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.

Sunday, April 20, 2014


Pressed in my journal are three droopy purple violets, a dandelion and a white clover.Entwined in the flowers is a thin dark, slightly curly hair.These were the gifts of today that I picked up after all the family left.These were the delights that my, not quite two year old, granddaughter played with this afternoon.

It is hard to describe the joy on Maddie's face when she felt the wind and watched the pin oak leaves sway.As she picked up and smelled each flower, she said "flower" which sounded like walrus.She looked, sniffed and relished each little wild flower as if it were the Queen's jewels and took me, her Nana,  back to the world as first seen by my eyes.

She ran,she tumbled, she laughed.She played with small pebbles, half a plastic egg and her "flowers".She whose successful birth was not a sure thing.She who was born on the Feast of the Assumption and the same date that marked when my mother passed away many years before.I knew Maddie before she was born because I prayed constantly for her safe delivery.And her ancestors prayed with me.I saw this.

Her older cousins delight in her and helped direct her to where the hidden eggs were.That was a joy to witness.She is home by now, but I have my violets,clover, dandelion and a sweet little strand of her hair.

Saturday, April 19, 2014


The corn is out on the grass but I doubt we'll see a turkey today The floodplain is, well, flooded. There is no way for the turkeys to come unless they fly which I believe they are wont to do.The woods with their new light green are a vision to these eyes.Where once was brown is such brightness that fairy land comes to mind.Every tree is bursting with newness.

My rock garden is lush , the Carolina Jessamine on the grey wooden fence has bright yellow cupped flowers and has drawn the first hummingbird,a colorful and quick male.A bumble bee too owns the vine and the other day a dark butterfly spent time.This is Holy Saturday, a time between.On this side, last night, Good Friday:church bare, no bells, somber songs,"Were you there when they crucified My Lord?"

Our Church was full of sinners last night.We who fall short but keep trying.The line to go up to venerate the cross went on forever it seemed.Humbled by the extraordinary death, we each filed by the rough wood and touched or kissed.I knew tears would come,they always do. What does this death on Good Friday mean?What did it mean to the deacon from Burma, the deacon who escaped from Castro's Cuba  as a young man, the deacon with only one arm, the lady from Kenya with the high green turban and two small children, the choir members, the Spanish soloist and the others.The man with the cane hobbling up the aisle.Nowhere have I seen a more universal group, we sinners.

Tomorrow is Easter.Rejoice,what was dead is alive.I see it in my time as well.A young man who is my godchild almost died from abuse of some kind and is resurrected to a new life ,one in the clean, pure air of the Georgia mountains. This noble soul had walked the way of the world and found it wanting .With great humility and courage, he embraced the hand of a priest offering him an opportunity to clean the slate.He took it.My hope for him is endless.

The last scene of the movie The Passion of the Christ is total black darkness.The tomb has been closed and there is no light.It goes on, this emptiness and then, an opening, a sliver of light as the stone slowly rolls away.We breathe a sigh of relief.It is not over; this glorious Life of healing, goodness and hope has not ended.And I see it in the woods and in the face of my godchild and his smile.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

the Hound of Heaven

O.K., so I've been told to be bold so off I go.Christ is the Center of the Universe.
Everything involves him whether we see it or not.We are the small insignificant blobs of grey rock circling the Center.We are put here to move in the direction of the Center and to become like the Center. But this is what is different.We are either heading towards or going away.The planets/blobs heading towards are taking a big risk. What being in His orbit will mean is undetermined.

I thought of this today as we read the Passion narrative at Mass.Noticing the folks in Christ's orbit on those dreadful last days.No one in that town was neutral.For or against or shamefully hiding in the groves of olive trees.Betraying, denying, weeping, and committing suicide. Something momentous was happening that has scarred the whole world forever. Bang, bang goes the hammer into the nails, into the wrists. Let me get as far from this as I can.

I actually think that anyone who has heard this story cannot be neutral.If you deny it happened at all, you still feel some discomfort about the story. If you think that it probably happened but who cares because it doesn't effect you anyway, it still leaves you wondering. Prophet? Healer? But if your heart is open a slight bit,watch out.Close that heart because you don't want to be disappointed again.Don't want to change. Don't want to not have the freedom to do exactly as you please.We instinctively know that something will be asked.

Once, I read a powerful poem as part of a memoir class that brought tears to the eyes of the writer who led the class.After, she asked me to meet for lunch and although we live far apart and our lives are full, something very mysterious happens between us.I will write to her about the marigolds I am planting because she wrote a wonderful book about India.She was thinking of nasturtium seeds when she got my e-mail and they are my favorites.She sent a picture of a pansy that speaks to her of Mary and I can see it.The mystery of that poem.

"I fled Him down the nights and down the days"..the poem starts...and then this:
"but with unhurrying chase.
and imperturbed pace,
deliberate speed and majestic instancy
They beat-and a Voice beat
more instant than the Feet,
'all things betrayest thee,who betrayest Me.'

This is the "Hound of Heaven."Those terrible Feet that will not stop pursuing.This is the light filled Center that will not rest until His love has been accepted by each of His brothers.


I stand at my prayer room window in awe.What was grey and brown is now light, magical green.There is a white volunteer dogwood out there among the trees ,mocking our efforts to have one grow in the yard and close to the floodplain,there are ten wild native azaleas;pink,white and red.They are not at all like the yard ones.The delicate blooms are high on a thin trunk spaced from other trees so they catch some sun.They also have a lovely perfume should you reach up and pull a branch down.They are always there but when the flowers fall,they become anonymous.

This year ,I haven't gone out to see them, busy I guess.But it makes me smile to think of that beauty growing by itself ,this Georgia bounty,by my river.

Twice a day,I say the Liturgy of the Hours:morning and evening prayer.It is the prayer of the whole church and my monks at the monastery stop five times a day to chant these scripture prayers together in that light bathed church in Conyers.Sometimes my morning prayer is done at noon, sometimes, I only do one or none.But when I miss, I feel I have failed at important work.

After reading a book by the wonderful Heather King, who came late to the Church and Christ, I see it differently.I can't find it in her book now but this is how she sees it.God, our Lover, is always there.Always.How could He not be? He is All.And when I pray, I am turning my heart, my mind to that All. He is a winding river that flows and flows near, far, above and below.A river of light and truth and when I stop, take my shoes off and put my feet in, I know that river.

As I type, a leaf is moving downstream, 'though I can't view it.I see the brown water, the small beech leaf turning this way and that.When I pray, I put myself in His Presence.My toes wiggle around, I ask questions and I bubble with deep gratitude .If I don't turn, I remove myself from the Presence and the swirling flow is not Him but this world.I lose the connection that keeps me anchored and sane.That stills my heart.

For all:pink azaleas, white dogwood, brown river and the prayer of the Church, I thank Thee.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Perambulations:the turkey and me

The smallest bird is at the birdbath,sipping daintily.It is a brown headed nuthatch and in a flash, he disappears.The wren is calling, the squirrels busy and the male turkey, who now deposits black droppings around the yard, has finally left.Now, I can go and see my "coming up" garden.I wait 'til he leaves because I don't like the way he gives me the eye when he sees me.The other day, he saw his reflection in a neighbor's glass front door and the tapping sounded like gun fire.No dainty nuthatch is he.

He drifts in and out of the woods, this neighbor of ours, up to our yard and then I hear him gobbling in the woods to my left as he wanders the floodplain all day.His gobble is startling.Yesterday, I made him do it with a cheap imitation of my own.He, however really knows how to sound off, with his head and neck stretched out and drool coming from his mouth.He means it.

Today was Bible study again and I wish I knew years ago half of what I know now about the Old Testament.It is almost comical to track the chosen people as they wander, find Canaan, leave that place, face exile ,return and get snatched up and dispersed again.All because they haven't a clue how to be faithful and obedient to God.

Their wanderings speaks to me of my own.That walk over the bridge in Queens, leaving the Church behind.The finding an answer to my hollowed out center.Turning from God when He seemed distant.Doing my own thing, emptiness, returning, then malaise and turning .The only time I have been anchored and steadfast in my faithfulness to God is when I have committed to a structured prayer life.This is one of the reasons I retired early.Priority.

Long ago,I read an article that changed everything.The author was shown in a drawing, resting in an easy chair, eyes closed, in prayer.She said that she did it every morning for an hour and that her life was deeply altered.She looked so peaceful so I tried it.I still have that article,I should write to the author and thank her.

I see a small red boat in a cove off the coast.The wind is picking up and the only thing that holds it steady is the heavy iron anchor beneath the waves.The boat moves here and there but in one place.Nowhere near the rocks out further.There are so many voices in that wind that say go here, do this, wander over here, this will make it good for you.But the center, the quiet, calm center, that has been attended to for years by prayer, holds.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

I once knew a dreamer...

I once knew a dreamer.When the neighborhood ruffians were engaged in mortal battle over a kick ball, she was inside reading "True Romance."Although she did extremely well in school, the report would come back from the nuns that she was often caught looking out the window, daydreaming.Van Gogh and Steve Jobs did the same.She many times seemed to be somewhere else and one couldn't guess where.

After high school, our friend dated a handsome and very intelligent man and he pursued her ardently.They wed after a few years to a song that went like this:"There were bells on the hill but I never heard them ringing, I never heard them at all, 'til there was you."Deeply in love, they set out together.In time, somewhere along the way, the bells stopped ringing and when she tried to tell me of this, I didn't hear.This beautiful woman had an image of love and when it came, she didn't recognize it at all.

Flailing in her new marriage, she looked for reasons for her unhappiness.There were many, including her father, but the Church, the repressive Church of her youth, was a prime suspect.Had their rules made her marry young?What role did it play in her love less world ?In her search, she left the church behind and moved on to a new faith of her making.I told her how much courage that took, for I didn't belive that we were made that way; that we were so easily fooled by our own wants.

I think that she was haunted by depression and knowing little of this and the possibility that it was inherited, she sought comfort in familiar things, things that had wracked her family for decades.When the end was near and the disease was affecting her thinking, she told me that, although the hospice people were trying to kill her, a young , kind priest had visited who was offering sanctuary.Yes, I thought, he would in any case.Always.

The beautiful dreamer is never far from my thoughts.I know that the perfect ,unblemished love that our dear friend had sought was waiting for her.Always.