Monday, April 23, 2012

The Pre-Pack

My former mother-in-law always kept a bag packed. I kept one packed too.  She kept hers packed in case she might have to go to the hospital. I kept mine packed in case I might get to go somewhere fun. I think that says it all about our disparate outlooks on life.

I have loved to travel for as long as I can remember. A big part of the fun for me is preparation. In the astrological realm my sun and rising signs are in Scorpio. We are the detectives of the zodiac. Naturally, I love researching and finding out as much as I can about the place I’m going to. Even before Google made it easy, I still enjoyed the search, the discovery of the little things that might make the place I was going to special. My moon is in Virgo, which means I like being organized. And that is where the pre-pack comes in.

I like getting my suitcase out a couple of weeks before my departure date, checking all of the standard items that I always keep in it and restocking if necessary.  Then I make my list of what I will need for this trip according to the weather and geography of my destination. Next I make a list of things I’ll need to buy. When things are bought and assembled, I like to lay everything out and think about how I’ll fit it all in my small suitcase. I’ve learned to travel light over the years and I enjoy the challenge of less is more.

I don’t think of myself as a girly –girl, but in this one case, I seem to be one.  I like to figure out how many different outfits I can create out of the least amount of clothing. Scarves help to completely change a look and don’t take up much room. I also have fun coordinating earrings and bracelets to enhance each outfit. I lay everything on the guest bed next to the suitcase and think about which outfit I’ll wear for traveling. This is important in case your luggage doesn’t arrive when you do. You might be wearing those clothes a little longer than you planned; in cases like this it’s always good to dress for comfort.

Now it’s time for the first round of trial packs. This takes about a week. After the first trial pack, I leave it for a day or two and think about whether I’ve made the best use of the space.  I take everything out and rearrange it for the second trial pack. I realize almost immediately that the first trial was better than the second, but still not quite right. The next night I remove everything again and as if by magic, everything is placed in perfect configuration. Except for the last-minute items, I’m packed with a week to spare! 

My next project will be preparing my backpack. Since most of my travel revolves around writing, the contents of the backpack constitute my essential tools to get myself in the writing zone. I always keep a separate travel journal to record the sights sounds, tastes and smells of my destination. If I feel a deep connection to the place I’m visiting, there are many entries describing the emotions I’m feeling on this journey.  The universe serendipitously brings travel journals to me, since so many people know of my love of travel. I let go and allow that to happen. But I can’t leave finding the perfect notebook and pen to chance. This search may take several attempts. I don’t usually start out with a vision of exactly what the notebook will look like or how the pen will feel in my hand; I will know it when I see it. When those items are procured, I’m ready to place them in the backpack. This does not require trial packs because the backpack has designated places for its contents, thus eliminating the pesky guesswork of the non-specific suitcase. My backpack is my back-up in the lost luggage contingency, so it must carry small amounts of essential toiletries, medicines, writing supplies, laptop, iPod (a nicely compact item for reading & music listening), travel documents and the always essential snack items.

As departure day rapidly approaches, I pore over my itinerary and dream of the places I will see, some new, some old. I will write about how this journey will change me, how I have grown from this experience. But for now, I’m in the moment of enjoying the pre-pack and celebrating my Virgo moon.

Rebekah for the Poplar Grove Muse

Monday, April 16, 2012

Endings, Happy and Sad

In my faith community, we have lost a number of beloved, indispensable member-friends in recent months. I believe I have been to eight funerals in the last six months (and have begun to understand my parents’ “resolution,” after living almost their entire lives in a mid-sized Midwestern town, to attend fewer funerals). Many of us are reeling from the passing of these extraordinary “ Greatest Generation” folks and our collective loss of their wisdom and patience and long perspectives.

Being present at so many memorials to lives well-lived has raised issues I had never adequately considered, and allowed me to think about how memorial services can be conducted, as well as how lives can be lived and remembered. I have learned that if you die shortly before your 98th birthday, the church may not be as full as your life was, because you have outlived so many in your circles. I have learned that the sanctuary can be packed to overflowing, but the words spoken may fail to capture a life that was so much more than could be expressed, so that the gaping hole left in so many lives stands as the most powerful testimony to a life lived to the very limits of human energy. Hearing old-timey hymns I usually have little patience for, and knowing that they were chosen by my deceased friend, or their family, gives me a new appreciation for the comfort that a hymn I had dismissed may hold for others. I have thought long and hard about the demonstrated human qualities that compel friends and family to show up for a memorial service and remember their loved one.

An overwhelming realization, one I hope to carry with me more consistently in my life, is that some of the quietest, humblest people can be, deep down, the most fascinating and wise.  As a somewhat reserved person myself, I don’t tend to draw people out as much as I could, and certainly as much as I later wish I had. I so regret not asking Lou more about his transformative service as a marine in World War II, or talking with Harry about what it was like to run against Jesse Owens, among many other topics. I had no idea that Helen had a career besides that of mother long before most women did, and I wish I had learned more about what demands and indignities her bravery subjected her to. I also wish I had made the effort to learn more about the difficult time our congregation went through in becoming the first integrated church in Bloomington. We have one older member who returned to us only a few years ago, having been removed by his angry parents over this issue decades ago. I think I’ll ask him to tell me all about it next time I see him.

I’ve also had ample time to think about what we are actually grieving in our loss. Happily, people sometimes die having lived their time among us so fully, and having made such complete peace with the end of life, that it is inspiring, and in our sadness we realize that the loss is almost completely our own, that there is virtually nothing more we would wish for the deceased; our magical thinking is only for ourselves, to have had more time, or to have treasured the time we had more intentionally.
The first death that touched me deeply was that of my maternal grandmother, when I was 19. I had grown up around the block from her, and she had been a constant, patient, deeply supportive, and inspiring presence throughout my life. While my mother had been with her in her final hours of physical suffering and was grateful to see her out of her pain, my sister and I were inconsolable, and wept unceasingly throughout a triumphant celebration of her life in the home congregation in which she had married, seen her daughter and son married, and provided years of deeply musical keyboard and vocal service. We simply wanted MORE, for ourselves, more time and experience with the woman who had meant so much to us from our very beginnings.

I have much to learn about so many things surrounding the end of life, as well as the living of it. However, I am hoping for a pause in the intensity of my recent learning experiences. Enough loss, for now.

Mary for the Poplar Grove Muse

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Adventures of Emma and BearBear

Chapter (1)

The little bear’s fur was sugar cookie brown.  His dark coffee colored eyes and nose were carefully stitched on his face and his curving smile gave his face a cheery expression.  His legs and arms were short and chubby with a lighter shade of brown on their bottoms. Two round soft ears were perched at the side of his head and just a bit of a tail was attached were tail are usually attached.  On his chest, lovingly stitched were the words “My Baby Bear”.

To Emma he was her BearBear, her best buddy. They had been each other’s best buddy for as long as either of them could remember, and that was a really long time because Emma was over five and half years old.  She was old enough to be starting real big kid’s school and would be going off to kindergarten in a few months.   She was excited but a little sad too because BearBear wasn’t allowed to go to school with her.  He told her not to be gloomy he would find lots to do while she was at school. Besides he knew she would come home and tell him all about her fun day.  This made Emma feel better.  BearBear always knew just the right thing to say to make her feel happy inside.

Emma was just waking up and humming quietly to herself as she did sometimes in the morning.  BearBear was snuggled in next to her neck where it was warm and smelled sweet, it was his favorite place to sleep.  When she realized she was humming the ‘Itsy Bitsy Spider” song she started to giggle, which made BearBear giggle too.  They were like that, they liked to laugh together about silly things.  
Once, when they were playing hide and seek BearBear hid in the top draw of Emma’s dresser.   It took Emma so long to find BearBear that he fell asleep waiting to be found.  She finally looked in the drawer and found him tucked in behind her pajamas.   He was snoring softly and one of her tiny baby socks was stuck to the side of his head.  The sight was so funny that she laughed and laughed, then held him up to the mirror so he could see what was so hilarious. The sight made them have giggle fits until they dropped to the floor holding their tummies because it just looked so silly.

Hugging BearBear tightly to her chest Emma said, “BearBear, I think we should go on a Big Adventure today, just the two of us. What do you think?”  Of course, BearBear thought that was a great idea and told Emma he would go on any adventure as long as it was with her.

Emma jumped out of bed holding onto BearBear and went in search of her biggest, sturdiest backpack.  It was the backpack with the special pocket added just for BearBear.  When he sat in the pocket it put him at just the right level to peep over her shoulder and see where they were going. She found the backpack in the closet and while she was there grab a pair of blue jeans and her blue tee shirt, the one with the kittens on the front.  She quickly dressed, brushed her teeth, pulled her hair back in a ponytail and headed down the stairs.

 “First we need to get provisions”, She said. “That’s food and stuff” she explained when BearBear looked puzzled.  They went to the kitchen where Emma packed two peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches, honey, two apples, two boxes of orange juice and a small bag of M&Ms.   Into her pack she also added her princess flashlight, her duck call whistle, her green explorer binoculars, a light jackets for herself and one for BearBear, pencils and drawing paper and her camera.  After placing BearBear safely into his special pocket, she pulled the pack into place on her shoulders. Putting on her favorite hat, the pink gingham one with bows, and they set out on their Big Adventure.

It was April and although the sun was shining brightly the wind was still brisk and it sent gusts of air swirling around their heads. As they stepped out of the front door the swirling current snatched at Emma’s cap.  Reaching high with his little paw BearBear caught it just as it was about to fly away.  Laughing, she thanked BearBear as she put her cap back on more firmly this time. 

As she walked Emma hitched her backpack higher on her shoulders so BearBear would have a better view.  “Where should we go first,” she asked and thoughtfully BearBear scrunched up his face and finally said, “How about the pond where the ducks swim. We could have our picnic in that pretty white gazebo.”  Emma thought that was a fine idea, so made a right turn that took them down a curvy lane and soon they were standing inside the gazebo that perched on the bank beside the pond. 

Diana for the Poplar Grove Muse

Monday, April 2, 2012

Hunger Games

OMG, it has been a while since last wrote for the WWFAC blog. It’s about an every-6-weeks-or-so commitment. Typically I have something in mind, but sitting here I have little in mind. My mind is a blank, good thing, since that white page is a fertile ground for planting a seed of something, anything. OOPS, just learned my scribblings are due tomorrow. OK, what do I have? April Fool's day, yeah, this is a trick on me. 

Went to see THE HUNGER GAMES, entertaining, didn't read the book, know it's Young Adult, so young love abounds combined with bad adults and worst government making many horrid choices for the young ones. The added burden of fighting to the death in a lottery no one wants to win, plus it is for everyone's entertainment. A not-so-hidden message to all of us addicted to any reality show, which continually permeated the movie in a not so subtle manner. Included in the plot were the games' producers' ability to manipulate the intrigue by introducing added problems (fire, weird flesh eating wolf-dogs, different rules) as well as the sponsors' power to magically introduce life-saving pods so the teens could continue the fight for survival just as they were doomed. The poor peasant population stuck in the countryside provided the contestants (called tributes), while the glamorous, wealthy folk in the metropolis seemed to be the larger fan and sponsor base, although hideously dressed. All populations easily allowed this barbarous activity to continue for years (75, I believe) with little revolt, probably because those white guards with guns were everywhere (think storm troopers of STAR WAR fame). I am sure the book gave much more back story.

It was sort of a mix of Rollerball but with killing people. A bit of futuristic MAD MAX or a look at the past, as in GLADIATOR, where everyone did try and kill each other. Even LORD OF THE FLIES was similar but this with both sexes attempting to survive their bad situation.  I was reminded continually of THE LOTTERY, the creepiest thriller ever. The light touch of the barest of humanity from THE ROAD  showed the bleakness of life in such a barren world.  I thought I might want to read the books to understand the current craze but I think I sort of get it. 

They do tell us we keep repackaging the same five stories.