Friday, October 24, 2014

The Weeping and The Willow

"I wrote a poem about that tree."

I said it thoughtfully as I watched the men clean up the fallen willow.

It weeps no more.  Or it weeps even more.  Who knows how the willow weeps when it's gone?  When its leaves, always reaching for the ground, find themselves lost among it?

The day before, I watched one of my very best friends drive away from my house, into the sunset it seemed, on to new horizons.  Her husband took a job far away, or perhaps not that far, but too far for sledding or painting or leaf-jumping or knitting.   The children, desperate to stay together that day as long as possible, asked us what we wanted to be when we grow up.  They know us.  They anticipated  a very long, drawn out, philosophical conversation during which they could run through the yard and become elusive as mice.  But we just laughed.  And then she thew her arms open wide and yelled it loudly, in the street, "I'm going to be the best friend there ever was!"

And I knew it was true.

The painters work hard outside, re-painting and re-doing all that has been lost to the weather and the midwest temperatures.  I make them cookies, the one with the beard and the one with the toothless smile, and I remind them the dogs will eat the cookies if they do not eat them first.  They laugh.

I wonder how I'll get it all done, and why I do it at all, and a little girl crawls into my lap and I know her childhood is rushing past, faster than I can fathom.

Then I remember.  It all falls apart.  The house deteriorates, the willow weeps its last, the child grows, the friend moves on, and what's left is a shadow of what was.  A silhouette...a still shot of the past, outlined and hazy from years of wear.

A poem of our life bound up in memories and leaves and I wonder about the poetry of days yet to come.

I stare at the place where the tree stood and hope they plant another in its place.  The painters pack up their things and move on to the next house, weathered and beaten down by life.

My friend  leaves in three days and I smile as I think of her new adventures, the poetry she will bring to her new town and the silhouette she leaves here.

It's the past we love or hate, for which we yearn or that which we abhor.  Usually, for most of us, it's a little of both.  But it's the embracing of all that has passed, of loving our today because of those who have made it, that is, perhaps, our most important endeavor.  Whether it's the willow that weeps us into life or the friend that loves us to a place of weeping, may we always love our story, the poetry of life knitted together with words and leaves and experiences cradled deep within us.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Coffee Cake, Mythology, and Misgivings

Every day at around ten a.m., you can find us eating a snack and taking a little break from our lessons.  

On this particular Monday, the break took place indoors, as it was raining outside. We had some coffee cake that had been sent over a few days prior because my husband's grandfather had passed away after short battle with cancer.  I consider my children blessed to have known their great-grandfather, a dedicated man to whom my husband was very close.

Cake is not usually my snack of choice in the middle of the morning, but this day, I made an exception.  They were beside themselves with joy and asked if I would please read to them from our mythology book while they ate.  As if continuing our story of Baucis and Quicksilver would be the proverbial icing on their literal cake. 

I was touched in that moment.  

I was surprised to also find myself a little concerned.

I want to raise educated, cultured children.  I really do.  I am thrilled when they
ask me to read.  

But this day, I took a look around, watched them eat coffee cake while digesting Baucis and I began to feel as though they like were leading some kind of fairy tale life.

What about all the warnings of overprotected children I had dismissed?  Was there merit to this notion that things could be TOO easy?  That mornings spent mulling over mythology were ones not to be experienced in the "real world" and thus detrimental to their fate as contributing members of society?

I began walk down a path of ill contrived panic.  Questions tumbled over one another as the weeds across sand.  

Will they be too sheltered and wonder what in the world this world is made of when they meet a society of people who eat coffee cake for dinner and curse Philemon?  What will they do when they have to walk in the rain when they've been sheltered from it under the roof of a liberal education and a doting mother?  How will they apply the kindness of Philemon and Baucis to the lost in this dying world, when their world was always made so alive?

But this is our story.

Our story, while not perfect, does, in fact, involve a lot of cake and a plethora of words.  Our story involves running in the rain and seeking shelter from the same.  Our Author plans our story, writes it, and smiles as their mouths fill with cinnamon and their minds a sweet story created by another piece of His creation.  

We are all connected through words and food and maybe that's why He called Himself the Word, His flesh bread, and His blood wine.  Did not the disciples that fateful night, as the Servant-Savior washed their feet and their souls and fed them a feast of wine and bread, feel as though they were living a sort of fairy tale?  Rescued, brought to high places, and made new, they relished in their newfound lives.  

Only to turn around and lose it all in a matter of hours and gain it all back at the words of a woman loved fierce and a tomb found empty.  

Fairy tales turn into real life whether we ask them to or not.  The question is never if things will fall apart.  It's a matter of when.  And was the washing of their feet by the lovers of their souls sufficient enough preparation for the grime-encrusted path that awaits?

The days following cake and mythology were spent remembering my grandfather-in-law, a man who lied about his age on an application to a packing plant as a teenager so he could work on the kill-room floor.  He was sent overseas and back again where, eventually, he owned the plant.  He retired at fifty-five and took trips to Europe and I suppose his story, with the blood and the sweat and the mopping, was fairy-tale-esque.  Did he always think so?  Aren't all fairy tales laced with blood, sweat, tears, and a few strategically placed villains?

Don't we all live a fairy tale?  At some point in all of our lives, we are either trapped in a tower, harassed by a witch, or scorned by a family member.  In the end, redemption weaves our story together and, for us, if words being poured over the top of cake is a refuge for the harder days to come, I'll take it.

At the end of our myth, the one about Baucis and Philemon and the Miraculous Pitcher, the hero and heroine get their dying wish and become trees under which the visitors of the land can rest their weary legs.  They become a shelter for the weary, the lost, the deserted, and the broken.  

Maybe my children, having spent their childhood resting in the boughs of well placed words and perfectly portioned ingredients, can become a sort of shelter themselves.  For the weary.  The lost.  The deserted. The broken.  

Let us rejoice in our story, whatever it is, for all stories are His story and the Author, I hear, is one of the best.