Wednesday, May 30, 2007

moving right along...

The conference is interesting, inspiring, the scenery lovely and the weather perfect. The food is delicious and there's lots of it. But each day I realize I am just tired. Taking on additional spiritual and intellectual information is not easy and I'm cutting out on lots of things, losing interest in some of the ones I chose initially to do.

Last night I attended a session on "being still." It was one of those situations where Murphy's Law was running rampant and the facilitator, although outwardly calm, was juggling his presentation internally. Ceiling fans with only one setting—high—kept blowing out the candle. Originally twenty people had signed up, and the perfect circle of chairs kept expanding in uneven lumps as more and more gate-crashers arrived (me among them) on the spur of the moment. The sound system kept picking up intermittent drumming from another building and the controls had to be located and shut down. A cel phone rang. We were in the middle of a deep meditation when he had to bring us back to the room for an announcement... "is so and so in the group?" an emergency message, as the Kanuga staff tried to locate the individual.

Metaphors for life, we call these instances. A specific session on being still is bombarded with outward distractions... some of them annoying, some necessary... but not now. So it is in life. At the breakfast table this morning we were congratulating the facilitator on his equanimity when a woman mentioned that this was what had happened to Jesus. He'd take hmself off to a quiet place to pray, only to be followed, stopped on the way, interrupted. His ministry was in those interruptions. Another important concept to ponder when I am not so tired...

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

getting grounded... not.

Stone ground grits and eggs... sausage biscuits... bacon, all you can eat. Have I died and gone to heaven? Even the coffee here is excellent. I am finding that the word "vacation" for me always seems to equate to "food." Oh well. Simple pleasures. Our Eucharist this morning was from the service used on Iona. Beautiful. The Celts definitely know how to worship.

Monday, May 28, 2007

in the garden

I'm in Hendersonville, North Carolina... at Kanuga, an Episcopal Conference Center. I drove up with two dear friends from Jacksonville yesterday morning for a week of "Gardens and Grace". It's beautiful here, so far the weather has been delightful... slept with the window open under a lazy ceiling fan last night... awoke to birdsong early this morning.

It was an uneventful flight to Jacksonville, although I cut it pretty close at the airport. I say uneventful... that's in the general sense: no flight delays, not long waits in security lines, no lost baggage.

However, this trip has had nothing but unexpected events.

I heard music on the plane. I actually looked around to see if someone had a CD player going somewhere, but no, it was "in my head." Tintinnitus is a new development attached to my aging process. Some days I keep hearing our doorbell ring when it's not ringing, but I've never heard music before. It was amazing... a bit like electronic music in its vibratory nature, but a distinct series of four harmonic chords that repeated themselves three times and then the progression changed to a new line with five chords. Then it started over again. I tried to hum along with what I was hearing and when I did, a profound sense of peace tinged with some vague awareness suffused my body. Cool! Very cool! And then I saw them. (Music from twilight zone: doo doo doo doo, doo doo doo doo)

What I "saw" outside the window were little speckles of light darting about in random patterns... like fireflies only teensy weensy, much smaller, much faster. Cosmic little beings that I shouldn't have been aware of, yet was. Okee dokee, now not only do I hear things that are not there, but I see them. Nice going, Claire Joy. Maybe they were figments of my imagination, just like the music, but they were pretty wonderful. They looked... happy.

When I arrived in Jacksonville, my friend picked me up from the airport,and we headed for the beach, just long enough to have a quick lunch and for me to dunk my toes into the ocean for a moment. She understands my need for this ritual. I am saying hi to my mother, whose ashes were scattered in that very same ocean fifteen years ago. Any ocean will do, since they are all connected, but this one is where she went in, so to speak, so it is special. Memorial Day weekend is also when I found her after her final stroke, so the weekend itself is laden with memory. Next we stopped by the nursing home to see my friend's mother-in-law.

I've known Adelaide for several years. She's been in a nursing home for much of that time, and I always like to take time to visit if I can. Last year was the first year she didn't know me. Over the past year she's lost more and more of her faculties, and when I saw her Saturday afternoon I knew it was for the last time. The call came at 5:30 Sunday morning.

Would we cancel the trip to Kanuga? No, we would keep to our plans, but with some delay. The family, me and the parish priest gathered at 9:00 for prayers for the dead. A small chime had been brought and was struck gently at the conclusion of our prayers.

As we stood there in silence, I fidgeted... the note had vibrated something loose inside me and a song of praise and entreaty came to my lips: "Open the gates O God! Your daughter is returning. Come out to meet her, O Christ! Your sister has come home! Open your arms O saints and angels! One of your flock has been restored." I wanted to sing it... shout it... wail it to heaven. But of course, being a well-behaved nun (on vacation) I couldn't do any of that. So I took the little hammer and struck the chime three more times repeating the prayer in my head as I did.

Then we got on the road. I'm here. But I'm not quite grounded. I keep thinking of the music on the plane, the little quark-like fireflies, the song to heaven that shook loose in me when the chime sounded. I can't put it together, even though I understand intuitively it is all connected. Maybe in the garden I will be able to make some sense of it all.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Interesting quiz

Thanks to Jules I stumbled onto this interesting quiz. I actually met Jerry Uelsmann (I think when he taught at UF, Gainesville) And I do like much of his work, although I'm told he made his students do a lot of the compositing for him. And oddly enough, I do a whole lot of compositing in my artwork. I just use photoshop... much easier.

Which famous photographer are you?

Jerry Uelsmann: Known for multiple imagery and surrealism

"I think of my photographs as being obviously symbolic, but not symbolically obvious.”

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by quizzes and personality tests.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

more along those same lines...

As I've mentioned before, I've been re-thinking the concept of friendship as it relates to the virtual community I have grown into over the past couple of years of blogging. Re-thinking and re-understanding have mostly been causes for excitement and joy in my life. Some folks find those activities stressful. I don't, don't ask me why.

I also realize that my Life is in transition again. I generally experience this after the fact, rarely as I go through the process, so to realize it mid-stream is quite wonderful. But transition in and of itself is not a gentle thing. My own community of sisters is experiencing its own transitional trauma as fewer of us are capable of handling the day-in-day-out responsibilities of running a convent. There are fewer of us to cook, clean, answer the door, and attend to the various jobs that were once spread over several sisters. With weariness comes irritation and shorter tempers. We do our best to curb the tendency to take it out on each other, but at some point something has to give. We have already moved up Compline to right after supper clean-up, so sisters can retire earlier. That's been helpful for all of us, not just the elderly. What else could we do to streamline our life? I personally feel we need to re-think the Office Book... make it easier to follow. If page two came after page one, maybe more of us could keep track of what day it is and what hymn we're supposed to sing. But revising fifty years of lovely tradition is no easy task, and since nobody has the time nor the energy to tackle it, we muddle through.

I digress. I am still thinking about the Feast of the Ascension, my irreverence for that holiest of days, (in that all I could muster was a sense of resentment and abandonment). I'd pass it off as pre-Memorial Day blues... anniversary of the weekend I found my mother in a coma from which she never recovered... but I figure it's more than that. And... it's not the kind of thing you open a conversation with..."Hey, I really don't care much for Christ's ascending. What do you think?"

Yet a bloggy friend posted a beautiful vision here and through her expression I could approach the event in a new way. What are friends for? Exactly.

Another friend recently posted about cleaning house and giving things up. He said "I think this is about giving up those things of the world that you have attachment to, but really have no purpose whatsoever except to waste your time and kill your soul." You can read the whole post here. How many things am I clinging to that waste my time and kill my soul?

I guess my point is simply this: the Holy Spirit (as much as I like to give that bird bad press) is alive and well on the blogosphere. The Word I need to hear is being posted every day and I'm reading those words and re-thinking, re-understanding. I'm in transition again... Hallelujah. I think.

Friday, May 18, 2007

searching for meaning

Dream: I am at a huge party, a housewarming. At one point it seems to be for the community because a woman kneels down and asks to receive communion. I explain that we are just having a dinner party, not a Eucharist.

Then it seems to be a housewarming for my ex-husband and me. I am welcoming guests, who are looking around in disbelief... everything is spotless and all the clutter is gone. You can see the furniture and bare floors. There are lots of people milling around everywhere... out in the yard, on the porch, crowding into the kitchen. I see some new people, friends from my time in community and I ask them to stay. Supper will be ready soon, and there's plenty.

As I walk into the kitchen, one of my husband's ex-wives (he's had a few) is hacking away at a giant slab of salmon. She looks up and smiles. She is "tenderizing" it. I walk by without comment. If she wants to tenderize the salmon, I'm not going to interfere. Another woman is trying to help my husband with the lentil soup... but the bowl is too small for all the ingredients. Apparently I have prepared everything in advance and have put it in the freezer, but nobody has remembered to thaw it out. There are no large pots or bowls to serve it in. I am irritated that the soup is still frozen, irritated that there are no large bowls. Oh... I took all the large bowls when we divorced, I think. My fault.

I send my husband on a fool's errand... to find a large enough container for the gallons of frozen soup. What about a large roasting pan? Do you have one of those? He returns with a giant covered grill hot off the fire pit. Will this work? He sets it down on the table. I lift the lid and there are about twenty blackened cornished game hens inside... left over from some long ago barbecue. The pan is burned and full of dirt. I lose my temper, fly off the handle and yell at him.
I wake up.

I look at the clock. 6:03. I've overslept (again). I was awake at 4:30 but the window was open and the room chilly, and my neck stiff and painful. Too lazy to get up and close the window I burrowed deeper into the covers... to dream. What? Why? In dreams concerning my ex-husband I am always angry with him for something. I try to analyze the dream as I wash and dress and brush my teeth. What does it mean, Lord?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Feast of the Ascension

I'm not sure I'm all that happy about the feast of the Ascension.

I know I'm supposed to be ecstatic, because Jesus has gone back to God, where he came from in the first place, and the Holy Spirit will come around at some point to offer whatever it was that Jesus had (although the disciples weren't that clear about when that was going to happen.) Maybe just the spectacular way that Jesus left was enough for them. They witnessed it. I didn't.

So I sit here and keep thinking... you're leaving again!?! Damn.

Maybe it's because the few brushes I've had with the Holy Spirit have not been all that pleasant. I spoke in tongues a couple of times and that was embarrassing and out of control. I spent several months compelled to write Christian folk songs every night... verse after verse after verse... so many verses nobody in their right mind would want to hear the whole song. Do you know how many words rhyme with tree? Too many.

And whenever I sense the Spirit moving through a place, I tear up. My nose turns red, I can't speak without coughing. Of course it's usually when I'm in a group of people and someone always wants to know what's wrong? I was at an ordination a couple of weeks ago and one of the ordinands was so moved she sobbed through the whole ceremony. Uh oh. I can see it coming now... and the thought terrifies me.

Monday, May 14, 2007

someone else to remind you

John 14:23-29

"I have said these things to you while I'm still with you..." John's Gospel sets these words in the middle of the last supper... a long string of "if you love me, do this... and this... and this."

Yet we are reading these words a few days before the Ascension. It makes sense. Jesus could easily be preparing his disciples for his absence once again. When he tried that before they didn't get it. Will they get it this time? Probably not.

Think of the emotional roller coaster his followers have been riding over the last month: a triumphal entry into the Holy City... hoards screaming "hosanna!" only to be replaced by hoards screaming "crucify him!" The actual crucifixion, (which most of them did not witness) followed by news of a resurrection. Too much too soon. Now what? He's leaving AGAIN?

When someone we love has to leave us, no matter what the reason, there is a sense of loss. Stay! Don't go! When someone leaves that we expect to come back, and they don't, there is a sense of guilt. If only I had known, I'd have said goodbye. I'd have told them I loved them.

Jesus is specific about that. Okay... if you love me, here's what you do: you treat each other with the dignity you'd use if it were me. You'll be willing servants to each other. And while I won't be here to remind you, I'll send someone else to remind you... and you'll remember. You'll remember what I said, what I did, and if you love me, you'll do the same.

The advocate, the comforter, the Holy Spirit can take a variety of forms. She isn't going to look like a bird every time she appears. Just as we sometimes see Christ in the eyes of another human being, we also can feel the spirit moving through us to do what Jesus commanded.

Love, forgive, heal, feed, serve. It is God you serve, no matter who it is, no matter if they drive you crazy or annoy the hell out of you. "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives."

In other words, this peace, this gift, makes no common sense by the world's standards. In the midst of your daily grind, you'll easily forget. But God is sending someone else to remind you...

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Assorted Musings on Mother's Day

My friend mentioned she doesn't like Mother's Day. She may post about why that is, and I'll probably agree with whatever she says. Her words always encourage me to think about things differently. For the record, I like it. (Thinking differently... and Mothers Day. Both.)

I remember when my kids were in grade school they'd come home on Friday with hand-made cards—class project. The greetings were generally as creative as the teacher involved, sometimes humorous. Drawings were big, question and answer sessions... I like my mother to cook: (fill in the blank) My mother is prettiest when: (fill in the blank) I love my mother because: (fill in the blank) I saved those cards for years... my sentimentality for them long exceeded my sentimentality for the macaroni Christmas ornaments they brought home.

I don't know who invented Mother's Day. I could have looked it up, and given you the history, but you can google it yourself. I do that (google information for my blog) sometimes... so I'll appear more intelligent than I really am. And I actually am pretty smart about some things. I have excellent reading comprehension, decent grammar, good spelling (if not typing) skills. I'm creative and productive, have most always been able to earn a living. My learning curve is suffering with old age, but I guess that's to be expected.

"Street smart" I have never been. Naive would be a better term... or gullible, perhaps. As a child, I was sheltered from violence, gang wars, drive-by shootings. I was not sheltered from child molestation, but neither was I traumatized by it. It left its scar, but one that was barely visible. I wonder about the scars (visible and otherwise) left on my children... how my neglect, insecurity, inability to set boundaries, and bad choices have affected them in ways they are still dealing with.

That is all in my past, I cannot change any of it. What I can do now, is love them with all my heart, let them know it in as many ways possible, and wish them well. Oddly enough it appears I've been given a second chance at mothering to some of our elderly sisters, who grow more child-like every day. They spill, break dishes, go out alone without telling anyone, lose their place in the Daily Office... lose their glasses, or cane. They ask a thousand questions... tell me the same story again and again... yet I take it in stride without much annoyance. I have more patience, more compassion with them than I did with my own kids. (Maybe growing old does that too.)

When I was little, everyone wore a carnation on Mother's Day. There was a code: if your mother was alive, you wore red or pink. If she was dead, you wore white. I never wore a white carnation because somewhere along the way that ritual was phased out. But flowers for Mother's Day have never phased out. I read that Mother's day actually surpasses Valentine's Day in flower deliveries, and that's a HUGE flower holiday.

I got flowers from my older son this year. Irises. Beautiful purple irises. The card read To My Mommy I loved that. Mommy. I only know one other adult who still calls her mother Mommy. And I do love flowers, too. Some folks think they are a waste of money because the shelf-life is so short. Nah. Jesus didn't think it was a waste of money when Mary cracked the jar of nard over his head. The perfume was exquisite and he loved her for it. It said "you're worth it." For me it's the same with flowers. In spite of everything, I'm worth it to my children.

I am blessed with two sons and they take turns surprising me. When I was younger (and way more cynical), I'd say "It's good to have two. You have a better chance of being remembered by at least one of them." This year it was flowers.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Imaginary Friends

I had a phone message on my machine from one of my bloggy friends. We had been in contact through her blog, (and mine) and we had exchanged a few emails, but I had never heard her voice. It somehow changed the dynamic to hear her speak. She actually sounded much as I would have imagined, only better, if that makes any sense.

She was telling me about a kindness another blog reader had extended to her, apparently through me, and wanted to thank me. I hadn't really done anything, other than mention her blog in one of my blogs and give a link to her site. That's it. Yet a connection was made and through that connection at least two more people have enriched each other's lives.

Some of my sisters (and plenty of people I imagine... maybe not you since you're actually reading this post) can't understand how virtual friends can be worth anything. The tendency is to think of them as "imaginary friends" and therefore not worthy of the same affection or effort that's involved in being a real flesh and blood friend. I bought that story for awhile because I thought I agreed. Now I'm not so sure.

If Jesus were alive today, would he blog? Would he find his disciples in the Yellow Pages or google the Web?

Today in Bible study we discussed the lesson from Luke where Jesus sends his disciples out to heal and teach. Take no money or extra clothes, and if someone welcomes you, stay awhile... how would that go over today? Not very well I bet. No, our culture and our technology require different tactics to achieve the same results... healing broken hearts, inspiring indifferent minds, converting people's everyday lives.

I have flesh and blood friends that I don't see often. They are in my heart, on my mind. I say prayers for them when I know they need them. But I do not experience them in the flesh except maybe once a month, in some cases, once a year. I have bloggy friends I have never met and probably never will. Yet because we have shared ourselves and our ideas through our writing, they are in my heart, on my mind, and I say prayers for them when I know they need them.

What's the difference?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Happy Birthday Dear One!

My younger son was born on Mother's Day. At least that's the way I remember it. (It's my story and I'm sticking to it.) Today he celebrates his thirty-sixth birthday. The fact that he was my second and I had a good idea of what to expect, that technology had improved in the three years since my first childbirth... both contributed to a much easier delivery... a much easier transition to the caring of a new baby. A nurse informed me that "the angels had kissed him on the way out." I wasn't sure how she knew this, had witnessed this, or if it was a line she gave all new mothers... but it was a comfort at the time.

And he was an angelic baby. From the beginning he was strong and independent, with a knack for entertaining himself without much supervision. That his older brother sometimes bullied him and got him into trouble didn't seem to faze him much. He liked to draw when he was small and I had occasional visions of another artist in the family.

But in addition to his innate sensitivity, he was also a macho guy... whether out of desire or self-defense I don't know. He took to body building-activities: mowing lawns in the summer. He pumped iron in high school and was a male cheerleader, lifting the (somewhat hefty) girls into the air.

He served his time in the Navy, and was determined to become a police officer. The police academy wasn't accepting new recruits, so he attended the junior college's police course. Of course the force wasn't hiring the junior college graduates either, so he took a job in Corrections, working at the county jail. That was when I knew he still valued the human element of compassion so important in positions of authority and physical power.

He told me about a young, very scared woman who had been arrested for forging an $18 check at a 7/11. She was in a holding tank with a crowd of hookers who were razzing her and scaring her to death. All he did was pull her sheet from the bottom of the stack and process her through first, to get her out of the pen. He did his job, but with mercy more than justice.

Less than a year later he was finally sworn in as an officer. He made sergeant in record time and then lieutenant. We are talking one determined and focused guy. he has told me more than once he'll be sheriff one day, and I believe him.

I am so proud of him, of his beautiful family and his willingness to persevere. I'm not sure which genes he inherited from me, (probably not the perseverance) but I love him for who he is, and who he is becoming. Happy Birthday dear John!

Thursday, May 03, 2007


Dream: I have missed my grandson's birthday (again) and I am trying to write a blog to apologize, to explain that my (once razor-sharp) memory keeps failing me. I begin the post with "I have too many grandchildren." if that were a valid excuse for not remembering the youngest's first birthday. No, I cannot say that. It sounds judgmental, as if I were rebuking my son for having four children. As the dream continues I keep revising the text, trying not to whine, trying to sound appropriately contrite. I feel guilty, helpless, hopeless in this. I start again.

The truth is I'm having difficulty coping with the fact that I cannot remember things any more. I am having more difficulty with my irritation with others who forget key details. I now have no grounds for complaint (as if I ever did) but now the clarity is painful.

I begin again. I talk about the aging process, things my mother used to say when she was growing forgetful... when she no longer could do things on the spur of the moment or would become agitated when asked to change her plans. It took her two hours to get dressed in the morning. She needed to know ahead of time what to wear. I am not that bad, I say to myself. But I know secretly that it takes me longer to organize my day now too. I start again. "I have too many grandchildren." No, I can't say that. Now why can't I say that? I cannot remember. So I leave it for now, and hit "save as draft."

I wake up exhausted, slowly becoming aware I've dreamed the whole thing. I pray quietly in the early morning dimness. When was his birthday? I'm afraid to look at the little book where I keep all the dates... how late am I?

Later in the day I finally look at the book. I look at March, April... his name is not there. I look at May... hope springing up.. maybe I am not late? His name is not there. My son's name is there. I knew that. I have only two sons. I can remember two. June... there he is, June 24th! I am not late. Ah... but when June comes will I forget again? I sigh. And give thanks for my forgiving sons, my forgiving sisters, my forgiving God.