We drove over to Palestine to eat some local BBQ at a down-home Texas place called the Pint and Draft House. The fried green tomatoes, I tell you, did not disappoint. A distinctive smokehouse aroma wafted by now and again and a black cat selectively chose who’s patio table she’d curl up under next. And the people. The people around here are so friendly and no one, I mean NO ONE, resorts to the SoCal go-to of “have a nice day.” Unless they throw “y’all” onto the end of it that is.
That in itself is just nice.
When the lady at the coffeehouse just across the road identified me as a Californian she asked with sincere concern if countless homeless had yet been bussed in to my neighborhood back home. “Uh, nooooo,” I replied. Her perception of life in California raised some concern for my wellbeing there. I wandered off to the antique shop next door thinking she was probably just being thoughtful, right? Well maybe. I suppose. No one ever asked me that before but then I’d never been to Palestine.
It was a peaceful place for an afternoon visit to a Shelby County cemetery in eastern Texas.
An old black and white of our family decedents bore the images of relations we’d never met. Their stories had been newly discovered by a family member they’d never met either. One in their future still yet to be born (my older sister) who had researched the old records just to find them.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Located beyond the outside edges of the nearest town, down a narrow unpaved road, we drove until we came upon the gates of North Jericho. As a search party of four we traipsed through the burial grounds on a quest for a name; John Day.
There were all the usual signs of the ravages of time having taken their toll through the years. An overturned urn, a broken headstone or two, the lichen’s eery growth patterns rendering heartfelt sentiments practically unreadable on some of the ancient memorial stones. Two centuries of Texas sun, rain and snow had collectively reduced the once sharply engraved lettering to a nearly illegible text. With our fingers we traced the weathered names and dates that were long ago etched into stone. Names of our family we’ll never know. But John Day was there. It wasn’t your typical family reunion but it was a meaningful one. The conclusion to a search. . . and we found them!
On the rainy early morning of the eve of Christmas eve ~ enjoying the perfect stillness before the sun rises and a busy day begins. I LOVE this time of day!
But the raindrop serenade isn’t keeping time at all with the ticking of the clock. It’s out of sync. Off the beat. And yet . . .
And yet I like it just the same because it echoes the non-sparkly, non-joyous, very real life moments that occur side by side and sometimes hand-in-hand, with this most wonderful time of the year.
In the quiet of this morning I’m reflecting on the friend whose mother, now on hospice care, clings to the remaining days of her well-lived life; the funeral just last week for a friend’s beloved father who passed quietly from this life into the next; the young couple who’s little daughter did not revive as we all had prayed for. Though this is undeniably the season of hope and joy there are many who face it with heavy hearts for as many reasons as there are twinkling lights on the tree.
Tis the season for joy and yet their their present journey has led them through the valley of the shadow. Those who grieve at this joyous time of year walk through that undeniably out-of-sync existence, like my clock and the unevenly falling rain.
What gift can we bring to the heavy hearted in this season of their unbearable grief and our season of joyous celebration? Though our most carefully crafted sentiments may fall short there is still hope of a light shining through their present darkness. The smallest of kindnesses or even our silently supportive presence may speak more than a thousand well-crafted sermons to the ones who feel no joy. Your happy heart beating in time with their broken one . . . that is Love.
Merry eve of Christmas Eve to one and all.
How to describe the expression on this lovely face. Is it pensive or disinterested? Deep in thought or disengaged? Where’s the evidence of her feelings and what thoughts may be traveling through her mind? No upturned smile, no raised brow. For all intents and purposes her expressionless gaze may well be interpreted as emotion-less, giving no vague hint, no sense at all of her mood or state of being.
Though she may appear on the outside to be devoid of any emotion, conveying little else than a calm and passive gaze, there’s something quite remarkable she reveals.
She holds her heart in her hands . . . and her heart is on fire!
• • • • • • • • •
When a heart is on fire it changes wrongs to rights; it moves to feed the hungry, give to the poor, lift up the weak, bring hope to the lonely. A heart on fire is a mighty super power for good. Hearts on fire move mountains for others one molehill at a time. They burn with the passion to teach, to reach, to preach, to bring some means of better life, great or small, to another living soul. And when hearts on fire combine with hands things begin to change.
Her face may never show it but her heart is soooo on fire.
A container’s label, whether fancy or plain, descibes what’s inside, what the ingredients are, whether organic or toxic or sugar free or corn syrup filled, maybe nutrient dense or chemically laden. We label weed killer and lipstick and whipped cream and each other.
What if you and I each came with a label that described our traits in accurate detail to inform others what we were made of? What ingredient would be listed first—the main one, you know? Sugar and spice and everything thing nice?
So yes this is a random thread here on December tenth, twenty nineteen! Being the most wonderful time of the year makes it even more unlikely that there’s any sufficient amount of time to pause and contemplate your contents. You may be more wrapped up (Christmas gift pun) in thinking of other’s wants and wishes or perhaps, on the other hand, you might be so filled with an unmentionable ingredient that makes you want to throw up your hands at the whole affair.
But if you’re still with me then try this: just focus your thought on YOU and what you—being totally and brutally honest, being more truthful than you might normally allow yourself to be—are really truly made of. If there’s one predominant ingredient, one defining characteristic on that label what would it be? Generous, stubbornly determined, unselfishly loving, carefree, considerate, determined, grace-filled, wise? So of course we’re made up of varying degrees of elements and complex compounds, some in minute amounts or heavy doses and yet even with an endless list of ingredients, as on any product label, the main ingredient is always listed first. What is yours?
Praise. Adoration. Submissive surrender. Maybe it was all three and my thoughts told me that was why the woman I saw on the side of the road had her hands up.
Why else do we raise both hands simultaneously? Think about it, work this out with me here for a moment. When we raise ONE hand it’s to bring the the attention to ourselves, to say, “look at me,” “I have a statement to make” or “I have a question,” “I have the answer.” Maybe its even, “I need a taxi.” And by the way, this must be pointed out, there is always an audience or other person whose attention we’re attempting to gain. No one raises their hand when alone—there’s no need and no point.
But putting both hands up—that physical gesture communicates something entirely different. It’s no longer about bringing the attention to oneself. Both hands raised, whether high or tremblingly low is a universal sign of surrender. In the old black and white westerns regardless of good guy or bad, whoever held the gun would demand, “stick ‘em up!” “Drop your weapon and get your hands in the air.” So are the demands of someone who must use force to change a situation or to get their way. Hands go up, in agreement or not, when deadly force is in the mix.
So having those basic facts of cowboys and villains and the tension between good and evil in my personal knowledge base, it was easy to acknowledge that the hands I saw raised were neither personally attention getting nor were they forced.
As I drove by, speeding through a stretch with no homes or businesses around, I saw that her gaze was toward the sky and both her hands were raised. There were no bad guys to elicit her surrender, no teacher’s questions to answer, no taxis to hail.
She faced east and with respectful and repetitive bowing she seemed to privately acknowledge a presence greater than her own. What a strangely tender scene I observed from my drive-by vantage point. She did not notice me of course. She was in the presence of someone greater. She was surrendered.
Some of us are open; freely sharing all the good there is within—all the treasures, all the wisdom, all the tiny bits of gemstone beauty. Openly sharing, openly giving, openly bringing the good that we possess to light the world around us.
Some of us are more reserved; holding the most valuable, ruby-jeweled truths inside, protected and preserved as precious nuggets not to be carelessly scattered or unreservedly given away. Preferring a somewhat judicious and well-timed dispersement as appropriately best procedure.
And so the tree of life holds variations of the same fruit. Some will be harvested as their peak of perfection has reached its fullest. Some will cling to what feels secure until they wither, remaining fully intact yet their prime will have passed without one bit of nectar ever touching another living soul whether human or bird or any other. Perhaps like a bottle of fine wine being deemed so very precious then saved for a special moment that never comes. What should have been savored has now soured. Perhaps the seeds of those held back for “someday” will fall to the ground and in time produce new life. Who can tell?
Some though . . . some burst forth with a glorious display of truth, beauty, music, history, art, and all other wonders they can find no earthly reason to hold inside. They simply burst because there is remarkable beauty and inexplicable wonder to share.
And they are open.
The main thing was getting home. The few days away from my usual schedule had come to an end and the road leading back to my everyday life was a-callin’. This wasn’t the first time someone told me I HAD to stop in on this little place the next time a road trip led me this way. A hot coffee and fresh chocolate croissant ALWAYS sounds good day or night so this time it was less of an, “IF I have time” thing and more of an intention to detour.
I must say, the coffee was as good as they’d promised. Locals were enjoying a late breakfast over gossip about so and so. Others stopped in for their orders of freshly baked loaves—solid, seeded, organic-ingredient looking loaves. The restroom had 1940’s era memorabilia of the Queen and her handsome husband. Quite nice, squeaky clean and tastefully done. And then there was the bakery’s exterior. Turns out it was even less of a “non-descript hole in the wall” than had been described and I would have gone past if not for Siri.
But soon on the highway again with 200 miles until home the concept of “detour” kept turning around in my head. So many life defining experiences seem to unfold as the result of a detour; a change of direction, a cautionary sign, a closed road. While on our way to something else, one small change of our pre-determined plans, one slight turn sets us onto a path we may not have chosen but was meant to be.
Sometimes I choose the detour. Sometimes it chooses me.
Public Service Announcement
It’s still fall, y’all.
Autumn is still in full force for another fourteen gloriously crisp-aired days. But wait, if that’s so, then where have the all the pumpkins gone? All the heaped up piles of rustling leaves, the raggedy scare crow and dried up stalks of corn? I tell myself its over but the calendar totally disagrees.
As I noted, this is merely a public service announcement . . . and with it a non-award winning poem:
“How many days until Christmas,” you ask?
(How many more days of Fall?)
There are nineteen days left til that morning,
But still fourteen more days of the fall!
Have a great autumn day . . . 🍁😘
Do you see what I see?
How the ivy reaches out for its wall-bound companions? How the Bird of Paradise directs its growth towards these two doing their best to bloom where they’re planted?
The longer I contemplate that downward swoop of the ivy the more my thoughts turn toward a person or two from my youth. Being much further along the road than I was in my teens they were influencers for my good and encouragers by deliberate intention. They had reached their own life goals—they’d set their sights towards them and had largely attained them. They’d begun their climb with just a few inches of growth at the start. Then by several feet and soon by leaps and bounds like this wild-growing ivy until they too had scaled their wall and found themselves at the top of it. Up at the roofline of their career or field of study, having gained years of experience, having done their due diligence and the hard work needed to craft a thing well—after enjoying some season of well earned success they turned toward those in their proximity. Not by looking down at though. Instead, while they continued steadily growing, they turned toward saying, “here’s how you scale a wall, here’s what I learned on the way . . . “
Do you see what I see? What a beautiful composition may be formed when those who have climbed turn toward.