Monday, September 15, 2014

A Supple Heart

The Mystery within
I heard a supple heart in a quiet, calm, most soothing voice, of a man I didn’t know while I sat in my ophthalmologist’s waiting room.  At first I thought he was speaking to his wife sitting next to him but later realized he was on his phone talking to a service provider who makes corrective shoes.  I never want to forget the softness in his patient voice when it became apparent the person on the other end of the line was not being helpful.  I sensed within him a very healthy ego, one that didn’t need to get upset with the incompetence of another because he was not getting the service he respectfully requested.  His was not a milk toast response, but one of enviable acceptance and control worthy of emulation.

Parker Palmer’s On-being reflection, “An Invitation to Heartbreak and the Call of the Loon,” states “the heart can break open into new life or break apart into shards of sharper and more widespread pain.”  Clearly my waiting room teacher demonstrated a heart broken open--one that did not need to retaliate and cause more pain.

I am also remembering now the kindness I heard in the voices of others that encouraged my heart to refuse the victim role when I struggled with abuse and my aging parent’s care needs—a hospital volunteer, social workers, a nurses aid, friends, and sometimes family.  Simple kindness, heard in the voice of another, can transform us.  So I have been listening to my own voice lately and have found myself responding with more thoughtful words, acceptance, and patience.

What if we could all hear the supple heart of another and let it soften our own?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Long-term Side Effects

The Mystery within

It’s harvest time and a time to be grateful.  But I also feel overwhelmed this time of the year with the bounty of fresh produce from my Springdale Farm Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share.  Getting a box of more produce than one can reasonably use in a week before the next box comes along, and also finding ways to prepare, and learning to eat some vegetables I normally would not buy, can be challenging.  So I am blanching and freezing some things, preparing whole meals ahead, freezing those, and investigating new recipes.  It can be exhausting, even for me, who generally likes to cook.  In my memoir, “God Never Hurries, I wrote: “Cooking is sometimes soothing ritual for me.”   

While preparing stuffed peppers for the freezer I listened to Krista Tippetts’ On-Being guest, Chef Dan Barber, who extolled the many blessings of cooking locally grown food from great taste, to real nutrition, to environmental sensitivity and feeling a connection to the land of which we are a part.  I understand the good sense he made but admittedly was surprised by his optimism when he said the movement to eat locally is just getting started.  In the future, people will demand more health from the foods they eat.  I hope he’s right.  And I am wondering, how different would our world be if everyone had the opportunity to eat nutritious food?  Healthy food is medicine for the body, mind and soul with wonderful long-tem side effects.  Sadly, the evidence for not eating well is all around us.

But I found it very hard to stay in the kitchen this weekend with fresh sun bright air outside and a bike trail beckoning.  So I took a long break from my cooking and a long ride.  When I get on my bike its like subtracting twenty years off my age for I can bike much more easily than I can walk.  Dusk is my usual time to ride when I finally put an end to the days work and few others are on the trail.  On this sunny Sunday afternoon there were many people out riding.  I felt to be in good company when bikers, looking close to me in age, zoomed past.  I rode the trail to the new park in Port Washington that juts out into Lake Michigan where white boats of many different sizes and shapes moved in and out of the deep blue harbor.  There I lay down on a picnic table to dangle my legs to stretch the muscles I would need for the upgrade and headwind I would face riding home.  I was soothed by the wind-rustled leaves in the young tree above me that was back dropped by a bright blue, near cloudless sky.

The ride home was much more work than I imaged it would be.  But after changing into dry clothes, and a brief rest with more stretching, I was back in the kitchen invigorated and ready to cook some more.  It occurred to me that even though cooking and biking can sometimes be very hard work, most worthwhile things are.  Chef Dan Barber said, “Cooking is a contribution to the betterment of the world.”

What if we could all cook and bike our way into a better world and a better us?                   

Monday, September 1, 2014

Sparks and Synchronicity

The Mystery within...

Allowing myself three weeks off from my Monday blog routine would not have happened without attending an early August weekend retreat titled “Listening to Your Journey.”  It helped focus me on knowing and listening to my true self, my life, and practicing good self-care (which oddly occurred to me, only I can provide.)  I pared down on preparations and expectations for the rest of August’s major activities that followed--primarily my brother’s weeklong visit, and then getting ready for, and spending a week at a family cabin in the north woods with my daughter, three grandchildren, and two puppies.  It was a very active month.

I entered my retreat with the specific intention that I know, and remember, I am not responsible for others’ happiness.  It was a most appropriate intention for the family gatherings that followed.  It focused me on being an observer of what was going on around me rather than trying to please or placate others.  And because of my observations I became aware of multiple synchronicities occurring in each day, for which I was truly grateful—from my daughter-in-law driving my brother to the airport, to alternative meal plans and activities with the children in the north woods’ soggy weather.

I have been visiting my late in-laws cabin, tucked in a woods on a lake, for 53 years now starting back when the main amenities were kerosene lanterns for light and an outside pump and privy for plumbing.  It is where my late husband and I honeymooned and later became an annual trip with our three children.  My visits there have become much less frequent now and are filled with nostalgia for all those who had enjoyed this rustic beauty and now somehow seem to live on in the pines, sunlight’s sparkle on the water, patter of rain on the roof, multiple hued sunsets, dark, sparkling night sky, and heady clean air.  I became aware of the many long-term synchronicities, born out of trauma and tragedy, which grew me.  And it occurred to me that I could be next in line to become a nostalgic memory.

Coming home to ankle high grass, loads of laundry and stacks of mail, I half considered prolonging my time off from my Monday blog one more week until there was a knock on my door.  There a friend stood with a small gift and card in hand for me.  She had just finished reading my memoir, “God Never Hurries” and told me her light had gone out but my words rekindled it.  On her card she wrote the following Albert Schweitzer quote:  “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person.  Each of us has a cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”  She wrote:  “You are the spark!” and she sparked me back into blogging.

What if we all became more observant of synchronicity that sparks gifts and growth in our lives?


Monday, August 4, 2014

Vacation Recommended

The Mystery within..

This past weekend I attended a Way of the Willow women gathering retreat titled "Listening to Your Journey" where we sought to connect to our true self through personal reflection and interaction with one another.  It was an expanding, softening, and restful experience.  Waking this Monday I began feeling the press of time and demands on my energy to get prepared for the arrival of my brother from Colorado and multiple family events in August.  I consulted my true self and found I can pare down some preparations and work, including the rest of my August’s Monday blogs.  I look forward to returning Monday, September 1, 2014. 

What if we all got in touch with and consulted our true self more often?  What changes would we make?     

Monday, July 28, 2014

Synergy and Diversity

The Mystery within...
My granddaughter Hailey was a part of the Lutheran Outdoor Ministries Center (LOMC) for her second summer camp.  Like last year, I went along to pick her up at her group’s Swing Choir final performance in the tenth, and last city of their tour, this year in Rock Island, IL.  They put on another terrific show, regretted parting company with their choir mates, and started looking forward to returning next year.  As I watched their last performance at St. John’s Lutheran Church I was struck by the tremendous coordination and cooperation that goes into this worthwhile experience. I felt the synergy of the community that made it all possible.  Working together, so much more can be accomplished.  I glanced over and saw the pastor of St. John’s standing in the doorway wearing her clerical collar watching the youth perform.  It was a stunning reminder of why I left the church of my birth at age 60.  Afterwards, I spoke briefly with her.  There was so much I wanted to ask her but instead just inquired how long she has been a pastor and she said 14 years.  I imagined it wasn’t easy but admired her and the church that ordained her.

What if honoring diversity creates the synergy to do things better for everyone?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Scanty Gratitude

The Mystery within...

I became aware of my scanty gratitude this past week.  It was humbling.  Losing sight of all I have to be grateful for tipped the scale toward heightening my frustration for all the distractions in this past week, namely dog sitting for my son’s three month old Boarder Collie/Shepherd puppy, Moxie, who is no where near house trained, along with my four month old Lab, Oliver, who, I think, has finally got it.  When they weren’t wrestling and play biting they were out in the yard digging holes in the mud and destroying my plants; or Moxie was in the house peeing.  I’d crate her for an hour or two but that just recharged both of their batteries and then they we at it again.  It was draining.

During a crate time out I went to the grocery store.  My feet ached and I was feeling sorry for myself.  In the parking lot I saw an elderly man bent over and pushing his walker with a few groceries in a small attached basket.  His legs were hugely swollen and bright red.  He’d walk ten feet and then had to stop and catch his breadth.  It didn’t look like he’d make another ten feet, but then he pushed on.  I felt a surge of gratitude for all the progress I’ve made with my knee therapy lately and for all I am capable of doing.  I was embarrassed for my pity party.  And then there was the news of the commercial airliner being shot down with the horrific loss of life and the tragic repercussions that follow.  It’s been quite awhile since such tragedy has visited me, and I was truly grateful.  And what about the living conditions in the Middle East and the men, women, and children losing their life in that conflict? 

What if every time we felt frustration, we’d counter balance that feeling with gratitude for our many blessings?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Grace and Nature

The Mystery within...

Last weekend my daughter and I watched the movie The Tree of Life.  It was an unusual movie with family members reliving flashbacks from their life surrounding memories of their recently deceased son and brother.  My daughter had seen the movie before and it was very helpful to have her explain to me that the mother represented grace and the father nature.  Knowing this, I became intent on the mother’s responses to life as it had unfolded around her, which was mostly one of quiet observer, definitely not reactionary.  She modeled, without words, grace.  So this past week I took the opportunity to practice more observation of the life going on around me.  As a conscious observer of others I became aware of times when it would have been so easy to get sucked in and react, but I felt little inclination to do so.  It was life giving.

What if we could all practice being more observant of the life going on around us and let Grace bridge the gap in our nature?