Friday, May 16, 2014

Composure in the Face of All Storms

There is word going around about a news anchor, Lee Chingyu, in Taiwan who wound up reading a breaking report on the air about the death of her own friend.

As a fellow journalist, this wrenches my heart. She did her job, which is to share information in a coherent clear manner even under extreme circumstances. It isn't easy being the person whose duty is to maintain your composure so accurate details, good or painful, gets to the public.

However, some folks online are unfortunately complaining that she needed to let her emotions out on camera. Moreover, some are using this occasion to pounce on journalists as a whole for being unfeeling sensationalists.

I vehemently disagree with those sentiments.

When Walter Cronkite reported to America and the world that President Kennedy had been killed, he held it together and got the story out. But his emotions were just a breath away. That's what journalism is, not making the story about yourself and not gratifying other people's voyeuristic need to see someone break down.

In this case, a reporter was caught with shocking, personally painful news. The only way she probably got through it was by plowing ahead. And if you can't hear that in her voice and see it in her face, you may want to check your own level of empathy.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Peace Lily on Mother's Day

My apartment is a bit greener these days, something I owe to my mother.

Historically, I was not much for flowers or gardening. That was one of her hobbies. Each spring, I would drive her to make the rounds to outdoor garden shops so she could peruse various perennials. She always enjoyed seeing the new blooms, and did a fair amount of trash talk about flowers that were not cared for properly.

Me, I don't know the difference between a chrysanthemum and a daffodil without looking them up. When I moved into my current abode, a good friend gave me a bamboo plant that has endured over the years in spite of me.

After my mother passed away last year, I kept the peace lily that someone sent to the funeral service. At first, I only meant to look after it until I found it a reasonable home. My days are a grind of writing and editing news, writing and rewriting fiction, and making the rounds through Manhattan. Tending to plants was not part of my routine.

But then the peace lily remained in my possession. I fumbled through learning to tend to it, scratched my head when its leaves drooped, and smiled when it bounced back.

A few weeks ago though, it looked like it was bound to crumple in on itself. I made the mistake of exposing it to all the wrong elements. So I finally started paying more attention to its needs. After an emergency repotting and pruning, I managed to save it. Moreover, I learned what I had been doing wrong all along and I bought a second peace lily.

The thing about peace lilies is they literally clean the air. Like a mother's love, a peace lily makes every breath more free from the things that can weigh you down---if you nurture it properly.

I encourage everyone this Mother's Day to cultivate the peace lilies in their lives.


Flame and Bone

When I was made from fire
Poured into the tender vessel of caution
That keeps my smoke from rising
Quickly did I discover that apart from crisp drizzles or falling snow
The world chilled my touched
Walking the narrow cornered gap between girders and cut stone
One learns to tuck his shoulders in or risk
Jostling a neighbor passing by rapt with want
For a clear path without the distraction
Of another man's boiling eyes
The tip of a finger
That oldest of all weapons
Grown deadlier and pristine in its invention
Gathers a mote of a cinder on its bare flesh
And turns pondering how best to scratch the impious itch
Prying open the tender seam
Where the oil of thought dews
Offering a new wick to ignite
Squirming alive as a salamander of mischief
That yearns for a taste of air it is so ready to devour
The steam of breath betrays me
Before the glint of orange spreads
In popping bright waves
Eroding the fibers feeding it
Leaving naught but ash
As my shell of quietude falls away