Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Memory Garden

It’s a kohlrabi.  I’ll get to that part in a bit.  

I have been remembering gardens lately.  Gardens of my young childhood, because I don’t remember them appearing after fifth or sixth grade.  Garbanzo beans, green beans, wax beans, shelly beans, potatoes, zucchini, tomatoes, corn, carrots, butternut squash, cucumbers, sugar pumpkins, big and knobby jack-o-lantern pumpkins…

And always, interesting bugs, the summer-earth smell of green that got stirred up by my legs, the tickle of the leaves, the way you had to be careful squatting down to look at something interesting because the rows in between weren’t that wide and you didn’t want to tip and break delicate stems; the watering bucket, the bushel baskets, the canning jars, the garden hose.

There was the year of my father growing chili peppers to dry and use…and he told me, his ever-curious daughter, chubby handed and about six years old, Do NOT touch the peppers, especially if they are red…even THOUGH they are bright and red.  And he related the story of why…which involved his hands swelling and itching and a trip to the emergency room.  Somehow, the story just wasn’t enough…and yep, I touched the peppers…a little.  And spent the day itching the daylights out of my palms by rubbing them up and down my shorts.  Dad never said a word, though he surely noticed. He didn’t need to.  I’ve never touched one with a bare hand since.

I remember too sitting on card table chairs in the garage with my grandmother.  We each had a brown paper grocery sack of shelly beans and a colander. I have no idea what the beans are actually called.  We only ever called them shelly beans.  And that’s what we’d sit there together and do…pop the pods, beans into the colander, pods back into the sack….until the beans were done. I loved the way the freshly shelled beans looked and felt…so cool, so smooth, so pretty—all salmon colored and flecked with brick red.  

There are single memories too…the sound of the rattle on the top of my other grandmother’s pressure cooker; the year my uncle stuck a cherry firecracker inside one of the ears of corn in the corn row and then lit it to explode while we were walking several stalks behind him; Kool-Aid ice-cubes in repurposed yogurt cups; unexpectedly finding the garter snake underneath the large leaves of a zucchini plant…and shrieking to high holy heaven.

Then there’s kohlrabi. 

We grew kohlrabi too. But they never made it into the house. My father, uncle, grandfather, and brother would pick them, hose them off, and stand bent over in the garden eating them like apples.  

I read about them again recently and enquired at the farmers market here on the harbor-front.  They were in last week and I bought one.

I cut it into little planks and roasted it with a dribble of olive oil and coarse salt.  Delicious.  It stayed crunchy, had a great texture and a clean green taste, and was actually refreshing—not an attribute I normally ascribe to a vegetable.

I thought of Hurley, Jerry, Roy, and my brother while I ate some of the sticks and shared them with the others who were home.  I thought of them, and sparklers, and homemade ice-cream and my mother laying claim to the paddle in the middle, licking it clean while standing in the middle of the yard.  

Good times.  I am glad for those memories.  And I’m glad to know of kohlrabi first hand, 40+ years later.  

I can't but think with a chuckle that they are probably wondering what took me so long.  

Friday, July 6, 2018

Constant to a Purpose

From 18 June, 2018

2:20 P.M.

There was one loon out for a low-tide bob in the rain—or so I thought. That one loon was actually waiting for the others to arrive before going on a swim ‘round and having a go at afternoon fishing.  It’s either two males and a female or two adults and a young one—but I think the sizes would indicate that they are all adults—too big for being young.  I love that one of them waited—and that they are now three. A Trinity.

3:30 P.M.

There is one out there again, a sentinel keeping watch over the break in the stone wall.  So peaceful, so constant…constant to a purpose beyond what I see or can understand from my perspective.  

5:50 P.M.

The fog has dissipated and the clouds have thinned to nearly translucent.  there is a kind of white shine upon the water.  As though she’s dressed in evening finery.

I re-read these observations this morning and was taken anew with the image of the loon being constant to a purpose beyond.  It got me thinking about “the vision of faith” I referenced in this post from last week. It got me thinking about trade wars, armed wars, opioid crises, the dehumanizing politics of migration...

One loon,
a sentinel,
keeping watch over the break in the stone wall;
peaceful and constant to a purpose 
beyond the limitation of my vison.
Teach me that same stamina 
for keeping vigil; 
that unwavering watchful faith
that the waters might change,
that the tide will rise;
that evening will come and morning will follow
and your creation will be baptized in light,
and we will be dressed and ready
in the finery of freshness
for what is yet to come.

Kimberly M. King, RSCJ

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Feast of Thomas, and those who think differently

Brothers and sisters:  You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets with Jesus himself as capstone.  Through him, the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord.  In him you are also being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
-Ephesians 2:19-22

The language of faith equips us for the struggle against the objective cynicism of our situation.  It does not merely repeat what was; it does not merely reflect what is; it opens and changes.  We learn to understand our lives as a struggle against the prevailing cynicism. We understand ourselves in unity with Christ as part of the Kingdom-of-God movement for righteousness.  We will be involved in conflicts.  It is no longer enough to be personally decent and inoffensive. It never was enough, incidentally.
-Dorothy Soelle-
Excerpted from the reflection from 03 July, 2018 in Give Us this Day.  
Originally appearing in her book Choosing Life.

I read both of these readings this morning, the morning of one of my favorite feast days—the feast of Saint Thomas the “I think differently.”  I will forever contend that he gets a bad rap when referred to as The Doubter.  In my book, he simply needed the information delivered in a different way.  

I reflected on Thomas, as it is his feast day…And, I also read this in light of a news story I saw on CBC last night.  Toronto has opened the first Hospice for those who are homeless.  The doctor who began it spoke with beautiful heart.  “We may live differently, but we all die the same death.”  He spoke of wanting the Hospice to offer respite, beauty, and a sense of place, of home, so that homeless people might be surrounded with this experience as they die.

They interviewed the first resident, Pandora, 27 years old, as she met with the doctor before moving in. You saw photos of the toll that a life of hard living takes on a person.  You heard a story of choices made, abuse suffered, addictions that overwhelmed, and a final illness that counted her days in wispy breaths.  She moved into the Hospice.  Pandora died two days later, in a place of security, a room, the doctor said, that she claimed as her home.

I knew someone not unlike Pandora.  He too struggled (and mostly lost) 
against prevailing cynicism and needed information delivered in ways that would make sense for him.  Forget common sense or taking it on faith.  Faith required a vision he did not have.  A vision past, a vision beyond, that can imagine that the structure will hold together and have room enough for him.  

The doctor on CBC didn’t use Dorothy Soelle’s ‘language of faith,’ but Jesus did.  And when Jesus did use the language and the actions of faith, of compassion, Thomas received what he needed and joined the household of God.  “My Lord and my God!”

It didn’t surprise me that Pandora died two days after coming to hospice.  She could let go in safety, she could relax in that dwelling place of God’s spirit.  In the language of faith, the cynicism of life on the street gave way to a deeper vision of freedom.
The man that I knew also died two days after being put on hospice-care.  His hard-living was done.  He gained the freedom he spent a long time trying to find while coming at the world more differently than anyone I’ve known.  

May we all receive such people as Jesus did and take the time to learn how to offer our own hands, actions, listening, compassion, so that all might enter in and find shelter against the prevailing cynicism of our time.