Wednesday, November 30, 2011
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?"
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
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
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
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.
may shatter and embitter
Or deepen understanding
and increase sensitivity
to other's dreams."-Theta Burke
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
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
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
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.
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
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
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.....
-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?