hearts opened wide…
it seems to come more flowingly with every passing year. that’s how it feels anyway.
this year it comes amid news that one friend i love, a friend who’s been the rock of life for countless legions for countless years, as she alone found ways to eke out hilarity despite the rules, (dressing up in yellow rubber boots and raincoats, stringing orange construction-paper duck bills across our mouths, marching clear across campus and into the college president’s office, straight past the military-grade secretary, to trick-or-treat and commandeer his afternoon, among the early antics i recall), she had a heart attack the other day. i sat here wiping away tears when i got the news. heart attacks have always held a certain fear for me, the daughter of a man felled by one at 52. my friend is 61; her heart, a prize that should not ever be attacked. (she’s home now, thank God, but feeling like she was “hit by a truck.”)
it comes as another friend sends breathtakingly beautiful spools of poetry from the brink of death — her own. which she is facing with more grace and majesty and transparency than i have ever witnessed.
it comes amid a world that convulses my heart and soul on what sometimes seems like a quarter-hourly basis. (my mother last night counseled that i should just turn off the damn TV and say a rosary with my spare time. i appreciate her instincts here, but i’m too far gone, i fear, to trade in MSNBC for a string of glory-be’s.)
when i feel the quivers coming on, when the longview across the landscape gets to be too much, i leap into something akin to being my own cinematographer, and i pull back the camera from wide lens to up close and stitch-by-stitch. it’s a lesson learned from the pantheon of saints who populate my brain cells — dorothy day, anne lamott, therese of lisieux. and a host of other holy folk who remind us that there is no more certain route to faith (just another name for knowing the Divine has brushed up beside you, swooped in and tapped you on the noggin, shown you in vivid detail that heaven’s just the other side of the filagree, in holy whisper, in flap of feathered wing, in the way the sunlight pools on crimson maple leaf).
that’s when my litany of gratitudes comes spilling out. when, in tiniest, most obscure details, i can fill up my heart with little joy upon little joy (another name for blessing).
for 12 years now, we’ve huddled here at the table, on the morning after the great day of giving thanks, and cobbled our own litanies of gratitude. we’ve counted to 100, the centenary of thanks. and dialed back to a modest couple dozen. the count, of course, is not the thing. it’s the exercise of scouring the landscape, and plucking the otherwise unnoticed, uncounted, and tallying, one by one, the plus signs that propel us through the day. there is no too-small a joy to lift us breath by breath.
it’s barely eight o’clock, and already i count these:
the twin bed and rumpled quilt mounded around the kid who yesterday morning announced, “mom, this is my last thanksgiving,” delighting in the wince that must wash across my face every time i’m caught in countdown. i am so grateful that come monday morning that bed will still be rumpled, and its primary inhabitant will be running late for the ride to school that i so willingly — if occasionally grumpily — provide, complete with hot breakfast on a plate.
the golden-filtered light streaming in the windows, washing across the treetops, because i got up an hour later than usual, and the color shifts by the minute at the dawn, luminescence seeping into daybreak’s early acts.
the fridge that’s filled so full we practically needed a bungie cord to keep the doors from bulging open. and nothing short of strategic puzzle-solving skills wedged each last leftover safely in its shelter.
the utter lack of shopping on my mind, as we buck the national over-consumptive rite of greedily gobbling up whatever is on the sales-rack shelves.
the friends i love who hold their breath for a child deep in pain. their over-capacity hearts are a marvel to behold. i watch them ride the turbulence, keep the faith, climb on airplanes and into cars, to cross the miles to be by their children’s sides, and i witness motherlove in its most defiant, magnificent, dare-to-stop-me forms. if God loves half as fiercely as these mothers love, we are all saved already. that, i promise you. if you some days despair that there’s a God who’s listening, just scan the crowd for a mother — or a father — keeping vigil in the ICU, at the rehab center, parked outside the county jail (i know all three, and the cumulative power of their love could not be measured on a richter scale); that’s what love beyond our wildest imaginations looks like. i’d posit that’s a fraction of how God loves. and how certainly God is scrunched elbow-to-elbow by our sides, even when we can’t see to the other side of the waiting room door and feel stranded all alone.
some mornings my blessing is no fancier than the feel of my old familiar coffee mug cradled in my palms. somehow the choosing of the morning’s mug has become a rite that sets the joy of the day. for at least that fleeting instant.
scanning back across the year, i think of all the what-ifs that swooped away: the mammogram that turned out clean; the kid i feared had driven in a ditch, gotten mugged, blown the deadline, missed the plane — all worries dissipated.
on and on the blessings come. if i slow down long enough, allow the quiet to seep in, and pay close attention to the fine grain of the holiest of hours: this one we’re living now.
you catch the drift, now add your own to our litany of blessings….
When you need defense against the travail, try the Chaplet of St. Michael…
the great defender of us all (even those unaware) I don’t think MSNBC can
deliver that brand of assurance. I can appreciate your heavy heart with the
onslaught of personal and global news it is containing these days. The faith you so beautifully described will transport and transform you along that path of “knowing, realization and acceptance” …. I just don’t think you can escape the heart tug of a no-longer rumpled quilt on an empty bed… it is a part of knowing and growing closer to Him Who granted you Motherhood and
solace when needed . Blessing dear Friend… Gentility
having grown up in the post-Vatican II years of kumbaya and “the red balloon” (a wordless allegorical movie our favorite nun played over and over on rainy days when we had to stay in from recess), i’d missed the concept of “chaplets” and just looked it up. i will now add alongside my mother’s prescriptive rosary.
there is solace in knowing the no-longer-rumpled quilt is a totem of motherhoods far and wide, and your re-framing of it as a reminder of what a blessing this has been in the first place is quite stirring. as is your reminder that there is always solace to be found.
blessings, blessings, dear friend…..
i should have remembered to bring this to the table this morning. the blessing i read last night, mailed to me by my lovely sister-in-law who graced us at our table. it’s from maya angelou, and it is now my thanksgiving tradition (along with ina garten’s salt-brined three-day dry brine roast turkey)…
Father, Mother, God,
Thank you for your presence
during the hard and mean days.
For then we have you to lean upon.
Thank you for your presence
during the bright and sunny days,
for then we can share that which we have
with those who have less.
And thank you for your presence
during the Holy Days, for then we are able
to celebrate you and our families
and our friends.
For those who have no voice,
we ask you to speak.
For those who feel unworthy,
we ask you to pour your love out
in waterfalls of tenderness.
For those who live in pain,
we ask you to bathe them
in the river of your healing.
For those who are lonely, we ask
you to keep them company.
For those who are depressed,
we ask you to shower upon them
the light of hope.
Dear Creator, You, the borderless
sea of substance, we ask you to give to all the
world that which we need most — Peace.
~ Maya Angelou
I love every blessed word of this heartfelt essay…. And in particular, “the holiest of hours: this one we’re living now.” And this gorgeous, gorgeous Maya Angelou blessing. It’s going right into my commonplace book. Thank you, my beautiful B… xoxoxoxo
bless you for pinpointing the prayerful essence: this hour we’re living now. and, yes, isn’t maya just perfect in every way. “waterfalls of tenderness” “borderless sea of substance”…..
xoxox from my soon-to-be-snowy house to yours, perhaps already adrift there by the mighty mississippi. xoxox