Tuesday, October 17, 2017

ancestors


Art by Jan Oliver Schultz-Trail of the Ancestors


They are still with us; they care about us. I know, I have seen them.

Some of the most exciting years of my life were spent tracking down those elusive people who came before me. Looking for headstones in an old Vermont cemetery which required hoisting my sister over a chain linked fence and crawling up and over myself. Hunting headstones with precious dates. Finding the burial spot of Prindle Rising,  a Union soldier mentioned in a letter from my Civil War great grandfather dated 1863. Hooray.

There is something spiritual about trying to connect with these long dead folks.I felt that deeply as I worked. It started with the death certificate of my grandmother with the names and dates of her parents and where they had been born.It was like pulling a colorful thread that slowly unwinds, gifting precious knowledge.

I am sure of this: their grit stiffens by backbone.Try to imagine coming to Plymouth in the winter of 1638 with a husband and 4 children under the age of ten.You did that Abigail, oh woman of courage.The colony there was barely settled, a few homes carved out of the wilderness.You left everything behind."Oh, beautiful for spacious skies," it called you.

Amanda, my great aunt, I have your picture, in tight bonnet and long skirt.You moved from Vermont and raised a family in Minnesota. In the 1880's a tornado blew through Duluth and a baby was ripped from your arms.She was never found and yet, you lived.You went on. I have proof , a letter you wrote in 1900 telling of hearing William Jennings Bryan speak.You kept in touch with your family back east in Vermont.We will meet some day.

Catherine,  how did you leave beautiful Ireland with four teen-agers in 1848 and arrive here with nothing ?You were tenant farmers and when the only crop, the sorrowful potato, got blight, your life was over.The English government would have fed you if you gave up your faith.Not you,Catherine, you sailed to an unknown place where signs appeared in shop windows that said :"Irish need not apply".You lived and your children became Americans. I am one of yours.

Johnann, my Scottish grandmother, had a third grade education and never drove a car. Always a sweet smile on your face, such busy hands knitting and tatting.Your life was limited to travel to from NY to New Jersey, and no vacations that I ever heard about.I never appreciated how limited your life was. I am telling you that I am sorry.

Strong women, were you all in that vision of six years ago?

I was on a bench in the woods behind our house when I saw you. My eyes were closed as I prayed for my unborn granddaughter.There was bleeding and a safe delivery was not guaranteed. In the quiet, I saw two lines of ancestors on either side of my beautiful, pregnant daughter-in-law. Each person would stop, place a hand on her womb and pass on.The lines were long and from many different parts of this earth; all with one desire, that Maddie be born. It was all so clear, their intention and concern.Then a bell softly rang and they were gone.

She is here, Catherine, Amanda, Johnann, Mary, Abigail,.At the age of five, you will be happy to know,  she loves to pray.My love for her is beyond telling.Thank you.


Thursday, October 12, 2017

the writing group




The richness, the joy of it all. Writing in a group; using art to poke around in the roots of who we are.

I wish I had starting writing sooner.What a balm to a soul with so many secrets , so much turmoil. But I must put that aside and be grateful for the beginning. It started, my journal, as a bare bones running log.Weather, sights, ease or hardship, with or without dogs.That was the beginning in the 1980s. This has morphed into a writing group with individuals as unique as five colorful birds on a branch.

There was the time that I took a piece of art, Sisley I believe, and wrote a story that pulled all of me into it. More stories and then for at least seven years, I wondered how I could share this with others and how would that start? And now it has been almost three years of stories and deep connecting.

Writing is a joy; that's all I want anyone to know. And using art deepens the experience profoundly.So, a member of the class goes to Las Vegas and sees a purse with a Van Gogh art print and she and we are transformed by the thought of it. Amid the glitz and glamour, she found timeless beauty. A poem by a Native American is read and the author reaches through the page to bestow an image of great comfort to those on the fourth hill of life.We are not alone, we stand with courage,and the bald eagle as celebrate that we made it this far.

A postcard of an old abandoned tractor in a Nebraska wheat field in winter recalls the warmth of being held there on a similar machine by a father before it all changed. Family members here and gone are recalled in beautiful language and they become ours. Lovely sunsets are captured and held by a haiku of gentleness and colors that please. Long ago childhoods are recalled, some beautiful enough to envy. Risks are taken in poetry form with extraordinary colors of red. Stories of lives so different from others enrich our experience; music on a bus that taught a new language and a kind word on a playground. Someone new joins and, in a flash, has us all soaring like fireflies above a pond in the magical night air.. Delightful.

Would we know any of this about each other without writing? We are awash in unforgettable tales.

Our writing has turned us into watchers, listeners, drifters, people of the finger counting. We travel about with an invisible net ready to snare any wisp of a story, any beauty that can be etched on a page.We are no longer cleaners, scrubbers, helpers; oh, we are that, but we are also this: artists. Long may we be.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

haiku 10-11-17







                                                                        amidst the roses
                                                                 the sound of bird calls far away
                                                                         an orange leaf falls

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Kevin....always proud of you.



When we found out that there would be a third child coming to the family, I was thrilled.We had the cutest three and one year olds and I couldn't wait .I also prayed for a good person, a happy baby, because three children under the age of 4 would be a circus. He was and is.

I could have posted one of his running pictures because without a doubt he was one of the best high school/college runners in Georgia but he is so much more.There is a goodness to this man, this second son, that shines like a sunrise.

At his 20th high school reunion, he was so aware of those standing around with no one to talk with.In my mind I can see him drifting here and there, including., listening , paying attention.Kevin still weighs under 160 pounds but 100 of that is heart.I will never forget the banquet where he was to be honored for his running career with the retiring of his high school singlet. His track coach was also be honored as he moved on to a different school and no one had thought to get him a card. Kevin left and missed being  honored because his coach mean that much.

Who else would stop a run in mid stride to help a senior break sticks in her driveway, a stranger. And the dark night that I called sobbing at the airport because I was alone and my car wouldn't start, he arrived all smiles, driving through a terrific storm.

Where this kind man came from puzzles me but I used to sing this to him: "Kevin, Kevin, straight from heaven." Surrounded by Honduran children on a mission trip, he is in his happy place.Making them laugh, dancing with the old folks at a senior center, I can see it now.

Happy birthday to one of the best people that I know.Tears and love. Here they come.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

musings on the Rhine




Each time John stumbled, a person, usually a man, came forward to help push his little wheeled walker. Strangers in a strange land. Once, our enemies.

We recently went on a cruise up the Rhine river. I wish there was some way to avoid jet lag because it seems we had just recovered when the Captain was saying good-bye.The Black Forest, that deep, dark hinterland that I have longed to explore.We walked its path in the rain. Heidelberg, Cologne, magical sounding names, safe and enchanting.

The castles were stunning, the river itself, busy, quiet and clean. But what I remember now that I am home is the goodness of people.We went with a couple that we have known forever and his sister and brother-in-law.The brother-in-law, the man with the walker, has had a stroke and yet, there he was smiling and toddling along. His wife, ever attentive, ever caring and my friend Elaine, offering help despite her own desires to do this or that.

I can see my husband taking the arm of a fellow passenger , a woman struggling up a hill. More than once.

I am not a care taker but this role may fall to each of us. I hope I have the loving patience shown by these new and old friends and by a random German here and there who jumped in.

The theme for me of this cruise beyond the beauty was summed up in a small statue in a park in Cologne.We had the most delightful college-aged guide, Danielle, and the way she explained the statute to us led me to believe that it stirs her as it did me. It is a small statue on a tall pedestal and it depicts this: St.Martin of Tours  riding on a huge horse and below him is a thin naked man. Martin splits his cloak in half with his sword and gives half to the man and rides away.That night, he has a dream in which he sees Christ wearing the cloak of the beggar.Isn't that just like Christ to pop up in a dream to show us such a profound truth. Martin's life was never the same after that. "Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers".......1700 years have gone by and Martin's act still speaks.

On the last day, at the Cologne Cathedral, I bought a white rosary for John's wife and wrote her a note. .I hoped she would meet with Mary in those moments when she needed space and an oasis. I got very emotional for some reason and I am now. Mary Queen of the Angels , pray for us.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

you are my sunshine





Well, there she is, sitting in the grass, at home in the world. Our first born. The beginning of a family that stirs my heart. She loves her brothers, does Jessica. So much so that after being away at school for two years, she wanted to come home to go to Georgia State because she missed them so. Do they know that?

Brave and true. Off she went to a performing arts camp when just 15.When I called , missing her so, they found her under a bed, so homesick and yet, she went off to college in the mountains where she graduated first in her class. Determined.

The day we dropped her off at Brevard, I got in the wrong car to go home and only the growling of a large dog clued me in. I was lost and numb and thought I would never recover but I did and she did.

I always marveled at her goodness; forever seeing the good in people and helping with an open heart, guiding girl runners as a mother would, tutoring other classmates to the detriment of her own studies and cheering on her brother's many accomplishments. I used to wonder; where did this person come from, what cloud did she step off to come and be the best of us ? Jessica.

And I was not alone in seeing this. A few years back she heard from an old high school acquaintance.This young woman  just wanted Jessica to know that she had named her daughter after her. She wanted her daughter to be a good , kind, caring child of God and so she named her after the one girl she remembered as being all those things. Can you imagine the honor of hearing that ?That a beautiful girl bears your name because of your unforgettable goodness? That old friend got it right.

One Mother's Day, many years ago, she played a Jermaine Jackson  record entitled "Mother" for me.I still have the words in my treasure box. That moment touched me in a place that I guard and so I will sing a song back to her:

                                    "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
                                      you make me happy when skies are grey.
                                        you'll never know dear, how much I love you,
                                          please don't take my sunshine away."

Saturday, August 19, 2017

happy talk




Merrily, I was changing Maddie's diaper as I sang, "Happy Talk, keep talkin' happy talk, talk about things you like to do" from South Pacific. Her black eyes were watching intently and then I stopped. She looked at me, smiled , and went ca, ca, ca in the back of her throat, singing along. I knew then we would be best friends.

She is five today and we celebrate with quiet joy.She who doesn't like stickers but loves to draw.She who always has a special someone who she wants to sit by when we eat and don't count on it being you more than once a year. I gain that honor when our numbers are few. It is often her cousin McKenna, 15 , who loves her and all little ones, and always has. If you should sit by her when another has caught her eye, she will quietly tell you that she has other plans for that seat. Never embarrassing you but firm in what she wants.

Maddie is very interested in things of the spirit (and why not, she is from there) and for some reason I am the designated God person.When she is read to from her Bible book and has a question, the answer seems to be, we'll ask Grandma Graham. I find this amusing because she wanted to know why God made ears that you can't close but you can close your eyes and mouth. I got that question. Really?

The other day she asked why God made us.This caught me off guard to be sure but isn't that the first question in the old blue Baltimore Catechism? The answer then was; ", to know,  love and serve Him in this life so that we can be with Him for eternity in the next."That little book may have been the most important book that I ever owned. Anyway, I told her that God was lonely and made us so He could love us and have a family.

Recently she was visiting and I gave her some pencils and paper and she started to draw. All things purple. Tree, flower, bird and then she drew the outline of a heart in purple. I thought to say," why not fill it with pink "when she took a pink pencil and filled it in. I have it framed on my desk.

Maddie is here for a special reason as we all are.Her ancestors were intent on her being among us. I saw them praying for her. I tell her how much Mary loves her and today, I will put a small wooden rosary with colored beads into her hand, she who was born on the Feast of the Assumption. May she always be aware of the Love that charges the universe.