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ice storm January 20, 2012 (2)_LIWhatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it. (Mahatma Gandhi)

Sunday morning. My husband and I celebrate at a different church. With special friends. The minister’s topic for the day combines science with awe. He speaks about the universe. In context with spirituality.

The back row, where we placed ourselves, has little significance compared to the vastness of space, the alignment of the planets, the statistical possibilities for life to exist. Yet, I embrace the moment. Beauty lives immersed in the ugly, the grand, and the ordinary.

This church community is friendly and welcoming. “Hi, I think I saw you here once before,” a woman says, “a while back.” Wow, what a memory. I came last year, maybe. And I will return. On another special day.

Bare trees display the uneven shapes of their branches, while the seasons shift in the same semi-predicted pattern. Known. Unknown. Meshing together.

I notice the shadow

of a branch on brown grass

as if bright-sun shadows

on ground were brand new.

Both spine and chin

live in the same body

yet never face one another.

One planted seed and one kindness

grow in time and

belong to another universe.

 

 

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Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not. (Dr. Seuss, author and illustrator)

 Caring isn’t necessarily the difficult part; fighting through the messy stuff in the real world is. Sure, I’ve met folk who seem to have as little compassion as an exploding grenade. Fortunately, not everyone fits into this category.

“I really have a busy schedule today,” I say. And then, the universe hears and grins with a peculiar plan for mischief. “Uh, huh,” it responds. “So do I, and I’m a lot bigger than you are.”

And that’s where priorities come in. Okay, the story I wanted to have critiqued for tomorrow night’s writers’ meeting won’t be as polished as I want it to be. My fingers won’t get the practice they want on guitar chords. These arthritis digits may need to settle for half the time—my eyes may not waste the few minutes I do have staring into space between songs.

I don’t waste time. Do I? Well, yes.

Another cup of coffee? Uh uh, Terry. Try water. More basic. It doesn’t contain caffeine or further complications.

Is family first? Will the world fall apart if I miss a self-imposed goal? Is my heart well-positioned, or do I have reservations? Okay, at least I’m working on it.

Next?

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There is an abiding beauty which may be appreciated by those who will see things as they are and who will ask for no reward except to see. (Vera Brittain)

I rarely shop at Walmart. I believe employee working conditions could be much better. However, I have been unable to locate sunglasses that fit over the top of prescription glasses. Easy on, easy off. Changing to a tinted pair of prescription glasses while driving is distracting. And I’m not an online shopper. I remember that Walmart carries the glasses. As the last choice, I decide to buy only what I need, and then leave.

The greeter inside the front door frowns at me. I said hello first. I’m reasonably certain I did not come in wearing an attitude.

Then she asks, “Do you have a return?”

I look down at the reusable bag in my hand. “Oh, no! Just doing my small part in saving the environment.”

She nods as if she hears my words, but still believes I’m a space alien.

The trip is successful and I am ready to leave within minutes.

“Have a nice day,” I call to the greeter as I leave.

She stares at me and I wonder if she is considering calling security. But, the short walk to my car is without incident. Perhaps I am reading suspicion into a place where it doesn’t belong. Besides, my spirit was positive enough to purchase sunglasses on a day when gray, snow, ice, and gloom fill the sky. The weather forecast for the rest of the week doesn’t say much about sun. I’m thinking ahead. In a good way.

In the meantime my new sunglasses replace the ones I lost at a park. Lost, found, rediscovered. A continuous process. The snow-covered branches will shine when the sun comes out. Eventually. But the trees are beautiful now. It just takes a discerning eye to see beyond the obvious—an obvious that isn’t necessarily as clear as I think it is.

Perhaps most of us see through tinted lenses, not to protect us from glare, but to keep us inside our own narrow perceptions. The goal is to see things as they are and go with the moment…someday…I’m still working on it.

sunglasses

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Life is like a prism. What you see depends on how you turn the glass. (Jonathan Kellerman)

The four-syllables in mortality sound less harsh than the one-syllable, no-coming-back word, death. I roll both terms through my brain. I may be a senior citizen, but at age 69 I play on the floor with my grandchildren. And I get up again without complaints from my knees. I can tread water for well over an hour before my bladder says it is time for a break.

In many ways my success in life has just begun. “The Curse Under the Freckles” is available online. I just found out that it is also available at Barnes and Noble. As soon as I receive copies I will schedule local signings.

But the finality notion arises because my husband and I sit in a cemetery office—as we make our own funeral arrangements. We are choosing the greenest options, as well as the cheapest-possible. Something like trying to find a bargain at a high-scale store without gasping at the sticker price. Green burial may be our choice, but green cash is disappearing from our savings.

However, we do not want our sons to add hassle to their lives. It comes to everyone and more is unnecessary. I’m amazed at how comfortable I feel. Maybe it’s the outgoing personality of our planner. Maybe I’ve learned to savor life now.

I’ve never organized a party where I knew I would not be invited—well, except this last one where I will wait on the sidelines for incineration. (Hopefully only the earth version, as if I had the slightest vision of the surprises on the other side. Although I choose not to anticipate bizarre visions.)

This moment is not morbid. In fact, I send a message to my sister to tell her she needs to keep her gorgeous voice intact. When she is in her late eighties and I am about one-hundred and something I expect her to sing at my memorial service. I leave the message with a vague reference saying that I will keep in touch. About what? The funeral or my next grandchild story? She catches the humor.

The sun shines and a gentle breeze has pushed the August heat out of the way for a while. Our lives are not perfect; no one’s is. But the grounds at Spring Grove are beautiful. I savor the lines in my skin the way I celebrate bright flowers contrasting gray rock.

I’m not sure I could honor beauty if I had never seen its opposite.

Peace upon all wherever this moment leads you. I pray that it leads you into a more powerful life.

life before death the optimism revolution

 

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You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star. (Friedrich Nietzsche)

Perhaps I have too much chaos within me because I feel crowded in water aerobics class—actually there are only about twelve participants. Not exactly a mob. But the instructor directs us to continuously travel back and forth. The possibility of bumping into someone seems high to me.

My energy feels almost electric. I’m more than busy at the moment with babysitting duties and preparing for a newly published book to appear. In the water that electricity seems dangerous even if it is only a metaphor. So I swim into the deeper water and tread through the moves. I love the feel of suspending. And I see another benefit: a tall friend is here today. She buoys me with her spirit.

She and I look as different as a mountain and a valley. I need to stand on a step stool to get sufficient pressure at the locker’s swimsuit spinner. At six-foot tall she is at the deeper end of the indoor pool, but doesn’t need to kick to stay afloat. I look up to her physically—and as a person.

This lady talks about her dedication to family with the same offhandedness a person would use when counting loads of laundry. She gives because the need is there. She is not aware of her own beauty.

As we talk I sense similar teen experiences. When adolescence hit I would have pronounced angst with an accent on every letter if sharing feelings had been permitted in my home. Since they were not, the not-good-enough notion imploded and almost destroyed my spirit. Changing that attitude has taken time and effort. But I don’t regret the past. Because of it I am less likely to judge someone else. I also have  a storehouse of great fictional characters, all based on a confused, normal young girl—me.

My friend shares a current difficulty she is facing. It sounds familiar. She has a family member in hospice. Cookie-cutter supportive care doesn’t work for everyone. Sure, it would be great if so-and-so would play the let’s-have-fun-while-we-can game. But, sometimes the individual wouldn’t have played when he or she was twenty-three.

Later, I see my giving friend helping someone else. Her gift delays her departure when I know she has other tasks to perform, a long agenda for the day. I would like to give more details about that moment, but don’t want to break this woman’s anonymity.

Instead, I simply shout-out thanks into the electronic universe and hope treading water with her has brought some positive energy into me. I am thinking about her now with the hope that my words serve as a mirror reflecting the goodness I see.

It is contagious, in a positive way.

garland of beautiful deeds

 

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An ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak. (Hans Hofmann)

 A warning on the side of the pool reads: eleven feet three inches deep. Even if I were tall enough to function in my kitchen without a handy-dandy step stool, I would need to tread. And that is okay with me. Making peace with something larger than I am seems to be the right move. Actually, making peace with me may be the next goal.

In a recent blog I wrote about the week when I battled daily headaches. A beautiful, psychic, and talented massage-therapist friend brought me unexpected answers. Sure the weather and stress were valid factors in my discomfort. But she discovered clues hidden inside my muscle memory. And she helped me to diffuse those interruptions into the universe. Then I could begin again. And accept both my gifts and need-improvement areas. Amazingly I was having more difficulty accepting success than frailties.

As I was growing up girls were not encouraged to do more than scrub floors and find a husband. In my life compliments came from outside my family every other blue moon, if I was lucky. I wouldn’t have considered repeating encouraging words at home. My mother would have shot them down. Her aim had bulls-eye accuracy.

However, I gained other-side-of-the-coin benefits from my experience: encouragement matters. The facade a person presents is not necessarily who he or she is inside. I have met saints as well as people who are more than a little rough around the edges. I have never met anyone who wasn’t human. Usually superiority claims fail somewhere—so do inferiority assertions.

The pool doesn’t care who enters. It makes room for a timid-toe or an entire body, whether it belly flops or swan dives. Not many people have come to the Y pool today. The sky is gray, overcast. Rain is expected at any moment. But a woman somewhat younger than I am joins me and my husband. Something about her radiates common interest, although I have no idea what that could be. I ask her name and make a mental note of it. We are both interested in the arts.

Before long we share who we are. In more than a superficial I-like-chocolate-and-movies kind of way. I feel honored by her sincerity. She hasn’t had an easy life. Yet, she gives to her family and doesn’t complain about it.

She inspires me and I doubt she realizes how much. Her sharing verifies what I am learning. Body and spirit work together. Opportunities to grow abound. Even the fact that a gloomy day has kept the crowds down feels like a gift. We would not have had the freedom to express ourselves during an every-whisper-is-heard moment.

“I hope I see you later,” I tell her as my husband and I leave.

I mean it. But even if this time is meant only for the few minutes we shared it is worthwhile.

As I hang my wet towel on the back porch I look out into the yard and speak to my recent comrade, even though she is probably busy tending to matters more difficult than anything I will need to handle tonight:

You reminded me that beauty is not sterile…

A statue is chiseled, not daintily pecked…

Worthwhile takes a while…

And when the necessary speaks, love needs to be the final word.

Thanks.

learning to be brave and patient

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The answers you seek never come when the mind is busy; they come when the mind is still, when silence speaks loudest. (Leon Brown)

If my husband never planned a vacation I suspect I would never travel. Getting from one side of a maze-like restaurant to the other is enough of a challenge for me. However, Jay has a knack for finding the best places at the best times. Perhaps some generous heavenly spirit guides his selection. We may never know, and it doesn’t matter. I’d rather savor the gift than analyze it.

The Blue Water Motel on Route 21 in Grand Bend, Ontario is walking distance from Lake Huron. Pinery Provincial Park is a fifteen-minute drive away. The owners of the motel act as if they were our next-door neighbors, ready to help when we need anything. The guests in other rooms act as if they have known us all their lives, even if we neglect to add eh at the end of our sentences now and then. Yes, Jay and I seem to be the only non-Canadians.

I consider this place a plus since we were not looking for wax museums and endless T-shirt shops. Sure, there is a shopping-restaurant-ice-cream strip with an old-fashioned boat-and-pier flavor to it, but it extends along one or two streets. In fact, Jay and I almost missed it. The lake and beach called louder.

Blue Water Motel07202015_0000

Jay, the quintessential extrovert, relaxes when he interacts with other people, maybe has a beer. (I am grateful that when he says one-beer he is referring to a twelve-ounce can of Alexander Keith, perhaps two, never a keg.) I love the opportunity to edit without worrying about the phone, preparing meals, or washing as many dishes as one sink can hold—even if I do like to cook. I can focus on deleting stray commas and reconstructing sentences that look as if they were prepared in a blender. My good friend, Nancy Johnson, helps me via e-mail from miles south.

Perhaps she and I are separated by an International border and a six-hour drive, but the motel’s free Wi-Fi makes it possible for us to communicate. She finds errors that sneak into what-I-think-should-be-on-the-page. And I smile the width of the room with gratitude. Thank you, Nancy. And thank you, God. You gave me a great friend!

I don’t stay indoors all day, however. Canada is far too beautiful for me to make that choice. And this sixty-nine-year-old body needs exercise or it will cramp into one arthritic knot. My shoes bring back souvenirs in the form of sand.

Let one photo speak.

Lake Huron shore

In the evening we discover the sunset on Lake Huron. While my hubby may be outspoken and I’m introspective, we both enjoy nature. Neither one of us needs to say much. The horizon takes over the show. And we savor the joy of simply being. I photograph a younger couple from the back. They appear anonymous, unidentifiable,  as both old and young watch the powers of nature. It is  greater than anyone silhouetted against it .

silhouette

In the silence of a departing day we watch as the sun touches the horizon. Intense light contrasts the darkness, accepts both, and gives birth to color. No journey is perfect, but the serendipity is worth the effort.

Peace upon all. And a special thank you to Mark and Laura Boogemans for a delightful stay at your motel. Maybe, if we are lucky, we can visit again next year.

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