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.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Easter renewed and renewed and renewed again

Since moving to Missouri from California last summer, I've been given countless ways of taking a second look at my former world and what my life has become since then.

Lent and Easter are one of the frames of my life and the celebration of Easter always loomed largely.  From the childhood excitement of the annual spring ensemble to the rearing of my own children and instilling in them the importance of Easter, and right up to today, it's celebration and importance has come full bloom in my life. Easter isn't just another feast day. It's the culmination of what we believe and like Christ in the human period of His life, we His children, each arrive at an understanding of His sacrifice in our own time.

In our last years in California,  we had settled in a parish in a small farming community.  This church community was about 80% Latino with more than a few members living in the shadows and so it was hard to build bridges across the cultural divide.  People were comfortable with the way things were.  

When Don and I, two non-Spanish speakers, worked two summers at a migrant camp teaching English as a second language, all that started to change for us.  As our faces became more familiar, faces within the Latino community, we were regarded less with distant wariness.  It was an object lesson on the importance of bridge building, shared language not required.  We were also shown how we fit into the larger parish community.  We were gifted with a glimpse of the possibility of what can be found in unity.

I see that possibility now forming and maturing in ways unexpected and welcoming.  As members of Sacred Heart parish in Caruthersville, Missouri, the experience of community has been enhanced from the microscopic to the more powerful community element that we are.  Easter here is simple, elegant, multi-cultural, multi-economic, multi-age, and in some cases even multi-faith.  The smallness of our community, expanded by visitors from out of town and twice a year Catholics, embraced an intimacy and expectancy that is heightened by this somewhat larger gathering.

Each day, the Triduum grew in attendance and there were no strangers in the church. Unlike larger parishes, no one left unnoticed. Small bridges were appearing everywhere.  I've often been left wondering how to extend this feeling.  Here in the very small parish of Sacred Heart, Caruthersville, a way has been found.  One very overworked priest overseeing two parishes and one grade school, not to mention a myriad of other responsibilities, combined with a core group of faithful members, participate to continually give the gift of community to one and all.  

In California, the phrase, "We are an Easter people" is commonly heard in our church around this time of the year.  It's interesting to note that I have not heard this phrase once during this Easter season. Thinking about the depth of community we felt this Easter season in our new home, the phrase seems to fade into meaninglessness.  What we are, in fact, is a community. The Resurrection is our highest event, the culmination of our faith.  What I felt this year, in a deeply profound way, was the resurrection of the meaning of community. What I really felt like shouting was "We are a family. We are a community." We are capable of carrying this feeling throughout the year. And most importantly, we are capable of breathing life into the idea of community and making it grow and flourish in the larger community of our small town.  It lingers quietly here, simply waiting for us.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Musings on Fearfulness

Have you ever met a person of whom you became so aware of their hidden anger that you were made fearful and ran? Of course, you have.  They are out there, lots of them, and when they reveal their true colors, fight or flight takes over.  I was a flight kind of girl for most of my life. 

But while musing this morning on someone I used to know through blogging, I realized I wasn't fearful anymore.  There isn't anything she could do to me except continue using her words if I continued to let her in.  So in 2008, flight me slammed that particular door. 

Fast-forward to 2018 and here I am asking myself why, ten years later, I'm even thinking about her. Well, the answer is simple and complicated at the same time.  First, I'm 10 years older, and second, I am closer to God (literally and figuratively) and have found a source of strength I didn't have when I was younger.  Getting through the second part was complicated.  Growing in wisdom and strength is hard work and some of us take the hard roads to get through the complicated times of our lives.  Do you recognize yourself here?  I sure do.  

But since moving here, something wonderful has happened.  All of the lessons about not being afraid of people or just life, in general, have been pushed aside.  Granted, I've been working on this for a lot longer than the 10 months we've lived here but certain things started to disappear in my life.  Things like:  Conflict, doubt, wariness, disappointment, hopelessness, isolation, too many choices, feeling the world is too big or the choices too many, and a foolish desire to be young again, are just a few things.

These feelings have been replaced by a community (both town and church), peace, hope, possibility, a scaled down world of fewer choices, welcome, and gratitude that I have been blessed with a long life. 

Two things I tangibly gained by moving here are the River and my own back porch.  Living in the Central Valley of California, the ocean was an occasional treat.  Here, driving to the River is a daily blessing.  And, long ago when my dad was overseas or away during the Korean Conflict, we lived in Northern Wisconsin with my grandparents.  They had a great front porch.  I loved hanging out there.  Now I have my own back porch and I love sitting out there enjoying my birds, my squirrels, and the sound of the wind in the trees.

These two things plus my church community took me down the last long strip of road that got me away from fear and into a closer relationship with God.  And, with this experience, I have the strength to continue chasing fearfulness away, because as we all know, the things that haunt us are never too far away are they?

Monday, March 26, 2018

The last word . . . for now

Local voting is next week and there is a lot to think about. Many of you, of necessity, can only vote absenteand as we get older and/or perhaps are now housebound, following through becomes harder.

I called the County Clerk's office this week and was given the procedure for becoming a permanent absentee voter.  At this point, in this voting cycle, getting on the permanent absentee list is not possible since it is all handled via mail. Time has simply run out for the back and forth that mailing involves. However, you can change your voting status between now and the next voting cycle in August 2018.

To get on the Permanent Absentee Voter List, call the County Clerk's office at (573) 333-4203 and ask for a Permanent Absentee application.  The application will be mailed to you.  Once you have filled it out, mail it back to the Clerk's office in the postage paid envelope that will be enclosed.  From there-on, an absentee ballot will be sent to you. Fill out the ballot and mail it back during the designation dates being sure that you mail it back in time for it to be received and counted.  Absentee voting for the August election cycle is June 26th - August 6th.  

For the current voting cycle, the Clerk's office is opened daily until 5 p.m.  The office is closed between 12 noon and 1 p.m.  On Saturday, March 31st, they will be opened from 8 a.m. to 12 noon.


And now, just as a follow-up, many of you have been asking how my knee injury from December is doing.  I'm happy to say that it is much improved however, I doubt if it will ever be quite up to snuff again. Life with arthritis and weakened ligaments is my new cross to bear, so it is what it is.  I have my ups and downs (but hopefully never so literally again) but my cane is my new best friend.  Now, if I could just find a really cool looking cane.  

Monday, March 19, 2018

Just Do It

 My local readers might feel they are hearing an echo from the Jeffries household this week but the importance of voting is a bit of a passion for both of us.  Back in California, we generally felt very hopeless about the outcome of a race or proposition. Because of the extreme and well-monied liberal stance of California, its high population, and the mal-distribution of representatives at a state level, we pretty much knew which way any particular voting wind would blow.  In a single generation, we saw many social issues become positively draconian in their impact on rural California and on traditional values.

I've lived long enough to see respect for individual rights and hope for positive change for all to actually find a balance ----- for a moment, at least.  Then the loud, insistent yell of special interests eroded that moment and in a matter of just a few voting cycles, pretty much anything goes now in that late great state.

Here, Caruthersville can be seen as a microcosm of California.  We have loses to our economy, high unemployment, high poverty rates, blacks, whites, and Hispanics, churches galore, and public social services.  I have noticed that people do build bridges between the various groups and churches to effectively serve the community where local government cannot but we need more than that. We need job skills and training. We need industry and retail merchants. We need to imagine a more beautiful Caruthersville, take advantage of our ideally suited location for arts, music, and a boardwalk of shops that draw in out of town visitors.

I know I've been here less than a year and many of you might tsk-tsk me, conceding to past disappointments.  But the things I listed above are what gives hope to a community, and even better, unify a community.  Personally, I think the economic downward spiral is as bad, if not worse, than the tornado of '06. Yes, that tornado caused instant and devastating damage to families (some of who I know now) and business and the greater community, but, the long, sustained, quiet, insidious downward pull of the local economy is a community killer.  Willing and creative minds need to go out in the world and push for what we need, what our entire community needs.

So, ask yourself,  how do you view the past recent years? How have you been affected personally; what about your neighbors? How often have you felt the sting of neglect because maybe you didn't live in the "right" neighborhood? Based on what I've seen and heard since moving here, I think even some of our own city leaders can testify to that question and what that sting may feel like.

When I lived in California I was accused of having an island mentality.  It took a lot to get me out of Turlock.  I had everything I needed there and more.  Coming here, I learned right away I had to throw off that kind of thinking but, you know, it's just not that easy and I'm darn near paralyzed when it comes to driving beyond Hayti.  Me. Driving. Alone. I think when Wal-Mart closed many of you, especially the elderly and impoverished, felt stranded, too.  Well, you WERE and more than a year has passed since its closing and nothing has happened - absolutely zero.  In fact, Absolute Zero's definition should be extended to include a before and after of C'ville, with the closing of Wal-Mart.

So, come April 3rd, VOTE.  Vote for yourself, vote for your neighbors. Vote for your community.  Take the long view. We can build something and all we need is effective leadership from the top down.  We need unity, communication, and most of all, we need WILL.  If you think there is even the remotest possibility of not voting on April 3rd, vote absentee. Go to the courthouse.  The last day you can vote absentee is Monday, April 2nd. Don't think your preferred candidate will win without your vote.  That is how candidates lose elections. The voting population here is small. Your vote can't get lost in a sea of numbers here. 

So, to borrow a Nike ad line:
"Just Do It!"

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Haiku My Heart

Life to the fullest
Forty-nine years or just three
Thread stretches and snaps

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 co...