Why I wrote this book
In the summer of 1988 my father, a physician, was incapacitated with a stroke and placed in intensive care in the Newark, New Jersey hospital with which he was associated. His recovery appeared doubtful due to the severity of the stroke, his age, and previous strokes. My two brothers and myself constantly discussed what to do if our father were to die, particularly about our mother, who was an alcoholic, diagnosed with schizophrenia, and was aged and feeble.
Several days after my father’s hospitalization, a close cousin died of a sudden heart attack. My brothers and I then planned to tell our father of this sudden event. My middle brother, to whom I was very close, was on his way to a shore home to be with his wife and daughter the night before the funeral. It might have been midnight when his car was struck from the rear by a drunk driver. He was killed instantly. A few days after his burial I discovered that he had many dark secrets, among them alcoholism. At the time I was attending Rutgers University on a sabbatical for a second master’s degree. I left the program—Jewels of Change was born.
My wife had a dream in the early 80’s that had a Buddhist theme and rebirth story. Fascinated with it, I wrote it down and a decade later it became the dominant theme, a dream in the guise of reality, in Part III of the book, in the chapter “The Jewel.” This dream is alluded to in Part I, Chapter I, page 4. I knew Jewels of Change had to end with this dream and an allegory, a Buddhist lens through which to see the former sections of the book with a different understanding. The problem for me was how to go from page 4 to the end of the book and expand that dream from the first mention. There was one way and has to do with the geese on the cover, for the wild gander became a transformative agent and my guide throughout the book.
The geese begin their journey on the cover, and move through the entire book. On page 4, paragraph 8, they enter Part I in the following manner: “Far above, he heard their sounds—just her breaths, his, and the sounds of the geese. All flowed in another rhythm. He saw the geese move across the moon.” And again, the whole of paragraph 10, which I’ll quote in part: “…he felt the world not only as it is, but as if it were something else, weaving its ocean of story.” And so the events being told on one level move along on yet another plane, one that a wild gander takes on in its migration and will take the reader to the book’s end, where the “as if it were something else” appears in the weaving of the allegory—that is, all the events in the book summed up in a simple story told to innocent children of an orphanage in an Italian village outside of Rome.
The geese also appear on pages 59, 61, and perhaps hinted in the surreal ending on pages 63-65 of Part I. In “Passion’s Fairy Tale” the geese, transformed, as in the first instance, a duck symbolic of Joseph’s aloneness, a story-telling canary, and crows in a tree mocking the Prigione brothers arguing under an oak. In “Islands” (Part III) the wild gander is exposed and explained in terms of a swastika, a Sanskrit symbol meaning well-being, and in an early artist’s form of a stylized view of this wandering bird.
The next blog: An improbable conversation… Only if crocuses don’t peep out of earth thinking a bit of warm air means Spring along the ocean coast of New Jersey where Sandy left her deadly fingerprints.