Identity Crisis

Third Sunday of Lent

I’ve been sick this past week.

A week ago, on Sunday morning at church, I began feeling the onslaught

of what has turned out to be

The Lost Week

It’s an odd thing, losing a week. I remember sleeping a lot and coughing a lot and fevers and watching a lot of television that did not necessarily make a lot of sense. And today, I feel empty. Not sure what to write; not sure how to begin thinking again.

I’m used to a mind that thinks. This one? Not so much. Mostly it seems to stare out from behind my eyes, wondering what all this is about anyway. And why it is, exactly, I strive so much. I expect that will fade and I’ll be back to thinking soon, but in the meantime, I’m home on a Sunday morning, another unlikely occurrence, the hacking cough has for the most part stopped, and I’m left feeling a little dish-raggey.

I didn’t expect to give up my mind for Lent.

Funny the things we cling to as our identity. I write and I think. What am I if I don’t?


My Ordinary Skills

Today’s WordPress prompt asks, “what ordinary skills are you bad at?” An interesting question. I guess we’re all “bad” at something although that’s such a subjective and judgmental word that I’m not sure “bad” is an effective way to describe anything.

So, okay. What ordinary, daily thing am I less than effective in doing? The first thing that comes to mind is remembering what day it is. In other words, I’m not so great at the skill of memory: ask my husband, my children, my friends, my students. If I don’t write it down, I probably won’t remember. And this isn’t an age thing, it’s a pretty much all my life thing.

So I got to thinking about that. Actually, I wonder about memory a lot, write about memory a lot, try to figure out why I remember some things and not other things a lot.

Now here’s the funny thing. My son just called and asked why he couldn’t get on a family website anymore and when he repeated the password, I realize I’d changed it and forgotten. Oh. Good thing I write things down. Especially passwords.

I’ve thought a lot about memory, and one of the things I’ve considered is how much I rely on what I call “messages.” In other words, much of what I rely on are the words that come into my head to tell me what to say. For example, most mornings when I wake, I ask myself, or my mind, “what day is it?” and wait for an answer. I find that odd. Not that it happens, but that I do it at all.  

In some circles that would be called schizophrenia and in others mysticism. I was somewhat startled, reading the book Muses, Madmen, and Prophets to learn that hearing my name called from somewhere outside me (i.e. not in my head) was a signal of schizophrenia. I’ve heard my name called most of my life. What? I ask. Sometimes I get an answer and sometimes the call simply turns me in another direction. I’ve considered those moments spirit’s promptings.

But then it’s also true that many mystics have been medicated out of their minds, so to speak. Seeing signs and wonders is not necessarily a valuable commodity in our world. At least, not since Freud. Carl Jung, on the other hand, was a little wiser and willing to be filled with wonder.

So there you are. A musing on musings. A wondering attached to what do I do least well. But then again, another question arises: perhaps our weaknesses are also our strengths if we recognize and accept them. Perhaps by allowing my hard drive memory, as it were, to remain empty of unnecessary verbage, I’ve allowed it to fill with space dedicated to spirit. I suppose the argument could be made that spirit resides in our hearts not our heads, our solar plexus not our amygdala, but perhaps spirit, in whichever way we follow it, resides wherever it wants to.

Right now it said, find an image of hands knitting. So I did. Hopefully that image means something to you.

Happy New Year! May your journey bring you peace of mind, peace of heart, and a healthy body. What more could you ask?



The Return of Light

This end of week period leading into Christmas includes several stellar days: the Solstice, Hanukkah, a New Moon, and Christmas Eve, all bellweather dates for celebrating the return and rebirth of light.

This morning, I was thinking about my friends who live in the Southern Hemisphere and how this time of year for them is high summer, this solstice their turn from long days to shorter days into winter while in our Northern Hemisphere the turn is to light and to longer days into summer.

And I know there are families in Australia, for example, celebrating Christmas, with very different customs, I’d think. Although I did read how Cate Blanchett said they have a traditional roast beef Christmas dinner but no one eats it because it’s too hot. Odd, this Christmas thing and the traditions around it.

And then I began thinking how Christmas is really a European creation; i.e. from the Northern Hemisphere. Yes, we’d like to think it’s a desert creation with the birth of Jesus and all that: the baby, the star, wise men, shepherds; but the reality is Christmas was created in Rome. And developed throughout Europe to replace the pagan holiday around Solstice. And yet, tomorrow morning in church, we’ll read the story of Mary and Joseph and the baby and once more, we will celebrate the birth.

We are such odd beings we human being. No doubt someone reading this post will complain I’m taking the magic out of Christmas, as if that weren’t an oxymoron in itself. Magic? Christmas? Okay.

I like it too! Our house is filled with magic: with lights and cards and packages and wrapping. All of it. Oh, and cookies. I’m not sure what kind of magic that is, but they sure are good.

What I especially like at this time of year is family and stories. And I remind myself (as I seem to do each year) to ask my older sister about the stories she remembers from when we were young. And Cliff pulls out the Christmas movies and we watch Alastair Sim create Scrooge once again (I don’t deserve to be so happy!); and we pull out the Grinch (both Jim Carrey and the cartoon); and A Child’s Christmas in Wales (did you even know there was a movie based on the book?). Cliff lines up the movies next to the television and we go through them one by one, just as he stacks up the Christmas CDs and we go through them one by one.

Last year, our house was filled with family. This year, it’s mostly filled with simple. Just us. And both are wonderful in their own way.

So however you are celebrating these holy-days, may they be filled with laughter and light and peace and, most especially, cookies!



Advent and Angels

Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly. C.K.Chesterton

Advent begins tomorrow, tomorrow being Sunday for those of you who have lost track of the days with the Thanksgiving holiday; and Advent, for those not familiar with the rite, are the four weeks leading up to Christmas. Advent, or adventus in Latin, means “coming” and the coming birth of the child Jesus.

As a side note to Advent and angels, it’s funny to compare the language of Black Friday, with which commerce begins the season, with Advent, in church language. Ah, yes, once again the combination of sacred and secular.

I like Advent; but then again, I like Christmas, too, with all the candles and lights and twinkling and pine boughs and stores filled with people and Salvation Army Santas ho-hoing outside. I like it all.

And especially, I like calling in the blessing of the angels every First Sunday in Advent, as in tomorrow, which I do every year.

I don’t know what “angels” are. Oh, I know names and concepts and what other people say they are, what other mystics have said, but I’m a rather pragmatic mystic. I say I don’t know. What I do know is that I can feel the energy like velvet against my skin and a trembling along my shoulders. What I also feel is humble. We call; they come.

I also particularly like the idea of taking this season lightly. Pushing and shoving to buy is not my idea of lightly; neither is a penitential demeanor. These are holy days and are meant to be celebrated.

The tides and times of the earth year, if nothing else, demand ceremony. All ancient peoples knew this, whether in the Northern Hemisphere or the Southern. I think of my friends who live in the Southern Hemisphere at the high earth-tipping-times, the Solstices, and I celebrate their days of full light as I celebrate our days of deep stillness as we wait for the return of light.

It doesn’t matter how we name these times: they are sacramental holy-days.

I want to remember to hold myself as lightly as angels this  holiday time, to laugh at the burned cookies because my wings lifted me into distraction, or the ornament that somehow all by itself grows wings and flies from the tree to shatter on the hard reality of floor. We could all probably take note of the hard floor and practice our landing, toes pointed, wings fluttering, oh so lightly.


All Saints/All Souls

This is one of my most favorite times of the year, a time of remembering in a way that Memorial Day isn’t, of wondering about the veil between this world and the other, a time to be grateful for the people who made me who I am. A time of memories.

Candles are like memories: they beckon us deeper.

I always remember my friend Kate at this time of year. She’s still alive, by the way. She and I drove out into a dark night one November first in Mexico with little knowledge of where we were going other than we had a map. We always had a map. And bananas. Usually we had bananas and water because we could have ended up anywhere and sometimes we did.

On November first, we ended up in a little pueblo outside Mexico City where the community celebrates the Days of the Dead in the old ways which meant we walked through a block-long aisle of booths set up along each side of the road which sold food and sugar skulls with names across the forehead and tacos to eat and tamales and sugar something elses and flowers and lacy paper cut-out scenes of skeletons and tables and families and food. Food always takes a prominent place in Mexico. As do families.

And when we walked into the cemetery, it was suddenly quiet. Families gathered around flower-petal-decorated graves, tall candles burned, children played some game or another, a small boy sprawled across the top of one grave, asleep, his head in a grandmother’s lap. On the drive back to Mexico City, we took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up driving miles and unmarked miles along a road running through what we took to be constructed sewage drying pools although whether they were or not on a starlighted night with no road signs is anyone’s guess. It became one of our trips into anywhere. I remember Kate adventures at other times of the year, but I especially remember her at this time of year.

I remember my mother and my two fathers, my grandmothers and grandfathers. Both my mother and my mother’s mother were writers. I’m grateful I grew up around books, even out in the wilds of farmland Kansas, and I always remember a treasured book of my grandmother’s poetry. I remember my grandmother on the Sunderland side, too. My hands look like her hands except she’d lost the tips of two middle fingers to an axe one winter when she was a girl. So I have her hands and I’m an expert at accidents even if I haven’t lost any of my fingers yet. She’s the one that made bread and sugar cookies and biscuits. I’m a good cook because of her.

Books and foods. Now there’s a family history for you. Because of my fathers and grandfathers, I know how to fix things, how to plant and tend the land.

I’m not one for dressing up at Halloween, maybe because I’ve spent too many years in the theatre to get much of a charge out of pretending to be someone or something else. I always think of my theatre days at this time of year and mostly the times I played in melodrama for some reason. Maybe it’s the presence of villans. But I like giving out treats to the children who come to the door. Even the tall kids who don’t bother dressing up. They just want candy. Food. Something to remember the night. Funny, isn’t it, how we want to remember the night as if a candle light pulled us deeper into the darkness.

These are my saints, my souls, my history, my life. And I will light a candle for all of them this weekend.