What If

“Come”, said the Gardner, “come with me, for I have something you absolutely must see.” And so What If The Flower followed where he seemed to lead. Over time darkness and despair crept around him. Almost imperceptibly it snuck up on him until it’s smothering effect began to drown What If The Flower.

Hopelessness gathered so close that time faded and the motion of forward progress became intermittent, hesitant and second guessing at best. Alone he stood. Empty, hollow and yearning for rescue. Surely the Gardner would return and grant him relief. He had seen countless others granted their pleas for help. Would he not be found as worthy as they were?

His petition floated from him like the mist that he longed for to quench his thirst. His head drooped down in humility and acknowledgement of his need for the Gardner, an admission of his utter dependence upon Him.

Just as hope was slipping away, as the last thoughts wandering about before an endless sleep overtook him he thought he found himself alone and safe in a large and spacious field. The warmth of the green surrounding him seemed to reflect the very sun itself. A feeling of peace and a familiarity like that of home embraced him welcomingly.

In the distance a tree, like no other ordinary tree, stood majestically waiting and watching. It’s fruit was like none he had ever seen before in his limited existence. The sweetness seemed to have a glow, if taste could in fact do such a thing. A haunting pulse that eye and ear could not detect seemed to pull you towards it, so long as you did not allow anything to distract you from the prize.

What If The Flower took the whole scene in; the tree, the path along the banks of rushing water, the iron rail to guide and support the weary traveler in the accomplishment of their quest.

What If watched in awe as an aged father reached forth his hand and tasted of the fruit of the tree. The blossom of a smile opened. The twinkling lights in his eyes testified that what he had traveled long and searched endlessly for was now his. The fruit was filled with the happiness that he had read about, the happiness that had been spoken of in hushed, reverent tones around countless camp fires to numerous to be recalled.

Love filled his heart and his eyes searched the horizon for his family to share this great blessing with. Motioning for them to join him, his heart called across the distance between them louder than his voice possibly could.

Beside the water they traveled the path toward their anxious father. The anticipation of sharing what he had discovered kept him focused on his family as they made their way toward him. Two however became lost along the way. Like many before and many since they were distracted from following the council of their father. Some were lost in thick darkness while others were easily misled by the shouts and cries from a building, high on a hill, bursting with pride and filled with people who seemed to be enjoying a grand party.

Gratefully his wife partook of the fruit and together they shared it with their sons who joined with them at the tree.

The father wrapped his arm around his wife and turned toward the large building their two lost sons had entered. Tears flowed freely, hearts tore slowly and painfully. It was clear that they were longing for their lost sons. The desire to share their taste of happiness with them would be a whisper their sons would never hear. The noise and cries of the crowd were simply too loud, the distractions too many. And yet they still hoped, they still prayed, they still waited for the day that would give to them an opportunity to be heard, a fruit to be shared.

What If The Flower now felt the loneliness of the field where the Gardner had brought him. He ached to have known his father but that time was long past. The Gardner was the closest thing he had to family and tales of how much he looked like his father were as close as he would ever come in this life to knowing him.

He looked back at the lost young men. Did they have any idea what they were missing out on?
What If The Flower felt dew forming on his pedals at midday.

What if the flower was you. Now what would you do?

Missing You

The hum of the mixer is silent now. The void where it’s sound once danced is deathly still. The beeping of the Belgian waffle iron has even faded away. Only the distant churning of the washer breaks the calm of the heavy air. Banana bread baked, cooled and cut has been wrapped with something more than just plastic. Waffles stacked like edible pieces of luggage await to be taken to their transport.

Unspoken words softly whisper a longing for someone who even though present is even now drifting a heart. How can even the anticipation of separation bring such an empty hollow feeling inside?

Time now has whisped away gently as a receding tide.

Pools arise from nowhere trapping unsuspecting glimpses of life unnoticed. Worlds filled with treasures taken from moments before reminded us of the past and of bigger things.

I search each of these for something that I cannot name. Searching for feelings of belonging. Feelings of comfort. Feelings of a connection unseen by the human eye but personally know to my heart.

I see a homemaker, a nurse, a friend, a companion, a daughter of God, a wife, a mother, a child, a worker bee, a tornado, a teacher, a compassionate service giver. I see so many things it is hard to name. . . . .but hearts bind and see more than can be expressed. Feelings, words never spoken, happiness, disappointment, sorrow, pain and things that cannot truly be understood without experiencing them first hand.

My one hope, my one joy is that I know that even now as the tide recedes and life changes. . . . . I know that it will change again. The waters will rise. The small glimpses of the past trapped in the tide pools will vanish as their world is swallowed up and made whole once more.

I long for that day. I know the time of its arrival and I will be waiting. Patient. Silent. Remembering what brought me to these shores. She will return.

The Naming

Out of the past a memory crept as my focus blurred with the present and shifted to forgotten times. My son, married and with a wife and child on the way faded to a much younger blonde headed boy full of wonderment. This was my inventor, out trying to make a name for himself at a young age. He could make things that would boggle the imagination with tape, string, sticks and any other assorted item he could lay his hands. That is so long as no one noticed it was missing.

It seemed like from the beginning that he was searching for an identity, something to be different, something that would set him apart from others. I gave him a first name that was the last name of writer that I admired. I fondly remember the day that he decided to no longer be right handed but instead chose to use his left. The shifting food allergies that seemingly would prevent him from eating things he didn’t want at the time or would draw attention to him were matters of amusement for me, irritation for his mother.

One day he confided in me his frustration over his name. Even though he wanted to be unique in other ways he didn’t so much enjoy his name being unique. You see his brothers had names that were more common. There were cities, streets, locations and even people they knew that shared the name of his brothers. They could find cups, license plates and other products with their names on them, but he couldn’t. I don’t suspect he ever will unless he has it custom made and that bothered him. I felt for him. My well meaning intentions melted into a heap before my eyes. I never thought that a name would create heartache and a distant empty feeling.

I had a hard time forgetting those feelings. They went everywhere with me. On one occasion they accompanied me while on a hike in the hills near our home. The air was heavy with the scent of fallen leaves, my thoughts heavy as I climbed through the scrub oak, over rocks, up and down hills. Traveling through an area I seldom passed through I spotted something in the rocks above that caught my eye. The sunlight revealed the hidden by illuminating the rocks at a particular angle that showed that there was more there than first met the eye.

An arch, hidden by the overgrowth of the rock and the cropping of the scrub oak. Like all great explorers I decided to name it as a way of leaving my mark upon the land. I named it after my son. For the second time I gave this name, once again the name was given to help a young man feel important. People want to be connect to things and people by the names given to them.

Arriving home I shared the excitement with my son. He now had a secreted, hidden arch named after him. Like a visible rush of adrenaline you could see the excitement surge through his body and fill his eyes to over flowing. Hurriedly we rushed back to his namesake and in the setting sun you could see a different son rising before your eyes as the shadows lengthened with his smile. At last he had identity. At last he felt connected. At last he no longer felt alone in the world.

There is something to be said about a naming. There is something to be said about giving place for your name in the world. I hope he remembers that when his first born comes into this world.

Behind the Hedge

Silence has filled the space of a little over thirty years now. Distance has separated me from a land that was for a time my home. But even today in my memories I can feel the green of winter in New Zealand. Cool, refreshing rain that shifts it’s disguise in and out of penetrating humidity. Mists that whisp along through the tree ferns as the weather changes.

It was on just such a winter day in July that I first met Eric Neate. With the precision of a metronome he walked. His pace even, his look determined and yet with all of the shuffling he barely moved more than a few inches with each step. No cane to guide him, no walker to walk with him yet he persisted as if his entire world depended only upon him. Passing through a world that didn’t even seem to realize he was even there, forgotten before he had even passed.

We exchanged pleasantries, asked if there was anything we could do to help. His face unshaved for a few days, his eyes gray with a penetrating hurt felt cold. But there was still a spark within, something inside spoke of better times and other days gone past, you could just feel it. I don’t recall the entire conversation but I do recall being invited to his home. Perhaps another day, since he would be gone for some time today on errands. The offer of our help however was kindly refused.

A few days later we attempted to locate Eric’s home. Had difficulty in the attempt and not because we didn’t ask for directions either. You see, hardly anyone knew that someone lived behind the large hedge at the end of the street and fewer knew that there was even a gate that would actually open onto the overgrown property.

Once inside Eric shared with us his proud heritage. Both he and his beloved wife who had passed away some time before could trace their families back to the original seven canoes that first colonized New Zealand. A rich and royal heritage indeed. Treasured memories of his wife and family were opened to our view. He spoke of them as if they were present and yet they were not. There was a longing for his departed wife. You could hear it in his voice, you could see it in his eyes. A hollow aching for his children was also apparent. He had not seen them for years. He never mentioned why. He did mention that they lived just on the other side of town, on the other side of a bridge. He missed them dearly. Their absence seemed to be even a mystery to himself. I know that my heart for one ached for him with each story he unfolded for us.

Eric took pride in his self-sufficiency. He handled everything he possibly could to the best of his limited ability. On our way out of his home he led us to something that just about broke my trembling heart. In another room we had not noticed on our way in was something that he wanted us to see. Sitting on two saw horses in the middle of a small crowded room, freshly painted, sat a bright blue homemade casket . You see Eric didn’t want to bother anyone on his way out of this world and he certainly didn’t want anyone, especially as he called them, “the undertakers” to come around the house either. He wanted everything to be plain and simple and he wanted to be sure that the little that he did have was given to help children he had not seen in years.

Each July I remember this encounter and again in the winter, since it was winter there during July. I don’t ever want to forget the lonely, hollow, empty, deserted feeling that I felt that day. I don’t ever want to pass up the opportunity to reach out and touch a family member, a friend or even someone that can walk down a street and no one even notice that they had passed by. Royalty walks among us. Hidden in plain sight. It is for us to search behind the hedges in our lives and find them. Cross the bridges before us and discover what you are missing.

 

Abrupt Changes

I never enjoy days like these. Blood pressure building, nerves on edge. Anxious anxiety pulsates throughout my body. The circulation in my hands and finger tips drastically change, the cold creeps in. Ice cold hands on a scorching hot day. For a little over three years this story has been in the making. Three years of festering irritation have grown. Three years of tried patience, disappointment and discouragement and yet before this day is out a life or two will be changed. As much as a change is needed that doesn’t make it any easier when you like the person that needs to change but they refuse to do so. It doesn’t make it easier that you already know what they will feel when the final words are spoken.

Disappointment, darkness, panic, a sinking helpless feeling of falling endlessly and yet a sickeningly sweet taste of relief. The events of today will come as no surprise to any of those involved. But once again that doesn’t make it any easier for either of us. Leaving hope a window to crawl through we wait, eyeing a clock that ticks slower than usual and at the same time far too fast. It marches forward toward a destiny neither wants but secretly understands. Only one of us know that today is the day. The other just knows it is coming. The uncertainty can be paralyzing, nerve wracking to say the least.

Creeping forward time gently closes the window of opportunity. Hope that something will change in the last minutes is present, arms folded, waiting to see if there is anything, anything at all that can change the path that leads to an unpleasant ending for someones last day of work.

I have been in both seats before. The one hoping the other will improve and the one needing to improve in order to avoid a window of opportunity shutting on me. I struggle with the emotions of both because I have been there. The memories of the past haunt me with waves of ghostly feelings rushing in and out like waves wearing down the rocks upon the shore, scattering the sands of time and grinding against the obstacles.

With the final words echoing hollowly against a hardened heart gradually fading, a new day has already begun. The change neither of us wanted but both seem to have needed has abruptly taken place. The ground has been plowed, the seeds planted. What grows now will depend upon the care given to the seed to help it sprout, then the nurturing of the plant afterwards. Both of us have been given a chance and tomorrow the nurturing begins.

Dust can finally settle

The freezer door has finally shut
The blades of the fan no longer cut
The fevered temperature of the remote has finally disappeared
The floor in the bedroom has reappeared
The waves in the pool have melted away
The scorpions tonight will dance and sway
The kids have boarded the plane for home
The only thing left is to say shalom

My Mr Magoo Moments

I have had a few of what I call Mr Magoo moments in my time. Hopefully you remember or have heard of the cartoon character Mr Magoo who couldn’t see things anywhere near as clearly as he thought that he could. He mistook countless things for something that they were not and ended up having crazy adventures/mishaps that the audience was entertained by.

One of my last moments came when I was living in Las Vegas. I went for an early morning run without my glasses on a day or two before I was to fly out for a job interview in Bend, Oregon. I decided to run around the flood basin in what was near pitch dark. The fact that I wasn’t wearing my glasses or contacts didn’t help the matter either. To make a very painful story short I will just say that the rim of the basin I was running on went up and down more often than I thought it should have. I tripped on an incline I could not see and went down hard breaking my hand as I tried to stop my fall and cut myself up pretty good in the process.

That was my most painful Mr Magoo moment but my most spectacular one happened a few years before that. Again I decided to go for a run in the dark. This time it was a late night, the snow couldn’t make up its mind if it wanted to be rain or snow so it howled at me about its indecision. I could not have see with glasses on or off during that storm. Contacts would have been nice but then so would hindsight being foresight.

That night I headed for a nearby park to run on the soft frosted grass. I had not been this direction for a while and squinting to see where I was going through the storm I noticed that the narrow opening in the fence that protected the park was much larger that it once was. I remember thinking, “it’s about time they did something about that”. I could see the railing on the top of the chain link fence and that it didn’t go as far as I remembered it. Without the need to slow down to make it through the narrow gap safely I hit the throttle and let it fly. Unfortunately the opening had not been made wider. I had forgotten that the rail on the top of the fence never did go all the way to the opening. I hit the fence hard. The top of my body kept going but my legs stopped rather abruptly. The momentum carried me flying though the air heals over head much like you see in an NFL game when someone has their legs taken out from underneath them and they do a flip in the air. I landed flat on my back on the cushioned grass in the park. A bit dazed but with it enough to know that I needed to get up as quickly as possible and to start running while I still could.  

So what of all things did I learn from these experiences? Well. . . Life sometimes catches you off guard, especially when you are not prepared to see things as they really are. The ups and downs we face are not always where we expect them. . . Bad judgement can lead to a fall and when we fall it is far less painful if we pop up and carry on as quickly as possible. . . There is also nothing wrong with using something or someone for that matter to help you see the world around you. . . It’s far less painful to admit your weaknesses and accept the help that is waiting for you.

Beginnings are Tremendously Important

Holding a ring gently in the palm of each hand he raised his arms steadily with the precision of a clock as he had countless times before. All present could see the tokens shine in the light of a new day. Then taking each ring from the opposite hand he held them gently between thumb and forefinger so they could clearly be seen. “There are four sides to each of the rings that I hold before you today.”

The silence was broken.

“A ring, round as eternity, with no beginning and no ending. . . “ His voice trailed off as a memory from the past.

“The outside part everyone focuses on represents love. It is the most visible side of the ring, the attention getter. The side closest to you, the rim, the narrow part, represents you and the side farthest away from you represents the person you have chosen to join with this day. The love between you keeps you together. However the part that is so easily forgotten about is the inside of the ring, the hidden part, closest to the skin. The inside part represents forgiveness and it too has no beginning and no ending. It is forgiveness that will hold this marriage together but more importantly it supports and is supported by love, the outside portion of the ring. Neither can exist without the other.”

“One of the hardest things that you will ever learn together is the true nature of forgiveness that the inside of these rings represents. For you see that in order for us to be forgiven we too must forgive. Remind yourself of this everyday as you look upon these rings. Remember the four parts of the ring. Never forget that love and forgiveness go hand in hand. There is no starting place just as there is no stopping place. They touch and hold each side of the ring equally. There is no “you first”. There is no “just you” either. Both the inside and the outside of the ring have to work together to hold the sides which represent the two of you together.”

Love and Forgiveness.

He extended a ring to each of them. “Now give to her not just Love but Forgiveness.” Then turning to her he ended by say, “Now share with him Forgiveness and Love.”

(note the event depicted never took place but the thoughts on the symbolism of the ring are real)