Thursday, November 28, 2013

Hula-Hoops—and Yeast Is Alive

Cracked Grace
Hula-Hoops—and Yeast Is Alive
“Thanks” for the Memories
Instant-share Thanksgiving is today. In moments, we can show people near and far—even continents away—our food, family, friends. But we can’t photograph a feeling or Kodachrome a memory.
Put down the camera and savor what’s meaningful to you this day. Instead, press what’s precious like a dried flower in the memories of your heart.
* * * * *

Thanksgiving came eleven days early for my family this year. I took few photos, but have memories that delight my senses and put the twinkle of a smile in my eyes:
Hula-hooping in the backyard with my sister, daughters, and friends. The youngest trying her hips at hoops was twenty-three. Hula-hoops—not just for kids anymore.
At long last, someone else in my family understands that yeast is alive. My nephew helped me shape the warm, risen dough into rolls this year. I can’t easily explain the yeast-dough-life connection. You pretty much get it—or not. He gets it.

This day of thanks, choose a moment to savor, to deposit in your heart’s memory bank. Enjoy, be thankful, be there.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Will Work for Inspirational Interactions

Cracked Grace
Spiritual Glue
Inspirational interactions are the glue we use to hold our souls together.

You need “inspirational interactions,” he said. I replied, “What do you want me to do, stand on the corner with a sign that says: Will work for inspirational interactions?”

On reflection, I realize it’s a better plan to stop at each corner of my life. At those corners, I am likely to meet someone with whom I can have an inspirational interaction. All I have to do is open my spirit to theirs. Sounds easier than most day jobs.

Artwork courtesy of Chelsea Smith, © 2013.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Even the Lone Mourning Dove Continues to Sing

Cracked Grace
Mourning Dove Song
Even the Lone Mourning Dove
Continues to Sing
I see a solitary mourning dove and hear the notes of its lone sweet song. I look for its mate. Finding none, I experience a slight stab of wistfulness. I feel tender grief for the lone dove.
Lone as the dove is, however, it continues to sing—to pierce the solitary air with its melodies of life.
The song of the dove reminds me that whatever our place in families, friends, relationships, we have much to share if we but open our hearts to sing.

* * * * *

Mourning doves are monogamous and mate for life. However, if one loses its mate, it often finds another and continues to sing.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Remembering the Shock and Anguish Fifty Years Later

The Bitter Taste of Anguish
When Our President Died
November 22, 1963

The life of President John F. Kennedy was first on today’s gratitude list in my journal. The rest of today’s entry follows:

It’s hard to believe I was once the little girl—preteen—sitting in my classroom crying because our president was killed. Yesterday, a friend and I spoke about the “past,” and how we don’t have to relive it. We don’t, but remembering—memory—is important. Memories can shape who we are today if we use them to fuel the positive aspects of life we have gained from our experiences. And what was/is positive about November 22, 1963? We mourned together—as we now also do on September 11. That time—fifty years ago—shaped who we are today.
Did Fears of Nuclear Annihilation
Armor Our Psyches?
I remember being so fearful during the months preceding the assassination. I was afraid of war, of nuclear attack, of bombs dropping from the sky. None of those things happened. However, I now wonder if at some deep level of our collective psyches we weren’t prepared, maybe not prepared, but holding our personal armor in front of us to brace for the disaster we perceived was imminent. However, the disaster through which we lived was light years away from what we feared. Perhaps it was because I was numb after the horror of our president’s murder, but my memories of duck-and-cover drills and practice evacuation walks to the railroad tracks fade after that November day.
What never faded was our collective grief and dismay that the president so loved was cut down in such a cruel manner as he smiled and waved to the people of Dallas on a day that the sky was clear and blue.
A Bitter Taste of Anguish
Those of us who were young enough to not yet be wounded by life and uncertainty and the random chaos that breaks hearts, had our first bitter taste of anguish that day. We were changed and continue to be changed by those dark clouds that crept across the blue and blocked the light of the world.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Use Passion to Shrink Your World

Passion Whittles the World
Down to a Less Frightening Size
The loneliness inherent in the vastness of Florida stretched in all directions as The Orchid Thief author Susan Orlean drove through Florida’s small towns and near swamps where orchid hunters dare to tread. Most of Florida is flat. It’s easy to see east–west, from horizon to horizon; neither hills, mountains, nor high-rise condos block one’s view in Florida’s undeveloped areas.
Orlean writes about orchid hunters who see such areas with different eyes. Rather than experiencing an expanse of deserted roads criss-crossing the state north, south, east, and west, rather than feeling desolation, loneliness and emptiness from untamed territory, the orchid hunter sees Florida swamps as “lands of opportunity” where they things [they] love are waiting to be found.”

The vastness of the world Orlean felt in those near-primitive areas of Florida engenders tension. One can feel small, insignificant. She notes that the orchid hunter doesn’t feel that insignificance when viewing the Florida wilderness. A passion for orchids—or anything else, a care and concern so intense—“whittles the world down to a manageable size.” A passion for life, creativity, involvement, reduces the tension of the knowledge of the vastness of the world. Passion gives one something on which to focus—to anchor oneself in this universe that’s constantly moving and changing.
Orlean’s words resonate for me, but not so much regarding orchids. I love them, tend to them, care for them, and, of course, I want more. However, when I dipped my toes into the world of orchids and their aficionados, I knew right away that orchids are not my passion.

I approach anything resembling a swamp with trepidation. I doubt I would ever view a swamp as a land of opportunity, other than, of course, the opportunity a wild animal might seize if it wants to try a bite of me for its lunch. Anywhere near a swamp, I would be watchful for moccasins (not the shoes), alligators, Florida panthers (which endangered, would nonetheless show up in swarms if I were around), and errant pythons. If I were to come face to face with the rarest of rare ghost orchid, in my efforts to keep away from its dangling roots, I would brush right past them in my haste to find the quickest way out of the swamp.
I do not search orchid shows for the perfect specimen. I do not participate in online auctions. I do not buy from online international sellers. After two years of what I call middling interest, I know only one Latin name for orchids and that’s because I’ve read and spoken it enough to burn it into my memory.
Orchids are not my “passion.” Regarding orchids, I don’t have the “fire in the belly.” Fire in the belly is passion personified; it’s vigor, drive, motivation to achieve, to take action, to do, to be. World-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s sister also is a cellist. She noted, however, that he had the “fire in the belly” and she did not. That fire whittles the fevered orchid collector’s world down to orchid size, as it did Ma’s world down to cello size.

At age 61, the world still seems too big to me at times, too unmanageable, too lonely, too scary to contemplate in far too many ways.
Some of the few times when my world is manageable are when, like these moments, I put pen to paper. Then, it’s only me, the ink, the pale blue lines, filling with me as I move my hand from left to right across and then down the page.

The words come alive and spring from my fingertips. I forget all the noise and wish to, yearn to, get into these flames of fire in my own belly. I want only to continue feeding that fire with yet another word, filling the page.
I look up for only a moment and the bee skimming the purple porterweed distracts me for only a moment, but long enough for my eyes to light on the calendar tucked beneath these pages. I see and then hear those other things, those responsibilities, call me—and the fire starts to sputter and it burns with less intensity until I see only a tiny wisp of smoke flit across the room.
* * * * *

However, when it gets cold, when the world around me becomes too big, too open, too lonely, just too much to consider, I know that paper and pen await me. I can reduce the tension and fear of the vastness of the world by simply stoking the fire with pen to paper. Inky words will again whittle my world to a more manageable size, filling those lonely, vast gaps in life. Ah, passion!