refusing to box it up

 

towels

all of the towels

are packed in the boat – ready

to fold back homeward

view

and yet.. island breeze

sunlight saved up for dark nights

and salt  – all refuse

solar light

to box up the tides

the empty swinging hammocks

net

clouds reflecting clouds

clouds

made do

This morning, in celebration of cooling rain after such a long hot spell, I sit and watch the rain cascade off the roof. I am thankful for clean gutters and torrents of rain, while all the while thinking of grandchildren camping and woodpeckers hiding out and the homeless people I know seeking shelter. There is never a simple moment. And yet…I simply watch and wonder what will come next and marvel about who came before.

The church loaned me a huge desk. Way too big for my church study but just right for the Victorian parsonage, so like the one that I grew up in.

desk

I sit at the desk and pay bills this morning to the tune of the rain on the roof and I remember my Dad sitting at his desk in that old house. His desk lived at the top of the stairs – a study of sorts in the hallway. All the rooms taken up by kids’ beds. Dad made do with the hall and we got to see him sitting there. Doing what needed doing. Meticulous, responsible, timely, paying out more than taking in some times. He must have labored hard on how to keep it all going. The bills. The house. The family. The life.

Years later, he and mom sold that house. How sorry we were to see it go and how even sorrier we were to see the state that it descended to over the next many years. I hope that the family who bought it found there at least some moments of peace and order and love midst the struggle that every person and every family wades through.

In the new house, the little ranch (“Sorry, no room for kids to come back home” they said) Dad found another spot for another desk and once again made it his place. This one sat before a great picture window and if, in his dutiful sorting out of this and that, he took the time to look out, he could see the little paradise that he and Mom made for themselves. Thinking back to that little house I am glad that the two of them got a reprieve of sorts before what came next.

What came next will come next for me too. No need for a desk. A whole other unimaginable view. Gratitude links me to them. Memory. Love. A desk. A rainy day in which there really is nothing that needs doing except for this.

 

into the night

chair in the dark

All around New England we are shriveling up in a heat wave. Record temperatures day after day and no real rain in sight.  The lovely lake that I frequently sneak off to for a mid afternoon swim is practically hot to the touch for more than a foot or two down from the surface. Not cooling. Not soothing. Sends me running back  home to a cold bath and the pretense of fans blowing heat around the house.

That is until the dusk turns to dark. When I can no longer see the hummingbird feeder that I so happily put on our window in hopes of a hoard of visitors (and they did come for days until now when their sweet water must be as hot as the lake) and the night creeps in, I creep out again with our dog. Walking the streets. Looking for a breeze. Hearing what sounds like cries of distress; the frogs in the pond up the hill. Relentless in the night, they call each other. What are they saying?

Light breaks through windows and out to the street. I hear music, murmuring, babies crying, restless people like me walking about. The sickly sweet smell of the locust vies with the passing skunk. I am in company with creatures that would not be caught dead in the light of day.

Cooler? Not so much.  Yet I cannot spend another moment in the stuffy house. Out we go, dog and I, down the ramp, out to town. While the psalmist claims that waiting for the morning is the preferred spiritual choice, I wait for the night. God, who neither slumbers nor sleeps, is a good companion. Off we go, dog and God and I. Into the night.

a little shrine?

There is a woman who lives down the road a piece from me. She frequently posts evocative pictures of her city neighborhood and she uses the hashtag #rightupmyalley. I love seeing these pictures. They entice me to look at the world with a sharper eye. Sometimes I catch someone or something looking back. A feeling. A sense of place. An emotion. A surprise view of life as it might be if we would only let it in.

This evening when I was walking around my own villagescape of Shelburne Falls I peered into corners and behind buildings and across the river to the other side. Here is one “alley” that leads into a neighbor’s place of tranquility. Looking toward the  light I was blinded and at the same time got to see! I am thankful that there is no door to open or shut between the street and this spot. It gave me a moment to pause, which might be the best gift of all. Thank you neighbors, wherever you are, for inviting us in.

 

no door between us                            walk tranquil

the Buddha draws me inward

peace is possible

 

garden walk

 

cropped roses
Toddler in peach dress
matching her grandma. They bend
at the waist, hands touch.
In the church garden
younger and elder inspect
all the bugs, buds, birds.
Fading summer light
casts a glow on all of us.
See the day goes on.

closets, then and now, open and closed

I grew up in a large Victorian house in a small city in Western Massachusetts. I had, and thankfully still have, 7 seven siblings. We span 14 years so it was not long that we all lived together in that house. But during my growing up years the house was filled to the brim with children, my parents, sometimes my grandmother, an aunt or two and a cat that we called Mother. I have lots of memories of that house and that city. And now, lo! I live in a Victorian age parsonage. It seems like old times when our grand kids sleep over and when the house is filled with visitors. But I do wonder, where are my siblings?

The part of the “growing up house” that is on my mind today is the many closets. Some Victorian houses are short on closets but ours was rich. They were not “walk in” but some of them were “sit in.” In the back of the closets were bureaus and it was possible for a small to middle size child to push aside the coats or dresses and climb up on the bureau top and finally find a place to be alone. Quiet. If there was a light in the closet or if you had a flash light you could read. And for a short while nobody knew where you were. I loved being closeted in those days. Every kid needs a tiny space of their own.

Even I, who is sometimes short on getting irony, know that the closet of my youth is strangely similar and very different from the closet of the rest of my life. For a long time now I have not wanted to be “in the closet” and have pushed my way out of many. I have pushed out of closets in church and in my communities, in my neighborhood and in my state and country. I have not found the closet to be a place of relief and peace but one of pain and suffering. A place where I and other LGBTQI folks are squashed down and stuffed away and forgotten, like you might forget an old coat or a worn out pair of shoes that you have tossed in the back of a hall closet.

closed door

Closets can provide safety for a while. Closets are great places if one wants to retreat. But they are not places where people can breath or grow or be the loveliness that we were meant to be. And so, just about every day, I find myself opening the closet door. In conversation with a stranger or a parishioner I mention my wife. Not my partner. My wife. June is LBGTQI Pride month and I am having a grand old-time wearing a rainbow scarf that was gifted to me by a woman in my town. It brightens up my otherwise drab wardrobe and it opens the door to conversation. Our rainbow flag still hangs on the porch of the parsonage (actually it is about the 4th flag as they tend to fade away!) Even when we hear a complaint that “it is in my face” we do not take it down. Perhaps if no one thought “it is in my face” I might tuck it away for a season. Or not. I personally find it beautiful and it matches everything.

As I have written in this blog before, it is one of the most challenging things for me, as a Christian pastor, to know that not all but many churches and individual Christians still slam doors on me and my wife and my “sisters and brothers.” I am ashamed that my beautiful religious tradition is still being used as a way to try to keep people in the closet or worse. And so, even though in my heart of hearts I am a rather private “closeted person” preferring to keep my private life private, I open that door. I have tossed away the key and I am so glad that when I think of Jesus I think of a friend who says “knock and the door shall open.”

summer flag and house

 

laced with grace

sneakers

It has been a long spring. Long in its continuous beauty and it’s on and off again rainy and sunny weather. Today we are getting one of the rainy ones but not before I got to race up to the lake for a June 1 swim. I cannot believe sometimes that I have been planted here. Where else would I find such a sweet village community, an ecumenical church, a river, a lake nearby, and close enough for the grands to come to visit? As we churchy folks like to say “God is good. All the time. God is good.”

Yet sometimes life does not feel so good and sometimes it is hard to find God’s footprint. And sometimes the rainy days of our lives outweigh the sunny ones.

This spring I have encountered, in my own life, and in the life of  more people than I can count, a level of stress and sorrow and health challenges that seems to be over the top. Maybe it is because of my age. Maybe it is because of the pressures in our world. Maybe because I am more awake to notice it. I don’t know the why of it all but I do know that hardship abounds in this part of the world. And I know that this part of the world, as beautiful as it is, is not unique.

And yet…This week I heard from one of those suffering friends and what I heard has been on my mind. My friend is a pastor in a neighboring town. Seemingly out of the blue, because who really knows how illness erupts when we are not expecting it, his heart (not his emotions but his literal heart) cracked open. One moment he was walking around feeling pretty darn good, working on his farm and tending his “flock” and the next moment he was flat on his back in the hospital, waking up to find a stent in that very heart. I was shocked to hear this and could only imagine how troubled he must be.

I sent him a note to let him know that I had heard of his heart trouble. This is what he said.  “Thanks Marguerite. I’m doing well…The whole thing was one of life’s little surprises..but the whole experience was “laced with grace.” Thankful for supportive friends, like you, and community.”

Laced with grace. When what happens to us, the beautiful and the tragic, the sun and the rain, the grief and the challenge is imbued with something outside our control and overwhelmingly good. Like the people who came out of the woodwork to help Dorrie and I rehab the apartment house that we bought to help with the housing crisis in our town. Like the friends (not just Facebook but real friends) who sent love and encouragement and support to our daughter and son-in-law when our 5-year-old grandson  (the one with brittle bone syndrome) broke his elbow.  Like the community that comes out to pastor the pastors. Like what happens when we break and fall down and in that fallen down condition, find God sitting by the bedside.

I do not know yet just how grace laced my pastor friend’s heart surgery experience but I know that my life is totally laced with grace and love and surprise. Season in and season out we are held in a graceful, lacy, tensile strong web of Love. This grace does not need us to notice it at all. And yet…when we do, we get to see that it is shockingly beautiful.