Open Letter to My Father: (pause from regular blog)

It’s been more than two months since you left, your last breath a cry of life and then you were gone. When I’m still enough to feel and listen, I sense you here with me. In several weeks, though, I imagine I’ll feel your presence even more. That’s when my mother, sisters, and I will be traveling to Buenos Aires, Argentina, staying inside your apartment tucked away inside the old quarters of your city. It once lay above the empanada shop that smelled of oven-baked dough wafting up toward your place, and then the hairdresser’s where I replaced, with decent hair color, that horrific henna hair color that made the top of my head look like a carrot—and which you kept touching to make fun of.

If I remember correctly, the last time I was with you in your beloved Argentina was two spring times ago, before you got too sick to travel. We planned another trip after that, but it wasn’t in the cards. Instead, chemotherapy was. But I still remember how you asked me, quite last minute, to join you in Argentina for that last spring time together. At first I declined, since I had made alternative plans, but then, with your persistence, and lots of maneuvering, we shared our last month in your beloved country together.

That was the time my upper back was in immense pain and you couldn’t walk much more than a block. We were quite the team, eternally riding taxis through Buenos Aires, with you incessantly IMG_1174talking to the drivers and everyone else we met. “Isn’t this city the best city in the world,” you’d tell the taxi driver. You’d sit there in the back with your little black bag you carried everywhere, beaming with joy for your childhood homeland you had returned to.

One of our last taxi rides together was to the fish vendor. Do you remember? Even though walking was a struggle, you insisted we stroll through an open market where you greeted everyone as if you had been there a hundred times. Then we went to your fish vendor to pick up a large, frozen octopus, which you insisted on cooking because your friends considered it one of their favorite delicacies.

We celebrated our last supper in the apartment with your friends, Loli and Herbert, and with your sisters, Ingrid and Dietlinde. What a glorious night. You had worked so hard cooking that octopus, and by the time we sat down to eat, and I dedicated a poem and song to you—and to the brief time we all had to celebrate life together—it seemed all worth it.

While you faced your challenges with age—Parkinson’s, Leukemia, and then Melanoma—there was something special about those final years together. You were no longer the tough, distant father I had known you to be, and your challengIMG_1165es became the gift that opened you to love. I adored how you talked to everyone you met; how you let things go that weren’t important; how you didn’t care about things being perfect anymore. What had become perfect was your giving heart, memorable dinners with precious friends of your childhood, and your unbridled passion for small things (like that ice cream you loved at Adan Restaurant—the one topped with champagne and lemon!).

Maybe when mom, my sisters, and I go back to Buenos Aires later this month, we’ll honor you with a scoop of that fine ice cream; or by taking a trip by taxi; or by greeting the man at the deli across the street, and all the others you used to speak to. What I do know is that family and friends will come together with you, celebrating your life with an abundance of toasts. I’ll make a special Last Supper in your apartment to honor you as well (I’ll even take a picture of it, and make sure you’re in it!), and I’ll do a book reading from my novel Child of Duende with a local Flamenco guitarist in your neighborhood.

It will be the first time that I perform anything outside of this country, let alone in Argentina—and it may be the last there. As much as I’m doing it for myself, when I share the story of Duende to Flamenco guitar, it will be for you as well. You’ll be able to see me there, in your favorite city in the world, en tu Buenos Aires Querido, sharing, as you did, Argentinian Eventmy passion for living this moment, this breath, this spirit of life that is only given to us for this brief moment. I hope you can come, that you can see me, that you can see and feel all of us honoring you where your heart had learned to open so big in your last years of your life, at home, in your Beloved Querido Buenos Aires.

Please join me this May 26 at 5:30p.m. in Buenos Aires (and if you can’t make it, please let friends who can come know) to celebrate storytelling, Flamenco guitar, Garcia Lorca, and my father, Alberto Adam. It’s at Kel Ediciones, Conde 1990, 1428 , Buenos Aires, Belgrano, 54  11 4555 4005,  kelediciones.com, a top 

carrier of books in English in Buenos Aires. 

My Novel, Child of Duende: A Journey of the Spirit, is also available on Amazon at Amazon Page  or at www.michelleadam.net. Also, watch a brief video on “duende”, “the spirit of the earth”: YouTube Video

37. Where do Wild and Order Meet?

WHERE DO WILD AND ORDER MEET FOR YOU?

Blog 37: April-June, 1998—“Do you know where sex and love meet? Do you know where wild and order meet? Do you know where thoughts and actions meet, where the sun meets the skimming edge of the earth?”…

I wrote these words from New Jersey, inside my parent’s house in Ho-Ho-Kus, a town half an hour from New York City. At age 30, I was settling into my new home with my parents, adjusting to this insane reality of suffering immense pain when walking, and needing family support to heal. Inside the emotional challenges of living with my parents, I began to build my inner strength and resilience through meditation and writing (writing my novel, and reflecting on life in my journal).

So here I was inside this constricting order (for an artist, the NJ suburbs and my parents’ way of living was a great contrast to mine), determined to remain “awake” to the wild, free spirit that I was. So I continued to write:

“Wild and order meet in a place of art—sacred art. Not just the art of fine pieces mounted on walls for sale, or the art of a solo journeyer’s day in and day out, trying to make sense of his or her life. No, it’s the art of living, the art of bringing together the unity of inside and out that completes us like rivers merging into the sea.

“This is the art that, in its magic-making, cannot distinguish between worlds, cannot distinguish between right and wrong, left and right. In its magic-making, we do not need 557424_171105909691323_1799474373_nto know answers. We do not need to know distinctions. We need only know that we are alive, and that in our aliveness the distinctions between inside and out are only a deeper urge to deny that we are God.”

*My recently published novel, Child of Duende: A Journey of the Spirit, is about this kind of magic. Check it out on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Child-Duende-Journey-Michelle-Adam/dp/099724710X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1474233011&sr=8-1&keywords=child+of+duende . I will also be celebrating an evening of Child of Duende Storytelling, Spanish Guitar (Ronaldo Baca will be playing Flamenco Guitar), and Tapas at the Corrales Community Library in New Mexico on Thursday, September 22nd at 6:30p.m. http://www.corraleslibrary.org/event/join-local-author-michelle-adam-for-an-exciting-evening-of-storytelling-spanish-guitar-and-tapas-as-she-reads-from-her-new-novel-child-of-duende/ (here’s a link to an article for the event:   http://alibi.com/art/51899/Telling-the-Souls-Truth.html).

WHERE DO WILD AND ORDER MEET FOR YOU?

36. Change and Constant: Two Sides of the Same Coin

WHEN DID YOU RETURN RELUCTANTLY TO WHERE YOU STARTED?

Blog 36: April, 1998—I was back where I had started one and half years ago—at my parents house in the suburbs of New Jersey. Not one bit of me imagined I’d be back or wanted to return. After all, I had left my parent’s house seeking a new life on the West Coast, free from the angst I had felt on the East Coast.

It seemed I returned the same person I had been, though, other than more vulnerable and scared. The protection and walls I had built for myself as a teenager and beyond had crumbled to the ground and all I felt was the shell of my body that ached when I moved.

The first nights at my parent’s house were nightmares. I couldn’t sleep. An immense fright gripped me. I felt unsafe. I didn’t know why, but I couldn’t relax. This was not home. I was not home. Who I needed to become didn’t have a voice here. So I wrote:

“My nerves are throbbing a heartbeat of exhaustion. Where’s the line between pain and love?—that thin line that time breathes between the past and the present, as the future becomes an amalgam of the two. Every day, my body is deciding, crossing the blurry lines of time, of truth and reason. Throbbing, my legs are throbbing. They’ve had enough and yet it’s not over yet. My soul’s on fire, determined for me to hear her cry. I keep listening. Stillness settles in my bones, while my whole body beats a heart that doesn’t stop.

As I returned to the place I had begun, having  changed beyond what I could have imagined—struggling to walk and no longer the tough, willful young lady I had been—it pained me to experience the angst I had lived when with my family and on the East Coast. I was living what the 19th century French critic, journalist and novelist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr once wrote: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” But what for? Why return here? I asked myself.

Maybe I needed to unwind much more than I had ever thought, and I had to return to the place where the winding had begun. And maybe there’s some truth to a recent blogger’s analysis of Jean Baptiste’s epigraph: “Change and constant are two sides of the same coin, one we are rarely taught to see as whole. One without the other should feel like the sound of one hand clapping.” (Sean Owczarek)

If this is true, then maybe change couldn’t occur for me without the constant of family and home to remind me of that which I was changing from.

WHEN DID YOU RETURN RELUCTANTLY TO WHERE YOU STARTED?

This blog tells the story behind the writing of my recently published novel, Child of Duende: A Journey of the Spirit, available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Child-Duende-Journey-Michelle-Adam/dp/099724710X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473572064&sr=8-1&keywords=Child+of+Duende  (more information on my website: http://www.michelleadam.net)

35. Writing Our Way Home

WHAT PART OF YOURSELF SHOWED YOU THE WAY HOME?

Blog 35: Dec. 1997-April 1998—Have you ever discovered, after multiple attempts to run and hide from where you are, that you end up, once again, with yourself, wondering what to do? 

When I lived in Berkeley, California, crippled from pain, and yet still trying to find ways to escape the state I was in, there was one way I consistently came back to myself. It was through writing. Writing became my way of listening, as later my novel, Child of Duende: A Journey of the Spirit, became one long listening experience put on paper. It became a soothing way to come home and discover myself beneath the layers of false existence I had learned to become.

In my small room in Berkeley, with a one plant in the corner I’d sit in front of and meditate (or try to) and below a small sunroof that sprinkled light-filled hope into my day, I would write. My right hand asked the question, my left answered. The premise of this approach was that my non-dominant left hand would answer like a child, innocently, and without all the excess verbage and layers we as adults had learned to wrap over our feelings.

I started simply: “How are you feeling now?” my right hand asked, and my left hand wrote: “I don’t want to go on anymore. I want to hide.” The conversation continued:

 –What do you want to hide from?                                  il_570xN.439727466_pj80
–The World.
–Why do you want to hide from the world?
–Because I am scared I will not be loved and seen.
–Why are you scared you will not be loved or seen?
–Because I am so much more than these people see me as.
–What are you that they can’t see?
–I am a river, a stream. I am grass dancing in the wind. I am love, I am alive.
–What do they see you as?
–They see me as little Michelle who can’t do anything practical in this world.
–Why do they see you as that?
–They need me to be able to fit into their little boxes.
–So what are you, Michelle?
–I am a part of an indigenous world. My roots have always been from a simpler place, a place of giving love.

As I got to the end of my writing, my left hand—that of the child—was the one that carried the wisdom for my adult self. “You are trying to bridge two worlds,” she wrote, encouraging the adult me to trust my heart and not give up hope.

It seems ironic, yet so true, that it is the part of us that is most vulnerable and scared that carries the wisdom to bring us home. The famous mystic poet Rumi once wrote in The Lame Goat: “You’ve seen a herd of goats going down to the water. The lame and dreamy goat brings up the rear.”  But, “There are many different kinds of knowing. The lame goat’s kind is a branch that traces back to the roots of presence. Learn from the lame goat, and lead the herd home.”

As in Rumi’s poem, the lame goat that I was led me home …though my writing.

WHAT PART OF YOURSELF SHOWED YOU THE WAY HOME?

 

34. The Courage to Keep Going

WHEN HAVE YOU HAD IMMENSE COURAGE TO KEEP GOING?

Blog 34: Dec. 1997-April 1998—I watched a woman grab onto the railing at the YMCA in Berkeley, using it to stabilize her walk, which consisted of one step every minute. Her feet and legs were like those of a Raggedy Anne doll, hard to control and weakening below her.

Like her, I too had been swimming at the YMCA, and was doing what I could to regain my capacity to walk without pain. But the extreme limits and pain I had experienced since injuring myself in New Mexico more than a year ago, and since moving to Berkeley and the Bay Area of California, were becoming too much to bear—or at least until I saw this woman at the YMCA show me what true courage looked like. She helped me be grateful for what I had, even if it was little.

I had been living in a house full of depressed people in Berkeley (which probably included me) and was now seeking another place to live. But, with the high cost of living and limited options, I began to wonder if I’d end up moving back in with my parents in New Jersey. While searching out my options, I wrote, both in my journal and what later would become my novel. Writing became my refuge, and an attempt to clear the cobwebs of this jobless, debilitated place I was in.

I wrote: “Oh, Berkeley, your magical hills and your fog that rolls into the Bay enticed me for a while, until all the forces gathered these soul parts of mine into one unexpected stew. I came for life, and instead I got death. Though, love, at times, visited my bedside, reminding me of hope.

“Oh, Berkeley, you were such a temptation, and now you are this place where my body struggles to speak. It struggles to break free, although it does not know how. Oh, Berkeley, your winds have thrown me to the ground, when what I had asked for was to be able to leap.

“My hunger has followed me out here and has nagged me into this sleep, an uncontrollable sleep. I so want to sleep now, to sleep and dream this story, with an ending that brings vitality and renewed hope for a life of love.”

WHEN HAVE YOU HAD IMMENSE COURAGE TO KEEP GOING?

Honest Journey on Wings of Grace

Why go back in time? Why recount what has come before, when I am here, on the wings of grace with my novel Child of Duende: A Journey of the Spirit and its sweet reception?

Since January, I’ve been telling my personal story behind my recently published novel. Going back 20 years, I’ve been recounting the strands of thread that, bit by bit, wove the tapestry of my story of a magical girl in Spain, and another who finds her way back home through supernatural vines. But why go back in time?

I find the answer to my question when I offer storytelling events and gatherings where we can share that part of ourselves that longs to fly on the wings of grace and with a passion that is innately inside us all, even if only in the form of embers.

This past week I shared my story, both personal and of my novel, at a local New Mexico bookstore, Bookworks, and was not only blessed by a large turnout, but by people who told their own stories. They were stories of anxiety, pain, and feeling intensely. While we live in a culture that often seeks a light and happy tale, I have found that it is the ache and pain of being alive–and our willingness to feel it along with the joy–that allows us to ultimately to fly on the wings of grace.

So, as I prepare to continue my blog from where I left off-in California, broken and in pain–I bless every inch of this journey that has brought me to this place of freedom and aliveness. As I share in my storytelling and talks, and through my novel, it is “duende,” the spirit of the earth inside me, that has broken me into many pieces, so I could finally embody my life more fully and be the grace that I am. Thank you for all of it.

33. A Confession to Make

WHEN HAVE YOU BEEN TOO NUMB TO FEEL?

Blog 33: Dec. 1997-April 1998—I have a confession to make: when I was in college and my roommate told me that she had been raped during a drunken night in which I was in the same room with her, passed out, I didn’t react. I didn’t feel. I didn’t show compassion. I was numb. I couldn’t feel. I stay removed from the world, separate, untouched.

           Now, in pain, debilitated, with body broken, in a house of lost people in Berkeley, California, I feel. I feel it all. And while it hurts, there’s something liberating in knowing I can feel every bit of the pain and love that’s possible in this world.  It’s as if this brokenness allows me to feel the world again—to feel it all.

           For so much of my life, my heart has been closed in protection. My fear of being hurt, rejected, of being unworthy and unloved cloaked my heart with heavy armor. It was a way I had learned to be, to survive, and yet here I am in California, with nothing left but myself and my heart.

            I watch the world walk by, so many afraid of not surviving, of not making it, of not having things just as they need them, of losing their cloaks, their armor, that have protected them for so long from. They become cold, hardened, and forget to love the stranger that comes to them, crying, in need of compassion, because they are afraid to lose their way, their habit-forming rituals that define them and provide the illusion that they are okay.snowheart-682440

            I feel now, and I am grateful. Yet, I ask for forgiveness for so many times in which I offered a cold heart to another, in which I caused pain to another in my frigidness. And I feel compassion for others for their cold hearts toward me. For, I know they have learned, as I have, to be afraid to feel. From one generation to the next, they have learned to close their hearts in order to survive a world too frightened to feel its own pain and love, too frightened to be truly live.

I kiss their hidden tears, over and over again, honoring the love waiting to break through.

WHEN HAVE YOU BEEN TOO NUMB TO FEEL?