two different strategies for safety

a doorway through the wall.jpg

It may seem like the best way to stay safe
is to build a wall around ourselves,
keeping out all that looks unfamiliar.
That makes for a lonely and limited existence.

A better strategy may be
to build a strong and inclusive community,
where we can look out for one another
and learn from one another.

But, you must know that
neither strategy will shelter you from all harm.
Pain, suffering and death come to us all,
It’s just that they are harder to bear alone.

 

[photo by Tiziana Peressutti per cc 2.0]

the crystal globe

rose preserved in resin globe.jpg

I walk slowly into the darkened room. A small, dim glow is coming from a table in the middle of the room, barely visible from the door. The room is large and it is quiet. So very quiet. I hesitate to move and disturb the stillness, but that little light is calling to me, ‘Come, come.’

So, I step cautiously forward, trying to keep my movements from disturbing even the air around me. I make my way to the table. It is a dark, rich wood. In the middle is a small ball or globe with something inside. That is the source of the tiny light.

I put my hands on the table for balance and lean forward for a closer look. It is a globe of crystal, perfectly clear, its rounded edges almost invisible. And there within the crystal is a rose, encased, preserved … imprisoned?

That final thought catches me by surprise, but then becomes unavoidable. A rose is a living thing. It cannot stay still, even in ‘perfect’ suspension, else it dies. As beautiful as this is – this crystal globe, this perfect rose, it is, somehow wrong. It is not meant to be preserved, unchanging. It is meant for life.

I reach out a tentative finger and touch the globe. My fingerprint mars the surface, making its edges clearer, defining the surface that keeps me separate from the rose itself.

‘Look, but don’t touch,’ it seems to say. But the message of the globe and the message of the rose are different. The globe wants to keep things in their current state – clear, pure, perfect. The rose wants to grow.

It is then I see the small dark hammer that sits beside the globe, almost camouflaged against the dark grain of the table. I look around. I cannot see anyone else in the room, but it is large and dark, so I cannot tell for sure. The quiet seems to speak of absence, as well, but, again, I cannot know.

So, I do what I know I must do. I pick up the hammer and, at first tentatively, I tap the crystal globe. It makes a ringing sound, but does not break. The ringing seems to crack the stillness and quiet of the room … but the globe is unchanged. It does seem that the light has grown a bit brighter.

I take a deep breath and strike harder at the globe. It is a glancing blow that slides off the side of the globe, but the ringing that results shatters the quiet and I hear a rumble of voices around me. I begin to see movement at the sides of the room and feel a current of … anger? How dare I strike this perfect thing?

Yet the rose, still trapped within, is calling to me again. Before I can change my mind, I strike the crystal with a focused intensity and it shatters with a scream. I drop the hammer and put my hands over my ears and crumple forward against the edge of the table.

The voices from the sides of the room become figures – tall and majestic and, yes, very angry. They rush the table and surround me. One grabs me by the collar and shakes me, hard.

But the scream has subsided and in its place there is a melody – a song of joy – that has erupted from among the shards of crystal that lie upon the table. The rose is singing. Strong and free at last, it unfolds its leaves a bit and shakes its petals and sends forth a song and a fragrance that fills the room.

The shock of this change takes the figures around me by surprise. The leader drops my collar and stumbles back a few steps. Then they all turn and run, their hands over their ears. It is as if the song, for them, is as piercing as the scream had been for me.

And so I am left alone with the rose. Or so I think, at first. I am leaning over the table, looking closely at the rose when I feel a presence beside me. It is, I can tell, a holy presence. It begins to sing with the rose – a lilting harmony that twines itself with the rose’s melody and almost paints a visible image in the air. I find myself singing, as well, softly, but in harmony.

Then other voices fill the room, coming from all corners and in all languages: thin, high voices and deep, low thunders that seem to shake the room to its depths. These others … other people, yes … and mythical creatures and even vines and flowers interweave themselves around the table, arm in arm, spirit in spirit.

And the rose begins to grow. It opens its petals to a light that seems to shine on it from … from all the crowd and from a source bigger, fuller, more real, that is just beyond perception. The light comes from the rose, as well. We are all bathed in it; encompassed by it; filled with it.

Then, to my dismay, the rose, which has fully opened, begins to drop its petals. They fall upon the table. It is part of a flower’s pattern of growth to bloom and then to die. But, even as my eyes well up with tears, I see the seeds fall from its center onto a deep loam that is there at the roots of the rose. My own tears and those of others standing near provide the water for those seeds, as they begin to sprout and grow.

The beauty of the crystal globe, the quiet solemnity of the room, are far surpassed by this joyous, melodic celebration of growth and change … and life.

My heart is full.

 

[photo by Sam Villaroman per cc 2.0]

new

beautiful day.jpg

it’s not the turning of a clock
but the turning of my heart
that makes for a new year

some days are just one more
of the days that went before
until I stop to notice

so, this year
is less about resolutions to break
and more about attention and appreciation

the nice thing about this frame
is that as soon as I remember my intention
it’s already accomplished

What a delight
to face the new year
without anticipated guilt

I’m smiling when write ’19’

[photo by jesuscm_Huawei P20 series per cc 2.0]

Anticipatory Gratitude

thanksgiving dinner.jpg

Looking forward to giving thanks.
It is an interesting exercise.
It holds blessings
And hidden challenges.

There is a grace in preparing food
In anticipating the laughter and hugs
In remembering the favorite delicacies
And simple dishes of past years.

Making the cookies that grandma made;
Fixing the ‘right’ dressing
Or the green bean casserole
These are all are a kind of sacrament.

They honor family
And weave a tapestry of memory
And help to keep the place at the table
For those who no longer attend.

But we must remember
In the remembering
To actually be at the meal
With those who actually come.

There is no confection,
There is no perfection
(Even if perfection were possible)
That is better than presence.

So, I pray that I will remember
To attend to the family
More than the meal.
To let the mess become a miracle.

For that is the way of grace.

[photo by terren in Virginia per cc 2.0]

lost

a lost compass.jpg

Where did I put myself?
Surely, if I run around
Peeking under every thought or action
Second guessing every move,
Surely, I will uncover my true self.

But, no,
Instead, the empty box remains empty.
All the busyness is just a desperate attempt
To fill the void and distract the mind.
There is still no substance, there.

The more I fuss and fuddle
The more I do and do
The more I hide behind the masks of effort
The less my heart is sure
The less my soul is true.

So, finally, I fall exhausted in a heap.
Relieved, at least, there is a me to fall.
(At least, I think so … let me look.)
Have I managed to erase myself
Instead of just hiding my mistakes?

The perfect me is a fiction.
Even the efforts to be a better me
Fall useless to the ground.
Only this befuddled, messy me is left.
Yet, turns out, that is the me you love.

It is the real me
The one I keep losing under the mess
The one that I try to deny or fix
That is the one you hold within your heart.
And in that holding I am made whole.

Thank you.
Thank you.
If you love me
Maybe I can love me, too.
And then true transformation can begin.

[photo by Observe The Banana per cc 2.0]