Monday, April 14, 2014

Composure

Composure

Like so many leaves scattered by the wind
I had been trying to find my pieces of mind
And reassemble them back to normalcy
Back to some cohesive construction
Of my native soul
How was I to know?

I had believed that I stood as ancient stone
My own ego against the seasons of life
Blowing around me and through me
Shifting the ground beneath my feet
Through the flurry
How was I to see?

I could not know, or see, really only feel
For the conspicuous was concealed 
Until I would yield to this magnificent 
Force that had clothed me in composure
So I could rejoice in
Life’s blessings

JMC
4/14/14
(c) 2014

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Dance Of Life & Death


Time can be such an elusive creature. Just when you think that you finally have a grasp of it, you lose your control as it wriggles free and speeds away from you. It has been over five months now since I've even made an honest attempt at writing and composing my thoughts… something that I used to do so freely and frequently. Life has cemented me in place. I indeed seemed to have lost my grasp of time, but what I gained in return was even greater, time to grow with my family… with my beautiful five month old daughter. The perspective that my time and creativity was lost or wasted is only one side of the story. The truth is that my energy and my focus was elsewhere, it was on something even greater than my love of writing. During these past five months (and beyond) some of the most wonderful, awe inspiring, and emotional events have occurred in my life, good and positive as well as sad and heartbreaking. For certain, my silence was not for a lack of something to write about. In fact, I felt overwhelmed and unable to properly pay tribute to what I was experiencing. Perhaps these moments were too potent and expansive for me to capture at the time, but now looking back I can see a pattern. So, now I break the silence to tell the tale of these voiceless months, the tale of life and death.

Even before I became a father I felt as if I had tuned in to some mystical frequency only afforded to those who truly can grasp the significance of life and the loss of life, a preparation for parenthood. I think that as human beings we have the ability to ponder life, which is remarkable in itself, but for the most part we tune out in order to have a sense of normalcy. So rather than having some uncanny realization, I believe that my sense of experiencing life was heightened. The truth is that the speed of life (and my practice of recording it in writing) had changed even before my baby was born, and occurred during the nine months waiting for her. The feeling of excitement and the sense of urgency was ubiquitous. I worked twice as hard, thought twice as often, and ate twice as much waiting for this due date on the calendar looming ahead in the distance. It was during this time that I first keenly observed the balance of life and death in action. 

Months into our pregnancy (I was guarding the belly, she was pregnant), my wife was able to bring home her mother from Ghana. It was a joyous occasion, this reunion between mother and daughter after many years living apart. It was during this same month, the day when students at the high school where I teach were to go on their Thanksgiving break, when one of the students tragically drowned in the school pool during a gym class. He was a recent immigrant from Ghana, which had a strange antithetical parallel to the new beginning that we would enjoy in our own family. As one mother mourned her son, a daughter celebrated her mother. This congruency between life and death was only just beginning.


I remember that it was about one month later when my wife was about 17 weeks through her pregnancy, and the terrible news of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut broke. I was thinking of the parents of the young children who had sent them off to another regular day of school just before the holidays, and who had no idea that they would never see their children alive again. It struck a chord deep within my soul as I was anticipating and joyfully expecting my own child in the months to come. It also struck me that this tragic event unfolded only a week before most of Christendom celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ, filled with the symbolism of innocence and unconditional love. The irony was disturbing. I could only think about the loss of life that a mother or father had nurtured and protected, even before that life came into the world, and then to have it whisked away without any warning. My wife and I didn't know the sex of our baby growing in the womb, but we knew that we were parents, and we knew the human worth and the love that we had for our baby even though we could not see her. 


The following month, a former student of mine who had graduated from high school the year before had sadly died from complications after becoming ill. It happened suddenly and unexpectedly. I had seen this student almost every day during her time at the high school. She was my pupil, my teacher’s assistant, a member of my after-school club, she was a young friend. I had proudly watched her graduate the previous summer, and I was able to congratulate her happy family. My wife and I were greeted by her in surprise while shopping in a store only a few weeks before she had shockingly passed on. I can remember how she was so excited to see our baby growing in my wife’s belly. The next time I would see her was when she was lying in a casket at her funeral. It was one of the most heartbreaking things I had ever bore witness to, the death of someone I cared about who had their whole future in front of them. Someone that I had just seen and spoken to could smile and speak no more. The same family members that I had hugged with congratulations less than a year before, I now hugged with condolences. It was difficult to accept. Yet two weeks later one of my good friends had welcomed his baby son into the world. And all throughout this time of waiting and anticipating our own baby child, I clearly saw the dance between life and death, the interplay between its miraculous and joyous beginnings and the tragedy and the suffering of death.


Without a doubt, the greatest moment of my life so far, and the most definitive, was bearing witness to the birth of my baby daughter. Nine long months of waiting… not knowing whether we were having a boy or a girl, we were ready to greet our child into the world. After her safe and smooth delivery, I had the honor of introducing our daughter to her mother and calling her by the name we had chosen for her. The emotions running through me and the significance of the moment could not be captured in words as I cut the cord and held my daughter close to me for the first time. Unconditional love! Anticipating fatherhood had changed my life in many ways, but of course actually becoming a father changed my life in an unfathomable way. I instantly became conscious of the fact that I was now a family man and that my wife and my daughter were the most important people in my life and I would do anything to protect them. My eyes were open to an awareness I had not known until then.

Our daughter was only two months old when my wife and I took her on a 2,000 mile road trip to visit my grandmother, and meet her only great-grandmother for the first time. The summer pilgrimage was a beautiful one. Precious moments were spent together as we traveled and enjoyed our family vacation, but the greatest was when my Grandma was able to hold her great-granddaughter and watch her as she learned how to smile. Four generations were united together, beholding one another in love and wonder. It was a true testament to life. Life that seemed energized with the promise of tomorrow. After spending a couple of weeks with my grandmother and the rest of our family, we made our way back home. My grandmother stood by the door and waved goodbye to us, the same way she had always done since we were children. I left with the confidence that we would see her again the following summer. Life had a response to my presumption. Three weeks later, my grandmother passed. She had been healthy, happy, and buoyant when we saw her. She died in her own home after having a stroke. Though it was sudden and sad, my Grandma had made peace with her mortality. She had outlived her husband, she had seen my brothers and I get married, and she met her first great-grandchild. She had a spirit of love and genuine acceptance of life and the promise of heaven. She was ready to go, she wanted to go, I can only imagine that she felt fulfilled. I traveled back to say goodbye to the last grandparent I had left, and watch my Dad say goodbye to his mother. Once again, I watched the familiar dance between life and death.


As I write, outside my window I can see brown leaves crackling in the chilly wind, falling to the ground… in character of a typical autumn. Just as nature has its seasons, so too does the cycle of life. During this past year I’ve silently watched the dance between life and death unfold in several acts, a performance that was woven through awful tragedy and heartbreak, wondrous joy, and finally acceptance. It opened with conception and with hearing the first beat of my daughter’s heart during the last autumn. It concluded with our family saying goodbye during the euthanasia of our beloved family dog just a couple of weeks ago and hearing his heart beat for the last time. This dance is incomprehensible, it is natural… it is mystic.  It is something witnessed but not truly captured. In the end, I can say that I have seen it, I have studied it, and yet I am none the wiser. However, I do know the steps to the eternal dance, and now I am free to fall back into it, accept it, and find my muse. Life goes on, and I must write on.


JAHsh

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Nightenday Meditation

Nightenday Meditation

Nocturnal breezes 

Dancing in through the window
Such splendid silence
A peace can always be found
When we surrender to it

Hints of sunlight bring

Morning greetings from songbirds
There is a lesson 
A chance to compose oneself
And send out our own blessings

JMC

4/30/13
(c) 2013

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

March Forward

March Forward

That day will come when we all must testify

How will we answer questions they'll ask us?
Why did blood fountain from the Arab Spring?
And what of the Syria's business in Damascas?

Who saw the storm of discord spread into Mali?

When militants troubled ancient Timbuktu
A hot desert wind fed by their ammunition
Erasing manuscripts from an African school

The world needs peace in a time of great chaos

Instead, we are being pacified by our fear
The final act of a self-fulfilling Doomsday 
Why transform when we believe the end is near?

After the darkest of night comes the daylight

So we search the horizon for the sun's rays
We look for our savior while forgetting that
Things stay the same until we change our ways 

One can hear a cardinal sing, Habemus Papam

To hearken the dawn of a new type of papacy
Perhaps a change for the chair of St. Peter
But they know David's throne is for Selassie

In this time, the Rootsman marches forward

Driven by the Nyahbinghi riddim, hidden deep
Knowing that in life, hope Springs eternal
When we are synchronized with JAH heartbeat

JMC

3/20/13
(c) 2013

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Reunion

Reunion

Once, in another lifetime
Some ancient time ago
I must have been in your arms
In the comfort of your bosom
And ever since then
I've been thinking of you
The constant fire lamp in my soul
Now I know, now I can see
You, before me
Green trees and red earth
Where my spirit was birthed
Mama Africa...

JMC 

7/25/12
(c) 2012

Written somewhere over Africa, before landing in Accra, Ghana. Released as Ghana celebrates its 56th Independence Day, March 6th 2013.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Due Season

To say that my life has been eventful this past year is an understatement. So many things have been happening that it has been hard for me to take the time to just sit and meditate, let alone take account of it all. It seems like it was summer only a short while ago and I was bound for Ghana, Africa to see my wife's side of the family. Of course, my experience there was overwhelmingly significant, and there are so many things for me to share and reflect on in regard to that journey. Soon come, that is another story to tell. After our summer it was back to work, teaching the youths, and the months and seasons went by more quickly than I could imagine. Where did all the time go? What happened to my exercise routine? What happened to all of my writings and reasonings… my poetry? I hope to bring them about a bit more regularly again, but all in due season, at least I break the silence with this message. Something special has prompted me to write today on the once in a lifetime date of December, 12, 2012. 12-12-12 is the last major numerical date using the Gregorian calendar for about another century, when three numbers align (as they did on 9-9-09, 10-10-10 and 11-11-11). It is a cool phenomenon, but that is not what makes this day so special for me and my family.

For a very long time, my wife had been working on trying to bring her mother to the United States from Ghana to join her and her father here in Connecticut. This would be the dream of a lifetime, because although they had been living apart for 30 years, her parents remained married and faithful to one another. Her father lived and worked in the U.S. sending money and provisions home to Africa, while her Mom stayed in Accra, Ghana raising their children and taking care of the household. For her parents, time together was few and far between, when her father was able to take some vacation time to travel to Ghana. When my wife and were planning for our wedding, we also filed all the necessary paperwork to initiate the long, long process of bringing my mother-in-law here as well. It was our hope that she would be able to attend our wedding day, but unfortunately there were a series of obstacles in the way that prevented that wish from happening. Dealing with the Department of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is a labyrinth of twists and turns that often leads you to complete frustration, I experienced it second-hand. Each time that my wife and father-in-law thought they had completed all the necessary steps, something else came up. After nearly a year of back-and-forth with the government, Mom’s application was processed and we had to wait for an interview date to be determined.

This past summer, my wife and I travelled to Ghana and were hoping that while we were there we would get the date for her Mom’s interview and arrangements could be made to bring her to America. However, once we were in Accra, a notice came stating that the interview date would be in September, once we would back home and working. The interview at the American embassy is an important part of making it through the gauntlet, and it can be a tricky situation when the officials are combing through every detail of the application and all the files that were required to accompany it. My wife was intent on physically being there with her mother since she was her sponsor who filed her immigration application. So, my wife had to travel back to Ghana in September and attend this meeting, with the hopes of bringing her Mom to the States this time. Thankfully, the embassy granted our Mom permission to come over. However, the visa would not be issued until a month later in October. This meant a third journey to Ghana before everything was done! My wife waited until the week before Thanksgiving in November and flew to Africa once more. Mom had her received her visa, bags were packed, and finally after all that time… after all the paperwork, expenses, and physically flying between two continents three times in as many months, she arrived.

This evening on 12-12-12, we celebrated my Mom-In-Law’s first birthday in America. We sat together as a family, eating fufu and light soup, laughing, sharing stories, and being thankful. My wife has not seen her parents living together properly under one roof for her entire lifetime. To see her Mom and Dad on the same side of the table, celebrating her Mom’s birthday, is nothing short of a miracle for us. It has been a few weeks since Mom came to the States and she is happy and well, and getting acquainted with American life (she never left West Africa before). Now she is enjoying time with her husband, her daughter, and her son-in-law. Lives worlds apart were finally united together after so much time.

This amazing story is a story of endurance. What I managed to put forth here, late on a Wednesday night and rusty from a lack of writing, does not do it justice. It is so incredible that we as a family have to pause in order to appreciate that it is reality. The amount of faith, energy, and patience that it took to trod this road and reach this point is beyond measure. However, the lesson here is that everything comes in its due season, and everything will align itself just the way it should be, when it should be, like 12-12-12. With persistence and faith, we can endure the time until we reap the harvest. Patience removes mountains. Something that seemed impossible and insurmountable is now behind us on this journey called life. We all have our own obstacles, whether it is U.S. Immigration or finances or physical distance. An African proverb says, “While there is a mountain in your path, do not sit down at its foot and cry. Get up and climb it.” Our family has overcome a mountain, and we will still have more mountains to climb in this life… but we can do it with a little bit of patience and faith, and so can you! Life is beautiful, and when you think you have it figured it out, it will surprise you once again. Happy Birthday Mom! Let JAH be praised! 

JAHsh

Monday, July 23, 2012

Africa Bound

Today on the 120th Earthlight of His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Haile Selassie I, I prepare for my journey to Africa tomorrow. My wife and I will be travelling to Ghana to spend time with her family and see her homeland again after three years of being away. For me, it has been a lifetime of being away. To claim Ghana or anywhere in Africa as a “home” would be something I could never have imagined before I was married, and although this is my first trod to the Motherland, knowing that my Empresses’ family is there to receive me gives me that joyous feeling of home already. Africa awaits with open arms.

Words escape me as I am writing this because I am overwhelmed with many thoughts and emotions. In fact, I’ve had a hard time articulating anything when people ask me about it. As a Rastaman, this is a dream come true... stepping on African soil, sacred land. I feel like an ancient soul finally finding peace in my roots. Many people in the West do not have the opportunity to travel to Africa, nor do they have the connections to do so with comfort and security. I am very blessed and very fortunate in that regard. More so, I am meeting the rest of my wife’s family, relations that I have only been able to speak with on the phone. To greet my mother-in-law and my siblings-in-law for the first time will be an honor and an experience that I have not yet fully conceived. To spend time learning more about them and growing as family will be the ultimate blessing. In a day I will be enjoying  their company, music, and food in Accra, Ghana... a world away from Connecticut.

A world away indeed... As much as I am familiar with Africa, it is another thing to be there and live it. Everything I understand about Ghana or Africa in general may or may not completely change or evolve. I don’t really know what to expect, but I have a positive mind and therefore I am confident in having good expectations for this voyage. As exciting and new as it will be, I feel that it will also provide the inspiration to reinvigorate my spirit. Going to Ghana will help me to reflect more on my livity and trod with Rastafari. I plan to keep a journal during my stay, and write often. Mental exhaustion has affected my ability to write as much as I once enjoyed, even during these summer months. There will be much to think about, and much to say, this is for certain. From my perspective as constant student of African History, I will see places that I have learned about only in books or documentaries such as the legacy of the Ashanti Empire, the Elmina and Cape Coast Castles, and the resting places of Kwame Nkrumah and W. E. B. Du Bois... just to name a few. I will be completely absorbed in my “dreamland across the sea”, as many reggae songs have evoked.

I know that this will be the first of many trips to Ghana because of my family, but I hesitate to presume too much simply because I am in awe of the fact. It is my hope that I explore and grow close to Ghana more and more, this haven for African Liberation and progress. It is also my hope that I am able to experience other regions of Africa and ultimately Ethiopia. What better way to celebrate the birth of the great King Selassie I than with a trip to Mama Africa? It will be a time of cultural and educational exchange, an opportunity to become acquainted with my African brethren and for them to know me in turn.... something His Majesty always promoted. It is a blessing that I am extremely grateful for. I am so excited to meet new family, and I am so deeply moved to experience this ancient land. I am eager to soak it all in and share my travels with the massive when I return. Until that time, blessings! Mama Africa, we are coming home...

JAHsh, The Obroni Rastaman

“Hello, Mama Africa, how are you?
I'm feeling fine and I hope you're fine too 
Hello, Mama Africa, how are you ?
I hope when you hear these words 
Your greys turn blue, greys turn blue”

- Garnett Silk