Friday, December 28, 2007

It Was a Very Good Day

I struggled with what to call this entry. I went back and forth between the one I chose and "Notions," "Flips," and several others. This one won out because, bottom line, that is what I am writing about and there is no need to be fancy or flourished about it.

I had called a dear friend of mine to let her know that I was going to be at my mother's home for several days at Christmastime but would not have access to a vehicle. If she had the energy and desire, would she ever consider a drive to come see me? I left this on her machine several days before I left home knowing that the likelihood of her being able to make the two hour trip was slim--but nonetheless, secretly hoping she would say yes.

The third morning I was with Mom, she called asking, "What if I came this afternoon?" My response was a heart-instinctive "I'll be doing flips in the driveway until you arrive." She laughed and began shoveling out so she could get on the road. I told my mother what was going on and she responded with "She's crazy to drive all that way for just a couple of hours!" My response was simply "Well, I must be worth it to her...our friendship must be worth it to her..." What a feeling to have well inside.

My friend arrived and we went to a local coffee shop--we were the only two there in an old home, brightly painted with art hanging on the walls. With lattes and a shared ginger cookie, we curled into cushy armchairs and spent several hours enjoying conversation and mutual presence. We talk on the phone regularly but haven't seen each other face to face for several years now. For too long, now.

We hugged at the beginning, we hugged at the end, and she called to say that she'd made it home, having picked up some ice-melt along the way because heavy snow is predicted for today.

Just as there can be difficulties wrapping a present of unique proportion or shape, there is also no way to wrap words around some events or feelings.

Today, the snow is heavy outside. I am inside, writing, reading, and thinking. My friend is safe in her home.

Yesterday was a very good day.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Early Christmas

I just returned home from Lessons and Carols at my parish. The idea that I am supposed to now go to sleep is lost on my psyche that is still back in the pew amongst good, decent people who raised the roof with readings and singing. I tell you it felt as though the child was born right there, right then...somewhere between Dietrich Bonhoeffer's letter to his parents, Go Tell it on the Mountain, Dorothy Day's 1941 essay about the birth of a baby boy at the Catholic Worker on Mott Street, and Laudate Dominum. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin on Jesus being born after already disturbing the universe, might have been the first words the child heard...or perhaps it would have been the medieval English poem that exhorted all to Be Merry! The first lullaby would have been Lo How a Rose...

Oh, yes, there was birth tonight. The birth of joy and praise, song, and thanksgiving. Birth brought forth amidst people gathered in community, praying for the baby, the new life... Indeed, I found the Gaudete I was missing this morning. One of those things that is never really lost...though sometimes hard to find. Faith is what tells us it will again come to pass.

Time for bed.


As I write this morning, I am aware that according to the Christian liturgical cycle, today is Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent. Gaudete...Rejoice. The juxtaposition of knowing this and reading the New York Times front section over coffee and cereal is cause for serious thinking. So many dead here, a terrorist bombing there, protests here AND there... Rejoicing??

And then I remembered the reading from two Sundays ago that said Jesus would not come in a blaze of glory. That phrase stopped me short. I think it all depends on how you want to look at a blaze of glory. Is it flash and trumpets, royal imagry, nearly magic? Or, if the room is pitch black and someone has a candle and a match, could that not be a blaze of glory? Without it, there would be darkness. If no one around you has hope and you can remember what peace tastes like, smells like, feels like, are you not then a bearer of a blaze of glory? Somehow I think it will all happen in a blaze of glory...each person doing all that they out of the fullness of themselves...pretty soon, maybe, if enough people are flickering, there will again be Light.

An act of creation worthy of rejoicing.


Sunday, December 9, 2007

Telling Stories

Having spent three days in bed sleeping, coughing, napping, blowing, sleeping, and drinking enough water to float an armada, I was understandably buoyant at the prospect of leaving the house. The fact that my grand adventure was taking me a whole block and half to the drugstore did nothing to prevent the whole ritual of readiness-- a good hot shower (gift from God to my sinuses), clean jeans, warm cozy turtleneck and fleece. Along the short route where I could have had my nails done and wardrobe dry-cleaned several times over, I met a story I'd forgotten over the last days.

This story lives much of her time tucked into the pay phone partition between here and the next block over. She is surrounded by the well-ruffled pages and seemingly broken spine of her life. It is all gathered in around her so no words are lost or paragraphs plagiarized. She is the only one who can tell her story.

Everyone has one, this I believe. Everyone in each office building, in every shop, condemned project, and street corner. There is a unique story of how circumstances came to be what they are. And no one else can presume to know what it is. The authorship is within the story itself. Or, I wonder, should that be Story?

Someone once presumed to tell me that my father had "wasted his mind" by selling cars and eventually living into his own multi-chaptered tale of searching and never finding. The presumption of the judgment rendered prompted the following:

Somehow I just can't imagine God- at the end of it all- looking at someone, no matter their straits, and saying

"Well geez, you wasted it all, didn't you? All that I gave you, PIFF...gone."

No... I think God's going to say

"I'm so glad, I've been waiting, and here's your coffee, just the way you like it. Welcome back, it's been a long time. The flowers have grown some and the world has changed, but people haven't really, have they? They still want for things they haven't, get angry, say things they don't mean, sigh at sunsets, and blow dandilions to kingdome come. Never have figured out where that is. Yes, they love and they fight, they create and they kill.

I didn't set out with that broad a scope of activity in mind, but there you have it. Loving, creating, honoring, imagining, hoping, toiling, caring, building...that was the basic plan. Then one day, not one of the seven--a little while after that- the wind blew up into a fit causing a great agitation among folks.

'That's it day after day??' one of them asked me. Can you imagine asking me that?

'Will there ever be any choice?'

In the spirit of generosity and freedom, I said 'Sure.'

Now, sometimes what people isn't part of the prototype, but that doesn't make them bad... not to me anyway. No, I'd say it makes me all the more thankful to see them again. So we can walk, and I can show off the flowers. I do love making flowers--all those colors and textures and smells-- heavenly!!

Go ahead, laugh! Laugh and kick up your feet. You are home now. That's what you do here."

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Making Links

Several of the kids I teach have said to me lately that I am the smartest person they know. This after I pull off some seemingly miraculous deed like spelling Fahrenheit without the help of a dictionary or explaining negative numbers. The likelihood of their statement being true is slim, but it does get me thinking about things. When I was their age, I can remember being so thankful for the people I knew who could provide answers to the many questions of an inquisitive kid. I had a mental storehouse of who to ask about what and/or where to find a book about it in the library. I wonder how many other kids memorized the Dewey decimal classification system just to make finding a topic easier when a curiosity arose?

As I have grown up, however, I have seen that the people I want to be around the most aren’t always the smartest. I want to be with the curious, the passionate, the reasoned, the informed, the prayerful, the thinking, the contemplative, the willing to be a little wacky, the willing to be wrong, the dig-in-and-let’s-find-out crowd…those who “make links,” the root meaning of intelligence.

It is one of the things I wish for most for my students—that they eventually come to worry less about “smart” and more about open, willing, logical, reasonable, and occasionally, faith-fully, daring.

Madeleine L’Engle has a glorious poem for Advent called The Irrational Season—“This is the irrational season/when love bloomed bright and wild./ If Mary had been filled with reason,/ there’d have been no room for the child.”

I thought about all of this while writing Advent III. May we all enjoy the wonder.

Advent III

Along the Way

I have made the acquaintance of galaxies
and know of the whispers
shared between stones
that hold light and memory within.

I have offered my dancing
in exchange for these spectacles
born in the starlight, taught by the moon,
now beguiling my senses.

All this while Reason
hears a lullaby hummed
between the grit and the grandeur of hope.