Hair Wars

Find sample blogs on a gazillion topics at Alpha Inventions

File:BattleofSluys.jpeg

The Hundred Years' War: Battle of Sluys from a manuscript of Froissart's Chronicles, Bruge, c.1470

[Edward III of England, who reigned 1327-1377]… was, in most ways, a conventional king, mainly interested in warfare….
He declared himself rightful heir to the French throne in 1338, starting what would be known as the Hundred Years’ War.
Wikipedia

14th century manuscript initial depicting Edwa...

14th century manuscript initial depicting Edward III of England (seated) and his son the Black Prince (kneeling). Image via Wikipedia

[Edward, the Black Prince] would fight for a brother knight or undertake the rescue of a degenerate king like Pedro [“the Cruel,” deposed king of Castile] even if it cost the lives of thousands of common men…. Thomas B. Costain, The Last Plantagenets

Peace begins with one person but spreads like warmed syrup. When I connect with my neighbors, they return it in kind. Ivory Harlow

Our most important task is to transform our consciousness so that violence is no longer an option for us in our personal lives, that understanding that a world of peace is possible only if we relate to each other as peaceful beings, one individual at a time. Deepak Chopra, “A New Age of Peace” (interview)

The Battle of the Barbers

Diner similar in style to Dixie's; photo by Jeff Boyce

Diner similar in style to Dixie's; photo by Jeff Boyce

There are no gangs in Hilltop. We have a police department, which is Clyde Peoples, and he spends most of his time at Dixie’s Main Street Diner, jawing with the retired farmers who drink coffee at the diner all morning and then go home to plague their wives in the afternoon. At least that is what Mr. Truman LaFollette says they do.

(I don’t know why Dixie calls her diner “Dixie’s Main Street Diner,” because it’s not like there’s a “Dixie’s Fourth Street Diner” or a “Dixie’s Sycamore Road Diner,” there’s only one Dixie’s and everybody knows it’s on Main Street, but maybe she just doesn’t like the alliteration of “Dixie’s Diner” or maybe she’s trying to make her diner sound important, which it already is, everybody goes there, for Pete’s sake.)

In Hilltop, gays and straights, Jews (seven) and Christians and Muslims (nine), North Africans, African Americans, Native Americans, Asians, Hispanics, even Gypsies (Romany) (nine or ten; they come and go), all live in peace and harmony, and it’s not because the people in Hilltop are any more virtuous or noble than the people in Houston or Philadelphia. Although I do think that Hilltop’s being in such a lovely setting, with mountains in the distance and streams and the Turkey Hill River, and lush farmland and miniature forests, and Sister Alma Rose’s big old farmhouse overlooking it all, just makes people happy to be alive, if they stop to notice how beautiful it is.

Hilltop environs

Hilltop environs — the view from Sister Alma Rose's porch

Antique hot-water tap

Antique hot-water tap

Hilltop is also a prosperous town, and the ancient red-brick buildings on Main Street, with their transoms and their white-tile entryways and their wondrous bathrooms with the toilet tank high on the wall, and to flush you have to pull a chain, and some of the tanks are covered in oak. Where was I? Oh, the buildings in our little downtown are in beautiful condition, no loose bricks with the mortar gone, the old floors sanded and sealed and shined. But our town wouldn’t be thriving as it is if people were hateful and discontented, because, well, as my daddy says, angry people expend a lot of energy being angry and they don’t work as efficiently and they are sick more often, et cetera.

So you see, people have to get along in Hilltop. Maybe you are the coach of the soccer team that your auto mechanic’s daughter is on, or maybe the auto mechanic is also the director of the church choir you are in, or maybe you are a Scoutmaster, and the son of the vice president of the bank in charge of loans is in your troop. People don’t cheat each other or act snotty when you’re shopping in their store, because there is no anonymity. There’s no place to hide.

The Bridgebase basic bidding system is used co...

Internet bridge; image via Wikipedia

The closest we’ve come to having a war in Hilltop had to do with a recent scheduling conflict. What happened was, Mrs. Washington at the library arranged an Appreciation Luncheon at the Queen Anne Hotel for all the library volunteers and supporters, that is, people who gave money this year, and Mrs. Washington scheduled her luncheon to commence at the same time that Mrs. Bertie’s duplicate-bridge club meets every week, and there are eight ladies in Mrs. Bertie’s club and three of them are library volunteers. Mrs. Bertie was livid because she thinks that everybody in town ought to know when her duplicate-bridge club starts and ends and, if they can’t remember it, they need to mark it on their calendars, along with the names of the club members, to avoid planning any event that might conflict with Mrs. Bertie’s bridge club, which the ladies take turns hosting, and they always have those wonderful little chicken-salad sandwiches in triangles with the crust cut off, and three kinds of bread, including rye, and petit fours for dessert, and so forth.

I want to learn to play duplicate bridge so I can go to Mrs. Bertie’s club and eat petit fours.

Petit fours. Yum. Photo by Wolfgang Meinhart, Hamburg, via Wikipedia

Petit fours. Yum. Photo by Wolfgang Meinhart, Hamburg, via Wikipedia

So anyway, Mrs. Bertie tried to get practically everybody in town to boycott the library, but practically everybody in town adores dear Mrs. Washington, who somehow, incredible as it may seem, was not even aware that Mrs. Bertie had a duplicate-bridge club, but then Janie French from the library called Mrs. Bertie to tell her that the copy of The Other Queen: A Novel, by Philippa Gregory, which Mrs. Bertie was on the waiting list for, was available, and Sister Alma Rose heard that Mrs. Bertie didn’t even refresh her lipstick, which is fire-engine red and unbecoming to Mrs. Bertie, at her age… she just got in the car and drove to the library, lipstick-deficient but absolutely delighted to get her book earlier than expected, and that was the end of the war.

The Other Barber Shop

Even more recently than Mrs. Bertie’s totally unjustified snit, however, Hilltop has found itself divided, against its will, over a conflict so ludicrous that I am almost ashamed to relate it to you, and you probably won’t believe me anyway.

Just a few days ago, a man who is called Henry Hunter opened a barber shop, and above the door is a very large, very conspicuous sign that stretches the entire width of the shop, and the sign says, “The Other Barber Shop” in huge letters. For at least 150 years there has been only one barber shop in Hilltop, and it has always been owned and operated by Mr. Bill, who is himself at least 150 years old.

At Large album cover

Image via Wikipedia

Now, to tell you the truth, customers have been leaving Mr. Bill in a slow trickle for the past year or so, because, though everyone wants to be loyal to Mr. Bill, his eyesight isn’t what it used to be, nor are his hands as steady as they once were, plus he has cut everybody’s hair the same way since about 1958, so if you want to look like a member of the Kingston Trio, Mr. Bill is your guy. He just does crew cuts, you see.

Mr. Bill’s customers have been quietly defecting, finding in La Mesa a veritable plethora of barbers who will cut their hair the way they want it and who won’t poke them in the eye with scissors accidentally.

A traditional red and blue striped pole locate...

Image via Wikipedia

So as soon as Henry Hunter’s barber shop opened, the customers came in droves, apparently believing, though they would soon discover that they were sadly mistaken, that Mr. Bill wouldn’t mind if his old customers didn’t patronize his shop as long as they were taking their unruly hair to be cut by Henry Hunter. This was doubly unfortunate in that Henry Hunter’s barber shop is right across the street from Mr. Bill’s. It is also a very delicate situation, this rivalry, I mean, because Henry Hunter is Mr. Bill’s only son.

Sister Alma Rose has heard about the entire misbegotten affair from Mrs. Bill, who is very worried about her husband because his heart is “hinky” and she’s afraid he will have a heart attack one of these days, that’s how angry he gets at Henry Hunter, his face turns about as red as Mrs. Bertie’s unbecoming lipstick. And of course she’s concerned about her son. She wonders whether Bill’s vicious campaign might actually drive Henry out of business. Secretly, Mrs. Bill wants Mr. Bill to retire so that they can go live in their villa on Corfu. Who knew?

Corfu, a Greek island in the Ionian Sea

Corfu, a Greek island in the Ionian Sea

Apparently, when Mr. Bill paid his son’s tuition for barber school in La Mesa, he assumed that when Henry graduated he’d come back to Hilltop and work as a sort of apprentice to him, Mr. Bill. But Henry did not want to work for his dad for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the awkwardness of being an “apprentice,” the second-string backup barber, for a man who cuts hair in only crew cuts, and even the crew cuts aren’t looking so crisp these days.

Carry some means

Image by nssf04 via Flickr

Mr. Bill, who has nine or ten loyal customers and nothing at all to lose, except the respect of his son and his wife and at least half of the residents of Hilltop, has begun a vitriolic campaign against his own son. He actually registered to run for the vacant seat on the city council for the sole reason of creating some kind of ordinance that would make his son’s business illegal. Mr. Henry Hunter also plans to run for that seat to keep his dad from getting elected and possibly having a heart attack, although if he had been concerned about his father’s health, he should have known better than to make the in-your-face kind of decision to open a barber shop where Mr. Bill would see it every time he looked out the window.

Sympathy for Mr. Bill is strong, as you might imagine. But Henry has begun working his way through the telephone book, with the objective of calling everyone in town and ingratiating himself and offering them free haircuts. Mr. Bill reacted by adopting the same tactic. The thing is, once people are in their shops, Henry Hunter and Mr. Bill are asking them to sign loyalty pledges. And the town is in an uproar, although the men have never looked so well groomed.

Several employers have asked the mayor to Do Something, because none of their employees is getting any work done, they are having noisy partisan arguments about Henry Hunter vs. Mr. Bill instead. Mayor Atticus Hines, unable to cool things off through his official status, has appealed to a higher authority: He has asked Sister Alma Rose to restore peace and quiet to Hilltop, one way or another.

Peace begins with one person’s outpouring of love

Second Floor, Northwest Gallery. Mural of Peac...

Mural of Peace, Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C. Image via Wikipedia

Now, I know what Sister Alma Rose would like to do:  She would like to teach the two barbers — and everyone else who has aligned with one side and is angry with the other side — about peace, as she has been teaching me.

Peace, I am learning, begins with one person’s outpouring of love. Peace is not a bunch of unsmiling men in uncomfortable suits meeting in The Hague and playing tit for tat with nuclear weapons, truce conditions, and ultimately the lives of men and women all over the world. As Deepak Chopra says (see full quote above),

…a world of peace is possible only if we relate to each other as peaceful beings, one individual at a time

The International Court of Justice—"The Peace Palace"—The Hague, The Netherlands

The International Court of Justice—"The Peace Palace"—The Hague, The Netherlands

The Law of Love

Sister Alma Rose gave me a wonderful little book, which I have read over and over. It was written in 1947 by a lady called Agnes Sanford, the daughter of  Presbyterian missionaries and the wife of an Episcopal priest; and the book is The Healing Light, and here is what Mrs. Sanford has to say about love, and it is so beautiful and true that I have memorized it and say it to myself every morning:

The flow of energy that we call the law of love is the rhythm for which our beings were created, the thought-vibration in which we live and move and have our being.

And then she says, a few pages later,

We become perfected in love by [practicing love]…. The method is so simple that any child can learn it. It is merely to connect in spirit with the love of God, send that love to the other person,  and see him recreated in goodness and joy and peace.

Me, Fanny McElroy

Me, Fanny McElroy

Much research has shown that people respond dramatically to others’ perceptions and expectations of them, so that if we can honestly see someone who seems mean and ornery as not mean and ornery but rather as God created her — full of goodness and joy and peace — then she will fulfill that expectation.

To be continued…




A new age is being born. The day has come when love-power, at the command of ministers and surveyors and children and everyone,  is sufficient to change hearts… in the world about them.

This is the beginning of a new order. It is the dawning of a new day!

Eckhart Tolle, 2005? NOPE! Agnes Sanford, 1947, The Healing Light


Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

The Secret of the Equanimity of Sister Alma Rose

Find sample blogs on a gazillion topics at Alpha Inventions

The view from Mt. Snowdon, at 3,650 feet the highest mountain in Wales

The view from Mt. Snowdon, at 3,650 feet the highest mountain in Wales

The Fall of Wales and the Meaning of Courage

Omigosh! I have just finished reading a book called The Reckoning, which is by this brilliant author who is called Sharon Kay Penman, who writes historical fiction about Great Britain, and The Reckoning is the third and last book in her series on the Welsh princes…

Chirk Castle (Welsh: Castell y Waun) is a located at Chirk, Wrexham, Wales

Chirk Castle (Welsh: Castell y Waun) at Chirk, Wrexham, Wales, built in 1295 as part of a chain of castles across north Wales, used by King Richard I of England to subjugate the Welsh people and protect the English border

…who were more like kings, really, brave and charismatic Welshmen of the thirteenth century who tried to keep Wales from being absorbed into England, and the readers of these books are ALL OVER that, because the Welsh, with a few treasonous exceptions, are the good guys, who loved their wild, craggy homeland, who had their own language (Cymraeg or y Gymraeg), customs, and legal system — although, however, if the the shoe had been on the other foot and the Welsh had conquered England, we would all be speaking Cymraeg and having to use words such as Abergwyngregyn and possibly Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch,

Powis Castle, originally built c. 1200 as a fo...

Powys Castle, built c. 1200 as a fortress for the princes of Powys, a region of medieval Wales; image via Wikipedia

which is a Welsh town whose name means “the church of St. Mary in the hollow of white hazel trees near the rapid whirlpool by St. Tysilio’s of the red cave” (astonishingly, there are about five hundred thousand Welsh speakers in Wales), but I digress, I was about to say that there are some four hundred castles in Wales, and it’s no wonder, because in the wars conducted over the sovereignty of Wales, both the English and the Welsh thought nothing of burning a castle to the ground and building a new one on the site, as if you could just slap one together, using stuff that’s lying around the house, and expect it to protect you, your loved ones, your squires, your villeins, your cotters, et cetera, when the enemy gets out the battering ram or sends flaming arrows into the bailey….

Aber Falls, Wales

Aber Falls, Wales

Back to Abergwyngregyn (Aber for short, thank all the saints and angels), which was one of the most secure castles (being remote and surrounded by forests and mountains) held by Llewellyn the Great, who adored his English wife, Joanna, a bastard daughter of King John of England, and they are all of course in the first book, which is Here Be Dragons, while the second book, called Falls the Shadow, is mostly about the French–English nobleman Simon de Montfort and how he led English nobles and even commoners, wow! in a rebellion against the inept and clumsy ruler King Henry III, who was the brother of Simon de Montfort’s wife, Nell, who was totally gone over her husband (Nell was, not Henry III, who loathed de Montford as he would loathe seeping pustulant warts all over his body, only a thousand times more), and Simon was just as gone over Nell, which, that being the case, partly accounts for the astronomical number of children they had, about whom we learn much more in The Reckoning, for example, that Simon and Nell’s daughter, Ellen, marries the Welsh prince Llewellyn the Last (he was, of course, not called that during his lifetime), and they were very happy together once Ellen got out of captivity, having been abducted by pirates and delivered up to King Edward, her first cousin, for a princely sum, and I forgot to say that Nell’s aunt was Llewellyn the Great’s wife, Joanna, and they, Nell and Joanna, were very close friends and knew all of each other’s secrets, plus they were smart and brave and competent and sometimes accompanied their husbands on dangerous missions, et cetera.

[General view, Aberdovey, Wales] (LOC)

Aberdovey, Wales; image by The Library of Congress via Flickr

Pablo is reading the Princes of Wales books too, but he doesn’t read as fast as I do, or, actually, to be perfectly honest, he looks up the pronunciations of the Welsh words, and that, of course, slows him down considerably, so he is just finishing Falls the Shadow.

In all these books, people are dropping like flies in battles and skirmishes, as if life weren’t difficult ENOUGH in the Middle Ages there being no penicillin or central heating or proper bathrooms or reliable transportation — without having to go to WAR, which entailed all manner of unpleasantness, such as sleeping on the ground, risking being run through with a sword or starving to death in a siege, but, no matter:
once you were a king, or the equivalent, you always had to be (a) getting ready to fight a war, (b) fighting a war, or (c) cleaning up after a war, and, if there were absolutely no pretext for going to war near home, for example, nobody had borrowed your lawnmower or your chain saw and forgot to return it, you (d) went off on a pope-sanctioned Crusade to kill the “infidels” in the Holy Land.

Yes, I am making a point, which is:

16th-century illustration of Edward I presiding over Parliament. The scene shows Alexander III of Scotland and Llywelyn ap Gruffudd of Wales on either side of Edward, a meeting that never actually occurred; image via Wikipedia

One of the people in one of the books (I of course will not say who, because I don’t want to spoil your fun) is executed for high treason in the grisly manner described below:

Until reformed under the Treason Act 1814,[1] the full punishment for the crime of treason was to be hanged, drawn and quartered in that the condemned prisoner would be:

  1. Dragged on a hurdle (a wooden frame) to the place of execution. This is one possible meaning of drawn.[2]
  2. Hanged by the neck for a short time or until almost dead (hanged).
  3. Disembowelled and emasculated and the genitalia and entrails burned before the condemned’s eyes (this is another meaning of drawn—see the reference to the Oxford English Dictionary below)[3][4]
  4. The body divided into four parts, then beheaded (quartered).

Typically, the resulting five parts (i.e. the four quarters of the body and the head) were gibbeted (put on public display) in different parts of the city, town, or, in famous cases, in the country, to deter would-be traitors who had not seen the execution. After 1814, the convict would be hanged until dead and the mutilation would be performed post-mortem. Gibbeting was later abolished in England in 1843, while drawing and quartering was abolished in 1870.Wikipedia

Beaumaris Castle in the mist

Beaumaris, another of King Richard's fortresses; image by Today is a good day via Flickr

My blood ran cold. I was undone by (a) the unspeakable suffering of the condemned, and (b) the blackness of the human heart that could ordain such a punishment — in this case, that of  King Edward I (Longshanks), who was a revered general in battle… who genuinely loved his beautiful Spanish wife… who could feel pity and sympathy for friends and for strangers… and who could sentence a man to be hanged, drawn, and quartered without batting an eye. In fact, King Edward’s guilt is all the greater because it was he who first conceived of this unspeakable method of torture.

Reincarnation in art

Reincarnation in Hindu art; image via Wikipedia

Intestinal fortitude

Pablo and I talked about it, and we had the same thought: to test Sister Alma Rose’s vaunted courage yet again. Sister Alma Rose has said that she is never afraid and she never worries, and it is true that she is the most self-possessed and serene individual I have ever known, but Pablo and I don’t believe that she is NEVER, EVER, EVER afraid or worried, or that she could remain unafraid and unworried in every circumstance, so we are always trying to think of situations in which anyone who wasn’t brain-dead would be terrified.

“Sister Alma Rose,” we’ll say, “would you be afraid if you were about to be lowered into a vat of boiling oil?”

“Of course not,” she’ll reply, not even looking up from the cut flowers she is arranging, or whatever. “I would be too busy praying.”

A mitred Adhémar de Monteil carrying the Holy ...

A mitred Adhémar de Monteil carrying the Holy Lance in one of the battles of the First Crusade; image via Wikipedia

Pablo and I know, you see, that Sister Alma Rose has absolutely no fear of dying. She believes in reincarnation and she is certain that at the moment of death she will be born, literally, as a brand-new baby, and she says that she is rather excited about getting to be a child again, though she is not in any hurry.

But Pablo and I keep trying to find a chink in her armor. “Sister Alma Rose,” we’ll say, “would you be afraid if some thug broke into your house and you were taking care of your backyard-neighbor’s beautiful little Welsh baby, Ggwynwynnedd, and that thug grabbed the baby and held a knife at her throat?”

“No, silly children,” she’ll reply. “I would be supremely pissed off, and I would tear the thug limb from limb and feed his body parts to wild boars.”

Pablo and I look at each other; we have never heard Sister Alma Rose use language that is even the slightest bit indelicate. Then we look at Sister Alma Rose and we see that she is smirking!

Cow pucky

We were pretty sure what she’d say when we told her about the hanging, drawing, and quartering of he-who-must-not-be-named, and asked her whether she would be afraid if she were facing that punishment, imminently.

“I know something about that,” she said, looking rather grim. “There are people who will tell y’all that King Edward was a good king,* according to the standards of his time. Cow pucky! In conquering Wales, he tried to destroy a civilization. He wanted to break their spirit, and he almost succeeded.”

File:Hommage of Edward I to Philippe le Bel.jpg

Homage of Edward I (kneeling) to Philip IV (seated). As Duke of Aquitaine, Edward was a vassal of the French king. Image via Wikipedia

Sister Alma Rose had put on her schoolteacher face, which meant we were going to get a lecture about fear and worry, or about King Edward I, we were not sureShe motioned for to us to sit down, which we did, in the grass-green wicker chairs on her grass-green wraparound porch. She sat too, in her own special chair, which was bigger and stouter than ours because Sister Alma Rose is bigger and stouter than we are. We felt very cozy and safe on the porch, because rain had started to batter the earth with a vengeance, but there wasn’t much wind so we stayed nice and dry.

“God wants his children to live every moment of their lives,” she began, “and when y’all are afraid, y’all are not really living. The great philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti once told an audience the secret of his serenity: ‘I don’t mind anything,’ he said.”

“You’re making that up!” I interrupted.

“I beg y’all’s pardon?” said Sister Alma Rose coolly.

Oops. “…That there is actually someone in the world whose name is ‘Jiddu Krishnamurti’,” I finished lamely.

“There isn’t,” Sister Alma Rose said dryly, “but there used to be. And people named Fanny shouldn’t throw stones.”

Henry III of England, father of Edward I (Longshanks); the word "Edward" at the top of the painting was the artist's mistake; image via Wikipedia

Sister Alma Rose went on to say that the smartest way to endure pain is to not struggle against it. She made quite a point of this, lest Pablo’s and my minds be wandering.

“People who have practiced meditation for years and years know how to bring their pain gently into their meditation, affirming that they are not their pain, and they can step back from it, you see.”

The joy on the other side

“When something threatens y’all, Miss Fanny, Mr. Pablo, the first thing y’all must do is pray, asking to be shown the way around the threat or seeking the courage to go through it, if you must. For y’all’s fellow who was about to be hanged, drawn, and quartered, there was no way around. If he was a praying man, he surely asked God to help him through it. If he was a soldier, he probably wasn’t afraid of dying.

“Y’all have to look at the other side, beyond the pain. If it attacks, don’t struggle; and don’t take y’all’s eyes off the prize.”

Baby boom

“Here’s something for y’all to think on: For every person who is alive now and every person who has ever lived, there is a mother who endured the pain of childbirth — well, except, possibly, for those modern mothers who had epidural anesthesia — but setting them aside for the moment, it’s not unusual for mamas to be in labor for an entire day, even two days, and it is said that there is no pain more severe… and in the past, and even today in certain parts of the world, when a woman goes into labor there’s a very good chance that she, or the baby, or both will not survive. In the millions of years of human history, it’s been only recently that if the baby was, say, in the breech position, the mama could safely have a Caesarean section. Our ancestors  just had to hope that the midwife could reach into the birth canal and turn the baby, and wouldn’t that be a walk in the park for the poor mama.

“And do y’all know what? Women keep having babies! They’re ecstatic when they find out they’re pregnant! They have parties! And all because they’re looking past the pain to the joy on the other side.”

You would think, wouldn’t you, that once would be enough, although Mama has had three babies, and she says that the first one is the hardest and after that they get easier to pop out.

Uh-oh! Sister Alma Rose is looking very grave, as serious as I’ve ever seen her.

“For all of us, eventually, what we’ll see on the other side of pain is death, but only as a doorway to a new and better life. If y’all understand that, then y’all will never be afraid of dying. ‘Y’all shall know the truth, and the truth shall set y’all free.’ Amen.”

Extra blueberriesfield_of_wildflowers_istock

The sermon was over. I felt like applauding, but instead I said, “Mama says everybody should plant a garden and work in it themselves and that way they’ll just soak up life all the time.”

And then Sister Alma Rose said that reminded her that she had almost two pounds of fresh blueberries in the icebox [that’s what Sister Alma Rose calls the refrigerator sometimes] and she thought she’d make some blueberry cobbler but it would be better with vanilla ice cream, so, since it had quit raining, why didn’t Pablo and I walk into town and go to Sandy’s Better Ice Cream and buy an entire gallon, so we did, and Sandy took our money and handed us the gallon of ice cream without a bag, so I said, “Sandy, could we please have a bag to carry it in?” and Sandy said no, we couldn’t, because he was out of bags, so Pablo had to carry the exceedingly cold and heavy carton of ice cream all the way back to Sister Alma Rose’s house, but it was worth it, he said later, because the blueberry cobbler was just out of the oven and nice and warm, which is how it tastes best, especially with ice cream, and there was something about eating ice cream on fresh blueberry cobbler, still warm and fragrant from the oven, with Pablo and Sister Alma Rose and Mr. Truman LaFollette, that chased away any worries I might have been harboring about being disemboweled, with strangers watching and everything, and then I noticed that my slice of blueberry cobbler had about twice as many blueberries as everyone else’s, and Sister Alma Rose winked at me, and I tried to wink back, but I haven’t quite mastered winking, so I’m going to work on it as soon as I get home.

Me, Fanny McElroy

Me, Fanny McElroy

* Edward was considered an able, even an ideal king by his contemporaries.[204] Though not loved by his subjects, he was feared and respected.[205] Particularly as a soldier did he meet contemporary expectations of kingship, sharing in the chivalric ideals of the age.[206] In religious observance he also fulfilled the expectations of his age, attending chapel regularly and giving alms generously.[7]

* * *

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

A Different Universe

Find sample blogs on a gazillion topics at Alpha Inventions

Henry VIII died at the Palce of Whitehall, 1547

Henry VIII died at the Palce of Whitehall, 1547

Listen to Your Broccoli

Fear is negative energy projected into the future —Charlene Bell, Taking Charge: How to Coach Yourself to Quality Living

ANNE BOLEYN; original portrait is on display a...

Anne Boleyn, 2nd of 6 wives of Henry VIII

There are no rights, only gifts Margaret George, The Autobiography of Henry VIII: With Notes by His Fool, Will Somers

The sun warmed your shoulders, and you felt glad. Or the wind whipped off the Channel, and you pulled a woollen shirt over your head and rejoiced in every fibre of that wool —Margaret George, The Autobiography of Henry VIII: With Notes by His Fool, Will Somers

From Anne Lamott, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith

Grace means you’re in a different universe from where you had been stuck, when you had no way to get there on your own. (54)

Anne Lamott - April 24th in Oak Park

Anne Lamott — Image by karla kaulfuss via Flickr

“God” could be considered an acronym [for] gifts of desperation. The main gift is a willingness to give up the conviction that you are right, and that God thinks so, too, and hates the people who are driving you crazy. (2)

[Quoting Mel Brooks, The 2000 Year Old Man] “Listen to your broccoli, and your broccoli will tell you how to eat it.” (21)

The spirit within… [is] the secret place that, as Robert Frost wrote, “sits in the middle and knows.”

Robert Frost's Farm

Robert Frost's farm; image by StarrGazr via Flickr

Be kind, and breathe, and take a walk. (24)

You feel unprotected and small and buffeted by the wind, and this defenselessness is a crack through which fresh air and water can enter. (24)

Tomb of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi; Mevlâna ma...

Rumi's tomb in Kanya, Turkey; image via Wikipedia

All wise people say the same thing: that you are deserving of love,[1] and that it’s all here now, everything you need. There’s the memoir by a Hindu writer, It’s Here Now (Are You?), and one of my priest friends says the exact same thing, so I think it must be true—that when you pray, you are not starting the conversation from scratch, just remembering to plug back into a conversation that’s always in progress. (25)

When God is going to do something wonderful, He or She always starts with a hardship; when God is going to do something amazing, He or She starts with an impossibility. (33)

Anne Lamott at Books by the Bay

Anne Lamott at Books by the Bay — image by Steve Rhodes via Flickr

“Help” is a prayer that is always answered. It doesn’t matter how you pray—with your head bowed in silence, or crying out in grief, or dancing…. As Rumi wrote, “There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” (37)

Jesus said, “The point is to not hate and kill each other today, and if  you can, to help the forgotten and powerless. Can you write that down, and leave it by the phone?” (55)

One secret of life is that the reason life works at all is that not everyone in your tribe is nuts on the same day. Another secret is that laughter is carbonated holiness. (65)


[1] I don’t think she really means this. Not “deserving of.” Having read the rest of the book, I think she believes that the act of creation is the motion of love.



Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Sweet Surrender

Find sample blogs on a gazillion topics at Alpha Inventions

Joy in cherry commercial

Joy in cherry commercial

Why I can say “Thy will be done”
and mean it

Sister Alma Rose and I were sitting on Sister Alma Rose’s big grass-green wraparound porch with Joy Brown, who has known Sister Alma Rose all her life, just as I have, except that Joy Brown is almost 30 and I am not even half that old.

Joy Brown used to live in Hilltop, but she moved to Los Angeles to be in films, and she got the first job she auditioned for, which was a pantyhose commercial, and then she was in a commercial for cherries, but she has risen fast in the “industry,” and she has just been cast as a supporting lead in a Major Motion Picture, which is a secret, and she can’t tell me who the famous stars are who are going to be in the movie, because everything is hush-hush, so I probably shouldn’t be telling you about it, but, oh well, too late now.

One of Joy's "publicity stills"

One of Joy's "publicity stills"

When she lived in Hilltop as a kid, Joy was one of Sister Alma Rose’s “disciples,” as I am, which, all that means is that we buy into Sister Alma Rose’s wisdom. She is our spiritual mentor, and we want to learn as much from her as we can, and besides we meet the most interesting and unusual people, most of them right here in Hilltop,who are Sister Alma Rose’s friends, plus she is fun to be with and she makes me feel safe, like Mama and Daddy do, only even more, because when she tells me that everything will be all right, she really knows, she’s not just saying that to make me feel better.

Me, Fanny McElroy

Me, Fanny McElroy

So Joy has come all the way from Hollywood to Hilltop just to talk to Sister Alma Rose. I am not officially part of the conversation, I just politely went to sit on the steps when I realized that Joy wanted to talk to Sister Alma Rose about something personal, though I can hear every word they say, and, no, I am not above eavesdropping, especially when I know that Sister Alma Rose and Joy wouldn’t really mind, they didn’t even ask me to leave.

Joy’s spiritual crisis

Joy's next job? Photo by Bidgee on Wikipedia

Joy's next job? Photo by Bidgee on Wikipedia

Joy is telling Sister Alma Rose that she is having a spiritual crisis because she can no longer say to God “thy will be done” and mean it. She has worked hard to get where she has got to in Hollywood, and people are always telling her how wonderful she is, which, she says, she is vain and insecure enough to lap that stuff up like a dog, and she is afraid that God’s will for her might not have anything to do with being a Major Motion Picture star, maybe God wants her to be one of those people who climb to the top of transmission towers to replace light bulbs, or something.

Without a word, Sister Alma Rose went into the kitchen and came right back out with something I had written once when Sister Alma Rose cured me of thinking I knew more about what was good for me than God did. And I did feel a little surge of pride, knowing that I had written something wise that Sister Alma Rose wanted to share.

Why I can say, ‘Thy will be done,’ and mean it

  • Because the best things in my life have been surprises
  • Because I really suck at manipulating and plotting
  • Because I can’t see around the corners
  • Because God can see around the corners
  • Because I know a pinprick’s worth of all there is to be known in the universe, but God knows all of it
  • Because if you are going where God (the Universe, Source, whatever) is leading you, there are signs and wonders along the way
  • Because if you are going in the wrong direction, you must constantly struggle
  • Because sometimes when I am running too fast in the wrong direction, I go off the edge of a cliff, like Wile E. Coyote, but Something catches me, and I do not make a Wile E. Coyote–shaped hole (or a Fanny McElroy–shaped hole) in the desert at the bottom of the cliff
  • Because you might pretend to love, but real love is a gift from the Divine
  • Because if God wants you to do something, God will, in God’s grace, make you passionate about that something, and it will be the thing that you do best and most want to do
  • Because there is total freedom in surrendering
  • Because when I try to Control Outcomes, (a) I get a bad headache and have to go to my room and lie down, and (b) it never works
  • Because I can’t possibly love myself as much as God does
  • Because sometimes it is the only power you have left

cherry_public_domain

  • NEW! Free downloads from The Ancients, Part 1: Daddy Pete; Unfamiliar Territory; and Write Better Right Now. Just e-mail Mary@LifeIsPoetry.net for username and password
  • Publish your Little Book in an easy little way
  • A Prayer for Every Morning
  • FREE Learn to Meditate
  • Request Prayer and Pray for Others — Click here
  • Sample diverse blogs at Alpha Inventions, Condron.us
  • Below: a new Zero Gravity Little Book, only $9,95. Click HERE or on image for info, full PDF The_Rules_frontcover
  • Life 101

    Sample blogs on a gazillion topics at Alpha Inventions

    Sister Alma Rose is on vacation. Mary Campbell is filling in for her this week

    Guest Column: How to Live Right

    by Mary Campbell

    salmon

    ONE — Everybody —  people who don’t even know you — wants to tell you how to live. Some of the stuff is useful and necessary, like YOU DON’T HAVE TO GIVE YOUR BABY A BATH EVERY DAY, and those little fluorescent lamps last forever, but you can’t just throw them in the trash when they DO burn out. Some of it will “resonate” with you, as meditation did for me. But all the advice about spirituality, about exercise, about diet, about environmental responsibility, and so forth, can make you crazy. And they keep changing it…. Omigosh, how many grams of protein have I had today? Oh, hey, this is Alaskan salmon, is that the poison kind with mercury? Were the salmon humanely treated? Shit, I don’t have time to go to the gym. Coffee and red wine are chock full of antioxidants? Who knew? I’m supposed to do my laundry at night? Is this my day to water the grass? Probably shouldn’t even HAVE grass….   RELAX. The way I see it, we have as many lifetimes as we need to get it right.

    TWO — KEEP AN OPEN MIND. How do you know there’s no such thing as a leprechaun?

    Leprechaun

    Image via Wikipedia

    THREE — WRITE DOWN YOUR WILD IDEAS, your bursts of inspiration. You’ll think of a thousand reasons why they won’t work, and you’ll discard them… at your peril. They’re like geysers: They come from the depths. They’re your Self talking to your self. So keep track of them, even if you’re not ready to act on them.

    FOUR — COLLECT SOMETHING, like coins or stamps or antique butter chips (little tiny plates for pats of butter), or colored bottles. See, it’s fun and you meet interesting people, but the best thing is that your friends and family will know what to get you for Christmas and your birthday.

    FIVE — WRITE NOTES, REAL ONES, ON PAPER, or send cards, whatever, in the actual U.S. mail. It might seem quaint, but it’s a thoughtful going-out-of-your-way sort of thing… a mitzvah, if you will. (By the by, I sell GREAT cards for all occasions, including packs of Random Cards of Kindness, at LifeIsPoetry.net)

    Photo by EspritSIX — LIGHTEN UP, IN EVERY WAY. Bring light into your environment – physically, mentally, whatever lifts your spirit: music, flowers, bright prints in pretty frames, lace curtains, whimsical lamps, people who make you laugh. The flip side is, don’t let negative people come in and steal your joy. I allow people with problems ten minutes to vent, and that’s it. Any more than that contaminates your space, and you have to have a priest or shaman or somebody come in and expel the negativity and do a house blessing.

    SEVEN — This is important, and it will serve you well: BECOME AN EXPERT IN SOMETHING OR SOMEONE: Jesse Owens, protein in human nutrition, the Isle of Man, the reign of King Henry VIII, making your own “green” housekeeping products, growing tomatoes, U.S. vice presidents, reiki — whatever turns you on. That woman wrote an entire best-selling book about commas (Eats, Shoots & Leaves: Why, Commas Really Do Make a Difference!), for heaven’s sake. I, personally, am an expert on so many things that it’s unmanageable. I need to sharpen my focus and hone my expertise on, say, mindfulness meditation or the use of the em dash. The point is, the object of your expertise is its own little universe, and if you study it to frigging DEATH you will become not only smart but wise. The other point is, it’s satisfying and energizing to keep learning new stuff. And finally, the main point is, it’s a good way to market your “brand,” personally or professionally. You can write articles or books, speak at the Kiwanis luncheon, teach at a community college, put up an authoritative website or blog, sell stuff… the possibilities are virtually endless.

    The Isle Of Man

    The Isle of Man; image by Simon Collison via Flickr

    EIGHT — TAKE THE SCENIC ROUTE (Join AAA before you go)

    NINE — (Optional) MOVE TO BISBEE, ARIZONA. Population, about six thousand. It’s one of those arty towns where antique stores and taverns and galleries abound. It’s also the county seat of Cochise County. Bisbee is actually built into the side of a mountain, so it’s charmingly hilly. Only 82 miles from Tucson, Bisbee boasts a much milder climate because of the elevation. Mexico is a stone’s throw from Bisbee. Bisbee was founded as a copper, gold, and silver mining town in 1880, and named in honor of Judge DeWitt Bisbee, one of the financial backers of the adjacent Copper Queen Mine…. In the May-June 2000 issue of Modern Maturity, the AARP highlighted the what they called the most “alive” places to retire in the U.S. Bisbee was a runner-up as one of the “quirkiest” towns in America… Bisbee is noted for its “gay friendliness”….Wikipedia

    Bisbee, Arizona 1990

    Bisbee, Arizona, 1990; image by PhillipC via Flickr

    TEN — (Optional) LET’S GET THE PAPER COMPANIES TO STOP BLEACHING EVERYTHING. Why bleach toilet paper, for example? It’s just going to get yucky. The same with napkins, paper towels, and so forth. It’s an absolutely unnecessary and environmentally harmful practice, and we should start an Internet campaign via e-mail, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc., to get consumers to start demanding unbleached household paper products, as of today.

    toiletpaper

  • This blog topic was suggested by David Kadavy’s 8 Life Hacks. Exercise your mind: Subscribe to David’s always-provocative, topical, funny blog
  • NEW! Free downloads from The Ancients, Part 1: Daddy Pete; Unfamiliar Territory; and Write Better Right Now. Just e-mail Mary@LifeIsPoetry.net for
    username and password
  • Publish your Little Book in an easy little way
  • A Prayer for Every Morning
  • FREE Learn to Meditate
  • Request Prayer and Pray for Others — Click here
  • Sample diverse blogs at Alpha InventionsCondron.us
  • The_Rules_frontcover

    A new Zero Gravity Little Book, only $9.95. Click on image for info, full PDF


    Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

    Our Place in Creation

    Sample blogs on a gazillion topics at Alpha Inventions

    Be Gentle with Yourself

    Illuminata — A Return to Prayer, by Marianne Williamson

    Illuminata — A Return to Prayer, by Marianne Williamson

    Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. —Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of a Course in Miracles

    * * *

    Dear Sister Alma Rose ~ Some time in my 50s I figured out that we spend the first half of life discovering that we’re not the center of the universe (“Don’t show off,” “Share your toys,” “Be a team player”) and the second half discovering that we ARE. Being a woman, I don’t know if this is QUITE as true for men, but I suspect it’s close.

    A Return to Love, by Marianne Williamson

    A Return to Love, by Marianne Williamson

    In any case, for some of us this realization comes at the time when we’re no longer responsible for running the family… and it IS, of course, by the way, important for kids, during the “first half” of life, to learn to be attuned to other people’s needs, to make compromises without throwing themselves away or kicking the dog.

    These days, all the New Age wisdom, which I study, along with lots of other wisdom, is about “being gentle with yourself” and “not beating yourself up” (I love Susan Piver on this in How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life: Opening Your Heart to Confidence, Intimacy, and Joy), and, necessarily, figuring out what you WANT, when your WANTS have been on the back burner, by choice or necessity.

    Doing what you WANT is one of the compensations of middle age (unless you’re in an icky marriage or have grown children who are parasites) — THEN the first challenge is to realize that you have choices. I think the sudden freedom is too scary for many people; they like their lives to be structured around other people’s needs and wants… or, at least, that kind of life feels familiar and safe, and they don’t aspire to joy, self-discovery, a pair of wings….

    We are conditioned to suppress our gifts… until we see them as GIFTS… and find ways to use them that give us great joy. When that happens, we are benefiting “humanity” in the way that is MEANT, speaking metaphysically; we have found “our place in Creation.”

    How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life, by Susan Piver

    How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life, by Susan Piver

    Don’t you agree, Sister Alma Rose? Signed, Free in Fredericksburg

    Dear Free—What y’all say is true and wise. But Sister Alma Rose believes that children can be raised to be independent and self-aware. So often, children are admonished to be “unselfish,” but as Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche has said in his marvelous book The Joy of Living: Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happiness, “Everybody wants to be happy.”  We just can’t help it. The difficulty is figuring out what balance of “selfish” and “selfless” acts and compromises will bring us the greatest satisfaction.

    Every choice we make, regardless of our age, is the choice we believe will bring us closest to happiness. Sometimes we’re wrong. Children figure out pretty fast that if they hog all the toys, yes, they have all the toys, but nobody else will want to play with them.Rinpoche_The_Joy_of_Living

    Take care of y’all’s self

    Sister Alma Rose might not use the phrase “center of the universe,” as y’all did, but she understands what y’all mean. Lovely Cheryl Richardson has written a book called The Art of Extreme Self-Care: Transform Your Life One Month at a Time. Sister Alma Rose has not read this book, but she is inspired merely by the title (just as the brilliant book title Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and It’s All Small Stuff hardly makes it necessary to read the book).

    Sister Alma Rose supposes — although, as mentioned, she has not read the book — that Cheryl Richardson advises her readers to refrain from guilt and worry, and to be aware of those times when y’all’s stress levels threaten to push y’all over the edge. Sister Alma Rose also supposes that taking a nice, long, relaxing bath with bath salts that smell like a summer flower garden, or, sometimes, cucumbers, is not the only antidote to dangerous stress that Cheryl Richardson recommends, if at all.

    Sister Alma Rose believes it’s a damn shame that folks have to be reminded to stop doing the things that make them sick.

    The Art of Extreme Self-Care, by Cheryl Richardson

    The Art of Extreme Self-Care, by Cheryl Richardson

    Find y’all’s balance

    Sister Alma Rose has found, in her exceedingly long life, and this is just one of many (of Sister Alma Rose’s lives, that is), that y’all must always endeavor to have a life in balance, in which there is time for y’all to do what y’all love, even if y’all have nineteen children and a herd of pet llamas. And even children should learn to meditate, in order to find their true and genuine selves, which will unfailingly lead them to their dharma, their unique and particular path of joy and righteousness.

    May God bless you, and when God shows y’all that path with neon signs and balloons and arrows and horns and whistles, as God is wont to do, may y’all be paying attention and not picking y’all’s nose or watching Gilligan’s Island reruns.

    llama

    New! Only $9.95. Great gift! Click on image for details.

    The_Rules_frontcover

    ‘Get a Life, Amanda Groom’

    Sample blogs on a gazillion topics at Alpha Inventions

    Sister Alma Rose Teaches Meditation

    meditator_istock

    Sister Alma Rose is teaching me to meditate. Nothing could be easier, really… and there are many ways to meditate, including the labyrinth for people who can’t sit or lie still.

    Medieval labyrinth

    Medieval labyrinth

    As you know, Sister Alma Rose sometimes does lying-down meditations, which are really, I think, screening her real purpose, which is to nap. But I could be wrong.

    She has taught me to meditate in a position similar to that of the woman in the photo above, except I don’t have gorgeous collarbones as she does, nor do I want to sit in a puddle. Also, Sister Alma Rose would never instruct her students to hold their heads in that unnatural “heads back” position, but, rather, our necks are straight and held comfortably, chins tucked in just a bit.

    Here is the point…

    Me, Fanny McElroy

    Me, Fanny McElroy

    The body is a metaphor for the spirit. The position of the woman’s hands, extended, resting on her knees, indicates a willingness to freely accept God’s gifts, which are grace.

    She is sitting with an “open heart,” her shoulders back, her heart exposed, concealing nothing and eager to enfold others, whether their hearts be whole or damaged.

    The body scan

    Sometimes Sister Alma Rose has me begin meditation with a body scan. You consciously relax every muscle, every bone, every organ, every cell in your body, beginning with the toes and working your way up to the “crown” — the top of the head.

    When you do a body scan, you might find some areas of discomfort. Often, the pain will disappear in a few minutes just by your allowing your attention to rest in the uncomfortable areas.

    happydancer1_istockAfter you are finished with the body scan and with your meditation, think about the areas of discomfort that you noticed. Discomfort and pain mean that your body is trying to tell you something.

    The body doesn’t lie

    For example,  Sister Alma Rose says that if your eyes are burning and itching, there is probably something going on in your life that you refuse to “see.”  If the pain is in your abdomen, you have a “gut feeling” about something… a decision you’ve made or a situation you’re in. “Go with your gut,” Sister Alma Rose almost always advises.

    If you have a persistent headache, you could be overanalyzing something that might benefit from an intuitive approach. Not every problem can be solved solely by the intellect.

    And — pardon me — if you are constipated, it might be because you are “holding in” feelings that need to be expressed. If you are angry with someone, it is best to express your feelings in a civil way. Don’t worry if the person you’re mad at doesn’t “change.” Don’t sigh and complain, “I tell him and I tell him, and it doesn’t do any good.” Of course it does some good, to bring your feelings out in the open instead of hiding them and letting them fester and forgetting about them until they turn on you in some awful way.

    happydancer4_istockSomeone once said, “The only reason to tell someone what you feel is to tell someone what you feel.” You are giving information. What the other person does with that information is up to him or her.

    Sometimes people can be annoying

    Now — There will always be people in your life who irritate you and who offer you no way of escaping because THEY ARE YOUR RELATIVES. My own parents are perfect, but if I were to marry Pablo in ten years I would have to deal with his sister’s snide comments and his mother’s overprotectiveness. I’m sure Pablo’s mamacita would feel that anything I did for Pablo would be flawed because I would not be doing it HER way. (But anyway, I am never going to marry Pablo. He is just my best friend.)

    Sister Alma Rose suggests two different way to deal with people who annoy you, if you can’t avoid them altogether:

    (1) Stop focusing exclusively on the words or the actions of the irritating person. Instead see the whole person, and project love and light from your heart to that person. Breathe in, to capture the light that shines from above and is always around you. Breathe out, to embrace the other person in the light.

    (2) Silently repeat this mantra:

    Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. —Psalm 51:10

    happydancer3_istockIf the other person is at all toxic, this meditation will protect your heart from the other’s poison and will allow you to be clean and new, free of “baggage,” at any time you choose. Even before Sister Alma Rose began teaching me to meditate, I always liked to repeat this verse from Psalms to remind me to claim my innocence and state of grace. “Restore in me the joy of your salvation,” the Psalm goes on to say, “and uphold me with your free spirit.”

    “Never,” says Sister Alma Rose, “never allow anyone to steal your joy.”

    Sister Alma Rose Is Steamin’

    Sister Alma Rose does not always practice what she preaches. Mrs. Groom, the wife of the Presbyterian pastor in Hilltop, appeared uninvited on Sister Alma Rose’s wonderful, spacious, grass-green porch one day, while Sister Alma Rose and Pablo and I were playing UNO, and she, Mrs. Groom, I mean, proceeded to lecture Sister Alma Rose about Portia, who is Cousin Dulcie’s daughter, which means, I think, that Portia is Sister Alma Rose’s first cousin once removed. In any case, there is no controlling Portia. She is part wood nymph, part bright redbird, and I have seen her fly, and I am not making that up. (I am almost sure she is one of the Ancients.)

    pp_manwomanAfter listening calmly to Mrs. Groom for about five minutes, which was when Mrs. Groom ran out of breath, Sister Alma Rose poked her index finger, which is large, just like the rest of Sister Alma Rose, into the area of Mrs. Groom’s solar plexus, and Sister Alma Rose stood very close to her and said, “Amanda Groom, y’all are and always have been an interfering old busybody, and nobody in or around Hilltop has ever mended his or her ways because of y’all’s scolding, and Portia harms no one, and I want y’all off my property this minute or I shall call Sheriff Dunleavy and have y’all’s fat wiggly ass hauled to the county jail.”

    Mrs. Groom stalked off the porch and down the drive, and she was about halfway to the road when Sister Alma Rose called after her: “Amanda Groom!”

    Mrs. Groom turned and fixed a cold stare upon Sister Alma Rose.

    “Amanda Groom,” Sister Alma Rose repeated, “get a life.”

    bicycle-156x96

    The_Rules_frontcover
    A new Zero Gravity Little Book. Click on image for info, full PDF

    Lost and Found

    Sample blogs on a gazillion topics at Alpha Inventions

    Hafez (or Hafiz) the Persian

    Hafez (or Hafiz) the Persian

    You are healed when you can say to yourself, “I matter, I belong, I am worthy, I am safe, I can express myself, I am loved. —Deepak Chopra, The Deeper Wound: Recovering the Soul from Fear and Suffering, 100 Days of Healing

    While I am sleeping, you silently carry off all my suffering and my sordid past in your beautiful hands. —Hafiz

    The Suicide Note

    God is good,” says Pastor Alexis.

    Me, Fanny McElroy

    Me, Fanny McElroy

    Sister Alma Rose’s dear friend Pastor Alexis got ordained as a minister online and started her own church, Pilgrim Chapel, five years ago. Anybody can go there, it doesn’t matter what religion they are or what they believe about God.

    Before she became a minister, Pastor Alexis thought constantly about suicide. “I once was lost,” she says with a grin, “but now I’m found.”

    She wrote a long suicide note ahead of time, in case she ever did take the plunge, so to speak. This (below) is it… in all its sadness and beauty….

    My name is Alexis, and I am sitting on the balcony of my apartment, twenty-three stories above a narrow red-brick street in a quiet residential neighborhood. My art-deco-era building is an anomaly among the tidy old frame and stucco houses with their privet hedges and children’s swing sets.

    The wall that encloses my balcony is three feet high and about eighteen inches wide. I have sat on the wall many times, next to the pots of thriving geraniums and trailing lime-green ivy, my bare legs and feet dangling — half-hoping, half-fearing that someone will come along and give me a small shove. That’s all it would take: just a slight, accidental bump. I believe in reincarnation, and I am ready to be a child again.But I always swing my legs back over the wall, plant my feet on the warm concrete, sit at the pretty white wicker table, and drink the lemonade I have brought out in a large Thermos. I have remembered that there is something left undone. Perhaps I have not dusted, or finished a crossword puzzle, or called my niece this week. If my life is going to end, I want what I leave behind to be tidy.

    I am 59 years old, and I am superfluous.

    * * *

    I had what most people would consider a happy childhood in a happy home. My parents were proud of me (I was an eager learner) and told me I could be anything I wanted to be – a minister, a U.S. senator, an arc welder — anything, as long as it made me happy. They were warm and affectionate, and I knew that I was loved.

    That’s the way I see it when I look back, but there’s a layer of fear, like gray film, over it, as if I’m looking outside through a screen door. The fear began with my mother’s “nervous breakdowns” and my dad’s frequent business trips… with the times Mom spent a couple of weeks in the hospital, or when she’d check into a hotel for the sole purpose of drinking herself as near to death as she dared to go. She was sick for two years, when I was 4 and 5.

    Sometimes, when Dad was out of town and Mom was sitting in the darkened living room, in the overstuffed chair, her legs splayed on the ottoman… drinking red wine, which turned her tongue and lips blue and carried her into oblivion… I pulled a blanket and a pillow out of the linen cupboard on the second-floor landing, dragged them downstairs and into the living room, covered Mom with the blanket, and tried to arrange her limp torso so that her head rested on the pillow. Then I put her cigarettes and lighter in a kitchen cabinet, so that she wouldn’t burn the house down.

    I didn’t know that Mom drank because my sister had a serious heart condition and might die any minute, although she never did… and because my brother had barely survived polio… and because Mom’s own mother had died of pernicious anemia while Mom, too, was ill with polio… and because Dad traveled so much and was unavailable to share all the burdens. I just knew that I felt unprotected when Mom binged and Dad was out of town.

    fcc_outsideI started going to the Presbyterian church two blocks away, alone, when I was 5 — drawn, I think, by the glorious music and the grand old sanctuary with its elaborately carved oak and its sparkling, intricate stained-glass windows, and also by the reassurance of ritual and continuity. The Sunday-school teachers, on the other hand, made Jesus sound like a jail warden, and I was afraid of him, and of going to Hell. But when he came to me in dreams, he wore Levi’s and a plaid shirt, and he was kind and comforting.

    One midsummer evening, my mother announced at the dinner table that she was under doctor’s orders to quit drinking. She smiled broadly, dazzlingly, and said, “I have had my last drink.” It was the happiest day of my life.

    It lasted for a few months, this feeling of security, this belief in happy endings, this euphoria. And then, early one Sunday morning, after I had spent the night at my cousin Lucy’s house, Aunt Cecily dropped me off on her way to church. She watched as I climbed the forty-seven steps to the big tile-floored front porch, and she waved goodbye as I pushed open the gleaming mahogany door, which was never locked.

    I closed the door and inhaled a miasma of cigarette smoke laced with stale beer and something ripe and pungent. I am sure that my heart stopped, and that when it started beating again I wanted more than anything to turn around, go back out the door, and run. Anywhere. Just away from there. Away from what I might find when I turned the corner into the living room.

    In the end, there was nothing else to do, so I stepped into the living room and all but tripped over Mom’s feet. She was passed out, face down, on the ottoman, her toothpick legs sticking out on one side, her head and arms dangling from the other side, a pool of vomit between her hands where they brushed the floor.

    Feelings whose names I didn’t know suffocated me: revulsion, disappointment, panic, and something worse. I think of it now, perhaps melodramatically, as a loss of innocence.

    That summer morning, I had no time to rage or mourn. I knew that my older brother and sister would be of no help; they were still asleep, and in any case they were inured to Mom’s binges. Dad was somewhere in western Nebraska doing a bank audit. I was on my own.

    Something in me pitied my mother and was terrified. When I tried to wake her, she rolled over onto the floor. Her arm landed in the vomit, which splashed onto my feet and my white cotton pants, covering most of one leg.

    Dr. Prentice, Mom’s psychiatrist, lived two doors away with Mrs. Prentice and their son, Frankie, who was my best friend. I ran out of our house through the back door, up the alley, through the Prentices’ back yard, and into their kitchen. Dr. and Mrs. Prentice were sitting at their white-enamel table, reading the Sunday paper and drinking coffee. Vomit dripped off my pants onto the shiny red linoleum floor. I stood there panting, unable to speak.

    “Is something wrong with your mom?” Dr. Prentice asked gently. I just nodded, and he got up, kissed the top of my head, and left the room. Mrs. Prentice took me upstairs and helped me wash my feet and gave me a clean pair of Frankie’s pants to wear. She said that I could play in the guest room until Frankie woke up and that I could eat lunch there and play with Frankie all day. I looked out one of the guest-room windows and watched Dr. Prentice, carrying his black doctor bag, walk across the front yard and down the street toward our house.

    An old-fashioned kitchen on display in Dover, Delaware

    An old-fashioned kitchen on display in Dover, Delaware

    Late that afternoon, Dad came to the Prentices’ to pick me up. Mom was in the hospital, he said. Thelma, our housekeeper, would stay with us until Mom came home. Thelma had worked two days a week for us since I was an infant. She was big and brown and solid and safe. She liked to refer to herself as my mammy. That’s the way things were back then.

    Secretly I hoped that Mom would stay in the hospital forever. With Thelma, there were cheerfulness and peace and order. She ironed our sheets, and they felt smooth and smelled wonderful. She baked homemade bread and sweet-potato pie. My clothes were always clean and pressed and folded neatly in my dresser drawer. Thelma vacuumed and dusted, and she scrubbed the blue-linoleum kitchen floor and waxed it by hand, then polished it until it shone. And in the evenings, she sat me on her ample lap and held me tight and told true stories that her grandmother had told her about life in the Old South.

    Mom was in the hospital for a month, and when she came home she’d gained a few pounds and her cheeks had some color that had been missing before. She had medicine she could take if she felt overwhelmed, but she didn’t use it very often. I knew, because when she had taken the medicine she slept late and we had to fix our own breakfast. She didn’t quit drinking, but she kept to her daily limit of two glasses of wine. Dad went to work at a different CPA firm, where the head partner promised that there would be no out-of-town travel.

    At last, when I was about to start school, there was beginning to be an atmosphere of normalcy and predictability in our home. I buried my fear, but it never went away. I was always steeling myself against the next disappointment.

    Our house was a gathering place, as some houses tend to be and no one is sure why. Mom enjoyed a houseful of kids — my sister’s friends, my brother’s, mine. Everyone loved her. She had become strong and healthy and competent. And still I was afraid.

    It wasn’t until I was a wife and mother myself that I understood Mom’s despair. When I suffered my own breakdown at 22, Dr. Prentice and Mom helped me through it. Some time during my high-school years, Mom had become my hero, my role model. Dad had always been my rock.

    Once, when I was in my early 20s, I heard Mom tell Aunt Cecily that, if anything happened to Dad, she knew that I would take care of her. I never had to. Mom died of a stroke when she was 59. Dad had a fatal heart attack five years later.

    * * *

    I married Lou when I was 24, four years before Mom died. Together Lou and I raised three happy, healthy children. Lou was a philanderer, and I knew it, but he was also a wise and loving father and we made a fine parenting team. We needed each other for that, and the kids needed us both, and, for me, that was enough.

    Lou died of cancer five years ago, and I grieved. The children are married, with families and careers. They are scattered throughout the country, and I see them twice a year. My grandchildren are always shy with me at first; they don’t know me, and they certainly don’t need me.

    I am 59 years old, and I am superfluous.

    lemonadeAlmost every day I take my coffee or my lemonade onto the balcony. I sit on the little wall and wonder, with some detachment, what it would be like to just push off with my feet and go sailing into the air. Maybe tomorrow, I think. Today I need to launder the bedding.

    * * *

  • NEW! Free downloads from The Ancients, Part 1: Daddy Pete; Unfamiliar Territory; and Write Better Right Now. Just e-mail Mary@LifeIsPoetry.netfor username and password
  • Publish your Little Book in an easy little way
  • A Prayer for Every Morning
  • FREE Learn to Meditate
  • Request Prayer and Pray for Others — Click on link OR leave your request as a Comment on this blog
  • Sample diverse blogs at Alpha InventionsCondron.us
  • The_Rules_frontcover

    Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

    Like, Wow

    What if winter lasted, like, 22 years, & you’d never known SPRING & then everything got warm & green & gorgeous & you’d be, like, WOW…? http://twitter.com/LifeIsPoetry

    It is good to be safe. It is better to be strong. It is best to be bold in the power of God. —Sister Alma Rose

    paintbox_hillside

    ‘Everything Is New’

    Sister Alma Rose loves the vicissitudes of the natural world, large and small. She is elated when Mother Nature shows her fangs — not, of course, when there is devastation, but when there is that wild violence in the sky, the winds that turn umbrellas inside-out, the blizzards, even the heaviness of heat and humidity in August.

    nssl0099lightning

    ladybird

    Ladybug, also called ladybird

    She is equally fascinated by a tiny red ladybug on a bright-green leaf, by a swelling iris bud that wasn’t there yesterday… by moss and mushrooms… by the iridescent yellow-green web, that lasts only a day or so, of treetops in the valley below in springtime. I caught her weeping early one evening — Sister Alma Rose never weeps —  because the cicadas had started their scritching, which signals the beginning of the end of summer. 

    Iris sanguinea (photo: BS Thurner Hof)

    Iris sanguinea (photo: BS Thurner Hof)

    She might be on a first-name basis with every blade of grass in her faerie-garden, and feel physical pain when sturdy foliage is trampled by careless feet, but she is no friend of the dandelion or the bindweed, any more than she honors the heartbeats of roaches (and is it really necessary for there to be four thousand roach species?) or centipedes, though she concedes their essential place in the natural cycle.

    Where there is human habitation, Sister Alma Rose says, “Voracious weeds and sly creeping things thrive only in entropy and neglect.”

    Br’er Rabbit, the Anchorite

    One of Hilltop’s most colorful citizens is a 30-ish man whose whose real name is Arthur Arthur but who goes by the name “Br’er Rabbit, the Anchorite.” That is how he introduces himself: “How do  you do?  I am Br’er Rabbit, the Anchorite.”

    St. Anthony the Great, father of Christian monasticism and early anchorite

    St. Anthony the Great, father of Christian monasticism and early anchorite

    Br’er Rabbit is so pale you could probably see his internal organs through his skin, except that you can’t see much of his skin because he wears robes made out of sheets that he buys at the Hilltop Thrift Shoppe. He cuts a hole in the sheet so that he can pull it over his head, and he fastens up the sides with big safety pins. When the sheet is white, it always makes me think of some kid bursting into his house after school and yelling, “Mom, I forgot to tell you, I’m going to a Halloween party in half an hour and I need a ghost costume.”

    But Br’er Rabbit can’t always get white sheets at the Hilltop Thrift Shoppe, and I have seen him in Dukes of Hazzard robes and Care Bear robes and even Dora the Explorer robes, which he wears with as much dignity as it is possible to muster when you are clothed in a  cartoon sheet held together with safety pins.

     

    Me, Fanny McElroy

    Me, Fanny McElroy

    Br’er Rabbit is not quite an anchorite in the medieval sense. He lives in a tidy little house owned by the Saints Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church, but it is hardly a “cell” of the type that anchorites have historically inhabited, and Br’er Rabbit is allowed to come and go, unlike in the old days, when anchorites had to stay in their cells, although some anchorites lived as hermits in forests and fended for themselves, growing their own food and so forth.

     

    But Br’er Rabbit does the work of the anchorite, which is to pray as a profession, I guess you’d say; and to look at him, aglow in his pallor and his Care Bear robe, you can easily believe that he has a direct line to God.

     

    An anchorite's cell

    An anchorite's cell

    Here is the thing about Br’er Rabbit, though: He has vowed to “harm no living thing.” He has a small solarium where he grows herbs and flowers and other plants, and I have sat in that room with Sister Alma Rose and Br’er Rabbit when the room was knee-deep in crazed leaping and chirping crickets, which seems to delight Br’er Rabbit but which I find very unnerving, especially when one hops onto my face, and I wonder if I have unknowingly sprayed myself with cricket pheromones, and sometimes I feel cross enough to say, though I never do, “Br’er Rabbit, I know that you take antibiotics when you have a bacterial infection, and your kitchen and bathroom reek of Clorox, which kills a gazillion bacteria with a single swipe,” but I love dear, gentle Br’er Rabbit and, anyway, I don’t want him to stop praying for me, not that he would, he is far too kind, even though he does murder bacteria.

     

    A growing colony of E. coli cells (A false-colored image from fluorescence microscopy of a growing colony of E coli cells. Taken from "Aging and Death in E. coli" Citation: (2005) Aging and Death in E. coli. PLoS Biol 3(2): e58 doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0030058 the discussion of a research paper by Stewart EJ, Madden R, Paul G, Taddei F (2005). "Aging and death in an organism that reproduces by morphologically symmetric division" PLoS Biol. 3 (2): e45)

    A growing colony of E. coli cells (A false-colored image from fluorescence microscopy of a growing colony of E coli cells. Taken from "Aging and Death in E. coli" Citation: (2005) Aging and Death in E. coli. PLoS Biol 3(2): e58 doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0030058 the discussion of a research paper by Stewart EJ, Madden R, Paul G, Taddei F (2005). "Aging and death in an organism that reproduces by morphologically symmetric division" PLoS Biol. 3 (2): e45)

    Sister Alma Rose likes to pray and meditate with Br’er Rabbit, and she usually asks me to go with her, and I usually do, and if you are thinking, “Why would a normal kid want to spend two hours praying with a guy decked out in Dora the Explorer sheets instead of going to the mall with her friends or playing volleyball or SOMETHING?” the only answers I can give you are (a) Hilltop doesn’t have a mall, and (b) listening to Br’er Rabbit and Sister Alma Rose pray is like lying on a beach on a warm afternoon and hearing the waves lap the shore and being lulled into a sort of certainty that, even though you woke up with three new pustulating zits this morning, everything is going to be okay.

    ‘Like the first morning’

    rainy_dayIt was in just such a dreamy haze of contentment that Sister Alma Rose and I began our trek up the hill toward home from Br’er Rabbit’s little house on what had been a spectacular October afternoon, but in the time that Sister Alma Rose and I had spent with Br’er Rabbit, the temperature had dropped ten degrees or so and the sky had darkened and the wind was whipping the dry leaves into small tornadoes. Thunder and lightning had been comfortably distant when we started out, but during our twenty-minute walk the storm moved ever closer and the wind blew ever harder and colder, tugging at our clothes and throwing dust in our faces.

    Sister Alma Rose was practically dancing with excitement. I have no fear of storms, but I enjoy them more when I’m not soaked to the skin, so I made a mad dash for Sister Alma Rose’s porch, while she all but did pirouettes up the driveway, and just as she sat down in her grass-green wicker chair the rain began, and it was not a benign little “let’s go walking in the rain” type of shower, it was a gullywasher.

    “Just imagine, Fanny,” Sister Alma Rose said contemplatively, “that y’all had never witnessed a storm before… never seen lightning or heard thunder or watched the wind thrash the trees.”

    dissipatingthunderstormkent2008_publicdomain2“I’d run screaming to Daddy and make him hide with me under the bed,” I said. But knowing, as I do, that storms come and go and that they are usually beneficial; and having some knowledge of storms and lightning and electricity and how to count the seconds between the lightning and the thunder to calculate how far away the center of the storm is, all of which Daddy has explained to his children, taking all of us out onto the porch during violent weather; I do not mind thunderstorms unless the electric power goes out, and even then, Mama lights candles like it’s Christmas at church and Daddy builds a fire in the fireplace if it’s chilly, and it’s like we’re pioneers and I feel as if I should be embroidering a sampler or something.

    Thunderstorm over Arlington, Virginia (photo: POSTDLF)

    Thunderstorm over Arlington, Virginia (photo: POSTDLF)

    But this time, taking my cue from Sister Alma Rose, inspired by her wonderment, I watched the turbulent sky with new eyes and enjoyed the earthy fragrance of rain soaking the dusty ground, and it was kind of like watching a scary movie (PG-13 scary, not R-scary), when the hairs of your arms stand on end but you know, because you’re eating popcorn and licorice twists and you keep having to stand up and let people by who have to go to the bathroom, that it’s just a movie and everything will turn out all right in the end.

    Anyhow, what Sister Alma Rose is trying to teach me is to always look at the world with new eyes and to greet every morning as if it is the first morning, and to notice things I might otherwise take for granted, like how the sun shifts in the sky so that the light is different every day. With so much to be astonished by, Sister Alma Rose says, there is no reason for anybody ever to be bored.

    Here is a secret about Sister Alma Rose: She wears Crocs

    rainy_day_on_campus_source_unk

    The Ancients, Part 1 — Daddy Pete

    To the Soul

    Journal of a Departed Friend, Part 1

    journal

    An antique journal (Renaissance?)

    Sister Alma Rose recently received part of a journal from the year 1985 that was bequeathed to her by an old friend. Here is an excerpt:

    natdingbat2

    Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain
    or freed a human soul.
    —Mark Twain

    Blackeyed Susan growing wild along a country road

    Blackeyed Susan growing wild along a country road

    Where is it, then, this human soul 
    (if, indeed, there is such a place,
    a spring of pure motives and selfless love,
    a sanctuary of rest from struggle and anxiety)?

    “I can’t explain myself,
    I’m afraid, sir,” said Alice,
    “because I’m not myself, you see.”

     

    I control what I wear and what I eat,
    when I rake leaves and how I set my
    house in order. The soul is a place of uncontrol (I believe) where yet is not chaos but cosmic arrangement. It is
    a place of selflessness from which
    emanates the genuine Self, and it is
    THIS Self that I fear and that I
    hide from, behind activity and blind
    allegiances and alcohol and
    organization and television… that I
    bury and cover with the borrowed
    skins of the souls of others,
    calling them Identity.

    Rainbow (photo source unknown)

    Rainbow (photo source unknown)

    But this Soul, this Self, will not be
    denied; it draws one irresistibly. 
    I have found demons and have
    unmasked them, and at each turn I
    wonder if there are more-fearsome
    demons and angrier fiends. I have
    seen the sun disarm them and the
    rain dissolve them, and I believe a little
    less in the strength of demons and
    more in the power of the sun and the rain.

    Glasswing butterfly

    Glasswing butterfly

    It doesn’t do any good to run away,
    after all. It is like the man whose
    suspenders are caught on the doorknob: The faster he runs, the suddener his return. “No matter where you go,” it is truly said, “there you are.” 

     

     

     

    O, Power, embolden my encounter with the soul.

    natdingbat

    The Ancients, Part 1 — Daddy Pete