South Brooklyn, as i know it

11pm on a Saturday. Not so long ago that meant teased hair and tight jeans, stepping into a red shiny car only to drive up and down the avenue (as 86th street was known back then). Today that same strip is quiet, deserted save a taxi or two. The roller rink has been replaced by a national liquidator and a local supper club, Lenny's Pizza holds its ground a few blocks north, and that movie theatre is now a Rite Aid, neither of which are open right this second.

South Brooklyn. That's where I am from. The South Brooklyn of the 70s before the real estate market redefined neighborhoods and invented fancy acronyms like BoCoCa (aka Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens). When looking at a map, the actual South Brooklyn  includes Coney Island, Gravesend, Bensonhurst and Homecrest--parts of the borough that unlike every other area just close enough to the Big Island of Manhattan have survived without regentrification.

When my dad was growing up, Luna Park (as the amusement park was called back then before renamed Astroland) was an integral part of his childhood. One of his uncles or cousins leased the Tornado, a predecessor (along with the Thunderbolt) to the famous Cyclone roller coaster, and he spent many a summer handing out and collecting tickets from enthusiastic thrill seekers. My Aunt Millie had her own claim to fame working at the Brighton Beach Bathhouses. I'm not sure what (or where) Uncle Dom was at the time.

This is where my roots are, where my family tree was planted and flourished. In a 3-story brick house, 2.5 miles northeast of the magic of carney in Coney. There is a slate path of multi-colored slabs leading toward my front door, alongside where once stood a towering pussy willow tree, the branches of which my mom and I would harvest each Fall. The backyard equal parts concrete and grass conjures memories of leap frog, sprinklers in summer heat, of baloney sandwiches and games of hide and seek.

It is here that my brother's children played corn hole with my dad, here where I taught  neighboring children how to make snow angels after the season's first snowfall.  There are so many memories lingering in the eaves of this house, in the branches of the bare bushes in hard winter soil, seeping into the concrete foundation that I call home.



healing hearts through runes

Every day since my father passed I have consulted The Healing Runes, to guide my intentions and work through the grief. It has become my mourning ritual, jostling the green velvet bag to shuffle and unsettle the twenty-five etched stones. Then reaching in and grazing them with my fingertips before resting on one, the one that calls out to me.

It might seem counterintuitive for a Catholic-raised turned spiritualist to have faith in a sea of stones but the meditation of intention each day has been a gift. Clearing my mind, guiding me toward a path of least resistance as I make my way through these murky waters, an untethered raft floating. In the beginning, as if Elisabeth Kubler-Ross herself was guiding my fingers I found myself choosing humor, denial, forgivness, guilt. They paved the way for the last few days of gratitude, faith and the Divine. The Divine rune encourages one to be present in their own hearts, to look inside ourselves to uncover the love within; for some that might be translated into strength, courage. You need all three to make it through one day, to feel any semblance of accomplishment for waking up and facing the kaleidoscope.

Today was unsettling. There wasn't one moment that defined it as such. It was more an amalgamation of many things, little snippets of living that tipped the emotional scale. Of talking with friends, and not talking to others, and how that unconscious decision made me realize that the one person who I could almost always talk to is no longer of this earth. Dad always had (or made) time to listen, even when he was exhausted or in some cases distracted, he would listen. Settling into his chair, swiveling to face me, rock solid determined to hear what I had to say and grasp my point of view (even when it was unclear to him what I was talking about), he would try to make sense of it all and ask probing questions to guide me towards working it out, toward diffusing the clutter in my mind. All I have now are cobweb enshrouded thoughts and a lingering fog, holding steady.

Midnight. The beginning of a new day, the twelth anniversary of September 11th a tragic catastrophe of a day where the world felt the same level of anguish--a gasp, a sigh, a drop in the pit of our stomachs, a collective feeling of loss and despair.

I reach for the velvet bag and pull out the rune for prayer. A first time appearance in this ritualistic sequence, the prelude for all things, for all intentions. I flip to page 103 and read through the meditation which encourages the reader to place all that which concerns them into the hands of the Divine through prayer, so that it might work to quiet the troubled spirit and summon the greater good for healing.

You to whom all hearts are open, all secrets known, hear our prayers.