A Cactus Lesson

17 Aug

Here’s an example of Generosity. In fact, this probably qualifies as Lavish Generosity.

Or Abundant Generosity. Or Unselfish G… Or Bountiful G… Just a few more:

Copious… Abounding… Bounteous… Overflowing… Exuberant… Luxuriant…

Plenteous… Now substitute these words for Generosity.

Civility

Thoughtfulness

Mercy

Compassion

Gratitude

You finish the lists with your own words. Then, when finished, translate the words into what you do today. Pick one and take it into your world. You and the world will be better for it.

The Least Expected Place

16 Aug

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Beautiful flowers grow from a boulder’s jagged crevice, from cracks in city streets, the least expected places…even from a barrel cactus draped in sharp fishhook spikes.  Beauty has the strength and apparent determination to appear and thrive no matter what the circumstances might be.  So may I experience Beauty today in all the unfolding moments that await the dawn.  May I find her in the least expected place.

Seventy-Seven

16 Aug

Sometimes it seems like yesterday
collided with today.
Yet in my mind I know it’s true,
the only thing to say
is life has passed so quickly by,
the march does not delay.

A blink, a wink, the pages turn,
the epilogue’s in sight
and I am somewhat overwhelmed
to know that I just might
live well into my 100th year,
a dubious delight.

And so when morning dawns again
the numbers will portray
the reason why, I do not lie,
I take my green pill tray,
chug down all six delicious bits,
fling wide the door and shout
“HOORAY”!

 

 

Early Morning

13 Aug

 

The black metal chair on the patio, the one with the tan cushion, is still cool from the fresh night air.  Feels like hints of cooling weather are appearing cautiously.  It’s quiet as I set the keyboard on my lap, adjust the iPad on a small table, the home of small cactus plants and a ceramic rabbit who is smiling at me.

On the iPad screen a news headline pops up announcing another political conflict.  Ignore it, at least for the moment.  It will be there an hour from now.  Dove songs pull me away from news bulletins and escort me back to red crepe myrtle blossoms and lush greenish-gray succulents in a bright blue pot.  It is a very pleasant moment.  As I begin to think about what to write this morning, a large gray dove makes a two-point landing to my left onto the concrete patio.  She slides to a stop about ten feet from her destination — a plastic dish filled with cool water.  Then she sees me.  Even though I am perfectly still, she knows a foreigner when she sees one.  Her eyes, dark black spots in that lovely soft gray body, watch me intently.  She wants the water, not a moment with me.  After almost of minute of the staring contest, she turns and walks away, as if to prepare for takeoff.  But, thirst wins.  Back she comes, very slowly, watching me as she walks.  Another pause, then up she jumps onto the edge of the plastic bowl.  I’m frozen in place, hardly breathing.  She is scared, but thirsty.  We are both staring at each other.  And then in an act of courage and desperation, she dips her beak into the water and drinks.  Then again.  And again.  Between the drinks, she looks at me, but convinced that I’m not charging after her, she seems to be willing to give up the eye contact in favor of the good water.

Thirst satisfied, she hops down onto the patio runway and flaps into the sky.  Maybe she will come back for another drink later.  But I do hope she will mention to her friends that in a remarkable moment this morning, she encountered a human who did not attempt to scare her away or harm her.  I choose to think she will do that, and that makes me happy.

The morning light is brighter now as the sun’s brilliance continues to light the sky.  Sounds have changed from an hour ago.  Now the quiet has given way to traffic noises.  Tires hum on warming asphalt, an occasional honk, even a distant train whistle all mean that we are on the way to another day.  Soon the cool air of morning will surrender to the hot sun and the black metal chair will be uncomfortably hot.  Birds will have finished their morning conversations.  Traffic noises will diminish as people sit down behind desks or do whatever they do until the bell rings and the traffic song begins again.

I’ll come out again tomorrow morning, early, and watch the humming birds chase each other, listen to the cooing doves, watch the little St. Francis statue in the garden move from shadow to full light as the earth spins and all her inhabitants come along for the ride.  I hope we are all bathed in light, illuminated, like the Little Friar.  And I hope tomorrow in the very early morning, more creatures will stop by.  We will have a nice conversation.

May It Be So

1 Aug

May all who wake this morning with sufficient
resources for the day
remember those who lack basic human necessities.

May truth be told,
lies be challenged,
patience be abundant,
forgiveness be given from
charitable hearts.

When the sun sets,
may I look back on the day
with humility, not self-indulgent pride;
may the things I have done
rise to the high standards of genuine
integrity and quality;
may something I have said
enhance the common good of us all;
and may I close the journal of
this day with a sense of
peace and gratitude.

May it be so.

 

 

Miller Avenue

26 Jul

It isn’t there anymore.  It used to be.  I know.  I became a person there.

And even though the red plank front porch and the pink bathroom with a claw foot tub and my tree house overlooking the garden and the old one-car garage that leaned slightly to the east…even though they were swept from the earth, banished in order to “upgrade” the neighborhood, the white frame house and everything about it is still an anchor in my life.

Every child should grow up in a small white house on Miller Avenue and listen to Spike Jones on a crank handle Victrola.  The rooms were small, especially the kitchen with green linoleum that buckled near the screened back door.  Perhaps like other homes, the dining room was a crossroads for anyone moving from one room to another.  A large black, lacquered dining table claimed the center of the room and, over time, became the social center for family gatherings.  Children got a fold up card table for Sunday meals.
Not bad for us.  We could avoid the boring adult conversations about the best place to buy 20 cent gasoline, the punctuality of the milk man in his horse drawn milk wagon, and the latest rumors about Jimmy the butcher.  Not a gang lord, Jimmy really was a butcher.  He had a big square chopping table.  And a huge cleaver.  And a used-to-be white apron that was the clincher.  He was a butcher.

I think it was a local law that only fried chicken, potato salad, green beans and jello were allowed in decent homes on the first day of the week.  We must have qualified.  Sundays were very predictable.  Church in the morning, chicken at noon, naps when the last drumstick was cleaned.  Everybody napped.  It was a kind of “loosen your belt” time for kids, aunts and uncles, anyone who could find space on a bed or couch.  I think potato salad must do that.  By 4 o’clock most of the potato salad induced grogginess had worn off and we could circle the dining room table for slices of dark chocolate pie topped with spiky meringue.  The chocolate pie ritual was second only to the fried chicken ritual.

My bedroom was added on the back of the house.  Small but adequate.  Two windows looked out to a tall china berry tree that shaded the faux water well my grandfather built.  We didn’t have a well but you might think we did when you saw the facsimile.  It even had a rope, pulley and a bucket that went nowhere.  In time it quit fooling people, so we stopped being proud of it.

I had a duck and a dog.  The dog bit me in the back and the duck chased me around the backyard.  They were replaced by a series of cats who were quite content to ignore me.  A specific childhood memory returns:  china berries, the little yellow berries that fall from the tree of the same name, berries about the size of a blueberry…china berries really stink when mashed on your cousin’s back.

The roots run deep.  They do.  The memories are more than events reassembled in my mind.  They anchor me to life.

I became a person on Miller Avenue.

 

Bad Dream

24 Jul

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Relief came in the very early morning hours.
3:48 a.m.
Finally.
The twisted green sheet was in agony from
a vice-lock grip.  It seemed the air had
stopped circulating and a strange chill
filled the dark room when his eye lids snapped
open and he stared, wide eyed, into the
blackness.

A foul fragrance drifted on the oscillating
fan breeze.  When he lifted his damp
head from the sweaty pillow, released
the captive bed sheet and took a long, deep
breath, he whispered to the universe,
“Thank God that dream’s over.”

Waking from a bad dream is a great relief.
Waking from a very bad dream is like strolling
into heaven to find that the streets really are
gold paved and there’s a donut shop on every
corner.

Get the light on as quickly as possible, make
sure the back door is still locked, dump coffee
into a paper filter, pick up the half read copy
of Murder At Midnight, put it down quickly,
speak to the giggling coffee pot
(words unprintable)
wait.

About 2 p.m. he will remember his 3:48
experience, note that normal had now
replaced the nightmare, and wish that
it all worked that way
in politics.