In the Rockies

In the Rockies
Butler Gulch

Friday, December 29, 2017

A Waiting Line -- Visitors to Prisoners in a Maximum Security Prison

There can be no photographs. We are allowed our drivers' licenses, a car key, and if we use one, the card for the vending machines once we are passed through security and before we are walked out to the pods (if that's where we are visiting) to see our prisoner friends and family members. Now that the weather is cold, our coats and other wraps go through screening with our keys and licenses.

We wait in line. Last week one of those waiting was a mother with a nine-year-old boy. She said he was going to visit his birth dad for the second time in a pod different from the one where I visit a man who has become a friend, living on death row. Once we were with our guard escort, the boy ran ahead, anxious for his visit. The guard, a kind man retired from his first job, asked the mother to call him back as he led us up to the door of Unit Two, where I was let off.

The waiting line that day included a nicely dressed white woman in a wheel chair who was visiting someone in the minimum security part of the prison. She had to be hand searched, holding up the check-in line for several minutes. Her nephew wheeled her to check in, and was coming back to get her.

Most of the visitors are persons of color so those of us who are white stand out. Over weeks and months, if like my friend, David, who visits regularly on Monday evenings and is always in line before the doors open, we become acquainted with others who wait.

I'm (like David) part of a group of volunteers who have been matched with a death row prisoner. Our Monday evening visitors and prisoners are like a family group, better than some as we don't argue or complain about trivial things. Recently, a new visitor from that group, standing in line, recognized the mother of a young man recently incarcerated and went into the minimum security visiting room to give him a hug. He went to a highly touted private high school with her daughter and had been a guest in her home.

Often visitors are acquainted with each other as the two women in front and one behind me were last week. Complaining about jobs at one of our large hospitals, I realized that their relationship was as co-workers. I was in the middle of their conversation, and I heard no mention of the prisoners they were visiting, but none were going to the outside units. A child who held up three fingers when I asked his age accompanied one of them. I played hide and seek around his mother's legs with him for several minutes.

I try to get there earlier or later than the shift change as guards are let in before visitors no matter when they arrive. Some security staff will let two or three of us in between groups of guards, but as the only woman--we are screened by a person of the same sex--staff member was searching the woman in the wheel chair, we missed the space when there was a lull in the guards arriving. The woman with the little boy was at the head of the line at that point, visibly put out, but nothing can be done but wait.

We watch to be sure the woman who runs the computer and prints out our visitors passes is there. She is key. Without her, there will be another slow line waiting for the passes. Those of us who are regulars praise her weekly--and pray that she doesn't get sick! Is the system old and slow? You bet, but the budget doesn't allow for upgrading.

After signing in two books and getting our passes, we go through one, then another gate enclosed in wire, enter another section, show our hand stamp through the window to that guard, and get whatever we are taking our prisoners from the vending machines.  Most visitors are seeing prisoners who can be visited in a large room, usually filled with folks talking and eating. For those of us visiting outside pods, we look for a guard to walk us to our destinations.

Entering Unit Two, the death row pod, there is again a wait, this time for our prisoner friends to be called from inside and allowed through security into the visiting room. The speed of this part depends on the guards inside the pod, and that varies. Recently the older guard, one we all think of highly, went back into the pod to find a guard to let my friend through. Another time, one of the prisoners being visited offered and was allowed to find him for me.

Once in the visiting room, we greet the other visitors and prisoners already there with hugs and handshakes. We greet our prisoner friends with a hug, and sit down for a visit as with any other friend. My friend keeps a box of varied tea which he brings in so I and others can have water heated in the microwave for tea while we are there. The microwave pops a lot of popcorn, a usual treat, while others bring sandwiches that are best heated. The prisoners can bring art or writing out for us to see or read, but we can't take similar things to them.

These men are very different from the young men who killed, mostly on an angry impulse, often under the influence of drugs. Three with whom I'm acquainted have been there more than thirty years and are self-knowledgeable interesting men. My friend writes and does various art projects. He made a lovely bird feeder which he mailed me for Christmas (he didn't remember that I live in a high rise, and I didn't remind him.).

We, the visitors who are part of the death-row visiting team, leave with hearts filled with gratitude and inspiration not to let the small things of life disrupt our peace.

Grace -- Serendipity -- Inner Knowing

The decision I made when beginning another re-write of my childhood memoir, one in present tense, seemed a reasoned choice. I chose to write from the eyes of nine-year-old me, in the fifth grade at our eight-grade country school. That choice allows me to use earlier experiences in past tense or as flash backs and can grow with me as I write forward. It is a voice that can more easily carry through high school than that of the younger Margaret. And as my NY coaches appear to want, it will make the story more intimate.

                  This desert scene, for me, signifies feelings of aloneness, being lost. I must
                  search for the beauty, but would look hard, it that was what it took to find it.

Now more than 100 pages into the present tense version, I find it easy to bring the early childhood stories into the text but often struggle when writing from that nine-year-old's present feelings and experiences. As I look back and feel where she was, look at a few photographs from that age, I realize that this was a time of great struggle, perhaps even a pivotal time, one where I/she fought through deep sadness and grief, determined not to be a younger version of her sad mother.
                                    The first violet in our back yard always made me smile!

Being a glass half full person is an important part of who I am. I've always credited that part of me for how I got through the difficulties of childhood. Looking at my nine-year-old self now, I see her battling for a happy place though it was often away from the present moment. I recently told a friend that I realized that I needed to fall in love with that little girl character as much as I love my fictional heroine in my novel so I would look forward to being with her in the writing process. Being with the sadness, the feelings of being trapped, are hard. I am, however, proud of her determination, for finding places and spaces that nurtured, and for caring about her family and friends.

Grace, serendipity, inner knowing, call it what you prefer, but I believe I was led to this age in my childhood to show her struggle, and to allow for release of her deeply held grief and pain. When going home would be difficult no matter whether she went directly from school, I'm proud of her for seeking out the woods and that girl-in-the-pond reflection with whom she could share. I'm sad that she had to endure so much, but grateful for her courage and strength.

I'm grateful that my parents, with their many flaws, never let me doubt that I would go to college, that getting an education was important, though their reasons were different from each other and from mine. While Mother veered from wanting me to have all the books I desired to being hateful about my ability to get lost in a story, her desire for us to have books won that battle.

We all need someone to believe that we are precious, wonderful, smart children. I was fortunate to have the Wood cousins, especially the two "old-maid" teachers, who thought I was so special. Both Cousin Edna and Cousin Gertrude made huge differences in my life, but Cousin Gertrude is most memorable. She left the adult conversations, often heated about the world situations and politics, and spent time with Billy and me. My first trip to the big public library in town was with her. My first walks to their neighborhood park, and my first time to be allowed to walk there by myself were her doing. She did her best to get me the clothes her students were wearing--my first sundress, first pair of school jeans, first shorts and mid-rift top, first pleated skirt and more.

I realize that this fits more in the tradition I'm beginning on my website so I will post it there. However, it could be helpful to one of you as well so I'll leave it here too.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Finding Peace -- In Unexpected Places

I scoured my photos for one that could show an unexpected place for peace, and find, not unexpectedly, that I photograph nature I love, people about whom I care, and especially flowers. All have the potential to provide peace. I wanted to write about finding peace within in unexpected ways. A photo of me was needed, but an ordinary one, not one where I exuded joy in my natural surroundings. In the one above, I show the smile usually put on for pictures, whether or not it represents my inner feelings. Also the background, undoubtedly nature, isn't obvious. I don't frown in photos, and don't have friends who catch me in a pensive mood and take a picture. In fact, most of my pictures of myself are taken by hiking friends/companions, on vacations, or are selfies. I am the family photographer, and my only family photos including me in many years are ones I've requested be taken with grandsons or are selfies with one of them.

The past couple of weeks have brought more turmoil, sadness and pain than I've experienced in months, perhaps since the excruciating experiences around my daughter's need to cast me out of her life or my move from "my mountains" back to Nashville. In the course of life, all but one was a small thing that took on larger proportions than necessary.

One came in my role as a group facilitator every fourth month. My "I must protect the integrity of the group" came out strongly and with people who didn't realize that was one of my hot buttons. After way too many e-mails, the issue resolved itself with the support of another leader and with the group. We didn't choose exactly what those who thought they knew best wanted but will get there another way.

The other upsets were personal, feeling bereft when left out as happens since I was away for so many years, and finally a situation where I experienced unexpected rudeness from another luncheon guest. When walking out of the restaurant, a comment from the hostess expressing finality, said in a light tone that was perhaps intended to soften the barb, dug deep, as endings of old relationships can.

Yesterday I awakened with that feeling that someone had died, deep sadness and body pain that didn't dissipate all day. As I got ready to visit my prisoner friend on death row, I thought "I'll have someone to listen carefully to my pain. That will make it worth driving in that intense 5:30 traffic in the dark."

An hour after I left--the various obstacles that delay getting into the actual visiting area for prisoners can be the topic of another blog--I was granted access to Unit 2, death row. There my inmate didn't come. I waited. The guard went back to check on him three times, unusual, but this guard is a compassionate man, unusual in that institution. My friend still did not come. Another prisoner, visiting with his friend, told me that my prisoner was upset that his dinner was about two hours late, agitated, he said. After a fifteen minute wait, he arrived, still clearly upset. In addition to a very late dinner, he had an incident with another inmate, one who issued platitudes that my friend hated and finally let the other know rather forcefully in words.

I listened, making suggestions only when his rhetoric went over the top, and then simple ones--take a deep breath, perhaps that's extreme, and finally, noting that because his temper is known, he's setting himself up as a target for those who wish to interrupt his peace.  And what I found, was that during that hour and fifteen minute visit, my pain and angst was gone. I drove home in total peace, albeit in the middle of traffic coming from all sides.

At home, I received a text from a friend who recently lost her mother, and texted back and forth with her other over the next half hour or so, again feeling complete peace. The pain and angst didn't return at bedtime. This morning there is a bit of residual of the "there was a death" feeling, but most has evaporated. I'm aware that when the next former family member comes to town, and I'm not invited, some of those feelings may return, but the lesson seems clear.

Being with others in their pain has long been one of my gifts, in the past sometimes given away indiscriminately. Today I am reminded of the gift, but as with my leadership gifts which must be put on a shelf, I see no place in which to use it. Perhaps it's only to be used as an occasion arises since I can hardly hang out a shingle that says "compassionate listening provided" for a small fee.

Today, I'm a writer. That's what I can claim as I have the ability to do that without anointing from others. In most areas where I look, people are holding tightly to their roles, letting few others in. I am blessed that our Cathedral Dean was willing, and that there was a need, to let three newcomers, one being me, into the fold of Sunday Eucharistic Ministers.

Today is a day of activity--Tai Chi, Pilates, tutoring, errands, and hopefully an hour for a walk. I approach it in peace. Thanks be to God.

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Mountains -- Norway and the Rockies

A view from the bus on our way to the waterfall hike in Norway

Beauty. Majesty. Inspiration. Mountains grip and inspire me. On the Norway coast, I was most overcome with the beauty from the sea where I could stand on the deck or sit in the ship's front window space and admire for a longer time than when riding the bus or hiking. 
Waterfalls between Shelf and Solitude Lakes, RMNP

Over almost twenty years of hiking in the Colorado mountains, I came to know portions of them intimately. Their familiarity never diminishes their grandeur. In those mountains, as on the Norway cruise, my photos are dominated with water. Even in the two favorite high places I may never again visit, tarns, waterfalls or lakes are an integral part of the photographs.  Many people go to Norway to hike, and I suspect that there are hikes where the mountains there resemble the ones in the photos here, from the trail above Black Lake that leads to favorite high meadows and tarns to the side, and the steep hike that results in the grandeur and solitude of Shelf and Solitude Lakes above.

The hike I most wanted to take, to a Norway Glacier, was cancelled because the trail was too icy. The hike they agreed to add to accommodate those of us missing the glacier hike was to waterfalls. It was pretty, lots of flowers in the lower part of the hike, but the trail was like that of an old roadway, rather than a narrow hiking trail. It was clearly a trail meant for tourists though nearer the falls, it was steeper. It also required a two-hour bus ride each way! My Australian seat mate shared the story of her life and the bus driver, an old native man, talked constantly too. Both were interesting, but for one who cherishes moments--or minutes--of silence, it began to feel like an assault.  Below: the waterfalls at trail's end, the bus in front of us (yes, there were 2!), flowers on the lower trail (the names of which I couldn't find for sure--maybe moss bell heather, all near Eikesdal, Norway.

 Now to my favorite Norway hike, which looked like no Rocky Mountain hike I've taken, as it was so green! This hike, fun since I hiked with my Canadian friend and a young CA couple, because we went off the trail at the top, and because on the way down, we took a narrow trail with only our group. It was five miles round trip without a lunch stop so some complained. Below, from the trail near the beginning.

At the top, off the trail, taken by my hiking friends--one of those places where I'm exuberant!

To the left, on our way down, my Canadian friend in the red shirt--lush green and a spongy wet trail. This was near Varberg, Norway.

Here are a few more photos--two very similar to photos of the Rockies, plus the seven sisters waterfalls from the jet boat excursion we took, all in the Geiranger area, a UNESCO Heritage site. I would have preferred to hike to the lake, no option here.

Above, from the bus ride through hairpin curves reminiscent of Trail Ridge Road through RMNP, though with more green as well as the snowfields.

I leave you with a wonderful view off trail above Tromso. We arrived above tree line in a large sky ride, but had time to explore. When my friend took off trying to prove that he had the stamina (though said he couldn't hike!) to rush up the trail swinging his poles so no one could get close, I went in another direction and was mostly alone in this lovely meadow. I couldn't resist taking photos of the pink moss campion, easily found in early summer in the Rockies. We also saw it in Iceland.

It's easy to tell that I enjoyed most being where I could get out in the mountains. I also enjoyed walking around Tromso, one of the towns we had a bit of time to explore. I'll include it with my time in Bergen where we stayed an extra night before heading to Iceland.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Into the Midnight Sun -- Inspirations in the Shetlands and Orkney Islands

Crossing the Arctic Circle

It was a wonderful trip! That said, it wasn't a trip I chose, but one my friend had in mind to take with his late wife and my dear friend. He did want me to enjoy it to the fullest and was very generous with the extras. I have a red Viking fleece that matched his, and turned down his offer to buy a heavy sweater from the ship's store since in Tennessee I'd rarely wear it. I had two lovely massages and a facial, all by a masseuse who was excellent. We had not one, but two bottles of champagne and cheese trays in our suite.

We were on the next to the top floor in a 2-room suite with a balcony, a feature for all cabins on this ship. The Viking Sky is beautiful, fairly new, and it was impossible to believe that with the crew, more than 900 people were aboard. Occasionally, if we ate breakfast in the main dining room shortly before leaving for the day's excursion, we would have to search for a table. Getting to a preferred lecture late might mean sitting in the far back of the auditorium, but there were no bad seats. I was always easily able to find a solitary spot in which to write on the days when we were at sea.

As I learned on our Great Lakes cruise last summer, it is nice to unpack once for the duration of the trip. That said, I would have liked more time in several of the ports, but this trip was planned to cover a large area. I walked in a few of the towns after the day's excursion or skipped something to just be in the communities. However, the places where we docked have a cruise economy so we weren't the only cruise ship in port most days as you can see in the photo looking down at Geiranger in Norway. We were the largest ship allowed down that fjord to the town.

What I liked most about cruising was being on the sea with the long light and the inspiration of  changing skies, slowly moving up the Geiranger fjord with its lovely waterfalls, moving past small farms and villages when near the shores and the spectacular beauty of nature that awaited us each day and night. I stayed up until 2 am twice on the longest days, taking photos, inspired and awed by the beauty of the skies and seas.

We began in London where I met a friend I'd known when she was studying in Boulder. We walked to the Greenwich Mean Time clock, the park around it and had a delightful visit. That evening my traveling companion and I took a boat ride down the Thames to ride the London "Eye" above. The next day we traveled to Windsor to tour the castle and eat at a local restaurant. The Queen's flag was whipping in the wind on the turret, signifying that she was in residence, not that we would have otherwise known.

Edinburgh was our second stop, but we did not see that city. Instead my non-golfer companion wanted to visit St. Andrews and see the famed golf course. The rain that day was gentle with little wind. My accomplishment was to purchase my son, an avid golfer, a St. Andrews golf shirt for his birthday, and a couple of smaller St. Andrews souvenirs. I did take my umbrella and walk through the streets of the old city, finding the spot where a young priest who was teaching Lutheran doctrine was burned at the stake, becoming the first martyr of the Scottish Reformation.

I felt a kinship with the Shetland Islands, below. However, the time spent preparing and the privilege granted to be on the committee for their once-a-year Viking Festival seemed too much though interesting to learn about. We took an excursion on a replica of a Viking "row" boat and tried our hand (and arms) at the oars. My companion thought he was the only one who got the rhythm--but then he was in front and couldn't see others. In the photo below, see the oars, those long poles that are wrapped when we weren't using them.

I skipped the last museum on the tour, walked back to a local crafts shop and chatted with the artisans, had lunch in a restaurant near the water recommended by the crafts people, and walked back to take photos of Lerwick's flower gardens.

While I would enjoy revisiting the Shetlands, I was most attracted to the Orkneys, I read Amy Liptrot's memoir about life on a remote Orkney island before leaving on the cruise, and her descriptions of the islands left me feeling familiar with them when I arrived. I chose a hike along the shore and through the fields down to the sea and the stone-built Neolithic Skara Brae preserved community that dates back 5000 years. We had a native guide (which wasn't always the case), and when I caught up with her to asked about Amy Liptrot, we had a delightful conversation about writing. She suggested that several residents would rent me a room or an apartment should I want to come there and write. It could be tempting!

That was the first hike I took with a new friend from near Toronto, nice to have someone else who both wanted to take photos and catch up with the hike leader.  We only saw the standing stones from the bus, and didn't have time to spend visiting the famous cathedral and walk around in Kirkwall, the largest town and capital of the Orkneys. That town was first mentioned in 1046 as the home of a particular Orkney Earl.

Neither of these islands had mountains in the background. The rolling hills were very green, and the beach near Skara Brae was sandy. Still, I felt a deep connection.

I could see writing a follow-up novel to the one I'm working on and have its main setting in the Orkneys.

I'll close this blog with gratitude for the time I spent exploring and being on these islands.
Next: Norway.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Returning Home

                                                           A Waterfall Hike in Norway

After a summer spent mostly away from my home in Nashville, I returned to see my surroundings and the activities in which I participate newly. It was a slow return as I stopped in Kansas to spend time in the area where my novel is set, and made a quick one-day stop in Missouri before heading home from three weeks in Colorado. After a delightful cruise, I had spent time with dear friends, was feted with a lovely party, and had several wonderful hikes. I visited with and saw grandson Sam perform in two productions, and in the Lion King, he was Scar, a great role for him! Since I'd been away for so much of the summer, I was ready to be back in my apartment but knew the return to ordinary life would have its jolts.

I was welcomed by those friends in my apartment building and quickly attended a 70th birthday party for a casual friend. My oldest--in terms of friendship--friends were glad I was back, and I was happy to see them. And I welcomed my son and daughter-in-law for a delightful evening as quickly as I recovered from my travels enough to put a nice dinner together. It was great to see all of them!

I was welcomed by my Pilates teacher with a big hug and a hearty welcome back, also by the two or three other class participants with whom I exchange greetings, though this is not a "community" class. My young dynamite CORE teacher, in whose class I had just started before leaving was delighted that I came back to the class.

The staff members with whom I volunteer at Cheekwood were very appreciative that I helped with the Eclipse party though I will attend my first docent meeting this Thursday.
                                                                      Eclipse Shadows
I got to stay with an old friend and visit another in Estes Park and take favorite hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. I had a delightful easy hike/walk with a couple I enjoy and two rain enlivened hikes with my long-time hiking friend who was visiting from California. And I joined the more robust contingent of St. John's hikers for two favorite hikes, though only one hiker was an old friend, disappointing though I enjoyed those with whom I hiked. When I returned and vowed to get up early and make the 7 am hike at my favorite Radnor Lake, I didn't expect a particular welcome as I'm not a regular, and one woman was coming off months on the Appalachian trail.  However, two or three noticed that I had returned and asked about my summer.
                                           Columbine in the Butler Gulch Meadow -- Colorado

Returning to services at St. John's Episcopal Church in Boulder is both heart-warming and emotional. Likely that will always feel like my church home, though there are many new members in the two years since I left. However, my clergy friends, the healing prayer team, who graciously invited me to join them in a training session for new members, my Daughters of the King friends and others, made me very welcome. I wondered that first Sunday, if I would feel badly when I returned to the Cathedral here, but realized the second Sunday I visited that I would be all right. That was true, as I was one of the chalice bearers my first Sunday morning service back, and served again this past week. Those with whom we serve are always gracious and I meet new people each time. Returning to Christ Church Cathedral had a bit of a feel of coming home!

My return to the centering prayer group, a group I've considered "my home group" was different than expected. The overall centering prayer leader had been away three weeks and was welcomed heartily. I was barely noticed, except for my one closer friend, with whom I had already communicated. I was facilitating that day, but a couple of nods at the beginning and a "good to see you" from the welcomed one afterward was it. I'm left with the sense that I must not contribute much to that group, and while it is the place where I am acquainted with those who attend regularly and we on occasion have lunch, it isn't a "heart" centering group, and I'm not aware of which members have a regular practice of centering other than when with the group. I'm in the rotation for facilitating--but with four of us, my next month will be November. I've attended regularly for over a year, rarely missing when in town. Now I'm wondering. . ..  Centering weekly with a group is  good practice, but I don't leave inspired or with new insights often.

My friend, Donald, at the prison was delighted to have me return, and it was good to visit with him--my most committed listener these days.

Yesterday afternoon I attended a meeting of the Nashville Jung Society where they focused on our shadow selves. While many in that group are therapists, I found the discussion heartening, others who are doing their own deep work. It meets only once a month, not enough to form relationships, but I've marked the October meeting on my calendar and will take a dream to work with--the topic next month. I long for a regular place to share with others who are going deep in their spiritual journey. Perhaps that will be found in one-on-one friendships rather than a group. I'll continue to discern about the centering prayer group.

Next, I will share about the cruise, as it was a lovely trip.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Light and Dark -- In Nature and Our Lives

I chose this "midnight sun" from my Norwegian Sea collection (more of them later) taken on this summer's birthday gift cruise as it shows the sun's light through clouds that are darkening the sky. It is fitting for my thoughts about being the light in the darkness, a call that our Rector eloquently made in a recent pastoral letter to the congregation.

Because I identify as a writer and my memoir is my completed book, I find myself in conversations about the darkness in this country through the lens of Satanic ritual groups. They operate underground and aren't likely to show up in marches or protests, at least not in that guise. However, a younger acquaintance once said that in her small town in a Midwestern state, all but a few of the families were either in the Klan or the Cult. While one, in my experience, teaches us to hate ourselves and the other teaches hate of the other, I wonder if those who express the hate of the other don't have, underneath that noisy exterior, self hatred that gets projected on those they identify as "the other."

So what we do when confronted with those who stand for and with the racial and ethnic slurs? Do we remember that they, too, have a piece of the Divine in them, buried though it might be?
Do we send God's love, Divine light, to them in our thoughts and prayers? Or do we project hate back to them, as "the other" though we say we are against hate?

Does our light of love reside behind a cloud when confronted with folks who fear those who are different? Are we afraid of being contaminated by their views or lumped with them if we are seen having a conversation?

While standing for our beliefs of inclusion, non-violence, against hate and injustice, where are we conversing with those with fears and opinions differ from ours? Are we lumping all from the opposite political party into one group of those who are against our values?

These are tough questions, and I don't begin to have all the answers. I have a list of my "others"--sexist men for one, our Middle Tennessee Bishop who forbids the use of the same-sex marriage liturgy in our churches for another--that I'm working on sending light and love to in my prayer time, and have just begun to add those who are filled with hate. I remember the Christian exhortation to pray for our enemies as I write this.

We can each speak up against hate and violence wherever we see it, but try to remember that those who promote and participate in hate speech, rallies and violence are also God's people. They are acting out of our worst human impulses. We are called to be the light, to let Divine love flow through us. I find myself praying for the space for that love more frequently than ever in these difficult days.

On the political and social issues front, I recommend reading "Partisan writing you shouldn't miss," articles by writers from across the political spectrum chosen by the New York Times as worth reading on the subject of the day. Some are from Internet news sources that don't appear in print, others are from recognized sources, and occasionally, after articles from the right and from the left, there are a couple from the middle (hardest to find they say). Though I sometimes hold my nose, I find this exercise worth doing two or three times a week.

We hear and know that the divide in our country can't be breached by each of our going to our own corners and hurling charges against the other group. Perhaps these recent drastic expressions of hate will allow more of us to stand together, no matter our differing labels of conservative and liberal. That could begin the healing process, a little at a time. It could make good come from the awful.

Let's fine ways to be the light!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

White Washing Those We Love

After days of agonizing, deciding what to write and what to leave our, yesterday I sent my manuscript to the literary agent who has an interest in representing it. He made no promises, but gave perimeters that I, for the most, part followed.

I was brutally honest about my participation in the cult of my childhood and growing up years. I was honest about my weakness as I know, and said a bit about my strengths, and how they too have grown from my childhood experiences. I have had to be honest about the damage Dad did, likely because Fr. William Meninger convinced me that to truly forgive, we need to understand the damage that was done. All well and good, I think.

It was my ex-husband, called Don in the memoir, about whom I had the most difficulty writing the truth. Perhaps it was because he became a better man in his later years and a good husband to his wife of thirty years. But then I thought about the years in which we were married, and a comment that his wife, whom I thought of as a friend, made. She said something like "Don's a bigot, sexist and selfish.  Didn't you know that?" A similar thought was expressed by his brother's wife shortly after her husband's death. "He was a curmudgeon Margaret. He was sexist. I knew that, but he was my curmudgeon!" They both knew the basic character of the men to whom they were married. I, on the other hand, wanted to believe Don was the man I imagined him to be when we fell in love.

Even almost forty years after our marriage ended, I'm remembering the cute, funny, romantic man I so loved and finding it difficult to write about who he was for most of the seventeen years (with a short break) that we were together. The man who looked up the hermit recipe, the Christmas cookies I made, remembered the fruit and nuts I used, and "supervised" their making, presenting me with a sack of a dozen as I came in the door for his last Christmas is the one I prefer to remember. Just as the Dad I preferred to remember was the white-washed one, until that cardboard cut out no longer served me.

I made myself write about the worst of the time with Don. Though I didn't say it clearly, I provided the reader with the information to know that he was randomly unfaithful. What it is about me that I don't want to see? Is it the woman who made an unspoken deal. As long as I don't have to see it, you can continue your philandering. Embarrass me in front of the community in which I live, that's a deal breaker.

I pretended that Don wanted me to be professionally successful, but after our divorce, he told me that I made more money that he did two of the last years we were married. I filled out our income taxes and didn't notice because the difference was minimal. Since he was adamant about my working, I wouldn't have thought he cared how much I made.

It is interesting to remember and realize that I have a habit of not seeing who the men I love really are. Perhaps my son can be the beneficiary of clear-sightedness. I have some distance from my grandsons, see them for who they are, though want the oldest to be the best young man I know he can be. My son, a very good man, gets his share of whitewashing too. I can look more honestly. I believe that would be a service to him.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Wild Things -- Finding Peace in Chaos

                          "I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with
                          forethought of grief. . . For a time I rest in the grace of the world and
                          am free." Wendell Berry

Those lines from Wendell Berry's poem, The Peace of Wild Things, resonates for me, even as a city dweller, or I should say, even more as a city dweller. While there is a French coffee and sandwich shop nearby that sustains a poet friend and is occasionally a writing spot for me, it is the woods with wild flowers blooming and birds chirping, paths beckoning, that brings that peace. More than peace, those walks, alone more often than not, bring joy, the simple joy of observing and being with the wild things.

                                                     Spring Beauty in Warner Park

Before the bushes leaf out, i observe the the steep drop of a hill or the way one undulates as if it was a baby ski slope, though no skis rode these hills,  and wonder at the way they are. I am grateful for the acres of woods and trails preserved in Nashville/Davidson County--more than 1200 acres at Radnor Lake Natural Area where the trails are free of pets and runners and is my regular haunt, and over 3,000 acres at the combined Percy and Edwin Warner parks at the western edges of the county where in Edwin, over seven miles of paved road trails have recently been made car free, with the best trails for getting in shape at Percy.

                      Tennessee larkspur, a carpet of purple blue, shorter than those in the high Rockies.
On a day when the city closes in, the news too troubling to hear or read, what I am doing seems pointless, I get in my car (alas, that's necessary) and drive the eight miles to those seldom busy hillside trails in Radnor, the park where I am most at home. The larkspur are profuse this spring, clearing of noxious plants allowing for spread of this lovely purple flower. Its show will soon be over, and the woods will have only spare flowers throughout as spring greens turn darker and bushes green the hills.

The lake, water fowl, birds, deer and other wildlife will take center stage until falls' foliage make the hills a joyous pallet of color.  The only human in sight on the South Cove trail many days, I visit with my deer friends who mostly ignore me and continue foraging for food. The wild turkeys, too, are oblivious to the walkers who stop to stare--or those too intent on their exercise to notice. They gather on the main lake trail, one I use on days when my energy lags and the hills of South Cove seem too much or when I need to get back to my car quickly as the predicted showers materialize, heavier than expected. Thundershower predicted days are some of the best to be on sparsely peopled trails.

I'll leave with photos of spring flowers, mostly shot on the trails of another of our parks, Beaman, in northwest Davidson County, more remote, rugged and less crowded, even on the lovely Sunday afternoon when I scoured the trails for trillium, eastern red columbine (so different from my favorite Colorado mountain columbine), Dutchman's breeches, scarlet catchfly, and the one that brought me greatest joy, the Appalachian trout lily.

I miss my first spring flowers in the Rockies, especially the glacier lilies that carpeted the hillside above Lake Isabelle in Indian Peaks Wilderness above Boulder. For years I trekked through snow, waded water and skated on ice--whatever necessary--to catch these little yellow lilies at their prime. I made that annual visit with new friends and went back alone that Colorado spring before I moved back to Tennessee, knowing it would likely be my last sighting of those lilies other than in my memory and many photos. Imagine my delight, when near to a running creek in Beaman Park I sighted little yellow lilies, first one, then two or three, and then a colony. They were yellow trout lilies and looked so much like the Glacier lilies that tears welled as I squatted to take a photo.

Others were lovely too.   The scarlet catchfly, Dutchman's breeches and trillium below.

And I end with the lovely Virginia bluebells, taken at Edwin Warner park where they are a loved sight for many.
Whether or not these or other flowers are in bloom, I find that peace, as Wendell Berry so eloquently stated it, as I harken back to that little Margaret who skipped across the fields picking daisies, in my journey with the wild things.