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.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

baby blue bird

    stumbling and tumbling 

                                                               new from a square wooden box

                                                                      the baby bluebird

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

lost and found

One of the Joyful mysteries of the Rosary focuses on the story of Mary and Joseph looking for Jesus and finding him in the temple but only after three days of frantic searching. This story always brings to mind two things; when my oldest son was lost at the beach and my own lostness.

This is a mystery that evokes gratitude. And that is where it takes me every time. I had gone to a small beach with four year old daughter and my two year old son near where we were living in Georgia. I never liked doing this as I was nervous the whole time.This is water after all and they were just little children. I remember the day so clearly. I had brought a People magazine which I never intended to read because my eyes had to be glued to those little bodies. But this time , just for a minute, I read a few lines.When I looked up, my son was gone.The feeling that came over me was hard to describe; a prickly rush went up my spine and my mind went blank.What do I do? I got up and looked around and saw only my daughter. Do I start screaming? What? I headed for the water and out of the corner of my eye, here came my sweet boy with his big smile.Without a care, coming from I don't know where, he was miraculously there. My relief and joy was without end. I feel it now.

My own lostness, chasing illusions and empty things to fill the God size hole in my heart would take a longer writing. I just hum Amazing Grace and know that, for all of us, grace is available to find our way back. Another reason to be grateful.

These things came to mind as I pondered something that happened yesterday as I left the Goodwill store. I went to stock up on treasures and I had found many.I was happy when leaving, especially after getting the senior discount. As I walked to my car this thought came with great force;"You are going to find something soon."Well, I figured a dime might be on the ground, or I would find a penny and consider it a gift from the Creator. Instead, while putting the bags in the back, there it was , the earring that I had lost the Sunday before after church. How it got there, I don't know since I always sit in the front. An earring you say? Big deal ! But it actually was because I was very sad about this particular earring that my wonderful daughter-in-law had made for me from some beads I found in a thrift store.I always think of her with love when I wear them.The earrings are silver with three small blue beads hanging down on thin links, so perfect. And it was gone. How did I know that I was going to find something special? It is a mystery to add to the others.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

high on a lonely cliff edge

His story haunts me. The tale of a wanderer who had seen beauty and couldn't live without it.

I can't  remember how I stumbled upon Everett Reuss, his art and poetry. He, though brought up in California, found himself in the Southwest, and was so smitten by what he saw that he lived for going back. . With a glint in his eye , and art supplies in his pack, he left his family, bought two burros and drifted across the desert like an aimless tumbleweed. Through New Mexico, Colorado, Utah  and Arizona.; he would be gone for months and then show up to restock and take off again. His first solo trip commenced when he was 17. I imagine him now in things like a hawk circling above on a breeze or on a windblown, desert trail.

In Everett, I see my son Sean, my last child,  who was never as much at home as he was on the Flint River and now in the deserts of West Texas. He made a film once when he was 15 years old about the Flint that flowed behind our house.The hours he spent exploring the woods and river created the man he is today. A wanderer, teacher, explorer, who takes students to Mexico looking for undiscovered species of snakes and lizards. I can feel his excitement, see the glint in his eyes as he packs for the next adventure and I worry about the desert.

Everett's poetry and art are not regarded as more than average by some, but I see them with my own eyes, those of a minor would be drifter. Everett was full of life and had no confusion over what  he wanted to do. There were no  roots to be put down beside a stream for him. His was the wanderer's path.He sought out beauty and tried to express it; his works touch me.

The following is the last paragraph of a poem that he wrote when he was 15.It is a moving and heart-breaking harbinger of a short and well lived life. It is called "Pledge to the Wind"
.."By the strength of my arm, by the sight of my eyes,
By the skill of my fingers, I swear,
As long as life dwells in me, never will I
Follow any way but the sweeping of the wind"

In 1934, the poet and artist disappeared among the red rocks of Utah and has never been found. He was 21.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

we soar together

The scene before me takes my breath away. The enchanting colors, turquoise, deep green ,stunning white.I am drawn in by the stillness.The cranes are regal, guardians of this oasis. They are elders who stand in silence.They seem so centered and composed, as I watch from the bank. I want to wade out to them with my toes in the mud and stand stone still beside them. I long to look in their yellow eyes and see what wisdom is there as a gentle breeze ruffles our feathers.

A crane will sleep standing in the water, so the story goes, with a stone held in the one claw that he keeps up by his side.If he falls deeply asleep, the claw will open, the stone plops and he awakens to alertness again. .Aesop told the tale of a peacock taunting the more bland crane about his lack of beauty.The crane answers that he, unlike the earth bound peacock, can soar to the heavens and what price can one put on that?.

The crane is a popular symbol in Asian culture.There is a practice of making chains of paper cranes for good luck, healing,  happiness and success and taking them as offerings to shrines and temples..How lovely. If you see a crane flying, it may be drawing your eyes to the heavens, lifting your spirits and inspiring you to trust in the universe.If you notice one standing, it may be advising vigilance and alertness.

Soon, I notice one of the cranes bending to fly and  I creep like a child unto his back and hold on to his feathered shoulders. As he lifts, for a second my breath leaves at such height, but I settle in and we are drifting, flowing , free to ascend.We are over the trees now and I want to just rest here and go wherever this creature takes me.I feel so free and alive.

My crane is the Spirit and I have turned my soul over to it; my destination and safety are in His hands.I have no idea where I am going, but we, all of us, are made for this journey.My hands grab the tops of His wings and we soar.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

the last time I saw Paris..

Where else can you spend 86 dollars on two truffle omelets and juice? And I actually read the sign in the window telling the price in French, did the math and still ate there anyway. Delicious.

Paris is the city of poets, painters and kisses galore.The buildings are low, pace is slow  and everyone you see looks relaxed.This is not the New York of tall skyscrapers and business; Paris is love, museums, cafes, bridges, a clean river. We stayed in a small room where the bed touched both walls that year in September. Hemingway's ghost kept drifting along the avenues we trod.

Some memories linger: the moments of prayer in Notre Dame where despite the din of Japanese tourists, I felt God's presence as I gazed up toward the rose colored window.The trip to Giverny, Monet's home.The lovely pink stucco walls and green shutters of that house made me so happy.The ponds, the tired fall gardens, an enchanted place.We went to Versailles where those same tourists inside the palace made me hastily head for the gardens where I sat on a stone bench under a sweet willow and read the psalms.Nearby a young artist in a blue blouse and khaki skirt with hair twirled on her head, was drawing with such amazing concentration; it was a scene I will never forget.

So when we were deciding where to go for our anniversary, Paris beckoned.  Reservations were made for a small studio apartment in a courtyard with potted trees.The pictures looked lovely.I couldn't wait to write at the little wrought iron table in that small enclosed space; me and Hemingway's ghost. But Paris is no longer the City of Light but one of riots, fires and attacks on women.I have cancelled my dream.

So many places I wanted to see; Louveciennes, to gaze down the alley where Sisley painted that lonely figure in the snow, the Louvre, Sacre Coeur. Instead, we are heading for the wide open skies of Montana, New Mexico and perhaps some of the Lewis and Clark Trail.I am now getting excited about this and a coincidence happened that leads me to believe what we are doing is the right path. I had mentioned to John that I wanted to go to Chimayo in New Mexico, a place with a small chapel and sacred healing sand that has mystical properties, it is said. An hour later, someone on the prayer group that I joined wrote about praying and lighting a candle at that very place the day before. Her prayers were for each one of us on that Rosary group site.How wonderful, how affirming.

....Adieu, dear Paris, the last time I saw you , your  heart was warm and gay.No matter how they change you,, I'll remember you that way.

Friday, March 24, 2017

happiness in rivers

The woods have finally lost their winter grey and here and there is the light green of spring. How gratifying to see this every year.The lone turkey who comes to my window is no longer moping as he has a lady friend.This new relationship causes his brown sunlit plumage to flair out in a protective, threatening way. He is at his strutting best and I am happy for him. It's spring and thoughts turn to love.

An old friend from New York has a grandson that has recently been diagnosed with a terrible condition. It is not life threatening but it will limit his life profoundly and he just turned two years old.This is a beautiful boy with blond curls and big brown eyes.The road ahead looks so grim and empty. I struggle to understand what his life will be like and how he will be cared for. This is a stone lying on my heart.

In prayer, I received this heartening answer which I hold unto amid the swirling waters of sadness: "This child will  be cared for and will know My love and Me for his whole life.The people who will suffer mostly in this situation are those who don't know Me.They need your prayers."

I wasn't going to write about this until  today when I found something that Thomas Merton wrote about the Prodigal Son story that felt so in line with all of this...." the lost sheep, the lost drachma, the Prodigal Son.Our dearest Lord is showing that he means everything about the fatted calf and the rejoicing to be taken literally, that He means to pour out every kind of happiness in rivers upon those who ran away from His Mercy but could not escape it."All saints, pray for us.