Manda's Musings


Make everything in you an ear, each atom of your being, and you will hear at every moment what the Source is whispering to you, just to you and for you, without any need for my words or anyone else’s.” Rumi

Hard to believe Rumi lived 800 years ago. And in a foreign country! Oh, I’m sorry, was there no United States of America back then? And the Middle East taboot!

Being all ears. I love that instruction – to make every bit of my being an ear. The world arrives differently to me when I do that. I tend not to think I know so much.

I find that awareness hard to maintain; difficult to sustain.

Shortly after reading Rumi’s quote our teenage son ambled by. I intensely devoted myself to the mission. I substituted a big ear every time my big mouth wanted to weigh in.

I listened.

I heard his soul speak. I heard his person with his wonderings, his concerns, his interests, his feelings free from my compulsory habit of answering, tinkering, delving, judging, noodling back with mine.

With all those ears working at once I was struck silent.

And it was good.

May I be ‘all ears’ more times than naught.




A young friend of mine, who illustrated my children’s picture book and covers for radio plays, is moving from Philadelphia to Brooklyn.  She contacted me to ask if I’d be a character reference (in a heartbeat).

Connections – and I recalled my sister-in-law’s brother and family lived there. (As it turns out, they used to live there – moved to another borough.)

So in my technological sophistication I googled brother’s website to send friend a link. Totally bowled over. Can’t say exactly why because I always sensed he was devoted to his craft and mission.   I knew he was a Hip Hop artist and educator but I had no idea the extent of his work. (And his partner-wife is an accomplished photographer as well – she’s written up in the New York Times.)

Forever I feel enlivened when I witness the work of ones deeply ensconced in their art and community. A group of these young people travel all over the world and work with teenagers to help them find their own voices through the arts. I listened to interviews and promotional clips and my smile spread wider and wider. Hope breaks through in pockets.

The title of this cut, also the name of his new band, especially caught my interest and attention. Even if it’s not quite your cup of tea, it’s worth your scrutiny:


Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I remember the mention of a cargo ship losing a container of rubber ducks into the Arctic seas. 7,200 each of ducks, turtles, frogs and beavers.

Donovan Hohn, an English teacher inspired by a student’s essay,  thoroughly researched the happening and wrote a book about it – Moby-Duck . It sat all by itself in a place of prominence on a shelf in our local library, designated as ‘Director’s Choice’. I snagged it before the masses could!

The January 10, 1992 event caught the attention of many curious persons – beachcombers, oceanographers, journalists. A plethora of articles were written about the event. Eric Carle felt inspired to write a children’s book after he read one of the articles.

I bonded with Hohn’s book when I read the first paragraph of the prologue. It was the last line that gave me cause for devotion:

“I just wanted to learn what had really happened, where the toys had drifted and why. I loved the part about containers falling off a ship, the part about the oceanographers tracking the castaways with the help of far-flung beachcombers. I especially loved the part about the rubber duckies crossing the Arctic, going cheerfully where explorers had gone boldly and disastrously before.”

I imagine those rubber (actually polyethylene) duckies surfing on those original 30 foot swells that caused their container to take a tumble into the sea – the navigating paths through icebergs – and the long travail of seven years later washing up on the shore of an east coast Maine beach (year predicted by an avid beachcomber/oceanographer) with the same cheery disposition.

Something to contemplate as I traverse my own icebergs and waterways.


While researching Canadian artist Kenojuak Ashevak for a children’s picture book I came across her quotation of this ancient Inuit song:

And I think over again
My small adventures
When from a shore wind I drifted out
In my kayak
And I thought I was in danger.

My fears,
Those small ones
That I thought so big,
For all the vital things
I had to get and to reach.

And yet, there is only
One great thing,
The only thing.
To live and see in huts and on journeys
The great day that dawns,
And the light that fills the world.

It served as inspiration for this, my modern one:


The radio plays are being readied for submission to!

Editing these babies can get arduous – in no way due to quality and workship. The main characters are played masterfully by Judith Black, Diane Edgecomb, Vance Gilbert, and Jackson Gillman; sound effects made magnificent by Foley artist, Philly Chatterton; engineering handled most adeptly by Jon Lupfer and James Bridges of Q Division Studios; and Crit Harmon produces the final mastering and formatting. In the hands of these folks these radio plays are being brought to some fun kind of life!

And James continues to be my editing engineer.

The arduousness stems not from them but me! Me and my detail oriented, micromanaging mind wielding the taskmaster’s whip!

But not all (actually, nothing, to be quite frank) is lost – two are officially DONE! Done, done, done!* (Listen to the clip below from ‘Leo’s Lullaby’.)

Yesterday during the snowstorm I worked from 9am to 2:30pm, with a break for lunch, finishing up (we hope!) edits for the final four. With a great sigh of relief I sent them off to my editing engineer.

Sorry, James.


The year 2017 has closed out and now we’re in the beginnings of our new one. I have heard many speak of this past year being a hard one. Though I rarely think in terms of a year at a time I look back on 2017 and feel grateful for some wonderful opportunities I’ve been granted.

But there have definitely been some difficulties to endure this past year.

I was reading David Roth’s newsletter this morning and clicked on his song ‘I Shall Stand’ – said to have been recorded by Peter, Paul & Mary – though this version is sung by a whole host of ‘folkies’. It touches on everything I’ve found difficult to bear this past year:

Though I would be remiss if I failed to profess there are myriad things I’ve found quite joyous bearing in this, our old friend, 2017.


It was the morning of the medical procedure that shall not be named. I was up at 3am downing a drink that should not be downed; followed by 32 oz. of water – a glorious way to begin the day.

The glory was in watching Oprah Winfrey’s ‘Belief’ series. I purchased the series sight unseen.

‘I have lived on the lip of insanity, wanting to know reasons, knocking on a door. It opens. I’ve been knocking from the inside!’

That Rumi quote kept a woman who had suffered a severe surfing accident, then in a coma, focused on the here and now.
She had read the Rumi quote when she was young and now found it saved her. She was a practicing Catholic who, upon waking up, was called to the Sufi path .

The doctors told her she would never walk again.

She did. She eventually traveled to Konya, Turkey to become a Whirling Dervish.

Turning in the sacred ceremony she heard the voices of the doctors: “You won’t ever walk again.”

She said, “Then I will dance.”


It’s a curious thing – the mind. As I get older it melds time.

I was standing at the bank teller’s counter taking care of business and chatting with Kathy, one of the teller’s I’ve been visiting for years. A song came over the speakers. I grew weepy. I find myself weepy this holiday season. Kathy said a lot of folks are feeling that way. I believe for me it’s partly due to a callousness I’ve never before sensed quite so severely from the seat of our nation.

But my mother filled my mind. 37 years ago today she died shortly after 9pm. My brother and I just finished singing a song we wrote about her when the phone rang.

You never quite believe your mom’s going to die – even when you have months leading up to it with all indicators pointing to that conclusion – the concept can just never quite take hold – at least in the mind of this then early 20s being.

And then she did.

And: “Oh, I’ve got to call Mom and tell her”; turning that corner to the hallway expecting to see her at the kitchen sink; anticipating her call up from the downstairs; but no more comments on decisions I made; no more irritating advice unsought; no more comments on how I looked.

No boisterous, engaging and mischievous grandma for your kids.

There’s much loss and gain from the death of a loved one.

And it’s taken me a while to reconcile the two. That recognizing one or the other is neither good nor bad. It just is.


So I got an email from one of my teenage son’s teachers. Caught spying something on his Chromebook during class rather than attending to the task at hand. (Or, as he adamantly put it building his defense later in the day – while doing his work! That one went over big with Mom.)

Yes, I tend to jump into over action. (I shall not here go into my tirade of the wisdom in setting these beasts of innocuous entertainment and ‘knowledge’ into the hands of young teens and preteens – that’s another blog. Or is it?) I called his guidance counselor who I know from working in the school system some years back when Sam’s eldest brother and sister were traversing the middle school years.

We spoke and commiserated and came up with a game plan.

As things were wrapping up I said, “Give my love to Mary.” I used to teach in his wife’s classroom when the middle school music teacher had no music room. (Let’s not talk about that.) It was the most invigorating year of my teaching for I was in the presence of both a master teacher and a vividly curious human being. I hadn’t seen her in years. He said he would.

Later that day (yesterday) I was in the bank.

“Is that Amanda Maffei?!”

I turned and there was Mary.


‘The light within us resembles the light of the farthest stars and galaxie” **Neil Douglas-Klotz, ‘The Sufi Book of Life’

Here is a portion of a verse he quotes from the Qur’an:

Light upon light upon light – back and back we trace it to its Source, Radiating light and sound – a voice, an echo guiding those who hear Love’s desire unfold the universe’s story, who come to this call like thirsty birds to water. Beloved, the One creates for us models, signs, symbols, parables everywhere we look to remind us of our Source. And the One behind all understands and embraces all – the past and future journey of every thing from seed to star.

From the Qur’an. The holy text of those of the Muslim faith.

‘The light within us resembles the light of the farthest stars and galaxies.”

May we, headed toward our Winter Solstice and the lengthening of days
, recognize more fully the light within us.