FOOD FOR THE JOURNEY

When I reflect on the year past, it is easy to become anxious about the future.  2017  wasn’t  easy.    Disasters  hit  in rapid succession, their combined effect making each more daunting than the one before.   Floods, fires, earthquakes.   Simmering racial tensions heated and boiled over into the streets.  We were shocked to learn that our country, even our families were sharply divided by our social and political beliefs.   Social media became a national forum for proclaiming unsubstantiated “facts” and venting unfiltered frustrations.    Scientists were discounted and their hard work dismissed by  government spokespersons on the basis of undocumented claims  based on personal belief as best, or worse, vested interests.  One after another trusted leader tumbled from power as as  entrenched patterns of sexual harassment in the workplace came to light.   All of this served up to us as “Breaking News”   24/7 in HD Surround Sound, by newscasters scrambling  frantically  for the latest sensational tidbit.

Sadly, rather than becoming unified  against our common problems,  for the most part, we seemed to have been pulled apart.  I am exhausted by all of it.

2017 was indeed a challenging year.   However, it was not the only challenging year we have faced as a nation.  We have weathered  far greater  storms and we will come through this one. There has always been darkness.  Darkness in the world, darkness in me, in each one of us.   But there is also light. And to stay in that light and avoid slipping into disillusionment, I am going to need  spiritual nourishment,  Lots of it.

So here are some of my New Year’s resolutions to feed my spirit.

Spend  more time  with kids.

If we are watching, children will teach us how to enjoy the beauty of  ordinary things;  the intricate design of a daisy petal,  the magic of dew fall on  blue bonnets,  how to dream.

Dreaming comes naturally to children.  They have no battle scars yet, anything is still possible. Inevitably, as the years go by,  dreams are lost along the way.  It is easy to become cynical, to lose hope.   But without it  our spirits wither and die.  Dreams are  spiritual food.  They are the crucibles in  which  hope  is formed.  It is the dream that is important, not the outcome.  Children know that.

Make time for art.  

Edouard Manet “Boating” 1874

We Americans tend to think of art as a luxury, an activity only to be indulged when there is surplus money and time.   Art programs are the first to be cut from our educational and personal budgets.  But we are deluding ourselves. Art has dramatic healing power.

Odilon Redon, Ophelia Among the Flowers, 1905

A painting is more than  an image on a canvas.  It is an invitation to escape our world to another of our choosing, to be calmed, inspired, challenged;   to emerge recharged and refreshed.

 

Keep  friends close

I am blessed to have good friends. We are there for each other; for comfort, encouragement, support, or just a good laugh.  We “get” each other.  Each new conversation begins where the last one left off, even after years have intervened.   And yet it’s so easy to postpone that call or visit “until I’m not so busy;”   to tell myself I’m keeping in touch on Facebook or by text.  But I know better.  I’m cheating myself.  My friends  are not mine forever.  They are on loan.  Each moment with one of them  is a gift to be treasured.

    Hang out with animals.  No explanation needed.  

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 

 

Thanks Giving

I don’t hear much talk about giving thanks this year.  We seem to consumed with our problems.  And there’s a  lot to worry about,  not the least of which are the divisions in our country and families.  In fact, some  are  “skipping” Thanksgiving this year to avoid  further division  fueled by heated arguments  around the family table.   If only things were different, maybe we’d feel more grateful, be more in the mood for Thanks Giving, It take a lot of  energy to be grateful when we’re preoccupied with  what we don’t have,

Growing up, the family always came to the farm for Thanksgiving.  I looked forward to having the cousins visit, but  I envied  my “town friends” Thanksgiving dinner of  turkey, pumpkin pie, cranberry dressing, sweet potato casserole with pineapple and marshmallows on top.  Exotic dishes like broccoli casserole  and Wonder Bread rolls with oleo. (For those less than a “certain age,” that’s margarine, sort of.)  Ours was a simpler fare consisting almost entirely of what we raised on the farm; chicken and corn bread dressing, hot corn bread  in iron skillets, creamed corn,  pickled peaches and deviled eggs, sweet potato and pecan pie.  Not cool.   My childhood favorite, because none of it came from the farm,  was my Aunt Katherine’s lime jello mold  with pecans (ok, these were ours) celery and  pineapple.

Imagine.  Nowadays, this menu would be considered gourmet! (With the possible exception of the jello salad)    Free range chicken, home churned butter and whipped cream from whole, non pasteurized, non GMO  milk of  placid free-ranging cows. Fruits and vegetables canned from our gardens and orchards.

It was better back then, right?  The family was united. The food was simple and fresh.  There were no hard feelings, no rancor. Smiles all around the family table.  The kids weren’t hooked on electronics, didn’t interrupt and always said “please and thank you.”  We didn’t watch TV, we talked to each other.  We were poor but happy.  Norman Rockwell would have loved us.  Oh, for the good old days.

Now looking back with the perspective of years, I  see a very different picture. The food really was great even if I couldn’t see  past the envy of  my friends’  Wonder Bread rolls  and pies made from canned pumpkins grown in the midwest.  And we weren’t characters  out of a  Norman Rockwell tableau.  Some family members were estranged, some battled carefully disguised addiction and  depression.  All struggled against an economic system controlled by a  privileged  few that perpetuated poverty in our family through generations as far back as we could remember. (Sound familiar?) Tacit agreement on certain topics that were never discussed, especially race and politics.   All presided over by my grandfather, the unyielding and stoic family patriarch.

Luckily, our family today agree for the most part on things political and at worst tolerate each other’s beliefs.  I’m not worried about heated arguments around the Thanksgiving table.    But it won’t be a  Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving.  Some of our family live far away and some have lost touch.  We have our allotment of disease and dysfunction and some of us are just plain weird. (Depends on who you ask.)

This Thanksgiving’s food will come from chain stores, not  the garden.   Some of us are vegan, others lactose intolerant, allergic to gluten, cranberries or chocolate.  Some have wine, some abstain.  For a moment, I will long for  the simpler days of real butter and cream,  fresh fruits and vegetables,  and sweet potato pie.  But only for a moment.  We always make it work and it’s always  delicious.

So really, not much has changed.  It’s a different family now, but just as then, we  love each other in spite of, and sometimes because of, our weaknesses and foibles, struggle with our  demons, tolerate our differences and enjoy Thanks Giving  dinner together.  And I don’t intend to waste another minute thinking about what might have been.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Betrayal

 

 

The unkindest cut.  The one we never expect because only those we trust can betray us.   It happens to all of us.

I hadn’t thought about her for years until I ran across an annoucement about an award she had recently received.  I was surprised at how quickly the old painful memories replayed themselves in my mind.  The initial shock and disbelief,  stabs of disappointment,  rushes of anger, and eventually, more in my interest than hers, forgiveness and acceptance.

She was my student, my star student at the time.  The one for whom I had such high hopes.   The one I rescued from the slums and nurtured. Supported, financially and emotionally.  Provided a network.  Advocated for.    Defended.

It was wonderful to watch her grow and flourish.  She was like a kid in a candy store.   Everything was magic for her; the university, her classes and research, the malls, the internet,  even the night-time sky.  She glowed with happiness.  We were a team.

Until she found a brighter star and  moved on to follow it, leaving behind a trail of lies and broken promises.

Shades Down Tight, Ashley Adcox

Painful as it was, and uncomfortable as the memories still are, I am grateful for the experience.  It taught me  that my expectations for her were a heavy and unjust burden.  No one has the right to require  loyalty from another person.  In spite of and maybe because of,  my good intentions, I caused her harm.   And probably more importantly,  it brought me face to face with my own past betrayals and the lies I told myself to justify my cowardly behavior.

She must have carried a heavy burden of guilt.  It’s the only logical explanation I can think of to explain the  smear campaign she launched  among the faculty and students.  I never knew the specifics or the extent of it, but the averted glances and hushed whispers told me all I needed to know.

Make no mistake; the release that comes with  betrayal exacts a heavy price.   A plausible justification for  cowardly behavior must be fabricated and a web of lies concocted.  The  guilt of my betrayals will always follow me,  nipping at my heels,  threatening to expose my lies,  until I finally face them and the people I harmed.

Each of us has the right and the responsibility to be true to our own convictions, even though acting on them may take all the courage we can muster.   And if this means severing ties with another human being,  we harm ourselves most of all if we hack them apart in the  dark corridors of betrayal.

It’s been said that in order to know love, we must first know pain.  It follows that in order to trust, we must travel through  betrayal, be crushed by it,  burn in its crucible, and be released.

There will be another friend, lover, child, to love in the light of day, free from the dark spectre of betrayal.

 

Home Going…

Happy to be home for my high school reunion to connect with old friends, but sad to remember all those we have lost along the way. Here’s a tribute to a lost loved one that puts life and death in beautiful perspective. Thank you, Camilla.

Camellia's Cottage

IMG_3292My father in law would have loved his funeral last week… I know, I know…he was ‘absent from the body but present with the Lord’.  Still. If he could have been in the body, he would have loved his Home Going – all of it. But then I’m getting ahead of myself… Wallace Wyatt, Sr. was my father in law for decades, he lived to be 93 years old- he had a long, well lived life. He was born in Cool Springs, then made his life just a few miles over in Beaver Valley- in his beloved St. Clair County. A county older than the State of Alabama, where he served the people for 14 years as their Judge of Probate. I remember he told me once that being Probate Judge was the closest thing to the role of a pastor within our government- with duties ranging from adoptions, marriages, guardianships and of…

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You Know You’re in the South When….

 

 You order iced tea and your server responds, “Sweet or unsweet?

A stranger strikes up a conversation with you at the produce counter and you don’t look for the manager.

It’s hard to find parking in the church parking lot on Sunday.

The ONLY dressing is cornbread dressing.

 

The  “ballgame” means football.

 

 

Mama is a force to be reckoned with.

 

Men look forward all year to a weekend on a freezing lake in an outrageous contraption hoping to bag a duck or two.

If you visit, you have to eat.

 

And family is forever.

 

 

 

 

When everything goes wrong

An only child and the oldest granddaughter I was overindulged and sheltered by adoring  parents and relatives.  And  when things went wrong for me, I just picked up my toys and went home.

That didn’t work so well as an adult.

And things aren’t going so well these days.  Political turmoil, war and poverty,  mega fires,  devastating floods, social upheaval, financial instability.   And I must admit, my first reaction isn’t to charge headlong into the battle, but to hide, the adult version of  “picking  up my toys and going  home.”

I hear a lot these days about people  fleeing the country in desperation.  I understand  and share their  frustration.  We have a huge drug problem, our infrastructure is failing, our schools are falling behind, the middle class is struggling, our immigration policies don’t work, our racial divide is widening.  Not to mention mass shootings and  natural disasters.   I hear all that.

But  I have to wonder how many of those  thinking of leaving the country  have lived in or  visited other countries for extended periods of time.  One look at the nightly news shows us that these are not problems specific to us;  they  exist the world over.  No country  is exempt from problems and even if there were such a Nirvana, there is no way to hide there.  Our community is global.

 

Besides, we have so much to fight for, so much we take for granted.   Our public education, flawed, but still a route out of poverty for  (I’m a case in point).   Freedom of speech.  No one is imprisoned  for criticizing the government or attending religious services. Our cities have clean water and our children are vaccinated against deadly diseases.  Our breathtakingly beautiful national parks are open to everyone.  For starters.

But it’s not free.  To quote Edmund Burke,

                     “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is  for good men to do nothing. “

 And it all counts.  Every thing we don’t say, every seed not planted, word not written,  neighbors’ pain ignored, adds to the turmoil, desperation and fear around us.  It might be uncomfortable, even dangerous to face our problems.  But we can’t afford to  pick up our toys and go home.

D
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