Is Life Bounteous Like The Medium Said?

The medium taught me much more about this life
Than about whatever comes next.
“Life is bounteous,” she said.
“Take it all. Be good to yourself.”
She gave the example of requesting two rolls at a restaurant
When they only brought her one
Because why not?
“I wanted two,” she said, laughing.
“And life is bounteous if we know how to ask.”

This was a class, not a private medium session.
We were in Lily Dale, New York
Which becomes a kind of spiritual fair in the summer
With mediums and mystics galore
Or should I say “mediums” and “mystics”
Because most of the time, honestly,
They didn’t tap into much
Except my wallet and my time.

But this particular medium was mostly OK.
I’ll call her Cassandra
Because she seemed like a Cassandra
An elderly hippie with a walker
And a sheer black skirt that swayed as she inched across the floor
Keeping a beat with the stones jangling around her neck
And her eyes that bounced from student to student
Meeting their faces
Taking in who was there
And what they might need.

“Think of you,” Cassandra called out.
“Don’t be one of those women who remembers everyone else and forgets herself.”
(It’s funny how spiritual classes, whether Hasidic in tone
Or run by a Spiritualist medium
Are often filled with women. Yes, the comment fit the group.)
Now, I never, ever forget myself
Never forget the galaxy that thrums within me
And maybe even beyond me:
My effects on the world and the souls I touch, and see, and think about.

I am not a woman who mothers everyone around me
Caring for everyone else
While I leave the last Danish for the little boy in the fireman hat
And the last pen for the chipper man behind me
And hope my memory serves me
As I listen, hungry, unable to take notes for the future.
Oh no, I will grab the pen, and probably the Danish too
If I think they’re running out
Because normally, life doesn’t feel bounteous at all to me
And if I don’t think of myself
I fear I’ll wind up nowhere, with nothing.
That’s why I smiled in happy surprise
When Cassandra said that life was, indeed, full of bounty.
I was like: Really? OK, I’m open to it.

So I asked myself:
What if I saw life as bounteous —
The beat behind existence a generous spirit
Making sure no one is neglected
Or tossed aside
Including me?
What would I do?
How would I live?

I decided I’d take whatever I want, whenever possible
Not worrying that it’s unseemly
Or that goodies may run out down the line
When it’s other people’s turn.
And I had to laugh at myself
Because, me being me,
I certainly didn’t say I’d leave the last salted brownie on the platter
For someone else
And figure I’d get mine eventually.
No, the world is not that bounteous
At least no version of any world that I’ve ever seen.
I can be optimistic
But I still need to be smart.

So, OK, in this semi-bounteous world
What do I do?
How do I make my way though it all?
This is where my mind went
After I left that class
And Lily Dale itself.

I started by taking whatever was free, available, and appealing.
No more deciding that it’s unseemly
For a woman to take a handful of mini Milky Ways from the bowl by the cash register
Because everyone else who does that is either a hyper child
Or a sullen teenager who manages to snag 15 bars
While scrolling through his iPhone one-handed.
I have rights too. A person doesn’t outgrow rights. Right?

No more talking to some well-dressed windbag at the party
Someone who never even glances at the food table
Never even gives me a chance to inch over there
And see whether I think the mushroom tarts are worth the calories
And if not, maybe the cheese in filo dough.
Cheese in filo dough is almost always worth the calories
If only I could lose this windbag and get over there.

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Hey! This poem will come out on Purim!
You can find me by the food table at the Purim party
Sniffing out the hamantaschen in hopes
That they’re moist and filled with the best kind of fruit, seeds, and maybe even cheese
Or chocolate.
And I will take what I want.
The world is bounteous, especially on Purim, but always, really.
Purim commemorates the Jews being saved
So they could enjoy for the rest of forever.
I mean, that’s my interpretation, and my interpretation will also add
That all humans can enjoy, because if the world is bounteous
It’s bounteous for everyone.
No exceptions.
(Except maybe for the super-mean people, but they can go enjoy their own bounty
As long as they don’t ruin mine.)

So anyhow, after deciding that the world was bounteous
I wound up with a huge stash of snacks:
Chocolates, lollipops, those passion fruit flavored candies from the Chinese restaurant.
I didn’t want the world’s bounty to severely impact my health
(Remember: I have a hard time trusting this bounty thing)
So I didn’t eat it all at once.
Most of it sat there, in a bowl
Giggling at me
Or so it seemed.

Now, I eat unhealthy treats all the time, but somehow
It just felt weird to stuff myself with food that symbolized the world’s bounty
The stuff I grabbed for free at stores and the bank.
Because you know what?
I didn’t believe in bounty, after all that.
The world wasn’t bounteous. I’m sorry, but it wasn’t.
“We were all delighted with your work, but in today’s economic climate…”
That is the opposite of bounty. It’s a close-fisted world.
If you disagree, you’re supremely lucky
Probably in circumstance, but maybe in mind.

And yet I had those treats.
The world had given them to me, with no fuss or pushback.
Occasionally, I would eat one
Pop a mini Snickers from the computer help desk into my mouth
Or a butterscotch candy from the bank.
I always enjoyed it.
There was no aftertaste of hypocrisy
Or of sarcasm.

A week or so ago, it was surprisingly warm in Boston
And I stood out on my balcony
Watching the people loll outside in their short-sleeved shirts.
They were grinning and slapping each other on the back
Drinking the warmth like it was Moshiach.
Messiah weather: 70 degrees in early March.

I thought of my bowl of bounty and laughed.
“What a ridiculous life I have
With a bowl of cheap candy that symbolizes bounty,”
I said to myself.
But it didn’t feel so ridiculous right then.
It felt almost bounteous. Almost.

And then I felt a tug to do something strange.
The revelers drew me to join them
But I had to complete something first:
I grabbed a Snickers bar, a big one.
I’d taken it from a plastic pumpkin someone had put outside their house
On Halloween.
(I know, I know, I didn’t deserve it without a costume
But the world is bounteous, right?)
I dropped the Snickers bar towards a crowd of people
Far below my 9th-floor perch.
A boy, maybe 13 (it was hard to tell from such a distance)
Saw and caught it.
He smiled and looked up towards my window.
But I was too high for him to notice me.
I couldn’t wave or anything.
He didn’t eat it right then. He was like me!
He turned it around and around, very carefully
And put it in his jacket pocket.
Then he had second thoughts, pulled it out
And took a bite. He stood there, near my building
Eating the Snickers bar that I had thrown.

It was amazing. It was so amazing.
OK, objectively, it wasn’t all that amazing
But I’m telling you
In that moment
I felt the true bounty of the world.


Image Credit: “plenty,” by dailyfood, October 18, 2009, on