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summer

Guest Posts, memories

The Song of the Cicada

March 31, 2021
horse

By Jennifer Shneiderman

The quarter horse’s coat is shining in the sun like a freshly peeled buckeye seed. It is only 8:30 and already the humidity is up. The riding instructor, Dottie, guides the horse about by the reins, her tan muscular arms and rough hands revealing the physicality of farm life. Dottie wipes her brow with a red bandana. The suffocating Northwest Ohio heat will hover until evening when the fireflies glimmer and the sweet smell of corn washes over land cut into quilt-like agricultural squares. The buzzing of cryptic annual cicadas pulses and heaves in the heavy air.

Dottie watches as I became more confident, going around the ring, relaxing slightly into the saddle and going a little faster with each revolution. The horse trots and my internal organs adjust to the jerking movement. Next, I learn how to navigate a bridge obstacle. Dottie places a wooden platform, made of worn gray boards, on the ground. I practice having the horse step up, cross and descend. The platform is only a few inches tall, so it feels simple enough.

Suddenly, the trainer excuses herself. “I have to make a quick call,” she says abruptly. “Is that okay?” I’m too surprised to object. Sometimes, my Midwestern politeness gets in my way, to the point of endangerment. I watch her retreating figure as she hops over the fence and makes a beeline for a little white house by the weathered barn.

I sit for a while, the horse shifting, the only sound the creak of the leather saddle. I am grateful for the bit of breeze that blows through my hair and cools my reddening cheeks. I consider taking a turn around the ring on my own. I want to make progress quickly. My sister, two years older, is an avid horsewoman who disappears during these short hometown visits to go riding with her high school friends. I desperately want to join them and develop the close relationship with my sister that passed us by in our youth.

My heels dig into the horse’s flanks and I make that clicking sound with my tongue. We reach the small platform and I guide the horse on top of it. The horse’s hoof stamps down on the planks, too close to the edge, and the platform flips high in the air. The horse rears and takes off at a gallop across the field. The world goes violently sideways, blurring and jerking as the horse bucks and convulses. I fly off, hit my head and elbow and land on my back. I become acutely aware that I’m not wearing a helmet.

I lay on the ground, my head and back throbbing, my elbow a mess of dirt, grass and blood. Dottie comes running, sprinting across the field and calling my name. She reaches me, sees that I am conscious and puts her hands on her hips.

She advises sternly, “You really should get back on the horse. Otherwise, you’re gonna be scared to ride again.”

I feel a stiffness come over me, and I tell her I think I should see a doctor first. She shrugs noncommittally and, with perhaps a hint of disdain, watches me get up and limp to my rental car.

I gingerly climb into the drivers seat, my lower back throbbing. I’m not sure where to go for an exam. My family doctor died years ago. I drive to my father’s office. He works for the local newspaper, so he would know of the local businesses and medical treatment facilities. I stumble past the front office staff and they stare at me from behind their computer screens. My father is sitting at his desk engaged in what sounds like a printing press lease negotiation. I point to my bloody, pebble- encrusted elbow and he gestures toward a chair with his chin. I slowly sit down, cupping my left elbow in my right palm. I wait as he continues, his voice low and his eyes averted. I touch my head and feel the blades of grass and dirt matted in my hair. I pull them out with my fingers and drop the debris in a metal waste can. After about 10 minutes, I knock on his desk with my knuckle to get his attention. He holds up his index finger sharply for me to wait.

I get up and go to an empty desk in the front office and take out a phone book. I find an urgent care center on the edge of town and drive the mile and a quarter. The terse receptionist is leery about treating anyone from out of town, even if an insurance card is produced. She wants payment up front. I give her my Visa card and sit uncomfortably in a plastic chair. There are a few other people in the waiting room and we watch the news on a TV mounted on the wall. Madonna is being rescued from her own violent equestrian encounter. She was thrown from a horse on her English country estate, cracking three ribs and breaking her collarbone and a hand. Comparisons are  drawn to Christopher Reeves’ catastrophic accident, disability and eventual death. It dawns on me that I am getting off easy.

Finally, the doctor examines me and sends me for an X-ray. My elbow is fine and I don’t have a concussion. But my pelvis has a hairline fracture, painful but not requiring surgery, that resembles the Ohio Interstate 70 undulating horizontal line.

I cut my trip short. Driving out of town the next afternoon, I pass my  high school, a one story brick building surrounded by green corn stalks and bordered by a creek that overflows in the spring. I pull over and listen to the siren song of the male cicadas. They will return next year, the females forever silent, the deafening vibration of their hollow drum insides washing over the fields.

Jennifer Shneiderman is a writer and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker living in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Indolent Book’s HIV Here and Now, The Rubbertop Review, Writers Resist, the Poetry in the Time of COVID-19, Vol 2, anthology, Variant Literature, Bright Flash Literary Review, Trouvaille Review, Montana Mouthful, the Daily Drunk, Sybil Journal, Unique Poetry, Anti-Heroin Chic, Terror House, Thirteen Myna Birds, Potato Soup Journal, Awakened Voices, GreenPrints, Prospectus, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, and The Perch. She was the recipient of an Honorable Mention in the 2020 Laura Riding Jackson poetry competition.

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And So It Is, Awe & Wonder, Guest Posts

The Art Of Doing Nothing. By Mirela Gegprifti

July 29, 2013

The Art Of Doing Nothing. By Mirela Gegprifti.

I think I have always loved the Italian language. Having a BA in Italian language and literature makes this fact by no means a surprise. Growing up and watching RAI – one of the Italian TV channels – somewhat instilled in me the love for this melodious language. I studied Italian for eight years and God knows how many componimenti (essays) I have had to write and analyze Italian poets, writers, and scholars.

Learning a new language is a transformative process – one learns of a country’s culture and point of view on different subjects: love, social attitudes and customs, likes and dislikes, history and politics. To this day, whenever I communicate and engage in Italian, I feel transported to another dimension of my being.

Through the years I have also had my share of heartbreaks with it too. I have fallen in love with different Italian poets and eventually ‘cheated’ on some of my favorite writers. It is never hard to have a favorite Italian tune on the tip of my tongue either, whether I am cleaning my apartment or just being in a good mood.

The list of likes is substantive when it comes to anything Italian. My critique of it follows too, but that would be another essay altogether. Yet, my love for this beautiful language, its singers, food, capuccino (or cappuccio as the Italians call it) as well as my fascination with this rich culture simply resist time.

In the midst of such vast cultural repertoire where so much can be admired and appreciated, oddly – at first sight – my love of it does not land in Gabrielle D’Annunzio’s and Francesco Petrarca’s (Petrarch) poems, which I joyfully used to memorize during high school, nor does it go in the direction of Dante’s fascinating idea of Inferno, aka karma (hey, you only rip what you sow!), or towards a long list of past and current writers and scholars. Instead, it lands in one particular verb: Oziare.

I respectfully like to add that the translation of this word to English just doesn’t do justice to its embodied conceptual and cultural richness. Idleness is but one of the connotations of oziare as the rest would be reflecting, absorbing, enjoying and cherishing – all in the NOW. The idea of being present in the now, while applying all of the above, is what oziare is all about. It is an active act of relaxation – one where while almost doing nothing, the subject is submitting him/herself to a meditative process of sorts.

With this semantic background in mind, and realizing this is a word that comes from a civilization that has given so much to the human tradition, would you be surprised if I speculated that the great Leonardo da Vinci would take time for some serious oziare in order to create the cupolas that hundreds of years later don’t cease to wow us?

But let’s not speculate at all actually. Any culture that has dedicated an actual word to the process of oziare needs to be applauded and studied carefully. In a way or another, a good part of the creative process consists exactly of this concept: doing ‘nothing’ on the outside, i.e., physically, while mentally, emotionally and intuitively one crosses worlds and runs through universes in search of a brush stroke, a musical note, or just a word.

Oziare. In Italy the act of taking time to enjoy food, be with yourself and family, is an art with deep roots. Those who have traveled there know way too well that people sit around the dinner table for a while, in order to enjoy each other’s company and conversation. Sadly, however, as globalization trends continue to sweep the globe we see how such customs start to change at least at a generational level where youth, for instance, start to adopt a lifestyle that emulates more and more the American culture.

Before summer is over, make it a point to pronounce this word out loud to yourself and actually live it even for an hour. Next time you decide to give yourself some time, as you lay on a beach chair, sand, or close to the one you love, say it like you mean it – mi piace oziare! (I love to rest!). Take your time to savor the moment – a moment that will never repeat itself in its full entirety.

We don’t always have the good fortune to travel to faraway wonderful places but luckily, we can let our minds and attitudes rest for a while as we adopt the best that cultures have to offer.

Wherever you are this summer give yourself permission for some well-deserved Oziare experience.

Make this your summer of Oziare.

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image001Mirela Gegprifti is an Ayurveda Consultant, in-training, with the renowned Kripalu Center. She is also an avid yoga practitioner and a student of Paramahansa Yogananda; a published poet; and writer with an interest in wellbeing and culture. A passionate advocate of self and human development–with a Master’s degree in Feminist Literary Theory and another in International Education–you can follow her reflections in her new bloghttps://LivingLightClub.wordpress.com/.

**To join Jen on her next invite only Italian retreat please email barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com or click here