Friday, September 25, 2015

Saxapahaw on a rainy day

Saxapahaw is trying to stay still and obliging to the river's rhythm, despite encroachment of hipness, new construction, highway regurgitation of the american lust for sameness and convenience.  Today I see its colors; warm gray/taupe, yellow/orange early fall greens against evertrue evergreens and tinges of burnt siena.  The Haw water is inky warm black/brown as it welcomes the light gray misty rain, heavying the air that is reminscent of the just ending summer's humidity.  Warm rain has double parked over North Carolina from mountains to coast today and is in no rush to move down the road.  After days of dry heat and summer's last fling with grass and leaves, a smudging of low smoky clouds are here and I interpret their message to say "slow down."  So I drove myself to Carrboro for a concert and a drink.

Aging makes me pine for revisiting what I know to bring happiness, like the sound of music from familiar people. Linford Detweiler and Karin Berquist caught my ear at a time of deep questioning.  Music is so powerful and can move us towards light and darkness.  I've used music like a drug before.  Swilling it down and pouring its gasoline on a fire that often needed to be extinquished, but instead, the music helped keep it going.  Over the Rhine's music was part of the cocktail I used years ago.  I saw them perform live last night again.  There has been a long hiatus between us. I have gotten healthier, and they have changed too.  But to hear some of those old familiar lyrics and the same golden honey sounds of their in-love selves still crooning adoringly to each other, tapped my recovering self and challenged my heart.  It tapped into deep longing - the hunger that had me asking questions as the music dripped over me:  is it too late for me to have the life I want;  what is the life I want;  what will I do with the love I want to share with someone in this life;  who will I share my deep joy and deep sorrow with;  how will I get to the picture I have in my mind's heart of a life that is simple and deep - one of gratitude and one that I can share with others who need respite and a place to tell their stories - a place for their stories to be heard?  

The old songs played and I choked back tears.  I was in the throws of love back when they were singing those songs - the in-love addiction that has you flailing around like a fish on a hook.  You know how much better it will feel when that hook is removed, but that bait is so sweet.  And I'm joyful that I've been released....but I remember the euphoria too.  I remember too much - hands, neck, eyes, voice, mouth, promises, breath and sleep.

And then they played this song:  

Just shy of Breakin’ Down
There’s a bend in the road that I have found
Called home

Take a left at loneliness
There’s a place to find forgiveness
Called home

With clouds adrift across the sky
Like heaven’s laundry hung to dry
You slowly feel it all will be revealed

Where evening shadows come to fall
On the awful and the beautiful
Every wound you feel that needs to heal

And silence yearns to hear herself
Some long lost memory rings a bell
Called home

Old pre-Civil War brick house
Standin’ tall and straight somehow
Called home

Mailbox full of weariness
And a word of hard won happiness
Called home

Leave behind your Sunday best
You know we couldn’t care a less
Out here we’ve learned to leave the edges wild

And stories they get passed around
And laughter – it gets handed down
Read it in the lines around a smile

Our bodies’ motion comes to rest
When we are at last
Called home

Friday, January 9, 2015

A year ago today...

So the sun came up again today.  The first I saw of the sky was indigo blue, with a ribbon of first gold light.  I read my tribute to Klondike from a year ago, and remembered that the sun came up "pink and gold" on the day that I had to meet the impossible task of saying goodbye.  I sat here at the desk and waited for
today's pink and gold, and it has come.  The dogs huddled around me in what truly seemed like a "knowing" way this morning...Harold looking at me intently and Maggie resting her paw on my leg, and we watched January 9, 2015 dawn, pink and gold, and recalled a year ago.  I don't know how I got out of bed that day knowing what was to unfold.  It seemed impossible to say goodbye to that dog.  

What does it even mean that a year has gone by?  Years used to see like giant spans of time.  Now they seem like some sort of short interval that I wish I would take a lot longer.  They all said it would be like this as you age, this time speeding up thing.  

  A week ago last year was full.  We said goodbye to my dear Uncle Luke a year ago yesterday, on Dad's 85th birthday.  That was, and is, surreal.  He was really my one uncle who I knew and loved, and who loved me.  My Mother's only brother, I was the first baby "GG" ever held.   I really had bet on him always being "out" there as someone who would have my back if times got really tough.  Now he's been gone a year too.  

Dad turned 86 yesterday.  He's a handsome, funny, sometimes curmudgeonly, loving, loyal, independent person.  There are still so many stories I don't know about him.  A book with many chapters - and many untold I'm sure.  I feel so grateful that we live nearby each other, that he is having time now with my adult and almost adult children, and me at this stage of my life.  

Happy birthday Dad.  

I miss you Luke.

I think of you everyday Klondike.

Morning has broken.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Writing moments...early January 2014

Why is it that time seems to be suspended, on a different speed, during what we call the holidays?  It is slower (for me anyway) or, maybe it's that moments come into clearer focus than they usually do.  For the last several holiday times of year, there seems to be a wider space for seeing things better.  I battle with "frantic" more that I'd like to admit and for reasons that I'm sure if I listed them would seem so unnecessary - so neurotic.  But during the holidays...or as I'm saying this year...the time of darkness...I accept what I experience as a gift of being able to see better.  I thought of one of those moments this morning.  It was at the new downtown independent bookstore, which in and of itself is a gift (it is sort of like when the Green Bean opened downtown - a confluence of community minded people gathering and dipping toes into new conversations).  I was there for a book reading by Ann Raper, a former Guilford trustee and now author of "A Quaker Courtship" about letters written between her grandparents.  But the clearest moment was seeing my neighbor and Guilford colleague there.  She lives just a few short blocks away but we never really see each other except for the random yoga class or outing.  We talked and caught up for a few moments and it was like I was getting yet another chance to connect with an interesting, smart, educator/neighbor/friend.  Nothing monumental was discussed, but the discussion was monumental.  The connection was rich.  And now I may have tea with her today, right here in our very neighborhood.  

Why monumental?  Because there are opportunities all around.  I think I see clearly, but my seeing is veiled with my preconceptions, my drive to check off my to do list, and to get to the next place, so much so that I rush past the jewels right in front of me.  And then there are the holidays...time slows down.  No matter your orientation, there is a sense of waiting.  We rush towards commitments, dinners, gifts, travel, and more, but, aren't we all waiting for ...the light?  The literal last days of long darkness and the movement towards more light, longer "days..." new possibilities.  Even though we don't experience actual darkness, and have forgotten/never known it's benefits, we are living in the pattern of the sun.  We sense the darkness increasing, and hope for the trend to shift once again towards light.  This communal experience, perhaps, is the gift of a slower speed.  We hunker down together, we look around, and there we are all.  I see you.  

I relish this "dark" time.  So much in me wants to slow down, nest, hibernate - even though nothing is actually stopping me from doing this at other times of the year. No, that's not really true.  I can't stop contemplating some thoughts on darkness and how we don't really get it anymore - ever.   No time where the "human agenda" fades away...when it used to be nightly.  Maybe that keeps me from finding that habitual quieting of the mind, heart, breath.  And now, it's not communal either.  We have to seek and choose our own "dark" if we dare.  This gift that I get of an extended "work" break in higher where we are all pausing as community for a couple of rare and delicious.  With it comes this beautiful chance to live in a slower speed.  A chance to better "see" who is in front of you, and what is around you.  A chance to pay attention to the chatter inside, and then greet it with arms of lovingkindness.  My insides have felt like a pin ball machine with thoughts and lists and shoulds and wants, regrets, joys, fears, questions bouncing randomly off my walls.  It's not pretty and often leaves me panting shallow breaths.  But as the dark quiets the surroundings, and the sun is scarce, there is time to "see" what's bouncing off my internal walls.  With a "lightness" I observe it all, and things actually start to quiet down.  I can see my surroundings.  I can hear the dogs breathing and the heat fan in my house starting and stopping.  The clock ticks and chimes.  There is really a now - not just a regrettable or lost past and an impossible future.  I see me better.  I hope I see you better.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Meeting reflections July 5, 2014

This morning I pried myself away from ESPN and the graceful, dignified and powerful Roger Federer and the Wimbledon finals to head to Meeting for Worship.  I don't say that proudly, mind you, but just to state the truth about how I did have to consider my options.  I was glad that I made the right choice.    The topic of the morning, from Bill Hamilton (new interim pastor at New Garden for the next year) on his first official First Day was this:  Wisdom of the Elders.  It was with powerful humility and respect that Bill delivered words about the 1000 or so "elders" in the cemetery across the Meetinghouse parking lot, of the folks who walk through the woods each Sunday to worship from Friends Homes, and about those in the Guilford College and New Garden community who not only farmed and fed their families but who also assisted with the Underground Railroad, stood for the rights of prisoners, and who fought for civil rights.  And more.  Much more.  

Bill Hamilton's words today ignited that ember in me that has waxed and waned over the years I've been employed at Guilford in the role of alumni staff.  The ember is about stewardship, and more.  It has had to do with a conviction that those who have gone before us, and those who are the more senior members of our Guilford College community, have the ability to assist the rest of us in deciphering right thinking, what matters, long term decisions, sustainable practice....yes, what is civil and useful in this moment.  How can we become our better self as a community dedicated to higher education if we are not paying close attention to who and what has come before us?  If history repeats itself, we need to attend to it.  What actions have moved us forward?  Who has stood up and given voice to difficult truths?  Who and what has challenged us to look at ourselves?  Where have the quiet but powerful moments of true caring relationships mattered...and how have they stood  the test of time?  How many conversations have we all had with alumni who talk about a moment, a gesture, a reaching out and going the extra mile by someone who has sustained them and shaped their existence over so many years?  

I wonder if we can do a better job at telling the stories of the elders?  I wonder how we can challenge each other to think of ourselves to be now and future elders of Guilford College and of the New Garden community?  That's what we mean when we talk about alumni relations, is it not?  Don't we really mean that we want each individual who has been shaped here to grow into their role as an elder of the community?  

What does it mean to be an elder?  

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Day 7 - it's been a lifetime and a week

...since we arrived!  A week?  We have covered so much ground, met so many people, and touched so many issues...and all at Max Carter's pace which is not for the faint of heart!  We arrived yesterday in Ramallah where Max is greeted like a superstar.   This place has been a part of his life and Jane's since before he was born, with his beloved Aunt what's her name teaching here decades ago.  We arrived after crossing in and out of Israeli and Palestinian territory  - fake boundaries that Maia is always talking about when we discuss the Cape Fear River Basin in NC and our shared water and other resources.  There are so many of the "lord's proprietors" boundaries here.  And as they get defined and redefined for reasons that date back to the building of ancient Jericho (which we trekked across yesterday), resources here continue to get depleted and fought over - not stewarded and preserved.  This "holy" land is lusted after in terms of ownership, but it seems to me that it is not revered, coddled, or stewarded.  

It is wonderful how quickly we have bonded with our new friends here, and then how significant the parting is.  We said goodbye to two of the "Pilgrims of Ibilline" yesterday, Nancy Sutton and Larry Mulligan.  Nancy is from PA and Larry from MI, and both were serving as hosts in the Guest Quarters at Mar Elias, Abuna (Our Father) Elias Chacour's school.  They were delightful.  Before leaving they showed us the church that Chacour had built on the grounds.  Rather beautiful but not used for a congregation, (a problem to the Quaker mentality).  Another challenge to the Quaker mindset is Chacour's stained glass image there.  Downstairs in the church there is large mural with a Guilford alumni connection.  Cassie Fox's father, Tom Fox, who was a peace activist in Iraq and killed there several years ago, is prominent in the mural along with other martyrs including Gandhi and Martin Luther King.  A sobering reminder of so many dedicated souls.  

We covered some serious Biblical territory this day.  From Nazareth to Jericho, by Mount Tabor, Dead Sea, Quram hills, waved to Zaccheas' tree, Armagheddon hill, and then skirted Jerusalem back to Ramallah.  We visited the Church of the Annunciation, supposed site of Mary's visit from the angel, which is full of beautiful mosaics with representations of Mary from countries all over the world.  Jericho was desert like and hot, an archeological extravaganza claiming to be the oldest city in the world.  We ate at a funny place called "Temptations" restaurant.  The desert puppies there hiding in the dig sites were troublesome in that it was a million degrees and they were adorable and....well, it's good that Julia wasn't seeing that.  

Despite the caution about the icky and stingy and yucky Dead Sea-is-a-chemical bath - I battled with my FOMO condition (fear of missing out) and decided I couldn't pass it up.  More resort like than I had imagined - (I thought everything would look like something from the Bible here) we walked down to the sea "put it" place by swimming pools, tiki torches and thatched roof bar!  The brave of us went on it and once past some intitial "why did I shave my legs this week" stinginess it was a blast!  I could hardly get my body upright and felt like a bobbing cork out there!  We choreographed a loved synchronized swimming performance once we figured out how to maneuver.  It was fun.

On our way back to Ramallah there was a lot of traffic.  We then realized that a random check point had been set up by an army jeep on the high way.  When our turn came, two Israeli soldiers boarded our bus and asked for our passports.  Fully loaded with rifles and gear, they walked through our bus, checked our i.d., smiled and told us to have a nice day.

We unpacked in what will be our home for the next week.  A nice apt. on the campus of the Friends School.  I think we all breathed a sigh of comfort to know we could settle in a bit.  I think we all realized the stress of clinging to our belongings, not losing our passports, not seeming vulnerable and that it had caught up with us.  However, we had another quick turnaround to be at the home of Guilford sophomore Nour Salhoub for dinner.  Her mother Lena and Nour welcomed us to their lovely apartment for a delicious and full spread dinner.  Walid, another Guilford student joined us.  We had a great time there and I enjoyed getting to know Nour and Walid better.  

Here are some photos from Day 7 -

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Evening Day 5

What exactly am I doing here, and why have I come?  I have heard that this might be the question we get asked tomorrow when we meet the Holy Father Elias Chacour.  It is a question that I've already been asking myself.  Of course, I knew this was the inherent "promise" of this trip, that my small world would be turned on end.  It feels like I've been helicoptered into history in motion.  As unique as the political, social and religious issues and manifestations of daily life are here, this could also be another historical time and situation, a bottom line being the impersonalization and creation of "other" for all the reasons that make being human sometimes horrific.  Tonight in our group discussion we talked about this being akin to the devastation of the Native Americans, the reservation model, the depletion of entire cultures.  Being here is seeing that in real time. 

Today we left Jerusalem, and said goodbye to our Guest House and our host.  She was so lovely and gracious - I had such a feeling of connection there.  We took a short bus ride to Neve Shalom, an intentional community of Arab and Jewish Israelis living in the hills between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.  Sixty five families live here and work through the issues of living harmoniously.  

We rode 2 more hours to the Village of Ibiline, in the hills just east of Haifa on the Mediterranean.  This is the village where the young Elias Chacour came on his first appointment from the church after his ordination, as recounted in his book Blood Brothers.  We are staying in the school he founded, Mar Elias for two nights.  Frank Massey gave me this book when I first decided to come on this trip, and it has been my first "window" into Palestine/Israeli world.  After we unloaded we walked (straight up hill - it was nearly a 90 degree incline I promise) to the home of Palestinian friends of Max.   They graciously hosted us for afternoon talk and walk around their home, their olive oil press, some ancient ruins on their property, and their neighborhood which included the Greek Orthodox, the Melkite Orthodox and the Mosque.  At the end of our walk we were served arab coffee and cake under their grape arbor.  The hospitality here is a normal and civil and beautiful part of life.  

I have had several conversations this evening, and a hot (the first) shower so my recounting of the day has been interrupted.  But let me say that this is visit to people first, and that is how I can begin to understand this place. 

Tomorrow, to the Galilee and the place of the Sermon on the Mount. 

As our new friend Elias said earlier this evening, "dream well."  And that, we must.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Evening Day 4

Today we met with beautiful, courageous, strong, hopeful people who live most unhopeful of circumstances.  The view today of this place was raw and real it seemed.  We got to see and hear from people who have been displaced, and are continuously threatened to be displaced or worse.  Yet, these people are creating and growing many things out of what could be left as flat despair.  The people met us with such enthusiasm and energy, the likes of which you don't often see.  Emira runs the Alrowwad Center for Beautiful Resistance in Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem.  She is not long out of college but has developed and managed programs in theater, dance, photography, music for youth in the camps.  She takes their playbus to the children and invites them to participate in creating games, programs and projects for themselves.  This slight and beautiful young woman was infectious with her message and displayed such strength, stamina, vision, courage.  She didn't slam anyone, or discredit or slander.  She told her story brilliantly, and is getting a job done with experiential learning for not only the youth in the camp but women and men as well.  She brings hope and vision.

The wall built only a few years ago, cuts off the refugees from a beautiful, green valley where Emira's cousin said children used to play.  The wall separates them from it now, and as we walked the streets it was clear that they had no place to play other than narrow streets, and a concrete basketball courtyard at their school, walled and barbwired against snipers who may be on the hotel roof right outside of the camp.  Her cousin waits for his brothers to be released from prison.  It's been 23 years.  
Emira looks as if she's frightened by no one and nothing.  

Our walk from there, where we saw bullet holes and pock marks in homes, walls and poles, led us out to Bethlehem proper, (Palestinian territory) to the Church of the Nativity.   If being a religious studies major didn't take the pizzazz out of Bethlehem for me, then being there sort of did.  As Da'houd said today at the farm we visited, 4 million tourists come to this area a year seeking dead stones, but they forget and don't seek the people.  The church was so touristy and no room for anything contemplative.  But the falafel nearby was really delicious!  And then, we met more real people at the farm - Tent of Nations.   

This will take me a long time to process - all of it will.  But meeting Dahoud and Dahour today was the highlight of the trip for me so far.  Their family has lived and farmed this land since early 1900's.  Their grandfather has a deed to the land dating to 1916 which is very unusual here.  It's also rare for farmers to live on their farm.  Palestinians have typically farmed in an area they basically commute to and then live in communities.  Their father and grandfather chose to live on the land and lived in caves there, which these brothers still do.  The older brother showed us the farm and the youngest brother talked with us a long time about the history of the farm and their struggles to protect and keep their land.  Settlements are going up all around their land.  There is one Palestinian Village left in sight which is slowly being cut off from resources, making it impossible for youth to stay there.  It will eventually die and people left will have to give up their land and move to Bethlehem - a contained area.

This family is running and envisioning sustainable agriculture on their land, and are open to sharing their story with others - but were clear to say that they are first and foremost a farm.  They will replant the trees that were bulldozed 2 weeks ago.  They will continue to farm.  They will continue to get the Israeli government to give them a new and proper deed to their land.  Meanwhile, we sang Christian songs led by one brother in a cave today, between his farm jobs and preparing to rebuild their apricot, apple and fig orchards that were destroyed.  

This place was beautiful and the family members we met (including their Mother) were extraordinarily warm.  They exuded hope and are uplifted by their vision to keep growing the sustainability of their homestead.  We shared a stupendous meal with the family, workers, and another group of Americans led by Max's daughter Maia.  The sun was setting over the valley at their cave home, where we ate the meal and drank the sage tea -(best I've ever had).  It was my first moment of finding the spirit/Spirit in this place.  I wanted to stay.  I want to go back.