What do flowers know?

One of the flowers in my chain-link fence, Omaha. Dancers performing a Mozart Requiem Mass

One of the flowers in my chain-link fence, Omaha. Dancers performing a Mozart Requiem Mass

Upon the death of my neighbor in Omaha

 

A chain link fence
separates my dwelling from my neighbor
I barely knew her
we seldom spoke.

Last night my neighbor came on the evening news
they said she was a teacher
renowned for her gardening
loved by her students.

Reporters and cameras covered the street
fire trucks with
their rotating lights struggled
to penetrate the oppression
acrid smoke ensnared everything.

Tiny flowers on wispy vines
cling to the fence in such profusion
they almost hide its existence
they have strange hours
these evanescent flowers
that only remain open in the morning.

The flowers bloom for the first time each year
as the summer season is about to die
bloom explosively
early in the morning they appear
only before first light
they appear.

Lavender, magenta, rose red, and white
small fragile stars with five petals
flaunt their vivid colors.

The fence flowers are more profuse
than ever late this afternoon
this is strange
it never happened before.

Just before the sun reaches its zenith
the fence flowers
always quickly tighten into cones
become invisible in the dark vines.

Fire erupted in my neighbor’s house
as she slept unaware
smoke choked the life out of her
just before first light.

No one knew until it was too late
only the fence flowers witnessed it
bright, silent witnesses
lavender, magenta, rose red, and white.

When smoke enveloped the flowers
as they awakened
at first light
did they inhale the fragrance of a soul
with an inscrutable sense
as it fled its earthly body?

Do they tell me that a soul flower now blooms
where we cannot see it
illuminated in brilliance
in a faraway garden?

During the winter when the vines shrivel up
and fall to the dirt
you believe they can’t come back
they reunite with the earth
they’re dead
you see the end of them.

Yet now the flowers
glow brighter than ever.

 

“And now concerning thy question regarding the soul of man and its survival after death. Know thou of a truth that the soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolution of ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of this world, can alter. It will endure as long as the Kingdom of God, His sovereignty, His dominion and power will endure. It will manifest the signs of God and His attributes, and will reveal His loving kindness and bounty.” (Baha’u’llah)

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What did the flowers know?

One of the flowers in my chain-link fence, Omaha. Dancers performing a Mozart Requiem Mass

One of the flowers in my chain-link fence, Omaha. Dancers performing a Mozart Requiem Mass

A poem about the death of my neighbor in Omaha

 

A chain link fence
separates my dwelling from my neighbor
I barely knew her
we seldom spoke.

Last night my neighbor was on the evening news
they said she was a teacher
renown for her gardening
loved by her students.

Reporters and cameras covered the street
as did the fire trucks
their rotating lights struggled
to penetrate the oppression
acrid smoke ensnared everything.

Tiny flowers on wispy vines
cling to the fence in such profusion
they almost hide its very existence
they have strange hours
these evanescent flowers
because they only remain open in the morning.

The flowers appear for the first time each year
as the summer season is about to die
bloom explosively
early in the morning they appear
only before first light
they appear.

Lavender, magenta, rose red, and white
small fragile stars with five petals
seem fierce for their vivid colors.

The fence flowers are more profuse
than ever late this afternoon
this is strange
it never happened before.

Just before the sun reaches its zenith
the fence flowers
always quickly tighten into cones
become invisible in the dark vines.

Fire erupted in my neighbor’s house
as she slept unaware
smoke choked the life out of her
just before first light.

No one knew until it was too late
only the fence flowers witnessed it
bright, silent witnesses
lavender, magenta, rose red, and white.

When the smoke enveloped the flowers
as they awakened
at first light
did they recognize the fragrance of a soul
with an inscrutable sense
as it fled its earthly body?

They tell me that a soul flower now blooms
where we cannot see it
illuminated in brilliance
in a faraway garden
forever.

During the winter when the vines shrivel up
and fall to the dirt
you believe they can’t come back
they reunite with the earth
they’re dead
you see the end of them.

Today the flowers
are brighter than they ever were before.

 

“And now concerning thy question regarding the soul of man and its survival after death. Know thou of a truth that the soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolution of ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of this world, can alter. It will endure as long as the Kingdom of God, His sovereignty, His dominion and power will endure. It will manifest the signs of God and His attributes, and will reveal His loving kindness and bounty.” (Baha’u’llah)

A Balloon in Syria

Colophon:

We hear our leaders plead for yet another foreign war.
They argue that tyrants committed atrocities against the children.
Urgently, forcefully they argue that they must deliver the message.
It will not be a war. It will be a message. A message to Syria.
They claim the message will spill very little blood.
The message will not harm the children.
They say the message will be decisive.
They won’t deliver the message to the tyrant.
It will only be a message from one bomb to a different bomb.
They say it is a message to end all messages.
Weren’t they all?

A Balloon for Syria

Unfinished digital and mixed media: Infrared film, 2 digital photographs, scanner, oil pastels on cardboard.

A Balloon in Syria

by Cary Enoch Reinstein

Imagine being a balloon.

Dear, happy balloon
you can float anywhere you can dream
a slender golden thread
tethers you safely to your point of origin
you can snap back to it in an instant
touch other balloons
all the colorful and free balloon souls
communicate with them
see and hear their thoughts
while they see and hear your thoughts
play and dance in the air
and you are not fragile
not like any artificial balloon
you will not burst
nor should you fear it
for a forest of balloons protects you.

Besides, if you do burst
nobody will ever notice anyhow
you’re too far away
too insignificant
nobody will even hear you pop.

When I was a new balloon
I glowed like a gemstone
full of light and promise
I was a balloon
for such a short time
then I became afraid
Do you know why?

 

I discovered that balloons tell lies
and they do burst.

The balloon was translucent like a jellyfish
it rose in stately slow motion
casting opalescent reflections
then the air began to burn
the balloon’s ascent quickly became more erratic
as it sought vainly to ride accommodating air currents
suddenly the balloon string snapped
pitching it toward the roughly textured wall
where it burst
and the reddish jelly within the balloon
streamed out like blood.

 

 

Entering the Qiblih, a Song to the Gardener

Lyrics to a song I wrote many years ago after my pilgrimage to the Qiblih.

Tree from The Lovely Phones Album on Enoch's Vision Gallery

Oh Gardener i accept Your wisdom
i do i really do accept it i do
no matter how much it hurts
i know You transplanted the sapling
to a radiant garden
i know it will thrive there forever
it was sickly and weak in this one

i can’t judge the Gardener’s doings
and i never even try
for i shall never be able
to create infinite gardens from nothingness
only the Gardener can do that

i think that if i were a garden
i would be a poor one
because i haven’t had any success so far
but i have crazy longings to grow

if You’re not too busy
and one day You notice me
which isn’t easy
because i’m not very significant
i beg now while in Your qiblih
would it just be possible
if it’s not a lot of trouble
for me to nourish another sapling
maybe a healthy one this time
if You notice me and take pity

please oh please
a healthy one or maybe two
who know about You
and are grateful
and i know i’m not much
and might never be
but please oh please
one more chance to love someone
and not be alone
please oh please
one more chance to nurture a tree

In the Baha’i Faith the Qiblih (point of adoration) is the location that Baha’is should face when saying their daily obligatory prayers, and is fixed at the Shrine of Baha’u’llah, near Akka, in present day Israel.

From the death of that beloved youth due to his separation from you the utmost sorrow and grief has been occasioned, for he flew away in the flower of his age and the bloom of his youth, to the heavenly nest.

 

But as he has been freed from this sorrow-stricken shelter and has turned his face toward the everlasting nest of the Kingdom and has been delivered from a dark and narrow world and has hastened to the sanctified realm of Light, therein lies the consolation of our hearts.

 

The inscrutable divine wisdom underlies such heart-rending occurrences. It is as if a kind gardener transfers a fresh and tender shrub from a narrow place to a vast region. This transference is not the cause of the withering, the waning or the destruction of that shrub, nay rather it makes it grow and thrive, acquire freshness and delicacy and attain verdure and fruition. This hidden secret is well-known to the gardener, while those souls who are unaware of this bounty suppose that the gardener in his anger and wrath has uprooted the shrub. But to those who are aware this concealed fact is manifest and this predestined decree considered a favor. Do not feel grieved and disconsolate therefore at the ascension of that bird of faithfulness, nay under all circumstances pray and beg for that youth forgiveness and elevation of station.

 

I hope that you will attain to the utmost patience, composure and resignation, and I supplicate and entreat at the Threshold of Oneness and beg pardon and forgiveness. My hope from the infinite bounties of God is that He may cause this dove of the garden of faith to abide on the branch of the Supreme Concourse that it may sing in the best of tunes the praises and the excellencies of the Lord of names and attributes. (‘Abdu’l-Baha)

A Letter I wrote in 1999 About the Suffering Nation of [Any]

This morning (Aug. 29, 2013) I searched through old documents that I hadn’t read for many years. I didn’t find the one I needed but I did happen across a forgotten email I wrote on April 11, 1999. I reprint it here exactly as I wrote it 14 years ago. It was just an email, not a polished piece by any means. Why is this relevant now? Because it could easily be a lament for the suffering people of the nation of Sy… and because nothing has changed. The word gypsy that I used 14 years ago is now anachronistic and rightfully so. I wanted my old email to appear exactly as it was back then.

Subject:    Thoughts While Waiting for the Ballgame
Date: April 11, 1999

Last night I watched the ABC Evening News to pass a few minutes. I was channel surfing while eagerly waiting for the Atlanta Braves game to start.

I watched a three minute story about an elderly Albanian couple who live on a meager pension in a tiny three-room apartment. They’re Christians who took three families of Albanian Muslim refugees into their home. Three families of women and children. Three families whose husbands, sons, and brothers have been “cleansed” by implacable troops of devils. In halting English, the old man told the reporter “I took these people into my home because they are my blood. If I don’t take them in and feed them, who will do it?”

That made me think about my own blood ancestors, the European Jews. I thought  about the multitudes of people who took the Jews in during the Holocaust. So many Christians and members of other faiths acknowledged Jewish suffering, exile, and imprisonment. They felt moved to shelter them. So many nations went to war to protect the Jews from atrocities. Jewish torment and annihilation was public every night on the news because so many people cared about them and wanted to help.

Except that it didn’t happen that way.

Virtually no Christians acknowledged their common humanity with the Jews in those days. No nation went to war on their behalf. No one publicized their annihilation. Nations offered countless reasons to go to war but protection of the Jews was not a whisper among those reasons.

Many, like the Bosnian Christians and Muslims cursed the Jews, blamed them for their miseries, stole their possessions, and raped their women. They eagerly turned them in to the implacable troops from Hell when they marched in.

In addition, there are no records of people crying out en masse, “You cannot imprison or exile the Gypsies because they are my brothers and sisters. But if you must cleanse the land of them, I will take them in.”

In the immediate past, no nation or coalition of allies righteously rose up to protect slaughtered victims of civil wars in Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, or Rwanda. The starving or dead became brief sound bytes on the evening news. So many people shook their heads for a moment. They watched those nightmarish scenes for almost 90 seconds. Then, for the next two minutes they watched vital announcements about weed killers, mascara, hamburgers, and soft drinks with just one calorie as they waited impatiently to hear college basketball scores.

It is probably too banal or obvious to wonder about Kuwait and the price of gasoline.

Did any nation rise up to go to war to defend the oppressed Chinese minority of Vietnam? Nations offered many reasons to go to war but protection of oppressed minorities was not even a whisper among them.

No nation stood up for the Tibetans or Mongolians when the Chinese conquered and absorbed them.

I don’t remember learning about any nation that went to war to protect or defend slaughtered Okinawans, Koreans, or Philippines. No nation considered that a reason to go to war with Japan. Nations offered many reasons but protection of ethnic minorities wasn’t even a whisper among them.

Before that, no nation went to war to protect the tens of millions of slaughtered Russian Kulaks, the entire peasant class of a huge nation. Many nations lusted for a reason to declare war on Russia but protection of oppressed minorities wasn’t even a whisper among them.

Did any nation rise to protect India against British atrocities?

A century and a half ago, nobody stood up for the martyred Baha’is in Iran. How many said, “They are my brothers and sisters so if I don’t take them in, who will do it?” Who outside the worldwide Baha’i community stands up for them now? Many leaders eagerly pronounce reasons to go to war but protection of oppressed religious minorities is not a whisper among them.

I applauded the Christian Albanian couple I saw on the evening news last night because they are the rarest of all creatures on earth. They are human beings.

Then I switched the channel to the Braves game.

Cary Enoch R., Peach County, Georgia, April 11, 1999

Sept. 1, 2013, Looking back:

To be perfectly clear on why I posted that old email message; it was not in support of any warlike actions or “interventions” on the part of any nation against the people of another nation. In the future there will be legitimate ways of handling atrocities, aggressive actions, and massive injustices. For far too long we’ve witnessed a world civilization spinning wildly towards chaos and collapse. The last thing the world needs is more bombs. Nobody ever expressed it better than Baha’ullah did when he wrote: “We can well perceive how the whole human race is encompassed with great, with incalculable afflictions. We see it languishing on its bed of sickness, sore-tried and disillusioned.”

Here’s the entire quote:

“The All-Knowing Physician hath His finger on the pulse of mankind. He perceiveth the disease, and prescribeth, in His unerring wisdom, the remedy. Every age hath its own problem, and every soul its particular aspiration. The remedy the world needeth in its present-day afflictions can never be the same as that which a subsequent age may require. Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and center your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements.

“We can well perceive how the whole human race is encompassed with great, with incalculable afflictions. We see it languishing on its bed of sickness, sore-tried and disillusioned. They that are intoxicated by self-conceit have interposed themselves between it and the Divine and infallible Physician. Witness how they have entangled all men, themselves included, in the mesh of their devices. They can neither discover the cause of the disease, nor have they any knowledge of the remedy. They have conceived the straight to be crooked, and have imagined their friend an enemy.

“Incline your ears to the sweet melody of this Prisoner. Arise, and lift up your voices, that haply they that are fast asleep may be awakened. Say: O ye who are as dead! The Hand of Divine bounty proffereth unto you the Water of Life. Hasten and drink your fill. Whoso hath been re-born in this Day, shall never die; whoso remaineth dead, shall never live.” (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah)

Death in the Suburbs

Death drove a truck

Last night during rush hour
I saw Death
drive a little red truck
Death’s disguise was perfect
I felt safe
he wasn’t looking in his rear-view mirror at me
Death was following someone else
the experience was very matter-of-fact
Death himself looked ordinary.

Except for his black cowl
Death looked just like a fresh-faced kid.

He was really Death
the genuine article.

Imagine Death being a kid
nobody else noticed Death
driving down 124th street.

That amazed me.

I suppose they’d have panicked if they did
so their defenses kicked in
but I didn’t panic.

He was really Death
other people have dulled senses
they’re insensitive
too disinterested
to see the threat.

His name was Death
he drove a cheap pickup truck
he looked like a kid.

The only thing strange
about seeing Death
driving down 124th street
was his little truck
every other time that I saw him
Death drove a Camaro.

“There are intangible realities which float near us, formless and without words;
realities which no one has thought out, and which are excluded for lack of interpreters.” (Natalie Clifford Barney)

Rush Hour. (finger painting on wet film)

Rush Hour. (finger painting on wet film)

‘Abdu’l-Baha with Flowers

In 1972 I took a close-up Kodachrome photo of a painting of ‘Abdu’l-Baha that hung in the home of Margaret Gallagher, a Baha’i Auxiliary Board Member in Hayward, California. Then I went out to her garden, noticed bright red flowers with sunlight streaming through them and double-exposed them on the same frame. Several years later I made a high-resolution scan from a color negative copy of my original 35mm slide. The original had been irretrievably damaged by a flood.

The original painter’s name was Samimi. Download a document in Adobe PDF format for more information about the painter. The right half of the image consists of the flowers I added when I took the photograph. The photograph was a close-up of the painting. The entire painting shows a 3/4 length view of ‘Abdu’l-Baha.

When I was on pilgrimage in 1974, I brought 200 copies of the photo with me at the request of Hand of the Cause A. Q. Faizi. He gave them away during his many teaching trips around the world. Though he asked me to sign the backs of the photos I preferred to remain anonymous. Among my treasures are some hand-illuminated letters that Mr. Faizi wrote me in the 1970’s including a comment on the image of ‘Abdu’l-Baha with Flowers. You can find the letters online at the Bahai-Library site in an unpublished book of his letters edited by Shirley Macias.

I offer this image to everyone for free with certain conditions. I don’t accept payment for copies for any reason. You may freely distribute it as long as you don’t change it in any way and you attribute the source (www.enochsvision.com, Cary Enoch Reinstein). You may not exploit or sell it for any amount of money or any reason. You may not publish this image on any website or social network without my prior permission in writing. However, please feel free to link to this page.

There is an important reason why I want to protect this image. It’s simply because I’ve seen so many low quality or badly faded copies of the image over the many years that it’s been circulating. I’ve also seen people try to make a profit from poor quality copies. Except for minor printing costs if you don’t print it yourself, you should not have to pay for it. The picture is essentially just a derivative image (and a serendipitous one at that) that became very popular over a long time and acquired some distinctly odd and wildly inaccurate lore along the way. Some of it is pretty amusing. This assures that you’ll get the best quality for personal printing because it’s from the original source. This image, though it will always be free of charge, is not in the public domain. You can read the terms of use in the downloaded files. Do not change or edit the accompanying text documents. If you find an error then please feel free to contact me about it.

There are many quality printing sites where you can make your own prints both online and in retail stores. Download a 10MB Zip file containing three different size copies suitable for printing at high quality on standard  photographic papers. The Zipped collection also has expanded commentary on the image including permitted usage statements as well as guidance on portraits of ‘Abdu’l-Baha from the Baha’i World Center. They explain yet another reason why not to sell or exploit it in any way since real photographs of ‘Abdu’l-Baha are preferable.

‘Abdu’l-Baha’s Ministry of Flowers

“‘Abdu’l-Baha’s personal wants were few. He worked late and early. Two simple meals a day sufficed Him. His wardrobe consisted of a very few garments of inexpensive material. He could not bear to live in luxury while others were in want. He had a great love for children, for flowers, and for the beauties of nature. …”
In Galilee, p. 51.

“The ‘ministry of flowers’ was a feature of the life at ‘Akka, of which every pilgrim brought away fragrant memories. Mrs. Lucas writes: — ‘When the Master inhales the odor of flowers, it is wonderful to see him. It seems as though the perfume of the hyacinths were telling him something as he buries his face in the flowers. It is like the effort of the ear to hear a beautiful harmony, a concentrated attention!'”
A Brief Account of My Visit to ‘Akka, pp. 25-26.

“He loved to present beautiful and sweet-smelling flowers to His numerous visitors.”
Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Baha’u’llah and the New Era