Eternity is not something that begins after you are dead. It is going on all the time. We are in it now. Charlotte Gilman, writer (1860-1935)
Click on photo to enlarge…today on the coast.
How does a person begin all over again at the end of life? What could happen between two people to facilitate reconciliation over a lifetime of struggle and hurt? I am reflecting and feeling very deeply today on some news of an Aunt of mine who was suddenly struck ill. Yesterday we learned that she has terminal cancer. My folks were visiting our house celebrating my birthday when the call came. This is a huge shock to all of us, of course. Some time late, last evening I began to realize that this was a singular opportunity for my Aunt and her daughter to redefine their relationship, show forgiveness and rebuild a new kind of bond with the short amount of time they have left.
I have a large family – lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins and sometimes (not often) they get in each other’s lives the way families often do. It is not wrong but sometimes it makes for interesting dynamics. We all love each other and I try to be respectful in a spirit of love. This morning however, I did feel moved to give my parents a book which I had read last summer: The Four Things that Matter Most A book about Living by Dr. Ira Byock. (We met Ira many years ago when Matt and I first started attending Meeting for Worship.) So, the book came to my mind immediately, as a gentle tap on the shoulder by a friend, when I began to ponder issues like forgiveness and letting go. I asked my folks to pass the book along to my cousin.
The act of forgiveness within the family unit can be one of the most powerful and liberating of acts, especially when devastating illness visits a family. Ira tells story after story in his book of renewed, hopeful exchanges even, between family members and friends. Some words are difficult to speak sometimes: “I love you and I forgive you; please forgive me. ” How simple and how amazing is that? I will take time to be silent today. I will be silent and wait for the amazing presence of God and the gentle power of love which can move people to say things that are difficult for them to say, and act in ways of love that sometimes do not come easily.
I am going to phone my Aunt and tell her that I love her…
British Emmy award winning film: The Girl in the Cafe 2005, starring Bill Nighy is one of the few discs I’ve seen lately which contains some of the intrigue and tension an action film might have with none of the violent material. In fact the premise of the story is very subtle and cerebral — situated around a G8 summit held in Reykjavik, Iceland. This film is full of inspiring, evocative themes along with moments of intense graphic winces. You can taste the political tension this young, naive girl creates in the midst of a throng of internationally powerful diplomats.
The lighting which the director (David Yates) uses for the metallic, institutionally gray, soulless, conference atmosphere contrasts effectively with the outdoor scenes of winter in Iceland. If you thought winter in Iceland dark and bleak just try attending a G8 summit… and it forced me to question whether or not I would have had the fortitude to speak truth to power as did Gina in The Girl in the Cafe.
Check out this video. Our son sent this to me because he knows I’m a sky gazer. Keep in mind that small is beautiful, but grand is well…. grand.
Here’s a free mp3 file to download for your listening pleasure! Cumberland Gap is an old time tune with many variations, even a few different names (there’s a version called Tumblin’ Gap in the Round Peak area of North Carolina).
I’m playing it on my 1892 Fairbanks & Cole banjo. It’s played clawhammer style, (in gDGBD tuning, for you banjo players out there.) This tune will probably evolve into an arrangement with slide guitar and harmonium for the new album, but for now is a little cup of pure banjo enjoyment. Caution: Extended use may cause extreme euphoria in cats…
click here to download:cumberlandgap.mp3 (right-click and choose “save target” or “save link” to download to your computer…)
I have been expecting something like this eco-confrontation for a long while. The only time I visited Yosemite was when I was a teenager back in 1978. We visited in the late Autumn and there wasn’t much waterfall action but I still remember the smells of big trees aged beyond anyone there put together, and the towering stone – nature’s fortresses of eons and weather. The green of the river from above was like nothing I had seen being this one of my first trips to California. It was a magical visit. Even then there were a line of cars up the valley waiting to get into the Park. I don’t know how my Dad managed it but we actually found a room there overnight, as it was crowded even for the off-season.
So now two small groups of concerned citizens have called developers onto the red carpet and filed suit. Friends of Yosemite Valley: The case has Yosemite’s most loyal advocates sharply divided over how to balance preservation with access to public lands. Even environmentalists can’t agree on how to minimize the human footprint — some believe cars should be kept out entirely; others say visitors should have to make reservations in advance.
The idea of keeping people out because Yosemite just can’t handle all the impact is not a new one and not a popular one at that. I don’t think I would like it one bit if someone told me that I had to get in line to visit Glacier Park which is just up the road from us. We visit multiple times each year and we have family traditions centered around Glacier. It is part of our familial landscape. That would tork me off; but what if it were the only way to save the Park? One year the Park Rangers in Yosemite simply closed the gate when all the parking spaces were full. That seems sensible. First come, first serve and you don’t have to build more hotels nor parking lots to accomodate the overflow. Just build a really wide U-turn lane! On the other side of the issue, the Park service says that visitation has been falling steadily. Last year only 3.36 million visitors instead of 4 million in 1996. So what is the answer? Any ideas, folks? I would love to hear your comments.
Some wise person said that ” Pride is the root of all evil.” Darn, who was that? Oh I remember, it was C. S. Lewis. “Pride is the mother of all sin.” I think it is all too easy for Friends to fall prey to a distinctive sense of pride and differentiation when politics or social justice issues come up in our discourse with others. We do stand out in the crowd and sometimes that feels better than just being one of the many. We feel as if we actually do have some solid solutions. It is simply too easy to be ‘correct’ in these areas because there is so much material to work with; so much that isn’t right in our society and in the world. After all didn’t Christ say: Feed the hungry. So, Friends say: Let’s get on with it, shall we?
However, we should as Friends, focus more on what makes us spiritually unique. In this, I am convinced, our power lies; not in our ability to have the right answer when involved with social and political action. Our Quaker’s profound history of spiritual practice — the pathway to awareness of the Spirit through silence; experience of the Divine via quiet introspection, prayer, meditation is unique. It is a transcending practice and a voice in the wilderness — this is how we are to live in the world. George Fox wrote: “ All Friends wait in the measure of the Spirit of God to guide you up to God. and keep you all in peace and unity ” (Ep 70)
It is the listening, the experiencing of God in the present which leads us to the course of action we seek. When one truly hears the still small voice within – God with us – it can be a humbling experience. Waiting on the Spirit is in essence – an act of humility. We are putting our selves aside in order to receive God’s voice. We do this in our private worship and in the collective worship during Meeting. When we put ourselves aside together then that can lead to true strength and clarity. “All friends of the Lord everywhere, whose minds are turned within towards the Lord, take heed and hearken to the light within you,…” (Ep. 56)
If you don’t know about The Onion spoofs… check out this whacky faux-article. It’s all in the name of fun for a Saturday morning. I snickered at what is on the table in front of this couple. Attention to detail always delivers a successful joke to its punchline. We are off to find a decent pair of crutches and on to a Birthday dinner with friends. Photograph courtesy of Matthew’s father Ron Lyon. (Owl looking at a jet overhead)