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Archive for November, 2016

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. (Thornton Wilder)

Jay and I are in a checkout line at a store on Black Friday. The store is far less crowded than we expected. We see a woman we both know.

“How was your Thanksgiving?” Jay asks.

I don’t hear her at first, but soon discover why she looks sad. Her husband died two days before Thanksgiving.

We offer condolences. She is buying supplies for a party—to celebrate his life.

I nod, then follow an impulse. One quick hug. No words. She accepts the gesture. I let go before any public display of tears.

She lets us know she is not withdrawing. I nod again. Words can’t touch the reality. The stages of grief can’t be bypassed.

I think about the few leaves left on the sweet gum tree in our back yard.

I don’t live in a part of the world with perennial warmth. In the Midwest, the leaves have held on tighter than they have in past years. Bright reds and oranges contrast against dark bark. Moderate temperatures have lingered. Until now

Winter steals a huge chunk of the calendar year. I want to remain inside summer fun, celebrate days without pain, icy streets, conflict, or injustice. Although I know war, injustice, the us-versus-them notion, has been around since the tale of Cain and Abel. Dissonance has nothing to do with seasons.

The current state of the U.S. has heightened injustice. Yet, many people scarcely notice. And I mourn the loss of sensitivity: to the notion that women are equal as human beings; people with disabilities need to be treated as people, not as disabilities; clean water is more important than any industry…

Branches demand the leaves let go. New buds will take over. Eventually. In the human realm, new buds of change don’t have a specific season.

Despite loss, this woman my husband and I know, is celebrating life. Hers and the husband she loved. I don’t know the future. True, I see a lot of dark clouds.  I also know people who treasure both truth and justice.

I am alive when I am conscious of my treasures. As Jay and I come home from the store, Jay reaches for the heaviest items to carry into the house, exactly what I would have predicted he would do. He and I have been married for forty-five years.

“You know what I liked about today?” I tell him. “Spending it with you.”

Leaves cover the yard, front and back. More will join them. Of course, no one ever promised fully-alive would be easy.

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Life is just a short walk from the cradle to the grave and it sure behooves us to be kind to one another along the way. (Alice Childress)

The media broadcasts a different spin on the same violence and shock-value stories, day and night, and calls them news. Naivety is not a virtue; responding with further ugliness isn’t helpful either.

Someone with a lot more wisdom than I have will need to find balance among the warring forces. In the meantime, can it hurt to spread kindness? The results may not be immediate, but the possibilities reach in a more hopeful direction.

I have two examples.

Recently, my husband and I made friends with A. She has a rich sense of humor and she loves 50’s and 60’s music as much as my husband does. She knows the names of bands and their songs.

When we met, I thought we were helping her because she needed rides to senior functions; she is blind. However, I soon learned that she not only discerns voices well, she listens, with sincere compassion. “I’ll be your friend for life,” she tells me. And I believe it.

As she gets into the car she talks about all her activities, and I wonder how she manages. “Okay if I drive home?” she asks. It is okay to laugh. She sings “Jingle Bells” in an elf character voice. She pulls it off.

The pain in my neck and shoulders relaxes. By evening the blessings grow when I learn about the second example of kindness.

My son’s girlfriend was with her son, Dakota, at a store. Next to the checkout were some too-expensive-to-buy-on-a-whim toy cars. The boy is five, and into action. His big brown eyes grew big when he saw the treasures.

This little guy has had some rough moments in his young life, but he is one-hundred percent charmer. That does not mean Mommy had the money.

I was not present, but I suspect Dakota’s interest was more in-awe than demanding because an older couple in the line behind Mommy bought the gift for Dakota.

The car is more than a toy; it is a symbol for the fact that kindness exists in the world, and it can continue to grow.

Do two examples of kindness, one friend with an open heart plus one generous stranger, obliterate hate? Of course not. Should we all stand in a circle and chant platitudes as if huge world problems didn’t exist? Would be nice if that worked. I suspect each person plays a different role. Some people may need to be in-your-face active, others subtle yet constant in integrity.

In the meantime, I thank a woman who taught me to feel the subtleties of warmth and chill in the air. She also taught me to appreciate seeing skies as blue or gray palettes, always changing, sometimes swirled with white, or edged in pink.

I thank an older couple who may never read these words.

Perhaps a greater handicap than blindness is not being able to care.

I open the door into whatever happens.

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Remember, we all stumble, every one of us. That’s why it’s a comfort to go hand in hand.  (Emily Kimbrough)

November 9, sunrise hasn’t made an appearance yet. I pass through the doorway between our dining room and kitchen. Two green tomatoes wait on the windowsill for the sun to ripen them. I pause. One of the fruits has caught a pink glow; the other remains a solid, unchanged color. Perhaps, the two broke from the vine at a different time in their development. I can’t judge tomatoes any more than I can judge people. I have a black thumb.

My husband handles the watering and care of plants. If they survive, he deserves the credit. Cooking and cleaning remain in my jurisdiction.

My response to this moment also remains in my jurisdiction. Today seems darker than it usually is before sunrise.

Everyone is in a different stage of development. Human beings were born with senses—yet, we perceive the same realities differently. Some people are excited about the election of this new president. Others shudder; this man has no concern for individuals, especially women and people from other countries. He cares only for his own goals.

Events in my life that occurred in another century, long ago past, reappear in my mind. I imagine them viewed by many among the current generation of voters, as if the pain were no big deal, as if the possibility of being left for dead in a ditch, meant nothing. I didn’t die. Instead, my tormentors promised: We will be back for you tomorrow. I thought death may have been better because reporting the incident became another form of torture. The win, a Pyrrhic victory.

Abuse talk disintegrates into buzz words, leading into useless argument or emotional responses. Worse, it is immediately dismissed. Perhaps we have become hardened to the subject, the way we have responded to other forms of violence.

Nevertheless, I survived, and I survived well. I am a wife, mother, grandmother, writer, author. I learned to play guitar in my mid-fifties and have written songs and sung them publicly, even if my mother would have told me I didn’t have enough ability to achieve such a goal. Strangers have complimented me on my words, music, voice, smile and positive outlook.

Dawn appears. It always has. My husband brings home a bag of late, partially green tomatoes. I line them up on the window sill.

I can’t predict the future, and I won’t pretend that more than a little trepidation floats through me.

The sun rises higher. I pray to rise with it, joined by friends who stumble, too, but are not afraid to reach for the hand of another.                                             

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History is a nightmare from which I’m trying to wake. (James Joyce)

Four migraine episodes in two days—that has not happened to me in a long time. Mother Nature has not had any severe mood changes in the Midwest. It has been cool and then warm, but the differences haven’t been wildly dramatic. I can’t blame barometric pressure.

My husband has been healing steadily; my back has had more good days than bad. So, what is causing all this? I am not certain, but the constant barrage of ugliness in the election news could be seeping inside my being more than I think it has.

I have been choosing small acts of kindness as much as possible. No need to delineate these events. They are easy to define, a simple concept. A cleansing tactic to make the world better, one person at a time. Not as a slogan, as a reality.

The current political situation in the United States isn’t as simply explained. To people in other countries I would like to say that not all citizens are bigots who want to build a wall against another people. Not everyone supports bigoted screams. Misogynists. Bullies.  

Not everyone sees all or nothing in any one issue, or in any one person. I don’t need to mention a name. That name is too obvious and too over-spoken. And yet, the connection comes with candidacy for president of this country.

I pray not to be afraid. To breathe in to a count of five and out to a count of ten. This blog is not a political forum. I hope never to need to post another page with the same topic. I choose to hate no one, no matter what belief that individual holds—no matter how little I understand it.

I wish all a deep and inclusive peace.

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