Monday, May 14, 2018

Graduations, Big and Small, and that "Talk" with God

Fifteen years have passed since I attended what I imagined would be my last high school graduation. It was in 2003 that my youngest took her walk across the stage and into her future.  God had answered my prayers and I sat back and relaxed . . . for about a minute.

Before long, I was having another one of my "talks" with God.  I acknowledged that He had answered all of my prayers and I was beyond grateful but suddenly I saw a long path into the future and there was still a whole lot of mothering work I needed to do.  There was college, smoothing the bumps of young adulthood, marriages, and grandchildren looming into the future.  And just like that, I had a lot more praying to do and wisdom and reassurances to dispense.

And sure enough, the smoothing happened, the marriages arrived, and grands appeared. There was a lot to live for.  Of course, these events weren't simply a matter of ticking off a box.  Each was a gift and I was grateful to have these joys.  Life was perfect.  I had been given everything I had prayed for.  Then I found myself, most unexpectedly, at another high school graduation.

The instant lesson I learned is that high school graduation in a small town is a pretty big deal.  Amongst this graduating class of 88 students, everyone knew someone even if you weren't related.  How could you not?  Even WE knew a few of the students and we have only been here for a year.  

A few things stood out for me that made this small town graduation uniquely different, though.  For one thing, the entire town seemed to be involved.  There were fireworks at the end (thank you, Caruthersville Fire Department); the local police to keep order, there were graduation baccalaureates at many of the churches (something I had never heard of), graduating seniors walking the grade school hallways, and there was the tossing of the mortarboards.   When my kids graduated, there were nearly 900 students in each class, cap tossing wasn't allowed (though my now 38-year-old son confessed to me this Mother's Day weekend that he and his friends did, indeed toss their caps), and fireworks were absolutely forbidden. And walking an elementary school hallway???  Really, just think about that for a moment.  Our old town was large enough that a second high school was eventually built and the dreaded annual traffic nightmare was somewhat abated.  

And so, experiencing this annual rite of passage here without a child or grandchild of my own to be seen got me to thinking and I had another one of my "talks" with God.  This time I asked that He keep me around long enough and in good enough health that I could enjoy at least three more high school graduations.  After all, I had three grands, the youngest of who is just 8 months old.  I really, really need at least 18 more years. Considering that I'm what is call an "old" grandma, this is no small thing.  And, while I'm at it, Lord, it would be nice to be a great-grandmother.  I'm sure God must be thinking by now that I'm a broken record.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Haiku My Heart

Busyness afloat
Air smoothered in talc-like dust
Blue billed ducks feasting

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

I Joined a Book Club

I joined the book club, at the Caruthersville Library, last month and as a fully fledged bookworm, this should have been something that wasn't new to me.  But, like so much of my Bootheel experience during this first year, I had never joined a book club before now and I had to wonder why.

I love books.  I talk books with friends over coffee.  I collect books and have several editions of my two favorites - Jane Eyre and The Secret Garden.  You learn from books. Travel with books. The world is opened wide by books.  WIDE opened.  So why have there been no book clubs in my past? 

Have you ever met an extrovert who is always on the watch inside?  Well, that would be me.  I like people but I've also been easily disappointed by them.  Of course, that was way back, when having expectations of people just naturally led most often to disappointment and it is our experiences that form us.  But, just because we are let down doesn't mean we have to continue being let down.  Entering into any activity with few expectations actually leads to better outcomes, at least for me.  Suddenly, people seemed more reliable.

Whatever the reason for the disappointment, the lesson was to go my own way and I pretty much chose to do that all of my adult life.  My circle of friends was small and loyal and I was happy with that.  Then I move here.

I know you've heard it before, but living here is very different for me.  The Pirate fit right in.  He knew the ground rules.  After a year of living here, I've learned that my California sensibilities don't necessarily fit.  So, over the course of this year, I've met a lot of people, fit myself into my own special writing and visiting place, rubbed shoulders (quite literally sometimes) at city council meetings, enjoyed library events, and getting to know my church community. And most importantly, I had the river and the never-ending barge life to comfort and soothe me through my homesick times.  I finally felt ready to test the waters, so to speak, and take the pulse of joining a club and what I found was so satisfying.  

The group is small.  There are no right or wrong answers; no opinions or "takes" on a point of plot or character that outshine what other members have to say.  Perhaps all book clubs are like this but by the time I retired from work, joining a social group was completely not my thing.  People disappointed.  The lesson of a year of living in C'ville changed all that - the lesson of having no expectations. 

When I arrived at my first meeting, I had not read the book; the decision to go was fairly last minute.  No problem (First Plus).  I met some interesting people (Second Plus). The discussion was lively and freewheeling (Third Plus).

After my second visit, I felt my own creative powers being pushed.  There are more than a few writers in C'ville and I started thinking that having a writers' workshop one day at the library might be a way to push to the next level in my own writing.  Even though I've written on and off my whole life, I've never shared it beyond blogging.  Then I moved here.

I recently gave my daughter some advise as she started out on a new endeavor of her own.  I told her to take small steps.  Don't jump in deep and expect to swim.  Find your success in a small way.  Find your comfort zone.  Funny how words for the young can be equally valuable for the not so young.  

Sharing my writing here has been a door I was willing to walk through to take my own steps a bit farther away from my own comfort zone.  And, believe me, it was scary.  Joining a book club, sharing my thoughts and opinions about another writer's writing has been a similar experience.  I've haven't had too much to say yet but I have found that I may be able to comfortably do the social group thing after all since the welcome I've received, like jumping into a heated pool, has been warm and reassuring.  

Friday, May 4, 2018

Monday, April 30, 2018

Why I like the river so much

All my adult life, my dream was to live near the Pacific Ocean.  Growing up in San Diego does that to a person.  But choices in life led me one place and then the next and the watery dream shrank to the occasional well-planned visit. But, I've been very lucky in that my life has been bookended by water.  The ebb-time of my life has placed me next to water again in a most unexpected way.


Watery highway
heavy with commerce
endlessly flowing passed our lives.

You are a place of peace
 in the midst of our own busy days.
A place to meet,
A place to dream,
A place to pray.

Rejuvenation and healing
are found here. A place of
quiet refuge from noise.

Seasonal beauty, its colors
show us rivers within the River.

Awe-inspiring power sweeps
the old and uprooted, passing us by.
Treasures left on your shores
find homes, being renewed as we
ourselves are renewed.

Teased by your abundant
strength, I step back and let
you flow through me.

Sunday marked an afternoon of prayer at the River.  We joined with people of the United Kingdom and Ireland who gathered on their coastlines and we all prayed for peace for our community, our nation, and our world.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Walking My Personal Camino Comunitario

There are a few things that, reasonably, I can expect to never do in this life.  One of them is to walk the Camino de Santiago.  It is something my brother did a few years back (in his 50's). It is something I would have done without hesitation when I was in my 20's.  That particular ship has sailed, though, so to speak. But like many things in life, communities spring up, passionate communities of people sharing something in common no matter how different they are as individuals.

My scripture reading for today - Acts 11: 1-18 - turned out to be particularly meaningful to me.  In my life before C'ville, distraction kept me from the one thing that mattered the most, inner peace and unfettered love of my fellow man. Life offered a lot to help keep my own barriers set up to shield me from others, those who were different and pushed at my comfort zone.  It wasn't an extreme thing; it was more like the daily stumbling blocks of life that isolated me from others.  As for many, it is the constant drip, drip, drip, that wears on us.

When I left California and started writing about my experiences living here, I had no intention of these posts becoming any sort of a confessional but writers of essays and observers of life go where they are lead and I've been lead to healing places; place that when embraced, emboldened me to write from the heart of what matters the most.  And what matters the most to me are our commonalities, not our differences. 

I never imagined that my writing, my view of the world around me, would spring from my growing understanding of what I was gleaning in my daily scripture readings, a habit I didn't successfully start and maintain until this past Lenten season.  There certainly is a lot of "help" out there to move us along our inspirational pathway, a whole industry, in fact.  But it wasn't until the quiet of C'ville that the value and meaning of the Word made its final push to the surface.

Community, a word I seem to be examining a lot this month, is so much more than one's small circle of friends, one's family, or church. Acts 11: 1-18 tells us our community is all around us and if we focus on what we have in common, we can surely overcome our differences. 

Ask yourself what you have in common with others.  Your list will probably look a lot like mine: school, work, where we shop, athletics, the arts, neighbors, books, church, community service.  We don't have to be controlled by fear, mistrust, and age-old hatreds. We don't have to be divided from each other.

The poem below is one I wrote many years ago.  Reading it now, I read it as a foreshadowing of what I would know here many years later.  

Front Doors

I took a walk through your neighborhood today
and discovered that we had something in common.
We both live on quiet streets, mine public, yours private.
Similarities ended there.

My front door opens to the world welcoming friends and family in.
I stroll by houses on your street and cannot see a front door
so well-hidden are they.

Casual landscapes of brilliant flowers, shading trees, and cobbled walks
set out a welcome mat that leads to our front door.
The intricate and formal arrangement of trees and shrubs form
impenetrable walls that keep your front door out of sight.

Basketball hoops and tetherball poles stand in the church parking lot,
unused throughout the week and exploding with activity on weekends,
a moving picture across from my ordinary home.

I stop for a moment staring in the direction of where
I can glimpse the roof of what must be an imposing building.
Is that a stand of tall field lights I see?
Do they illuminate a private court?
What games are played there?

Tennis anyone?

I am a visible invitation to take a moment to rest
at my front porch to any who pass by.
But, looking at the entrance of the road that leads
 to the roof of the hidden house,
I wonder how long that driveway is;
and is there a gatekeeper, a final wall to penetrate
near the front door?

I have church bells, a school, a parking lot;
all signs of life in motion.
I can't see any of that near your front door.

But we do share one thing in common - the quiet.
My quiet is the gentle buzz of life.
Your quiet is the quiet of protective walls.
Perhaps we both have something of what each of us
 needs the most after all.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Touching What Is Old

History and geography were my favorite subjects in high school. They found their perfect blend in the study of anthropology when I was in college.  These two blended subjects always led me to what was old, interesting, and filled with memories.

When I was in my mid to late 20's, it wasn't unusual to find myself on a long weekend away from home traveling to the desert, a developing urban area, or the Baja California coast of Mexico for plant collecting and archaeological discoveries.  The Southern California coastal Indian and inland Indian cultures had a healthy trade route between themselves and along the coast. Political boundaries didn't exist then and people freely moved from one place to another, evidence of their passages found in the shared trade goods of the time.

While I studied mainly California Indian culture, I also had a passing study experience with the Mound Builders of the Mid-West and the South.  The young woman I was then never imagined that 40 plus years later she would find herself married to a southern Missouri man and eventually would become friends with a woman who has a mound on land right next to her home and farm.  Something old from my youth was imposing itself on my older years and I was fascinated.  My mind is still alive to the lure of history and geography and I took up a brief study of the Mound Builder culture in this area.  There is really nothing like a sense of history to solidify one's relationship to a place.  No, I'm not from here but my story will become a little piece of what makes up the story of the Bootheel.

So, here I am today and touching "old" is affecting me in unforeseen ways.  I talked about church community last week and the opportunities offered by my new community have led me to an interesting solution regarding my mindset of the place of clutter in my life, some of it really old.  

The upside of my clutter is that when we moved, most of it got packed away, thereby making the Pirate very happy.  Yes, some of it was tossed but on reflection, not nearly as much as needed to be.  But, hey! I wasn't there yet.  The downside is that it's still mostly all packed away nearly a year after arriving here.  I really can't ignore it anymore.  So, the solution is . . . ?

My attraction to Benedictine spiritually has been a presence in my life for several years and I'm now reading a book (written over a period of time in the 5th and 6th century) entitled, "The Rule of Saint Benedict".  The reality of clutter (packed or otherwise) in my life has now reached the "I will not be ignored" stage.  Between the early reading of the book and the imposition of the" old" from my younger years imposing itself on my new "old stuff" reality, I discovered quickly how simple decluttering could become.

Simplicity and orderliness lead to a calmness and opens pathways to God that might otherwise be blocked.  I ask myself now how something makes me feel. Or, perhaps I ask myself how long it has been since I actually used the thing.  When was the last time I even SAW it? Do I remember where I found it? Will I use it again?  Is it one of those things always in the back of my mind interfering with my prayer life or, equally bad, interfering with my ability to enjoy my leisure.  Ignoring a problem doesn't make a problem go away.  It simply simmers until it gets bumped (accidentally, of course) and then it boils over.

All of my stuff is so old.  I've had it for so long.  Some of it is families treasures that have gone from one life to another and now me.  These things will never go and eventually will be disbursed bu,t for the most part, I can get rid of at least half of the rest of it and never notice afterward.  

Therefore, following a few ideas gleaned from my reading, I am now tackling the really old stuff in my physical day to day life.  I find myself starting to feel ready to let go and all it took was a crazy journey of oddly disparate pieces of my life and their unexpected connectedness to get here.  Yesterday I let go of a tablecloth.  Painless, it was, when I accepted that it had no purpose and held no family history.  If the rest of this process goes as painlessly, I will count the sweeping out of the unnecessary "old" as a success.  The Pirate will thank me.  My children will thank me, later.  As you know, we all have a later.  And, I will thank me because I have the satisfaction of knowing that I am doing something that is pleasing to the Lord as I let go of the material things weighing me down, thereby making more room for Him and for my little community I call my family.

Graduations, Big and Small, and that "Talk" with God

Fifteen years have passed since I attended what I imagined would be my last high school graduation. It was in 2003 that my youngest took her...