A November chill


Saturday, November 09, 2013


I wake to the cold this morning, steamed breath even thought the temperature is still above freezing.

The chill air kissing my chin where it pokes out from under the blankets – not as raw as when I lived in Passaic, but with the gentle reminder of how tough things were in those days when I perceived myself as a starving artist.

I miss Passaic and that life in a way I never thought I would, partly because we risk little when we are still making the climb. We rarely look back or down, only up.

It’s when people reach the point at which they believe they actually have something to lose that they glance back down at those climbing behind them.

Those, who look back often on the climb up, rarely get to the top.

I talked to a minister last week who said she’s glad she doesn’t have power – when she actually does.

What she was trying to say falls into what Joseph Campbell said about power, in that those who wield it for the public good seem not to be aware of the power they have.

Evil in Campbell’s opinion, are those who use power for personal gain.

This is the essential evil of myth.

When I ventured to Cape May last month, we saw a sign on a lawn that said “I’ve never been the same since that house fell on my sister.”

The film “Oz” tried to capture this concept of misuse of power, of witches either duped by their own egos (which allowed others to misuse them) or people consumed by their own desire to lord over others.

The minister’s power is disguised by the fact that it is almost always outward bound, and that whatever influence she has, it appears to be benefiting those around her and beyond her, and not herself.

After a final conclusion to an election season in which we saw a host of back stabbing, behind the scenes manipulations and power grabs, it is comforting to know that in the end – sometimes, someone is using power the way it is supposed to be used – and a good witch doesn’t have to worry about a house falling on her or her sister, or how much such a tragedy will alter the course of a life.

The power is not in the ruby shoes, or even in the wand the good witch waves, but in the ability to do good for a good reason, and not to worry about who knows it or whether you get credit for it.

Back in Passaic, I would get up in the cold, turn up the heater in the cold water flat, and make my way to my small desk to write out my morning journal entry – a warm up exercise that not only heated the cold water flat, but stirred up the coals inside me.

I was never sure exactly what I wanted, except perhaps to have what I wrote read some day after I no longer needed to warm my bones. In those days, I was worried more about keeping a roof over my head more than a house falling onto me. And I never had ruby slippers to take me home, I was home. I had a handful of friends who as in the older version of Oz, sought courage, a heart and intelligence each of them already had and didn’t know it. And I suppose in that quest for what I wanted, I had what I wanted and needed as well, and it takes cold mornings like these, with my chin chilled with a November chill for me to realize it.



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