Morning Inspiration

This morning, as I settled into my day with coffee and the local newspaper, I found myself wondering on things. Wondering on the miracle that a local print newspaper still exists. Thinking about the young journalist I met 20 years ago who recently announced her departure as its publisher. Reflecting on how things move and change seemingly so fast sometimes, and how brave and resilient we are in the face of that.

And then a photo caught my eye — the determined and genteel final photo of a woman named Phoolan Nandlal.

Phoolan was born in 1931, and died at the age of 88 on February 16 surrounded by her seven children, 14 grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren. She was the daughter of Motyah and Galo and is the last of 4 daughters: Bhyaratie, Sylvia, and Lutchmin.

Phoolan’s parents died when she was only 2 years old. She was born in Siparia, Trinidad, West Indies, where she attended school. Later, she moved to Avocart and grew up with her grandparents Bhahuartya and Dhoray who were from Bastilya, India. She was taken out of school and married at age 16 years to Raghunath Nandlal.

Phoolan was heartbroken that she was denied an education, not being told about her parents, and denied her inheritance. Despite her anguish, Phoolan persevered. She brought up seven children on her own, took care of her 14 grandchildren, and visited her 10 great-grandchildren.

Phoolan valued education and instilled this among other values in her family. In addition, she went back to school in her 50s and 80s for a GED. She was astute, witty, organized, clean, neat, and took pride in her appearance. In addition, she loved all those who came to know her and vice versa. She enjoyed cooking, gardening (fruits, vegetables, flowers), flower arrangements, art, and music. Phoolan was detail oriented. She always wanted to learn how to play the piano and learned to play the keyboard at age 88 years.

Phoolan worked very hard from sunrise to sunset in Trinidad with her husband to build her empire while raising eight children. This work ethic stayed with her into her golden years. In 1978, Phoolan lost her husband, a son, and a grandson. She persevered, and was extremely independent as a widow as well as a private person. Phoolan lived independently in Trinidad for about 25 years and designed the addition to her home. She chose to live with her daughter Radhika Nandlal and son-in-law Richard LaRonde in Branford for the last 4 years of her life.

I never met Phoolan — these remarkable details are from her obituary — but I suspect she had as much moxie as my local newspaper, and of that young journalist now off to seek new adventures.

Things do move and change so fast sometimes…and oh how brave and resilient are we!

Transubstantiation

Be the change you wish to see in the world — be the change you fear.

Serve it up in bite-size pieces and make peace with it because resistance is futile.

Change comes and change comes and change comes
and you change and you change and you change.

Extra change in your pocket
is just reserve for the next detour.

Recalculating.

Better to live in fluidic space, liquid and organic,
bending time, not biding,
moving from here to there effortlessly.

Gracefully.
Gratefully.

Because an object at rest stays at rest
but an object in motion stays in motion

and we all know it’s the motion in the ocean that counts.

©Jen Payne. This poem appears in the Guilford Poets Guild 20th Anniversary Anthology, Our Changing Environment. To purchase your copy, click here.

Second Nature to Me Now

As if she is brand new,

I touch the soft folds,

remark at the marks,

notice the skin and

its propensity to

count time with lines.

There is no preparation

for this reflection,

this time spent

considering

the countenance.

They call it pause

for good reason,

as these mirrored moments

will attest,

for it is here I pause

— and pause again —

as if she is brand new.

©Jen Payne. Image: Standing Odalisque Reflected in a Mirror, Henri Matisse. This poem appears in the Guilford Poets Guild 20th Anniversary Anthology, Our Changing Environment. To purchase your copy, click here.

Her Last Hurrah

No one knew for sure, but she did. This would be her last hurrah. Bold and bright and full of expectations she didn’t mean to hold onto. But how could she not? This was her purpose: to grow, to blossom, to bloom…big. If not that, then what?

Photo + Musings ©2019, Jen Payne. For similar reflections, please purchase a copy of my new book WAITING OUT THE STORM. Click here for details.

Darn It

To darn means to mend, and I wonder if that’s what this Darner dragonfly was doing. Waylaid in the middle of the road, neither here nor there, perhaps it was simply mending things for itself; sewing up pieces of the inexplicable so they made sense again…or just for now. To be honest, I thought it was dead until I nudged it gently, asked “Are you OK?” out loud while I considered my own repair needs — what to fix, what to patch, and what to release.

Photo + Musings ©2019, Jen Payne.

Thicket

It used to be I could see through the thicket, almost to the edge where this small stream meets the horizon. The promise of the day ahead reflected in the water, and I was always sure I’d see some kind of magic. But the way is almost hidden now, overtaken by shadow and those things that grow when we’re not paying attention.

Photo + Musings ©2019, Jen Payne.

Just Sit for a While

She’ll sit in this sweet green chair for a while, safe in the knowing that she’s constructed good, strong boundaries. That doors sometimes shut for a reason, and windows stay closed on purpose. There’s plenty of space for more chairs, of course, a sturdy table on which to set the glass of wine, and room to dance, dance, dance, so don’t be too sad. It’s not an empty room, more like a blank slate ready for whatever comes next.

Photo + Musings ©2019, Jen Payne. Photo from MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA.

Here Among the Ruins

An ekphrastic poem based on the painting After the Storm by Silvia Drewery, on view at the Madison Art Society’s Annual Art Exhibit, August 2019.

Oh, sure, I could tell you
what I used to see when
I looked out the window
each morning —

……….that wide expanse of marsh
……….fertile green against blue sky
……….with its apt companion of clouds

……….the ebb and flow
……….and ebb and flow
……….of predictable tides

or what I admired then,
collected on shelves for posterity,
cultivated in my springtime

……….remember the flowers
……….remember the flowers
……….remember the flowers

But that’s all faded now,
the sure and bright palette
of what we thought we knew —

because seasons topple
and crash into each other,
bring storms of change

storms that demand more
than a cursory reach for familiar
than a hope and prayer for perfect

Oh, sure, I could tell you…
I could tell you all of that
or stride straight out of frame.

Rain Mantra

The rain comes gentle this morning

says: there are things that come and go

says: for all rain, there is also sun

taps out Quiet, Quiet, Quiet

on leaves like a mantra

louder than the train whistle

and steady increase of cars

that say: another day begins

and birds who sing: no matter the rain

in a hopeful tune

that’s hard to ignore.

Poem ©2019, Jen Payne. Image: Rain Shower, Eyvind Earle

Serenity

This morning at 2,
while a wet snow
formed heavy burdens
and the things I cannot digest
boiled bile to a froth,
I awoke

choking

words.

At the day then, the smaller tasks —
always most productive —
seemed best acceptance:

wash the dishes,

feed the cat,

water the plants.

A domestic meditation
designed to sooth while
outside, that snow
threatened to break things.

And so small me
in a small effort
(it felt)
changed what I could —
donned coat and boots
and in the quiet dark
brushed snow from branches
of a dogwood set to bloom.

If not wisdom, I suppose,
one at least
can hope for flowers.

Photo and poem ©2019, Jen Payne