My days, and my mind, are awash in scenes from 75 years ago as I navigate through my current fiction-in-progress.
Once again, I’ve been pondering that curious energetic contrast between those I see everywhere talking on phones and looking at their screens, and the mood of a time when people actually left a room when someone received a call, as a sign of respect and courtesy.
No one could have imagined overhearing something so private — so singular, even. Because people only used a telephone when what they needed to share was of significance. I imagine people back then would have found it hard to imagine using one to distract yourself, or to try not to be alone with your own company.
How can I miss a time I was never actually part of? And yet, I do; my soul does.
I love to linger in its slower, gentler rhythms as I attempt to shape story out of what I encounter within history and my self. I imagine many writers of historic fiction and nonfiction must do the same.
I appreciate anew the thoughts novelist Elizabeth Gilbert shared in an interview with Karen Bouris in Original Story:
“I think creativity is entirely a spiritual practice. It has defined my entire life to think of it that way. When I hear the way some people speak about their work, people who are in creative fields who either attack themselves, or attack their work, or treat it as a burden rather than a blessing, or treat it as something that needs to be fought and defeated and beaten. . . . There is a war that people go to with their creative path that is very unfamiliar to me. To me, it feels like a holy calling and one that I am grateful for.
… I was given a contract, and the contract is: ‘We are not going to tell you why, but we gave you this capacity. Your side of the contract is that you must devote yourself to this in the highest possible manner, you must approach it with the greatest respect, and you must give your whole self to this. And then we will work with you on making progress.’ That’s sort of what it feels like for me.”
The entire interview can be seen at http://www.dailygood.org/view.php?sid=413
My friend, Carol, gave me a wonderful surprise at about the last place I’d have expected it — her funeral.
She received the devastating news about her cancer the same day her employer told her that she would soon be out of a job.
Things happened even faster for Carol, after that – fast especially for someone who, like most of us at this stage of life, was never looking to include life-threatening illness in her life experience. By early September, she’d been given three months to live. Her goal was to make it through all three of them, which, God willing, would be just enough time to see her first grandchild.
I made a trip to see Carol that week and brought a small CD player I’d picked up. She’d been feeling so terrible that even reading and watching TV were impossible, but she could still enjoy listening to music. However, her own CD player had broken.
There was so much I couldn’t do for her. This, at least, seemed like one small thing I could offer. Knowing how weak she was, I searched for a little machine that was lightweight and, hopefully, something she’d be able to move herself.
The day I saw her, despite the fact that she was essentially drifting between worlds, she, as always, received my gift graciously.
But my heart was saddened by two things that were clear from the moment I watched the home-health nurse call for an ambulance to take her to the hospital: Carol was never going to use that CD player, and she wasn’t going to live to see her grandchild born.
A week later, I sat in a small Victorian church whose beautiful stained-glass windows flooded its pews with rosy light. Waiting for Carol’s funeral service to begin, I was thinking about her life, and all of the things that would never be, when I noticed that among the vases of cut flowers and the pretty candles that had been set out on a small table up front, there was something familiar.
Read the rest at BoomerCafe, kind enough to include my thoughts about Carol this week:
Adapted from Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details:
Gleanings found here and there:
If we open our hearts, we will also find open hearts – it is always mutual.
~ Abbot Leo von Rudloff
A Benedictine Legacy of Peace; The Life of Abbot Leo A. Rudloff
We are all affecting the world every moment, whether we mean to or not. Our actions and states of mind matter, because we are so deeply interconnected with one another.
~ Ram Dass
At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done, then they begin to hope it can be done, then they see it can be done — then it is done and all the world wonders why it was not done centuries ago. ~ Frances Hodgson Burnett
Synchronicity is an ever present reality for those who have eyes to see.
~ Carl Jung
Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.
~ Albert Einstein
If you desire faith, then you have faith enough.
~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Would it surprise you to learn that optimism is not a synonym for positivity, nor an opposite of negativity? Optimism transcends both. … Being optimistic ultimately means that an individual expects the best possible outcome from any situation. Such a person’s mindset and heart-set responds to whatever arises in the moment—uplifting or challenging—knowing that within it is a grace, an opportunity for their soul’s evolutionary progress.
Have you caught it yet?
~ Rev. Michael Bernard Beckwith
What is the freedom and power of seeing and understanding with our own eyes?
Learn more about the gifts of this divine possibility at:
This post is dedicated to the memory and work of Joan King, a master investigator of Reality who left this world June 11. As I spontaneously said to one friend, “Her work continues now, on whole N-E-W (non-ego-willed) levels, the ones she loved so much! Here is a soul who, in both science and spirituality, was a bridge-builder as she strove to illuminate the realities of the human nature with which we’re meant to navigate the physical aspects of this life, and our eternal higher nature, through which we have the opportunity to transform ourselves and our world. God speed, Joan. You’re with us every day, we know.
What if the only experiences that make any real impact in life are those in which we’re as completely present to the moment as possible?
And what if these can only happen when we’ve had adequate periods of rest and reflection?
Neuroscientist and author Joan C. King came to that conclusion in her research lab at Tufts University after she discovered that just as every cell in our body needs to function from a nucleus or center, we are also designed to live from some sort of core in order to be healthy and whole.
To do that, we need to function within the timeframe of that core or center, which is the present. If thoughts and awareness are swirling around in what-ifs of the future, or mired in what’s already become part of history, we’ll be disconnected from that ever-present center.
It doesn’t go away, but our functioning has no access to it. And we sacrifice the greater share of our potential power, King says.
Those of us who pray or meditate know that one of the benefits of these is that they help us get back to that present-time condition of awareness. This is what leads to that “flow” we feel when we’re connected with and functioning from our center, a sensation of showing up in life and seeing a remarkable number of factors appear to simply fall into place.
Many even describe having experiences like these during dire or emergency situations, as though they connect with and go to some quiet inner place and then everything flows from that.
King describes another vital concept that cells model that is part of what enables them to function: they don’t stay “on” all the time. Cells’ life rhythm is cyclical. They experience periods of expending energy for a task, then immediately shift over into a “refractory” period during which they rest and gradually accumulate energy and resources in preparation for their next expenditure.
Cells have no choice but to rest, and their innate wisdom abides by this requirement of healthy living.
Humans often skip this part of the cycle, even though it’s as much a part of our design as it is that of our cells, says King. In a culture in which sleep deprivation has become epidemic (and work could rightly be dubbed a state religion) lots of us may be missing the chance to function from our best and deepest resources.
Genuine rest and re-creation (to take that word down to its root parts) allow us to connect with our center effectively. Without these, our access to this greatest source of our natural strength is blocked.
King also notes that without rest cycles, we have little opportunity to use another powerful tool: learning from experience, because the resting phase is the one that gives us the time and space to reflect, the only way we gain the perspective that allows us to learn.
Connect with Joan King’s work at:
The spirit of Joan’s life is captured in her family’s request in lieu of flowers – that those who wish to honor her pay kindness forward to three other individuals.
Some of her own words about the lovely legacy she’s left for us:
“The cellular wisdom series of books is not a declaration of dogma, but rather is a vehicle for me to share my insights about the teachings of our cells and our bodies about how to thrive in our lives as individuals and in relationship, from intimate to corporate to community to planetary. My books are intended to stimulate you to explore and uncover your own insights.” ~ Joan C. King
Though she spent the greater part of her life in my home state of New Hampshire, Ona Judge lived literally in the shadow the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia – without one morsel of the freedom it has come to represent.
Now the Liberty Bell itself has a history full of irony. When it first arrived from where it had been cast in London and was hung outside the Pennsylvania State House to test its sound, it cracked at the stroke of its own clapper, a rather inauspicious sign. Tradition maintains that it was tolled in 1774 to declare the inauguration of the First Continental Congress. Abolitionist newspaperman William Lloyd Garrison coined the name “Liberty Bell” to describe it when it was used as a symbol in an 1839 pamphlet produced by the American Anti-Slavery Society.
Although the bell had been recast after it cracked, a second crack occurred that required it to be repaired yet again in 1846. Perhaps days later, the bell was rung for several hours in honor of George Washington’s birthday. It was during that time that a crack advanced from the top of the repaired crack to the crown, and the bell was rendered unusable.
A venerable part of the nation’s history all the same, the bell was removed from its tower in 1852 and displayed to the public in a variety of locations, the most recent, and presumably final, the Liberty Bell Center pavilion in Philadelphia, just south of where George Washington had lived in the 1790s. At that time, this home was the equivalent of the White House, which had yet to be built in what was then the wilderness of the future District of Columbia.
During the design and construction of the bell’s display pavilion, planners discovered that the site was adjacent to the living quarters of black people who’d been enslaved – ones owned by the “Father of Our Country.” And, it turned out, visitors to the Liberty Bell were accessing the bell by walking directly over the quarters where the home’s slaves had been housed.
Among those enslaved servants was Ona Judge, hopefully a figure who will one day have name-recognition for every American school child, well beyond the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Hers is a tale of how a black woman challenged and bested her “master,” who also happened to be the leader of the nation.
“Born into” the slave-holdings of Martha Washington, Ona had become a famous face herself, one often seen at the many grand events Martha hosted, and which Ona’s arduous workdays made possible. At the age of 15, Ona had already had one wrenching parting from all of those she knew and loved when she was one of seven slaves to leave Mount Vernon and accompany the First Family to its new Philadelphia executive residence.
Small surprise that, when Martha announced her intention a few years later to bestow Ona as a wedding gift upon her granddaughter, Ona, whose trustworthiness and good service facilitated her coming and going freely in Philadelphia, simply walked out the front door while the family was eating dinner. Uneventful as it was, this escape would have brought severe penalties had she been caught.
Heaven knows what pluck and resourcefulness helped her get all the way to Portsmouth, NH, where she was promptly recognized on the street by the daughter of Senator John Langdon, as the Langdons knew the Washingtons very well. Ironically, although in covert ways, it would be Langdon who would help Ona keep her freedom by ensuring she had sufficient warning whenever Washington’s appointed agents came to find her.
Ona made a life for herself as a free black, even as she knew that slave-hunters could appear at any time to seize her, along with any children she might have, and she’d have no recourse at all. “Mistress of her needle,” as Washington himself had called her, she found a work as a seamstress and married a Black sailor, Jack Staines, and the couple had three children.
Some years later, after his retirement from the Presidency, Washington – no doubt at the chiding insistence of an outraged Martha, said to be the stronger personality of the two – dispatched yet another hunter, his nephew, Burwell Bassett, Jr., to try and fetch Ona back. One again, John Langdon’s intervention helped warn her in advance.
Although Ona died a ward of the state in her own home in 1848, having outlived her children, the citizens in her small community of Greenland, NH, cared about her enough to help keep her stocked with essentials. Her life as a free woman was unquestionably more difficult, in terms of material comforts than it would have been had she stayed with the Washingtons.
More than once, she was asked how she could relinquish the “silks and satins” of that “fine way of life” she had known for inevitable poverty. Her reply: “I am free, and have, I trust, been made a child of God by the means.”
It seems it was richness in spirit she was after, and the real freedom the Liberty Bell had come to symbolize: the ability to read and learn, to worship as she chose; and to spend the hours of her time as she, herself, determined to.
Adapted from Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details: http://www.amazon.com/Life-First-Sight-Finding-Details-ebook/dp/B00B5MR9B0/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=