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.

Friday, August 18, 2017

small blessings

My mother didn't have an easy life living with an alcoholic and often mean tempered husband, but what I noticed, even when young, was that she had a cheery disposition. That was who she as, someone who viewed life with sunny eyes. I think she passed that gene down to me. I am grateful beyond measure that my mind doesn't regularly slide into despairing thoughts. What a burden that must be.To be fine one minute and then although nothing has changed, a gloom descends and shoulders slump and bear.

So it is that I recall waking up on three different days, over several years, feeling the blahs. Just an off feeling buzzing around in my brain . One time, a pale pink, newly blooming,  Catherine Woodbury lily met me on the way to my car and smiled up at me as if to say: "Really ? Look at me, so pale pink and fluffy as a cloud tinged with the sunset, and you can be glum?" I almost laughed and went happily on my way.

The second time I remember  this happening,  I went out onto our porch early one morning and there was a newly emerged monarch butterfly. Absolutely stunning, as it hung from the plant where it had attached itself 900 miles away in New York.The chrysalis had endured the long ride home in a bouncing, blowy old truck and there it was. I had seen a green stem-like thing hanging off the plant and had almost flicked it off. In all its orange and black glory, this butterfly didn't have to say a word.

The other day , it happened again, right on time. Next to a red, pink and green Caladium that we  planted because some Caladium corms we ordered hadn't come up, were a few little green and red shoots. When I bent down to dig it up and put this small colorful plant in better soil, I realized it was laying on top of the hard ground with one small shoot below. The forgotten corm had sprouted in the worst possible soil. I plucked it up and put it in my window box where I tend it lovingly.

I can't help but hum the old Shaker hymn, Simple Gifts" and think of these words.

.                                     ........"and when we find ourselves in the place just right, 
                                             'twill be in the valley of love and delight,
                                                  When true simplicity is gained.."

An affirmation came in prayer on August 14:

"Joy is your birthright as a daughter of the Kingdom. What you put in as holy works, you take out as flashes of joy.Keep looking for the small blessings designed only for you." 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

I loved that cat....

One of the highlights of our trip to Scotland for me was the cat.

If you don't keep a journal now, I would say " please start." Mysteries happen that can only be seen when we look back.

We arrived in Aberdeen in September of 2010 and I noticed, over the next couple of days, that I was having vivid, unforgettable dreams which I transcribed in my journal. Here is one of the first:

Sunday, 9-12-2010 :

 "'My whole family and I were getting out of bed to stretch. My little grey and white cat (which I don't own) was playing with us and I kept an eye on him to be sure he didn't run away.
  Then, Juanita came over to tell me of the money gift that she received from her boss, which enabled her to buy lunch out and then a statue of Mary. She was so happy, she kept saying: "she's white and she's my lady". I was glad for her but tried to concentrate on the cat and stretching."

As I look at that dream it seems like a true telling of what was important to me; running, animals, and then maybe, in an off hand way, Mary.

What comes next has only been revealed as extraordinary because I reread my notes, looking for something else that happened on the trip. On the 16th , we were on the other side of Scotland, on the Isle of Skye. John went off for a hike and I was happy to sit in a small park outside our B and B and write in my journal and read. A young man , Scott,  from Glasgow came by and asked me if the cat that was sitting in my lap was mine. I laughed and said:  "No, he just appeared, hopped up and we are keeping each other warm." The cat stayed for an hour until it rained and I went in. The next day, as we waited at the bus stop, he came by and sat on the bench until we left. I have never had an experience like that before and you will note his colors.

I must tell you that I never made a connection to the dream that happened four days before until I read over my old journal notes. How mysterious. I loved that cat and think of him often but he was a sign .His appearance and that dream is the second bead of a rosary story that spans 13years.

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 led 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