Thursday, March 24, 2011

Warm and whining

Took a walk in the bright 5:00 p.m. sunshine, but the weather app on the phone says "33 degrees, feels like 25." My fingers are frozen, my nose is dripping, and the iPod is playing a jazz arrangement of "O Sacred Head" that is intensely sad.

It's an unsettled world, where what things look like, what they are like and what they feel like don't match up. I watch my kids try to define themselves in these uncertainties--one by asserting loudly that she is an adult now, the other by exploring philosophy and consciousness and his place in time and multiple dimensions of being. Somewhere between them you'll find me, trying to have some kind of a positive effect on them, trying to get through each day's necessary work, hoping to create a life where desire and doing come together happily.

So I walk. Because exercise is good for me. Because I've lost weight and walking will help to keep the weight off. Because usually the rhythmic pounding of my heels on the pavement smooths away the bumps in my brain and evens out the tense places in my heart. 

The earth's tectonic plates have not shifted under my feet, as they did in Japan. I have not felt the waters of a tsunami rise swiftly around my ankles. There is no shooting in the street in my town, as in Libya, no humanitarian crisis. If I had to deal with stuff like that right in front of me, and not so very different from what it looks like,  I might be a person who takes action.

But the things that drag me down, the things I could whine about--meetings to attend tomorrow morning, decisions about painting the house or investing in new windows--are much smaller. They are the problems of someone who is safe and secure in a warm home, with supper on the stove.

And yet, it's hard to know who you are, where you are, what you are, especially when cold winds make you feel trembly or rigid, when growing older leaves you feeling lonely, when you know you are not supposed to accept the wounded world as it is.

Or should you?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Joy to the heart

On Saturday at church we sang, read, remembered and liturgized over the ashes of Mike Meyer, my high school English teacher, friend, and fellow actor/director. And then those ashes were interred in the church's memorial garden, in a biting cold March wind. The gloom has not yet lifted from my heart.

Twenty-seven years ago, on this same date, March 12, we watched as my father's casket was lowered into the ground, while the snow blew around our heads and our feet sank into the frozen muddy grass. Such a long time ago, and I still feel his absence.

Sunday morning's sermon was like ice on a tooth with a cavity. One shock of pain, then another. This was not the preacher's intention. He spoke of couples rehearsing their wedding vows, tears pouring down the face of tough guy grooms. My husband and I said our vows right to each other, from memory, because we felt something that serious should not need prompting. But he is gone now, too, and there is no one to remember that with me. The pastor went on to speak of other tears in church, poignantly. More pain hitting home. I had my phone in my hand, because I was texting the teens to find out if they'd  made it to church. I wanted to throw it--or throw something--at the pulpit. My heart, my gut--they were weighed down enough.

This being Lent, the sermon moved on to mortality, to rehearsing for death with Jesus. Yeah, no need to say more about that here. Christ died for us, we die with Christ. We rise again. It's a way of looking at our lifetime on this earth. It's a way of looking at each day. It's a way of walking through the valley of the shadow of death with hope not despair.

I looked out the kitchen window while making coffee this morning. The houses across the alley reflected the rose-yellow glow of the sun, tricked into rising later by clocks sprung ahead for daylight savings time. The living and dining rooms were filled with this same pink and pale gold color, as if the sky itself had crept through the trees and past the apartment buildings just for  me, to bring me joy.

I think I will look for it again tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

For Lent

For Lent, I will practice compassion. Or try to. Quietly, in my heart.

A while back I read Paul Knitter's "Without Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian." My previous knowledge of Buddhism came from a high school class in comparative religions. There would be a list of terms (Nirvana, the Buddha), main ideas, history, and a lot of how Buddhism is not like Christianity. The take-away: Buddhism doesn't amount to much specific. Knitter studied Buddhism, not as a scholar but as a practitioner, meditating, working with teachers, and found it opened his mind about Christianity, a mind that had become weary and bored and tone-deaf to decades of church language. He was a Catholic theologian to begin with, and now considers himself both Christian and practicing Buddhist.

One thing I learned from reading his book is that meditation and mindfulness in Buddhism are not for oneself and one's own navel. One practicies these disciplines for the benefit of the world. Compassion is rooted in meditation and quiet. Breath and spirit produce compassion and works of love.

So for Lent, I will work on mindfulness and quietness, and see what grows out of that. A bigger world, I hope. A bigger heart.

"I will arise and go to Jesus
He will embrace me with his arms.
In the arms of my dear Savior,
Oh, there are ten thousand charms."