My father’s people knew hardship but tried to put away thoughts of revenge and hatred. Instead, they turned to what is given so freely to all who will listen, and there they found peace.
Alexander Pope once wrote “Lo, the poor Indian, whose untutored mind sees God in the clouds and hears Him in the wind.”
I am part Indian - Cherokee and Seneca - and I do see God in the clouds, just as I hear Him in the wind. I feel His presence in a storm, in the song of a bird, in the kiss of nature.
When I was a child, I thought I could touch His goodness, selfishly steal a bit, hoping for an easier trip on my life’s journey, but I was wrong; His goodness touches me. And He knew me. I am the Raven, the BlackBird who has always sought adventure. But His love has guarded me, not only when I follow His way, in fact, even more so when I wander off on a road not well chosen.
It is our heritage to bond with the sounds of silence, for there we find peace. But we must listen to the message; the smile on a loved one’s face; the rustling leaves or the singing of a river as it meanders to the sea. The silent anguish of those who hurt.
We sometimes tell ourselves that there is not a lot we can do to stop the devastation, the impact of the horror that walks our world, horror called war, or violence, or maybe just complacency, but one by one, we can.
We need to reach out to help those who struggle, the elderly, the young - our neighbor, a stranger.
A Menominee Indian once said, “We speak from our hearts, and memory records our words in the heart of our people.” I might also add to this by our actions. Sharing our time and our love will also be recorded in our Book of Days.
It’s early in the morning, the sun just waking up. My coffee is hot, Maggie is asleep on my lap and the birds are singing their songs. I love this time of day and this feeling goes way back.
As I sit here now I have only to let my thoughts wander back to the days when I walked to school. I would leave home, walk downtown, through town, then up the hill to the middle school located across the street from our high school.
The air was clean, merchants would say hello as I walked by, smiling as I watched them sweeping the sidewalk in front of their stores . . . as I danced along up the hill to the music of nature and the birds.
What a wonderful feeling to be called by name. Small towns were like that. Most everybody knew everyone. Not like now when our lives seem to revolve around the latest tweet or FaceBook post. Neighbors hardly know who lives just next door unless the dog barks too loudly or the postman delivers the mail to the wrong house.
Our new generations will never know what it was like 'back then' when we stayed out until dark playing kick the can or blind man's bluff, when it really was okay and safe to walk to school. but alas, times they are a changing.
I think I read once that we cannot raise our children in our generation. How true and sad as the gap gets bigger each year.
She wrote ~
It is chilly today, and I long for you. The only thing that keeps me warm is knowing that you love me. Of your arms holding me.
And your laughter ~ Your spontaneous, beautiful, crazy laughter.
As the poet said ~ How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
He replied ~
Last year at this time my arms were empty~
I was not smiling or laughing until you came.
The child sat under the grandfather tree mesmerized by new spring leaves that danced to the music of a gentle breeze.
She came here often, to this special place where silence held hands with a sense of peace. She was safe here. Safe to let her mind wander, to escape the need always to be alert. Here she could exchange her fears for courage.
Then, for a moment, just one, the sky darkened, and a chill raced up her spine as she felt a presence though she saw nothing.
“Do not be afraid, little one. I come not to harm but to talk.”
“Who are you? Where are you?”
“I am no one, just someone. I am nothing, yet everything. Rest your eyes for I am not to be seen, only felt.”
“Am I in trouble?”
“No, of course not. Why do you ask that?”
“Because I usually am, in trouble, I mean, although I try to be good.”
“Take a deep breath, child. Close your eyes and relax. Think of something that makes you smile. Why don’t you tell me your secret dreams.”
“But if I tell you, my dreams will not be secret anymore.”
“No one is here but you and me, and I promise to keep your secrets.”
“I want to trust you; trust is a delicate thing, so evasive, but I can only be safe if I trust no one.”
“What is it you fear, little one?”
“The unknown.” The words had run out of her mouth before she could stop them.
The child stood and walked in confusion about the base of the giant Oak, stepping carefully over the gnarled roots that had kept it secure over the millennium.
“Child, do not be afraid.”
The girl whose slender body mirrored that of a young Willow, awkward and ungraceful but would one day grow to represent strength and purpose, fought back her tears knowing she could not reclaim her words.
“Why are you here? Again, I ask who are you?”
“I am not known by a name. I bear no title, but I have been with you since you began. I have come to you today hoping to carry away your sadness, to offer you a chance to look into the future. I had known your fear before you found the courage to share it with me. But you needed to tell me before I could offer you this gift, or maybe it will be only a curse.
“If you desire, I can open your book of days. You will be able to see all that will transpire for the rest of your life. You will not be able to change what you will find there. Well, maybe something small. If we know the river has washed out the road we wish to travel, we might be inclined to take another path, but nothing major. Once written, it will be.”
The girl ran her hand over the rough bark of the grandfather tree. She felt a moment of pain as she pushed hard, welcoming the cut on the palm of her hand. “What will this cost me? I am young, but I already know that everything has a price.”
“I am not surprised that you ask me this, for yes, there is a price. If you chose to open the book, you must forfeit your last years.”
“My last years? How many years will that be?”
“I cannot answer that. I can only say that you will have many years.”
The dark-eyed child with hair that matched the midnight sky pondered the words that swirled around her. If his words were true, she would be able to see what lie ahead of her. Maybe even re-arrange minor events, he had said. But even before she backed away from grandfather tree and moved out from under the protection of its twisted branches that reached toward the heavens, she knew what her answer would be.
“If you know me, then you know that I struggle each day. But I survive. If I were to know what I must face in the future, I might not have the resolve to fight. I am strong, but maybe not that strong. I only know, for sure, that I want to live.
“I do not believe it is wise for us to know what waits for us, but I do believe this. If I do survive what is in my book you say was written so long ago, then I feel that my last years will be the best of my life. I believe that something or someone will be waiting for me, a vocation, maybe a companion, someone filled with compassion and an abundance of love, and I would never forfeit that joy, happiness so grand that it might reinforce the good and erase all the sadness and pain that has come before.
“No, I will live with what was written in the beginning without your gift of the future. But your words today, your wisdom is a gift of another kind, one I will cherish for I will no longer fear the unknown as I continue to dream my dreams, as I travel on the road to my last days, toward the adventure and the love I feel that waits for me there.
I still have not found the key to that glorious space called sleep. I am closer I think. For a start, I have cast off garments I realized I did not need. I try not to worry as much, nor bother to see too far into the future, put aside thoughts that I had to take care of the world. Yes, this past year has been better.
Actually, I am extremely healthy and, although I have faced a few painful bumps along this journey I laughingly call my life, I continue to do well, almost. But one cannot continue to face each day and the world without sleep, and this is a gift I have not been able to enjoy for almost a year.
Without rest, I bash against the fabled stone wall, my interest and dreams wander off on the road called confusion, where people talk too much, and say nothing worthwhile, and only add to the blur, even as my inner sense whispers for me to find reason again. And I do.
I reach out for the Newness, go to meet life as the darkness fades, flowers dare to send their tiny blossoms up above the winter soil to dance in the gentle wind, and the joyful songs of the Spirits fill the space we share. It is almost Spring, and her name is Rebirth.
Soft as a blanket of fleece, the night pulls the meandering desert sky over the cold naked earth.
Buried under our comforter, like tender bulbs buried until spring, we lie quoting bits of this and that, unaware that far above the constellations the thread that binds sky to earth blurs, so fragile like our beginning.
Stars dance in the sky above, but down here shapes soften, not seen, simply felt, as hands and whispered breath draw fairytale prints on our souls.
Night turns to surround the planets as you yield, turning like a night’s face to settle on me, chest on breast; warm here.
In bed this morning you tucked into the curve of me as our feet danced about seeking warmth. We turn like in a roundabout until it is I who tuck into you . . . until it is I who trace the smooth flat of your back and write our names with my finger and then my tongue.
My heart knits into yours until only one heart can we make of it and as our love sings its song, the heavens grow drowsy with the harmony.
Never Really Lost
As I have gotten older, I seem to misplace things. I am not sure everyone does this, but I will put something away to keep it safe and then I cannot remember where I put it.
Several years ago, I misplaced my faith, my belief that God would always be with me, and no matter how hard I looked, I could not find it.
God has been a part of my life for a long time. In fact, I can tell you the exact date I knew the power of his love. It was February 22, 1942, a rainy day, the day a drunk drove his car into ours, and for many months, years actually, our lives would be torn apart.
I do not remember the crash, but vaguely remember strangers who had stopped to help, lifting me out of the wet street. My father told me later that I had flown out the window of the driver’s side of our car at impact and then was crushed between the two vehicles. I awoke again by the side of the road, and then yet again in the front seat of an ambulance, held in the arms of a strange man because although three ambulances came to the scene, there was no room for me in the back.
Then I awoke again in the emergency room. Everyone was shouting, and I could see a woman on the table. I needed to find my mommy and daddy, but I also fought to stay awake. I was in a giant wheelchair with a high back, and a seat made of cane. I needed to get out of this chair and find my mommy. To my young ears, it seemed chaos ruled. Then I heard a doctor near the table say, “There is nothing more we can do for this woman; she’s gone, she’s dead.”
As I again tried to get up, I felt a presence, a soft, calming voice that told me to stay in the chair, assuring me that my mother was alive. Although we were both badly hurt, she was alive.
I was four years old, dressed in a bright red coat my mother had made for me and, although I was so afraid, I stayed in the chair. Of course, I did not know at the time that it was God talking to me, that the Holy Spirit stood beside me and my fear, and stayed close until my father found me.
As my father screamed for me, the medical staff realized that a small child sat unattended in the corner. As I have said: chaos ruled. Nurses wheeled me into a treatment room where my injuries were finally addressed. And then both of us, my broken and bruised mother and me, went off to surgery. Every bone from my breast bone down was broken or crushed, but they fixed me up.
They spent most of that rainy day and well into the night putting this tiny little girl back together. They put me in a full body cast and hung me from the ceiling to mend. We were blessed; we got well. The woman and her son in the other car died that day.
In later years, I have undergone nine surgeries as a direct result of that auto accident, but I needed one more. I had put off doing what my doctor had advised me I would have to do eventually, which was an extensive surgery to try and correct my twisted and deteriorating spine. I did not want to think about the outcome. Oh, I had convinced myself I could handle death. It was only the thought of ending up paralyzed that chilled my heart and mind.
You see, I am a caregiver, but not one to accept help, and although I realize it is wrong to think like this, that is who I am. I also know that I am strong. I had survived the sudden death of my husband of 43 years, and the loss of my second son due to complications of his type one diabetes that caused renal failure, and finally his heart gave out. His passing stole the very breath from my soul.
I never shouted at God; I never asked why. Now, as I try to remember that time, I know now He would ask more of me. He would take my second husband and my oldest son, but all that came later.
As I struggled with the anguish of deciding what to do regarding this operation, I recall feeling so alone; my mind wandering, unable to find my way, and solutions were as elusive as a soft caress of an evening breeze.
I had also learned that answers are not always given to those who suffer, for that can be the way of our Lord. He asks for our patience, our faith; all in good time.
Although lost and afraid, I had to move forward. I had to be realistic. I had to have this new surgery.
My doctor and I set a date, but it was a month off. I wanted it yesterday. I did not want to have time to think about it and maybe change my mind. You see, for the first time since that rainy day so many years ago as a small child, I was afraid, and my fear consumed me. I prayed. I read the bible, I asked God to guide me, but nothing helped. I tried to hide my fear, to move through the days as if nothing was wrong, but this anguish found its way inside me and never left.
I told myself that I had to find a way to stay so busy that I could hide from this fear. Our church had started a program of knitting Prayer Shawls. I decided this would be good for me and I bought yarn and began to knit. I followed the directions that asked us to pray as we knitted. As I worked each day, I talked to this shawl. I made mistakes, some I ripped out, but others I just left, not able to get my heart into the job at hand.
As I knitted, I wondered about the person who might be given this shawl after I had finished it and taken it to the church to be blessed. I hoped whoever receive this garment might not see all the mistakes I had made. I just prayed that it would offer warmth and comfort to someone in need, even though it was not perfect, like our lives.
I had several chores to take care of before my surgery, an operation that would take over twelve hours. I tried not to think about how scared I was, knowing I had no other choice. I had never faced fear like this before in my life, so I tried to pretend it did not exist.
I delivered my shawls to the church, several more in addition to the first one, and soon I was ready to move forward. On Monday, the day before my surgery, my pastor called and wanted to come and pray for me.
When he walked in the front door, he carried a prayer shawl. He placed it on my lap and explained that the women of our church knitted these to give comfort and peace. I told him that I knew of the project, that I had made several shawls. In fact, I had made this one.
He did not know what to say, except that he would go back to the church and get another one for me. I said no, and clutched the soft yarn to my heart.
No, I said, I wanted this one. We talked a bit; we prayed together, and after he had left, I knew that everything was going to be fine no matter the outcome. I had searched for weeks for some sign that God had not left me and here it was.
I was not afraid anymore, and just as His words of love and comfort gave strength to that little girl dressed in a bright red coat so long ago, the return of this shawl opened my heart and soul, and I knew I have found what had never actually been lost, only misplaced.
I know that as Pastor Paul reached out among the many shawls to pick one for me, God guided his hand. I believe that God wrote our story and then gave us life, and along the way, He has asked us to travel many roads, some we might not have chosen ourselves. We have faced trials we did not want, carried burdens we did not want to carry. However, one day we realize that the road we did not want is the one that has brought us to the place we need to be.
At times, the way we walk seems filled with fear, but when we need a hand, one is always there. When we cry out for courage, we find it, and as we wander, feeling so lost when asked to deal with our unfortunate situation, He touches our soul and helps us to know that our burdens have a way of teaching us humility, and how to be peaceful.
I may have misplaced my faith, but God never left my side. I know that my story, written so long ago, still reads the same as it did from the beginning, and although we do not know what the ending will be, we should take joy in the journey because I know that I am where God wants me to be.
Life is a circle, and as we continually move about on this earth, not much is left to chance. God knew that when this shawl came back to me, I would remember my thoughts, how I’d hoped that it would not matter to someone in need that it was not perfect. I had prayed that this shawl would offer peace and courage to someone who was afraid, someone who felt lost and had not trusted Him to take care of them, and it did.
I am blessed and loved. I know that no matter how many times I stumble or lose my way, my Lord is beside me for it is His plan that I live, as He continues to guide me to where I need to be.
Trust your heart, dear friends, trust and believe. To understand the mysteries of life we cannot turn to the back of the book hoping to know the ending, we must be content to live each day, just one at a time.
To Keepers, To all those I love
It was a way of life, and sometimes it made me crazy. All that fixing, the repairing, reheating, renewing. Just once, I told myself, I wanted to be wasteful.
Waste meant affluence. Throwing things away meant you knew there would always be more.
Then my father died, and on that cold autumn morning in the chill of his room, I was struck with the pain of realizing that sometimes, there isn’t any “more.”
Sometimes, what we care about most gets all used up and goes away… never to return. So―while we have it―it is best to love it and care for it; fix it when it is broken and heal it when it is sick.
This is true for marriage, and old cars, and children with bad report cards, and dogs with bad hips, and aging parents…and grandparents, and on and on.
We keep them because they are worth it, because we are worth it. Some things we keep.
Like a best friend that has moved away or a classmate we never wanted to leave, or a new friend.
There are just some things that make life important, like people we know who are special. Actually, everyone is special, and so we should really try to keep them close.
Years ago I received something like this from someone who thought I was a ‘keeper’ and then I sent it to the people I thought of in the same way. And today, on this special day of love and friendship, while cleaning out files, I found this, and remember how I felt back when my special someone told me I was a keeper, how I smiled, and how today I was glad that I had not thrown it away.
If you are reading this and know someone who fills your life with love and laughter, the ‘keepers’ in your life, tell them so.
I should be in bed, but this has become a new way for me, a forbidden thrill, like sneaking to the fridge and having the last bit of ice cream that someone said I could not have.
My bare feet glide across the smooth tiles as I find my way, drawn toward the echoes of silence, to that place where memories wait, just there… in the cooling of the last of the night.
A firestorm dances on the horizon anxious to be born, just as trembling waves of excitement build within me as I smile, knowing you are not far, still sleeping… knowing that even in slumber you will feel the void and reach out for me.
Just ten seconds
About a month ago, I wrote about the art of communicating. And I do believe it is an art. A wise man once said that it takes a certain degree of insight to know when to speak and when to be silent.
I love silence, most of the time. There is a magical mystic about a glance without words, a touch that tells all. But there are also times when silence is like a shape knife that penetrates deep, wounding the spirit, creating a gap that allows doubt to push aside other fragile emotions that try to stay positive.
One word. Just one, many two or three, can flood the heart with sunshine. A simple "hello". Or "thinking of you".
I have timed this gesture, it takes less that 10 seconds. But oh, the joy these seconds can bring.
In this world where we move about at a reckless speed, how sad that we cannot spare 10 seconds.
There is a saying that life is stranger than fiction. Probably true, but both run the same track, and each can cause as much joy or misery as the other. When writing fiction, my characters do not always do what I want them to do. They have a tendency to go off half-cocked causing me to re-think my original thoughts, creating a lot of backtracking. Okay, I mean, what do I know about relationships?
I think one of the most frustrating issues relating to a new relationship, be it fiction or real life, is communication. It does not matter if it's in the classroom, workplace, boardroom, a walk in the park, a project or a new romance. Lots to think about.
Just for fun, let's talk romance. A lot of thought and data has been acquired to help the novice or the one who keeps looking, toward the road to paradise.
I found, just to name a few, that there are fifteen emotional stages and a lot of do’s and don’ts. Also, ten golden rules, eight basic rules, seven thoughts to remember. Even the Huffington Post offers four tips to getting it right.
Ah, but just waiting to pop up their ugly heads are hurt feelings, misunderstandings, misconception of words and actions. Heavy stuff!
It has been said a new relationship has a lot in common with the plants in your garden. Wow! Black thumb here. But to be specific: Give it time. Give it space. Feed it well. Don’t over water. Pull the weeds before they take over, etc., etc., etc.…….
Oh, groan. Right now, research is taking most of my time, and it is so easy to get lost and not move on to the writing. Sometimes I compare the beginning of a new book to the weeks right before childbirth. You sit and ponder the premise of having prepared well, your ideas, and story line.
You ask yourself if you are capable, equipped with all the items this new life is going to need. Again, on it goes. Ah, the questions!
Fiction or life? The parallels are remarkable, scary, actually but, if given a choice, I think I’ll take diving into writing a new book any day to the supposed trauma of starting a new relationship.
And with both, although you try to get it right, and you really do want to get it right, the Google page usually defaults to:
Sorry, something went wrong. Try again later.
Don’t think so. Maybe? Probably, sure.
CHRISTMAS ALL YEAR LONG ~ From Our Home to Yours
Our calendar tells us that it is almost December 25th, time for us to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus. What a joyous time Christmas is, or it should be. History has set aside this day in honor of the birth of Jesus Christ, but what a joy it would be if the message of Christmas could live all year long. I do not mean the scurrying about, the shopping, but the thought of giving, of love.
I feel sad when I hear people say that they hate this time of year, so much to do, too many demands on time and money. It does not have to be this way, but, unfortunately, we have lost the message taught so long ago.
There was a man born, and He is called the Son of God, the Christ. Some call Him just a prophet, and others, who do not believe at all, just a man who grew up and decided to become a teacher. Labels can get in the way of what is truly important, and the answer to his identity cannot be found anywhere but in our hearts and souls, but I thank God that His message still lives among us.
Jesus lived in a time where murders and thieves played havoc on the land, where corrupt politicians used their power for personal gain. People were hungry and homeless. There were riots, some found the courage to speak out, the hope that by taking a stand, life might get better, but others caused chaos for hidden agendas. And war ravaged the land.
Even though we have evolved from the clay tablet to the internet, nothing much has changed. Jesus taught compassion, honesty, tolerance. He asked us to open our minds and hearts, to live our lives looking for good among others no matter their beliefs, and to share with those who have less, to give, and His most important lesson was that we LOVE.
I pray we can turn our thought to how blessed we are, and to pray, or, at least, use our minds and hearts and resources for those who go forth to make a difference in the lives of those who have less. Those who are homeless and hungry or just struggling to make ends meet. To reach out and uplift those who protect and defend, who put their lives on hold to give comfort to someone who is ill. To make sure our neighbor is warm and well. The angry and afraid, the depressed and alone, the abused and discarded. We don’t have to look far to find someone in need, we just have to look.
We need to remember there is only One God. It matters not what we call Him. God bless us all, now and forever, and Merry Christmas to all.
STAYING IN TOUCH
When was the last time you sat down and wrote a letter or even a short note to a friend or family member? Do you go on-line to send greeting cards? During the holidays, are you just too pushed to find the time to sit at your desk and reflect on memories that draw you to someone you love, someone that makes you smile?
I have been guilty of this, but one day I pushed the clutter on my desk to one side and pick up my pen, warmed by the need to share my thoughts.
Oh, how I have missed you.
As I wrote, I remembered a time long ago. My mother loved to write letters. Her thoughts would flow across the page, pertinent facts, silly or rambling reflections; it didn’t matter. I would sit and watch her, usually resting my head on folded arms on the kitchen table. My eyes would follow her hand as she quickly wrote…her renderings elegant, the script beautiful. I would watch her face, maybe a smile, a muffled bit of laughter as she penned a funny happening, or as she gently bit her lip if the words reflected something troubling. She would write and write, hardly aware, I think, that I was there, although there were times when she would ask me to refill her coffee cup, not wanting to take the time to put down her pen and complete this simple chore.
In her quiet but positive way, she taught me the importance of writing; to say thank you for a gift received, or just to stay in touch. Once a month we made a trip to the large department store in the next town. We would get on the bus that would take us to this wonderland of goodies; everything from soft, silky underpinning to the stationary department, the primary reason for our trip.
Oh, my goodness. Even as I type this, a delightful thrill races through me as I remember those times as we settled down for the twenty-minute bus ride. How she always seemed to maneuver our conservation toward me. She had a way of delicately extracting bits of what I felt; my dreams, my image of who I was or wanted to be, thoughts I had unconsciously tucked away. I have almost forgotten how skilled she was.
My mother was the best. Her values resolute, never compromised, always held to the highest level, and although she tried, it was no easy task to instill in me all she knew I must learn. However, I did learn to appreciate the value of staying in touch.
Our first stop, as we entered the store, would usually be the stationary department. She believed in individuality. She would never dream of telling me what to buy, but each trip, as we looked at all the wonderful pieces of writing materials available, I always ended up purchasing the same stationary. It came in a box of fifty sheets, made by a company named Montag, the color of dark cream. It was simple but beautiful, and just like me, no curlicues, no frills.
Yes, I remember these times and this grand lady who tried to teach me so much, and as I pick up my Parker pen, filled with brown ink, and reach for a new sheet of my dark cream stationary, my joy is simply beyond description as I write ―
Oh, how I have missed you.
This morning I awoke to the sweet smell of freshly washed earth. We were blessed with a powerful 12-hour rain, raging at times, and then just a steady dribble that kept me guessing as to when it might be okay to do the weekly grocery shopping without the hassle of my temperamental umbrella.
I know the people in the mid-west and east might think me crazy expressing my joy with rain when they have lost so much, and I have prayed for their recovery.
Life, unfortunately, is never fair or balanced, be it the weather or burdens we are asked to carry.
As I stood in the rain for a while, I noticed the sorry state of my gardenia bush. I am known to have a black thumb when it comes to nurturing plants, but as I gazed at two flowering stems, I realized this bush personified more than an outside plant. It represented, at least to me, life.
Two blossoms drew my eyes, one young and thriving, and the other old yet still fragrant, offering the last it had to give.
We should never forget the beauty found in something old. If we remember what we have learned it is not hard to cherish what has been given.