It’s Leap Day; what do you propose?

Tradition has it that women are allowed to propose on Leap Day.   I came home this morning from a Nature in the Parks gig and proposed to Steve that we go out for a walk.  It was sunny and 54 degrees when I proposed.  By the time we’d mailed our packages at the Post Office, it was raining and 45 degrees.  So we headed toward what looked like a break in the clouds.  Turns out the clouds were faster than we were, but we ended up at the beach on the shores of Lake Michigan.  We had the entire shoreline to ourselves.  I love being outside, no matter what the weather or the season.   Here are some photos!

Raw color shot of Lake Michigan. I kid you not.

The beach rocks!

Steve holds his selected favorite

No bathers today

Beach wood

Still some snow left

Cutting through the bluffs to the lake

Heading home

A great adventure close to home.

Because of Love

“In this vision he showed me a little thing, the size of a hazelnut, and it
was round as a ball. I looked at it with the eye of my understanding and
thought “What may this be?” And it was generally answered thus: “It is all that is
made.” I marveled how it might last, for it seemed it might suddenly have
sunk into nothing because of its littleness. And I was answered in my
understanding: “It lasts and ever shall, because God loves it.”

— Julian of Norwich

Why does evolution continue?  Why does the universe expand?  Why does the sun appear on the horizon every morning?  Why am I here?

Who do I thank?

Celebrate Good Times, Come On!

Today is my darling baby’s 21st birthday, which in the good ole U. S. of A. means that she can legally purchase and/or be served an alcoholic drink.   Whoo-hoo!  This becomes quite the rite of passage for many people.  It used to be that different states had different legal drinking ages.  Back in the 70s, Illinois had it at 21 and Wisconsin had it at 18, so lots of kids would drive over the border to drink and then drive home drunk.  Not something a mother wants to think about for too long.  In my family of origin, though, drinking was done at home.  The first (and only!) time I got sick from sampling alcohol, I was 10 years old.  My mother made a Greek dinner and my father let me taste Ouzo, retsina, and Metaxa.  I learned how much is too much pretty early.  I also learned that I could get much better alcohol at home than I could at a party with my peers.   For me, it is all about taste.  My father once educated my children at the dinner table by explaining how alcohol is a solvent that releases fragrance and enhances the taste of food.  What is the primary liquid in fine perfumes?  Alcohol.  The pairing of food and drink is a scientific discovery of pleasure.  Coming from my dad, that seemed to be the “right” approach, and I think it has served pretty well.  My kids grew up having tastes in increased measures and never became binge drinkers.  My baby had her first taste when she was baptized at two months old.  The priest dipped his finger in the communion wine and let her suck on it.  She was a full-fledged member from that day on.  Why not?

When I turned 21, I was engaged to be married.  My fiance took me out for a champagne brunch after church.  All through my 20s, I was having babies.  I never went to bars and hardly drank at all.  I have no cultural experience of “the bar scene”, and that amuses Steve no end these days.  I also missed all of the pop music scene from the 80s on.  I am a walking anachronism, it seems.  Oh, well.  I still think I know how to have fun.  I do drink and dance and sing…mostly with family.  Tonight, my kids are going out together to do Broadway karaoke at a gay bar.  Now, I could fit right in with that!  I worked for a children’s musical theater company for 7 years, and my kids were all involved.  We rock the Broadway tunes!  Sadly, though, Mom is not invited.  Not this time, but I hope in the near future.

And now, for the photo journal portion.  My family album reveals “Celebrations, Then & Now”:

It starts with my family of origin. My mom at the piano after serving us a gourmet meal and wine. This was typical. Pictured: my sisters, brother, and a niece. (photo: DKK)

Next: Me & Jim at a church talent show. Yes, a couple of hams with a couple of drinks in them, singing and dancing.


So, then what happens? We raise a bunch of talented kids who like to perform and dress up and drink like pirates!

See? It's a theme.

So then my baby gets the bug really bad, and she's really good! (and I can't get this to print any bigger, sorry!)

And she's absolutely fabulous and happy onstage!

And I am incredibly proud of her!


And sometimes, we get to play dress up and sing and dance together!

And now, she’s all growed up! (*sniff*)  You are fabulous, Miss Em!  Go rock the scene tonight, celebrate your life, your health, your talent, your livelihood, your friends & family, and the fact that you are here and surrounded by love!!  And I know you won’t forget, that love extends beyond visible boundaries.

Your daddy adores you!

And he now celebrates the remarkable lady you've become with a bigger smile than he could muster with his physical form!



Sunday Stroll

My neighborhood is probably fairly typical for suburban USA, but I always find things that strike my imagination as anything but.  There’s a story wherever you look.  Here are a few I found yesterday.

The house on the hill was once owned by a retired sea captain who could be spotted occasionally behind the iron parapet with a spyglass, looking toward Lake Michigan.  Sometimes I hear him when the wind roars in the trees, shouting “Thar she blows!”

Mrs. McGillicuddy was hanging out the wash one day, when a German Shepherd came barreling around the corner of the house and ran right under her skirts.  This sock flew out of reach and remains in the maple tree on Church Street to this day.  (What happens to the story if I don’t capitalize the ‘s’?)

“Momma?  Can we make a snowman family in the front yard?  Please?”  “Nonsense, children.  That’s not necessary.  I have one I ordered from WalMart’s Home Decor department right here.  There!  Now run inside and watch the TV until dinner.”

The meteorite streamed through the dark night sky, blazing a menacing trail of fire toward the quiet, white house on the corner where Carol & Ken slept.  It whistled past the living room window, sending Fluffy on arthritic legs across the rug and under the sofa on the opposite wall.  With a steaming hiss, it plopped into the snow.  Ken snored loudly and rolled over on his left side.

Enjoy your Sunday amusements!  The sun is shining, and I think we’re off on a hike this afternoon.

It’s All How You Look At It

Stan Freeburg’s comedy musical “The United States of America” contains a line where a Native American remarks to Christopher Columbus that they discovered the white man.  “Whaddya mean you discovered us?”  “We discover you on beach here…is all how you look at it.”  “Y’I suppose…I never thought of it that way,” Chris replies.

Dualistic thinking, good/bad, right/wrong, is all about thinking, as my sister pointed out in a comment.  It’s not about the actual thing in front of us.  So it seems that often all we learn about the world is about how we are thinking about or perceiving it.  Art and artists play around with this quite a bit, of course.  And then philosophers ask, “What is real?”

Who knows.

Do we choose to look at things in a way that gives us pleasure of some kind, even perverse pleasure?  Sure.  I think we photographers get to do this now more than ever with all the tweaking technology allows.  We get to illustrate the story going on inside our skulls.  Here’s an example.

Sample inner monologue: “Rural life is a thing of the past.  Flat, washed out, joyless and crumbling.  There is no life left in the earth by now.  Life is in the cities.  It’s time we bulldozed these ruins and built something we can inhabit.”

Of course, you could be having a completely different monologue in your brain with this image.  Go ahead, share it with us!  Here’s another:

Sample thought: “Ah, the good old days!  Blue skies, wood, stone, a farm.  Life was simpler; it meant something back then to work hard on the land.  All you need is within reach – your livelihood, your family, your pleasure.  Who could ask for anything more?”  Another:

Sample thoughts: “The world is an interesting juxtaposition of contrasting elements – texture, color, shape, pattern, organic and inorganic.  There’s no making sense of it.  The dynamic of life is about the tension and release we experience through our senses every day.  Nothing more.  I need a cigarette!”

There’s no right and wrong in this little exercise.  “Is all how you look at it!”  Please, have a go!  Amuse me!

Half Way

It occurs to me that I have reached the half way mark in my 50th year blogging project.  This is post #183; I’ve missed two days along the line somewhere, and I may yet miss another, so I probably won’t end up with a perfect 366 by August 20, but I’m calling today the half way point.  Whoo-hoo!  Time to check back on my original intent:

“So this blog is dubbed scillagrace to symbolize ancient elegance of manner, action, form, motion and moral strength.  It is my goal to post entries worthy of the name.  It is my goal to avoid being dogmatic and prissy.  I want to challenge myself to go deeper into subjects that explore the ancient grace of life.   It is a lot of name and a lot of subject, to be sure.  We’ll see how it goes.”

I have also realized that in the adventure of exploring the ancient grace of life, encounters with others are pivotal.  The challenge to go deeper is often voiced not by myself but by those whom I encounter.  The elegance of the dance is significantly effected by those who come alongside to partner me.  So I want to express my deep appreciation for all those who have participated in shaping this blog by liking it and leaving a signature that led me to meet them or commenting and entering into the dance directly.  I appreciate those who were strangers to me and those whom I’ve known in person for some time.   I have truly enjoyed, benefited, woken up, reeled, puzzled, thrilled, anguished, and grown here!  Thank you, one and all.

My gift to y’all today is to share the elegance of the world to which I woke this morning.  My little corner of the globe draped in February’s glory: snow.

Have a grace-filled day, all!

What’s Important?

When I hung around with evangelical Christians, I would frequently hear this phrase: “be in right relationship with”.  That was a core value in life.   I agreed then, and I still agree in some ways.  I very much resonate with the value of relationships.  I am “a lover” by temperament, so to speak, and being engaged with the universe is supremely important to me.  I also have a huge desire to be “right”, but that is exactly the thing I’m now trying to dismantle.  I was a compliant kid.  I was afraid of my father and of all authority.  I wanted to be “good” and “correct” because I wanted to be praised instead of punished!  Now, I find that being “right” is not all that great of a goal.  First of all, it can lead you to be self-righteous and judgmental.  Second, how do you even know what is “right”?  Is it “right” to do everything an authority tells you to?  What if that authority tells you to harm someone else?  See, it gets tricky.  How about if I just say that I want to have a good relationship with everything?  I think that covers it pretty well.

One relationship that I am really working to improve is my relationship with God and Christianity.  It has gone through a huge change in the last few years, one that has many of my friends scratching their heads.  Some of them are downright disappointed in the change and have told me so.  Some have just stopped communicating with me.  I am most in awe of those who are openly listening, talking, challenging, and engaging with me as I rework my theology and practice.  Yesterday was Ash Wednesday.  Instead of going to Church, getting ashes imposed on my forehead, and beginning a 40-day penitential practice (which is an indication of how I participated in that relationship for 47 years), Steve & I finished reading T.S. Eliot’s poem named for the day and discussed post-modern cynicism.  Despite Eliot’s conversion, he doesn’t seem very enthusiastic about life.  This morning, we had breakfast with his Aunt and talked about her church experiences with fasting and confession and Bible study.  Today, I got another e-mail from an old friend who is willing to discuss my journey and walk with me in it.  I’ve known this person since I was about 12 and she was 17.  Replying to her became my top writing priority for the day.  So, I’ve decided to use that material for my post today.  First, a photo or two to open the mind:

What is the value of a sparrow?

A cardinal far from the Vatican

My thoughts for today:

I feel like I have a continual discourse going on in my brain about my relationship with Jesus and the Church.  On any given day, other people enter that conversation and keep it going.  At breakfast, it was Steve & his Aunt Rosie.  As we walked to the library, it was just Steve.  Now you’ve entered the discussion.  Welcome!  Come, have a place on the panel!
The Church.  So much of it is about the social aspect.  Sometimes it acts like a group of people who are all friendly, who share affinities, who enjoy being together and taking care of each other.  Seems there’s nothing wrong with that, but I’m sure that’s not all Jesus meant the Church to be.  What happens when that group disbands, moves away or dies off?  Kind of like your Presbyterian congregation.  Or what happens when that group gets visited by people whom they don’t care for?  People of a different kind who don’t fit into their social circle?  How do they behave?  Is that what Christianity is about?  There is so much intolerance, so much judgment, so much exclusion, that it just seems to represent the worst of society as well.
Theology & Philosophy.  The Church getting down to what it actually believes about the universe.  And why.  I was taught by my Episcopal parents that there are 3 legs on the stool supporting what they believe: Scripture, Tradition and Reason.  My dad held up the Reason leg when he talked about Science. In the face of overwhelming evidence about evolution, for example, there’s no need to dismiss it.  It can be worked in with the other legs.  Scripture is about the story of human life, the salvation story, the emotional story, the behavioral story.  But it’s still a story, a Myth.  It is about Truth, but it isn’t literally true.  I don’t think it’s “true” that we are all sinners, or that we are all fundamentally separate from each other.  If you look at the biological universe, we are all very much interconnected.  I don’t know if there’s any evidence to prove that a historical Jesus even existed, much less that he was resurrected from the dead and will come again.  I still love Jesus’ teaching, whether he’s fiction or fact.  I love how he goes straight to the religious teachers of the day and preaches in their faces about how they have undermined values like compassion, inclusion, humility, spirituality, and forgiveness.  I think if it were possible for him to reappear in the US today, he would go straight to the Conservative Republican Christian Right and do the same thing!  Tradition seems to be aimed at behavior, how we live together.  The thing that is so tricky about behavior is that it needs to change, it needs to be responsive and responsible.  Most people think that Tradition is about keeping things the same.  I think that keeping core values is a good thing, but the way they are expressed should be flexible.
The thing I miss most about The Church is choir!  Singing!  And I have always loved Gospel more than classical, deep down.  Yesterday, Steve put on a new CD; I immediately recognized Odetta’s guitar and voice and purred with delight.  He laughed and said, “Priscilla wants to be a big, black woman!”  It’s so true!  I love the soul, the familiarity with humanity and suffering and the confidence.  I don’t want to be brainwashed or shamed or coerced by guilt.  I want to be free and respected for what I am.  And what am I?  A white Anglo, in part. But I am partly a big, black woman as well because we are all connected here on earth.
Anyway, that’s where the dialogue has me today.  I want to tell you again how much I appreciate you taking the time to engage with me in this part of my journey.  It means a lot.  I really get turned off by the tendency, especially in politics, for people to circle the wagons or form a fortress from which to sling rhetoric while refusing to actually come out peacefully and discuss something.  You know what I mean?  And the media just makes the whole situation worse, little Tweets & comments here and there but no real engagement.  Thanks for being willing to be real, to put your story and your thoughts and your experiences in writing and listen to mine as well.  I respect you for that.  I think that’s how Jesus was, too.  I think of the stories in the Gospel of John especially, of conversations with Samaritans, women, disciples, beggars, and Pharisees.  He didn’t just knock off a sound bite for the media and move on.  And as much as anyone stayed to hear more, he kept interacting.  What a great example!