Thursday, May 28, 2015

Fresh Day: Thursday's Reflection

Can you see the drops of water?
Tuesday it rained all day; a cold rain. Wednesday, however, when I left the house for my morning walk, I marveled at the sparkly, shimmering freshness of the day. Tuesday's raindrops glittered on plants greener than they have ever been, it seemed to me and everywhere I looked could have been a page in a nature calendar. 


Fresh air.

Fresh smells.

Fresh growth.

Fresh colors in a neighborhood of greys and tans and browns.

 I thought about fresh starts.

Fresh looks. Perhaps a new haircut or rearranging the furniture in the living room. Don't worry, honey, I am content with the way it is, for now! 

                                           Fresh ideas.

Fresh perspectives. 

I imagine each of us could take a hint from this kind of fresh morning. Do you have feelings that need to be retired and replaced with a new outlook? Are there parts of yourself that are closed and need to be opened? Do you have attitudes leftover from another time and place that need to be spruced up? Are you weary and in need of new energy? Do worries or fears or regrets or grudges get in the way of living freely? 

Here's a thought: Throw open a window or go stand on your front step or deck and breathe. Big deep, breaths. Invite the freshness of the day to fill your whole body. Ask Spirit to open you to something new, something as yet unborn in you. Lift your head to the clouds and give thanks for each new day. Sing a new song. 

An Invitation
What is looking for renewal in your life? How will you experience freshness today? I would love to know. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Following The Memory Trail: Tuesday's Reflection

When I spoke with my father yesterday morning, Memorial Day, he mentioned remembering his father and Aunt Clara planting geraniums in pots at the cemetery on Memorial Day. Now did he say red geraniums or am I just filling in that detail? His memory made me think about pots at my parents' home planted with red and white geraniums. The front door was painted red, and my mother believed in Color Coordination. From that memory I jumped to a memory of a man who owns a small and delectable nursery. I recall his condemnation of geraniums, calling them "ordinary" and "Midwestern" and "unimaginative." 

That memory led me to a blustery, beyond cold evening in his home in which several gathered to read to each other from favorite books about gardening. How I happened to be there or what I or anyone else read, I don't quite recall, but I remember the evening's enveloping English coziness. I lingered in that memory for awhile, and then I meandered to our gardens at Sweetwater Farm where we didn't have any geraniums, but where the Head Gardener, husband Bruce, had open-ended space to indulge in his gardening fantasies, even if he didn't have open-ended time. He did have, however, his Undergardener, me, who weeded and followed instructions and rejoiced in his vision and hard work.

I could stay in those memories for a long time following the garden paths, feeling such gratitude for those years of privileged creativity. At the same time, I recognized it would be easy especially on a grey day like yesterday to feel loss, to detour into what I miss, but I decided, quite intentionally, to set those thoughts aside and instead return to the present. 

Bruce has planted geraniums, red geraniums, in the window boxes on the garage. And we even have a red door. I love the happy old-fashioned way they look, and I don't care if they are "unimaginative" or "ordinary." They remind me of a set of dishes I collected when we lived at Sweetwater Farm--a red geranium design. Whoops--there is another memory. This could go on and on, for that is what memories do. 

Memories lead us on meandering paths, similar to walking a labyrinth. One turn leads to another. One more time around and still there is more pathway ahead. How easily, however, a labyrinth, which has one way in and then you follow the path in reverse to where you started, can become a maze in which you can lose your way and still not find your way out even after many tries. Sometimes being lost in memories confines us, reinforcing what actually needs to forgotten and released. 

Recently, I came across a book that invites meandering, Consolations, The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words by the poet David Whyte. Here's what he says about memory.

          Memory is not just a then, recalled in a now, the past
          is never just the past, memory is a pulse, passing through
          all created life, a waveform, a then continually becoming
          other thens, all the while creating a continual but
          almost untouchable now. …

          We can be overwhelmed, traumatized, made smaller
          by the tide that brought us here, we can even be
          drowned and disappeared by memory; or we can spin
          a cocoon of insulation to protect ourselves and bob
          along passively in the wake of what we think has
          occurred, but we also have other more engaging
          possibilities; memory in a sense, is the very essence
          of the conversation we hold as individual human
          beings. A full inhabitation of memory makes human
          beings conscious, a living connection between what 
          has been, what is and what is about to be. Memory 
          is the living link to personal freedom. pp. 143-145

All that from red geraniums? Yes.

Memories as Spiritual Practice--Lectio Divina
Spending time in memory can become a spiritual practice when it leads us to deeper awareness of our own essence and our connection to something greater than ourselves. Perhaps you have heard of the spiritual practice, lectio divina, which is a contemplative way to read scripture, but I think it can be applied to memories that arise in us, as well. 

I am grateful to Christine Valters Paintner's new book The Soul of A Pilgrim, Eight Practices for the Journey Within, for introducing new language for the lectio divina steps. (pp. 23-24). Why not approach memories as an exercise in lectio divina

First Movement--Lectio: Settling and Shimmering. When you feel a memory arise within you, give yourself time and space to settle into it and become present. What image or words are shimmering for you? Walk around that image, getting a good look. Listen carefully to the words that may be part of the memory.

Second Movement--Meditatio: Savoring and Stirring. Look again, feel again the memory and let imagination fill it. Are there smells, sounds, tastes, touches, sights within this memory that invite you? Be with them and allow the memory to grow and expand.

Third Movement--Oratio: Summoning and Serving. Revisit the memory again and ask yourself why is this memory rising within me now? Where is it leading me?

Fourth Movement--Contemplatio: Slowing and Stilling. Know that this time of memory is also a time with God, the Sacred, the Divine. Allow yourself to be, with no need to understand or resolve. Just be. 

My lectio divina red geranium time led me to gratitude for the many gardens I have known: big and small, ones I have visited and ones at our own homes, friends' gardens, public gardens, gardens only seen in books and magazines. My heart opened to all the beauty in the world, beauty we participate in creating and beauty we are asked to nurture. 

An Invitation
I invite you to open to your memories and explore them using the spiritual practice of lectio divina. Consider journaling about your experience. I would love to know what you discover.  

David Whyte here.
Christine Valters Painter here. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Being Mortal: Thursday's Reflection

Photo Credit: Susan Kelly
When our son was in high school, he protested, "We are the only family I know who talks about death at dinner every night." That was a slight exaggeration, but not completely out of line. His Dad was medical director for a large hospice program, and I was beginning training as a spiritual director and also was a spiritual care hospice volunteer. We did talk about death a great deal and even used the words "death" and "dying," rather than "He has passed." 

I love what Abigail Thomas says in her new book, What Comes Next and How to Like It,
          You never hear it said, "He is passing away." It is
          always a fait accompli. "He passed". How I hate it.
          As if the body had nothing to do with it, as if the
          body hadn't even been around at the time but off
          playing Scrabble somewhere, or having a drink
          while the tenant moved out. Dying is the body's
          call, the shutting down of services is the body's
          last bit of business. Give credit where credit is due.
          Honor the process. Consider the simple dignity of
          "She is dying." Or he died"
               It is interesting to think of it as a verb.

We used the correct words comfortably, easily, but I don't recall talking very much about our own death and dying. That seemed far away. Now, of course, the inevitability of our own death is on the horizon, but we don't know how long that horizon stretches, and we better start talking now. 

Perhaps you saw the Frontline interview with the Atul Gawande, the author of Being Mortal, Medicine and What Matters in the End or maybe you saw Jon Stewart interview him or maybe you have even read the book yourself. Our couples book group discussed it at our last gathering, and my husband Bruce and I participated on a panel discussing the book at Adult Forum at our church recently. We have recommended the book to friends and family as well. 

Gawande, a surgeon, invites, no urges, us to ask ourselves and our loved ones the hard questions about end of life care and choices. He calls physicians and patients and their families to participate in "shared decision-making" when faced with difficult treatment choices. Gawande speaks in terms of our personal goals and how they impact our decisions, but also how those decisions impact our goals. He writes about a patient who says if he could watch football on the television and eat chocolate ice cream that would be good enough for him. Gawande's father, also a physician, when diagnosed with a spinal cord tumor says he wants to continue practicing medicine, but later when faced with more difficult choices he says what is most important is to make sure the college he supports in India continues to thrive and to visit his family there. Still later, when he became a hospice patient his goals modified to being able to communicate through email and Skype. 

There is not one firm answer to the question "What makes life worth living for you?" Changes in our circumstances may change what has meaning and purpose in our life, and with changes in our answers comes adjustment and a closer understanding of what it means to be mortal. Gawande reminds us how for most of us the default position is to do something, fix it, try anything, but we may do that without reflecting on how the "fix" affects what we have said is most important to us. 

Having this ongoing conversation with our loved ones about meaning and purpose and quality of life is different from stating our preferences about medical procedures and treatments--not that those are easy or unimportant, but they are more concrete. 
          Do you want to be resuscitated if your heart stops?
          Do you want aggressive treatments such as intubation 
          and mechanical ventilation?
          Do you want tube or intravenous feeding if you can't eat
          on your own? 

All good questions, but do they address your essence and your view of what it means to live? 

Not long ago Bruce and I filled out the short version of a health care directive and designated our health care agents. We have done this before when we lived in Wisconsin, but we wanted to now use the Minnesota form and besides, it was time to revisit our preferences. I also took the opportunity to state what is important to me as I approach my last days.
          I do not want to fight my way through and beyond
          dying, but instead want to attend to the rhythms of
          dying, breathing in and out on my own. I hope to 
          relax into dying. I want to talk about joys and gifts 
          and not procedures and tests. As long as I can eat, I
          would want homemade soup and good peasant bread,
          instead of the anonymous food underneath metal
          covers on a hospital tray. Instead of wasting energy
          going back and forth for treatments and doctors'
          appointments, I want quiet and time to pray and just
          be. I want time to hold my loved ones' hands and
          to have final conversations of love and gratitude. 

I know this doesn't cover everything. I know it won't answer every question that arises, but it is a start. I also know it is unrealistic to expect to have these deep conversations with physicians. This is work I need to do. These are heart to heart conversations I need to have with my loved ones. These are spiritual conversations that grow from truly acknowledging that we are mortal. And once we do that, what does that truth mean for how we live now and not just when we face life-challenging decisions? 

An Invitation
First of all if you haven't filled out a health care directive, no matter your age, do that now. Get online and find the one for your state and DO IT. Then keep copies of that form where they can be easily found, such as the glove compartment of your car and NOT your safety deposit box. Second, start the conversation about who you are as a living, but mortal being. And once you start the conversation, even if all that is said at first, is "I want to talk about my wishes as I approach death," be intentional about continuing the conversation. 

Be the family who talks about death and dying as a sign of love. I would love to know about your experience. 

Resources, including videos
Atul Gawande
Frontline program
Abigail Thomas

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Rhubarb Sauce: Tuesday's Reflection

Yes, I know I have written about my love of rhubarb before. (Read here.) and I will probably write about it again, but making rhubarb sauce is one of those spring moving towards summer rituals that marks the passage of time for me. Is it possible we are already at this stage of the year? 

I know for many "getting through the winter" is an endurance test and balloon bouquets are released when spring finally dominates. I know many cling to these warmer months and guard the oncoming summer as if that will make the days last longer, pass slower, and yet, we know that doesn't work.

It is mid-May now and soon it will be June and on and on the days and weeks and months pass. And the years. The inevitability does not listen to our pleas, "How can this be?"

Therefore, I mark the coming of rhubarb and the making of rhubarb sauce as one of those rituals which reminds me of the past,      clears the way for future days, and encourages me to treasure the present moment. All in a sink-full of rhubarb stalks. Of course, there is the side benefit of deliciousness, too.

The Past: I recall my mother saying more than once how it was a crime to have to pay for rhubarb, for it is just a weed. Mind you, she always fixed rhubarb sauce and torte without growing rhubarb herself. Did she beg or "borrow" bunches? Or did she stoop to buying it at the grocery store? This house left us a legacy of healthy rhubarb plants, and if Mom were still with us, she would be waiting for a speedy delivery from me.

The Future: If it's time for rhubarb, it is time to make our summer list. Where do we want to go on afternoon fields trips or day long or overnight road trips? When our children were growing up we always made a Summer List, and it was fun brainstorming ideas and then making each item a reality. On my list this summer is to go to the International Wolf Center in northern Minnesota and the Japanese Garden at Como Park in St Paul and maybe a long weekend in Door County and a St Paul Saints baseball game in the new stadium and to eat at each of the restaurants on the chain of lakes here in the Twin Cities. Wow, I guess my list is longer than I thought.

The Present: Rhubarb reminds me to savor the flavors of right now. The sweetness with maybe just a touch of sour to keep us awake. A friend who also loves rhubarb told me about having a piece of her homemade rhubarb pie for breakfast. It was there waiting for her in the refrigerator when it was time to fix breakfast. Why not? I delivered rhubarb sauce to my Dad Sunday afternoon and it makes me so happy to know how something so simple pleases him. My next batch will go to our daughter's family, but you can be sure I reserve some each time for us. Yum. 

Before we know it, if we are lucky, we will be thinking about fall flavors, applesauce and all things pumpkin. Let's not waste a moment of where we are right now, no matter the season of the year --and our lives. 

An Invitation
What in your life brings together the past, the present, and the future? I would love to know. 

Rhubarb Sauce
Combine 3 cups rhubarb cut in 1-inch pieces, 1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar, and 1/4 cup water. Bring to boiling; cover and cook slowly till tender, about 5 minutes. Makes 2 cups. Serve warm or cold. Refrigerate. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Thursday Reflection: Mission Statement

As part of doing research for the book I am writing, I have been reading the journals I wrote when we first moved to Shaker Heights, Ohio, in 1994.  Those first couple years of our life in Ohio were not easy, and the ongoing theme in my journals is grief and loss and loneliness, but those years were also a time of re-evaluation and reflection for me. What was it I wanted to do with that next stage of my life? 

I investigated all sorts of possibilities and walked a number of avenues, including freelance writing or going back to school and getting a theology degree. Eventually, I trained as a spiritual director, but that is another story.

Along the way I was motivated to write a mission statement for myself.
          My purpose is to be a lifelong learner, to live life with
          openness, with joy, with a spirit of tolerance, and to 
          share that attitude with others. My intention is to 
          express my love of God through my actions and 
          bearing, my being and my doing. 

Over the years these statements could have been modified, but I think the general meaning still fits who I am and who I strive to be. 
Within these statements is room for growth and change and for new interests and directions. The important thing, I think, is to be true to my essence--and to always be in search of that true self. 

As we age, some of us have a hard time knowing our purpose, finding a direction, especially as our work lives end or decrease and as the roles we have worn for many years are set aside. What a perfect time to ask ourselves what is most important to us? What really matters? What within you is asking to see the light and breathe fresh air?

Marjory Zoet Bankson in her book Creative Aging, Rethinking Retirement and Non-Retirement in a Changing World refers to the years between 60 and 75 as a "generative period' or "post career creativity that seems to arise from a deeper spiritual stratum--a layer of soul compressed under the pile of ego expectations and responsibilities that come from work and family needs in an earlier career stage." p. 3. Bankson refers to a "spiral of call" in which we are called to consciousness and creativity with each transition. 

Molly Strode refers to our "soul purpose" in Creating A Spiritual Retirement, A Guide to the Unseen Possibilities in Our Lives. Maria Harris calls this time "jubilee time" (Jubilee Time, Celebrating Women, Spirit, and the Advent of Age) and Richard Leider (Claiming Your Place at the Fire, Living the Second Half of Your Life) says "Elderhood is just another calling."

Here's another way to approach this time. Have you noticed all the shops springing up in which people have taken old furniture and have given it new life? That heavy china cabinet full of crystal that once dominated a formal dining room is now painted turquoise or chartreuse and holds kids' games and DVDs. A stiff wingback chair upholstered in brocade is now a riot of color and pattern. Perhaps we need to stand in front of ourselves and imagine what new color will boost us into vibrant energy? Or is there a way what has always been can become it own new thing? Can we re-purpose our view of ourselves and who we think we are, even if we think it is too late or we have done what we set out to accomplish and who cares anyway? 

I now realize our years in Madison were sabbatical years for me, years of transition, a link between our life in Ohio and the full circle return home to Minnesota. A time-out in some ways, but now I realize I am not done. I have re-examined my purpose, listened for the whisper of a call, and now I am eagerly building a practice in spiritual direction here, along with facilitating an occasional retreat or teaching a class on topics related to spirituality. And I am finally devoting myself to writing the book that has been percolating for nearly twenty years. Now is the time. 

I feel full of purpose and meaning. The particulars may change over time. I may need to update the upholstery or give my plans a fresh coat of paint yet again.  I may revise the methods and the commitments, but this time is all about knowing God within myself and living that with others. Yup, I think my mission statement written in 1994 still fits. 

An Invitation
What is most important to you right now? How can you live your life more fully and wholly right now? When you think about what has given you meaning in the past, how can that be re-purposed for your abilities and gifts right now? I would love to know, and if you choose to write a mission statement, would you be willing to share it? 

Links to Resources
Richard Leider
Molly Strode
Maria Harris
Marjory Zoet Bankson

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Tuesday's Reflection: Thinking About My Mother

My mother died at 3:45 a.m. Saturday, April 5, 2003. Her last words spoken softly hours earlier were "I am so blessed." She died peacefully at home in my Dad's arms with my sister and me close by. She died without fear, knowing she was fully and completely loved. At her last breath, I said, "Amen. She's gone." 

And life without her physical presence began. I started missing her the very moment she died, and although I no longer shed as many tears, I continue to miss her and that feeling of being a motherless child will live with me, as a second skin, the rest of my days. 

The first All Saints Day after her death, I gathered a number of pictures of my mother, creating a Betty Anne Shrine. *Mom as a little girl, a toddler, with her grandmother. Her entry into the world was not welcome, and thus, there are few baby pictures of her. *Mom in her 20's, in her beauty, sitting on a porch stoop, legs primly crossed at her ankles, hands folded in her lap. Someone has said, "Let me take your picture." *A formal portrait of me with Mom. I was about a year old with hair neatly combed and my pink pinafore starched crisp. She is beautiful in her young motherhood. *Mom and my grandmother, her mother, and me on a summer day on the farm--short sleeved dresses, white anklets for me, high-heeled sandals for Mom. I am about 6, which means Mom is 31. All three of us are chubby. *Mom and I on Kate's wedding day. Mom wearing floral silk and her hair perfectly coiffed, as always. She looks small next to me. Cancer had not yet whispered its presence.  *Mom and Dad standing on the front porch of our home at Sweetwater Farm on a fall day, a crisp, smell the apples and gather the pumpkins kind of day. *Two Christmas pictures: one of the three of us siblings with Mom and Dad. Dad is holding her hand. One of Kate and I with her, and she is holding Maren, only weeks old. We knew that would be Mom's last Christmas, but she radiates with holiday joy, wearing a red blazer and holly decorated Christmas heels. Oh, how she loved shoes.

As I sat with those pictures, I recited words from a book I had used the first month after my mother's death, Meditations for the Passages and Celebrations of Life, A Book of Vigils by Noela N. Evans. Using a vigil for grief and loss helped me create a boundary for the expression of my grief, confining it to a scheduled time and space. Then I could move through the rest of the day, functioning, responding, meeting and greeting, filtering the sadness out of the everyday interactions. Flo, at the post office who always commented on my stickered packages, did not know I was ready to burst into tears. The clerk in the grocery store who asked me each time where I got my colorful mesh bags, did not know I could barely speak because of the pain. That sheltered and reserved time, when each day I recited the day's meditation, saved me.

On Sunday, Mother's Day, one of the vigil lines reappeared in my heart. "Your participation in my life was a treasure beyond words, and I hope you can feel my appreciation." I added, "And my forever love." 

She is, of course, still present in my life. For example, when I fold and smooth and refold my napkin during after dinner conversation, just like she did, she is there. When I put on a piece of her jewelry, I feel and see her hands slipping the ring on my finger and gently adjusting the necklace at my throat. I get out of the car and smooth my coat or sweater, and my motions are hers. These moments are gentle reminders, "I am here, and I love you."

One of my dearest friends whose mother has died also is convinced our mothers are responsible for our friendship. "I wonder if our mothers' spirit met and said, 'Let's get our daughters together--they would be such excellent friends.'" That feels so right. As a sign of their love and understanding of what we most needed in our lives right then, they brought us together. We needed each other and perhaps our mothers needed each other, too. Through this gift of friendship, our mothers' love is tangible in a new way. It is all love. 

Our daughter-in-love lost her dear mother far too early, the year before she and our son were married. On Mother's Day her ritual is to sit in the backyard and lift her face to the sky and toast her mother with a vodka tonic, her mother's favorite. She tells her how much she misses her and loves her. The love continues. And always will. 

It is good to remember. It is good to feel our heart stop for a second in a recognition of what we miss. Who we miss. It is good to remember the treasures passed on to us and to lift our faces to the sky and say "I am so blessed." 

One way we are all connected is that we have each had a mother. Some were better mothers than others. Some were better mothers at certain times in their lives than others, but we are here because of our mothers. And that is a blessing, indeed. I am grateful for my mother and for yours. 

An Invitation
If your mother is no longer alive, in what way is she still a presence for you? If your mother is alive, in what way is she a blessing for you now? I would love to know.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Thursday's Reflection: Listening

I settled into my comfortable chair in my office garret, ready to read the morning's devotion, ready to meditate, but I was overwhelmed by sounds. Bird song. The mourning dove's one note set the beat for the chorus of other birds, which I couldn't identify, but I loved the melody. Occasionally, a lone crow's ca-a-a-a could be heard. There is always one in the crowd who can't carry a tune. They sang a second verse and a third, a hymn for the new day.

In the meantime I heard sounds of a new day inside the house. My husband emptying the dishwasher and then raising the window shades. I heard him open and close his closet and later, walking through the dining room and unzipping his laptop case. Zip shut. He called out goodbye as he left for the coffee shop where he takes his work. The click of the lock in the front door.

I heard him greet a neighbor and then he was back. "Forgot my phone." Once more the click of the lock.

Sirens. Garbage trucks. Someone's horn. The bark of a dog. Beep, beep, beep of road work trucks. Even the rumble of traffic from the freeway many blocks from us. 

Last night when I got up briefly I heard the swish of gentle rain, and I could almost hear the newly scattered grass seed say "thank you." The house was quiet then, but now it is full of the sounds of being alive. The ding on my computer signals a new email or two or three or more, and I think how easy it would be right now to tune into thoughts waiting for my attention--the list of what I hope to do today and how I am going to respond to phone calls and emails. 

Instead, I try to listen to the invisible sound of the petals falling from the flowering crabtree next door. If I am still enough and open my heart even more, will I be able to hear, though they are blocks away in their own home, our grandson still sleeping and our granddaughter brushing her teeth? Will I be able to hear my father using his walker to move carefully through his apartment? 

I think I can still hear the firm tick of the wall clock I bought in Paris before it fell off my wall and lost all speech and sense of time. I hear the chimes of the church bells in our neighborhood even though they have not yet begun to mark the passage of the day. Soon I will hear the sounds of children walking to school. They are always louder, more boisterous on the return trip in the afternoon, however.

And I hear the memory of being in this space with a spiritual directee. I hear her being, along with her words and then mine. I hear us listening to each other. Listening for wisdom and clarity and understanding and guidance. Listening for appreciation and vision and new possibilities. Listening for connection. 

As I listen, I become still, for I don't want to miss anything. I don't want to miss the movement of God in my life. Listening begins here in the stillness of my heart. As we listen, we meet ourselves. And we meet each other. 

                       Stillness. One of the doors 
                       into the temple. 
                                      Mary Oliver

An Invitation
What do you hear today? I would love to know. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Tuesday's Reflection: Monday Morning

I've always loved starting a new week. Sundays have not been a time of dread for me, worrying about what the week will be or how much needs to be accomplished in the coming week. Instead Sundays have been times of preparation. 

Attending a church service, when that has been our routine, which it is now, helps set a tone, reminding me to give thanks, to let go, to renew and refresh. Mary Oliver, the poet, says religion reminds her that she is not sufficient, but that more is needed. Needed for what, she doesn't say, but what it means for me is that I am not ALL there is. In order to more fully be myself, I need to be connected to the greater whole. Being part of a community with all our individual quirks and needs and stories and hopes and fears and doubts and questions and joys and loves reminds me of that greater whole. Mary Oliver in her poem, "I Happened to Be Standing" in which she wonders if cats and opossum and sunflowers and the old black oak pray, says, 
            I wouldn't persuade you from whatever you believe
            or whatever you don't. That's your business.
            But I thought, of the wren's singing, what could this be
                 if it isn't prayer?
            So I just listened, my pen in the air.

The wren's singing, which sometimes takes the form of the opening hymn as the cross is carried to the front of the church or of laughter during the "Let the children come" part of the service or the silence as we approach the bread and the wine, reminds me I am both whole and part of the whole. 

Monday mornings, the beginning of the week, can make me feel that way, too, especially when I enter the week clear about what is on my list and when I have activities that energize and inspire me. When I have had time on Sunday to make the week's list and to clear the top of my desk and perhaps even do a quick dust and fluff in my office space, the garret, I am even more primed to enter the week. 

I felt that way Sunday night. I had even read the Sunday New York Times, something that often doesn't happen till Monday or Tuesday or maybe not at all. We had taken a good old-fashioned hot dish over to my Dad's apartment and shared a pleasant time with him. On our way home we oohed and aahed at the rows of Hollywood starlet fuchsia  and bride white flowering trees. It had been a good day, and I slept well, ready for the week. 

Monday morning, the house flowed with cool, refreshing air, the curtain on my garret window swayed slightly, drawing my eyes to the sunlight. I sat and read the morning's devotion and then did the next thing on my list: took my car to the garage, only blocks away, for an overdue oil change and walked home, enjoying every step. 

And then our house was taken over by worker men. Men in the garret making a change to the newly installed air conditioning system. Men in the lower level doing a final repair, thanks to a leak we had a week ago. Don't ask me to explain--I am just grateful for these workers in their little red trucks. However, my plans for Monday morning are of no consequence when there are workers in the house.  Cleaning the house, which was Plan A, makes no sense until the work is done, and Plan B, writing a blog post and working on my book is not viable, either. I am in the way at my desk in the garret as men come and go, taking clothes out of my closet and setting up some sort of machine that makes noise.

I turn back to Mary Oliver for inspiration and find it in her poem "I Go Down to the Shore."
             I go down to the shore in the morning
             and depending on the hour the waves
             are rolling in or moving out,
             and I say, oh, I am miserable,
             what shall--
             what should I do? And the sea says
             in its lovely voice:
             Excuse me, I have work to do. 

Is that not perfect? So what if there is noise in the garret and men come and go. I can squeeze my chair closer to the desk and they can get by. I can work with a little noise and disruption. Maybe it will be inspirational even! 

Excuse me, I have work to do.

An Invitation
What happens to you when what you planned becomes derailed by the plans of others or events that take precedence over yours? I would love to know.

NOTE: The poems by Mary Oliver are from her book A Thousand Mornings 
You can listen to a wonderful and rare interview with Oliver here.