We were fogged in all day yesterday; the views from the dining room were completely opaque, as if we'd pulled down pale gray shades to shut out the world.
The food was delicious, the company delightful, the laughter frequent -- and through it all were woven strands and stories of past thanksgivings, past shared meals, and family no longer present -- though they were there in memories, in the china, in the copper-pipe candelabra my husband's father made so many years ago...
Some days you don't need a road sign to realize how pleasant life can be...
I have so much to be thankful for today - my chicks came home to roost last night, bringing friends, and we sat up partying and cooking until well after midnight; such fun!
But just as we were heading off to bed, my younger daughter misplaced her cellphone, and after tearing the house apart looking for it with no luck, she started spewing blame: it was all my fault for turning her bedroom into an art studio...
When the cellphone turned up in her jacket pocket, of course, she apologized. But I found it amusing that in the dream that woke me up this morning, I was staring at my computer, and someone had posted an article on Facebook about how saying no to children had been scientifically proven to have a positive effect on their brain cells.
So I found myself thinking, "Oh, good; perhaps now the next generation will do a better job of raising children than we did, because they'll understand the importance of saying no! -- And I woke up determined to post the article on Facebook. It actually took a minute to realize it was all a dream; clearly I have been spending too much time on the computer lately...
Anyway -- as much as I appreciate the joy of food, family and friends, I can't help but be aware of all those who are struggling today, because they are hungry, homeless or ill, or separated from their loved ones. I hope the joy we find this day can somehow overflow onto them, and wish their troubles may be lifted away.
And just a little PS: I'm thankful, also, for all of you who walk this path with me, and wish each of you a joyful and blessed Thanksgiving. May the Lord bless you, and keep you, and make His face to shine upon you, and give you peace...
It's rare that what looks like thick fog at our house is still foggy elsewhere on the island; rarer still to find this perfect combination of fog and sunshine: a light to enlighten and color the subject, and fog to soften and mask the background.
It's rather like that recent rash of commercials, about preferring "and" to "or:" life is somehow much richer and more beautiful when we find a way to incorporate or balance both sides of being: body and spirit, left and right, light and dark...
It seems to me that much of the tension we create for ourselves in life arises from our attachment to outcome. Imagine how much more peaceful we might feel if instead of needing to control all the things we attempt to control in our lives we were able to simply step back and observe.
I don't mean disengage: I think much of the joy I find comes from engagement, connection, contribution to any given moment. But to not need a particular, predefined result; that could be truly freeing...
And now I'm wondering if that's why greed is so destructive, because it's a deliberate -- and sometimes even brutal -- effort to ensure a beneficial outcome...
When you have not had a drink of Love... Cats sense your sadness and call an important conference in a tall tree...
Bring your cup near me, for I am a Sweet Old Vagabond with an infinite leaking barrel of Light and Laughter and Truth that the Beloved has tied to my back. Dear one, indeed, please bring your heart near me. For all I care about is quenching your thirst for freedom! All a sane man can ever care about is giving Love!
I occasionally get involved in community theater, and this week I was given a role that includes the singing of an old gospel hymn I hadn't heard before. So I've been spending time learning it, and I find it very moving.
The sentiments it expresses, I suspect, lie at the root of a lot of the faith we encounter -- in others, and in ourselves. I'm not necessarily saying that's a good thing, or even true. But perhaps because of my recent time in Iowa, and the devastating storms that have just hit the midwest and the Philippines, and because I've just finished reading Wendell Berry's classics, Jayber Crow and Hannah Coulter, it resonates. Because the song implies both a life of misfortune and a trust that all will come right; that a safe haven lies somewhere ahead, it touches my heart. It's called "Farther Along."
Tempted and tried, we're oft made to wonder Why it should be thus all day long While there are others living about us Never molested though in the wrong When death has come and taken our loved ones It leaves our home so lonely and drear Then do we wonder why others prosper Living so wicked year after year Farther along we'll know all about it Farther along we'll understand why Cheer up my brother, live in the sunshine We'll understand it all, by and by Faithful 'til death, said our loving Master A few more days to labor and wait Toils of the road will then seem as nothing As we sweep through the beautiful gates
There is an old zen saying: "Snow falls, each flake in its appropriate place." It's a lovely way of saying everything is unfolding just as it should, that there is grace and order even in apparent chaos. But it can be hard to accept or believe that in the face of perceived disasters -- the violent storms that have recently devastated the midwest and the Philippines; the loss of a beloved spouse, child, or friend; a frightening medical diagnosis.... Which is why we need one another, and community: when some of us are struggling, others of us can stand, and help, and keep hope alive. Our roles may shift over time, but faith and trust can keep us steady on the course.
I'm deep into Eckhart Tolle's New Earth -- again -- and loving what it has to say about the ego. Yesterday's quote was particularly powerful, I thought:
"If peace mattered to you more than anything else and if you truly knew yourself to be spirit rather than a little me, you would remain nonreactive and absolutely alert when confronted with challenging people or situations. You would immediately accept the situation and thus become one with it rather than separate yourself from it. Then out of your alertness would come a response. Who you are (consciousness), not who you think you are (a small me), would be responding. It would be powerful and effective and would make no situation or person into an enemy."
... which is all well and good. But, you know, I'm human. I'm able to stay on an even keel most of the time, but every once in a while someone will say or do something that sets me off. I know enough now to understand that the intensity of those feelings comes from some place other than "true me," but that doesn't necessarily make it easier to deal with in the moment.
So reading this ... well, it feels like a should; I end up feeling ashamed of the fact that I can still get set off like that -- which I don't think was his intent. I think Tolle just wants us to wake up, to notice that we can get triggered that way, and not get too caught up in it.
But because I'm thinking about these things, I have to wonder: was yesterday's post all about ego? Some part of me -- the part that's still feeling a bit shamed by this reading -- says yes; that was ego talking. But some other, kinder part of me, is smiling, I think: it understands that each of us is much bigger than any of the roles we play, and that somehow putting all that together is just another way of saying, "Don't put me in a box... in fact, don't put any of us in a box."
Each of us is so much more complex than what can be seen in any given situation. We need to recognize and celebrate that, both in ourselves and in each other. It's a bit like the six degrees of separation: the more deeply we communicate, the more connected we discover ourselves to be. It's a way of exploring and discovering the amazing web of being that holds us all together...
I've been an accounts receivable clerk, a features editor, a librarian, a wife, a quilting teacher, a book reviewer, a workshop leader, a newspaper columnist, a theater critic, a radio personality, a groupie, a divorcee, a customer service manager, a marketing communications manager, a public relations account executive, a wife again, a documentation manager, a hi-tech marketing executive, a mother, a marketing consultant, a church communications executive, a board member, a copy editor, a preacher, a seminary instructor, a newspaper editor, a photographer, a retreat leader, a musician, a librarian again, a designer, a writer, an exhibitions director, an actress, and an artist.
Here's what I love:
Room to breathe and know my roots.
A friend nearby (but not too close) --
grounded, but different:
solid where I am lace,
consistent when I am seasonal,
perhaps even a little closed in
while I am always reaching
up, and out --
it's all a matter of balance...
So often, those who fall flame brightest just before the fall; so, too, brave souls whose loss of limb, or heart, or life in war burned bright, and oh, so beautiful in their new uniforms, as we can see in photos hanging still on the walls of the bereft. Mothers, fathers, wives and children, sisters, brothers, friends -- all troubled hearts: we grieve with you today and every day.
Reading this morning about that inner voice that always seems to be chattering away, I find myself thinking about the masks we wear, the ones that hide us even from ourselves. We read about bad behaviors, and immediately ascribe them to others, never acknowledging that we ourselves are guilty. We judge others, never realizing that we can only recognize their faults because we've seen them in ourselves.
It seems to me that whenever we find we are congratulating ourselves for good behavior, there's probably some masking going on. The more serene and peaceful those masks appear to be, the more likely it seems that there's something dark and worrisome churning underneath...
I spent the last two days up in the San Juan Islands, looking for peace in which to write. But I got more peace than I bargained for: a broken phone cable below the Sound on Tuesday had taken out all long distance services, most cell services, and disabled the 911 system. Internet services, email, credit card services -- everything that requires some long distance connection was pretty much inoperative.
I met with the assistant fire chief of Shaw Island, who is also in charge of emergency medical services on the island, and he expressed his particular concern for all the elderly residents whose health is less than optimal. He had a team of people regularly checking on them, but if they should need major medical assistance it would definitely be slower to arrive than usual. Fortunately they found a workaround to make 911 functional sometime yesterday afternoon.
I've taken breaks from communications in the past, but always consciously. To find myself unexpectedly incommunicado, however, was surprisingly disturbing -- perhaps because I'm in the middle of several projects that require frequent communication with the outside world, but I suspect it's more than that.
I couldn't reassure my husband of my safe arrival, nor could I console a daughter after a difficult day at work. I couldn't schedule two impending work assignments, and had no way of knowing if my dear friend Linda in the Philippines had survived the horrific typhoon that attacked those islands. (I now know she's okay, thank heaven.)
So, in the end, I came home. I caved. And now I find myself wondering: why are we not more aware of this outage? Is it not being publicized because unscrupulous persons could take advantage of the situation? Why is it taking so long to repair? And what would life be like if such outages were more widespread? A disturbing thought...
At the end of the day,
whatever its adventures,
there is something in me
that longs to return
to the old familiar barn,
to sup at the trough, bed down in the hay
and fall asleep to the gentle sounds
that have ushered me into dreams
for all these many years:
the wind in the trees,
the creaking of the rafters,
the gentle huff of breath
from those who sleep nearby.
Over the course of a lifetime we say goodbye to all sorts of things: people and places, homes and jobs, cherished possessions, hopes, dreams, and possibilities ... And always it seems that however ready we may be to move on, some part of us hates the act of leaving.
I spent this last week with a family of people who were saying goodbye to the land that formed their history, and I watched as each in his or her own way made peace with what needed to be left behind.
Over time, I think, we all learn to be thankful for the blessings that come, not only from the past, but in the process of change: the love shared, the lessons learned, the paths not taken, the gifts that have a way of waiting, just around the bend. But that moment of goodbye is rarely easy...
Those of you who know me well may have heard me refer to something
called "Broccoli Theory." It's my own theory; I call it that because
broccoli is sort of like a fractal: the more you look at it, the more
complex and interconnected it appears.
My theory -- which came initially from being a
photographer -- is this: if you truly pay attention to almost anything
you can discover it is infinitely more complex and interesting than you may have thought -- and way more connected to other objects, events and instances in your life than you may have realized.
This image, for example -- one of many taken in and around Iowa over the last week -- was nothing much to speak of as a color photo. But out of curiosity, I converted it to black and white and now I love it!
... which just goes to show: it's all in how you look at things. Even a person, who might not strike you initially as worth getting to know, might turn out to have amazing depths if viewed from another perspective.
Take my husband, for example, whom I disliked intensely on sight: I didn't like his looks, I didn't like his attitude... But the more I came to know him (thank heaven for his persistence and determination!), the more I found to like -- so much so that marrying him seemed to be an obvious choice. We've been married almost 30 years now, and I still keep finding new depths to his personality -- a pretty much constant source of joy...
Learn the alchemy true human beings know. The moment you accept what troubles you've been given, the door will open. Welcome difficulty, as a familiar comrade. Joke with torment brought by the Friend. Sorrows are the rags of old clothes and jackets that serve to cover, and then are taken off. That undressing, and the naked body underneath, is the sweetness that comes after grief.