Archive for June, 2013

“Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to.”

  — John Ed Pearce

Today begins a weekend of homecoming.  Long before my alarm clock was set to ring, I found myself lying awake and anticipating the good things today will bring.  Before time for lunch, my eldest son, Max, and his family will pull up to our door and unleash the excitement that always travels with them when they make the long trip from Georgia to Pennsylvania.  My little grandsons will stand tall and show me that they are not as little as I remember them.  They will tell me their stories and show me their new accomplishments, and I will think of the time when their father was small and smile as history repeats itself once again.

Soon there will be others arriving for the gathering — the sons and daughters who live nearby and stop to see us more frequently will all descend at once.  I often wish that Max and Lauren lived closer so we could see them more often; but on this day of homecoming I realize that we would not have such events or celebrate them with the same vigor if they were added to the group who stop on a whim and join us for a sandwich.  All the siblings will be together, just as they were when they were young; but as time has worked its magic and made them all adults, they will seem to be the same age, and I will forget that they used to be teens, tweens, and toddlers whose lives had no common ground but home.  All the cousins will come to play; and their common history will make them instant friends, even though they meet only twice each year.  We will bring in the extra table and make a “T” with our dining table so that everyone can gather to share a meal.  We will tell the old stories and catch up on the new ones and join our hands as we form a circle and sing, “the Lord is good to me…” our traditional blessing on the gathering and the food.

I will fall into bed at the end of the day, eager to rest after such a busy time; but there will be a special feeling of contentment that eases any aching feet or sore shoulders.  That feeling is homecoming; and there is nothing better than having our family come home.

On Sunday, we will form a caravan of cars and minivans and make a three-hour trip to New York state for another homecoming.  My sweetheart’s parents will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary; and we all will join in to honor their love for each other and the way it has trickled down to our tiniest grandson.  The siblings will all be together, just as they were when they were young.  Their children will all be together, transformed by time from children to adults who know the old stories about their parents’ escapades and can tell them almost as well as their elders.  The children’s children will run and play and make a lot of noise as only can be made by more than thirty cousins who are filled with excitement and the anticipation of cake.

What a homecoming it will be, as nine children, 24 grandchildren, and 33 great-grandchildren — plus spouses and significant others — all gathered to celebrate the legacy of love that is part of being a Jones.  We will laugh and be noisy and sometimes shed a tear or two as we remember the ones who did not make it to that special day.  And as we all join hands and Grandpa’s voice booms out the first note — “The….”, we will join our hearts and know that we are home.  “The Lord is good to me…”  All because two people fell in love, and two more, and two more after that, we carry our home in our hearts.  And when those hearts join together and greet each other, it is a homecoming.

“Life is a gift, given in trust – like a child.”

  — Anne Morrow Lindbergh

So much is said about remembering to value the time we are given.  So much is said about the value of being present in each moment as we live our lives.  This philosophy is one that I embrace and believe to be true, but there are so many distractions that get in the way that some days I wonder whether I believe it at all.

Seldom do I indulge in the practice of stroking my long gray beard and beginning my sentences with, “when I was a child…” but it is true that, even in my lifetime, the world has become so much more busy and complicated that sometimes I hardly recognize it at all.  When I look back to my childhood, I remember long days with no demands on my time.  I remember packing a sandwich and riding my bike to the river.  I remember skipping stones and floating sticks in the current and dreaming of the faraway places the water might flow.  I remember curling up in a comfy chair and reading a book from cover to cover, with no noise or disturbance to distract me from becoming part of the story.  I remember hours of imagining and concocting games with my friends on lazy summer days.

Now children are entertained by a constant barrage of media that sometimes makes their heads spin.  Television is available 24 hours a day, and the temptation to engage in mental junk food is alluring.  Why bother to dream when there is ready-made entertainment?  Why bother to imagine when someone else has written the script?  Why bother to think at all if someone is willing to script a life for you?

If life is a gift, given in trust — like a child, we must ask ourselves what sort of child it is that we would like to raise.  Are we spending all our life-energy in front of prefabricated noise that drowns out the meaning of our existence, or are we providing that child with the opportunity to dream and to invent and to be carried away on the current of the mighty river that leads to unknown places that cry out to be discovered?

Care gently for the child that is your life.  Hold it close, love it dearly, and above all let its petals unfold slowly as the sun calls it to bloom and grow.  Life is like a child, given to us in trust.  Let us honor that gift and cherish every moment it has to offer.

 

The world is very quiet in the early morning hours.  It seems that most people wait for the sun to be high enough above the horizon to assure them that morning really is here to stay before they venture out of bed and into the day.  Except for an occasional car passing silently as it carries its driver to work, I seldom encounter another human being at the time of day when I take my walk.  I enjoy my solitude; and I must admit that on the rare occasions when I meet another person, a sort of vigilance rises in me and I observe him in order to determine whether his motives for being out at such an hour are honest ones and whether I am safe in his presence.  Just as I reached the point on my path today where civilization seems the most distant, I heard a noise that was decidedly human in origin; and it stopped me in my tracks.

A cellphone was ringing.  My first thought was that the one in my pocket might be receiving a call from home; but the ring was a standard one, not the celestial music that announces my calls.  I stood and listened as the phone rang once, twice, three times and then went silent.  No voice answered the call; and as I stood in the long shadows of the trees in the rising sun, I scanned the area around me.  Why would someone simply silence the ringer rather than speak?  Was the goal to remain hidden?  If so, were the motives for staying in the shadows innocent ones? My ears perked up as I stood rooted to one spot, not wanting my own movement to betray my location.  My heart began to beat quickly, and I purposely pushed aside a feeling of fear.  “Good morning,” I said softly.  “Is someone there?”  There was no answer.

Knowing that I could not stand there forever, I decided to proceed along my planned route.  My usual feeling of immersion in the awakening of the world around me was replaced by one of alertness as I looked and listened for any indication that I might not be alone.  Then it happened again.  The phone rang once, twice, three times and stopped.  As I scanned the area, looking for its source, there suddenly was a rustle of leaves and some movement in the trees overhead.  Out came Mr. Mockingbird, and he chose a perch on the highest spot he could find, opened his beak, and sang the cellphone song again.  “So you’re the one who’s calling,” I laughed.  He cocked his head from side to side and gave me a quizzical look.  Maybe he was trying to remember the complicated song I was singing to him so he could steal it for future use.  With a deep breath and a heavy sigh, I released my hypervigilance and once again returned to the enjoyment of my daily immersion in the trees, the birds, and the rising sun.  “I hope your call goes through,” I tossed toward my feathered friend.

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As I began my descent toward home, I heard him reply with the sharp chirp-chirp of his push-to-talk walkie-talkie.  We had a nice walkie and a nice talkie, I thought.  Shaking my head and grinning from ear to ear, I watched him fly back into the trees.

“On every tree there sits a bird, and every one I ever heard, could break my heart without a word, singing a song of love.”

  — Helen Deutsch

Sometimes, when I take my morning walk, I begin to hear the cadence of my own footsteps as the background beat of a song that plays in my head.  Today, as I left the main streets behind and ventured onto side roads and paths, my brain turned off the traffic noise, and all I could hear was the birds.  It seemed as though every single tree had someone singing, squawking, trilling or warbling.  The mockingbird who perched on the highest point atop the flagpole at the elementary school did all of the above.  The sun sparkled its light show as the symphony played all around me, and soon I was walking on air.

Although I’m pretty sure that I kept a steady pace, I began to hear my muffled footsteps in 3/4 time.  I waltzed along, captivated by the beauty of the morning, and soon my mind began to sing.  “A song of love is a sad song, hi lili, hi lili, hi lo.”  I thought of all the wonderful days of my childhood when I would sit outside on summer days and sing this song, dreaming of the time when I would one day fall in love and not realizing that the idea of loving and losing was far greater than waiting for the prince to ride into town and carry me away to a wonderful life.

“A song of love is a song of woe, don’t ask me how I know.”  I looked toward the bright blue sky and thought of all the people I have loved in my lifetime — those who still are with me and those who have gone on to the life beyond living.  I thought of my dad and his health issues in recent days and wondered whether he also was thinking of all the people he has loved.

“A song of love is a sad song, for I have loved and it’s so.”  In our life of contrasts that are the gifts we use to learn our strength, we discover that there is no greater feeling than to love.  Then, as soon as we have learned that truth, we are asked to learn about letting go and remaining behind after love is gone.

“I sit at my window and watch the rain, hi lili, hi lili, hi lo.”  The sun calls us to remember the light of love and to spread it as far as our hearts can reach.  The rain calls us to be still and remember and sometimes to shed a tear or two when we wonder how we will ever fill the empty space left by our loss.  

“Tomorrow, I’ll probably love again,  hi lili, hi lili, hi lo.”  The answer comes on the soft breeze and in the birdsong that plays from every treetop.  I see the smiling faces of all the people I ever have loved and lost.  They sway in time to the song in my head, and I find myself wanting to dance a couple of turns as I climb the hill to its highest point.  Soon the whole world erupts in song, and I hear the chorus of all the voices of all the people I have loved singing, “Tomorrow, I’ll probably love again.”  Yes, I think.  That is the answer.  The only thing that will fill our empty places is to keep on loving.  In the end, it is the love that remains.

Today was Father’s Day.  We celebrated my sweetheart and the way he parented all our children — the ones who carry his DNA and those who do not.  We celebrated the legacy of Father’s Day — how all that he had handed down through his words and deeds had taken root in his sons and now are being handed down to their unsuspecting offspring, just as generations of fathers have handed down their legacy to the next generation.

Amid all the celebration, I observed a different sort of Father’s Day this year.  Yesterday, when my younger sister paid a visit to our parents, she found my father unable to form words, staring blankly, and generally not being himself.  She asked him to squeeze her hand, and was shocked to find out that he could only grasp with one hand.  The call went out that it appeared that Dad had had a stroke.  I sat perched on the edge of my chair, waiting for the phone call that required my presence 15oo miles from home.  Instead, the calls that followed indicated that what Dad had experienced was a TIA, a mini-stroke, that cleared quickly and soon found him returned to the state he was before his incident.

Yesterday, I wondered whether we would celebrate Father’s Day this year.  I thought maybe last year’s celebration had been our last; but I was wrong.  Although the TIAs have continued, my Dad is being helped right in his own home.  Hospice has extended their coverage of his condition to around-the-clock nursing.  We are thankful for these dedicated nurses and volunteers who bring great insight as well as medical treatment.

As the day drew to a close tonight, I had a sudden urge to call my dad and hear how he was feeling.  When I called, a nurse named Betty tole me that Dad was in bed.  She checked to see whether there was a phone near his bed.  There was not.  “Give me your phone number,” she told me; and I’ll call you back.  That way I can put my phone on speaker and you can talk to your dad.  She did just that — not a requirement of her job, but a random act of human kindness.  I don’t know who Betty is, but I do know that she made my day.

When I thought that maybe we would not have the chance to celebrate Father’s Day, I tried to think of what would make my dad happy.  There was no need to plan for an extravagant party or do anything to remind Dad that he is ninety-two years old.  Instead, I had the good fortune of meeting up with a nurse who takes her hospice care seriously.  With humble heart, I give thanks for Betty, who took the time to make a conversation happen.  Betty, you matter — more than you’ll ever know.

“Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.”
  — St. Francis de Sales

The weather yesterday was simply not conducive to anything quiet or calm.  Each time the rain would abate and we would sigh with relief, another flash would light up the sky and another crash of thunder would rattle the windows and shake the walls.  Inner peace is hard to find in the midst of the storm, and there is nothing better to remind us of that truth than a day of thunderstorms.  Maybe that is what storms are for — the chance to sit in a dry house and let the wind swirl outside and the rain pelt against the windows while we are wrapped in the calm indoor air, undisturbed.

When yesterdays storms raged, I was safe and dry.  In spite of this, I felt rattled when the lightning and thunder arrived in the same instant and I knew that the wrath of the storm was right over my head.  One deafening clap of thunder was so powerful that I felt myself rise above my chair as I startled at its arrival.  My blood turned cold and chilled my spine as fear flowed through my veins, and then I felt the shame of being a grown woman and feeling afraid of the weather.

How often, on a sunny day, do we let the storms of life ruffle and rattle us so that we are governed by our fear of what might happen rather than simply standing in the moment and knowing that we can weather whatever life has to offer?

Today the morning felt different.  Clouds still hung overhead; but along the horizon, they looked like wisps of smoke rising from a dying fire.Image2

‘The storm has burned itself out,’ I thought, ‘ and now the sky is sending out smoke signals proclaiming that peace has returned to the world.’  I wondered what the smoke signal for peace really looked like, but then I decided that it really didn’t matter.  What mattered was that the message had been received.  There is peace at the end of every storm; and when we hold onto knowing that, we can stay calm — even when the winds blow.

Thunderstorm

 

His majesty is not amused.

Long before breakfast,

His stomach rumbles,

Calling out loudly

For servants to come

And tend to what he wants.

Ψ

His majesty is not amused.

His feet hit the ground

With a thud that shakes

The earth and makes

The plaster fall

On those who wait below.

Ψ

His majesty is not amused.

He calls his troops

To fire the cannons,

Sending missiles

Hurtling to the ground

And rumbling through the town.

Ψ

His majesty is not amused.

Fire flashes from his eyes,

He kicks aside whatever lies

Along his path.

With heavy strides,

He clambers down the stairs.

Ψ

His majesty is not amused.

Frightened servants

Scatter from his wrath

Forgetting that the water

In his bath is running

Overflowing, raining down.

© 2013 Pamela Stead Jones

 

“Make new friends, but keep the old.  One is silver and the other gold.”

  — Joseph Parry

Yesterday I had a wonderful surprise.  An old friend surfaced after forty years, and we compared  notes — compared lives — and rediscovered our friendship.  Silver, gold, and occasionally a diamond.

” A circle is round; it has no end.  That’s how long I will be your friend.”

Sally and I first met when our husbands were students at the same university.  We were young mothers; and along with a whole tribe of others, we lived in a married student apartment complex.  Our section was a square with a row of two-story apartments on each side.  A shared balcony upstairs and a shared sidewalk downstairs were our walkways, and a grassy lawn sat in the middle of the quadrangle.  It was there that we brought our children to play and ourselves to commiserate as we grew into our mother roles and supported our men in attaining their goals.  When one of us fell, the others were there to pick up the pieces.  When long hours at the library made for absent spouses, we banded together as women have since the dawn of time — opening our hearts, sharing our hopes, our fears, and our dreams.  For four years we all were sisters in that surreal and encapsulated world of higher learning and poverty.  And then it was done.

I left first, caught up in the turmoil of a difficult marriage and isolated from most people who loved me.  The life I moved to was all-consuming, and soon I lost touch with my sister-friends from the years when I turned over childhood to my sons and became an adult.

Years passed.  There were sorrows and joys, births and deaths, divorces and marriages; and while all of this was going on, I sometimes would think of those old friends who had been so instrumental in helping me find my way to true adulthood.  I found a couple of them, but never could locate Sally.  I didn’t know that her last name had changed — all I knew was that she had disappeared.

Two days ago, I sat in a sweaty gym, watching my favorite oldest granddaughter play basketball.  My phone chimed with a message alert, and I found a name and address scanned by my eldest son.  “Do you know this person?” he asked.  “Should I?”  The name sounded vaguely familiar, but I just couldn’t place it — maybe a classmate of his from long ago?  Next he scanned the entire letter, complete with identifying information about time and place and the name of her daughter.  “Yes! I know her!”  She had found my son, whose last name had not changed, and taken the time to write him a letter and ask for help in finding me.  There was a phone number, too, and I could hardly contain my excitement as I hurried home to make the call.  NO!  An answering machine!  I left a brief message, “Congratulations!  You found me!  Now you have my number on your caller ID.  Talk to you soon!”  As I hung up, my very wise granddaughter observed, “what if she doesn’t have caller ID?”  Aarrgh!  She could be right.

The next day I began calling, trying to figure out the right time to reach someone with an unknown schedule who lives two time zones away.  At last, toward early evening, I heard a familiar voice on the other end of the line.  And we talked.  And we talked some more.  I can only speak for myself when I say that there were things shared that made me teary and others that had me laughing with delight.  Each of us had taken a rocky path through life that sometimes knocked us to the ground.  Each of us had caught our breath and stood up again when we fell.  Each of us acknowledges that it was the scrapes and bruises that healed into wisdom and strength and brought us to a place where every day is a blessing and we know for certain who we are.

I think back to those early days of our friendship and realize that as we scrambled to grow up, we learned together the skills we later used to stand tall in the face of adversity.  Words just don’t seem to be enough to express the joy my heart felt hearing that my friend had made it through the fire and through the storm and had found a life that was not only good, but great.  You probably have guessed that our present lives are quite parallel.  We are kindred spirits — probably more than we were in the trenches of student housing.  As we said our good-byes, I found myself smiling that wild and unfettered smile that always comes to my face when I meet another member of my tribe.  I wonder what challenges each of us was facing at the times when we would remember one another and try to find each other.  I wonder whether some connection in the energy of the universe sent those loving vibrations right to the scene of the struggle and gave us that little prod that said, “you can do this — stand up!”

Make new friends.  Keep the old.  And if there is a diamond from your past who has disappeared from your life, never give up.  Keep trying to find her.  She may be your sister, a member of your tribe.

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Sparkle Morning

Sparkle morning.

Waterfalls

Of rain have washed

The dust and dirt

Of life away.

*

Sparkle grass.

Each tiny blade

Stands tall and taller

Reaching toward

The sky.

*

Sparkle dew.

Like diamonds gleams

Perched atop each

Leaf and flower

Shining.

*

Sparkle creek.

As water dances,

Singing songs

Of rock and roots

Melodious.

*

Sparkle morning.

All the cobwebs

Of my mind

Are washed away.

Joy.

© 2013 Pamela Stead Jones

…you think you know me? you know only a *tip of the iceberg* of my life…..you probably couldn’t handle the rest…

— Rev. Andrena Ingram

 

Enigma

 

Having known the depths of sorrow,

I choose to live in joy.

Having sat in deepest darkness,

I choose to live in light.

Having known a life imprisoned,

I choose now to live free.

Having crashed into the rocks,

I choose to float, serene.

Having carried heavy burdens,

I choose to dance on air.

Having lived at war with others,

I choose to dwell in peace.

Having healed my heart of anger,

I choose now to forgive.