Home›February 2024 | Part I: Interview with Fran Carbonaro, Vocal Coach, Songwriter, Poet + Middle East Peace
February 2024 | Part I: Interview with Fran Carbonaro, Vocal Coach, Songwriter, Poet + Middle East Peace
Middle East Poems
Holding On To Hope
This Zoom discussion, recorded in January, brings the voices of three younger activists working to build a shared society and pathways to coexistence in Israel. Alon-Lee Green, of Standing Together; Mohammad Kundos, Principal of one of the Hand in Hand Schools; and May Pundak of A Land For All.
All three of these peace workers are doing amazing work. May Pundak also brings the oneness of the Earth into the reality of a shared land through examples of climate, pollution, water issues, and more.
A Call for Healing: Gabor Maté on Palestine / Israel
“World Renowned author and trauma expert Dr. Gabor Maté speaks about his own history, including his grandparents who died in the Holocaust, and his current thoughts on Palestine / Israel. In this in-depth interview, he offers a vision for healing personal and global conflict. Dr. Gabor Maté shares his own journey raised Jewish, and also his experiences visiting Gaza multiple times.”
When asked about hope, Dr. Gabor answers, ” Hope is not a word I use because it’s something you’re wishing will happen in the future. I believe in something much more powerful than hope which is possibility. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it in individuals caught up in the throes of severe illness, mental or physical conflict, debilitating addictions, and I’ve seen healing which literally means wholeness.”
Stories from the Field: Voices of Peace Activists During the Israel-Gaza War
ALLMEP, The Alliance for Middle East Peace, shares five stories of great courage and resilience. I was especially touched by the story of Wasim Almasri, who is Director of Programs for ALLMEP and comes from Gaza.
Interview with Fran Carbonaro Vocal Coach, Song Writer, Poet
Fran’s Caregiving—A Love Story
Fran was the primary caregiver for her partner, Alan Linsley, in his last four years of life during which he struggled with Alzheimer’s and prostate cancer. Fran shared her story at her home in January 2024.
I met Alan at a mutual friend’s party in 1999, a year after his previous wife had passed from cancer at age 46. The first time I looked at him, it felt like a recognition, like being hit by a wave, both potent and karmic. It frightened me a bit, as I was in relationship with someone else at the time.
Alan and I didn’t come together (as a couple) until many years later. Until that time, we’d run into each other occasionally, just wave, or stop and talk. I remained curious about him, during those fourteen years of passing each other around town. He seemed enigmatic and moody, unpredictable. After we connected, my astrologically savvy friends expressed concern about his “natal chart”: Aries Sun with a Scorpio Moon and Gemini rising. I’m a double Gemini with a Libra Moon. I guess it was best I was not versed in astrology!
Alan displayed more than his usual degree of friendliness in 2013, at a local gas station,when he walked up and started a conversation. I found the timing of this encounter odd, as I had just ended a year-long experiment with dating sites. It had been an interesting process but I realized I was not going to make the connection I was hoping for that way. Anyway, Alan asked if I was going back to a monthly talk at the art center, he had previously seen me at and I said yes.
When I arrived at the talk, Alan was waiting for me outside. He walked right up and we hugged. He stood at the door during the talk and every time I turned around, he was staring at me. He disappeared before the talk ended, so I sent him a private Facebook message, “Where did you disappear to, and would you like to meet at Ragle Park for a walk?” I didn’t hear back for three weeks, when Alan responded, “I’m so sorry, I’ve been moving.” We then met for a long walk and within a month, we were spending a lot of time together.
We didn’t live together for the first seven years. Alan was very independent and I was seeing twenty students a week in my home studio as a private vocal instructor. He would often arrive in the late afternoon to cook dinner. We had four very sweet years together, spending time with his kids and grandchildren… and his extended family. My friends became his friends and vice versa. Alan had taught at Nonesuch School (an alternative high school) for several years. He had also studied cranio-sacral work after being a massage therapist, and that morphed into energy healing. He had several clients, whom he would travel to serve with his table. We enjoyed sharing our experiences as teachers, and I was the fortunate recipient of his healing work for some time.
Three years into our relationship, in 2016, when the Nonesuch School closed, Alan said, “I really miss teaching; and I feel like my brain’s slipping.” He also reminded me that his mother had died of Alzheimer’s. His older sister was moving into Alzheimer’s (she died six months before Alan). At the time, I couldn’t see what he was beginning to experience.
A year later, summer of 2017, some things happened that made me question his cognitive health. In what was clearly a lack of judgment, Alan had unscrewed the radiator cap when his car overheated and suffered severe burns. He then bore a lot of stress in October 2017, immediately after the Tubbs fire, when his landlord gave him notice and he had to move. Two weeks after the fire, his ex-wife and mother of his youngest son, died of cancer.
This stress took a toll on Alan’s body and he started having bladder issues, including a severe bladder infection. Through my research, I discovered that bladder and co,gnitive problems are often related. He wasn’t into Western medicine and I had to push him to see a doctor. His bladder issues ultimately required surgery and in June 2018, he underwent robotic surgery that lasted four hours. The cognitive issues became worse after the surgery, as anesthesia can affect your cognition, too. This is when it felt like the walls were starting to close in on me.
For many reasons, including the sheer anxiety of one’s “ground” falling away, Alzheimer’s can include difficult behaviors. I grew up with mental illness and a raging father. So, Alan’s behavior would, at times, trigger me. Between 2014 and 2017, I was recording a CD: I’m Still Alive. This 14-track recording of spoken word and song chronicles my healing journey from childhood abuse (francarbonaro.hearnow.com). Alan had been my support and encouragement for starting and completing this four-year project. Writing and recording those songs allowed me to continue processing the wounds that expressed as complex trauma. I am forever grateful for those early years with Alan. If I hadn’t gone through that healing process, I could not have cared for him.
Complex trauma affects the developing child’s brain and their ability to handle stress. I’m very conscious of living with this and working with it all the time. For me to say, “Yes” to caregiving was a huge assignment! And saying “yes” revealed a strength I never knew I had.
In 2017 when all this started, we weren’t yet living together or married. In May 2019, I finally convinced Alan to be assessed by a neuropsychologist. She designated him as having “mid-stage” Alzheimer’s. His driving license was revoked and he had to sell his car. He had already willingly let go of many activities that he knew were beyond his abilities. This was by far, the hardest for him.
In January 2020, Alan was diagnosed with Stage IV prostate cancer, the most aggressive form. He was still pretty with it emotionally, and relationally very present, although he couldn’t tell you left-brain stuff, such as what day it was or who was president. Alan agreed to minimal treatment for the cancer,in the form of Leuprolide shots, which are hormonal, and which stop testosterone production to slow the cancer down. While we were in shock about the cancer diagnosis, I said, This could be a blessing, Alan. He had already made it clear to me that he did not want to die from Alzheimer’s.
On This Stream
pressed to the edge of our circumference the fraying threads of once-assumed normality barely holding, loose ends, circumvented lines of thought, lost then found, then lost again you won’t remember where I was today or who I went with or why I went, you now wandering beyond the parameters that held you, captive perhaps, now free finally, free of hope, of hoping that this might go away, dissolve like a bad dream in the morning’s light, free to find a new language, your words dancing in strange configurations of delight and defiance, your words alternately stinging and soothing this tired heart, your stunned queen bee wondering how soon you will lose your way back home only one of many where you are loved
still, I celebrate how your hands know how to find me your lips meet mine, we move and breathe together beyond hope, beyond hoping, reaching for that embrace which lies beyond any knowing, tasting the beloved in our tears, leaning into a deeper trust than either of us can imagine, “I will still be here when I am not” your words a lock I cannot pry open as you declare today is going to be a good day! I tread the current madly, only to be swept out like a leaf on a river of grief, on this stream of entropy
somehow my body remembers dead-man’s float relinquishing all that might have been, my face lifts from the stream and I greet the you before me now
Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee’s reading of Thich Nhat Hanh’s Ten Love Letters to the Earth is a real treat, especially if you have not heard it before. You’ll find it on Emergence Magazine podcasts at this link.
On the same Podcast page, you’ll find Emmanuel’s talk “An Offering of Remembrance” given in November 2023 and first announced in January’s issue. This is the single most important talk I’ve heard that redefines our relationship to Earth.
West County/Santa Rosa residents, come show some love to the Laguna Uplands at a Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation group stewardship outing on Sat., Feb 17,9:00am – 12:00 pm. Pre-registration at this link. Other upcoming Laguna Foundation events include Fresh Pressed Flower Crafts, Botanical Bundle Dyeing, and a Laguna de Santa Rosa Restoration Plan Open House.
Raphael Block’s most recent book, The Dreams We Share, fulfills the need for contemporary nature poetry written from a spiritual point of view. While unapologetically expressing an ecstatic response to nature, these poems acknowledge the human capacity to heal or to harm our world. Countering the cynical point of view that planet Earth is too far degraded to save, these poems seem to say: celebrating what sustains us motivates us to heal our world…
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