Thursday, February 24, 2011

Unplugged/Tuned In

We spent the long weekend utterly unplugged. No iPod, no laptop, no internet to surf. Even my cell phone stayed in the car where it could vibrate all day and I would remain blissfully oblivious to its intrusions. Heaven. Honestly, it felt like heaven. It wouldn't surprise me a bit if I found out that Heaven actually resembled Sea Ranch on a long February weekend with good friends. Check your ear-buds at the door and forget wi-fi. The only way to hear this music is to unplug.

The playlist? Docile waves spill over sand in ceaseless rhythm then pull back with contented sighs. Seagulls state the obvious and small birds titter the morning news. Narrow freshwater rivulets gurgle down the bluffs and leap over the cliffs, laughing. Mighty surf pounds on black rock, crashing and roiling and then rushing back to mount again. Ocean music mesmerizes me. I never tire of listening. Sitting by the sea, eyes open or eyes shut, I am captivated.

Still, something odd happens when I spend a few days on the coast. When we first arrived at Sea Ranch and stepped out of the car, the sounds of the ocean washed over us. The beauty and power of the music almost overwhelmed me. That night I opened the window slightly and listened in the dark until I fell asleep. By the following afternoon, I had to remind myself to hear. In the midst of everything unfolding around me--good conversation, good food, a good book, a bad cold, a crummy hand of cards--the music faded into background noise that scarcely pierced my consciousness. Waves continued to crash, the ocean had neither moved nor shut down for the night. While my attention wandered,  the music remained constant. But unless I deliberately tuned in to the sounds of the sea, they became mute to me.

I notice the same tendency in myself when it comes to tuning into the eternal in day to day life. When I live mindfully--choose gratitude, look for the good, open my heart--a breathtaking song overwhelms me.  My soul knows the music and recognizes the voice of the Maker. But too often I get absorbed in the immediate, the daily, the hand of cards I hold at any given moment. Life distracts me and I miss Him. His voice becomes mute to me.  My attention may wander, but He remains constant. "Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep." (Psalm 121:4) Amazing what a long weekend at the ocean can do. This week I stop and deliberately listen for the Divine. The music sweeps me up in a dance that I have long known but am learning new. It captivates me, mesmerizes me. Unplugged. Tuned In.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Put Cupid Out of a Job . . . Fool Proof Valentine Recipe

You need a quick, classy, clever Valentine, right? Something unique and romantic that doesn't cost an arm and a leg? Easy. Write a love poem. No, really, write a poem for someone you love. Instant romance. Free. You can't beat that. Two dozen excuses for not writing a Valentines poem have just sprung to your mind. Nice try. You don't have to be a Nobel prize winning poet or an English major or anything like unto it. Go for a haiku. Haiku is lithe, elegant, and avoids the pitfalls of cheesily contrived rhyme. The format is simple: Three lines; five syllables then seven syllables then five syllables again; no rhyme required.  Five-Seven-Five. OK? Like, ummmm, this:

slice of morning sun
falls on your bright face and dims
by comparison


my heart still drums that
mad elated rhythm when
you walk in the door


you are my springtime
coaxing into bloom bright buds
that yield sweeter fruit

Try it. You'll get hooked. Write a haiku for someone you love or a haiku about anything. If you feel like sharing, include your haiku in a "Comment" and make my day. We'll call it our First Annual Valentines  Day Haiku Fest. I triple dog dare you. Happy Valentines  Day!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Nothing Says "I Love You" Like . . .

Grade school. Every February. The teacher handed out white paper lunch sacks and red construction paper and doilies. I got most excited about using the paste. It came in a tub with a plastic stick in the lid for spreading the sticky stuff (or for licking, in my case. The paste had a pleasing peppermint-ish taste that I couldn’t resist. What a great dual function school supply– an adhesive and a snack. Score!) Once I had made my sack as pink and red and heart-covered as possible (and cleaned the paste stick thoroughly with my tongue) I taped it on the front of my desk and the waiting began.
During the week leading up to Valentine’s Day the doily-enhanced “mailbox” filled up with cards and treats from my classmates. The torture became acute as I wondered who put the box of conversation hearts in my sack. A BOY?!? Finally February 14th arrived along with a room mother in cat’s-eye glasses bearing a tray of pink frosted sugar cookies. We tore into our mailboxes and began the process of analyzing the cards, reading them carefully for each delicate nuance. The conversation hearts came from suck-up Andrea. What a let-down. Most of the boys gave out dumb Hot Wheels and Batman Valentines with messages like “You’re on track, Valentine” or “Biff, Pow, Zap—you knock me out.”L-A-M-E. But Bobby T. gave me a Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp Valentine that said “I go bananas for you.” That can only mean one thing. Nothing says “I love you” like a chimpanzee in a three-piece suit with a briefcase in one hand and a banana in the other, right? Aah, romance.
These days, I confess, Valentine’s Day does nothing for me. Don’t get me wrong, I consider myself a true romantic. I just don’t pine for diamonds or long-stemmed roses or perfume. (A little high quality dark chocolate always sits well, though.) Those things seem trifling, flimsy even, next to the year-round-real-life-doily-free Valentines that Bob fills my life with. I recognize them for what they are– “I go bananas for you” materialized. Like Bob buckling my ski boots when my left hand refuses to cooperate then taking the blue square runs instead of the black diamonds so that he can warm my hands on the lift and ski just behind me to rescue me when my Parkinson’s wins and I fall. Or when he stands at the kitchen sink during “crunch time” for a dinner party, washing dishes in the wake of hurricane Jerie, wiping the counters clean just as the doorbell rings. Dancing with me in the living room. Laughing with me late at night or just letting me cry. Back scratches and checking the air in my tires and taking down the Christmas tree. Nothing says I love you like work and compromise and playing Scrabble three nights in row and cleaning up after four kids who have stomach flu. Romance indeed. No Valentine that money can buy could top it. Unless maybe Bob could find a tub of that paste . . .
In your world “Nothing says I love you like . . .”? What would your ideal Valentine be?

This post originally appeared on The Peanut Gallery Speaks. You can follow the comment thread there.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Seeing With My Other Eyes

Lydia stood up in front of hundreds of complete strangers and sang her heart out with earnest blue eyes. She had somehow managed to find clean tights and Sunday shoes among boxes stacked three deep in the house she had just moved into. After the first song she walked bravely to the pulpit that dwarfed her pixie-like frame and spoke clearly into the microphone, prompted by a woman she had met only moments before.

Lydia is four years old and that Sunday marked her first week in a new church congregation. The children  presented the program at the service that day. I sat on the back row of the chapel and wept because I knew that my grand-daughter hadn't wanted to move in the first place and that reserve often overtakes her in new situations or among strangers. But not that day. She raised her eyes and lifted her voice and I saw her. I saw her ancient, magnificent soul filling the space above the pulpit, not a bit like a pixie. I sensed the towering being she has always been and will become more completely on her life's journey--ablaze with pure light, her hair lightly brushing the vaulted ceiling above her, blown by an unseen wind. Then my eyes came back into focus on the small girl in the pink sailor dress with the ponytail. An intense wish filled me, a desire to take Lydia's hand and walk with her, to lead her and to follow her.  And I resolved to always see her with those other eyes, and to treat her as the luminous eternal creature that she truly is.

Several questions have lingered in my heart since that cold Sunday morning. What if we went through life with our other eyes wide open? Would it change our responses and interactions day by day if we worked to see in one another the divine, the majestic, the essential? Could we more readily extend respect or patience or compassion to our fellow travelers if we tried to see others as God sees them? How did Lydia tap into her bigger self to rally the courage and confidence to stand and deliver in a new and unfamiliar place? I suspect children have an easier time believing the words they sing at Primary on Sundays,"I am a child of God, and He has sent me here . . ." When we truly understand that simple yet profound truth we can do anything. Our understanding of our own worth and the worth of every single human being we encounter enables us to respond with generous hearts and to stand like Lydia in frightening situations and sing our hearts out.

I've heard of rose-tinted glasses, and I suppose that they could cast a certain lovely softness around our view of the world. But at some point the glasses will come off, or get scratched or stepped on and my view of life would go suddenly gray. I would rather keep my soul-eyes open instead and discern the beautiful and true selves of God's children who cross my path. So don't be surprised if you feel familiar to me when we meet as strangers along the way. I may not know your name, but I know your Father. And when I look at you with my other eyes I can see the resemblance.