Tag Archives: reflections

Lost and Found

Pacific, Storm, January, 2017 (meb)

3A7D9350-A86B-47E8-9C88-03FE96170983Sometimes, the path is not clear.  What will I do with my one “wild and precious life?”  I continue to ask, even this late in the journey.  The world is mine; I have my whole life of experience behind me.  Much that preoccupied me in earlier years will not arise again (thank God!).  And still, there is this yearning.

If I could do anything, what would it be?  These are the wonderings, the meanderings of a person of privilege in this world, to be sure.  Should I write?  Of course.  Should I travel?  Yes, as long as I can, and am able.  As long as I have other places to explore.  Should I sing?  Oh, yes!

How can I serve?  That has been a question I have held within myself since I was young, and that question alone has been a key that has opened a world to me, a key that broadened my world by measures I could not have imagined.  When I set out to “serve,” to help human-kind (at the time, I thought my service would “make a difference;” now, I think not), I was willing to let go of other things to do so.  Instead, I have discovered that the desire to serve, that alone,  opened the door to another life for me.

As I’ve grown older, I know that the value of service is not a value held by everyone.  I suppose for me, it has been a motivating force.  I thought it was a value of my generation; apparently not.  To serve is a value to some.

Another key to the opening of my life has been something that came with growing up in my family.  Although neither of my parents was “educated,” – my mother received her GED when I was in college, my father went through the 8th grade – both of my parents had a bright and vivid interest in the world.  Where did that come from?  I see now that having that interest in the world has been a shining star that has lit my path.  I see that others lack this quality – they will not “go beyond his father’s saying, and he likes having thought of it so well, he says again:  ‘Good fences make good neighbors (Robert Frost, “Birches”).”

I have an interest in the world that has allowed me to see that others can live differently than me, and that is good, not something that is suspect.  I have an interest in the world that has softened the edges of what I hold as right or good or holy.  My interest in the world has been a doorway – a wide, broad doorway with edges that can expand – has given me curiosity about the lives of others, about the world.  My curiosity has allowed me to question my own values and to see that they are mine, my own.  Others have their own; I may not understand, but it is good.

When my brother Ronn first married, I was still in my teens.  One day he said to me, casually, “do you know that other families are not interested in the world, like ours is?” I shook my head.  I had not thought of such a thing, and even more, I could not imagine it.  Like a child who observes the home of another family for the first time, seeing that things are different here, his question opened my world, even more.

For all of these things, I am grateful.  I am grateful for the call to service.  That call has been a well-appointed entrance into a larger world, for me.  I am grateful for the gift of interest, a simple quality, but a quality that carries within it a curiosity, about people, about life.  That curiosity also carries within it a curiosity about self, and that deeper, inside journey is itself a treasure.

“And God saw that it was good.”  – Genesis, The Bible

 

What do I want?

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What do I want? Such a simple question. What is it I want?

I was sitting with a group of friends, and someone asked simply the question: “what do I want?” She reflected, then, on what she had “wanted” at times in her life. She mentioned her choices, choices that became clear in her wants.

I had feelings, then. I realized that what I had allowed myself to “want,” was a long way from what she had allowed herself to want, to desire, to consider as a choice in her life. I could not, given who I was, given where I had come from, given who my parents were, who I was, given the circumstances of my birth and even my ancestry. Who I am, as well as what I can want, had certain limitations.

We can see “want” reflected in the world around us. Some of us can “want” what others have. Some of us want what can never be ours. Sometimes, we cannot even want, at all. The places we come from, socially, politically, culturally, intellectually, allow us, or do not allow us to want.

Even to “want” is a luxury,  not given to all.  I felt that when my friend mentioned her choices, which had offered opportunities for want that I did not have, had never had.  Sometimes, even now, in my 60’s, I can begin to want for something I had not considered before.  Do I want to travel to India?  Do I want to learn to swim?  Do I want to know another language?

I think that as children, we can be given the gift to “want,” or the gift will not be given, at all.  Some children can never want.  There is no room in their home, in their lives, in their world, to want.  And that is true for the privileged as well as those who are not born into privilege.  Some children have all that they want fulfilled, the basket of their wants over-flowing, even before they know want.

Such a simple word.  So much meaning, so much depth, so much potential in that word:  want.

The ancient Hebrew word for want is:  chaser.  It’s meaning can be translated in these ways:  “to lack; by implication, to fail, lessen:  be abated, bereave, decrease, to cause to fail, lack, make lower.”  (blueletterbible.com/lexicon).

When we want, then, we lack.  We lack something we do not have.  We are without that which we do not have.  We are in a place of lessening, by our very want.  And we experience, we know this place of lessening, every day.  And we know this place of lessening, or we do not even allow – in ourselves or others – this wanting, this lessening.

What is it I want?  Sometimes, even now, I ask myself that.  What do I want, today?  Do I want this, for lunch, to wear, to see, to experience?  Am I allowed to want, to have this place of lessening awakened in me?  Perhaps I cannot allow this to be awakened, perhaps there is not room for my want.

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“My children want for what they cannot have.  I have only these hands among your roots and a few places of sunlight in the house.”  – Mary Elyn Bahlert, “Houseplants.”

This holy time…

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When I was a young girl, my mother told me the story of Jesus dying on the cross on Good Friday. I know she had told me the story to explain why I couldn’t go off and play that afternoon, and so I stayed dutifully in front of our flat on Ring Street.

I don’t remember Mom telling me the story, but I do remember hanging from the iron hand-rail that led to the sidewalk, thinking about a man who was dying somewhere that afternoon, on a cross.  I remember looking out across the street, imagining the scene in my child’s mind.  I wondered about him.  I had a sense of loneliness, as if loneliness hung in the air that day.   I couldn’t see what was happening, but it was somewhere, then, in present time.

It was a quiet afternoon.  In the 1950’s, activity stopped and stores closed from 12 to 3 on Good Friday afternoon.  Folks who went to church, did.  And many folks did in that Midwestern city, good and faithful church folks who sat for 3 hours listening to sermons about the 7 last words Jesus spoke.  Then, they returned to whatever else they were doing.  In Milwaukee, I’m sure, Friday fish fry meals at taverns across the city and state would be full that evening, as they usually were.

My family were not church-going people, and so it seems strange, in a way, that Mom told me the story, but she did.  Stories have power even when they are not our stories.  Stories that are told, again and again, have more power.  Stories have more power than fact or history, truly.   And stories we tell become our stories, have a way of working their wonder and fear and meaning inside of us, all the time.

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Now, I love the quiet season of Lent, that time of year when winter gives way to spring, slowly, with each lengthening day, with early buds on slender branches, with each storm that may be the last for the season.  And I love the movement of the moon across the sky.  I wait for the evening when I see the Pascal moon, the full moon that heralds Passover and Easter, an off-shoot of Passover.  That same moon marked the day and time for the telling of the story, Jesus taking a meal with his closest friends, honoring the ancient story, also.  The moon marks the time when winter slinks into spring, when green appears, when life that was under the earth comes back from the death of winter.

I watch the moon.  For as much as we modern folks know, moon is mystery.  For a time, it gives reflected light that lights up the white cover on my bed as if it was lit from within.  In the evening and night, moonlight comes into the bedroom, and by morning, it is far across the sky, hanging over the Pacific in the west.

Moon is mystery enough.  All those other things, those theological understandings and explanations, do no justice to the moon.  The passing of time is mystery enough, also, that I would reach back in memory today to see myself hanging from that bar, on that lonely day, the street quiet, and me, safe  in the assurance that Mom was close by, checking on me from the upstairs window, often.

 

A Song in My Heart

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I often wake these days with a song in my heart. I begin my day with my usual routines, and sometimes I don’t notice the song that is singing in me until later in the morning. Most days, I begin to hum the tune or sing the words of the song that is in my heart.

Through my life, I’ve taken to noticing the song in my heart. I listen to the words, singing them inside my head, or singing aloud into the house. The cat notices, and I think she smiles, a bit (who knows?).   When I remember the words – I am known for the encyclopedia of words to songs I carry within me – I sing them out loud, enjoying my voice, enjoying the memory of the words, and calling to mind the memories and images that arise.

When I was a girl, my mother had a lovely china music box with a tune I cannot name. I can still sing the notes, and often do. When I stop and notice the tune, my mother comes to mind. I see her face, I remember her voice, I wonder about her and her life. What a wonderful bit of beauty that music box was, in our working class flat with its narrow windows and steep, dark stairway down to the street lined with wonderful maple trees that would disappear, killed by disease, in the years ahead.
That music box is gone, too. Sometimes my sister and I mention it. Where did it go? Which one of us ended its role in our lives?  Where did it come from, an unusual player in the life of my mother?

And yet, that music box, with its unnamed melody, has not gone from our lives. We sing its song, its beautiful song, still.

We sing its holy song, the song that arrives from the depths, a gift to this day.

Sometimes the tune that plays in my head is from a later time in my life. I mimic Aretha Franklin, or John Lennon. My song takes on the cadence of some rock n’ roll song, and sometimes, I dance. I love to dance, and the song takes on movement, in my body, in my heart, in my house, in my life…

Every day has its theme, a theme decided in some deeper place within me, the place from which the melodies arise.  I am grateful for these songs; in earlier years, when work and schedules and calendars and meeting the needs of others – and the anxiety of meeting those needs – was so important in my life, I awoke many days without a song in my heart.  Did the songs go underground?  Were the songs like plants and animals that disappear in the winter?  Is this time of life a spring-time?

What is the melody for this time of life?