Thursday, September 1, 2022

Spiritual Thursday: On Community




Hello, all! I am hosting Spiritual Thursday this month. I appreciate Denise Krebs for connecting me with this thoughtful writing circle and I hope you enjoy my post - and that you leave a comment with a link to your blog post below. Thank you!


“Community is society with a human face,

the place where we know we are not alone.” 

- Rabbi Jonathan Sacks


As a preschool teacher, the goal of building community in my classroom was near and dear to my heart every September. I was constantly thinking, how might I help these young children see themselves as part of the larger group, a community? How might I encourage them to share their individual voices and stories, and, also, to listen and welcome those of others? How might I help them see that this is our classroom, and that we work together to create this loving and beautiful shared space? 


I suppose this is why I chose the word “community” as a theme for September’s Spiritual Journey. Of course, many months have passed since I signed up to host and my thoughts about community today have led me far from the classroom…let me take you there….


On our summer trip out west, Tony and I were driving along this gorgeous shaded road in Oregon. All these enormous tall Douglas fir evergreens dwarfed the road, providing this dark, magical surround with just a sliver of blue sky breaking through. We were all smiles when we stopped at an overlook of the Rogue River Gorge, and this - like so many other places we visited this summer - took our breath away with its beauty. It was very early in the morning and we were the only people there; I have no doubt this aloneness added a sense of treasure to the view. 




The Rogue River Gorge


At this overlook, there was this incredible narrow chasm, with the river plunging down, sending water rushing, breaking over large rocks, sending up wild waves and the vibrant sound of rushing water. A sign at the overlook stated that “enough water (410,000 gallons) flows beneath your feet each minute to fill an Olympic-size pool.” The wonder! 


Right alongside this chasm was a thick forest of Douglas firs, much like we had witnessed on the drive. The trees stood together, tall, straight, strong, just beautiful, with their criss-cross patterned bark and branches of evergreen needles bending, bowing, enveloping one another. In the midst of these, there was a thick, hearty stump, with an informational sign posted nearby:


The Living Stump


Here on the flat surface of the lava flow, away from the Gorge wall,

the trees live as a group rather than as individuals. The roots of these

Douglas firs have grown together, providing each other with nutrients and water. 


Before it was cut, the roots of this tree had grafted onto those of a neighbor. 

Because of this, the stump continues to live.


Douglas firs and the living stump at Rogue River Gorge


The stump was not decayed, broken, insect-ridden, as one might expect. Instead, it was covered with bark, much like our own cuts and scrapes form scabs, and seemed to be thriving.

I hope to hold onto the image of this forest, these trees encircling and caring for one another, always and forever. I love how instinctive and natural it is for trees to simply reach out towards one another. This experience continues to fill me with contemplation -

How might I be more like these trees?


How do others help me live fully?

    How might my own actions help build a more loving human community?

What is my role? 

    Am I truly there for others?

Am I reaching out to those around me, even those I don’t know very well? 

    What blocks me from being open to others?

How do I nurture the “we”? 

    What does it mean to live in community with one another?


How do we help each other live fully?


How might I be more like these trees?


"What I try to tell young people is that if you come together with a mission, and

it is grounded with love and and a sense of community,

you can make the impossible possible."

- John Lewis




In closing, let me share a poem I wrote about this wonder.


innate wisdom 


along the Rogue River Gorge

with my own eyes 

I witnessed 

a living stump


a Douglas fir 

cut down 

severed 

yet

healed 

thriving


what I didn’t know before is

this is true for many trees


roots of neighbors

lovingly reach out 

nurturing the depleted 


trees 

let each other know

when they are stressed


trees

live as community

together

rather than 

solitary 


trees

instinctively

take care of one another


a giving co-living 


innate wisdom 





Tuesday, June 21, 2022

The patio is done!

We finished our new patio! I wrote a "slice of life" about this sanity project back in April. We've worked very hard since then. Yes, it took us many weeks, working around our babysitting duties and other time demands. In the end, we created this 11' x 12' space just in time for a weekend of the most incredible weather (cool, dry, low humidity). Let me share photos from 'start to finish' of our work, and a short poem about the project, as well.



We no sooner dug out the patio, when rain was expected.

First, we made a layer of pea gravel.


Then we add rock dust, and began placing flagstones.

If you like puzzles, you will enjoy this!


Our patio is done.


all good projects


I wonder, do all good projects start with a sense of frustration?


my overall crankiness about our ill-defined, unkempt, blah backyard

the eyesore of the rusting fire pit

the plague of weeds and mud

the annoyance of no place to sit and relax

the exasperation of home remodeling delays delays delays


we traded these for a do-it-ourselves flagstone patio


this desire to get something done,

to imagine start do finish enjoy


walking the stone yard, choosing flagstone

days of sweaty labor, down on our knees

measuring digging leveling

pea gravel rock dust 

negotiating our different approaches, rethinking

more sweaty labor, down on our knees

laying the flagstone

adding more rock dust

leveling, adjusting, repositioning


and


now look


just beautiful!



__________________





It's Tuesday and I am participating in the
 Slice of Life.  
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for creating this supportive community 
of teacher-writers!



Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Circumstances Alter

A poem-story about some unexpected visitors when we were watching the grandkids (three year old 'Frog' and 1 year old 'Bird') -



In retrospect, Frog’s words 

were a foreshadowing, when she

declared Deuce is coming over,

causing me to whip my head up

from the sandbox in surprise

only to see she simply meant 

the dog was running alongside the fence

keeping parallel with us while

still safely ensconced in his yard

like always


ah, not.


Right that very moment, 

that big ol’ lumbering dog

found a hole in the fence 

from where a previous storm

had sent sailing a big ol’ branch

and busted off the picket

unbeknownst to us,

meaning,

hello,

open season,

the neighbors' dogs can

jump through the fence

and join us in the sandbox!


ah, not.


Frog screamed in terror and

I surely wanted NOT to be

the adult in charge. 

Deuce is a very big dog.

To date, our entire relationship

has been across the fence

from one another.

All at once, here he was,

running to us, barking excitedly

I scooped up Frog, holding

her close, hurrying away, and

speaking soothingly to Frog,

saying he's a nice dog (I prayed)

Deuce paused for a moment

in the sandbox and then

ran to keep up with us.


ah, no.


I hurried towards 

the house carrying Frog,

while Deuce was

rushing along right at my heels

There was Tony holding Bird up high,

running from the the other side

of the yard, just as surprised

as I by our canine visitor, and

trying his best to wave

Deuce back through the fence,

to leave the way he came.


ah not.


I quickly opened the back door

and basically dropped Frog

into the family room for

safety, pivoting back to Tony, and

taking Bird from him, only

to hear Frog cry out 

from inside Oh no Nana, 

I have a shovel full of sand!


ah not.


That’s when Frog first lived

Mimi Ingram’s wisdom

Circumstances alter cases -

who cares about a pile of sand 

on the rug if no one has been 

bitten by a big ol’ dog? 


ahhhhh.


I am ‘big dog’ phobic,

but I wasn’t feeling so afraid

of Deuce; after all these months

of being alongside him in our 

backyards, I knew him to be 

old and slow and calm;

I was feeling scared of his buddy Ace,

however; oh my, different story; 

he barks so loudly, and

the owners take him for walks

with a thick chain to rein him in.


ah, no. 


Yes, as I hurried to get the 

girls inside the house, it was Ace

that was sending shivers

up my spine. In the tumult,

my eyes searched for

this second dog - was he

going to follow Deuce through

the opening in the fence?


ah, no, please, no.


I heard Ace barking loudly, and

then I saw - Ace was sporting

a cone around his head!

Which was bad for him 

and great for us at this

particular moment -  Ace

couldn’t quite fit, 

couldn’t wedge himself

through the opening.


ah, thank goodness.


Hearing all the commotion,

their owner was out back, too,

making apologies for Deuce

slipping into our yard

and praising his sweetness, 

his good nature - Deuce loves 

children and simply wanted 

to be friends. She and Tony chatted 

while he repaired the fence 

with a spare picket from our garage;

the girls and I watched in

safe fascination from the 

family room window.


ah, yes!


Frog wanted to know, 

why did Deuce want 

to be our friend? My answer

was a bit of mind-reading,

I suppose he likes seeing

us play and decided to get 

right with us. 


I must say, 

from my perspective,

Deuce is a better 

acquaintance 

than friend.

Just sayin’





__________________





It's Tuesday and I am participating in the
 Slice of Life.  
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for creating this supportive community 
of teacher-writers!




Thursday, June 9, 2022

Celebrations and hope


Ramona Behnke offered today's writing inspiration/prompt - to think about 'small celebrations' in our lives. Check out her thoughtful reflections on this theme, and read the comments on her post for links to other writers and their responses.

--

June simply bursts with celebrations - so many weddings and anniversaries, graduations, backyard barbecues to kick off summer, end-of-year parties to celebrate happy conclusions of various clubs and activities. Often, there's special travel to see loved ones at this start to summer (all the more special after two years + of pandemic) and, of course, there's Father's Day, as well. Yes, June is a celebratory time. 

We were invited to a gala event in celebration of a special someone recently, a dear friend of our family. I'll keep the party 'anonymous' in the interest of sharing something a little deeper:

there was one invitee whom I was totally surprised to see, 
someone I knew in a wholly personal, emotional, confidential way, totally apart from this celebration, 
someone I never imagined running into there or anywhere again
though I had hoped and prayed I would.

Years ago, we had met in a time of parallel pain; we had met at a recovery program, both of us parents to a child with addiction. This recovery program was an extraordinary blessing, giving us space to share our hurt and the tools we needed to move forward. Every participant shared personal stories, with the assurance of anonymity. 

I was awash in empathy for everyone, but this one family's story is one that I held in my heart these many years. One evening during the support group, this parent and I had the opportunity to share more deeply one-on-one, and I felt a sad yet beautiful intersection of our grief. We listened to one another and 'held' each other in this time of fear and confusion. I know I reflected on their words many times over, in the months and years to come; I was lifted by their story. I realized then that it is no small thing to be alongside another in suffering; there is great power in this.

"Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it." Helen Keller

Over the years, I have wondered about their child. I prayed for their recovery. I hoped for strength for the family. 

Here, many years later, we cross paths again! In the midst of a completely separate and jubilant celebration! 

It felt coincidental, so happenstance, so wonderful.

(I have a friend who assures that a coincidence is the work of the holy - when you are surprised like this, believe in the mystery of something much larger than you. In the midst of this celebration, I did feel the holy.)

This person and I, we greeted each other like old friends, with a warm embrace. We met each other's eyes. With just a few tender words, we were able to impart how much healthier each of our children now was. We shared big smiles, and moved apart to chat and mix with others at the party, continuing the celebration at hand. I, however, basked in the second celebration of simply intersecting with them, again.

Recovery, 
my goodness, 
this is truly cause for celebration - 
one that, so many years ago, I could hardly imagine. 

I hope I have been able to impart how serendipitous and special this reconnection was to me. I have been smiling for several days now, ever since running into this person again. 

I am so aware of 
    the healing power of time, 
    the strength, fortitude, and perseverance of individuals, and 
    the iridescent and lasting beauty of interactions. 
You simply never know what the future holds, and 
how your presence might help another. 


Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Strawberries for picking



It is June and the strawberries

are blooming popping ripe for tasting


In the neighbor’s front yard

these sweet delights 

are like toddlers running 

in between around all over

their happy wild natural garden 

planted all along the curb

so that everyone and anyone

might feast 


We wandered over after naps

each grandchild with a small container 

to fill


Our preschooler was focused

searching, lifting leaves, looking under,

stepping closer, excitedly tossing each into

her small pail


Whereas our toddler stood transfixed

alongside us

devouring each and every piece of

plump red lusciousness that came her way

(assisted greatly by her dear Poppa)

while holding an empty pail

and

throughout

every

fruity

chew 

she scowled at the hosts suspiciously

yes, wrinkled brow dagger eyes pursed lips

(these last were dripping in berry juice)


Such abhorrent behavior for a guest! 


All is forgiven when you are only 19 months old

trusting only your nearest and dearest

not yet ready to welcome the stranger 

or neighbor, as it were

not realizing

the recipients of your ‘stink eye’

were the reason for this

strawberry indulgence


We all just chuckled and giggled and shook our heads

at the wondrous mystery of the young.



___________________





It's Tuesday and I am participating in the
 Slice of Life.  
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for creating this supportive community 
of teacher-writers!