The Apples of Happiness

Carl Larsson, "Brita as Iduna," 1901

Carl Larsson, "Brita as Iduna," 1901

Sometimes, when you’re not paying attention, the Apples of Happiness fall into your lap. You’re just sitting there under some gnarly apple tree, which might as easily be a chestnut or a maple tree, because it’s hot and you want a little shade, and maybe you have a basket in your lap and maybe you don’t, but the apples fall into it (lap or basket) — and Bob’s your uncle, whatever that means, they’re always saying it in novels that take place in England.

Sister Alma Rose has this friend called Cassandra, who is 62 years old, and the Apples of Happiness fell into her lap seven years ago, when she was 55. Sister Alma Rose has known her since she, Cassandra, was in high school. Cassandra has had only one job in her entire life: teaching English at Hilltop High School. And she has always lived alone, with her cats and dogs and books and movies and music. Her parents died a long time ago. She had two brothers, and one of them expired quite young from a heart attack, and the other one moved a long way away, to Florida, and Cassandra doesn’t get to see him and his family very often.

Maggie (photo by Luis Miguel Bugallo Sanchez)

Maggie (photo by Luis Miguel Bugallo Sanchez)

I absolutely adore Cassandra, and the reason I am writing this today is that she lost her precious Maggie, a very old, very sweet muggins of a dog. I don’t think that people who are not “dog people” can understand how devastating this is. Sister Alma Rose knows a nasty man who fired one of his employees because she took a day of sick leave when her 12-year-old Labrador retriever died.

Dog people

Me, Fanny McElroy

Me, Fanny McElroy

In the case of “dog people,” their dogs are their children, and in a way they (the dogs) are more endearing than children because they never grow up, they never sass you, they never “go through a phase,” they never drink and drive or “experiment” with drugs. They just follow you around, adoringly, wagging and gently imploring you to scratch them behind the ears or feed them little nuggets that you don’t even have to cook, you just pour them out of a bag, although one of our dogs, Amos, was on a special diet for two years (before he died) and Mama had to cook hamburger and rice and vegetables (no potatoes!) and give him Chinese herbs, but Mama didn’t mind, because she didn’t ever have to fuss at Amos to eat, and Amos never got bored with hamburger and rice and vegetables. And when sweet Amos went to the Great Grassy Meadow in the Sky, Daddy cried, and he kept on crying the whole time he was digging a deep hole in the garden for the body that Amos lived in while he was on earth, and he buried Amos’s body and planted a cottonwood tree on his grave, and that cottonwood tree has grown large and lovely, which is just exactly as it should be.

Apples come in all sizes and colors

Apples come in all sizes and colors

Anyway, my heart hurts for Cassandra, and so I am especially glad that the Apples of Happiness fell into her lap seven years ago.

What happened was this: Cassandra is wild about this American composer called Leroy Anderson, whom you might have never heard of, although he composed many famous pieces of music, including “Sleigh Ride,” “Blue Tango,”  “the Syncopated Clock,” “the Typewriter,” and some longer pieces, concertos and things, and theme music for television shows.

So — I might not have all the details right, but what I think occurred is that Cassandra was in an Internet chat room or some such thing on the Leroy Anderson Official Website, and she was “chatting” with a man called Wallace, and then they struck up a lively e-mail correspondence and they fell in love. That’s it, in a nutshell.

leroy_anderson_sleigh_rideWallace lives in Canada, a large, cold country where everybody is wild about ice hockey and where many people who are called Québécois (kay-bay-KWAH) speak French and get their knickers in a knot if you say kwuh-BECK instead of kay-BECK, and so they (Cassandra and Wallace) agreed to meet in person in a very public and safe place in Estes Park, Colorado, and, boy, did they ever have the immediate hots for each other (Sister Alma Rose doesn’t like for me to say that, she thinks it’s crude, but the alternatives that I can think of would get me sent to my room without supper). Cassandra’s friends were rather nervous, ahead of time, about Cassandra’s little adventure, because everybody thinks that if you meet someone on the Internet he will inevitably turn out to be a psychopath with a machete, or perhaps he will put cyanide in your coffee, or something.

La Streisand (2007, photo by Max Pride)

La Streisand (2007, photo by Max Pride)

Apples galore!

Sister Alma Rose was not the least bit concerned, though, and she told Cassandra that God’s angels would protect her and that she should just go and have herself a fine time, which Cassandra did, because Wallace is a prince of a fellow, a true gentleman, a gifted musician, and a real sweetie, who treats Cassandra like a queen, and when Cassandra’s friends finally met him they all fell a little bit in love with him, but Cassandra fell a lot in love with him and told her friends that they had better watch themselves or she would slice them up and fry them for brunch, with sautéed onions and Trader Joe’s 21-Seasoning Salute, and then bury their bones and dance on their graves.

Now, listen to this! Cassandra and Wallace’s second “date” was a trip to Hollywood for the Barbra Streisand farewell concert, and they (Cassandra and Wallace, not Barbra) stayed in the Beverly Hilton! Darling Wallace paid extra thousands of dollars (U.S., not Canadian) for backstage passes.

Oh, and Stop the Presses, Barbra Streisand must be saying The Long Goodbye, because apparently she’s not finished doing farewell concerts, or at least she was still performing in 2007, when, if her photo is any indication, she was showing most if not all of her 65 years, though she has never been a beauty, but I don’t feel a bit sorry for her because she was practically born with that glorious voice, plus she is a fine actor and she is married to James Brolin, who is easy enough on the eyes for both of them.

The Beverly Hilton

The Beverly Hilton

Back to Wallace. He would like to move to Hilltop, because Canada is a long way away, and he and Cassandra see each other for ten days two times a year — once at Christmastime, when Wallace visits Cassandra and fixes a superb turkey dinner for Cassandra and all her salivating friends; and again in the summer, when they go on a fancy vacation trip. They have taken the train to the rocky coast of Oregon, they have basked in the Bermuda sun, and next year — I am so jealous about this that I was afraid I would burn in Hell until Sister Alma Rose promised me that God is merciful and that what Hell is is the way you feel when you are eaten up by jealousy — they are going to visit the Lake Country in England. Between visits, they e-mail and talk on the phone, one or the other and sometimes both, every day.

The Oregon coastline (photo by "Cacophony," ed. "Noodle Snacks")

The Oregon coastline (photo by "Cacophony," ed. "Noodle Snacks")

Sister Alma Rose relates the story of Cassandra and Wallace to people who are very discouraged about something or other and who anticipate nothing but doom and disaster for the rest of their lives. “Only God can see around the corners,” she says.

Bermuda (photo copyright, Ministry of Tourism & Transport)

Bermuda (photo copyright, Ministry of Tourism & Transport)

“Y’all never know when the Apples of Happiness, which are the grace of God, might fall into y’all’s lap.” Then she adds, “Try to be paying attention, so that God won’t have to bonk y’all in the head with a particularly large, heavy apple, or perhaps a pumpkin.”

I like Sister Alma Rose’s expression of this idea even better than William Shakespeare‘s in Julius Caesar:

There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.

I have never been on a sea voyage. But I have sat under lots of apple trees.

Rest in peace, dear Maggie….


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New-Morning-Shine Medititation

Sister Alma Rose Becomes a Ray of Sunlight

Source of Light and Life, may I be a sunbeam to shine for you today. Amen

Photo: Luc Viatour

This prayer-meditation is best done lying down. Sister Alma Rose always prefers to meditate lying down, though for some types of meditation it’s better to sit up. Unfortunately.

Do this meditation first thing in the morning, if y’all are not in a rush; or when you need a breather during the day; or at bedtime. What matters is that you have undisturbed solitude and time—ten minutes or more. Y’all can practice this meditation for as long as you like.

Play some lovely, light, floaty, instrumental music. (There’s hours and hours of meditation music at Click on “Meditation” in the navigation bar.) You don’t want nobody singing in y’all’s ear. You don’t want “Maple Leaf Rag” or “Stars and Stripes Forever.” Y’all want violins and flutes and oboes, or a nice, smooth solo piano. Music you can fly on.

Relax. Use any relaxation technique y’all like. (Try Susan Piver’s “Breath Awareness” meditation.) Or just breathe comfortably and easily, and simply melt into the bed or floor. Start with your toes and feel them turn to warm butter, and work your way up through your bones to the top of your head (don’t forget your fingers and arms), until your entire body feels warm and soft.

With your eyes closed and your body loose and relaxed, feel yourself standing near the edge of a cliff by the ocean, facing west, just when the sun is starting to go down. Feel a soft, warm breeze at your back.

Now here’s what’s important. Don’t y’all just imagine yourself on the cliff with the breeze at your back. Be there. Place yourself there. Feel the wind.

As the sun sinks into the horizon, watch the sky turn from blue to lavender to a dusky pink—soft, like fluffy cotton. Lean forward, slowly, until the breeze picks you up and bears you easily, like a leaf, into the glowing cloud.

Y’all are floating through the cloud of pink light. It warms you through, and penetrates your pores and bones and every single cell until y’all are the light, and the wind carries away your pain. Swim in that pink cloud as long as you like. Make it a long, warm, healing bath. When you become the light, you won’t need the wind any more.

You emerge from the pink cloud with the dawn, and y’all are white light, all pure, just glowin’ holiness. There’s no hurry. Time is suspended. Y’all can play in the stratosphere—dancing, whirling, diving, turning to the music. You are the sunrise—maybe you are soft, like a kiss; or strong, like an angel; or spinning, like a pixie or a star.

You are pure, cleansing, loving energy. Go to those you want to bless, and shine on them, gently—not to awaken them, but to brush them with peace and healing. Embrace them in soft light. Stroke their hair, kiss their cheeks. Be the prayer and the answer to the prayer.

Go to the children, the old folk, the brothers and sisters, the fighting, the dying, the mourning ones. Shine on whole cities, on the planet; go to all the universes, and bless them.

Then, as fresh and clear as when y’all began, rejoin the soft predawn pastels, forerunners of the sun. Merge with the light until the breeze returns and carries you home.



Can’t Sleep?


Lay your body down and close your

eyes and float upon the wind till you can

hardly sense your skin and bones, then

leap into the river of the setting sun, and

slip and slide among the underwater

creatures in the silver-current-liquid

light, and let it rain in every pore and

cell and carry off your pain. Somewhere

downstream, you surface and it’s sunrise

there; it lifts you, and your shell is left

behind, you’re perfect radiance, the

first and bravest sunbeam of the day, a

swift, bright angel, or a spinning star, and

you do pirouettes in space, because you

can, not having any weight, and fearless. Go

now to the ones you love and pray for, sleeping

still, embrace them with new-morning-shine;

deep they rest, and in their dreaming all is

well, and they awaken clean and blessed.


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