Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Blue and Happy

It was the last gift my Granna ever gave me, this wooden box with an opening of specific diameter, galvanized roof on top and mounting holes on back. For thirteen years it had rested, hibernating on various shelves through six moves in two states, never fulfilling its purpose. October brought the positive mammogram and the biopsy and the surgery and suddenly everything needed to fulfill its purpose. So the bluebird house was dusted off (quite literally) and mounted east-facing above the blue bench and the blue hydrangea, to the oak in the corner of the memory garden.

It’s April now, and the week has been sprinkled with gypsy showers. It rains even now, slow and light, dripping from fiddleheads and dogwood. The petals flutter down to decorate the lawn. Robins run. Doves coo. Towhees “drink-your-teeeeeeeea”. The brown-headed cowbird sees me at the window and flies from the nest it was investigating.  And in the memory garden, crinum lilies stretch. Debbie’s irises bloom.

Inside, bedsheets churn in the washer. There will be no sunshine to hang them out in today, I think as I look out the window. A bluebird appears on the clothesline.

Oh! Oh! Such sweet, beautiful color, reminiscent of deep summer skies and plump berries and hydrangeas in gardens of both grandmothers. No wonder I surround myself with this hue, from the shutters on my little cottage to the paint on my car to the curtains and plates in my kitchen. Blue=happy. Even linguistically, I smile at its witty polyseny.

And over in the memory garden, success.  The nesting box has a tenant. Or two. This makes me doubly happy.

My heart sings. Zip-a-dee-do-dah, y’all.

Monday, March 30, 2015


 August 25, 2012
I was unprepared, basket of peppers and zinnias in hand, yard-sale pots and pans in the back of the car. I was unprepared when she opened the door, ninety pounds of worn woman with black eyes deep in malnourished sockets. Black eyes that lit up and shone bright with delighted surprise at the simple gift in my hands. This was my first welcome, my first fresh-from-the-camps encounter, my first standing-so-close to the edge that I could almost see what her eyes had seen. I was unprepared. I may never find my breath.

September 9, 2012
I saw her again yesterday, walking in the parking lot of the apartments many refugees call home. I did not recognize her at first, long black hair shining down her back, cheerful blue skirt billowing in the breeze. Our eyes met. She smiled and waved furiously, recognizing the car that brought the basket. Her eyes, her wave, her posture: all revealed the beauty that hope brings, the health that nourishment brings. #Godatwork

March 29, 2015
A delectable aroma escaped the opened door. I hurried to leave my shoes on the step alongside dozens of other pairs as she took both my hands, ushering me into the crowded front room, into a birthday party unlike any I have ever attended. A pastor stood by the window, crepe paper flowers alongside his worn bible, speaking in one of the languages of Burma. I was quickly guided between rows of young children (sitting quietly! listening!) to a seat on the couch. My sister-in-Christ, Julia, friend of the family, partner in mission, sat on the floor next to me.

We listened. Our ears did not understand but our spirits were in agreement. We sang the songs with them, two languages at once to one tune. I wondered if this was how God hears all of us at the same time, hearts attuned even if the words are different.

We prayed, ending with the familiar “Amen”, this language of Hebrew knitting us. In harmony, in one language, we sang Happy Birthday, with an added verse: “May God bless you always.” The food—fried chicken, noodles, shredded vegetables, soup, agar, watermelon, pineapple cake with strawberries—poured out from the tiny kitchen in a steady stream, served by children, loaded onto 6’ round tables with 8” legs. Knee to knee on the floor, conversations and laughter flowed.

And what of the woman? She beamed. She glowed resplendent in lavender, in a handmade, wrapped-and-tucked skirt and side-buttoned blouse sent in love from another woman half a world away, where her two eldest children had remained behind. Today she was celebrating birth and life. Today, she welcomed friends and church. Today, God was evident. #Godatwork

Today, she wrapped her arms around me.

Monday, March 16, 2015


I probably should not be this amused.

For the last thirty minutes, I have stood, sipping a nice chai latte, watching out the front window of my house, shaking my head. Over and over, the same scene has repeated itself: Car travelling at 45 mph suddenly applies brakes, driver leaning forward in puzzlement or disbelief or anger. Moments later, the car is seen again as it heads back from whence it came.

The road is closed as of yesterday.

There are warning signs. Two of them. Very large, with a combined square foot surface of probably a hundred feet. One is lit. The other partially blocks the lane.

And yet, they come.

What is it about people that makes them ignore such warnings?  Do they think it does not apply to them personally? Are they distracted? Do they think they have special permission or super powers or some irrevocable right? Do they want to see how far they can get? I know they cannot see the end from the point where they passed the sign, but do they think it does not exist if they cannot see it?

Really, I should not be amused. I imagine we will be hearing sirens at some point because this is an accident waiting to happen. Dark of night, perhaps? I should be prepared. I should be on the watch. Trim the wicks, as it were.

The story of the ten virgins comes to mind. They are waiting for the bridegroom and they do not know when he will arrive, but they must be prepared. At midnight, the call comes out that he approaches. All rise and trim their wicks, but only half are ready with oil. The ones who were not prepared are shut out of the wedding feast. It is not a happy ending.

Out my window, the road crew moves one of the signs farther into the lane to get the attention of the drivers.  ROAD CLOSED. I think my show is over and I turn to put the empty mug in the sink.

And another three cars speed by.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Muddy Boots and Narrow Paths

The lyricist says, “Life is a highway. I’m gonna ride it all night long.”  If he meant it is full of accidents and construction delays and raging people and an occasional detour, I concur.

Otherwise, I think I shall disagree.

Highways are straight. And wide.

My life, on the other hand, is full of twists and spirals. It is sometimes a hard path to follow, uncharted and wild and so narrow at points that I cannot even see the very next foothold.

Highways stretch smooth concrete and asphalt, leveling fields, blasting through mountains. My path is unpaved, natural and rocky. My boots are muddy. I slip, stumble, fall.  Obstacles have not been bulldozed ahead of me.

Highways offer egress only where the planners have deemed. I can choose my own rest areas, decide for myself when I need to stop, even if it is right in the middle. And believe me, I have stopped right in the middle. More than once.

And highways bypass the beautiful. That’s one big reason why I prefer my more scenic route.  Stop and smell the roses? Sure, anytime. And not just smell, but breathe in and admire and examine.

The highway is the way of the masses.  I guess I am counter-cultural, the salmon swimming upstream. So what if I don’t have a paddle. Neither does the salmon.

I saw a bumper sticker today. “You laugh at me because I am different.  I laugh because you are all the same.” The irony? We were on a highway. But I got off at the next crossing.

May you exit the highway and find your path. Roses await.

But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:14