Last week, as I was handing out holiday cookies to friends and family, my mother told me about Cookie Week, as occasioned every year by someone with whom she works. The first or second week of December is spent doing nothing but baking cookies, playing Christmas music and watching Christmas movies. Sounds like a perfect vacation to me! I’m so excited about starting my own Cookie Week tradition that I’ve already set the dates (December 5 – 12) for next year. If you don’t mind looking at me in my pajamas and apron, put it on your calendar to stop by and visit (don’t know which state, but I know which room). I’ll take time away from the stand mixer and rolling pin to pour you a cup of coffee and say hello.
One of our favorite family stories is “Potters Know Potters.” The essence of this story is that if you are looking for a specific artist, you inquire of other artists of the same type. My addendum is “writers write.” Writers truly enjoy writing and do it without giving it much thought. I love to hear from my writer friends because I almost always get “more” from them. I write to a friend with a question and, not only get the answer, I get a lovely story of how it happened and, if I’m very lucky, a description of something they did yesterday that I would have liked, or an insight to a shared memory, or a thoughtful account of a book currently being read, or…
I keep a list of things that make me feel better when I’m down. Like Maria’s list of her “Favorite Things” in the Sound of Music, but not quite as lyrical. Writing to my writer friends is on my list, since I can be fairly confident I’ll get something wonderful back.
Wordplay often changes me internally because so much of my life and thinking is tied up with the words I use to describe them –in my reading yesterday, the author chronicled her transformation of the word “nowhere” to the phrase “now here.” I live somewhere that I sometimes portray as “nowhere,” but it has a lot of “now here” to it too. Now, I’ll never be able to depict a place as “nowhere” without thinking of the “now here” of it.
Another word play that struck me was when it was pointed out that the word “praise” contains the word “raise.” Many people call many things “praise.” But what if we only consider comments that “raise” the recipient as true “praise”?
When I was a teenager, I spent my summers detasseling corn. This was a great job for a teenage girl: outside all day working on my tan, lots of other kids to meet, a lot of hours over a short duration, a little adventurous and quite physical. (I don’t know if this job even exists any longer, since the last time I read about it, they were developing genetically modified strains of corn that would eliminate the need for detasseling.) In case you are not familiar with this job, here’s what it entails: a person walks down a row of corn (we had machines to drive us, but usually it was too muddy to use them) , pulls the tassels off the top of each plant and drops it on the ground.
The lasting lesson of detasseling was the Zen of it. By the time we were in the fields the corn was about seven feet tall. Once I was 15 feet into a row of corn, I lost all bearings. I never wore a watch, so after the first ten minutes or so in a corn field, I didn’t even know how long I’d been in the row. Because the corn was so tall, I couldn’t see or hear more than six feet in any direction. Most of the time I didn’t know if the end of the row was coming up or if any of my co-workers were nearby. I’d keep moving forward and trust that eventually the end of the row would suddenly appear and I’d be in open air for a few minutes before entering the next field.
Quite a metaphor, n’est-ce pas?
Sometimes our lives change in an instant. A best friend is killed by a drunk driver. A husband falls off the roof. You are diagnosed with a serious medical condition. I call these sharp turns. Shocking as they are, almost all of us have them. Not often – then they wouldn’t be shocking – maybe once or twice in our lives.
Most sharp turns involve tremendous loss. And it’s often years before one feels steady again. For those reasons, I wouldn’t wish a sharp turn on my worst enemy. And I hope, hope, hope that I’ve already experienced all my sharp turns. Nonetheless (and ironically), sharp turns are precious and unique gifts. For one thing, when we look back at our traumas, we have a view of our essence that we otherwise would not have had. We have a profound vision of who we were (and are) before, during and after.
Advent is my favorite time of the year. My theology emphasizes the incarnation, and Quaker practice is largely about waiting, and I love going to church, so you can only imagine how much I would love a month of church services devoted to waiting for the incarnation. “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is my all-time favorite hymn. I sing it to myself all year long, but I rarely get to hear choirs sing it outside of Advent. I could just burst.
A friend and I were making rules for our belongings. I said, “Only things that are sentimental or useful belong in my home.” My friend added, “And beautiful.” “OK.” I said, “Sentimental, useful or beautiful” thinking to myself, “Aren’t beautiful things useful?”