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Not only mine, but tonight, the spirit of a dear friend. Do you think that as we age, our beliefs evolve just as our bodies and minds? As a teenager, I was firmly established in my own personal concept of faith, which encompassed many non-traditional beliefs, and which indeed still does. But lately, more and more, I have turned to words from the Bible and the strength of my friends who are so very firm in their faith that it is inspiring. I feel my spiritual perspective is expanding and compressing at the same time. Perhaps it is focusing in on something that is truly endless, and I am working at coming to terms with that seeming contradiction. I find prayer and God (or use whatever term you will) in the sky and the trees and the rocks and the sea. I look up during prayer, instead of down, with open eyes as if to catch the eye of God. I am reading the Bible and Anne Lamott at the same time. I am looking, not for answers, but for a deeper understanding of purpose, action, and what we can and cannot control. Are we indeed all grains of sand on a beach that God loves, forming into shells that house our bodies, and stones that reflect the clarity of light here and now, only to transform again into air and foam and and whatever form we will take next? Do we not even have the capacity to answer these questions to our own satisfaction – and is that in itself called faith?

the-heart-of-the-stoneTopsail Beach, North Carolina.

Quote of the day: ““if you are writing the clearest, truest words you can find and doing the best you can to understand and communicate, this will shine on paper like its own little lighthouse. Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” — Anne Lamott

Daily gratitudes:
Our own form of prayers
MKL
Mr. Man
The easing of the migraine
The cricket in my bedroom

I have somehow unconsciously decided to pay tribute to those lost in the insanity and hatred that lies behind terrorism by commemorating this kind of tragic day with an orchid. Here is today’s offering. As the parent of gay children, I recognize that it can be a challenge to accept at first. But my children are powerful, beautiful individuals who will make positive differences in this world. And that is what matters. Hatred, whether it takes the form of vile words, religious justification, or acts of violence…. I was going to say doesn’t matter, but it does. It matters deeply. The actions of one man last night effected the lives of countless others. Who really gives a damn who or how a human being loves, as long as they DO love, and spread that message of love and caring as far and wide as the world itself? My heart hurts for Orlando, for the victims, their friends and families whose lives will never be the same. But do not stop being who you are, and do not stop voicing your love and support. Otherwise, we will be doomed to repeat our mistakes ad infinitum. Rest well, loved ones, and know that we who still draw breath on this earth and have love on our side, will not stop fighting the fight for you. And we will fight it with love and understanding, not violence.

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Denver, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “We can either emphasize those aspects of our traditions, religious or secular, that speak of hatred, exclusion, and suspicion or work with those that stress the interdependence and equality of all human beings. The choice is yours.” — Karen Armstrong

Daily gratitudes:
Birds
A few days at Cottonwood
A heightened awareness of what is wrong
MKL
Cleaning up for Kelsea
That Cheryl and Pete are ensconced on Anegada

When I was little, my father would say my prayers with me every night. He would start, with “Now I lay me down to sleep…”, that familiar prayer that was a staple of so many childhoods. But he altered the words “If I should die before I wake, I pray thee, Lord, my soul to take.” I suspect he found it to be an unthinkable thought, and didn’t want us to think it as we went to sleep. Our version was “All through the night, may angels spread protecting wings above my bed.” I still find that prayer a comfort, along with the spontaneous ones I now have as an adult.

Our world needs many prayers these days. Tonight, I am sending special prayers to the people in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. 53,000 people have been evacuated from that city due to an explosive wildfire. The fire has moved into the city. Whole neighborhoods have been destroyed. There is no more gas in the city. People are running out of gas and getting stuck in traffic, or by the side of the road, as flames move ever closer.

May I say, as I listen to radio coverage from Edmonton, and phone interviews with high school seniors, fire chiefs, and other citizens, that everyone sounds so calm and polite and well-spoken and pragmatic that it just makes me want to hug them all. Or go be a Canadian.

We in Colorado, particularly those  in the Colorado Springs area, went through a similar disaster a few years ago. I remember watching live coverage on the news, and truly, it looked like my vision of  hell. The earth and the people still hold the scars. Here, we pray for enough snowpack to help prevent wildfires, but not so much as to cause floods such as the devastating one we experienced in 2013.

So tonight, and tomorrow, and likely the next day, please join me in saying a prayer for the people of Fort McMurray and the brave firefighters and first responders who risk their lives to help keep others’ lives intact. And if you’re otherwise inclined, a little rain dance wouldn’t hurt.

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Iglesia de San Miguel, Cozumel, Mexico.

Quote of the day: “The way sadness works is one of the strange riddles of the world. If you are stricken with a great sadness, you may feel as if you have been set aflame, not only because of the enormous pain, but also because your sadness may spread over your life, like smoke from an enormous fire. You might find it difficult to see anything but your own sadness, the way smoke can cover a landscape so that all anyone can see is black. You may find that if someone pours water all over you, you are damp and distracted, but not cured of your sadness, the way a fire department can douse a fire but never recover what has been burnt down.”   — Lemony Snicket

Daily gratitudes:
MKL’s eyes
A beautiful day
How green can fill my eyes
One working lawnmower in the family
The toddler playing in the dancing waters with her golden retriever trying to bite the streams

 

I learned today of the death of a friend. Even though we hadn’t seen each other or even spoken in years, I still considered him a friend. Over the years, we were there for one another when things were falling apart in various sectors of our lives. It has saddened me. Saddened me because we hadn’t spoken in years. As I reach a certain age, I will lose more friends, just as these days, the world loses singers and actors that were icons of my teens and twenties. I love my friends and family, even if I don’t often communicate. And when they die, whether it’s sudden or slow, it’s always too soon. I am left with memories – good, funny, random, bittersweet. And never enough.

My wedding this summer brought me back to some of these people who are closest to my heart, and for that I amforever blessed.

It feels like it has been a year of passings for my friends, and we are not even a month in, and that makes me wonder. Why? Why did pneumonia steal away the larger-than-life man with the larger-than-life heart, whose loss has devastated one of my beloved friends? Why is another of my darlings, who so recently defied death herself, now faced with the slow, tender, painful, spiral of her mother’s passing? Why is a new daughter faced with the light of her grandmother suddenly extinguished?

I keep asking why, and there is no answer.

There is no way to take away the pain of loss. It does fade, gradually, like a well-loved shirt, laundered and worn until it comes apart at the seams and transforms into something different, or gets tucked in a drawer to stir memories when you catch sight of it as you’re looking for something else. But it is always there. Pain of loss transforms us in ways we cannot understand. I would hope it makes us kinder, gentler souls, who handle other souls with greater care, but I don’t know if that’s always so. The pain reshapes us inside, and we are never quite the same person as before, even if we think we are.

We are all treasures in process, I suppose.

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Quote of the day (and one quoted before): “You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.” — Anne Lamott

Daily gratitudes:
Memories
MKL, always
Kelsea
The mystery of life
Walking

 

 

 

There are so many people for whom I say a little prayer in my heart daily – Lea G. as she fights the good fight against breast cancer, Megan Bouge and her family as she struggles on this anniversary of the day she lost her Wyncie, for my sweet co-worker whose father is facing a bone marrow transplant. For Colonel’s Mom. For all those people and animals suffering from the long cold of this winter.

When I was on Anguilla, shortly after my mother died, I went for a drive to explore the island, and found a little cemetery atop a hill overlooking the sea, and across the street was a little whitewashed church. It’s blue shuttered windows were wide open to the soft ocean breezes, and lovely lilting voices raised in a gospel hymn were floating on the air.

This is not that church, but it seems that the spiritual practices of so many islands are housed in similar places of worship, like this one on Little Exuma.  In fact, the Exumas had many little churches, which speaks to the strong faith of the islanders. I know that for me personally, anywhere beneath the blue sky is an excellent place for me to send prayers up to heaven.

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Little Exuma.

Quote of the day: “One must maintain a little bit of summer, even in the middle of winter.” — Henry David Thoreau

Daily gratitudes:
A day with my daughter
Beach dreams
Charley the elephant
Having heat
Warm drinks on white cold days

AND, OF COURSE, GO BRONCOS!!!!!

Wyncie Bouge was 3 years old and had a smile that could light up the world. I did not know her. She died yesterday.

Wyncie, her mother Megan, her grandmother Janice, and her two-week old brother Emmett, were in a head-0n collision on a road in Springfield, Tennessee last Monday night, on their way back from dinner. The driver of the other car, who died in the collision, crossed over three lanes of a four-lane highway to hit their car. Janice died that night as well. Emmett had a broken leg. Megan has many broken bones, but she will recover. Somehow. In some ways. But her life, and her husband Brandon’s, will never be the same. Megan has lost her mother.  I know that pain. And now Megan has lost her daughter. That is a pain I hope never to know.

Thousands of people from all over the world were praying for Wyncie’s recovery. I was stirred. I was moved. I was praying for a miracle. I felt the sense of spiritual connection with all these people in a shared prayer. I truly believed that Wyncie’s recovery was possible.

And she died.

I am, and always have been, a spiritual person. Non-traditional beliefs have been a part of my make-up for as long as I can recall. Reincarnation. God as a spirit of the universe, more than as a Divine Father. This is the first time that I had felt the pull of God as a divinity that can perform miracles. Now, I am disillusioned in that idea.

I know that people say that God has a plan, and that there was a purpose in this. Really? What? What is the purpose in a joyous, beautiful little child dying a senseless death? I can accept that she brought joy and light into the lives of the people she touched in her short time here. But that more confirms my faith in my own non-traditional beliefs than in the Christianity that I felt myself touched by during this past week.

The whole premise of faith is belief in things that cannot be seen and cannot be understood. Some will say that this kind of tragedy is sent to test our faith in God, and that this sort of miracle does not always happen because God in His wisdom is meant to remain a mystery to us. But that doesn’t feel like a loving spirit to me, and I believe the spirit of God is love. I believe that part of our purpose here on this earth is achieve an understanding of God, of that spirit of divinity, and to reflect it in our actions towards others.

I continue to pray to the Great Spirit, God, whatever name you chose, to bring peace and comfort and strength to Megan, Brandon, Emmett, Wyncie, and all their friends and family. Even if it doesn’t make sense. Because I know that Wyncie, in her little joyous soul, would want them to be happy.

But I will never understand.

wyncie-slider

Island churches have a little simple magic all their own. While I didn’t get to see this church is operation, I did hear the congregation of another church on Anguilla sing their hearts out through the open windows overlooking the turquoise sea on a Sunday morning.

Island Harbour, Anguilla.

Quote of the day: “In order to rise from its own ashes, a Phoenix must first burn.”  —  Octavia E. Butler

Daily gratitudes:
MKL
A much more reasonable plumbing repair quote
Loco Moco from the 20th Street Cafe
Opera tonight
That Kelsea called me when she heard “our song” on the radio today

Words are the strongest tool in the world.  Amazing how such a seemingly mundane thing – language – can have the power to strengthen someone or bring them to their knees.

If you spoke to me in Russian, I wouldn’t have a clue what you were saying.  Say the same words in a language I understand, and they can bring me to tears or make my heart sing.

How much do we hear, really? Is it not just the words themselves? As someone joked in a meeting last week, “I don’t use letters.  I use words.”  Another attendee responded, “Jack, you do know that words are made up of letters, right?” 

Yes, words are made up of  letters.  Letters themselves have no power.  In fact words themselves are powerless.  Read a word in a dictionary and it is flat.  It is… just a word.  But hear it spoken from the lips of someone for whom you care, or whom you view in a position of power, its meaning is infinitely altered. (And historically has been the source of all trouble in the world.)  It is not just the tone, though that plays a part.  Which leads me to wonder if the power of words is as strong if one uses sign language.  It’s not just the context in which the words are spoken, the circumstances – no, it’s stil more than that. 

It is the soul behind the words.  Perhaps that’s what demarcates the difference between writers – how much of their own soul goes into the words upon a page.  How much of their own truth are they willing to own. 

How much are most people willing to look at their words and say,”I own that.  I speak my truth.  And now I’m brave enough to live it.” 

I am.  I don’t know a lot of truths about life anymore, but that I do know. When I say a thing, I mean it, heart and soul. I like that about me. I tend to hold the rest of the world to my own standards.  I don’t know if that is fair, but I suspect most of us do so regardless..  I can make excuses for other people until the cows come home.  (I know that about me too.)

Does that mean that I shouldn’t always believe what I am told?  When I believe words that resonate within my own heart, am I being naive?  Or am I having faith?  Those who believe the words of the Bible can look around them and recognize that the actions of the world don’t fit the words in the good Book.  Yet they still have faith in those words.  Why should it be any different for any other set of words in which we have invested faith?

Just a thing for Thursday contemplation….

I have always believed in guardian angels.  What a wonderful thing to have, and what a wonderful thing to be.  Mine is my grandfather, who died before I was conceived, but who would have completely doted on me, never having had a daughter of his own.  I have called on him at some of the murkiest and lowest moments of my life and felt the comfort and solace of his presence.  He stayed with me for my first bout under general anesthesia, and I awoke in tears because I did not want to leave him.  He put his arm around me in my truck one day, as I listened to an NPR story about a photographer of the old railroad steam engines.  And he sat with me in Union Station one morning when I threw myself back in time.

Angels, although they may not be called such, are present in every belief system, which to me is evidence of their existence.   Or perhaps it is evidence of our innate need to believe in something truly good, and our yearning for someone to look after us.  But if it is true that we create our own realities, then it is true that angels exist.  We have created them.  We all have angelic qualities within us and it could be just the right meshing of energies that creates angels.

The word itself, “angel”, comes from the greek word for “messenger”.  Angels often appear, in whatever form, in times of crisis.  They can offer wisdom, guidance, protection, healing, but all of those are messages of love.  And what’s important to remember is that those messages, that seem to come from some other being, live inside you.  It is the connection with that universal angel energy that makes you aware of those messages.  Those message are knowledge, and that  knowledge is already in you – it just needed a little more energy to turn on the light so you could see it.

I think we all have at least one angel that watches over us, strokes our heads in sleep, blows away bad dreams, and helps us realize that our darkest hours can and will pass back into a place of light and laughter and peace.  There are other angels that come and go from our lives depending on circumstances and on the wisdom we need to handle a particular situation.   But they are all out there – or in there.  That in itself is a peaceful blessing.

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(Image credited to the wonderful creativity of the artist here: http://teresasilverthorn.wordpress.com)

About two weeks ago, one of Kelsea’s friends had a brain aneurysm.  A beautiful, healthy 12-year old girl.  Kelsea had just been at a sleepover birthday party with her two nights before. 

Kelsea and her other friends were broken-hearted, worried, sleepless, tearful.  The counselors at her school have been exceptional, pulling in Kelsea and her other friend who were closest pals with S to talk with them individually, instead of with the rest of the 6th grade.  And they’ve asked her to come back several times to check on her.  Kelsea’s been taking it well, talking with me, with her friends.  One of the hardest parts has been not knowing.  S’s family has been very quiet, not divulging much of S’s status until there was something more definite to divulge.

On Friday, there was word that S was awake, out of her post-surgery drug-induced coma, and wanting to see her friends. That was wonderful news.  So today, Kelsea and I and one of her friends and her friend’s mom drove down to see S.  It was hard, wonderful, poigniant.  She is still on some pretty serious medication – I don’t know what.  The scar on her skull, partly hidden by her hair, is harsh.  One eye is drooping.  She is  barely able to walk and is exhausted.  But she loved seeing Kelsea.  It was a little awkward, Kelsea not quite knowing what to say, so I gently encouraged her to hold S’s hand, give her a hug, tell her about the choir concert.  Once S realized Kelsea was there, she kept saying her name, asking to be next to her, reaching for her hand, almost to the exclusion of their other friend.  And when S reached over and said to Kelsea, “You are like my sister,” I think we all got teary.  S was asking about all her friends, about school, telling the girls that she was having to learn to walk like a little baby. Her cognitive functions seem to be very, very good for all she’s been through.

S’s dad, two grandmothers, and small sister were there, with her dad being positive, helpful, brave and treating S just as he always has, which is just as it should be, and just as I guided Kelsea to do.  I couldn’t ask him anything, as I didn’t want to put him on the spot, perhaps being unable to say something in front of S.

Kelsea wants to go back every day, and I’ve promised we’ll go next week.  I can’t help but feel for her family.  I won’t even imagine going through that experience with Kelsea, and I’ll say a small prayer to the gods to protect her, and ask that this challenge never be to proposed to her – or to me.

But it is strengthening to watch injuries, whether they be of the brain, the body or the heart, heal.  Faith plays a big role.  The future can be bright regardless of the circumstances of the moment, if you just keep your hopes high and your faith in the universe strong.

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