Sunday Morning ~ Filling the Basket

Sunday Morning ~ Filling the Basket

Mtanga ukoma mdi kusomera. ~ The basket of maize looks good when you have really topped it up.

~ Chewa proverb

October 13, 2019

Hi Everyone,

This week I drove to Brunswick for a TEDx celebration and reunion for those who’ve participated in Maine since it’s inception ten years ago. The TEDx talk I did was in May of 2016 and is one of the most exciting and scary things I have ever done. I don’t think I ever would have been chosen if it weren’t for my luck to have friends who believed in my message and had skills to make a professional one minute video to submit with the application. My friends Kathy and Desiree had the knowledge and skill and generously gave of their time. I totally credit them with my being there. I so badly didn’t want to let them down. Once accepted, there was the writing and re-writing of the script, the practicing, the re-learning how to hold my body, stop pointing at the audience, stop swaying, remember the pauses and (not being a theater person) oh my God, it was hard. I felt so much pressure. I felt like I had nine minutes to make a difference in women’s lives. TED talks can be so powerful and I thought I had a chance and didn’t want to blow it. I watched about a million TED talks in the months leading up to it, and learned a lot! I watched some of them several times trying to glean from the speakers what made them powerful and riveting. I prayed. I did the wonder woman pose trying to gain confidence. I freaked at every criticism of my posture and gestures thinking I just wasn’t going to be able to pull it off. I wondered how people got through this? I’ve done scary things before! I’ve done lots of public speaking! I thrive on it! What was so terrifying about this? The lights! The rules! Still, it was an amazing experience and I am so grateful for it. I was euphoric when it was done. I received lots of positive feedback. But the women I spoke about? They have not felt any benefit.

I arrived at the celebration and mingled with the crowd. i didn’t see anyone from my May 2016 group there. I found my coach and reconnected, telling her how much I appreciated her. I chatted with some people from other groups, some were organizers some were speakers. I asked all of the speakers, “Was it the scariest thing you’ve ever done?” and there was a pretty good consensus that, yeah, it was. One guy I was talking to who’d done a talk in 2013 asked me about my topic. It didn’t take me long to get worked up into the frenzy that motivated me to do the talk in the first place. I started ranting about what’s happened in the rural parts of the country for maternity care for women. How the c-section rate is astronomical and is killing women, especially poor women and women of color. I was in a froth again and he asked, “So what came out of your talk?” I stopped and thought and said, “Not much, if anything.” Then went on saying, “It was a different world then. There was so much potential and there was so much hope for women’s issues. It was spring of 2016. We were about to have our first woman president and the focus should have been on how we should be cleaning up our act, refocusing our priorities, and joining the rest of industrialized countries with offering health care as a basic human right not an expensive luxury. We should have been addressing our gender inequalities and discrimination. But then November happened and the world changed.” I didn’t need to say any more. He nodded. He’d been mayor of a city in Maine for six years. We talked about the changing tide now in our state and both expressed hope that the pendulum is starting to swing. We’ve got a great woman governor, we’ve got potential for a brilliant new senator who is motivated to work on this. I told him about my dream of starting a graduate program for midwifery in Maine and we kicked around how to go about that. He finished his beer, I finished my cider. We exchanged business cards and moved on to other conversations with other interesting people. 

I’d thought about whether making the three hour drive to this party was worth it and decided to go, noting I could visit friends and get some errands done along the way. It was a luxury I am privileged to have. I traveled three hours in my well serviced car with a full tank of gas on dry roads. The foliage was spectacular. But imagine being a woman in active (painful) labor in a car that has no gas, faulty brakes, and bad tires in an ice storm traveling three hours to the closest hospital that will care for you. That ride would not be pleasant. But that’s what we are forcing women to do. It’s inhumane. It is a crisis. I got to sip a drink and schmooze with people as we ate fabulous food. I am so well aware of my privilege and fortune. I left there thinking, thinking, thinking, very glad I went, needing to do something tangible. 

I’d been thinking for some time about how to get a graduate program for midwifery started in Maine. Having more midwives is a very realistic solution to this problem but there are very few educational programs and none are in Maine. I’ve talked about it but didn’t know how to go about taking the first step. This reunion was a booster shot and motivator. I drove to Husson University parked in one of the lots and walked around looking for the nursing school. I found it, went to the deans office, introduced myself, and asked the secretary if I could make an appointment to talk with the dean. I was expecting a refusal or at least some hassle, but she said, sure, next week? We set a date for when I’m back from my current trip and then she asked, “Can I tell her what it is about?” I said, “I want to talk with her about starting a midwifery program here.” Then thinking she was going to act as if it were a ridiculous request, I added, “I know it’s a tall order.” The secretary wrote it down and said very sincerely, “Oh wow! She is gonna love this.” 

Step one. Done.

Love to all,

Linda

Sunday Morning ~ The Seed

Sunday Morning ~  The Seed

Ndidyeretu, chire anasowa mbeu. ~ The one who ate all there was discovered the bush had no seeds.

~ Chewa Proverb

October 6, 2019

Hi Everyone,

I usually get up early on Sunday and write a draft of this before I go to mass. Today I woke early but fell back into a deep sleep with dreams so vivid that waking up was confusing. I’d overslept by a lot. I dashed to the garden to let the chickens out and getting distracted as I always do, stopped to pick a lonely pepper on the plant growing since May. One lovely, mid-sized pepper was the only resident on the plant I lovingly tended. One pepper! I spent a frustrating summer watching one blossom after another fall off and die even though the plant looked healthy. I’d given it the sunniest spot, and though I’d pictured myself picking dozens of peppers, only one lived. This morning I gave up on getting anymore, picked that solitary pepper, and put it in the bowl of random, partnerless vegetables on my counter. I looked at it and wondered what to do with it? Something special? Make a salsa so it can be spread out among a few meals? Or would it’s specialness get lost with that? Maybe I should stuff it and make it a whole meal, but having no one to share it with seemed sad. Oh hell, I thought, maybe I’ll just eat the thing right now, raw and naked while it’s still as fresh as possible. But I was late for church and ran out thinking about that pepper as a metaphor for my life. I’ve only got one. What to do with it? Solitary and healthy with resources and energy I feel a responsibility to use it wisely. As usual, I was late for mass. I blamed the pepper. I have a different excuse every week.

My usual spot was open and I slid into the pew just before the first reading and I settled into the comfort of the familiar ritual: the readings, the responses, the gospel, the sermon. I often don’t listen to the sermon. My mind wanders and my list of things to do replays a loop especially if the delivery is dry. When George was coming to church with me I was always worried the sermon would be something open to criticism. I felt the need to defend the priest even if I agreed with George that the message was less than inspiring. But then I’d think, who cares? No one listens to the sermon anyway. It’s all about the ritual. Today though, the priest hit it square. My current state of limbo made me spongy for soaking up the message. I’ve spent a fair amount of time recently thinking about how I can make a difference or have some kind of lasting influence. I’m a bit stuck trying to transform lofty goals into achievable steps and figure out what the first step actually is. Today’s story about the mustard seed, that tiniest of seeds which grows into the largest herb (or tree, or other large vegetation that feeds the world depending on whether you like Matthew, Mark, or Luke) seemed especially poignant and obvious.  We can all relate to the metaphor but it struck me hard today and, judging from the conversation at coffee hour, others as well. The priest spoke from the heart and his authenticity was refreshing. He wasn’t preachy. I loved that. He didn’t need to describe our current state of scandalous, racist, corrupt government or national shame, but the message was as clear as if he’d spray painted it on his vestments. Maybe others heard it differently; I know we can have personal interpretations. But for me focusing on the tiniest seed was brilliant, though I got distracted a bit with wondering if mustard seeds were really smaller than say, cabbage?  Actually as I write this it sounds corny as hell, but there was a shiny moment when I thought it was the most profound thing I’d ever heard. Like I said, I was yearning for a sign, and my mustard crop is always the most reliable of anything I plant. I wondered if I was stretching it too much.

Graham Nash gave a concert in Bar Harbor this week. He was my coming-of-age celebrity crush and I always credited him with saving the world with those protest songs. He sang in our little town, looking pretty darn good, reminding us to do something and have hope. Won’t you please come to Chicago for the help that you can bring? We can save the world, re-arrange the world, it’s dying to get better. I thought the chance to see and hear him sing those words was long gone but there I was singing along with the rest of the audience, and I felt the same way I did after church today–– there’s a lot of us and we can change the world. But then I talked with a friend who told me she’d never heard of Graham Nash and I was shocked! “Really? Chicago? Teach Your Children?” I asked, horrified. “Nope, never heard of them.” she said without embarrassment. And I thought, good God, what kind of work is ahead of us? 

…Now it is Monday. I left this to attend the memorial service of a friend who was killed in a car accident. Like me, he’d been a Peace Corps volunteer right out of college. He was a bit older and I learned yesterday that Peace Corps saved him from fighting a war he didn’t believe in. He spent four years in Africa in the 60’s as a volunteer, came back and worked in many different capacities as well as a boat mechanic here on the island. He was my son’s baseball coach. He was a lover of music. He played the violin and I’d often see him at concerts in town. He came to many of the presentations I gave and we often talked about life and work in Africa. He was recently back from working with Doctor’s Without Borders in Central African Republic and two weeks before he died we had a long philosophical discussion about that organization. On August 13, I was driving back from the beach with the grandkids when we saw a firetruck blocking the road. In any other situation I would have eagerly exclaimed to James, “Look! A firetruck!”  But I knew at 3:30 on a weekday afternoon in the summer, this was not good. We got directed to a detour and as I turned I could see a demolished car near the woods. I had a sinking realization that any occupant of that car was most likely dead. I read the next morning that it was Ted, hit head on in his little old economical car. His memorial yesterday was beautiful with music and poetry and fabulous food. Many of his photographs of Africa were on display, stunning beauty both of the landscape and the people. I left there sad and confused. 

I went to my French group, then to a concert and got home late thinking I would continue writing. But everything I put down was crap. I was trying to be philosophical and it sounded pandering and pathetic, painful words my son once used to describe my writing. I thought he was right. I reread what I wrote about the priest’s sermon yesterday and realized I really hadn’t said much about it. How much of it did I really remember? The metaphor of sowing a tiny seed and believing something great would come out of it was what I heard, and thought, Right! Start with that! How obvious! But I’m not sure now that’s what he said. I thought of how messages get interpreted. I might consider something inspiring and think everyone must see it the same way. Of course this isn’t true. God knows this has been the start of many an argument I’ve had with others. I realize a lot depends on what I want to hear and what I want to be true. I think now of how many roads this has taken me down and how lucky I am that most of them have led somewhere positive. 

Love to all,

Linda

Sunday Morning ~ Weddings and What?

Sunday Morning ~ Weddings and What?

Cosadziwa ndi nkhondo, adausa nkhondo pa dziwe. ~ The ignorant person is trouble; he seeks shelter from the war by hiding in a pool of water.

~ Chewa proverb

September 29, 2019

Hi Everyone,

Yesterday, I tossed some cauliflower with olive oil and was transported to New Year’s Day 2000. I had a vivid memory of Jake tossing roasted cauliflower with sesame oil for our millennial feast. We had a house full of people: my mother, my brothers, their wives, gaggles of cousins, my kids, and a couple friends. I thought of how full and happy the house was, how Jake learned recipes from his restaurant job, how proud I was that my kids had grown into interesting young adults, how kind they were to my mother, how happily Joe organized all the activities, and how right the world seemed to be then. The earth didn’t fall from the sky at the stroke of midnight and it all bode well. We watched the sun rise from Cadillac Mountain, we skated on Long Pond, we talked, laughed, ate and drank and I remember taking it all in with a full heart. I was so grateful for the choices I’d made in life, happy for our home that could accommodate everyone, and maybe a little smug that our hard work paid off. Yesterday I wondered, is ignorance really bliss? If I had known what was in store a year later, would I have been able to appreciate that holiday with such happiness? If we knew what marriage entailed, all that raising children took out of us, would we even begin? Would the human race die away? How do you reconcile being informed with blissful denial? 

I thought about all this as I picked green beans and pickled them, roasted the cauliflower, preserved grape leaves, and chopped tomatillos for salsa. My kitchen was sunny, I listened to the history of country music while reliving old memories, letting them wander freely in the landscape while doing things I love. The sorrel puree burst in the water bath and I didn’t fall apart. 

I thought of an image I’d seen of women walking through the streets of Kabul in the 1970’s wearing short skirts and long hair, smiling, chatting, confident and beautiful. It contrasted with an image taken in 2013 of women in the same city wearing burkas, their eyes barely visible, their heads lowered. I couldn’t tell if they were smiling or not, but something in their posture said, no. I thought about how things can change so drastically. How little our predictions alter reality. 

The contrasts in my week were remarkable. Tuesday we celebrated Lucy and David’s wedding here, a day that started early with a hike honoring Hannah’s birthday and her memory. When we reached the top of the mountain it was so socked in we couldn’t see the sound. Several of us commented that it didn’t matter, it’s always beautiful here no matter the weather, then before our eyes, the fog lifted and breaks in the clouds let the sun shine on us. It was symbolic and spiritual and comforting. Hannah’s friend lit a small leaf of sage and we held our own thoughts. I scooted down the mountain quickly to get things ready for the dinner, happily arranging flowers and putting finishing touches on the meal. Just as guests were arriving, a tempest exploded out of nowhere, pelting down rain and hail so hard I thought it would break the greenhouse windows. I looked at the beautiful table I’d set and waited for the leaks to start dripping on the linen tablecloths, jumping every time the lightening bolt hit nearby with the simultaneous thunder. It was the first time I was scared by a rainstorm, but it was fierce. The greenhouse leaks in three spots and one is directly over where I’d placed the table. But that night, not a drop on the table. A little wedding miracle, I thought as people finally could get out of their cars and come in. Jane made a toast, “Marriage can be stormy.” We laughed. 

At dinner we started talking politics at my end of the table and someone told me about Pelosi’s announcement at 5 pm that day. It was the exact time the storm hit and we laughed that the gods were speaking to us. A thunderbolt, a deluge. Let this be the beginning. I’d not given up hope that our country’s direction would change course but I was becoming more impatient. I want to be careful lest I gloat, but I have been saying his arrogance will do him in. His ignorance will kill him, like the one who drowns himself by hiding in a pool, forgetting he can’t breathe there.

Wednesday was bright and sunny, the perfect day after a storm, and I cleaned up, reliving the fun night listening to the news. Every reference to Watergate brought me back to the summer of ’74 and our last family camping trip. I was politically ignorant at seventeen, assuming the ship would right itself, since that’s what it’s supposed to do, and I wasn’t terribly cognizant of how it would affect my future. I thought of us camping in British Colombia, my father and siblings on what would be our last trip together. I thought of the supper we ate of fish we’d caught that day. We’d cooked it over the campfire and my father was happy. I remember my bother Richard stating an opinion about Nixon and the consequences he should face, and my father (who was apparently a Nixon fan), went from happy with the fish to apeshit that one of his offspring dared to disagree with him. I was on the periphery of this, but I remember coming to Rich’s aid with some morally superior comment. I remember thinking, jeepers, dad’s defending a criminal! Isn’t it the parents who are supposed to teach their kids to do the right thing? You don’t lie and cheat to win? You get punished when you get caught, that’s good right? But dear old dad couldn’t bear to be contradicted and I look back and am proud of us for doing so, despite the aftermath. He yelled his point loud enough that the people walking by our campsite stopped and stared. Rich told him to keep his voice down. Dad didn’t like being told what to do. The younger three of us got up to do the dishes, leaving Rich alone to face that firing squad. We may have looked around for something we could use as a bullet proof vest. We wondered why Rich didn’t use any self-preservation skills? We’d not had any news that week, it was long before the instant information era, this was a philosophical discussion (if you can call it that) only. This was nothing new to us, being told we were wrong, but it was incongruous in that beautiful setting with the good meal. The lord and ruler was not pleased; a nerve had been struck. The evening ended without any violence and the next day we went out on another fishing boat, or maybe it was a ferry, but we were definitely on the water, and we were definitely in Canada, and the captain of the vessel definitely said, “Your president is in trouble, eh?” Rich and I looked at each other, waiting for my father to throw the guy off his own boat, but instead he said something like, “Well, that’s what some people think.” and then the captain said, “He’s resigning at noon today.” And my father just stood there with a stunned look on his face and I remember thinking, “YES!” (but careful not to do the happy dance) not so much because justice was being served or that our nation was being saved, but because my father was wrong! Yes! And we kids exchanged glances, my look told Rich not to gloat, and this nice polite Canadian had no idea how happy he’d just made us, he just steered his boat in the August sunshine. It was a great moment. And I thought, funny, how all this came back to me this week…

Love to all,

Linda

Sunday Morning ~ Common Ground –– Falling Toward Justice

Sunday Morning ~ Common Ground–– Falling Toward Justice

Mtengo ugwera komwe udaweramira. ~ The tree falls the way it was leaning.

~ Chewa proverb

September 22, 2019

Hi Everyone,

It’s that idyllic weekend at the Common Ground Fair I spend reimagining my childhood fantasy of living on a farm, having animals to tend, drinking warm milk right from the cow, and only eating what we can forage or grow. I’ve become addicted to this fair, have made friends I know only from here, have learned more about solar panels, how to grow better radishes, and which lichen is edible. There are lectures all day on any topic related to healthy living you can imagine: blacksmithing, rug braiding, fermenting, llama raising, on and on and on. Every hour there’s a choice of fifty talks, all free and open. It’s amazing. And at night there’s a contra dance packed to the gills with people of all shapes, sizes, and ages. I sat last night and watched them, their smiles and dimples and beards and dreadlocks bouncing all over. It’s just the best.

I miss my friend Kathy. We usually do this fair together as fewer and fewer midwives are willing to sacrifice another weekend away from their families. Kathy and I love being here, so it’s worked, but she’s in Malawi carrying on with things there, and I’m grateful for that, so will tend things here until she returns. Hopefully we’ll be back here together next year chatting, knitting, speaking, educating, and reveling in the starry nights. This morning I’ll spend a couple of hours over at the social justice tent, volunteering for Betsy Sweet. I don’t see a republican presence but that’s probably because they know this isn’t their crowd. Like I said, it’s fun to be with those leaning your way, encouraging other saplings in the same direction. The rosy cheeked kids with homespun sweaters and teenagers wearing crowns of artemisia just gives me endless hope for the future. 

I struggle (a little, not too much) with how to feel productive at this stage of my life and think a lot about how to blend my current priority (having free time and being happy) with contributing something to the world using skills I’ve gained. This is a common theme with many midwives my age so being at the fair and educating the public about what we do, offering help in making healthy life choices, giving tips on navigating our medical system, and supporting women considering becoming a midwife are all aspects of this weekend that make me feel productive. Lots of people stop by the table including nurses I’ve worked with in the past, old students of mine, and many women whose babies I’ve delivered. There’s a sense of joy when I remember them and their birth and we can pick right up, and others look familiar but their stories aren’t vivid in my mind. I don’t even try to pretend I remember their name. Sometimes I panic when someone comes up to me with a child who is old enough to have already won some kind of award, and says, “Remember this little one?” And my heart sinks and I think, “I don’t even remember you.” Early this morning a woman came to the booth with a two year old in her arms, beautiful baby, as they all are, with dark ringlets. The woman said, “I don’t expect you to remember me, but two years ago I was very pregnant and came to your talk here.” I instantly loved her for starting out like that. Then she said, “I was worried about telling my mother I wanted to have my baby at home and was planning a hospital birth I didn’t want and wasn’t comfortable with.  You gave me a pep talk and I ended up doing what I felt most comfortable with and I had her at home and it was the most wonderful experience! And here she is!” I asked her how her mother took it? She said, “She was incredibly supportive! I never expected her to be that way but you encouraged me to advocate for myself. I just wanted to come by here to thank you. I will never forget you. Keep up the good work!”  I choked up. I thanked the birth goddesses. I decided I’m coming here forever.

Love to all,

Linda

Sunday Morning~ Clearing Out

Sunday Morning ~ Clearing Out

Mwezi satungira mkanda. ~ Moonlight is not for putting beads on a string.

~Chewa proverb

September 15, 2019

Hi Everyone,

I’m hosting a dinner for a friend’s daughter and her new husband and am planning the seating. I love the idea of everyone at one table and want to make a big harvest table in the greenhouse. I love the term “harvest table”; it evokes feelings in me of merriment as well as bounty, friendship and camaraderie. I thought of setting up the tent again but that’s risky this late in the season. September can be warm and balmy, which would be fabulous, or cold and windy, which would be hellish, and who needs that anxiety. It’s forcing me do something I’ve been putting off for a mere couple of decades: clean out the greenhouse. Broken pots I thought I’d make something artsy with have been sitting in various vessels tucked away in a space I could ignore. Cheap glass vases, mason jars, hot sauce jars have their own little hideaways, and though occasionally they call to me like a beggar at a stop light, “Hey! Look at me! LOOK at me!”  I have managed to avert my eyes and keep going, leaving them to gather more dust and grit and commiserate with each other about their master’s neglect. I thought of writing a children’s book about it once, but that idea has languished in oblivion with the dusty fragments. So, committing to a dinner for twenty-eight has been the motivator and, wow, does it feel (and look) good. Early in my marriage when we moved every two or three years there was a necessary culling. Moving is good that way. Never mind deciding whether something brings you joy, it’s whether you want to pay someone to move it for you. (Is this lamp I’ve always hated really worth it?) But since I’ve stayed put for almost thirty years in a space that has emptied out of humans but not their possessions, the clutter has accumulated. A lot of this is my own fault since I’m always thinking I can refurbish something, but then don’t, and it sits and mocks me. I’ve thought of the times when I was relocating and burdened by having to make decisions about what to keep and what to toss and it all seemed so stressful. I would berate myself for keeping crap I never used or waiting until the last minute to clean things out. We had entire closets full of boxes we never opened, moved from one house to the next that we’d stick in new closets. How stupid is that? But now the exercise seems like a luxury. I’m enjoying it. I’m thinking of ways to use the space more efficiently and adapt it to my lifestyle as I age and spend more time at home. I want to make it inviting and welcoming. I want to stop saying, “Excuse the mess over there.” But I also don’t want it to look too anal. It’s a balance I’m playing with. 

All this physical clearing is making way for emotional and mental clearing as well. I feel like I have a blank canvas in front of me and don’t want to clutter it. I want to sort out what I want my future to look like and fantasize about that for awhile. This is another great luxury, I fully admit. I think of making lists. What do I absolutely want and absolutely don’t want? But then that seems like a chore and I’m not ready for that yet. I just want to relish this daylight and the angle of the sun, and how it shines through my sparkly clean greenhouse windows. Every once in awhile I think I should not feel this content. After all, the world is in peril, I worry about my kids, I’ve got a roof that leaks in spots, our government passed bat-shit crazy awhile ago, and winter is coming. But for some reason, I am content. I’m happy. I’m grateful. I won’t question it, but accept the gift with gratitude. In a way, I feel like I’m storing up energy for what is ahead. I know this time won’t last, as good times, as well as bad, never do, but what a waste to not enjoy the feeling while it’s here.  

Love to all,

Linda 

Sunday Morning ~ Let’s Go!

Sunday Morning ~ Let’s Go!

Tiyeni-tiyeni sacoka, acoka ndi bvundumuku. ~ The one who says, “Let’s go, let’s go!” does not leave, the one who gets up leaves.

~Chewa proverb

September 8, 2019

Hi Everyone,

I caved last night and slept inside. The hurricane danced around us all day and though it devastated entire populations elsewhere, all it gave us was a good garden soaking, beautiful surf, and a gorgeous sunset.  Crazy how some people can be devastated and others profited by the same event, eh? I still thought I could stick it out on the porch in my cozy bed, but there was just something un-enticing about coming home late, after a great night out with friends, and leaving this big house empty to sleep outside in the aftermath of the storm. Near midnight I heard what I thought was thunder and thought maybe more was coming, but it was just fireworks at a wedding being held on Somes Sound. Somehow they got around the noise ordinance. I saw complaints today of children and dogs being traumatized by the noise, so again, the same event produced very different experiences: a joyful display of love and happiness for some and a traumatic, sleepless night for others.

A friend sent me a message yesterday saying he was thinking of me this weekend and all the memories it held. I read that and ran to my calendar thinking I had forgotten something I was supposed attend and, finding nothing I’d forgotten, realized it was my 41st wedding anniversary. I thought, “Well, that’s happy news! Forgotten all about it!” Planning out the next chapter in my life, I got caught up in the possibilities and excitement of having a blank slate and lots of options. The melancholic reminders of what could have been are relegated to some other deep drawer of my heart and I’m determined to let nothing from the past spoil my September. I want to love this month and despite all the crap that flings itself into my rosy idea of what September should be, I’m deciding to love it anyway. Come to think of it, when we were planning a date for our wedding, we thought September would be such a great time to travel and we’d mark that holy event with a honeymoon every year! Is there anything as quaint and naive as youth in love? But then I thought, why should I let go of that dream just because he ran off with a teenager after twenty-five years?  (Hey, bad memories, I thought I told you to get back in the drawer!) But I didn’t do such a great job of planning out the month and little by little the month has gotten eaten away with scattered commitments. I’ve really got to get better at this month-of-me thing. 

It’s quiet here now that everyone is gone, and I’m enjoying the solitude and resuming my little home improvement projects. I’m envisioning a future where I’m happily engaged in meaningful work and detached from others’ dramas. I’m daydreaming about different scenarios of adventure and excitement while I lay gravel and rip out rotted steps. (Oh, the metaphors…) I trust that the universe will shine a light on the path I’m to take, probably less glamorous than what’s in my head but we’ll see. Aside from the road trip next month to Nashville and New Orleans, my destination hasn’t come into focus yet. My trip to Myanmar in December got canceled this week so that gives me a big chunk of time to fill. I’m thinking of options, still hopeful that something will work out and I get to go back to Malawi. Still waiting on a job possibility and as I pick string beans and tomatoes I think of how I dislike having my future in someone else’s hands. Then I think of what it must be like to be locked in a cage, waiting. My life is so easy. 

I’m disappointed about not going to Myanmar in December. I was looking forward to experiencing a part of the world I have not seen and relishing the thought of an exotic adventure, meeting family for Christmas and trekking in gorgeous mountains. But that is not to be right now. As Irene Mayberry would say, “God never closes a door without opening a window!” (she had a million of these sayings…”Never a cross without a resurrection!” ) so I’ll wait to see what opens up outside the window, open to getting up and moving on.

Love to all,

Linda

Sunday Morning~ The Last Week of August

Sunday Morning ~ The Last Week of August

Khote-khote ngwanjira, palinga mtima ndi pomwepo. ~ Even though the road is bending and twisting, the heart will make you go where it wants to. 

~ Chewa proverb

September 1, 2019

It seems to happen quickly once the last week of August comes. The days are dramatically shorter and evenings suddenly colder. There’s a poem called The Last Week of August, by Katie Vandamoer about the week of camp for exceptional children. I’ve been repeating a line of that poem to myself this week–– “And I’ve never felt so warm and happy in my life… the last week of August.” It was called EC week back then, I don’t know what the term would be now, maybe severely handicapped or mentally disabled? Not sure. But it was an exceptional week and filled with love, fun, and spirituality. It doesn’t exist anymore, I don’t think. It was imploding at the same time as my marriage ironically, the camp we were counselors at together at the place we got married. It was a Catholic boys camp and the last week of August, after the regular campers were finished, the diocese used the week to bring institutionalized children to experience nature and outdoor activities. It was pretty amazing actually, but in hindsight, I wonder how therapeutic. Routines were most definitely upended and I don’t know how healthy that was. Each camper had a counselor and though it was a fair amount of work during the week, it was also really fun to participate in wheelchair square dances, relay races, and talent shows. There were a million activities and games, boat rides, and arts and crafts. Lots of the counselors were special ed teachers or student teachers, so I believed there was some scientific basis for the activities, but those norms may have changed as well. I was just a nursing student and volunteer. Mass was celebrated every day and they were spiritual spectacles. The singing alone was enough to make someone convert. The masses were concelebrated by many priests, sometimes ten or more, and  some wore their calling like a beacon, exuding that radiance. I was so grateful to be there.

When we were deciding where to get married we wanted a place were the ceremony and reception could be together. I really wanted to get married outside, but that’s not allowed in the Catholic church, a rule I still think is really dumb since it’s ok to have mass outside, just not a wedding. (Who thinks of these things?) So Camp Fatima worked. We loved the energy the place had, loved the pine chapel, and could have the reception just outside the door.  And the setting was spectacular. A sweet camp down a long dirt road in a remote town on a lake. The pine chapel had swinging screen doors that slammed shut with the perfect sound of summer. The last week of August. We went to camp for the week and got married there two weeks later. Our friends stayed over night in the cabins and the party went on and on. The day was sunny and windy and the tent blew down during the ceremony.  Guests had to pick up their table and move it into the rec hall and I saw nothing wrong with that! All our reception photos have big cardboard characters from Snow White and Peter Pan in them. Everyone’s feet were a dusty green from the floor which hadn’t been swept. I was deliriously happy and sure I would be forever. How utterly wonderful that felt. 

I guess it depends on where I am during the last week of August, but this year I thought a lot about EC week. Maybe it’s because I’ve been away for a few years and the angle of the sun is triggering those memories. Maybe it was having Amelia with me and the memory of someone being so dependent on me for the week, or the arts and crafts, or the days at the beach that were just on the verge of being too cold. Not sure, but it was hanging there all week. 

The air has that fall hint–– still warm but colored just a little differently. A week where fun, responsibility, and respect for human dignity was infused with so much love. And a belief in God seemed to make anything at all possible. 

The last week of August always had the possibility of an exciting new chapter and I never quite understood the sadness some people had of letting go of summer.  But today, as much as I’m looking forward to having some time to myself again, I feel that sadness of saying goodbye to this summer. I look at it differently now having had someone here for such a long stretch and knowing she’ll have an association with me and this season. It’s special. I realize how lucky I am to live in this beautiful place. She tells me she’s looking forward to going back to school and seeing her friends. She said she’ll miss me and I told her I’ll miss her too. I became a little worried about saying goodbye tomorrow. I want to honor the feeling of letting go of her, of the season, the warm nights, and the long days. Once I do that I’ll look for that sense of happy anticipation that always made me eager to run toward whatever is down the road.

Love to all,

Linda

The Last Week of August

by Katie Vandamoer

Well I came from a world that didn’t care

Tending to throw away lives;

But the sun shone, and the waters danced,

And the air was filled with love.

And I never felt so warm and happy in my life…

The last week in August.

Oh the time came, and went so fast,

And before I knew it, it had passed,

But on the way home, I realized

Just what it meant to live, and how it feels to love

How could I help but feel warm, and happy in my life…

The last week of August.

Sunday Morning ~ Helping

Sunday Morning ~ Helping

August 25, 2019

Kanthu n’kugwirizana, fisi adamlanda mbuzi. ~ We have to help one another, that’s how they took the goat from the hyena.

~ Chewa proverb

Hi Everyone,

It was a busy week here with the big party on Wednesday. Like everyone else I know, I’m desperate to do something to help restore some sanity and self respect to the country I call home. If there is anything to be thankful for it’s the civics lesson. I thought about combining my skills (party throwing) with saving the country, so put my name in to host a party for Betsy Sweet, a fabulous woman running for US Senate in Maine. There are loads of smart capable women in this state and I’ve worked with many of them, but Betsy stands out even among them. When I prayed for a capable candidate, Betsy emerged from the mist like a haloed angel. The first time I heard her speak in support of Janet Mills, our governor, I thought, “Wow, this is a woman who could actually beat Susan Collins, our senatorial embarrassment.” I’d been hand wringing for months about who could do that, worried no one but an unknown, hand selected DNC pick who didn’t really want the job would be the candidate.  My heart swelled as I heard Betsy speak and thought, “No, not a lackluster recruit, she can right this ship.”  I felt the same way the first time I heard Obama speak. 

So that was last October when I was fresh back to the world of clean, reliable, running water (unless you live in Flint). Janet Mills won the governorship and I’d lost track of Betsy until April when I saw her at a climate March. I was lamenting to a friend walking along that I didn’t see anyone on the horizon willing and able to challenge Collins, and he said, “Betsy Sweet is considering it.”  She was marching at the front holding a banner and I ran to the front of the parade, found Betsy and introduced myself. I asked if it was true? She smiled her big, contagious smile, and nodded. OMG, I nearly hugged her. I think I actually jumped up and down clapping. I told her I’m her girl. I will do anything to help. I said I’d walk her dog, do her laundry, clean her house, ANYTHING to help. She laughed and thanked me. So that’s when my love affair started and after she declared, I put my name on a list of people willing to host house parties. We decided on a date and I invited loads of people, knowing it is summer and there are millions of events and fundraisers and families visiting and kids going off to college for the first time with nostalgic parents preparing. So turnout was iffy. I fretted. Ruth came up from New York to help and we had our usual fun in the kitchen together. Amelia, still here at grandma camp, also pitched in. She added flour to the bread dough, chopped what she could, made signs saying “Betsy to vote” then Xed out the “to” and wrote “for”  and spent some time deciding how to place the “Vote” in front of “Betsy”. We had lots of talks about why we were having the party and she had lots of preconceptions of birthday cakes, presents, and games about to be squelched. 

On Tuesday, Ruth was scrolling down some headlines on her phone and Amelia saw an image of starving people in Yemen which scared her. She said she was scared of skeletons. I told her they were not skeletons, they were people, and they were that thin because they haven’t any food. They are starving. She said she didn’t want to see those people. I told her most people don’t want to see them. But there are other ways to help them even if you don’t look at them. I thought it was a good opportunity to get in a lesson about why we were having this party. I said if we get more people into our government who are willing to help people like them we’ll all be better off. She was listening. I said that’s why it was so great she was helping with this party, it would help get Betsy in a position to help others like the ones who are starving. She renewed her assistance kneading bread with a little more intention. I could see her thinking. What a sweet child. I love her so much.

The party went well, despite the rain and the fact that Ruth had to keep emptying puddles on the tent with a broom while Betsy spoke. Betsy said my enthusiasm for her at the April climate march was one of the things that pushed her decision to run over the top. (Won’t that be a nice claim to fame when she’s senator!! I’m so excited!) Enough people came to fill the tent and there was great energy. Amelia learned that not all parties were super fun for six year olds but she was a star. She was also incredibly helpful in cleaning up, asking me repeatedly if Betsy had helped those starving people yet?

It’s humbling to see the world through a child’s eyes. Lots of lessons learned about how we can help, even if we can’t bring ourselves to look starving people in the eye and take responsibility for our part. We can at least knead the bread.

Love to all,

Linda

Sunday Morning ~ Leaving

Sunday Morning ~ Leaving

Ukacoka usamatseka mwala, koma kutseka mayani. ~ When leaving do not block the exit with stones, but with leaves.

~ Chewa proverb

August 18, 2019

Hi Everyone,

I’m sitting at the lake while Amelia plays around me. In and out of the water, never very deep, she’s careful. She’s made some friends and they are looking for frogs. I asked her where the friends come from as I heard them speaking a different language. She told me Connecticut, then asked, “Wait, what language do they speak in Connecticut?” 

The lifeguards have a hard job I think. It’s hard to pay that kind of attention to all the human activity buzzing around. I’m not a water person nor a strong swimmer. I’m grateful for lifeguards but don’t trust completely that they will notice every mishap or threatening situation. When my kids were little all I did at the beach was count. One-two-three-fourrrrr…five! Ok, all heads were above water. Then I’d start again. This past week I only had to count to two, but still did, over and over. All accounted for. Everyone safe. I always place our blanket near the lifeguard stand. I look back occasionally to make sure he or she is paying attention and I’m always a little surprised that they are. I think lifeguarding is a noble job. Guarding life. Let people have their fun: romp, splash, run, dive, all the while knowing that someone is there if you need them. Wouldn’t it be just so nice if they weren’t only at the beach?

The kids see me as their personal lifeguard. They expect me to protect them. This was obviously true when my own kids were small but I didn’t look at life from their perspective back then. I do now. How I always want to keep them safe. How I wish I could protect them, even as adults. I know this is not an original desire.

It’s terribly hard to know your child struggles, suffers, and hurts themselves and I know I share that angst with other mothers. It’s a constant for me that I go over what I did wrong and how a different reaction from me would have changed the course of their lives. A silly futile exercise that only upsets me more and I look for Rumi quotes and images of the Virgin Mary for comfort. I watch my little innocent granddaughter playing without a care and wish she could be this sprite forever.

I sat through Amy’s funeral this week and prayed for her mom. This could be me, I thought. I watched her mother, full of grace, with complete composure, and wondered how I would ever walk into the church, never mind greet people with a soft smile and gentle hug and genuine gratitude. Grace is the only way I can describe it.

So I’m conscious of leaving leaves behind and not stones. Who knows what kind of suffering is unspoken behind us and there may yet be a soft wind that blows the leaves away.

Love to all,

Linda

Sunday Morning~ Speaking Out

Sunday Morning ~ Speaking out

Mbewa ya manyazi idafera ku dzeje. ~ The shy mouse died in his hole.

~ Chewa proverb

August 11, 2019

Hi Everyone,

I, like everyone else I know, am sick about people being shot at Walmart while they do their school shopping. Likewise, I’m sick that people are being shot at a nightclub. Oh, yes, and students trying to get through a school day. They are being shot there too. So I’m thinking about fear. I’m thinking of all those afraid of being targeted for who they are or where they are. And I’m thinking about the fear of speaking out. Yes, I’m thinking about that, too. I called all my congressional reps this week and asked them to speak out. I asked them to speak out publicly, as our leader, and say they will not stand for this. And not one of the three committed to do so. Angus King’s staffer said he was considering a response, Susan Collins had no response, and Jared Golden’s staffer said he was looking into studying the cause of gun violence. God help us. I told them as a constituent I want them to speak out before we die in our holes. Or words to that effect. 

I’m thinking about my little grandchildren and their innocence and glee and shudder the thought away of what is happening to kids sleeping alone and scared. I can’t imagine it. Well, I can imagine it and the thought horrifies me. Actually, “horrifies” seems so weak. I don’t even have a word to describe what it does to me, but it is so bad I don’t want to think about it. This is dangerous. I force myself to think about it. 

My grandchildren are with me for the week and I’m loving every minute. But the early mornings I thought I’d sneak out of our outside bed and get some writing done have not materialized, thus it’s Tuesday and this isn’t finished. The kids are afraid to be alone. They seem to have internal motion detectors as every time I move they check to see if I’m still there. So instead of some early morning alone time, we snuggle and talk about our dreams and the merits of an intact mosquito net. Sweet little angels. At six and three they are still making sense of the world and seeing who is friend or foe. So far spiders and flies are suspicious. Random dogs all seem to be in the friend category. Blood is a definite foe as the sight of it sends them into near hysteria, even it if is a little smear from a slapped mosquito. Blueberry picking near the water’s edge, a most idyllic Maine summer scene, has been marred by blood-curdling screams when the hint of blood appeared on a scratch from a thistle. I have patience with this in true grandmother fashion and have a bag full of bandaids I don’t mind wasting. I would never have been so indulgent with my kids, something my daughter reminds me of regularly.

I sleep on the porch in the summer under a mosquito net. It’s wonderful to feel the breezes and be surrounded by night air. The kids and I get ready for bed and head to the porch. They are scared of the dark and won’t leave my side. They won’t get into bed without me. They said they worry that birds will get us. I tell them the birds sleep at night. They said they’re scared about mosquitoes biting us and I tell them that’s what the net is for. James asks if the holes are too big? I tell him not for mosquitoes. They can’t fit through these holes. It’s a special net made just to keep mosquitoes out. We turn on the solar light and cuddle under the net. I read them Blueberries for Sal and we talk about how we picked blueberries at the lake that afternoon. (Funny they aren’t too worried about bears.) They relax as I read and I feel their little bodies soften even more. They sink into their pillows and I can feel the tension leave. They smile when I say something funny. They frown when they tell me what they are scared of and I’m fascinated by their thoughts and perceptions. They listen intensely as I explain why we’re so safe here. They believe me and I turn out the light. 

This is the bedtime I want for every child.

Love to all,

Linda