Saturday, December 31, 2011

The sanctuary


It could be said that God's foot is so vast
that this entire earth is but a
field on His toe,

and all the forests in this world
came from the same root of just
a single hair
of His.

What then is not a sanctuary?
Where then can I not kneel
and pray at a shrine
made holy by His
presence.

St.Catherine of Siena

Friday, December 30, 2011

simple


Let this blow through your heart:

"Do not seek perfection in a changing world.Instead,perfect your love."Buddha

And how can I do this?Right now,I would love a cup of lemon grass green tea.Perhaps my husband would like one,so I will ask,and serve it with a gentle pat on the hand.
A small thing but I need to look out for opportunities in 2012...another resolution.

I have aleardy started one of my pledges;I prayed outside at the picnic table near the twelve puppie's pen and the crows noticed me in a loud fashion.The pups,strays, born under our shed, are like children outside ,tumbling,grunting,falling and tousling each other.A month ago, we didn't know they existed and now we are their feeding fools,three times a day.I guess that's a kind of love....

Spirit,help me to be a deep,cool,green and blue bottomless pool of love.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

a new year coming


I will try to remember to pick up my begging bowl each day and hold it out.Casting an eagle eye on all that happens,I will notice and record in my journal.If hard rain falls into my wooden bowl,I will not pour it out or throw it to the winds.I will feel the rain and let it lead me by the hand to wisdom and trust.I will thank God for it and it will not take me months to do this.

I will read more scripture each day and let it churn inside me and speak to me on that day even though I have read it before.The Word is alive and changes in It's
message as I change.

I will sit outside in the sun even when it is cold as the birds are always there and isn't it sad that their chorus should play to an empty theater.And a walk to the river at least once a week to just to watch the meandering brown water.

I will be more attentive to friendships.On every page of my journal, I will name a friend and write why I am grateful for what they bring to my life.Focusing on the important things.A friend of 35 years just called to invite us for dinner on January 1st.They will be praised on that first page of the 2012 journal.

This is a good start...will you tell me your resolutions?....

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

the center


Today, two different voices gave me permission to keep writing about the Christmas season.The first friend lives on the beautiful Hudson River.I can see her at her writing table with the cold,crisp New York air blowing outside,her shining hair piled atop her beautiful face.She writes:"The holy season is never over." Perfect words.

My other friend is an old neighbor,the old Georgia Boy, who survived a near death experience on the operating table and whose words give me joy:"Every day is my Christmas."Amen and alleluia!!!

So with that,I want to share what has come to me through a Christmas card.I do love Christmas cards,especially ones with snow and angels.But there was one this year that pulled me in.It is a Madonna and child.The Mother is young and I am struck by the look on her face.Her eyes are closed as are the babe's.The total peace and contentment of these figures calm me.Some of her dark blue robe covers her child's bare back.This is a picture of completeness.Nothing else is needed by the two figures.They are wrapped in each other in a circle of peace.

For many of us, Christmas is not a time of peace.Obligations pull at our tattered psyches from all directions as we try to make Christmas perfect for others, as if that was in our power.This year,many family changes added to the chaos.

However,by grace,I found an island of sanity that was a great gift.Twice a day, I went into my P.C. room and shut the door.A candle was lit on the rough, ten dollar table that I bought in Woodstock.The tall, brown haired,red robed, wooden praying girl stood above the light.A small Saint Nicholas, Russian looking,multi-colored and carved from wood ,stood near.My red/green stone from the holy island of Iona rested in the front and in the back,a Christmas card with the four Narnia children around the lamppost,the woods thick with snow.Here I prayed the Liturgy of the Hours and rested in twenty minutes of Centering Prayer.

In my own soul's way,I held the Christ, not on my lap but in my very center,the place that Thomas Merton describes as being able to be touched only by God.In those moments,I was an enclosed complete circle.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

just grace


There is a very touching scene in the novel based on fact,Brideshead Revisited.The aristocratic patriarch of an English Catholic family has come home to Brideshead to die.He has been living with a mistress in Italy,absent and estranged from his wife,four grown children and the faith.His devout daughters and son call a priest, over the objections of the book's hero,Charles Rider,atheist,who is the lover of the oldest daughter.

The priest came to anoint the sick man and as they all gathered around the bed,with the cynical Charles glowering in the background,the old man with eyes closed slowly crossed himself with the priest.What this means to his daughters is immeasurable.Charles is befuddled,but in time, that simple action,finally understood,changes Charles forever.The book and the 70s mini-series, have touched me deeply.

Today, my husband and I delivered Communion to a woman who has been away from the church for over thirty years.She was unable to take the host but her family did as they gathered around her bed.We all had tears because their Mother is close to death.Yesterday,however, when our pastor visited, she was alert and as he anointed her,her tears flowed and she blessed herself.Home with God in her heart.Amazing grace,how sweet the sound.....

Friday, December 16, 2011

christmas memories


It was the last day of school before a long,luscious winter break.The chorus that I was part of assembled in the gym.We were up on a wooden slatted stage facing the gym floor.One by one, the classes in my grammar school came in, each in orderly single file, to the stage where our pastor was giving out holy cards and boxes of hard candy as small gifts.

I thought of this when I heard Dolly Parton singing,"A Hard Candy Christmas." Those candies,multi-colored ,were really hard to eat.Some had gooey centers,others tasted like sickeningly sweet root beer.But nothing could dampen my spirit.We were singing Christmas Carol after wonderful Carol.Toward the end of the singing,I turned and looked out the long glass windows.I beheld the most wonderful sight for a 12 year old. Huge,wet snow falling at a deliriously fast rate and soon we would go home to frolic.Pure joy in my heart.

Later,in 1961, when I was a senior in High School,our glee club went to Mercy Hospital in Rockville Center to sing Carols for the staff and patients.We assembled in the Lobby near the decorated tree and sang our hearts out.In the Lobby , the hospital was raffling off a Nativity set and for twenty-five cents a chance, I scrounged up fifty cents and bought two.As I fill out the stub and placed mine in the full box,I knew that the set was mine.I knew it.

Two nights later, a call brought me back to the hopsital to pick up the set.I felt so blessed that night,for the set and the mystery of the knowing.

Thirty years later,it happened again.As I was going out of my driveway one morning in Georgia, my next door neighbor came over quickly and asked if I was going to church.I said that I was and she, with tears, asked for prayers for another neighbor who was delivering her third child that day.She and her husband had lost a two year old girl to heart problems and this new baby, a son ,was in distress.As I drove, I prayed and then as if a soft hand had been placed on my shoulder,comforting, I knew that all would be well with little Scooter.He is now a grown, hard working man with three children and indeed , all is well with him.

I am in awe of Christmas and Mystery.

Monday, December 12, 2011

I need a little color


The winter sky is grey and sullen; the tree trunks are a perfect match.I love the symmetry of tree branches against the sky.A web of lacy figures.But this gloom makes me want to stuff my small backpack and head further South,like to the Tropics.

My pack will be heavy with T.S. Eliot's poems,Edith Wharton's "Ethan Frome"and pistachios.Dark chocolate,the scriptures and my grey journal that has a plastic pocket in the front for flowers and ferns.I will walk there unafraid and talk to strangers that I meet.The cold will be a memory.

In 1891, Gauguin left Europe disgusted with his penury and the general failure of any interest in his art.He found his home in the islands and his painting took on a whole life of its own.And grand it is.

What must it be like to turn your back on everything that is familiar and lead your own life.Take what you know about painting and strike out on a new course.Who has that kind of courage?There is a price to pay.Gauguin was a few months away from going to jail,and suffered from syphilis and alcoholism when he died at 52 of dissipation.Maybe, I'll just enlarge his painting and sit with it for awhile.Join me?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

the white winter sun


Winter has never asked me if I like these shorter days.When the sun goes behind the bare, grey hardwood trees to the west, in late afternoon,it seems to fall off a cliff.It disappears much too early in the day.Then,deep cold darkness.

The lunar eclipse last night seems a metaphor for how people are feeling these days.Evictions,foreclosures,lost jobs and broken hearts.The light is gone,hidden from sight.

I thought of this when a dear friend posted yesterday on Facebook:"Where is the Christmas spirit and don't tell me egg nog,people." I chuckled but have been unable to stop thinking of her question.As usual, she has inspired my thoughts and then I recalled something that happened yesterday.

My husband and I went to Goodwill looking for games to play with the grandchildren who are coming for a few days.On a shelf loaded with Christmas decorations, was a tall wooden figure with long brown hair and a red monkish outfit.Her hands were clasped in front of her in prayer,her eyes were closed.She had many chips out of her paint but I liked that and her price, a dollar and forty two cents.I put her back and kept searching for toys.After finding several, I went back to find my praying girl.There she was on the shelf in front of a shopper, a middle aged dark haired woman,who fingered something else.I excused myself and reached over and grabbed the figure.I am a very competitive person and one should be wary of getting between me and what I want.She turned and in a pleasant voice said,"I was going to look at that."Surprising myself completely, I handed it to her and said,"Here,it yours." She looked it over, handed it back and said,"You can have it."I was so happy.I told her she was sweet, thanked her and said that my girl would remind me to pray.We smiled and parted.No pepper spray or hair pulling in the aisle,just two people saying, you can have it.Christmas spirit?

I think we all have a sense of what the Christmas spirit is.They can spelled it Xmas, say Happy Holiday, name it winter break and a holiday tree but that will never stamp out the Christmas spirit.It's like stepping on mercury,it squirts out from under your shoe.If they remove the nativity scene from the courthouse lawn,a silver haired ,blue eyed man in a nursing home will be bending over a desk to make one from glue and toothpicks.

We need Christmas in these dark winter days.We need the More.We have a More sized hole in our center that will entertain nothing but mystery and miracles.It,this center, longs for those things and nothing else will do.And the shining star,quaking shepherds,travelling wise men,singing angels and the holy Babe fit nicely in this spot and bring us joy even if our minds don't accept this, too good to be true, story.

So, Kris, once again ,thank you for your question.I will be on the look out for the Christmas spirit.In the meantime will you sing with me:

"......a thrill of hope,the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.Fall on your knees, oh, hear the angel voices.Oh,night Divine ,oh night when Christ was born, oh night,oh Holy Night,when Christ was born"

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Say it for me,Rilke.


I have been feeding a black and white medium size female dog that has been wandering around our subdivision, looking so lost. She will not come near so I can't bring her in to meet her and tell her that I have named her Molly.

The county truck was around a few days ago but they missed her.Yesterday, I watched her eat from the the family room door and she held my eyes for a minute .Beautiful you are ,Molly with your liquid brown eyes.And so fearful.

There are also some stray cats, beautiful ones, roaming around.As I get older, I find myself connecting with dogs,cats,birds,turkeys in an almost mystical way.Perhaps when you try to open your heart to God, other creatures come sneaking in. When I read on the internet about animal abuse I am so saddened.How can a person swing a kitty around and fling it when the one I know sleeps by me as I watch T.V.?.

All of this animal love reminded me of time spent in Paris at the Cathedral of Notre Dame.We went in the Spring of 2005 and I had no expectations for this most famous of landmarks.When we walked in,the typical Japanese tourists were there, a crowd of them,taking mountains of pictures.Should they be called a snapping of Japanese? They were quiet but hustling around in the gloomy air along with a horde of others. Off to the side was a small area of wooden chairs reserved for those who came to pray.I silently walked in, knelt down and closed my eyes.I was mostly alone.Then I looked up to see what the chairs were facing.The rose window.Magnificent.Holy.And,in what is now a tourist destination,I felt Presence and peace.Rilke has said it better:

The Rose Window

"Inside,the lazy padding of soft feet
creates a silence,almost stupefies;
then all at once one of the drowsing cats
awakes-and pounces;its enormous eye

seizes the drifting image of that quiet,
which for a little while swims around,
before the golden whirlpool sucks at it
and drags it down to oblivion:

just as this eye apparently asleep
gapes open,strikes,and drags its capture deep
into the thunder of its own red blood-

so the rose window in that holy time
within the great cathedral's scented gloom
captured a heart and dragged it up to God." Ranier Maria Rilke

Friday, December 2, 2011

the wheelbarrow



When I was a child, every Holy Thursday my family would go from church to church to visit the wonderfully decorated altars.There was one church on the South Shore of Long island that was so special.Not only was it festooned everywhere you looked with white and yellow flowers, but there were white cages with bright yellow singing canaries.I can still hear their songs.What a wonderful feast for the ears and eyes,especially to a young child.Then, the next day, the altars were stripped totally bare,statues and the cross covered in purple and the bells silenced, for this was sad Good Friday.

For the last several months, I have been pushing a grey,rusted out Good Friday wheelbarrow everywhere I go.Assorted rocks clang and tumble around and they are so heavy.The handles have given me callouses.Often, I stop, take a few out,rearrange the rest and put the others back.It is still heavy.If only I could find the right thing to say to this pile of rocks;the right arrangement,all will be well.

Going out with this load became too much and so I stayed home and worried.And stared at the wheelbarrow.My prayers have been desperate and whiny.Fix this,this way,I demanded or begged.I hate this,this is not how I saw it.Take this wheelbarrow with it's painful load and give me a break.

Finally,finally, a light came on and with grace I have been able to say,"Thank you for this disgusting, dirty load.I praise you for it.It is certainly not what I envisioned but in your hands it will become a floating, shining barge loaded with flowers,red and orange hibiscus,roses,and parrots, lightly drifting down the Ganges in all its glory."

Scripture says that this is what we are to do and then peace will come.I can't say that I have been dancing but I have felt more calm ,more sure that all shall be well,in time.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

retreat


The attached paintng by Belinda Del Pesco is entitled "Monterey Retreat".I love the quiet,the calmness of the room.We lived in California once in the '70s.The children were 3 and 1 and the tri-plex we rented was in Huntington Beach which is also near the ocean.We were there during a serious earthquake that terrified my Mother-in-law who called from New York demanding that we move home.At 6 A.M.that morning the dogs started to bark,many of them ,and then the house began to shift back and forth.I prepared for death and wondered what a nice girl from New York was doing there.

What I remember most about that time,however, was the air from the sea with its kelp,salt scent coming in the porch window.Walking with my toddlers to the library in perfect January weather and teaching Sunday School to third graders.On my last day, Rose, a sweet blond cherub, gave me a note telling me I was her favorite teacher ever.I still have it.

I walk into this room and notice the coolness,the gentleness of its colors.One change will have to be made.A writing desk has to be found and put up against that window so that I can hear the palms rattling with the wind outside.They slap together as I start to put pen to paper.The flowers in the afternoon shade can be seen if the window covering is opened:the brilliance of the orange and purple Bird of Paradise makes me smile.

The soft dark chair to the right has a small bamboo table with a clear glass vase that holds a rooting bright green philodendron.It is here that I put my Bible,and Liturgy of the Hours and my watch.This chair is where I will go to engage in prayer.

Joseph Campbell,famed educator and author of numerous books on mythology says this:
"I walk off Fifty-first Street and Fifth Avenue into St.Patrick's Cathedral.I've left a very busy city and one of the most economically inspired cities on the planet.I walk into that cathedral and everything around me speaks of spiritual mysteries.The mystery of the cross,what's that all about up there?The stained glass windows,which bring another atmosphere in.My consciousness has been brought up to another level altogether,and I am on a different platform.And then I walk out,and I am back on the level of the street again.Now,how can I hold some of that cathedral consciousness?"

Indeed.

St.Francis of Assisi used to pull his rough brown hood over his head and all knew that he was in his "church".In prayer.So this room is now my church and when I go to it this is what I am saying:

I believe in the unseen.I am leaving what we call the real world of sight and sound and I will engage with the Spirit world,my true home when this life is over.The real world of sun ,sky and beauty is a reflection of what is to come, where every tear will be wiped away.I go into this room, shut the door and there I will receive guidance, not from newspapers or TV ,on how to live my life to be the most blessed one.In the quiet, I will praise God and this lifts my soul.I will ask for blessings for those that I love and I will receive ideas of things to do that will make this world more loving,holy.When I leave, I am a slightly different person and I do trail some of that grace behind me.

Monday, November 28, 2011

from death to life


A day came recently that I rarely experience anymore.Struggling with unsettling family matters,I have been consumed with worry and hopelessness.Feelings careening around and the word to best paint my portrait would be, battered.

In the midst of this,I said, "Enough.Where are you in this,Lord?I need to know that You haven't caught the last train to the coast while I have been crying in the corner."I sullenly left it with Him.

While watching football this Saturday,my son suggested that I get my PC and look for old friends.Since "my" teams were playing like they had lost the knack for the game,I complied.We did find a few old neighbors on Facebook and sent friend requests.

The next morning, I received a message from a friend in our old neighborhood and the story of his life since we lived next door.He moved away before us and remarried.We were young then and child raising.He was a non-church going, hard worker who helped to create homes in the hot Georgia sun and loved his kids madly.I recall that one night, I thought a snake was in our basement and since my husband was out of town,I called on Jack to get rid of what turned out to be the biggest slug in the history of the South.He also used to restart my hot water heater when the flame would go out.A good neighbor who we have not seen for over thirty years.

When I read what he has gone through in the last seven years,I wanted to hide under my bed.Liver disease, the passing of his wife,a diagnosis of cancer of the vocal chords,the removal of the same and his death on the operating table.In his words, this is what happened:
"While I was in surgery,I saw myself in total darkness and something was beside me.The background was totally dark and it was like I was looking at myself from a distance...I had this feeling of complete calm and peace and then I heard a voice that I did not recognize say,""It's not your time yet"", and then I woke up.My sister later told me that I had died and after losing six pints of blood, it was all they could do to bring me back."

Jack goes on to express his philosophy in the most beautiful way imaginable:
"I am not afraid of dying but God has given me a second chance to finish my road of life and I am making every second of every minute of every hour of every day the best that I can.I have laid my life before God and I am following His wishes every day.Whatever happens in the future, I'll take it as it is because I know I have God by my side to face whatever."

Once again, You bless the hours of this day and make them holy.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

make crooked ways straight


Almost daily, I receive an e-mail from Heron Dance with journal musings from Rod MacIver.I never seem to have time to read them but save them for that moment when I can sit and ponder.The other day, I opened one entitled Butterfly Dream and once again was jolted by what I read,it seemed so perfect.

He writes:"I am sometimes tempted to think that my life should be easier,that I should exist in a state of perpetual enjoyment,that I should move from one triumph to another....That's just not how it is.Or was meant to be,I don't think.Life is movement in a resistant medium.That's how we grow;that's how we appreciate the little things."Amen.

I have a friend who is going through a difficult,painful time and I wish I had the words to make him see that this is for his own,glowing,growing good.It is so hard to see it at the time.We can only encourage and hope that, with patience ,enough time will pass that the light of this situation will appear.

I think back to a strange story that I read once about a group of children who had a chrysalis in a jar in their classroom.They watched it for weeks.Then, when it looked about to burst,and the teacher had left the room, they took a knife and sliced the side of the green cocoon to "help" the butterfly out.Well, there it was in its colorful glory and their impatience caused this:the butterfly would never be able to fly.It seems that the squirming,twisting,wrenching journey out of the small opening in the bottom of the case is necessary for the wings to develop properly.

And the "Heron" goes on to say:"Art created by someone who has experienced alot in life, alot of ups and downs,tends to be deeper,more meaningful....than art created by someone who has had an easy life."So run and do not get weary for in your struggle is your salvation and the help of others.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dreams


Looking back,digging around in my memories,I try to see if I had any grand dreams for the future.I don't recall any converstaions about dreams or dream pursuing encouragement from my family.My Great Grandparents came on a ship from Scotland in the 1890s but once plopped down on Long Island, they never went off again.They found jobs,made a living and that was enough.Maybe, getting here was the dream.

Did my parents have wishes beyond an occasional Yankee game at the Stadium? I know this, my Mother had no interests or hobbies beyond a burst of lamp shade making and figurine painting that lasted about a year.Did they have dreams?Did I?

Mine were pipe dreams:singing and dancing in a Broadway show like "Carousel."I had a good voice and loved to sing but when my Mother asked my sister if she should get lessons for me,she said,"Naw,her voice isn't that good." End of dream.It took so little to quash it.

When I finally awoke to wishes of mine, I started to visualize being a manager in the company that I worked for.I could see myself in that office upfront and all the creative ways that I would develop the people that worked for me.Maybe the visualizing did it,I had a rewarding ten years.

Soon,I started thinking of travelling and have been able to do much of that and each trip has been a challenge and reward.I wanted to go to school to be a counsellor but gave that up and it's O.K. Then writing,and writing with a purpose.Not just the pleasure of the word or the scene that is so perfect,that comes from I don't know where,evoking such strong feelings in me.

I will try to find the words:I have looked into the depths of things and seen magic.This sorrow is that but more than that.It has a sheen we can't see,a light that is not clear now but will be.We can change our lives.By doing one thing differently.Let me give you an example.For the last three days, I have been asking my husband if I can do anything for him.This small sentence has brought a mellowness to his face.A small thing.This looking,seeing and changing has come through prayer and writing.

All of this was unearthed by a spare poem that I found and like.It suits me.

"Dreams
not fulfilled
may shatter and embitter
Or deepen understanding
and increase sensitivity
to other's dreams."-Theta Burke

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

when I am gone


Someday in the future,I will have to leave my woods.Be it a trip to a health care facility,a hospital or an unwanted move,my bags will be by the front door near where the wren sleeps.

The squirrels will be too busy burying the small acorns in the soft earth near my garden to see my wave.I will stand in the back and memorize the contour of the beeches and the iron wood.My bench will be greyer than when we first put it out there facing the floodplain.Acorns will bounce off the slats and perhaps the new owners will move it or burn it.Poems have poured from my pen on that bench in the wooded solitude.

A few years ago, I took our canoe and dragging it to the river,set sail across and around the islands in the water.It was a shining fall day and being alone on this adventure filled me with joy.Hours spent just drifting,hearing the slap of the beaver's tail,the hawks over head.Wilderness and I.

The offspring of today's deer will come for forgotten corn and the feeder will no longer spill seed for the raucous turkeys.The hummers will go across the street to that grand red feeder and the earth will have forgotten my step.

As I leave,I will have one small colored photo in my hand.Just a glance will bring forth the scents,the sounds,and all of the blessings of this place.All shall be well.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Got a plan???


Last night, I spoke with a dear friend.She is going through a very difficult time and I can tell that she feels like a rowboat on the ocean being buffeted by squalls and waves as high as the clouds.She is riding the waves and can't find a way to put her feet on sure ground.Her fear of the future is overwhelming.As we talked, it seemed to us that if she had a plan for each coming day of what she would do ,she might be able to get focused on just one day at a time.

The more that I thought of this, the dawning came that I should do this as well.When I worked for BellSouth Mobility, each morning I made a list of what I wanted done that day.I crossed through each item as it was finished with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.It seems that most of my list-less peers achieved half of what I was able to do and enjoyed the job less.

So what do I do with this unique day? This is my list today.

-Start with this prayer:Creator God, I thank you for this unique, never to be repeated day you have entrusted to me.Show me what to do to make it holy.

-Get outside for at least ten minutes.We were made for the natural world and we need to witness the trees,leaves,colors, breeze and sounds.

-Write something on my blog.

-Ask the people that I live with if I can do something for them.

-Take the hand of someone I love and hold it this day for a few minutes.Look in their eyes.

-Call a friend to see how they are.

I have done half of these and am having a very "present",good day.
Small things you say and I agree but what would it feel like for us to view each day as a gift that we can do something with.Let's plan for that.Many people plan for retirement,death,etc.and just let life happen.Carpe Diem,seize this day, savor it and share the love.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

this is how it works,let us rejoice


How does a bundle that appears in my mailbox contain three such perfect books ?One a travel journal,and two others,the Wildflowers of the Northeast.These sent by a dear high school friend,lost and then found after fifty years.Thank you ,Mark Zuckerberg.

This is how the flow of gifts works, like soft clouds moving across the sky.Blown by a benevolent spirit through whispers and urgings.The wants of our heart are deep beneath our conscious thoughts but the wind knows.

I spent a wonderful lunch in a Thai restaurant with this golden friend and we were right back to where we were when we took off the cap and gown and headed toward adulthood.At my high school reunion, we laughed again with tears at our misadventures and in February she is coming for a visit.It is with deep pleasure that I contemplate this.

This coming back together was not an accident.After connecting on Facebook,it seems that the place in Florida where she lives just happened to be where my husband's Army reunion was being held last January.And so it goes.

Back to the books.Although we chatted at the reunion, Joan had no way of knowing that in March,I am travelling to Australia for a few weeks for my son's wedding.Nor could she know that this same son just moved to the Northeast,loves Peterson's guides and wildflowers.

thick clouds blocked my view



photo by Dr.Clarissa Pinkola Estes



Today, an e-mail came and the word that jumped out at me was "dark".One of my faithful reader friends noted that my post brought this word to his mind.It is true and I needed to hear that because it helped me see that my mind has been absorbed these last few days by the scandals and horrific news around me.I had forgotten my blessing bowl.

I went to the woods,that place whose winds and trees cleanse me of all thought that does not do it homage.I wrote:"This day has never been before nor have these trees ever been this tall.The small acorn that just fell behind me wasn't on the slender oak last year.This is its time-today-to fall and bounce on the earth.

The woods are quiet,the floor damp; yellow streaks catch my eye as leaves drift to gently cover the acorn.The vacuum waits in the bedroom, silver in the corner as the sun hits it and I sit in the woods.What is more important,the ten pieces of dark lint on the rug or the sights of this one day that will never come again ?"

And so the bowl fills with this quiet ,this surety that the God of Jacob set this in motion.That this beauty,the red,yellow,orange leaves is his.

The Word for today says:"along the banks of the river,fruit trees of every kind shall grow,their leaves shall not fade,nor their fruit fail.....they shall be watered by the flow from the sanctuary.... their fruit shall serve as food and their leaves for medicine."....Ezec.47:12

We are being watered by this river of grace that enables this arbor to always feed, comfort and heal;that is our charge this day that will never come again.And the Lord of Hosts is with us as our stronghold.

Monday, November 7, 2011

How did this happen?


This posting is a not the usual fare for me but my thoughts are swirling and I need to lay them out and see what's there.

By all accounts,the Penn State Football program is one of the cleanest, most student centered in the nation.No NCAA violations, no thugs coming out of jail to play running back.A strong moral coach who has given his life to develop student athletes.What then can one say but,"How did this happen?" How could one of his former coaches be seen sexually abusing a ten year old by a Graduate Student in the school locker room? And since this wasn't that student's son, he ran away from the scene and the rape continued.God help us.

This seems to dovetail with a horrendous story that has the Chinese society doing some introspection.A two year old toddler wandered away from home there and into traffic.A mini-bus hit her,the driver kept going and 16 people walked or biked by until finally another truck hit her and she died.Authorities said that instant help might have saved her.Was she left to die because she was a female?

In the People's Republic of China couples are allowed one child.Forced abortion is common and it is not a stretch to think that the parents of this tiny little girl are childless now.

The leaves in the woods are yellowing and it looks like golden mist out there.The cool air refreshes and the rich smell of decaying leaves seems to hang in the darkening sky.It looks like all is well and there is no evil.But in the place in Pennsylvania that they call Happy Valley, a dark figure walks slowly around the green grass.His smile is horrifying to see as he thinks of the pain he has caused to boys,parents,students,coaches,a whole community.This chaos is his job and we ignore what he does at our peril.

"For God formed man to be imperishable;the image of his own nature he formed him.But by the envy of the evil one,death has entered the world,and they who are in his possession experience it". Wis 2:23-24

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

mantra


Today's psalm is one that is so familiar, so often read at funerals, that I think the words float listlessly over the hearer into the ether,unheard.The words at the end of the 23rd Psalm are the ones that sing to me..."surely, goodness and kindness shall follow me all the days of my life..."

Through grace,this has come to be my mantra and think of what those words ,engraved in a heart, can do for one's outlook.

I quote from a book that I am reading,"A Tree Full of Angels";:Every gift that we receive feeds the little flame that we are."The secret is to recognize the subtle,small gifts as they are strewn around our world like pennies from a Bounteous hand.....

Yesterday's gifts:

-after All Saint's Mass, a new friend,Tim, came over and we chatted, laughed and after sharing our lives, did Centering Prayer deeply together for twenty minutes.The silence enfolded us.

-later, my second son Kevin called and we compared notes about our High School reunions,his twentieth and my fiftieth.He related how he reached out to those standing alone and complimented those that shared their successes.I told him how unusual that was for anyone to do that and I was proud of him.We almost cried on the phone.

-While watching Case Histories on PBS, the scenes of Scotland please me so much recalling the beauty of that green rain soaked country and the helpfulness of its citizens to two lost Yankees last September.

A mantra defines who were are as we stumble along.It colors what we see and what it means.The end of that Psalm is;"And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever."To me that means here and now depending on my mantra.What is yours and how does it serve you?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

the red brick house and I meet again


I recently went to a high school reunion on Long Island.Since we had allowed plenty of time,we drove to my old neighborhood.My heart always beats a bit faster as I see the familiar;Bedford Ave.,California Ave., and finally Webster St.

The house which was built in the early forties sits on the corner.We pulled up and I felt no terror and a small smile crept onto my face.Home.It looks better then it ever did, this small red-brick cape with two white trimmed dormers,a garage and a small side patio that was never used.The front door that had been dark oak and had a myriad of scratches from dogs trying to get out, is now a smooth light brown.

The purple scented lilacs are gone as are the salmon, red and pink azaleas but that's O.K. because the house seems more open,available.A stone path snakes up to the front door and over that is the dormer window to the cloister that was my haven for twenty three years.In that room,my friend Bobby used to sit with me while I did my homework.His house across the street was enveloped in the gloom of a dying parent.It was his haven too, although he may not have realized it at the time.Holy space.

The wonderful, enormous maples that guarded the house were removed several years ago as the roots kept lifting the sidewalk.I took pleasure in seeing that the new growing oaks are doing the same thing.

I wonder about this house,how I would feel about it if I wasn't content with my life.Would I blame the past,the fights,shame and despair that hung between its walls?In that dormer, a thin auburn haired girl who loved to sing decided that her life would be a different one than the ones being lived downstairs and so it is.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

mindfulness


I have a dear friend who,when she became a Buddhist, gave me the Rosary that her favorite Aunt had given here when she was a child.It has a sterling silver cross and crystal beads and is quite beautiful.I have lost it twice and twice it has come back to me.I treasure it and our twenty year friendship.

Perhaps because of her,I am open to learning about Buddhist thought and find some aspects very interesting.When I wander through the gentle teaching often I will bump up against the idea of mindfulness.It is hard for me to get my mind around this in a behavior changing way .If you are doing dishes,do dishes and focus your mind on that not on the person who cut you off in traffic three weeks ago.Be present to the present moment as much as possible.

If we are in the habit of roaming blithely through the land mines of the past or peeking endlessly into the fear fraught,nuclear winter of the future,this change is not easy.Scripture supports this "present" notion when encouraging us to not worry about the future,it has it's own challenges.Most of what we worry about never happens so we are tarnishing the present with worthless negatives.

I have for a very long time been afraid of heaven.I know a Christian should be headed that way and looking forward to it.It's the idea of forever that stops me cold.Like falling off a cliff into infinity.That is so scary to me.Whatever I am doing will NEVER end.I can't handle that.I know, with our limited minds we think in finite terms so we can't get it. Maybe the Buddhists can help me here.

We have many accounts of near death experiences that tell us what heaven might be like.Suppose heaven is always the present.Our thoughts are on the bliss we are in,the Love at hand and we don't need or want to be anywhere else in our minds.No future,no fear.No past,no pain.Just now and it is exactly what we were made for.It fits who we were created to be.Completely.I can do that.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

light


I have a special feeling for the word "light".It may be my most loved word.Perhaps it's because the days are getting shorter now that I think of this.

Do you have a word that when you see it or hear it ,you feel yourself lean inwardly towards it ?Light....warmth....clarity...focus...
tending toward to the good...

My sister died three years ago on the Feast of St.Lucy,December 13.She was a martyr whose name Lucia means light.My older sister suffered from life-long depression and that word brings a different feeling.It feels heavy,life-less,grey.A rainbow would be grey without light.I am so comforted that her death fell on this feast.As she left this world,she must have seen what so many near death sufferers see,the light at the end of a tunnel.

I think of the enchanting colors of that troubled painter,Van Gogh and how he brought this shining not only with his art but with his many works of charity.I think that angels are all light that our clouded vision cannot see;they are bright shimmering beings because they are only about reflecting the Light.We are dimmer beings.

A letter from a dear friend fits this theme perfectly.She had been given a box of wonderful chocolates by a friend while she spent time in the hospital visiting her husband.She savored the thought of the deliciousness for hours until she was leaving the hospital.There stood the security guard who had kept them safe for days and she handed him the box and thanked him.His smile filled the Florida night sky,she said.

Shine.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

the meeting


The small cafe is almost empty on this bright Fall morning.I walk in and gaze across the wood floor to a lighted booth in the corner.He turns, smiles and stands.I drift towards my friend and we embrace for a few seconds.

I have not seen him for twenty-five years and yet the sparkle in the eye,the mischief of that long ago boy is still there.I relax and know that we will once again connect.

I have so many things that I want to know.How did he get to this distant state?Why did he leave our town?What are the things that give him pleasure in the here and now?What does he remember with satisfaction? What does he believe?These are things that can't be conveyed in e-mails.

I recall once he wrote of the feeling that he has when he is in a crowd, of seperateness and aloneness.I want to talk about that and tell him what I have learned about that state of being.And to remind him how easily we talked back then.

We have prayed for each other over the last few years;our families,our health issues.I hope that I can tell him that I feel that support and it matters.

The hour or two flies by as it always did and it's time to return to our lives.I don't like the good-bye.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

natural wonders


Today, I was sitting on our porch,wrapped in a blanket ,when a small hawk crashed into the screen and plopped to the ground,stunned.He lay there for a few seconds twitching slightly,his beautiful striped grey and white tail feathers moving.It was dreadful to see and then,he recovered and took off in what I can only say was a flash.Gone.

This has been a Fall of wonder,of surprising natural happenings in our part of the world.A monarch butterfly crawled out of a tiny hole in her cocoon and emerged in all her orange,black and white glory.She had begun as a caterpillar in New York,hung upside down as a chrysalis on a plant of mine and then emerged on a leaf on that plant on my porch in Georgia.I whisper a safe journey for her trip to Mexico.

We have had three turkeys visit the spot under our bird feeder,and at least ten of them stirred such a noise in the woods one day that I was chased into the house in fear.I wonder if the coyote whose scat I see had hunted them down ?

The deer come for the corn and the hummers are still here,three of them.One day soon that whirring and clicking sound of approach will stop and leave a small sadness.

When we moved here twenty years ago we had just a slight understanding that the Flint River was behind us.None of these woodland visitors would be here without this slow moving ,quiet, naturally flowing river;so mightly named by the Indians.Thronateeska.The mighty Flint.

Friday, October 7, 2011

the butterfly appears


Things occur in my life that have a way of lightly settling in my mind and staying there demanding my mental exploration.These are gifts,unexpected and having deep meaning for me.

In 2009,I purchased a plant at Wal-Mart that looks like bamboo but is called a good luck plant.Mine has done very well,flourishing out green and full.When we planned to go to New York for three months, I knew that I had to take it as it needs watering twice a week.The summer turned into a muddle of trips back and forth to home and at one point, I had to stick my loved plant in a small stream in the shade so that I could come home.Amazingly, it made it 'til my next trip to the mountains.

In September,my husband brought our three months of clothes,tools,books and my plants back home.The lucky plant had been on an open porch and as I watered it,I noticed a small dark green tube hanging from one of the leaves.I left it alone wondering if it held baby spiders or what.The next morning,I came to the plant and the tube was empty, a hole was in the bottom and it looked translucent.On another leaf was a gorgeous Monarch butterfly.Absolutely new and perfect.

How does this happen?I know that a caterpillar attaches itself to the underside of a leaf,wraps itself up in a chrysalis made from it's own stuff and eventually it turns into a butterfly and comes out.But where do the spines of the caterpillar go?What magic forms those spines into colorful wings?How does this big butterfly fit into that small tube?In the picture attached you can see that the tube to the right of the butterfly is not even half its size.And then as if this weren't enough,this being, attached in New York,appearing in Georgia, will find its way to Mexico.

I knew there was more to the musing going on in my soul.I found it in a book about Hildegard of Bingen.This is what the Lord revealed to her...."You've watched a butterfly climb out of a cocoon,unfurl its wings ,and fly away from its chrysalis, leaving it behind?In the Eucharistic offering ,the bread and wine also undergo a transformation into My Son's body and blood.This must be accepted by faith".

Anything and everything are possible.

Monday, October 3, 2011

an extraordinary man


Today,the Church celebrates the life of one of the best known men to walk the planet.His appeal is extraordinary considering that he lived over 800 years ago and died in his forties.

I didn't really "get" Francis of Assisi until I saw what he wore and where he slept.Hanging in the lower church of the Basilica that bears his name in Assisi is his robe.If you can call it that.We were there in 2004, in June and it was stifling hot with a breeze nowhere to be felt.And there it hung, a patched burlap looking brown thing that one could see plainly would be scratchy,especially in the heat I was feeling.I had on a white, light, soft shirt that let the air flow and I shuddered to think what that patched,hole-ridden shirt must have felt like.

In Cortona, we hiked down to Le Celle,a hermitage,which was another place that Francis stayed in occasionally.Behind the church altar was his plain cell and in the corner his wooden slatted bed and the rock that was his pillow.

In the small bare church at Le Celle ,I knelt to pray.The hike to this place was long and tiring and my feet were screaming for mercy.We had gone downhill the whole way and I knew there was no way I could walk back up so I told my husband he would have to get a cab.He scowled at that demand as we spoke no Italian and he was envisioning a nightmare coming.As the quiet enveloped me, I heard this,"Walk back."Clear as a chapel bell was this request.The Shepherd had spoken and I nodded.As we left I told John that I would walk and he was surprised.We weren't a quarter of a mile up the road when a car stopped to gave us a ride.

I think of this when I contemplate the life of deprivation Francis chose.He owned nothing,gave every morsel of food away, lived out in the elements and tended the people who had once most repelled him,lepers.

In the silence of the Tuscan hills, Francis was given his tasks and he did what he was asked.This is why we fear quiet and neglect to pray.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

wistful


Speak breeze, of autumn pleasures.Gentle leaves twisting this way and down.Full moon brilliant on the lawn;squirrels crashing through the dried leaves,summer love coming to a time together deprived end.Shorter days and deeper sleep.

The color of pumpkins is something that I see nowhere else in this startlingly clear air.And then the last rain will take the leaves away and remove any trace of warmth.

The falling leaves in Georgia do not in anyway compare with the brillance of the trees up North.I have gotten used to the more muted hues and a few years ago ,found the foliage in New York to be gaudy.But maybe I was just consoling myself because I miss there in this season.

I recall romances coming to an end after summer and missing the presence of special loves."The sunburned hands I used to hold...." There is a wistful tenor to this change that is coming;I can't say why. Who would want to stay in the heat for a second longer?For now I will just hear the sounds and feel the coolness.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

angels in New York?



I finally emptied my summer purse this afternoon and a name and e-mail address fell out.With so many things going on lately,I had forgotten that an angel showed up on the New York Thruway this Summer.

On August 8,my husband and I left Long island in his ten year old Ram truck and headed for the Thruway and upstate New York.Traffic was brutal on every highway we took and my blood pressure was soaring.We had just taken a flight from Atlanta with standby passes and you know how stressful that can be.

It was pouring rain when we arrived at the Sloatsburg Travel Plaza for coffee.We started to relax because we had finally left the city.When we got back in the truck,it wouldn't start.Arghhh!!!!It had sat on Long island for a month and the battery had given all it's juice to the New York sky.What to do with this unexpected "gift"?

The space in front of our truck was empty and just then a young slender man with close cropped hair pulled in and I saw him glance our way.He looked away and then turned and came towards us.For more than a hour, he tried everything to start our truck.As his car was trying to charge our battery ,he went inside to get coffee,the only reason he had stopped.He finally suggested we call the HELP truck that services the thruway and went on his way home from work.That truck got us started and off we went only to stall at the next exit where we got off the thruway to get a new battery.

A huge tow truck came for us and the burly driver was just wonderful.He took me to a motel and my husband to a engine shop and the next day we finally left for the mountains.

My husband was curious about my calm demeanor through the whole ordeal.I guess that I am known to go off the deep end under stress.Mea culpa.I pondered his words and I realized that after the first wonderful offer of help ,I just rested in the thought that we were in "Good Hands".

So, to the two Steves,one with an Island accent who would accept no payment for his help and one with a Celtic cross tattoo on his leg,fluff your wings and take a bow.The Kingdom of God is made of people like you.

Monday, September 5, 2011

wisdom


"Keep a clear eye on life's end.Do not forget your purpose and destiny as God's creature.What you are in His sight is what you are and nothing more.Do not let worldly cares and anxieties ...blot out the divine life within you or the voice of God's Spirit guiding you in your great task of leading humanity to wholeness.If you open yourself to God and His plan printed deeply in your heart,God will open Himself to you."

Francis of Assisi

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

greeness


When I was a child,my sister and I received a monthly paperback children's book and one year the publishers decided to make the background of each page a pale green.This was restful to the eyes,the thinking went and I recently read that students who overlay a pale green plastic sheet on a text page retain more information.Interesting.

When my youngest son was ten, he and I went to a nearby park and with sweat dripping, we tagged a small oak that was being choked by other saplings.In the fall of that year, we went back and looked for the pink ribbon as all the leaves were gone.Something about digging up that winsome tree and transplanting it in our yard stirred the soul of the future biologist and he has mentioned it many times.For his graduation, I snuck into the yard of that house that we no longer own.The oak has to be over 30 feet tall and gloriously green.I took a picture and framed it as his gift.I think that he liked it.

I thought of this today as I was reading a novel about Hildegarde of Bingen,a Dominican nun who lived in 1098-1179 and whose writings are becoming better known.She speaks of the importance to her sisters of decorating the altar in December with green boughs because of the deep need for green in the bare grey winter in North Germany.I understand this.

This all seemed to be a "co-incidence" when I looked over today's scripture and especially the Psalm:"But I, like a green olive tree in the house of God,trust in the kindness of God forever and ever."Ps.52-10.

I pondered this and then did some research.What is the importance of that particular tree?Some of these marvels have lived for over two thousand years.Amazing.They are full of sap and if one is planted in a garden,it will probably outlive the planter.They produce fruit,beautiful wood,olive oil and leaves for tea.The products can be medicinal.

Regeneration is green.Life and growth are green.

So what am I to be in the house of the Lord? Fruitful,hardy,growing,full of the sap of God's word.A living witness to the "goodness of your name".Ps.52-11.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

you duped me


The reading today from Jeremiah sounds strange to my ears."You duped me ,Oh Lord, and I let myself be duped."Jeremiah loved God but was a reluctant prophet.He goes on and on in scripture complaining how people hate him because he tells God's truth.He moans that although he tries not to share the Lord's name with others,a burning starts in his heart that can only be relieved if he obeys and speaks.Poor Jeremiah.

A few times I have felt that burning.There was a day in 1984 when I was "forced" to call an old friend who I knew was suffering unhappiness.The opinion of this friend was so important to me and I wanted to do anything else but call him and tell him of God's great love for him.With heart pounding,I dialed and we spoke.I shared what I believed God wanted him to know.It was a short call and I could tell that he was uncomfortable.

I belive that the duping is accomplished by God's great love.It is like a warm,melted gold stream that looks for the small cracks,the fissures in our defenses,our masks and it slips in and goes around,over and through until we are snared and His.He is the potter and we ,the clay.

Jeremiah had no choice and neither did I that day.Twenty five years later I ,by grace, found out that the dreaded phone call which spoke of that river of warm gold,had transformed a life.

"Sing to the Lord ,praise the Lord,for he has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked."Jer 20:13

Monday, August 22, 2011

the wooden bowl


When I awaken in these cooler summer mornings in Georgia,the first thing I see is a plain wooden bowl that I found in a thrift shop.It is obviously hand hewn and has been used many times.

The sight of it starts my day with this thought:what gifts will fall into this poor empty bowl today if I hold it out and keep my eyes open? Buddhist monks are known to walk around with their empty bowls.The hope is that lay buddhists will fill it with either money or food.In this way, the monks who own nothing ,will be taken care of.Could I do this?Detachment,humility.


On Sunday,we took our grandchildren to Mass in their town.Before Mass, we read the scriptures for the day and we talked about them.The readings had to do with the Keys of the Kingdom and how we also have keys that the powerless do not.The middle son who is 9 mentioned the touch pad that opens their garage.He was getting it.The oldest boy,13, spoke of a child in his class whose parents don't care about him.We decided that we could use our power to smile at the powerless in our lives.A start.I place that memory of their openness in my bowl.

After Mass, the middle child who has brilliant auburn hair and deep thoughtful eyes,came over and gave me a big hug.Gratitude,hope? I didn't
ask,I just gently dropped it in the bowl.

Today, a memory came from over thirty years ago.I used to read books by a wonderful,joy filled young author,Ann Kiemel, in the eighties.Her books glowed with light and helped my meager faith considerably.I found her today on Facebook.One of her recent post starts with..."I believe,I believe,I believe even when life is torn apart...even when the sun doesn't shine.".I so needed to read that.Soft as a feather,this thought drifts to the bottom of my bowl.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

an old desk,a thread and Love



Something steals over him,in that empty basement that is hot and airless on this Sunday,August 16,1939 in the South.He brushes his stringy hair from his liquid hazel eyes and picks up a pencil.On a whim ,he writes on the bottom of the desk drawer..."I sit here in the basement little realizing what is to come.I can hear Mama singing her beautiful songs,I have just finished the desk and am in a deep philosophical mood...May God bless Our Father,"

He starts to get up to call his mother down so she can admire his work when he feels impelled to add something else.He cuts a phrase from a book and tapes it to the same surface and only then does he feel that his work is done.He walks up the steep basement steps and out of our story.

On another sweltering day in Georgia,an attractive brown haired young woman drives passed an antique/junk store and stops.She sees what she needs out in front of the store.Because she is starting a new job that requires her to work from home,she needs a desk.On this day,however,she is so bowed in grief that a decision to purchase what she sees is beyond her.Her mind is like a pin ball machine, thoughts
carrening around as if her life is on tilt.It is.

In the glorious evening air of Puerto Rico in January of 2011,she has married the man of her dreams.He is gentle,bright and good,not to metion gorgeous.She never thought that she could be this happy.They are both in their early thirties with life like a shining gold lame' carpet spread out before them.

That was before the June 19th phone call from a friend ,telling her that she had lost him to a heart attck.She is devastated beyond words.

On July 1st,she goes back to the store.The desk is no longer out front.She fears it has been sold but when she enters the store it is right there as she walks in and the man at the counter offers it to her for eight dollars.She didn't realize how much she wanted it until that moment and then it fits perfectly into her small car.

A desk is just a desk,isn't it?Can it be something else?The Spirit,the Comforter,weaves lives together for His own purpose.Urges one human to add a note under the desk drawer for a person yet unborn,who would need this particular grace on July 1,2011.The printed note said,"Cast your burden on the Lord and He will sustain you."

Sunday, July 24, 2011

unexpected graces


It's a hot,sunny afternoon in Georgia.My second son married yesterday in a lovely ceremony.The presider was an Army chaplain who used to run the mountains of Colorado with my son and now ministers to Army families.In his reflection, he enjoined the newly married couple to continue to bring light to the world.My son and his new wife have done that often in the last few years;aiding a poor single-mother family monthly with food and clothes ,all from their own salaries and other acts of love.

Scripture says that those who love the poor will be healed on their sick beds and have a special place in the heart of God.And so I expect them to continue to shine their lights and help others.

I was especially struck by the five young men who ran with my son in high school on their high school cross country team.They came from Dallas,Seattle and Portland and closer places to be with my son on his special day.And from across the room I could see their so familiar faces still connecting in hilarity.I am going to send them thank you notes;they made this mother very happy.

We were tired at church this morning.The announcement from the altar of the passing of a lady that I have known for 40 years was a shock.Her family was there and I noticed her grown son in his head down grief.A young boy,an adopted child of an other family, saw him too and reached across from his pew and took the sad man in his thin arms and they held onto each other for awhile.The Body of Christ.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

missing


When I am in the mountains and can't post on this blog,I feel that an important piece of my soul's balance is missing.I don't read the scriptures with the same focus because I have no place to put my musings.

In the mountains,there is no Internet access and so when I go back,I'll leave my PC here.The twenty five mile trip to the library and the half hour restricted access is not conducive to the flow of thoughts that makes up what I put here. Mating a picture with a story is such a creative rush for me.

Today,I met with the four ladies who make up a prayer group that I have been in that meets monthly and has for almost 20 years.One friend spoke of a small thing that happened to her that seemed to fit beautifully with my last post about encounters.

She felt led to go into the small chapel at our church and thank God for the elevation of our former pastor,a Franciscan priest, to the post of the Bishop of Savannah.As she came out of the church, a van pulled up and a man got out and came over to her.
He wanted to know if our church had a French Mass.Well, we do actually and this newest refugee from Africa was warmly welcomed and told about the active French speaking group in our Church.His wife speaks no English.How happy they must have felt as they drove away that they had found a place to belong.

What if my friend had said "no" to that chapel urge? Small things that weave the Kingdom together.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Ichi go,ichi e.


This phrase describes a teaching of Japanese Tea Masters which means that a meeting with others is a special occasion that will never occur again and is to be treasured.

How many times in my life have I met and connected with someone just for a few minutes,a brief time and experienced something to treasure?.

There was a young boy that I talked to once at the New York World's Fair in 1965.I was engaged and in my early twenties and he, perhaps ten or eleven.We stopped on a bridge overlooking a meadow and talked about the fair and what we enjoyed.He was open faced,so full of life and easy to speak with that I have never forgotten him.

Once at the Atlanta airport flying home to New York for my Father's funeral, a woman started to talk to me and found out why I was going to New York.She put her hand over her mouth and said,"Isn't that just like a man, always leaving us ?"She then continued to complain about everything that life had done to her.I had to smile.

I have a friend who was so angry at her family that she got into her car,drove to the Atlanta Airport and went into the chapel to be alone.A young woman walked in , broke down in sobs and thinking that my friend was a chaplain,shared her pain.Amazing.

I was in a Yoga class once and a young girl kept falling over in this one complicated stand.She was deaf and perhaps because of that her balance was off but she smiled through it all.In my mind,I can see her blonde hair and crooked smile and I remember Mickey for her pluck.

Perhaps the briefest encounter came a few summers ago when I was driving past a house in the Catskills.A middle aged man was coming down a path and he smiled and waved.He seemed so friendly that I waved back with a happy smile.I later found out that he was the Skakel that is now in jail for the murder of 15 year old Martha Moxley back in the 70s when he was a teenager.He seemed so nice and if I had known should I have witheld my wave?

I wonder how open I am now to these encounters.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

gifts from a generous Hand


My youngest son just completed his course work for a doctorate in Biology.My second son is getting married to a lovely girl, who adores him,in two weeks.My heart swells with appreciation for their lives and accomplishments.I have written before about the many achievements of my other son and daughter.

The most tears, however, were shed when my second son received a wedding card addressed to me.It was from my dearest friend and former neighbor,Hildegarde.In the card she congratulated both sons and then told the story of the Easter when my youngest was a toddler.She invited all four of my children over to look for nests of eggs.Each had their own to find...I'll let her tell the rest.."I remember the Easter that you all four came over to my house,dressed so pretty.You,Jessica and Michael found your Easter nest but not Sean.He was so little at the time.His lips began to quiver ,he was so close to tears.But you three gently stood in the way and then pushed him towards his nest.It was a long time ago."

This is who they were,my children,and this is who they still are.And I can't thank God enough for the gift of them.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

first mile


Who am I? How would I describe myself? Once,when I was in my early fifties, a wrecker driver picked me up when my car broke down.He then got on his phone and told his dispatch person that he had just picked up an elderly woman.He wished he hadn't,when I finished with him.I think it went like this."Listen Bubba,I ran three miles this morning,did you?"

The 43 year old woman is slumped forward in a chair in an Atlanta suburban backyard.Her auburn hair hangs limply and her brown business suit is wrinkled and damp.It is July 20,1986 and her 37 mile commute is over but the four hungry teenagers need dinner and the laundry is piled high.She prays:"Help me,Lord,I don't want to live if I have to be this tired."In the humid silence, a whisper,"Run".

Oozing snark, she thinks,"Oh sure,one more thing on my hideously loaded plate.One more thing to wear me out.Again,"run".So she drags herself upstairs and finds old red and white tennis shoes, goes outside and runs up the block.In 8 minutes and 34 seconds, she has run a mile and with a satified smile and brighter eyes, she starts to make dinner.And so it began.

One foot in front of the other,mile after mile:in pelting rain,snow,through woods ,up hills,with her dogs,kids,friends and several times with 60,000 other runners through the streets of Atlanta on the Fourth of July.

Mostly though, she plodded alone, battling discomfort to achieve a goal;three miles,that hill,this race.

All the while, a small silver chisel was carving these words into her psyche","If you can do this,you can do anything,athlete."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

old glory

heading North


To those faithful readers who bless me with their comments and to those who drop in
once in a while,I am heading North to the New York mountains where I hope to write with my feet dangling in the brook.

Posting will be something else.May just be weekly trips to the library.

I am looking forward to spending time in the beautiful valley that has held my footsteps since I was a toddler.My grandmother,Honorah, bought the property and her spirit is there to walk with me.

Have a delighful Summer wherever you are and please drop in still,once in awhile.....

Monday, June 13, 2011

eternal lotus


Night retiring,surging up from the mud,what did you see underwater while I slept ?Was it as wonderful as what I saw?

On the first day, the sun came up from you,oh everlasting bloom.You come and go as wise thoughts do.

You are a gift to all who think they are not "enough".I hold you in my palm and smile.Healing,coming back at palest light.

Simple, pure thoughts attend.

Sunday, June 12, 2011



a monastery in Romania

Beyond that collection of boots and shoes is a small cell.The walls of the cell are plain;a cross,a bed with a white cotton cover,a small rustic writing table and a worn Book.

Does the thought of that room scare you?Or does it calm your heart and cause a whisper of joy to stir.This picture is of a quiet,secret place that the monk uses for prayer.One not need to be a monk to find such a place but for most there are challenges.I have a bench in the woods that is my cell.However, most months it is too hot or buggy to use.St.Francis pulled his hood over his head and that was his cell.

To me,the life of prayer,the discipline of it is as necessary as breathe.If I stop praying, my thinking changes.The spirit world becomes unreal instead of being a mist all around me.So I must pray.I pray that I will never stop praying.And sometimes I would rather not.

Thomas Merton ,the Trappist monk ,knew about this:

"The greatest joy in life is to give up yourself altogether for the honor and glory of God,to know that you belong to him entirely,that your will is known and possessed by His love.Anything that tends to that end,any sacrifice,therefore,brings joy and happiness,even though it may be bitter to the flesh."

How does the picture affect you?

take down the dulcimer


"Today,like every other day,we wake up empty
and frightened.Don't open the door to the study
and begin reading.Take down the dulcimer.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground"

Rumi

Saturday, June 11, 2011

are you a writer?


I am.An unpublished,probably never to be published writer,who has found this deep well of grace inside that strains to be out.This is all I know.That the world I see,smell and revel in, needs to find its way through me and onto a page.

The extraordinary glimpses of the invisible world,the surprises,never to be imagined answers to prayers, need to be held up so the sparkles can be seen.Like a strobe light turning again and again to catch each panel's shining.

I once walked a labyrinth and in that still green meadow heard this:"find a way to let the "Godness" inside your center flow out into the world."So I watch and listen .I take pictures to capture the moment of beauty or grace and later, in writing ,I poke around in the roots of the happening to see its meaning.

I am a writer of bounty,of surprises,answered prayers,sparkles,and reveling.Writing.

Friday, June 10, 2011

day lilies


Is there anything sadder looking than a lily, the day after?It hangs,shriveled,dripping and dead.I clip the dead flowers each morning so the others don't have to be near this sad,useless thing.More than once I have thought,"Why can't they last longer?"

I have read that scientists are working on this very thing:to extend the blooming time of a day lily.Isn't this so "us"?Not satisfied with these gorgeous,multi-budded flowers.Wanting to make them better.But the question arises,how many days is enough?Will a Two Day Lily satisfy?I can hear the grumbling,"only two days."Maybe we can make them bloom in January with a little work.

But the lily blooms for one day in many colors and in hardy abundance.These are the lilies that Scripture said will be taken care of by the generous God.They don't pout because they have just one day.I am here for just a day as well when I consider the eons of time.

This brings to mind a Chinses saying that I have read,"If you have two loaves of bread ,go and sell one and buy a lily."

walking with the sun


I took a walk with the sun this morning leaving dark and dreams behind.The orange day lilies turned to watch.

An indigo bunting glows its color at the feeder.Dew drops on the edges of the rose leaves suggest an aboriginal dot painting.

Small quick wing shadows and a wren sings.
Each new turning holds an open hand-here this is for you.What do you see?

One is never alone as long as there are chickadees.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

In my fantasy world...


There is something that draws me to humble people.I am not alone in this.The other day ,my friend Eva sent a YouTube video of a young Korean singer performing on Korea Has Talent.As they spoke to him before his performance he mentioned that he doesn't sing very well but he enjoys it and that's why he was there.

In his checkered shirt and blue jeans, he bowed to the three judges and let loose in Italian.My,oh my.He chose Nell Fantasia from an Italian opera.This beautiful piece has been done by the Celtic Women and I first heard it as the haunting background music in the great movie,The Mission, with Robert DeNiro.Beautiful,challenging music and there this boy was,this orphan from the age of three, this street kid from the age of five,who slept for years in public toilets,untrained,opening his mouth to let magic out,to offer beauty to the world.

Listen to the words that are this song:

"In my fantasy world I see a fair world.
Where everyone lives in peace and honesty.
I dream of a place to live that is always free,
Like a cloud that floats,
Full of humanity in the depths of the soul.

In my fantasy world,I see a bright world.
Where each night there is less darkness.
Like the clouds that float.

In my fantasy world exists a warm wind,
That breathes into the city like a friend.
I dream of souls that are always free,
Like the cloud that floats,
Full Humanity in the depths of the soul."

I posted this on Facebook and another friend added this blessing for the singer,this hope for him ,"And I will repay you for the years which the locust has eaten."Joel2:25.

To Eva,Margo and Sung Bong Choi;a deep bow.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

the brook...


It was on a bright blue sky day with the suggestion of a breeze that I took my journal down to the brook.We had company and I missed my writing/meditation time by the flowing stream.It was the Summer of 2004 at our house in the Catskill Mountains.I made my way down the brook to a pool, that had been formed by the neighbors across the street, with logs,boulders and sticks.I sat on the logs and closed my eyes to hear what was around me.In a few minutes the brook seemed to have taken over my mind in such a wondrous way.

Streaming through my mind were memories of joy,times of satisfaction,happiness and grace.It was as if a faucet had been turned on and only golden light was allowed to flow.It was glorious and so calming.I can't find the words.I have never read about anything like this but it happened that day in July.

Soon my niece's husband and son came down the brook and the spell was broken.Was it water sprites,or a moment in heaven.? Is that what heaven will be like;golden,flowing thoughts ?I hold this memory close in wonder.It reminds me of a poem I was looking for the other day.I have loved it always.

Memory

My mind lets go a thousand things,Like dates of wars and deaths of kings,
And yet recalls the very hour-
One noon by yonder village tower,
And on the last blue noon in May-
The wind came briskly up this way,
Crisping the brook beside the road;
Then,pausing there,set down its load
Of pine-scents,and shook listlessly
Two petals from that wild-rose tree.

Thomas Bailey Aldrich

Have you had such a moment?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

crow dog


Wandering and pecking in my yard are three crows in their black shiny garb.My husband calls them crow dogs.He swears they are big enough to walk on a leash.One is on the birdbath and is the size of a football.This is the first year that I have noticed them although they squawk from the swamp once in awhile.

I do love the sound of their call.Robins suggest summer evenings under the maples on Long Island but crows sing of the valley in the Catskills where I went for summers as a child.

Of course, to the farmers, who were many when I was small,they were crop thieves and so the proverbial scarecrow would be erected with floppy hat and long arms to attempt to fool them.The men of the earth had great respect for their intelligence and swore that whatever they did to shoot them was futile.In one of the screens in the house where I summered was a hole the size of the barrel of a gun.A relative would sit and wait but never,no matter how quiet, could they fool these birds.

Recent research has found that they not only use tools but make them and can be taught to talk.Amazing.Their neostriatum,sub cortical part of the fore brain, is comparable in size to chimps and humans.There has been research done in how to train them to pick up trash and dispose of it.Hilarious!!!They also can tell one human from another by face recognition.They have been observed feeding their old and weakened parents.

When I was a child I saw a movie,"Babes in Toyland" and although I have no idea what the movie was about,I recall a terrifying scene where crows were walking around with lit matchsticks setting fires.Lassie,they were not.Does anyone remember that scene?

In 1993,Auburn ,New York was visited by between 25,000 and 50,000 crows and they must have liked it as they are still there.No one knows how to get rid of them or why they came.Sounds like a Tippi Hedren movie to me.

My favorite crow story is in the Buddhist tradition.The first Dali Lama was an infant when robbers attempted to break into the house of his family.The parents fled without the child but when they returned,the infant was being guarded by two crows and the house was undisturbed.

A crow is not a bird but a wonder.