I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Sunday

This picture was taken on Easter Sunday, 1948 or so. I think Daddy was as proud of that car as he was of his two beautiful daughters. Norma Jean is in pink and I am in yellow, both of us the picture of spring. The picture is faded now, but the Easter baskets are still appropriately filled with eggs and candy. That tar-paper shack in the background was the Base housing where we lived at the time. I remember that dress, so I must have more memories rolling around in my head that I can no longer access.

Today is Easter Sunday 2010. Fifty-two years have passed since that picture was taken. I am still here on this earth, now living in the Pacific Northwest with Smart Guy. I have a routine that takes me through my days, and I look forward with optimism to the future. But now I am old, and although I am still fit enough to hike in the mountains with my friends, the operative word there is "still." Once you get to a certain age, you know it's a blessing to STILL be able to do these things, but the body breaks down, little by little.

And so does the soul, unless it is watered with grace. I woke this morning not feeling the happiness I usually feel, but feeling the loss of so much that matters to me. My parents, children, many of my dear friends, my youth -- they are all gone forever. I feel the weight of the years I carry around with me now. That child in the picture, with her whole life ahead of her, that was me then. The me of today no longer wonders what her life will be like, because most of it is behind me.

So much of my life I have sought for solace through temporal things that don't last. On my journey I have studied many different religions, joined some, but now I don't attend any church regularly. I tried a few here in Bellingham after moving here, but none has yet moved me to join. I just now wondered what Easter was like in my early journals, picked up one and found an entry from April 2nd, 1983, while I was on retreat at the St. Walburga convent in Boulder:
Now I want to offer thanks. I was given answers to all the questions I have been asking since I got here. Father Von Zeller, the priest here at the Convent, has written a book, "The Trodden Road," which was mentioned to me by a woman who was here last year and appeared again today. She mentioned this wonderful little book and just before I sat down to meditate, I picked up the copy that Father gave me a while ago. He said just to take one -- the chapter called "Love of God Makes Us Self-Forgetting" is where I opened it and began to read.

"The addiction to perfection trap is shown yet again: It is the souls who are trying desperately to run along the way to sanctity that are tripping over themselves. They hate themselves, encountering self hate every turn, but have not reached the degree of detachment which rises above self-hatred and the desire to make an impression on others."

"What do other people's reactions matter anyway? We are not what we are in the minds of others but what we are in the mind of God. It is a pretty poor sort of existence which lives only in another person's imagination. It is to become a ghost, a character in fiction. Either to strike attitudes for other people's benefit or to belittle ourselves from a false concept of humility is to offend against the truth. It is to live in front of a mirror, and distorted reflections only cause trouble in the end. Vanity has to be punished somehow."
I wrote down those words 27 years ago. I am still working on recognizing God's love in my life, and I suspect that it will not be until I have passed through the Valley that I will truly know the extent of it. But today, Easter Sunday 2010, I am still here, grateful for the birds I see outside my window that visit me, the friends I have made in my life here, and the friends I have made on line. And my sleeping partner next to me while I write in here, I am so grateful.

Every Easter is an opportunity to be thankful that this life is not all we will ever know. As surely as the summer follows the springtime, those buried buds of longing will one day bear fruit. My soul is being watered by grace, still today. I wish all of my loved ones blessings on this day, and all the days that follow.


CiCi said...

Your words are set down gently and shared lovingly. Your childhood was lived and your sorrows lived through. Your reminder that this is a good time of year to be thankful that this life is not all we will ever know is just like you are in your posts: Hopeful and consistent. However you celebrate this Easter, I wish you a day of peace and acceptance. Hugs to you and your dear Smart Guy.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

This was a beautiful post. You don't need to wonder what your life will be like in the big sense, and maybe that's good after all the changes you've experienced in your life. But if you feel a need to change things up, you could always embark on some new adventure...a spiritual journey or a hobby that becomes a passion, or a volunteer role that leads you to unexpected places. In other words, you ain't dead yet, lady! Far from it!

Linda Reeder said...

As arthritis seems to be hitting me like a freight train, a sudden broadside, I am suddenly no longer STILL able to do some of the things I love, like a long hike in the hills, or even playing on the floor with my grandchildren. But I can still crawl around on my knees in the garden, and even though the result is some suffering, I can attend soccer matches with the young folks, like I did last night.
I was a bit melancholy this morning too. I had opted out of a family gathering a two hour drive away, with a house full of grand nieces and nephews. But I am getting email pics of my grandkids in Colorado this morning, so they are with me in a way. I will cook Easter dinner for my son and two of his friends who lack a family table to join. And I will get outside, do some light garden work, and pick a few flowers for the table.
Although I was raised in an evangelical church, I consider myself an agnostic now. I celebrate Easter now as a pagan would, seeing it as the time to celebrate renewal and the beauty of spring time.
And so now, with the rain stopped and the sun sort of shining, I will go outside for a bit of worship in my garden.

Whitney Lee said...

I agree with Blissed-Out Grandma, your life's not over yet. I can understand the melancholy though. That's okay; you don't have to be always happy. Your post this morning is a bit sad and a bit hopeful at the same time, and the last paragraph is quite eloquent.

I would imagine it's easy to look back and see who you were and perhaps who you will never be. I find I tend to mourn that person, the me that maybe lives in a parallel universe made up of the choices I didn't make, the paths I didn't take. At the end of it all, though, I find I have to be thankful for who I am where I am. AFter all, what else is there to do?

I also sense a question in your words, asking what is there? What's the purpose of getting up each day and hiking, working out, going out and taking pictures? What is the ultimate goal? Or maybe these questions aren't there and I'm projecting. I've decided that sometimes the answer is as simple as just because; each moment is an opportunity for me to choose who I want to be. Maybe you can decide what the answer is for you.

While I am counting my blessings today, know that I count you. Happy Easter.

Nancy said...

Lovely. It describes what so many of us feel when we see our little selves in Easter attire. My mother always dressed me in a beautiful dress and bonnet. She died over 50 years ago. Unbelievable that time passes so quickly. We are our memories, I think. You were so smart to write all of yours down, so that you can revisit the days of you life.

I'm feeling a little blue without my children this year. Life moves along, and we are not always a part of their lives on the holidays we once held so dear. I'm glad I cherished them when they were happening.

Leave a Legacy said...

Beautiful post as always. Life is a true journey, isn't it. And it's not always easy to enjoy the ride. Age brings wisdom, but many sorrows and regrets can pile up. I was a little down myself today without my kids here, but as our aging life changes we have to try to find the new joy it offers in its different stages.

The Retired One said...

Very touching introspection....I am also very, very grateful for those people in my life and for the beauty of nature that surrounds us every second of every day.

gayle said...

Such beautiful words you have written!! I too posted a picture of me on my blog from long ago. I woke up today missing my parents!! Today was good but not great!! Hope you enjoyed yours...you do have a wonderful life!!!

Far Side of Fifty said...

What a cute photo of you and your sister!
Your soul is indeed watered by grace..heaven is a great assurance:)

Stella Jones said...

It must be interesting for you to dip into your memoirs and see what you were thinking and saying many years ago. Religion is a growing thing or should be so it makes sense that you and I are not too rigid in our approach to it. We should always be open to new ideas and new ways of doing something, n'est ce pas?
Blessings, Star

Dorothy said...

My first visit here lovely blog, inspiring words I'll be back.

Dorothy from grammology