Category Archives: Uncategorized

Remember, And Be Glad

My first memory is of being carried up the center aisle of the United Methodist Church in my small home town. I was a three-year-old girl in my daddy’s arms, and my eleven-year-old sister walked up that aisle with us, next to my mom who carried my baby sister.  I come from what, in the midwest at that time, might be considered a religiously diverse family. My mom grew up in the Baptist church, and my dad’s parents were Christian Scientists. Through friendship, my mom began attending the Methodist church in the small town that had become their home. On the day I was baptized, so were both my sisters and my dad, we all became members and that place became our church home.

I went to Sunday school there every Sunday, and in third grade received my first real Bible, a Revised Standard Version covered in pebbled red vinyl, with a scrap of gold leaf that I used to inscribe my name on the cover. I was in many children’s Christmas programs and occasionally got the nerve-racking job of page-turner for my mom as she played hymns and special music on the piano. I went to church camp and found in Jesus the friend I needed to help me survive some turbulent years. I was confirmed in that church, wearing a dress of my mom’s and with my hair in French braids, feeling very grown up. There were annual Christmas eve candlelight services, where we sisters would inevitably get such giggle fits that suppressing them was painful and we shook the pew as we wept silent tears of mirth and pain. There was youth group on Wednesday nights and when I was a senior, a cake for the graduates.

I had a bridal shower and a wedding in that church, and about a decade later I brought my husband and my sons, ages 5 and 3, to my dad’s funeral.  My mom, sisters and I gathered up there at the front of the church and walked dad back down that aisle, the same one we walked up on the day of the baptism. I read some poem that day for the service, but now I wish I’d told this story, because this story is about family, love and the kind of faith that is built on simple acts of caring repeated often over time. It is a story about knowing what belonging is in a father’s arms, and about finding belonging in a place of faith.

This sounds idyllic, but it wasn’t always great. There were cranky people and scoldings and judgment and the same petty human problems inside those walls that you find inside and outside any church of any denomination anywhere in the world. My own nature prompted me to a very cliché rebelliousness in my later teens through my twenties. My early ideas of God were simple ones, the kind Jesus said everyone should have. Thinking about faith got more complicated over time, just as life did, but the Sunday school lessons, and the hymns, the messages and the scripture were all woven right through me and held me together for the most part, even in the very bad times. I prayed, and often those prayers seemed unanswered, but they never felt unheard.  By the time I had children of my own, I knew that faith is linked to survival, and that a spiritual home is a good thing to have. I wanted to give my children some of that same experience I’d had, and as babies they were baptized in a small Methodist Church in their own home town. To this day I continue my faith journey in that community and in the world at large. I am grateful for the support I have had along the way. In last Sunday’s sermon we heard the message of John’s baptism of repentance and Jesus’s baptism of Holy Spirit, and we heard the words from the confirmation service, “Remember your baptism, and be glad.” I do remember and I am glad.

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Hey, there. Missed you.


I happened to catch up with an old wordpress friend, lahikmajoe, today (“old” as in haven’t interacted in a very long time, and “catch up” as in I saw his post on Twitter, followed the link to his blog, commented, he commented back and visited one of my old posts and commented…it’s the digital-age version of catching up and reminiscing over coffee.) It has been nearly a year since I have posted anything, and well over a year since I posted any of my so-called “normal” material. I was knocked out by how much I have missed this blog and you people (assuming you are still out there.)

Back then I was fearful and busy and struggling to find something to say. The badly-fitting job I tried so hard at collapsed, but more time didn’t mean more writing. There was a long dark night of searching my soul, a reboot of my writing in “Safe Mode,” and finally another iteration of me as a working person. Now I am working furiously (figuratively, but sometimes literally also) and taking a class and doing a project, and all the  family and church stuff, and still searching. Now, however, I am searching more hopefully, gratefully, and with more of an attitude of acceptance and interest than fear.

I ask myself, do I have time for one more thing? Do I have time to formulate my crazy spinning tangential thinking into a coherent message on a semi-regular basis? Probably not, but I am not sure coherent messaging was ever my strong suit. The real question is, will I have time later? No one knows. I am feeling a little fragile upon hearing of Robin Williams’ death today, and maybe that too is moving me back into this space. We can’t definitely say that me catching lahikmajoe’s tweet in that brief moment before it rolled to the bottom of the feed and off the edge of the earth is actually a sign the universe is beckoning me back to the blogosphere. But if it feels like it, a little, that tells me something.

So, I am back, and really curious to see what I have to say. Thanks for visiting.

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An affirmation from a very helpful book, “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway” by Susan Jeffers

 

Dark Arts, Part Three: Return to the Dark Side

I can still feel the thrill that went through me the first time I laid eyes on a horror comic at the tender age of nine. A skeletonized hand reached from a grave toward a beautiful woman, her eyes and mouth wide in terror, as a rotting zombie looked on. There was a visceral tug of war in my soul at that moment: feverish desire to know what the story was about, battling with fear of the fright that would accompany the story and inevitably linger on to haunt many bedtimes to come. Later, writers like Poe, Bradbury and King entertained and tormented me into losing sleep, jumping at things half-seen from the corner of my eyes, and racing up the stairs in the darkness while the breath of some imagined demon whispered at my heels.

In Glinda of Oz, Baum tells a story of two young girls who go off alone to stop a war between two communities, the Flatheads and the Skeezers (no, I am not kidding.) They journey through alien territories and are imprisoned no less than three times, including once by a giant despotic arachnid. Sure, Ozma is a powerful and wise fairy, and Dorothy has a few protective items, but they are not invincible. For instance, Baum writes that although Dorothy could not be killed or suffer any great bodily pain as long as she lived in Oz, “[she] was a mortal, nevertheless, and might possibly be destroyed, or hidden where none of her friends could ever find her. She could, for instance, be cut into pieces, and the pieces, while still alive and free from pain, could be widely scattered; or she might be buried deep underground, or “destroyed’ in other ways by evil magicians. were she not properly protected.” Yikes. So Glinda gives Dorothy a ring she can use to summon her in utmost peril, presumably if Dorothy can use it before her hand is severed from her body. Remember, this is the last of the Oz books (completely written by Baum,) you can’t assume they all emerge unscathed. What would we do without wicked witches, enslaved winged monkeys, zombies and silver-eyed clowns? Just remember that in Oz as in our world, a freakish and unlovely exterior might house the heart of a hero, and the loveliest person might be gripping a knife behind her back. So stay on your toes.

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HAPPY HALLOWEEN FROM OZ!

Dark Arts, Part 2-The Pretty Side

In my last post, I introduced some of the Oz characters brought to life by the penstrokes of John R. Neill, illustrator. Most of the inhabitants of Oz are strange and many of them appear downright sinister–some of them could DEFINE sinister. But Neill has drawn some beautiful characters as well. Glinda, the good witch, is the lovely mom of Oz, taking care of business and solving problems. She has an unfortunate preference for hats that resemble the old cup-and-ball toys, but other than that seems sensible. Here she is:

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I have to wonder what she is thinking at this moment. She has a meaningful look on her face, and that gesture seems to imply something…

 

Here Glinda is intent upon calibrating a device to save the day. That's the Wizard of Oz, leering in the background.

Here Glinda is intent upon calibrating a device to save the day. That’s the Wizard of Oz, leering in the background.

Then there is Dorothy Gale, honorary princess, and Ozma, young fairy Queen of Oz.

Here, Dorothy and Ozma appeal to Mist Maidens to help them cross a ravine, which they do.

Here, Dorothy and Ozma appeal to Mist Maidens to carry them across a ravine, which they do. Perhaps I have seen too many horror movies, but I imagine them getting to middle, then being pulled down to the bottom and eaten.

 

One of my favorite pictures, even if Ozma is looking quite a bit more mature than her character in the book.

Ozma, re-imagined as a 1920’s starlet.

And, finally, the three together…

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Am I imagining it or is there an interesting tension in their expressions? What are they looking at? In Oz, it could be anything.

 So here we have the whimsical, not the frightening. But because scary is often fun, I will return to some of the more nightmarish images in the next post.

Dark Arts, Part One

Here is a first world problem: I got a new smartphone and all the apps are insisting on syncing my contacts and location and searches and tethering me invisibly, irrevocably to the cybersphere. I feel like the apps are whispering about me behind my back. Hungry whispers. I would like to go back to pencil and paper, now, please. Not really. But it is possible to yearn for some privacy even as one reaches out through the world wide web.

So, because I am in a darkish mood, and because I wanted to bring you a gift after my long hiatus, I would like to share with you some exquisitely creepy illustrations by John R. Neill that recently caught my eye and breath. The illustrations are from Glinda of Oz by Frank L. Baum, and the ones I am sharing today are from the pastedown inside the front cover. The image as a whole is stunning:

 

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But here are a few of my favorites pulled out:

 

Oh, sad rabbit, I feel for you, surrounded by fiends and lunatics.

Oh, sad rabbit, I feel for you, surrounded by fiends and lunatics.

 

 

I gots a present for you, child. Just reach out your hand...

I gots a present for you, child. Just reach out your hand…

 

 

Oh! Startled chicken!

Oh! Startled chicken!

 

 

The card bird: charming, bizarre, the whole package, really.

The card bird: charming and bizarre, the whole package, really. I also like the face by his left foot because that is how I look in most of my photos.

 

If you have never read the books, you should do so. Oz is a vast world better viewed through words, line sketches and the reader’s imagination than on a screen. I would be interested to hear what catches your eye in the illustration. If you like this post, let me know and I will share a few more images.

A Quick Breath

I am eating a bowl of cereal, standing at the counter watching the sink fill with soapy water. The dishwasher I have just loaded is humming, and the ingredients for my son’s birthday cake await at my elbow. There is an article waiting to be written, company to prepare for, and all my “wanna-do’s” (paint my toenails, push through to the next step on the novel, play with my art & craft arsenal) whispering “pick me! pick me!” I don’t even realize how tight my breath has become until I glance up from the sink and see the maple trees outside my window, leaves dancing in the sun. A hundred shades of green flicker and lift in the light. A deep breath of appreciation slips in deactivating the taut muscles holding me at attention. Right, breathe. As easy and as difficult as that. Lift your eyes up and out. Breathe.
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Does It Make An Impression?

I had such a nice thing happen today. I got permission from Marian Call to use one of her songs to accompany a quirky video I did last summer when the office where I worked was shutting down and nobody but me came in for days at a time and all I was doing was packing up and throwing things out and wondering what I was going to do with the next part of my life and it felt like a funeral. So I dressed casually and listened to my iPod and did the things on my to-do list. One of the things to-do was to remove this huge mural:

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It was a media relations agency. It was not snowing in the office when I took this picture in case that is what you are thinking. That is dust on my lens which is so embarrassing, but there is nothing I can do about it now. Because, as I said, the mural had to come down. There are no more retakes. The tree was made from one long piece of sticky plastic that came off quite nicely with the help of a blow dryer. Each letter was the same kind of thing. Almost right away, I was thinking, “this is kind of cool, with the music on and the slow, stretchy release of the plastic creating an empty space in the clutter.” Fortunately, after I got the first five lines down plus the question mark at the end, I thought, “Maybe someone ELSE is odd enough to find this interesting.” So I pulled out my smartphone and recorded this video and later added in the music of Marian Call, who I adore and who was gracious enough to let me share it with you. Please watch, and if you like, please share. Please also click on Marian’s name anywhere in this post to listen to more of her music on her bandcamp website. Thanks!

Goodbye, Winter…

This winter has been like a crazy houseguest that doesn’t know when it is time to leave, and, just when you think you will have to murder her, she makes a grand gesture and departs. You don’t miss her, but you remember why you liked her in the first place.

(Photos taken this morning.)

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Home

I lie on an old brown sofa that is covered in tiny nylon loops which should be scratchy but somehow aren’t, probably with a dog or two. We bask in a late afternoon sunbeam that slants in through the ground floor window. I am reading, or was reading, or am about to read. In another season, the wood burning stove might be radiating a blistering heat an arm’s length away, with a humming fan pushing the warmth toward the rest of the house, but in this memory it is summer. My mother or one of my sisters plays Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata on the old upright piano. The music literally fills the air, and then my lungs as I breathe it in, where my bloodstream absorbs it and carries it to all my cells. I am lifted, carried by it. The bench creaks softly as the pianist shifts octaves, a page whispers as it turns, a dog sighs with contentment. We listen for the sounds of Dad returning. A well-used dartboard hangs in mute challenge surrounded by dozens of tiny holes. The long wall on the south is paneled in yellow pine, and the brown vinyl floor, excellent for sliding on in socked feet, bears a repeating Moorish design. Bifold doors on the north conceal the treasures of multiple generations: books and toys and remnants of kits and tools that haven’t found a home anywhere else. More curiosities are stored under the lid of the kneehole desk Dad made. Into its sides he has burned the brands used by our ranching forefathers. The room smells of old books and sheet music, tooled leather, lemon fresh Pledge, and dog, with a hint of the medicinal, antiseptic and earthy aromas that venture in from Dad’s adjoining veterinary office. It is the music that always pulls me back though, if not the gravitational center, then at least the magnetic north.

The piano, the sofa, the dogs and the people are all gone or in exile now and the house is in others’ hands, but that moment, repeated with minor variations over and over throughout the first half of my life, is omnipresent. That is home, where I started and where, sometimes, I go to restart. No matter when or where I am, I can always return to that couch to drift in words and music and sunlight, surrounded by the presence, or imminent presence, or the remembered presence of people and love.

Thank you, Mom and Dad and Sisters. Thank you for giving me a home.

What moment or place do you go to, when you need to go home?