Connected

What is this Song?

First the carillon, and then,

Voices of children, women, men,

The organ sounds, lute, harp and lyre,

And as the song grows clearer, higher,

Sweeter and more joyful still,

Ring out the notes from hill to hill,

Across the night, straight on to day,

The melody flies out, away!

What is this potent symphony?

It’s love, my Love, that sets us free.photoToday seems like a particularly good day to remember that love is larger than romance, peace is larger than a desire for sameness, and joy is larger than a moment of personal happiness. I wish you all love, peace and joy.

A Lovely Lass & Her Longing Lads

Ginger Bred

Once upon a ginger lock, I made a little wish

That every bird in yonder flock and every silvery fish

In yonder stream should stop to see how lovely and, alas,

Aloof from my sweet would-be love was yonder ginger lass,digital illustrationFor she was sweet as mead and mint and lilies in the glen,

And many were the lads who looked on her, as I did then,

With wishful hearts and hopeful souls, yet Queen of bees was she,

To sting our hopes, who wished and dreamt and loved her gingerly.

For my good friend Jim and his merry band at gingerfightback.

My First Valentine

Long, long ago, in a state far away, there was a small, screaming infant being baptized by her father, a pastor, on the Sunday that fell on this very date, his birthday. I can only assume that my ornery howling was not the most perfect birthday present he’d ever had, but since Dad didn’t toss me in the dustbin either on the occasion or shortly thereafter is testament to a tiny fraction of the loving kindness he showed me then and continued to shower upon me, no matter how fractious I might have been at times, throughout the following years. That sort of tolerance alone is a good reason I’ve been very fond of the fella from the start. I’d say it’s also a good indicator that Dad always tended to have an excellent sense of humor about the silliness of real life.digital illustrationCommemorating that day is likely a good enough sampling all on its own of the man-of-many-parts that is my father, but it’s far from all. His long career as a Lutheran pastor and then bishop was complemented by plenty of stellar adventures as a leader, chairman and member of innumerable committees and boards from university to seminary to hospital and community. He traveled to and worked in dangerous and war-torn places like Honduras and El Salvador and early-1970s Chicago but still managed to come back regularly and be Dad at home to four daughters and help Mom keep the home fires burning while donning his ecumenical-superdude cape for quick service in his myriad day jobs.digital illustrationBetween his understandable popularity with many folk—even, I daresay, thanks to his unpopularity with a small contingent of people who didn’t approve of his frankness or his willingness to stand up for certain causes, a trait of courage and/or foolhardiness I would happily have had him pass to me genetically—and the careful scholarship that underpinned his good-humored to life, he’s always been a major influence on me. You can certainly see why I would consider Dad as fine a first Valentine as anyone could have. Happy Birthday, dear Dad!

Sparkling Repartee

It’s my sister’s birthday again—not that she’s getting old at a ridiculous rate, but rather that I have three sisters, so their birthdays occur with a certain frequency, since we all have different birthdays despite people’s occasionally mistaking two or more of us for same-day siblings. While we are separated by gaps, there are enough commonalities in our selves and our looks, I suppose, that it’s not entirely shocking anyone might make such an assumption, but those who know us see the vast array of differences more sharply than the less informed might.

And that, my friends, that differentness, is a grand thing. I adore all three of my sisters and love that we have enough in common to be real friends as well as family to each other, but we are clearly the better for having our unique characteristics and points of view and experiences to further enrich our life in common. It’s those distinctions that keep us from being in any way interchangeable and certainly, from having nothing to talk about when we get the all-too-rare chance to visit. We’re all four fabulous, if you ask me!

Take Sister #3, for example, whose natal day we remember on this date (I’m second of the four). From when she was very small—and she was mighty tiny indeed—her fierce drive for perfection and her native and highly honed intellect awed me. She ‘gets’ things that I will never wrap my head around, things like mathematics and the myriad business-administrative powers that keep the machinery of life and work and family ticking along in ways that only happen to me by lucky accident. She is and was the athlete and outdoorswoman I could only dream of being, and her cookery and baking, frankly, kick my measly skills to the curb. And she’s beautiful, inside and out, even if as a typical sibling I didn’t always manage to remind her so as often as she deserves.

That’s all just for starters, but if I were to go on too far I’d sound like I was making her up out of fairy wings and dewdrops and cookie dough, so instead I shall just wish her a spectacular birthday and a year full of wonder and happiness, beginning to end and for many birthdays and years to come.
digital illustration from a photoSpirited Pleasure

Let us raise a crystal glass of Champagne Brut to toast the passing

Of the weeks and months, the years, to raise resounding shouts of “Cheers!”

We’ll ping the flutes “Salut! Cin Cin!“, tip up the stems and drink it in,

For nothing makes it taste so great as bubbly wine to celebrate

(Though if you care not for its pop, I recommend a Lemon Drop)!

A Glimmering of Sweetness Exceeding All that has Gone Before

This is my wish for all of you as the new calendar year begins. May you find goodness and contentment all around you, and may you in turn share and propagate it everywhere you go in 2014. Peace and abundant happiness, my friends.photoI rarely have an actual Plan for the upcoming year, but this time around I do want to move toward a few specific things. First and foremost, I want to be more deliberate about finding ways and excuses to be an even happier person, and to leverage that happiness to spread it as far and wide as I can to other people. Call it intentional optimism, call it doing random acts of kindness, call it whatever you want, but I think it’s more likely to be good for the overall tone of the year than not, and that alone is worthwhile.photoIn addition, I intend to start making money this year again, however little it may be. I have no delusions of getting rich, but would love to put my own tiny dent in our family expenses, savings, and/or retirement. It’s been a long time since I got any actual dollars for anything other than a present, and I know that, however unlikely a choice I may be on paper for anyone who’s hiring, I will find a way. Or two. It may not be a regular job, or it might be a conglomeration of tasks and sources. I’ll keep you posted, friends, but if anyone happens to have any brilliant insights before I do, chime in; I’m listening! Meanwhile, I’m happy to keep working on increasing the happiness quotient however I’m able. That’s Job #1.

Steaming along Toward the Holidays

I’m sure anyone can easily analyze me to bits for it, but my message today is simple. I made a wreath and I hung it up on the front door to send the message to you, one and all. It’s a holiday message that I think is worth decorating for, regardless of which is your own particular holiday or what the specific date on which it falls.photoThe medium for my message may be a little offbeat. Not everybody puts up a holiday wreath made under a hint of Steampunk influence, but that was my angle at the moment, mostly because I really like all the typical mad-scientist found-object quirky-mechanical fantasy junk that fills the Steampunk world. And I made a wreath because it was fun to do.photo montageAnd I did it all to say, in my own funny-yet-utterly-serious little way, that holidays of a great multitude of kinds please me. More than that, I wanted to say that I wish such sweet happiness to all of you who more properly ‘own’ these holidays. And today, what with the 25th of December being the biggest holiday I grew up knowing in my modest corner of the universe, I think it’s exactly the right time to wish all of you as much joy, contentment, hope and peace as you can possibly contain. Well, more–so there will be plenty to spill out onto all the others around you.

Just a Different Stripe, or a Horse of a Different Color Altogether?

Does it really matter whether our differences make us varied members of the same family or citizens of separate countries entirely? At the bottom of it all, we remain genetically bound to each other as disparate parts of the same species. What we choose to do with and in response to that simple truth is what really defines us as individuals and as parts of the human family, not how different we are from one another.

Working for respect, kindness and peace toward and among all the people whose paths cross mine in life seem to me like perfectly viable ways to respond. That’s the choice I’m going with, and I hope that it will be seen as defining my true colors always.

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Our differences may be subtle or they may be tremendous, but they’re still contained in remarkably similar packages.

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It’s a gift and a privilege to see the beauty in those of a different stripe than ourselves.

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What, are you really so concerned about the cut of my hair or the color of my hide?

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I should always try to get a leg up on what challenges my expectations, whether it’s my nearest neighbor or someone from worlds away.

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After all, some of my best friends are zorses….

Abundance and Gratitude

graphite drawingAmong the essentials for a happy life, I consider the above named items some of the most meaningful. But I am often, rightly, reminded that these are as much matters of attitude as anything. Much easier, both of them, to qualify than to quantify.

Abundance, as experienced and demonstrated by many people I’ve known and seen who would be considered below a desirable economic level, is seen as having enough to survive, and just a touch to bring a guest to the table as well. That this means the main family’s subsistence is so much the sparser while a guest is on hand means little, except that the gift is commensurately so much the more generous.

For those of us with more considerable resources, I think the same attitude is worth the attempt. I should think through the difference between my actual needs and my wants, live within my means, and delight in the ability to share what I have with others. I’m not always nearly as good at this as I’d like, but think it a practice worth pursuing and improving over a lifetime.

Gratitude needn’t be limited to feeling I’m in the center of abundance, anyway. There’s no reason I shouldn’t be thankful for any and every good thing in my existence, even when the tenor of the times is set in a sparer and more trying mode. This, too, is simply a survival tactic on my part, as giving in to my dark instincts at bad times has no logical outcome but that I’d lie down and die. By choosing to actively and attentively seek out and recognize whatever kernels there are of goodness and light, I take away my focus from what lessens me and give myself a chance of relief. Better, I may see the glint of otherwise forgotten abundance, and that always makes me more grateful.digital illustration

Above and Beyond

digital illustrationSky Candy

Stars, sun, comets, moon and planets; rain and lightning, clouds and mist;

Birds and butterflies and rainbows; dragonflies by morning kissed:

What a sparkling declaration of the minutes passing by,

What a joy, this constellation of sweet treasures in the sky!

Though I hunger in the silence of shut-in days, sleeping, blind,

I keep constantly the radiance of these jewels in my mind,

Hoping, dreaming, moving, soaring–real, or the internal, eye

Loves the beauties so alluring of sweet treasures in the sky!

Flowers for Mom

P&I drawingIt’s your birthday. You look in the mirror and you can’t imagine who that strange person looking back at you could possibly be–your grandmother, maybe? The family and your friends are all busy and far away and there’s a ton of work to be done, so the party on your big day this year will probably be a cookie or two after dinner while you read the couple of chapters you can fit in before unceremoniously dropping off to sleep in the chair. In the hours between that morning mirror check and dinner, you wonder where all the time went and what could possibly lie ahead.

And then you wonder what your mother experiences on her birthday.

It is my mother’s birthday today, and I am far away from her and have a ton of work to do, so any party she has will be without me, as it often is anymore. And having had a cascade of health challenges in the last decade or so, she will likely wonder at the speed of the passing years and the uncertainty of those approaching.

But I hope that, somewhere in the midst of all that, she still finds cause for celebration. My own collection of birthdays is growing, as are those of my sisters and families, and for all of these we owe a certain debt of gratitude to Mom for having had the perfect mixture of innocent foolhardiness and courage that it takes to become a mother, not just biologically but with the dedication of throwing umpteen birthday parties for us, coaxing us through the many of those days when there wasn’t time or space for the party, and giving us the love and support it took to each take off on our own and have our full lives. Small as it may be, the birthday gift that I think my mother might like the best is that she created a whole slew of birthday opportunities for us her family and for many others whom she annexed to the bloodline over the years.

We are an exponentially widening universe of what-ifs and why-nots ourselves, each of us growing up, growing older and asking our own questions of the unexpected people we’ve become, and finding and building lives and loves that, in turn, reach out further than any one of us could possibly do alone. That seems to me to be the closest thing to a purpose for existence that silly creatures like humans can have. A pretty grand one, at that.

Thank you, Mama, and may your birthday glow brightly with the expansiveness that you taught the rest of us, and may we pass it along to all the others we cherish too.digital illustration from a P&I drawing