Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Thoughts at Day's End

by Rainer Maria Rilke

Slowly the west reaches for clothes of new colors,
which it passes to a row of ancient trees.
You look, and soon these two worlds both leave you;
one part climbs toward heaven, one sinks to earth,
leaving you, not really belonging to either,
not so hopelessly dark as that house that is silent,
not so unswervingly given to the eternal
as that thing that turns to a star each night and climbs --
leaving you (it is impossible to untangle the threads) your own life,
timid and standing high and growing, so that,
sometimes blocked in, sometimes reaching out,
one moment your life is a stone in you, and the next, a star.

I captured this magical moment in February during my travels with Bric. It was cold, clear and quiet that late afternoon in a colorful canyon along US 89, just north of Bryce Canyon, UT. It was the reflection of the golden cliff in the water below it that initially caught my eye.

This scene was more than just pretty to me when I stopped to shoot it. It was soul stirringly stunning far beyond its initial visual appeal.

Let's go there: Imagine hearing no other sounds than the faint chatter of the creek as it makes its way through rocks and ice patches along its way to the ocean.

Look up! See that red-tailed hawk gracefully circling overhead? Watch how lazily he's riding the canyon's last waves of warm air for today. He's looking for his supper, I'll bet. But, keep watching ... doesn't it seem like he's just looking at us?

Let's stay here for a while. This moment is already passing quickly away; it will be dark here in another hour. Isn't this peaceful? I'm so glad there's no other traffic.

I think God's here with us, don't you? He's always around, or his angels, but right here, in this exact place and time, can you feel His presence? Be quiet; listen with your heart. Seek Him.

I've been in many beautiful, man-made churches and cathedrals. I've listened to and sung hundreds of comforting hymns. None of that, however, can compare with the solace I find in God's natural beauty on Earth and iu the sky. The peace in the quiet solitude of this canyon makes me feel close to God.

The sun's warmth is leaving us now, so it's time to go. Let's try to always remember this canyon, okay? This moment is something I want to carry with me forever on the rest of my journey.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Some Days Are Setbacks

I think I've been experiencing a post-holiday letdown, a mental malaise brought on by the end of a fun and exciting event in life. Perhaps this slump in attitude is related to my concern about a very close, longtime friend who is currently in a V.A. hospital awaiting a liver transplant. That is an intense situation. Please pray for him. You don't have to know his name; God knows who he is.

Whatever my reasons for not blogging for awhile, here I am again. Like a bubble in the bottom of your glass of Pepsi, I just keep working my way back up to the top so I can go, "Pop!" in your face as you're taking a sip. 

When I sit down here to write, it's sometimes with a specific topic in mind, or more often lately, less focused on making a point but primarily just to have some copy to accompany my photos. It's interesting how my last blog involuntarily took turn a sharp turn down a steep path, headlong into my troubled relationship with my late mother.

It's not my intention to turn this blog into a psychiatrist's couch and all of my readers into analysts. When I write in a "stream of consciousness" mode, however, it's fairly obvious that I still have grief issues lying just below the surface. It's been just nine months since I lost my husband and mom and this blog serves as a forum for my recovery process from such intense grief. I hope you will all hang in there with me as it all plays out, and forgive my sporadic periods of neglect.

I've been feeling guilty about giving my mom such a bad rap in my last blog. She didn't become thoroughly ornery and unpleasant until she was quite old. By the time she was in her mid-80s, she had dropped all effort to maintain some semblance of a pleasant demeanor. She was ill, hurting, lonesome and very, very unhappy. It wasn't always so. Here's a photo of me adjusting a helmet for her when she came to visit us shortly after my dad passed away. During this period, she did a lot of things she'd never have dared to while he was still alive.
On this day, she'd decided she wanted my husband to take her for a ride on his Harley. She could be very funny at times, and she had us all cracking up when, grinning widely in purple and pink, she happily rode off behind Roger on his loudly rumbling bike. It was a sight we'd never thought we'd see. She took a number of big trips on her own during that period, even flying to France to see Normandy Beach. She visited several WWII memorials in France and Germany, wishfully hoping that by viewing them through her eyes, my dad could somehow see them, too. He never had a chance to return to Europe after he served there as a pilot in the Army Air Corps.

My dad, a highly decorated WWII combat veteran, was always reluctant to discuss his years of service in the European Theater. Perhaps had he lived longer, he may have eventually been able to open up a bit about that part of his past. However, he passed away at 64 from heart problems. I can understand now how my mom was attempting to connect with his spirit by going to those places. How many things she must have wished she would have asked him while he was still alive.

That's a big part of the sorrow of losing a close loved one: lost opportunities that can never be regained. With that in mind after losing my dad, I was aware that time was running out for me to forge a close relationship with my mom on this side of Heaven. So I gave it all I had in several last-ditch efforts in the final months of her life. 

I believe, however, that my mom was so emotionally scarred by the trauma of her early years that it adversely affected her all of her life. I think she never knew what it feels like to have inner peace. Any baby-boomers whose parents were victims of unimaginably hard times in their formative years must know exactly what I'm talking about here.

My conclusion is that much of my mom's life-long struggle with depression and anger was the result in her tendency to embrace negativity. Early on she'd learned to quit hoping for happiness and good things to happen in her life. As a result, she failed to recognize them when they finally did.

In the end, it was all I could do to tolerate her abuse and love her anyway. It was wrenching to see her so miserable, but I did what I could to ease her pain. My brother and I tried to hire someone to come into her home and take care of her, but as I like to say, my mom wasn't prejudiced; she hated everybody equally.

She could still be funny sometimes, sort of like the mother character in the Golden Girls, but it was unrecognizable as dry humor to those who weren't familiar with her personality. She's at peace now, bless her heart. I hope to still gather more information from surviving relatives about her closed-off childhood.

Each grim detail I've unearthed so far makes me understand, pity and love her more. Nearly all of the domino-like fall of her world as it came crashing down around her young shoulders can be directly traced to its ultimate origin: World War I.

The evil effects of that worldwide catastrophe continue long after the battlefields became quiet. Dark energy ripples out to succeeding generations in waves, like rings in a pond around the spot where a rock has been tossed in the water.

War is hell. It's ultimately hurtful to not only all sides engaged in the actual battles, but to survivors and succeeding generations as well. In 2010, just a few years short of the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the "War to End All Wars," I consider myself to be a victim of the ill effects of that malicious eruption of darkness on Earth. It was a roadblock to my mother's happiness, and thus, to a part of mine.

Bottom line: I loved my mom and she loved me. But sometimes, it sure wasn't easy.