Category Archives: Musings

What a little rain can do

IMAG4735

We’re almost two weeks into 2015, and somehow, I still have that January 1 attitude.  I can’t help but feel that new things are waiting in the wings, that life is somehow full of promise.

What are those things?  How and when will I find them?  I don’t know.  I figure that everything will become clear as I continue down the path of 2015.

About a year ago,  I spent some time at the labyrinth at a nearby retreat center.  Last January,  I wrote about it as a metaphor for life, for following the path and enjoying the journey.

A few weeks ago, I stole some time to go to the labyrinth again. It looked markedly different from the last time I’d been there.  Green grass and moss grew around the edges of the path, the result of the rains we finally had last fall after a seemingly endless stretch of drought.

IMAG4736

It all looked so different with the green contouring the edges.  A labyrinth is always a hopeful place, but this evidence of new life made it even moreso.

I also noticed green spears already breaking through the ground, bulbs getting ready to bloom.  What kind of flowers will they turn out to be?  I have no idea.   I guess that means I’ll have to go back in a few weeks and find out.

IMAG4733

I loved this new,  green version of the labyrinth.   It was visual evidence of both the journey and the fruits of the journey.  It was a reminder that if we walk in mindful faith into this new year, we’ll find surprises along the way, and subtle beauty, and life.

And that makes me happy.

IMAG4740-EFFECTS

The ongoing process of New Year’s resolutions (and why it’s okay not to keep them)

t6pzoWRr9jQhLtbfLZ8EjMzeGQHpFQAPvbO5RcLwYJjJ=w302-h534-no

It is easy to get cynical about New Year’s Resolutions.  How many years have I resolved to exercise more regularly, and how has that worked out for me?  (not well, alas).

But I can’t help it; when it comes to New Year’s, I’m an incorrigible optimist.

Before having kids, I made a tradition of taking my journal to a cafe somewhere around December 31 and doing some written stock-taking: what the closing year brought and taught, and what I hope for the year ahead.  Since having kids,I haven’t always had the luxury to take an hour and a half of written processing, but I’ve always managed to get a few thoughts in line.  Even if it only happens in my head or in a blog post, it helps.

Because even if I don’t end up keeping all of the resolutions, this act of reflection and stock-taking makes me burrow inward for a time.  It makes me honestly assess what in my life is bringing me joy, and what is getting in the way of living a life in line with God’s best vision for me.  It helps me realize what my priorities really are, and even if I waver on the specifics (I’ve eaten far fewer vegetables in 2014 than I thought I would last January), the general goals behind them do have an impact on my overall life (I’ve been more aware of my physical health this last year than I used to be).

Of course, the older I get, the more I realize how much I’m not in control of my own life.  Things happen in any given year, things you didn’t see coming, both good things and bad.  And resolutions that are too ironclad don’t leave room for the promptings of the Holy Spirit, which can gently nudge us down paths we never expected to travel when we penned our lists.

But I’ve found we can have both the mind that plans and the heart that remains open to change.  It’s a good combination, I think, because both involve reflection, stock-taking, honest and open assessment of the past and present.  I’m going to take my best shot at how to get the 2015 that I want, recognizing that the list I write on December 31st will be revisited, probably many times, in light of new information.  And that’s not failing at my resolutions; it’s discernment, and I’ve learned that it’s the reality of living a spiritual life.

So sometime today or tomorrow, I’ll take a few moments to take stock.  I’ll sit down and review what the year has brought, and what I’ve done and failed to do.  And I’ll look at the wonderful blank page of 2015 and scribble an outline of what I think I might be able to do to become the most mindful, healthy, compassionate, prayerful me that I can be.

And then I’ll close the notebook, keeping my heart open to the Holy Spirit and all the surprises she has in store.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Mary

VdxRwDPiklMHFrsRkXlfnM3Nt9h9JxqhkUgqSYiGh3D0=w333-h534-no

My kindergartener came home with what is perhaps one of the most adorable crafts ever: A paper “tilma” like the one in the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

I loved it not just for its cuteness, but for the fact that it reminds me of my dear friend Mary: one of Our Lady’s biggest fans.

Today is the feast day of Our Lady of G.  It is also the third anniversary of Mary’s death.  I miss her so much; at random moments a huge wave of Mary-nostalgia will wash over me, and the fact that she died so young feels so cruel and awful.

But thinking of the significance of December 12th always helps.   When you are forty-seven, no day is a good day to die, but there is such comfort in thinking about how it was on this very special feast day that Our Lady wrapped her starry cloak around our Mary and took her home.

So I smile at Luke’s little paper tilma, and I can feel Mary smiling at it too.   And I’m grateful for the chance to pause and remember two beautiful women on one sad, beautiful day.

I like to pray this way

Savoring life is a powerful form of prayer.  As a working mom, I’m glad about that.  Even if I don’t have time for the kind of prayer I used to do, I can make a point to notice the things around me as I go throughout my day.  The things I see, hear, smell, touch, taste — they point me toward the source of all creation, and I’m always happier when I realize that.

Here are a few of the sensory highlights of the last week.

TOUCH

Yesterday evening, I spent a half- hour throwing footballs with the kids on the front lawn.   It wasn’t easy; there were two boys and two footballs and only one me, so I had to stay on my toes so as not to be whacked in the nose, Marcia-Brady style.  But it was fun, and the feel of the grass under my bare feet — cool, soft, inviting — was intoxicating.  I don’t go barefoot often enough.

SOUND

In the mornings on the way to work, I listen to classical music on the radio (I used to tune into the news, but I’ve realized it doesn’t get me in a good mental place for the start of the day.  Chopin is much better.)   And along with the music, the morning DJ has a wonderfully calming voice.  Call me crazy, but his soothing tones always makes me feel like the day will be just fine, even if I’m running twenty minutes late and have just spilled my coffee on myself.  (It really needs to be a new Beatitude: Blessed are those who bring peace to the commuter.)

SIGHT (and SMELL)

These are the latest offerings from my garden.  Aren’t they something?

IMAG3843

The red one is the Mr. Lincoln I planted earlier this summer.  It seems very contented  and has been blooming profusely.  I feel happy just looking at this gorgeous trinity.  And the smell … no words can do it justice.

Where have you been finding God this week?

Old photographs, new technology — the pluses and minuses of going digital

PanAm

Photographs have been on my mind lately.  Earlier this summer, my husband and his sisters started the process of getting old negatives and slides transferred to digital files.  In the course of doing so, they’ve found all kinds of family pictures that haven’t seen the light of day for decades.

And in the course of making a memorial website for my mother-in-law Joan, we’ve been reviewing all sorts of photos from her life.  We’ve seen her as a young girl, as a beautiful bride, as a stylish traveler in the terrific photo above (PanAm Airlines!).

Photos mean a lot, no doubt about that.

Since getting a digital camera and a Smartphone, I never seem to develop actual prints anymore.  I used to order some periodically and send them to Joan, who I knew liked to have actual hard copies of snapshots of the grandsons to share around (I wish I had sent her a lot more than I did).  But most of the photos that I snap now end up on Google or on the computer.

And I have mixed feelings about all of this.

When you have young kids, a digital camera is a super thing.  You can instantly assess a family grouping and see whether everyone is smiling, whether anyone is looking down.  When the boys were first crawling and walking, they’d move so fast that sometimes they would be out of the shot before I knew it; with a digital camera, I knew to take another one.  And it’s certainly less expensive than developing a roll of film that may contain a bunch of duds.  You can also share digital photos so very easily (this blog post is proof of that).

And yet there’s something about holding old photographs that is romantic in the broadest sense.  Those black and white photos with the white scalloped edges, the Polaroids, the small square color photos from the 60s and 70s where the color seems slightly off — they are a past you can hold.   Somehow it is nice for these photos to take up actual space, to exist on their own independent of technology.  It’s almost a spiritual experience to leaf through an old album, or to turn over an old snapshot and see an inscription like Christmas 1944 written in old-fashioned cursive on the back.

Easter 1974

My family on Easter, 1974. A tie like that needs to be recorded for the ages.

And while on the one hand, technology helps us preserve photographs for the future, I am all too aware of my tendency to leave photos languishing by the hundreds on the computer, where they don’t see the light of day.  I always think,  “Oh, I’ll make an album with those someday,” and then I never do.  Will members of my family even find these photos in the future?  Will they even know of their existence if they are not sitting in a box or album somewhere?

I don’t want to turn the clock back to the time without digital cameras, for sure. But have we lost something in the process of making the shift from film to digital?   I think so, and I’d love to find a way to get it back.

What about you?  How do you handle family photos?  Any thoughts on the digital vs. film debate?