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“Reach for the Red”

There was a time, if I am not mistaken, when this implied reaching for the sports section of USA Today.

But today I realized this carries a new meaning for me, because now down in my handbag (there’s nice old-fashioned term) sits a smartphone, my first, in its new dull red case. Yes: I have joined the ranks of flat phone carriers, or should I say owners, since all our phones use carriers?

Thus too begins a new chapter in my connectivity, and to “reach for the red” will mean digging out the buzzing or ringing device with someone I know (hopefully) on the other end.  I admit I am not as comfortable with this as the myriad of folks around me on this train, to take just a small sample.  There’s someone who can hold a tall coffee drink and scroll through messages. I see a few using two hands. Another person has a stylus poised, and today, I note, there are two print book readers visible!

Perhaps my communication adaptation is somehow like the cormorants I just now see taking off from their posts in the marsh at GE Riverworks. Touched by the morning sun, they awkwardly manage to flap their wings and rise just above the water. They also avoid the soaring great blue heron, the real master of these skies who drops and blends into the reeds to find his fish with the greatest of ease. Perhaps I, too, am taking off in a slightly erratic fashion. Will I become airborne with this now ubiquitous technology?

It’s early days and given the present workload of September and the jostle of home logistics in full swing, I know I need to give myself more time. Surely I will get to the place I can find my contacts as fast as before. Maybe I will understand and come to appreciate some of the icons I have not yet touched on the home screen. It may take longer for me to feel casual about this, however, coming from grandparents who had party lines and boxy crank phones. Those certainly didn’t fit in the back pocket of anyone’s jeans! But….since it’s only Monday, I think I’ll indulge just a little bit, and imagine my paternal postal carrier grandfather, and my other farmer, one-of-two-identical-twins grandfather, carrying such phones in their jeep and tractors in and around their rural lives. Out at the croquet game or down in the tobacco barn, they could have been early adopters, those two.

Now that I think about it? Definitely.

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I Took a Moment

The dog walk on the marsh yesterday coincided with a slow, ebbing tide. I marveled as the ripples steadily headed toward the sea: how could this gentle movement of water be so different from the enormous amounts now flooding so much of Texas? Standing on the woods path, I took a moment.

I took a moment to look at this small tidal river, walked a step and then took another moment to think about the people whose lives are soaked and completely uprooted. Here, in my town,  we are in a near drought.  Why can’t we engineer a solution that transports excess to deficit? Is it impossible?

After this moment my dry day went on its way: visits with friends, work from home, closing out the Atrium from last year’s classes (washing chalkboards, throwing out papers, all very satisfying), and then dinner: a sub sandwich grabbed from the store with ice cream to follow at the local stop. Even the Red Sox won.

And today, thanks to an improvised schedule change, I had the unexpected chance to walk said dog again on the very same path as yesterday. This time there was no motion on the water, tidal or otherwise. The moment I took this morning showed a completely still surface on the river; it was a perfect reflection of the scene above:  skyscape and treetops framed by grasses. Then, another surprise: a bit further on, high in a tree sat a raptor, right in the canopy’s gap, waiting, just like us, for the warmth of the morning light.

My prayer is that those in Texas will see in the water’s reflection, not only moving water and despair but the faces of those who have come to care and help, both now and in the days ahead. As they keep watch may they also keep hope. And may we take some moments to remember and help however we can, too.

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Old Habits Die Hard

The truth is, I don’t quite know where to begin, but I think last night’s trip to my local office supplies store is as good a place as any.

If I still have any faithful readers of this nearly invisible blog, they will know it’s been months since I’ve written any thoughts in this space. They’ve been months full of gain and loss, of travel and home, of joy and sorrow. Life seemed youthful when chasing my children’s children and well up in years as I relived and released some of our family ties to England.  I’ve been running just to enter the ON ramp of life, never mind travel down the fast-moving highway. It was good to take a little slower road to my errand of last evening.

The quiet, orderly aisles of folders, pens, paper, markers….all served as a poignant reminder of so many trips taken these past 20+ years. My kids and I would easily fill a tote or two with supplies from the various school lists that had been unearthed from backpacks and waved across the kitchen table. One might ask, “Surely you don’t need school supplies now that your youngest is a rising junior in college?” But can’t my answer still be yes? Why can’t I pick up a couple (of those sometimes elusive) graph paper notebooks, or a box of unremarkable black ink pens, or the (predictable) thin box of 12 more colored pencils? I could add those in fairly good conscience, right? Wasn’t I also adding two really great pens and very cool gum pencil-top erasers for myself, and crayons for the grandkids? Those erasers are going to rock.

I returned this year with a smaller bag but the treasures inside were no less valuable. They make me contemplate the passage of time, this present intensity at home and at work, the gift of two more babies due and the miracle of each day. What troubled times seem to greet us each morning, or when we return from a day at the office!  I pray for this world. And perhaps, just perhaps, now that I’m restocked for the start of the academics’ new year, I can begin to look down to the bottom of my dry well. I know there will be some life-giving water: the time and rest I need to water this blog, and I hope, to still myself to hear all that I have been shown, given, and received.

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Make Way for Goslings?

This post was supposed to be entitled “UpTick,” a nod to my husband and to signal the increased vigilance now required on pets and selves after all this rainy cool weather. But a sighting this morning out the shuttle bus window as it wound down from the Station usurped this idea. It was a picture-perfect moment that inspired both fear and hope. Where else but in Boston could one find a live enactment of that classic Make Way for Ducklings,[i] with just a slight substitution from among the class Aves, phylum Chordata?

The intersection where this parade of parent geese and 8 goslings occurred is one of the busiest on the route. At least 4 roads join under one of the antique trolley bridges for the Green Line. I didn’t notice the proceedings until two riders pulled their smartphones to capture the odyssey. Thankfully the geese had chosen a moment when most of the traffic lights were red; a Boston cab was staring right across from their small line. Where could Michael the policeman be? Would some other native Bostonian leap from a car and hold the traffic until they crossed? Perhaps a tourist or two would come to the rescue: they must have read the story, right, or perhaps they even made a pilgrimage of their own to the statues in the Common yesterday?

Since our bus turned the corner, I may never know.  I had to look away anyway: even the idea of harm to animals gives me a knot in my midsection and it’s only getting worse with age.  I squeezed my eyes shut and prayed hard the little family would make it back over the roads to the Charles for their morning swim. Surely everyone nearby would have noticed what was happening. They would know the book, right, and be ‘read in’ enough to recognize the scene and pause in their journeys to do their part, to wait and let the geese walk by?

Please tell me it happened that way. We need some light and hope and goodness on these darker days.

[i]  McCloskey, Robert. Make Way For Ducklings. New York: The Viking Press, 1941.

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High Tide and Slow Pace

Today the sun shines some light and, I hope, some warmth into our small patch even if only for a day. It’s been a whirlwind of weather and ‘doings’ and most people would like to shed their rain gear and heavy outerwear. At my house we’ve been slowed by a sprained calf muscle, a rolled ankle, and general malaise. But the dog walk before the rolled ankle provided a wonderful sighting: there atop a tree, a bald eagle sat, just watching and waiting for the next thing to happen.

The tides on this week’s walks have been very full, and something about their appearance and our enforced slower pace has caused a few moments for reflection. It’s like the world needs some rest…just to catch its collective breath, and ensure that we really are moving forward from Easter and not backwards through Lent again to another Ash Wednesday. I thought I had my periscope up, looking for Easter people and the season of light, but on most days since, I’ve had head down, shoulders drooped and am just trying to take the next step.

So on this sunny day, I hope the high tide lifts a few more boats than just mine, and that this enforced slower pace will spur me to do the next task only, free from the sense of the other ten waiting my attention. It will warm up, yes?  We will hope for less violence in our world, right? May this late cold spring turn to early warm summer soon, and may our steps be put right and carry us forward.

Bald eagles really do rock.

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“Lean on Me”

OR so sang the singer last week at the substitute chai latte shop there in the Square. The rain was drizzling as it had done for so many days; sleepy commuters and workers were lining up for a morning brew. It all seems a bit far away now as we pull into Salem station this Monday morning: those on the platform are standing three deep. But hearing that tune provided a moment of warmth, and leaning just a little into the counterspace as I waited for my brew provides some lift into the wet wings.

Happily this week will offer much more sunshine. Besides full of rain and cold last week was the first after our return from a long trip made to say a final goodbye, in death, to a close family member. Many opportunities presented themselves in which we could choose to lean on those around us, and we did. In many ways, this mutual dependency extends here, at home, amongst those in whom we put our trust, whether stranger or friend. Surely it’s good to remember this.

We live in a tumultuous time. On bad days we feel the truth there is no guarantee we will be here tomorrow to do the work in front of us to do. On good days we long to seize the moments in which we find joy and purpose. Yesterday’s small fire to burn the first of the season’s brush was an example: tea in hand, snacks on the table, clear sky above and the  garden mess reduced to a clean pile of ash. Part of the charm is the simplicity; the moment both made and given on which to reflect: have we important work to finish and love to give and, if so, are we getting on with doing it?

Spring is upon us and we long to, and soon will, leave all the trappings of winter behind. May the fresh coming of life lead us forward into comfort and peace. We all could probably use, and give, much more of both. Like the night heron I see fishing out my train window, I guess we better get going.

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Lenten Life

Perhaps if I scrolled through earlier posts I’d find previous descriptions of my present experience: Lent arrives, it seems good to “take on” some kind of new discipline (this year’s was to stop and DO anything I breezed by and said I didn’t have time to do-very interesting!) and then things happen, and I, or we all (perhaps) find we are living Lent and not just following a new rule.

Tomorrow we fly to England to attend the sad business and grief of my only brother-in-law’s sudden and unexpected passing. I recall the Prayer Book bidding, “Send us out to do the work You have given us to do.” Even as I ride the morning train into town after the brief, ice crunching dog walk, I know in a matter of hours life will tumble into a time warp. These winter scenes will melt away. It will be early spring in that southwest and although always on the colder side of cool, Spring will be trying to ready us for its arrival. Past griefs and joys will flood our souls, and we will ponder our small role in a vast but particular cosmos.

Everyday things like new laptops, check-ins from the kids, the news from our grocery store (Murphy’s cleaning supplies have been added: amazing) –all these pale. News of others’ losses steams to the foreground of thoughts and prayers. It’s been another season of losses in the lives of those around us, and now this family loss joins us with them in a sad but common fellowship.

While it might be good to wish everyone a loss-free Lent, it might be better to belatedly hope room can be made for moments of reflection.  Shall we look behind or around us for courage, and ahead of us in gratitude? It is good to have another day to live and work here, in service and love for others.

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