It’s the quiet of the morning and I think again of what Thomas Merton said about this time in the marvelous anthology “Book of Hours”
“The most wonderful moment of the day is that when Creation in all its innocence asks permission to “be” once again, as it did on the first morning that ever was.”
This little book was brilliantly edited by Kathleen Deignan. Somehow, she managed to reduce the mountainous volumes of his writing to this perfect little gem. I reach for this book again and again when I feel the turbulence in my soul that comes from a prolonged absence of my morning quiet time when I think I’m too busy.
My soul tends to wither and fall prey to all kinds of clamor that our world can so effortlessly concoct. This small island of sacred space helps to remind me that:
My soul is big enough to hold eternity.
Big enough to hold Him.
Or, rather, He makes Himself small enough to fit inside me.
A humbling thought, one I have to make myself be silent enough to understand. Sometimes Alexa plays David Nevue quietly. Soft piano hymns fall like gentle rain and the words come from a place I remember.
Miracles never stopped happening.
The possibility is there, we just have to accept the Invitation.
Each morning, my coffee, my time, these conversations, become a kind of Holy communion.
Even more important than a good night’s slumber is this rest for my soul.
Here is a great verse to ponder that I found today in the Good Book:
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11
It’s now the close of the day. First week back to work and it’s Friday tomorrow. I’m calling that a victory.
It’s July 9, 2022 and I still sometimes catch myself wanting to write the date starting with a 19, imagine that. Last night I had a dream that I was scheduling my tans like I used to do before an event where I knew I would be wearing a bathing suit in front of other people. Maybe that’s where the “19” came from on the date. The 1970’s were the decade that saw me purposefully baking in the sun to color my acne-ridden skin.
If I knew then what I know now I may still have done it. (I may have skipped the tanning bed in the 80s though.) It’s the second month of my summer break from school. I am blessed to be able to see children every day at my job and play at least a small part in their education in a supportive role. I’m in the 6th year of this “retirement” job and it will be my last. Yesterday I tore open the important looking envelope from the School District that held my next assignment. Praise God, it’s the same school and the same student as last year, little Edith. I am more than thrilled.
I am currently reading Ray Bradbury’s book entitled “Dandelion Wine” In it, one of the elderly characters is described by the town youth as a time machine. I am beginning to feel like one of those myself. It’s a wonderful book that was recommended by someone on one of the timelines of social media and I was glad to find it in the library. It will be one I may buy and keep on my hallowed shelves. That is, one day when I do get shelves again.
Speaking of the library, I was going through withdrawals since I hadn’t been there for a few days. When I got there it was 11:58 and they opened at noon. There were around 7 people waiting there and more walking up. I saw a lady around my age waiting too so I seized the opportunity to talk to her. “Encouraging, isn’t it, that people are waiting in line to read?” Her face brightened and she said, “Oh yes, I volunteer in the bookstore and sometimes I just buy kids books for them as a treat.” I said, “Yes, how often can you buy anything for a dollar or less anymore.”
She said her greatest reward was that one of the kids ran up to her and hugged her legs. I told her I was a Teacher’s Aide and I heartily agreed that was the absolute best reward you could get.
Later E and I had lunch with a longtime friend and I told her of my conversation. I described the lady and she said, “Oh yes, her name is Betty. They bought our house on Glenhurst.” Well, Glenhurst Street was my childhood home. The one we just sold this year after my folks passed.
Turns out it is a small, small world sometimes.
To those faithfuls who still may be reading, thank you for hearing me ramble. All is well in our little corner and I pray it is in yours!
It’s the day after we celebrated Independence Day as a nation. I took a walk, noticed things like you don’t notice in a car or even on a bike with the world flashing by. The reason I walk is not really for the exercise, but to be connected to our one humanity. To see people outside doing ordinary things. Puttering in their yards, digging up broken sprinklers, walking dogs. There is a wonder in that. E. followed me on the bike and due to tracker on these phones, caught up on California street where I paused.
I went by 615 West Locust where Grandma and Grandpa C lived. That’s how they always signed our Birthday and Christmas cards. I think about who lives there now. They don’t know or care what went on there before. They don’t care about the rock collection behind the garage that I liked to rummage through, or Mabel the solid gray cat of theirs, or the ancient stove in the kitchen. That’s as it should be, the way of life, I guess.
Walking along, I saw a kindred spirit taking photos of clouds, another cloud watcher, phone toward sky.
Last night the bombs were bursting everywhere. Neighbor cats were in one of their secret places tucked away. This morning they were both at the door ready for breakfast. It’s a blessedly cool and quiet morning. The last few years, I find myself almost enjoying the day after a holiday more than the holiday itself. The next day holds no obligation, just presents itself in all its glory, unmarred, unmoored.
I immediately walked down to the river because I had to capture this reflection in the water. On the path down, the wind held a whisper of fall. It happens sometimes in mid to late summer. I know there will be many days to swelter yet, but for now, I enjoyed the promise the universe had to offer. That another season will come.
Nature always helps me say, “Wake up!” Makes me think that maybe we can put away all the petty stuff and maybe find some common denominator. I think that’s why God gave us babies, and cute animals and sometimes a scene that is so majestic and magnificent that it takes your breath.
I pray today that maybe we all can find something to take our breath away. Just temporarily. Look to the left or right, maybe it’s the precious familiar person beside you. Maybe it’s just the sky. (And it’s never just sky.) Maybe it’s the promise that God said He will never leave us.
It washes over me at unexpected times. That a chunk of my life is missing, E asks me if I want to go by my old home. (She knows I will say yes.) She goes by too after Walmart runs to see what’s what. What changes the new owners might be making. When I drive by it’s as if I’m gazing into the familiar face of a cherished old friend, not a place I once lived. No matter how it changes. I will remember…..
I remember little girl yellow and a record player on the floor. And ruffled chenille on the bed. My Mom so mad at the dog for lifting his leg right after she washed it. I remember backyard Birthdays, sheet thrown over the line and fishing for prizes which my brother and his friend fastened from the other side. Names of neighborhood crushes scrawled underneath the windowsills.
And sounds…..the funky doorbell I can hear so clearly. The particular slam of the screen door, the sound of my Mom singing and her voice telling me it was time to get up for school. My groan as I threw the covers over my head wishing for Saturday.
On the other side of town, I see a sad row of buildings on Main taken over by the homeless, now rampant with drugs and stolen piles of garbage. In my mind I remember the sound our shuffling feet climbing the stairs to the upper room of the Mandarin House Chinese restaurant. We thought we were in Chinatown. The gentle clink of teacups and saucers. Okazaki’s was somewhere downstairs, the Japanese shop where they made the best snow cones.
Memories can save us when everything around us is unfamiliar and changing. We walk about in a world we no longer recognize. We talk about it every day. Are we, (the sixty-somethings) the last to remember a world that was somewhat sane?
Of course human nature has always been the same but I truly believe we are just now beginning to see the harmful effects of endless social media. It can’t be healthy to have events plastered our faces at every turn. The mind reels from it. There is no time for the mind to recover from one tragedy when you’re presented with another.
But thankfully, some things will always remain the same. The important things. God knew there would come a day when we would need to derive comfort from looking up at the unchanging planets. He knew we would always need to gaze into the innocent eyes of a newborn to keep cynicism at bay. And to stand in wide-eyed wonder on the shore of an ocean which seems endless.
It is Sunday, June 5, 2022, the day of Pentecost. Fifty days after He rose. And God is still in control. And I remember one day long ago when the Holy Spirit touched down in my little world. On a cold, foggy, miraculous December day close to Christmas.
The Spirit will not always strive with men, but He was with me that day. And He’s with me still. I close my eyes and hear the peace murmured, the rustle of clothes and muffled kneelers leftover from Episcopalian days, and the Doxology from my Baptist days. And singing “Morning is Broken” on the dewy grass at a Methodist Sunrise Easter service.
Luther Burbank’s Home and Gardens in Santa Rosa, California
Luther Burbank was a famed horticulturist who made his home in Santa Rosa for more than fifty years, and it was there that he conducted plant-breeding experiments that brought him world-wide fame. His personal friends and visitors to his home and gardens included Henry Ford and Thomas Edison. During his career, he introduced more than 800 new varieties of plants–including over 200 varieties fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains as well as hundreds of ornamental flowers.
Luther Burbank’s greenhouse and home in the background. One interesting fact is that although the town of Santa Rosa was greatly damaged by the great earthquake of 1906 in California, Luther’s home and greenhouse were unscathed. This little pocket of beauty is surrounded by a very busy street in the heart of downtown Santa Rosa and surrounded by street noise and foot traffic. I was struck, however, by the quiet once we stepped into the house. Luther’s father was a brick-layer and he made the bricks himself. A sure testimony to how well this place was built, in addition to the aforementioned fact about the earthquake.
“Fourth of July” roses and trellis below:
Every child should have mud pies, grasshoppers, water bugs, tadpoles, frogs, mud turtles, elderberries, wild strawberries, acorns, chestnuts, trees to climb.
Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine to the mind.
Wandering around the grounds you can see the imprint of Luther’s second wife, Elizabeth who had a thing for unusual tiles. She and Luther married in 1916 when he was 67 and she was 28. That marriage lasted until Luther’s death in 1926. I didn’t snap any pictures of her tile collection since we were on a tour and I thought it might be rude to the sweet lady who was informing us of everything we were seeing.
Here is another angle of the greenhouse, which miraculously still has the original leaded glass. Only one pane has had to be replaced and that was because a rock was thrown through it.
I took many pictures but only selected a few here. It is a wonderful piece of American history come to life as you can see by the many photos on the grounds. As I wandered the gardens, it was incredible to think that I was walking where Helen Keller, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Jack London and so many others had set foot. People of all walks of life down throughout history have found peace in gardens.
After all, it’s where we all started……..
Indeed, the Lord will comfort Zion; He will comfort all her waste places. And her wilderness He will make like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and a sound of a melody.
A motley crew. The rock band spelled it differently so I don’t think that will land me in copyright jail. It’s just really the perfect term for all of us. Jesus most trusted friends all scattered when He was arrested. Matthew 26:56 says: “Then all the disciples deserted Him and fled.” Each of us is gets to rise up this morning; we have another chance at life and a myriad of choices in one 12 hour day.
Just getting up sometimes is hard, isn’t it? But we get to, today. And we will continue to have victories and failures, sometimes simultaneously. We will curse the driver in front of us and then apologize to God for our language and our anger flare ups. We will act like the disciples did when they gave up on Jesus.
I went to place fresh flowers on Mom and Dad’s grave yesterday and I saw people laying on the ground next to their loved ones resting place. I saw Easter eggs scattered around graves, bottles of adult beverages (which always seems strange to me) and food. I saw sorrow.
Then I thought of the words of the two Angels in Scripture here as described in Luke 24:
“While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He is risen! Remember how He told you, while He was still with you in Galilee.”
Why do we seek the living among the dead? It’s human nature, I guess. Why do we as a human race continue to choose things like war, addictions that wage war on our bodies and souls, death instead of life?
But because of Jesus final victory over death, we too can rise to new life. PERMANENTLY. That is what makes Easter the most important event in human history. We have the victory because when Jesus rose from the grave He had the final word. Because of this, though our bodies may rest in the ground, our souls reside in eternal home with Jesus.
Until the time God says enough is enough, and 1 Thessalonians 4:16 comes to pass, we rise. And because of Easter. We rise with hope!
It continues to feel strange, this new journey I’m on. In 2021, Dad passed on August 19, and then Mom passed 44 days later on October 2. At first, there was the flurry of activity involving the memorial for Dad, then we barely turned around and the same had to be done for Mom. We were taxed out emotionally and other ways too. We said our goodbyes with family and friends and things kind of leveled out. Then the house cleanup began…….(lots of buried emotions, plowing through and just getting it done.)
Now the house sale. More emotion. More tears at unexpected times. I recorded certain sounds on my phone that I will never hear again which I may keep or not down the road. The sound of the old door locking/unlocking, the funky doorbell that for 40 years has sounded the same, and the closet doors my Dad installed that have been off kilter (also for years).
But here is what I hear that can never be recorded except in my memory, and there they will stay. The sounds of hundreds of gatherings over the years. The October parties I used to plan with Mom, every backyard Birthday party with all the neighborhood “gaggle” of kids we played with. The fresh pot of coffee that was ever brewing for all kinds of friends and neighbors. Faces I still see so clearly: Mrs. Nystrom next door coming down the steps with a freshly made cake (from scratch of course). Mrs. Day from across the street with a loaf of something healthy and homemade. Ladies gathered around my Mom’s table, all strong women, each with their own heartaches and joys. I can see them, their faces aglow and the walls echoing their laughter. Praying hands in a circle.
So much love, so much grief, so much life. And now all is stripped bare, devoid of any life but flowing with memory. This little tract home was Mom and Dad’s pride and joy. It was the model home of the neighborhood complete with the ugliest rock wall anyone’s ever seen. My Mom used to curse those rocks because when she vacuumed, they would come loose. When my cousins came to say goodbye to the house, a couple of them wanted to take a pebble from the infamous wall. I told them, “Just get the vacuum out!”
The funny thing is, they had to find tools to pry them off, almost as if they too, were reluctant to say goodbye. And if those little stones could talk, I’d like to think they would whisper back all those prayers my Mom said for me as we held hands before the fireplace, when going to school was so, so hard for me.
I know walls, (and stones) can’t talk, but I do think they remember.
Each evening the sun’s rays hit my Mom’s sheep and birdhouse at exactly the same spot. I never planned it that way, it just happened. Sometimes the cat poses along with the sheep putting himself squarely in the portrait. More than likely he’s only following the last bit of warmth before evening.
This morning I was leafing through my Dad’s Book of Common Prayer. He had written a note over part of the Eucharist seen below:
This made me smile. I know Dad was proud of his Scottish and English heritage. Since I did my DNA a few years back I’ve found that I’m 28% Scottish. I previously thought I was more English.
I read aloud and as I did, I recalled the soft murmur of voices in the chambers of my heart and memory. I remember the sounds in the old St. John’s church when it was on Lee Street in the middle of town. I heard the soft insulated thumps of prayer kneelers going up and back down. Dust motes floating through stained glass light; I heard us saying the words of the Eucharist all at once:
We lift them to the Lord
It is right to give Him thanks and praise
So many years later it’s as if I’m there. And there are so many other church services down through my youth, Baptist, Methodist, Non-denominational, weekend Church retreats, you name it. My folks were denomination hoppers for a while and now I’m glad they were. Because the common denominator running through them all was tradition, and community.
More than that, it was Jesus.
I remember faces, voices from the past, too many to count. I thought again how grateful I am to have this rich heritage of Churchgoing. Those memories hold you together in all those in between times in the desert of faith when you’re trying to recapture what you’ve lost.
What I am sad about is that I am wondering if my generation will be the last to remember the old hymns. I can still chime in with the melodies even if some of the lyrics are lost. I can see the value in churches holding fast to keeping their traditions alive. In a world that is spinning out of control, it’s comforting to know you can attend church and parts of it at least, will still ring true. Still hold to tradition.
The fundamentalist in me misses altar calls. Remember those? The closing music starts up, and the Pastor stands at the front, invitation open. Hopeful hearts pray while eternity waits. Then one courageous individual stands and scoots across knees out of the row and into the aisle. The most dramatic and personal moment in the church for me was that moment. I was fourteen. I grabbed Mom and she went with me.
And the great miracle is that as Christians, we carry this living cathedral wherever we go. Held safely in the shelter of our hearts. A turn of the key, sealed for the day of redemption. As parents, the most invaluable gift we can give our kids is something, or most importantly someone bigger than themselves.
To deal with life’s blows you need this.
In closing, join me in prayer for our war weary tear-stained world. For you, for me, and the Ukrainian people and (no doubt, many Russian people) many of whom are not in favor of what is going on.
God of the nations, whose sovereign rule brings justice and peace, have mercy on our broken and divided world. Shed abroad Your peace in the hearts of all and banish from them the spirit that makes for war, that all races and peoples may learn to live as members of one family and in obedience to Your law, through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
It’s been awhile since I posted anything here in my little corner. So much has been going on. Sometimes it still feels surreal that Mom and Dad are both gone. Elaine says, “You will feel a bit like an orphan,” and she’s right. We had the garage sale and the house is mostly empty. The cousins came and we did a walk through. Shared some memories of 1127 Glenhurst long ago. Of exploding homemade firecrackers and waking up to the screaming engines of the hydro-boat races on Fourth of July mornings at the lake.
This war that has just been started is hitting me hard. Several times I have cried, prayed over the pictures I see on the news. What is it all for? Maybe it’s because I’m thinking of Grandma and her family coming over on the ship, immigrants from Russia themselves. How bad must it have been to risk that horrific trip across the Atlantic to land on Ellis Island with only hopes and dreams of a better life?
This morning I feel incredibly lucky. We’ve been living in this small space going on 6 years now. It hasn’t been easy, but we have made it work and made it homey. But we are longing for a real home again. And we are closer now to being there, wherever there is. Real estate is ridiculous in California but there are places to be had up in the foothills. And neighboring states close by are a possibility.
I think of the Ukrainians on the run, fearing for their lives, their homes. I settle in my cozy spot by the window, with second steaming mug of coffee, reassuring stack of books nearby, within eyesight. This old tub is burdened with books in every storage place. Elaine says its like the long, long trailer only it’s not rocks its books.
The other day I lifted the storage under the bed and took all 15 or so out. “I’m cleaning books out,” I said. She was hopeful. My measly little stack of four didn’t make a dent, but it was something. “Hey, it’s a start,” I say.
And it’s another Saturday and the collectors are coming for the throwaway stuff at Mom and Dad’s house today. And today, I will exercise, and thank God for our freedom as my heart aches for those whose lives will never be the same.