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Monday, August 22, 2011

Change of Venue

I haven't posted here from the Garret for a while. Surgery and other family matters have kept me occupied as well as uninspired.
 I apologize.


However, I have decided to start over. I am now blogging over at WordPress.com. My blog is called Ancient and Honorable Trees. Please join me there. I have appreciated your following my humble attempts to find a way through the miasma known as life.

Please take care, Life is short.
Peace, Blessings, Namaste.  Janet

Monday, January 31, 2011

Listen to the Mockingbird


I love waking up to the sound of mockingbirds exuberantly greeting the morning as though it was theirs was the First Song of Creation. They are birds of the air, and just like the lilies of the field they are here today and gone tomorrow. Humans are the only species that assign permanence to this place and are arrogant enough to believe they will be here today, or even this afternoon.

One morning I forced myself to sit on the deck and read. However, I was distracted by a mockingbird in a willow tree. The previous owner planted a stretch of willows two-tenths of a mile long in hopes of drying up a low-lying field. This tree has endured while several of its sister trees have gone the way of the chainsaw. Willow is a soft wood and after a few years of neglect this tree has gangly, with an out-of-control appearance. This is a wild tree; its upper branches scarred with the pock-marks of woodpeckers in search of insects. The branches jut up and over the rest of the tree like a skeletal limb: denuded of flesh, sinew, and leaves. To some, the tree is a nuisance. I saw a survivor, proudly flaunting its unattractive appendages; like Ahab's leg.

On top of the dead trunk sat a mockingbird, trilling its way through the morning rejoicing in its moment of life. It flew from tree to tree, yet always returned triumphantly to the willow. It always lighted on the uppermost point of the tree. He chose the ugly tree for his pulpit and shared his sermon of song.


There were lessons to be learned by listening to the mockingbird. Rejoice in this exact moment of your existence. Find joy in the small things. Don't despise or avoid the ugly places in life, for that is where you find the greatest fulfillment and purpose. Do not be afraid to stand on the pinnacle, no matter how treacherous and unpredictable it might appear. Sing your song with love and courage; sending it out into the world and up to its Creator.


Friday, January 7, 2011

On the Event of Rebecca's Birthday



Today is Rebecca's birthday. Although it has been almost three years since her death, I still feel her presence. I have "What Would Becky Do?" moments when pondering decisions. Sometimes, she gives a nudge, other times; I feel a smile that says, "You're on your own, kid." While she always commiserated with my problems, she always forced me to consider a positive, assertive solution rather than a complacent one.

She was never one to dress up, yet she was extremely feminine. During the time I knew her, I only saw her don make-up twice. Once, for my graduation from York College and the second; our friend Terry's wedding. That day Becky not only wore make-up, but a dress, stockings, and pearls. I still believe her appearance was cause for more conversation Monday morning around the park coffee pot than any other aspect of the event.

Yet, on a personal note, what did Becky bequeath to me? She taught me that while I should be a better historian than any man around, I also needed to have fun. I suppose that is why on our last trip to Disney World I wore my Minnie Mouse hat (the red one with the droopy daisy), on the plane, the shuttle bus at Dulles, and all the way home.

She taught me to modulate my voice during a presentation and to keep my hands at my sides when I wanted to make a point to my audience. She also showed me how to be merciful to thousands of tired, brain-dead, August visitors to Gettysburg. I learned to control my emotions and my tongue while maintaining a professional aura; something that carried over into my later jobs and my life. My offspring still remind me not to use my "ranger voice" with them.

She re-kindled my love of classic literature; especially Louisa May Alcott and Jane Austen. I still have moments when I cry while watching "Little Women." I cry not in sorrow but in victory, knowing how Becky and Bernadette fought to show the movie in the Visitors' Center. Their argument: women lived and struggled during the Civil War, let's remind people of that fact. Let's give young and not-so-young women a chance to learn the other side of History: HerStory.

I also learned life is what you make it. There comes a time when you must take control of your situation and either make changes, or stop whining.


Most importantly, I learned to always keep a red, foam clown nose in my desk drawer for those moments when I or those around me am taking life too seriously. Then you need to laugh.

Thanks, sweetie.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Hope Within Us

O Death thou hast
Conquered me.

I lay beneath thy dart.

But Jesus Christ shall
Conquer thee-

And I shall rise
again.

I found this epitaph on an ancient headstone while walking around Copp's Hill Burying Ground, Boston, in 1976. Boston was a fleeting stop on a family vacation to coastal Maine. My dad parked our orange Ford pick-up near the U.S.S. Constitution, and we walked the Freedom Trail across the Charles River to Old North Church. A long line of visitors snaked around the church and my parents, not terribly interesting in waiting in line or American history, decided to walk around the cemetery. I was immediately drawn to the archaic names and epitaph inscribed on the weathered, leaning headstones.

This particular epitaph obviously sparked something in me. Let's examine it for a moment. It speaks of the inevitability of death, for no one really gets out alive (unless you are the prophet Elijah, in which case I doubt you are troubling yourself with this blog). Yet, even in death there is a spark of eternal optimism as well as revenge. Yes, the resident admits he or she has been stung by the sharp arrow death and is now in residence beneath our feet. However, there is a Warning as well as a Hope. The Warning is that what goes around comes around. Death thinks to have won this round, but not so fast. There is a spoiler in our midst. Jesus Christ has conquered the final foe; an act which gives hope of a life far from the confines of a grave in disease-ridden 18th-century Boston.

Where am I going with this? It is very possible for Hope to spark something in the souls of 21st-century Boston or Baltimore as well. Life can get us down, sometimes for an extended count. Yet, there should always be a Hope within us. Hope for something, or someplace that helps us through the dark days.

Let's be brave. While we always need Peace, perhaps we really need to give Hope a chance.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Listening

I have been blessed with a wide assortment of wonderful friends. One of them is Annabelle, a seminarian at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. When I first heard she had chosen to enter the ministry, I was slightly surprised. Annabelle is a tall, fun-loving, full-bodied cup of Teutonic intellect with a side order of absolute hilarity and juvenile behavior that pales my puerile antics. However, I have discovered that under the veneer of show-tune-karaoke and just plain silliness, Annabelle has been blessed with an old soul and a kind, seeking heart.

Annabelle has a blog (http://annabellepeake.wordpress.com), where she ponders a plethora of topics. Today's post is titled "Listening to Each Other," in which we find Annabelle wondering why we don't listen to each other, our bodies, and God. If I may quote:

"Life is so short and time so precious, why do we let ourselves be distracted from that which is so important?...Furthermore, do we take quality quiet time to sit and listen for God in our lives? I know that it's very easy for me to make excuses for not paying attention to those around me...and for not carving out time for listening for God."

I understand perfectly. It is not supposed to be about the goal, but the journey. A dearly-departed friend always reminded me that life is not a competition. It's a journey. The most important part of the journey are the experiences and the people you encounter along the way. The memories are in the minutiae of life.

I spend a lot of my time in the garret; some of it being productive while a lot of the time is spent hiding from the life below. However, that life always has a way of finding me. I'm working away and I hear footsteps ascending one flight of stairs, then another. A knock on the door and someone is there to chat or looking for a shoulder.

I stop and listen to my adult offspring. After all, it is my fault they are standing there looking for a word of hope. I taught them to come to me when they fell down and skinned their knees, or when their hearts were broken. Why should they stop just because they are wearing the earth suits of adults?


However, while they are pouring out their hearts to me I am often typing, surfing the Net, or playing spider solitaire. After all, I am a mom and programmed to multi-task. Their concerns are genuine and important to them. They deserve my full attention. God gives us His attention; I think we should honor the spirit in ourselves and each other by following the warnings posted at railroad crossings. Stop, Look, Listen.

When we are fully engaged in the lives of those around us wounds are healed, spirits lifted, and sometimes a life is pulled back from the edge of despair.
Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2 The Journey.

What do you think? I'm listening.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Fundamental Things Apply

While in high school, I fell in love with a boy. I can honestly say it was my first love. He was tall, dark, and handsome (at least to me). He was a musician and lived a physically rich but socially meager life under the control of his mother. I adored him.

I wrote a poem for him. I'm not sure if I ever gave it to him. However, I stuck it in a notebook of poems that found its way, years later, to my attic. I recently found the box and was relieved to discover my musings had survived several attic purges.

As a aspiring writer, I thought I might rework it. You know, take the eighteen-year-old out of it and insert some experience. Somewhere in my editing, I realized that I cannot change the poem. I tried to polish the grammar and punctuation. Then I bowed to the Muse and allowed my voice to remain that of an eighteen-year-old.

Finding this poem and its emotions I realized that in spite of the time that goes by, the fundamental things still apply.

I wondered if there was some way of reaching you.
Yours was not one of the classic cases that
appear in huge, dusty volumes.
Full of symptoms and cures for the affliction.

You have the same feelings, hopes and fears I do,
only slightly variegated so they might mold themselves
to fit and become the individual you are.

There were times when I gave up.
The times I saw no bright,
shining hope ahead.
Only darkness.

Then I would; and still do remember
a smile you once threw casually in
my direction.
Or just a few meaningless words that refuse to leave me.

Then my faith is again renewed in the
human race,
Of which you are the predominant member.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Lighthouses

Lighthouses are depicted as tall, majestic sentinels placed along the coast, often on a rocky outcropping overlooking a particularly dangerous stretch of open water. Sometimes it is a lake, bay, or the ocean. While some are short and squat, others are tall and regal. They shine their lights out over the water as a warning or guidance to watercraft sailing by. They are there to remind ships and boats of the danger-whether it is rocks or shallow water.

However, to me, lighthouses have a different significance. They are a metaphor for those too frightened to take the first step. They are the kids sitting on the benches at recess too afraid to get on the swings, let alone jump off the swings in mid-arc. They don't climb the ladder on the sliding board. They are afraid of losing control, therefore, they deny themselves the thrill of the moment of abandon; that moment at the top of the slide when gravity takes over and you slip down the shiny surface to land safely on your feet.

Lighthouse people find a safe rock to sit on and they stay there. Eventually, their bodies and spirits harden while their feet grow down deep into the rocks; immovable. They see the small boats out on the waves, and never think of the freedom of sailing (I once owned a sailboat, but that is another post). Seeing the waves, they are unable to cry out "Danger." A light is their warning, but sometimes the boats ignore the light, or they are tossed onto the rocks by the waves. Some are steered by knowledgeable watermen and women, able to avoid the danger, though they sail close by.

The lighthouse does not think of the watercraft that navigate the vast waters of the earth successfully. They only see the danger before them. They never notice the beauty of the sunrise or sunset, the majesty and power of the seas, the gulls flying low, or the dolphins jumping for the joy of their existence. They only see the dangers. They are afraid.

I would rather be the small sailboat, aware of the dangers but following the wind, current, and my heart. I choice faith in the unknown and hope that I will survive the storms that await me.

Tell me what you think.