Friday, July 24, 2009

Quiet Miracles –

It is a bit after 5 p.m. on Friday, July 24th and I’m sitting in the sanctuary of TVUUC. There is an exquisite labyrinth set up in the sanctuary. If I felt more steady on my feet at the moment, I would walk it. Well, it’s good to sit here and just breathe ... in: "Peace", out: "Yes". "Peace – Yes." That is my personal meditation and it works well for me; I even use it to ease my asthma.

It feels quietly exciting to sit here – I’m in the seat I always used until that morning last July 27th when I got up and changed seats and sat in the one directly behind it. I’ve said before that I did that "for some inexplicable reason", but that’s not quite true. That morning, something ("the small voice"), had made me edgy and told me to change seats; actually, it had almost shouted that instruction. And because I listened and heeded, I am able to be here this evening. But that is not what inspired this post's title.

There are many activities, a special service, and a guitar concert scheduled for this weekend and Monday. They are intended to celebrate the church’s spiritual triumph over the intent of the man who wanted to kill us all – the triumph of love over hate. They are intended, also, to pour out our thanks to the community of Knoxville churches and individuals that gave us so much support in the days and weeks following the shootings. My own personal preference is the reverent, centering approach we have this evening. It seems certain that the media will be here on Sunday and Monday. There will be a lot of people, maybe even throngs, as was the case one year ago. I’ve wondered, worried about how the events may affect the families of those who were slain.

I was injured. I was able to walk ... no, crawl, out of the sanctuary that morning, deafened; I was able to shakily stand on my feet, and able to put myself on auto-pilot to drive myself home ... after which I collapsed and found myself in a crescendo of almost indescribable physical and emotional pain, the ramifications of which evolved over several months. How I resisted it. How I hated to be a victim – I hated it. When the migrating pellets caused my eye to hemorrhage on election day morning, that happening brought me to my emotional knees. I wondered if I was losing my eye (my good eye). I learned that I would need to stay behind dark glasses and/or dodge people for a month. It was frightening to look at myself in the mirror, so I certainly didn't want to frighten others. But a miracle happened. Two miracles (or a two-part miracle)!

One beautiful afternoon when the neighborhood was quiet and no one else was around, I was sitting in my backyard on the old wrought iron bench, situated under a very old (and wise) maple tree. I had my dog with me. I became aware of a peaceful feeling – it felt almost alien ... and so calming. In that moment, a perfectly shaped, golden leaf fluttered down from the maple tree and gently brushed my arm as it came to rest on my left hand. I understood this leaf to be a very special gift. The moment was a time of enlightenment and communion.

After a while, I got up and went into the house, where I stood in front of my full-length mirror, looked into the reflection of my face, and heard myself saying aloud "I love you – no matter how you look. I treasure every part of you and the miracle that you are still functioning as a living unit." I remember those as my exact words. From that moment, I’ve had a new regard and respect for myself ... and for my music and general imprint on the world.

I became gentle with myself and used (my own) healing touch on my forehead and eye. I made peace with my pellets, which responded by quietly settling down. Of course, during that month away from church (while my eye recovered), the other congregants had moved on in their own individual and communal ways of healing. When I did return in mid-December, there was a sea of new faces; there were throngs of people. For a while, I felt like a stranger, out of cadence with everyone else. My drama has been and is amazing.

Meanwhile, my quiet, miracle messenger maple leaf is in a picture frame, pressed under glass for all time to come, and hanging on my bedroom wall. The memory of its gentle stroke upon my hand reminds me that my life ... and life itself (in the continuum) will go on ... yes, changed, but ever vital and precious.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Days Of Innocence –

Occasionally my mind opens up its picture album and diary and I get to re-experience some long-ago scenes. Mid-summer, during my childhood, was a time that I savored. I would say that I was what was known then as a "tom-boy", climbing trees where I’d hang by my knees or sit nestled where a comfy limb joined the tree’s main trunk, and read a book or eat berries. I vividly remember, though, that when I occasionally wore pants instead of a dress (little girls mostly wore dresses when I was a child), I’d always make sure I had a ribbon in my hair or laced into my shoes, to indicate to people that I was a girl (in case they failed to notice my long, braided hair, which boys of that time did not wear).

Many a summer evening, my mother would send me out into the yard to pick dandelion greens for salad. I think my father tried his hand at making dandelion wine. I recall that, at that time and place, dandelions were not disdained or poisoned – they were eaten and made into wine; sometimes they were just welcomed as part of the lawn, for their cheerful flowers and the fuzzy seed heads that we children loved to play with. I still like dandelions.

Often my father would enlist my help with his huge garden and he would teach me about plants and their care. My mother had been a "city girl", but she had adapted to life in the country. From mid-July on through September, she would spend days at a time in the kitchen, canning vegetables and fruit that would be stored in a special room in our basement. The basement was old-style, as the house had been built in 1938. It had places where coal chutes had been, before the heating system had been converted from coal to oil. The basement was spooky, even after I’d become an adult. My mother loved to make things out of cement. Making her own wooden forms, she fashioned many little "steps" and garden edgings, and even dug and cemented (sides and bottom) of a children’s pool, which I’d say was about 8'x10' and perhaps almost (an uneven) 3' in depth.

Lest this all appear to be a picture-book scene, I need to add that we always seemed to have an over-abundance of visitors – my parents’ friends, relatives, acquaintances – sometimes the house was like a train station; it also had its share of quarrels and the air was always blue with cigarette smoke. I didn’t mind the visitors much, except for when my cousins would be there for a day or several days. They were fun for the first hour or so, but would interfere with my treasured hours at the piano. Sometimes I would find my solitude and escape by getting "lost" on the property, usually in a tree.

Twice per summer, my mother would take me to the beach, which I loved. It was only about 25 or 30 minutes away by car, but that was before she got her driver’s license, so we had to travel by bus. When you travel by bus, it seems like a long journey.

Of course, there was always the possibility of one of the year-round music performances that my mother had me booked for. Some of them involved real travel; some of them were back-to-back. They were kind of the reassuring bits of punctuation, sprinkled across the scenes I’ve just described, sort of a reaffirmation – of what, I’m not sure. It sometimes felt like I was living two lives.

Funny how each season has memories that can tiptoe across that threshold; how all those threads are firmly woven together.