Friday, May 28, 2010

the mission

As we sit on the grey stone bench,a squirrel comes over for his peanut.He is not shy nor is he in a hurry.He seems at peace in the shade.We never tire of this oasis.Tall trees shade joggers as they make their way through the mission property.Shorter trees and bushes have been planted in memory of a loved one.In the chapel I found a Mother's Day card,put there by a family for their sister,mother,friend,who had passed on;left in love in this holy place.

While writing in my journal on our last visit,I gazed around.Things that give me a special joy were all there.The bell above the arched door of the small chapel.In my mind I hear it calling believers to kneel in peace with it's slight small ringing.The blue stained glass windows in arched casements.What monk made these beautiful little pieces ?Did he pray for those who would see the sunlight turn blue coming onto the chapel floor ?The vine covered chapel itself was warmed on this cool day by the lighted candles and the breaths of those who prayed.The benches placed here and there along the path drew me.Benches are for resting, praying, writing and stillness.Statues of angels keep us company as we walk the path through the trees.The breeze feels good on our cheeks.

This sacred acre in Florida is called the Mission De Nombre De Dios,Mission of the Name of God,in St.Augustine.The first Mass was celebrated on American soil in September of 1565 on this spot.It has history. My thoughts go in this direction:What name do I call God? What words do I use to say who He is to me?

Beauty....Company....Stillness....Loved One...Peace...Oasis.....Joy...Holy,Holy,Holy.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

the perfect gift

My wonderful youngest son is about to get his doctorate in biology and the way this all worked out just astounds me.A small thing can make such a difference.

When he was 6 years old, my mother mailed his Christmas present to us in Georgia.It was a large Golden book about dinosaurs that had wonderful colored pictures and script that told everything you would ever want to know about those incredible creatures.He just sat there ,enchanted to think that they once walked on the earth.He was bitten by the nature bug and wanted to know more.

In 1985,he and I went to Maggy Valley,N.C. for a few days when he was 8 years old and there found a small zoo that had a book store.As we wandered around,I picked up a nature guide on reptiles and amphibians that cost 13 dollars.I rarely spent money back then but I so wanted for him to have it.I walked around the store thinking long and hard on the expense and finally bought it.He was immediately hooked on finding all the species in the book.He still has that book, held together with duct tape;it has been used more than any other book in the history of literature.

How wonderful to begin to know your life's work at a young age and have the focus,determination and intelligence to pursue it.

When we were kids,my sister and I used to laugh at my mother's gifts. Mea culpa.I recall the year when I was 15 that I got a red wallet with my name and a large ruby(not real) on the outside.Yuck.One year my sister burst into tears when she got a coat for Christmas instead of a much wanted watch,.Then there were the brown slippers shaped like bear's claws.Oh, my.
Ingrates,both of us.

I still have his dinosaur book and wish that my mother could be at his graduation to see what she began with her wonderful gift.Thanks,Mom.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

When in Rome...

I didn't like Rome. O.K., I know it's the Eternal City and the seat of the Church but I found it to be irritating.It was June of 2003 and I got a sunburn walking in the shade on the streets.The motorcyclists didn't care who was crossing the roads;they aimed for pedestrians.It's noisy and not very clean.BUT,

As we walked to the convent where we were to spend several nights, I passed an old, gray stone wall with a pipe that gushed water into a stone basin.This aqueduct came from the Italian mountains and was put there before Christ and the water is cold and simply delicious.This pipe has been bringing water to this street for over 2000 years.I was impressed.

And then there is this:the community of Sant'Egidio,a group founded in 1968 by a 19 year old, Andrea Riccardi, who decided to put the gospel into practice.And they have since,this group of ordinary people who feed and befriend the poor,teach school children and just go into the neglected places in Rome to do whatever needs to be done.

They meet once a week in the incredibly beautiful Church of Saint Mary in Travestere and we joined in their prayers and praise one beautiful evening.There are now groups of these people doing their work in more than 30 countries.We never hear of them,but it warms me to think of what they do and how they started;inspired by a 19 year old.

St.Peter's Basilica has to be seen to be believed but that is not what touched me,it's size and beauty.It was on the two occasions that I went down below the church to the dark ancient tomb of St.Peter.I knelt down on a hard wooden bench.There was a line to kneel so I couldn't stop for long.I knelt next to a stranger, a middle aged man in a brown jacket and slacks who had his face in his hands ,weeping.I prayed for him in support of whatever he was feeling.Then I left.

Before we departed Rome ,I again went to the tomb and knelt next to a different man who was unabashedly crying.I had trouble believing it.Again ?What were they thinking? Why were they so moved? I will never know but I wonder if it doesn't have to do with betrayal;perhaps theirs and the saint's.Or maybe they were given hope by this stumbling and cowardly disciple who yet gained salvation.

It is only in the writing that I see the hidden wonders of Rome.I can only imagine what else I might have missed as I focused on the heat and the rude drivers.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Gwen, desks and a stone....

I love the English painter,Gwen John.Her best known work, "Corner of the Room" speaks to me in so many ways.The colors are subtle,a small violet on a desk, a window with white sheer cutains,pale yellow walls ,a wooden desk and to make the scene more homey,a blue shawl on the wicker-like chair.This is a writer's corner.

Writers love desks, especially ones with some character.I purchased one in 2005 at a now defunct shop in Woodstock,N.Y.for ten dollars.It was left outside,has gashes,peeling paint.Wouldn't I love to know who owned it before me ?Did they love blank paper, pens and quiet?

Adding to the uniqueness of this purchase, when the shop owner ,who is a welder by trade, heard that we were from Georgia ,she grabbed her guitar and sang "Georgia On My Mind",down by the stream.I teared up.

This desk is meant for stories.

After I write a story, I own that person, place or object,that memory, in a new way.I have gone deeper to the roots and moved them around,looked closely and found the true meaning for me.I can't find this truth any other way.

This new truth has been called out of my center where the Spirit lives and I can no longer see just a wind chime, painting ,lilacs.They have spoken something new to me.If I shed tears over a chime that whispers to me of my sister ,that thing becomes holy.

On my desk is a plain grey stone,picked up on a trip to Germany in 1997.I took it from under a bench that was a quarter of a mile from the Bed and Breakfast that was our home for the night.I had taken a bike ride with my book of Psalms and sat in the deep shade of an oak next to the path.This time of just sitting and praying seemed like a miracle to me.I gazed across the field and could see the lady who was our hostess.She was stooped and bent over her garden in the hot sun.No shade for her.

An impression came and would not leave;a request from the One whose praise is sung in my psalms.I wrestled for a minute;the breeze,the oak and the bench were so agreeable.I gathered my stuff,rode back to the B&B,got a glass of cold water and went to the garden to offer my help.The hostess politely declined and went back to her gardening.I had carried out my mission.

This stone is more than that,it points to a moment."Every moment is holy not soil the moments."-Gwen John, painter 1876-1939

Sunday, May 2, 2010

sing, wind chime

The porch where I type is screened and looks out over our back yard.As I gaze around all I see are trees.A large box turtle is sitting in the grass and I put a blackberry out for him.He just sits in the sun;his shell is light brown from dried mud and he must have come up from the floodplain.He is in no hurry and neither am I.

To my right is a small garden that is shaded by a Japanese maple tree.The tips of the branches are light green and the rest of the leaves are darker.In the fall, the leaves turn brilliant red and then you must notice this smallish,shy tree.I have made this my memory garden.My yellow lab, who we had to put down two years ago had a silver collar and it now hangs and rusts on a branch.Another branch has an ornament that is a Celtic angel playing a harp that was my mother's.It sways gently in the breeze.The clay cross was a gift from my precious niece who went to Sedona,Arizona.She breaths out generosity to the all who know her, and this cross brings her essence to my tree.

Under the tree, which gently shades the area,is a bog garden that my youngest son created.He brought plants and bushes that he admires when he canoes along the river so that I could see and enjoy them.Cardinal flowers that are a startling red attract hummingbirds and the sugar bush has purple straw flowers that are just so unique one must admire them.He worked hard to put all that in and it is the base for all the rest.

I had nothing that I could hang that was a momento of my sister until I found a wind chime with an amethyst stone that hangs in its center .This was her February birthstone.The purple plastic circle at the end of the middle string also calls to mind her favorite flower,the lilac.There is a song,"Jeannine, I Dream of Lilac Time".I think my mother named her after that very old song.So now this chime hangs in the tree.My sister lived to create beauty and she would have loved the colors.

The card that came with the wind chime says that the Amethyst represents the Crown Chakra,which is related to thought and self-knowledge.This stone also enhances peace of mind,and bestows stability,strength and contentment.Where she is now,she is bathed in these things and more and when the gentle chime sings I am reminded of this.