Thursday, December 29, 2016
It was Christmas morning and the only place open was Waffle House. This eatery chain is not high on my list of healthy cuisine providers, but we had little choice. It was crowded. Music was playing, orders were being shouted out to unseen cooks and as we sat at the counter, I feared that I might have to run out of there screaming.We live quiet lives, John and I, and it felt as if the din was attacking my brain. My nerves were fraying, as I looked at the menu. Slowly, I adjusted and began to watch the crowd. Busy, bustling wait staff, smiling Christmas happy patrons, I started to like it.
Our waitress was Lettie, a fifty-ish lady with straight brown hair held by her ball cap.She was pleasant, attentive and seemed to care that we were well served.
In my prayers leading up to Christmas, I had come to understand that I was to be available to love others, touch them and make them feel the love that is the gift of Christmas.I internalized this in some way because I almost patted the swollen belly of an Indian woman who was coming out of the Mass before ours, the night before.I was so delighted that she was about to bring a baby into the world, that I had to stop myself from patting her belly with my stranger's hand. Instead, she got a smile.
As John paid the bill for our breakfast, I felt the strongest urge to find Lettie. I went behind the counter a bit and thanked her for taking such good care of us. I asked her quietly about what time she would get off work. She said she would leave at 10 P.M., which was a double shift, because the next day, she had to go for chemotherapy and wouldn't be able to work. It felt like time stopped as it got quiet around us. All I could do was hug her amid the scrambled eggs, music and noise and tell her that I would pray for her.That night, when we were driving home at 6:30 P.M., we passed the restaurant. She was still there.
It is difficult to put into words how this woman affected me.I am filled with prayer for her and admiration for her grit. It is as if she is wrapped around my shoulders. I am broken by her in a way that I cannot explain. I can never not know her and her story.There is a risk in the life of the spirit. When you hoist yourself up on the Path and say "yes" to all that means, you never know....
Thursday, December 22, 2016
It was all the brown that brought it back. Sitting on my prayer bench in the woods, beech leaves quaking like palsied hands, everything I see is in shades of brown.Tree trunks, branches, still attached leaves. Dark, light, tan.
I was brought back to the first Christmas in our apartment in Queens. Small , bright, but assaulted every 50 seconds by a screeching jet going over. To us, it was all just part of our heaven. I still worked then and so, in my comings and goings, I noticed the older man across the street as he shuffled along the sidewalk. He lived alone, but the tan and brown puppy on the end of the leash he carried, took him out of his apartment. I wonder what he thought of this bright young couple, bursting with love and ready for an any unknown future.
An old song winds through my mind:"We've only just begun, white lace and promises, a kiss for luck and we're on our way."
Oh, how I loved that small brown puppy. Whenever I saw them, I would dash over for a chat, but truth be told, it was to embrace that puppy.The man was called Charlie and I wish I could recall the little dog's name.
On a cold day near Christmas, when the blowing snow was swirling up the street, my husband called Charlie. We wanted him to come over for some warm homemade cookies and tea. My husband barely got the words out when Charlie mumbled,:"No, no, no." and hung up. He sounded so scared and we were dumbfounded.What had happened? We have laughed about that misadventure over the years.Not long after that, we moved away and left them behind.
And now we are the elders, after what seems like a quick New York minute. Fifty years later, we walk our neighborhood and deliver a few cookies we've made for dear friends.A botched tradition and a mystery has turned into something that gives us pleasure each year.
A prayer for you, Charlie, and your little dog. You were a sweet part of our love story.
Monday, December 12, 2016
A bitter cold December was upon us and we ran from car to door, spending little time out doors.When my husband did have to go to the storage shed, he would hear a very low, soft growl from underneath. He thought it might be indigestion and paid no attention.One day, I thought I saw a big white and black dog crawl under the shed .Thinking the dog wanted to get out of the cold, I dismissed the event.
A few weeks before Christmas, we could ignore what was happening no longer.Mewing sounds, like the squeaks of little mice, was filling the yard and, on hands and knees, my husband saw the big dog and movement all around her.The mother took off and John saw the puppies.He left them there for her to take care of and so it began.The Puppy Christmas.
Within a few days, a neighbor called to say that one of our puppies was in the street.Our puppy????Then John came up with a plan. He took everything out of the shed, laid down a tarp, dragged a heater out there and started grabbing the puppies.There were 16 live, healthy little dogs.We started feeding them every few hours, using a blender, milk and cereal.Up at night for a few feedings, we were heroic in our care of these unexpected visitors.The mother would come around but eventually she disappeared.She was medium sized, white with black spots and I wished I could say she was pretty but we had decided to keep her if she came near.She never did.
When I think of that Christmas day, I see it as a bright red, gleaming ornament gently swaying on a fir tree. It shines so sweetly, there in my heart. I had been very anxious for my three young grandchildren whose family was going through a difficult time.What would this Christmas be like except sad? No present could make a difference, I thought, although there were many under the tree. But here is the small Christmas miracle that came that day; those 16 warm, bouncy, sweet little puppies of many different hues and sizes that were born unwanted under a shed in a cold month, brought joy to all of us.The grands helped feed them and just cuddled and enjoyed these amazing gifts of Life.I can see their happy smiles even now ..
We are told in Scripture to welcome the stranger and we did .16 strangers. Eventually homes were found for all and I think of them now and then in wonder.
Thursday, December 8, 2016
Color has deserted the trees. I can see only the tan of the Beech leaves that dot the woods.No pale yellow leaves curled to look like ribbon. No Bradford pear's red diamonds out there.What I do see looks mysterious to me. Between the grey tree trunks it looks like a mist that is beckoning me to the river. The Flint is calling.
This time of the year feels like desert time to me. Simple. Quiet. Bare, spare, just the essentials, the trunks to hold the branches. Darkness coming sooner. No leaves rustling, no lawnmowers, few birds.Just deep silence that feels so rich in its nothingness.Silence.
Once, I had an experience of silence that has never left me.The place where I stood was on the brink of the Painted Desert and the quiet made me think of floating in outer space.We were at a pull off and what I saw stretched as far as any eagle could fly.I was surrounded and covered over with quiet.The postcard above states that .."Hopi Indians live near here in a desolate region of multi-colored sand and erosions ever changing in color at different hours of the day."
I looked up desolate and the words are forbidding: abandoned, lonely, gloomy, depressed.This was not my experience on that precipice of so long ago because in that moment I heard the Voice say: "This is Me, I am in this great Silence."It is in desolation that I can hear the voice who is always there, a breath away in the quiet.
Sunday, November 27, 2016
The hubris, the cheek of it all.
It was the Fall of 2013 when my husband and I left for Europe with a friend to walk the Camino, the holy pilgrim path of 500 miles in Spain. But did we start in Spain? Oh no, we had to do the whole thing, so we arrived in a small town in France so that we could climb over the Pyrenees the next day. Did you read that?The Pyrenees Mountains! Up in the dark, with a roll for breakfast and with an exuberance that should have been a warning, we started our trek. Up, up, for 13 miles with no food but some lovely views. When we reached the top, I was weeping like a open faucet; so depleted that I wanted to curl up in a ball.
And then there was the down.Three miles over a rock strewn path with no other way to go. After a few feet, I took off my hat put it over my face and started wailing.This was the 70 year woman who was going to show those Europeans that Americans aren't soft. Soft? I was shredded cheese, an overcooked pasta dish, a mess.My husband was very patient and later told me that he was so whipped he wanted to call for his Mother. Finally, we got down and I took two Advil, had some wine and just knew that the next day would be better. And it was for ten miles but by the 13th mile, I knew that my feet and my soul just couldn't do this.
We finished but with train and bus assistance, walking only 175 miles.
I was reminded of this horror by today's wonderful Advent readings from Isaiah who I wished had been with me those days for inspiration. Listen: " Come let us climb the Lord's mountain, that he may instruct us in his ways,.and we may walk in his paths."...
Despite all that had happened, we were on the Lord's mountain and as if to underscore this, Guy happened. He was a Frenchman about our age who was hiking the trail.The second night, we encountered him at dinner.My French would fit into your sock and his English wasn't there, so we smiled alot. After night prayers in a convent, I kept getting the feeling that the rosary that I was carrying needed to be given away. And to Guy. The next morning, in the dark, I saw him heading out the door. I followed, pressed my small green ladybug rosary into his palm and went back to eat.I looked up and there he stood and through tears he told me that the day before he had lost his beads somewhere on the trail.Amen.
Wednesday, November 23, 2016
The woods are now filled with the muted yellow of an artist's palette.The green has fled and here and there I can see the grey of tree trunks that stand sentinel by the river.The birds have been taking their yearly fling southward; the bird bath yesterday was visited by blue birds, bright orange robins, stunning blue jays, and some red headed house finches.None seems in a rush to leave.
There is nothing more calming than walking in the woods, leaves scattering, saying the rosary. The one that I am using was made in Russia; the beads are blond wood with a cross that is edged with curves and all caught with white string. Simple. I recall the day that I bought it in St.Petersburg. It was a beautiful August day, two years ago. After the store purchase, we went into St. Issac's church and I saw a perfect bag to hold it.There was Russian writing embroidered on the side and oh, how I wanted that little bright blue sack.However, despite my fevered yearning, they didn't accept anything but rubles.How Russian of them! Of course, we had none. I smile remembering how my husband scoured around looking for rubles outside the church, only to find that we couldn't get back in without missing the bus.A memory worth many rubles.
Sauntering with rosary in hand, I never feel alone or unproductive.I hold the mother's hand and we wander together in harmony.The beads come from a forest on the other side of the world in a place that, years ago, I would have been unable to go.The faithful in St.Petersburg gathered that day in a small side chapel of that huge cathedral.They held a service touching in its intensity.Heads covered, eyes on the altar or closed, grace dwelt among them. While in that city, we also saw the place where American communists helped bring on the Russian Revolution.What was going on in that church is of a different sort . Mary, Queen of Heaven, pray for us.
Thursday, November 17, 2016
Again, a stunning Georgia day.No clouds, just a thick blue background to the many colors in the woods.The bright orange pumpkins, side by side on a bench in the front yard, look to a day that may reach 80 degrees and wonder. Each day brings more reason for gratitude.
Last year at Thanksgiving, each of my family members wrote 5 things of thanksgiving on a piece of paper as we always do, and then we read them aloud. My grandson Riley, 14 at the time said ,"Jesus". His brother thought he said Chees-its and started to laugh and then had us all laughing. A truly joyous moment for me for many reasons. Just their being there and for the faith of a teen-age boy.And laughter.
The first time I saw Riley's heart was a few years back. He may have been three at the time and we were sitting on a log in the backyard when his Grandpa came up.Immediately, the little boy held out his small bag of Graham Cracker Teddy Bears for John to share.Now Riley is as tall as his Grandma, thin from running cross country and has bright red hair that stands up with glee.
I recall a day thrift shopping with him when he suggested we get something for his younger sister who couldn't come.He picked out a necklace with a silver dolphin hanging from it.I thought it perfect for her as, at the time, she wanted to be a mermaid when she grew up. He also found a small green Bible that was free.His face shone with joy. Riley, please always delight in giving and in the Word.
When I started writing, this was going in a very different direction. But our inner place of mystery and delight knows what really needs to be said. So this is about Riley, my precious grandson, who told his Dad that he remembered being with God before the long journey down the steps that he took alone to come here.He was about 4 and still had that memory which I hold in my heart.
And so this writing is really a prayer for protection for my dear RiRi, and a hope that he will always feel God's presence and follow His lead. Yesterday, while in prayer, I was given this which is too good not to share:
......"for all the good in the world, give praise: for all that has been given you, both great, this land, and small, this journal. Ask for what you need daily. Ask and smile as you wait for a response.
Is it peace of heart ? Ask, and thank before it comes. Is it riches or wealth, ask and see what different thing enters your heart. Is it health? Ask and see what changes need to be made.
Hold the hand of the One who loves you and ask."
Friday, November 11, 2016
Georgia has finally been visited by cool air and I greet it with enthusiasm.What pleasure to have cold cheeks; to hear the crisp leaves under my feet as I walk the woods.This year I took a few, just turning, leaves and put them on my desk to watch as they colored up in bright red and yellow.And yet, the pink roses still bloom.Wonders all.
I can feel the world curling up, night comes sooner and sap is retracting.
Colder nights means bringing in my house plants, some very old.There is a red crown of thorns that I treat like a fragile baby. It must be 30 years old and I recall the day that I bought it.My son Sean, who was perhaps 10 at the time, and I drove out to the monastery in Conyers for a wander around and a visit to Flannery O'Connor's screaming peacocks, which she had donated to the monks.It was there on that special day with my son that I bought the plant..........
...And locked my keys in the car; we were 25 miles from home.Then a minor miracle occurred . Instead of losing it and crying/screaming like the peacocks, I deliberately sat down to think things through.It must have been a residue of monk prayers hovering over Conyers that caused this reaction because that is not me.With a patience I don't have, I thought for awhile and then called my son Michael who was home and asked him to drive out with some keys.He was gracious and showing great kindness said;" Of course."That's the way he is.
This small plant was attacked once by my dog Cooper for some odd reason.I came home from work a few years later and Sean had it in his hands with a face that looked as droopy as the plant.He knew how much that little plant meant to me.I potted it again and it survived.No one can appreciate how much I love that plant because of its connection to my two wonderful sons.This feels sappy but so be it.I love them so much.
Last week, I received a message that means a great deal to me at this time of turmoil and rancor.The Lord said this:
"Keep your focus on love.How can you love in this situation?Can you take a minute to love?If I were standing next to you, would your response be different?I am, you know.See that truth, live that truth.It matters."
I am grateful beyond words for all the love in my life.I have no choice but to give that away.
Thursday, November 3, 2016
The wonderful , mild, Fall weather continues and as if that wasn't enough, the robins are back.One is in the bird bath trying to get set, right before traveling to Florida and points South. Who doesn't love these birds that arrive to tell us of change ?The signs are everywhere.Plump pumpkins, that seem to be smiling, in church yards for sale, purple mums in flower pots and the constant swirling of multi colored leaves.This year, I have plucked a few off the trees around our house and have them on my desk.Watching them change daily has become a blessing of 2016, this year of turmoil.
A church in Mississippi was burned and the culprit left a Vote for Trump sign on the charred side.Within a day, Trump supporters raised over $140,000 to rebuild.A sign of the goodness in people's hearts.Amazing.
This is what sustains me in this world that is as confusing as a house of mirrors: there is a river of goodness and Love that holds the universe in balance.It is around us, unseen, and we have a choice to be part of the flow or not.We can burn churches or collect money.I think of two young friends of mine, who both had a choice to help or not a few years back, Michelle and Kris, and they chose to dive into the river not knowing where the bottom was or how hard it would be.They helped, and the river smiled.
In my prayer time I was told this:"All things point to that Love, that river, if you have eyes to see and the ego doesn't stand in the way.Perhaps there is a story here."Yes, perhaps there is.
For me, in these worst of times, I have needed to get away and clutch some leaves, fill the birdbath for the robins,and admire the bees in the last rose.Maybe a small stream of opportunity will be diverted in my direction .Will I step in and float along?Or perhaps I could sing like the Native Americans do when feeling threatened. Together, they chant an old repetitive song until they come to hozhq when their world feels like it is in balance and whole.Amen.
Sunday, October 16, 2016
When I saw the painting, I was so moved. How wistful to see the backs of the ancestors as they slowly drift away like leaving spirits.The colors whisper to me ; the blue and green, of calmness and acceptance.The dark trees witness. Is that fire or the setting sun which signifies the end of their era ? Their backs are straight. I feel like running behind them and asking about their lives, their wisdom.
For six years, I was addicted to family research.I have a book called " Collecting Dead Relatives".The yellow cover still makes me laugh. It shows a cartoon drawing of an old red haired lady with big sloppy red boots running through a cemetery with a huge butterfly net.I recognized her instantly. As I ran through graveyards in person and on-line, I gleaned quite a bit about the Irish, Scots and English who walked this path before me.Here is a litany to honor some of them.
For Hannorah, my Irish grandmother, who died when I was two.I have no memory of her but I do have a story.There was a terrible thunderstorm that ripped Long Island in the '20s when her husband was away. Alone with her 5 children, she took out a bottle of holy water and sprinkled each of her children for protection.She awoke the next day to find that in her hysteria, she had grabbed a bleach bottle.A woman of faith.I have the crucifix that she left behind, which I treasure
For William Carpenter, who left England and landed at Plymouth in 1638 with a wife and 4 children under the age of ten.I am trying to imagine starting over in the wilderness, thousands of miles from home. What courage.These were not snowflakes.One of his ancestors was John Carpenter who served in Parliament in 1303.I saw the street that is named after him when I was in London a few years back.When William died, he left a whole library of books.Did my love for the written word come from him?He is buried in a Rhode Island cemetery and, poignantly, his grave stone simply says " W.C."
For Great Aunt Amanda Knowlton, who looks at me from an old sepia toned photo.She had a baby snatched from her arms by a tornado in Minnesota in the mid 1800s.They never found the child.Imagine.Somehow she survived this terrible blow. I have several of her pencil written letters after this tragedy.Amanda, I would like to have known you in your black satin full skirt with billows of fabric and a white bow tie at our neck, your dark hair pulled back and parted in the middle.Your penetrating eyes.I will never forget you and your child.
For Charles Phillips, Amanda's brother, who served in the Navy during the Civil War.My great-grandfather,.who never came home from the war but disappeared after changing his name.What hole did you leave in my grandfather's life ?Who knows your reasons ?Your well written letters penned in 1864 and 1865 speak of love for family and faith.May you rest in God's arms.
The blood of all of these flows in my veins and I honor them.
Wednesday, October 5, 2016
Not knowing about this little 7 year old girl would be a great gift.As she got on the school bus yesterday in Pennsylvania, she told the driver that she had dressed herself and couldn't wake her parents.Police found three other children in the home under the age of 5 and two dead adults.They had overdosed 24 hours before.I try to imagine that little girl who probably fed her siblings, took care of them and still managed to get to the bus on time.God help us.
Their addiction wasn't just to drugs but to more.This world isn't enough, I want more.More good feelings.The jails in this country are full of people who wanted more and did whatever it took to get it.
When was the last time you heard anyone extol the virtue of asceticism ?Or the idea of sacrifice? Prayer is O.K. but fasting and sacrifice?Ewww!!!!
Skellig Michael is an island of rock off the Irish coast. Skellig means steep rock and it was here in the 6th century that a group of monks took themselves to focus entirely on God.They lived on this windblown, desolate rock and had no contact with the outside world.They weren't on retreat, they lived there and never left. Their names are unknown to us.They started a rock side monastery of a few men, slept in stone beehives, ate fish, birds eggs and any small vegetables they could grow and prayed.How hard, no pun intended.They stayed there until the 13th century and what their prayers wrought, we have no way of knowing.
I have been aware of these recluses for a long time but I never pondered what their voluntary deprivation may have brought them.From a book I am reading: "the rough life had its compensations.Asceticism gave an intensified response to the smell of flowers, the texture of stone, the feel of rain, or sun or wind or flight of birds.When they came out of their dark cells their spirits must have lifted to heights rarefied beyond our experience.""The Flowering of Ireland".by Katharine Scherman
This sounds right to me.
A small example comes to mind.I have been reading about the messages given by Mary to the visionaries in Medjugorje, Bosnia, and a theme reveals itself ; prayer and fasting, prayer and love.It seemed to me that perhaps I could answer this call in a small way.Prayer is part of my day but I decided also to forswear coffee every other day.It's not the coffee but the Carmel Macchiato Coffeemate that starts my day.Ah, the pleasure of this drink going over my tongue and down my throat with warmth and sweetness.Small thing , I know, but let me tell you something surprising; on coffee day I am excited and energized just thinking about my morning drink in a way that I wouldn't if I had it every day.
Is it possible that by choosing less we will find the More that we long for ?
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
How inspiring, this Fall weather.The window is open and I feel like I just got a shot of vitamin B12.The black birds that descend twice yearly are here stealing all the bird seed but even this is cause for joy.The rhythm of the earth, the seasons changing just when needed most.
The black birds fly down as one, a blanket of birds safe in their numbers.But they also make a huge target for the hawks who live here by the river.The grass is covered in squawking black.When they are not feasting they are haunting the woods with their chirping and screeching.May they all head further south in safety.
Pink and red roses are still blooming in my tired garden along with swamp daisies, with their bright yellow faces that bees love.The Bougainvillea Rain trees have pushed out the pods that will, amazingly, turn pink, coming from yellow flowers.Most of the the leaves in the woods are still green although the summer tired and curled up ones are falling .The sound of their clicking on the small patio makes me smile.
I spent a good bit of time this summer in a screened tent with a view of the mountains.Also, in walks along a country road, time sitting by the brook, hikes in the woods.The Japanese call these walks, woods bathing.Cleansing yourself of the stress and tension of civilized life.No wonder I am having such a hard time being on the highway here.Should this body really be hurtling down the road at 70 miles per hour when it has spent so many months in tranquil sauntering ?
Many moments were spent in prayer.I am not a saint but I need this connection to stay centered.When I neglect this time, which I often have, I spin out and get scooped up by the trivial.And I buy clothes.
There was a theme that came at the end of my mountain time.It is not profound but if I ever write a book this will be the title:"Clover and Bumble Bees".It came as a light but it is so simple I can hardly explain it.I will try: the most important moments are those you spend with the gifts from the Gracious Hand. Things like clover, that come back wildly each year to feed the bees that too come back each year.Do you see the pattern?It is orderly and it works and if we appreciate these things, we will know joy.
Thursday, September 22, 2016
I was never one of those children who took a pen in hand when I was 7 and produced great stories and poems.It never occurred to me to write.I knew no one then that kept a journal. I found my way to this gift when I started a daily running log when I was in my 40s. The entry would start: "it's hot and humid" and then before I knew it, I was expanding that thought to describe the birds I heard and the trees I would pass and so it began.
I am glad beyond measure.
The newest writing class that I facilitate, the third one, started this week and if there was a theme to the writings of this talented group, it was hope.Soaring, freeing, liberating hope.I should pay them to come, these women that have stories and words that bless me.
And as if this gift wasn't enough, the other day I heard from an old friend of 60 years ago.We dated for awhile in high school and there he was commenting on my blog.From the sky, the gifts pour down like pennies from a generous hand that roll around my feet, often unnoticed.
Another penny: next class I will encourage the members to bring a different notebook for a purpose other than our art/writing.I will suggest that they look in Goodwill and tell them why.My most current book cost 99 cents and on the second page, the previous owner had offered two things to contemplate.The first is this: "Allow God to speak to you while you are speaking to others."And then Psalm 34:5 which says: "I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears.".A journal that I bought for written prayers already had a suggestion and a prayer in it.
Journal note: June 6,2016
....."There is no reason to fear anything.God is Lord of all and you walk with Him, He has your hand and your heart firmly in His. No harm shall come to your soul and your soul shall arrive one day at His feet to gaze and wonder forever.Peace. "
Lord, help me to notice the pennies.
Friday, September 16, 2016
As I wandered the country roads this summer, I searched for bees.I had heard that honey bees are suffering a steep decline that has scientists very worried.My mind also went back to a shameful pastime that my young friends and I engaged in on summer afternoons on Long Island: catching bees in jars of dirt.One must ask why? Because it was fun to turn the jar over and watch the poor little amber bodies struggle laboriously through the dirt to get to the top of the jar.We would then turn it over to watch them climb upwards again.Eventually, we let them go because we weren't really cruel children.How they fared with dirt on their wings or how long it took to clean themselves off was none of our concern.
Each morning of this mountain summer, I would go up the steep hill to a screened tent that my husband set up for me to write in my journal and pray.On August 30th I was given this thought : "The sky above holds you, the earth below holds you, my eternal Love holds you. Look for the signs of this miracle in your life.You are held."
But, I also received strict instruction about judging others.I heard: " Judgment clouds seeing.You become wrapped up in the rationale for your judging and won't notice the clover or the bumble bee which are infinitely more important.Don't cloud your mind, it shackles your spirit from soaring".
Ah, so what does all this mean?I am still sorting it out.I will leave it to you to ponder but I know this:
the time that I spend in my garden watching dragonflies, enjoying their transparent wings edged in black and their green eyes in a black head is nourishing.They are delicate beyond words and yet, they fly and soar like my soul is to do.The purple clover that always shows up in the summer to feed the bumble bees who also appear, are an anchor in my wanderings. Signs.
Sunday, June 12, 2016
The evolution of the story goes on, that terrible story.Not only was the young woman sexually assaulted but he took pictures and sent them to his swim team buddies.How much more can we take of this degrading and shameful story ?I am ashamed to be an American after this.Ashamed to be a human being.When the heroes on bikes who stopped the assault are Swedes in our country for an education, I am ashamed, but glad there are at least heroes.Touching beyond belief is the victim's drawing of two bicycles that hangs over her bed to reassure her that there is good in this world.
Why am I drawn to this story and explore each new twist?To hate the perpetrator even more?To despise the judge and the father of the felon?
And then today.More horror committed by an American citizen.And so with the internet, we are drawn into these seemingly endless tragedies.
While in prayer yesterday, I was given direction that I want to share with anyone who feels overwhelmed as I do.If it shifts perspective as it has for me, I am heartened.This is what I heard:
"Fear nothing.What can damage your soul if you truly love Me ?If I am your focus and your All.All good comes from Me.What have you to fear?See the good, focus on the good; put the evil that men do out of your mind.Make your mind a playground, a garden for butterflies, moonbeams, dancing dragonflies, furrowed rows of flowers. There will be smooth rocks for sitting with a great fountain in the middle with goodness(Godness) pouring out.This garden will then be a place of refreshment for many.Visit this garden that we have created, often.".
"...Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things."Phillipians 4:8.
I have a choice.
Wednesday, April 6, 2016
In my hands is an old postcard that I bought on e-bay.It arrived in an envelope from Latvia .I hold it and wonder.It has ink stains, a bare spot and wrinkled edges.Who in Latvia was careless with an ink pen ?How old must it be?Is this Russian hut a real place or an artist's imagining? I wish I knew the artist so I could look for other works.Nothing on the back of the card gives away who painted this scene that captivates me so.
I hear the owner tell the story of this poor insignificant place.:
"The terrible war is over and my dreaming of this place saved me.Staggering across the soft black earth, I head for the open door.It is all so familiar, this white washed thatched hut, this spare,small place like a lodestar tucked in my memory. The hollyhocks look like tall sentinels with blood red hearts attached.I watched the swaying weeping willow when I first crested the hill.Willow weep for me, I have missed you so.To find you still here brings tears cascading down my cheeks.Still here !
The old fence that carried the stunning blue morning glory vine is leaning a bit but still standing.Morning glories, did you hold it up for me? How many times did I collect the small black seeds that looked like tiny pieces of coal and put them up for next year.I had to be sure to get out there ahead of the birds.The flowers themselves when unopened were twisted up like tight little hands. You would never guess the startling sky blue color that would appear when they opened..
The small window to the right of the door is where the old blue wooden desk was placed.Uneven but very long, there was room for all the spreading out needed.It is that spot that loomed in my mind while I was gone, the place of writing stories.Of digging around the roots of my life to find what is real, true and worthy.Who are you to think that you can write? I, you and I, have a story, our story, that no one else can write and if it is true and real it will be worthy.
When you love the very idea of that desk, those black medium point pens, those tumbling words:when the crinkle of the paper as you open a Goodwill journal, with a note from the giver tucked in the back, causes excitement in your soul, you are a writer.
"Why should we use our creative power?Because there is nothing that makes people so generous, joyful, lively, bold and compassionate...because the best way to know Truth and Beauty is to try to express it.And what is the purpose of existence, Here or Yonder, but to discover truth and beauty and to express it."
Monday, February 1, 2016
The next writing class starts up again in two days and as always, it's a mystery who will come; how many writers can there be in a church community ? I know of one definite from the last class.I describe her as the heart of our group because her honest, searing writing gave us all permission to risk.She is young compared to most of us but she brings wisdom, enthusiasm and a big heart.She was called to that room.
The setting will be the same, a large room with floor to ceiling windows, lots of light and a round table where I will set up some small objects.While holding an ordinary object or a copy of a piece of art we can glance out at the calming scene of swaying Georgia pines.The room is perfect for what we do.It feels like church even when we are just writing about sons, gardens or the past.
The past is a vast wild field of plants and flowers disguised as memories strewn about in disarray.They have great power over us, these memories Writing has helped me to reassess this possible minefield.
Just yesterday, I was writing a story triggered by my Mother and Son Willow figure that will be one of the objects offered as inspiration for a story.My writing had to do with a drunk who sat next to me on a flight home from the Baltic.I related how offended and angry I was to have to sit by this drunk when I had had to put up with them in my family for my all growing years.Then, I had vowed that my life would be different and it is.Suddenly, I felt a rush of gratitude for this life of healthy, sober, faith filled living that I have taken for granted always.It is a great gift and without my pen, I would never realized it.
New members may look at the objects and wonder why they came to this class and what in the world they will write.They won't know that a plain wooden bowl brought memories of a deeply loved Grandma and stirred thoughts of a time of brokenness when written about last time.Or that a turkey feather released tears of missing from a bereaved cat lover.Last time, there were many tears at the first class and a dear friend said:"Is it going to be like this for 8 weeks?" And I thought, only if we have courage.
I don't know who or what encouraged me to start writing and keeping a journal.I would like to give credit.Next to me is last year's journal open to a page with a few dried weeds and a long black strand of hair.It is from an Easter day when I was privileged to see what the world looks like to the eyes of a two year old.This child is my Maddie girl who was sitting in the shade with her beautiful hair in a bun on her head.This world was greenly new to her black eyes, fresh as Eden.The breeze touched her cheek and she laughed.She watched with wonder as the leaves on the tall oak blew gently around on their stems.With delight, she pick little weeds and held, twirled, and sniffed, letting herself be enchanted.She took me with her on this unforgettable trip.After she left, I went out and scooped up the little handful of weeds and there winding in and out was one strand of her hair.Where would you keep such a treasure?It is taped on a page in my journal, marked, so anytime I need a memory of Maddie or Spring, it is there.
Saturday, January 23, 2016
The other day I was thinking of the Nativity scene for some reason and I got a bit misty.What is it about that story that never fails to enchant even this older, weary heart? There were efforts again this year to remove the creches from City Hall lawns.This year saw the Festivus tree with beer cans go up in Florida and as a new twist, satanists in Oklahoma demanded equal time for a statue of Satan.. They won and I guess it went up.Shudder.As Steve Martin sings,:"Atheists don't have songs", so I don't know what happened around that display.
I can see her now in her small clean room with a bed by the window. My father's picture is on all wooden stand.next to her.Her grey hair is short and curly and even in her eighties, her face is open like a child's. She is propped up in a chair with a pillow behind her back, waiting.A book lays in her lap and she has come to a place of contentment in the bright, bustling environment of a nursing home.
My mother read books and prayed the rosary faithfully.She prayed two each day,one for for my sister and one for my husband to stop smoking.She had smoked and knew the damage, the frightening inability to get enough air, so she prayed.My husband tried hypnosis, self-talk and so on, to break a habit acquired at 13 years.All failed until that one day, 20 years ago, when he just quit.Period.
If every Nativity scene is destroyed, every written tale of the Birth burned, every mention of it banned as hate speech , still it will exist because there is a hole in each human heart that is bare, hollow without this story.
While my mother sat in that chair, she would get very anxious.She was waiting for the nurse to come with her breathing treatment.It seems that it was timed and the medicine always came after her asthma started up again.She would feel panic rising and the only thing that helped was this: a pencil sketch that my son, at age 12, had made for her.It was drawn on a sheet of notebook paper and took up the whole page, what with the people, cows, sheep, angels, baby and a star. So many times she told me that gazing at that scene, which loving hands had made, calmed her when nothing else would.
Friday, January 8, 2016
Australia 2012.I never thought I would travel this far to a place that I always yearned to visit.We were here for my son's wedding to the love of his life,Crystal Kelehear, and my memories are endless.The birds called bell birds that swarm in colonies and do sound like chimes but are creepy in one aspect, I never could spot one.They were all around in the tree right by the road and though noisy, they were invisible.
We were staying at the family farm about four hours from Sydney and miles from a town.The acres were thousands and mountains were everywhere.The crows cry like babies, the kookaburra bird laughs with abandon and instead of squirrels, 3 foot lace monitor lizards come at you from the leaf strewn under story.I loved it.If I never go back, I will feel deprived.
The day before the wedding was a Sunday and Crystal's kind sister found a Catholic Church in the next town but there was no one to drive me.The most likely volunteer would have been a son who had food poisoning and had been vomiting for two days. I hadn't the nerve to drive myself on the wrong side of the road in an unfamiliar country, so I stayed home, not happy.Crystal's father noticed.
I had watched Craig, who is a thin , rangy man with a grey beard in his mid 60s , tending sick cows, digging trenches to keep river water flowing to the house and a million other necessary chores and yet on the morning of the wedding he said this:"I know you missed church, so I thought we would have it up on the hill if you wish."What a generous offer in the midst of all that had to be done.I said yes.
After donning straw hats against the brilliant Australian sun, we hiked up the long driveway to the top of a hill.We sat in the shade of the leafy tree seen above.At our feet was a small monument to a much loved relative who is buried there.This spot looks out over a rolling pasture on to the mountains.We talked of his love for that person and his parents.I told of losing my sister and having dreamed that she and my mother had been reunited in heaven and were happy.It was an emotional time for us and it was church in a most unexpected way.I recall thinking that here we were, two displaced Celts, (both ancestors emigrated from Ireland) looking out over this beautiful plain.I will forget many church services but not this one on the hill.
The day before we left to come home, I wrote Craig a note thanking him for his kindness.Today's scripture was part of that note::
"The Lord is your guard and your shade;
at your right hand he stands.
By day the sun will not smite you
nor the moon in the night."Psalm 121
I hope that he has felt the Lord's shade in the many days since.
Monday, January 4, 2016
When I worked for BellSouth Mobility and we were gearing up for the Atlanta Olympics, it seemed that there would be no meaningful life after 1996.What could be more exciting than the world coming to our city? And here we are twenty years later, and there is life on this cold , sunny, blustery day.I am in a house by the river; the trees are bare and the stillness of the house is a gift.It seems a day for reflection.
The New Year coincides with the latest 54 day rosary novena that I am praying through; this time my intention surprised me.I prayed for joy.It seemed that at this time of year, joy was as elusive as a dry day.So much loss by those around me.I claim contentment but joy is of a different order.
When I pray the rosary, I have been led to pray for the desires of my heart.Many times these prayers are for family members, the suffering, the estranged.But when I pray for myself, I see immediate results.Kind friends have suggested that I write a book but that seems so far away in the energy needed but I did pray for what to do with the excitement I feel when I put pen to paper.Within days, a secret longing blossomed into a path.Last Fall, I facilitated a writing class.As I stood at the doorway of the classroom, I struggled with what to do if no one showed.But, 7 to 8 faithful writers showed up every Friday and the room was electric, sparks of delight pinging off the windows.A new group will form in February.
I do not teach writing.I am not qualified, but I create a safe space for new writers to share their hearts.Only positive feedback is allowed and encouragement is the milieu in which we write.If the participants leave class wanting to write as a joyous hobby, then the goal has been reached.Where that will lead them is limitless.One lady was going to Florida to visit her Mother for Christmas and was going to write her Mother's life as a gift to her.
We are only a few days into 2016, and yet I feel a stirring of gladness.It is small, like a barely heard hum, but it is there.Is it possible that by identifying the lack of joy and pointing my heart in its direction, the river of gold that it is, turns ?
What are the desires of your heart?Can you name them?Are you willing to turn your heart towards the river of golden Light and let it take you where you want to go?Our Father, who art in heaven...Hail Mary, full of grace...