It Is Enough

I have not been around these pages for a while.  I apologize.  I have missed you.  The only explanation I can offer is it’s summer (I absolutely love summer and am savoring every last moment of it).  Anyway, here is my sermon from yesterday ….  –PP

Sermon for Sunday, August 9
1 Kings 19:4; John 6:35, 41-51
Elijah Under The Broom Tree

 [Elijah] went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life …” 1 Kings 19:4

It is enough.  Elijah has had enough.  He cannot bear another day.  He cannot take it anymore.  There is something familiar about this scene; something we recognize.  We have seen this sort of depression: in ourselves, in others.  Elijah is not simply tired or discouraged.  Elijah has reached the point where he can no longer bear the thought of another day.  He collapses under the weight of his despair, right there where he is, a day’s journey into the wilderness, there beneath a solitary broom tree.  He cries out to God for release, for death.  Elijah welcomes sleep.  He wants only for his life to be over.

Yes.  There is something familiar about this scene.  According to the World Health Organization, there are 350 million people worldwide who suffer depression.  And, contrary to what we might suspect, depression is not just an American problem, or even a western problem, depression and anxiety exist in every country of the world.   According to the available data, 5% of the world population has experienced depression within the past two years.  That’s 1 in 20, and those numbers don’t even take into account the hundreds of thousands of occurrences that go unreported because of the stigma of mental illness.   Chances are either we, or someone we love, has sat beneath that broom tree.  Elijah’s despair is painfully familiar to too many of us.

Two weeks ago, a woman collapsed into her despair and fell to her death from atop Caesars Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City.  She was a bright and beautiful young woman, a wife and mother, the foster daughter of a friend of mine, and someone who had struggled with depression her whole life.  This was certainly not the first time someone within my circle of acquaintances had taken his or her own life, but this one was close.  The obituary did not report the cause of death, only that the woman’s death was unexpected.  It was heartbreaking to get that phone call and the memorial service was nearly unbearable.  So many unanswered questions.  So much pain.  Family members tried to speak, struggled to lift up and celebrate this woman’s life, and the minister did a commendable job of witnessing to God’s unconditional love in Christ; but it was hard.  Even for this pastor, it was hard.  The harsh reality of this woman’s death still presses heavily against my heart.  Did God not see fit to send angels to minister to her in her distress?

In the days since, I have found myself thinking of little else.  I have wondered what I might have said, had I been the one asked to preside at that service.  I have searched the scriptures and brought the whole of my faith to bear against what appears to have been the absence of angels beneath the broom tree that overshadowed that woman’s life.  There are no answers and I hesitate to speak with certainty about anything, but I kept coming back to one story in particular—about how the devil taunted Jesus to leap from the pinnacle of the temple for surely God would send his angels to bear him up in their wings.  True as that may be, Jesus does not jump; he does not test God.  But I’ve been thinking about those angels and their wings and that is where I have located my hope in the face of suicide—the angels do come; somehow, somewhere, in those moments between suffocating despair and death, the angels come with heavenly bread.

Anyway, that’s how I see it.  The bread that comes to us from heaven, comes as sustenance, yes; but it is primarily a sign and a promise.  For the Israelites who cried out in the wilderness, complaining against Moses and fearing they had been led into freedom only to die from hunger, God says No and rains down bread from heaven; food to eat and the assurance that God has not and will not ever abandon them.  When Elijah collapses beneath the broom tree, weary and spent, ready to surrender to death, God sends his angel to minister to him: a cake appears there on the ground before him, a sign that he was not then nor ever will be beyond the love and grace of God.  And when Jesus has compassion for the crowds and provides loaves and food for thousands, he does so as an expression of his own self-giving.  They came hungry and were fed, but the sign ultimately points to the one sent by God whose own flesh was to be bread for the life of the world.

Once the sign, the bread, has been pressed into your hand; once the promise has been sealed upon your heart; there is no way out, no way to escape the grace and mercy of God.  No peril nor hardship nor sword.  No height nor depth.  Not even death, itself.  Nothing in all of creation can separate one of us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  It’s madness, really, to believe such a thing.  That God loves us that much; that God has claimed us forever; that we are his and Jesus gave himself that we—you and I—might come to his table on this warm August morning and taste the sweetness of the promise.  I have seen the wonder of that promise realized in the faces of those who have taken the bread in eagerness and in tears.  In that moment there is nothing except Jesus, his self-giving love, and his promise:  broken and given for you and for me and forever.

Just this past week, I finally got around to seeing the movie, Selma.  I’m like that; it sometimes takes me a short forever, but I do try to keep my thumb on the pulse of popular culture.  Anyway, the movie wasn’t nearly as good as the hype, but it did raise a disturbing question:  would I have marched?  Would I have been willing to submit to beatings and scorn and possibly even death to stand up for something I believed in, for what I felt in my bones was God’s will?  I could not answer that question.  The year is not 1965; this is not Alabama.  But I also know the question is not limited by time and space and circumstance.  Would I march?  I stand before you this day forced to admit I probably would not.  Shucks, I have a hard time speaking up when someone starts making judgmental and disparaging comments about another member of the community.   I know I should say something; but I don’t.  So, no, I don’t suspect I would have joined the thousands who marched from Selma to Montgomery.

We all fall short of the Glory of God.  Each and every one of us fails miserably at giving full expression to the hope and faith we have in Christ.  We have good intentions, mind you.  But our feet hold us fast and our voices fall silent.  We are forever chasing after distractions to keep our minds occupied and away from thoughts of justice and poverty and racism and Jesus and life and death.  Even those of us who come to church on Sunday morning, often have the darnedest time lingering in the promise; claiming it for ourselves.  Five thousand people ate their fill on the grassy hillside across the lake.  Some went home.  Some followed.  All fell victim to doubt.  Who is this one who claims to be sent from God?  Bread of angels?  Bread of life?  We scan the landscape of our lives and cannot, for the life us, recognize the sign.  Oh, if only we could.  We wonder, briefly, what it would be like to rest on the wings of angels and trust God above all things.  And then our thoughts run off after some thing or another and we find ourselves frantically chasing we know not what.

As I watched that movie, I found myself profoundly moved by the moment when Dr. King and the crowd behind him, all kneel down in prayer, right there on the bridge; pausing in the presence of God; open to a sign.  I was reminded of the friends and family who gathered in silence trying to reconcile their often fragile faith with the inescapable reality of desperation and despair, daring to hope for some word of comfort.   Not unlike the crowds who stood in the very presence of our Lord and still could not recognize the sign, I thought about how we, too, hesitate to trust what is right before us, in our hands and on our lips.  The body of Christ, given for you; for me.  Bread from heaven.  Bread of angels.  Bread of Life.  Broken and pressed into our hands.  Take.  Eat.  Otherwise, the journey will be too much for you.  The promise is so outrageous, the possibility so incredible—forgiveness, mercy, sustenance, life—given for me, for you; restoring our strength; giving us life; right here, right now, lifting us up on the wings of angels.

Come to the table, beloved of God.  Touch the promise to your lips.  Dare to taste and see.  The Lord is oh, so good.  Amen.

Image: Elijah Under The Broom Tree/

Consequence of Choice

One of my biggest problems when I was still drinking—aside from still drinking—was I somehow had myself convinced that I would be totally unable to write without lubrication.  I can remember, a full two years before I gave up alcohol for good, I had managed to stay sober for about 30 days.  I was on medical leave at the time and feeling pretty awful, so my sobriety was more a consequence of circumstance than a choice.  After a few weeks, I was feeling better and planning to return to work.  I will never forget sitting in front of the computer, trying to write a sermon, and staring at the cursor mocking me from the blank page.  The pressure was on.  I had to write something.  And there was only one way I could imagine making that happen.  I went out.  Procured a bottle of Merlot.  And returned to the computer with glass in hand.  Voilá!  The words started flowing.

Unfortunately, the wine kept flowing long after that first sermon was written and preached.  It would be a full two years before I would find myself sober for any considerable length of time.  Again, more as a consequence of circumstance than anything else.  I ended up in rehab for 30 days—at the conclusion of which, I was, eh, shall we say, encouraged to resign my position.  I was sober alright.  I was also broken, depressed, and convinced I had been sentenced to a lifetime of repentance and misery.  I would never preach—let alone write—again.  The cursor would forever mock me from the blank page.  There would be no words:  no sermons; no poetry; no musings.  The flow of wine and words had dried up.  I think I started this blog to prove just that.  What I discovered, however, was it was still possible for me to coax words onto a page.  It felt clumsy at first, but the words eventually did come.

Before long, I was writing again!  Mostly about my struggle with sobriety at first, but then I started stringing nouns to verbs and crafting bits of poetry and fiction and actually found I was enjoying myself!  Discovering I could indeed still write without lubrication was, for me, the single most precious gift of my sobriety.  At around nine months sober, my bishop asked if I felt ready to supply—to fill in for pastors who , for one reason or another, would be away from their congregation on a given Sunday.  The previously unimaginable happened:  I said yes.   And last month I sat down and wrote my first sober sermon—ever.  My joy was nearly uncontainable.  It was actually pretty good.  And leading worship was, as they say, like getting back on a bicycle.  I took up the mystery and rhythm again without missing a beat.  I preached like a woman who truly did have something to say.  And I ended up having an absolute blast!  I was called upon again to supply last Sunday and I’ll be filling in somewhere else this Sunday, and have another half-dozen or so dates scheduled throughout the summer.

I am ecstatic.  Not so much about the preaching gigs—although those are a pretty big deal—as about feeling alive and forgiven and whole.  Maybe it does take a full nine months to a year for a career drunk to get comfortable enough in her sobriety to step out into the world with confidence.  At least that is proving to be my experience.  When I was drinking, I was as all but agoraphobic; ridden with anxiety and certain everyone “out there” was judging me.  In early sobriety, I felt humiliated and embarrassed and just wanted to be left alone to wallow and cry.  Slowly; ever so slowly, all that began to change.  The idea of living and laughing and writing and being happy began to feel like a real possibility.  Even for me.  And, what’s proven even more amazing is it’s turning out even better than that!  When I look in the mirror, I still see a middle aged woman, but on the inside, I’m feeling like a bright and capable somewhere-still-in-her-thirties kind of gal.

My sobriety is no longer a consequence of circumstance.  It is a life choice.  A gift.  One I want never to take for granted or risk losing.  People promised me it would get better.  I did not believe them.  And, aside from the merciful presence and encouragement of God, I cannot tell you how or why I was able to stick with sobriety through so many months that felt like deprivation and misery.  Somehow, I did it, though.  I stayed sober long enough to begin to live sober.  And life is good!  Oh, I still have plenty of problems.  Decades of drinking wreaked havoc with my health and my finances are in a shambles, but those concerns have receded into the background.  What is front and center now is—safeguarding my sobriety, yes, but—mostly wanting to smile like crazy because it’s summertime and the marsh grass is green and the sky is blue and I can write and life is so incredibly wonder-filled.  Thank you, God!


[The Pickled Pastor will be preaching again this Sunday!  Yay!  My sermon follows below.]

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Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4:26-29

Anyone who has grown so much as a tomato plant in a pot recognizes the absurdity in Jesus’ story of the sower.  Crops require care in their planting and plenty of water and tending if one hopes to succeed in growing juicy red Jersey tomatoes or tender sweet ears of corn.  Had Jesus intended his instruction to be taken as agricultural advice, the fields of the faithful would have, through the centuries, ended up scorched and barren and taken over by weeds.  Jesus was not, however, talking about agriculture, so please feel free to keep watering your tomatoes!  No, Jesus was talking about the Kingdom of God, the coming of which does require patient and prayerful waiting on our part.  There really is little else we can do.  Once the seeds have been scattered, any effort on our part to insure a bumper crop for Jesus can only result in our risking doing more harm than good.

There is a resiliency and wonder to God’s creation from which we can, however, draw much needed encouragement in our waiting.  Take, for example, the lowly dandelion.  Have you ever tried to eradicate dandelions from your yard?  Such is no easy task.  They are stubborn little devils.  You can “Roundup” until the proverbial cows come home, but dare to sleep and rise night and day for a week or so and you’ll have a whole new crop of sunny yellow faces mocking you from your otherwise well-tended lawn.  A miracle of sorts, really.  Survival and proliferation are tucked into their DNA.  I smile every time I see a child pluck up a puffy white dandelion and blow.  I cannot help but wonder if children, too, were not part of God’s plan at the time of Creation, innocently helping the Sower in the scattering of His seeds.  Children have never tended to these plantings of breath and breeze, yet those pesky little dandelions do keep popping up everywhere—dancing happily in the summer sun.

We think of weeds as a nuisance to be plucked up and destroyed.   Still, after millennia of planting and tending and harvesting, weeds persist in their annual taunting.  Why do you suppose that is?  Might it not be God’s gentle reminder to amateur gardeners and farmers alike that, when all is said and done, any harvest that comes of our plantings is God’s doing and not ours?  I believe weeds are proof positive that human beings simply aren’t in charge.  Which is an incredibly good thing, because whenever we get to thinking that we’re responsible for the harvest, it’s like saying we are the ones who make tomatoes and corn to grow.  I don’t care how green you fancy your thumb to be, you can’t do that.  Only God can make tomatoes and corn to grow.  The same God that designed the DNA of a dandelion created tomato plants and corn stalks just so, so that they may grow and blossom and bear the very fruit that makes it possible for you to plant your seeds and kernels year after year.  It truly is a miracle.  Really.

One of my favorite places in south Jersey is the Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge.  The broadness of the horizon somehow opens my eyes to new possibilities and, especially when I am feeling stressed, I find I can breathe easier there.   Along with providing a place of safe refuge for water fowl and other critters, it is also a place where weeds are free to grow unhindered.  Yes, Forsythe is one of those magical places where weeds are no longer considered weeds, but rather “native plants” given room and space to grow and thrive and give full expression to the design embedded in them by their Creator.  In early June, the vegetation in the refuge is beautiful.  There are dandelions, sure, but also mustard weed and clover and dozens of other flowering plants bursting with color and purpose.  Each one holding within itself the magic of its survival: seeds sown by bird and breeze, the scattering of the Sower.  The whole of creation sleeps and rises night and day, paying no mind to the harvest.  Winter comes and goes.  The snow melts in springtime.  And every year, by early June, the grasses, the weeds, the wonder—reappears.

I believe the same can be said of the Kingdom.  You and I, we tend to equate the coming of the Kingdom to the condition of the church.  We scatter the seeds of the Gospel and then we till and tend like crazy—as if we’re responsible for God’s harvest; as if we have the ability to raise up believers from among the weeds.  Seasons come and go.  The church thrives and we congratulate ourselves.  The church dwindles and we blame ourselves.  Surely there is something we can do.  Revitalize our youth ministry.  Incorporate a more contemporary style in our worship.  Introduce a new program.  All such efforts are to be applauded.  Potentially, they will make for an enhanced experience for members; maybe even get a few visitors to “stick;” but, no matter how successful we fancy ourselves and our church to be, we simply can’t make believers.  Only God can.   We have been entrusted with the Gospel, with seeds to scatter and sow.  But we can’t take credit for believers any more than we can for the tomatoes and corn we proudly pick out of our back yard gardens.  God does that.

Perhaps our role as church is less about raising up a hearty crop of Christians as it is about providing safe refuge for the fullness of God’s creation.  Who decides which stems to nurture and which need to be rooted out?  How can we possibly determine whether what appears to us as weeds may not, in fact, be the most treasured of the Sower’s plantings?  Certainly Jesus showed a certain partiality to the more scraggly stems among God’s people:  the poor, the leapers, tax collectors and prostitutes.  Somehow, Jesus was able to recognize in weeds such as these the embedded DNA of the Creator; saw in those the world may have regarded as undesirables the coming of the Kingdom in its fullness.  The very last thing the Sower needs is gardeners the likes of you and me offering our conflicting opinions and haphazard willingness to help His harvest along.  Best we stick to scattering and leave the increase to God.

After a week of rain, I spent last Sunday afternoon at Forsythe breathing deeply and taking in the wonder and beauty of my surroundings.  The sky was clear and blue.  The sunlight reflected on the water like so many gemstones glistening.  And wildflowers were blooming everywhere:  yellows and purples and so many shades of white.  Yes, even the occasional dandelion by the roadside seemed to dance.  Here was the splendor and fullness of God’s creation as God intended it, all tucked safely within the refuge—far and away from the asphalt and misguided prosperity of the world.  And I got to thinking—this; this is the work to which the church is called.  Not with grit and determination to inch ourselves ever closer to the coming of the Kingdom.  No, the Kingdom is best left safely in God’s hands.  But rather to scatter the seeds of the Gospel faithfully, trusting the Sower, and then provide a place of safe refuge to believers and undesirables alike; recognizing, even in those we may regard as the weeds among us, the embedded DNA of the Creator.

The seeds will grow, though we know not how.  Tender sprouts finding refuge in our buildings, our prayers, and our hearts.  Joining their voices to ours, praying for the coming of the Kingdom.  Gathering at our Lord’s Table of Grace.  Washing one another in the wet promises of Baptism.  All of us together; growing in God’s perfect time; thriving according to the will and purpose of our Creator; safe in the refuge of His boundless mercy.  When the grain is ripe, the Master Gardner will return with His sickle.  All in God’s time, my beloved.  All in God’s time.  We are left to sleep and rise and wait and pray.  Do me a favor; just a single little favor for this week’s supply preacher:  next time you see a puffy white dandelion, before you run for the Roundup, conger up your inner child, reach down, pluck it up in your hand and blow.  Then take a moment to marvel at the mystery and wonder of Creation.    God is oh, so good.  May His Kingdom come.  Amen.

I Don’t Play Golf

015 (3)Never was much for watching it on TV, either.  Too slow.  Too quiet.  Just a lot of grass and whispering commentators droning on for hours.  I did, however, have an absolutely splendid time at the ShopRite Seaview LPGA Classic last week.  017 (3)Five glorious days of sunshine and exercise.  Anna Nordqvist won.  With an 8 under par.  I know that because everybody went crazy when she sunk her final putt.  I read the 8 under par bit in Monday’s paper.  I was not nearly as excited and involved with the game as I was the swelling crowds and the anticipatory atmosphere.  I was there for all of it.  Through two days of the ProAm (when amateur golfers—mostly men—play with the pros) and the qualifying games that led up to Sunday’s big event.

I systematically alternated between crop pants with long sleeves and shorts with tank tops hoping to get the most tan possible without risking a burn.  I hiked from hole to hole watching tee offs and putts and marveling at the rare sighting of a female caddy hauling an enormous bag of clubs.  I ducked into the shade when I wanted to get out of the sun and sat in the grass to lose myself in the warm breezes of late May.  I ate free hotdogs and sampled a variety of flavored lemonades.  There was minigolf and face painting for the kids and dozens of vendors hawking their wares.  And, in stark contrast to the carnival atmosphere by the entrance, hundreds and hundreds of spectators who all seemed religiously serious about golf.

028 (3)bAs for me, I was a stranger in a strange land.  For a non-golfer, non-golf enthusiast to venture into a professional golf event is akin to travelling to a foreign land.  The language—bogies and birdies and eagles—is unfamiliar.  The natives all conform to the same local customs of dress and move about in clans, following their chosen leader, trancelike.. And “the course” is completely set apart from all things familiar—worry, stress, and relentless obligations—providing a virtual oasis in the desert of reality.  For hours upon hours, there is only “the game,” the sunshine, and an endless expanse of green grass punctuated with clusters of trees and the occasional traps of soft white sand.   I dare say, it was one of the best vacations I’ve ever had!

No, I don’t play golf, but I now have a far better understanding why so many people do.  And, while I still have no intention of ever picking up a driver or hauling around a bag of clubs, I’m already looking forward to returning  to the LPGA Classic next year!  Fore!


Peonies/Bing ImagesMy grandfather was a farmer.  And although it may be hard to imagine, alongside the tomatoes and strawberries, peppers and corn, there was another important crop:  peonies.   I can remember, as a kid, buckets of bunches of peonies next to the boxes and stacks of produce at market.    Every spring, in the days leading up to Memorial Day, folks would be buying peonies.  Bunches and bunches of peonies.  Flowers for the cemetery, blossoms of affection for loved ones lost.

Maybe because it was the 1960s and so many families were still grieving family members lost in the wars, but it seemed to me those peonies were bought and carried to the graves of all the beloved dead.  Not just soldiers, but grandmothers and sisters, moms and dads and uncles.  As I grew up, people started taking all sorts of flowers to the cemetery for Memorial Day, but when I was small, people took peonies.  Lots and lots of peonies—cut and gathered from my grandfather’s farm.

I don’t think I’ve seen a bunch of peonies for years, but I remember them being enormous beautiful flowers that came in shades of red and pink and white. Sadly, I also remember them being quite buggy.  Ants, I think.  In a time before modern day insecticides, I remember the peonies being incredibly beautiful, but always full of bugs.  You wouldn’t have wanted to bring these flowers inside, but they were perfect for the cemetery.   Anyway, that’s the way I remember it.  And Memorial Day always reminds me of peonies.

Nowadays, Memorial Day is about remembering those who gave their lives in service to this country and it is a good thing to honor the memory of these brave men and women.  I, however, will be taking time out of this day to celebrate the memory of my parents and grandparents and all who I have loved and lost along my life’s journey.  I don’t do the cemetery thing.  Never have.  Never thought the dead cared so much whether or not their loved ones brought flowers to their graves.  But in my heart, I will be laying down bunches and bunches of peonies  in the soft green grass and saying, thank you—for all the memories and for loving me.

Happy Memorial Day.

Happy (Mother’s) Day

Bing images - I love mummyFor every mother, there’s another.  Another woman who, for one reason or another, is not or has not.  Mother’s Day is not flowers and pretty cards and adorable handmade gifts for everyone.  Some of us are still grieving the loss of our mother or the loss of a pregnancy or having lost custody of our children.  Some of us are still coming to terms with our life choices, whether they be career, lifestyle, or perhaps even addiction having brought us through circumstances where motherhood was never a viable option.  And some of us have been abused or have never had children and harbor a certain amount of resentment that society and Hallmark persist in holding up motherhood as the ideal and norm for all women.

Every Mother’s Day, my father (who was every bit a scoundrel the other 364 days of the year) would plant geraniums for my mom.  Red ones.  Buckets of them.  I don’t have any recollection of there ever being any tenderness between them.  This annual gift of flowers and planting was a ritual carried out as obligation and received with near indifference.  But still, all these years later, after both my parents have long since passed, geraniums continue to represent Mother’s Day to me.  So, when I was at Home Depot last week picking out flowers for the pots on and around my deck, I had to purchase one red geranium to include among the impatiens, petunias, marigolds, and other pretty plants I do not know the names of.  That single geranium is a hardy little bugger and even has a few new red buds.  A sign of some sorts, perhaps.  Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

I never had children.  Never married, either.  I once thought about having a kid anyway, but it was only a fleeting notion.  My biological clock was winding down and I remember thinking it was going to have to be then or never.  I opted for never.  I wouldn’t have made a good mother.  Just wasn’t cut out for it.  I wouldn’t have made a particularly good wife, either.  Years of alcoholism aside, I’ve always been too self-willed, perhaps too selfish, to bend and accommodate the needs and expectations of another.  Not that I was the sort of woman who was turning down proposals left and right.  No one ever asked.  But then, I never settled into a relationship long enough for the question to come up.  Those choices don’t make me any less of a woman, though.  I’m still whole and complete and (now in sobriety) pretty darn happy.  But they are still choices that, for better or worse, are underscored by all the Mother’s Day hoopla.

It seems I am in good company.  A woman by the name of Anne Jarvis is acknowledged as the official founder of Mother’s Day.  Although mother’s had been getting together to mourn fallen soldiers and support various efforts since Civil War times, Ms. Jarvis organized  what has since been recognized as the first Mother’s Day at her church.  It was her way of honoring the memory of her own mother who had passed some years earlier.  She went on to campaign to have Mother’s Day recognized nationally, only to later become vehemently opposed to the resulting commercialization and actively fight to have the day stricken from the U.S. calendar.  Jarvis, herself, never married nor had children.  For her, Mother’s Day was the setting aside of a day of remembrance, a day to honor the memory of mothers lost.  Had Anne Jarvis’ intent been preserved, I would be on board with Mother’s Day 100%.  As it is, though, I am left with mixed emotions.

I know, before this day is over, some well-intentioned stranger or two or three will wish me a Happy Mother’s Day.  They will look at me, certain I am most probably a mother and a grandmother, and be sincere in their well wishes.  Such greetings neither annoy nor disturb me, but they do make my heart ache for the women whose hearts will break in two if they even hear those words a single time.  For the mothers out there, I wish you a happy Mother’s Day crammed full of love and hugs and blessings.  But if you are another, one of the other nearly 45% of the female population in the U.S., I reach out my arms and my prayers in solidarity and affection.   Our lives matter, too.  As for me, I’m going to spend some time out on my deck watching a red geranium grow and remembering my mom.  I’m hoping for a day of blessings, too; a day of blessings for all women everywhere.  It is Spring, the sun is going to shine, and life is oh, so good!  Happy Day!  Happy Day!Bing images - geranium


073 (3)Time stands still.
Only for a moment, mind you,
but still nonetheless.
A fleeting
endless pause
pregnant with possibility.
Nothing moves
save eyes beholding beauty.
Surrounded by sky.
Smooth wonder sliding into my soul.
Quieting chaos.
Coaxing me into its calm.


Summer Colors

001 (3)Colors behind glass in a small corner cabinet.  Orange, and yellow and green and salmon and two shades of blue, one as soft as a cloudless sky, another as electric as an approaching storm.   My favorite has always been the orange, though.  It is red by definition, but orange to my eyes, round and smooth; such a happy color.  I have been collecting these dishes since before Fiesta’s comeback.  Flea markets, yard sales, my mother’s cupboards.  When facsimiles started showing up in magazines and at Target, my heart sank.  The colors weren’t right.  Too pastel.   Not as real.  Forever to be popping up and mixing in and polluting collections of authentic Fiesta.

More than twenty years ago, I paid fifty dollars for a bright orange tea pot a friend had found at a flea market.  I will never forget his excitement when he ran to tell me of the treasure he had found just two tables over.  It was perfect.  Continues to be the centerpiece of my collection.  I’ve seen similar teapots in collectables and antique shops.  Still priced at or about fifty dollars.  Everything has increased in value except Fiesta ware.  It’s too common now.  Too hard to tell the originals from the copies.  And copies are everywhere.  I think you can still buy full place settings on line.

Not that I would ever part with a single piece.  Those plates and cups and bowls mean too much to me.  They are prizes from treasure hunts long ago, when a cobalt blue saucer or bright orange teapot still made my eyes wide with wonder.  I carried those pieces home as precious heirlooms.  Wrapped and packaged them with great care through every move and transition of my life.  Discoveries have since become fewer and so much farther between.  I don’t think I’ve come across an authentic piece for years, at least not since arranging my colors in their current cabinet.

Fiesta ware was, I’ve been told, dinnerware manufactured for and sold to working class folk.  I have tried to imagine unknown sisters long ago bringing home full sets piece by piece.  Purchasing a plate out of this paycheck, a cup out of the next.  I close my eyes, concentrate, see families gathered around tables of color, children changed out of their school clothes, casseroles steaming atop trivets. I over hear conversations about factories and upcoming Fire House dinners and meetings of the PTA.  The sun is always still shining; it is summer.  It is always summer in my imagination, always summer behind the glass in my corner cabinet.

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Today’s free-write will be my final response to the prompts for Writing 101.  I’ve enjoyed them, but it’s time for me to get back to the journey …


They said she should go, so she went.  Every move she made had become someone else’s decision.  She tried hard to remember.  How long had it been?  When was the last time she was free to come and go and get angry or sad all by herself?

An unfamiliar landscape whipped past her.  Daunting shadows of memories and dread.  Her thoughts raced as terror seized her.  Escape became more necessary than air.  The car stopped.  Time stood still.  Opportunity pushed opened a door and she hurled herself and into the night.  Running.  Scared.

Briars tore at her clothes as she cleared the woods and stumbled into an open field. Every muscle ached, but she dared not stop for fear of she knew not what.  Freshly plowed furrows led her down to a narrow road where she forced her legs to carry her the full length of its winding.

The smooth sand of a deserted shoreline eventually opened up to welcome her.  She collapsed into its time-worn softness, sucked in the damp salt air.  Sobs broke their silence.  Tears spilled into the sea.  And then, without warning, laughter.  She rolled back on her heels and howled at the absurdity of it all.
turbulent sea

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The above is a fictional response to the Writing 101 prompt:
“What are you scared of?  Address one of your worst fears.”