Sunday, December 30, 2012

walking with the saints




                                                              GWEN JOHN


They are not in our realm,these friends whose lives glow with love of God.We actually have photos of some of  them;St.Therese of Lisieux who died at the end of the last century at the frighteningly young age of 24.And soon to be declared saint,Mother Teresa,she of the craggy,lined face and bent posture.

Some heroes await official sainthood like Damian of the lepers whose foul language and other suspect behavior has engendered careful scrutiny.He who lived and died for the least of us,the maimed,sick, limbless and contagious.For the love of God.





Gwen John


Last year ,a few saint companions made themselves known to me,popping up as if to say,"I'm here and I have something to show you."Gwen John, the Welsh artist,Blessed John Ruysbroeck and St.Catherine of Bologna,a writer.Thomas Becket seems to be gently pressing his hand in mine these days so for the New Year,I think I'll add him to the others.What will they have to say ?

Ruysbroeck was a Flemish mystic who wandered in the woodlands and never wrote a word unless he felt he was writing  God's words.I like him,this ascetic born in 1293.Walk with me.

Gwen John was a wonderful painter in my view and a person of deep sometimes harmful attachments.
Somehow, she came to faith and through the writings of St.Therese of Lisieux,came to know God and love Him.Charles de Foucauld ,he who came to faith by falling on his knees .He who was martyred by the people he served in the desert of Africa.

His words gladden my heart:"Have confidence that the destiny God has reserved for you will be the best for His glory, for your soul and the souls of others."

2013 and I will not walk alone .

Sunday, December 23, 2012

eternal ornaments

Last night at Mass for the fourth Sunday of Advent,the deacon offered this:what acts of love,of kindness have you offered this Advent.Are you ready for the Coming of the Lord of Gifts ?I was struck by this ,the labelling of kindnesses as ornaments and I see it in my mind.





This Christmas tree stands with bare bone white limbs on a strong stately trunk.Lifted high to the heavens on these filigreed branches are shining puffs of light the size of regular round ornaments but ephemeral.They turn in the winter breeze emitting colored sparks of light -yellow,green,pink,violet.And the sky reaches down to scoop them up for the eternal pleasure of the angels and all of heaven.

Tomorrow,my husband will deliver Communion to a hospice resident whose daughter worked for him thirty years ago.Then, to a church friend who he drives to doctor's appointments.On the way to my son's house, we will stop at his elderly, chess playing friend's apartment and drop off his favorite foods-thin sliced bread,brown bread,smoked salmon and spumoni.Ornaments.

In one of the cards we received this season,we learned of the death of the father of a New York friend.We dug out a photo we took of them both two years ago,had a copy made, and sent that off.I will call him Christmas morning to tell him how sorry I am.And I am, terribly ,as I know how close they were.

To a nephew's small daughter, a singing card with pop out figures.When she opened it she said:"How did she know I liked singing cards?"I have never met her but as I passed the Christmas cards,a whisper and I knew.Ornament.

I don't think we are alone in this ornament production.How lovely to know that nothing can ever break or erase these hanging acts of love.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Skye-Isle of Cloud





It would be hard for me to tell how many treasures I have found at the Goodwill store in Fayetteville.A paperback,"The Hills Is Lonely" was there the other day for $1.50.It is selling new for $138.64 on Amazon.When I flipped through the book, I saw Hebrides and I put it in my cart..

It tells the story of a woman who left London in the 60s to find some peace and arrived in a terrible storm to a Scottish island in the Hebrides where she rented a room.I cannot wait to dip into her adventure having found myself on two such islands a few years ago.Mull and Skye,picked out of a travel book ,became our home when we went to Scotland in 2010.

Perhaps, I picked Syke because of the Skye Boat Song whose title I have known my whole life.I found it on "youtube" and it's lilting melody haunts.It tells the story of the sailors taking Bonnie Prince Charles away from the killing fields of Culloden to the safety of Skye.They were the brave and those who would capture them hadn't the courage to set off in chase, in the wild, roaring seas of Skye.
                                   
                                   " Speed bonnie boat ,like a bird on the wing,
                                                  onward the sailors cry.
                                        Carry the lad that's born to be king,
                                                   over the sea to Skye".


The B&B on this island was at the end of  the street where the bus left us,having come over a bridge from the mainland .It was late in the day and the train/bus trip had left us exhausted.We dragged our bags up the lane and knocked.A smiling, silver haired man let us in and showed us to our second floor room.I teared up when I looked out the bay window that was behind the bed.There in the distance was the swirling sea,whitecaps,mountains.Just an enchanting view that I still see in my mind.

To the North, viewed from another window ,was the ruin of a castle on a hill above a bay. My husband wanted to take another bus to tour the island but I wanted to just walk around Skye and write in my journal.He went off hiking to the castle and I sat in a small park by the water to absorb the smells and sights of this green place.

Within moments, a plump grey and white long haired cat jumped in my lap and we cuddled against the cold wind.That sweet warm visitor stayed with me in my reverie until it started to rain and I had to go back to our room.On our day of leaving,we were waiting at the sheltered bus stop ,when I saw her across the road.I called her and she dashed over to once again share a bench with me.

I have never been so affected; I just loved that cat.She lives on a magic island in a mystical land.

Monday, December 17, 2012

the people who walk in darkness....


picture by Kris


The last two days have been mild but rainy.The river is way up and  the ground is soaked.In my neighborhood there seems to be fewer lights on the houses this winter.It would seem to me that a person who suffers from depression would find these days a burden.Where do we look for light in a world of killers loose among us?

We have to keep our eyes wide open for the glimmers of light.They are there.

I went to a local rehab center today to visit a church friend.I don't know her very well but her daughter was once in my Sunday School class.Barbara is in her 50s and tragically,she contracted meningitis.She is unable to leave her bed and there was no chair for me to sit in the small ,stark room.It was an awkward visit.

Months ago, Barbara's family expected her death but she survived ,although damaged in many ways.

Barbara remembered who I was which surprised me and we talked a bit.Then she began experiencing pain and the doctors came to check her.I left as they entered the room.It is difficult to describe how sad her situation has become and how dreary is the facility that is her home.

As I drove home,I couldn't help gloomy thoughts about her future and her long days.

She has a roommate ,an older African-American lady ,who is bedridden but very sharp.I was thinking that at 85 years she has out-lived many relatives when she offered that she has no children or any family who live in Georgia. Ginny was bright eyed and kind,a most likable lady and as I was leaving she pointed to the two stockings hanging on the wall that Barbara's grown children had hung.One for their Mother and one for dear Ginny.

Kindness glows in the darkness like a star in the sky.

Friday, December 14, 2012

no,I don't deserve this joy...





   The sun streams in the woods but it is December so the air is clear,cold.Advent is half over and it has been so joyful that I cringe a bit as I don't deserve it.

    If I were to closely examine this warm cloud of joy that rests in my heart,it might fly away.But it is such a gift that nothing seems to disturb ,that I want to share it..Have joy,we are loved by a mighty God.Have peace, because he holds us in his hands and has a purpose for our life.Surrender to all the love that there is.Soak it in through his beautiful words.Rejoice!

  I once watched a show with my husband a long time ago, around this time of year.The documentary was focusing on a group of monks in the Northeast and the oldest among them was being interviewed.I have no idea his age but as he spoke,his eyes shone and sparkled like a small excited child.We were struck by this child-like joy that flowed from those ancient eyes.My husband said:"How do you get that?"Neither of us have forgotten his face and speak of him once in awhile.

Today,I saw those eyes again as my husband brought home a small chess set from Wal-Mart.He had this twinkle.Every week,he visits an elderly man from our church  to shop for him and now he has started playing chess with him to assuage the 89 year old's loneliness.And he is more joyful than I have seen in a long time.

I wrote this year about two friends, one who helped a lost elderly woman and another who helped an older woman with her packages at the store.What struck me when I read both of these on Facebook was the deep joy in the telling.It comes flowing into our lives,disrupting our usual thoughts and filling our spirits ,this joy.

These words:"These things have I spoken unto you ,that my joy might remain in you and that your joy might be full."John 15:11.

So ,no, I don't deserve this joy but it is this free gift that comes when we throw in our lot with Him.

"Joy is not a flag Jesus plants in us;it is a fruit that he grows in us."Dan Land

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

the blue of comfort and protection





It is finally cold in Georgia and an overcast sky frames the woods in grey.It almost looks like mist. The only color left is of the beech leaves still clinging in copper clusters.

But today's color is blue.Mary blue, as this is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.I never thought much of the story of the apparition in Mexico in 1531 that caused over 5 million conversions in the following years.It seemed too far away in time and place.I always liked the image though, with Mary's closed eyes, her inward pose and the extraordinary color of blue ,muted ,with beige and browns.There is much symbolism in the things on this image that appear on the tilma (cloak)of Don Diego, a Mexican peasant after she spoke to him.

Several years ago, a group of friends and I began to meet occasionally to pray together and seek His will for our lives.The night before the first meeting, I had a vivid dream.A group of ladies dressed in simple blue were kneeling in a hushed and dim chapel.In the front row was the Lord kneeling prayerfully, with the blue ladies right behind.It was a peaceful scene and when I awoke I knew that the "prayers" were us.

The next day,at the gathering,I told the group of my dream and one said that the blue was of Mary and that she would be our protectoress.I thought,"Maybe". Then I received this:...."there is a shadow over you." I spoke it and it seemed strange and a bit off putting.

That evening, I saw in the news that Hillary Clinton had gone to Guadalupe ,and had seen the ancient tilma with the above picture on it and had asked the Bishop:"Who painted this?"The Bishop responded that the Lord had put it there.I "googled" the tilma to see a picture of it and there I found the words that the Lady had given to Diego:"Let nothing discourage you,nothing depress you......Am I not here who am your Mother?Are you not under my shadow and protection.......?"

Under my shadow........

Thursday, December 6, 2012

slow down







Years ago, we had a wonderful and gifted choir director/soprano at church.No one has forgotten her.Friends at church still say;"Remember when Meg would sing this?"At this time of year she would sing a hymn,"Slow Down."She sang with such feeling and so contemplatively that  my shoulders would lower,check muscles relax and a letting go of all that hung over me would happen.

......."In the midst of my confusion,In the time of desperate need,when I'm thinking not too clearly,a gentle voice does intercede......slow down,slow down,be still and wait..."

I think of the journey of a snowflake,drifting silently from the sky.White, glistening and falling slowly..."slow down,slow down..."

Then,the smile of my newest granddaughter that you really have to work for and ....the sun shines through her eyes."Slow down and wait...".

A leaf on the Flint River,swirling,moving ......."slow down..."

"In the time of tribulation,when I'm feeling so unsure,when things are pressing in about me,comes a gentle voice so still,...so pure.Slow down..."

Once on Iona ,off the coast of Scotland,I sauntered along the winding path of a beautiful rock labyrinth.It took us a few hours to find the labyrinth and it was the only time on our ten day trip that it didn't rain.It is laid out on the beach where St.Columba landed so many centuries ago.The rocks that form the path are round and of colors that were quite extraordinary to my eye.Red and green rocks.And white,black and brown.

.Burdened by thoughts of bus and train schedules,I began my slow journey along the path.After a few turns,I heard this clearly:"Let go.I am in charge".My whole body sunk into the grass.It will take a lifetime to figure out how to do this but the message is there for all  of us:"Be still and wait on the Spirit of the Lord.Slow down and hear His voice and know that He is God."

-song Slow Down by Chuck Girard.....can be found on "youtube"


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

who notices little girls ?





I have written before of the immense good that can come to a child from a mere moment of kindness.I told of the stranger in our neighborhood who said precious words to me many years ago that warm me still.

When we were on our way home from Down Under,we stayed by the Sydney airport for the night and in the tiny lobby of our hotel they had a unique offering.A small bookshelf was labelled "books for exchange".What a great idea.I was already deep into a book and had no need but I picked up a hardback anyway that was entitled,"Just One Minute".As I leafed through, I was astounded.The author said this:"I have become convinced that if God stands a child before you for even just a minute,it is a divine appointment."Would I have even noticed this quote if not for what had happened two days before on Tomaree Head? 

It was a hot day as we ascended the steep path that had ben labelled "moderate"by the sign nearby.It was brutal and we rested many times on the way up.This was a tree covered mini-mountain outside of Shoal Bay and we knew that the top offered lovely ocean views.We plodded on and then sat on a bench.

Up the trail came a Dad,a Granddad,a small boy and a young girl.She looked to be about 12 years old and had brown hair held up on her head by a pink bow.She was unsmiling,a bit chunky and we barely noticed her.But my husband high-fived the little brother and gave him lavish praise for his efforts.The Dad winked and said,"I've had him on my shoulders alot of the way."We all laughed and the family passed on.

At the top, I sat on a rock to ready my camera for the incredible ocean views below.The girl sat across from me and the Spirit moved.I asked her what she had in her backpack, whether she knew what she wanted to do with her life(she didn't know),where she lived(Maryland,NSW).and then said,"Well you're pretty and fit so you are doing just fine."Not my words,nor my intent.It all happened above me.

In these couple of days,I have realized a purpose.I am to be a smiling,warm hand patting gently the backs of little girls.Not to be leaping from behind tall buildings every time I see one,but to be very aware of the ones who come by divine appointment. Like Missy,the hiker and Misha,the artist.

She was Missy to her little brother but her Dad called her Jane.She took our picture and I took one of her with her family and her glorious smile and I saw how pretty she was.A moment.



Tuesday, December 4, 2012

a good cow




In the past,I have seen horses running in their paddocks.Sometimes, a foal will gambol about ,racing here and there with spring fever but cows don't seem to move much.When I see them,they are usually still;chomping,munching and then maybe shuffling forward.A herd always seems to be facing the same direction,I don't know why.Occasionally,I will hear one bellow from across the river where there is a small farm.That's all I know about cows .

Until Australia.

We stayed at a thousand acre farm at Carrabolla ,four hours North of Sydney for a week.The owner and worker of this farm is my son's new father-in-law.It is a beautiful place and is theirs for as far as the eye sees.A river runs through it and the mountains hold it.It is so far from the city that at night the stars are multitudinous and close.

On the second day there,the new bride and her sisters went to town to collect chairs for the reception.As they passed a near-by paddock, they noticed a calf stumbling about.They went back to the farmhouse and gathering recruits,went to fetch the sick calf.He was brown but with white hair on his neck and back and next to him was a brown,apparently healthy calf that was paralyzed in his hind quarters.They scooped them both up and brought them to a pen near the house for treatment.Both little things had paralyzing ticks attached that had to be removed and the weaker one had intestinal problems.They were given shots of anti-venin and antibiotics.Untreated ,all their organs would stop working from the nasty poison of the tick and death would follow.

Two days later, the brown calf was up and bellowing and we took him in the truck to find his mother.As we went up the road ,a huge cow came racing down the hill towards us.She knew the truck had taken her calf and hoped to see him in the back.We drove past her ,around the bend and up another hill,where my son-in-law released the healthy cow who ambled over to the staring herd and found his mother.Out of the corner of my eye,I saw something charging down the hill from the road,past a stand of trees and up the hill to where we were.Charging, with eyes blazing and focused on the truck,hoping.The other mother.

The farmer said how good a mother this cow was as many pay little attention to their calves and if lost, seem not to care.There she stood in front of us,staring,waiting.We drove off ,cheered by the first rescue.On the way back to the house,we mused how in two days perhaps we could do the same thing and we vowed to cheer the second mother as she took back her baby.

It was not to be.Two days later,the farmer took the dead calf back to the paddock,laid it in the grass hoping the mother would find it,stop looking for it and start her grieving.Those were his words.

The last time I saw the herd they were headed up a ridge;twenty or so brown cows ,most with a calf  following, and the last cow,the good mother.An image that I carry.

Monday, December 3, 2012

most unusual woodland find






I have seen Autumn leaves before that are multi-colored with just a spot of green left but the leaf attached struck me with its green symmetry.Lines of green standing at attention as they march on and give way to color.

On Facebook, under the leaf picture,a young friend remarked about the death to life theme that we believers hold close.I am always grateful for his grace-filled words.I pondered all of this and thought about the other death.My friend knows deeply that in order to really live, we have to die to who we were and taking heart in hand,give it to the One to remake it in His image.That is His joy and it requires our assent.

I recall walking my dog on winter's nights on Long island when I was teenager.The cold was bone crushing.As my pal took his time with the walk,I would lean on one of the sentinel maples that lined our street.They ,at that bitter cold moment, felt less like a living thing, more like a solid iron post. Tree, ha,this is a dead wall of cement.But in April, the light green shoots appeared ,lit from behind by the streetlamp and all I felt was aliveness.Joyfilled,liberated,alive.

While on vacation in Australia ,I had the opportunity to talk about death with a new, older friend.He spoke movingly to me of his Mother's last years and how content she was and at peace with dying."When God is ready,I'll be ready ,"she often said.This touched him deeply.Maybe she had seen enough of the eternal song  in her own heart and in creation, to be perfectly at ease with what the future held.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

advent






Here we are and I am going to get effusive once more.I just love Advent.

The leaves have mostly dropped ,the abundance of summer is spent.We are down to bare branches now and a bare silver trunk of the beech,the tree that I hug when I get the mood.The sun can clearly be seen through the woods,white now as it descends.Cold ,winter light.

It seemed so strange to me to see wreaths hanging on doors in Australia in the heat and yellow sun.

This Advent,I plan to focus each day on what this waiting season means for my life.How different my life would be without the promises and whispers of the One who came and comes.And how different would be the world.I am going to watch for the Stars that shine over us here and now.Pointing,showing.And I will share those.

Why does this story even touch those who are non-believers ?This ,too good to be, story.

I have a dearly loved friend that is a non-believer.I have gotten her a small Christmas ornament that I found.It says;"I believe in snow angels".It makes me smile and I know that we can shake on that.

And the quiet, bare weeks of December stretch out before us and say:"Come into this silence and see if I am not here in the joy of snow angels."

Sunday, October 21, 2012

misha and the sun






Another stunning October Georgia day.Off to the park to do some running.More like a 12 minute slog.

On the cool-down walk,I saw her.Small,bent over the asphalt,very busy.She was about 8 years old and had mocha skin and a pile of black hair tied in a bow on her head.When I stopped,she looked up.I asked what she had drawn and she said,"the sun."And it was ; a chalk drawing the size of a dinner plate with a bright circle of yellow and rich orange spikes .I told her it made me smile and asked if she was an artist.Without skipping a beat,she said ,"yes"."Awesome", I said and left her.

As I walked away,I knew that I had to tell about her,her smile and her art.On the next pass,I found out that she is Misha and that with the plastic glasses she handed me,I saw that her glorious sun was also magically 3-D.Amazing.I told her that I wasn't an artist but a writer .I asked if I could write about her and her sun.Smile,yes.And so I offer you the artist ,Misha ,who has a sun shining so brightly in her that has to get out.

Now that she has said that she is an artist,she will be one.She will watch things more closely than others.Observe,tuck inside and one day,put on asphalt or paper.Monet sat in his garden for hours before putting one stroke on canvas.Watching,watching the sun move and things change.

This is what artists and writers do.Because they need grist for their craft,they are wide open to the world.They find this grist and in the most unlikely places.It can be a small carved angel in the roots of a tree.Only an artist can hear that voice underneath; tell my story.Or asphalt that yearns for a sun.

givers and takers




When the Spirit moves, it is like a soft but persistent breeze touching your face.You turn.Here ,the breeze says,consider this.

Yesterday, we met my son and his family for breakfast in a near-by town.I was looking forward to it because they live almost two hours from us now and we don't see them enough in the growing,sprouting age they are.Changelings.

As I was getting ready ,a thought kept whirling and dashing through my mind:You think so often of the special moments these three grandchildren have given you over the years.Offer them as gifts to each of them.I struggled with this as it seemed I would dominate the gathering but decided,why not,when will I ever tell them?

A thought came: suppose one of the kids makes fun of another after they receive their memory and takes it away?Why not tell them about the Givers and the Takers.

Givers make you feel good in the way that they respect and appreciate you.Takers make sure that that good feeling is taken away.I gave them an example.Once my husband and I ran six miles in the mountains,down the road that takes you to the Post Office.It was a hard but glorious run ,brook rushing beside us ,trees surrounding and mountains.As we neared the finish,feeling such satisfaction, a close relative was standing outside the Post Office.She called out:"looking mighty slow there." The good feeling was replaced immediately.She took it.

We settled in and ordered.Then I began:"I have gifts for each of you."The middle son got very excited ."I want to tell you of special memories that I have because of you".It got very quiet."The day that I went for a run and you said that you would wait for me on the porch and although you were just four,you waited in the cold just as you had said.That meant alot to me to see you there.The day we went to the thrift store and you found a silver dolphin on a chain and you had me buy it for your sister because she couldn't come.The summer afternoon that we both took naps in the quiet guest room while the sun slanted on the trees.Such peace to be there with you."The memories tumbled out for all to see.

In that building , something special unfolded.My son joined in with a regret,shared it and promised to do better.Perhaps the whole thing was leading to that.And there were no Takers that morning.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

sweet moments








I wish that I had kept a journal sooner or been more aware of special moments when I was growing up.They can bring such pleasure to the present when they are savored and held close.

In 1996 ,my husband and I made a long desired trip to Ireland,land of my people.Those pale ,thin survivors of a terrible famine in their homeland of 1848.They came here to survive but the Emerald isle always filled their deepest memories.This love of Ireland surely was passed on in my genes because I never knew Ellen Ambrose,she who stepped onto a wharf in New York at the age of 18.Nor did I know her daughter,my grandmother Hannorah, who died when I was two.Did she buy that summer place in the Catskills because it looks like Glendalough?

How to describe Ireland or the idea of it.Steeped in "The Quiet Man" and Maureen O'Hara or Yeats and his wonderful "Isle of Innisfree":"I hear the lake water lapping...I hear it in my deep heart's core.."
Bright green grasses,border collies, lakes,the raging sea,islands like the Blaskets.The saints ,Patrick,Aidan and Kevin, and the wonderful round towers dotting the country side.All these things we drank in on our ten day trip.But there was this moment .

We had arrived in Doolin on the coast and the sun shining seemed perfect for a trip to a castle,so thought my husband.We had seen so much with so little time to ruminate.I wanted nothing more than to sit with my journal.I told him to go on and off he went ,not at all happy.I took my book and pen into Mrs. Kennedy's flourishing garden and sat among the blooms.A large,happy bumblebee joined me ,careening around the flowers ,a sweet symphony for my writing.In that moment ,I was at peace, wanting to be nowhere else.I rolled around in the words I was writing in pure delight.

Ah, the pleasure....."And live alone in a bee-loud glade."Yeats

I had another moment like this recently:after a long steep 5 mile hike,through drenching rain, we arrived at the Hike Inn near the Appalachian Trail.After changing our clothes,we had an hour before our meal was ready.We found ourselves on a comfortable couch in the main lodge with a warm fire and a library of nature books.For one hour, I read the beginning of a book about a kayak trip on the Altamaha River in Georgia.I loved every word and after our hard hike, I felt such peace being with Janisse Ray and her writing.

On any given day,I can pull these memories out .I know that there are more;I just need to stop to have them.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

I will always remember...





One of my sons occasionally reads my blog and told me something like this: "Mom ,all you talk about are con-incidences."Guilty am I but I prefer to call the things that I see and hear as something else but I don't have the perfect word.This is today's 'co-incidence".

Last night I, had a dream.;a very long dream about a trip that my husband and I were on.Planes and buses and waiting in between.One of  the people on the trip with us was a stewardess who organized a road race through sand dunes for all of us while we waited in between rides.We all enjoyed the race and as she was getting onto one of the buses, she turned to us and said these words:"I will always remember who I was today". Odd words ,but even in the dream, I knew what she meant.She loved and treasured the person who she had been this day because she had served others well.

When I woke up this morning,I wrote down her words and was determined to make this a day to remember.At church,  I was able to affirm two precious friends and comfort another who is struggling.Co-incidently, the words of St.James and the sermon spoke of service.Let me offer their beauty:"Wisdom from above ,by contrast, is first of all innocent.It is also peaceable,lenient,docile,rich in sympathy and the kindly deeds that are its fruits,impartial and sincere."James 3-17

In the Catholic faith, we are encouraged to examine our souls at the end of the day to see how we have spent this time that is given to us.To see if I want to ...."always remember who I was today."

And now for the last "co-incidence" of this extraordinary happening.We sang a beautiful hymn at Mass,one of my favorites,The Center of My Life" ,and the second verse goes like this:"Who even at night directs my heart...".

I am on my knees.

Friday, September 21, 2012

the dolphins of September





As ordinary as this September day is, I must go deeper and deeper.Take the time to do that. It is a great grace to have this time alone to sit undisturbed in the sun and feel its power on my arms.To look at the garden and its hues.It should be totally depleted after this unbearably hot summer but the pale pink,bright coral and red roses and the new yellow swamp daisies continue to paint the area by the wooden fence .I tuck this sight into my mind for another day.

Today is the feast of St.Matthew and the readings and prayers are full of praise for the God of Life and Creation, whose will is seen in It."Let the earth bless the Lord...praise and exalt him ,forever...mountains and hills....seas and rivers ,you dolphins and all water creatures ,bless the Lord.

I have often prayed this Canticle of Daniel and wondered why, out of all the praises, the dolphin is mentioned singularly.A sadness always comes over me as I recall a special that I saw once about the dolphins of Taiji,Japan.I hesitate to write about this;there are some things that I know about that I wished I didn't.But maybe Daniel is reminding me that the dolphins need help.

Humans seem to have a unique affinity for these sea creatures: maybe it's the smile, or their proven intelligence and friendliness.Who wasn't touched by the story of the Cuban boy,Elian Gonzalez,alone in a raft heading towards Florida and when found,he was surrounded by a pod of dolphins,seeming to be protecting him.Who would harm these creatures?

Without going into too much detail, the Japense of Taiji have a tradition of capturing and slaughtering the dolphins who migrate in September.They are corralled into a cove for that purpose.It is not food but tradition and there are people who monitor this disgrace and are trying to stop it.Each year they are  weeping witnesses as the dolphins cry for help.Literally.The movie,"The Cove", documents this effort.It is horrifying to watch.In response to a world-wide outcry,the Japanese have beefed up security around the cove.Awesome!

None of us are innocent as long as this and other death dealing practises exist without our protest.Tolstoi said this:"For life is only life when it is the carrying out of God's purpose.But by opposing Him,people deprive themselves of life,and at the same time,neither for one year,nor for one hour,can they delay the accomplishment of God's purpose."




Tuesday, September 18, 2012

a hymn to first love





On Sunday, my family went to the Georgia Tech football game to celebrate my first grandson's fourteenth birthday.While we were hanging out, he brought his phone over to show me the face of a girl he likes, she of dark hair and sweet soulful eyes.I admired her and have thought of her since.What does he feel for this girl, this pretty teen-age girl.Is it anything like my first love? Could anything be like that?

 It is a summer evening on Long Island, after I graduated from the 8th grade. One of my classmates, Teresa, has invited me to her house to meet a neighbor friend of hers that she thought I might like. I really didn't want to go but she was my friend, so I headed off towards Jerusalem Avenue, crossed that big street and went several blocks to her neighborhood of old, stately brick houses. She introduced me to her friend: I am shy and don't say much. I can recall nothing of this guy or what was said, but what I do remember is the walk home in twilight.

I was going home to my room with the pink bedspread, the tall maples that guard and shade, and the street where my heart has been captured. As I walk, I am hoping  that maybe, when I get home, he will be out shooting baskets or hanging with the neighbor kids and I will see him. "And you walk down the street on the chance that you'll meet , and you meet not really by chance".And my heart fills with a joy that I recall to this day.

This boy rode into my heart on a lightning strike when I was 13. Until that day, I had been a normal kid and then, besotted and bewildered was I. He was tall, well-built and had a perpetual grin that lit up my world. He was also unreachable.

 This is the scent of first love: lilacs, sea breeze, mouldering leaves, lily of the valley.The sounds, I can still hear as I type: calling robins on the evening lawn, planes from Mitchell Field revving their engines, the slap of a ball being kicked and laughter.

This boy is older and my perfect boy.My devotion is pure, and never-ending.

I have shared some of the photos that I take of things that I see in my wanderings .The attached was taken last week at Stone Mountain and like the picture of the rocks on the beach,  this one had something to tell me. First of all, how is it blooming by a stream in September ? It is an azalea. I's flowers are pure white and tucked into the green leaves off to the side of the path, easily overlooked. It finally said this:"Tell the story of that pure devotion and how if you sit still, close your eyes and remember, you are there again."

There is more to this enchanting story, this perfect boy and I are still friends.We hold each other in prayer and the devotion that I feel towards him is still intact.

"Eye has not seen,ear has not heard what God has ready for those who love Him".First love is a taste.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

the camino is now

When you decide to walk the 500 mile Camino in Spain,your pilgrimage begins at that moment.My thinking has changed because of this spiritual path ,before my foot has even touched Spanish soil.

As I read about other's walks ,I am struck by the gracious notion that everyone helps each other on the Way or you won't make it.Feet being tended by strangers,food being served free by goups who have walked before and want to help.Mass being joyously celebrated,strangers encouraging when others want to give up.I recall reading of a young, handsome blonde German who wanted to give up after 250 miles.An older Hungarian woman approached his slumped over body,massaged his tight neck and said,"you can do this" and he joyfully finished.






Now that my husband and I are hiking hard places once a week, my thinking has become "camino-like."I find myself helping him hoist his backpack on, sharing my Gatorade, putting away his hiking sticks.We are both pretty independent and tend to take care of ourselves and our stuff but now the stones under my feet, the hardness of the hikes is bringing out the servant in me for him,my fellow pilgrim.

Yesterday, one who is not walking showed me the Camino spirit.My oldest son took us all to a Georgia Tech football game with tail-gate lunch and birthday cake for his oldest boy.Alot of his effort went into this party and after we put everything away,we headed to the game.As we entered the stadium, I mentioned to him that I had never seen the Tech Hall of Fame display that prominently features my second son's picture as the only Georgia Tech Cross Country runner to be an All American.This first son, who also was a high school runner ,took me by the hand and off we went to find that display.It took many special permissions,an attempted bribe and long walks but I got to see the above picture.All because my first son never resented but relished his younger brother's achievements and wanted me to see his name in lights.

I tuck this wonderful memory in my mental Camino book and stand in awe of my son's love for all of us.

Camino is now my verb and to camino is to help on the way.It all makes sense to me-that is why we are here.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

it started with a note






I know that Carol doesn't remember me.She was ten years old when we met and so many people would have drifted in and out of her life in all these years ,especially in California. But I remember her,the sweet face,open smile,blond hair pulled back in a pony-tail and her note.I have it still, kept in a red tin box of things that I will never throw away.

It was in Huntington Beach ,California that the Lord gently pulled me back into his arms .As
I began to go back to Mass, I heard a call for volunteers to teach Catechism.,so I found a neighbor girl of 13 to watch my toddlers and went off to teach 5th graders.I loved every minute of it.

California is hard to describe.In the early '70s ,the air was terribly polluted and we had an earthquake,the scariest thing that I had ever experienced.At 6 A.M.,I awoke  to the sound of barking dogs.They felt it before anyone else and then the house we were renting started moving,shifting back and forth.Oh,my! We survived with just a few broken coffee cups that tumbled off shelves.

What stays with me, however,was the 10 and 11 year olds that met with me on Thursday afternoons.They had happy dispositions and were a pleasure to be around.Maybe it was the California sun,or the bright flowers everywhere.Orange California poppies and Bird of Paradise.They came in each time, smiling and eager to learn with nary a bad attitude to be found.This was my first teaching experience and the Lord must have sprinkled these angels onto my path to keep me going.I remember their contagious laughter as we doused a baby doll with water when the lesson was about Baptism.

Before long,it was time to move back to Denver and I said good-bye to my angels.On that day, Carol handed me a note ,folded on pink paper with ,yes, a hand drawn flower on the front.I read it, folded it and moved it with me all over that country in the years that followed.When we landed in Colorado,I taught another class and here in Georgia, I taught older children ,teenagers.Each experience brought me great joy.

One group had a girl whose father was dying, another, a boy whose father had died the previous year and  was so lost and angry.While we learned our Faith, the class ministered to these broken children.The Body of Christ in fifteen year old forms.I was a witness to the healing of these and others;a young girl who finally broke down on a retreat over the divorce of her parents.We all watched her transformation at the hands of the One. A note from another said:"You made me see the beauty in God....and showed me the love in others."All because of Carol.

This is my prayer for my long ago student: May nothing have prevented you from giving love to others as you did me.I pray that you continued to walk with the Christ that we looked for long ago.May you feel his arms around you,this day.And, thank you.

She would be in her early fifties now and I have no way to reach her.Her note simply said:"You've been the best teacher,ever."Carol L.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

quiet waters





The retreat house sat on a hill surrounded by deep woods.Across the front lawn and to the North were mountain tops with a wisp of fog at the peaks.I was to stay at the House of Prayer in North Carolina for four days.The Appalachian Trail wound its way above, close to the house and the Jesuits had built a hiker's refuge on the retreat grounds for their free use.The thought of that kindness set the tone for my stay.

Since I had never been on such a long retreat before,I had packed thirteen,yes ,that many ,books to keep my mind occupied.After putting my purse and bag in my room ,I turned to go back to the car for the books and suddenly heard distinctly this guidance:"Leave the books and be just with Me."Oh,how do I do that?

For four days,I spoke with no one,read not a word.I wandered the grounds,gazed at the mountain tops,sat with a friendly cat on a grey slab bench,went up the trail,wrote in my journal,all in silence.Once, at a silent lunch, I picked up a magazine and the words brought me back to the commonness,the plane of real life.It was like the warm silver cloud of Presence that wrapped me in It's arms had disappeared.I put the magazine down and left the room to find my way back.

What comes to mind is a rest in music-that space where the previous ,soaring note hangs in quiet to be savored by the listener.The notes before and after gain a deeper beauty from that stop.

I thought of all this today when I received an e-mail from my friends at Heron Dance, with this quote:

"We are all joined in the holiness of the mind that God created.I therefore never consider myself alone in the silence.I'm 90 and live alone in a four room house surrounded by open space.I have no T.V. and have always luxuriated in silence.The exterior silence is here.The interior silence is a work in progress"-Hazel,with thanks to Friends of Silence.

I love Hazel's word,luxuriate.That is exactly what I did for those days.One could do worse than to be a "swinger of birches "or a friend of silence.

Monday, August 27, 2012

"the most sweet spirited girl"




She sits at my feet with her puzzle.It is a green felt dog puzzle of only 5 pieces because she is a little girl,not walking yet.Her feet are splayed in a way that I could never do and I think she must be double jointed and perhaps a future ballet star.She is focused on her puzzle and I pat my center where her baby brother lives for the moment.I am making her a dress on my sewing machine to pass the time.I am friendless and very lonely in this new city .The little pink and green sleeveless dress will fit her perfectly when finished and she will look like a blond doll.I still have that dress through moves all over the country.

She looks up as I sew and says ;"zuh,zuh,zuh."...:and it is a perfect match for the sound of the machine I am using.I laugh and she laughs and I wonder if her perfect pitch and mimicry will mean she will become a musician.

When her Dad comes home,we put on her cap and bathing suit and she gets taken to the pool where she jumps from the edge right into his arms in the water.May she hold that reckless confidence in herself and him.

She grows in age and grace and under, through and around her golden nature is the sound of music.Her clarinet, tape recorder and her voice.It is as much a part of her as her smile .

Jessica is eleven now and for Mother's Day, she has me sobbing at the kitchen table.Her gift is a tape of Jermaine Jackson's song "Mother".The music plays as I hold her handwritten lyrics in my hand."Have I ever told you that you are my river?That never stops for a rest...have I thanked you for having our family...that I love you?Have I told you today?..."I still have that paper.

A senior in high school now is the blond ,lithe girl.Her cross country friend's mother is in the hospital with a terminal diagnosis.We visit and she brings her tape recorder.She gently puts the earphones on Martha's head and turns on the classical music that she so loves,that has touched her deeply.Martha closes her eyes and goes to another place ,taken there by my daughter.

The years tumble forward and the achievements pile up.Valedictorian at Brevard College,scholarships,Masters in Music.I stand in awe at all that has come from this girl ,from her own warm blood rich soul.Her own.



You know that I love the internet and especially Facebook.How this vehicle is used by the Spirit to bless us and unite us with old friends.This happened in 2010.A high school acquaintance of my daughter got in touch with her.This was her message:"I had to share something with you after all these years.I named my daughter after you.You were the absolute most sweet spirited person I knew in high school.I had hoped that my daughter would be as sweet as you -and years later she is such a sweet young lady with a heart for God.I thought you should know."-Donna


Sunday, August 26, 2012

deep ,so deep is lake baikal




I held out my wooden begging bowl today and this is what tumbled in:

The walls of my computer/writing/praying room are now a rich pale blue and as I note the difference this color makes I think of a lake,the most famous in the world,Lake Baikal in Russia.Famous because it is the oldest,some 25 million years it is thought ,and for sure,the deepest at 2,442 feet to the bottom.It is also the clearest,its blue startling to the eye.

If one tumbled into this lake from a boat in its center and went down ,down, you would never reach the bottom alive.You could never touch the silt and push yourself upward to fresh air.Terrible thought. And yet, here at that level, in the silt,He is.

It is hard to see the bottom of the Grand Canyon from its rim.My son and his girlfriend hiked down there one hot summer day.It is a long hike.That very day, a healthy young girl went down and drinking water all the way,died at the bottom from a  lack of the minerals which she lost on the path.The canyon,so incredible at first sight,its pink,purple and grey walls amid the beige sand of the rim.If you don't shed tears,the sun must not be shining.And here, He is.

The universe is unimaginable in its reach.We see a star that stop shining 15 million light years ago. How can we wrap our minds around the depth of the universe as we learn each new day how far it goes ?And yet,here He is.

No wonder we tend to run from God.The idea of not being able to get away from Him is awful.We like our fences,walls and endings.How terrified the sailors must have been to launch out into the new unknown world.No wonder they thought the earth flat.It had to have an end.Their minds could grasp that.God is just too big.I like my little world,the one I can control.I like my coloring book to have lines that I can't go outside.I like that rule.I won't get in trouble that way,inside the lines.And so I run.

We are made of His "stuff" like we are from our Mother's stuff.Her blood,her cell.His spirit.And like a child who is snatched, stolen from her Mother's arms,we ,consciously or not, spend the rest of our lives looking for Him.For that Love that is bottomless,endless.We can't imagine it.We think:what do I have to do to earn that love ?Unbelievably,nothing.Wherever we travel,He is there,with gold and pastel ,shimmering ,brilliant eyes looking just for us.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

centering on the trail




 When my husband and I leave for a hike,we have to get up early to beat the heat and face at least an hour drive to the trails.This leaves no time for morning prayer or my usual twenty minutes of Centering Prayer.I miss that quiet time.

Yesterday, as we began our hike,I sought to at least do the centering as I walked;bringing my mind back to my sacred word each time it strayed.This seemed to slow my step.Each footfall felt like prayer .

The trail is hard packed and dry with grey /beige sand and neutral looking rocks and one's eyes must be glued to it to keep from tripping over these and the myriad roots that criss-cross.And yet,the Creator of the universe has sprinkled some marvelous things right near the path..Amid all the bland colors will flash a light blue and it is:wonder of wonders, a mushroom.Further along a green mushroom will appear to surprise and then a sweet purple flower like a scoop and then some red or brown mushrooms.Amazing colors.And on a tall tree,someone has carved a smiling face with lots of hair.I laughed out loud on this trail of hills and trees.

I thought of something after we got home.It happened a long time ago and it relates to Centering Prayer.When my sister was eleven and I was eight, a party was going on in our house.Ten couples gathered for their monthly fun and the dishes and glasses,(especially those) were piling up in the small kitchen.My sister was at the sink washing away and I, having excess energy at 2 A.M., offered to help.In her most dismissive tone,I was told to get lost.And even at that young age,I knew why.Should a stray,intoxicated adult come into the kitchen, there would be praise for her efforts and she,desperate for a dollop of that ,wanted it all.

And what would my motive have been to offer?Wanting to help my beloved sister?I think not: mine was hers,affirmation.But ,maybe I have misjudged her.How do I know what was really in her mind or my own or any one's. This is why we have been admonished not to judge because how do we know what any one's motive might be?It's a relief to me not to have to make that call on such a small amount of information.

What I have discovered about Centering Prayer is that it moves one beyond the realm of motive.One acts out of love and that is all.I will not do this thing because another will love me or God will love me but because this is what becomes the most natural thing to do.It is as if the Lord now uses my lips to smile,hands to serve,without my assent.But that is not quite correct for when I sit with Christ at the beginning of the day,I am consenting that He fill the empty spot I leave open for Him in the center.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

words matter...duh






When I worked in the Jonesboro office of BellSouth many years ago,I worked with mostly women,mothers like me supplementing income or forging a career.Two stand out because of something that happened in Kroger today.

The first lady,Connie, always replied to the query of:"How are you ?",with "Just wonderful".Always ,every day,the same.Some days ,if needed ,one would seek her out for those lovely words of hers.I feel the glow still.The other lady,Cindy ,always said with great dreariness,"I'm here."Always the same.

I wonder who has better health now.Is there a connection?

Anyway,today as I pushed my cart down an aisle to get tuna fish, a middle aged woman with black hair  was selecting soup from across the aisle and her cart blocked my way.Good for both of us that I had plenty of time.Eventually, she saw me and moved over with a smile.I asked her how she was ,and she said:"Thankful".Wow!We beamed at each other and went our ways.

Think of that: as she strolled the aisle instead of thinking of the price of apples,maybe she was thankful that there are apples,that she has eyes to see them and hands to reach for one. Thankful.

My mind goes to a revelation that I had regarding a difficult family time recently.ONLY,only, when I thanked God for it, did my heart calm and my view become hopeful.When I did this,I became part of the current of the river of grace flowing from God, instead of an impediment.

"In all things give thanks..."not just the ones that please me.

Turning,turning...it is a constant turning towards the Good and the blessings that hang from every branch and
cloud;that come from every face in every place.Amen.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

a day surrounded by light






Some days in the calendar are surrounded by light.August 15th is such a day.The Catholic Church holds that Mary was assumed into heaven on this date and never faced the corruption that human bodies endure.This day is set aside by the Church to honor her special role in salvation history.

My Mother passed from this life on that day in 1996 after having pneumonia.I had been told by my sister that she was recovering.I assume this is a painless death and one that takes many at her golden age of 83 but still it was a shock.Her funeral was a disappointment.So few people there .She had moved away from her Long Island home and few knew her in Connecticut.One cousin came, my sister,brother-in-law,many nieces and my children and husband.This is all that filed into the first few pews.But after the Mass, a group of ladies from the church said the rosary together and I felt such comfort.Strangers saying good-bye with prayer.The Body of Christ.

And now in 2012, on this shimmering ,shining ,light filled day, a new granddaughter entered our world.A delicate, beautiful girl with tiny nose and fingers and long black hair that asks for a pink bow.We saw her last night and most reluctantly ,I left her.I could have stared all night.

She,the little sprite, whose healthy birth was so in question.This little being whose ancestors prayed for her and desperately wanted her here,as I saw in a vision.She is here,ancient ones,and so beautiful.

I wouldn't have written this indulgence had it not been for an e-mail I received today.I have a writer friend who means so much to me.She isn't Catholic but she knows Mary and loves her.She recently has struggled to get a book published.I cannot imagine the work and frustration. She wrote:"I was so  discouraged,dis-couraged ,until Assumption Day.... as always,our Blessed One saved me again......she never rejects anyone.... and so I felt calm when I thought of her. Ave Maria."

Friday, August 10, 2012

through the crease


picture by Kris



Today, my husband and I went on our weekly date.Mexican food in a clean,quiet place in the next town over and then to Goodwill for books at a dollar each.Stop me!!

"When is human nature so weak as in a bookstore ?"Henry Ward Beecher."When the books are used and a dollar each."Sharon Graham.

As I filled my cart with  tomes by Somerset Maugham,Paul Tillich and two others,a woman approached my husband and I heard her ask for money so she could buy the big black leather tote in her hand that she would use to carry her Bibles.He declined and I followed him to the next aisle and asked to borrow a dollar to give her as my purse was home.He relented and I went back,patted her bag and told her to enjoy her find.She hugged me,blessed me and joyfully went on her way.With a frown, he later told me that he saw her asking others for money.Did she need more for the bag or was it all a scam?Did she indeed have Bibles that she wanted to carry and give away as part of what God was asking of her?Who knows.But this I do know: what he was asking of me.

The other day,my young friend Kris, posted on Facebook about an incident in a store in Atlanta.A woman in her eighties came in,looking very upset and frassled asking for driving directions to Clairmont Road.Kris'
first thought was: she shouldn't be driving.But then she stepped through the crease in the universe and told the woman to follow her as she would lead her there in her car.When you have slipped through the crease,the air is bright ,glittering silver.You have gone to a place beyond intellect and flesh,a realm of spirit.And the spirit responds with joy so much so that you have to share it on Facebook.

This is why Scripture says:"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."It's for you....to show you what the crease is like......

I gave Kris an angel a while back.It sits on her bookcase in her bright living room.She's had it long enough that she doesn't notice it anymore but this day,she saw it again.Was that smile new?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

the island




When you step off the small boat onto the windswept island,you remove your shoes.You will stay unshod for the three days that you are there and as I type this,I can't know what that will mean.I like the security of my shoes and was never one to frolic in the green grass all summer with bare feet.That is the first requirement but there are others as daunting.

No cameras,phones,PCs or radios.No sleep for the first 24 hours and alot of communal praying.Fasting is the norm and once a day you get a piece of bread and black tea.This is retreat on the island of Lough Derg,in Northern Ireland.The island itself is only two acres in the middle of a lake with the remnants of monk's beehive cells called"beds" and a basilica.A retreatant spends time in prayer at ,in and around these cells.For more than a  thousand years pilgrims have been doing this including St.Patrick, so we are told.

The point is to remove yourself from the world and distractions and turn your mind toward God.How hard would that be if one was hungry,sleepy and foot sore?I once stayed up all night at a slumber party at Bernadette Myers house in Hempstead.I was 15 and the next day, I could hardly crawl through the front door and to bed.

But here's the thing:I don't know how I know about this strange,desolate island in the first place.It's booked as one of my Favorites but how did I come to know about their site?The other day a brochure came from Ignatius press and the first several books offered were very wallet friendly.There it was again:a book about Lough Derg for 3 dollars.It came today and is quite wonderful to read.

Have you ever just known that you were to go to a particular place?

"The wind holds no terror,the sun need not shine,
alone,with no shield
no make-up,no mask.

underfoot energy is loose,
just my bare wispy soul
in the cavern within,

seeking with old hands in the
damp,empty cave:
the Candle."

s.g.


Friday, August 3, 2012

Gabby,Bob Costas and me




I don't know how some people can write every day.Maybe they are real writers.The creative,poetic part of my soul has been crusted over by burnt creme brulee and nothing is stirring.The field lies fallow with brown stalks instead of rich yellowing corn.The crows don't even come by because they know there is no seed.Dormant,stagnant water and the rocks that usually shine underwater with green and cooper colors are dried in the sun and grey.

My elderly soul has experienced these times before.I flail looking for a reason: am I staying up too late,watching the Olympic Games?Has the hiking in 95 degrees drained me ?Has the terrible rancor that I see in this country where different views are greeted with name-calling finally done me in? Always,always comes a light bringer, so I am patient and wait....

Late last night,Bob Costas said something that really made me wince.The All Around Gold Medal in Women's Gymnastics went to Gabby Douglas who left her family in Virginia at the age of 14 to go to Iowa to get the best training for her sport.In that state, a family with a passel of kids, took her in,sat her at their table and made her their own.Both families were watching her excel last night.

As the show was winding down,Bob made this observation; that she was the first African-American to win that title and now other little African-American girls could strive to do the same.Really?Any American girl could strive after what she had done.I thought we were beyond this.It never occured to me that she might be the first anything.

Maybe I'm too sensitive.Maybe that bothered no other person watching.Sue me.

Perhaps Bob could have talked about this:when Gabby was interviewed after her win she said:"When I honor God ,the blessings fall down on me."Thank you,sixteen year old for shining the light to lead me home.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

birthday memories




I remember being eleven with scrapped knees and two front teeth too big for my face.I remember my 10th Birthday when the relatives came and we celebrated in the back yard with the heat of July tempered by the huge maples around my house.My mother had fallen down the cellar steps,her shoe caught on a metal lip, and she made me promise not to tell the family.I never knew why but it so scared me.

Wanting to be a grown up,I yearned for thirteen and recall short hair and my first love.This time of my life was filled with unknown yearnings and mysterious feelings.If I shut my eyes,I can almost see myself and wonder at the fullness my heart.Singing ,always singing from this full heart.

When I turned seventeen, the neighborhood boys ,who were friends from diapers or for just a few years,planned a surprise party for me at the local park on Long Island, with handmade,funny cards and plastic jewelry as offerings.I still have these things.

Then later, a Harry Belafonte concert at Chastain.We sang Da-O ,the banana boat song, and Harry said,"only women over forty sing."Dead silence.It was my 40th birthday and I was stunned at how little I wanted to be that and acknowledge it.The one thing out of my control.How awful.

Another one, many years later,the gift of a cruise up the Hudson River with my husband by a childhood friend and her husband ,then dinner after at a Kingston Chinese Restaurant.That glorious river which has framed the story of the state of my birth and my own story ,always.Every summer,over the Hudson on the Tappen Zee Bridge to the Catskills.And if that weren't enough,an e-card from a much loved childhood friend who had made my heart sing.

I love Birthdays and this one is no different.My husband and I are going hiking and then Thai dinner and we will share my day as we have for 47 years and my heart is full and singing.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

an appreciation




Last week, we travelled to Butler,Pennsylvania to visit a much loved relative.Then we headed to Penn State, to stay with our youngest son for two days.Until now, I had not seen where he lives as he does post doctoral work for that sad university. 

On the second day of our visit,he took us to Bear Meadows National Natural Landmark ,which is seven miles south of the Penn State campus.These 890 acres of boreal forest are unusual in tree and animal species and so we set off to hike the four miles around the bog.

Our different focuses were interesting.Sean tried mightily to point out bird species that we wouldn't see in Georgia and he hunted for herps;salamanders and snakes.I tra-la-laed around in amazement at the number of mountain laurel and some still blooming in dainty pink and stark white.The butterflies,bumble bees and I enjoyed these blooms,so late in July.My poor husband spent considerable time lamenting the mosquitoes feasting on his hatless head.

We did see the black throated blue warbler dressed in his magnificent tux and headed for a date and a cute pickerel frog who posed for many shots of his lovely self.But the best was yet to come.When we had almost completed the hike,and I was chatting idly with some thistle,my son called me over.There she was; a sunning timber rattler.What a beautifully marked snake with her black eyes and head turned slightly to watch us.I had never seen one in the wild and I couldn't take my eyes off her.Her rattle was there but silent until my son went closer for a picture.Then the rattle,sounding like summer locusts, started up. This is what she was saying:"O.K. you are too close now.I have no intention of harming you but I can and will protect myself, so it's time for you to keep walking.I am courteous enough to give a warning ."Quite a conversation!We and she moved on.

When we took our youngest son home the day after his birth at 9 lbs.13 ou.,he was a blank slate.If I had thought of the gene pool that he came from,the people of Wales,Scotland ,England and Ireland, I could have made some guesses that he would have auburn hair and tend to freckles.The Celts are great story tellers and he is writing a book.These islanders also revere and engage Nature in their lives and Art and so he has.But still when a child is born, what can we hope to know about what they will become ?

My grandparents never studied past the third grade.Their great-grandson has a doctorate in yes, biology, and he did it this monumental thing all on his own.His passion for this subject will lead  him to uncover important knowledge and he will share this with his world.He does that now, in published articles.

Just before we finished our hike,we came to a clearing and my son said that he always stops here to look over the bog and the trees.I wondered what he was thinking as he gazed in silence and I have to think that they were thoughts of deep gratitude.I stood behind, looking at him and feeling the same.



Saturday, July 7, 2012

pilgrimage





For several years, my husband and I have been thinking of hiking the Camino de Santiago de Compsotela,the pilgrim path from France to the Cathedral of St.James in Santiago,Spain.The recent movie with Martin Sheen,"The Way" seems to have sealed the deal for both of us.In 2013,we hope to join the millions who have trod this path over the centuries.

A pilgrimage is not a trip or a vacation,rather a journey made to a shrine or holy place.The purpose is not fun but holiness.The idea of pilgrimage has been wandering around in my mind for days.I really don't need to go to Spain for a pilgrimage because I am on one now,aren't I?

As I jogged in the neighborhood today ,this scene unfolded in my soul:

.....angels are in that deep silent ,far out place in the Universe as they scoop up a handful of shimmering Gold Light from among the shining stars.They laugh among themselves as flesh is slowly formed in a perfect way around the gold ball.When the being is formed and about to come into the world, one special angel whispers into the ear:"You are going to a sometimes stunningly beautiful world but this is not your home.You are on a pilgrimage and you must find your way back to the Light of which you are made.How you will know that the earth is not your home,rests in the discontentment that you feel with most of what you encounter.It will never be perfect.You will ,however,know moments of peace and great joy once you have awakened to the knowledge that you are on pilgrimage and everything on earth is transitory."

"As you trail bright stars from the back of your robe, live and foster the greeness around you,and shine a golden light from your eyes and fingertips,others will awaken to the pilgrimage and climb on the road with you.This is part of journey."

On the Camino, when hikers pass each other or pass townspeople, the usual greeting is Buen Camino,or a good camino walk to you.I  thought of this when I encountered a neighbor who was out walking this morning.She is a lovely woman who in the last five years has battled colon cancer and lost her husband of many years.She called out "great job" as I jogged by and I smiled.Isn't that the same as the Camino pilgrims ?Encouragement for the journey,a trailing of stars.


Friday, June 29, 2012

to another place

 




Oliver Deme

This summer, we are not headed to the green,cool mountains.For many reasons, we are staying home in the oppressive ,glaring heat that is the only thing that I don't like about Georgia.Facing these two months of prison in my air conditioned home,(I know,how whiny) I resolved to do a few things to ease the pain of being cut off from my natural world of tree,river,and bird.

I am cleaning out closets,writing when I have nothing much to say(thus,this)and connecting with a few new-comers to the Catholic Church.

I must say that the cleaning is almost a spiritual activity.Those neat shelves,with a few empty spaces.Amazing what I don't need.And how pleasing to open a closet and be able to put my hand right on something.Order.Even the word pleases.I can now find those pair of black flats that go with anything ,even in summer.

While getting rid of some books, which is the most wrenching thing to do,I came across one that I hadn't looked at in awhile:"An Irish Moment".Almost,I let it go until I came to a page with Antrim at the top and some quotes that have cooled my brow and brightened my day.

An old monk is leaning over a plain old wooden desk with ink pen in his shaky, knarled hand.The wind is whipping the white caps at the bottom of the cliff and on this night,he is thanking God for the weather.He writes:

"Fierce and wild is the wind tonight,
It tosses the tresses of the sea to white;
On such a night as this I take my ease;
Fierce Norsemen only course the quiet seas."

So this holy man ,hanging off a rock somewhere in long forgotten times in Ireland, is writing more beautifully than I ever could about loving the weather he is given because maybe, this night ,the Vikings won't attack.

I thought I had gotten over Ireland with our '96 visit there.I see I am as besotted as ever with these :
monks,their Book of Kells and lovely writing.Here's another:

"My hand is weary with writing,my sharp quill is not steady,my slender,beaked pen juts forth a black draught of shining,dark blue ink, a stream of the wisdom of Blessed God."

The book stays and the whining stops.




Monday, June 25, 2012

the willow has fingers


Jane Kemarre Doolan

The gentle breeze moves the long green branches over the water,skimming it gently, making slight ripples.I miss weeping willows.There are a few here in the deep South but nothing like the giants that grow and flourish up North.The slight swaying of those green downward hanging branches makes me think of summer and all good things.Peace,fingers and hands.

I have a wooden statue that I have written of before,the chipped red angel with her hands together in prayer,eyes closed,complete.It seems to me that when the palms are pressed together,all the energy that swirls throughout the body , is held inside this circle of contemplation and none dissipates.The full prayer emerges from this pose.I wish I could see it as it goes.

Once, there was a miracle of hands that amazes me still.Several years ago ,when I worked at BellSouth, I belonged to a prayer group of about 10 ladies and one young Cuban man.We met to pray every Wednesday and what happened on this special day,I cannot adequately explain. A strong feeling came over me that we needed to pray over Danny,who had hepatitis and many life restrictions because of it.We prayed,laying hands, and then continued our regular joyful meeting.There was a warm spot in the middle of my palms during this that I noticed.

A few weeks later, over lunch, Danny mentioned that his doctor had found that his liver, unaccountably, was 99% healed .Many jaws dropped and we were speechless.We never again prayed over anyone and why Danny was to die of AIDS a few years later, I cannot know.

When my second son was born, the doctor listened to his breathing and said with certainty,"This one will have asthma."My Mother had debilitating asthma and this diagnosis scared me.A book on touching by Ashley Montague led me to massage his chest almost every day for months.As I rubbed ,I told his lungs that they were clear and perfect.He was a cross-country champion for many years in high school and never a wheeze has been heard.He is now forty years old and still no breathing problems.Misdiagnosis?

In the fall,we will be traveling to Australia for a wedding.While there,we will fly to Alice Springs, a place on the map that as a child always seemed to draw me. Today, I found out that the Ngangkere Aboriginals live near there in Central Australia,they of the healing hands ,depicted in the art attached.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

a bell rang


picture by Kris



A bell, and hands. Things that whisper to a special spot in my soul. Mystery, depth and meaning.Maybe you have your own.

I have a bell collection that started many years ago in a shop in Denver. Sweet sound, good feel in my hand and that brass bell with two Dutch figures became mine.The collection isn't large but each one is a comfort to me. I have a small brass one shaped like a pagoda with a cross on top. A rich sound and shape that speaks to me of the simplicity of Buddhist thought and the redemption of Christ.

In Mass, we used to ring three bells when the priest would elevate the Host. The bells said ;"Pay attention. Something different, otherworldly is happening here.The air has changed, can you feel it ?"

I thought of all of this after going to a rally for religious freedom last night. A young speaker mentioned the Cristeros rebellion in Mexico in the early 1920s.This terrible time has been dramatized in the movie, "For Greater Glory". A new regime began its rule in Mexico and the leader was a secular atheist. His desire was to transform society and he needed to break the influence of the Church to do this. One of his dicta was" no more bells",she said. I was puzzled by this.But this morning, I thought,"Of course.The bells mean the air has changed, there is mystery, pay attention." And we know that in the secular world this is nonsense.

 In early winter of this year, I was on my bench in the woods praying for my unborn granddaughter.This was a new pregnancy and there had been bleeding and uncertainty. As I prayed for angels to surround her, this most unforgettable scene unfolded before me. A stream of ancestors on either side of my daughter-in-law, each having a turn at laying their hands briefly over her womb and then stepping aside.I could see people from all the places that our ancestors had come from, a steady line with only this in their minds: a deep desire that this child be born and continue the collective efforts of thousands before.I could sense how precious she was to them. Maddie.

And then something happened, the meaning of which only became clear to me as I write; a bell rang lightly in this vision and all the ancestors, their work done, disappeared.The air cleared and the otherworldly had stepped away.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

the gift that is writing



                                                                                                      Windowlight-Duane Keiser


The book that I just finished is "The Wednesday Sisters" about five young women who become friends while watching their young children play in the park every Wednesday.Eventually ,they let be known that each of them has a desire, a thrilling pull ,to write and so they do as a group at an old wooden picnic table.Through the writing and reading of each others work,they bond in a deeper way than any of them thought possible.

From the first page,I wanted to crawl through the paper on my hands and knees,with pen and journal, to  join them.Only someone who writes knows the magic of it.I am not talking about publishing and paying,but writing. Taking a crisp blank page of white paper,a black ink BIC medium point pen and telling your story.How you see the world that day:what gold is bubbling in you that wants to see the light of day.

I once was part of a memior writing group in a small town in the Catskills.We met in a quaint bookstore on a narrow one lane road in that clean air that I love so much.There we shared our writings.Nine of us,around the same age and these were women who had such depth,such character.Overcomers,lyrical poets,cancer survivors and a woman who wrote in a startlingly moving way about clothes drying on a line in Brooklyn.

Memoir was just an excuse for us to write and share;we wove our tales in the stillness of the small room.I was so touched by everything that I heard.We were given permission to cry by our tender leader and we did ,copiously.

The day that I recall most vividly was when I shared the story of the monk my family had met at Gethsemane in Kentucky in the '70s.He was losing his faith when we met and eventually he left the Trappists behind, and moved to Florida with his new wife. He and I corresponded for years,me sharing my faith,the monk avoiding all such talk.And as I write ,I remember the simple beauty of his letters.

The week before our last class in 2009,I received a note from him.Just a few lines from the touching poem,"The Hound of Heaven."."I fled Him down the night and down the days"...and as I read,I realized that my monk had finally turned around to the Hound who never stopped chasing him, and let himself be loved at last.

When I finished reading my story about all this,our tender ,so beautiful teacher had tears streaming down her face.This is what writing can be.Not that my words were so perfect,but that my story of grace was.

We all have these things to tell.