Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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Singing the high parts, together

In this steamy East-Coast week, my heart is delighted to share A Winter’s Day, a Guest Post from writer, muser, and soul-life sounder, Larry Moffitt.

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Larry and Taeko Moffitt

A WINTER’S DAY

by Larry Moffitt

It’s late July, early, early in the morning. Slightly post pre-dawn. The sky only appears to be transitioning from dark purple to the lighter blue range. At this point, whether the horizon will ever actually brighten, whether the sun will rise, is anybody’s guess. I stand in front of the window sipping coffee. If I hold the cup right under my eye and peer over the rim toward where the sky meets the horizon, I catch the purple in the steam.

Honey Nim comes out, “What are you doing?”

One eye closed, keeping the cup absolutely still, I focus like a Shaolin monk. “I’m steaming the purple.”

“Go put on some clothes.”

“I made you some coffee. Sugar?”

“Not today, and just a little arf-n-arf. Thanks. So what are you doing?”

“Look… steam. And dark purple sky… over there near the ground.”

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Image: D. Kirkup Designs

She sips her coffee, looking thoughtfully where I’m pointing. “Yeah.”

I switch gears, sing softly, “A winter’s day, in a deep and dark December. I am alone, gazing from my window to the streets below, on a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow. I am a rock; I am an island.”

“What’s that?”

“Song… Paul and Artie… You know, ‘…and here’s to you Mrs. Robinson, heaven holds a place…’ those guys.”

“Oh yeah… tall, curly hair, sings the high part.”

“The song is about isolation and emotional detachment.”

She knows I’m headed somewhere with this, or not, and she has this nice habit of not rushing it. It’s a survival trick for when you find yourself in an international or interracial marriage. Our conversations can drift rudderless for minutes on end without anyone requiring a “point.” Until one of us gets it, we usually wait it out in the middle distance. She moves past me, closer to the window and gazes, squinting, willing the deep purple to dissolve into sunrise. 321531_266820190007774_1813369758_n

I stand behind her, talking into the back of her neck. “Which do you think is better, to give yourself freely to loving another even though you could end up broken-hearted, or to carefully protect your heart, but in doing so, never feel the roller-coaster thrill of love?”

She turned, puzzled. “What?”

It’s not a terribly complicated idea, and I knew the gap was mostly technical, so I explained it again, in more or less similar words.

“It makes him crazy,” she said.

“Love makes you crazy?”

“Yes,” she said, “know what I mean, jellybean?”

“I know what you mean, crocodile.”

I put my arms around her, drawing her in. Our cups of coffee mutually encircled one another. I sang another snippet. “I have my books and my poetry to protect me…”

“Go put on some clothes.”

484491_10151600247560269_529055315_nAbout Larry:

The final, and most difficult, seeking of my life is to find, and become, my true self. To genuinely become SanViejo (Saint Old Guy), not just have it as my email address. I was born in Liberal, Kansas — the most misnamed place since Greenland — in a breech birth. I have been on a cattle drive in Paraguay, I have been to a cockfight and I got kissed on the mouth by the Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of Kazakhstan. I am good at growing tomatoes. I am driven by three unmanageable forces: a meaning of life gene, an art & poetry gene, and a humor gene. Not necessarily in that order. I want to live by the side of the road and be a friend to man.


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We will all, verily, abide …

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Thirty-five years ago this week, my husband and I, on one of the coldest nights of our lives, faced each other and declared, “We will all, verily, abide by the will of God.”

There were seven other people in the room with us that night, two of them the witnesses required for our Bahá’í marriage to be legal.

Most of the evening is a blur, quite frankly, though I do remember one especially poignant moment when my mother read a prayer, and these words stood out: “Cause them to become the signs of harmony and unity until the end of time.”

These were still echoing in my head when, as we drove toward Canada for our wedding trip, Jon remarked that he had also noticed the spirit of what those words evoked when he felt a whole new significance about the vow we’d each spoken. The essentials of a Bahá’í marriage ceremony can seem so simple that it’s easy to overlook their depths. Iceland and Mexico and Spring 06 Germany 130

“I realized,” he told me, “that when I said, ‘We will all, verily, abide by the will of God’, I was referring not just to the two of us, but something we were committing to with every one there with us, supporting our marriage, and our future children, and every soul that we’ll know. THAT was the commitment we are making. And our marriage itself is WHERE we’re committing to do that.”

And indeed, the spiritual resonance of that vow has been with us ever since, though we had no idea where it would take us. As another Year of the Horse opens, we’re naturally remembering the last one, 12 years ago, which we spent in China. The spirit of our marriage vow was and is a foundation for us as parents, accompanies our every shared decision, our many travels, the bonds we forge with others, even our reconnection with our mutual childhood home of Germany.

EB pix Germany and more 182In this past year, I finally had the opportunity to dedicate two books to this partner, this soul mate, who abides with me at the very center and core of my life and being. What I recognized as I wrote those dedications is that our marriage is a means by which we help each other learn to be encouraged about the potential in our truest selves, and kind about the struggles and confusions of our very human ones. I’m coming to believe that this is the essence of what that vow we said is pointing to.

There are some things we cannot know or understand without the passing of time, and the accumulation of experience, as well as reflection on that experience. What I feel more deeply each day is that the commitment of our marriage, the fortress for well-being that it is designed to be in the advancing – and spiritualizing – of civilization, seems a little-understood jewel. But it is unquestionably an ever-revealing treasure that illuminates my life, and my heart, each and every day.

 


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The best gift autumn ever brought me

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Thirty-seven years ago this month, a kind, wonderfully humorous guy named Jon Ring invited me along on a visit to some friends of his in Keene, NH. (I’ve since come to believe those friends fashioned a little set-up.)

Very shortly afterward, this soulful man began to feel a lot like the person I imagined sharing my life with. My mother, ever the pragmatic soul, encouraged me to tell him so, after I told her.

I drove right back to Exeter that afternoon and did. He survived the shock with admirable grace and a short time later, married we were. That anniversary doesn’t come around for another few months, but it’s at this time of year that I always remember what began unfolding so beautifully in my life in those days.

Iceland and Mexico and Spring 06 Germany 213Here he is in Keene, again in pumpkin season, in a more recent decade. I think that some days, living with me may feel something like living with that face the pumpkin is wearing. Way back in that autumn of ’78, I don’t think I yet possessed the capacity to imagine just how thankful I’d be today for his willingness to share the adventure of this life with me. Or perhaps my soul did see it coming, did see it all, right from the start.

It’s the second sweetest thing that ever happened to me. The first is how much we both love what is of God

Year by year, life together brings home the truth of that vow we uttered on the night that united our lives:

“We will all verily abide by the Will of God.”