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where wisdom gathers, poetry unfolds and divine light is sparked…

Month: December, 2013


sated christmas 13

sometimes — rare too few times — the most powerful prayer we can pray is the one where we pause long enough, quietly enough, to feel ourselves washed over in the knowing that we want for not one thing. that our hearts are filled. beyond measure.

it’s the poetry of pure contentment.

and it carries us straight to heaven’s door, where we whisper, resoundingly, amen and amen.

where do you find your heart’s pure contentment? i found mine on christmas morn, when two sweet boys nestled arm-in-arm in the red-checked happy chair. sending love this christmastide. xox

all i want for christmas…

all i want for christmas 09all i want for christmas 11

every year on christmas morn, shortly after the rustle under the tree, not long after the little one is certain he’s heard the clomp of reindeer hooves on the roof, there is a thud just over the cookstove, from the bedroom above. it’s followed by the pit-a-pat of little feets rushing to shake the man-child from slumber.

that’s the moment i enter the equation. wait, wait, wait, i holler. let me get a picture.

and so, the annual up-the-gullet-of-the-staircase, bleary-eyed christmas morning pose. boys in sleeping garb, gaining inches by the year.

and this christmas, more than in a very very long time, it’s the moment i am waiting to frame.

it’s all i want for christmas: two boys + one papa + one old house, steamed up from a christmas dawn’s cookery = contentment of the purring kind.

it’s simple, but not, all at once.

we’ve not all been together for christmas for two long years. we’ve not all been together — not in any which way, not the four of us — since way back in august. and much has unfolded, and much has settled deep into my soul. so much so that i’ve emerged with one humble christmas-y wish: dear God, let us all be gathered in one cozy room. that’s all, God.

remember — oh, do i —  how infuriating it used to be, when you’d ask your mama what she wanted for christmas (and you hoped for once she’d drop a fat hint, so you could scurry the department store aisles, beelining for some well-scripted bauble) but all she’d reply was what at the time sounded lamer than lame: oh, honey, all i want is health and well-being for all of us. and you stood there saggy-faced, as visions of sugarplums whirled down your drain?

well, it appears i’ve turned into a variant of that very mama: all i want — beginning to end — is the sound of three voices i love bubbling up and around the red cozy room where logs will sizzle and windows will steam. where i’ll huddle under my buffalo-check blanket, breathe deep, and sink into the holy whirl of immersion. of being no farther from my faraway boy than a hand reached ‘cross the couch. where no crackling phone line will blur the vowels and the consonants, static-charged syllables from half across the globe. where one more year’s memories will be laid deep down in the crevices of my heart, that vessel that allows for easy access come the cold february dawn when the ones i love won’t be within reach, when their hilarity won’t be animating my stirring of oatmeal, when i’d otherwise feel hollow through and through.

it’s a simple prayer, an unadorned wish. it’s love whittled down to its essence: just let us share the gift of an hour, a morning, an unbroken day. let us breathe the same oxygen, let us catch the twinkle in each other’s eye. and not give a damn if any one of the bunch catches their ol’ mama swiping away at a tear, a tear of Godly perfection.

were we not born to work toward, to revel in just that very fine brand of love, one cultivated through long hours of heartache and worry and triumph and faith? one that only gets stronger and harder to shatter, no matter the hurdles, the obstacles, the twists and the turns. one that sustains us till ever and ever. one that’s our life’s holiest treasure.

it’s the spark of Divine, fanned into infinite flame. it’s year after year. it’s mother and child, and holy reunion.

and it’s all i want this most blessed christmas.

may each and every one of your christmas wishes come true. my wish for you is that your quietest unspoken wish is the one you hold in the palm of your hand, and nestle to the core of your heart. how will you spend this most blessed day?

about the frames on high: the one on the left is 2009, when one sweet boy was eight and the other 16. on the right it’s 2011, the first christmas home from college for the taller of the two, and the little one thrilled beyond thrilled to have his best brother — his only brother — right back where he belonged, at the room in the bend in the stairs….

awash in grace

potpieon a cold winter’s night, after a long day in the hollows and dim-lit caverns of a hospital, where the smells are of ether, and the blinking and beeping and red-letter alarms leave you jangled and cored. on a cold winter’s night when your breath freezes in clouds as it puffs from your mouth and your nose, on a night as inky black and icy as that, there is nothing quite so heavenly fine as flicking on the lights to your dark old house, your empty house, and just as you’re beginning to stir about the kitchen, eager to feed your hungry, tired, shoved-aside child, suddenly the doorbell rings.

and there, wearing potholders as mittens, is your rock-of-gibraltar across-the-street neighbor and most blessed friend, a woman who since the night you moved in nearly 11 years ago has defined the art of being there. she is bearing hot-from-the-oven from-scratch chicken pot pie, comfort food enshrined in pyrex, comfort food the way the gods must have first dreamed it.

she is there with hot feathery islands of biscuit, floating atop an ocean of white-meat chicken and succulent broth. she’s chopped carrots, tossed in handfuls of garden peas and knobby pearl onions. she’s laced it with herbs snipped from her winter garden. and, as she stands there, ferrying the feast from the arctic blast at the door to the kitchen counter that moments ago had looked so forlorn, so empty, so begging for food, you feel a healing ooze deep down inside, deep down to where you hadn’t even realized it had all been emptied out.

only, suddenly, with this rock-solid, infinitely un-wobbable woman standing there, you realize that for the very first time all day you are leaning on someone, literally sagging your whole weight against her. you are breathing, exhale and inhale. you’ve just let out all your cares and your worries, your deep-down, tucked-away fear from that one awful moment when the breathing machine let out its shrill alarm of a warning. you have let it — all of it — whoosh right out of you, and as you lean into her sturdy down-coated self, you realize you are utterly, deeply letting her keep you upright. and she is providing.

and that’s how it is in those rare moments of grace, when the angels among us reveal their holy selves. when we are fed. when we are soothed. when we are reminded we needn’t bear it all by our lonesome, whatever it is that needs bearing.

and there is something especially otherworldly about the communion that comes with feeding, being fed, putting fork to lips, tasting deliciousness, feeling that warm lump slide down to the depths of our belly. it is surely sacramental. i’m guessing it’s why manna fell from the heavens, and not washcloths or soles for desert-worn sandals.

there are scant few times in our lives when we are so deeply hollowed. when we’ve been holding our breath for hours and days. might as well have been months. and someone arrives bearing food — that sustenance that takes flight where words fall off the cliff.

i remember those meals, will forever remember those meals, meals that bring me to tears, so deep a place did each of them feed me:  the salad brought to my hospital bedside, complete with china bowl, and silver fork and knife, after my belly had been sliced side to side, and i’d felt so emptied. the hot chicken pot pie ushered in with the arctic draft at my door the night before last.

these are the kindnesses, the graces, that serve as angel wings, that literally lift us and carry us. that prop up our wobbly selves before we fall splat on our faces.

this week has been a week of being awash in grace. every bend in a hospital hallway seemed to bring an unexpected, unscripted angel. the dear old man who ushered my brother and i from the waiting room to the tiny cubicle where my poor mama lay, caught in that netherworld of anesthesia and age. where she somehow mustered the presence of mind to lift her ring finger from amid all the tubes, and ask, scratchily, “can i have my rings back?” for they’d made her take off her wedding rings — hers and my papa’s — hers, for the first time since she’d slipped on that thick gold band back in october of 1954, nearly 60 years on her finger, that ring.

there was the kind-hearted friend who barely heard word of my mama’s surgery and wasted no time dropping off a plush polka-dot blanket, one lined in cardinal red. one that kept me wrapped while i waited, and now keeps my mama wrapped on the long hospital nights.

another cardinal-loving soulmate sent along a teapot painted with the scarlet-feathered breath-taker my mama taught me to love, the one i always think of as hope on a wing. in a gesture of kitchen sisterhood that melts me, two dear friends are huddling together at a cookstove tomorrow, and together whipping up a saturday night feast for me and the next brother who’s flying in to town.

the brother who drove five hours to be here. the one flying in now from faraway maine. the two even farther away who’ve been calling and texting as if we’re all on a string connected to juice cans.

weeks like this one remind you that deep down we don’t ever go it alone. angels huddle and plot out the game plan. whose kindness will come just when it’s needed. whose understanding — without words — will ease you over the hump.

the acts of compassion are infinite. their depth is immeasurable. they’re as essential as oxygen, as unexpected as lightning bolts in a winter’s storm. they keep us from withering. they take up the load that might otherwise grind us into swept-away piles of dust.

bless them, each and every one, through and through and forever.

dear chairs, i type through bleary braincells. and can barely wrap words around thoughts. i’m keeping one eye on the clock, on the arrival of u.s. airways flight 1991, carrying my beloved brother. the chair turned seven yesterday, 12.12. the chair seems to have grown into one of those gathering grounds for angels, who ALWAYS keep me propped upright. love to all. i’m off to the airport. xoxox

tell your favorite prop-me-up tales? what unexpected angels have landed on your doorstep? who’s graced you with kindness you would have dreamed of wishing for????

the necessary pause

the necessary pause

this sacred morning is anointed by quiet. it’s the sound of my soul breathing. which it certainly needs to be doing.

yesterday morning the cacophony came from the squawking of intercoms, and waiting room televisions cranked up to blaring, dialed to odd channels that give you a clue how the rest of the world stays tuned. on top of it all, the hollow sound of footsteps hard against hospital corridor. and the tingling sound of holding your breath.

this morning, the morning of saint nicholas at our house, a wintry sort of morning with half-lit sky and crimson berries still left on the bough (by nightfall my hungry birds might have plucked those branches dry), i am home alone and savoring the holy pause.

right in here, the pause is essential. is necessary. is filling up what’s been draining away.

necessary pause beach

i’ve said it so often i sound like a broken record, a record stuck on pause, on silent. but silence and lull are holy balm to me, are necessary to the going forward of the every day. i am soothed by downy-feathered sounds: the simmering of orange peel and clove, the ticking of my husband’s grandfather’s old dutch clock, the rushing exhale of the furnace that keeps me warm.

oh, i wouldn’t mind the crackle of pine cones on the hearth. or the tinkling of a teaspoon against the porcelain of the hand-me-down blue-willow tea cup.

i wouldn’t mind the poof of air when i punched down the cloud of risen dough in the old bread bowl.

but this morning i am far too lazy for ferrying in the logs, for dumping flour and yeast and melted butter in the bowl.

i am indulging in the lull of nothing more than the tap-tap-tap of keys. and writing, more than anything, is the potion i pull down from my heart’s apothecary.

i’ve been holding my breath for far too many reasons, for far too many days: a kid tromping around vienna (with three papers due by particular midnights; all turned in, all glorious. i should begin to learn to trust the procrastinating child); a mama who next wednesday will face the surgeon’s tool kit; a husband halfway across the globe, so far away, his day is my night, my day, his night.

so this rare morning of words and breath is just what i would wish for my best friend, if my best friend asked what might deeply cure the aching, the worry, the vivid dreams that unspool even when she wakes.

i do feel gathered here, knowing that in due time, and one by one, the chairs will be filled, and the great good souls who’ve woven hearts here, all will settle in, and offer words of tender wisdom, or simply the unspoken squeeze of hand to hand.

we are blessed, those who come here, those who understand the necessary pause. and how essential it becomes to fill our oozing aching heart with whatever balms patch us back together. whatever fortifies and sends us on our way, whole again, and emboldened to begin to ply the ministrations that heal the ones we love and hold together the scattered threads that begin and end at the very depths of our heart.

necessary pause st nick bfst

what are the sacred balms and potions in your heart’s apothecary?