Thursday, March 30, 2017

we soar together

The scene before me takes my breath away. The enchanting colors, turquoise, deep green ,stunning white.I am drawn in by the stillness.The cranes are regal, guardians of this oasis. They are elders who stand in silence.They seem so centered and composed, as I watch from the bank. I want to wade out to them with my toes in the mud and stand stone still beside them. I long to look in their yellow eyes and see what wisdom is there as a gentle breeze ruffles our feathers.

A crane will sleep standing in the water, so the story goes, with a stone held in the one claw that he keeps up by his side.If he falls deeply asleep, the claw will open, the stone plops and he awakens to alertness again. .Aesop told the tale of a peacock taunting the more bland crane about his lack of beauty.The crane answers that he, unlike the earth bound peacock, can soar to the heavens and what price can one put on that?.

The crane is a popular symbol in Asian culture.There is a practice of making chains of paper cranes for good luck, healing,  happiness and success and taking them as offerings to shrines and temples..How lovely. If you see a crane flying, it may be drawing your eyes to the heavens, lifting your spirits and inspiring you to trust in the universe.If you notice one standing, it may be advising vigilance and alertness.

Soon, I notice one of the cranes bending to fly and  I creep like a child unto his back and hold on to his feathered shoulders. As he lifts, for a second my breath leaves at such height, but I settle in and we are drifting, flowing , free to ascend.We are over the trees now and I want to just rest here and go wherever this creature takes me.I feel so free and alive.

My crane is the Spirit and I have turned my soul over to it; my destination and safety are in His hands.I have no idea where I am going, but we, all of us, are made for this journey.My hands grab the tops of His wings and we soar.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

the last time I saw Paris..

Where else can you spend 86 dollars on two truffle omelets and juice? And I actually read the sign in the window telling the price in French, did the math and still ate there anyway. Delicious.

Paris is the city of poets, painters and kisses galore.The buildings are low, pace is slow  and everyone you see looks relaxed.This is not the New York of tall skyscrapers and business; Paris is love, museums, cafes, bridges, a clean river. We stayed in a small room where the bed touched both walls that year in September. Hemingway's ghost kept drifting along the avenues we trod.

Some memories linger: the moments of prayer in Notre Dame where despite the din of Japanese tourists, I felt God's presence as I gazed up toward the rose colored window.The trip to Giverny, Monet's home.The lovely pink stucco walls and green shutters of that house made me so happy.The ponds, the tired fall gardens, an enchanted place.We went to Versailles where those same tourists inside the palace made me hastily head for the gardens where I sat on a stone bench under a sweet willow and read the psalms.Nearby a young artist in a blue blouse and khaki skirt with hair twirled on her head, was drawing with such amazing concentration; it was a scene I will never forget.

So when we were deciding where to go for our anniversary, Paris beckoned.  Reservations were made for a small studio apartment in a courtyard with potted trees.The pictures looked lovely.I couldn't wait to write at the little wrought iron table in that small enclosed space; me and Hemingway's ghost. But Paris is no longer the City of Light but one of riots, fires and attacks on women.I have cancelled my dream.

So many places I wanted to see; Louveciennes, to gaze down the alley where Sisley painted that lonely figure in the snow, the Louvre, Sacre Coeur. Instead, we are heading for the wide open skies of Montana, New Mexico and perhaps some of the Lewis and Clark Trail.I am now getting excited about this and a coincidence happened that leads me to believe what we are doing is the right path. I had mentioned to John that I wanted to go to Chimayo in New Mexico, a place with a small chapel and sacred healing sand that has mystical properties, it is said. An hour later, someone on the prayer group that I joined wrote about praying and lighting a candle at that very place the day before. Her prayers were for each one of us on that Rosary group site.How wonderful, how affirming.

....Adieu, dear Paris, the last time I saw you , your  heart was warm and gay.No matter how they change you,, I'll remember you that way.

Friday, March 24, 2017

happiness in rivers

The woods have finally lost their winter grey and here and there is the light green of spring. How gratifying to see this every year.The lone turkey who comes to my window is no longer moping as he has a lady friend.This new relationship causes his brown sunlit plumage to flair out in a protective, threatening way. He is at his strutting best and I am happy for him. It's spring and thoughts turn to love.

An old friend from New York has a grandson that has recently been diagnosed with a terrible condition. It is not life threatening but it will limit his life profoundly and he just turned two years old.This is a beautiful boy with blond curls and big brown eyes.The road ahead looks so grim and empty. I struggle to understand what his life will be like and how he will be cared for. This is a stone lying on my heart.

In prayer, I received this heartening answer which I hold unto amid the swirling waters of sadness: "This child will  be cared for and will know My love and Me for his whole life.The people who will suffer mostly in this situation are those who don't know Me.They need your prayers."

I wasn't going to write about this until  today when I found something that Thomas Merton wrote about the Prodigal Son story that felt so in line with all of this...." the lost sheep, the lost drachma, the Prodigal Son.Our dearest Lord is showing that he means everything about the fatted calf and the rejoicing to be taken literally, that He means to pour out every kind of happiness in rivers upon those who ran away from His Mercy but could not escape it."All saints, pray for us.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

the singing revolution

Tallinn, Estonia

Is it possible to describe how delightful it is to have a bit of solitude in my life ? A small retreat from the noise of life with others? The feeling that comes over me as I read in the quiet of this room that is my own is one of ease and gratitude. Quiet, no obligations, no reason to rush. Oh, the first 13 years where I stayed and raised the children, then twenty years of satisfying work; these I wouldn't trade for any gift; but this, this is the time to read a book just because you want. There is no warm coffee, Lent deprivation, but I will live.

 The book I am reading is by a poet, Jane Kenyon ; the essay I am about to read is of her trip to Estonia. I like her writing, it is lyrical and about things that I enjoy, like hiking ,church and people in her town in New Hampshire.

Certain places just settle in your heart and Estonia, little brave place, is one. The  people there, ruled for too long by the USSR, had a soft revolution once, a strictly small country one, that moves me deeply.On our Baltic trip two years ago, we went to the stadium where they have monstrous concerts and during the occupation thousands of Estonians would gather there and sing national songs. Just to keep their country. Just to keep their souls.They actually were forbidden to sing some of the songs but they did anyway.Even the Russians weren't stupid or cruel enough to open fire on families lifting their voices.

They are free now, these good people but nervous because they have lost their country before.I took a picture of their flag because they impressed me so. They were forbidden to fly it during the communists years and no wonder.Here is what the colors signify:

The blue stands for faith, loyalty, devotion and also the lakes, sea and sky.and endurance"until the skies last". Love that line.The black is for the soil and the dark past.The white represents striving towards enlightenment and virtue and is also the color of birch bark and snow.

In 1989, it flew again over black dirt,  birches, lakes.It was unfurled and flapped gloriously over the sea, snow and sky.It's my second favorite flag.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

the blessings found in bookstores.......

Nether Springs Retreat House,U.K.

My first penny for today came before 9 A.M. when I opened a special book.

I have written before about a great bookstore just south of us in Zebulon,Georgia where they sell new and used books with a fireplace, coffee machine and cozy chairs for visitors.We make a pilgrimage to this place on the square at least twice a year.Number one book store with titles you will see nowhere else.

Number two bookstore is a small room attached to a little library in Alpine, Texas where my youngest son lives. He can walk to it amid the granite mountains and desert that surrounds the town. One main street, a train that goes through and some small shops with a western flavor.The small Catholic church is up the hill and as usual in church, we found quiet.

The bookstore was a magnet for us in our pursuit of the perfect read. And so I found an oddity." Celtic Night Prayer" is the title of this plain little book with a Celtic Knot on the cover.You had me at Celtic Knot. And 75 cents.It is published by the Northumbria Community of Felton,U.K .How this book came across the pond and into my hands is worthy of a fiction story. However it came to be, I am grateful.

Each day there is a reading and today's thought by Frederick Buechner made me snicker.He talks about:
" the invisible power of God working not just through the sacraments but in countless hidden ways to make even slobs like us loving and whole beyond anything we could conceivably pull off by ourselves." Ha.

Buechner also says that although we may desire this transformation we are very committed to our slobbery and hold on to it for dear life.I totally agree. It seems to me that we are quite content being the inferior slobs that we are until some crisis comes along and we realize our slobbery isn't enough and we cry out. He hears but requires our cooperation.We think, why doesn't he just fix it! ?Because if He fixed the mess, we would stay in our constant state of slobbery. He seems to want us to be more like Him. Quelle Horreur!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

turkey talk ..

Perching in the fresh air, the sun warming. Six feet away is the lone turkey. I know he comes for corn and bird seed, but I 'd like to think that we are friends. I always talk to him and tell him how pretty he is. If you have never seen a turkey with the sun lighting him up, you won't understand.The neck that is loaded with colorful plastic beads, the feathers which are luminous, all beautiful.The turkey was once our national bird and well he should be. O.K,.if you want to project power , the eagle is better although I have seen the turkeys chase deer twice their size.

My turkey is today's penny. And as if he wasn't enough, a note from a friend who says that our writing class has brought her great joy.Yes.

Are we grateful enough ?This morning my left eyeball hurts when I bend over. Probably sinus issues. But 364 days out of the year, my eyeball is just there, letting me know that my turkey is here, allowing me to read my friend's note and lets me see my blue Indian bedspread with the white circles that I love. How often to I thank God for my left eyeball?

Gratitude is a practice.We have to be aware to be grateful. It is not our default position. Looking for the negative is. I believe that. If you run into ten friends and nine pay you a compliment and the tenth cuts you down, what do you ponder for the next three day ? It is an evolutionary construct. We watch out for danger and thus develop negative thinking.Can we get over this and be grateful people? Scripture says: "Rejoice in the Lord, always." If it was not possible, it would not be asked of us. It's a choice and today I choose to rejoice.

Monday, March 6, 2017

pennies from heaven

Under the yellow vine that is hanging near my writer's desk is a male cardinal. What a striking bird he is. I don't even mind that he is grabbing some of the flowers for lunch. He deserves those and more. Jumping around in and out of the vine is a brown thrasher, the state bird of Georgia. If I sit still, all this comes to me.

I have written of the bounty that I find when I stroll the park near my house. A crayon of the most beautiful blue,.a Happy Halloween sign, a thick artist's pencil, a dime. And once in awhile in my life a special gift comes; an old friend appears bearing his story, and memories. In the fifty years since I have seen him, he has accomplished much and raised a beautiful family.Olive plants a plenty around his table.A good man who remembers me as a teenager : who knew my long gone family.What price can you put on such knowing in a world that is spinning so fast ?

Black and white pictures of Jones Beach and smiles.We were young then and good.There is nothing in the memories to mar who we were. Trips to N.Y.C., football games, movies, trying to learn how to drive a stick shift in the beach parking lot. American stories. Who knew that running under all these things was movement towards a good life for us both. It brings me untold pleasure to know that this man, with determination and grit, has had a successful life.Not without challenges because of his service to our country, but a happy one.

There is such bounty in this world if we slow down and be still.; if we look for it as one might check the ground for pennies.(I always do). Maybe that will be what my pen records this Lent.

May we feel His Presence in all things.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

sacred and profane

The sun is so bright today that I can hear the trees starting to bud, a gentle pop of green here and there. The Bradfords are in full white, their cotton puffs will soon be replaced by light green shoots and then the leaves. The lone turkey is stretched out in the sun and every once in awhile his eyes close for a few seconds.Nap time on the Graham plantation.

There are so any disturbing things going on in the world and we know them all instantly because of the internet.So I read a bit of Scripture daily to keep in balance."The Word is near you, deep within you, the Word is on your lips.The Word who made you, yet will save you...The Word is in you deep within you, the Word is in your heart..."

Today, the reading jumped out at me because of where my thoughts have been. Madonna has been on my mind for the last few days. She, who offered sexual favors to anyone who voted for her candidate.She who fantasizes about blowing up the White House and  whose children's woes are front page news. I want to reach out and hug her.I don't care how many fans or how many Grammys(7), she is lost.

The first time I noticed Louise Ciccone was in a favorite movie, "A League of Their Own."How I loved the feisty girls of that all women's baseball team and Tom Hanks memorable line;", there's no crying in baseball."'Madonna was one of the girls and exuded kindness and grit.She has adopted a few children later in life so she must have a heart. I pray for those children and Madonna.She, who left the Church and yet used many of its images in a profane way to gain fame and fortune.

I do not back away from quoting today's reading :"What profit does he show who gains the whole world and destroys himself in the process."Luke 9:25.