Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Gentle, Healing Connection

He came to me in his prison scrubs, a fire orange jumpsuit, shackles around his feet and hands. He made his way down the hallway, chains clanging against the stone floor as the officers brought him to my office. My door was open.

“You ready for him?”

I nodded to the officer's tough, tight face.

The inmate stepped in the doorway, his head bowed, his hands cuffed and locked against his waist. He could have been praying.

“Come in, have a seat.” I got up to close the door.

“You sure you don’t want to leave it open?” said one of the officers. “He isn’t real nice.”

“Thanks, but I’m not worried about him. We’ll be just fine.” I closed the door without seeing his reaction.

“Why’d you call me?” he said as he sat down in the cold plastic chair.

“I wanted to see if I could help.” I said, as genuinely as I felt.

“With what?” I could see his body loosen ever so slightly.

“With you. How are you, A_?”

That was when he finally looked up at me with eyes I will never forget. Big, as intense and dark as the deepest sea, swirling with ache and fear and a desperate need for affection. He smiled. Raw. Like a seven year old told he was the smartest boy in class. And that was it. I had broken through.

* * *

A few days later at the same camp (State Prison) I was making my way back to my office from Medical where I filed my reports. I liked to cross the yard when Count was called because that was the only time all the inmates had to stay glued to their beds, not getting up until every inmate was accounted for. This time, however, it went faster than usual and suddenly over the loudspeaker, Count was cleared.

From one of the dormitories came an avalanche of inmates, their path coming straight for me. I was a twig in danger of being snapped and obliterated. But somehow, I kept my cool as I put my hand on the metal of the door knob knowing I would be safe in a mere second. I was wrong.

The door was locked. I tried it again, thinking I was imagining things. No, it was indeed locked. I knocked as confidently as I could, knowing the inmates smelled fear like a dog in heat, preying on it with sick humor. I was going to be ok. I was going to be ok. I was going to be ok.

A group of inmates started to crowd around me. I was in the middle of a huddle. They didn’t say anything just pressed in tighter and tighter, how many men deep I didn’t dare imagine. Suddenly, A_ squeezed through to stand beside me. He took those eyes and looked at me straight through, this time the kindness running the other direction.

“Don’t worry, Miss Brynne. Ain’t no one gonna hurt you. I got you.” He looked around at the others, giving them a look that only he could, brewing a smile deep within me that took almost everything I had, to hide.

And right then, the door opened.

* * *

We are all wounded inside in some way or other.

We all carry unhappiness within us for some reason or another.

Which is why we need a little gentleness and healing from

One another. Healing in words, healing beyond words.

Like gesture. Warm gesture. Like friendship, which will always

Be a mystery. Like a smile, which someone described

As the shortest distance between two people.

Ben Okri, from the poem

“Healing The Wounded Learner

or the Pygmalion Complex”

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Yummy Poof!

Got the Sunday blues? Try this for breakfast or brunch with butter and powdered sugar and watch your mood change. Some people call it a Dutch Baby but I call it a Poof. Watch it rise up like a soufflé then fall as it cools. Introduced to me when I was a little girl by the Angevines and its still one of my all time favorites!


3 eggs

½ cup milk (any kind)

½ cup flour

½ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 450F (230C) degrees. Butter a soufflé dish or any other high-sided oven safe dish. Whisk eggs in a medium sized mixing bowl. Whisk in milk. Slowly whisk in flour and salt. Add melted butter, whisk until smooth and immediately add to buttered soufflé dish. Bake at 450F for 15 min. Turn oven down to 350F (180C) and bake for another 10. Eat when its hot and poofy!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Spirits are Real

Not before or since. Such clarity was breathtaking. Almost unheard of. The moment will forever be emblazoned into my memory. And while my body trembled with the sight of it all, I felt an odd sense of peace. Peace, and the knowing that one day I'd be compelled to share….publicly.

I was at school working on my Masters from The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology. We were in the cafeteria at the Mercy Center in Hillsborough, California, a nunnery converted into an all-girl’s high school and retreat center. The floor was a cold white tile, the walls white, too. Windows graced one side with views of the sparse winter trees that seemed to shiver in the cold. I am sure I shivered along side them.

I sat with seven or eight women at a circular table as we ate our lunch. Nothing fancy, probably soup and a simple sandwich and tea. Maybe Chai. Definitely not Earl Grey.

Someone asked Wendy a question. Seemingly innocuous but as it turned out, anything but. Wendy started to speak but faltered. She looked away and down. We stopped eating, or I did, when I realized she was suffering. That’s when it happened.

As I sat there at my round table with classmates surrounding me and dear Wendy troubled with what she needed to say, I watched as first one face then another, materialized, formed like smoke into two wispy but distinctive shapes. The first moved to Wendy’s forehead, kissing it with delicate precision. The second moved in closer, toward her mouth. Was it kissing her? Was I losing it? How could I be seeing this? Wendy heaved in a big breath, her shoulders rising before she launched into sharing that which pained her. It wasn’t kissing her. It was giving her air, strength to speak her truth.

I didn’t hear her words. I don’t remember anything except that which I saw. That, and the trembling in my bones.

When lunch was over and we were to return to workshops, I found Wendy in the hall. Could I tell her what I saw? Who else could I share it with? Wasn’t she the safest? I decided to take the risk, no, I had no choice. I couldn’t keep it to myself.

“I’m not surprised, Brynne,” she said. “I asked for help, for strength to share, and suddenly I had it. I didn’t know where it came from, but now I do,” she said to me with tears in her eyes, rubbing my trembling shoulders, comforting my deep, exploring eyes. “Do not doubt what you saw. I felt what you saw. It was real.”

Did I think I made it up? Of course. But my doubt in what I saw didn’t last long. It is difficult to deny what your eyes see, what your body senses, even in the face of what the majority says is impossible.

Spirits are real, she says with conviction. Now you know why.