Thursday, October 28, 2010

Serious Buds

I try not to stare.

It is early to exercise the imagination about these small cactus buds. Enough that they are already there, apparent for the first time just recently when I was attending to something else.

I know what these flowers will look like when the weeks ahead are over. I recall the process of daily irresistible burgeoning into silly flounces of color. When the blossoms flair and fly up, I will be hard pressed to understand what could have gotten me writing today about these seriously round buds.

Maybe I am getting better at letting the present be, lowly and gently promising. Maybe I know that the aftermath of any blossoming will require an adjustment of perspective, a heart permission for the universe to do its customary and cyclical fading.

There will surely be distractions to make the smudging of that beauty and that intense color hurt less.

Maybe buds of another sort, soft white sift across a January window, early movement in the air that sets explorers' thoughts racing.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Simple Monday

An eight-month-old sat on my lap last night. He watched his mother and his father on their chairs across my dining room table, heard their voices speak his name and mine, raised his hands and touched his hair.

It wasn’t clear how long he would let someone hold him when beyond the plates and glasses of our simple Monday meal my niece and her husband were within sight but out of reach. Their attention stayed focused on Paul as they cooed their approval at his ease in a stranger’s arms.

Could I manage it? Could I maintain a comfortable position for him and distract him with bounces and sway him to left and to right and back again and feel him willing to be held?

And suddenly he looked up and saw my face.

And I looked down and instinctively rubbed my beard against his forehead. Gently I joined my coo to the easy movement of my chin against his small head.

And then we started – now touching, now not, now touching, now not. A playful rhythm that made a stranger less a stranger to Paul.

A baby in my arms, an infant in my home, a grandnephew joining the memories that will collect around this quiet table.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Feast of the North American Martyrs

I shouldn’t have liked them as a child but I did.

I shouldn’t have found the wilderness landscapes through which they pressed a source of fascination – nor the autumns and winters that darkened their travels.

On this yearly feast in the calendar of saints comes the reminder of a connection that is fresh and stubbornly powerful.

Not everyone chooses the French explorers Isaac Jogues and Jean de Brébeuf for soul companions. If I prefer to call them explorers rather than missionaries or martyrs, it is because I find myself on a day like this attuned to the unknown into which they kept venturing. Surer than any of the certainties I may at one time have imagined centering or grounding them was the inevitability of those unknowns – the next minute’s safety, the next day’s destination, the next chapter to unfold in a story that could go anywhere.

On a day like this I want the courage and the intensity that made those unknowns life-giving and profound.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday Evening Kitchen

I was coming up from the basement with pants on hangers, fresh and warm from the dryer. The upcoming week's laundry was that much closer to being done, I thought. Shouldering open the back door of the kitchen, I should simply have headed down the apartment hallway to the bedroom.

But the evening sun stopped me. Movement and light in squirming squares on the wall above the kitchen counter stopped me. The tossing branches of treetops from backyards two houses away filtered the horizontal sun that found my second-storey kitchen wall.

The surprises that do come! And for free!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Please Touch

When you frame a photograph, you plan for it to be seen. You imagine at least one visitor who will stand before it or sit beside it and then turn to you, an expectant look on his face, saying, “Can you tell me about this?” You know that you will welcome that look and that question. You hope that the conversation is about to happen that the framing was originally meant to signal your readiness for.

Sometimes the better-than-expected happens. The pleasure you had first felt in fitting a favorite photograph in a frame and setting it in its space revives at the sight of someone else picking it up. You may not have known that you were waiting for that response on the part of anyone. There it is, though, the familiarity and confidence that your framing was after all – all along – an invitation.

And it was. Of course it was.

I might not explain to everyone the comfort I derive from the vintage portrait of an Australian curate and his dog. The priest’s thoughtful, intelligent ease, though, and his readiness for the dog’s companionship had made the purchase of the photograph a prompt and heartfelt one. I knew I wanted his company.

I am glad, even relieved that the flavor of that company appeals to others.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Speaking of Angels

That's exactly what I was doing one day almost twenty years ago -- speaking of angels. A group with whom I met regularly in those days had asked me to compose a reflection for the Advent season. A friend who remembers the talk asked me about it last week near the feasts of the angels. Some passages in the reflection sound like I could have written them twenty minutes ago rather than twenty years ago. I still need such angels.

Like Gabriel, angels appear in our lives in the people
who by their very presence invite our lives to be different.
Such angels appear in the people
who refuse to abandon a message before it has been heard,
in people who tirelessly ask us to respond,
to believe the good news of what’s possible.

Like Michael, there are angels in our lives
who fight and speak up for us.
They give us the courage to face whatever’s in our way.
Like Michael, these angels give us strength
against those voices that tell us we can’t do something,
that we’re not good enough.

Like Raphael, there are certain angels
who travel with us
through darkness, through pain,
even to the foot of a cross.
Like Raphael, such angels may be hard to see, to discern,
especially on journeys whose end we cannot guess or imagine.

An invitation has been quietly extended to each of us
to give a name to what we know is unnameable.
It is the experience of grace,
grace felt when we are inspired to pray,
to quiet ourselves,
to acknowledge that ours is a God
who protects us and challenges us,
who speaks to us and invites us to respond.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Gate Opens

No one needs what I am about to write.

I am the only reader who may want one day to be reminded of something.

Winds are moving. Some life needs no record in ship’s journals to convince that its power has cleared the decks and filled the sails.

If the logs are without detail, believe that a new tale is nonetheless ready for the person who can tell it.

Meanwhile meals are prepared, laundry is carried down to the basement, sandwiches are cut in manageable halves. Windows are closed against the customary fall in temperatures. Books lie open and candles are ready for lighting.

Seasons are noted by their changing.

Night’s dreams, vivid and relentless, recently make each awakening an adventure.

Gates open.

Another fall begins.