Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Can you remember being a child on a hot summer day, cut-off blue jean shorts, clean t-shirt that smells like Tide, running, climbing, playing? Your friends are called to dinner but your mother is working late so you amble home … disappointed they’ve had to go but pleased as the sweat begins to dry and you realize it smells sweet like fresh hay at Grandma’s, or the beach.
Inside the white picket fence you recall the shade by the bay window at the side of the small white house and it's patch of clover so green it leans towards blue so you go and lie down to rest. The excited breath of your play slows, eyes closed for a moment or two until they open to a sky deep and blue like some fantasy painting of scudding clouds on an infinite pallet of possibility.
Can you remember the sense of well-being, limitless hope and the joy of friendship, this secret place where you know some other child has been? "John and Suzie" … handprints in the concrete under the old, used to be a carport, yet they are as much of you as this clover and this sky. They are as much of you as your dreams and the questions of youth and images of dappled shadows in the woods. Walk like an Indian, strong yet flowing as a cat on soft ground.
Can you remember when your breath was like honey dripping from a spoon, rich and golden, part of the light that danced in the corner or on the hardwood floor … reaching for you … asking you to reach back into it's dust dancing spell?
Can you remember them calling as you crouched under the house breathing the damp red clay? Calling, calling for you to come join them yet you could not. Like something was holding you back yet knowing all that caused you to remain is the witness that speaks from within.
Saturday, November 11, 2017
The Make-a-Wish Foundation had sent us to Fiji because that had been my son’s wish. He had survived bone cancer, limb salvage and a year of chemo. The whole trip had been surreal. I have memories of him playing in the light surf of the cove, afraid that his manufactured left leg might break, his mother and I para-sailing over azure water, bone colored reef, our fears and doubts cast upon the wind for at least these few moments.
We were on a flat-bottomed speedboat trip inland, skippered by a young East Indian man called, “Captain Jack”, with a small group. Clear sky, the smell of sugar cane pervading the wind blasted senses as the metal boat surfed shallow water with it’s sand and pebble laden bottom. We’d watched a young male sprint his dun colored stallion along the bank in deep sand, his shirt billowing behind and then glided bootleg up to a rickety wooden pier.
They told us the village lay on the other side of the cliff. A small group huddled in wait. As we exited the boat, a rail thin waif of adolescent female in a wrinkled cotton dress reached out her hand. Captain Jack told us her name was Katina. She was African in appearance but covered in pink mottles like a pink and coal colored map. When I grasped her hand, it was rough as tree bark and then I noticed her eyes. They were the milky white of the blind as she smiled a wide and big-toothed greeting. My fear of communicable disease rose then settled.
We were told she had been blind since birth and was “touched” somehow. They said if she bothered us to let them know. She insisted on walking between my wife and I, eager to hold our hands as she led us up the precarious, hand crafted walkway that climbed the precipitous sandstone face. When we came to the community hall and church she held back then disappeared. Had someone called to her?
I can’t remember what she said. I was transfixed by the environment and profound feelings. I only know that in that innocent child I saw the face of God. Poverty, sugar cane, pebble-bottomed river of wild wind and an afflicted child, vessel of grace and love that seemed to reach in and hold my beating heart in her disease scarred hands.
We met the village chief, received the wooden bowl of muddy water kava in consecration of spirit and community. We sat cross-legged in one of the cinderblock buildings where they had laid a feast upon cloths on the floor. They played a battered guitar and sang to us then encouraged us to join in. The native women in their colorful costumes sat apart from the men, their furtive glances questioning yet receiving the pale foreigners. Late afternoon we returned down the path to the speedboat waiting at the rickety dock.
I wondered, “ Where is Katina? Surely she’ll come.” She did not and I found myself saddened by the lack. As we pulled away, engines rumbling that guttural growl, I gazed back and she stood there in the bright day, hand raised in farewell, her shabby dress catching in the balmy breeze at her spindly legs and my heart flew into the sky like a bird released.
Thank you Father for the dignity of life. Thank you for the profound grief that allows me to see the heart of a blind and wanting child on the other side of your earth and know we will meet again. The truth is … I meet her now, my young friend, in each moment, each tear, and each hint of light that illumines the rough yet loving hand of God.
Have you known that moment in the mirror when you realize your life has forever changed? Have you seen your anguish gushing forth unable to stem the tide … lost in the rushing away of all security? The dam you built so long, so steady, bursts and your village of hopes and dreams begins to succumb to the rushing flood and you know it will never be the same, will not sustain you or give you comfort.
Have you known that moment in the mirror when all you have suffered before becomes small and fear takes control of your mind?
Then you scream, STOP and begin to gather and gird yourself for battle. You dry your tears and breathe because you know all of life, all that came before, was to bring you here to this tormented place that will not destroy you … for there is work to be done.
If you have known this moment and still stand. If you have known this moment and a part of you is haunted when you are tired or melancholy then know this. You are not alone. If in the dark you can lie down and rest then we will all be there with you ... oh this universe of souls, like an army of hope til the Master shall call us home.
Wednesday, November 1, 2017
Being a child was like living in secret. All the men were loud and rough. They would tousle his thick, red hair and tease him for blushing. The sandy loam of his grandparent’s world was burdened with sand spurs and there was no sign of books but the worn Bible.
The old wooden house made of planks the color of rain, with its rusty tin roof was foreign and foreboding.
One day his Dad took offense and made him go cut a switch from the hedge out front He’d had to go back because the first one did not suit.
After ... his legs stinging, the whelps trickling tiny spots of blood in places on his freckled legs, he returned to the hedge. While cutting the switch he’d seen the tunnels. So he angled through the scratching brush to crawl on his knees in that soot-dirty loam so they would not see his shame.
It was cooler there and he could watch the smoke from the old stone chimney spiraling up into the cloud-bruised sky. He could watch his fantasies of honor and heroes escape the hardscrabble cavern of that dream dashed shack that seemed to eat these men who had once been boys like him.
It ate them, then spat them out, mean at heart with sly grins and easy offense. Yet he loved them still.
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
It’s dawning on me that I often don't live authentically … or at least I think I can’t. I grew up rock and roll in the late sixties and early seventies. Went overseas to Nam. Developed some bad habits but had a blast. When I came back music was still central to our lives.
Eventually I reformed, had kids, and joined a church. During all that I cut my long hair, changed the way I dressed, etc. I guess you could say I became a responsible productive member of society.
Thing is, sometimes I hear a song or see a music video and I get goosebumps. It’s a good thing. There’s a flood of energy, my heart beats a little faster, hair stands up on the back of my neck.
You see, this is part of who I am too. Greg Allman wrote a song, “I’m No Angel”. I’m pretty sure he was feeling some similar things. Reformation does not erase our heartbeats. Is it good to stifle a benevolent beast? I do a lot of reading and as far as I can tell suppressing our true selves can be a path to disaster.
I wanted to post a rock video on Facebook noting some memories and ask if “anybody was out there.” Then I got to thinking. What about the folks at church, the community, my clients, etc.? I deleted it and sat there wondering ... what the hell?
I’m no angel. I just try to be the best I can be. I meditate, pray, practice yoga and tai chi chuan, serve as best I can but I also train to fight, listen to rock and roll and have a racy streak a mile wide. My son’s know Dad likes “edgy” things.
A friend of mine died yesterday … I’m no spring chicken so folks are dying all over the place. I don’t want to die a “pretender”.
I’m going to post this and I’m going to post that freakin’ video. Tonight I’ll say a prayer asking for knowledge of God’s will and the strength to carry it out.
Saturday, August 26, 2017
One of his earliest memories was his Mom lying half through the doorway her brunette hair splayed over the hardwood floor. The bedroom light was on but her torso and head lay in the shadow of the hall.
She looked like she was sleeping in this irrational place. He knew different. His father had come home after a road trip. He had been happy to see his handsome, grinning Dad in his white shirt with the starched collar. The clip-on tie lay loose to the tie clip halfway down the front. Dad smelled like cologne and something else Charlie couldn’t quite place.
Dad would say hello to Charlie, buss his thick red hair, then go back to the bedroom. Mom would follow from the kitchen. It never took long for the whispers to start to rise. Before long they’d be yelling. Usually his father would stomp out, the taps on his spit shined shoes clipping along the slick waxed floor.
This time Charlie had heard a slap then his Mom had fell half into the hall. Dad stepped over her mumbling as he left.
The door slammed and he was gone, so Charlie went to her. He knelt at her side … the carefully ironed pleats of her dark patterned skirt just at his feet. At first her eyes were closed but after a moment they pursed and then peered slitted up at him.
“It’s ok, Honey. Momma is just resting. Give me a minute and I’ll fix you something to eat.”