Wednesday, December 31, 2014

finding myself on the Way




How did I find myself clutching a rosary in Advent of 2014?It started, I am convinced, with a dream.In October of last year, I had an unforgettable, though very short dream.In it, I was standing on a city sidewalk looking up at two tall flat faced buildings.Immediately, the one on the left was covered with an unfurling banner with a picture of Christ the King.Next to it, another banner unfurled, Our Lady of Guadalupe.I heard her say to me,
" When you think of it, say,"Mary, Queen of the angels, pray for us."That is all and the dream was over.

In time, I found myself checking out Clark Strand's Facebook page and there, to my astonishment was Our Lady of Guadalupe.I looked further and discovered the Way of the Rose group.I joined and here I am on this journey with 200 plus others praying the 54 day novena.

Each day, as I escape to my prayer room, I feel this peace;doing what I thought I would never have time for.The Way of Joy and Roses.

Friday, December 19, 2014

a shadow over you....


Galactic Rose



In January of 2011, a group of friends gathered at my house to pray and seek the Lord's guidance.The night before I had an unforgettable dream.I walked into a small, silent chapel and saw Christ kneeling in the front pew.Behind him were five or six figures dressed in blue, deep in prayer. That is all there was.

During the day-long praying and sharing,a phrase kept coming to me;"You are under a shadow."I pushed it away as being a negative thought but it kept returning.I hesitated to share it but when I did, none of us knew the meaning.

The next day, I read an article about a visit by Hillary Clinton to the Basilica in Mexico City that contains the tilma of Juan Diego that is imprinted with the roses he carried to his Bishop at Our Lady's request.My curiosity stirred,  I read further and found her words of comfort to this humble, unwilling man:"Do not be distressed, my littlest son.Am I not here with you who am your Mother?Are you not under my shadow, my protection?"

So she spoke then.So she speaks now.

Monday, December 15, 2014

the lady bug rosary




I think of Guy often.And of what happened in Spain.

My husband and I were walking the Camino de Santiago in September of 2013.In my side pocket was a small rosary given by a friend for the trip.I often sat on a log or a bench when John was getting a place at a hostel, and I would pray.It was so comforting on that very hard trek.

On day 7, we stopped at Rabe' and at dinner, we met some Europeans travelling the same route.Conversation was loud and hilarious but the man across from me just smiled.Guy was from Brittany in France and there was a language barrier.He seemed so content to just listen and smile.Later, we all went to the local convent for the Liturgy of the Hours with the sisters.Guy sat behind me and I could feel his holiness.

On the way back to our hostel, up the winding stone path, I kept getting the  strong feeling that I must give my rosary away.I didn't want to but the message was clear.

The next morning, in the dark, I watched as Guy left.I went out and put the little green rosary in his palm.He said:"Merci", and walked away.I don't think he realized what it was.I went back inside and sat down at the breakfast table.Then I looked up.There was Guy.He hugged me and said that the day before, he had lost his rosary on the trail.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

comfort,give comfort to my people




The first reading today is just so perfect.Isaiah,I love you.The words of this prophet, who is very present in Advent, never fail to touch."Comfort.Give comfort to my people."Is.40

As I sat in church, and heard this reading , I thought of the lovely picture above of my friend Kris, whose photos have blessed this blog.She is now a family and in her arms she holds her son, Gage.This baby needs a few things; food, warmth, dryness and holding.And there he is, filled and content.She is the glowing, beautiful provider of his comfort.This connection is eternal.

Words have meaning.The word puzzle is rough and has zz's that match the raising of eyebrows.Comfort, is said gently, softly and shoulders lower and face muscles relax.Comfort:to comfort.And now, once again, I ask you to stand and stretch with me.This may be hard but if you stay with it, ponder it, see it in your mind's eye and let the stories flow through you,  maybe we will both be able to answer the question:what does God look and feel like?



The year is 1967 and I have been married a few months.I became pregnant in the Virgin Islands and knew it right away when my stomach lurched daily.Then one day, I woke up and felt completely normal again.I thought, well, "that wasn't so bad."What I didn't know was that the pregnancy had ended.In late August, I was on my way to the hospital and soon I was being wheeled into the surgery room to be cleaned up interiorly having lost the unborn.

I was terrified and alone as the gurney moved and I prayed for someone to hold my hand.Immediately, I felt a pressure on my left hand.It was if the hand holding mine was walking with the gurney.I remember nothing else until I woke up back in my room.In my very skeptical state of being, I dismissed the happening as a product of my own mind and told no one.

There is a second gurney story, told a few years ago.This time I had been walking by faith for many years.Again, I am getting scared waiting to be wheeled into surgery for a colonoscopy.I know, I am a big baby.Anyway, to my left and laying next to me was my deceased dog, Cooper.I could feel him but not see him.I "saw" his coat, fawn colored, smooth, with long shiny fur.The white star on his head and his pale nose that burned in the sun.He brought comfort.As did that hand of long ago.

I know what you are thinking but I no longer question, I just go with the flow and take comfort where it is offered with gratitude.By the way, when I got home, and this too is true, I opened Facebook and there was a post and picture of Cooper and my son that I had never seen before.The picture had been taken five years before and on that day, the owner posted it.

"Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care."Is 40:11

Saturday, December 6, 2014

opening the doors of hope...


Saints picture by Kris


The other day, a dear friend posted a quote from Cardinal Ratzinger on Facebook.I know, Susan Sarandon, he's a Nazi. The Cardinal who became Pope Benedict XVI, had some words that really helped me see a path for Advent.He wrote: "It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus open the doors of hope." What an awesome challenge. Not good memories, but memories of goodness.I dug around in the old trunk that is my mind and found two I would like to share.

The first involved my dear mother and drives we took together down Front St. to the town of Hempstead. As we turned onto Front Street, the public bus stop became visible. If she knew or even slightly recognized someone standing there or headed to the stop, she would pull over and pick them up. I begged and pleaded with her to keep going."Please don't stop!" She would pat my head and say,"Don't you think it is too cold to be out today?" Just because most of those waiting were frozen to the ground meant nothing to me. If they joined us, I would have to say hello or (shudder) talk to them. Horrors! In they got and received the gift of a warm old black DeSoto back seat and my mother's chatter.There was goodness riding in that car, but not in the front passenger seat.

Later, when I was in 19,  and still in school, a married woman moved in across the street.She had wed a childhood friend and moved into his house to an upstairs apartment. I admired her greatly.She, of brown curls, sweet face and warm, smiling brown eyes. Although just a bit older than I, she seemed more mature.Sadie,Sadie married lady and all.

Jeanne and I became friends and one day she asked me to drive with her to Queens to visit her seriously ill mother. Queens was another world. This was an exotic trip. This next county over from us had apartments and houses so close together and "hoods."Those black leather jacket wearing, duck tailed hair boys.Oh, the adventure. Later, I lived in Queens and it is a fact that some residents were so tired of mowing their 3 foot by 5 foot front yard that they cemented it over and painted it green.True.

Off we went chatting and laughing our way West. I think her mother and father lived in an upstairs apartment. I remember climbing stairs and meeting her mother.Amazingly, as Jeanne washed and curled her hair, Mom let lose a steady stream of condemnation."You are a bad child. You never visit. Bad."Over and over.As callow as I was, I recognized that the Multiple Sclerosis was affecting her brain.The barrage never stopped and I had one eye on the door and the other on the drama.It was like a train wreck and I was fascinated in a bad way. This is what I will never forget: Jeanne smiling, singing little songs as she cleaned the kitchen. Planting a kiss on her Mom's face and teasing her. Loving the "real "mother that was far away.

On the way home, she chatted and I was very quiet, chastened by the surety that if I lived to be a hundred, I would never be as patient as she had been.

Jeanne passed away a few weeks ago and as she makes her journey to elsewhere, the first person I know she will see will be her real mother, in a place without sickness, pain, or loss, where every tear will be wiped and all that remains will be love.She belongs there.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

live in the full picture...




I have taken over another room.One with a single window where the pale winter sun shines in.I have an altar with a hand carved St.Francis, a wooden, hollowed out, simple Mary and an icon of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.And my bells.When I walk in this sanctuary, and close the door, my entire body breathes of relief.Quiet, simple, and with pure candle light in a block of wood.I wish I could tell you how much I love and yearn for my time in this room.

It is here that I ponder today's Bible readings which speak of the mountain of the Lord again and the promised banquet laid out for his lovers.What does that mean for my life?

When my second son was running cross country very successfully for Riverdale High School and then Georgia Tech, he would occasionally be reminded by a coach to keep his success in perspective.He would come home and say:"Remember, Mom, there are 2 billion Chinese people who don't know that I ran well today."I have thought of that often.

I can get caught up in my world of family, friends and politics and if I have let my prayer life go for very long, this is all that is on my mind.One can become so ensnared in the hurts, losses, failures of this life and forget about the banquet.

What does this real feast feel and look like ?It might be a call from our new, disabled friend to tell me that last night when he despaired of what he was to eat (he lives alone), the doorbell rang and in walked Florence from church with some soup.The joy in his voice made my day.Today, she called to say that this afternoon she and her husband were headed over to put up a Christmas tree for him and he just had to share that.

Fr. Richard Rohr says, "..Jesus is always inviting us to live in the final and full picture, and not get lost in the momentary dramas, hurts or agendas.In Latin we used to say sub specie aeternitate, that is to ask ourselves everyday,"In the light of eternity will this really matter?"

Soup matters.

Monday, December 1, 2014

let us go to the holy mountain..




Mountains.I have always loved and reverenced that word.The night before leaving for three weeks in the Catskill mountains of New York, my mother would sit on our beds and sing,"The Bear Goes Over the Mountain" and our excitement would build.I recall being afraid to go to the Adirondack mountains because I had heard they were more beautiful than mine and then my Catskills would ever after disappoint.They never did.

Once, walking the valley road with my Irish Setter, I looked back at West Kill mountain in autumnal magnificence and broke down.Pure, undeserved gift.But there are other "holy" places other than peaks.Today, I visited two.

The Riverdale H Mart is Korean and heavy on fresh vegetables.When I walk the aisles, it feels like church as each fresh grown, bright and green vegetable offers healing, in my view.These are the products that help my body.Beet greens, bok choy, swiss chard, sprouts, kale, spinach and colorful fruit. For a girl raised on canned peas and carrots, this is a new Eden.

At home, I wash, put them in safe containers and google recipes for their use.I am here to attest that eating mainly vegan meals has given me more energy.That, and drinking more water. I keep masons jars filled in the refrigerator and at the ready.Later I count my jars, aiming for four empty ones by the end of the day.

The second place would be no one's idea of holy ground.A bare, spare, rehab facility in a neighboring town.Here, the infirm wait in beds and wheelchairs.Some are half people, limbs gone from disease.Televisions blare and the smiles of staff are few though I have been there often.The veterans have stars with their names outside of their doors and a bulletin board has their pictures.That they are there makes me sad.

When I visit a friend, I bring some cookies and get ice water.That's all I can do.If it is true that God is most present with the despairing, then he is certainly here.Day after day, the ill are washed and fed by good people with hard jobs and a good country that provides the salaries.This is holy work on God's mountain.

Richard Rohr says:"Suffering and solidarity with the suffering has an immense capacity to "make room" inside of us.It is probably our primary spiritual teacher."

."..Come, let us climb the Lord's mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob,That he might instruct us in his ways and we may walk in his paths."Is. 2:3.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

watching....





Last night, before Mass, I had a few minutes to look around in the quiet.The colors, Lord, the colors.A huge basket of white roses, purple and pink candles, a piece of the priest's vestments that was streaked with turquoise and pink.Out the window behind the altar, I could see the evening sun bathing just the tops of the pines with gold and only for a few minutes.Watching in the silence.

The theme of the sermon for the beginning of Advent was watching and waiting.Waiting with your eyes wide open.For what? For the small subtle glimpses of Him at work.I sat straight up in the pew and thought ,yes, that is what this coming time should be.Refocus and be alert.

I have seen His majesty while waiting and watching.

Crows, my amazing crows.Lately, I have noticed pieces of corn in the bird bath.How did they get there?I am sure that John didn't waste them like that.Yesterday, I saw the crow,  huge and black from beak to tail, on the bird bath rim.I watched as he leaned into the full bath, came up with a kernel and tapping it on the side, softened it up.If a leaf in the water got in the way, he lifted it and placed it on the rim.I have expressed my admiration for these birds before. How the story goes that they protected an infant Buddha from harm.The fact that they feed the elderly members of the flock touches me .

Crows in Australia sound like crying children.And I once saw a video taken in Russia of a crow sliding down a slanted roof on a jar cover.After the slide, he took the cap in his beak, flew to the top of the roof and slid down again.How do they know to do what they do?

And there is this: I have a young friend from church who I see once in a while.I have known her for so long and the delight I feel when I see her is hard to describe.She is married to a wonderful man and has a little boy that she loves with all her heart.Yesterday, I found out that she is facing a serious health crisis that will involve chemotherapy, surgery and reconstructive surgery. A long journey in a new direction not of her choosing.I hope that she won't mind me sharing what she wrote yesterday that has moved me deeply:
"I do know for sure that God is once again using me for something He may never reveal to me personally....but my heart...knows that He has my back."

"Lord, look down from heaven and regard us from your glorious palace!...O,Lord hold not back , for you are our Father."Isaiah 63

Friday, November 28, 2014

advent...that which is coming..



There are four afternoon deer in the yard with a solitary raccoon.These are not tawny colored bodies but tree trunk brown and they move like ghosts through the woods to the corn.Three male turkeys just raced in as if chased by a predator but that is just their way.They own the stage now and root around for food.These three have escaped any hunting and never are apart.Neighbors.

Winter has come early this year with the birdbath frozen over day after day and then a warm afternoon appears and one wonders.The maple outside my window didn't even have time to turn before the first frost:the leaves are crumpled and grey.My vision from cataract surgery is spectacular and I am grateful for steady hands and advances that made it so easy.Deo Gracias.

Advent is here and I feel none of the usual expectation.Too many friends have losses and challenges, so this time of year feels weighty.I have a few new friends though, two poets and an author.The books that tell their stories are light and clean on my palm, and the weavings of their words will help.Anna Kamienska writes :"The poplar in my window is completely golden. And is.Is.My witness."

Let me be open to what this Advent brings ; let the Bradford pear and   maple be my witnesses in this wintertime of heaviness and cold.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

it was a small thing..






In Fall of 2012, I found myself in Australia, a place I had always wanted to experience.I was enchanted.Such beauty, wide open spaces, green/blue coves, crashing waves.There is much to tell of this trip but something small happened that many be a stretch for some .So stretch along with me.
                                         
On an off day, we went hiking and I hated most of it.Straight up, no switchbacks,no shade and with summer heat shimmering.No one cared that I was lagging behind.Younger family members sprinted up the winding trail like goats and I wondered why I had agreed to this trek.It was two miles up, and the view was lovely. On the way down, again I lagged,  disgusted with everything, and everyone ahead. I told them to go on and sat down on a pile of timbers feeling quite alone and disgruntled. As soon as I sat, I noticed a small white butterfly.Around and over me it fluttered, never landing, just bobbing.It never left.This felt like a visit ,that's the only way to describe it.I settled in to enjoy the company of this flighty creature. It's movements seemed playful.I smiled and may even have spoken to the butterfly.Asking it to stay.Refreshed, I began the descent to the farm house again, this time carrying with me the small pleasure of those few moments.

The trip ended and we travelled home dragging jet lagged bodies with us.It was a few weeks later that the second part of the story begins.At Mass one Sunday, a young man and his wife sat behind us that I knew by sight to have been former members of our church.As I started to leave the pew, he tapped me on the shoulder and asked if he could talk to me.I smiled and he began to ask if I had a good relationship with my mother.Not knowing him, I was slightly alarmed.I didn't know where this was going and began backing away.He explained that since two near death experiences, he sees things and she, who he assumed was my mother, was all around me during mass. Really? Now, I was inching faster down the pew but he persisted and startled me by asking if I had had an encounter with a butterfly recently.I told him my tale.He said that this was my mother comforting me.I didn't cry then, I saved it for now.

There are more things under the sun than we can imagine.I took the picture above from the pile of timber that day because I knew dimly that something unforgettable had happened.

Monday, November 17, 2014

"Oh, the places you'll go"





The book named above is on my desk ready to be wrapped for Christmas.It is for my two year old soccer playing, letters knowing granddaughter, Maddie.It's a Dr. Seuss, so colorful and inviting.I got the idea from a story I saw on-line.A Dad bought this book for his young daughter and then took it when she out-grew it, and had teachers, friends, and coaches write little messages to her in the book.He did this for many years and when she graduated from high school, that love letter book was her present.How very thoughtful.I am sure she was touched beyond measure.

This got me thinking of the people in my life and what they would have written if someone had done this for me.Strolling through the years, I see these little notes :

On the opening page, the first word is Congratulations and I think of the card my then 19 year old sent when I was promoted by BellSouth after 13 years.He wrote:" Wow.Good for you to be in management with such a big, important company." He acknowledged that I started my working career as a Green Stamp clerk and knew and appreciated that I kept very little of my paycheck.Thsi was so long ago, but it touches me still.

The second page says: "You have brains in your head and feet in your shoes" and I recall with smiles the young Atlanta man that we met while walking on the Camino.We were chatting about how hard the walk was.He had me laughing hilariously about our mutual deprivations and then I explained how we were taking it easy not to get hurt.He took my hand and said,"I admire your wisdom."I admit I glowed a bit ,well, quite a bit.

Another page mentions that:"It's opener there in the wide open air."I think of the friends we made in Denver, Huntington Beach,California and here in Georgia when we cut ties and headed West to make our own lives.What would they have written in my book?From them I learned of Natural Childbirth, the joy of bells, that I was a good Sunday School teacher.And that with faith, any place could be home.

I would like to have had a note from Mrs. Rooney, my older friend on Long Island, who listened and understood a lonely, skinny merink tossing about in her teen-age years.Or Uncle Les could have written that he thought I had sterling character.How that spare comment helped me live a better life.Maybe Sister Elizabeth Loretto could have written that I was mature enough to read a racy novel for a book report.She saved me without knowing it.

You have no idea how my imaginary book has made my gratitude index soar.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Sabbath Poems







I don't know how I found Wendell Berry;one  thing leads to another.Bumping into him, knowing his name but little else, then finding his poems has been providential.His words remind me how much I have missed my woods.Inertia, heat, busyness, exercise or other things have kept me from my dawdling time.The well of words has been dry and untended.

Mr. Berry is a devoted environmental activist; I am not.He farms in Kentucky and I cook vegan meals in Georgia but when the trees call, they call us both.My writing will never come close to his words but when he writes:"I go among the trees and sit still.All my stirrings become quiet...", he is singing my song.

Berry talks of Sabbath Walks and yesterday I took one, finally.Walking slowly back to my bench, I asked that my Creator walk with me.It seemed fitting to make that appointment.Crickets calling, leaves clicking as they were blown together and then silence.No creature moved until, under the Beech, a small raccoon eyed me.I have to smile at his face.The ones who live here are so used to me that they no longer scurry up the pines.He gazed a while and moved on.

Mr. Berry, I lift a kale smoothie to you and your words:

"Leave word and argument, be dark and still,
And come into the joy of healing shade.
Rest from your work.Be still and dark until

You grow as unopposing, unafraid
As the young trees, without thought or belief;
Until the shadow Sabbath light has made

Shudders, breaks open, shines in every leaf."

Sunday, October 5, 2014

more on bowl of tears




All those tired of hearing about my dreams, please raise your hand.Ah, I see.But this is too good not to share, so we are back to the dream of Christ's tears.If you will recall, the story started with the waiting for the basketball player, Jackson Crabtree.(?)His arrival with bloody face and how he had just had the best game of his life and was now at the stadium to sing praise hymns.

The story unaccountably switched to the young priest with the bowl of shimmering tears and how I understood the why of the tears of Christ; how I was moved.I am here to report that I was wrong.About the unaccountable part of the switch.The dream/story/revelation was of whole cloth woven of fine threads whose colors were muted and not vivid at once. It was only in rereading my journal notes that I saw it.And all I could do was humbly say:"Thank you."

I want you to notice the name of the "player".A name from out of the blue of dreamland, or is it.Notice the initials.J.C.This long awaited player had a bloody face and he had just played the greatest game of his life.He was filled with joy and ready to praise.He was made for basketball, this Jackson.He gave it his all and practised 'til his fingers bled. Who is this player? His greatest test and game came during Passion week in a back water of the world.What we see as scourging, blood and the cross was the fulfillment of his mission.His assent to his mission brought this greatest of sacrifice and greatest glory.And he was ready to sing.

Perhaps the tears in the bowl are from this as well."You are missing the chance to do the father's perfect will and you will never know the satisfaction and joy of that."

Monday, September 29, 2014

look for Me today


To say that Will was extremely verbose would not do him justice.Chatty, talkative; you get the idea.We met Will on the Camino in Spain in 2013.He  is  tall, good-looking and a fit 80 year old.His hiking companions told us that Bill's wife had died the year before thus his need to talk.If you were near him on the trail, you heard his voice.

That day on the trail was not a good place for me.It was Sunday and my son's 41st birthday.There was no way to call him, to hear his voice and I wore sadness like a thin veil along the miles.

Kevin is my second son and from the delivery to this minute, he has been a source of pride and happiness for all of us.A happy baby, an achieving
teen-ager and a good man.I don't know where his sterling character comes from but I can guarantee that he never bullied in high school.That would be the opposite of who he is.

That misty Sunday, we arrived in the town Melide in time for Mass in a small grey stone church that was on the path.As we were leaving, in my heart, I heard these words,"look for Me today."

We wandered the town, found a room and later at dinner, looked up to see Bill enter the dining room alone.I confess that my first impulse was to turn my head, but my husband signalled for him to join us.He sat and the conversation began.Somewhere in there, I mentioned that it was my son's birthday.Then I told about the time that Kevin moved to Boulder ,Colorado to train for a spot on the Olympic team in running.And how, none of his family, including his sorry mother, called him on that lonely day in the Rocky Mountains.With that, the dam burst, the waters having built throughout the day and sobbing, I left the room.

This is the miracle: as I told my tale, dear, white haired, concerned Will  listened with deep compassion.I needed to share my love for my son and he listened.Bill, you were Christ to me and I will never forget you.

Monday, September 15, 2014

the dried weed and the marigold




Yesterday, on Facebook, a friend tagged me and asked that I post 3 things I am thankful for and to do it for several days.This must have been what triggered last night's dream.So vivid,so colorful.

I was with a group travelling to the beach and we were strangers.We were being challenged to tell something about ourselves and people were stumbling badly in the effort.I started to make a flower wreath of a coat hangar with clothespins holding each flower.When my turn came, I would show my wreath and tell the assembly the message of the colors.

The first was my, beloved since childhood, yellow marigold.Yellow is light, a hand going into the green lake water to save a child who knew the sun direction was the way to go.It is the beginning of spring, the wind blown bright umbrella on a rainy day in Paris.It is the faces of Spanish sunflowers as they watch the sun move through the sky.The tall swamp daisies that are about to bloom in my garden, a gift from my nature wise son who knew how well they would do.Yellow is the canary singing from a white cage in a Long Island church on Holy Thursday.

The yellow light speaks of sparks, insights granted.Christ is all that matters.You are never alone.Even when you thought you weren't loved, you were.No one can tell you what the limits of a seventy year old are. You have an angel and she is your help and guide.Oh, to know these things.

The flower hanging next to it is a pink Vinca and the muse in the dream lets me know that it is the symbol of relationships. She dances, this slight bloom.She brags about four children; each loving, caring and self sufficient.They have strung buds of their own just for my pleasure; red-headed, blond pale, light beige and dark eyed.Perfect.There is family and  friends from childhood, high school, church, work and neighborhood.Each a source of glowing pleasure that completes my life.Priests, teachers, singers, writers, worker bees, encouragers, listeners, sharers and poets.

The one that is starting to droop is the stunning blue, volunteer morning glory.She says hurriedly, "Remember the moments of pause in your life.Not of excitement but of deep reflection and stillness."Times at the monastery, the afternoon sitting by the Hudson River writing in my journal.The hour at Tintern Abbey, pen in hand.The garden in Dingle when the sun shone on Ireland and the bumble bee accompanied my musings.The vision I had listening to Mahler when my beloved rescued me from a terror and my love deepened in a way I considered impossible.Moments astride a fallen log by the Flint River, pen in hand, winter sun waning.

The dream bringer did not leave out what was not wanted.The brittle dried weeds that can cut when held in the wrong way.Challenges, pain, loss.Difficult moments in childhood,the shame and fear.The pregnancy that ended before it had attached well.The hard times in a long marriage.Bad decisions and wanderings far from home.Seeking something to fill the void and finding bondage instead.The muse is telling me to be grateful for these as well and I am.

The rest of the dream saw me laying a green sheet on a small sand dune to claim it for sleep .When I came back someone had laid a blue blanket over it.I took it off with a noisy sigh.I have no idea about that, but I am so grateful for my flowers, real and dreamed.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

criminal minds





No, this isn't about serial killers nor is it my usual praise for the glories of nature.I hope you will stay with me.

Many years ago, a wise man who had been in the working world told me about certain employees of his who had criminal minds.I dismissed what he said as his thinking tends to float on the down draft of cynicism.

I see it differently now and it disturbs me.In 1980, I went back to work after a 15 year hiatus.I was grateful to a large telecommunications company for hiring me as I had no idea what my marketable skills and education might be worth. I was part-time, so I had no benefits but this gave me more time with my family.If I had to say what my thinking was when I went to work it went like this; I want to prove myself so I can be full-time, make more money, have health benefits and possibly a career.

The phone center where I worked as a clerk took orders for new service and sold designer phones.Mickey Mouse and the Trim-line phones were favorites.I was in my 30s and there were other clerks, men and women in their 20s.I was very naive and thought that everyone saw things the way I do. I didn't appreciate that their approach was different.From their activities, their thinking must have gone something like this:what can I get out of working here, how can I game the system ?Soon, rumors floated that they were passing the expensive sets out the side door to a cohort who would drive to Georgia Tech and sell the  phones.Orders were changed to provide a friend with deposit free service.I am sure other things happened that I knew nothing about.In their minds, there was no loyalty to a company that provided them with an opportunity,nor any sense of right and wrong.These were bright, attractive people but their thinking undermined them.

Here is a litany of what happened after I left for a full time job at a different location:
-a male clerk fired for altering an order.
-clerk fired for bad mouthing the regional manager over the phone which cause her to have a stroke.
-a male manager fired for bouncing a check on the same company.
-manger fired for stealing money from the teller location entrusted to her.

Think of the money lost from training these people and then the time lost investigating their activities.Where are they now?Did they learn from what happened or did they repeat their behavior?

Is there an answer? Schools are not allowed to teach ethics.Church attendance is down.Who will teach children the value of honesty and gratitude .Their parents? And without the support of the culture, will it fall on deaf ears?

I don't think that we as a nation can go on without addressing the thinking that is ruining lives.The headlines bear witness.


Monday, September 1, 2014

tears in a bowl






Some dreams are so symbolic in my experience as to be almost undecipherable.A friend died and I had a dream that involved a river and a plant with canker.After thinking about it for a wee while, I finally understood how to respond to the family she left behind.Others are pretty clear to me.

Last night, this unfolded.I was waiting with others in a big stadium for the arrival of the very young, tall and very talented basketball player, Jackson Crabtree(?).He finally came with blood on his face and shared with me that he just played the best game of his life.Now, he was to take the stage and sing hymns of praise to God.We all waited for this marvelous event.Something happened next that didn't fit.

I found myself in a small side chapel off the stadium and a reverent young priest with a slight beard appeared with a silver bowl."These are the tears of Christ", he softly announced.I looked in at the shimmering water and was deeply moved because I believed what he said was so.What must this mean ?I understood immediately that the tears came from the many hurts that we inflict on each other.The news is replete with beheadings, murders, violence and the terrible treatment of innocence. But more than this, the tears are for us, the well loved.For the choices we make by settling for less than what we are meant to have.The addictions that fill nothing.The things that bring discontent instead of the joy and peace that is possible.The hand is held out and batted away.Tears fill the bowl.

Perhaps when I choose to watch Forensic Files instead of doing nightly prayer, I am settling for way less than is being offered.I will think of this all day.

I awoke before Jackson got a chance to sing but I am sure it was glorious.

Friday, August 29, 2014

the long and winding road...





I am thinking of another Southern summer that found cooler air blowing on August 15th.This is not such a summer.The mornings are cooler but the heat at noon is oppressive.I watch the trees for the first sign of leaves loosening their hold on branches.All is green and still.

When I was in much cooler Liverpool at the Beatles museum, I paid little attention to the John Lennon information.He was never my favorite of that astoundingly successful group but I caught something on TV last night that grabbed my attention.The show described the hard childhood that Lennon had, an absent father and a partying mother who was killed by an automobile when John was a teen-ager.The narrator said that the absent father haunted Lennon's life and when his first child was born he repeated the pattern and disappeared.

Several pictures of the boy Lennon were shown and what a sweet face.Such innocence.I see him as a teen in his room filled with anger at his mother's inattention and his father's sea sailing absence.And then the stuffing of it deep down with, "I don't care."But the hole is there and he tried many things to fill it.

I think of my favorite Beatle song,the "The Long and Winding Road...."You left me standing here a long, long time ago.... lead me to your door...." I once remarked to a friend that perhaps this was a spiritual song.He laughed but I made it a hymn that speaks to me of being here, when one's heart was made for There.The longing for the Other that is just out of reach.McCartney said it came to him in Scotland and spoke of the unattainable, the door you can never quite reach.That is a deeply spiritual place to me.

Back to the sad childhood.Who can not identify with the loneliness and loss of childhood?Who does not bear the Swiss cheese holes of loss, humiliation, fear left from childhood?And now let's bring Simone Weil into our meditation.She says:"One of the principal truths of Christianity, a truth that goes almost unrecognized today is that looking is what saves us.The bronze serpent was lifted up so that those who lay maimed in the depths of degradation should be saved by looking at it."

What am I looking at? The painful holes or the road that leads me to the Door.And this line makes me misty..."The road will never disappear".Allelulia.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

tethered





Something has been bubbling around in my brain and heart that only writing will make clear.

On the last day of travel in England, I was in London on a bus tour.To say I was tired does little justice to the coma I was in but something caught my eye down by the Thames.By the way, this river is everywhere and beautiful as is London.Ancient historical buildings and new strange ones.Clean and neat;I loved it. Anyway, I looked up from my map in time to see a classy looking street sign on a side street near the river.A white sign with black letters said it was John Carpenter St.My camera was away so I have no picture but it might have been the most thrilling thing I saw.He is one of my ancestors.I confirmed it on Google that he was a descendant of a John Carpenter who served in Parliament in 1323 at the age of 20.That person on my father's side is the furthest back I can go with any relation.His descendants left England for the New World in 1638:William Carpenter,his father,wife, 4 children under ten and a 14 year old indentured servant named Thomas Banshott.I love that name.

I try to imagine what that first New England winter must have been like in 1638.What courage to leave the known.It came to me that I may be the first of my family to come back to England.A full circle made.

On the wall of my writing/prayer room is a picture taken in 1904 of a group that includes my grandmother, Johnann Morrison.She is five years old and is holding the hand of her father who is seated.Her face is round and solemn;her hair seems blond with ribbons on either side in the back.Behind her is my great grandmother who is tall with brown hair piled on her head.She has a strong, determined face.I don't remember her but I do recall her daughter, Elizabeth who is to the right of her father in the picture.When we were children, she used to babysit for us and had a strong Scottish accent.Sweet, kind woman.Aunt Libby.

They all left Scotland and came to New York in the steerage section of a ship; my grandmother, a 6 month old baby.Steerage to me sounds like the bottom of a large ship where the rats play in the dirty bilge water.This was in 1898.I can't imagine how long that trip took before they landed in the New York harbor to begin a new life.These were adventurous, hardy folk.

The Famine Irish who came to America had three choices in 1848:starve, be fed by the British if you dropped the filthy Papist faith or leave.The ragged,poor Ambroses left and, listing themselves as farmers on the ship's manifest, came a 'sailing to New York.My great grandmother was Ellen and she was 16 years old when she arrived.I can see her and her 3 siblings huddled around their Mother thinking "what now?"They never got over the loss of home.I know from the songs.

These are my people.I feel them sometimes;this cloud of witnesses,this communion of saints,sinners,drunks,war heroes, abandoned mothers,bigamists, leather workers, telephone operators, installers,  firemen.I pray for them and they care about me.I know this.I have seen them, indistinctly, a line of people praying for my granddaughter, who hung by a thread in her mother's womb.They who handed the baton of the Faith to me for safe keeping.

I know most people haven't the knowledge of their ancestors that I do.I have been blessed with letters, the old Bible, pictures in abundance and have done research to fill in blanks.Their story is my story.Their faces are known to me.I feel hemmed in by this knowing.Tucked in by a warm blanket of family.Where you go and they have to take you in.

I think Nature intended for us to have family for our protection and the continuation of the species.Also, so that we wouldn't feel so alone in this immeasurably vast universe.


Friday, August 22, 2014

the dream




Lately, I have been sleeping well and long which is no small thing.I am grateful.I have even had a dream that I was able to stay with long enough to see the end.This, despite many moments of waking up.My son and his wife were swimming in a cold, clear river and she closed her eyes for 5 minutes and when she opened them, he was gone.She came running to me, hysterically crying and we looked and looked but no Michael. I kept gazing at a hilltop for his figure to appear.We both were sobbing.But over and over, I told her:'He is strong, he will not drown.He is so big and strong."I woke up frantic and forced myself to sleep again and there he was sitting under a tree talking to his Dad.Relief poured into my veins like warm bubbles.I felt it in the dream.

Michael was a huge baby and slightly blue.He weighed 11 pounds,7 ounces and the blue tint was from inhaled amniotic fluid .They whisked him away to another hospital and that night, I lay alone in my bed bereft .My husband walked the streets of Denver thinking the worst. All was well and though we were kept apart for a few days, something extraordinary happened in those days. He became the child who reads my mind.We seem to be connected in a very deep way.

I am not at all sure what this dream means.Perhaps fearful thoughts because of the burden he carries as a new business owner.But he will not drown because he is so strong.I knew it in the dream and I know it as I type.

Dreams are great gifts.Some are actual visits that change how I see things.Once, my mother-in-law paid a visit years after her death.A great lady of a different time, she was not one to give out compliments.Most people (including me) met with disapproval because it was her way or you were wrong.In the dream visit, we were singing a hymn which I hope to remember for my funeral Mass when she, who was sitting in front of us, turned, shook our hands and said: "I am pleased with the way you are leading your lives."And I know this is true because her son visits the sick at a near-by hospital and delivers communion.He shops for a shut-in and plays chess with him.These are weekly commitments and more. I  know she would beam or she is beaming about the man he turned out to be.

I see my son, swimming with strong stroke upstream against the water flow, his auburn hair shining in the afternoon sun.He glances to the river bank and sees two women crying and wonders why they can't see his joy in the stroking.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

never let me go

It is overcast today.We have a reprieve from the blazing August sun.There are lumps of dark brown in the woods that could be bags of leaves.They are turkeys preening and if I didn't know they were there, I would never guess.A hawk just flew through so fast and quietly that the sparrow he plucked off the feeder might have been an olive on a plate.Summer is winding down, not a day too soon.

The other night I saw a movie called "Never Let Me Go".The story unfolds in the future in England; we follow a trio of children in a private boarding school as they grow.They have been brought into being to be organ donors and the "giving" starts in their twenties.Few survive three operations and I was struck by the handling of the male member of the trio as they sedate him for his last operation.When he is unconscious, the attendant grabbed his head and with little regard pushed it onto the table.So much meat.

The male and female who were raised together fall in love and they heard that, because of this, they would be granted a life extension.I felt hope building in me.This was false and the male screams in rage.I felt the same way.I was also struck by these unfortunate children's desire to find the person they were "modelled" on.The word cloned was never used but I am assuming this is how they came to be.I cannot get this movie out of my mind.

How can this be, this deliberate creation of life not for it's own sake but for spare parts?Do you think this is far-fetched?Who would object to this practise? We, who think surrogacy is fine and if the child is defective, abandon the child? I think of the scientists who believe that we are all so connected that if a butterfly flutters in the Amazon, it is felt in Sweden.What are we doing?

One bread,one Body,one Lord of all, one cup of blessing which we bless.And we, though many throughout the world, we are one body in this one Lord.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Oracion..




Today is the Feast of the Assumption of Mary and I chose to go to the Spanish Mass.Not a word was understood but I love the music.Who can resist bongos and tambourines ?The children, beautiful with dark eyes and braids.The humble priest from Chile.Usually, I will understand at least a few words of the sermon but not today.All I carried out the door was oracion.Yes.

The world is on fire, let us pray.

For the people in Iraq, hanging by a thread on a mountain.Their crime, not being Muslim.For the wisdom to know how to help and the stomach for it.

For the Church.In these times of persecution of all kinds directed at Christians, who has the courage to stand?Do I ?

For the hopeless.I have never, in the darkest times, been without hope that a favorable outcome is guaranteed.This small light came to me from my mother and the church.And nature.May the despairing see that they are not their flagging bank statement,or tenuous career.They are who they are before God, nothing more.Think of that deeply and see the truth of it.

For the trapped.The powerless.

For those who are tentatively trying to envision God in their lives.The seed that has been planted by a book, a hymn, a word or a holy action.May they put cynicism aside, resist putting walls back in place and jump into the Arms.Those arms open, waiting all their lives for a softening, a chink in the wall.Think of the word open and then the word close.Sit with those words and let them speak to you.How about sprouting seed. Hope.And light.

Praise that You promised to never abandon us.That in the efforts of the Marines in Iraq helping strangers, I see You.I feel You in  the quiet of church before Mass as the sunlight comes through the stained glass Stations of the Cross. Through chant, turkeys, bells and a plot of brilliant marigolds.Despite how dreadful things in the world look, the Light will never be extinguished. Oracion.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

connectedness...




The other day, a link appeared on Facebook that I lacked the courage to explore.It showed a young man holding a gun to the head of a young white and grey cat that had its face fur pulled back by the man's other hand.What came next is too awful to think about.Apparently, because of Facebook, the man was arrested.

I have been watching all day from my reading chair for a squirrel that was under the bird feeder yesterday.As soon as I saw him, I knew something was wrong.He was closer to the ground than the others, darker and had no sharpness about him.As I watched, he would walk a bit dragging a leg along.Usually, if one squirrel gets too close to another's stash, off they go, chasing, muttering, all over the yard and up trees.No matter where this sad creature went, the others left him alone.At 4:30, he shuffled off and he is not here today.

Animals in distress have always grabbed my heart.I once saw an owl on a phone line in Florida.I was in my teens and this was a small fellow, grey and white .When he turned, I saw that he had one good eye and another pure white and empty.His little face haunts me still.

If I sit long enough,and thank God for retirement, I see some interesting animal behavior.The other day, a crow was in the trees near where the deer, raccoons, squirrels and birds were eating seed.He started calling and he was alone which is unusual.The creatures on the ground heard a tone or something and within a second the yard was empty.Not even a dragonfly remained.It was eerie until a hawk flew through a second later with incredible speed.I am convinced that the crow was sounding a warning and it was heard.

There is another story about two girls and a turtle that I won't tell but all of this got me thinking of connectedness.I have never had an experience that some have of seeing all the world as integrally connected.This mystical vision has not been given to me;but the way these abused or hurt animals haunt me is a sign.When that man grabbed the white and grey cat, something profound was dying in him.He has condemned himself to walking alone in this world.He will be fortunate if the face of that scared animal haunts him.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

namaste...




Last night, I had another chat with my newly found classmate from high school.I have written of her before.Jackie still works in the helping field of psychology and through the years has heard many stories.Last night, she wanted to tell me of Tessa.When she met this young woman, she knew of her shaky upbringing.Dropping out of high school as soon as possible, seeking employment in the shady entertainment business, and all the rest.The future must have looked dim.Jackie wanted to tell me of the day they met and how she saw something in the girl. Just something. Years have passed, the girl is married, has a GED and along with a child,  a good career where she is well regarded.

I think Jackie wanted to share this because it makes her happy, what God can do in a life.I agreed with her but I saw something else in the story.I saw namaste, mystically given.In the Asian countries, bowing and saying namaste is common.In Hindu it means this: "I bow to the divine in you"or "I pay respect to the Lord residing in you."Wonderful greeting.And with the bow, "I also humble myself before you."Sometimes, I do this spontaneously as I did when saying good-bye to the Kentucky couple walking the Hadrian wall in England.My bow said,"I honor your efforts and thank you for bringing a bit of home to me."

This is what I saw when my friend told her story.When Tessa met her, Jackie didn't bow or say namaste but some of her light reached out to the light that Tessa didn't know she had.Jackie's warmth and acceptance honored this other vessel of God and Tessa felt it.And now knowing she had that light, she could only try to make it brighter.This is the glow I felt as Jackie shared.

My next sentence, Jackie will try to bat away when she reads it.Her last name when I knew her was D'Angelo, of the angels:Jackie of the angels.Yes and Amen.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Grasmere's poet...




Two poets, different centuries, different continents, heads bowed, rambling the back roads. I saw a poster while in Grasmere, home of my most beloved William Wordsworth.It said:"Wordsworth and Basho, the walking poets-a symposium."How I wished I could have been there in January.

Basho, the Japanese drifter who would sit by his humble hut by a river and then when the urge came, take a foot journey and observe. Basho is actually the Japanese name for a plantain tree and he had one growing in his spare yard that took off in growth to become the king of his garden.But the tree had no use;the fruit was inedible, it was not beautiful, it dropped spiny leaves and the lumber was too soft.He took it's name because he felt himself to be like it in it's uselessness.And yet, he walked and wrote.As useless as a sunset or a butterfly.

Wordsworth was a great sojourner.Long walks in the morning and evening trailed by his adoring sister who wrote down his thoughts, his verse.She, Dorothy, was devoted in the extreme to William and I read something about her that touched me deeply.When she was a child, she was taken to the ocean.She was helpless to stop tears of joy.When in old age, sick and confined to bed, her desire to see her garden was so strong that when finally able, she again was overcome.Such a tender heart to respond that way to the green heaven in which we wander.

If I were a poet, where would I walk? I85, Tara Road, any street in my county ?Do we have a dearth of poetry because we have no way to kiss and engage our world. How long did Basho spend at this pond on his journey before he wrote:"The old pond..frog jumps in, sound of water."That poem, simple as it is, came from moments of being attentive, without distraction to a pond.When the poor shabby poet sauntered away, he took with him those moments and that place became sacred as my running path becomes.

Thoreau was a great wanderer.An American icon, in love with the natural world.I went to his grave in Concord several years ago and took a small stone from it to put in my treasure box.I noticed something curious.He and his three other siblings have similar headstones. Just their first names. It is the Thoreau family plot so their last names seemed to be unnecessary.These are old stones, grey and weathered from the 19th century except for one spot.The top of Henry's stone.It is white and while I stood, I realized why.It is from the many hands stroking over the years.Touching, connecting with a wandering writer. On his grave was a small pumpkin left by someone who knew they were on sacred soil.

"As my eyes search the prairie
I feel the summer in the spring."Anonymous, Chippewa Indian

There is a place of great green beauty out there, waiting for a poet to come by.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Tintern Time-June 20, 2014





My back is to the stone wall.They are the same as the cold grey ones that form a perfect writing seat for me.What would have been the place of  altar and Sacrifice is to my right.After many days on a bus with other tour members, I have skipped lunch, scurried away to hide in this vast ruin.

The birds swoop in and out of the huge arch behind the altar place where stained glass had once been. And here and there, high up on a forgotten ledge, a bouquet of pink flowers sways in the summer breeze.My  journal is out and my pen owns the paper as it tells of this place."The wind moves the small daisies at my feet: where stone slabs once made a floor, grass and daisies now cover. It seems right.And right that from the many arched windows, the green trees and hills please."

It was May 9, 1131 that this monastery was founded in Wales and men showed up to be alone with God. The Abbey still stands, though diminished. King Henry 8th saw to that many centuries ago. Henry is dust but somehow this edifice still stands. All the empty windows and doors arch upward.The message is clear. This is holy ground, sanctified by work and prayer.I could almost hear the chanting in the wind.Sanctus.Kyrie.What is more important than Sanctus?The arches say that, when you are looking up, you are looking for the God who will lead you to Himself. What is more important, they ask?

No wonder all the buildings in the Soviet Union were grey boxes.

A few tourists came through with their dogs.I heard the lady say:"Why did this happen to me?"She was talking about her dog whose droppings on the abbey floor would need picking up.My unkind thought was, "Why did this happen to me that you came into holy ground with your dogs?"But as God has reminded me many, many times,"where you dwell is not heaven."For a few minutes, it had been.



Wednesday, July 2, 2014

running in Scotland-a paean




It was a stunning fall day in Georgia.Clear blue sky, cool breezes that invigorated my spirit after a hot southern summer.I was in Milledgeville for a cross country meet over 20 years ago.I miss those Saturdays.On this one, I had driven out alone, my high school runners were riding on a school bus.As I was driving home, having seen and heard those legs and feet all day, I just had to run myself.I found a big field, pulled over and off I went, in glorious motion.Around ,over and through the grass until I was satisfied.I will never forget that desire to fly over the field.

It is not like that for me anymore, the running. I can easily pass a field and stay behind the wheel but the desire, though different, is still there after 28 years. I was originally enamored by the way I felt after a run.So satisfied that I did it because it is hard and requires overcoming.I also had more energy, which is no small thing.

When I worked for BellSouth in Jonesboro, one of my employees asked me why I ran.The first thing that popped into my head was this:in the future, I do not want to be unable do something that I really want to do because of physical limitations. Little did I know that in June 2014, I would be on a tour of a gorgeous castle in Wales that required climbing steep stairs with many, many steps.The view from the top was worth the trek.

Here is a list of things that this runner believes came into her life because she laced up some old tennis shoes and went out there:
-a promotion.
-keeping a journal.
-writing.
-hiking the Camino and mountains in the Catskills.
-fitness and castles.

I had hoped to run twice in Britain but we only had alone time on one day.We were staying at a lovely inn outside of Edinburgh and that afternoon, after writing in my journal, I laced up my worn red running shoes and started off down the driveway.It got busy, so I saw an entrance to a field of growing oats with paths along the edges.Perfect.Off I went, up a rocky hill, scaring two feasting magpies.Down the hill, turned right and up another hill and then back to the Norton House.I saw some wonderful things in the British Isles but this patch of ground is mine and it is sacred. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Tower of London-June 22





The Tower of London was a surprise.It was many narrow stone towers and other large castle-like buildings.It was a beautiful day, sunny with the beautiful Thames in the background.The other choice on the tour that Sunday was a boat ride on that river but I chose the Tower.Despite the cafe, the gift shop and the ice cream vendor, the Tower is a serious place.I felt that.There are places here called the Bloody Tower and the Scaffold Site.

I've learned enough history to know that many were executed here.The inconvenient Anne Boleyn: the unmovable John Fisher and Thomas More.The towers where the prisoners were kept are narrow, rounded and with one entry, guarded always, no doubt.The guards are gone, the cells empty, but a light shines from this place that has flickered through the centuries.The one thing that Thomas More did not want to do was die. He languished in a cell for 15 months. He had a career, a much loved family and a deep faith.All he had to do was sign a paper saying that wrong was right with fingers crossed behind his back and he could have retired to the lovely countryside to read and dote on his family.How many prayers did he say asking for relief from the quandary he was in?Or for strength.Finally, the King, one Henry, could abide this resistance no longer and the time came for a visit to the scaffold.How does one walk to it?

This is how;"I do not care very much what men say of me, provided God approves of me."Thomas More 1532.

Saint Thomas, you may be surprised to learn that the Church has not forgotten you.Co-incidentally, today she celebrates your Godly life with a feast day.The same day that I came to witness where you walked.

All this happened centuries ago.I plodded along never expecting to be moved by empty tower rooms.But then I saw it: scratching on a tower wall, left by a Jesuit prisoner.I am sure he visited the scaffold too, but left behind a sign of where his strength came from.Under a protective plastic, are the letters I H S ,a monogram for Jesus Christ. I believe that this was the man's last thought as he walked to the scaffold and his first sight after that.

Monday, June 30, 2014

a window in Bladon....





Once, a few years ago, a photo caught my eye.It was on a blank white wall; the frame was brown wood.A simple picture of a thin, high window that was in a chapel on the isle of Iona off the coast of Scotland.That photo took me on a journey Iona and a Mass said by a priest next to that very window.The view from it was of deep green grass, a brown and white cow and a small herd of sheep.The priest was from America and we had a nice chat afterwards.The chapel was named St.Michael's and I seem to run into him whenever I travel.

I have written before of my deep love of windows.How we moved into this open floor plan house with many, and added three more.Perhaps it is genetic, because I know from history that my Irish ancestors had to pay extra to the English for each window they possessed; an unbelievable "window tax."Meh.Being poor farmers, I am sure they denied themselves this "luxury" of windows.

So, being a bit obsessed, I took some extra time in St.Martin's Church in Bladon, England this June, looking for inspiration.Winston Churchill, the hero of WW 11 Britain, is buried in the church yard and I left the church to take a picture of his grave.It was overcast and rather grim outside but as I left , I noticed a small uniquely designed window on the outside wall.I just had to see what the stained glass contained, which required going in and then up on the altar of this Anglican Church.The bus was waiting but I was determined and there it was.One of the most beautiful windows I had ever seen.I could have sat under it all day and been held by it's peace.

I told this story to a dear friend, of being led to this beautiful, holy, out of the way art, and she got chills.Mystical light through blue glass will do that.And angels.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

"I am with you,,,we are One."





Something happened at Mass the other day that will be difficult to describe  adequately.We are usually early, so I knelt down with my litany of requests and then something changed.It wasn't a voice or a touch, but somehow my attention was gently turned in different direction. Suddenly , as if the sun had come out, I began to see other things clearly.Things in front of me. I was there, really there.I saw a man a few pews ahead smiling and getting ready to sing.He is almost bald and has a huge scar on the side of his head.I recently found out that he , many years ago,  had a brain aneurysm and was not expected to live through the night.And then when he did, his family was told he would be a vegetable. I smile thinking of him ahead in that pew.

To his right is the Delta employee from Puerto Rico who, yearly, takes groups from our church to Honduras to help the people in our sister parish.His efforts have enabled running water to come to the town for the first time ever.Across the aisle is the young couple my daughter's age who struggled to have a family and almost gave up after having just one son  when a brother, aged 4 and sister, aged three, needed parents.I looked at the five of them and wonder where those beautiful dark haired children would be now without their adoptive parents.Behind them is a friend of mine who suffered widowhood for many years.She and another widow in her sixties from the church have become great buddies, travel together and help each other with doctor appointments etc.To my right is the older man whose wife died several years ago.After she passed, he came right to church and we cried and hugged through the Mass.

The Body of Christ.

Today's hymn spoke to me and I would like to share it.This is my belief:

"I am with you,I am with you, I am with you.We are One."

Friday, June 27, 2014

Thursday June 19....finding grace in Liverpool





If there was one stop on my British journey that if dropped would not have caused me pain, it was the Beatles Museum in Liverpool. I loved their music in the 60s and found great joy in singing along with those British lads.But, a museum?

I seemed to recall Liverpool as a drab place from the Beatles time but it wasn't.Maybe the museum would be O.K.As I drifted around inside, I was shocked to see how young the Fab Four were or have my eyes aged so.What bright faces ! As I read their stories, I hadn't known that they had tumultuous childhoods: dying young moms and disappearing fathers. That the genius behind the group, Brian Epstein, had died at 32.I had forgotten that they broke up after only eight years and went on to other things.

Their music filled the place and I was 20 again and young.There was Eleanor Rigby's grave."Ah, look at all the lonely people".And a sign for "Strawberry Fields, Forever",which strangely touched me. But something awaited and I moved on.

Each Beatle has their own alcove with photos, music and memorabilia.The last was George Harrison's and as I entered, his music filled the small space.There was a narrow bench with white pillows that invited one to sit and gladly I did.As I looked around, enjoying rare solitude, I saw what was on the floor.A beautiful green marble space with a pink lotus. I have written before how that stunning, mystical flower speaks to me.Of overcoming and blossoming despite the grimy mud that tries to suck you down.When you achieve something, the mud will say: "Don't get a big head, now."Or ,"That's great, but you forgot to bring in the garbage pail; so lazy."Here, in Liverpool, I was reminded of the beauty in that flower and my soul, and your soul, in all it's potential.

Under the lotus is this quote from George: "I am a gardener,basically".In its humilty,it reminded me of Frost: "One could do worse than be a swinger of birches."
One could do worse than enter a small quiet alcove, sit on a soft pillow and listen to the voice of the shyest Beatle, long gone, sing , "My Sweet Lord."

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

June 21,Saturday-the stones and the stoned at Avebury..




Some of the travellers on my trip were upset that we wouldn't be going to Stonehenge.It was the day of the summer solstice and the park people would only allow 20,000 people in that day.We were too far away to be part of that group, so we went to Avebury, a town with a stone circle, instead.That seemed like a good and tame solution.We arrived after lunch to a huge crowd.

I should have realized what we were in for when I saw a large sign on the fence with a tough looking dog's face on it.It said, "Hi, I am Griffin and my friends and I are drug sniffing dogs. Do you feel lucky?If not, use the red trash bin next to this sign for your stuff."By now the red bin was stuffed with who knows what and laying on it's side.Rumor had it that the police had given up and just hoped that their would be no bodies to scrape up at the end of the day.

I wandered along the path through the stones and felt the need to press my fingers against one's surface.What delightful warmth that stone loaned my hand.It felt friendly to me, welcoming.A lovely moment.As I drifted away,
I encountered oddities.Angel wings, feathers in the hair and a stifling hot long grey robe on a stooped gentleman. Strange smells and glazed eyes.And someone in the ladies room chanting..."this is dirty,dirty,dirty..".

Each time I passed a fellow bus mate we looked at each other with puzzlement.The saddest thing that I observed came at the end of the visit as I waited for the bus.On a small knoll, was a group of very intoxicated, middle aged to young people, celebrating the solstice.One particularly staggering woman, had a small boy about four with her, wandering through the revellers.He sat on a stone and watched as person after person took a swig of the half empty liquor bottle.He was a beautiful, sad, blue eyed boy with longish brown hair. Was this scene his "normal?"I tried to say hello to him to give him something for the journey: he turned away. He will never leave my mind or my prayers.

On this particular stop, there was not a person late in getting on board on the bus.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tuesday June 17-Hadrian's Wall.




When I was packing for my trip to the British Isles, one of my sons asked if I would be seeing Hadrian's Wall.It wasn't on the agenda, I was sorry say.Well, guess what ? Because we couldn't go to Windsor Castle, we went a wee bit out of the way and saw what's left of this Roman stone barrier.When built, it extended 75 miles across Northern England.It's purported goal was to  keep out the northern people ,the Picts, who most likely scared the invading Romans witless.The Picts had great patience and disdained clothes in favor of bizarrely painted skin.They could stand up to their eyes in water for hours waiting to launch themselves on the hated Romans.

We got off the bus for a brief glimpse of what was once a 10 foot wide, 16 to 20 feet high wall.Now, it is barely a few feet high ,but it is still there after being built in 121 A.D.Think of that for a minute.

As we prepared to make our way back to the bus, I saw an older couple , dressed in hiking gear coming in toward to stones.They both had travel books in their hands and the covers showed pictures of the wall.They were hiking guide books to the whole wall and they had a planned to hike along it's length.Awesome.Then I found out they were from Kentucky,of the good old USA, and it made me smile.Saunter on, my compatriots, along this most ancient wall and breath in that clear sweet air of the countryside of England.

Friday, June 13, 2014

cheerleading linnets.......



As I made my way around the indoor track this morning,I noticed an older man with a cane, over to the right .He had skin the color of a hazelnut, white tuft on his head and the brightest eyes that didn't need his mouth to smile.After he walked around, he would sit on the narrow window ledge, resting.As I went by , he would say "good,good,good,"and cast a smile my way. So encouraging, his presence.

 I thought of this because the other day I received an e-mail from the only person who notices when I am not writing.This friend from years ago Long Island summers is my most faithful reader and encourager. A few days after he and his family moved in across the street in 1953, my mother dragged us, father, sister and I , over to welcome them to the neighborhood.It was a bright June evening, the maples had filled out and the waning sun had been good to us that day.I was ten and my friend was 12 and I am sure that both being shy, no words passed between us. Who would have guessed that sixty, yes that long , years later we would be friends and good ones.For my part, I can hardly picture not getting his e-mails and sharing thoughts with him.

  I think that he is my number one cheerleader, keeping me writing which gives me untold pleasure.
Isn't that what we are all here for? Isn't that our vocations as humans? Clapping, smiling, praising,

 In a few days, I will be standing at the grave site of William Wordsworth,the English poet.What words he uses to praise the common linnet, a bird endangered now in Britain.

......"Hail to thee far above the rest in joy and pinion!Thou,Linnet! in green array, Presiding Spirit here today,Dost lead the revels of the May:and this is thy dominion".....

  Hail to all for encouraging words to those they pass in stride....hail to you bent, aged one who kept these feet amoving...hail to you, oh, steadfast friend, whose words brought pen to hand .......

Monday, May 5, 2014

the plain white room with two chairs....





Looking into the yard is like sitting at a outdoor wrought iron table with a feast set before me.I have only to turn to see a new offering.Purple irises,red rose,red honeysuckle and grass the color of spring green leaves.It is so restful to watch the birds fly across the grass to the other side of the woods.This spring has been remarkable or perhaps because at my age, since it is not guaranteed, it is most appreciated.To sit with a lovely memoir on my lap and soak up warmth is a true blessing.

I want to tell you about another blessing.I started writing in 2008 after my sister's death ,trying to make sense of it.I had worried about her for so long.Then I had a dream.It was one that I had never considered as anything but a visit, so real was it.

The reason I mention it now when it happened right after her death is because I found something or it found me, in a novel by Nelson DeMille, called The Quest.It is the story of a group of people looking for the holy Grail and it involves a priest who dies after being captive in Africa for forty years .One of the people with him at his death, Vivian, goes to Italy to tell his family of his passing."Vivian had told Anna( the priest's sister) that her brother mentioned her by name, which made Anna weep.Anna told them that she had seen her brother in a dream last year when there had been so much news of Ethiopia, and her brother was smiling, which according to Sicilian belief meant he was in heaven.".

Ah, if you wait long enough, an affirmation comes of what you know already to be true.The dream I had in 2008 was simple: I walked into a plain white room and in front of me were two wooden straight back chairs.My mother and sister were in the chairs with their eyes closed.My sister had her head on my mother's shoulder.I knew they were deceased.My mother opened her eyes and I said;"It's been a long time .How are you?"She smiled and said,"Fine."The same thing happened with my sister and after receiving these assurances, the dream ended.

There is an abundance of gifts in this blessed world.My many lush purple Irises, a gift from my son. Roses of pink, yellow and orange overflowing the garden. A honeysuckle vine of sweet scent and hummingbird attraction.And dreams.I never laugh at them and have a handful that I recall in precise detail that have changed my life.The plain room with two chairs is one of them.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

a rose and a memory...





The first rose of summer is opening.Such a brilliant red.The small bush is surrounded by colorful marigolds.The yellow,orange and red/yellow make me smile in memory of my first small garden on Long Island.Those grew from seed and when the first shoots actually appeared in the dark earth,I nearly fainted from joy.A dried old wisp of a seed produced this ?

Memories are like that for me now.To have lived long enough to look deeply at things that happened with new, yet old eyes. In my early twenties, I had a boyfriend, a dreamy looking Irish lad whose green eyes shone with mirth.We had many dates, a Military Ball, trips to the beach and restaurants by the ocean.Tall, lanky and young.I can see him still that night when he appeared at my door with a stunning bouquet of flowers; roses,I think.My cousin was visiting and, not being socially adept, I blurted out,"What did you do now?" Foolish words to impress a relative. How those words must have brought his spirits down,he giving a gift from the heart for no reason.The card read,"For sentimental reasons."I have it still

This was a summer romance. A beach romance, holding sunburned salty hands, singing and dancing  to 60s music. A perfect love that didn't last through the fall.How many childish things did I do to push him away ? He ended it in November but then at least once a month, he came by to take me out.February:Valentine's. March: St.Patrick's Day and then in April, no visit. Late that month an accident took his life.

The day was warm as I drove past our school,Hofstra University, with the windows open. As I went by, I smelled his after shave. No one was around to leave that scent and later that day, a visit from a mutual friend with the sad news :the night before there had been a car accident on Sunrise Highway.He was 21 and he died in April of 1965.I wonder if his family would like to know that he is remembered with fondness and prayed for.He left me but kept coming back.I see now that something held us. It still does.