Category Archives: Creativity

On: Tenderness

Dignity

What was it that Otis Redding said? Oh yes.

Try a little tenderness.

Tenderness.

Why is it so challenging to bask in the love that we all desire? I believe that it is everyone’s intention to surround themselves with the softness of life. By that I don’t mean the softness of material things, the silks and satins and cashmere of life. I mean the softness that comes with peace of being… Soft. Tenderness.

It’s a quiet summer afternoon. I’m looking out the window and watching butterflies circle the backyard. They seem completely at ease. Is it because, amazingly, the black cat with the strange green eyes is at ease? Is she practicing cat tenderness?  She doesn’t move from her perch as the butterflies and birds flit around her. Only the gray squirrel raises a racket. There is no threat. Softness abounds.

Sunlight fills crevices like liquid. My soul is filled with tenderness. And I, who thrive on seeing the world through rose-colored glasses, want to believe that every human being loves the sun.

The poets, romantics, musicians, spiritual teachers — even scientists — testify to the healing power of tenderness. Go ahead, say it isn’t so. But you’ll find yourself in some very isolated company.

I’m reminded of mornings on my grandparents’ farms. Both maternal and paternal grandparents knew the power of tenderness and peace. My own memories allow me to understand why my mother, in her dementia, retreats to a place of softness and safety.

Not too long ago, I was asked by a health practitioner to remember what that tenderness feels like in my body. I was happy to revisit that glorious childhood experience. Vacations were watercolor mornings, filled with strolls amid the corn, watermelon, and tomato fields with paternal and maternal grandfathers. For me, our small farms and communities played in my mind as barricades against treacherous white men whose daily bread filled them with the hatred required to circle the south looking for unarmed black men and boys.

“Remember what that tenderness felt like,” they say. It’s because currently my life requires the wondrous gift of tenderness: regular rest, naps, real food and more proteins (did I tell you I now eat poultry as well as fish? Gone, gone are those days of self-righteous food Puritanism!) I eat vigilantly, and monitor my emotions. “Get eight hours sleep,” said my dear physiatrist Dr. J.

For 40 years when I thought of South Carolina away from my grandparents’ homes, I thought of a place contaminated with murder and the blood and bones of enslaved black people. With my maternal grandparents gone, their home and land sold, and my estrangement from the conservative religious views of the South, there was no reason to return to that place. History suffocated tenderness.

Then I attended a family reunion in Myrtle Beach and the feelings flooded back. The signs on stores, restaurants, and bathrooms and drinking fountains — “colored” and “white, ” placed there to kill the human spirit while threatening the physical body — were gone.

Those signs had pitted my tender heart against my gentle maternal grandfather. When I was about 10 years old, he took us into the city of Sumter to run errands and buy sweets. As if in slow motion, I found myself bowing my head to drink from a fountain clearly marked “white only.” My grandfather did what he had to do to protect me.

He grabbed me by the collar with such force I thought I would choke. My lips never touched the water. Later on, sitting on the porch in his arms, surrounded by the night songs of frogs and crickets in a dark so black you could not see the outline of trees, and the smell of the forest so sweet I wanted to wrap it around my skin, I came to understand three things:

the incredible love and tenderness in the heart of the man forced to take such action;  the incredible love and tenderness in the heart of the man saddened by his own action and; the incredible love and tenderness in my own heart that allowed me to keep loving him.

Tenderness in its myriad forms — family, church, and community — ensured our survival. Tenderness has contributed, in spite of the traumas of living, to the person that I am.

It is a tender summer day and I wonder: If every person, politicians especially, accessed a single memory of tenderness, would the world be a very different place? I, who thrive on seeing the world through rose-colored glasses, would like to think it so.

On words that begin with L: Laughing. Loud. Love.

Daddy laugh

Laughing.

I watched my father eat: turkey, ham, selected pieces of fried chicken, greens, potato salad, cranberry sauce, homemade rolls. There were assorted pies, cakes, and desserts. We all ate like that. It was Thanksgiving. Sometimes Christmas. Sometimes Easter.

Like many Americans creating their versions of a Norman Rockwell painting, we gave thanks for our abundance before washing it down with lemonade (kids) or booze (grownups). Then Daddy rolled from his chair to the floor, landing on his hands and knees and crawling away from the table as children competed for a seat on the human horse.

In those moments, there were no concerns.  Racism and segregation were far away from the plate. Family arguments stayed out of the soup. All earthly concerns were buried beneath an avalanche of laughter.

Loud.

Daddy would throw his head back and release a sound so all consuming—and loud—that everyone was affected. I have inherited his volume. There is no doubt that I am in the room when I laugh. Like his, mine is wall-to-wall laughter. It was infectious. Our knees buckled, our eyes watered, and we almost wet our pants. His laugh carried the good stuff.

Everyone says that laughter is the best medicine.  That’s because laughter — real deep down jiggle your insides healing laughter — is synonymous with love. Right?

Love.

Exactly. Real laughter comes with love.

There are all kinds of laughter that have nothing to do with love. Or happiness. There’s the forced laughter we hear in business meetings when folks are pretending they want to know who you are, but mainly they want something from you. Then, there’s the dry, scratchy laughter of contempt. (Just think of childhood bullies.) You know these folks when you meet them; there is no mirth in their eyes; no “there” there.

Real laughter rides the wind like bird songs, cricket cries, or the whoosh of waves lapping against the side of a houseboat. Real laughter plays the soul like harp strings. Real laughter melts the heart like warm cherry pie melts ice cream.

Real laughter is passed along like family recipes. When you come from laughter, you give laughter. I hear my father’s laugh in my brothers, my sister, and my nieces (who never met their granddaddy). It’s a rich and sanity saving heritage.

Forget LOL. I think I’ll start signing messages LLOL.  Love laughs out loud.

On resolutions


I have been craving sweets. Pecan pie, sweet muffins, and creamy mango ice cream. I wish I could have champagne. Artist friends are encouraging me to take the leap into…um…that would be food writing. Literary goulash. Poetic pie. A bowl of sautéed, chewy sentence structure. I’m told that there is magic in it.
 

First resolution: hold on to the magic in life.

After a horrendous summer that became a worse fall, I need an abracadabra on my view of resolutions. Gone are the weight loss aspirations; the obsession with changing my diet. I’m grateful for having an appetite again. Into the cosmic trash goes a daily commute made bearable by books and my iPod. A pox on those sorry promises to keep my apartment showroom spotless–anyone who knows me knows that promise could never be kept.

Second resolution: Make resolutions easy. Make ‘em realistic. Make ‘em something I really care about, that way they’ll stick.

I was thrilled on New Year’s Day to find that I had taken yet another step on my path to healing. I cooked dinner. My hands worked. Vegetarian Hoppin’ John. Cornbread. Greens. Rice. But there’s something I need to remember.

Third resolution: I’m still healing. Sitting is a good way to chop vegetables.

There are some things I know I’ll be doing for the rest of my life. Eating. Cooking. Singing. Laughing. Loving.

Fourth resolution:  These are the things I must write about.

Over the past few months, some people have dropped from my world and others have become closer. It’s so nourishing to know who your friends are. Like a warm pudding. Comforting. Sweet. Sticks to the ribs.

Fifth resolution: Being grounded about how I spend my time and who I spend time with.

Easy enough. Simple. Like magic.

May your resolutions be nourishing, easy, and real. 

champagne

 

On Pie

There were a couple of comments about the sweet potato pie. The exact recipe? By now, I have forgotten. What I remember is the creamy, comforting richness.

Disclaimer: you try this at your own risk.

Mom would cook the sweet potatoes, add a pinch of salt, then mash them until not a lump could be found. She added the other ingredients one at a time. When I was a child, we did not have electric mixers. We used those hand held rotary beaters to create those stiff peaks from egg whites and cream.We developed strong arms from using those beaters.

So, we’d beat the whole eggs. Was it two or three? We’d add them to the potatoes; then, we’d add about a stick of butter. Mind you, there were a lot of sweet potatoes. Mix ’til smooth. Now comes the cream. I call it cream because that was when real milk came with cream settled on the top. Shake the bottle (yes, milk came in bottles). It was better than half and half.

Whatever happened to milk bottles?  True, they were heavy; but you could see the cream gathered on top of the milk like a thick icing. And there was no concern about the landfill. Bottles went back to the dairy and were sterilized and refilled.

The milk/cream was added and then the brown sugar and — corn syrup? To tell you the truth, I can’t remember. But, I’ll tell you this: it was sweet.

By now, our mouths were drooling over the pudding like consistency. Cinnamon. Nutmeg. Vanilla. Am I missing something?

We children were such pigs. We’d stick our fingers in the bowls and get chased away.  “Get your dirty hands out of here!” It didn’t matter what kind of pie. Peach. Blueberry. Apple. Pear. Hovering like humming birds and annoying as ants, we’d taste and get chased away.

Now when it comes to the crust, you’re on your own. That’s because when I was growing up, we used lard. For me, that’s not an option anymore. So once you have made your crust — and it will probably  be two or three — fill the pie plates with yummy stuff.

And that’s it. A chilly autumn evening or bright summer afternoon becomes more than alive…

All times are better with pie. On days like today, as we anticipate hurricane Sandy, and I begin to understand the importance of patience in the healing process,  pie is a gift and a sweet comfort.  Baking pie takes patience; savoring pie takes time.

On Bread, Laundry, and Morning Routines

I don’t like being away from the blog for too long.  But, I guess it’s good to shake things up every once in a while; break the routine, learn something new or meet new people. It protects one (i.e., me) from narrow-mindedness.  Perhaps, you’ve noticed; I do not like narrow-mindedness.  Narrow-mindedness is anchored in fear.

So, about shaking things up.  Nine years. That’s how long it’s been since I’ve set foot into a public laundry. It’s not been a conscious thing.  It’s just that most rentals now have on-site laundries as a convenience.  They’re safe, you recognize most of your neighbors, and you can count on them (the laundries…) being clean.  The down side is that you may have to wait for machines or pull someone’s laundry out because he or she left the building.

So, the other day, when I ran into one of my neighbors as she returned from the laundromat a few blocks away, I started thinking…

My mornings are pretty routine.  I’m a woman who likes to watch the sun rise.  I like to have tea and write in my journal.  I like my mornings slow, lazy, and quiet–just the way God made ‘em.  The world will bring itself to my psychic door soon enough.  Mornings—particularly weekend mornings—are when I can bake bread at 5 or 6 AM.  Because I want to.

Baking bread is like a meditation:  still and reflective.  I have lots of time to be with my own thoughts.  First, I mix flour, water and yeast.  Then let it rise.  Then, add oil and salt and more flour.  Then let it rise.  Finally, I knead and knead some more, divide the dough into loaves, let it rise again and bake.  By 8 am I have four nice loaves of bread.  The traffic is quiet, the Haverford geese honk overhead, and I can indulge myself in journaling about my “stuff.” You know what “stuff” is, right?

Well, last weekend, I changed my routine.  I packed a plastic IKEA bag full of shirts, sheets, and undies, bought a breakfast bagel sandwich at the bagel place, and headed for the local laundry.  I arrived about fifteen minutes after it had opened.  That would be 7:15.  Lugging my laundry, soap powder, bagel, and a book, I opened the door to find…Men?  Men.  There amid the cacophony of whirling washers and humming dryers was a room of men.

Now–as a child, whenever Mom’s machine broke (which with five kids seemed like all the time), we would go to the neighborhood laundry.  There were never any men there, only mothers towing infants and older children picking on their siblings.  Most of the time, it seemed that a mother’s singular focus was to keep the laundry in the machines and the children out.  Those laundromats were filled with yelling, laughing, and crying children and very harried mothers.  Men?  Never.

Who were these guys?  There was an elderly man with really thick glasses, his cane propped against a bench.  There was an obese fellow with a cap pulled tightly over his head.  His vibe was one that dared anyone to say “good morning.”  I sat on the bench across the room.  Another chunky guy chewed gum, popped it loudly, walked around, sat down, and walked around again.  They all stared at the ceiling.  I could not figure out what was so interesting with that darned ceiling.

Two Mexican men talked and laughed until one packed his laundry and moved on.  The other went outside to make a phone call.  I buried myself in my book, munched my bagel sandwich, and remembered a vacation in Tijuana that left me joyous.  I had made my way on public transportation (with limited Spanish) to meet my friends, bought colorful clothes and fabric, drank in a bar where the guys laughed at my name (means living room in Spanish, I learned… “ha, ha, very funny,” I said.) and sauntered in the sun.

I let the sounds wash over me.  Note to self: take Spanish lessons.

In an odd way, the rhythms were the same as baking bread:  put clothes in a machine, sit to read, wait 15-20 minutes, and check its progress.  The Haverford geese honked overhead.  Traffic was quiet.

At 8 o’clock, the door opened and a voice asked sweetly, “Does anyone have change for a twenty?”

“Finally,” I thought.  The men stared.  “No,” I answered.  She left.

But, I had succeeded.  I’d changed up my day.  The sky didn’t fall.  And I’d learned something I never knew before.  Men can, in fact, get up and out in the morning and do laundry.

It is good to shake things up every once in a while.

Words On Art, Pizza, and a Joyful Life

People like to use the term “fire in the belly” to define that insatiable passion in pursuit of a dream.  I like to think of the term in its relationship to the pursuit of pure joy.

Artists are messengers of pure joy.  They inspire folks to view the world in radically different ways.  They encourage us to be curious and to take risks.   They encourage us to be joyful.  As in…”make a joyful noise unto the Lord..”  Not threatening.  Not fearful.  Joyful.

Even when an artist’s work is something I’m not particularly fond of, I find that I am turned away from that experience only to be propelled toward a more joyful one. For this reason alone, if I had a million or a billion or a trillion dollars, I would give it to artists.

I recently heard a story about how Erma Bombeck said she would greet God if she met him face to face after death.  The story goes (and I am paraphrasing here) that she imagined God asking her what she had brought back for Him.  She said she would tell Him she had nothing to give; that she had used every gift He had given her, and there was nothing in her pockets to return.

I could only sit in amazed silence.  To live like that, one must live joyfully.

The other day, my sister-in-law, nieces, a couple of other girls, and my cousins were over for a pizza making party.  The children are all talented girls, five to eleven years old and sassy with creativity.  Their interests are diverse.  One loves music, one loves to ice skate, and one–I’m betting on it–will be a famous television chef.

The girls immersed themselves in the project immediately, and my small kitchen crackled with joy as each girl rolled out her dough in her own way and used toppings to suit her imagination.  Every pie was a work of art.  I was inspired by their boldness and generosity.   They even made “take outs” for their siblings who were not there to cook with us.

There were no rules, just a lazy afternoon,  ingredients, and joy in the process.  I had done the prep work the day before.  I had made yeasted dough from scratch and filled bowls and containers with toppings that I thought they would enjoy.  To be honest, I had a pretty joyful experience prepping.  I home roasted and sliced red bell peppers, sliced and sautéed mushrooms, chopped roma tomatoes, and sliced black olives.  I diced pepperoni slices into quarter chunks and made a fruit salad.  As I washed and chopped  strawberries,  pears, and oranges, then sliced bananas and added  blueberries and raspberries, I was in the zone.  I could have purchased any number of the ingredients I used–the mushrooms, the roasted red peppers, and sliced olives–but I was painting my picture of children joyously making pizza from scratch.  I couldn’t have stopped prepping if I wanted to.  I was quite happy.

In 1968, I was in San Francisco for the first time.  It was a dynamic time, filled with the presence of flower children and the so-called love generation.  I remember being amazed that I could walk the entire city from one end to another in a day.  There was no BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), no subways.  It was quite a different city then.

One day while walking–and brooding on how difficult life was, a pastime I thought necessary if I wanted to live as an artist–a beautiful man came up to me.  He was African and so beautiful that I will never forget his face.  In those days, I had no suspicion of strangers.

“Why do you look so sad?”  he asked.

I was taken aback, but before I could open my mouth to respond, he was almost singing.  “You should be happy!  Be Happy!”   He patted me on the shoulder and cheerfully walked off.

It seems that this has been a spiritual theme–a command from the Universe, if you will–wherever I go.  Live joyfully. Empty the pockets. That’s the ticket I’m supposed to buy.

Creativity is mysterious medicine, generating in us the desire to live with a fire in the belly for joy.  We’re inspired by interpretations of life–stories, choreography, theater, music, photographs, paintings, and poetry — that reveal the stages and emotional paths bringing us to the joy that we yearn to experience.

Artists inspire us to get up and do something.  Dance something. Write something.  Sing something.  Cook something new and fabulous—maybe a pizza.

Yes indeed.  It is a very good Friday.

Sassy

 

Sassy.

I love s words.  Ssssssssssss.  Especially this one.

May all young girls grow up to be sassy women.  Don’t take no stuff.  May they not let anyone put them down or define them in words that aren’t their own words.  I don’t care who they might be.  Father.  Husband.  Mother.  Sister.  Boss. Minister or priest.  Girlfriends.

Sassy.  Sometimes it takes decades to get to that place of courage.  But get there, prayerfully, we will.  Easter is coming.  It’s a time of rebirth.  Let us as people, and especially as women, be reborn to the magnificence of the light within us.

I’ve always loved Easter because of the powerful theme of rebirth.  It means we have the chance to begin anew.  We can armor ourselves (I know…it’s an aggressive word) in the truth of rebirth.  We can honor ourselves with rebirth.  Rebirth is our protection and our weapon because it holds the magic and power of our personal strength.

Dang.  What, you may be asking, set her off this time?

If you have happened across this blog for any length of time, you know that I can get pretty passionate about things that inspire self-respect and inner strength. Today, my passion lies in the insistence that young girls grow up confident in their ability to hold their own in all things.  Being sassy is not an easy path.

Sassy.  I define myself for myself.  No one else defines me.  No matter what words they use.  No matter who they are.

Not too long ago, I was sitting in a group of women. We were a multi-cultural group of varying ages.  A young woman and mother stated that she was feeling pushed to go into a career that she didn’t like because of the money she would make.  She wanted an artistic career.  She wanted to explore her options.  All of a sudden, some of the women — women who had crushed their own dreams and desires — were all over this girl, blabbering all the things we have heard all of our lives.  Be practical.  There’s no money in the arts.  Make a living.  And..did I already say this? – be practical.   I saw the light of doubt flicker in her eyes, and I thought of all the times I chose practicality over my heart.

Well.  Folks who know me know that when it comes to women’s dreams, I’m going to go on the aggressive.  And I was all over these folks like white on rice as I defended her right to decide for herself how she would make a living, and explained lovingly —  to her directly — that only she could decide, but that she had the right to her dream.  She had family support.  Why not?

The women reminded me of too many misery filled women of my generation who made the wrong choices, and now want others to swim in the waters they’re drowning in.  In the end, my message is: Young women, define your selves, and, if you are aware, do not make choices out of fear.

Women.  We, too often, say yes when we mean no.  We become afraid of being alone and think that alone means lonely.  Women.  We, too often, play coy and lead people to the belief that they have to take care of us and that we are willing to go along when — really — we are not willing to go along.  Women.  We may tell someone that she looks just great when she has spinach in her teeth.  Where do we learn these passive aggressive behaviors?  Sad to say, but it’s often from other women.  Our inability to stand in the truth of our own strength leaves us feeling like limp celery in the important areas of our lives.  We just won’t call back rather than saying “don’t talk to me that way.”

A friend showed me a trick the other day . Cut off the bottom of a piece of limp celery, and stick that thing in a glass of water.  It firms up again.  Rebirth.

I know.  Men have issues, too.  But in so many ways, society has given them a foot ahead of the starting line.  No one — no exceptions — can define a person better than that person herself.  We are as we see ourselves to be.

Be Sassy.  Tell the truth.  Be sexy.  Be creative.  Be talented.  Be all that we can be.  God put that energy inside of us.  S/he placed those desires within. S/he doesn’t intend for the fire to be put out.

Use the s word.  Sassy.  Sassy begins with an S.  Rebirth begins with an R.  S follows R in the dictionary.  Be Reborn.  Be Sassy.  Have a glorious rebirth and a magnificent spring!

Provincial

This is not a pleasant word for me.  It brings up inner challenges in the commitment to write one’s truth.  The prods and pokes of fear are pushing me towards keeping things small.  Safe.  Predictable.  I’m learning how easy it is to slip into a provincial–narrow-minded–state of mind  as I sit down every week to put these thoughts into W.O.R.D.S.   The provincial promises safety, but there is no reality in it.

“Keep the point of view narrow.”   But a narrow point of view is like going backwards.  Like so many provincial serving politicians today.  No thanks.

Dreams are a critical piece of my internal GPS system.  They direct me to places I need to explore, and, on several occasions, when the thick broth of memory drips into my sleep, I travel back to a time where we experienced joy in a solidly  provincial world on my grandfather’s farm in South Carolina.  In these dreams, I am wandering the landscape of the farm.  Over there are the pigs.  Here are the chickens.  Down that path are the grape vines.  There are the fig trees there, and over there are the fields of vegetables and fruit.  Sometimes I am standing on the back stoop or sitting on the front porch or looking out the window over my grandmother’s wood burning stove.  We would heat the irons to press our clothes on that stove.  Sometimes I am staring up in the inky black sky at the constellations and losing myself in their depth.  I know what the safety of provincial feels like.

I remember glorious mornings when we kids harvested corn, vegetables, and fruit in the mid-morning sun.  The corn husks and corn silk caused my skin to itch miserably, and although I complained, I knew that by dinner we’d be sucking on sweet, juicy kernels lathered with fresh butter.

Oh, darn. I forgot about the scary corn worms.  And that, my friends, is the problem with nostalgia—aka narrow thinking.  It’ll leave out those worrisome corn worms of life every time.

Our visits were fun because we did not have the burden of being trapped in the restrictively hard farm work like other kids and relatives. We would always go home to our own restrictions.  Theirs was a world of fiercely provincial ideas that kept them safe from the outside world, and while there, we fell in line with those restrictions.  Given the life-threatening politics of the time, I understand that provincialism was a positive force in saving lives.  So, it bothers me to hear:

“Things were better in the old days.  People were better when they followed tradition.”  Really?

I want to burn the bridges to these words, these proclamations that amount to painting ourselves into a corner of life with a teeny, tiny brush.  Rural provincialism had a life-saving purpose.  But that was then; this is now.

Everyone longs for a safety net of predictability, but aren’t narrow views weighted with constrictions and fears that keep us from seeing the bigger world up close and personal?  It seems to me that this yearning for a return to a simpler life is accompanied by fear.  Fear is accompanied by ignorance, and ignorance cheers the repression of civil liberties and a person’s right to make his or her own choices.

I met a woman who has lived in Philly her whole life and never once ventured outside the one or two miles where she lives, works, and prays.  She did not know anything about the lives of the other cultures with whom she worked.  She had never been to the Italian Market or Reading Terminal Market or visited Old City.  Yet, she had some very strong, narrow and wrong views of how to whip the 21st century world into shape.  Efforts to keep things small, predictable, and controlled always fail.  Look at Prohibition.

This evening I went to a local observatory to watch the waxing moon through high-powered binoculars.  I don’t have words (me who can rattle on) for the breathtaking beauty of the crescent and the clearly outlined shadowed side.  The sky was salted with stars, and the constellation Orion so huge and clear it felt as if it enveloped the earth.  Looking through the telescope, I was stunned by the sight of Jupiter with two bold stripes across its body (rings) and two of its moons.  The universe does not offer a provincial view.

There is so much to see, to do, to experience.  So much that can open our hearts to the beauty of being alive.  But we won’t know this if we keep looking backwards, yearning for a life that’s all Andy Griffith-y and Mayberry, without those worrisome, but necessary corn worms and beautiful, but itchy corn silk.

Can we, as a nation, afford it?  What do you think?

Immersion

Immersion.  The word has both positive and negative definitions:

To be completely submerged in liquid.  To become totally consumed by an issue, object or person. Or, (there is something to be gained from Wikipedia) a type of therapy where one overcomes one’s fears through face-to-face confrontation.  Umm, not so much my favorite definition.  I also like to think of immersion as:  to be completely drowned in a strong emotional attachment such as love or hate.

Welcome to the hour after my morning bath where I immerse myself in the myriad life issues that exist for me at any particular moment.  The word immersion holds incredible power.  I am an immersive personality, and I dare to argue that this is very different from obsessive.  But you can decide for yourself.

I’m a late bloomer and always have been.  When I was 40, a friend looked at me (or was it my sister?  Hmmm.) and commented, “Are your breasts larger?”  First of all, how rude!  Second of all, is there someone (cute guy?) who needs to know?  And third of all, no I didn’t get transplants.  I just matured – very slowly.  Now, where was I going with this?

In the same kind of way, I’ve had some time over the years to late-bloom into what it means to be immersed in something.  There are only two things in which I have had life-time immersion:  love and creativity.

They say that when you meet your soul’s true love time stands still, and you are immersed in the profundity of the heart.  This has happened twice in my life.  (Eh? You’re asking. Twice true love?)  Yes, twice.  The first time was in those precious moments immediately after my baptism.

I was ten or eleven when, in the tradition of the Baptist church, I was wrapped in white from head to toe and immersed in a pool of (not warm, I might add) water.  I was trying to maintain my child’s faith in the grace of God and the dexterity of a man of the cloth.  Between God and preacher, I was promised that I would not drown.  I did not, and my faith—in both—was sustained.

“In the name of the father…” I held my breath as the water covered my head and I was brought up again.

“The Son…”  I held my breath again as I was dipped once more and brought up.  Why I did not struggle is a question I have to this day.

“And the Holy Ghost…”  Was I imagining or did I have to hold my breath longer that last time?

On rising from the third submersion I came from the chilly water feeling warm—and time stood still.  For days afterward, I felt immersed in what I could only desribe as God’s love for the world and everyone and everything in it.  I don’t know what I expected, but this is what I received.

I said there were two experiences when time stood still.  The second was when I stood before the meditation master whose teachings have, ever since, guided my life and spiritual practices.

Immersion.  These two experiences serve as my reference and compass.  To be consciously immersed in the truth and experience of daily life is my forever-after goal.  To my suprise and delight, one day I wrote a poem.  Some of the lines are:

My Beloved has appeared and even the Lord of Time must surrender. With such golden Light, who can resist Him?  He illumines the walkway of my heart, and fears fall away.

Trying to explain it is foolish, and, as some folks (oh yes, the folks) have been prone to point out, it can sound a little weird, but ahhh…I finally see where this might be going.  Words. I have my own blog where I can be consciously and fearlessly immersed in the experience of time standing still through words.

I’ll celebrate.  Happy Thanksgiving everybody.

Moon

She Has Seen Us

There is nothing new under the sun.  Or Moon.   I thought about this as I witnessed the moon in its glory—so large and full that I felt I could reach out and take a slice—on November 11, 2011—that auspicious date that was at the front of everyone’s consciousness.  That’s how close I felt to the moon that day.

If the moon could talk, She would stun us with a vast repository of human history and behavior.  She might laugh at our amazing ability to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.  Or she might pray for us with compassion.

The Moon might say to us “Lighten up. I saw that argument go down with the  Neanderthals.  All about territory.”

Or She might sigh and say “Oh, yeah.  Religious bigotry.”  She would cluck her tongue.  “Every time there’s a new prophet, people kill each other.  Such a sad repetition.”

Then the first child of the New Year is born and She would celebrate with laughter.  “Another baby!  Oh, there is hope yet for this old, old world below.  Perhaps this one will help smooth things out!”

Then a child dies.  “Oh,” She mourns.  “So many trillions of deaths.  Young and old.  Children and grown.  It doesn’t get any easier.”

“Ahhh.  Yet another war,”  and She might shake her head in wonder that we never figured it out.

I thought about these things as I watched the moon that day.  I thought about our current political landscape and the fear that rages within the hearts of people around the world.  But, I also thought about the love and the extraordinary kindness generated by so many.

“Look at that,” the Moon might say.  “She took those bags of food to her next door neighbor.”

“Oh, my.  That young girl collected all that money to build homes for the poor in another country!”

“Their 60th wedding anniversary!  Such committment.  Such love.”

We startle ourselves with news of the birth of the 7 billionth child, when so many billions have gone before.  Every note of music that’s ever been claimed by every composer who’s ever lived has been claimed before.   Every lover who’s ever made love was not the first to surrender to that warmth.

The thought that the Moon has witnessed it all, uncountable times before, gives me  solace.  We are not the first to struggle through difficult times.  We are not witnessing anything new.  There is nothing new under the Moon.  Or sun.

The question is:  What have we learned?