Calling All Saints

This is a day designated by the Christian church for the remembrance of all the good, fine people who have lived, illuminated our lives, led the way for the rest of us, and now are also gone before us in death. Recollection, commemoration and admiration of those who have lived as great-hearted souls on the earth and set an example, large or small, of excellence for those of us who follow is, I think, a practice that anyone of any stripe, religious or not, can embrace; we are certainly all made better by such meditations, especially if and when we are made stronger by their guidance to follow in our honored loves’ radiant footsteps.Photos + text: How Sweet the Moment

Spending a day in remembrance of loves lost is bound to be bittersweet, of course. When the bond has been close in life, it remains so in death, and however the pangs of loss may subside over time, on a day devoted to thoughtful recognition of our trusted and beloved friends, mentors and avatars of all things great and good, the pain can be as sharply new again as in the first sweep of sorrow. But if I am genuinely mindful and respectful of their gifts in life, I think that this can be transformational and healing and comforting, too.Photos + text: Bittersweet

Can I live as a reflection of my most-admired angels? It’s too tall an order for any ordinary mortal, I know. But that’s exactly why I think we have these living and loving models among us: to show that in community and mutual, loving support and with determined and patient growth on our own, greater things can happen than if we try to do significant and meaningful things independently. We are raised up by the waves of support around us. How can I not be grateful for that! This realization sweetens the day perceptibly. Do I wish that I could have my lost loves back again? Who would not! But I wouldn’t trade one tear, one iota of the hurt and anger and grief I’ve felt over any of their losses, to miss out on recognizing the beauty and joy and brilliance that they brought to this world in their too-short tenure here, and I know that some lights seem so bright in life that they can blind me at close range to what’s more easily discerned, when seen from this greater distance, as having the distinctive shape of an excellent soul.Photos + text: Last Lullaby

That Ship has Sailed

photoWhat is the purpose of regret? If I don’t learn from my mistakes and move forward the wiser and determined to be better, then no amount of guilty or disappointed remembrance on my part can have any use at all. Life, no matter how it ebbs and flows, doesn’t repeat itself for my convenience. Dratted Life, anyhow.

It’s great, whilst muddling through, to ‘get it right,’ but being a mere mortal, I don’t do that nearly as often as I’d like. Being stubborn and having my intellectual and emotional limits as well, I may try to learn and practice and improve, but I’ll surely never do so infallibly, and almost always, the progress is slow.

All the same, I think myself wise in one small thing, at least: I work with fair determination at letting go of or minimizing those things that I wish I could change but can’t. I’d hate to think I devoted yet more time to the irreparable past and wasted yet more of the present in the process. My adventures in sailing forward may be small, but I hope I’ll keep bobbing along with the tide of time in my own little way even if the wind has gone out of my sails for a moment.

And if I really find myself dead in the water, why then I hope I’m clever enough to get out my oars and start rowing for my life.

Home and Deranged

photoA Particular Kind of Homesickness

The road we ride is an old back road, a highway that goes nowhere fast,

and as we drive and drift and dream, we see the present meet the past,

the way that it has always done from cities to the countryside,

the way we know that history recycles us, and far and wide,

we all return to what we’ve known and circle back to home and hearth

whether together or alone, to best-loved places on the earth.

Is it just crazy, that we long to find ourselves in Mama’s arms,

in childhood’s safety, in our fondest corner of our homes, our farms,

our gardens, houses, classrooms, fields? Is this insanity, or just

finding our life and hope and heart in best-loved places, as we must?

Return to rooted, distant loves, become simplicity and grace,

and find the fields of gold we seek in each his own familiar place.photo

For So Many Reasons

digital painting from a photoEvery Fourth of July I am filled with ambivalence. I feel so deeply fortunate to have been born in a country where I live a very privileged life: I can afford to live in a spacious, comfortable house, own a car that I can drive when and wherever I choose, eat (yes, too much, and that I have the choice of changing as well); more importantly, I can vote in any election–though I have sincere doubts that we are as close to a ‘one man, one votenation in effect as we are on paper–and I can say what I believe, and believe what I wish, and choose my own friends and live as I please.

At the same time, I am constantly troubled by the many self-proclaimed ‘patriots’ whose views of freedom translate what I see as privileges into their personal Rights without regard to how they might impinge on the health, safety and happiness of the people directly around them; who preach (because they are free to do so in this country) against the rights of the poor, the downtrodden, and especially of those who simply differ from themselves because they believe (and are free to do so) that the poor, downtrodden and different are inherently wrong or evil and that what applies as a Right to oneself is an undeserved privilege to another. It frightens me that the very freedom to think and decide for oneself is applied to people I would disagree with vigorously and even think dangerous in their views, even while it pleases me that I am free to oppose them.

What is called the United States of America is far from a land of wholly united people–this present time is no different from our past, if perhaps a bit more polarized than some eras in that regard. I’m constantly hearing the language of ‘freedom’ morphed into the language of making others change to suit our own personal ideals of how to live a good and just and proper life, not just here on our own soil but around the globe, and this too is not new but is no less fearsome a characteristic of our frailty as both individuals and a nation. We are spoiled, self-centered and arrogant in so many ways.

Yet the general goodness of living in a widely varied, opportunity-loving, favored land never leaves my heart and mind, either. Even if I define its better qualities differently than any number of my fellow citizens would do, I am aware of my good fortune in living in a place where that is both legal and generally acceptable, and where the very spirit of the country’s foundation says I should actively participate in making it as bold and just and generous as it can be. So though a part of me withers at the very idea of anyone needing political, legal or military systems, I am grateful to those people who throughout our history have committed with sincerity to their thirst for justice and making things right in the land and done those kinds of work to make it possible.

I just heard someone say a variant of the (true) old saw about ‘the guy who wrote the manual isn’t the one that actually does the job’ and am reminded that those who framed our constitution and envisioned as the nature and future of our nation could never have known exactly how it would unfold in practice and over time, even though they did live, work and die under that constitution as well. We all only do the best we are able, and as it happens, those of us who now live, work and die in America have a setting in which it’s possible for more of us to do so at an acceptable or even high level if we, too, commit to it and live our many-colored versions of the dream the best that we can.digital painting from a photoShow of Fireworks

Across this piece of Texas sky,

Local alchemists and

Magisterial teenagers are casting

New and sparkling stars, comets,

Blazing suns shot out of

The hands of these earthbound gods

Into the deepening blue-black night

And turning the sky of the

Lone Star State into great

Galaxies of momentary stars

           Notes on the Fourth of July 2010

Bedazzled

All through this night, a sparkling sky shouts out in dazzling handmade stars

of hopes and dreams, of glories past; what we believe makes the future ours–

our splashy, gleaming, naive wants, our bold wild brashness, sweet with pain

at the memory of what all this cost, this wealth of joy–this the faint refrain

as the night grows cold and the ashes drift: that our predecessors paid with life

to buy our present comfort, give us our privileged pleasures free from strife–

this tinge of sorrow underlaid still cannot dim, and never mars,

our gladness that that price was paid, so we fire our dazzling handmade stars–

our banners raise with collective pride, with staunch salutes and our boastful hymns–

at least until we wake up unchanged, long after the final firework dims.

We should still remember, when dawn returns and celebratory displays will cease,

that it’s best for us to light the skies with our stars for prosperity–and peace.digital painting from a photo