Thursday, February 27, 2014
As I look out my prayer room window,it hardly seems possible that there is color.What I see is the hue of Van Gogh's awnings,sunshine and my striped pillow.A single flower:daffodil.The first one to bloom here at the end of February.
How can I forget this:the daffodils that my father planted one fall when I was 12 .Somehow,he had won a bag of bulbs and on hands and knees,he dug a hole for each to plant along the border of the azaleas in the front of our house.Spring came and nothing was happening ,no shoots ,no buds, so my mother dug one up.They were all planted upside down and in the way of indomitable nature,they were sprouting downward then making u-turns to head towards the sun.Eventually the buds and flowers followed.Spring.
If this story is to be true,I am not surprised that the bulbs were carelessly planted.Addictions have a way of robbing strength and judgement and so it was.But still, the flowers bloomed and Nature was true.
Other than the daffodils,Spring is not apparent.The woods are still bare, the sun white,and the breeze is cold.But we know what is coming,the flowers and I.I am pleased beyond all telling to be a witness once again.Spring.
Daffodils bloomed at the end of April on Long Island.Even then, shorts were still in boxes.But May would come,knees would be liberated by white shorts with red strawberries.Lilacs would be snipped and placed on a shelf with a statue of Mary and as a child I could hardly run down the stairs fast enough to be outside,in that season of purples,yellow,salmon and white and scents that could make one swoon.Lilacs,lily of the valley.
And I hear a new sound that pushes up through the soil of my heart.It is my Uncle Les' voice,he who was not Catholic.In his hand are beautiful showy Florida flowers.It is May of the year in the late 40s that we lived in the South:"I have flowers for Mary," he chanted as he placed them on her altar.So loving,so kind.He was the only relative that I ever knew that had paid me a compliment.It just wasn't done then.He spoke of my character and I admit that I tried hard to live up to his idea of who I was.When I knew him, he never worked ,having been gassed in World War 1.I wish I could know him now.
The ice on the birdbath cannot squelch this spring fever.
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
I have always wanted a room of my own.It was a conscious need growing up when I shared an 8x10 room with my sister.When young, we shared the same bed and one night she fell asleep with gum in her mouth and we awakened stuck to each other and the bedpost.Maybe after that was when we got twin beds.
Cramped doesn't do justice to the smallness and lack of privacy of that room.We were very different in our tastes and needs and I recall that at an early age I wanted this room to reflect me.Order,pink,books,made bed.Simple requirements that went unheeded for many years.I did homework in my bed since the small desk was inadequate for my books and papers.I read something by Virginia Wolff that struck me:if women in the past had a place of their own to spread out there papers,pens etc.that would have been undisturbed by family members there would have been more women writers in the centuries before her.I smile.
When I saw a table book called :"A Room of Her Own",I grabbed it and I wander through it from time to time.Beautiful pictures of different women's refuge rooms.When I told my friend Missy about it,she ordered it immediately.The need may be universal.
I finally have this,my room.It faces West towards the river and the woods.The two original windows weren't enough so my husband had a third,middle one, put in.Here I am in my prayer/computer/writing room watching a flock of red winged black birds perched like winter ornaments in the pines.From here I see the grey woods ,ice on branches of all trees.On my wall,I have a small picture of a woman stretching as a reminder ,another ,a woman reading from a book surrounded by candles with the saying,"nurturing my spirituality gives me joyful exuberance throughout the day" and a third a picture of a bench in a park covered in snow,two favorite things and with books on the bench no less.Three favorites.
There were two windows in my old bedroom,one a dormer window high and, with a dresser in front, you couldn't see out .The side window was the one that I could look out and see the maples on Bedford Avenue.Sometimes,I would lay on the floor and just look at them, swaying in the breeze.Or lit from below by a street lamp.Light green leaves in Spring and in fall, a feast of color.In winter,I would walk my dog among them and think how unfamiliar they seemed,more like steel columns.
After I moved to Denver in the 70s,my Mother wrote that all the maples had been taken down.They were interfering with the pipes.I was glad I had moved away.I never see a maple leaf that I don't think of them guarding that small cramped room and lifting the spirits of the little girl that thought they were her own.
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
One of the first stories I ever wrote was inspired by the painting above,Snow at Louveciennes by Sisley.I was so drawn into the picture that I started to write of the woman in the alley who became me.What unfolded was so meaningful that I wept as I penned it .
Loneliness,widowhood,a loved cat,a light in a garret,neighbors,my mother's childhood Christmas gift of an orange, a deacon at church and St.Faustina all came dancing across the page .And because of the investment of my soul in that alley,for me it is holy ground.I want so to go to Louveciennes to find it and walk it,snow or sunshine.It is my alley.I don't know how else to describe this feeling of ownership.
I bet if I went to this town near Paris and held out the Sisley picture and said Ou est?,someone would direct me.Maybe my Camino friend Guy would show me the way and tell me he still has the rosary that I was led to give him.In a writer's world anything can happen.My friend and mentor ,Garnette would say that it sounds like there's a story there.
I thought of all this as I jogged around the track at our new recreation center.With the kind of winter we have had,I think that my running would have gone by the wayside without this place.I know every inch of that green rubber path on the third level of the center.I have dropped sweat and done an intercessory alphabet:A, praying for Alice a high school friend and my Dad, Al.B, for old friend Bobby and new friend from the Camino Betty and so forth.That can take up some time along with hymns,carols and writing stories such as this.The effort,the discomfort of the jogging all mark this path as my own.
The streets of my old neighborhood where I ran my first mile in 1986 belong to me.My running shoes were old sneakers,red and white and I noticed today that my New Balance are red and white.I should have kept that old pair as partners on a journey.The roads that I trained on to get ready for the Peachtree Road Race,the golf course where I ran with my dogs,the six miles from our family country home down along the West Kill to the Post Office in the Catskills.All sacred.
A further connection that I notice:in 1987 I started a running log that became a journal that became a blog and in all this I fell in love with writing as I had with running.This is what I entered on January 31 of that year:"Ran 2 and a half miles with Charlie(my dog).Hills.Old man encouraged me ,told by his doctor to walk.Legs felt awful.Warm out.Race tomorrow.Hope it's not hilly.Can I finish?"
My journal says that I did.
Monday, February 10, 2014
To write is to say that I am here .I am the observer of the things around me that make their way to the page.A witness.
On the bench again.Sun not as warm ,breeze a little cooler.It is February after all.Bird chatter all around.A sad dove coos, a wren calls louder than his size.
This is church.This church is sound, scent and the altar is covered in dead leaves.The noon white sun is the Pascal candle,held high.The choir is many chirps,tweets,and calls and the tapping of a small beak.I bring the words,the praise,and thanksgiving.The centering of silence and emptiness.
Everything here is holy,blemished,broken,scuffed,things with holes,branches without bark.It is in this silence and solitude that renewal happens for me.It's like I have gotten away with something-this time alone.The trees and I are congregants swaying in the breeze.All I can do with pen and journal is witness and tell what I see through the filter of who I am now.
We took a handicapped priest to Mass this morning.He is in his late 50s and has had a brain tumor,the removal of which has caused two strokes,and a heart attack.He moves slowly and sees little.His elderly mother cares for him but she was ill so we helped.Despite his many infirmities,he has a wicked sense of humor and we laughed all the way down Tara Blvd.to church.He described his bedroom as looking like the church in Lourdes with his crutches,canes and wheelchair.
I asked him how he escaped the bitterness,the depression that he
described he had once felt.He said with a broad smile:"I see it differently now.I wake up each morning and just thank God for another day,for breath ,for life."
Nothing has changed but his filter.It is possible.
On the red bench in the woods with a slight breeze that feels good on my skin.It is mild out and there is a brilliant blue sky above.All around my feet are last year's leaves:dun,tan,brown with a few dead tree branches,and a ball of moss.It is nature quiet as if tree branches are soaking up any noise.
I always brought Sagan and Cooper with me to the bench .Cooper, the retriever mix ,would find a perfect stick to gnaw on and Sagan ,the yellow Lab, would sit at my feet and watch,occasionally looking up at my face and wagging his tail hello.I miss them.Wherever they are,do they hear my mind when I talk to them still?
There is still water in the floodplain ,the snow has been gone for days.The trees are back to brown without the white ribbons on the branches.The only sound is from the still clinging beech leaves ,crisp,lined and beige;turned inward ,touching each other.I smell the damp decaying mold of the swamp.A rich scent.
If I sit long enough,something will come by.Once,the crackling leaves gave away the coming of a plodding box turtle.He cared not a whit that I sat watching.Another time,a black rat snake draped like a garland over a bare tree,looked at me as I sat a few feet from him.This is their woods and I visit.
The only green is from dots of ferns here and on the slope.I do notice that a small sapling in front of the bench has small pink pointed buds that this warm day must have called out.They look like they are testing the air.The sun on my back feels comforting.This has been a winter of many inside days.Too many.
The sand hill cranes are circling.I don't know which way they are heading, their cries come and go.Recently,they were heading South and so low,I could see their eyes.Almost.I think they follow the Flint and the flocks are often very hard to see,they fly so high.But hearing them is a joy.
The only trees that I recognize by their trunks are the mottled grey, slightly ribbed, Iron Wood and the smooth,grey ,magnificent Beech.Sitting among them seems like a friendly visit.All we need is tea.
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
"And the dead tree gives no shelter,the cricket no relief,and the dry stone no sound of water."T.S. Eliot,The Waste Land
The Bible study that I have been attending every Wednesday has been a revelation.I guess that what it supposed to be.Today we talked about the 40 years the Israelites spent wandering in the desert ,punishment for their lack of faith in the God who called them His own.
The word B'midbar means wilderness in Hebrew and what comes to mind is desert winds blowing ,little to eat,no shade or place to sit.The road ahead is decidedly uncertain for this band of nomads so they followed the Ark of the Covenant and plodded along.This is history but also metaphor.When have I willingly gone into the desert,untethered to the Rock ,and sought my own path ?In that free desert place what were the new rules?What did my roots have to cling to other than my shrieking ego, making demands.
It is clear in my mind,this time of wandering.My focus was on filling that cavernous hole inside with bits of string,pieces of soiled paper and all that was not real.There came a turning.I cannot put my finger on the moment but it must have been a whisper..."what are you doing and where will this lead ?Picture it and tell me,is this what you want your future to look like?"
The head is bowed against the blowing wind,hair covered with a beige muslin scarf.Feet, slowly plodding ,step by step ,as each foot print is blown away.No shade,the trees are dead.At this point,the woman doesn't care which way she goes because whatever path is ahead will lead to more hunger,more thirst.Nothing will satisfy but will only increase the emptiness,the aloneness.Then the wind calms.It is noticeable.Ahead is a log and she sits and pulls her cape around her.Just then,a butterfly appears in this place.How can this be?It alights on the log and she hears this:"You are worthy of the Best.I am the Best.You have been in the desert too long."And she turns.
Monday, February 3, 2014
This is a remembrance of snow storms,then and now.It was the winter of 1982 and I was working at a Bellsouth phone store in downtown Atlanta as a part time employee.The snow started falling around one in the afternoon and three of us female employees, who lived more than 25 miles from the store,requested that we be let go as the snow was sticking and piling up.If our manager had granted that request,the union would have filed a grievance against her for not letting the most senior employees go first,even though those employees lived much closer.Not much common sense is allowed in this environment.So ,we all stayed and finally ,at four in the afternoon ,the store was closed.My friend Patsy and I started home in my car.We were not far from I75, but when we got to it,,we realized that a disaster was happening.People ahead had abandoned their cars in the lanes they were in and little was moving.We wove around the cars and got on I 20 heading East.Slowly,doing 10 miles an hour we headed to I285 and made our way home.At 8:30, I dropped her at a gas station, 5 miles from my house, where her husband met us .I asked her to call my children who were home alone,my husband being on business in Knoxville.
I will never forget those lonely, long last miles and the face in the window at 9:30 when I finally arrived.My 12 year old son was standing there, framed by the living room light .Even from the car,I saw his tears.There was no cell phones then and they had no idea what was happening for most of that long night.When I got in the door,I fell onto the sofa and wept.
I thought of this when I saw the notes on Facebook from a former co-worker of mine at Bellsouth Mobility.She had been in her car for over 8 hours last week when I first saw her comments.She had left Atlanta at 1 and at 9 P.M. was still on Georgia 400 crawling along.She was alone as was her son at home and there was no end in sight.This was a much worse mess because 30 years later Atlanta and the suburbs are much more heavily populated.I wrote this:"I wish I could come up there,snatch you,hug you and take you home."Above and below my comments were words of encouragement and prayers for safety from her friends.My son,the grown-up 12 year old, saw none of this.
Later ,in worry and frustration, I told on my timeline about the many people stuck and about her particularly.My incredible son saw this and asked where she was.They connected by cell phone and he and hos wife Katie drove down from Cumming to Roswell and "snatched her up and hugged her."She went to bed in his warm house with her kindle and some wine,11 hours after she left her job.The next day,he drove her home.
He was not the only one who did this kind of thing.Chik-fil-a employees went up and down nearby gridlocked roads with free food.One man made 20 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and gave them out.Others handed out coffee to nearby stranded folks .Some took in strangers for the night who came to their door looking for help.You amazing ,glorious city,Atlanta.
Today, I read that a few folks got tow trucks and stole abandoned cars.
I guess there are many responses to a mess like our snow storm.We can be a caring friend and pray for those affected.We can think ,what advantage is there in this for me ?Or we can think ,how can I help ?The best places are those inhabitated by people who live by the first and the last.
Lord,today, I thank you for Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook,little did he know.For cell phones and friends that pray.And especially, that I lived long enough to find out exactly what kind of man that 12 year old boy would turn out to be.