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


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


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.