Wing Dust

Facebook reminded me–I’ve been blogging for five years. Thank you to all who have encouraged me throughout. This is where I share my heart with the world. Please help spread the word by sharing posts that resonate. Blessings.

reluctant methodist mystic

The sun is streaming in my window, warming my face on a chilly November morning.  It is Tuesday, and I leave for Europe on Thursday.  Two of our college children are taking their semester abroad, and against all practical advice, I’m tapping heavily into my retirement account to finance this adventure.  I know it’s an incredible splurge, and I’m aware of how tremendously blessed I am to have this opportunity, yet on some level it feels like a deep need rather than a luxury.   I’m trying not to panic, since panic never helps much anyway, and ends up being a colossal waste of both adrenalin and brain space.  Instead, I’m just trying to plug away at things, focusing on one task at a time, and trust that everything will come together in the end.

I want to tell myself that this is “just a trip to Europe”, (as if…

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Things Not to Worry About

I don’t know about you, but I catch myself worrying far too often, and usually about inconsequential things. If it is true that our brains can only hold one thought at a time, then why do I spend precious moments worrying about all sorts of improbable scenarios rather than focus on the joy, and light, and beauty that is right in front of my eyes?

At this very moment, for example, I am writing from my dining room, where the sun is shining brightly, warming up my back and neck, a balm after the chilly weather we’ve been subjected to this week. I can see my outline reflected on my computer screen, and in this outline, (which is gentler on the psyche than a real mirror), it looks like I’m having a good hair day and am wearing some pretty cool earrings.

My silhouette is framed by a bright blue sky and the nearly-barren branches of my favorite backyard tree. This tree fools us every year. We think it’s dead, and then, in its own way, in its own timing, it suddenly bursts into bloom and fills the yard with fragrance. Even in the winter when its leaves are gone, it stands tall and reminds me of what strength looks like.

The light gradually shifts, and suddenly a rainbow illuminates the paragraph I’m writing. (The light also illuminates all the fingerprints and smudges on my screen, but today I’m choosing to ignore them.) The furnace kicks in and I raise a mental “thank you” for a warm house and enough money to pay the heating bill.

Stephanie Pearl McPhee, in her book—“—“Things I Learned from Knitting…Whether I Wanted to or Not”, gave me a good laugh today. In her chapter, aptly titled: “Don’t worry, be happy” McPhee lists “5 things WORRYING NON-KNITTERS HAVE WARNED ME ABOUT” :

  1. Knitting needles are very pointy. I could put out my eye at any moment.
  2. If I were knitting while in a car and there happened to be an accident, I could be impaled or even killed by my own knitting.
  3. If I am not very careful, I or someone else could become entangled in my yarn and be unable to elude or escape danger.
  4. If I am a victim of a crime or terrorism, my knitting needles could be grabbed and turned against me as a weapon.
  5. If I’m sitting and knitting in the presence of children, one of them could run into my knitting while playing and be impaled, have an eye put out, become entangled, or, heaven forbid, all of the above. “

When I read the above list of worries, it puts my own mental loop into perspective, and I just shake my head and laugh at my silly old self. I don’t need to shame her, she’s just doing the best she can, and old habits die hard.

Speaking of habits, did any of you make new year’s resolutions? Mine were pretty simple this year: Honor my gifts, and …something else that I can’t remember at the moment. Maybe the worry got in the way again, I wouldn’t be surprised. But I’ll choose to be amused. I’m sure it will come back to me when the time is right.





Mending a Broken Heart

It’s a gloomy day in a gloomy spring. Rain is pouring non-stop in what appears to be our new local temperate rain forest.

I’m lying in bed, recovering from a leg injury, trying to “be have” myself, resting my leg on a pillow. I’m “supposed to” be paying bills and such, but my heart isn’t in it. My heart is in a lot of other places apparently.

My heart is with Anne, my mentor, teacher, wise woman and companion in the healing profession, who will undergo a bilateral mastectomy tomorrow, on her path to reclaim a long life of vibrant health. Something about this grips me to the core. Her courage, her spirit, her choice to embrace all the positive aspects of this experience, leave me awestruck. But I am railing about the unfairness. Why? Why her? Why anybody?

A mastectomy seems like such a maiming, such a violation, such a shattering of something so powerfully symbolic of the feminine—the first bloom of the path to womanhood, the seat of our ability to nurture new life.

According to legend, Amazon warriors used to cut off a breast to permit them to be better archers. And so it is that as we lose parts of ourselves, be they physical, emotional, or spiritual, the ensuing process of loss, grief and recovery, allow us to develop new skills, habits, attitudes, that will serve us better in the days to come.

Oh Anne, my prayer for you today is that your sacrifice will ultimately be worth the cost, and that when all is said and done, your arrows will fly true.

My heart is with Michelle, our pastor of the past six years, moving today to Mankato in the rain. She has served us well, and is called to move on. I am thankful for the crossing of our paths, for the miles we have walked together. We are at that crossroads where our ways must part, at least for the time being, that fork in the road marked “God be with ye”, the origin of today’s simpler “goodbye”.

My heart is with my artist son, bound today for Tennessee, for a gig doing airbrush tattoos for–as he put it–” hillbillies at NASCAR”. It’s the millennium, in what would some say is post-racial America, yet I worry  for his safety as a young man of color traveling in the South.

My heart is with the people of South Africa, as Nelson Mandela’s light begins to flicker. The man whose life has been a testament to persistence, forgiveness, hope, and freedom, will undoubtedly soon finish his earth’s journey. When we lose our leaders and teachers, our pastors, or parents, it’s a frightening prospect—the mantle has passed to our shoulders and we understand that carrying on the work is now up to us. We pray that the seeds they’ve planted have fallen on rich soil, and have had time to root deeply, so that we’ll be strong enough and equipped for the task at hand.

My heart is with a couple of little girls I met last week at the overflow shelter. I spent some time reading to them on a saggy couch in a church basement. They liked my earrings and told me I looked like a rock star, high praise from a four and a six year-old, (and music to the ears of one whose last birthday just made her eligible for the Goodwill’s senior discount).   One of them asked me if it was ok to take her shoes off. I said “of course”. “That’s ‘cause this is my house” she replied, then asked me, beaming “are you my auntie?” “I’m your auntie for tonight”, I said, but went home troubled, thinking about all our children, and how we can be better aunties.

My heart is in so many places today, it feels splintered, if not shattered, and I struggle to hold onto enough of it for myself. I hold these people in my heart, and perhaps they hold me in theirs as well, but does that mean that a part of my heart goes with them, and a part of their hearts get left behind? Is that why people end up being heartless, because they get spread too thin? Or is it part of the mystery of life that the heart continually replenishes itself, that as much as we give away and share, more grows to replace it?

The Bible tells us that “God hardened Pharoah’s heart”, which has always seemed a dirty trick, a heartless play by God, if you will, which I have never understood. Dr. Suess, on the other hand, tells us that the Grinch’s heart “grew three sizes that day”. This gives me hope that, given the blessing of a non-judgmental, loving community, small-heartedness is something from which we can ultimately recover.

And how does the heart work, I wonder? I don’t mean the physical, blood-pumping, life-sustaining heart with which we are all too familiar. I mean the metaphorical heart, the one the Bible tells us to guard since “it is the wellspring of life”.   The ancients understood the heart, rather than the mind, to be the seat of the soul, and they may well have been right. Besides, theres just no poetic ring to “I love you with all of my brain” or “I hold you in my cranium.”

And my dreams, oh those dreams. They just keep on a’comin’, wave after wave after wave—I need some dreamless nights to catch up and incorporate the lessons they bring:

Little girls that need tending, girls bitten by tigers, or riding camels, or afraid that they are not beautiful enough.

A young man, driving erratically (I hope he at least has his permit)–I am riding in the backseat, leaning forward, calmly speaking into his right ear as he careens the wrong way down a divided road, coaxing him past obstacles until he can get back on the right side of traffic, making sure he slows down before he goes over a big bump.

 A woman I meet at a retreat house tells me she was at the funeral of a mother of three children—I don’t recognize the dead woman’s name. I wonder–did I know her? Her partner has already remarried; I think that seems a little quick, and hope she’s taken time to do her grieving.

As I heated my coffee this morning and the haze of sleep finally started to lift, I was startled to recognize that the dead woman was me, as was her remarried partner, as was the young driver, as were the little girls–pieces of my psyche that have separated or gotten left behind along the way. I understand that I have to be kind and gentle to myself, to invite back and incorporate these missing pieces of me, honor their journey, tend their wounds, embrace them back into my current life. I need to take good care of myself and pace myself, and make space for the frightened little girls, for the young man who’s driving through scary territory, to grieve for that young woman who died, and rejoice for that somewhat older, slightly wiser woman, who’s still taking a chance on life.

Milano, 5 a.m.

It’s 12:00 p.m. Milan time, but my body thinks it’s still 5 a.m., and is behaving accordingly.  In an attempt to reset my bio-clock, I am forcing myself to stay awake, even though my body is begging for a nap.  No scintillating posts today, that’s for sure.  My brain has checked out.  Perhaps that’s what jet lag is all about—the brain and body being out-of-synch.

My trip from Minnesota to Milan was largely uneventful, which is usually a good way to describe air travel.  I nearly missed my transatlantic flight at JFK due to being in the wrong terminal. I got to my gate.  The sign said my flight was destined for Salt Lake City.  I, however, was destined for Milan.  At that point I had only 45 minutes until takeoff. I quickly retraced my steps, with difficulty found my way outside to the airport shuttle (no thanks to airport signage), and realized just in time that I was waiting on the wrong track.  I got to the correct terminal, but was sent back by the security guard to the airline desk to get a different boarding pass.  Of course there was a problem with my reservation in the computer.  By now I had less than half an hour to get through security and to my plane.  When the Alitalia employee told me the flight would be two hours late, I was actually deeply relieved.

Updated boarding pass in hand, I went through NY security.  In the NY airport, I noticed, there were actual written instructions inside the gray bins– Step one:  Unbuckle your belt.  (No problem, I didn’t wear a belt.)  Step two:  Move your hips in a circular motion.  (Hunh?)  Step three:  Pull your belt out. (Ok, New York is just plain weird.)  I glance up at the top of the instruction sheet and laugh out loud as I read.  This insert is entitled:  “Helpful Airport Moves—Security Mambo.”  Seeing that I am amused, the security guards show me another insert in the series, something to do with a suit jacket shimmy.  You’re supposed to slide your jacket down your shoulders and “shake what your momma gave you.”    How nice to know that in the middle of what has become a very stressful process, somebody still has a sense of humor.

Our flight eventually boards several hours after its scheduled departure time.  It’s a pretty snazzy airplane.  I’m gratified to notice that I understand a majority of the steward’s Italian introductory remarks:  “Welcome aboard, sorry for the delay, etc. etc.”  It’s not until I hear his English rendition that I catch the reason for our delay– there has been a strike of the air traffic controllers in Italy.  This is only slightly more reassuring than knowing that your plane has had mechanics swarming aboard for the last few hours fixing whatever mysterious ailment your aircraft is suffering.   I wonder, when our plane lands in the morning, will the air controllers be there,? Or will they instantly promote folks, say, from the duty free shops, shoe shine or currency exchange—“say, we’ve got a special assignment for you today.”   But before either take-off or landing, we need to board, and boarding is hampered by a couple of men arguing about the poor design of a fellow passenger’s carry-on bag.  She has lifted her bag to the overhead big, where it stubbornly sticks out, victim of some design person deciding the handle doesn’t need to be retractable.  This is not a broken handle, but one designed not to ever push in, and these guys are not happy about it.  They are debating loudly across the aisle, with the stereotypical Italian hand gesture–five fingers together as if to grip something, elbows bent.  These gesticulations impede my progress to my seat and I need to spit out my first useful Italian word “permesso” in order to get to my seat.  Four thousand miles later, controllers or no controllers, we do land safely in Milan.

My six weeks of Italian, thanks to Rosetta Stone, and fluency in Spanish, have made communicating easier than it would have been otherwise.  I can understand far more than I can speak, but unlike with Spanish, there still are big gaps.  For example, at the coffee shop, I am able to understand a heated discussion between two airport employees that apparently has to do with raising rates of some sort and about protesting injustice when there is due cause.  I am unable, however, to understand the barista’s simple question to me:  The English equivalent “for here or to go?”  This is an important question in Italy, because there is a price differential if you stay to have your coffee at a table vs if you stand at the bar to consume it, or take it to go.  So I take my pastry and coffee “to go”, which is about a twenty-foot walk to the seating area of the airport.   I eat, and people watch, and eventually give in to the nap, on the grounds that I’ll be driving later that day, which, as it turns out, is a very good decision.

After my nap, another snack, and more people watching, I eventually make my way to the car rental place where I am to meet Emman.  He is coming from Rome to meet me and we will travel together for the weekend–a grand European adventure.  He arrives in good time, and I am both delighted and relieved.  He’s a good friend and a good traveller.  It’s so good to see him always, and we’ve managed to find each other in a foreign airport without using cell phones.  In fact, our whole time together has been planned via email.  Whatever happens, as long as we’re together, we’ll manage.  We rent our car and hit the road.

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