Despite my better intentions, I haven't been keeping up with writing here. When I tried to figure out why, I realized that what I likely need is a change in my schedule. I'm so accustomed to writing at night, and usually, the later, the better; that's the way I got through three graduate school programs. Now, however, I finally have had to accept that I get tired more easily and that by the time I would be ready in the past to write, most nights now, at that same time I'm ready to go to sleep, or at least to get into bed with a good book or sometimes even a catalog that requires little brain power. So, after tonight, Ill try a change in schedule by trying to write earlier in the day.
Late this morning, with the help of my friend and step-sister Jackie McKinney, I brought seven boxes of stuff to the condo -- mostly sweaters, other clothes, some towels, some cd's -- and four bags of clothes to Temple Beth Israel. The rest of this week and most of next week, I'll be dedicating myself to packing and moving over to the condo. I'll need to get movers to haul the furniture and boxes; my job is to fill the boxes, sorting as I go what to keep and what to give away / throw away. Last week, I put my keys on my mother's key ring, and that felt especially significant, a visible and palpable sign of a necessary but unwanted transition.
Since my landlord won't let me out of my lease for my apartment, once most of the stuff there is moved to the condo, I'll use my apartment to sort through the books & everything else I'll have brought up from Cheshire, CT, where the stuff is in a storage locker. That way, I won't need to pay for storage; I'll be paying for this apartment until the end of August. By then, I hope to have halved my library, donating most of my Judaica collection to the library at Temple Beth Israel, and almost all of my mystery collection and everything else I won't be keeping to the West Hartford Public Library. What I hope I'll be left with will be my Christian theology and related books; my Feminist collection; and my collection of US History focusing on the 1960's and '70's -- the War in Vietnam, the Anti-War Movement, and changes in country and culture, especially focusing on music and its role in cultural change. By the time that's done, I hope we will have found a buyer for the condominium; I also hope that I will have found a new place to live in Oakland or Berkeley, CA. My hope / plan is to move to the West Coast in September.
News from Japan grows grimmer each day with increasing levels of radiation from the damaged nuclear power plant. Today's Hartford Courant carried the story that radiation from the Japanese plant had been detected in the Boston area, although none has been detected in CT. My friends Christine and Todd Monterio just gave birth to their first child, a baby girl, Clara Sophia. What does the detection of radiation from thousands of miles away mean for baby Clara Sophia? I find it frightening, even chilling, that something so deadly is so easily spread around the earth by the wind, and that we are totally helpless to stop it. I think about this baby girl and the thousands and millions of baby girls and baby boys born since that nuclear plant began malfunctioning because of the earthquake and tsunami that killed so many, and I wonder what we are leaving these children, what our legacy will be.
When I think of all of that, it seems to me that we must, all of us, guarantee as best we are able that we will be leaving a legacy that is more than destruction caused by nuclear power and the threat of nuclear weapons proliferation, war, greed, a planet under siege from global warming, ethnic hatreds and inter-religious strife. We each have gifts, talents, skills, and abilities that could be put to ensuring a different legacy than the one I / we most fear. I believe that each of us is called to leave this world a little better than we found it, just as, when walking on the beach, if we see litter, we pick it up and throw it away with the feeling that we're called to leave the beach a little cleaner than we found it.
And perhaps that's what we're each called to do ~~ perhaps we're each called to take the simplest action, say the simplest words ~~ thank you, I love you, you're wonderful, you're special ~~ and remember that, literally and figuratively, we are all in this together. And by those simple mustard-seed actions and mustard-seed words, our impact and thus our healthful, loving, caring legacy will grow.
I have always loved the passages in Matthew's Gospel in which Jesus talks about the mustard seed and faith. I cook a good bit of Indian food, and very often the recipes call for mustard seeds. Mustard seeds are very small; they also are very bouncy -- they bounce around if you drop them! In Matthew 13:31-32. Jesus tells the disciples that "The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants and grows into a tree where birds can find shelter in its branches." Then in Matthew "If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and be planted in the sea'; and it would obey you.'" (Of course, Jesus never clarifies why anyone would want to tell a mulberry tree to uproot itself and then plant itself in the sea. Seems like a silly thing to do to me.)
I think I love these passages because what I get from them is that Jesus reminding his disciples that the Reign of G-D (Kingdom of Heaven) is far more vast than they could ever imagine. He is reminding them that the Reign of G-D will surprise them; they won't expect it to grow and flourish from such tiny, ordinary seeds ~~ actions. This G-D and this G-D's reign is far wider and wilder, far greater and grander than anything in the disciples' -- or our -- imaginations. And just imagine what we could do if we had faith like that -- faith that surprises, grows huge, even profligate. The funny thing to me is that, in our fear, our anxiety, our worry, we often wish to prune back the mustard field, that is, to take charge of and control the Reign of G-D, and / or to control our faith or, really, to control G-D by putting G-D in a box where G-D can be contained -- or so we believe. But putting G-D in a box / trying to control our faith only results in stagnation and eventually death of our relationship with G-D. G-D is not and cannot be an object; rather, G-D is G-D, the One with Whom we are in relationship, and for relationships to grow, we must let the other person grow and surprise us. With G-D, we must always remain open to the many ways in which we ourselves grow and change in that relationship.
I said to a friend earlier today that I see my own future to be one of prayer rather than activism, in terms of the kind of activism in which I was engaged in the 1960's, '70's, and '80's. I believe that my prayers are little mustard seeds, planted in G-D's garden. I envision that garden to be our hearts. Our hearts must be tended, cared for, watered, fertilized, and that happens from the love, the care, the compassion, the constancy, the embrace from others. We need one another; we cannot do this alone.
A friend told me once that a mustard field is filled with bright yellow flowers, flowers the color of the sun. If we water our mustard seed actions, words, prayers, with our love, our care, our compassion, and our tears, the seeds will grow into a field, and, with the bright yellow flowers and our tears will form rainbows.
Perhaps I'm thinking along these strange lines because I feel close to overwhelmed by so much in this world, so much that I find more than problematic -- so much that is downright dangerous. And I think about that and then think about my friends who have young children, like Susan and Liam in Jamaica Plain near Boston, MA, whose son Peter is (if I'm not mistaken) just a few months older than 3, and my friend Nancy in Oakland, CA, whose grand-daughter, Natalie, is about two and a half, and a couple in our parish whose son Lucas is about Peter's age and whose new daughter, Danielle, is just over three months. I saw Danielle & her mom the other afternoon after the 11:30 Mass. Danielle was wide awake and looking around at everything, and that gave me a chance to see that she has the most phenomenal gray-blue eyes. I've never seen eyes that color in anyone before. She is such a beautiful little baby.
Since I seem to be better at trying to pray than I am at many other things, I will pray for Danielle and Lucas and Natalie and Peter, and for little Clara Sophia, and for all of my friends' children and for those children's parents. I believe that prayer has power, no matter how unskilled or sinful or inarticulate the one trying to pray is. And perhaps, if we all pray ~~ or if you don't pray, then do what feels comfortable, e.g., send good energy, light incense or a candle, do tai chi, cook or bake with intention ~~ maybe, just maybe, we'll grow that mustard field. If we all join together, maybe we will decide to become activists once again, in the spirit of the best parts of the 1960's and early 1970's, to change the world. For although I shy away from activism at this point in my life, I'd be willing to get back in there; more than that, it would be, and perhaps even now is, a moral imperative to get back in the fray. Doing that, getting back in the fray, will take lots of thinking, lots of reflection and prayer, a long discernment process. And I thought after 60 I might be able to rest... (Do I hear cosmic laughter, or is that just the cats play-growling...)
Thank you, everyone, for not thinking I have totally lost it! I love you.
Much Shalom and Blessings, Pat
Finally, I'm able to end on a very happy note: The UConn Women's basketball team won tonight in its game against Duke and has secured a spot in the "Final Four." And Maya Moore reached 3,000 career points. GO Huskies and GO MAYA!!