire self, for another (but, keeping the house, dammit. The only thing I hadn’t done was build it, for God’s sake.)

Maybe spreading love around is the secret. I’m a sprinter anyway, after all – good in short, intense spurts. For the long haul? The biggest load since the space shuttle crossing country on a flatbed.

No matter that the shuttle altered life on the planet as we all knew it. The shuttle was never intended to win friends or influence people, or get tucked into bed at night between the dogs and the warm, familiar embodiment of romantic idealism.

Even as a child, I was not well liked. My own mother found me irritating. And, she was quick to say so. I bore every, single trait inherited from her husband which she never knew until after he’d married her.

So, time to go.

Or, stay.

Tonight, I’ll be at my house. It’s warm, inside. Been mine, for thirty years. Plenty of space, to fill with perpetually collecting reminders of everyone who’d ever been next to me in the room, now to sit alone and think.

But, just don’t ask me to feel.

For that, I would need a really exquisite, carefully selected, and truly exceptional metaphor.

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© 11/26/18   Ruth Ann Scanzillo.   All rights those of the world’s most rejectable woman, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for stifling your self satisfied derision.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

Never.

 

Never a “thank you”

Never a “please”

Rarely “I’m sorry”

Except to appease

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Never a need

Ahead of his own

Except when the dogs

Are expecting a bone

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Always love, first

My mother would say

For love is of God

And, remember to pray

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Forever the giver

Of love, even still

She endured to the end

As an act of the will

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Always the teacher

Who never learns

Love never fails

Except when it burns

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True love may elude

When two lives combine

Never is always

The telltale sign

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© 11/22/18    Ruth Ann Scanzillo        Thank you for respecting original material, however lame.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Fire.

 

The desire to fire

implicates

so, higher ups are hired

to light the match.

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© 11/21/18   Ruth Ann Scanzillo   from the forthcoming “How To Succeed Human Relationship [by Building a Robot]©”, by the author whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting that which is sacred.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

Colleen Ahern.

 

CHAPTER 43.

 

The bookstore was the warmest place to be on the coldest November day.

And, her north wall would not endure another, whole year without its large calendar being adequately replaced.

She’d stared across the livingroom at the space between the levelored windows, for the last time, determined never to stare at that wall again for the rest of her life, unless the block calendar with its proverb for each month was within direct sight line from the sofa.

Last year she’d waited too many weeks, and the bookstore’s selection of remaining 2018 samples had come up short of expectations. Settling for some poolside garden setting theme, only to find its color scheme too purple for the room’s palette, she’d just left the previous December, with its simple:  “Be Kind And Carry On” as place holder for the entire year.

Now, time was truly of the essence. The second winter storm would be upon them by late morning, bringing freezing rain to crust the waning first snow. And, the bookstore had confirmed: their 2019 shipment was racked, and ready.

This year, the store had chosen to place the large wall variety on a rotating spindle display. After several revolutions, there at last was her proverbial, boldly colored favorite. But, just above it – a stunning series, images of Italy. Though talk of a trip to whomever would listen had been ongoing for at least the past five of a total seven since retiring, she’d likely not soon be getting to Italy.  Tucking that one under her arm, she added the flat art favorite, and then spied Ruth Bader-Ginsberg, in cartoon, offering monthly Yoga for the year. No senior woman worth her own salt should be without this vitally hip exercise aid heading into the cusp of the close of yet another decade. Up came Ms. Ginsberg, to join the rest.

Calculating that the Yoga calendar would work near the mirror opposite the railing barre in the loft and the views of Italy would make the music room pop, she wended her way toward the check out, all three securely in hand. Rounding the corner just beyond the recipe books, reading glasses, and Godiva, she could already hear the familiar deep basso resonance of the former radio host turned store clerk addressing the needs of an unseen patron just ahead of both herself and a smiling gent who said nothing.

Peering around him, she could just see to whom the clerk repeatedly spoke. A tiny woman, her tightly pulled grey hair almost white around her head, seated in a rolling cart chair, barely able to see above the counter upon which were placed several, thick hardbound novels.

She could clearly see the books. One John Grisham. Two John Sandfords. No, three. Another, by an unknown woman. Her weight shifted from one faux leather boot to the other. This could be awhile.

No. There was no interest in the stuffed Grinch promotional exclusive. Yes, to a contribution toward the elementary school book drive. Would points to her store membership be welcomed?

She was not processing the content of their exchanges, only watching both, hearing his voice fill the otherwise empty room and hers barely audible above it. The silent gent turned, smiled apologetically, then took an alert on his smartphone.

Another woman approached, from behind, wearing a necklace with roped silver, her outfit its complement. She wondered where the woman might be going after a solitary bookstore visit on this Thursday morning. Two more patrons appeared, behind her. They were a line of six, ahead of the ice storm which would surely glaze upper Peach Street within the hour.

She turned to the woman in the silver necklace, commenting on her outfit. With a gesture toward the counter, she made mention of their mutual future as aging women – including anecdotal references to her own father, nursing homes, and the anticipated final third of life without dependents. Was she also single?

No; the woman was a mother of four.

Nodding with respectful envy, she bowed her head slightly and resumed her stance facing the counter.

The tiny woman was finally paid in full for her $160 order. Slowly, she stood. The store clerk handed her the plastic sack of hardbound novels. Could she get that? Would she need help? The bag of books settled into its spot on the seat of her rolling cart, as she bent to secure it. Oh, I think I should be fine, in tones of seasoned familiarity.

And so, she spoke. Perhaps he might call for assistance, to help the woman get everything to her car. The booming basso cut into the quiet, summoning available help, as the tiny woman moved away from the check out counter toward the exit.

The space cleared, she was up. He opened with the promotions and the school book drive. Hastily, she added the stuffed toy for her grand niece, thinking of the twin siblings due any day. Having taught public school for 25 years, for her the book drive a no brainer: Clifford, the Big Red Dog. Was she permitted to return any one of the calendars, if unopened? Paid in full, she too moved toward the door.

The tiny woman was still seated, large burden in her lap. There was a soft expression on her face, a faint smile at each corner of her mouth. Her eyes were quietly alert.

In less than a breath, she felt her spirit enter the woman’s body, hover, and return. Approaching, she spoke to the woman. Would she like some help?

They were quickly joined by the bookstore manager, complete with laniard and peeping walkie talkie, who pushed the woman in her cart out thru the door as she held it and over to a blue, four door sedan parked at the front of the store. The walkie talkie’s peep crescendoed and the two women relieved her, chatting already and gathering the car keys which, of course, were manually required to unlock the doors.

Had she been a teacher? No; but she was often asked if she were. This was her reading for the whole winter! Well, who wouldn’t believe it? Folding the rolling chair cart, just able to lift and place it in the backseat, the woman crept down into the driver’s seat and turned, smiling.

What was her name? Colleen. Colleen Ahern. Was there anyone to look in on her? Yes; she lived behind Mount St. Benedict, happily well cared for and won’t you have a lovely Thanksgiving!

You have a wonderful winter!  Carefully closing the door, she stepped away.

In a rush of hope she crossed the lot, manually unlocking her own door and settling into her front seat. Tail lights lit, the blue four door sedan sat idling for several minutes. She watched the woman wait until she was sure her engine was sufficiently warmed, then turned to arrange her packages on the passenger seat. When she looked back, the parking spot was empty. The sedan was already moving onto Peach Street, ready to coast all the way to Harborcreek before the storm descended. Before any threat of isolation could lurk. Beyond any doubt or fear, a stack of novels waiting to become her world, one for each month of the year’s end and up and over and across to the new one.

Carry on, Colleen.

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© 11/15/18   Ruth Ann Scanzillo            All rights those of this author, whose name – not Colleen – appears above this line. Thank you for respecting authentic stories.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

The Sixth Decade.

 

White hair speaks for itself.

Would I have remembered her, had she thinning salt and pepper strands enhancing facial lines and furrows?

Maybe it was her height, barely five feet two. Her carriage quick, like a bird.

But, the keynote speaker at Fredonia State University’s May 1982 commencement exercises was impossible to dismiss.

I cannot name a single one of the multiple degrees she carried behind her name, nor title of authored paper or book. Even her name escapes me.

But, what I cannot forget was the fact that she had earned the first of those college diplomas at age 60.

This remarkable life, for all intents and purposes begun in the sixth decade, had been a firebrand of motivation, determination, persistence, and resolve. And, twenty plus years hence, she was still at it.

What’s interesting to note is that I carry no recollection of anything she did prior. The woman herself might credit the sum of those first five decades as molding and shaping; but, what really set her apart was that time, and social expectation, even the power hierarchy, had no deterring role whatsoever.

Perhaps she’d approached the age of 55 in quiet contemplation. Perhaps a beloved spouse had departed the earth; maybe an inheritance bestowed. Whatever the impetus, she’d set about to do, and followed a plan to repeated completion.

Granted, our society still reveres the paper credential. But, no matter. Expanding the mind, digging deeply into those integrated circuits which can only connect with age, unearthing gems of time borne wisdom and then giving them away like birthday presents this single female, now 83, was traveling the country as a motivational speaker for entire classes of graduating university students.

And, she spoke to me.

I had entered Fredonia right out of high school, on a visual art scholarship. Two years hence, withdrawing to transfer to an esteemed art institute, insufficient funds and the recession of the 1970s prevented my enrollment and I remained at home, securing a summer job and opening a savings account. By the fall of the second year of work, I had saved enough to return to school, switch my major, and earn the Bachelor of Music in Music Education.

But, at least three years older than my undergraduate contemporaries, I was a ripe twenty five. Only one other music major could claim this kind of seniority: my boyfriend. But, he’d already moved on, several months prior to the ceremony.

So, for about twenty minutes, from the podium at King Concert Hall, this white haired woman embodied me. As we all sat, capped and robed, she made her mark on my mind and heart.

And, I would not know it until now.

Now, in the sixty first year of my own life.

Perhaps you are one of the special minority of those whose hair has whitened well before middle age. Enjoy your singular beauty. But, for me and the rest of my greying generation, we have the privilege of returning to our self starting childhood, before the agenda of opportunism and exploitation began sniffing around our necks and long before we ever felt the crush of competition and its inevitable corruptions. We need acquire nothing; we still have what it takes. The means has reached its end. We can own our moment.

Mine won’t likely be white for awhile.

But, every hair is numbered. And, each strand as it appears inspires a deep, rich, and nourishing breath.

Time to take the next one!

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© 11/11/18    Ruth Ann Scanzillo   All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting original material, especially when it comes from an old person.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Covering the Mirror.

 

The henna tinted haircut had become oily and matted. Clothes, twice worn, and I’d missed the shower in the a.m. It was nigh on 5:37, and the service was to begin at 6.

I looked a sight. Yet, the temple being a scant four minutes from the house, my heart told me that missing their open invitation would be the greater regret. Dabbing some under eye concealer, a bit of pink powder and a neutral lipstick, I fluffed what remained of the haircut, grabbed the short raincoat, and headed for State Street.

Turning left at the top of Cherry Street, my Pontiac soon joined a steady trough of traffic. Parking at the temple’s Jefferson Society lot was limited, and street options could extend north all the way down the hill if we didn’t get all the greens heading east. I wondered how many from as far away as Fairview had also accepted the invitation?

West of the stadium, cars were already lining the curb. But, two schoolbuses were also present, next to the academy. The stream of drivers was intended for their evening football game. My thymus relaxed, a little.

Reaching the temple, I was relieved to see a spot up from the Jefferson entrance. People were still walking from lot to front, and I joined them, hugging the mustard yellow rainjacket around my jeans to cut the wet chill. Sure enough, ladies were in mid calf skirts, men in dark dress, and then Jack, looking pensive, the news cam man who’d taken my one and only career black and white decades earlier. I resumed my customary cringe. Find a seat in the very back, slide in swiftly, say nothing. Stepping past the security guard and the packing, body armored special agent, I entered the foyer. There was Charles, standing at the door.

We greeted, me offering the self deprecating reference to shabby attire and he quick with the witty retort, something about God not caring and me hoping so. He, with his hearty, reassuring laugh.

My seat awaited, one of four in the far right rear row, two fellow Gentiles on either end. I sat beside Maria, who looked as Bavarian as if she’d just arrived from northern Minnesota.

The room was filling, rapidly. I recognized several, from various stages of my own history in our ageless community. The men, in their yarmulkes. A respected surgeon, in his, plus blue scrubs. An extremely tall gent, in his, ball of the hand curved over a carved walking stick. The current Erie County Executive. A former Mayor of Erie. At least two Mizrachi, with stronger noses in profile than hardly anyone saw anymore, likely never in a fashion rag. And, me, feeling every percentage of the Persian/Turk in my Ancestry.com DNA reveal.

I missed, quietly, Rabbi Len and Faith Lifshen, and their son, Moshe. This had been their temple, prior to the move south and Rabbi’s subsequent death. Turning to Maria I made mention of them, and pointed out the Ark of the Covenant glass encasement in the center of the altar. After my lengthy paragraph, she mentioned the Torah scrolls, me realizing that, yet again, I’d presumed the role of teacher rather than learner.

One of the last to enter was a short young woman, who chose the remaining seat beside me. She was the only female in a yarmulke within my sight line, and I hadn’t remembered ever seeing a woman wear one. Just as she became settled, removing her coat, around the aisle came a slender man who extended his open palm to the Gentile on the left end. He took the hand of each one of us in the back row, introducing himself and asking our names. He was the new Rabbi up from Pittsburgh, where he lived, to conduct the Shabbat Kaddish at Temple Brith Sholom.

This was my second Jewish service. At Yom Kippur, several musical colleagues and I had been invited to the other temple, across town, by another of us who, being a Jew, was slated to play the Kol Nidre on her flute. The rabbi that night was a woman, a guest from New York, and the remaining four vocal musicians and their pianist were all Gentiles but one.

The music at this Shabbat was all vocal. It was produced by the Rabbi, and his seasoned congregation.

After an earnest and warm welcome from, surprise! Doris, a retired teacher with whom I had worked nearly thirty years earlier, the rabbi explained in detail what we as the guests could expect from the service. He encouraged us to select a prayer book from the racks attached to the chairs in front of us. The prayer book pages were turned briskly, from rear to front, as the rabbi chanted in fluent Hebrew and the congregation sang along. I was reminded that, let alone a language strange to my tongue, unless I could see the notation my ability to retain a new melody was woeful. We sat, and stood; remained standing, and sat. Stood. Turned; bowed; sat, again. At each rise and return, a room filled with slightly damp athletic shoes squeaked, in chorus.

The Kaddish, Rabbi explained, was the congregational prayer, uttered in unison aloud. Some Shabbats were mourning Kaddish; this one would have two aspects, the first for private mourners and the second for the victims of the tragedy at Tree Of Life.

Just before the time had come to offer up the Kaddish, the Rabbi spoke in short sermon. He described the innumerable traditions which were the foundation of conservative Judaism. One point in particular spoke to me, as an aspect of mourning.

He said that Jews, by their nature and by their tradition, are open. They encourage emotional expression. Crying during mourning is a given. But, he also insisted, mourning was to be embodied. There would be no preparation of fine adornment; instead, Jews were to begin by eliminating bathing. They were to immerse themselves, entirely, in grief. And, to render this practice intently selfless, they were to cover all the mirrors in the house.

My eyes opened, wide. I looked at the Rabbi.

For that moment, and in the moments later, I stood in solidarity with God’s chosen people against both the recent horror and an entire epoch of vile hatred which had wrenched their global family. Soiled, unkempt; unclean, I was right there.

Out of body, present in spirit, I no longer saw myself.

Only Adonai.

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© 11/2/18    Ruth Ann Scanzillo.       littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Principle Of The Thing.

 

My partner is a registered nurse.

He works in the hospital where I was born.

But, it’s not a hospital, anymore. A medical center complex, owned by a huge health corporation which also provides insurance, it is one of the area’s largest employers.

One would think that, being enormous in scope and financially well endowed, said corporation would be able to sustain the employment of at least one person whose job it would be to enforce fair practices.

Like, staff scheduling.

Instead, the man I love is forced to fill his week with days which often run fifteen consecutive hours or more on site. And then, add being on call, which ties his hands and his imminent presence at least one day per week until 5:30 am the following morning.

And, he isn’t even in the Emergency Room, the scenario which provides fodder for more televised drama than the field of poorly managed medicine deserves. He’s in the dialysis department. This is where patients come, three times a week, to have their kidneys flushed so that they don’t die in a matter of hours from uremic poisoning. And, unlike other departments, such as the cardiac catheterization lab, the doctors aren’t actively on site throughout the shift; the entire week is managed by the nurses, and their supervisor.

Most dialysis patients are in house, admitted, many for weeks or even months at a stretch. These are individuals who are vastly unwell; most have multiple afflictions, including morbid obesity, all of which must be factored in when the four hour, tri-weekly dialysis commences. Each is wheeled to the department on a gurney, where the line forms in the narrow hallway leading to the shallow bay of treatment cubbies.

But, unlike a hair salon, which effectively staggers multiple customers between wash, rinse, cut, set, dry, and style, each of these patients must be watched carefully. First, their vital signs must be monitored for sudden drops in pressure or heart rate; next, potassium levels must be regulated, these directly affecting heart rate. In short, each nurse must be ready to administer the safest, most effective intravenous cocktail of chemicals intended to maintain patient stability throughout the four hour procedure.

Imagine some fourteen patients, in the course of a shift, all of them in a long line awaiting treatment. Visualize eight of these, in active dialysis, at various stages across their four hours. Now, realize that several may be in significant discomfort. One may be thrashing about, yelling; another may be hovering at death’s door.

But, then, there are those patients who have been admitted to the ICU. These are critically ill, but in need of dialysis, perhaps due to drug overdose or sudden sepsis.

Now, consider how many nurses would make for secure, attentive coverage of fourteen patients plus ICU in a given fifteen hour shift. Would you be surprised to discover that the dialysis department currently employs only 5 nurses?

That’s five, in total. Scheduled across a six day work week. Covering a contingent of sick patients, patients who don’t get well. Not on dialysis.

Dialysis is extended palliative care. Patients on dialysis either get a kidney transplant, or expect to reach the end of their lives within five to seven years.

And, for their troubles, these get: five nurses. (There had been six, but the one most willing to work the longest hours tore her meniscus, and now needs surgery.) Has the medical center hired her replacement? Oh, no. Easier just to stretch the remaining five thinner than a dime.

Money. Money drives everything. Allegedly the reward for a job well done, at least it used to be. Now, we have to ask “Who benefits?” Why? Because a job well done is no longer rewarded. Now, a good worker is exhausted, with little recourse against a killer schedule which, especially critical in the health field, renders most nurses chronically sleep deprived, socially constrained, and increasingly embittered.

Let’s require of our massive corporations that they use their equally vast resources to establish a department for accountability to devoted workers. Delegated supervisory roles only work as far as the individual assigned is willing to make the extra effort necessary to create scheduling which both serves and benefits those over which he or she has domain. On principle.

Principle used to represent that moral, conscience-driven act to which one adhered, in process and procedure, even when one stood to benefit nothing. Now, unless there is something in it for the “me”, nobody does anything.

Except the nurses.

The nurses will always do the hard thing. The dirty thing. The critical thing. And, they’ll be asked to do it all on four hours’ sleep, five days a week, irrespective of their advancing age or the responsibilities they maintain when they finally get home at night.

An army of these rising up would force a revolution.

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© 11/2/18    Ruth Ann Scanzillo.   littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tree of Life.

Just about every child in the United States now over the age of 30 has heard the story of Adam and Eve.

For many Americans, and scores of others across the globe, this was the beginning of life as many had been taught to believe it.

And, for every patriarchal society wallowing in male dominance, the first woman and her original sin became the bane of all who walked in her shadow.

But, whether man or woman what many may not know is that this story is shared by both Christians and Jews. The Torah, the sacred Hebrew book, predates the Biblical canon by a swath of time and contains the first five books of what would later become the Christian Old Testament.

And so, both Jewish children and Christian children were raised by the story of the Garden of Eden, as told in the book of Genesis.

Now, when we read those early chapters in Genesis, we find that Jehovah Elohim, after creating everything else, including Man, put not one but many trees in Eden. And, then we are told that he singled out not one, but two trees: a.) The Tree of Life, in the midst of the garden, and b.) The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. And, then Jehovah commanded Adam. He told him he could freely eat of the fruit of every tree in Eden, except that of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, lest he surely die.

Then, God created Eve.

The story continued, painting Eve as both approachable and easily confused. The serpent tempted Eve, by challenging the words of Jehovah and putting a question in her mind. But, beguiling her, he made reference not to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil but to the tree in the midst of the garden. This was the Tree of Life.

(So, which was it? From which tree was she permitted to eat? And, whose fruit would bring certain death?)

We all remember what happened. Eve partook of the fruit of the tree to which the serpent had led her. Sharing with Adam, they knew their nakedness, were ashamed, and tried to hide from Jehovah. And, Jehovah banished them from the Garden of Eden.

But….the Tree of Life. In the midst of the Garden. 

I have pondered this wonder, for most of my own life.

Perhaps the Jewish children know the secret.

Of note is that, whether male or female, the Jews as a people are equally thoughtful, equally respected. Equally forgiving. Equal.

They still worship in the midst of the Garden. They still honor the Tree of Life. Regardless of our faith or the absence thereof, let us all offer up a prayer for those who will meet at the synagogue which bears its name, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, again this Saturday. Perhaps there is one reaching out to us in spirit, from among those whose lives were taken. Whether Jew or Greek, bond or free, let us clasp hands and sit under the Tree of Life, together.

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© 10/28/18  Ruth Ann Scanzillo     Thank you for respecting the beliefs of all people, and the words of Genesis.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

Yesterday.

 

I love the past.

1970’s superstar Billy Joel has his own SiriusXM station. Unlike the breadth of his continuing career, he gets to keep Channel 30 for just a few weeks, kind of like a feature. I’ve been enjoying his retrospective, while driving to the Food Co-op, or out on errands – every time I’m behind that wheel. Along with legions of others, I get this brief chance to travel across his repertoire with him, in between snippets of commentary and gems from his recollection.

Of particular interest is the story of how he became a songwriter. Apparently, his mother always played her favorite records, at home. She loved Gilbert and Sullivan, and others from her era. Billy absorbed solid songwriting from these masters but, as he recounts, his fire wasn’t really lit until he heard the Beatles.

And, the other day, while presenting his Songs I Wish I’d Written segment, he invariably cited one of them: Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday.”

Now, everybody knows that the popular song is the capsule for every memory, in our lifetime. And, most of us have a narrative for every favorite we can name. But, only the psychologists have warned that nostalgia isn’t particularly “healthy”; they, along with those Be In The NOW proponents, argue that living in the past is oppressive, even toxic.

At least two songwriters might challenge that.

Here we have legends, in their own time – Joel, and McCartney. I’m betting neither of these song meisters are wallowing in whatever happened to them. Their respect for the past is a real religion; they both know that, if we lose faith in what has made us who we are today, we’ll have little upon which to grow for tomorrow.

The Millennials, who live in a world of instantaneity, may not have a concept of history. They may be missing a reverence for that which is foundational, upon which the new must be built. They may not realize that what they deem worthy may have come from the mind of one for whom effort to produce it was lifelong. From their perspective, that which isn’t current is both passe and dispensable, devoid of value. Displacement has supplanted any concept of what used to be termed “classic.” Yet, how many of their pop celebrities are producing music which will endure? Whatever happened to “the test of time”?

We may long for that which is past, but we can hide away, even believe, in our yesterdays. I’m grateful, today, to be part of a generation which can still embody that which it can also remember.

Sing on, gentlemen.

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© 10/21/18    Ruth Ann Scanzillo.

 

The Prolific.

 

Beethoven was a loner.

Reports are his hair was often dirty. He’d wear a long top coat, pencils in the pockets, and pace the streets, muttering under his likely foul, acidic breath. His personality was neither warm nor appealing. To use contemporary vernacular, he was not well liked. Had there been a club, he would not have been invited.

Upstairs, where it all happened, he’d pore over his scores, for hours on end. The man was a driven perfectionist; his original manuscripts show so many scribbled erasures so as to have damaged the paper upon which his markings were made.

The totality of his compositions, while many, were not what one would call evidence of a prolific; rather, they were each in their own way masterpieces. They were masterpieces because, whether Beethoven himself realized it or not, he was changing the sound of music for ages to come.

And, in fact, there is hardly a civilized person who cannot place the 9 Beethoven symphonies among the pearls of creative treasure for all of history.

Bach preceded Beethoven, by a stretch.

His output was enormous.

Each Sunday, there was a new Chorale for the church. Bach wrote 600 of these. And, within the mainstream of cultured society, although they are among the most beautiful of musical creations he isn’t even known for them; most cite his volumes of two and three part inventions for keyboard instruments, his partitas, his chaconnes, his toccattas and fugues.

Two singular composers, both creative geniuses.

Is one of higher value than the other?

In matters of taste, two constituencies may form. Under Beethoven, those who prefer to be moved by chordal harmonies and driving rhythm; under Bach, those affected by the intricate complexity of voicing and counterpoint.

But, each contributed not by the collected volume of individual works, but by sheer artistic impact. Regardless the quantity, the power of their affect lay in the quality.

Let’s not ask of our artists that they fulfill our time based expectations. Let us cast aside judgment against the frequency of their contributions. Art needs neither justification, nor critique upon its merit. The next masterpiece may already be in progress. All we have to do is wait, and prepare our hearts.

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© 10/18/18    Ruth Ann Scanzillo.  Thank you for respecting original material.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

The Closet Politik.

PappyAndTheGirlsAtTheBeachCirca1929
L to R:  Dora Mae; Lydia Elisabeth (“Betty”); Henry Thomas Sweet; Front row, L to R: Martha Louise; Frances

My grandfather was a closet Republican.

Harry Truman was his hero.

Born in Wilkes-Barre, PA, of parents who’d hailed from Cornwall, England, he’d brought his young wife, Mae, across the Commonwealth on or about 1915 to build cranes at Bucyrus-Erie. Yet, Erie, newly founded, was up and coming and this move – for a working class conservative – was, at its heart, progressive.

But, after having attended a tent meeting led by Christian evangelist Billy Sunday, this naturally gruff dogmatist had experienced a conviction of belief which would solidify his politics for life. He brought with him to Erie a Bible thumping, street preacher’s passion and, after meeting two elders of the Plymouth Brethren at the City Mission, would join their fellowship at the Gospel Assembly Hall on East Avenue.

But, Henry Thomas Sweet would not register to vote.

He and the rest of his fellow fundamentalists would populate a small, but ardent, segment of this growing town. Their teachings were the most extreme among conservatives; preaching that only those things due Caesar would be rendered, the rest would be left up to Almighty God – who would put into office whom He will.

Still, Henry Sweet taught his family all the values upheld by the Republican party. Hard work having yielded sufficient income, all resources would be put toward the sustenance of family and a tenth toward “the Lord’s work”, all capital kept close to the vest for just such purposes. The downtrodden were to be regarded as slacking, irresponsible, vagrant, and were admonished – from the street corner pulpit – to “Get up out of the gutter, repent, and get a j.o.b.”

What Henry and Mae did was work. Raising four daughters, they used their hands – baking bread, and delivering it door to door; hooking and braiding rugs, from old, discarded wool coats rescued from the Salvation Army; planting vegetable gardens, and fruit trees, gathering their harvest (had poultry been permitted inside the city limits, they’d likely have had hens and chickens); “slaving” over the stove, preparing meals for the entire, extended family for every holiday and birthday celebration. Mae also sewed, repairing and altering all manner of clothing, and creating from remnants everything from pajamas to suits and spring coats, draperies, and furniture slip covers. Henry, after a long day at the crane factory, maintained every inch of their humble property on East 29th Street, as well as their royal blue Chrysler.

In his final decade, disaffected and excommunicated from the Brethren for “railing”, sunken into his harvest gold La-Z-Boy recliner in the northeast corner of the livingroom reading his National “Geographs” and his Bible, listening to talk radio (and, calling in daily), he would brood.

Sympathy was not part of his lexicon. Compassion was merely a concept, to be contemplated while meditating upon the person of the Christ. Weakness was not to be indulged; one was given a life, and one must take up the reins of it and serve the Lord with all one’s might. Paying income tax was the bane of existence.

Three of the four daughters carried on the traditions of his closet politics. All honorable citizens they, nevertheless, also never registered to vote – raising their children to accept having come out from among them, being separate, avowing to touch not the unclean thing. There were us, the elect bride of Christ, and there were them, the reprobate, damned to hellfire lest they repent and believe the Gospel.

I don’t know what happened, but something did. Time, and its inevitable evolution. Being Republican of mentality used to mean such noble (if self centered) intent, even if it appealed to the most narrow minded among them. One wonders if the GOP was forever affected by those who would only vote for he or she whom their God had ordained. Being a Democrat came to defy such selfish, belief driven ideals. In between, I now find myself – a registered Independent, caught, without a closet in which to hide. We are all part of America, a nation of so many countries, fighting to stay socially intact, more exposed than ever before, members of a globe of earthly nations pushing and pulling and hanging on.

And, the world’s eyes are still on our family.

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©10/15/18  Ruth Ann Scanzillo.  All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The No Party System.

 

The world is flat.

Thomas L. Friedman wrote the book, over a decade ago.

The Internet explosion and outsourcing have brought us into instantaneous connection with everything that can carry a signal. Provided we sustain electronic linkage, we can now communicate with virtually everyone – about anything – and provide goods and services for anyone from anywhere.

I can remember when one had to drive to a local library, navigate the research department catalogue, and sit for hours copying columns of material just to prove an historical point. Now, one smart phone and about twelve minutes can accomplish the same task – and, save all relevant documents into a virtual folder.

In the United States alone, I’m sure there are scholars who can provide enough data to support Friedman’s thesis. But, let’s consider the political realm, in this context.

Based in the last couple political campaigns, the Internet has proved itself responsible for the rise of Bernie Sanders and the election of Donald J. Trump. Social media has become the first avenue for publicity. We don’t even need graphic designers, anymore (and, I was one); banners and yard signs can be self produced, using available software, and picked up at the nearest print outlet.

Instant access; equally swift information transmission. Do we even need to be present, to win?

Now, consider how we might review the political platform of a potential political candidate. Said hopeful creates a website, and lists his/her political views, point by point. Televised ads would be retained, albeit many of them viewed via smart phones. Door to door campaigns would still carry significant local weight, but these would no longer require anything but prior familiarity with a candidate’s position on all the issues.

So, how do we place value on political party? Primarily, citizens align on platform – a set of commitments to action which follow a certain ideology. Fiscal conservation. Equal rights, for women and minorities. Federal programs. Single payer health. Flat tax. Retirement options. Self-employed business ownership. Industry. Agriculture. The environment, and its protection. Fuel and power sourcing. Medical services. Insurance coverage, for home, auto, and equipment. Military defense. Employment opportunities.

But, why do any of these issues require party delineation? Can’t each be addressed, per its degree of relevance to the citizen? Is this populism? Well, why not?

The branches of government as vehicles would not have to be party dependent, either. Is there really a philosophy governing what has historically been defined as Democratic or Republican, anymore? I can’t even list how many op eds have been written about the evolution of party ideologies, and almost all address a direction which moves away from their original intent. It’s as if each is enduring the pull to divide, like a human cell.

Why not just consider all issues across a scale – left; center; right?

By working merely from such a scale, we would have a clearer perception of needs vs wants, and might more easily dispense with entrenched, outmoded thinking.

I am certain that sociologists would concur, on one point: the class system is the principal offender, here. Those who are defiantly party aligned are usually class conscious. And, this mentality is inherently divisive.

I fully expect to be bombarded by the resistant and the outraged. I’ll be called a simpleton. Have at me! Yet, I firmly believe that this is an idea whose time is coming. Please, be open. We cannot continue as we have been, with partisan gridlock tripping every step we attempt to take and, worse, resorting to suppression of the truth.

Institutionalized thinking is the bane of progress. Most importantly, morality has become subject to the interests of partisan politics – and, that is the foreboding harbinger.

“Government by, and for, the people.”

First.

It’s our national call, in our world.

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© 10/11/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

A Crisis of Childishness.

 

Kindergarten.

The term itself is Germanic in derivation and, I believe, the concept as well.

Children, able to be separated from their parents for a single school day, brought together in groups according to their chronological age to be led by a competent adult, because socialization is considered vital to the success of an earthly civilization.

I remember what we did in Kindergarten. The year was 1962. Mrs. Williams’ room was the largest one at Lincoln School, with the bay window where the painting easels stood.  We each had a spot on the rug, sat cross legged, and faced her laced up shoes as she stood in front of us. We always opened each morning with a song, then the day of the week and the weather. We always made pictures, had a nap, played games and ate a snack.

But, beyond all this, a sentient sage compiled all the things that made it truly important and put them onto a lovely poster: “Everything I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten”. Herewith, a couple I’d like to add to that list:

a.) Keep your hands to yourself.

Goodness. Need we say more?

b.) Be kind.

How about:

c.) Tell the truth.

Are there any questions?

Does everybody understand?

Over the past couple of decades, I have watched the nation I call my own collapsing into a puddle of human depravity. This has made itself manifest in the form of fundamental behaviors we used to tell children were unacceptable.

Grown ups, touching each other inappropriately, but with sophisticated persuasive tactics that would make a chemist blush. And, then, going to equally intricate lengths to scrub out the crayon mark tracks they leave behind.

Alleged adults, grasping after power over one another’s things, taking what doesn’t belong to them with such drooling greed that even the 5 year olds would stop, stare, and wag an admonishing finger.

Moreover, the leader of our country, who is supposed to be the model for doing what is right, paying money to keep quiet those who would tell on his bad behavior to the people and then saying to everyone that, even though a girl said a man didn’t keep his hands to himself, we should let him into the little club where they make all the rules for good behavior for the whole country.

In fact, just today, all the leaders of the other countries laughed at him.

I don’t know about you, but I am embarrassed.

I’m mortified.

I suspect the Chancellor of Germany is appalled.

Our country is remedial. We need a retake, and a redo. We could do well to start over. Before we know it, the bell will ring, and school will be out.

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© 9/25/18   Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

Put A Stake In It.

 

The last of the tomatoes were done.

Unlike squash, they wouldn’t have survived creeping across the garden soil; their vines required staking, this year by aluminum wire cages. Stepping into the collapsing mess of metal, I reached down and plucked the final fruit from its stem, inhaling for the last time that distinctive, acidic scent.

This season, everyone seemed to have had a stake in something.

I was a professional musician. Roughly half of my colleagues either’d had contracts with an established organization, or hoped for hire; the rest were investing in a newer venture, because it served them in familial ways.

After having taken a tally of all concerned I’d discovered that, just as my beloved would suggest, none of those involved had wanted to risk their own potential benefit by standing against anything – least of all, it seemed, any moral component in actions taken. None of them, that is, but me.

And, so, I’d been left facing my remaining options. They were few.

1.) Take whatever I could get, which would likely be a rare to never hire by the established organization’s newly created collective of contracted members;

2.) Join the new venture, which clearly served first those already attached – by either employ, or enrollment – to a local institution.

In short, both actions sidelined me. The possible motives had emerged, and none of them were attractive: a.) I was perceived as aging out? b.) I was not accepted, because I did not submit to those who sought authority over me?

The third option only became clear after I had confronted the initial two and found them both undesirable:

3.) Walk away.

Facing the reality that my net income would only be marginally affected, seeing as that generated by both options had never, in the past, even remotely covered the number of uncompensated hours, the likelihood of garnering more creative time had begun to feel more like a reward than a punishment.

And, so, the decision was actually easy.

The outcome, however, I could not have predicted.

First, there’d been the sheer relief. Had there really been that much pressure, and stress? Being locked into a work schedule, occupying weeknights and weekends, pre-determined by those outside of myself. Yes; yes, there had. The release of this weight was euphoric in its effect; I felt as if I’d just been granted an unlimited vacation!

But, secondly, I’d begun to note a silence. Nobody seemed interested in remaining in touch, even those I’d thought were friends.

My declaration of intent was never challenged, no attempts made to persuade a re-consideration, only two polite assurances of future, independent collaborations from among dozens. Stock replies, and more silence.

The stakes were just too high.

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A favorite metaphor among Biblical apologists is the fruit of the vine. Believers, so called, are to bear it; if they do not, they are cut off from the host.

I love tomatoes. I eat them, nearly every day when they are in season. But, maybe I am more like a squash, or a pumpkin. Meant to grow on another vine, close to the soil.

I’ll stake my life on that, instead.

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© 9/24/18   Ruth Ann Scanzillo.  All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting original material, however unimportant.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Big Sink.

 

They had said they’d do it.
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For him, it was a plan. And, that was hard.
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Open ended all the way, perhaps borne of a deep seated low self esteem (“I don’t deserve to want anything”) he’d much rather let the overwhelm swirl in his head until, completely oppressed, 3 o’clock p.m. would arrive at which moment he would fatalistically declare: “The day is over.”
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She, on the other hand, the result of 25 years of the strictly imposed assembly line mentality expressed in the form of a teaching position within public education, had learned – entirely against her nature – to plan. A day could never reach its end, with any hope of success, without a clear, linear, step by step process divided precisely into 40 minute increments.
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Thus had become her life.
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And, in order to actually prove her worth (another deep seated esteem problem), she’d managed to pack active effort into each waking minute. For every one of those 25 plus years, should less than an hour of uncommitted time appear, this would manifest as a vacation – gorging on cookies and ice cream, in front of late night television, in the words of the late Dudley Moore: “Time, well…spent.”
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He’d spent his operating from a point of zero expectation. Trained in nursing, submerged in the kind of erratic, exhausting days and weeks known only to the world of American human health care. No two twenty four hour periods ever the same, in any way, he’d grown to covet the equally protracted blank spaces whenever they presented themselves. Yet, his work was never self directed; rather, at the mercy of emergent need, what he called familiar was an act of response.
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She, the head of the classroom, had always been required to generate action. Furthermore, framed in forty minutes at a time by day (and, two and a half hours at evening rehearsals) for each of these, clock watching had become the driver; the challenge was beginning, developing, and completing – and, then, doing it all again, all day until – sure enough – 3 o’clock, when the day shift really did end.
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Here they then were, at her house, facing thirty years of accumulated kitchen paraphernalia. Hers had been a deferred fantasy, that of preparing hot h’ors doerves and sweet creme treats for enough guests to populate the living, dining, and music rooms, the attic loft, the backyard, and the wrap around porch. This wistful dream only realized once, at the house warming; thereafter, from the advent of Ronco Tv she had acquired every tool, slice/dice/splicer gadget, storage system, and portable fryer publicly performed by the proponents of InventHelp – only to completely ignore them, forthwith. There was no therapy for regret; full circle, having come around to both the application and compartmentalization of this lifetime, even the storage system had been of no assistance.
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Time: Four hours.
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Every cupboard expunged of its static story – the two dead mice in their sticky traps to the trash, their hole into the bottom shelf plugged with steel wool and Duct tape; the Pyrex bowls graduating across the counter, the holiday potpourri, candles and mugs sent to the Xmas box, the lone Pampered Chef casserole dish holding its breath in fear of the impending sterilizing pool; the Princess crystal wine glasses, the portable mixer and French press and Bullet and Bonzai Chopper and George Foreman grill, the rice maker and bread maker and Jack LaLane Juicer and wafflemaker all disinfected and repositioned behind each cupboard door – he and she had successfully reoriented her entire food preparation space into the back end of the second decade of the twenty first century.
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She kissed his mouth, and smelled his neck, and smiled him out the door. Back at his place, the dogs needed out, the tomatoes staked. She turned, and took the five steps from the mudroom to the edge of the double wide porcelain basins completely invisible beneath their mound of soaking Rubbermaid and stainless steel. A sink load of dishes was worth doing alone. Because she couldn’t, they’d brought themselves all the way through her past to their present, and they’d done it together.
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© 6/25/18  Ruth Ann Scanzillo     All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting original material
littlebarefeetblog.com

Destined To Be Lost.

It was cold, again.
The chapel was often cold.
Not because of its grand hewn stone or stained glass, the height of its vaulted ceiling, or its inlaid flooring.
The chapel was cold because the door facing south was open – permitting access to the front by those unable (or, unwilling) to use the main entrance at the back of the church.
This open side door allowed the south westerly wind direction to thrust the front of the sanctuary into what, for my small frame and unprotected heart, were temperatures beyond chilly. And, those of us hired to play string quartet with added winds for the baccalaureate mass at the local university were very concerned. Not for our bodies, though they shivered, but for our valued instruments – collectively worth several thousand dollars, and not designed to withstand protracted cold drafts.
This was commencement week. Matriculating college seniors, being sent into the world to preach their own gospels by the administrators of the catholic institution granting their academic degrees, their presiding priest had chosen from among his readings passages intended to encourage all the young graduates in attendance. Wrapping my legs around the belly of my cello and crossing my arms over my heart I sat, listening keenly to the one from John’s Gospel, chapter 17:
“Holy Father, keep them in Thy Name which thou hast given me, that they be one…Those thou hast given me I have kept, and none of them is lost.”
My attention was captured by the single clause which followed that affirmation. Yes; Jesus had kept all those God had given him, and not one of them had perished – “ except he who was destined to be lost, that the scriptures might be fulfilled.”
Destined.
To be lost.
The mass ended, I hurried home – to get warm, and to do some digging.
My research brought me through several Biblical translations, finally discovering the International Standard Version. The King James, and those directly following ( including J.N.Darby’s, which I hold personally ) all maintained Judas to be “the son of perdition”; but, the International Standard referenced destiny in his characterization. Apparently, it was now considered archaic to think of the one who betrayed Jesus for a bag of silver as merely the “son of perdition”. Judas had been born to damnation, because it was his destiny.
Several months ago, I watched as something I held precious was snatched from me. Helpless to hold on to it, I could only hope that those determined to be capable of its rescue would step forward. But, due to the collective interests of everyone else involved, this was not to be. What I held dear had been unprotected; what I lost could not be saved.
Many argue that everything happens for a reason. In spite of the failings and fortitude of mere humans, the scripture of our lives will be fulfilled. For some, this means playing any number of roles, from savior to scapegoat. All for the greater good.
When one door opens, God closes another and opens a window. We choose both our entry, and our escape.
I just can’t, for the life of me, figure out why it has to be so damned cold.
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© 5/13/18   Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting original material.
littlebarefeetblog.com

Bring It To The Table.

 

He probably had no idea.

But, many women crushed on Anthony Bourdain, myself included.

Given what we have now been told about his life, his worth, and the scope of his experience, this fact may have come to bear no importance to him. Like everything he’d touched, women were likely a “been there/done that” episode in an otherwise keenly focused and ultimately vital social intention.

Because, Anthony Bourdain wasn’t just a fantastic chef. He was an explorer, a journalist, and a visionary. He may also have been, in spite of his rugged earthiness, rather an idealist – receiving, with private reflection and no small frustration, the socio-political realities he encountered.

And, he found them all.

From the rapid fire race of the planet’s cosmopolitae to the cramped corners of primal civilization, Bourdain covered the story – by boat, rickshaw, taxi, mule and the boots on his own feet. And, he reached the very heart of it all, at table.

There is something about the art of not just preparing good food, but in the eating of it. When this man sat down to share a meal, be it finger fried or stew pan steamed, he brought his open mind. And, as his interviews sat with him, they ceased being subjects and became friends. And, so many of them had, until he came along, never been seen or heard by anyone outside of their tiny place in the sun.

In many cases, neither had the culture they represented. And, this was Bourdain’s fascination. He didn’t just bring his appetite. Anthony Bourdain was hungry. He really, genuinely, wanted to know them all, and everything about their lives.

And, they told him.

They told him, both through their food and the act of sharing it. By coming to the table, the story itself unfolded – unprovoked, and unrestrained. It spoke candidly, about the political upheavals of the day and the ancient history in a single pot of oil. It openly expressed the views of its people – their ideas, their needs, their hopes for survival and preservation.

I don’t know what happened in that hotel room in Paris. We are long past the proving of any of it. And, maybe that is just what Anthony Bourdain wanted. Beyond marketing and media ratings, release to our eyes and ears his legacy. Let the story tell itself.

But, do pass the mushy peas.

Please.

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©9/16/18  Ruth Ann Scanzillo    All right those of the author, who wonders just how many private islands there are. Really.   Thank you for respecting original material.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

Published!

 

She did it.

After God knows how many months, years, painstakingly crafting, artfully arranging, she completed her novel.

It had to happen. I wrote a children’s book; she wrote one. I performed on a Steinway; she bought one. I wrote a screenplay; she got a Master’s in Creative Writing.

And, wrote a novel.

We’re supposed to celebrate each other’s triumphs. It sends positive energy into the universe, or something like that. I’d just tired of being her Applause! sign, every time we met for dinner. I mean, really tired.

For one, I am afraid to open the first chapter for fear I see myself or a member of my own family, illustrated in my blog, now characterized in official print. We all do it, as a sort of emotional release, when relationships break our hearts or sour on the vine. But, there is no law requiring me to read that book, just like there’s no law preventing her from lifting, along with a few, choice turns of the old phrase and an essential rhythm, somebody else’s nationality, personality, or family story and calling it fiction.

Power; influence; prestige; status; and, marketing savvy. The best connections an established, multiply credentialed, white collar professional can gather, just by entering the room. It’s been the way of the world, for awhile now.

Jealous? To use her favorite exclamation: “Naah.”  Jealousy is about wishing you were the other person. No desire for that; grateful for everything God gave me, thank you mum and dad. Envy? Perhaps. Being published is enviable. It means that your novel will garner reviews, and sit in a bookstore with all the others. Sometimes people buy books in bookstores. Sometimes they sit, and read them there. Others flip through, looking for the best gift for that relative who doesn’t get out much.

And, a segment of the population actually spends quite a bit of time reading. Prisoners, for example.

Do I attempt to minimize this accomplishment? Nothing likely could, if its inherent value is deemed worthy by the National Association of Writers. Oh, wait. She’s a member. There it is. Nothing I could possibly say or do would depreciate this product of no doubt arduous hours of research, rewrites and edits. It’s hers, after all. Here’s hoping she gets everything she deserves.

I, myself, don’t just love to write. I need to write. Writing may be the very last thing I do before drawing my final breath. Whether anybody reads, well, that’s up to Providence.

Meantime, there are several drafts awaiting completion. Inhale; exhale. Mindful awareness. Plod along. The purpose emerges.

Just keep on.

You can do.

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© 9/14/18   Ruth Ann Scanzillo.  Please respect original material, however unimportant. Thank you.

littlebarefeetblog.com

The Missing Earring.

It happened so fast.

One final page flip, at the piano, in the midst of the soprano duo. Up went the right hand, catching the hoop and flicking it out of the piercing in my earlobe.

At a momentary break in the service, I stepped over to my pew and set the earring in my gig bag. Two Sundays and a Tuesday hence, I searched for the pair to complete a casual outfit. Only one hoop appeared.

Yesterday, the purge began.

I’d been keeping a whole lifetime of outfits, with matching accessories, for years. Probably a symptom of a life deferred. How was the daughter of strict fundamentalists to know that a career scrambled after would render an artificial social milieu which would leave her starving for the nourishment which living out her true identity would have provided? She could only manifest this subconscious realization by regularly purchasing clothes and jewelry from mail order catalogs, like shut ins who live in the country. Her world, perpetually professional, draped in black, would rarely afford her the creative pleasure of wearing any of it.

So, now seemed to be the time to dig through all the jewelry. Two hours in, and my bedsheet was gritty with dust and residue from any number of bracelets, rings, necklaces, pins and earrings.

The last wrangle of particularly intractable chains was the most resistant. A rhinestone bordered cut out heart, silver mounted, reminded me of its original owner. My first sister in law would last 13 years as a member of our family, but bequeathing to her skinny pre-adolescent equivalent this piece. I remembered wearing it, every summer at the annual Bible conference and its subsequent winter retreats, through any number of hopeful crushes and handholding in the dark. The tiny silver “R”, on its even more delicate chain, was a throwback to the lumpy fonts of the 1970s. But, the shiny heart locket, gold in color. What was this?

I opened the heart.

Inside, a tiny photo of mum, smiling into the sun she loved so much. Given to me, only now recalling, by my cousin’s wife ( the daughter of mum’s first crush ) at the time of mum’s death.

Stroking the miniature photo with my thumb, I sat, its context returning. The locket, back then in 1995, had seemed gaudy, shiny next to my usual wardrobe. I’d been teaching elementary music, dressing most days in full theatrical costume to illustrate concepts as a human object lesson, a tactic keen student observers would take back to their methods college classes and hand off to their instructor’s eager doctoral candidate’s thesis. When out of such get up, I dressed for comfort; sweats, and flat shoes, were the order of my hopelessly nocturnal brain and interrupted sleep each morning. The locket had been relegated, with mum’s watch and the opals inherited from her Aunt Mary.

Now, twenty three years hence I sat, and remembered only my mother.

Our singular Mum, speaking to me yet again, and always during a cleaning run. Mum, always sorting everything, keeping busy, pushing down all the unrealized dreams by organizing the small but vital world over which she had domain. Mum, always with me whenever I’d “finally get around to it.” I closed the locket, and wrapped its chain around my throat, attaching the clasp.

The lost earring would take its place among the sundry and unimportant. Better to get busy and spend my remaining energy in the joy of living authentically.

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© 9/12/18  Ruth Ann Scanzillo   All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Please respect the original stories of their narrators. Thank you.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

It’s Official!

[Final edit]

I’m no sports enthusiast.

But, I do know that those who judge the plays and fouls used to be called referees. Now, they’re all called “officials”.

I’m guessing that’s because, according to the rules of the game, theirs is the official decision – on everything that happens. The official word. From God’s mouth, to our ears.

Oxford’s says that “official” is “having the approval of an authority or public body”.

I note that the keyword appears to be “authority”. Or, is it “approval”?

From my short stint in the world of graphic design I am reminded of a concept. We called it “truth in advertising”.

Except, beginning in the days of MAD MEN, the phrase actually meant something.

The product had to be everything the ad claimed. The company which made the product was believed to be everything the product represented. And, the people who ran the company were trusted, by the long line of consumers who proudly purchased their product.

The word of the producer was good. It matched that which the product had to offer.

Trouble is, now the world is so big that even corporate conglomerates need their own refs. There is so much distance, between the consumer and the place where the product they buy is made, that whole departments have to be put in place to represent their word.

To my horror, even as I type these words, I now see the perfect subject for this piece: Tennis pro, and multiple champion, Serena Williams’ contention with her grand slam referee.

(Can we say “100th Monkey Phenomenon”??) (Hold on. To those who may not know: said phenomenon speaks to a thought or behavior, showing up simultaneously in two entities, as first demonstrated between two primate tribes living an ocean apart.) ( No; this is most definitively NOT a slur.)

I was going to take this all the way to the issue of “public” authority over truth, i.e. the official position of a ruling body representing fact. And then, further, to the real, palpable danger in this allegedly official truth.

But, now, I don’t have to hypothesize; sadly, we have more than one living example.

These officials, wearing the moniker of authority, have begun to abuse their power in the world of competitive sport. (Remember LeBron James’ final game at the 2018 NBA Championships?) And, the irony is: with sophisticated playback technology, every observer can see all the evidence, from every angle.

Yet, the official word in any arena, my friends, is at the very least subjective and, at worst, may very well be a bold faced, broiled lie, grilled to perfection.

Author Don Miguel Ruiz, in his contemporary classic The Four Agreements, has the better idea.

Beginning with each of us, he challenges, let every word be impeccable.

Would that we all showed such enthusiasm for the truth.

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© 9/8/18  Ruth Ann Scanzillo    All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. No copying, in whole or part, permitted. Please respect original material. Thank you.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

The Impression.

 

“That’s impressive.”

Sigh.

Have we not tired of being impressed?

Yet, in tandem with the dissolution of standard bearing, implicit honesty, and conscience, now we are subject to presentations intended to do just that.

Fast. Agile. Loud. Complex. Obscure. The “wow” factor.

But, impressions, even those privately gleaned through earnest searching, are at best shallow and short lived. Why? Because the motives behind the actions of their source are fed by ego.

One voluntarily seeks to impress in order to obtain something. Perhaps merely praise. In other cases, promotion, or a kind of awe which generates momentary respect.

Whenever ego is the driver, what is brought forth actually creates distance. Watchers and listeners are put off, pushed away, intimidated. Such impressions serve only to separate, even segregate, people from one another.

Used to be those who were “trying to impress” were looked down upon as conceited. All this serves to support the theory: impression is without soul.

That which is of inspiring value is self-sustaining. Beyond merely making its mark upon us, it bores through the superficial layers until, reaching who we are, it leaves a lasting change in us. And, the source of such a profound experience is then sought after. We are drawn to the one who provides accessible value to us, rather than being left to gaze from afar.

Don’t impress me. Just move me. Provoke and unsettle me, heat me up. Make me think, expand my perceptions, broaden my vision, open my heart. Make me feel, touch my emotions, stir me, feed me instead of yourself. Make a valued connection, with me.

If that is not your purpose, pack up your show. Move on down the road.

I will be happily unimpressed.

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© 9/8/18  Ruth Ann Scanzillo    All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Please respect original material. Don’t be impressed. Thanks!

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

Password!

Hey!

Thank God, WordPress.com offers a password option.

What does this mean?

Simply put, it represents a chance to present original work at your site which is not visible to everyone.

Bit by bit, I am taking advantage of this opportunity.

If you are a reader, and would like to access certain pieces at littlebarefeetblog.com, there is a password which I can give to you.

Please, go to my About page, find the email address, email me directly – and, I will provide you the password. But, first, you must offer me a short descriptor about YOU – in case we do not know each other, personally.

Then, click on Short Stories. The password protected installments can be found there.

Thank you!!

p.s. isn’t Obama right on the money, at this moment? I’m listening; are you? Feels like a Gospel Meeting, frankly.

Sincerely,

R.A.S.   littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

Writer’s License.

Hello, dear readers.

A word, if I may, about writers and their characters.

It is my opinion that any writer will derive character from a blend of personal, observational experience and imagination. As such, any writer who rejects this is denying the very enterprise itself.

If, at any time, you think you see either yourself or someone you know in a work of fiction, trust that the writer likely knew somebody very much like you or created a composite out of several individuals. The beauty of storytelling is that it mimics life itself, but the truth in such stories lies in the messages they carry and the value derived.

So, next time you take a novel off of a bookshelf, remember that nobody lives in a vacuum. We all express our strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and dreams every time we enter the fray. Perhaps your life, viewed through the eyes of the next author, will be of benefit and service to someone else. That is both the point, and the purpose.

.

Thank you!

 

Yours in the story,

Ruth Ann Scanzillo,

author,  littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

Twinkling Eyes.

 

 

Some eyes just gleam

and, others glare

Some flash, or glaze

Behind a stare

 

Beware the orbs

Whose smiles alight

These will betray

Intent at sight

 

Though falsest face

A mask belies

The truth will speak

Through twinkling eyes.

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© 8/28/18  Ruth Ann Scanzillo    All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Please respect original material. Thank you very much.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

The Book.

 

The reader lives inside a book

The writer quite outside it

The story told

Will take ahold

Of each by size until, to wit

They dress alike

A perfect fit.

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© 8/28/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo.  All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Please respect original material. Thank you.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

The Anonymous Thank You.

Dear Fellow WordPress.com bloggers:

Within the past couple of days, an Anonymous poster has entered Comments regarding two of my blog entries, both of them “thanking me for the post.” The tone of both these comments suggests that I am sharing the work of somebody who chooses to remain anonymous. However, in both these cases, the pieces are my original material.

Has any one of you received anything similar, at your most recent blog posts? If so, could you please comment, using your own WordPress.com accounts, so that those of us receiving these can be identified by WordPress.com ?

Thank you, all!

Your fellow blogger, littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

He Won’t Feel.

 

 

He won’t feel the gut slash.

He won’t feel its cut.

He won’t feel the grieving

He’ll say something, but

His words will have meaning

Only for him

Because that which I feel will

Mean nothing to him.

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I don’t know what love is

But, bonding is true

And, devotion is proven

In all that we do.

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We commit through the actions

Mere words can’t decry

And, the thoughts which inform them

Catch wind, and then fly

In the face of denial

Determined to prove

That the feelings they carry

Can make a heart move.

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But, hearts are not subject

To forces of will

They do what they must do

Until they are still.

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© 3/11/18  Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. No copying, in whole or part, permitted. Thank you!

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone’s Gone.

 

CHAPTER 35.

The latest winter weather advisory’s radar put the wall of white about twenty minutes behind her, due northeast, she having just joined the early morning commuters ahead of sun up.

Thirty odd minutes between his and her place dictating how many miles would drain the tank and how much more frequently anymore, the indicator had held just above empty for at least seven miles, it’s warning light only now sending forth the accompanying chime. Bypassing the convenience store, she could make it home on fumes if she coasted the hills. Timing was everything.

Two monster lights, enlarging toward her, passed by heading south. Where to, at this hour? And, that lone white SUV, always parked at the Blue Spruce motel?

Flipping from 60s to 70s and 80s and then back, on the car radio, her ear settled on the familiar strains of the sixth decade of life in the century of her birth. Those songs always brought the scent of varnished wood floors, and noisy feet traveling them, into school and out again past the stacks of galoshes and racks of patrol raincoats in the east foyer; of delicious, pre-pubescent fantasy now only fleeting as she recalled one realization now over four years history. How could he still be alive, diagnosed with COPD so many years earlier? Had she been taken in, yet again, by the wiles of the mind of homo sapien, male?

Steven Greer held some credibility, he with his own history as lead physician to the E.R. Surely one could put stock in his claims of alien life already embedded within society as they had all come to know it. Perhaps her fifth grade crush wasn’t a native of the planet; maybe he possessed some bionic, self healing powers, and the mind to match, gaming the system just like regular earthly citizens. She turned the corner, taking the outer lane’s wide arc, and followed the grade up past the zoo to the next intersection.

More white headlights moved beside her and behind, maneuvered by headless horsemen of the Apocalypse. No voices spoke on the radio anymore, just the songs presetting the stage on their tape loop assigned to the hour. The Kwik Fill was dark. She passed the only high school left in the city, still too early for police vehicles to be parked anywhere on its premises.

The radio moved to MoTown. Dennis Edwards really was Aisha’s father, then. A wife, alleged to have abused him, in the months before his death. She could still recall Aisha’s proud face, hear her magnificent voice. No memory of a mother. Only one car, at the corner gas pump, exhausting angrily at a closed store. Getting home was just a goal; fumes couldn’t hold out much longer. She rolled on, toward the grocer.

Turning into the wide open lot, she wound the car toward and around. Empty gas pumps and their vacant attendant station basked in the hum of dusk to dawn fluorescence. The chime was relentless, now. Out, and right at the signal, to the Country Fair.

Gliding up to the first pump she stopped, and turned off the ignition. 5:27 am, on the dashboard clock. Snow was nowhere. Digital hotdogs and colas polkaed the marquee. The radio sang, alone:

“Everyone’s gone…….to the Moon…….”

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© 2/7/18    Ruth Ann Scanzillo.   All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Happy Birthday, James and Sierra.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

The Difference.

 CHAPTER 32.
The sheets and blankets rolled into their customary clump again, like a load of laundry waiting to be sorted. There was the top sheet, placed to protect the rest from animal dander; the knit blanket; the small downy; and, somewhere impossible to determine, the sheet intended to cover the body directly – never found, just felt, in a tangle, around the calves.
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At her frustration, he cursed, and tossed them all on top of her, four frozen minutes later getting out of the bed and heading to the kitchen. He was finished sleeping, after all, and it was morning on his day off; five in the morning, but morning in his world, just the same.
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She really had no definition of love, apart from her own experience; as such, it likely differed from everyone elses. When she awoke in her morning, her first thought was usually about what she could do. Might she help clean, or find something else practical that should make all his days off easier before the inevitable return to the grind? Maybe there was a gadget to acquire, or some task she could cover; maybe a food, or a practice, that could increase the quality of his health or environment.
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Then, she’d set about to do it. She’d think about what she could do, for him, and then she’d do it.

Granted, sometimes there was a failure to recognize how he might want to spend a day, or how he might want to do something or have something done. Her desires for him, in conflict with those for himself.

This is how love was expressed toward her, indeed the only way it was ever expressed in her family, and that by the mother; Great-Gramma, Mammy and then mum were ever about doing what would keep the family going – sustained, protected, cared for. It was the definition carried down by her family, and its small, exclusive, Fundamentalist fellowship; a woman, after all, born to serve.

She, however, had inherited at least half of her father’s DNA and he was nothing if not independent-minded. While primitive in scope, he’d much preferred exactly the way HE did things, even when his wife felt differently about either the quality of his efforts or the choices he prioritized.

And, that had been their fifty-plus years together; mum, serving what she determined to be dad’s needs, and he serving himself.

She couldn’t think of a single thing that dad ever did for mum. Ever. Perhaps he’d tried, early on – only to be met by her bitter ridicule of the quality thereof. Yes; that was mum – a child of the Great Depression, who’d been raised to perform tasks for her very survival. There was nobody else who knew how any better than she, and she made sure that everybody knew it.

Now, she could hear him, even with the bedroom door closed, emptying the dishwasher of its cutlery – each fork and spoon, dropping into its slot in the drawer, like water torture during World War II, she envisioned, tightening her arms over both ears. Even in spite of his particular family dynamic – absent biological father, present if abusive step dad – he’d been raised to expect a woman to care for his needs, and to place them at the top of her agenda. Even when he didnt want her to, he still ultimately expected it.

This was generational. Eventually, many women got wise to the fact that, unless they did for themselves, nothing they really wanted out of life would come to them. That was when they began to put aside enough money to buy their own cars, and then their own homes, and to make lives for themselves.

Others continued in the tradition of their forebears, by: attracting the man they’d selected; manipulating him into supporting them; and, getting their needs met through him indirectly without his realizing —  including going elsewhere, behind his back, to get what he could not or would not offer, all within the framework of the life they’d maneuvered for themselves.

But, she was part of the generation of women which broke ground and established separate identities. In her case, truly believing that she would attract a man of such quality that he would actually want an independent female who would share in the load of life. Yeah; that.

That was her generation, and it pretty much left the men who were her contemporaries blindsided; who would be left to care for them, in the manner to which they had become accustomed?

In an effort to feel worthy, her generation of men had become the step-dads of their era. The new step dads – not like those of their own, bitter experience. They’d become the ones who rode in on their steeds, fully armored, ready to love both the single woman AND her brood of offspring left by the deadbeat in his wake. Hence the acronym: SMILF (and, the title of the new Tv show): Single Mother I’d Love to F@$k.

This was hard. The women watched, from inside the houses they’d bought and the full time jobs maintained, as the vast majority of their own men selected “unwed” or divorced mothers instead of independent women to care for and love.

It didn’t surprise her, at all then, that he remained curious about his ex’s daughter, even after the death of the girl’s mother. Neither was she surprised when he became annoyed every time she asserted a need of her own, however small or petty it may have seemed to him.

Unclasping her arms from about her head she shoved away the mound of covers and sat up, her aging, overtired body fighting to right itself. His mattress, designed to absorb the body’s configuration, had no rebound capacity. On this morning, even the bed was no help.

Playing second, third, even fourth – behind the dogs, the cat and the laying hens –  on this morning, her reality had come home to roost. Only she wasn’t home. Not really.  There was an old, displaced farmhouse about eighteen minutes northwest, one she’d acquired at age twenty nine for thirty four five at eight and a quarter fixed; paying on the principal each month, she’d become its owner in just under sixteen years. For her purposes, the location had been ideal; under ten minutes, in any direction, to get anywhere in town. On this morning, still very much the middle of her night, its walls were calling. Her house, her spouse.

She just had to get back to her established domain, and nurture it for herself. Today, she must. She had learned that, in spite of the overwhelm left in its neglected wake, that home was still her own. Her comfort zone wasn’t built for her; judged however by the outside world, she. had. built. it.

Yes, she had built it, just like he had built his own. The difference was: having spent a lifetime waiting for somebody to express as much interest in trying to care for her needs and enhancing the quality of her life as she did for the man for whom she now felt love, per this morning it appeared that she was still waiting.

Perhaps he did truly love her. Maybe tomorrow, she would know. But, even in the cold car, she could already feel it. Her bed. One warm flannel, and a fleece.

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© 11/30/17  Ruth Ann Scanzillo    All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. Thanks for being that good person.

littlebarefeetblog.com

“Is love a binder of wounds?

…or, merely a lubricant on a squeaking part?

…..or, an element of transition from rough to gem?……”

——  David Michael Sammarco  ©12/1/17

 

 

 

 

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© 11/30/17  Ruth Ann Scanzillo      All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Thanks for being that good person.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

Tim.

 

Pulling himself out of the driver’s seat he rose up, hulking, above the diminutive walker, a solid 6′ 4″ even stooped over, and trudged forward – the door to the Post Office just ahead beyond a cement incline.

He was immense. Baggy jeans, lumberjack plaid flannel, knit skullcap, sagging grey face enveloping vacant, downcast eyes. His image, apart from the size of him, taking her back to 2009 or 10 and her own father she was, already, at the door – opening it, leaning back against it, standing, waiting with careful, familiar, experienced patience.

As he approached, she offered a calculated greeting, something about pretending to be in New York and having a door(wo)man. No reaction, no response; without looking up, he placed the walker across the threshold and passed through into the lobby.

Her eyes followed him plod toward the glass doors leading to the office counters. Its long, late Saturday morning postal line still testing the space, she quickly stepped up to catch its door for him as well when, without any warning, he spoke. Loudly.

“Come ON, Tim – for ChrisSAKES! What’s TAKING you so LONG?? GET OUT OF THERE!!”

The voice which sprang from his body belied both its countenance and carriage. Gruff, angry – and, directed at somebody almost hidden in the middle of the line.

As if spotlit, the face of Tim turned. Instantly, and deftly, with the intent of one trying not to be noticed at all he slid past the women who had quickly backed up at the sight, and through the door she stood holding, and out into the lobby.

Tim was of medium height, wearing a dark colored Steelers knit hat, short dark blue jacket, dark pants. Approaching middle age, his face was plain, unmemorable, except for the skittish averted eyes when she spoke, eyes which behaved like those of a child who expected to be slapped as a matter of course.

She placed her hand on Tim’s shoulder.

“What’s your name?” she said, automatically.

“…er…Tim!” he nodded, as if to affirm what he’d been called moments before.

“Is he your father?”, she apologized.

“Um, no…….my neighbor….”

She nodded. Slowly. Feeling her forehead contract.

“Bless you”, she said.

Moving to exit the post office, she stepped through the door. Once outside she turned, yet again, gazing back into the lobby….and, re-entered.

The two men stood side by side at the self-serve booth, Tim waiting as his neighbor inserted and received the customary materials for mailing, describing as if rehearsing the proper steps to be taken.

Task completed, they both turned to leave. She, still standing there, looked up again at Tim and asked for his last name. “Lauer”, he pronounced. As they exited the lobby, she continued: “Are you in the phone book?”

“No…!” he turned, swiftly, head down, trying to remain anonymous. She spelled the name. Looking away, he corrected:

“L-o-w-e-r.”

Again: “Bless you”.

Hunched over, Tim headed toward the car. She looked up, facing the Post Office door. The large man was coming toward it. This time, inspired ever and only by every dutiful act branded into her consciousness, she opened the door and stepped back. He looked up at her, brightly, and spoke:

“Oh! Are you the door man?”

“I am, today…” she said.

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© 11/25/17 Ruth Ann Scanzillo     All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting the creative material of those beneath you in class or station. Be a good person.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

The Opera Wars.

 

 

*AUTHOR’S NOTE:  Periodic Update:  All rights to these pieces at littlebarefeetblog.com, in whole and in part are, unless otherwise specified, strictly those of the author. Thank you for your respect.

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Possibly the most profound gift from the universe to humanity on this earth is the singing voice.

After last night’s presentation of Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil Vespers, offered by the combined choirs of Mercyhurst University, the Erie Renaissance Singers, Chautauqua Chamber Singers, and Church of Christ Savior –  masterfully directed by Rebecca Ryan, Andrija Andelic, and Vladimir Gidenko with soloists  Ainsley Ryan and Brandon Miller, any witness concluding otherwise would have to be missing either a cerebral lobe, or a soul.

Rachmaninoff captured the depth of an entire nation’s reverence for its God and Christ, and set as sacrament voices, alone – in polyphonic unisons, in woven harmonies, in unique tonal rhythms and rapturous resolutions – that would forever mark his masterpiece in ironic, final testament to a people who would soon be stripped of their right to worship at all. The result was repeatedly, and increasingly, breathtaking.

A work, of this magnitude, begged a mass choir. And, the many voices came, from four distinct ensembles, so willing to collaborate to make this music a reality.

Morning reflection took me back to the early ’90s and a graduate course in Baroque music, taught by Associate Professor Jeremy L. Smith at SUNY Fredonia.

Now, a good historian will address such a broad topic by constructing a course around highlights that were in some sense pivotal to the development of the style of the period. Smith, in his rich academic wisdom, chose to cover Bach/Vivaldi; castrati; and, the infamous opera house wars.

I was remembering, on this morning, the latter.

If you search the internet, you won’t find anything substantial about the Baroque opera house wars. But, Jeremy L. Smith had his sources. There were two major theaters in Europe during the Baroque era, and they so bitterly competed for pre-eminence that many underhanded and spiteful attempts were made to squelch the other, including paid infiltrators who would make raucous, vulgar and berating sounds throughout their competitors’ productions. One house was even successfully shut down by its opposition! Easy to wonder if the current American political system of “smear” campaigns takes its lesson from this regrettable chapter in history.

In the West, large metropolitan areas have a distinct advantage; should rifts occur within any performance discipline, those alienated by its effects can just move across town, birth new entities, and watch them rise from the rubble. Entire neighborhoods welcome the new asset, their audiences ready, eagerly awaiting. In fact, following the model of organic cell division, this could actually be considered a healthy evolution, one more likely to ultimately preserve the art as life form.

But, small towns have a problem.

If any one inadvertently, unwittingly, or otherwise unintentionally offends, there might very well be no place to go. The gossips, made up of the variously frustrated, powerless, or mediocre, are equally eager, and the news of the offense is their fodder.

Becoming the topic of public conversation only serves to inflate the value of any disagreement or misunderstanding. Before long, alliances form – usually against the hapless ones who managed to bring the insult. But, because proximity is the issue, the decision to leave the group is far from liberating; rather, those who do merely find themselves outsiders, maligned in their own locale. Any who choose to remain endure the negative energy which imposes upon their efforts.

It is with no small wonder, therefore, that those who use their voices in combined song commit to the enterprise without rancor. In reality, singing well requires a mind in congruence with the body which bears it; animosity in the heart can only produce a shrill and ego-driven outcome.

This is not what anyone heard coming from the combined choirs on Sunday night. The one hundred twenty voices were one strong, students of music, adult amateurs and professionals, people of all persuasions unified by purpose, melded by Rachmaninoff’s masterwork, mobilized by the devoted heart and determined spirit of Rebecca Ryan. In such a place of communing unity, a true chorale emerges – the singular voice of the created, manifesting its Creator’s song.

In such a place, no war of any kind is possible.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  5/16/16   All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect.

littlebarefeetblog.com