One week ago yesterday I drove out to Louisville to visit a friend and her family. It was a beautiful day and I noticed a group of horses frolicking in the meadow along the road. They didn’t have a care in the world, tossing their heads, punching one another with their noses, kicking their heels up in the strengthening sunshine.
I relayed my observation when I arrived, telling my friend what I had seen en route. She closed her eyes as I spoke and I could tell from her face that she could see the romping creatures as well. She seemed to feel the grass, the wind, the sunshine. She could hear the neighs and whinnies of the roan, the black and the pinto. She smiled.
I sat quietly for a while waiting for her to return from the pasture, and soon she opened her eyes and smiled at me. The conversation moved on and we reminisced about the potluck we had worked to prepare together–she cooked a wonderful ham and I made green beans. It had been Easter then too; we’d used chocolate eggs as the table centerpiece. Was that one year ago or two? After a little figuring we remembered that we had done it two years in a row. It was almost a tradition.
Almost, but not quite. We hadn’t been able to share the joy of cooking for others this year; this year my friend was in hospice. This year she ate ham that her daughter cooked and brought to her.
She drifted a bit as she thought about when she had last eaten. I rose to leave, sensing that she needed to rest. But as I stood looking down at her realizing that I wouldn’t see her again–at least not in this world–I was overcome by a strong urge to touch her. I felt that I wanted to connect. So I reached out and patted her feet through the covers. It wasn’t enough. The feeling was strong in me that I should do more, so I asked if I could rub her feet. “Of course,” she said, “that would be nice.” “May I pull up the blankets?” “Yes, do.”
So I lifted the beautiful red quilt tied with the prayers of the entire congregation and sewn by the ladies of the church, and found her feet. Small and warm with beautiful pink nails, her feel were smooth with oil. I rubbed her heels, the bottoms of her toes, her soles, her ankles. And through my touch I felt energy, energy that left me and went to her. She was relaxed and seemed to enjoy the experience. Then, I felt that I was done; she had what she needed.
I have had that experience before when I sat as companion to a friend who died. It was as if through touch, I gave energy that was needed for him to make the transition. It was what I wanted to give; what I had to give.
And here I was again, called to give my energy, this time to Rebecca. I covered her feet back up and tucked the blankets in loosely. I hugged her, kissed her, and told her I loved her. She hugged me back with surprising strength and thanked me for coming. But it was I who was grateful for the time shared.
That visit was a week ago yesterday. Two days later she died. Last night at dusk I joined in the celebration of her life with a church filled with her family and friends. She would have loved that time–the music, the service, the gathering.
I am thankful that we could talk of horses and ham on that glorious afternoon–and that we could touch. There’s no doubt in my mind that the energy that flowed between us was love.
I have so many memories of my maternal grandmother. I used to spend a lot of time with her–cooking, playing cards, watching television, just talking. She and my grandfather lived on a farm, our closest neighbors at over a mile away.
We went trout fishing together. We shopped at junk stores. She took me with her to home demonstration meetings and to her woman’s club. She taught me to play bridge and canasta.
Her crooked index finger would scrape the spoon of cookie dough clean as a whistle. She introduced me to pimento cheese spread onto graham crackers. She could cook a meal for 20 as easy as for 2.
She smoked like a chimney and had a jolly, slightly naughty cackling laugh. Nearsighted and hard of hearing in her left ear, she could pull weeds and pick blackberries to beat the band.
She read books and went to Sunday school. She cooked the Festival dinner at church every fall and let me make the toast for the dressing. She read the Beatitudes to me; she especially liked “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” and she loved babies.
She sent me postcards from their winter trips to Florida and wrote to me when I went to camp and off to college. She recovered from two horrible accidents and had the softest waddlish neck imaginable.
Today she would have been 111. I think of her, so often, my sweet Granny, and when I do it is with love.
I subscribe to a daily message from Mike Dooley. Here is what I found waiting for me this morning:
“…To give beyond reason, to care beyond hope, to love without limit; to reach, stretch, and dream, in spite of your fears. These are the hallmarks of divinity – traits of the immortal – your badges of honor. May you wear them with a pride as great as the immeasurable pride we feel for you.
Your light has illuminated darkened paths, your gaze has lifted broken spirits, and already your life has changed the course of history.
This is the time of year we celebrate you.
Bowing before Greatness,
It touched me. And now I want to turn and give this message to you…because it is a season of celebrating others.
Early this summer I took a handful of the sunflower seeds from the bag that I use to fill the bird feeder and dropped them into the dirt-filled flower pot next to the back door; in just a few days they sprouted. I wondered how tall the stalks might get as they seemed to head straight for the blue sky. Then the buds formed and the lanky stalks began to list groundward so I strung them to a stake. Everyday the thirsty plants demanded a gallon of water wilting pathetically as a visual reprimand if I neglected them. Now the flowers are packed with seeds identical to their siblings in the feeder, the leaves are yellowing and dropping to the deck; the plants have completed their life cycle.
There is one last obligation in the circle of life–to tempt the creatures of the neighborhood with those tasty seeds in an effort to spread the gene pool. Success! Here are two visitors: a goldfinch crunching seeds in situ and a squirrel who prefers to nip the flowers from the stalk and escape to a distant post to consume the booty.
“Only by restoring the broken connections can we be healed. Connection is health. And what our society does its best to disguise from us is how ordinary, how commonly attainable, health is. We lose our health – and create profitable diseases and dependencies – by failing to see the direct connections between living and eating, eating and working, working and loving. In gardening, for instance, one works with the body to feed the body. The work, if it is knowledgeable, makes for excellent food. And it makes one hungry. The work thus makes eating both nourishing and joyful, not consumptive, and keeps the eater from getting fat and weak. This is health, wholeness, a source of delight. And such a solution, unlike the typical industrial solution, does not cause problems.”
–Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry, 2003
I had a “health day” yesterday…I planted spinach, pak choy, mesclun, lettuce, and radishes. Cool day to plant cool plants!
…and happy new decade!!
My family and I were not ready for the change. We piled on extra layers, wore heavier clothing, put lap blankets and drank warm beverages, but still we felt cold.
So, we did what most of those we know do, we turned up the thermostat. We tried to just keep heated the areas of the house that we were in, a feat made much easier by having temperature controls in each room and closing door, but we found it difficult. We whined about the cold and moaned about how uncomfortable we were.
In fairness, we hadn’t had much of a chance to get acclimated and to seal all the cracks and crevices in the insulation. Still, it begs the question of would we able to bear the discomfort of climate irregularities? And what would happen if we had drastic changes rapidly? And worse still, if we didn’t have the magic thermostat to adjust to make it all better? It is difficult to fathom.
I’ve read of houses being built now that are so well insulated they barely require any heat at all; the warmth generated within the house stays in. As I sit here now and feel a slight movement of air from the gaps in my office window, I know how much we could benefit from securer seals. The know-how is there to reduce our need for the thermostat, but we don’t do it.
What will it take for all of us to get serious about climate change? How drastic will it have to be? After the experience of the past weekend, I wonder more about my tolerance. We don’t have air conditioning and we manage to tolerate the heat of the summers quite comfortably. What makes it so much more difficult in the winter?
What does my little thermostat have to do with the big, BIG problem of global climate change? A lot, I’m afraid. It represents individual over community, self over other, comfort over necessity, same ol’-same ol’ over change, economics over people…
I hope that with some reflection–and maybe some warm woolies–I can find the way to keep the heat down and the energy for change flowing.
For more posts about climate change from around the world, click www.blogactionday.org.
Yesterday I attended a luncheon held by a new friend that I haven’t known very long and don’t yet know very well. The invitation read:
I’m organizing a lunch for the most interesting women I’ve met recently on Sept 25 (Friday) at my house. Could you come? As it turns out, I think that none of the women know each other except for me! So it will be especially fun. Please say yes.
My response? “Of course! How could I decline?!”
I am really glad I went. We were ten and I, in fact, only knew one woman other than the hostess. And what a group they were: artists, statisticians, counselors, teachers, writers, volunteers, aging specialists, researchers, listeners, social activists…and that’s just what I remember from their personal descriptions. Wow!
The conversation was wide ranging with participation by the entire group; no one was silent. Each story stimulated a new story with no sense of one-upping. There were no awkward silences and yet no prompts were necessary. No one took over the floor but no one held back. The group was dynamic, interesting, and interested.
The meal was delightful: a composed salad of all sorts of vegetables and greens, crusty bread with butter, and a perfect dessert of vanilla custard with a chewy cookie. It looked so lovely on the table that we hardly wanted to sit down to devour it.
What a truly special event! I felt valued by someone that I knew only a little. And I felt honored to be included among such a fine group of self-aware, competent and articulate women.
Thank you, Gretchen.
One month ago today a friend of mine died. She was 94 years old and by all reports had a rich and full life. I first came to know her just a few days after her ninety-third birthday so what I knew of her life I learned when she told me her stories.
She and I visited almost every Friday afternoon in the hour and a half before they served dinner in her residence. It was a good time to go because the day for her had been long but when I left she was ready to join the other diners. She would leave me to bound up the stairs (literally…I couldn’t keep up with her) and cross over to the other building so she could avoid the crunch in the elevators. She didn’t like to go down too early and have to wait for a long time, but she definitely didn’t want to be late.
I say we visited most every Friday because I didn’t see her at all during the summers; she went to Montana in early June and stayed until late August. She loved Montana. It was where she was born and raised, along with her many siblings. From the time she was knee-high to a grasshopper, she spent the summers with her family on the lake. At first it was just an outdoor campsite, but as more children came along and her father sought refuge fishing and hiking, her mother made it clear that she needed walls and a roof to house them. So, Ms. Tobin’s father built a cabin. And despite the destruction of that place and the relocation to a new spot higher on the lake (what a story that was!), she returned there every summer, eventually with her own brood.
And this summer was no different. When she packed to go back in June, I stopped by to see if there was anything she needed. She was up to her elbows trying to sort and sift. Her daughter and her family were going to pick her up on their way from Kansas City and Ms. Tobin didn’t want to take up too much room. The air crackled with excitement as she considered the right sweater, which jewelry, how many socks. We didn’t even sit down to talk as she was busy with her preparations. She had notified her residence of the date she would leave so they wouldn’t worry when she didn’t show up for dinner; she had organized her papers and pictures. When we parted, I hugged her and gave her the French bisous as was our custom. She took my hands in hers and thanked me for coming and for being her friend. I wished her a bon voyage and said I looked forward to hearing all the stories of her summer when she returned. She waved and blew a kiss. She was ready to go.
The next thing I heard was that someone had called from Montana to say that she ill and asked if her name could be added to the prayer chain. I worried that this was ominous news but waited to hear more. Finally on the twelfth of August as no updates had been forthcoming, I felt like I just had to know how she was and called her son who lived nearby. There was no answer so I left a message. He called back the next day; she died the day that I had called.
It’s sad to think that I won’t see Ms. Tobin again. I will miss her stories of Montana, the adventures of her childhood, how she played the organ in Gunnison, when she become a sorority mother, how she built the new cabin, the happenings of her children and grandchildren; but what a blessing that she was able to return to spend the summer on the lake with her family one last time.
Ms. Tobin loved God and her family. And I loved Ms. Tobin.
I went with the Art & Spirituality group to see the exhibit, 2009 Pastel Society of Colorado: Mile High National Exhibition, and found it delightful. If you haven’t been, go! It is at the Longmont Museum until 27 September.
One of our group said he found that most of the pieces were “heart-work, not head-work” suggesting that they offered something at all levels. Our discussion ranged from technique to style to color to context. Wow!
(If you have an interest in art and spirituality, we meet once a month, the second Thursday morning. Sometimes we visit exhibits together and “process them” ensemble; sometimes we share the works from within the group and offer comments; sometimes we listen to writings and talk about the words. Let me know and I’ll provide you with more information.) In the meantime, go see the pastels!!
If you’ve visited this site very often, you might have noticed that I love to post photographs. They are usually of something that has captured my fancy, perhaps something slightly whimsical.
But I haven’t put up very many of late because my camera has developed a big problem: it has no clarity. It comes with a wonderful feature known as autofocus. That feature is malfunctioning or just plain broken. All the pictures come out looking fuzzy.
Afflicted with my own bout of the same, I haven’t been able to decide whether or not to send it for factory repairs. Finally the other day, I just declared that it would be silly to send it off for $80+ to be fixed when I could buy a new camera with better features for $130. Yet, when I went to the store yesterday the model I desired was out of stock.
And so, we wait. I will get a new camera and I will take more pictures that I post here to help show bits of my world.
Now if I could reach the same level of clarity about my own status…
Stay tuned. There is definitely more to come!