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Friday, October 31, 2008

Goodbye Sun

Today, October 31st, is my mother, Susan G. Pittmann's birthday. She has been gone now for 16 years and 5 months, and I miss her dearly. She enjoyed the fact that she was born on "the Witches" day-and this blog- Oasis Writing Link(OWL)-is named in honor and memory of her. Mom was killed by her neighbor, James Elwood Brooks...why? Brooks was deeply offended by the public display of affection between Mom and Christine Puckett. Some say there was a property line dispute over the construction of a privacy fence but why did they need to build a fence? This question points to the truth, Mom and Christine were killed because they were lesbian lovers who were bold enough to get married and kiss in public, i.e. in the front yard within full view of all the neighbors and the passing cars on Middlebelt Road!

Brooks was not a stranger to me, our family knew him for years. He used to drink too much but he quit; he was angry and lonely. Frequently, he was lonely more than angry and I felt sorry for him. Once he shot our pet chicken, Chicken Little, because she was trespassing on his property. I was not afraid of him, though; I just thought that he had a temper as we used to say in Michigan. As a child, I reflected, I had a temper, too. Once I ran to his house when Black Beauty, our Labrador retriever, was locked in the backseat of our car. She must have gotten in when we opened the doors to go into the house. I remember I had a feeling that she entered while I was taking my time getting out of the car. It was that feeling that led me to discover where she was...I desperately tried to call Mom and Dad who were at work but there was no way to contact either of them. Brooks said the only way to open the door was by breaking a window, I tried but I couldn't. He said that the dog looked dead anyway. His lack of action was disheartening. Black Beauty, a gorgeous reject from a seeing eye dog school, died from the intense heat and lack of air. I saw her rolled up in a comfortable circle on the floor just waiting for her next car ride. (I know that sounds like a sad country song.)

Brooks occasionally threatened to shoot Cin-Cin, my French alpine 4H show goat, especially when she slipped out of the corral to contentedly enjoy the fresh green leaves off of his young apple trees. He threatened to shoot often but usually, he controlled himself by calling the police or reporting us for some imagined (or real) minor infraction. Ironically, he was reporting Mom and Christine for animal abuse. He shot at Mom's dogs, Arrow and Ms. Pitt, for trespassing. Ms. Pitt -yes, she was a pittbull-had a thyroid condition that slowed her down; she was heavy and not much of a wanderer so Mom kept her inside of the house most of the time. Brooks was shooting at Arrow and reporting Mom to any authority he could think of while passing more and more time at the Orchard Grove restaurant and bar. Shocked neighbors encouraged his rage at the lesbian women over at the Pittmann place. I imagine them questioning, "What happened to Sue, anyway? Wasn't she married to Richard all those years?" They would try to reason, "I always knew there was something weird about her; she rode a big motorcycle, you know. I heard she went all the way to Alaska on her bike; she's such a showoff." The grapevine reports that Brooks shared his plans to kill Mom and Christine down at the Grove where he would receive ongoing sympathy and support for his distressing viewing situation. He was going to kill them; he told the neighbors. He was going to kill them; he told Mom and Christine.

Brooks was not always a man of his word; he had a record of temper, not commitment. In the kitchen where he would sit and drink coffee, he had a gun-a hunting rifle-behind him. He had a couple of rifles in the corner and a shotgun as well. I imagine him sitting there at the table, rage pouring over his skin while he thought,"It's not natural ...those women together like that; it's just not right." Decisively, he got up and went to the property line; he crossed it and confronted Christine who was working on the fence posts.

Mom told me that Christine had a camera and was trying to take his picture while he was on their property; maybe she did snap a picture. Who knows? Brooks and Christine exchanged words and he went back to his house, pointed a rifle from the kitchen doorway and at a distance, shot Christine. Mom was calling 911 when Christine was shot. I heard the recording, "He shot my worker!" she said. The police operator tried to get details; address, descriptions-anything to keep Mom on the phone. I heard a sound like a phone falling to the ground and that was all. Mom ran out to help Christine who was face down in the grass. Brooks walked to our circle drive with his shotgun. With the strength of metal and gun powder, he faced my mom. She looked directly at him, courageously stood in front of him, while he lifted the gun and shot into her. She was so close to him that the bullets made a dollar-sized hole in her body; the blood poured out quickly and she was gone.

Sometime during the event, probably after Brooks killed Mom, he walked up to Christine and shot her directly in the back. Then he got into his car, backed up, and sat there waiting for the police to come. When they approached him, he didn't try to escape, he just said, "It had to be done." It had to be done. When you shoot wounded animals; a horse with a broken leg, a dog hit by a car, or a litter of puppies infested with maggots; you might say, it has to be done. When you kill two women who loved each other; and you are James Elwood Brooks or the community that supported him, you say; it had to be done.

Mom was 55 years old and Christine was 36, I think. I know it was May 5, 1992, Cinco de Mayo in southern California, when I heard the news. My sister, Linda, called me at work- the US Department of Defense, Naval Consolidated Brig, Miramar, and said, "Mom is dead." I replied, "Mom is dead? How do you know? Tell me, are you sure?" Someone called her, a cousin, I think, and said your mom's been shot. I couldn't believe it. I wouldn't believe it. I was going to see her soon. I had my airline ticket and her new baby granddaughter, Amber, too; we were going to be there. She's not dead, I thought. But she was...her body was gone and I was too shaken to feel her in any other way.

Sue Pittmann was powerful. Her presence cleared the space of doubt around me and made me sure I could do anything. I am so proud to be her daughter. When the sun set on her life; it set in my heart and I knew I had to be strong on my own; I had to go on without a powerful mother lighting the way for me. I think I'm fine. Today's Mom's birthday; how glad I am that she was born. Happy Birthday Mom and thank you for my life.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Up From the Muck

Frequently, the symbol of the water lily has been commented upon because these flowers come up clean and beautiful from the green-black slime underneath. The metaphor could be that all the unpleasantness of life is destined to be the source for our most beautiful creations; our lives, ourselves, our expressions of love. Perhaps our goal in life could be to lift ourselves up from the depression,anger and trouble so that we too may create beauty with our lives. In every contact, may I honor the beauty in you. Namaste

What is Meditation?

Yogini asked me about why I meditate if I also practice yoga, afterall yoga is meditation, right? I first learned meditation (after hatha yoga) as Transcendental Meditation, the TM technique. It is based on the silent repetition of an internal sound- your assigned mantra- for 20 minutes in the AM and 20 minutes in the PM. As a focusing technique, it was excellent but I found myself repeating the mantra during my hatha practice and incorporating breathing techniques as well. After some years, the mantra seemed to continue on its own in my memory sound. I started to practice Buddhist based techniques of following the breath and mindfulness practices including walking, writing and sitting practice. My asana practice decreased in length and I naturally felt energy rising into my brain...so I made watching this energy my practice for a number of years along with an inquiry practice (Who am I?) while bringing my attention to the witness of these thoughts. Two summers ago, I met an advanced Kundalini teacher at a breast cancer 5k walk and I was compelled to sit and meditate near her. When I had a chance to talk with her, she told me that my third eye was opening and closing, and, she asked me if I meditated. I told her about the mindfulness techniques, the witnessing, and she just made a curious expression and said meditation helps to open the chakras. Because her presence was so powerful, I decided to begin a one hour practice each morning, and extend that time on the weekends. I have been using various Kundalini mantras, prayers, and consciously opening myself as a channel for grace, i.e. sharing positive energy. Sending goodwill as well as experencing the uplifting energy has made me convert my day to day life to a service practice. All of this could be too much for many yogis but it fits with my vision of the world, and, it reaffirms a way to practice love. Currently, as a student of Paramahansa Yogananda's lessons, and through research, I have begun to see that my path is a combination of needs related to my own karma and I accept the diversity in my approach to self-realization. So mantras run in my mind throughout the day, and if I feel uncentered, I pick up the pen or practice mindfulness in whatever I am doing- even in hatha yoga.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Yin for Yin Yoga

This morning while I was sitting in meditation, I decided to break up my routine and fall into a forward bend for 5 minutes. I had just read an article in Yoga Journal about Yin Yoga, which is based on a Chinese rather than Indian system, and let the chi (as opposed to the prana) flow. It reminded me of my first and long-time Hatha Yoga instructor, Helen Brown. She used to have us hold the poses for an intermitable length of time...and when I first started practising, I felt I had to follow her instructions to the letter...P...p for pain! That was in the late 70's at Southwestern College in San Diego, California when I was wearing wrap-around Indian skirts over leotards...and frequently, trying to maintain the perfect pose. What attracted me to the Yin practice was the complete counter directions-instead of holding careful alignment, you are allowed to bend your knees-and a counter pose is not essential..plus, it claimed to help with hip joint pain. The results were excellent! I was comfortable in the half-lotus for another 30 minutes. So sister and brother yogis out there, remember to relax into your pose and stay with it as long as you can (without any real pain). You'll begin to stretch out the connective tissue that surrounds your joints and contracts with age; consequently, I am sure you will feel much better- I know I do.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Yoga and Life

Thank you for your reply and I am happy to meet you, Yogini-that means student of yoga, doesn't it? In answer to your question, I think that the most common misunderstanding about yoga is that it is primarily for exercise and health. This error is not important though because overtime,as the practice deepens, a kind of inner union begins to transform your life. Then the real goal of yoga can begin to be felt.


After reading Julia and Julia, which is a novel about a woman who creates a cooking project with an accompanying blog in order to revitalize her life, I have decided to start a blog. I have always loved the feeling of inspiration that comes from starting a new project and I hope that this new beginning brings with it vibrancy and energy. I enjoy yoga and writing, and I welcome discussions on these topics.

I hope that if you, too, would like to find an oasis of communication that supports peace and goodwill that you would respond here at Oasis Writing Link (OWL). I see this as an online communication journal with the goal of uplifting while accepting all that life has to offer. AUM