Sunday, June 26, 2005

Jack and Jill

I am at the age when doctors advise me to take Calcium for my bones. I up my yoghurt quota, eat a bit of goat cheese on my salad with broccoli and carry on. I figure it's mostly downhill from here, and the fewer pills I have to remember to take, the better. Never had a broken bone. Never smoked. Never drank. I live in a kind of foolish haze of optimism with regards to my health.

Still, I wonder if there is a kind of pre-senescence after menopause. Like puberty but the reverse. An awkwardness. As things begin to fall apart.

I had a fall on Friday evening, while I was out gathering flowers for Dawsonwood Cottage. It was one of a singularly tedious string of mishaps this week...the bruised finger caught in the door, the brush fire flash which trimmed my eyelashes, the ugly abrasion from my miscalculation of the distance between my body and the open refrigertor door.

So the fall. The steps down to the waterfront are supposed to provide a gentle descent, but I twisted my ankle on the last one and lost my balance. I flew sideways through the air. Heard a crack as the side of my face hit the trunk of an ancient birch and landed squarely in a patch of Tansy, with my head inches from the water. My legs flailed vainly in the air.

There was a moment of panic before I realized..."I'm okay." In that moment, there was a surge of doom and gloom, self-blame and more than a tinge of resentment at my undignified position in the Tansy. "My face will be permanently deformed." "I should have taken that calcium. I have a broken hip." "Are my teeth okay?" Then and only then. "Good grief, I'm perfectly okay."

"Why doesn't anybody hear my screaming?" And. "How long can I lie here upside down in the Tansy before Rob notices I'm not in the house?" More hollers. More screams. Dusk descending. No gallant rescue.

I hauled myself upright, not an easy task when one is head first down a 45 degree incline. I dusted myself off. I stepped gingerly back towards the house, gathering bits of bouquet which had been jettisoned in all directions.

Now this it is hard to believe. I should have had mild concussion at least. A few bruises. A black eye to boast about. A contusion on my face where I hit the tree. Nope. This is the sum total of my injuries: A tiny scrape on my ankle along with a nearly invisible bruise. A few Tansy scratches on one knee. A gentle soreness of muscles as if I had been weeding too long.

And a miracle. I went into that tumble with a major overbite, but I swear that as a result of my face hitting the side of the tree, my teeth form a better bite than they have been able to accomplish in the last thirty years! The whole thing was like a violent, unexpected chiropractic adjustment! And because of that miracle, I get no sympathy. Minimally, I should get commiseration for the post traumatic shock.

My brother claims the fall has healed me. He claims I won't need the scheduled gall bladder surgery next Thursday...the fall having corrected all that ails me. Am I to be denied even a get well balloon and a card?

Having no broken bones to show for my mishap, I am confirmed in my reluctance to take Calcium. Obviously, my bones are made of iron and my head is stainless steel.

Still it is a salutary event. I am in decline, beginning the relentless disintegration of later middle age. I need to watch where I am going.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Interview From Stephanie

Stephanie (click title above for link) had an interview on her blog and suggested that if anyone else wanted to be interviewed that she would do the same. I went for it. Here's the format:
1. leave me a comment saying "interview me"
2. I will respond by asking you five questions, selected for you.
3. you will update your weblog with the answers to the questions.
4. you will include this explanation and offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. when others comment asking to be interviewed you will ask them 5 questions.

So here are my questions from Stephanie:

1. What feminine characteristic of God do you see most clearly today?

Mystery. It has been hot and hazy down our way these past few days. When sun shines, earth steams. Pollen count is high. The river is covered with a yellow veil, carrying fertility downstream. When the clouds roll in, the air is heavy, pregnant with rain.
These are days in my life when I see through a glass darkly. I hold the miracle of baby Robbie in my arms. A mere four months ago we wondered if he would survive. Now he's triple his birth weight and healthy. I am blessed by his being in the world. Still, I cannot know his future. I live with uncertainty, as do we all. The endless shrouded mystery of birth and life and aging and dying.
My mother is failing once again. Her death may come today, or a week from now, or six months or six years. She reaches into the past for her parents and siblings, all of whom are long in heaven. My mother forgets this and wants to contact them. I wonder if they are calling to her from the other side, coming close to her as she lingers here. Such are the mysteries, the feminine face of God...the beginning and end stages of life, the unknown vastnesses of birth and death, which I, as women before me, patiently attend.
There is an anticipation that the heat wave will break with a tremendous exhibition of power: thunder, torrential rain, wind. God may be felt in earthquake, tornado and fire. But for the moment, my world is heavy with Mystery and I must content myself with waiting for revelation.

2. you have a depth of knowledge that amazes me. What lit the fire for you to accumulate this depth of understanding in life?

Suffering. The fact of suffering is not easily answered by fundamentalist theologies. My own infertility challenged the pat notion that if one is good and follows the rules, then God will respond by showering blessings in just the way we demand. It isn't true. Rain falls on the just and the unjust. Faith is accepting the reality of God in the midst of uncertainty, misfortune, and suffering.
So, I began a search for God which went beyond 'walking the aisle' and 'accepting Christ as my Saviour.' I had done these things as a young child. And God was calling on me to minister to others who had done the supposed 'right' things, and yet had experienced broken marriage, mental and terminal illnesses. People who were cut off from significant members of their families. Who were confused in sexual identity. Who were other. Who were lonely. Whose children became addicts, attempted suicide, ran away. People who had been sexually abused as children. Who had suffered the indignities and atrocities of war. People who were abused by the Church and handicapped by rigid and unproductive ideas about God. In order to walk with these people, I had to develop an understanding of God which which encompassed their present circumstance and suffering and offered hope. In doing this, I was led out of Law and towards a deeper understanding of Grace.
Suffering lit my fire to find a living, breathing God. A God Who Is Here and Now. In the suffering place. In the place of Joy. I read voraciously. I observed human nature. I watched and listened for God everywhere, and I still do.

3. What is different in your life since you took the Path at Linwood House last year?

Beauty. Permission, even vocation, to express Beauty. At Linwood House, I came out of the closet. Forget about Truth, for me, although I respect those who seek it and long for it. Give me sunsets not prooftexts. Give me crocuses not religious conventions. Give me Beauty.
Truth is Beauty, for me. Not of course, an original thought. But freeing. In the world I inhabit, where pain meets me in the faces of those I serve, it had always seemed a little self indulgent to love beautiful words, to admire beautiful things, to tremble at beautiful sights and sounds, to want to create beauty in a vase of flowers, on a canvas, in a poem. But I do, and always have, secretly, covertly. And yet Beauty is a transcendent aspect of God. It lifts us to the Eternal.
Once, I worked with a woman who had lost her twenty year old son in a horrific traffic accident. Her grief was profound and palpable. She was haunted by a vision of her son's crushed car being hauled away in a pile of other wrecks. As we worked with this traumatic image, I asked her to imagine her favourite flowers for a healing visualization. Her flowers were white roses. I asked her to begin to deck the destroyed cars with roses, one at a time, and then in their hundreds, until she had covered the wreck of her son's car with this beautiful tribute. She did this, and added a cross of flowers over the tailgate in her mind. She repeated this whenever the image came to haunt her, and slowly its horror lost its grip. In the spring she planted an all white memorial garden at her home to honour her son and to mark a step in her healing journey.
I thought, for several years, this intervention was a fluke, a sort of fleeting moment of inspiration, which just happened to work. But now I'm out, I see the truth of healing in Beauty, and how it is at the core of what I do.
Beauty can be present in hazy, humid weather. It can be part of the healing of great loss. It is not an accessory but a necessity. In the deep, safe Beauty of Linwood House I received encouragement to claim my love for Beauty and my intuitive sense that Beauty, in all it various forms can heal. I am called to be a lover and creator of Beauty in the world.

4. What challenges you most about blogging?

a) Technology. Without a doubt. My struggle with technology continues to hold me back. But I blog on anyway.
b) Staying true to myself. I tend to wander off topic sometimes in my comments. I try to be erudite. Clever. I sometimes speak in borrowed language (I do not mean plagiarize). I mean a voice not my own. I come from my head and not my heart...well, really in truth to myself, I want to come from both. At my worst, I try to be logical. In fact, I try too hard altogether. Being true to myself means letting love flow out and language come as it will, almost bypassing thought and effort.

5. If you could see one lie about women in the Body exchange for truth in your lifetime what would that be? (There may be many but is there one predominant one?)

Recognition of Prophetic Voice of Women. I think that the Body has generally accepted women when they have the gift of helps, tolerated them when they have the gift of teaching, and patronized them when they have the gift of prophesy. This is demeaning and a lie. Women's prophetic voices have validity, all the more because they express things differently from males in the Body. We need that difference.
Science has shown that the connectedness between left brain (intuition) and right brain (logic) is more fluid in women. Women cross back and forth between these aspects of thought with greater ease than men. I believe this gives women a special facility in speaking prophetically, and I believe that the Body would be greatly enriched by listening carefully rather than dismissing the voice of women. I believe God is calling young women and older women to speak out on issues of justice and righteousness, polity and politics. The woman as prophet is not without precedent biblically. I think her time has come in this twenty-first century and I hope I live to see this happen.

Thanks for the great questions, Stephanie.

Sunday, June 12, 2005



The more firewalls I get, the more persistent and perverted the spyware becomes. My blog has been targeted somehow. Is nothing sacred???? Don't know if reading this will corrupt you. I suspect not, since I am avoiding the words which seem to have attracted notice. Two of them appeared in my masthead. Had to edit at the cost of language clarity and symmetry.

But...seems I can't use simple words like l-ve, fr--ndship, g-mble or even less common words like enigm-tic. Pop-ups having to do with l-ve, fr--ndship arrive with inexhaustible regularity. You can imagine how perverse those are. My blog about G-mling at Home Depot...innocent in and of itself seems to have attracted the most lurid, cheap and sensational on-line c-sino -ds. I have no idea what comes up because of the word enigm-tic. I've started to delete blogs and that seems less than satisfactory. I feel like a member of the underground trying to keep clear of the Naz-s. Don't want to spell in full for fear of inviting white s-premic-sts. Which obliquely suggests to me that the word enigm-tic is targeted because of know, the famous WW11 decoding device. My blogs are certainly going to look like cod- if this goes on much longer.

It seems our combined household computer knowledge is insufficient to the g-rgantuan task of keeping our computer clean. The last tr-p to the pro shop deleted Bloggerbot, something I value. I know. I know.

I am too left brained for this task. Left, closest to the H-art...non-linear, divergent. People get this wrong all the time. They think left and right brain equals left and right politics. Wrong. See what I mean? How can a person like me really exist in the twenty-first century?

Anything underlined in this blog will instantly connect you to something neither of us asked for. Go directly to j-il. Don't cl-ck. Don't pass go. Do not collect two h-ndred d-llars.

I'm going to have to go back to pen and -nk.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Scribbling in the Dirt

One of my favourite sites for meditation, continuity and connectedness is the Northumbrian Community. (Click on blog title for link.) There I was reminded once more of this story from John 8.

v. 3ff. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" "No one, sir," she said. "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."

Love it. The drama. The details. The denouement.

I love the way the crowd creeps away...the older ones first. What an interesting fact! It gives this account such a ring of authenticity. Perhaps the elders had a sharper remembrance of their sin. Perhaps, to give them credit, they acted responsibly in leadership with their tacit confession.

And of course, that enigmatic writing on the ground. There's been much speculation around what Jesus may have written. I dare to suggest...NOTHING AT ALL. He was scribbling, if you will. Making bubble letters of "The Law. The Law. The Law." Gaining time. Time to think of a just answer to the trick question. The religious leaders counted on a knee jerk response. But Jesus wasn't much given to impulse. He doodled and dawdled. The doodling provided distraction. It diverted the attention of the hostile crowd from the imperiled woman towards himself. Which is precisely what he does with all our sin. "Don't look at the sin," he was saying symbolically. "Look at me." And in that climate of acute shame, his lowered eyes and thoughtful mood, detoxified the intensely shaming focus on the woman. As it does for us all.

And so he mesmerized the crowd. Trick for trick. His doodling had a hypnotic effect and his answer, when it came, paralleled his actions in paradoxical complexity. "Let the one who is without sin, cast the first stone." And he let the people slip away as he lowered his eyes, and scratched in the dirt. He would not shame even the judgmental and the overscrupulous with his intensely truthful eyes.

I like to think Jesus tact, his averted gaze, calmed the woman, fascinated her. This moment was the beginning of her healing, providing her with respite before certain doom.

Jesus was never contaminated by sin or dirt. Healing a blind man with spittle mud. Washing his disciples dirty feet. He was earthy. He valued the essence of this basic life element. Dirt. Perhaps his actions signalled symbolically the mortality of us all. We come from dust and to dust we will return. Who is without sin?

There is something childlike in this picture. Something pure. Playful, even, were it not a life and death situation. And we could almost believe Jesus discounted or trivialized the sin, if it were not for his challenge to the woman. "Is there no one here to condemn you?" There is an implication in her remaining there alone. She is the one who condemns herself. As we all do. All too frequently. He takes the matter seriously. "Neither do I... Neither do I. Go, leave your life of sin."

I think I'll give myself some time this summer to doodle in the dirt. Fill a sandbox. Make mudpies. Dig deep with my grandchildren. Paddle about with squishy lakesilt between my toes. I shall think of the freedom of living without condemnation. I shall celebrate healing and forgiveness and acceptance and love. I shall distract myself from my own legalism, from obsessive guilt, from judgment of self and other.

I will take a dust bath of grace. And give myself time to think through the tricky questions, and revel in paradox. There is no condemnation.