Friday, October 28, 2005

Rain on the Just

Dear Readers,

You may have noticed that I have been at a loss for words lately. Passing strange. Not a one has entered my head. At least none fit to print. My silence occasioned a phone call from a friend in Winnipeg who reads Dawsonwood, and who had begun to wonder if I was ill. I can't tell you how much I appreciated that.

So, first things first. Robbie is fine. His new dose of medication is working much better. He has incredible upper body strength and can grip my arthritic fingers with enough force to make me gasp. He manouvers all over the living room and is disappearing around corners and opening seemingly impenetrable cupboard doors fastened with giant magnets. He loves ripping up phone books and magazines. He is taking to reading, as this photo shows and he has something of the little professor about him, I think.

Rachael and Spencer, my two older grandchildren, are looking forward to Hollowe'en with keen excitement. Spencer is going to be "a scarey pirate with bones" and Rachael, with all of the costume angst of diva is going to be variously, a dalmation, a poodle, Dora the Explorerer or Princess Ariel. Robbie may be a pumpkin if he goes out. And next year, AAAAgh! there will be four of them decking out for "Trick or Treat"...or as they say mysteriously in Winnipeg "Hallowe'en Apples." (So what regional variations to the Hallowe'en door cry have you noticed where you live...a propos of not much?)

My daughter Barbara has had a wretched bout of mono and I have been looking after Robbie daily from 7 a.m.. While purportedly looking ten years younger than my actual age, suffice it to say that I am not as young as I once was. I haven't had the energy or will to do much writing...and truth be told, it is an effort to hang on to the mostly positive outlook I like to maintain in these posts. Not that I am above a rant or two. I don't have the strength. The mono has strained, but not swamped the ability of this family system to cope. It was inevitable after a year and a half of high stress, Barbara's immune system would cave in. But I would like God to know that it has rained enough on the just of Muskoka lately.

I had a little weep in church last week. Someone was wanting to know what happened to about a dozen dollar store bud vases. Yes, this is the kind of thing which can happen even in a church with six people in it. Somehow this hadn't really registered on my radar as important. I felt so helpless about the bud vases. I was even more helpless when it was noted that the emergency church telephone was missing, although I have a hunch or two in this regard. Everything is relevant.

The rain falling on the just in Muskoka is nothing to the rain falling on the just in Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, India and Kashechewan on James Bay in Northern Ontario. The world seems to be awash with displaced persons, the dead and the dying.

I don't have the courage to watch the news lately. Compassion fatigue. The numbers are meaningless to me...1,000 here, 1,000 there...more. This many dead. That many homeless. Pictures of bodies. Rubble. Water. Wind. God In Heaven. What are my little woes compared to all of this?

And still there are places where a child will say, "Daddy, I want to be a martyr. Can you get me some explosives?" And still there are offices where leaders say, "Git 'em." As if the rain falling on the just and the unjust were not, of itself, a sufficiency of suffering.

Bless you all, wherever you are, whatever personal and collective deluges overwhelm you.

Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the Lord my soul to keep.

If I should die before I wake,

I pray the Lord my soul to take.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Chipmunk Feast

Feast for Ommm,

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Anniversary Week

The Garden in Autumn C.K. 10.15.05

October brings birthdays and anniversaries. My mother turns 87 tomorrow. On that day also, my niece will turn 28 and my daughter Sarah and son-in-law Jeff will celebrate their sixth wedding anniversary. I have passed my birthday, spent in the midst of a funeral for a close personal friend. Perhaps this is what has given a perculiar melancholy to the celebration of our wedding anniversary this week, also. There is a renewed determination on our parts to make each day count, to take nothing for granted. Our muted celebration last evening included a leisurely walk to and from a local bistro where we enjoyed the prix fixe menu and much rich conversation about our individual weeks.

Some of you, who remember that the documentation concerning our wedding had been lost for a couple of years, will be happy to learn that this precious certificate was eventually located by officialdom in government records. (Click on title above for post from last April...funny.) So, do not concern yourselves that Rob spends several days a week out of town doing pastoral support. We are still married. I run Dawsonwood, care for my mother and support Barbara and her family, as frequent readers of this blog will have discerned. I also write. This week I wrote my husband a letter and this is the expurgated version of this text.

Dear Rob,
Friday is our 38th wedding anniversary...

You are the best part of this life-long marriage. Your commitment has kept us going when I have been ill with depression, when I have been weary in well doing, when we have grieved together, and even when medication has failed to control my anxiety and mood disorders.

It is amazing to me that you still find me attractive after all these years. And yet, when I look in the mirror today, I do not hate what I see as I once did. Isn't that a miracle? It has taken the best part of thirty-eight years for your vision of me to sink into my head.

These were things I loved about you from the beginning and still love: your wonderful voice, speaking and singing, your soulful eyes, your keen mind. I enjoy talking with you about life and God as much or even more than I did thirty-eight years ago. The passing of years has deepened our understanding of what it means to love God and eachother. Are we just beginning, after all this long time, to love the essence of eachother, in ways which were clouded by early passion and exceptionally high expectations?

Because we have come to understand that we cannot fulfil every need of the other, we have become comfortably independent. I want to continue to grow in my art and writing, even as you develop your skills as a spiritual director. These differences give us something to contribute to the spiritual growth of the other. Our strength has always been our ability to talk with one another. Your strength is that you have learned, when I am upset, just to listen and not try to fix anything. Having taught you that skill, painfully over the years, not knowing myself what I wanted from one minute to the next, I now wish I could be this way in all my relationships...just listening and not trying to fix anything.

The most amazing development over the last year and a half has been our growing common dependence on our relationship with God and our willingness to pray, even when God seems distant. This reliance on faith in difficult times is something which we share, though we might not always hold every political, ethical and theological notion in common. We believe that there is a Prime Mover, a Great Lover, a Source of Being. We believe that humans can have a relationship with the Source. We believe that that relationship makes a difference.

I want to start our 39th year with renewal...I want the kindness you have given me in my weakest moments to be the hallmark of our daily walk together.

I know that over these last few months you have been particularly taxed with worry over your new job and whether or not you will be able to do this Herculean task, and how you will do it. I celebrate with you that you are finding answers to prayer already...I admire, as I always have done, your ability to find ways and means in situations where others despair. This is a great gift of God in you and it is so exciting to see this finding fulfilment at this stage of your life.

I would have written this letter literally in ink, but I can't write as fast as I type and think. This way is better. You can file it somewhere and reread it and remind me of what I have said, if you think I need reminding.

I am glad I married you. We were impossibly young. We didn't know what marriage entailed. I was living in a romantic daydream. You were unaware of and confused by my needs for active companionship and gentle affection. We had not developed our God-ward capacity, even though we were so inclined. We were babies in faith as in life. Isn't it a miracle that the sufferings of life have toughened me up and softened you down, so that the incorrigible romantic and the logical philosopher can meet now on equal terms? I look forward to the best which is yet to come.

Love, Connie

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Music Has Charms

Music has charms to sooth a savage breast.

William Congreve
(1670 - 1729)

Or beast...if the movie, "The Story of the Weeping Camel" is to be believed. And it is!!! Those of you who do not watch subtitled movies will have missed this one. A rare docu-drama in Mongolian with English subtitles which are hardly necessary. The dialogue is so spare and the acting so clear as to make the story self-evident in any language. I was deeply moved by this tale of a first time mother camel who rejects her colt after a protracted and painful delivery. I was astonished at the simple yet elegant lifestyle of the camel herders of the Gobi desert. I was appalled to see the encroachment of Western inelegance (in the form of televisions and motorcycles) on the rythmned, mythic lives of these hard working people. And I was delighted by the climax of this movie as ancient music is used to aid the new mother to surrender her love to her nursing colt. A must see.

Another 'foreign' film to plomb the redemptive, healing power of music is Les Choristes, this time a French film shot in (Yahwehsisters, yes) Bulgaria! A heartless, punitive school for so-called 'wayward' boys is blessed by the coming of a teacher with an open heart and a flair for music. The sound track alone is worth a listen in this new classic film.

See it. See them both. Hollywood is not the centre of the universe. Films of superb quality are being made the world over.

This is the first in a periodic series of film reviews by Sister Maryconstance, director of cultural pursuits, Dawsonwood Cottage.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

A Miracle

To those of you who regularly tweak you blogs, this small improvement will seem laughable. But for me it is miraculous, a triumph over computer mind fog, a victory for persistence! I have managed to edit my links list properly! Many thanks to those who over many months have attempted unsuccessfully to teach me about this and other elusive blogging skills: Deb, Lisa, Bobbie, to name a few.

It took a few spare hours at the end of an exhausting Thanksgiving weekend. Several members of the family were ill. The green veg turned to mush. But I have a Links list!!! Now if I could only discover how to call it something else, like so many of you have done. Friends. Wayfarers. Lightbringers. Connections. That would be a quantum leap indeed.

Monday, October 10, 2005


Dear Friends,

My daughter Barbara who has appeared in my posts as 'Robbie's mother' and sometimes as herself, now has her own blog. You can find it by linking through the title of this post...just click on "Love Barbara". I am thrilled that this has happened. Pleased to see that blogging will be a form of therapy for her, as it seems to be for a lot of us. Take a look at what she says about setting high expectations for ourselves and others, and the fact that unrealistic expectations may then lead to resentment and bitterness.


Saturday, October 01, 2005

Playing God 5

This is the last in my series of posts about enacted prayer. And yes, I got to "play" God.

I was fascinated to find out if enacted prayer would work in our small rural congregation, a congregation where we have been, in the main, the youngest people attending for the last 16 years. I wondered if the blessings of enacted prayer which were palpable in a large congregation of young adults could be perceived in a small congregation of seniors. Sunday September 11 provided the opportunity, falling as it did on the fourth anniversary of 9/11, with the concerns around the devastation of hurricane Katrina still heavy on our hearts. No one in the congregation had any preparation for this. I was relying on their good-will and the power of God's Spirit.

I explained briefly what I was going to do. Instead of saying that I was "playing God" it just seemed appropriate to say that as we worked I would be discerning the mind of God for these situations, and that individuals would be chosen to represent (rather than PLAY) the various persons around whom we would be focusing our prayers.

I picked a lovely older couple to represent those who had lost loved ones in 9/11. They sat in chairs, opposite one another just in front of our low platform. A strong, tall man represented firefighters. An ex-school principal stood in the pulpit to represent government. A woman of great heart who has been widowed represented refugee victims of Katrina. Another woman with a mischievous child-like spirit became a lost child, folded into a heap on the floor. My husband, without his robes, represented aid workers. That was all we had room for in the front of our little church. I prayed and began to move about amoung the "actors."

I worked with those representing 9/11 first. Gesturing them to stand. Bringing the fireman closer with arms and face raised heavenward. The grieving couple linked hands. I remembered how often people who lose a child end up divorcing because they cannot bear the pain they see reflected in eachother's face. I held them in my heart. I helped them lift their eyes to heaven.

Then I worked with the Katrina 'actors'. My husband used his clerical gown to tent the homeless woman. (We hadn't rehearsed this. It was just given in that moment and it was powerful.) The indifferent posture of the government official was changed to reveal compassion and concern. I comforted and lifted up the "child" and danced with her and then went to find her mother, with whom she was reunited. We danced as three in the narrow aisle of the church. When all eyes were raised Godward, I said, "Amen," and sealed the enacted prayer with a sentence of spoken prayer.

Five...ten minutes...that was all. A powerful pastoral prayer.

It was impossible not to be moved by this. "Players" who had been hesistant to be part of the scene, gained confidence. The "child" talked to me about how really very much of a refugee she was in her real life. Then she donated a box of worship tapes to be sold for the Katrina relief effort!!! ($300.00, NO TAX, NO OVERHEAD) The fireman, a shy man, spoke of how he could feel in his heart just how he should move to comfort the bereaved of 9/11. He is a man of compassion and this role brought out the best in him. It was really real!!

We'll try this again. Perhaps on Christmas Eve as part of our annual Christmas candlelight service. The church will be packed and we will do an enacted prayer which will help us to focus away from materialism and onto the true meaning of Christmas. Maybe. Or perhaps God will give us another prayer request. Whatever we pray for, I know there will be answers. We live in exciting times.