Monday, August 22, 2011

Nouvelle 55: Nelson's Mandala

Nelson's mandala "synch-ro-ni-zing"

It never once occurred to me to write a Nouvelle 55 for my 55th birthday. But it did to my brother Nelson who wrote this one for my birthday post today. It is based on this complex and radiant mandala he designed for me in April. When he created it he meditated on the name of my blog, and flights of imagination caught him. I see me at the center. I see the overlapping worlds that touch me. I see crosses . . . perhaps the religion of my past. I see XOXO - the symbols of hugs and kisses which commenters and I use for one another. I see memories, stories, all that has made me who I am. I see the worlds of others around the country and world whose lives have come into mine through blogging. I see vibrancy and life, and most of all color.

Nelson is the oldest of eight kids, I'm the youngest. We didn't bump into each other much at home, since he went off to college before I began kindergarten. He did have a part in naming me. He was sweet on a certain girl, so when Dad asked what they should name me if I was a girl, Nelson said her name, "How about Ruth Anne?"

It wasn't until 1995, the year I turned 40 (the age of my parents when I was born) that our friendship began. When Dad died of cancer six weeks after his diagnosis, Nelson and I were given the task of designing the funeral program for him. The family had to take special care arranging the funeral of a minister who had conducted countless funerals in our little town. While Nelson and I sat with our heads together at the dining table over the typewriter designing the printed program for the service, gradually, and unrelated to our task, out trickled traces of our own stories, revealing similar feelings about growing up in our home. It hadn't always been easy.

Since then, we've grown to be close friends. We talk about the mysteries of the soul, and we're both deeply optimistic about that. "Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one's head pointed toward the sun, one's feet moving forward." Do you know which Nelson said that?

The haiku-esque stanzas of Nelson's poem are like layered stairs of time, bearing our separate-yet-interconnected steps toward spiritual freedom.

These gifts live and move.

Nouvelle 55: Eight Twenty-two

An age ago
Sophia undraped Ruth,
baby number eight.

   Soon number one
   teased out smiles and, later,
   steps from her stances.

      Then he hid in ivied halls;
      when he emerged
      she dropped petals for his bride.

         That couple drove
         into the sunrise
         and Ruthie blossomed.

            she soars under stars,
            inspiring him onward and upward.

            Mandala and Poem © Nelson Hart, 2011

Nelson's Note: Ruth describes Nouvelle 55 as a flash fiction or poem in 55 words based upon a work of art. Nelson describes mandala as a symbol of the relationship between the larger world and our inner world; the image accepts life's tension and ambivalence. Carl Jung believed them to arise out of “the unconscious self." For information on mandalas in the Indian subcontinent, see this.

Ruth’s note: Sophia is a feminine aspect of God in the Gnostic tradition. Some say She fell from grace and created the material world, still expressing the light of God. She’s the deep mystery of wisdom (and the wisdom of mystery?). Lately when I pray, I pray to her. I don’t think Nelson knew that when he wrote his poem.

Us 8 kids in 1961 (?)
bookended by Ruthie and Nelson, 
with Ginnie (Boots) 3rd from right;
I loved my matching dress and sweater set,
and velvet shoes

Nelson and Peg's wedding in 1964; I was junior bridesmaid;
our brother Bennett who passed away in 1996 stands next to Nelson;
and our Dad is next to Bennett

Dad married Nelson and Peg in his Baptist church

 my college graduation in 2001 when I was 44,
with Ginnie (Boots) and Nelson,
a sister and brother of the soul as well as the blood

Nelson and me at our great-niece Katy's wedding in May 2011


Ginnie said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Sister! You couldn't have "done it" better, either of you.

The Solitary Walker said...

Quite wonderful gifts for your birthday, Ruth. Uniquely yours.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Boots. Love you.

Ruth said...

I'm glad you agree, Robert, thanks. I look forward to seeing something of your trek at Hadrian's Wall with George.

Stratoz said...

splendid post. It leaves me with the feeling of hope that seeds of connection can lead to amazing relationships. By the way, my favorite number is 21, the number of attributes given to Sophia in an apocryphal book of the Bible... The Book of Wisdom

Babs-beetle said...

Happy Birthday Ruth!

A wonderful post and such great photos!

Louise Gallagher said...

I love this view into your life -- into the soul of who you are. And what a beautiful view it is.

Hugs and very very happy birthday!

erin said...

do i sound like a twit? oh balls, be it. i am in love with everything! your photo of you 8 especially, and all that projects out wildly, as though that photograph is the dense matter for THE big bang, the birth of all of your stories.

happy birthday ruth.

did you know you are beautiful?


erin said...

oh my, and hi to nelson. what a gift you two have in one another!


Nelson said...

And, Ruth, echoing erin, what you have given to me just now! erin, she is beautiful indeed!

No, I didn't know about your relationship to Sophia. I just imagined the divine artist at work.

And in the mandala I see you flying.


ellen abbott said...

I didn't become close to my sister til we were grown though she was only three years older. And older still before we shared our secretes, things that happened to us, things we did while growing up that astound us that we had no idea living in the same house as we did. I'm still not close to my younger brother, wonder what his secrets are.

Friko said...

A functional family relationship where siblings respect, admire and love each other, where they support and assist each other, you have all that.

Ruth, you are lovely, from your writing and poetry I know that much about you.

I am glad for you.

To know that this is possible, that there are people like you and your siblings makes my cold and sterile world all the harder to bear.

Friko said...

Oh bother this damned self-pity.
What I should have said is "Happy Birthday" and congratulated you on the gifts of love you so richly deserve.

steven said...

i wish you a happy birthday ruth! i can think of no greater gift than the love of family and so i was thrilled to read of your relationship with nelson! my own brother and i beat the snot out of each other for years until we reached a point where the vessel of our discontent rolled over and we allowed the deep love of our connection to flower. i hope that you have a special and lovely day. steven

Grandmother said...

Happy Birthday! And how wonderful your brother celebrates your birth. I've just started the fragile, tentative steps toward my older brother. Your story inspires confidence. The mandala is vibrant and rich. The poem a celebration of you and lovely.

Maureen said...

Large families aren't so common these days (mine numbered 9 children, 7 who lived to adulthood) but none of us who grew up in them can imagine being in any smaller. Ours always expanded at the table, when neighbors' children and friends stopped in. As adults, we've come to cherish the big-ness of family because what we receive is many times multiplied.

Happy Birthday, Ruth! What a lovely gift your brother has given you. Thank you for sharing the poem and the wonderful pictures.

Vagabonde said...

Happy birthday Ruth and much happiness and love to you in the coming year. The mandala is so vibrant and warm – it is full of “dynamisme” and “élan joyeux.“ It looks like it is jumping at us with its happiness. It must be nice to have so many loving sisters and brothers so you are fortunate. You look very lovely in your little dress in the first photo. Your brother Nelson is quite a handsome man and then to be endowed with a great brain and sensitivity – what a wonderful mix. Enjoy your happy day – cheers!

Mrs. M. said...

I love hearing your reflections about your eldest sibling, especially in light of my unique knowledge of the special relationship you share with my mother. Also, you and Uncle Nelson look great in the same periwinkle blue at Katy and Jeff's wedding!! (matching the bridesmaids), and I didn't even notice! :)

who said...

Happy Birthday Ruth! and Nelson's poem and Mandala not only pay tribute to you and the amazing person you are, he also gives us a glimpse into how talented your family members are in art and writing.

Happy Birthday Ruthi

Amy said...

Happy Birthday, Ruth! What a lovely poem, and so special to come from Big Brother! :-) Lots of love to you on this special day...Amy & Dennis

hedgewitch said...

A wonderful post, Ruth. You look about 35, not 55, so that must be radiating outward from your ever-young spirit. Have a magical birthday, and thanks for sharing your family story with us. It's always nice to think of such a big family made of separate individuals of all ages being functional and full of love, even if things weren't always idyllic.

Jeanie said...

Well, first of all, more Happy Birthday wishes abound - I send them to you with a joyful heart for a wonderful "new year."

How lucky you are to have a brother who not only has shared a great part of your life -- what kinship I see in this post -- but who also will share of his own creative talents with you. I love his 55 -- and I know you will treasure it always.

Deborah said...

This makes me want to cry, a little bit because I don't have anything like this with my brothers, and a little bit because anything that speaks to the communion between human beings is an wonderful thing.

You aren't simply lucky, Ruth. You create this. You offer it to those around you, and in doing so, your well is filled.

Deborah said...

Oh and 'Happy Birthday', too!

Ruth said...

Stratoz, that's a beautiful, round number . . .

22 For within her is a spirit intelligent, holy, unique, manifold, subtle, mobile, incisive, unsullied, lucid, invulnerable, benevolent, shrewd,
23 irresistible, beneficent, friendly to human beings, steadfast, dependable, unperturbed, almighty, all-surveying, penetrating all intelligent, pure and most subtle spirits.

And your 21-piece glass mandala for her is gorgeous.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Babs, for your birthday greeting!

Ruth said...

Louise, thank you for your warm birthday visit!

Ruth said...

erin, we shall be twits together. So funny, THE big bang! out of the dense matter of that photo. The picture is one of the treasures of my life, and what you said is just it. We were all in there, in those bodies and smiles, on those stairs of our parsonage house. The porch where I watched and listened to thunderstorms roll in.

The gift of Nelson as friend is one of those surprises in life that feels like bonus day after day. You must understand that he is the patriarch and grand poobah of our family, not from any imposition of himself, but simply out of the deep and vast respect we all have for him and who he is. (He's very intelligent, and also very artistic, and also incredibly kind; that's just a start . . . )

Ruth said...

Nelson, I've loved the collaboration of this birthday post. Thank you, for everything, for you most of all.


Ruth said...

Ellen, thanks for your comment, which gets at how our perceptions of one another change over time. Nelson had it much tougher than I did, being the oldest, yet our responses to family life were quite similar.

Nelson said...

Looks like to me that Sophia's "baby #8" reflects her creator well....

(pardon us, folks, for this little love fest)


neighbor said...

Ruth, happy birthday! Lovely mandala (such color!) and a sweet poem.

Hope I'll be a more regular reader after we get moved and settled. I miss dropping by...

George said...

Happy, happy birthday, Ruth! Sorry I'm late in responding. Flew back home yesterday and I'm still in a bit of a daze. In any event, you are blessed to have such a wonderful family, and they, of course, are blessed to have you, just as your friends and readers are blessed to have you in each of their lives. We are wonderfully interwoven, like the shapes and lines of Nelson's mandala.

Oliag said...

I am happy that I have returned from vacation in time to wish you a most happy of birthdays Ruth! What a special way to celebrate too...what a gift to receive. You are rich indeed!


Lil Coyote said...

wow ruth
this was really lovely
you shared so much
and how fortunate for you and nelson to rediscover each other.
and can i say this ruth?
you're prettier now than you were at 44. and that should give us all hope.
i really enjoyed this.

ds said...

Happy happy happy (and belated) birthday, Ruth! Such a beautiful gift of the soul are Nelson's mandala and poem, to you who gives so much from your own soul.
Thank you both for sharing.

Do you realize you wear the same smile now (and at 44) that you did at Nelson's wedding? You are your own mandala, both constant and ever-changing...


Margaret said...

This is so tender and sweet. This post fills my heart with hope and happiness. Thank you.

Ruth said...

Dear Friko, I celebrate your honesty, and I also ache that you don't experience a relationship like this with a sibling. Thank you for your generous heart.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Steven! Your story with your brother sounds amazing. How terrific that you both turned it over. You made that happen.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Mary, my birthday was one of the happiest in memory. We went to Lake Michigan, walked the beach for hours and swam. It was so beautiful outside that we couldn't bear to spend time indoors, and had a hard time tearing ourselves away to drive home.

Best wishes as you approach your brother.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Maureen. It was a wonderful birthday.

Weren't those big table meals something? And yes, the expanded home. We had international students live with us half of my home life, up to 9 of them at one point. I had no idea then how rich my life was, at times feeling a bit put out . . . My parents had wide arms.

Ruth said...

Thank you, dear Vagabonde. Your beautiful French words honor Nelson's mandala and make me happy. I agree that there is real depth and dimension in it, from it. Nelson is a fine designer of kitchens, houses, gardens, and anything he puts his pencil to. And that is only one of his Renaissance capabilities. His magnanimous heart is what blesses me most of all.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Mrs. M.! The older I get, the more I understand the privilege of my siblings in this life. I had the nicest conversation with your mom yesterday when she called to sing Happy Birthday.

I had so many people tell me when we arrived at the wedding, "You match the bridal party!" :-)

Ruth said...

Dusti, thank you for your birthday greetings and such kind words about me and my family. I hope you are having a wonderful week.

Ruth said...

Hi, and thank you, Amy & Dennis! I love hearing from you. Guess who just friended me on Facebook last evening?


Ruth said...

Thanks so much, Hedgewitch. Your magic wish came true. It was the most glorious day of the summer Monday, and we spent the whole day outside in it. Reluctantly we left our "seaside" at Lake Michigan to come home.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Jeanie. I was so surprised by his 55, and of course he made this old lady cry.

Ruth said...

Deborah, thank you for your birthday wishes, and for your sweet and tender heart.

Ruth said...

Nelson :-)

Ruth said...

Hi, Neighbor, it's good to see you. Best wishes with the move!

Thanks so much for your birthday greetings.

Ruth said...

Thank you, and welcome home, George! It occurs to me that a beautiful family is like the lovely countryside of hills with green grasses, stone walls and cottages, fire smoke rising from chimneys, good smells coming across the heath, animals lowing . . . so much to explore, for a lifetime. Glad you're back safe and sound, and I'll be watching for reports of your explorations. I imagine you felt yesterday's quake!

Ruth said...

Dear Oliag, I've missed you! I was soon going to email to see if everything is all right.

And so it is: VACATION. Now this I look forward to reading about and visualizing with you.

Thank you for your good and kind birthday wishes.


Ruth said...

Thanks a bunch, Rick, for swimming here in this brother-sister pool for a bit, and for your kind words.

Ruth said...

ds, I'm wearing that smile right now as I type, my friend. I am my own mandala . . .

Your constant and ever-changing reminds me of some mobiles for hanging outside we saw in Saugatuck Monday. They are like these, but were suns with faces, constantly undulating while keeping their basic shape. The optical illusion was extraordinary. I wish you could see them. We didn't buy one, as they were $85 . . .

Ruth said...

Thank you, Margaret, your hope and happiness returns to me.

Montag said...

How you can go through an entire lengthy post that begins with the words

"Nelson's Mandala"

and not even giggle once over the pun on "Nelson Mandela" demonstrates a self-control far beyond anything I ever dreamed of.

Mandala is good.
I define it as the momentary union before the ego explodes out into the universe... sort of like the Singularity which precedes the "Big Bang" in cosmology.
It is only the picture of the mandala which is permanent, just like old photos are unchanging.

Sophia is the feminine aspect of God, while Grouchiness is the male aspect... ask any married woman.

Susan said...

I'm late getting here, but OH, what a wonderful post! Nelson, the other bookend, compliments and complements you so well. It makes me happy to see you and Nelson together in the last picture and together here, collaborating and talking.

Someday I want to spend my birthday in Saugatuck. :)

Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

An absolutely wonderful post, Ruth, and one that says so much about each of the bookend siblings, the treasured volumes between them, the oaks shelf that supports them and the old open hymn book that always sat nearby ...

amy@ Souldipper said...

I'm very behind, Ruth, so a belated happy birthday.

What a blessing that you have Nelson. I long for my oldest brother's time and company, but he puts barriers around his heart. I'm also the youngest, born when my parents were 40. The older four siblings and I live a foul weather life...we would be there in times of need. Otherwise? Very little contact.

So I rejoice for you! This dip into a brother sister relationship is exactly what pleases me tonight.

Loring Wirbel said...

It's nice to learn about your brother Nelson this way!

Shaista said...

Oh Ruthie - that last picture! So much contained in your smiles, in your leaning towards each other, in the matching colour of your shirts!!!
Happy birthday again - and it must have been, to have a poem like that written by your big brother.
I love that he calls you Ruthie. You are Ruthie to me.

Dutchbaby said...

I see the family resemblance in the way you both are great wordsmiths. I love the intersecting arcs and the boldness and clarity of Nelson's Mandala. This is a man who knows his way around a compass!

Happy birthday again, Ruth! I thought of you all day long as I walked the lush gardens and halls of the Huntington Library. Maybe some day we can walk there together and stop by Jacob Maarse's shop afterwards. I'm so glad you enjoyed your special day.