Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Light Shines


I grew up in a semi-rural community just outside of Detroit.  My mom worked as a clerk in the building department at city hall and wrote poetry and political satire at night.  My dad drove a truck.  We lived in an old farmhouse on a couple acres of land, just far enough away from the neighbors, she always said, on a mile square tract of fields plowed with rows of corn and soybean and bisected by the old county ditch running through it.  

Bleakness hung in the air. There was a perpetual cloud over the house, not quite darkness nor yet cloudburst that might flush away the blue-collar gloom, but instead a paradox of inchoate form and overfullness that never gave birth hanging heavy with the smell of boiling cabbage, gravel and ash, axle grease and dirt.

Wintertime was my favorite season.  The bare trees standing in the oblique light expressed something inside me that I could not.  I was the immigrant’s daughter, my father from a land across an ocean, whose grandmothers had stood upon a black earth “sown with bones and watered with blood” in the catastrophe that had befallen Europe between Stalin and Hitler.

It was impossible to turn a blind eye to suffering and to the dark world of the human heart.  One could see it sometime in the people, those who sought money and power and held a hand over the bent heads of others.  My father would point it out, commenting in his oblique way, “the hand goes to the mouth.”  And I felt the shame of being human, trying to recall the better parts of myself, knowing darkness was there in all of us. 

What is wisdom?  What is noble?

St. Augustine said that God gave man memory so that he might find the light inside him through the act of remembering.
If we remember that we have forgotten something, we have not forgotten it entirely.  But if we have forgotten altogether, we shall not be in a position to search for it."
Remembering leads back to a beginning, to the truth, as we recall the steps we took that got us where we are.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

In Life, Each Must Sew Her Own


She stands in her magnificent robe and takes up half the sky.  She is the Protectress, still and silent.  Loving.  Her arms spread like sturdy boughs enjoin you to come and shelter there under her mantle of shade and solace. 

You do not want to stand apart.

You seek her stillness, her silence, her strength.  Still, you try to give life to something inside of you, but you stare at your own brindled, late-blooming form and feel inadequate.  How am I to make the thing called me?  How am I to see who I am and clothe myself with grace and elan?

In his writings on faith, Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard says that the secret to life is that everyone must sew it for himself, the costume that one must wear in life. The coat in that old fairytale, the thread of which is spun with tears and bleached by tears, is sewn in tears, but the garment gives better protection than iron and steel.  The catch is, you have to sew it for yourself.

You were given the material: a life, which is your fabric, or perhaps you wove that cloth yourself from the many threads that were handed you, be they cotton, silk, poly or wool.  Not all fabrics are the same and what you start with is always reflected in the end, but it is up to you to work it.  Some fabrics are strong and suitable for making coats and work clothes, some for shells that are warm yet lightweight and travel well, some are best used for sportswear or tailored suits for business or for loose tops or crisp blouses or small underthings.  Some can hold a pleat while others find form more elegantly in soft, billowing gathers.  Some come to life in full skirts and party dresses.  Others are fit for a queen’s mantle, or the cloak of a protectress.

You can, of course, go against the grain.  However you work it, ultimately, it is up to you.  You decide how to make your own protection, your own comfort, your own confidence.  And then you work it, whether for yourself or to provide for others around you. 

Every seamstress knows that a good result does not always come to the one who labors for it.  In life, in the physical world, there are no guarantees a garment will turn out.  Making one might not even be possible.  But inside of you, the part you clothe with inner work, anything is possible.  Here, effort is always commensurate with result.  You simply need to make the movement toward it.  For that is faith, that movement, a practice of human power. 

You can create the Protectress inside of you.  You can find the mother and the father inside you and shape them into a coat that keeps you safe and warm and strong.