Archive for the ‘Words and communications’ Category

While cleaning house the year I was preparing to move, I came across a box buried within another box, in the bottom of a chest. Not recognizing it, I assumed it was taken from my mother’s apartment when she passed away decades ago. I opened it up to discover greeting cards. There was a whole stack of them that my dad had given her over the course of many years. I proceeded to sit down and go through them noting how each was romantic using words like “my darling”, “you make my life so wonderful”. Phrases I had never heard my prosaic dad use! And that my mother would keep these baffled me because there relationship was anything but romantic. However, after reading through all of them I realized that this was perhaps the only way my dad could relay tender sentiments to her. I will never know as he, too, is long gone.

I have always kept a journal. They now take up 2+ shelves on my bookcase. These cards from dad made me wonder who would read my journals when I passed away. I have no children, so would I want a friend or maybe a stranger to read through my life? I don’t really know at the moment, but it got me to thinking about that old-fashioned form of writing that today no one seems to do. Yes, things in cyberspace seem to live forever, but is it the same as, say your child or spouse, discovering a journal detailing your life when you are no longer there with them?

After reading an article about a couple where the husband kept a journal that he wrote in only once a year on their anniversary, I cannot help but believe that the handwritten remains of a loved one would have more impact than anything else left behind. Remember the stories we’ve all read about Victorians and their love letters? How those treasured letters kept and reread gave solace to a loved one after the passing of its author. You can’t get that emotional feeling from a collection of tweets or even e-mails!

This week is Valentine’s Day. I would suggest that instead of a card or a bouquet of flowers, write your loved one a nice romantic letter and give a beautiful journal. You’ll not only surprise the receiver, but you will have sown the seeds that in a future day will bloom into the flowers of remembrance.

 

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In 2013, Roselle Park, New Jersey planted a little seedling (which had been grown from seeds they had taken into space on a previous mission) on the lawn of their library to honor the astronauts who perished in the Feb 1, 2003 Columbia disaster. I wrote this poem and, as the town’s Poet Laureate, read it at the planting ceremony. This Thursday is the 15th anniversary of their deaths so I thought I would share it with you:

You were lifted up, up, up on a chariot of fire

To where up had no meaning;

Where you could look upon your home

A tiny blue/green globe shrouded in clouds,

Framed by the velvety blackness of space.

You were astronauts, selected humans who explored

The depths of the unknown, space, our last frontier.

Secure in the belly of your giant bird, we earthbound mortals

Were privileged to see your smiling faces

across the thousands of miles of dark inhospitable space.

To see the delight you took in conducting your experiments.

Sending us pictures of stars,

twinkling like holiday lights on velvet

And views of that blue/green globe shrouded in clouds

that left us breathless.

You seven and the orbiter Columbia, stole our hearts.

 

Then came that cold winter’s morning

When like a meteor you streaked across the sky

Of  your/our  blue/green planet shrouded in clouds.

Becoming dust, turning into the stardust from whence we all come.

Like Icarus, you fell to earth, nevermore to fly among the stars.

 

Where once we counted down, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 to liftoff

We now count up 6,7,8,9,10 from that morning.

The orbiters fly no more, they now are earthbound

Giving homage to the time when courage and curiosity lifted

Humankind up up up to the stars.

 

So how do we never forget your heroism and your courage?

To honor your memory

We take a seedling whose seed traveled

In the belly of your orbiter where up had no meaning.

And plant it in the soil of this blue/green shrouded in clouds planet.

So that it may send its roots down, down deep into the earth.

As it grows, it will lift its leafy arms up

Up to the sky, saluting the constellations,

The stars, of which you are now a part.

For if we are to remember you,

Honor you,

Give meaning to your sacrifice,

Then we must work to make this world, our blue/green planet shrouded in clouds,

A better place.

And we must always…keep reaching for the stars.

2013 Leona M Seufert,

A Thanksgiving Day Poem

Posted: November 17, 2017 in Words and communications

I Thank My Lucky Stars

I thank my lucky stars

That I live in the land of the free.

Where those stars and stripes

Represent what we all can be.

When on Thanksgiving I watch the parade

I recall our forefathers a wise decision made.

I thank my lucky stars

For the Constitution they wrote,

Where our freedoms are listed

Our rights protected with more than hope.

Through the original articles and added amendments

Our nation could remain strong.

They formed the basis of our laws

Over 200 plus years long.

This living document our forefathers foresaw

Could survive dissention and foreign wars,

Presidential assassinations, and civil rights unrest.

With flying colors the Constitution passed the legal test.

I thank my lucky stars

For more than turkey or pie

To live in a country whose charter

Aimed and remains so high.

“Why did I survive? I was a frail boy, didn’t be pushy…not strong…” Eli Weisanthal asked. His answer was that God needed someone to tell a story. That was his mission in life, why he was born, why he lived, to witness the horror and write about it and teach about it as a good educated man, with anger but also with a sense of justice. Of the thousands of voices who survived, his was the “tenor” for God. To sing the opera of evil, in words in 47 books, and to countless students through the ensuing decades.

So who is the “voice”, the story teller who witnessed and survived 9/11? Do we have a survivor who was there, trapped, went through it all, survived because God’s hand shielded him? And is this human being strong enough to walk, as Weisel did, to recount the story, to make sure we never forget?

Or has our world set up such a culture or society that an Eli Weisel survivor is not possible? Where are you, story teller for the damned of that day? Where are your words, your strength, your anger? How many people did Weisel help through his words to heal (if ever “healing” from such a wound were possible), how much evil did he hunt down to justice? Is there such a person walking our streets? Or were the WTC survivors all buried eventually in the dust of their own pain, voices muffled, not one cry to ever more be heard?

“They’ve compared 9/11 to Pearl Harbor. In many ways that’s an accurate comparison. But it differs in a number of significant and psychologically important ways. After Pearl Harbor war was declared on ONE country and the ENTIRE Nation rose up to join in the efforts of defeating Japan. Today, we have the slippery world of the terrorists. They can exist anywhere. And we are not united in a war effort because this war is being fought on a higher technological and political plane. Those of us who can’t join our fighting forces have nothing to do except wave our flags and contribute to the many charities that have sprung up. There also is the fact that once we defeated Japan, there was an end. We had vindicated our dead, we could dance in the streets. We were once again safe. Not so now. If there was a beginning, there will be no definitive end. We will never be safe.”

I go on to write about how hard it is to escape 9/11 imagery and yet how I hunger for more and more of it:

“ And thus grief, the world, and my life has taken on an almost schizophrenic existence.

I think that what I have encountered is the emotional equivalent of AIDS. It is a virus lodged in my and others psyches. The usual balm will not route it out. At present there is no cure. Will I die from it? Like the AIDS patient who has lived with her disease for years, there are ways to cope. In time we will discover our alpha interferon. And it will not be a cure. But life will go on. Me and you, and the widows and heroes will learn to live with the reminders and the pain. And our lives will all be different. And in the end we will die. Some from not being able to cope, some from what surely will be other terrorist acts, and others from old age. Everything has changed…and yet…nothing. Life must go on. For the best memorial that I or anyone can erect, is a life well lived to the best of ones abilities. And to make that life count to the betterment of all humankind. Today’s generations and the ones of a tomorrow yet to come.” – from my WTC Journal post on March 25, 2002 “When Will It End – Part 2”

So 16 years in, have we? Are we living our best lives as a memorial to those who died? Are we bettering humankind?

The 16th anniversary of 9/11 is less than 4 weeks away. What happened 16 years ago is overshadowed this year by continuing gun violence, attempted terrorist attacks, presidential problems, and the nuclear threat from North Korea. From now till Sept 11 2017, I will be writing about our love/hate affair with remembering America’s worse day in its history.

I would like to start off with this excerpt from my World Trade Center Journal.   I started that website in 2001 long before we had the blogs of today. For the first year it was my diary of what was happening along with my reactions and feelings and photographs of Ground Zero. This comes from my post on Oct 11, 2001 “Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow”:

“Tomorrow will never be the same. You, me, NYC, the US, lost something that dreadful day in Sept. We lost our innocence, our faith that tomorrow will be like the ones that came before. What we need to find, amidst the rubble of our disturbed lives, is the spark of hope. Hope that we can continue to care about one another. Hope that this nation will not destroy itself through pride and arrogance. Hope that our phrase “in God we trust” will indeed bring the grace of the Lord (however we see him/her) down upon us. For only than can we move forward beyond grief and tears, beyond the self-absorption of endless memories of the past’s horrors. Only then can we rebuild….replace the City of Sorrows with the City of Hope.”

16 years later I wonder if we have…

It’s been all over the media, the story of the woman who egged her “friend” on to commit suicide. Through the use of social media she managed to convince him that that was the best option he had. And then there was the smart, pretty 12 year old girl who committed suicide due to all the bullying she received via social media.

I wonder, if Jesus Christ were to be crucified today, how many people would pull out their iPhones and snap a picture of his agony to post on Facebook. And yet that is what we do each time we post something negative about a friend, something private about a neighbor, tear down a politician, or post a photograph which never was meant to be shared with the world. These actions crucify and create agony in the target person’s life.

You don’t have to be a bully or psychologically impaired to have your e-mails or tweets wreck havoc on someone. Just look at how our President, yes the president of the United states, has negatively impacted not only the objects of his tweets but his own presidential image. Sometimes it’s not so much the content of a social media post that is the problem but the choice of words used to express an opinion.

For good or bad, social media in all its forms is here to stay. Maybe it’s time to stop and take a look at how our social media words and pictures pollute and demean our existence and hurt the ones to whom we send it. We have the choice to spread messages of hope and beauty rather than despair and ugliness. Let’s make life better by choosing to use it for good