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.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

my home is within you


I don't know why these words from Psalm 87 touch me so much.Is there a more tender,meaningful word than home?My arms feel a bit weak as I type this,almost as if I am treading on holy ground.Home.

I have a dear, unlikely friend who I have known for many years.We visited Kris and her husband in Puerto Rico this March.I could feel a longing in her for a Georgia Spring and was overjoyed to find that she is to move back here in a short while.She wrote..."why not be near family ?"Indeed.

My first home on Long Island was a small red brick cape that I have spoken of often.I have called it a tight,gloomy ship to sail on and it was and still it was wonderful.Many friends, trees and colors of spring around the streets.I lived there for 23 years and it will always have a hold on me.When we go to New York, we always drive by and I am never unmoved.This is the womb where I grew,where I exulted in music,sang all day long and first read Nancy Drew and "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn".

Since then, we have lived in Denver,California,Kentucky and for most of the time,in Georgia.We once left here and moved to a house on a marsh on a secluded island in South Carolina and for a year I walked around in a daze as if my right arm was missing.Such a bad fit for me,just one state over.

Psalm 87 is talking about the home of the chosen people which is the shining city of Jerusalem..."They shall note when the peoples are enrolled there :""This man was born there.""And all shall sing ,in their festive dance:""My home is within you.""Ps.87:6-7

This is why I think I am feeling this scripture so deeply.Our home really is not here and because of that we are never completely "at home" or satisfied,even in the homeplace that does shelter and give us roots.This is the closest we can come to our true home which is within Him,His heart and we cannot get there from here.But we will.

My home is within You.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

only this matters


In September 2010, I went with a friend to a small, ,Southwestern-styled adobe church and retreat house in Alabama.The twenty or so sisters who run the house are young and peppy and the food was good.We stayed from Friday night through Sunday afternoon and even though I loved being there,I am always ready to go home to my family.

My companion and I shared a room.She was the perfect roomie,calm,pleasant and deeply respectful of the quiet times that we were given for prayer.

I spent time walking the grounds,taking pictures, reading the Bible and praying in the small chapel.There were beautiful roses climbing a black wrought iron fence and sweet little purple wildflowers growing between the rocks on the path.Nothing centers and calms me like this type of strolling with soft bells in the distance.

On Saturday night, they planned a novena and veneration of the Eucharist and my plan was to skip that for praying on my own.But then,but then.....a subtle nudge...Go.I thought I had already fully punched my novena card after going to so many in Grammar and High School.Same prayers,same hymns,every Friday for years so I had a perfect excuse not to go but then...I found myself kneeling next to my friend in the chapel with my head bowed.I looked up at the host on the altar in the golden monstrance and these words fell like gentle rain into my heart,"This is all that matters."Period.

Catholics believe that the consecrated host is the Body of Christ and it is He who awaits us after this life.The words that I heard really put things into perspective for me.How many times do I need to be reminded that when I leave here,there will be no 22 inch carrying case going in the overhead bin?It will just be my soul and all the choices I have made over these years.My soul will be shining with gold and bejewelled streamers of love or will be something else.No one will be going with me on this journey and there will be no distractions when I am in the presence of the God of the Universe.The job I didn't get will be the last thing on my mind.Neither the deepest sorrow nor the greatest joy can hold my heart captive in the face of this Truth.He is all that matters.This is a difficult truth to grasp but think of the ramifications if I can take that in and live from it.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

summer


There is a small,pearl covered box that rests on a shelf in my heart.It is there to be opened when I want,but there is a price.It has black and white pictures of innocence........

Of days of sun,play and closeness.
Quiet mornings reading in the deep green shade.
Solid sentinel maples lit from below by a streetlamp.
On a breeze from the South,heavy salt air.
White strong legs finally free.May.
Lilac air;sweet purple,glorious.
Hide and go seek,in the tender,black night.

It is here that we were formed,socially inept,witty and good,yes,good.It is all there in my heart as a gracious gift but with the opening, comes longing.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

my house guests


For at least the last fifteen years,I have had a house wren swoop unto a ledge by my front door at 8:17 each evening to sleep.He tucks his beak under his wing and is motionless 'til sunrise.His spotted tail feathers are just so cute I want to grab and hug him.These nocturnal visit only happen in summer.

The record life expectancy for a wren is seven years, one month so this must be two different wrens.Did the first show the other the spot?How did the first find that perfect little ledge in the first place ?I am so charmed by my little birds that evening guests have to leave by another door so he will not be disturbed.Is that a little loony?

Every morning, the wren is gone and I can hear him calling in the bushes for his mate.Something happened after the last terrible thunderstorm that was very sad for me.I wrote a haiku about it:

After the big storm,
plaintively, the lone wren calls.
there is no answer.



This poem spoke to me of all the loss of life in the South,in the unanswered calls.I just knew the mate had been blown out of a tree and destroyed.But the next night,I was stunned to look at 8:32 and see what the attached picture shows.

Since that night, they have perched together.I sleep better.

Monday, May 9, 2011

the pagoda in the valley



The humble monk walks slowly up the cinder path to the solitude of the towering pagoda.He is alone and sombre.He has much to reflect on and his hope is that the sacred relics in the place he is seeking will speak to the quiet place in his heart where peace can be found.He can hear the rushing stream,see the sun bathing the snowy mountain tops a pale pink and he rejoices in the things with which he is gifted by his senses.Already his spirit is quieting.

This painting that enchants me so, was created by my granddaughter in her second grade class.It won first place and was displayed in an art center in Dawsonville this Spring.Finally on Mother's Day, I got to see it and in a moment I will never forget,it was given to me by a small,delicate hand as a special gift.So many entities in the picture lure me, the color of the mountains,the blue, curving stream, the simple bridge,the mottled blue sky and finally the sacred space,the pagoda.

Dancing with the memory of this treasured gift is another one. After Frisbee,Chinese food, gifts and cards,she was in the middle of the room and turned and came towards me.She is slight, freckled with blonde curly hair, and now wears studious, adorable glasses that perch on her nose.She keeps a journal and paints.As she approached,in her eyes was such love;she held me there with that love as I gazed at her in deep connection.We hugged for no reason other than to celebrate we two.

Friday, May 6, 2011

my old friend


This morning, I was looking in an old notebook for a specific poem and, as often happens, found another.This small notebook was one that I bought for a quarter when I was a teen and besotted with poetry.As I read through it, and as the cover falls off, I am struck by my young, good taste. Millay, Dickinson, Byron, Keats, Yeats and Frost. It is long on sea and mountain poems, friends, country and love.I am glad I kept it for so long. Especially today when I want to offer one of the inscribed works to an old friend.

We met when I was ten and he,twelve.And yes,we were lighter of foot.Our friendship was lost in the moving forward from teenage to child-filled adult, with moves to the West, South and Texas. After 9-11, a graced "co-incidence" happened and we met again on-line and picked up where we left off after the soccer ball had been put away, the maples taken down from our street and we had rushed to grow-up.

As I typed this authorless poem, I grew quite misty, but my friend of almost sixty years is made of sterner stuff and he will be fine ;maybe he will swell a bit at this tribute.I hope so.


My Old Friend

It seems the world was always bright
With some divine unclouded weather,
When we with hearts and footsteps light,
By street and park walked together.

There was no talk of me and you,
Of theories with facts to bound them,
We were content to be and do,
And took our fortunes as we found them.

We spoke no wistful words of love,
No hint of sympathy and dearness,
Only around ,beneath ,above,
There ran a swift and subtle nearness.

Each in most thought was known to each
By some impetuous divination.
We found no need of flattering speech,
Content with silent admiration.

I think I never touched your hand,
I took no heed of face or feature,
Only, I thought on sea or land
Was never such a gracious creature.

It seems I was not hard to please,
Where'er you led I needs must follow,
For strength you were my Hercules,
For wit and luster, my Apollo.

The years flew onward; stroke by stroke
They clashed from the impartial steeple,
And we appear to other folk
A pair of ordinary people.

One word, old friend:though fortune flies,
If hope should fail-til death shall sever-
In one dim pair of faithful eyes,
You seem as bright,as brave as ever.
Author Unknown

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

how do you speak to an angel ?


Yesterday, my godchild Paul, who has been under an angel's wing and in my heart since birth,sent me the attached picture.He found this most unusual angel tucked in the roots of a tree as he walked a street in Brooklyn.Being an enlightened person, he took this as a sign and so do I.It's time.....

I have never seen an angel nor heard one.For many years, they were not on my radar.Then a few summers ago my niece gave me a book on these beings and I read with some interest.So, I took the plunge and asked his/her name.Immediately,"Ariel".With wonder,in my spirit, I said hello and that was that.

The following summer, while in the Catskill mountains,I went down to the brook and the first thing I noticed was a small white feather clinging to a grey rock.My first thought came from somewhere beyond my rational mind,"an angel has been here.".Oh,that's odd.That night,I had a profound dream involving undulating, green serpents down by the brook and a black lion that passed me by with no harm.The next day,my niece gave me another angel book and I looked up Ariel to find that this being is usually depicted in visions and art as a lion.She is also associated with water courses.

I accepted this as a further extension of the hand of my angel.Around this time, the last living member of my family was coming to the end of her life.Alcoholism had taken a toll on my family of four,three were alcoholics but I was not.In my anguish at the horror of this disease,I asked,"Why not me ?"The answer was short and immediate,"You have been protected."As is often the case, I had to wait for the unfolding of the meaning of this.I found it again in the readings for today;"The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,and delivers them."Psalm 34:8.

My belief is that the thoughts and the negative influences that might have destroyed me,were kept at bay in the spiritual realm.I will understnad this more deeply in the next life.

I haven't seen an angel although in my mind, I see swirling pink,purple and white smoke but then what is the color of love?Is hope blue?

silent time


A bright Saturday in April.Greenest of grass and a few pink rose blooms nodding in the warm breeze.A lone brilliant yellow iris opening to the sun.Benches in the woods and tables on the porch all set for a special time,outside of time.

This past Saturday, three friends came to spend some time in prayer.The format was simple:almost an hour seated together around a table with a candle,my grandmother's cross and a glowing orchid.In silent prayer,together.Then the same amount of time in writing our prayers, thoughts ,gleanings outside in the woods and finally gathering to share our reflections by the candlelight.

The first shared how pleased God was with our gathering just to be with Him.Tears of joy at His joy.She shared how the lawnmower across the street was not a distraction for her but brought memories of the smell of cut grass and the rows of neatness.

For another ,the candle felt like a grace for her as it shined towards her and upwards as her prayers went.The peace of the time was a gift.

For the third friend, the peace and what was shared by others spoke to her about emptying and being present and why not do it more often.The importance of this time to see as God sees.

In the company of the bees and busy robins my reflection took this form:

"Quiet, deep peace.
All mine to figure
Empty and waiting.
Pray through me ,Holy Spirit
Not in words-in movement
of whispers,yearnings like clouds
or smoke.
Empty time;full time.
supported by other spirits.

Beads on a string stretching to heaven
each bead a life-
tangled,joined,heading Home.

Calling-what should we be doing?
Witness,hold hands,prayer,fasting and acts,
always acts of mercy and finally love.

Eyes-opened heart turned to see the need.As many as there are beads,acts."
**************************************************************************

I think the beads came to mind because of a loss suffered by one of the ladies in the Coming Home program at church.She is a lovely,smiling gift to me.Last week her purse was stolen including the Rosary she received at her Baptism.These thoughts came on the bench:

"The Rosary is a circle,infinite,always,..circle of beads is also as circle of people needing love-that is our call,that circle of beads to pray and people to love.

Not just a rosary but a road of people on the same path needing....and grace to see the need."

And then I knew, as the robin sang an insistent song, that this Thursday I would give a beautiful,crystal rosary,that belonged to a dear relative, to my new friend.The circle is never ending.