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.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

to make the withered tree bloom

The day I retired, in September,2000,was bright and beautiful;a crisp Fall day, and as I drove down I75 in Atlanta ,I could hardly contain my joy.No more 74 mile commute,no more irate customers and disgruntled employees.Free at last!!!

I had loved my job at Bellsouth Mobility but there were so many other things that I wanted to do.I wasn't sure what they were but I had some ideas. The commute was also getting to me.One day, I spent three hours in the car and I kept thinking of the days that I had left and how at 57 years ,they weren't interminable.And then the accident happened smack dab in the middle of I 75 in mid-town.Totally unavoidable and heavy in the fear of what could have happened, I decided it was time.

In the back of my mind, however, was this niggling thought:would I now just wait for the first debilitating disease ?Was that what the rest of my time would be like?A fearful thought that took no account of what God might have planned for me.

I thought of this with the beautiful, lyrical scripture reading of today from Ezekiel:

"And all the trees of the field shall know that I,the Lord,
bring low the high tree ,lift high the lowly tree,
wither up the green tree and make the withered tree bloom."Ez- 17:24

This is how it feels , my life after work.Like a blooming tree that most certainly could have withered.
But the Spirit had other plans,plans of usefulness and love.Plans for writing, travelling, family, teaching and sharing the Joy that is my walk because of the One who is my guide.

A former employee caused all of this to come together for me on Facebook the other day.I recall her with great fondness:her beautiful face, her deep love of family and her sterling work ethic.On Facebook, she was sharing the joy that she felt when she was given the opportunity to help an elderly lady put her store purchases in her car.The appreciation and yes, kisses ,she received thrilled her soul.This ,this is what retirement can be and I praise God for it.

Friday, June 8, 2012

chance encounter in Florida

Is there any better conversation starter than a cute ,fluffy ,tail wagging dog?It seems almost inhuman not to bend down and pet a puppy and thereby meet their owner.Strangers no more.

The second best is a team visor hat .I have two and wore them while we were in Florida.The Emory one was a gift from my second son who coached there.On the second day in Florida, a lady stopped me to tell me that she had been accepted there to the medical school but didn't want to go that far North.Emory is in Atlanta so I had to chuckle.Nice to meet you,friend.

My Auburn hat, courtesy of my youngest son, gets the most notice."War eagle,"shouts the family on the  beach and we all laugh.

On one of the last days of our vacation, my husband and I went to the old Mission in St.Augustine as we always do.It's our pilgrimage.We soaked up the shade and the peaceful sound of the water slapping on the rocks at the water's edge.Then, a brief visit to the small,old ivy covered chapel of the burning candles and blue stained glass windows.After that ,we sat by a small fountain and watched the water tumble from the pipe.A sweet sound.

As we sat, a man and two children ambled up and the girl about 5 and her brother ,3 ,put their hands in the small fountain searching for the elusive black tadpoles.Their young,dark haired ,slim father turned to us and ,noticing my hat ,started to talk football.We agreed on the disgrace of the New Orleans Saints' "hit  squads" and how Auburn would do the coming year without Cam Newton.There was a sadness about him as we talked and then he said,"I have the kids for today, the wife and I are having trouble.".I told him what I believe to be true: that God can heal anything.Also, that I would pray for that healing.He seemed surprised and then smiled a bit.

The real smile came as he turned towards the fountain and the laughing children."There is no money that can buy this,"he said.I took their picture;it seemed the right thing to do.He didn't notice,all attention focused on his family.We chatted awhile and then we left him at the fountain after talking about where he worked.

On Sunday, after Mass in the Cathedral, and a wonderful breakfast on an outside patio, we took the camera to Walgreens and had pictures made of the girl and boy.The next day, we began our sad journey home but stopped first at Joe's food trailer outside a bar on San Marco Boulevard.He hadn't opened his outdoor mobile restaurant yet so we tucked the picture and a card in the closed door.The card said; "You are on my mind and I am holding you in prayer" and with surprising consistency ,I have.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Two weeks ago, on a Florida beach,I took a photo.It seemed important to capture the rocks and especially the one that had been worn away by the surf leaving a perfect bowl in the front.It has a message,I mused.It is now my screensaver and I love this picture not really knowing  why.I have wanted to write about it,but nothing came .......until today.

A group of friends met at my house for prayer this morning.We sat in silence for 45 minutes and then  wrote what we heard or felt.This is what I wrote : the prayer time ended, this came to me:I don't need to keep praying for the same thing.God knows the desires of my heart:salvation and protection for my children and grandchildren.What I need to do is "see" it and then thank him for it....let Him work and trust that"all things work for good for those who love God."Relax about be like that round hole in the rock at the shore-open wide -receiving, just receiving with  gratitude.Noticing everything that He is dropping in each day...Be unshakeable,stationary,unmovable.Let anxiety go,hand it off with trust.

And then this:"In the quiet of the night when anxiety overtakes you-go to your sacred space and sit in the dark and talk to me...let me know what is oppressing you and release it directly to my Sacred Heart which burns with love for you.
Let my warmth enfold you -you and I together in all.How easily you forget this and you turn this way and plan that way.Rest in my arms,now,tonight,always.That is your call."

And I thought...Lord, you give us everything we need.Everything that washes up on the shore is for our good even the things we label as bad .No matter what it looks like; starfish,broken bottle,seaweed,driftwood,dead fish head...each thing that enters our lives can bring us closer to You if we understand that,wish it and give it to you in prayer.

Then I ask this:"how can I make that real in my life?"...."visualize the rocks...enjoy the roundness of the hole and the rock that surrounds it...see the water captured and the contrast between the rocks and the sand...let the rock speak to you of what you have written and understood and never forget.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Puccini,the Shakers and me

I had a dream once,several years ago.One of those vivid ones that you know will stay with you always.I was in a circle of others ,we were dancing, a gentle folk dance with Christ leading the movement.His robe white, hair brown and face smiling.I felt content there and joyous.This was where I was meant to be,at last.Then,he walked away.I followed questioning why he was leaving.He smiled and said,"Now,you lead the dance."Resigned,I went back and the dancing resumed.I will spend the rest of my life pondering, never fully understanding this dream.

This came to me as we heard a sermon while in Florida a few weeks ago.The priest was talking about the composer Puccini.I am not an opera buff but I do know enough to know that Puccini wrote Madam Butterfly and the well known aria from it,"Un Bel Di."This stunning music ends with the heart broken Butterfly hitting a note so soaring,it must be above the scale.I never knew that a voice could climb so high to reach this impossible note.I get chills.Every time.So to me ,Puccini is a genius.

When he was dying in 1924, he frantically strove to finish his last work,Turandot.Alas,he died with it incomplete.His students decided to honor him and they spent months studying his operas,his writings and finally completed his opera.When his student,Toscanini, directed the first performance of Turandot,he stopped the music where Puccini had stopped and told the audience that this was the end of Puccini's work and that the rest was done by his followers.The end was as glorious as the first part, according to reviewers.

The priest told us that we, in the Cathedral, were disciples too, not of a composer ,but of Christ and that we should study his words and works, pray and reflect to understand His mission and with our lives,complete it. We should sing his Song.Yes, and dance his Dance.

I grew up in a church where we knew the healing Christ,the suffering Christ but the dancing Christ?A Shaker song tells of this Christ and after my dream, I can see him clearly.

And the Song?Here are some of its words: compassion.... forgiveness.... holiness.... mystery.....