Tuesday, October 19, 2010

the blue notebook

In early September of this year, I went to the Trappist Monastery in Conyers,Georgia,for a retreat.The theme was to be "Finding God in Word and Image".This seemed perfect for me as I love to write and take pictures.

There were about thirty of us of different levels of interest in writing or picture taking.Some had just wanted to get away.

On the table in the front of the room were notebooks for our taking.I noticed there were some marbled composition books that had color along with the black marbling and some other plain notebooks.By the time I got to the table there was just one colored one left and I happily took it.It was blue,my sister's favorite color.

I went back to my room and began to write about the only retreat my sister and I attended together.I was heavily pregnant with my first child and missing my husband of one year,It was June 1969; where it was and whose idea it was,is lost to me.

I remember the quiet;the fountain in the middle of a lush garden.The summer sun was liquid pouring heat over our shoulders.The air was still,languid and bees lazily worked the flowers.When we went inside ,the paneled foyer flickered with small votive candles.It felt like an embrace in warm,scented arms.I remember this so well.What spiritual benefits we gained I cannot say but I know this;I missed my husband and savored the time with my sister.Sharing our usual skewed humor,we passed the days in delight.

In a year or so,my family of three moved to Colorado.Time,distance and misunderstanding drove a wedge between my sister and I that only dissolved as she lay dying 39 years later.So many years of laughter and delight missed.This is my burden,I wrote.

At the next session, someone mentioned that when she is troubled,writing releases her and takes her pain away.I said that I wished that was how it worked for me and I explained about the blue notebook and the retreat and I fought tears.

After the session,a lovely young woman asked if she could pray with me.We went to the church,she knowing nothing of the burden of my regret.As we held hands,tears flowed and we were in a scared space beyond the church.She left me and I knelt to thank God for her caring prayer.These words then flooded my heart,"All the missed time will be given back to you".I was stunned.I never, ever considered this.I have no idea what that really means,how this will be, but a lightness filled me as I walked outside.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

the pict cross

On the wall of the St. Machar's Cathedral in Aberdeen is a block of stone held by four black spikes.On the face of the stone is what is described as a pict cross dated 580 A.D.The stone was found in a dyke in 1923,somewhere in the city ,and was turned over to King's College who loaned it to the Cathedral.

I couldn't stop staring at it.This carving was done over 1400 years ago and is still here.How many things can that be said about? What tools were used to make the smooth grooves?How many years was it hidden in that dyke as just another piece of stone? Was the artist a believer or had he been commissioned?I think it is still here because it was a labor of love.

I visualize approaching the artist as he worked.Long stringy hair hides his eyes.He is in his late 30s and probably will not live past his 40s but at this moment he is strong and very focused on gently hammering the stone.His muscles ripple and he is thin and wiry.I sit on a log next to him and try to speak.He turns and his face shows puzzlement.The Pict language he speaks will die out and I have no way to communicate.He sees my laptop and I want to tell him that I am e-mailing my family in America.He would think ,"What is America?"It would be 1200 years before the United States will exist.How to explain 9-11? Tall, glass buildings;airplanes flown by Saudis ? This man has never seen a book.His concerns are getting enough peat or wood for a winter fire,food for his family and finishing his cross.

What did that cross mean to the man? Over 500 years,on foot, boat, horse, the gospel had been carried from the Middle East to Scotland.And its symbol was now being carved by this simple man.What was his understanding of its meaning ?How different or similiar is the faith that we share?So many questions.

I love old things.The Book of Kells in Dublin was transcribed in beautiful color in 800 A.D.It is in Dublin at Trinity College and you may view it for two seconds before you are urged to move on because of the crowds.My family Bible, which was given by my grandfather to my grandmother in 1890,rests on my table.My great-grandfather sent letters home from his ships during the the Civil War dated 1860 through 1865.I have had them laminated to keep them intact for another 500 years.Things that last.