Category Archives: Video poem series

How Life Changes Sometimes—the surprising backstory for “The Vision: A Fable of Our Times”

Read poem here          Listen to poem-video

In April, 25 years ago, I healed from multiple sclerosis and then left my job teaching in the Biology Department at Lake Forest College. I didn’t know where my life was going from there, but I had a wispy notion that it involved music and healing.

For 8 years I’d been singing alto in the Waukegan Concert Chorus (WCC). Our conductor was going through a rocky period and I wanted to write something to support him. I tried writing a letter, but nothing came together.

That summer, my husband and I were listening to a Chicago classical radio station and heard about a concert that night at Ravinia, a nearby popular outdoor music venue. This concert was Montserrat Caballe, a Spanish operatic soprano we had not heard before. We got two inexpensive seats on the lawn.

As it turned out, the people around us were more interested in talking than in listening to the music. Frustrated, I went and stood behind the pavilion where I could see her performing. She sang Spanish folk opera in a lighter voice and then for an encore, three classic opera arias. The hair stood up on my arms. I could feel the full power and heart connection of her singing. I thought that the healing vibration of the notes would soak into even those who were not paying attention.

At home, as I was doing my nightly stretching, getting ready for bed, words began lining up in my head, “There was a Teddy bear tall and true who sat on a throne…” The words felt very compelling, but it was late. Still, I thought, if I don’t write them down, they’ll vanish. I got up from the floor and began handwriting in a spiral notebook, several pages in all. There were gaps I left blank where I knew something was supposed to go. I worked on the piece for a week. Although I was interested in writing, I had never done anything like this before.

On a sunny Saturday morning I knew the piece—a poem—was done. My heart beating fast, I went outside and asked my husband if he would listen to it. He said poetry was not really his thing, but agreed to listen. I read it to him and later to my voice teacher, Kip Snyder, who was the vocal techniques coach for the WCC. My voice lessons were in the room next door to my conductor’s office. Kip treated my poem as if it was a normal thing that people did. And we talked about how I wanted to present the poem to my conductor.

I wanted him to hear the poem the way I had heard it. I had a boom box with a REC button, so I got a blank cassette and gave it a go. The first time through my reading was too fast, the second time was a more conversational pace, about 5 minutes long.

Since the poem is a fable, it takes place in another world. I wanted to indicate this so I tried printing it on various illustrated papers and played with fonts. I chose one with misty pine trees on the side and a kind of medieval font. I also got a Teddy bear (on sale at Kohl’s) that was very dignified with a plaid bow. And I wrote out the story of how the poem had come to be.

When I gave it all to my choral director—the poem on special paper, the cassette with my reading, the bear, and the handwritten account—I asked him to sit and listen to the recording before reading it.

It was several months before I heard back from him. He burst into my lesson one day (which had never happened before). He was very happy with the poem, etc. I was so surprised I later didn’t remember any details of what he’d said, only the feeling. It was as if a lightening bolt went from his open heart to mine. It was quite astonishing.

As it turned out, he did stay with the chorus for another couple years (including the year I had treatment for breast cancer) and he then left the WCC. Shortly after, I also left.

At the time, I thought that someone might illustrate the poem—like a children’s picture book—and with the recording, it could be sold to support the chorus. Instead, it sat in my computer for all these years. Every so often I would think of doing something with it, but nothing ever happened. Shortly after I wrote “The Vision,” I began a poetic journal, writing poems with a healing intention. With my first cancer diagnosis had come more writing and more healing. And life moved on. I continued writing and the poems became the core of my new life, with greeting cards, books, recording, a workshop series, a website….

Why bring “The Vision” back now in this strange, chaotic time? At first, I wondered if I could even find the poem. I didn’t have the word processing program to read it on my computer any more, but a written copy was in my office files and I retyped it in.

I didn’t know if I would still like it. The writing style is very different from almost all my other work. Twenty-five years of practicing writing craft and living life led me to write in quite a different voice now. But as I read the poem and got to the end, I knew I had to let it go out into this world, at this particular time, to do what healing was possible from the divisiveness and harshness of today. “…Then the world could be changed / based on love and not fear…”

Recently I asked a number of people to read “The Vision” to get their feedback and ideas. Thank you so much to Melissa, Midge, Carol, Mary, Crystal, Marie, and Carol! Your positive comments encouraged me to take the leap and let this poem go. For now, it is a blog post and poem-video. I am working on a chapbook illustrated with my photos.

So…25 years ago, with this first poem, the writing, the recording, the visual, the design of the “whole” was all laid out, as I followed my heart’s longing and healing intention. From not knowing what direction to take, with just a wisp of an idea, my new life began. Weaving these poems used all aspects of me, what I thought, read, felt, experienced, what stories I was told or my own stories, all of my life, no parts left out. And the writing could then go out and help others, my dearest wish. It all began with this one poem and following an inner prompt to write it and let it go.

We can all be of service in various ways, however large or small, during this extraordinary pandemic time. What is your role to play? What has your heart been longing to do? Tell me your story.

Read poem here              Listen to poem-video

The Vision: A Fable of Our Times

Listen to the poem here

The Vision:
A Fable of Our Times

by Margaret Dubay Mikus

There was a Teddy Bear
tall and true
who sat on a throne.
He conducted music
when few were at home.
How frustrating he found this
was made very clear
when he said to those gathered
“This may be my last year here.”

The faithful awoke
to the challenge he made.
They redoubled their efforts
and soon made the grade.
They worked hard together
and even at home!
to make more magic together
than they could do alone.

The rest (or unfaithful
I suppose you could say)
soon fell by the wayside
and chose not to stay.

The result of this challenge
issued from on High
was a short time of confusion,
complaints and some tears,
renewed efforts and energy spent,
ultimately resulting in more heartfelt music
than had been heard in the land for years.

Those hearing this music
were moved beyond saying.
They thought to themselves
“This sounds like angels are praying.”
And they told their friends
who told their friends,
till all over the town
this became the new trend.

Along with the news
something else spread too,
some of the heart magic
acted like glue
to bring people together
instead of apart;
this was powerful magic
these songs from the heart.

Now, the faithful who stayed
and sang from their hearts
who struggled and worked
to learn their own parts,
they too were rewarded
by the magic of song.
The energy they spent
in singing well together
returned to them doubled,
cares light as a feather.

Support sprang up
from the businesses there
who knew a good thing
and wanted to share.
The Chamber of Commerce
swore undying devotion
and set up a committee
to set things in motion.

Elders and teens
did whatever was needed
to support behind the scenes.
Family and friends
and friends of friends too
sold tickets, raised money, ate dinners
sewed costumes, made handouts, bought flowers,
sold ads, designed posters, put up sets,
took down chairs, created decorations,
sold candy, handed out programs,
all as best they knew.

The politicians of the town
jumped on the bandwagon too,
as the music drew more people
and the phenomenon grew.
For politicians know
what is good for the town
turns out to be good for them too.
As the singers traveled all over the land
they carried the name of the town.
First nearer, then farther
they spread their heart music around.

The town became known
as a place for the arts
somewhere you could go
for opera or concerts
or paintings or a show.
The businesses prospered
from the people who came
first for art, then for shopping
as the town got its name.

Then the townspeople said
“What we need is a Home
to welcome back our singers
whenever they roam.
A place to hear heart music
in all of its glory.”
And so it was done.
There’s more to this story.

The Teddy Bear had a vision you see
of what heart music could do
and how it could be
that more and more people
would come and be healed
and say to those near
“I love” and “I forgive.”
Then the world could be changed
based on love and not fear
and the Teddy Bear would stay
for year after year.

© 1995


Listen to the poem here

Where did “The Fable” come from and why release it now? A story of intention and inspiration and taking a leap. Backstory of The Vision

Inspired by Tom Prasada-Rao

Heading Back Home by Margaret Dubay Mikus, Copyright 2015

For me, the past year has been a “Twilight Zone” of one medical crisis after another—a new “surprise” before I’d even healed from the last one. From heart problems, possibly related to cancer treatment 23 years ago (with talk of a pacemaker) to 6 excision biopsies and 4 subsequent surgeries for melanoma, with an extreme allergy to the hypoallergenic tape, which caused blistering of my skin. Extended vertigo. I was hit by a motorcycle (no serious injury). A kidney stone (not my first, not the usual composition) led to a sudden jump in blood pressure. The procedure blasting the stone, went awry due to an equipment malfunction, which led to a whole array of ongoing problems including, bizarrely, a strained knee, which months later, is still debilitating. Interspersed with a sprinkling of other “issues” just for spice.

Not to whine or complain, but really? As it turns out, I’m doing ok. One moment at a time, remembering to breathe. Remembering I have healing tools and support. Remembering to ask for help.

Over and over again help has come to dig me out of the depths. My loving husband stepped up big time. Very few days have we both lost our “cool” in all this mess. Family and friends and my support team kept me going. Doctors who listen. Nature to rebalance. Books to escape with. Music to uplift. And the moving stories of others going through their own big-time challenges.

Tom Prasada-Rao is a gifted musician with a healing story. He is a lovely singer/songwriter who went through major cancer surgery this past winter. He wrote about it on Facebook, showing a photo of his long scar. Normally I don’t really care for post-surgery photos, but his story and attitude about his “bad ass scar” “increasing his street cred” was potent healing medicine for me as I headed into more of my own surgeries.

These are the 3 poems inspired by Tom and his music and courageous, loving, healing presence. My heartfelt thanks, Tom Prasada-Rao!

2/4/19

“Badass Scar”

Thank you Tom Prasada-Rao
for changing my anxious mind
in one heartfelt line
about your long surgery
and re-emergence into the light

As I face another visible scar
another 2 surgeries, not nearly
as complex or dangerous as yours
my troubles lightened and lifted
a smile appeared, no lie

Each scar—of the many—
a badge of survival
And the pain that comes still
even after months of healing
is nothing to what could have been

if cancer had won.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2019

2/13/19

Wounded Healer

of T P-R

Sometimes
stay very still
in one place
quietly breathing
and listen.
It is hard and
it is your job
to receive.
Not at some point
to restore or resume
or even to refresh
but to find
the new threads to weave
and then follow them out
of persistent darkness.
Tell your honest story
invite in those needing comfort
not to rebuild what was, but
to create who you are becoming.
To trust more
to be patient more than ever before.
To befriend darkness
to release and reveal.
To fully inhabit
this body with scars
measured in miles
in tears, in fears.
To go away, to dive deep
and come back
deeper still
loving.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2019

2/23/19

Doing Healing Work

from Tom and Eric and Karla
who have never met as far as I know

The hardest
when traveling
through and past
abject darkness
it to not become
dark
soaked in it
through and through
no matter how
it may damage you
and then spraying dark all around you
unaware, even unwilling.
No
I tell you true
do not choose to
go behind that door
in this life game show
we are creating.
Even if a dark dip
choose love
choose light.
Begin with you
let dark slide off you
“like water off a duck’s back”
as my mother used to say
to her sensitive daughter.
Or let dark overtake
temporarily, feel fully
and remember to release.
Or find your own metaphor
your own goal to aim for.
No matter what has happened
is happening
let go of fear
let go of mindlessness
remember you are a wondrous healer
think of all the scrapes and bruises
you no longer have, inside and out.
You are headed somewhere.
And if this is it
this black bottomless pit
where no light escapes or enters
remember
this is not who you are
only where you are.
Find a bird singing somewhere
or a leaf falling in the flowing river.
Find a cloud of any shape or color
or a clear cloudless depth of azure sky.
Find a song that uplifts
already written or write your own
maybe from your re-formation.
Look anywhere, there is a thread
or beginning of an idea of a thread
that can be woven into
a rope to shape into a ladder
to climb back out on.
Not avoiding the rich loam of life
the shell or armor of protection
as if nothing harsh or fatal
will get out or in
but consider
allowing the possibility of
transformation and transcendence.
Without change there is no growth
without growth there is no life.
Why else did you come?

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2019

One more bit of inspiration by Tom:
Although I’ve often read my poems to groups of people, it took years for me to record my first poem-video—just after my birthday in 2014. I was painfully shy about it. My willingness to make that first recording was inspired in part by Tom Prasada-Rao and his deeply heartfelt songs that he posted on Facebook. (I now have almost 70 poem-videos on my YouTube channel.)
Here is the blog post with my reading of that first poem, “I Know That.”

Or is you prefer, you can go directly to YouTube:
“I Know That”—on YouTube

50–“Risk” from “As Easy as Breathing”

Updated from a post on Jan. 20, 2017

Trees and Shadow by Margaret Dubay Mikus, Copyright 2010

Risk

It’s a risk
to wake up every morning

and see
if you fall short

or stand tall,
grow an inch or a foot,

see what seeds may land
and take root,

your heart cracked open
like a walnut.

It’s a risk
to get up every morning,

leave the land of dreams
and begin again,

leave the land of dreams and dreaming,
stride on solid ground,

learn and teach,
grow and glow…

then throw out all you know
and begin again.

It’s a risk.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 1998

From my book, As Easy as Breathing: Reclaiming Power for Healing and Transformation. It was written in response to a guy I knew who said he needed risky sports to feel alive. Watch my reading here: https://youtu.be/6OstW8lniek

In the years after my first breast cancer treatment (1996-7, surgery, chemo, and radiation), I continued to write with a healing intention, sharing my poems with those who might be helped by them. Eventually I considered assembling a book. My first concept was a small collection to help cancer patients and their families and friends. After 9/11/2001, I realized that people like me, who had dealt with life threatening illness, learned a lot about living in times of great fear. And so the book got bigger, with selected poems from a 6-year period. Over the years, these poems have supported many people in coping with all kinds of traumatic life circumstances—including cancer—and to even thrive.

“Risk” is track 34 on my CD, Full Blooming: Selections from a Poetic Journal… with some other poems from As Easy As Breathing and also Letting Go and New Beginnings (and 3 songs).

For more video poems

Taking a Break from the Poem Videos

After 62 videos (and days) I am taking a break from making my poem videos to finish my next book, “Transcending Boundaries: Inspired by Eric Whitacre and Virtual Choir.” Thank you for listening and for your kindness and generous comments. If you missed some of them or would like to see the photos or want to listen again: https://www.fullblooming.com/category/video-poem-series/

You can also watch the videos on my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0SXdl_48M5GH6CN_tfoa_w