Monday, June 30, 2014
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
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
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
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
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
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 .......