Sunday, June 25, 2017

Rose of Hildesheim

How did I not know about this; about this wonderful rose bush that has been blooming in Germany for over a thousand years ? It hugs the wall of an old cathedral in Hildesheim and although the church was destroyed in a bombing raid in World War 11, this rose bush managed to survive.

I have to tell my granddaughter about it. She and I talk about important things . I want her to know about this Cathedral which is dedicated to Our Lady's Assumption into Heaven and this rose bush which has survived for so long.She is five years old; will a thousand years mean much to her?

It is a struggle to keep my knock out roses blooming and I have had them for just a few years.I despise using poison but the black spot, Japanese beetles and other insects terrorize my garden. In fact, as I look out, the first green beetle of the summer is dining on a leaf. The desert heat of summer in Georgia doesn't help either.I try to imagine the strength of this particular bush that blooms and thrives.

The Feast of the Assumption is celebrated by the Church on August 15th which is also my Maddie's birthday.I can't tell you how beautiful Maddie is with her big black eyes, her long black wavy hair and her serious look. She will be getting a colorful wooden child's rosary for her birthday .At Mass last Sunday, I suggested that she talk to Mary in her mind. She looked puzzled and then said ;"show me".So I closed my eyes and talked to my Mother and wondered if she could understand what I was doing. She, Mary and I have this connection ..

I am sure that I will never see the wonderful German rose bush  but knowing it is there gives me inordinate pleasure.To complete the circle, my mother, whose green and gold beads were never far from her hands, passed away on the feast of the Assumption, August 15th, in 1996.

As we approach the green sward that leads to the cathedral wall,; I hold an old gnarled hand and a sweet smooth one. We approach with quiet reverence. Although Maddie is only a little girl, she is subdued as if she knows we are doing something special. My mother knows that this moment means much to me and I am so happy that she is with us. We bow at the age and hardiness of this plant and ask that it will continue to thrive and I pray this in gratitude:

"Mary, protect my sweet girl, hold her to your breast and guide her life. I am so glad that she is my granddaughter. For the mother with the green beads, eternal gratitude for her faithfulness to your Son. For your unexpected entrance into my life in so many ways, Mary, I consecrate myself to you."

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

oh, the places you will go..

Safe spaces, that's a constant theme when college kids are faced with a challenging thought or two.Where can I go and hide? I actually think that this response is probably the first one when confronted with danger.If a bear were chasing me, I would look for a huge carved out log and crawl inside.Wouldn't you ?Ah, a safe place.
I have a wonderful postcard of a hero's safe space,  Rob Roy's cave on Loch Lomond in Scotland: one can see the cleft in the jagged rocks where he would slip in and wait. Safe.

When I was a kid, riding on the U.S.S. Chaos with my four family members, I found a way to escape. I so enjoyed going to bed because there, in my mind, I entered a place I called 'thinkland" where I was in charge and could have anything I wanted. As I type this, I see how important it must have been for a shy, powerless, unworthy girl to have some control. In Thinkland, I steered the ship and all came to me at my beck and call. I would go into a large house and each room was filled with anything I desired. It was organized by room. Exquisite fabrics in one; silk, gold and red, satin yellow and blue, mauve gauzy material, all mine to play with and feel.That for some reason was my favorite. Other rooms with perfect colorful gems, all for me. Bright red rubies, gorgeous sparkling purple amethysts, diamonds to wear, turquoise rings.  .Any jewel that I could imagine belonged to me. Those are the two rooms I remember. Perhaps another held hundreds of dollhouses or another, Nancy Drew books.A room with beautiful music playing. Oh, the pleasure of walking from room to room in my thoughts.

I wonder now if this wasn't a form of prayer, as shallow as it seems.Now that I pray for the desires of my heart, wasn't "thinkland" a trip there? Was I lead to do this musing by a benevolent Spirit who knew that I needed some brightness in the haze of sadness all around? I think so and what's more, as I reflect back, there was much beauty sustaining me that at the time I took for granted.

I will now add them to the house.:

A room full of pale purple lilacs that grew next to the house that never failed to produce blossoms whose scent would make a marble statue swoon.
A side porch of Lily of the Valley that grew by the front door whose scent transported .
A front stoop with of a passel of good kids, friends, who never failed to bring the enjoyment of sports and the joy of laughter.
Azaleas, red, orange, white all clustered around the front to the house, never failing to appear in May.
A room where faith was taught that gave hope in the dismal times.A radio program called, I Heard the Master Speak.

Our thoughts are heard, our prayers are heard and we are loved and lifted beyond measure and the only response can be, Deo Gracias.

Art -Fairy Land-Tom Anholt

Saturday, June 17, 2017

live gently, oh dragonfly.

  When I take time to sit in my garden, I am always rewarded by something; a color, a bird, and often a visit. A dragonfly will perch on the steel pole that anchors the hose. I like to think it is checking me out,  another garden sprite like him,  but it may be the heat feels good to its delicate feet. I have seen brown, green and even a special color of blue on their bodies.When I was a kid we called them darning needles.Who knows why?

The dragonfly will be so still, so poised with their transparent , delicate wings occasionally changing position  for balance.What is the world to them as they pose? Where do they go in winter and what is their life span? From reading, I see that this insect's lifespan is 7 months so no need to worry about winter. I saw a dead one the other day curled up in the dirt. Sad.

Eighty percent of the dragonfly's brain is taken up with sight and it can see 360 degrees around. In some cultures, it is thought that it's appearance signifies change, and an uninhibited vision of the mind and an ability to see beyond the limitations of the human self. Such a rich interpretation of this wonderful creature and so it is that this all comes together, this meditation.

In prayer, I was given this: 

"When the time comes each step will be revealed. Each builds on each and nowhere is a moment of grace lost. It is all around. It seeps through every moment , every thing . It shines as it seeps but only those who look for it can see it.
Your work is to reveal it subtly, warmly, lovingly, in the places where you are put. Be gentle in those places, gentle also with yourself. Your job is to be there, show up while the grace flows. Peace and no worries."

Friday, June 9, 2017

desecration and redemption..

Kusama-Fireflies on the Water

It was a sunny, mild June day when we arrived at the mountain cabin. The first thing we did, as always, was to go to the small pond down the road to look for beaver.My young son had often said that this beautiful spot was his favorite place in the world. Surrounded by his three huge favorite maples,  it was a shaded paradise. His freckled face beamed whenever we talked about it .We only went to the cabin once a year, so this trip to the pond was special.

As we started to approach, something seemed very wrong. There was the pond, but two of the trees had been chopped down and lay in pieces around the pond. My young son sat down on a log and started to cry. He was inconsolable over this desecration. He turned and ran to his room in the cabin. As slow as a funeral procession, I walked back alone, sat at the old kitchen table and mourned.

As I often do, I started to read some psalms and then write in my journal. My hand flew across the blank pages with words of wisdom that were not mine:.

"Take heart, this is a most important lesson. How much empathy do you have for those who have suffered a loss greater than the death of two trees? Talk to your son about some losses you have had.Tell him about the card you sent to an acquaintance who almost died in surgery and how that note brought a wonderful new friend into your life. See if he remembers the sympathy card that meant so much to you that your other children sent when your special friend, the Lab, had to be put down. Use this heart break to lead your young son to understand that he has the power to help those suffering as he is suffering. Ask if he would like to help to plant two new trees, renewing the pond place with your own hands. Do you see the beauty of living ?"

I wiped my tears, and called my son to the table. In my mind I could see the acts of empathy that we could do, together or apart, as a field of bright lighted fireflies, dancing and following our souls into eternity.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

we have given our hearts away...

St.Kevin and the Blackbird.-Michael Cook.

The Creator must have a special place in his heart for the blackbird.

I once saw a squirrel try to rescue a blackbird who was trapped under the claws of a hawk four times his size. Like a tiger, he charged the hawk who released the blackbird only to catch him in mid-flight. I will never forget this action, this seeming kindness by the furry grey animal that steals our bird food.

Today is the feast of St.Kevin. My second son bears his name.This Celtic saint of 1400 years ago had an encounter with a female blackbird who started to build her nest in his palm, outstretched in prayer. Seeing her efforts, he held his arms out til the baby birds fledged. I love that story.

It does seem a bit of a stretch doesn't it ? But the saint was a real pray-er, hours of it and he withdrew from all contact to keep the connection with God firm and all important. Off he would go, into the woods for years but always someone would find him. Maybe he glowed. He would eventually be dragged back to preach about what he had found in God's presence. He founded a monastery in Glendalough, Ireland and brought Christ to the thousands of pilgrims who made their way there in the 600s A.D.

As I contemplate the long gone Kevin, words of a poem keep coming to mind:.

"The world is too much with us: late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;-
Little we see in nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon.".....

Standing at Wordsworth's grave in England two years ago, I could  hear his words, smell his golden daffodils. The quiet under those tall trees was Wordsworth quiet.The meandering stream across the way knew his gaze. Poets and saints, they know.

In my mind is a painting. It is an American woman in her fifties, sitting on a rock circle in Glendalough where the quiet was a pale blue. A yellow September sun shone around her and with eyes closed she prayed, overlaying hers with the many that Kevin had uttered. Knowing peace that could only be described as a Presence, she wanted to put down green spreading roots and never leave. Along came a young British girl who sat down for a chat. Our older tourist looked up, nodded, and engaged. (You never know when a bird might land in your hand.)

The world is always too much with us. Rambling William knew, holy Kevin knew. But those who seek that quiet, that solitude, have much to say when they come back.

Monday, May 29, 2017

walking through the gate

Gateway Tangier-Tanner

A slight breeze grazes my cheek as I stand with uncertainty at the gate.The sun is beyond and here, the chatter of voices , the grinding of wheels, are checked by the walls around me.The blues and other soft colors are as refreshing and comforting as a spring rain. Everything here is so familiar and under my control but a nagging voice keeps asking for more. Go out, let go, let Me handle everything. Be alert, and follow.

I don't know for how long I knew that I was being asked for more than just weekly church, good deeds and prayer. When did I realize that I was using all these "good" things to keep a distance between me and the One who wanted everything? The date of capitulation is unknown to me. The hour when I decided to jump off that cliff and fly through the air, trusting that strong arms awaited. It had taken at least 7 years to realize that all my small little hidden corners could be exposed to the light without  me, myself, disappearing.

So here I am, His servant. Watching in wonder at the things that has been asked. Start a writing group.Me?Start a prayer group. Me? And as if a wall has been breached, that step into the sun has lead me to places never thought of. There is a plan. A good plan. A perfect plan that once assented to can change everything.
Or we can go our own way, never knowing the best.

I once told an old friend that God loves us and has a perfect plan.Those words changed his life. Powerful words, life saving words.I have walked through the gate to tell you that.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

study in marigolds

Study in Marigolds , Gwen John
There are simple moments that define who we become. Moments when a "yes" is said and you can trace a pattern for good or ill.

It was such a moment when my 15 year old oldest son asked his older sister if he could join her friends on a trip to the ice skating rink at Stone Mountain. He had been hanging with some friends that I didn't care for and when she said yes, I was thrilled.Jessica had found a peer group by joining the cross country team and these were good kids who worked hard at being the best they could be in that sport. I saw her hesitate when he asked and then nod in assent.I was proud of her and of him for asking .Shortly after that, he joined the team and by the end of his first season had run an awesome mile time.He and she still run to this day.In his heart he knows that this decision to run probably saved his life in many ways.

Another "yes" comes to mind that I had forgotten.When my youngest son was 9 or 10, he and I went to Maggie Valley,S.C. to stay for a few days in a cabin by a small lake.Nearby was the Soho Zoo, a place of refuge for snakes and other herps. At the zoo, was a small gift shop. We wandered around and then my son spotted a Petersen's Field guide to Reptiles and Amphibians and asked if he could have it. My habit, even after going to work ,was to spend as little money as possible on anything. I recall the price of 13 dollars seemed like a lot.Sean told me later that I kept wandering around the store with the book and a tight mouth and furrowed brow until I finally said yes.It is true that this small book changed a boy's life and gave him a passion that he still holds for the natural world. At that age, he became a scientist and he now teaches young adults to honor and respect all of the natural world.

The above painting, "Study in Marigolds" by Gwen John caught my eye as I looked for a piece of art to bring a story to my mind. In her later years , Gwen followed her lover, Rodin, to a town in France where she began dropping into Mass to sketch young girls in their Breton costumes. Eventually, she said "yes" to the love of God who was embracing her in the quiet of her desperate life. She left us with a quote that touches me to my depths;

"Every moment is holy; don't soil the moments.".

I was so delighted to come across this simple painting of hers; these marigolds of such subtle colors. Did she love them as I do?

The first shoots appeared and my joy was uncontained.The plain black dirt was being brought to life from the dead looking seeds that I had planted in a small patch on Long Island. I was 11 when my mother had assented to my request to buy three packets of seeds; marigolds, nasturtiums and bachelor buttons.The first to appear were the marigolds and I have a cache of them here by the door of my Georgia home. When I got older, I recall thanking my mother more than once for investing that dollar in my new passion, one that grabbed my heart in that sprouting moment and has never let go.This story is for you, Mom.