chairs

I don’t get around much these days because healthcare professionals recommend venturing out only for essential services. When I do venture out for these kinds of services, I see images like these:

Either no seating, or carefully spaced-out seating.

The message is clear. Move along. Keep your distance.

These distancing images have a profound impact. No words are necessary. It’s not safe here. Not safe at Starbucks? At the doctor’s office? Sadly, no.

I even have socially-distant seating on my deck for the infrequent visitor.

One chair I’d like to sit in again is that of my hair stylist. I have considered this a non-essential service, until today. Seeing a side view of my silver locks in the mirror this morning, I came close to becoming my own hair stylist!

The chair I am most longing to sit in, is a chair in the sky. I’ve been seated in a chair on the ground for four months! I understand some of the chairs in the sky have been removed so as to provide for social distancing at 40,000′. Well, I would hope so. We’re doing it down here, best we do it up there.

Chairs are generally utilitarian in nature. Yet in this time of pandemic, chairs serve to remind us we are not safe, and that we should be cautious. A danger we can’t see may be nearby. Perhaps our psyches might be better served if we view stacked and roped off seating as both a sign of danger and of protection.

I’ve been away from blogging for a while now, mostly because I blog when I travel. It’s been many months without travel. Since beginning this blog 24 hours ago, I’ve booked myself a ticket for air travel, and tomorrow I intend to book an appointment for a hair cut!

While my intentions are genuine, it may be I’ll find I’m not quite ready for these unfamiliar chairs. Stay tuned.

travel thwarted

I was supposed to depart today on a long anticipated trip. I’ll say right up front. I am not the only one whose travel plans have been disrupted, canceled. Far from it.

A year ago I got hurt in a car accident. Hurt badly. The travel today was originally set for a couple of months after my accident. That trip had to be canceled as my injuries were too significant to allow for travel.

Today was to be the rescheduled trip from last August.

I’m supposed to be on my way to the Faroe Islands, connecting through Iceland. Both countries have closed their borders, so even if I found a way to leave the United States, I could not travel to Iceland or the Faroe Islands.

Still…I wanted to try….

The trip will be rescheduled once again, but when it will be cannot be known this night.

As I was watering the pots of plants on my deck today, I was stopped in my tracks. There, just under the large foliage of one of my Icelandic Angelica plants were blooms! I have waited three years for this plant to bloom. And there it was, this day, the day I was to be on my way to Iceland and on to the Faroe Islands.

Do I believe in signs? Not necessarily, but I do believe if I keep my eyes open to my surroundings, an image might be presented to me that gives me both solace and hope. It felt like I was to discover my Angelica producing blooms just as I was mourning my trip lost.

So where to find comfort and how to see hope? The first place I thought to look is scripture

In 2 Corinthians 4:18 we hear, “…because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.”

Today I am so disappointed. Yes, it is temporary. And what I cannot see, I believe will be revealed.

I’m left with the need to trust and to rest in the Lord, for God will offer me profound peace this night.

Traveling, not traveling mercies.

hope

I’m anxious. I’m worried. I’m concerned.

How could any of us not be?

My best coping skills at the moment are to swallow hard, avoid thinking, and pray. Let’s say that again. Pray. Swallow hard. Avoid thinking.

What I do think about, though, is that it is Spring. A season of rebirth and renewal. And HOPE.

In what I see no more than 30 feet from my front door, are springthings that give me hope.

A bee foraging on a lilac bloom. Make that a ginormous bee foraging….

Hope of food shared for new birth.

A black trillium. For a number of years this trillium has been solitary in its faithfulness. This year there are two. A lovely surprise.

Hope of increase in due time.

A Buckeye sapling. This was planted as a buckeye nut, gathered on a fall walk at Vogel State Park a dozen years ago. It was at the base of the largest Buckeye tree in Georgia. There is hope it will one day bloom and produce a buckeye nut. That’s a Leland Cypress in the distance. It was a 5-gallon plant about 10 years ago.

Hope of living long enough to harvest.

A Ginko tree leafing out. It was an extra that friends offered if I wanted it. Of course I did! Though it prefers sun, I could only offer it sun abundance in Spring. It was just a foot high; now look at it.

Hope of overcoming an unfamiliar living location to flourish.

The Cherry tree. It was purchased in the early years of this place. It now stands 10-12 feet, with arms dressed in pink.

Hope of putting down roots for the future.

And fifteen herb plants which UPS delivered a day ago. They await planting as they acclimate to their new climate.

Hope of nourishment to come from a small beginning.

I didn’t make them wait very long! While planting, a line in May Sarton’s poem Gestalt at Sixty, immediately came to mind: “I worked out my anguish in a garden.”

Hope that anguish can be stilled by placing hands in a garden.

Late last night as Í was in the bathroom brushing my teeth and getting ready for bed, I heard just outside the window “hoo-h’HOO-hoo-hoo, hoo-h’HOO-hoo-hoo“. I was charmed, needless to say.

Hope to be charmed, again and again.

place of lilacs in our memories

I chatted with my brother yesterday. The conversation originated because of a post I had made on Instagram that morning. My post was of a lilac bloom near my front door which is just becoming a full bloom.

Beautiful, isn’t it?

My brother, sister, and I grew up with lilacs. In our front yard were three large lilac bushes, which kind of grew bunched together in a circle. It was wonderful as kids to slip inside the shrubs to play. We were covered in lilac petals and perfume.

I’ve loved lilacs ever since. Lilac memories connect me to my growing-up home. And oh, they connect me to so much more.

To the woods of Downeast Maine to seek out a hidden cluster of lilac trees. I brought back a lovely bunch of branches for the dinner table. Fresh-caught lobster, cooked down in the woods in freshly gathered seawater was the fare that night…

to a day many years ago when my brother sent me fresh picked lilacs from his lilac bush in Santa Fe. He had wrapped them in wet paper and sent them overnight to my office…

to lilacs awaiting me in my room on trips to visit each of my sons…

to an etching my sister gifted me some years ago…

to glee upon finding lilacs on trips with my very best friend.

In Butterfly Weeds, Laura Miller writes, A faint smell of lilac filled the air. There was always lilac in this part of town. Where there were grandmothers, there was always lilac.  My grandmother smelled of lilac.

Mary Oliver writes, “Every day I see or hear something that more or less kills me with delight, that leaves me like a needle in the haystack of light.That is exactly how I felt when I walked outside this day and pressed my nose into a lilac bloom for a long drag of lilac perfume.

Seeing my lilac budding and blooming out gives me hope in this topsy-turvy, frightening time in our lives. I’m calmed, a bit.

These days I feel safest when I’m outdoors. It feels like deep breaths are gulps of fresh air. So, too, are lilac memories.

arrested

So we got arrested today. Not literally but it kind of felt like it.

We arrived at Crystal Bridges Art Museum at 10am. While it actually was to open at 11am today, we we’re nonetheless welcomed as if it was open.

We proceeded through several galleries, aware that many groups of children were gathered alongside art pieces.

When we pushed open the doors to the Early American Art gallery, we were stopped by museum security persons and questioned. “What are you doing here?” “How did you get in?”

Then,”come with me”.

We asked if we could just sit in the galleries and wait until 11 o’clock. “No. Come with me.”

Questioning continued by a higher-up security guard. We explained how we had been welcomed as we entered, and again by guest services.

Questioning grew intense, as personnel tried to figure out how we gained entrance. “We walked in.”

Walkie-talkies went off. Other security personnel came to question.

We repeatedly told how we entered and how we had been welcomed by a number of museum employees.

Eventually we were sent outside to sit in the woods until the 11 o’clock opening.

I write this because much of the art we experienced addresses the plight of refugees seeking a better life and opportunity by entering America.

By no means did I experience what these seekers have, but I was most assuredly uncomfortable being escorted by a security guard and questioned about my presence.

So what must it feel like to be on the margins hoping to be welcomed?

I can go outside and sit on a bench for a few minutes, then return to be welcomed back in, unlike those who may never receive a welcome.

unraveling

Walking the many galleries within Crystal Bridges Art Museum, I’ve been struck by the variety of ways artists express their feelings, make commentaries, speak out.

Art displayed here is by contemporary American artists. There’s no limit to how these creative minds express themselves through art.

It’s joyous and jolting.

A piece that caused me to linger is titled Unraveling, by Ursula von Rydingsvard. The medium used is cedar and graphite, not something generally associated with unraveling.

I admit that at times in the past ten months I’ve felt like I was unraveling.

Today we attended a drop-in art making session. Led by artist Edra Soto, we used her medium – glass bottles – to create. We used modeling clay, epoxy and a glue gun to make art. After creating shapes using the clay, we affixed them to a bottle. I chose to make free-form shapes to create my version of Unraveling.

I anticipate I’ll have a solo show in the near feature with my solo piece.

art expands

One clear thing about art is how it expands our capacity to see. To understand. To delight. The exhibits I’ve seen at Crystal Bridges Museum of Art in the past two days do this.

One exhibit in particular does all of the this.

State of Art 2020. A team from the museum visited artist studios across the country, eventually choosing 61 artists to include in this exhibition.

I was struck with this photograph.

Art Miller’s AT&T Cellular Tower, First Church of the Nazarene, Springdale, Arkansas got my attention. Enough so that we decided to drive over to Springdale and see this for ourselves.

Twenty-five minutes later… we were in Springdale, gazing up.

Miller’s photograph is taken from the rear of the church, mine from the front.

The point of our trek to Springdale was to see the original image, a cross that doubles as a cell tower.

Commentary by Miller about his image: Rising high into the clear blue sky above the American heartland, these larger-than-life Christian crosses serve as beacons to those in need of spiritual guidance. Or perhaps, cellular service.

Last night we found a Saturday evening service at All Saints Episcopal Church. This church has a more traditional cross tower.

“Be glad, you righteous, and rejoice in the Lord; shout for joy, all who are true of heart.” Psalm 32:12

travel

This morning, as I prepared to leave for Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport, lyrics of a song came to mind – “what does it mean to travel…”. I quickly Googled that line and found all the lyrics to Mary Chapin Carpenter’s song of those same words.

From departure to arrival
What does it mean to travel
With your suitcase by the handle
Holding everything you need

.

Are you going or are you coming
Walking slow or running
Toward somebody or from something

Trade your longing in for speed
And the freedom to be a stranger
Is a bargain that’s ours alone

Sometimes you just want to be someone else Unencumbered and unknown

From departure to arrival
What does it mean to travel
And from taking off to landing
You could feel your heart expanding

You walked halfway down Manhattan
Till you met the Brooklyn Bridge
And in a two A.M.transmission
From a high wire act position
How the skyline behind you glistened
As if someone pulled a switch

And I don’t want to be a stranger
And I don’t want to be alone
But sometimes I just want to be somewhere else
Untethered and unknown
When I am far from home

From departure to arrival
What does it mean to travel

Yes, I’m in that chair in the sky once again. This will be trip number 410. But who’s counting? Oh right, me.

I’m headed to Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas. Located in the far northwest corner of the state, and surrounded by national and state forests and parks, this is a gorgeous place for a short retreat these first few days of Lent.

What does it mean to travel for me is summed up beautifully by the words of Mary Chapin Carpenter.

Traveling mercies.

waiting to fall silent

What does it say about waiting – longing – for something, when certain criteria first have to be met? I’m talking about snow. I crave snowfall. That is, when convenient, and when there will be no disruptions to my plans.

Then there is the waiting for the snow. No disruptions expected, so where are the falling snowflakes?

Since moving to Georgia I’ve taken delight in seeing and experiencing snow. I grew up with snow and for almost 40 years I lived in non-snow climes. Now that I live in the mountains I welcome snowfall. Just as long as I am not inconvenienced.

You’d think having retired and moved to the mountains, I would relish being snowed in. Well, quite the opposite it turns out. If I have just a hint that I might not “get out” because I have to be somewhere, I completely miss the snow experience.

Yesterday I had to be somewhere an hour’s drive from home. I was reasonably certain I could get back home before the white stuff arrived. I got back by the predicted noon snow arrival, but then I was frustrated by having to wait an hour or so for the snow show. What is it about my timetable?

At last the big show began!

May Sarton talks about snow silence in her poem, December Moon. “…so calm, untouched and white, snow silence fills my head.” I know that hushed silence. It stops me; it quiets me. When time dictates that I have nowhere to be, that is.

Mary Oliver writes, “snow was falling so much like stars filing the dark trees, so that one could imagine its reason for being was nothing more than prettiness.”

Prettiness indeed.

Of course this kind of prettiness and silence is only for a time. While fleeting, my snow craving is satisfied, my soul is quieted. Hopefully I’m learning lessons about patience.

“But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Romans 8:25.

I wish.

ready to soar once again

It’s time to get back in the air. After all, it’s been three and one-half weeks. That fact actually surprises me. So soon? Of course so soon!

This a quick trip, just three days. I’m in need of some time with my Texas family. A place I know I’ll be wrapped in love. It’s fitting that I’m flying into LUV on Valentine’s Day.

I follow the Cloud Appreciation Society on Instagram. This posted this morning,

Seated in my “fancy” chair in the sky, I would love to look out the window today and see a cloud heart!

When I learned to fly again decades ago, it was because of how much I wanted to fly to Maine to visit the Downers. They came into my life through Evan. They were parent substitutes for him for a time. They quickly became more permanent parent substitutes for me.

During that first flying trip Millie took me to Rookwood Pottery Company. Founded in the late 1800’s, it had a long history of creating beautiful ceramics. The piece I bought that day became a soap dish for my bathroom. Now thirty-five years later it still reminds me of the beauty of Maine, and even more, the beauty I found in the love I shared with Millie. Each time I reach for the soap, I’m reminded of her.

This day I’ve seen hearts in a soap dish, in Starbucks, the doctor’s office, billboards along the highway, and at the airport.

I’ve had joyous dueling valentine photo texts. I’ve been card-serenaded, and all four grandchildren texted thanks for Starbucks valentines. Imagine that. Just so precious.

Today I’ve noticed more smiles than usual as I’ve heard “Happy Valentine’s Day uttered repeatedly. I’ve smiled in return. I know this day is viewed as a commercial opportunity, and so it is. Yet, the sentiment of love seen and heard throughout the day can’t be just about a means to make money. I’ve seen for myself it’s more surely about affection, about love.

Traveling mercies.