The work to forget, can be as difficult as the trying to remember.
― Frederick Buechner, A Room Called Remember: Uncollected Pieces
The work to forget, can be as difficult as the trying to remember.
We unlearn desire. Quietly, over time, we succumb to the dependable script of the expected life and become masters of the middle way … after a while we no longer even notice the pathways off to the side … John O’Donohue (Beauty)
“The summer is almost over,” my 91 year old mother declares with authority on our weekly Sunday phone call. I already know her next line: “Before you know it, it’s going to snow. It will be Christmas.”
A writing course had occupied my spring and when I hit “Submit” for my final paper on June 30, I also hit “Break Free” for the summer … and here she states the truth: Summer is Short.
In Canada it is very short, and also the reason it is full of outdoor activity. Canadians know its brevity. As if to verify my mother’s words the picture of last September’s snow came to mind. For the sake of the course, I had put off my summer and now my days were numbered.
Three days ago I picked up a friend from the airport, who is returning to be in the presence of an aunt in the final stages of cancer. The struggle was closing in. Last summer, another dear friend lost the battle with a heart issue, her family motherless before the end of August.
Oh the summertime blues. The life time blues … it comes and it goes. Life, breath, beauty, flowers, illness and departure; like the river current moving toward a final destiny.
My own grandchildren come to visit in a week. I have been anticipating this time for what seems ages, and before I write my next blog that moment-in-the-sun will have passed.
The elusive speedy nature has me either lamenting or rejoicing.
So what will I do now that the summer is almost over? … I plan to enjoy every remaining moment as much as I can. It begins with cleaning off of my small patio, setting up the deck water fountain, planting the flowers I got on the end of the season sale.
I want to build good memories that will warm those cold winter days. I want to connect with nature as much as I can. Listen to the music. Enjoy the richness with those that cross my path. There is only one summer of 2015. I want to smell the flowers.
Above all else, I want to practice gratitude.
That gratitude that started July first, where in a moment of unprecedented Canadian patriotism, I joined a small town crowd for the raising of the flag, the singing of Oh Canada, the picture taking with two handsome red-suited mounties. To quote my mother: “I am so thankful for the country that we live in.” She is thankful; she has health care, she feels looked after. She feels safe. My only on-the-planet daughter lives in a region where recent terrorism has taken a deadly toll.
Below a black squirrel hops across the traffic filled street, only mindful that he needs to live in this summer moment, oblivious to the cars that will soon sweep his path … he pauses in the middle of the street, I think he winks at me and scurries to his destination. My pot of recently planted petunias smile at me in shades of blue-lavender. A dahlia from a friend adds the exclamation mark.
Life like summer is brief. Gratitude precedes the joy … The thunder heads will roll in, we had hail on Saturday, but for this moment, this brief spell, I want to Be in The Beauty, the beauty of a summer morning ripe with anticipation.
All GARDENING is LANDSCAPE PAINTING. William Kent
SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED
I was on my annual pilgrimage to The Garden. My brother-in-law says I would get the reward for gardening from the greatest distance. Some people have garden plots on the city’s edge, as opposed to the 14 ½ hours I drive to garden for one week each June. This is not just any garden; it began with two large holes of the heart represented by the two components of the lake, at which point a bridge crosses over to the garden … This is the memorial project dedicated to my son, my daughter, two wonderful young people no longer on the planet … two young people who had spent many summers at the camp this project is now a part of.
This year I had ordered three concrete park benches and a picnic table to replace weather worn wooden/wrought iron benches. This is what I ordered …
I had invited friends to be there for the delivery at 1:30 Tues afternoon.
It had been overcast and intermittent rain for the first two days of the week. I postponed the bench delivery, as it was pouring rain, and I wanted pictures for when they would arrive … besides who was going to sit on the park bench on a rainy day? The next day was set up for better weather. The man I had communicated with, was not in when I called to change the delivery date … but another customer service rep took the message; he said he would first tell the delivery people, and then he would inform Daniel about the change as well. You’re sure? I ask, Yes I will be sure to pass on the information.
So while it was rained, my sister and I went to purchase plants that were to be admired from the new benches. We arrived back at the garden, with the newly purchased plants and with feet that had been in cold, wet runners and socks for the past three hours. My toes were wrinkled, and the hot chicken noodle soup had worn off.
“Look at those tracks, someone has been here” my sister said and pointed to wide mudded ruts ….
And then – “Do you think they dropped them off?”
This is what I got.
At the same time a text message arrives from the maintenance guy: Parkside Lumber made the delivery … looks like some assembly is required 🙂
This was not what I expected, this was not what I had ordered.
I had not ordered pieces of a picnic table, no where had I read that I was to put this together. It never even entered my head.
I called back to Daniel, the polite young man I had met the day before, I had spoken with him by phone several times from two provinces away. I asked as to why they had come when I had postponed. More importantly these were pieces this was not a picnic table. He was not quite as understanding as I thought he should have been. He asked, How did I think these pieces could be shipped etc … takes up too much space, obviously they can’t be shipped already put together. In my head I wondered how much time I needed to spend at meditation in this prayer garden?
“When I order a dress from a catalogue I do not expect to have to sew it together.”
“I don’t think that is a fair comparison.”
I did and the only one that came to mind at the time … No where had I read that they were unassembled. Mostly it was the disappointment. This did not meet my expectations.
I had thought it would be something else … I thought, that if I ordered a bench, it would arrive looking like the picture, the picnic table would look like a picnic table.
My brother in-law chuckled at the dress concept, and added- when you buy lumber you don’t expect it to come in the form of a house. No, but if the lumber advertised itself as a house, I might?
Some assembly required …
Oh I know that applies to many areas in life, my expectations exceed the horizons.
On a happy note, I called Bob again, my go-to-guy at the camp, (he could probably tell how near the tears were) he thought he could send some help over the next day.
Park bench angels with strong backs … angels that thought this was like Lego for adults.
The picnic table instructions were hard to read, after being drenched in the rain. Did I mention that they were short 6 nuts and bolts, and the steel plates had holes that were off by half an inch? All’s well that ends well, I guess? I had coffee on the bench. I dunno, those lumber people, and God … they seem to promise things I can misconstrue so easily. And at least one of them gets away with it all the time.
And the most powerful episode in the history of mankind is pared down to chocolate Easter bunnies, passed off as a good story to bring hope to those interested or in need.
Kind words from a good man.
From cynics and seekers, to doubters, atheists, to the committed and the modern day pharisee, there continues to be argument and debate as to the relevance of the story of Easter and the man behind it—Jesus.
Is the resurrection just a metaphor? Wishful thinking?
Or is it the ultimate Happy Ever After tale of genuine Love?
After the loss of two children, I know that I am not content to be satisfied with a pie in the sky story, poetic sentiments, the tooth fairy, or a whatever works for you. I am searching for Truth and Hope.
This past week I came across Eugene Peterson’s introduction to the book of Malachi:
“Most of life is not lived in crisis – which is a good thing. Not many of us would be able to sustain a life of perpetual pain or loss or ecstasy or challenge. But crisis has this to say for it: In times of crisis everything, absolutely everything, is important and significant. Life itself is on the line. No word is casual, no action marginal. And almost always God and out relationship with God is on the front page.
But during the humdrum times, when things are as we tend to say “normal,” our interest in God is crowded to the margins of our lives and we become preoccupied with ourselves. Religion during such times is trivialized into asking “god-questions” – calling God into question or complaining about him, treating the worship of God as mere hobby or diversion, managing our personal affairs for our own convenience and disregarding what God has to say about them. Going about our usual activities as if God were not involved in such dailiness. ”
Does God like chocolate? It goes rather well with red wine.
Wishing you a Thoughtful Easter …
Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes that see reality.
Daffodil tips have poked through dry ground outside my front entrance. My first robins were spotted today, and this past week the early skies have debuted with fifty shades of sunrise on at least five separate days. As I type this a mourning dove perches on my patio, seeking a quieter spot out of the wind. A video clip sent yesterday with my grand children waving palm branches; all the above tell me that spring and the Easter season are here.
For the past few weeks my mind has been debating ideas for an upcoming talk I have been asked to give to college age students … What do I have to say to them on the topic of Through Thick and Thin, that they can connect to? My guess is that the majority of them have not been through major life difficulties, yet … or have they?
At this point they are busy pushing through their studies to get on with real life. A misconception … real life is wherever you are, at the moment, now. It is not in the future. The dilemma is—how do I prepare for the future while living /keeping the focus on the present? This is a never ending debate, and for them it would come from someone considered to have more years in history, than in futures. And yet both the young and the more mature—I can’t bring myself to say old—have only this day. I hear the challenge repeatedly to live in the now … and still I find myself pushing through this moment, in order to arrive at the next. Only to find that the next thing is what I then push through.
Childhood offers a reprieve from the tyranny to push through, largely because the parents do the pushing. The goal to get through teething, sleeping through the night, toilet training, talking, starting school, getting through junior high, and so on and on. Adults perpetuate the myth that the next phase will be better, forfeiting the joy of today. And the cycle continues … as we live in anticipation or dread of the next thing.
At the local garden nursery this week on a no wind, fifteen degree sunshine spring day, I made a comment to the owner as he packed up my purchase –Isn’t it a gorgeous day? Must be good for business, it gets people thinking about gardens early. Without a smile, it was “Well as long as we get some good weather, when we’re supposed to get it, doesn’t help much now.”
Before I start to push up daisies, I want to smell and plant the roses.
The one time I recommend pushing through is in grief, or a very difficult time, even though much can be learned in hardship. We long for spring to push back the winter of the soul. Pushing through doubts and disappointments make it possible to discover a foundation of faith and food for the soul.
Sunday morning I heard the question asked—why was much hype made over Christmas, while Easter was played down? Wasn’t this the final exclamation point the followers of Jesus had? Yes it was … what the resurrection did was It pushed through death. And that has made all the difference, especially for those who have experienced grief. Easter week Blessings!
Daisy image from: http://isleofwight.com/whats-on/pushing-up-the-daisies
Jocelyn is the author of Who is Talking out of My Head? Grief as an Out of Body Experience
I was surprised to hear that March 20 was international happiness day—did you know? Did it make a difference to your sense of well being? Is this like the World series baseball, that caters only to North American teams … can this be called international when the songs for this event are all English?
But I do not want to be the naysayer only … my friend suggested that I not blog not only sad posts … The majority of time, I am an upbeat person, I have experienced sadness though. I am not alone in that.
Leo Tolstoy said “If you want to be happy, be.”
Is it that simple?
What do you think? Dr Seuss said “unslumping oneself is not easily done.”
Please, give me your best unslumping tips.
My tips would include, but not limited to: Distraction, practice laughter, connect with people, connect with yourself, listen to positive music, travel. A tip from a sister – “Think less, drink more.”
The fog is closing in here on this first day of spring, and the close of international Happiness day, and the dog upstairs continues to bark. Perhaps I could write the sequel to the curious incident of the dog in the night-time. (Mark Haddon)
Some of my favourite quotes on happiness:
“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.”
― Ernest Hemingway
“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”
― Abraham Lincoln
“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
“They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.”
― Tom Bodett
“You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.”
― Jonathan Safran Foer
“Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination.”
― Mark Twain
“And I can’t be running back and fourth forever between grief and high delight.”
― J.D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey
“Happiness is not a goal…it’s a by-product of a life well lived.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt
“So we shall let the reader answer this question for himself: who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?”
“… the secret to joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt He is.”
“Sadness gives depth. Happiness gives height. Sadness gives roots. Happiness gives branches. Happiness is like a tree going into the sky, and sadness is like the roots going down into the womb of the earth. Both are needed, and the higher a tree goes, the deeper it goes, simultaneously. The bigger the tree, the bigger will be its roots. In fact, it is always in proportion. That’s its balance.”
― Osho, Everyday Osho: 365 Daily Meditations for the Here and Now
This last quote by Osho, made sense to me … this was a concept a good friend and I discussed, how the parallel tracks of life, Joy and Sorrow hold hands to make our lives richer. We can only fully appreciate happiness, when we have known its absence.
And let me know what makes you happy. The laughter of children always works for me.
Pablo Casals said: “Music is the divine way to tell beautiful, poetic things to the heart,” Here are links to poetic messages for your heart’s happiness.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6Sxv-sUYtM (Pharrell Williams Happy song)
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02m5w5p (The BBC’s list of songs for International Happiness Day.)
Whoever you hold in the heart of you
Is forever and always a part of you.
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. Ps 116:15 NIV
Ten years ago … the world lost three wonderful young people, my son, my daughter, my future daughter-in-law … leaving a massive vacancy.
This morning, my still-on-the-planet daughter called to remember the day of loss … she told me how she and her husband had been at a cafe and were speaking to their three children about the remembering. And the sadness felt because the children never got to meet their auntie and uncle … My daughter was getting teary and her five year old asked “Why are you crying Mom?” She explained the loss, and my granddaughter(8) spoke up to say … “Oh we’ll meet them already.” “Really?” asks Zech (5) “when?” “In heaven,” his sister explained confidently. “Oh,” he said, down cast, “That’s like in a hundred years.”
I can tell you Zecher, I feel that way too, sometimes. But, for me, having two treasures in heaven, makes the prospect of eternity, that much more tangible.
I know there are many others that carry the weight of sorrow, and loss … May you be blessed this day.
Hold on to Hope, it is a gift.
Hope has given me my voice
to question to doubt, to scream to shout
Hope has been in the midst
as a spark, as a river
a cause to shiver
Hope behind, hope before
Hope surrounds as it opens and shuts the door
The taste of hope and I want more
More of the source, more of the truth,
more of the grace it has given
I want Hope on this earth
And a taste of Heaven.
The edges of God are tragedy. The depths of God are joy, beauty, resurrection, life. Resurrection answers crucifixion; life answers death. Marjorie Hewitt Suchoki
IN remembrance of Brittany Jane Marie, Jordan David Isaac, Jamie K, all three shone like the stars of heaven … you are missed more than words can say.
Jocelyn is the author of: Who is Talking out of My Head – Grief as an Out of Body Experience
The Power of the Ask
Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you. (Matt 7:7 NIV)
I had arrived in Perth, Australia, the day before, time-zoned out by fourteen hours.
Still in the excitement phase, I tried not to think of the new realities that I: was on my own, did not know a soul here, was to start a new job in ten days, and had no place to live. I had booked into a hostel for two weeks, hoping that would give me enough time to find an apartment, before my nursing job began.
A sense of expectancy, filled me as I headed downtown under the vivid blue Australian skies—I had come from a prairie winter, where minus twenty was the norm. This felt beautiful, warm and friendly. Two things I remember clearly that welcomed me. Next to a brown brick church with large wooden doors, a group of teenagers stood over the green grass carrying “Free Hugs” signs. (I had a video of my youngest daughter holding a same message.) I went to receive my free hug. The unwrinkled arms that wrapped my traveled soul, had no idea that I believed that my daughter had orchestrated this hug from heaven.
Wiping the tears from my eyes (I never saw those free huggers again) … I explored further down the road and chanced upon a young woman busker with a guitar of dreams. Cross-legged, she sang two songs while I stood near by—Knocking on Heaven’s Door, and I can see Clearly Now the Rain is gone … I can see all obstacles in my way. Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind, it’s gonna be a bright, bright sun-shiney day. I looked all around to nothing but blue skies.
“You must be very brave to move half way around the world.” people said …. or desperate, I thought.
Perhaps that is the best approach to the Father. I usually come desperate … hungry for the blessing.
The power of the ask … I had asked, I had knocked on heaven’s doors, I had been a regular at the gate … “Should I go, or should I stay?”
That was five years ago. Although I have returned to Canada, that move changed my life. I am forever grateful that I responded to the inner voice that said Go. Ask for direction.
The response did not come in a type written detailed memo—oh I wished it had. But in hindsight I can see that many doors opened for me as I continued to search, and I met some wonderful people along the way. It did not come easily. Seek and you will find.
Sometimes, I don’t know what it is I seek … but, I know there are questions that the soul propels me to ask and to explore. Simone Weil has said it well:
The danger is that the soul should persuade itself that it is not hungry. It can only persuade itself of this by lying.
Oh I can see clearly now, the snow has gone … but I know rain and snow showers will return, and I will experience more storms, but, I will keep asking, and the spirit will guide. That really is the best.
Photos by author, painting of woman by Kristen N D.
“There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.” I can still hear those words as each episode of NYPD’s 65th Precinct came to conclusion. I realize the series ended in 1963, likely the time a black and white television arrived in our home.
Earlier this week I heard a story that would not have made the Naked City episodes as there was no official crime involved, unless neglect and regret count.
After swimming lengths in the overcrowded lanes, I met a woman as we headed to the showers of the local pool. We started with weather chit-chat, of how nice the January chinook was and we ended with her sharing the story of her under valued mother-in-law, whom they had buried about ten days earlier.
“She just stopped moving. She didn’t have a real disease, it wasn’t like she had cancer or any real diagnosed illness. She didn’t move.” Sheila expressed guilt, that had she lived closer she could have been of more help, could have helped Annie up, taken her for walks, out shopping. She was convinced that her mother-in-law would be alive if more care had been shown. She expressed the group guilt they felt for having missed out by not knowing who this incredible woman truly was. More of the story spilled out as warm shower water washed over her sadness.
Annie had three sons, was a registered nurse, as well as a co-owner of several business she and her husband started. In the sixties, Annie was ahead of her time in that she worked alongside the men in the oilfields. She was tough and swore with the best of the men in the field. And yet according to my shower friend, Annie had a heart of gold, and only after she passed did they realize how much they would miss the woman who’d hidden behind the gruff facade. Annie was only forty-five when she lost her husband to a work related accident. In spite of that, she carried on and expanded the business with her sons, but it was always referred to as her husband’s business, even years after he died. Sheila held her tears as she expressed the sadness that they had never recognized mother-in-law as someone who wanted or needed affection. In order to survive, the tough exterior was presented, if any man tried to make advances, the sons made sure it did not happen. Annie never again experienced the power of a romantic love in her life—regret filled this daughter’s voice over the missed opportunities.
At 79, Annie just quit moving.
I think Annie decided to shut down her business, got tired of running it … got tired of feeling the need to be tough, the need to push hard, to pretend it didn’t hurt to live without love.
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
another Annie said that―Annie Dillard, (The Writing Life)
A few things I ponder: how to let my heart be open, before it is too late. Never presume the tough exterior is the true one, what is the story beneath it? The importance to keep on moving. Doing does not replace being or knowing.
I never met Annie, but I wished I had.
Only dreams give birth to change … Sarah Ban Breathnach
There are years that ask questions and years that answer. Zora Neale Hurston
What does 2015 hold? Like the North African doors that call me to enter, the New Year is inviting me to step through and discover the beauty that awaits. And not seen in the picture is the garbage that was scattered throughout much of the land … Life is not pristine, I will encounter garbage in 2015. But does that keep me from dreaming? (Sometimes -yes) As I think ahead to the plans, dreams and goals I have (I focus on themes instead of resolutions, less binding.) I am aware that the Trust issue is a big factor in my life. I do not know what will happen, life has taught me that not all dreams and hopes will materialize, no matter how reverent my outlook on life is. A poster above my son’s bed said: I don’t know what the future holds, but I know WHO holds the future. I am challenged to place my trust in God. Too often I feel I have to do it all myself …
I am also aware that the Becoming is important for me … becoming more of the person I want to be, have potential to be, becoming aware of the Sacred in the daily, aware that I have choices in the doors I open and close, aware that no one can make me more miserable than I can myself. Aware that even though my grand-daughter, all of 8 years old, tells me that my legs jiggle when I swim, I will continue to swim. My isn’t she becoming?
Many women today feel a sadness we cannot name. Though we accomplish much of what we set out to do, we sense something is missing in our lives and—fruitlessly—search out there for the answers. What’s often wrong is that we are disconnected from an authentic sense of self. Emily Hancock.
I am also aware that being a woman in the western world, I have many more opportunites than the veiled women I met in North Africa and I am grateful for that. The doors that open in some cultures are much smaller, and often closed or difficult to push open. They may not even be aware that things could be different. I pray that I will knock on doors, even when I am intimidated by their size.
As you go through the door of 2015, begin this new year by trusting your inner, authentic self, and trust that there is a loving Source, a sower of dreams … May this year provide some answers, and may you enjoy the journey of the question. In the end, I wish to become more authentic, more trusting, more connected to myself and my God, and more becoming.
It’s only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth—and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up—that we will begin to live each day to the fullest as if it was the only one we had. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross
Pictures taken in North Africa by J Faire