Monday, March 23, 2015

Oh Be Joyful

     And then it snowed. I just came in from clearing two of the three inches of wet, heavy snow that fell this morning. Ugh. All of the hopeful green is drowning in it. But as I paused in my shoveling, I heard a couple of hearty Oh-Be-Joyfuls flinging their souls into the sky. I think I will try to be like one of those birds.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Waiting for Green...

     It seems that south of us, and west of us, and eastward across the sea, there is a waft of warm returning to the land. So I went outside to see if I could catch a whiff of spring.

     The sun was bright and the last lumps of misshapen snowmen had soaked into the ground, but the grass was still flattened by the weight of winter and was a dismal, dirty brown. The shriveled bronze leaves of the pin oaks had loosened their grip in the gusty wind and were skittering across the pavement like children let out to play. The neighborhood dogs walked past straining at their leads, sensing a change in the eager air. But the year-old nests of sticks and mud hanging in the bare trees were still empty.

     And there was no new green. No creeping, unquiet, springing of green from the ground to dispel the pall of a waxen-eyed winter. All was brown below, but there was a swag of yellow and white in the light, and the sky was a jubilant blue. I came home from my walk with a little more patience under my belt than when I had left. I wandered into the garden to linger a moment and found, to my delight, fingers of green pushing through the soil.

Ah, Spring...there you are.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Number Five

     I have a new grandchild. This makes number five. We have waited a long time for this little guy to arrive.

A Grandmother’s Prayer

God bless those tiny fingers
Bless those tickle toes
Bless the head that slumbers
And bless that nubbin nose.

God bless the hands that nurture
And bless the arms that hold
The bundle of this nursling
Safe in our hearts enfold.

                                                                 ~ Nib of Nib's End ~

photo by the Mama

Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Woman Made of Stone

     A veil of light drifted over her marble-skinned beauty, the gentle folds of her flowered headdress and her belted tunic. Her glad tambourine was silenced; her jubilation was stilled. The hall where she sat, head bowed in surrender, eyes opaque as death, was as hushed as a graveyard. I do not know her name, but I can tell her story.

     Her father was the son of a prostitute. She was his only child.

     His brothers, the sons of his father’s lawful wife, wanted no part of him and drove him away from his home and inheritance to make a life and a family for himself, if he could. She became his life and his family. She was his legacy. She was proud of her father because he was brave and daring. Men followed him, and he made a name for himself.

     His name was Jephthah.

     When foreign soldiers came from the east bringing a plague of death to the land, his brothers went to him, begging him to return home to fight for them and for their kinsmen, promising to make him their chief. So Jephthah went to war, invoking the name of his God for victory in battle and making an ominous promise in recompense.

      “If you will…then I will…”

     She was the only child of a fond, foolish father whose ill-considered promise would condemn her to death. She would never know the warmth of a lover’s embrace or breathe of the sweetness of a baby’s skin. All the dreams and passions, the expectant joys of a young woman’s life were tragically cut short—made more terrible because her death was so worthless and wanton.

     I stood before her effigy and marveled at the poetry, power and wisdom of the hands that had formed her, echoes of another ancient forming from dust and from bone. Chauncey Bradley Ives’ bones may have crumbled to dust in a distant Roman graveyard, but his creation lingers. I studied the intricate details of her headdress, the folds of marble that give the illusion of cloth and I thought: How is this possible?
     Each time that I visit the Art Institute of Chicago I stop by to see her, sit with her, contemplate her sorrow and beauty, and marvel at the skill that it took to carve this unnamed maiden’s story into unwieldy, unyielding stone.

Jephthah's Daughter by Chauncey Bradley Ives - Art Institute of Chicago
Story of Jephthah from Judges 11

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Toast and Tea

     On this cold, snowy, early March morning when I am feeling cheated of green, I resort to toast and tea and a smackerel of silly poetry to cheer me.

Toast and tea, oh, toast and tea
Have frankly got their hold on me.
Every morn at half past eight
Toast and tea are on my plate.

Tea heats my bones in winter’s chill,
And warms the aches when I am ill.

Toast props me up for work ahead;
A brace of butter, jam and bread.

A sip of tea amid the fray
Will bolster me till close of day.

A slice of toast with chicken soup
Can remedy a cold or croup.

Toast and tea, oh, toast and tea
Have, surely, got their hold on me.
I blush to make this simple boast:
I also crave some tea and toast.

               ~ Nib, of Nib’s End ~

     I have been reading blogs with sunshine and snowdrops in them, lambing and lemon tarts. Now, the promise of warm in our own forecast makes me giddy. Can you tell?

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Whistling in the Wind

     One summer long ago, we took our girls to see their grandparents in Southern California. We drove down the Coast Highway from Washington to see the dynamic ocean views and stopped in Pacific Grove on Monterey Bay to spend the night. After checking into our suite at a bed and breakfast, we went for a walk around town to look at the charming bayside cottages. We stopped at one cottage to admire a row of polished geodes displayed in the windows. The old woman who lived in it noticed us standing on the sidewalk and invited us in to see the rest of her collection. Little did we know what a treat was in store for us. She had an extensive collection of geodes, rocks and fossils stuffed into her small home and a wealth of knowledge to share. We took turns sitting in her chair of petrified wood as she shared her stories with us. She had traveled the world to find her treasures and had been to shows all over the country displaying them.

     Even though her collection of fossils and rocks was incredible, I was even more impressed by the strength of the old woman's passion and her eagerness to share it with others. I would like to have known her better.

     I am not someone who wants to escape ageing or cheat death. On most days, I am fine with the natural order of things. I aim to go gently into that good night and have no wish to rage against the dying of the light. But as I enter this last quarter of my life, I also intend to resist the temptations of passivity. As this body of mine begins to wither on the vine, the spirit within is still ripe and full of juice. So I write. Squeeze the spirit to let the juice out. Labor to distill the juice into something fruitful and fine.

     I think it has been plain since my first blog post three years ago that stories are my passion, my rocks and fossils, and I am eager to share them here and elsewhere. More than likely, at this stage of my life, it will only be the occasional passerby who will stop on the sidewalk to peer in my window, but my passion for writing is not diminished by the lack of an audience. Indeed, I feel more compelled to write stories now than ever before, and if it turns out to be nothing more than whistling in the wind, as long as I am still able to string a coherent collection of words together and read them on a page, I will have been buoyed by the passion and joy of it.