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


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


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.


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.