Wednesday, August 26, 2015
This is going to be difficult to write because when the words were forming in my mind, a lump was also coming to my throat.It is about something that I thought would never make it to my blog but, as often happens, this now seems to be the most important moment of the trip.
We were in the airport in Amsterdam waiting stand-by for the early flight which had been open with empty seats.Then they announced it was over booked and offered money for a person to get off.Oh,No! We were so ready to go home.We waited and watched people boarding.Then I noticed a male employee pulling a young man aside.The man was in his late 30s, medium build with auburn, well kept, hair and casually but nicely dressed and he was weaving.The employee asked him if he had been partying.I couldn't hear the rest but I am sure the young man was told that he would not be served on the flight that was boarding.The man never got hostile just did alot of nodding;then off he went to the plane and out of my sight.
With only minutes to spare, I was given a seat toward the front of the plane.When I saw who occupied the seat next to my empty seat, I was horrified.Those who know me, know the antipathy I feel for drunks, having spent my childhood haunted by them.With unconcealed loathing, I sat down.He turned and said hello.My "hello" was encased in frozen icicles with a brisk North wind thrown in.Undeterred, he asked if I was going home.My "yes" was the most clipped, shortest "yes" in world history.He got the clue and turned away.He smelled and I fumed.
Then, oh, then, it was as if a sweet voice whispered,"Sharon, what if he was your son?"You could hear my heart crack in Toledo.Yes, what if he was.How would I want some old lady next to him to treat him? Minutes later, he fumbled to put some trash in the pocket near him and kept missing.I helped him and he turned and stared.I said:"I'm trying to help you."He smiled and thanked me.And when a steward came to get him to take him up front for a lecture, I helped take the blanket from his shoulders and patted him once on the back.Talk about conversions.
When we arrived in Atlanta, he was once again nabbed by Delta and hustled off, I don't know where.By then, I wanted to intercede and take him home. I had prayed the rosary for him on the plane.I pray again today and tears form.
Anger is such a common emotion.It makes you feel strong and in control.Compassion will break your heart.No wonder it is in such short supply.O clement,O loving ,O sweet virgin Mary,pray for us.
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
In Finland, I purchased something so perfect and unusual that I smile each time I see it.It happened at the end of a long bus tour; this was the last stop after Helsinki.I loved Finland and that clear, sweet air after a muggy, unbearable Georgia summer.Tired, I almost didn't get off the bus but finally we tumbled out and checked the stalls of Finnish goods.
Recently, I have been re-doing a guest room in things from here and there, mostly thrift stores. Things that I love. I added a blue Indian bedspread from Woodstock this summer.Cool, Mary blue.As I walked among the stalls of things made in Finland, I spotted a small pile of pillowcases and a white one with blue stars bursting across the front.I asked about the Finnish word printed among the stars in blue:tahtihetkia. The clerk said that it meant "star moments".How perfect, although I had no idea what that meant. She thanked me for buying the item, as the old Finnish ladies who make them in cottage industries at home had their work shipped to Asia but now the work is slowly coming back.The designer of my pillowcase is Lina Blom and I thank you, who I visualize in the forest somewhere creating beauty.Lina Blom.
So what is a star moment? Something unforgettable.Like that moment on the first day of the cruise when I let a frantic looking woman ahead of me in line so she could join her friends.They were from Plainview, New York and one of the ladies whispered to me that this was their first cruise as widows.I felt a shudder in my heart;unexpected tears accompanied my walk to the ship.
Or This:Tallin, Estonia.My husband and I were in a small square that overlooks this beautiful, free city.The square was hemmed in by small shops and beautiful trees shaded the whole area.There was a young, thin man playing the balalaika.My husband asked him to play the theme from Dr.Zhivago, our wedding song, and to his beautiful playing, we danced amid the cobblestones like new lovers unmindful of the crowds, happy.
I think of that beautiful song,"Stars fell on Alabama".Star moments fall on us all the time.How would life be if we looked for them as often as possible?(to be continued)
Sunday, August 23, 2015
Before I left for our Baltic cruise, I promised a young internet friend that I would pray for him in a Russian church; he thanked me and asked that I touch Mary for him.I was delighted to add that to my things to do in the cold North near the Arctic circle.He became part of my journey.
These musings will not be a travelogue,I will leave places out but this is what I remember most:
-The closed convent in Rostock, Germany with a lovely courtyard and tall lush Ginko tree.Some of the old town wall encloses it's peace.There, just outside the gate, was my first, most primitive Mary.Just soft lines, simple but evocative.Feeling peace, I vowed to share her.Later, as we walked the streets towards a church, I looked up, I don't know why, and there she and her Christ were again, in an alcove high on a business establishment wall;looking down in the rain.
-Tallin, Estonia.The guide showed us some majestic square wooden houses that were private homes when the Soviets invaded Estonia and took them over.Faded paint could not take away the character and beauty of these plain buildings. When the USSR dissolved, the houses were returned to their owners but none have the money, after 50 years, to repair them so they stand.Each with a story,each one moved me.
-In St. Petersburg, Russia, you can not drink the water.The country that was racing ours to the moon, does not have potable water in this city.I was shocked.Few shops, many apartment buildings that still have the stern, utilitarian facades. They have, however, taken great care of the Hermitage, that repository of incredible works of art.This former czar's palace gives a glimpse of the beauty and excess that caused a revolution.I know that I will never go back, but I would have loved to savor some of the art but the crowds were aggressive and the rooms stifling."Move on to keep from losing our guide" was the theme of the day.
It was in this incredible museum that I sought to fulfill my promise to my British friend.I spotted a Mary, blue and wooden, within reach on a wall.I backtracked to her and reached up.All the weight of the Russian state descended in the form of a gnarled hand on my shoulder."No,No,No,"she cried.I never saw her anywhere, have no idea where she came from but I jumped a mile in the air and then shuffled off, badly chastened.
Conan, today I prayed for you with my hand on Mary's feet in my own church where we have a stunning Our Lady of Guadalupe statue that hangs to the right of the altar surrounded by soft burning candles.You know well the prayer that I was free to say. Thank you for giving me that opportunity.It was a special moment for me.They both were in fact.
Saturday, August 1, 2015
Why do we come together?Drink, food, laughter? I can recall occasionally getting together with relatives a few towns over on Long Island, for who knows what reason.The adults would gather around the dining room table, chat and drink until 3 or 4 in the morning.We kids would read comics and occasionally beg to be taken home.
Finally, in an early hour before sunrise, we would be loaded in the old DeSoto and with sleeping heads banging against the window , we would make our way home.How did the adults heads feel the next morning? Do I sound bitter?
I have thought of those nights often since then.Why those late hours?Why sacrifice how you would feel the next day for the fun(?) of the night before?This is what I believe: they were hoping to connect.Bridge the gap that is between human beings.Feel loved.Of course, none of these people are around to ask.
It was a hot August day at Jones Beach in 1962.I was on a blanket with a boy friend getting rays near the water's edge.A disturbance caught our attention, people pointing towards the water.In a split second, the two lifeguards were off their elevated stand and with ropes and floats they charged into the surf.Within seconds, they were dragging a man through the sand and over a large barrel.He was on his back as the guards began their work.Nearby, was a young woman screaming: his wife.
As if by quiet command, four young people, including myself, drifted out of the crowd and took her hands.We gently sat down in a circle in the sand surrounded by the onlookers.Her back was to the man who was her husband of 6 months, but I could see him.As the lifeguards pushed and thumped his chest, sea water seemed to be pouring from every opening.A young fair haired man to my right began the rosary:Hail Mary,Our Father.We all joined in including the wife.She broke down sobbing, we softly prayed and we all got through those terrible minutes as the life guards worked.I kept looking for his hand to move, anything, as tears came out from the bottom of my sunglasses.
After 20 minutes or so, the young wife spotted a friend walking up the beach and getting up she ran to her.Our small group dispersed and I gathered my things and went home.The next day I sadly read that the man did drown and that he was the first known fatality at Jones Beach.
This memory is so clear in my mind that I can see every second of it unfold like a movie.I didn't know it then but now I see this:Spirit moving in the crowd, calling this one, that one to move.Gently, but firmly.Move as Christ would, with hands outstretched.Be present with no thought other than bringing comfort into this overwhelmingly sad scene.Comfort for the moment and when the time is right, it will be revealed to Mrs. Henry who it was that held her hands on that hot August day by the sea.