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Archive for December, 2012

2012-12-08_21-01-36_760

My neighbor, Sharon, sent around a notice in early November that she was having a show of her handmade clothes for American Girl dolls. I decided to go and check out the goods, since my niece owns an American Girl doll. Anna received the doll last Christmas, and I figured she might be due for some new things.

I have never seen so many adorable little outfits in one place: snowsuits and sundresses and one especially beautiful white dress with a scalloped hem that Sharon made from a tablecloth. But ultimately I chose a pair of red-and-white striped pajamas with a matching pillow and gave them to Anna when we went to North Carolina for Thanksgiving. 

Anna said, “Thanks! This would be great with the American Girl wheelchair that I want.”  (Yes, they sell wheelchairs for dolls now. Or you can purchase an ensemble—a wheelchair, crutches, and a bandage for only $41.99!)  That was the end of it, because Anna didn’t have the doll with her. 

I had pretty much forgotten about the whole thing until about two weeks later—maybe three—when my sister sent me an e-mail saying that Anna had taken a photo and asked her to forward it to me. The picture is featured above. 

I forwarded the e-mail to Sharon so she could see for herself how her work was appreciated.

And that’s when the magic happened.

The next day, I got an e-mail response from Sharon:  “I’ve left something on your front porch,” it read.  I stepped out the front door. There, wrapped in tissue paper inside a brown bag. I found a red fleece doll-sized bathrobe and a matching pair of slippers.

Gratitude is a powerful force.

In the last couple of weeks, as I prepared to leave my job and move on to a new challenge, I have had an avalanche of kindness descend upon me—lunches, cards, home-cooked food, accessories, books, hand-crafted and carefully chosen items for my home, even  a surprise party with cake and testimonials!  And all the time I felt like I’d been enchanted, rendered speechless.  “There aren’t words,” I thought.  “There is no way I can ever express how grateful I am.”  The best I could do at the party was compare it to a Quaker funeral—which I intended as high praise, but may not have come out exactly right.

My friends gave me so much, that they even filled my need for words. One of my parting gifts—a book by Anne Lamott called Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers—gave me some words I can borrow, for now, until I can get Anna to make me a handmade sign that shines with charm as hers does.

Gratitude begins in our hearts and then dovetails into behavior. It almost always makes you willing to be of service, which is where the joy resides.  … When you are aware of all that has been given to you, in your lifetime and in the past few days, it is hard not to be humbled and pleased to give back.

Most humbling of all is to comprehend the lifesaving gift that your pit crew of people has been for you, and all the experiences you have shared, the journeys together, the collaborations… the solidarity you have shown one another. 

To my entire pit crew of people: Thank you.  I am humbled, pleased to give back, and eager to be of service.  There is so much joy mixed up in all of these feelings, that it’s hard to know precisely where it does reside.  I expect it’s humming along the invisible, electric lines that connect us to one another.

Merry Christmas!

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Woodland garden

…life is hard,
at times as hard as crucible steel.
It has its bleak and difficult moments.
Like the ever-flowing waters of the river,
life has its moments of drought and its moments of flood.
Like the ever-changing cycle of the seasons,
life has the soothing warmth of its summers
and the piercing chill of its winters.
But if one will hold on,
he will discover that God walks with him,
and that God is able to lift you from the fatigue of despair
to the buoyancy of hope,
and transform dark and desolate valleys
into sunlit paths of inner peace.

Martin Luther King Jr. – Birmingham, 1963
Eulogy for the Martyred Children

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Vilhelm_Hammershøi_-_A_Room_in_the_Artist's_Home_in_Strandgade,_Copenhagen,_with_the_Artist's_Wife_-_Google_Art_Project

Vilhelm Hammershøi: A Room in the Artist’s Home in Strandgade, Copenhagen with the Artist’s Wife – 1901

My earliest memory is really only a fragment of a memory. I was about three years old, and a realtor was showing my family a house.  We walked down a hall, where sunshine came through the doorways of adjacent rooms and fell on the hardwood floor in distorted rectangles. I walked down the hall holding one of my parent’s hands (I’m not sure which), trying to step from one block of sunshine to the next.  The sun was so bright at my feet that if I looked up to see where I was going, everything seemed dark.  So I kept looking down. It was as if nothing existed but me, those blocks of sunshine, and the hand that held mine.

Sometimes I feel as if I should be able to enter that memory into a search engine and,  after a spell of sputtering and whirring, receive links to sites that lend it a deeper meaning, or at least connect me to places that would enlighten and delight. Instead, when I type in a phrase—let’s say, “blocks of light”—I end up with a list of things available for sale. In this case the list included an iTunes app and sustainable resin building panels. So I adjusted my search and used different combinations of words:  bars of light, sunlight on the floor, shafts of light.

And slowly, I did begin to find more enlightening information.  The first satisfying stop was Parabola magazine, which had Richard Whittaker’s interview with artist Jane Rosen.  Rosen paints and sculpts nature, especially birds. Best of all, the light in her studio changed her life:

RW:  Well, I wanted to go back to where you mentioned earlier something about this bar of light that falls into your studio. Now you said that this bar of light has…

JR:  It changed my life. I always had studios where there were no bars of light coming in because that kind of light changes everything, completely washing out the pieces. And at first, I was very upset with the lighting…. All day from dawn until dusk you get extremes of light bouncing all over and it was interfering. Then, just sitting in this chair day after day, week after week… what started to happen was I started to listen to the light. I started to catch the light at various moments where the light would inform what the height of the piece needed to be, or the turn of the head. I started seeing the light as a help rather than trying to control it. Being in relation to the light was a big thing!

Jane Rosen: "Birds/Gamut" installation view, 2006Glass and marble mix

Jane Rosen: “Birds/Gamut” installation view – 2006

Being in relation to the Light is, in fact, a Quaker thing, so I went to Faith and Practice and found this from Hugh L. Doncaster:

“Each one… has the responsibility to seek, and seek, and seek again where the Light is leading.”

I was happy to continue seeking—and am marvelously glad I did, because I came across a music CD with the magnificent title He Has Left Us Alone but Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace the Corner of Our Rooms The CD is by a Canadian group called A Silver Mt. Zion, sometimes known as Thee (yes, thee) Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and Tra-la-la Band. Now, that was interesting because my parents attend (and I grew up attending) Mt. Zion Baptist Church! I then learned that the album is lead guitarist Efrim Menuck’s tribute to his late dog, Wanda. My sister has a late dog whose name was Wanda!  Also Efrim was born two days before my 11th birthday.

The names of the songs on the Silver Mt. Zion CD are equally enchanting:  “Broken Chords Can Sing a Little,”  “Sit in the Middle of Three Galloping Dogs,” “Stumble Then Rise on Some Awkward Morning,” “Blown-Out Joy from Heaven’s Mercied Hole,” and (of course) “For Wanda.”

For a moment I thought there was another song on the CD, more prominently featured than the rest, called “Play Your Music From the Cloud.”  Then I realized that was an advertisement for the Amazon Cloud Player and nothing to do with angels at all.

Finally, another splash of light fell across my path this morning when I read the latest post by Gerry in his wonderful blog, That’s How the Light Gets In:  “Scientist reveals how the light gets in.”  Take a look. I am particularly fond of the final stanza of Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem,” which was the source of Gerry’s blog title. It seems rather Christmassy, too:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

Follow your own light wherever it leads.  But try not to confuse it with the advertisements.

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