Bliss

Space, Earth, Sunrise

...as if the whole big wild chaotic universe is sitting on my lap surrounded by and drenched in love

I Am the Archetypal Mother

rain falling on trees and road

...a baptism of rain

There is a frightened little girl in me who fights the good fight every minute every day and cries herself to sleep and I don’t comfort her enough, but now I’m longing to enfold her; so we sit and rock, the two of us, and, oh, what simple strength there is in that, and bliss. And as I wrap my arms around the child, it
seems as if the whole big wild chaotic universe is sitting on my lap surrounded by and drenched in love. I am the
archetypal mother, crooning, soothing, weeping for my children’s pain. But the Creator takes my tears, as all
are gathered for a baptism of rain, sweet, tender, healing rain
that makes the iris and the poppy and the peach tree
bloom again. So when we cry, the child and I, our grief is
not in vain. Our sighing is a gentle breeze, and when we
laugh the leaves dance on the elderberry trees.

Tree in the mist

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Everybody’s Magic

country road

'Henry was hiking on country roads, with no particular route or destination'

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Secrets of the Ancients Revealed

Me, Fanny McElroy, age 12

Me, Fanny McElroy, age 12

(Continued from previous post…) So I went home and began babbling to Mama — my little brothers were off spending a few days with Aunt Belle and her monsters, excuse me, her dear little ones, Tigger and Anja, who are just freely expressing their unspoiled innocence when they yank on your hair and stomp on other kids’ toys if they’re not allowed to play with them, and Aunt Belle, who is dear and kind and rather vague and stares in an unfocused way at Tigger and Anja like she’s not quite sure who they are or how they got there, literally wrings her hands — and then I had to start babbling all over again when Daddy came in, but he wanted a shower first, which was probably good because it gave me a chance to gather my thoughts, and then, wearing clean Levi’s and a purple (which is not Daddy’s color, it makes him look sallow) “Kansas State University Athletic Department” T-shirt and holding a bottle of Harp beer, he sat in the blue Morris chair that is Only His (Daddy says that by now the chair is perfectly molded to his butt)…

Antimacassar

My grandmother crocheted antimacassars and placed them on the "headrest" parts of chairs to prevent men's hair oil, specifically "Macassar Oil," from soiling the chair

…and Mama sat beside him in her grandmother Dolly’s overstuffed rocking chair, which I don’t know why she likes it because the upholstery is cow-patty brown and scratchy and covered with doilies and, I swear, an antimacassar, unlike Mama, who was, of course, not covered with doilies but was, rather, aglow in a white sundress with huge red polka dots and who was, uncharacteristically, drinking a glass of Rhine wine mixed with pineapple juice and a dab of peach brandy (a delicious punch she made for the wedding shower she hosted for her piano student Clarissa Whitney earlier that day, otherwise Mama rarely drinks alcohol, but gosh that punch is crisp and refreshing, and yes, I was given permission to have a small sip)…

(I really was)

President Obama delivering the 2010 State of the Union address

President Obama delivering the 2010 State of the Union address

…and she and Daddy held hands and looked at me expectantly, as if I were about to deliver the State of the Union address, so I said, “My fellow Americans,” and then launched into the story of Henry the Hiker and told them, Mama and Daddy, I mean, that he, Henry, is the spit and image of Matthew McConaughey, and about my premonition, and Pablo’s, and the 2000 newspaper article, with the photo of Henry, Ben, and Portia, reporting Henry’s disappearance, and my suspicion, confirmed by Sister Alma Rose, that Henry was one of the Ancients, and then Sister Alma Rose’s cryptic comment, which she refused to elaborate on, that Henry had not come to see her, Sister Alma Rose, but rather to see me, Fanny McElroy, 12 years old last October 4.

“What would he want with me?” I asked in great perplexity. “Oh, I know! He’s come to give me tennis lessons!”

Helen Keller, 1904

Helen Keller, 1904

That was supposed to be a joke, but no one laughed. Mama and Daddy had exchanged “significant glances” a few times, but they didn’t seem surprised by my “shocking revelations.” Sometimes I almost think Mama and Sister Alma Rose have this mental-telepathy thing going, because I can tell Mama about something that happened at Sister Alma Rose’s and it’s like she already knows, though either of them would die before they would betray a confidence, so I’m thinking Vulcan Mind Meld or else a convergence of highly developed women’s intuition.

Pray without ceasing

Growing up, I had known about the Ancients, in the same way you know about stuff like the Italian Riviera, and plantain (the fruit, not the weed), and Helen Keller: It’s out there (except for Helen Keller), and you have a vague idea what it is, and someday maybe you’ll care, but for now it’s just a Frito in the Massive Smorgasbord of Knowledge. In our house, if you had an odd sock, it was, like, “Maybe the Ancients took the other one,” and I used to think of them as Gollum-like creatures who slithered around and stole your homework or fiddled with your carburetor so your truck wouldn’t start — sort of like poltergeists in the flesh.

Portofino, the Italian Riviera; photo, Stan Shebs

Portofino, the Italian Riviera; photo, Stan Shebs

But from time to time I would overhear somebody — Mama or Daddy, Sister Alma Rose or Cousin Dulcie — saying “the Ancients” in a conversation that was respectful in tone, even reverential. So I came to believe that the Ancients were real people and somehow near, and eventually I just knew without being told that Sister Alma Rose and Cousin Dulcie had come from the Ancients, and, of course, dear, misguided Portia, who is fey, which means

(a) slightly insane
(b) elfin: suggestive of an elf in strangeness and otherworldliness; “thunderbolts quivered with elfin flares of heat lightning”; “the fey quality was there, the ability to see the moon at midday” — John Mason Brown
wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

NOTHING AT ALL LIKE THE ANCIENTS: Gollum, as depicted in the most recent film version of The Lord of the Rings

Portia notwithstanding, knowing about the Ancients has always given me a warm, safe feeling, like these almost-angels are keeping an eye on things while we clueless more-mortal mortals lurch around trying to make sense of our lives and, ideally, help other people be more comfortable in their skin, but often not succeeding, as evidenced by the number of times (average 12.7 per day) that you hear someone whine, “But I was JUST trying to HELP.”

Sister Alma Rose seldom discusses the Ancients with me, but she has told me one thing I love: that they literally pray without ceasing — so I can be conversing with Sister Alma Rose, and I have her full attention, but at the same time, in another part of her brain, or maybe in her heart, or her gallbladder (an organ not possessed, according to Wikipedia, by lampreys), I don’t understand the physiology of it, she is praying for me, or praying that she’ll understand what I’m saying, et cetera, and she says that anyone can do this praying without ceasing, you don’t have to be a monk or an Old One, and it brings great peace and health and vigor, and, of course, love, and you never, ever worry. I’m working on that.

Lampreys. People EAT them. There are EYES looking out of those tentacles

Lampreys. People EAT them. There are EYES looking out of those tentacles. Photo: Drow Male

* * *

So when I finished telling Mama and Daddy about Henry, et cetera, Mama announced that she had decided that the time had come to tell me as much as she could about the Ancients, and my heart did a little cardiac happy dance and in my mind was the cover of some magazine like People with Mama’s picture and the teaser “SECRETS OF THE ANCIENTS REVEALED.”

Or not. In any case, I sat cross-legged on the ottoman and scooched it over near Mama and Daddy and waited for Mama to begin. What you will read below are Mama’s words, minus the “ums,” et cetera, though I think she must have been practicing because she hardly had to stop to scratch or sneeze, or lose her place and find it again, or anything….

The Legend of the Ancients

Little girl, all dressed up, playing in clover

'Get in touch with your inner child'

There are many tales about the Ancients, or the Old Ones [see “The Old Ones,” below], and most of them contain at least SOME truth. So shut down your skeptic’s brain and pay attention, with a willingness to be enchanted. “Get in touch with your inner child,” because this is a lovely story, and it is mostly true. I know, because I was there.

The Old Ones, in one form or another, exist in every culture, but this story is about the Old Ones in North America because the author has personal experience with them. It is said that they have been on this continent for at least three thousand years, but the author cannot verify that.

Mountains of the Ancients?

Mountains of the Ancients?

According to one legend, many centuries ago a group of mystically inclined Indians created a village at the top of the highest mountain they could find and dedicated themselves to Knowing God. Since they could not at the same time dedicate themselves to learning the warriors’ ways, they needed to make their homes in a safe, secluded place, and they wanted to be close to the sky.

Over the millenia, they learned the arts and sciences that were revealed to them, and, because God was in their hearts and they were compassionate, some of them left the mountain community and went down to live quietly among the valley people, teaching and healing. 

BlueRidgeMountainRoad-Istock

No one can find them unless they want to be found

A small group of Europeans — just a handful of families, the story goes — with much the same vision stumbled upon the Indian village in their search for a mountain refuge. (No one today seems to know how they got to North America from Europe.) The Europeans and the Indians compared notes, in a manner of speaking, and found that the Europeans knew a great deal that the Indians did not, and the Indians knew much that the Europeans did not, so that by combining their knowledge they became more powerful and more compassionate, and the two communities became one.

MotherDaughter

They are...

They are still there, in that original settlement. No one — no person, no army, no camera or satellite — can find them unless they want to be found. Small groups and individuals have been led there — escaped slaves and refugees as well as mystics, gifted healers, and gypsies.

They are a beautiful people, physically and spiritually. Many have golden brown skin, wavy chestnut hair, and whiskey-brown eyes, though it is not unusual to see a blue-eyed blond in the village.

Dad Lifting Young Son

...a beautiful people

The Ancients are fully human, though they use more than the five senses you and I were taught about; in fact, all their senses are highly developed, including intuition, the so-called sixth sense, as well as manifestation, healing, and tapping the collective unconscious. They can literally make quantum leaps, and time travel is old hat to them, though, by unanimous agreement, they do not visit the future.

None of this is “supernatural.” It is simply science, advanced knowledge, mastered by people who are in continuous communication with God. The author has been told that as long as the Ancients remain in their mountain home, they age very slowly. They are completely self-sufficient in providing shelter, clothing, herbal cures and other forms of healing, and food. Meditation is a way of life. Prayer comes naturally, easily… it is second nature. Negative stress is practically unknown.

Reincarnation — ‘enormous compassion’

But the mountaintop home of the Ancients is no Shangri-La. Like their “Ancient” brothers and sisters throughout the world, they live in harmony and bear good will toward all people. They dwell apart but journey into the larger world to bring peace and healing. As in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition,

…they are moved by enormous compassion to be
reborn again and again in order to help all
living creatures discover in themselves
complete freedom from pain and
suffering….  —Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche
Blonde in Autumn Grain Field

The Ancients are exuberant by nature; Portia is no exception

The mission of the Ancients is to share their gentle wisdom with all humanity, so they come, singly or as families, to live among us, often but not always in rural areas. They are your neighbors, teachers, mechanics, clergy, hair stylists, carpenters, architects, and landscapers.

Some stay for a year, others for a hundred or more. The latter have, apparently, exceptional tolerance for pollution, artificial pesticides, questionable food additives, the blare of media, and the accelerated lifestyle; but there is no question that they age much faster “down here” than “up there,” in spite of the serenity they gain from habitual prayer and meditation, which are, however, powerful protection from mental and physical illness and deterioration.

The Ancients believe, in a nutshell, (a) that the attributes they have developed and strengthened over countless lifetimes can and must be transmitted “down here” to certain people — those who are intelligent, intuitive, and generous of spirit — and (b) that, beginning with these people, peace, love, and joy will spread over all the earth.

Dad carrying young daughter on shoulders

...reincarnated through a family "down here"

The author has been told that from time to time one of the ancients is reincarnated through a family “down here”; such children might or might not remember their past lives among the Ancients. These little ones are usually looked after and mentored by one or more of the Ancients dwelling nearby for just that purpose.

The author has only a vague idea of how all this works, since she was not privy to the secrets of reincarnation among the Ancients. She was told, however, that most “reincarnates,” at an early age, remember their past lives.

The light sensor

The Ancients claim that everyone has, on his or her head, at the crown, a sensory receptor for light. This receptor opens and closes, like an eye, but on the general population it is practically invisible. If there is no hair on the head to cover it and someone happens to notice it, that person thinks little of it, believing it to be a freckle or a small mole.

man-with-outstretched-arms

'Flooding the body with light'

But the Ancients have “exercised” this receptor for hundreds and hundreds of years, for the purpose of flooding the body with light for healing, and it has evolved into a larger circular “discoloration” about half an inch in diameter and very slightly raised. This, apparently, is the only outward difference between the Ancients and “ordinary” people.

Having my head examined

Mama stopped talking and took a sip of her drink.

Fanny McElroy at about age 4

Sister Alma Rose has always known that I was 'unusual'

“Dear One, we’ve been waiting for the right time to tell you all this,” Daddy said, taking my face gently between his hands, “though Sister Alma Rose has been urging us along for the past month or two. You’ve been a happy, well-adjusted child, you see, and there was no need, and a small part of us — a very small part — hoped that she was wrong. But you’ve been drawn more and more to Sister Alma Rose, who’s known since she first laid eyes on you as a newborn that you were… um… unusual.”

My heart was thumping wildly. I was about to be told something important, crossing an invisible line that would change my life, in a good way but also challenging… a quest, maybe, like Frodo’s with the One Ring, but not so dangerous and not, I devoutly hoped, involving a fiery-eyed wizard and the undead on winged chargers.

Brand-new puppies

All must leave the warmth, familiarity, and perceived safety of the womb

For a moment, more than anything, I wanted to stay on the not-knowing side of the line and go on as I always had, but that would be impossible, just as it is impossible for a baby to refuse to be born.

I didn’t want to hear it. I couldn’t wait to hear it. I needed to hear it, because it would lead me to my place in Creation, and nothing would bring more good to the world or more satisfaction to my spirit than doing what God had meant for me to do.

And then I knew. I lifted my hand and held it over my head, above the crown. The feeling of warmth was unmistakable. I slipped my fingers under my hair and I could feel the raised half-inch circle.

“I’m one of them, aren’t I?” I asked, my voice shaking, looking at Mama, then Daddy, for confirmation, and their eyes told me all. “I’m one of the Ancients.”

Young girl happily dancing

One of the Ancients...

Sidebar: The Old Ones—Other Legends

A great many older religions may believe that Old Ones are the beings that existed at the creation of the universe and everything in it, possibly considered to be minor gods or deities or… co-existing with gods…. In The Dark Tower series written by Stephen King, the Old Ones (also sometimes called Great Old Ones) were a highly advanced civilization, called the Imperium, that ruled the All-World many centuries, or possibly millennia ago…. In The Dark Is Rising sequence by the British author Susan Cooper, the Old Ones are agents of the Light, born as men and women, whose task is to prevent the Powers of the Dark from taking control of the world.

“They are immortal but are not Gods and most do not appear different than late middle age humans…. Their abilities include time-travel, shape-shifting, and ability to speak and understand various languages without having learned them….

Madeleine L'engle's Murry Family series

Madeleine L'Engle's Murry Family series

“In Madeleine L’Engle‘s… science fantasy books about the Murry family, [the]… Old Ones are similar to the ones in Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising series—humans born with unusual mystical powers and dedicated to a never-ending struggle against the powers of darkness and evil. In both series, the Old Ones are associated with an Old Music.” —Wikipedia

* * *

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‘Get a Life, Amanda Groom’

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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

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Breathing Dawn

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A Morning Meditation

angel_clouds

Brothers, sisters, sons and daughters,
come with me to sacred waters.
Bring your troubles and your sorrows
at the cusp of dawn tomorrow.

Watch with me and greet the sun,
envoy of the Holy One.
Breathe with me the healing rays,
harbinger of blissful days,

sunrise_deb_small

conquerer of death and dread
with its lance of fiery red;
comforter of the oppressed.
Wait with me; be healed, and rest.

Feel the gentle pink caress
comfort you at God’s behest.
Listen to the songbirds’ chorus:
”Hallelujah! God before us.”

30-Year-Puzzle-Solved-Light-Guides-Flight-of-Migratory-Birds-2

God above and God within us —
love and light are reigning in us;
these our strength, we are serene,
ever breathing dawn’s first beam.

Enter now the crystal waters,
brothers, sisters, sons and daughters.
Let the river wash you clean;
see your sorrows swept downstream.

paintbox_mountains_lake

Now rejoice in God, our savior,
praise the Lord, the one creator.
Open wide your arms; believe
in the blessings you receive.

grassy_valley_bluesky_gorgeous

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Sacred Springs

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Deep Water

spring natural

The Ancient Ones believe: If we
could hear it in primeval purity,
beside a sacred spring, just by the
sunlit surfacing where it emerges
all but unadulterated, there must
be, in all the fullness of a
symphony, a song within the
watercourse — which, hearing,
touching, tasting, bathing in it
heals the spirit of its slow,
insidious decay and makes us
innocent and wholly realized,
perhaps immortal — who can
say?

Even now, you and I can hear our
voices clear and buoyant in the
chorus — although you might
perceive nuances and notes and
cadences in this eternal mystic
composition differently than I.

barbadosblue

For since our origin, we have
sailed on different seas to
different ports; our purposes and
choices have developed separate
pathways in the mind through
which the melodies pour in and
where the orchestration rises like
the ocean at high tide. Yet even
so, divided at a crossroads,
separated by a mist, we can yet
decide — to harmonize or clash,
sing peace or, maybe, dissonance
and, if the latter, float with a
deceptive ease, by flattery and
treacherous inducement,
downstream through the sluice
gate where cacophony drowns out
the sacred tune; so many
voices, shrill and wounded from
the willful howling, shouting,
shrieking to be heard above the
rest.spring water

And when at last we learn that life
is not a race, nor yet a test, then
destiny — some call it grace —
will bring us home, in this life or
the next, perhaps a thousand
lifetimes hence. The many roads
are one road in the end, and every
soul will seek at last the blessed
lullaby; each in time will kneel
beside a holy well, to rest, to be
made innocent, as once more
called to cleansing in the spring,
the sunlit source of all we know
above the deep and hidden flow.

riverside_wales

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Demon Lady Number Two

Little Lea, C. S. Lewis's childhood home

Little Lea, C. S. Lewis's childhood home

If we really want to learn how to forgive, perhaps we had better start with something easier than the Gestapo.C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

I thought such awful thoughts that I cannot even say them out loud because they would make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish. —Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith

The Gospel According to Mrs. May Belle Mortimer, the Banker’s Widow

Some people just have way too much time on their hands, Sister Alma Rose is always saying. 

Sister Alma Rose is so full of love that it spills out of her like a tumble of wild roses on a venerable trellis. I don’t claim to be able to see people’s auras — though I wish I could, and angels, too — but Sister Alma Rose simply shines. She even glows in the dark — not like a ghost, or a firefly, or something radioactive… more like a wisp of cloud as it slides past the moon.

wild_roses_istock

Not that she’s a pushover. I’ve seen her good and mad a couple of times, such as when she and Cousin Dulcie were making plans to steal Janet, who is now Sister Alma Rose’s yellow labrador, and, further, to put the fear of God into the old drunk who used to beat her (Janet, I  mean, not Sister Alma Rose). But then, after Janet was safe, she (Sister Alma Rose, I mean, not Janet) prayed for that pathetic old man.

Janet

Janet

My third-grade teacher was so mean I called her Demon Lady. Now I can’t even remember her real name. Let’s say it’s Mrs. Pflug (it was one of those names that always make me think of sinus drainage). She hated children, and she especially hated me, and I wondered why someone who was practically allergic to kids became a schoolteacher. She always called me “Frannie” because, she said, “Fanny” was “a hideous and nasty name.” And when we had square-dancing on Wednesdays, if there were more girls than boys (which there almost always were), she’d make me sit out, every time, without fail.

Me, Fanny McElroy

Me, Fanny McElroy

Well, the Demon Lady was Troubled, and, as troubled people in Hilltop usually do, she made her way up the hill to talk to Sister Alma Rose. And the next time I plopped down on one of Sister Alma Rose’s grass-green wicker chairs on her grass-green porch and started complaining about the Demon Lady, Sister Alma Rose put up a hand to stop me.

“I know I can trust y’all, Fanny, to keep this to yourself,” she said. “That poor woman had two daughters, and she was driving them somewhere and ran a red light, and a truck smashed into her car and killed one of those little girls and the other one was brain-damaged and paralyzed and lives in the nursing home in La Mesa. Y’all remind her of the daughter who died, Fanny. She told me that.”

I just sat there, with one tear dribbling down my face, feeling sad and guilty. Sister Alma Rose took my hand and squeezed it so tight I thought I’d faint. Sister Alma Rose doesn’t know her own strength.

“There’s a lesson here, Miss Fanny,” she said, mercifully letting go of my hand, which had gone numb. “Don’t never take nothing personal. Shine love and light on the person who wrongs you. Everyone has a story.”

Meddling in the name of the Lord

I tried to remember that advice when Miss Price and Miss Haggarty almost got fired from teaching, though, technically, it was Miss Price and Miss Haggarty who had cause for grievance, not me. As everyone knows, Miss Price and Miss Haggarty have been together for thirty years, and they are Beloved in Hilltop, which has a sort of don’t-ask-don’t-tell attitude toward these dear and generous women, though anybody who doesn’t have beet paste for brains knows that they’re not just a couple of old-maid schoolteachers who happen to live together for convenience, but Hilltop folks don’t think much, any more, about their intimate personal lives. They are very much a part of the mainstream in Hilltop, where almost everybody is good-hearted and chooses to see Miss Price and Miss Haggarty as a couple of grown-up Girl Scouts rather than Deviants Living in Sin…

Miss Price

Miss Price

…except for Mrs. May Belle Mortimer, the banker’s widow, Demon Lady Number Two, who is just plain mean-spirited, even Sister Alma Rose says so. She didn’t have time to do much mischief when Mr. Bert Mortimer was alive and they had children at home, identical twins, Maureen and Darla, who were nice girls in spite of their mother’s unrelenting attempts to turn them into May-Belle-Mortimer clones. Probably in self-defense, Maureen and Darla married men who lived in New Zealand — I am perfectly serious — and then Mr. Bert Mortimer died, and May Belle grieved for about forty-five minutes and then turned her attention to Cleansing Hilltop of Sin.

Miss Haggarty

Miss Haggarty

Unfortunately, Mrs. May Belle Mortimer was on the school board and had a particular animosity toward Miss Price and Miss Haggarty. The lavish parties she used to give when Mr. Mortimer was alive were the only parties in Hilltop to which Miss Price and Miss Haggarty were never invited. If Maureen or Darla was assigned to one of their classes, May Belle would try to get them transferred to different classes, until Maureen and Darla put their collective feet down and refused to budge.

Gotcha

About ten miles south of Hilltop there is a lovely golf course and park on a small lake — big enough for sailboats, but not so big that you couldn’t walk all the way around it in a couple of hours. As cruel fate would have it, May Belle was driving to her A-frame cabin, which she always referred to, with haughty ostentation, as “Mortimer Cottage,” one Saturday morning in April — the first warm, glittery, delicious-smelling spring day of the year — when she spotted Miss Price and Miss Haggarty walking along the lake path, holding hands.

Spirea in full bloom (photo by Moja, GFDL)

Spirea in full bloom (photo by Moja, GFDL)

I can only imagine how ecstatic May Belle must have been as she pulled into the Bathhouse parking lot (tucking her petal-pink Town Car behind a clump of spirea), grabbed her fancy-schmancy camera with the telephoto lens, and surreptitiously, as if she were Sherlock-Frigging-Holmes, who never used a camera as far as I know, but anyway, May Belle took a slew of photographs of two kindhearted women, without a care in the world, walking hand-in-hand on a gorgeous spring morning; and naturally she presented these photographs at the next school-board meeting, announcing that the photos proved that Miss Price and Miss Haggarty were Perverts Consigned to Hell “and should be dismissed from their teaching positions before they can infect our daughters with their insidious lechery.”

Nobody said a word, though a couple of school-board members laughed out loud, according to what Mr. Archie Appleby, president of the school board, told Sister Alma Rose. May Belle continued to loom triumphantly in the silence, until she looked around and saw that everyone had sort of inched away from her, lest they become infected by May Belle’s insidious spitefulness.

“I move that we fire these practitioners of base depravity — immediately,” May Belle said in defiant rage. No one seconded the motion.

“Well,” she said, perching a little unsteadily on the nearest chair, “I guess I’ll have to take this matter to the state department of education.”

“Why don’t you just do that, May Belle,” said Mr. Appleby with quiet menace. “But first — May Belle, you got your camera with you?”

May Belle said that her camera was in the car and Mr. Appleby asked her to please go get it, so she did, and when she came back in, all the other school-board members, the teachers and principals who were in attendance, and the newspaper reporter who always came to the school-board meetings, were standing in a circle holding hands — men with men, men with women, women with women.

“If you’re going to the state department of education,” said Mr. Appleby, “you might as well not have to make two trips.” Mrs. May Belle Mortimer just stood there like a statue, Mr. Appleby told Sister Alma Rose, for what seemed like half an hour. He said, chuckling, that he had been afraid he would have to kiss Kevin O’Hara, the reporter, on the lips to break through May Belle’s paralysis, but eventually she just turned on her heel and walked out of the room.

Heart beams

I wish I could say that the incident cured May Belle’s homophobia and that she and Miss Price and Miss Haggarty became fast friends, but that isn’t what happened. Had May Belle shown any kindness or remorse, she would have been forgiven and welcomed back into the fold. As it was, she closed up her house and “Mortimer Cottage” and went to New Zealand “indefinitely.”

Sister Alma Rose believes that there are some people, or more likely, she says, they are androids or extraterrestrials (like the slimy giant cockroach from Men in Black), who are evil through and through, without souls. “Mrs. May Belle Mortimer is not one of those beings,” Sister Alma Rose told me, “but I think she’s going to need a few more lifetimes to scrape the crust off her heart. There’s a lot of bad karma that’ll need redemption.”

And Sister Alma Rose and I prayed for Mrs. May Belle Mortimer. I was a little worried that our warm, loving thoughts wouldn’t make it all the way to New Zealand, especially mine, which were tepid rather than warm, and if they weren’t precisely loving, at least I no longer wished that May Belle would be stricken with an agonizing and fatal disease involving flesh-eating bacteria.

“Our prayers and compassion will be carried on angels’ wings, wherever they need to be received,” said Sister Alma Rose… and the glow of the setting sun seemed to cling to Sister Alma Rose for a long, long time after dusk became dark and the crickets began their evening litany.

Milford Sound, New Zealand

Milford Sound, New Zealand

 

The Ancients, Part 1 — Daddy Pete

The Ancients, Part 1 — Daddy Pete

Sister Alma Rose’s Daily Prayer

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We Are Healers and Disciples

Prayer… is the conduit through which God’s power, grace, and light are released into a dark world. Long ago, Chinese theologian Watchman Nee said, “Our prayers lay the track down on which God’s power can come. Like a mighty locomotive, his power is irresistible, but it cannot reach us without rails….” Prayer forms the bridge between earth’s need and heaven’s unending supply of grace. A Busy Woman’s Guide to Prayer: Forget the Guilt and Find the Gift, by Cheri Fuller

Father-Mother God Almighty, you have
shaped for us so wonderful a place, and
grasshopper_in_buttercupyet we war for every inch, this acre,
this enchanted space, as though we had, our-
selves, created it out of the ether.

Once you made me; make me once again, a
new creation, every morning new, that
I might shine with your reflected grace, and,
too, no longer burdened with the weight of
karmic retribution, spread my wings and
fly among the planets and the stars.

O, Father-Mother, send me to embrace with
healing light my brothers and my sisters.
Send me to them now and I shall kiss each
brow, and sprinkle lavender and pearls, and
they will feel the cure, a gentle sting, no
more than that — for surely, God, once shriven,
I am naught but pure and holy love, a
moment only, living unencumbered,
free of gravity — a ray of sun.

enchanted_shore Your
love is weightless; one might bear it blithely,
just as driftwood rises to the surface
of the sea. Direct me, Mother-Father,
to the sons and daughters, restless in the
night from pain or grieving. You can hear them,
God, though they complain in solitude. But
here, I see that you have summoned angels —
guards, companions, watchers, whom I know fromwaterfall_mountains
other nations, other lives. God, bless our
going and returning. All you’ve taught to
us of healing or of letting go; of
being merciful or saying no; of
finding the divinity in all — the
learning’s etched upon our spirits, for we
are your children, healers and disciples;
joyfully we undertake to serve in
all the paths you take and bid us follow.

____________

All photos © Luc Viatour GFDL/CC

____________

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Sister Alma Rose Walks with the Angels

The Rescuer Whose Name Is Grace

 

summer_trail_okThere is littleness in ghettos of the spirit; there are clusters of

anxiety for great and small potentialities; there

is a gnawing discontent, and there is greed, there is belligerence

whose appetite for prey is so immense it manufactures

enemies to butcher and devour. Here pain and anger

are allowed and unrestrained; envy and resentment are

infectious, and susceptible or even willing hosts become

diseased. This is Planet Earth, its denizens believe.

Luc Viatour

Photo: Luc Viatour

 

But there is one whose promise — “I have overcome the world” —

revealed a paradise where anyone who wishes can abide. And when

I chose to make my home where he is guardian and guide, I

saw that littleness is less than I supposed, for I was given eyes

with which to view the continents anew, and they were radiant. The

huddled masses dwell, I saw, in mere illusion; fog that

vanishes at dawn. I live among the angels and I wander

on green hills, and the inhabitants with whom I every day converse

are beauty, peace, vitality; are song and dance; are spirits that

rejoice in blessed certainty that everything they need will be

supplied, and more besides. This is where I live, but

even so, I often fall away, for there is a seductive quality in

self-indulgence and complaint. And then I have forgotten to

return, have thought I didn’t know the way, have even stopped

believing there was ever such a place. Infected by deceit

and heavy with the burden of a nothingness disguised as stone,

a monolith, I struggle for each breath and grapple with the lie that

I am all alone. But I am not invisible to those who wait at home.

Luc Viatour

Photo: Luc Viatour

 

They send a rescuer whose name is Grace, who never tires of carrying

the weary and the lost back to the place prepared for them eternities

ago. And the monstrosities are known for what they are — only shadows

that cannot abide the sun. I needn’t earn the bread and wine on

heaven’s table; all that is required is my acceptance. If

unswallowed, they cannot revive the tired and hungry prodigal.

 

Let this be my embracing of abundant grace; these words I

have received and written, and must give away to clear a

space for brighter blessings yet to come.

 

February 13, 2006

Luc Viatour

Photo: Luc Viatour

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Prayer for a Baby

Grandmother Rocking Little Jack beside the Christmas Tree — A Prayer

Little Jack at 2 months

Little Jack at 2 months

My jingle bracelet caught his eye — tiny,
shiny, singing bells and balls of yellow-
gold and lavender, of sky blue, purple,
red and green. His little fingers touched them
almost reverently; he’d not imagined
such a thing could be. He satisfied his
curiosity on bells and balls, and then
resumed examining my nose, with much
tenacity.

He crawls, at ten months old, efficiently;
the floor is slippery in spots, but he is
not deterred, and, when he’s on the loose, you
have to watch him carefully, although, of
course, the stairs are guarded by a gate, and
there’s a heavy shield around the fireplace,
and all the breakables are set up high.

And now he’s bathed and dry and clean and smells of
baby powder and of eau de baby,
which, if they could package it, would never
lack for customers; it must be made in
heaven. He’s content upon my lap, and
we play Pat-a-Cake, and Pat-a-Cake
again, and when I try to change the game and
interest him in Ride Little Horsie, he
resists a bit, attempts to clap his hands
without assistance, and sometimes he misses,
so I help, and Pat-a-Cake it is
again and yet again.

The rocker was his great-great-grandmother’s,
the kind with indestructible upholstery and
springs, the most completely perfect chair to
rock a baby in and sing a nonsense
song. Before too long he brings his furry
light-green blanket to his cheek and nestles
in my arms, resisting momentarily the
urge to rest, for he is not quite finished
with exploring yet. But he grows heavy
as he gives it up, and lets his eyelids
close… and we are satisfied — I more than
he, I think, because I am the one who
knows how differently so many children
fall asleep.

God above and God within, I praise you
for creating him. God within and
God above, please keep him safe and warm and
loved. So keep us all. Amen.

* * *

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Five Minutes Well Spent

Make This Your Morning Prayer

I’ve seen many renditions of this bittersweet song with video. I prefer the Nanci Griffith audio, but the video here, by Mark Castle, is ALMOST perfect.

Amen….
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