I begin this post, and I end it, with Bugs. Through him, you and I connect. Through him, through other beings like him in our lives, we share – I’ll come right out and say it – Love.
The flavor of Love I’m experiencing right now is grief. I want to tell you about it. It’s a story that’s unfolded over a relatively short time, just over the past week. It’ll take more than a moment of your time, so if that’s all you got, scroll down, enjoy the pictures at the end, and let’s meet again in happier times.
Bugs is well. It’s not Bugs. Here is what happened.
The next day after Bugs’s Awful Frog incident, look who showed up. Bugs was asleep at the time, so this guy was for me personally. I was washing dishes. Up pops this guy over the sill.
Mr. Fergus Fowler, of the Arkansas Fowler Toads. Propped up on his forearms. Dropped by for a little chat in the neighborhood.
I recalled that after the Awful Frog incident, blogmate 4Cats had wondered what message Frog could be carrying. It seemed an important question. Two frogs, one right after the other – one for Bugs, and Fergus just for me. Posing for the camera. He even waited while I ran to the other room to get it.
The next day, I was at the hospital working FELDENKRAIS with a friend who’s been in a deep coma. In that session, I had the feeling that she suddenly responded where, before, she had not.
Later that day, she began talking. For the first time since the trauma.
To celebrate, to thank them for their contribution, I sent a note to several FELDENKRAIS teachers who have inspired me. Here is a copy of that note. “FI” stands for FUNCTIONAL INTEGRATION (the version of the FELDENKRAIS work that is hands-on):
“Monday was the third FI I did with a friend of mine who’s been in a deep coma for over six weeks now, from an old traumatic brain injury, a relapse, surgery, and subsequent encephalitis. At Monday’s session, I was pretty sure, especially after working with her jaw, that she was responding with a tiny bit of voluntary movement. Plus, I believe, some eye contact. Earlier today – Tuesday – her husband called me, incoherent with excitement: Today she spoke for the first time.
“I myself know that it’s impossible to tell which of many factors contributed to my friend’s insanely wonderful breakthrough. In any case, I wanted to share it with you. Writing this, I feel myself on the point of tears when I think of how much gratitude I feel toward you, my very dear teachers and colleagues. I only know that I have felt deeply, deeply grateful that you all have contributed so much to my well-being. And now, it seems, to others’!”
One of the teachers to whom I sent this note was a guy named Marty Weiner. Marty immediately wrote back, with a sweet and happy note.
Immediately after that, I got word that Marty had killed himself.
In the Jewish tradition, when you mention the name of those who have departed, you say “Marty Weiner; zichrono l’bracha.” “Marty Weiner; remembering him is a blessing.”
So I want to talk about the blessing that is Marty’s memory to me.
About two years ago, after I studied with him in New York, I wrote an endorsement for him. Here’s what I said then:
“I have studied with other senior FELDENKRAIS practitioners whose technical skills were refined and elegant. The way some of them worked with me was educated – but it was not inviting. I did not get the sense that they saw me as a full human being. Marty saw me in the way I wanted to be seen. He saw my limitations, and he also saw my longing to grow beyond them. He encouraged me. I felt a greatly enhanced confidence and freedom to explore. And he did all this without laying a hand on me.”
One more memory of Marty’s teaching style. We were gathered together in an undistinguished, nondescript room in New York. He was saying to us something like: “We go through our lives being in rooms like this one, asking, hey, can you show me the way to Manhattan? The skyline, the bright lights? Well hello? We ARE in Manhattan! Just walk out the door. Manhattan!”
Now Marty’s walked out the door.
This morning something was bugging me, some pebble or other I thought, something stuck to the bottom of my foot. I kicked off my Croc and looked at my foot. Nothing. I looked inside my Croc. Nothing. I carried on. Still there. I repeated the process.
Eventually it dawned on me to turn the Croc over, and look at the bottom. I found a small tack, sticking straight in, but not far enough to puncture the skin.
Let this be my memory of Marty, then. Marty, who had so much, who gave so much, who knew movement, and change, and growth, who knew how, so freely, to offer the means to reach for it.
Who offered it, and offered it, and then who walked out the door.
I want the meaning of this incomprehensible moment to reveal itself. I want to make use of it, in some meaningful way – to embrace it, to know it, to hold it with a sense of expansiveness, rather than contraction.
For now, I plan on saving the tack, as a memento mori. As an intervention, between the sole and the piercing through.
The punctures on the top of the Croc are Bugs’s contribution.
In a final interview, days before he took his life, Marty spoke of looking at art, of the feeling that can emerge, in the observer, from the art. So the person looking at the art could say: If I could create art, that’s what I’d make.
Let’s us do that with Bugs. If we could create art, this is what we’d make.
Somewhere between the frogs heralding in the changes, and the tack stuck in your shoe, I am made to appreciate your loss with sorrow of my own. He has gone on a journey, and left us behind. But your words in this post are a tribute.
“Marty Weiner; zichrono l’bracha.”
Yes, 4Cats. Exactly, succinctly put. Thank you for keeping me company.
I never had the chance of meeting Marty! Sending blessings, love and light!
Karen, many many thanks for your kind wishes. I wish you had met Marty. He was something else.
Next time I’m in Kitchener — and one never knows, I’m from Detroit and I’ve been through many times, loving Stratford as I do . . . . and dear me, that fabulous Saturday market in your town —
So wonderful to be thinking of things like that, at this sad time.
I’m so sorry about your friend. How wonderful that you were able to tell him how much he meant to you while you had the chance. So often we miss the opportunity to express that to the people who matter the most. Accepting and even embracing the giant mystery of which we are all a part is one of the most difficult challenges of being human. But just like you know Bugs loves you without him ever speaking those words, you’ll always have all the extraordinary support Marty put into his teaching as a lifetime reminder of the wonderful loving person he was. (And I hope Bugs is using that cat’s intuition to take extra good care of you right now.)
Lila, your wisdom is balm. I so appreciate you.
Yes indeed, I am very very grateful I did write him. In the outpouring from Marty’s community, I’ve seen others who’ve wished they had. . . . it’s a sad sad thing, as you say, to miss those opportunities.
And isn’t it the truth — that Jewish custom of the memory blessing us — I can always remember the great good fortune I had to learn from him. It’s a comfort, thank you.
Bugs? He’s in the other room, been there for hours like usual. Spose that’s using his cat’s intuition? Hmm. I have this story of him being this teenaged guy — going EUWW at Mama’s weepiness.
Whatever. I love him no matter what. Even if he doesn’t love me? Possibly. But come on. He loves me. He play-charged me earlier — and **didn’t** use his claws. Close enough for government work. I’ll take that for love.
What a wonderful tribute for a dear friend. I’m sorry for your loss, but am glad to see that you are able to tap into your good memories of him; it sounds like he truly was a blessing to you.
And as for Bugs… what a work of art indeed. They are beautiful pictures, and he looks so serene and peaceful in them. Even if it sounds like he’s similar to a couple of mine, and is less often serene and peaceful while awake…
So true, all you say. And as for the last bit, serene and peaceful! doubtless that’s why I have so many pics of him sleeping. Not only that it’s so hard to catch up with him when he’s awake. Serenity and peacefulness is in short supply!
My sympathies. Bury your face in Bugs’ fur; of course he loves you. He allows you to brush him, doesn’t he?
Thank you, Wazzie. I’ll see if I can bribe him to let me do that. I think the brush thing was a one-off. See how gingerly my hand looks? Brushes are for biting, mostly.
What a terrible shock it must have been, but like other people above me have already said, at least you’d had a chance to thank him for the knowledge and support you’d shared together. Your words and photographs here are a lovely testament to him. I actually ‘Aaaaaahhhhhh’ed when I saw the top photo. I don’t usually ‘Aaaaahhhhhh’ out loud, but that picture is just too much; happiness, contentement and complete trust…it’s beautiful.
How wonderful. Exactly what I felt when I first looked at that snap, and what I’d so hoped to convey. What a deep pleasure this is, to share like this at a time like this. Thank you, thank you.
A few days after I read your lovely tribute to your friend, I opened my local paper and saw his obituary. I did not realize Marty lived here in Ventura County. It made me reflect on how we are all so interconnected and how small this world is.
Yes. So heartening to read this.
Thanks for this lovely tribute of Marty Weiner, an extraordinary human being. He would have liked your remembrance, and Bugs . . .
Peggy, I am so happy to see your comment. I’m SO happy to be re-remembering extraordinary Marty, as you say. I loved him and I love that you had high regard for him too. Thank you very much for this tasty contact.
I made an attempt to post a picture of Marty’s and my cats, Spook & Spank (Spook has passed; Spank thrives on); unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it work. They, like most of us, reveled in his touch . . .
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