Watchword

Setting a Course

I have found myself drawn to writing. Nevertheless, I have been reluctant to create with words–who cares what I write? Who wants to read it? Probably nobody. What does it matter? Still, I take pleasure in words and the telling of stories.

I love words. Ideas mined, dug from the Earth; passed through the fire; smelted and refined; shaped and formed; hammered.

man forging metal

I feel drawn to the keyboard and to the shaping of thoughts and stories. I get a feeling that to create with words, written and spoken, would be a blessed relief from trying to implement ideas that cannot succeed without acquiescence from others. I can read a paragraph or chapter and say, this is done. It is good. It speaks.

Lord, have you brought me to this place? Yesterday I got the feeling that I may have been wasting time by not writing and giving myself to the task. The question echoes back, what if I am a writer? Have I been a writer all along and not allowed myself to be? Or has Father brought me to this day purposefully? How many men come to a place of beginnings when they thought they had already begun? Thought they were nearing the end?

I confess to feeling encouraged when I hear of people who step into a vocation late in life. The idea that Benjamin Franklin joined the revolution as the oldest member of a group of founding fathers is heartening. And there are others who, late in life, wrote a book or painted a picture, started a business or stepped into a new passion. I should like to be one of them. Perhaps that is why I am so inspired by words of Mark Twain:


“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”


Open the gates. Let the words flow out. Let’s stories be told; ideas be kindled and stoked. Become a writer and teacher. Let your voice be heard before it is stilled by time. What can be lost by letting the words flow? More importantly, what can be lost if you don’t?

black and red typewriter

The Ring of Weakness

What can you not do?

I wonder if our prayers are less discipline and practice, and more listening and obedience–accepting the silent guest as we take the ring of our meager power to see it cast into the fiery chasm. Once the ring is cast, we listen anew.

Gold and ivory ring

As 2023 begins why not ask questions? What is your vocation? What can you not do? Is there a calling, a living duty that transcends obligation? The question demands we look inward, to try to see clearly what nourishes and grows. A vine grows and reaches, moving from its beginning, putting down roots like footsteps in the earth.

Are there vines in your life?

Another Revolution

The Path Around Our Star

Another year ends. Another begins.

Based on past searchings, will you ride the clouds to a different horizon? Most of us settle uneasily into resignation. Things will likely be as they have been. We move inexorably along the plane of another revolution around our star.

photo of night sky

Some of us will leave the cyclical journey. Indeed, we don’t know which revolution will be left undone. Will you plunge inward to your fiery center, or be flung outward into cold darkness?

Or, perhaps there is another way: .A spiral upward. Rise to the summit where our darkness and light are clearly seen in their beauty.

Trust Your Compass

And Check the Newspaper

I am pondering the season of my life this morning. I have just finished the book on time [How to Inhabit Time- Understanding the Past; Facing the Future; and Living Faithfully Now, by James K.A Smith]. It exhorts me to be conscious of WHEN I am, not just ‘where.’ The author argues, we are the composite of our life and experience up to now. Our experiences make us who we are. Rather than try to escape them we can allow them to shape us.

Occasionally, I wonder what would have happened if I had taken different course. I pondered this some time ago with respect to my parent’s decision to move us to Portland, Here’s the link to that post. That choice was made for me, but what about the decisions I’ve made for myself? What would have happened, for example, if I had continued teaching until retirement? I would have retired 10 or 12 years ago. If that had been my choice, what would I be doing now? Probably, exactly what I am doing. Moreover, my trajectory from this point is really up to me.

I realize that I am blessed with the ability to remember things. I don’t remember Bible verses exclusively. There are other quotes and snippets that are important to me as well. I have the Bible to interpret my experiences. Sometimes, I believe the Holy Spirit delivers on my doorstep–like a newspaper–certain ideas and thoughts from books and people. That the things I remember are not from the Bible does not mean that they aren’t biblical. The thoughts about character, and uses of time, and clever turns a phrase, are designed to be used. They serve as a kind of compass.

 I remember when I worked in the woods, we needed our compass to set an azimuth that would lead us (if we did it right) to the place where we were to work that day. North, south, east, and west, were always the same. But the specific direction changed. The points of the compass were immovable, but our movement gave us direction.

shallow focus photography of black and silver compasses on top of map

The various thoughts and ideas that inform our lives are similar. The four points of the compass are established in the logos of God. But, often our direction is determined by what the Lord has delivered to us in experience, knowledge and memory.

The Home We Left Behind

Today, I realize that I have not posted an entry in my “Word Carver” blog in over a year. The last one was a glimpse of a difficult time: the closing of the door on 35 years–half of my life–spent in my home on 78th Avenue. I was awash in melancholy.

The days of purging before that last post were fresh and aching. The yard sale, when our belongings were carried away like the spoils of war; each trip to Goodwill–these were like tearing out pieces of my life. I experienced something like guilt. The moving felt like betrayal–ruthless rejection. The house had sheltered us; provided comfort and safety. It had embraced us. Now, I was ripping away scraps of it like necrotic tissue. It stung.

The reasons for the move are still valid. Having decided not to share our home with other “tenants”–some 85 people over the years— the house was too big for two of us. Five bedrooms and three bathrooms were more than we needed. Moreover, we were less inclined to maintain the space, a requirement for homeowners. Inside or outside, an older two-story house is a lot of work–we had other things we would rather do.

Furthermore, Portland, as I am fond of saying these days, “ain’t the city she used to be.” In the waning months of 2020, the city was rocked by riots and hooliganism. Symbols of heritage and authority were being toppled. Statues of Washington, Jefferson, even an elk, were defaced or demolished. The police department of which our son-in-law was a part, had become the enemy. A homeless village was forming a block away. The question loomed: how long will property values hold, particularly after the coming election? The fabric of civil order was already coming unraveled. What would happen if the disastrous administration were to win another four years?

As turned out, we needn’t have worried. Property values held steady or even increased after we moved. Still, there had been reason for concern. As the saying goes, hindsight is always 20/20.

There was a more important reason to move, though. Did it make sense to wait another ten years to make this move? We would be in our 80s. Moving then would certainly be a bigger challenge. And as the time of our relocation drew nearer, we would likely have become more reliant on our children and others for help with maintenance, not to mention the move. Moreover, it made more sense to do this while we could steer our own destiny–earn a hernia in the process– rather than be swept along by circumstance. It did, and does make more sense to be “the master of our fate and the captain of our soul.”

And then, there were the ghosts of the future: One of us left alone in that big house, left with only memories and quiet. The somber removal to hospital deathbed or funeral home. The estate sale with its parade of strangers picking through the remnants of our lives, bartering our existence.

No. Moving was the right decision.

But there was grief. The last day, I walked through the deserted rooms and halls; inspected our 5000 square foot homestead. I sat on the steps in the side yard, which had been mostly for storage and constantly needing tidying. I thought of the empty house; the newly mowed yard; the last items in the back of the car waiting to be taken away. I remembered the hundreds of people who had been here. I remembered…

Evenings glad with music.
A hearth-fire that’s ablaze.
The gifts that come to mortals
in a thousand different ways.

… laugher and contentment,
And the struggle for a goal.
… everything that’s needful
For the shaping of a soul.” *

I wept.

Occasionally, in the transitional months that followed the move, while we remained cloistered in a 26′ trailer waiting for our new house to be built, I would sense a familiar tightness in the back of my throat, a choking feeling. I first noticed it after my sister passed away. It was grief. Sometimes, foolishly, I would succumb to temptation. I would search my computer for the photos of the old house that our realtor took when she listed the property. I would wander through the rooms and remember the unseen details of every closet and corner — spending my grief. Emptying it. Hoping it would eventually subside–knowing it would.

It’s been over a year. We are now in a wonderful new place near family. We live in the country amid trees, birds and even chickens. There are new sounds and the scent of earth and trees. From our living room window, we see a new world stretch out before us. I am finally able to call it “home” without feeling guilty for abandoning the house on 78th–the house that loved us. There are days I still feel like a guest for a moment or two. But as winter turns to spring, I can feel the changing of the seasons. The prospect of summer, autumn and another winter reassures me. I feel the promise that, as the pandemic wanes, we will, again, throw open the doors and welcome friends and family to share our place on earth.

The thought brings me home.

~~~

  • Living, by Edgar A. Guest

A Tough Day

Saying Goodbye to My Home

Sometimes it’s a good idea to just let yourself grieve over the passing of time and places. So, here is one of those times.

Wisdom of Thankfullness

I have heard it said that the worst part about being old is remembering being young; the helplessness of knowing you cannot go back. Yet, I wonder when we reach the distant shore beyond the world as we have known it, if we will find ourselves returned and in the flower of life, men and women of, perhaps 30 years. How would it be to again be full of life but to have also the knowledge of the aged? To know the wisdom of thankfulness when yearning for what was is transformed into the joy for what is. Few in their youth know such wisdom.

Erosion

hope-1

 

 

 

 

 

There comes  a certain age.
Life has eroded away,
like a trodden path.
And there, revealed in the way, is a stone.

It is hope.

You did not know it was there,
Yet there it is.
You had hoped for something and did not know it.

And then, as life erodes away,
you realize the hope is broken.
It is unfulfilled.

And all this —

the erosion,

the hope,

the disappointment.

This all happens at the same time.

Pleasantview

PleasantviewSo many have also lived.
I ponder here at my Father’s burial place.
It is a strange thing but I think he would be proud of me. If he could see me, I think he would be proud.That was always important to me. 

I wonder sometimes if I see him more than he was.
I don’t think so.
I saw him when he stood among the giants.
I also saw him as a mere man.
I only prefer to dwell on his pride, not his failures.

He sometimes had vision without drive.
He was sometimes paralyzed by a sense of inadequacy and hopelessness.
But he was a good man—good to me; good for me.
By grace I can step over the faults that are part of his legacy.
Step over and build on what remains.

Remembering

Dan -leaves
 
 
 
 
 
 
Remembering is when thoughts drift together into,
Who?
What?
When?
Where?
And most important of all…How?
How did it happen?
 

I’ve searched the net to find out where this little poem came from. I know it’s not original with me. It came, if I recall, from a long-play recording of poetry by Carl Sandburg, although I don’t believe it is his. I think, rather, it was attributed to his mother — still, I wouldn’t bet on it. I wouldn’t bet on the accuracy of my recollection of it, either. So, call it a paraphrase of a poem that I once heard and committed to imperfect memory.

I think of it now because my sister’s life is evaporating before our eyes like a puddle in the sun.

We  keep a sober vigil, waiting for Maxeen’s inevitable transport from this world to the next. And in the waiting, I sit with my sister and remember the ‘who,’ the ‘what,’ the ‘where’ and ‘when’ of her life and mine. We remember the all important ‘how’ it happened.

Passing the time with photographs of people and places that we both remember, I realize that it is not just one person that is dying, it is a community. Those people and places known to no one but she and I will soon be known only by me. They will be treasured in only one heart, and eventually, the remembering will cease. Who? What? When? Where? How? Will swirl away like fallen leaves.

In Kewanee, our home town, on the street  where I spent my first seven years and Maxeen her first 17, autumn was a mystical time. I remember it as a kind of festival. The men would rake leaves that drifted from the brooding maples that lined McKinley Avenue.  The children would push them into long ridges — imaginary walls of make-believe houses in which unfolded pretend lives — until a grown-up, with his rake, would pull the leaves over the curb into the street and set them afire. The smoke would rise silently and touch the branches where the leaves had grown and lived, and then, like a fragrant memory, drift skyward and be gone.

~~~

[Photo taken from http://edweathers.blogspot.com]