23 December 2011

Granny

“Sweet William, will you take me to store?
“Granny, you mean right now?
“I do.
“Well, all right then, let’s get goin’.”
We trundled out to car. I got her nestled into front seat, scooted round, and got in too. Just then, birds made a bombing run on windshield.
“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. I turned on the wipers and wash; that just made it a washed white smear.
“Good Lord!
“William, they sing for some people.”

19 December 2011

Virgin

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you . . . .”
I too ask, “How can this be, since she is a virgin?”
Do I speak of eros? No. Culture speaks of eros and biology we know. The superficial and literal reading is cultures. It’s not innocent. Mary's question knows her culture and her role.
Mary's doubt says, I'm undefiled; I can't fulfill my cultural and biological purpose. She believes her lack of fulfillment is her virginity. Gabriel tells Mary Elizabeth is doing something Mary believed couldn't be done. Mary's reply is, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord . . . .” She's starting anew. Mary and Elizabeth are doing something they didn't believe possible.
I speak of living experience happening for the first time. I speak of living a life anew. Before my children were born, even with time to live into preparation for their births, I couldn't have foreseen my life, our lives, and now their lives, 26 and 22 years later. The power of creation overshadows me.
The annunciation and the incarnation, is living an experience of being born anew. Virginity is a sense of the end of what I've left behind as I look back. Virginity is the feeling and experience I live into after I've said, “Here am I,” and I live forward.
I'm a virgin more than I've ever imagined. I say to start over is to say, “How can this be? I'm a virgin!”

12 December 2011

Grass 2

The grass is real. My customer is real. I was paid real money to sow and tend it for him.
I sliced the ground. I dethatched it, and I raked it. I planted two kinds of seed. I fertilized it all. I lay down straw. I watered; later I’d water again and again. Feeling and thinking I'd done all I could for seed to germinate, root, and grow, I turned away and let it all go.
It was early evening in a rush of feeling I'm thankful, hopeful, apprehensive, tired, and terrific, so why not, and I opened my prayer book. There standing in the street at my truck I pray. I say aloud the devotion for early evening's time and speak the words to behold the vesper light.
I prayed for the light. I like evening light when evening star is first seen. I prayed for the natural order. I spoke for knowledge of God's Creation, for conservation of natural resources, for harvest of land and water. I spoke for new growth and rain. I spoke for the future of the human race. I spoke for my customer who's ailing and alone. I prayed thanksgiving for the hushed evening quiet and space when my labor is done.

06 December 2011

Grass

This lawn is my minds' ideal of perfection. Wow. The lawn is gorgeous. Your home probably isn't an icon like this Charles Gwathmey gem. 
If you close your eyes, slowly breath in through your nose and slowly breathe out through your lips, settle your self, and imagine, I bet the grass in this image is similar to grass you see in your mind. Abundant, thick, green, and happy like the doggie.
When you cultivate your grass like a favored plant, cut and shape it, water it, and feed it, you groom it to become like this one.

05 December 2011

Acne

My acne was troublesome. For my mother too, that is, when she was young. Her back was pitted and cratered. I asked about them. She said she had acne. Imagine 1928, an adolescent girl, living a farm life, infected pustules, and no antibiotics. Her mother took hot water, lye soap, and a scrub brush to her. I imagine a palmyra scrub brush. The scars were the result. My mother was nonchalant and unembarrassed to me about her scars. It was her story, maybe partially told.
Around 11 or 12 my mother sought out blackheads on my cheeks, on and around my nose, and in my ears. She used a hairpin to clean out pores, prevent infections. She placed the hairpin's loop around the clogged pore and pressed down hard. The plug popped out. It was painful. I learned to do it myself.
I spent time in the mirror popping pimples and pustules and daubing them with alcohol. I used prescription soaps with grit to wash my face. I sunned it by lamp. I controlled my diet. All was to soak oil from my skin and dry out my acne.
Success came. I'd peel flakes off the infected mounds. I was fascinated. I'd watch my pores flame up, dry off, peel, open and drain. They drained for hours. I showed success to mother. They were a triumph.
Acne, its pimples and flaming blotchy pustules, enraged my father. Mother and her brood journeyed to distant cities to consult dermatological experts. Father’s rage was not bound by reasonable and scientific expertise and prescriptions. He'd lash out, verbally degrade us, abuse my sister and assault our mother.
Later I accepted ivory soap and alcohol swabbing as successful. I‘d dry out the top, peel off the flake, and explode the little infection into the mirror; bull’s-eye. My brother preferred leaning back in his chair, targeting the ceiling. We all thought we were hilarious.
My memories all returned as I used a refreshing apricot scrub that softly exfoliates to reveal smooth, healthy and beautiful skin. I still have oily skin and pimples.

22 November 2011

Taoist Tai Chi ~ 2


Claire is a dazzling practitioner. Her tai chi is luxuriant: plush, creamy, seductive. Gentle energy beams from within. She has an unusually flexible spine, and the movement issues directly out of that deep source, entraining her whole body. It's not feet there, hands here. It's fluid movement, a continuous stream of chi.
Apart from this unity of moving body & spirit, the most striking thing about Claire is her "expressiveness." I watched her set; it was the first time I saw a complete set. The concentrated power in motion enchanted me; power and motion were one. She likes to move, and she thinks that's what she's doing. We think what we're seeing is movement. Actually, what she's doing is concentrating chi in her spine, so her tai chi comes out appearing as movement, but is really not movement at all. What we're seeing is chi.

18 November 2011

Blood


I like to donate blood. My body makes it, screenings accept it, and I can give again and again. I'm entrusted with a God given renewable resource. My type O negative blood is the universal blood. Everyone’s body accepts O negative blood. If needed, it's given to newborn infants and people in ER situations before their blood type is known. I give at MEDIC Regional Blood Center


My brother Tom and I were visiting, and I'd said I'd donated.
Really? Gee, Bill.
Some months before he'd told me he had leukemia.
Yeh, I've been donating for years, I said.
I didn't know that. It's really nice of you.
His cancer, chronic myelomonocytic leukemia, gave him way too many white cells. He must've known about red cells by then.
Yeh, it's O-neg; I've got plenty. I can give, no problem.
Tom had made the connection, red cells, white cells, leukemia, needing blood, and giving blood. Tom and I lived apart. Donating blood was just one many things he did not know about me. He died 5 months later.

I’ve given seven gallons, or 56 pints, since I began donating in 1983. One pint of O-neg blood, according to the American Red Cross, can save the lives of up to three people. Donating blood extends lives, donating blood saves lives. Your blood can save lives but only if you donate. Please renew and recycle blood; donate your blood and you give life.

14 November 2011

Success

Am I successful? It rises in me like a tide and settles. I bob in the sea of the other's ocean of success. I get no satisfaction. I try, and I try, and I'm not satisfied. It's so boring.
My remedy is honesty. I know how to lie. I have lied, used as a survival tool. I know when I do it. I feel it, I tingle, and I don't like it. Plain simple honesty is best. I'm successful when I'm open and honest with myself and everyone else. I hope others respect and trust their sense of simple honesty. If other's don't like it, well, I let go; I move on.
My other remedy is persistence. A dear friend told me aggression is the stubborn persistence at getting what one wants. A civilized articulation, that, not one flakked about in capitalist and cultural medias. Persistence mostly comes from within. It can be learned; it's cultivated and practiced by the willing student and the compassionate teacher. The student must be ready. It's difficult, it's laborious, and sometimes painful. It's often unrecognized. Success is unknown without persistence. Its reward is only revealed in the fullness of ones effort.
Money does not replace persistence. Talent does not replace persistence. Genius does not replace persistence. Education does not replace persistence. Family, friends, and social networks do not replace persistence. Physical and mental health do not replace persistence, nor do the wonders of the medical arts and sciences; scientific discovery does not exist without persistence. Social customs and mores do not replace persistence. Spiritual observance does not replace persistence, though cultivating godly faith and a practicing belief in a higher power fuel persistence. Honesty and persistence, and practice, practice, practice, is success.

09 November 2011

Handgun


I just stared, mouth agape. The young man was openly carrying a holstered handgun on his hip. I noticed and no one else seemed to. He walked right to a teller window. I watched him. He glowered at me eyeballing him; pinned me with his eyes, no words spoken. I was intimidated standing in line in the bank.
I used to work as a head teller in Manhattan in a bank on Madison Avenue & 76th Street. There was always an armed guard. But no other person would be permitted to carry a gun of any kind inside.
My local Knoxville bank posts a compliance sign: no hats, no hoodies, no sunglasses. The entryway door sign implicitly declares everyone’s safety is important. OK, fair enough, when I enter I remove my sunglasses; makes reasonable sense.
I decided to have a word with the manager. Vice President Hobbs was open, courteous, professional, and I had her interest. She said she'd review the security tape. Many weeks passed and a new compliance sign appeared on the door: no knives, no guns. I’d never forgotten about the open carry. Much later I spoke with Vice President Hobbs and I told her I was happy about the new compliance sign. I was saddened to learn the bank had lost a customer as a result.
I guess an open holstered handgun on a hip is not socially acceptable on the North Broadway branch premises.

20 October 2011

Scarcity

The downtrodden starts with nothing, yet by self-determination, work, innovation, and courage, achieve middle class security and comfort. We fatten our cultural selves with these myths. Family, friends, schools, and media meld success tales into us with images and words. American mythology cultivates rags to riches tales; some stories are even true.

I was born into riches. My birth parents attained upper middle-class post World War II security and comfort. I lived it. I never dreamed it. It was the air I breathed and water I drank. My parents did what they wanted and possessed what they wanted. My parents taught me I could do anything and have anything. My parents gave me resources to do this. They were proud of it!

For my father and my mother their tool was the mind. My mother was ashamed of her farm family laboring life. My father was ashamed of his laboring shanty-irish railroad family. Labor was what someone else did. Their mind, not body and hands, was their tool. The use of mind, not character, was their ideal. It was the very beginning of the end of an economic, social, and cultural time. This was their time and my father taught me, “You can do anything you want.” He’d say it again, over time again and again. Now I sense he was reassuring himself, intuitively realizing he couldn't do anything he wanted, feeling, sensing, seeing his mind wasn't enough. He voiced contempt for this son's choices. What was to come for the son whose father taught him he could do anything he wanted? I’m a cultural antithesis of Horatio Alger. No one dreams of the everything to nothing story.

I’m proud, but now not so much that I’m blind to blessings and ashamed by my limitations. I labor with my hands and body. I bring my mind with me. I persist at new tasks that feel, but are not, overwhelming. I try with the best I'm blessed with, and I sense I do good enough. I do not feel the goal I accomplish. I see darkly what I've done. I might speak, but I sense no one who might listen and hear. What can one learn from one who started with a silver spoon and lives now with his sense of limitations?

I'm blessed with an abundance of resources. I have food, clothing, and shelter that are good enough. I have physical and mental health and access to medical care. I have family, loved ones, and a social network of fellowship. I have work and the needed tools for fruitful use for myself and others. I have financial resources and use them prudently. I have education, the gift to learn from my failures, and for self-expression. I have accomplishments and achievements that reflect me and my history and culture, which I pray may give meaning to others. I know social cues and skills, freedom of choice, and navigate culture. I have spiritual and religious resources and I express them for my sustenance and that of others. This litany of I have is success. Lord, I believe. Please help me recall your blessings, and please help my unbelief.

10 October 2011

Hired Help

My mother called the help “hired help.” The hired help were negro women. The hired help began in Connecticut, maybe 1956. I’d’ve been 5 years old. Hired help wore a uniform. The uniform was a Pantone Cool-Grey 4, accented with white ‘camp-shirt’ pointed lapel collars, buttoned white cuffs on sleeve, and an apron, bow tied at the back waist, and in the front coming to a middle point. The uniform and apron were ironed and starched.

The hired help washed, pressed, and starched all laundry in all my birth family homes; there were three. In my early birth family Connecticut house I recall the hired help in the basement. The basement was divided, finished and unfinished. Unfinished was the laundry area. It was darkish, lit by daylight from windows and bare bulb. It was furnished with iron and ironing board, sprinkling bottles, an Ironite Mangle Iron, maybe model #85, brushes of various types, old-timey wooden stocking hangers, deep sinks, washboard, and little wire soap cages with handles made for by-hand scrubbings in the deep sinks. I don’t recall washer and dryer.

In the Connecticut summerhouse, to which we decamped, the hired help lived in a back room. It was her room, with sink, commode, and shower. We were rarely permitted in the hired help’s room. A back porch and its grey floor was screened, with a screen door to the backyard, and connected and separated the house from the back room. There were two 12-pane glass doors, one to living room, one to kitchen, and a door to garage.

The hired help had Sunday off. I recall her leaving by the back porch screen door. Floral print dress, straw hat, black handbag, white gloves, and sensible black laced shoes with slight heels. Where was she going? To church. How did she go? She walks; it seemed a long way. She returned in late evening coming in by the back porch screen door.

In the Ohio house the entire basement was finished. The laundry room was bright and light. A laundry chute dumped laundry to it. The Ironite iron made its way too. It was a nifty machine. I’d stand by the help as she fed crumpled bed sheets into it. I’d watch them roll out as pressed starched cloth ribbons. I don’t recall conversations.

I recall the help serving guests at cocktail parties. A black women’s krewe, in their cool-grey-4 uniforms in the pink kitchen, serving guests in the dining and living rooms. The krewe was alive with conviviality in the kitchen. Somehow I was permitted in their company. It was exceptional. My mother did not care for my being in company with the help. The help never baby-sat me. The help never cooked for my family or me.
I think the help’s most challenging work was managing my mother, maybe my mother and my father.

There was a steady stream of black women who came and went. At some point help stopped in our house. I recall TV and seeing more black people than I’d ever seen. I recall dogs and police, fire hoses, marches, and speeches. Later on I attended the 1964 Newport Folk Festival; I was 13! Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Muddy Waters, and Odetta entered my consciousness, then Koerner, Glover, and Ray, and B.B. King.

07 October 2011

Ducat

“George, the tithe is the best practice,” the pater said. Our stewardship conversation had gotten ‘round to the tithe, and I’d figured, dive in. “I do not tithe.” I had their attention, the pater’s too. “Do you have a plan to work on it?” he inquired. “No, not in the sense that I use envelopes and when the cash runs out . . . ‘Then you’re out’ another said. “Right. We do proportional giving and we steadily increase our giving year by year.

We couldn’t meet our pledge last year. We were afraid. I told our rector. He said, ‘Not to worry.’ I’m thinking, ‘I gave my word.’ I’m embarrassing myself and us. I don’t like reneging but I’ll own it, especially amongst stewardship peers. I’ve some pride and I value and respect standing. It’s hard to earn and easy to degrade. In our parish we have a little standing. My wife was Senior Warden. I’ve served on Vestry, served as Treasurer, chair of the Finance Committee. We’ve done more too. I'd tell folks, “I don’t speak for my wife. My wife doesn't speak for me.” I limit the value I place on standing.

I reneged and my wife was taken aback. She did not speak or act then to object. We know we’re pinched. Later I learn our reneged pledge is paid. This I discover from our church statement. She didn’t tell me. “I paid the balance,” she said. “How’d ya do that?” “I sold my ducat.”

“You’re not angry are you?” Weeks earlier she’d told me, in exasperation, and with reason, “Everything makes you mad!” “No, I’m not, I’m proud of you. Thank you.” It was hers. It’s what ducats are for. I was sorry for her loss, felt disappointment but more pride and admiration for her upholding our commitment.

In my past a priest, who was my social and economic peer and friend, betrayed me. I felt shunned in my parish home in which I wedded two times and had friends. A different priest, in a different parish home and another time, spoke to Sarah, his Senior Warden, in a manner unbecoming a person empowered and ordained by the Church. So I’m not to speak my truth with my stewardship peers about our personal financial giving? What’s next? More betrayal, loss of fellowship, and shunning by friends? More powerlessness?

I acted. I spoke truth in person. I reneged in person. I labor to shoulder my part, and at times, not so successfully. People with an abundance of resources, with power to have and to make choices, may self select to hide and may choose to insulate their selves and their choices.

We are real when we strip away hiding and insulation and are accountable.

30 September 2011

Random 6

My second wife picked me up in church. After a time I asked her out. “Do you wanna go out, or something?” I try to be myself. She says a friend told her about me. “He’s going to be available soon.” I say she put herself in position. When nervous she’s forgetful. She has grit and common sense. She isn’t meddlesome. She’s as kind as anyone I’ve known. I tell Angela, "You have Shirley MacLaine eyes." Angela says, "You're a goober."

29 September 2011

Random 5

I can't keep from singing. 

I'm in church choir from time to time. One of my natural gifts is musical. I'm blessed with tonal memory and pitch discrimination. I'm blessed with rhythm memory too, but not strong. My pitch and tonal gifts are in high 90% percentiles. The aptitude was measured by the Johnson O'Connor Research Foundation. The foundation is the place to systematically determine your natural gifts. Johnson O'Connor calls them aptitudes. Yes there is a process to reveal and measure aptitudes. And I like to sing. In fact I'm happier when I sing. If I don't sing I'm not using my gifts; I'm incomplete, and more probable I’m unhappy. Baptist preacher Robert Lowry wrote the tune and lyric as a church hymn. The tune has been covered by lots of folks, many have composed their own lyrics. I like this How Can I Keep From Singing link's lyrics and liner notes.

14 September 2011

Charles' Poem ~ 2

Silence Falls on Lamentation Mountain
by Charles Savage

T
he bell-like ringing
of our axes fades
and silence drifts
across the fallen snow.
As wearily we rest our careworn blades,
the campfire, too, has quietly burned low.

A
sudden blast of wind, an icy breeze, stirs up
a sparkling glow from ebbing fire.

The frozen limbs in answer softly creak.
Their aging branches dance but start to tire.

M
y surly boots tramp down the darkening snow,
and mix it with fallen leaves and mire

to form a resting place beneath the boughs.

W
e are the dying ones that still can cling 
to life
abandoned by our fellow leaves
while we defy the silence that snows bring.