Thursday, December 29, 2016

in the midst of the noise at Waffle House

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

a Christmas memory..

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

the puppy Christmas

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

wind scarped hills....

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.