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Thursday, September 29, 2011

The essence of nothing

The list of things leaking out of my life grows longer.  It is a simplification process – or do I rationalize? 

Am I resisting because I am too connected to the material, because my spirit isn’t properly enlightened?

Or is it because I’m afraid that after the distillation process, when I am reduced to my essence, I will find that there is nothing left?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fingerprints

Clara was too young to comprehend.  Daddy’s little girl with the platinum blond curls and omnipresent smile stood at the attic window swimming in utter confusion as she watched her father walk away from the house, get into his car and drive away.  Once again she tried the attic door – why would he lock it?  Clara had never been locked inside a room before.  At only 4 years old, she had never been left alone in a house before. 

Her gaze swept around the attic of the old house, stuffing the cracks in her soul with the shadows and cobwebs, trying desperately to prevent the tears that might leak out.  The chill of the attic seeped into her, threatening to drown her, suffocate her, to break the thin thread that tethers existence to sanity.  A creeping panic arose deep inside her that she quickly squashed, feeling more fearful of the panic than of the circumstances. 

Something scurried in the far corner and Clara crept over to investigate.  She had never shied away from wild things, and subconsciously needed the company now.  Whatever she had heard was much less interested in her than she was in it – there was nothing to be found amongst the debris in the corner.

Throwing herself down on a dusty, moldering sofa she began to cry – no sobbing, only quiet tears streaming down her cheeks.  The feelings of abandonment and betrayal consumed every ounce of energy that might have been used for a good cleansing tantrum. 

Years hence, and for the rest of her life, she will wonder whether that really happened, or whether it was a vivid nightmare, indistinguishable in a young child’s mind from reality.  Each fall the emotions of abandonment and betrayal will hang over her like a pall whenever she sees an attic window in an old house.  By early December the feelings will have evaporated – drops of water on the wood-burning stove – the memory of the incident (or was it a nightmare?) gone again for another year.

But the years of her life will be marked indelibly with this annual anguish – the literal and figurative chill of that betrayal.   And she will often wonder if the fingerprints of that experience can be found over all the aspects of her life.  Waiting invisibly for someone to dust for them, explain them, and then wipe them away.  Wishing she knew how to do it herself. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

The rock stacker

The decisions to be made are pounding on the door, demanding an audience.  Possibilities are endless, true enough, but making a choice is such a heavy burden.  There is so very much riding on each choice. 

The level of concentration required of me has me chewing the inside of my lower lip to shreds.  A nervous habit I can’t break.  securedownload

Some day, before too long, I will sleep through the night.  I will listen to classical music again.  I will eat a meal without indigestion.  I will hear the phone ring without feeling sick.

In the meantime, I will stack rocks, one on top of another.  I will focus on the balance, the beauty, the patience of the practice.  I will imagine the rocks taking a yogic breath as they struggle to maintain their positions. 

And when they fall, I will stack them again.  And again.  And again, ad infinitum.  Until I am no longer needed as a rock stacker.  Until I am needed elsewhere.

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The rock stacker

The decisions to be made are pounding on the door, confusion reigns.  They are demanding an audience.  Possibilities are endless, true enough, but making a choice is such a heavy burden.  There is so very much riding on each choice. 

The level of concentration required of me has led me to chew the inside of my lower lip to shreds.  A nervous habit I can’t break.  securedownload

Some day, before too long, I will sleep through the night.  I will listen to classical music again.  I will eat a meal without indigestion.  I will not feel sick when the phone rings.

In the meantime, I will stack rocks, one on top of another.  I will focus on the balance, the beauty, the patience of the practice.  I will imagine the rocks breathing a yogic breath as they struggle to maintain their positions. 

And when they fall, I will stack them again.  And again.  And again, ad infinitum.  Until I am no longer needed as a rock stacker.  Until I am needed elsewhere.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Brevity

Brevity is the soul of wit. 

And of pleasant house guests.

And hugs with smelly cousin David.

And sermons.

Amen.

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Monday, September 12, 2011

The old linden

The old tree suffered a difficult summer.  Weeks without rain, record high temperatures, and hurricane remnants ravaged it and left it looking tattered.  The leaves at the end of the branches are withered and brown.  Ragged stumps remain where gracious limbs once swayed in the breeze. 

But there is a small, timid creek that flows beneath it.  The slanting morning sun reflects off the water and onto the underside of the leaves.  The effect is breathtaking.

This cool September morning I recognize the strength of that metaphor – sometimes the true beauty is underneath.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Memories

Faint breezes caress the tired, dry leaves of the ancient maple in the yard.  Russell sits on the front porch in his wool sweater in spite of the early September heat.  Arms crossed over his chest and chin lowered, he nods his head gently – remembering picnics at the beach, the sepia photo of himself in front of his first car, the day his first child was born.

The baseball game on the radio fades in and out; Russell leans a little closer.  The hint of a smile on his face broadens into a grin as he remembers his first professional baseball game, the pretty girl he took with him and the smell of her perfume.  The armed forces commercial brings back the day his son returned from Korea, the scented love letters he received from the army nurse in WWII.

A dog barks in the neighbor’s yard down the street.  Russell thinks of the Pekinese dog his daughter adored – the one that followed her everywhere, and the baby duck she nursed back to health after finding it the park with an injured wing.  He remembers the sleep overs his daughter had, loud rambunctious laughter ringing through the house til the wee hours; he recalls taking his younger son to baseball practice and the pride he felt when he was offered a spot on the minor league team. 

These are the fleeting thoughts that fill his mind this day and every day. 

These are the only things worth remembering.

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I love you, a bushel and a peck

“I love you, a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.  A barrel and a heap, yes a barrel and a heap, and I’m talkin’ in my sleep about yoouuu….”

Jill stopped short, almost unable to breathe when she heard a young mother singing that to her toddler, complete with hugs and nose rubs, just the way Jill’s grandmother had done for her.  She hadn’t heard that in 40 years, and the tidal wave of nostalgia that came with it nearly knocked her over.

The young mother noticed Jill’s discomfort and nervously gathered up all the paraphernalia that accompanies toddlers, and the toddler herself.  As they left the park bench, the young mother cast glances behind her as if she expected Jill to follow.  Once they were beyond the playground area and out of sight, Jill sat down.  Behind the park bench she spied a small fuzzy thing, familiar looking and worn.  The toddler’s toy had apparently fallen off the seat in the scurry to gather her up. 

Jill reached down and picked it up, the catch in her throat returning.  It was Spareribs, her toy dog from childhood, worn fur and missing left eye.  It couldn’t be – that toy was destroyed in the house fire that killed her grandmother.  But it was, she was certain.  Her grandmother had made that stuffed animal.  There wasn’t another one like it anywhere.

Jill’s phone rang, startling her back to the present.

“Jill!  I’ve been trying to reach you for hours!  Why did you check yourself out of the hospaital?  Where are you now?”

“I’m…I’m…”  The strangeness of the day wouldn’t release her voice.  “I’m at the park.”

“Stay right where you are – I’m on my way.” 

The phone went dead and Jill was catapulted from awed confusion to dread of the disapproval of her therapist.  She looked down at the small furry thing in her hand.  It was a dead squirrel.  Tears began to stream down her cheeks and she set the squirrel gently on the ground.  It twitched, jumped up and ran off. 

Jill’s head began to pound as the sounds of the park changed to colors, and then to tastes.  There was nothing to do now but lie down on the bench and wait for the therapist.  Maybe this time she could convince her that her grandmother was obviously not really dead.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The grace of pain

Sometimes death enters the room in padded slippers.  Sometimes he crashes through the gate on a glossy black steed.  It doesn’t matter how he arrives.  The result is always the same.

I have seen his various methods of arrival - pompous and pretentious, sudden and surreptitious, acquiescing and accepting.  Death gets bored and needs to mix it up. 

Those left behind know that hearing his footsteps helps you prepare for the loss.  It gives parameters to the hole in your life.  It helps you make sense of the loss during your grief.

They also know that when he storms the gate and rips your life into shreds, there is really no repairing that tear.  That gaping wound is yours for life.  It will ache less in ten years, even less in twenty, but it will cling to you like a spider web. 

The problem is that modern life makes no room for that clinging sorrow.  We knew once, as a species, that there was a place for that sorrow.  It served a purpose.  It made us aware, sentient, compassionate.

Now there is no time.  Hurry up and snap out of it.  There is life to live, money to be made, fun to be had.  There is therapy available, drugs to take, partying to assuage the pain.  Pain = evil.  Pain = weakness.

No.

Pain is necessary.

Enduring pain makes you human.

Surviving pain with grace makes you divine.

 

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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Cricket wisdom

The crickets get a little louder each evening.

They seem to know their days are numbered.  They are clamoring for attention, begging for someone to hear their song, desperate to tell their stories. 

Time is short, and the wisdom is fleeting. 

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