Our Naji

Words fail today for many reasons but mostly because our beloved Naji passed after 19 years on this planet. He has anchored and nourished our family in as much time. And we are grateful. It has been particularly challenging since he decided to sprint towards the finish line as soon as I left town. He knew. This is what the dying do. They wait until you can’t cling another second because you’re otherwise preoccupied. And they leave. We had to assist his passing and it was attended beautifully by Naji’s beloved Marion, eldest of our family. She held him and held herself together while he quietly and peacefully slept his last.

Naji is felt more powerfully today than I’ve felt him in a couple of years. He’s coming through as happy, relieved, grateful. He will forever anchor us as we hold to all that he gave.

g'nite

purring rest

sweetness

Naji, gentle soul…

Goodbye…

Sweet memories

 

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The May Monet

In May Monet brews
deep hues’ agony and love
the vista reveals
A woman reeling
deeply resonating hope,
courage poised, still.

j. ruth kelly, 2017, all rights reserved

My daughter, Marion, is often called May, and in May we visited Carnegie Museum of Art. The month of May turned out to be a very challenging and difficult time for my daughter. Her courage, strength, and depth of awareness struck me as I turned to look back at her lingering over Monet’s magnificent and imparting work of beauty.

Happy Marketing of Motherhood Day!

I bet you can tell by the title that I’m done with forced appreciation days. I bet I’m not alone. I bet there are a million other moms out there who would just like the world to recognize that women are human, that moms are human, that moms have too much asked of them and not enough expected of them in terms of their growth as individuals and. And. I bet you the consumer ideology that heaps a load of obligation on our backs smells really bad right now while the money rolls in and the lines queue up at the local Cheesecake Factory. I bet you.

[I bet you none of it compares to the birthing our children do of us mothers. I bet you no one has a clue. I bet you there is nothing more challenging or more beautiful or more terrifying or more heartbreaking than bringing 3 lives into an utterly mad, mad world.]

I bet you might assume this is a terrible day for me for some crazy reason. But the truth is, it’s not. It’s a day like many others, a day in which I’m contending with the very intense requirements of motherhood while juggling the fallout of others’ mothers’ fallout while everyone ignore’s the power of others in general. And a day when women are the first and easiest scapegoats in a line of ancient feminine scapegoats. But I don’t feel like one of those scapegoats. I refuse that vibe. I just know this world. And I weary of the disorders posing parenthood and authoritarianism crushing humanism and transformation. It’s everywhere, all day, everyday and it especially wreaks havoc on mothers, telling them they can never ____ and the shouldn’t ever ____ and if they fart sideways they might ruin the world. Ha, and they might actually. It’s a rigged game.

2014-2017, j. ruth kelly, all rights reserved

Here’s to mothers. Here’s to women who mother but have never felt the surreal sensation of a bowling ball-like human body coming through the most amazing otherwise recognized channel of incredible pleasure. As it turns out, being able to push ’em out doesn’t guarantee you’ll do much very well beyond that flesh-ripping moment. And it’s high time we quit romanticizing motherhood, I bet.

Here’s to people who refuse bullshit and manage to enjoy forced appreciation days no matter what they conjure of mothers’ worst reruns or best creations. And here’s to the ones who loathe it.

[Here’s to my children whose lives have ushered in epochs of gut-wrenching, heart-embiggening, tragedy-contending, beauty-bowling moments. Here’s to my children who show love in ways no Mother’s Day can convey, who shine and grow and rip up my pretenses, my pride, and my ideas of what is perfect by being gorgeous expressions of wholeness becoming. Mother’s Day can, otherwise, go fuck itself.]

 

 

Revelation 3/9/17

“Love… Thy will be done
I can no longer hide, I can no longer run
No longer can I resist your guiding light
That gives me the power to keep up the fight

Love… Thy will be done
Since I have found you, my life has just begun
And I see all of your creations as one perfect complex
No one less beautiful or more special than the next
We are all blessed and so wise to accept
Thy will, Love, be done

Love… Thy will be mine
And make me strive for the glorious and divine
I could not be more, more satisfied
Even when there’s no peace outside my window, there’s peace inside
And that why I no longer run” (Martika)

Let this be so for all who discover a long-buried essential element of their souls, a suppressed or feared aspect of their being. I stand with every layer in celebration, and in gratitude for inclusion in each gentle and courageous revelation. Love, thy will be done…

The Church of May

You leap beyond all
despair and hopeless falling.
Fiery woman, live;

no spire reaches
past your own sacred lightning,
flaring out fierce love.

Stomp and squeal delight
against a night of constant
yearning. Your love’s dance

blurs us past façades,
awakens all our hoping
towards sun’s warm call.

Photo by J. Ruth Kelly, All Rights Reserved, 2016

Photo by J. Ruth Kelly, All Rights Reserved, 2016

“May” is one of my daughter’s nicknames. On this day, pictured here as blurred trees and a church held steadfast against our movement, Marion drove us around to see some of the more lovely parts of Pittsburgh. Our trip to see her began with her trademark spontaneity and abandon when we drove up to her home. She leapt up and out the front door into the 1am cold night air and squealed with joy and then down the stairs, doing little run/skip/dance moves out into the street to reach into my car for a huge hug. And that is the best of the “Church of May.” She reveals, at her most fiercely loving moments, what we’re all made of and what we’re all here for … no matter how dark the time. We are the sacred, spiritual, divine-as-love.

 

 

Memorial Day

Memorial Day

My dad, L.S. Kelly, Jr., was born in the depression years and spent his early childhood in a nation swept up in World War II, a war that makes Memorial Day meaningful to many. He lived in Englewood, NJ at the time. He conveys the times, their import revealing just how different his world was from the one I now know. I read his words from an interview and find myself confronting the visceral impact of a time of upheaval, the imprint on his psyche, his perspective of the U.S. and of the military, of “us” vs. “them” shaped by circumstances more stark in their contrast to what we now live, more surreal in hindsight. No one could point at the term “axis of evil” and shred its hypocrisy because It applied. And it applied thoroughly in the minds of those shaped by the fallout.

Memorial Day

L.S. Kelly, Jr.

In the only way I know how to memorialize a day that has become, to me, less about the idea of a noble U.S. military infrastructure and more about honoring those who bring integrity to a failing ideal, I’m posting my dad’s responses to the interview questions here. His heart comes through the lines he wrote for my son’s A.P. U.S. History class. The clarity of what matters shatters my hesitation to note the day, my frustration with the distortion our military might has become. The day should be noted and we should never forget, no matter our stance on the military-industrial complex, because there was a time…

What can you remember about growing up during WWII?

A feeling of heaviness and fear – dread – during the early years.  The Japanese, Germans and Italians were portrayed in the media as some pretty awful folks. And they did some pretty awful things, which were shown at the movie theater before the main event.  Newsreels were gross.  Life magazine was as graphic as they could get away with.  That changed a whole lot with military successes.

We had rationing of materials and food. Gasoline. Nylon – women went back to silk stockings. The war effort took a lot of stuff off the shelves of the grocery stores.

Cigarettes. We saved cans [-] like vegetables came in. Flattened them and took them to some point where they could be given up for scrap metal. Then came victory gardens.  We had three plots in the back yard one summer, and after that five families that socialized together Kellys, Jim Kellys, DeSaussueres, Whitsons, Stokes, had huge garden in Cresskill, NJ where DeSaussaures lived.

Our next-door neighbor was the block air raid warden. When we had an air raid alert (practice of the system), we hung blankets over the windows, kept the lights down low so as not to disclose the whereabouts of a populated area to enemy bombers. The warden would knock on the door if light was showing around the blanket. He wore a white helmet and acted extremely seriously, as did we all.  Just about everything we did was in the context of national defense.

The doctor who lived across the street was in the army in Europe.  He had a son my age who received packages of souvenirs from his father, actual Wehrmacht uniforms, which he and I dressed up in and paraded around the neighborhood. Once.  AS widow lady around the corner got all upset, and that was the end of my German career.

When the A-bombs were dropped on Japan in 1945, I was 9 years old. We knew nothing could survive that and continue to wage war, and the feeling of relief brought a sense of elation and national pride.  We had fought two wars at the same time and beat the bad guys.  Which they were.

How did it impact you personally?

I got to eat a lot of organ meats, since they were undesirable and carried a lower meat-coupon penalty.  Tuna, chipped beef.

Sometimes we had nightmares:  Go to the movies on Saturday afternoon and come home, to go [to] bed and recall the newsreel. The boy next door was in the navy in the Pacific and we worried about him.

Mrs. Knowles’ 2nd grade class at Franklin School in Englewood, NJ would pray together every morning, the Lord’s prayer, and we’d recite the pledge to the flag and would sing the National Anthem. Often Mrs. Knowles would then have some story or inspirational thing she’d share with us. She had a brother who was a dog-face in France at the time. That means in the Infantry, in the mud.

One morning she held up a quite thick, yet shirt-pocket-sized thing, that turned out to be a book.  It was her brother’s bible. He had been carrying it all the time. We watched as she opened it enough for us to see the hole in it, which still held the kraut bullet that her brother’s bible had stopped, effectively ending its deadly journey toward his heart.

That was the classroom where I broke down one morning when we were singing the Star-Spangled Banner. Boo hoo. Everybody looking at the simple goose crying. I couldn’t tell why. They called my mother, and she couldn’t tell them, either. When I got home, I couldn’t tell her why. I didn’t know. She didn’t know either.  Nobody was gonna ask my Daddy.  Who knows?

Any observations about that time and that war in general?

Nobody even thought about burning a flag. Not a stars n stripes.  It was a time when the nation really seemed to be together about one thing: beating the Axis.

My 80+ year-old dad, who texts his daughters every night when he goes to bed – sending his love, who loves silly humor and growing tomatoes reminds me what shapes the minds of a nation, what lays the foundation for exploitation of fear: the real thing. Not that we have not known terror here in our time, but most of us have no point of reference, no way of knowing what war looks like. And the experiences of a child, his reflections over 70 years later reveal what we hope to never know but to also never forget, even if only for the sake of those who lived it. Here and abroad. Here’s to those who gave. While I may not want us to ever drop another bomb and though it hurts to think of the suffering of Hiroshima, this, too, is true: we must never lose sight of the humanity, the lives given in service.