Edge of a Petal

photo of trillium by Josh Scholten

“It is at the edge of a petal that love waits.”
― William Carlos Williams

It is too easy to look for love only in the heart of things, usually up front and center, at once showpiece and show off.    We think of love as reverberating from deep within,  loud enough for all the world to hear and know it is so.

But as I advance on life’s road, I have found love quietly waiting at the periphery, fragile and so easily torn–it ends up clinging to the edges of our lives.  It is ever-present, protects and cherishes, fed by fine little veins which branch out to the tender margins.

It is on that delicate edge we dwell, waiting to be fed and oh so grateful.

photo by Josh Scholten

Summer Song

;20120726-212655.jpg

“In summer, the song sings itself.”
―William Carlos Williams
A couple days spent at the Pacific Ocean in mid-summer is a rare concert experience: the song sung by the constancy of the tides, the hymn of waves rolling and tumbling over the sand, the cries of thousands of gulls and other marine birds as they flock and swoop en masse.

Today a different flock appeared on the beach–a small group of nuns in traditional habits on holiday, walking through the cold salt water in their lace-up black shoes, waves lapping up their skirts, soaking them to their mid-calves. Their smiles were huge; I could hear their hearts singing praises.

And so: summer sings with wet feet, happy faces, and flowing soaring wings of freedom.

20120726-212838.jpg

20120726-213007.jpg

<a

Sliding on Slug Slime

“Girls are like slugs—they probably serve some purpose, but it’s hard to imagine what.”
Bill Watterson, in Calvin and Hobbes

how many slugs can you count in this picture?

Summer rain, so desperately needed In much of our country, has been a frequent visitor to the Pacific Northwest. While corn is dying of thirst in the Midwest, we are overflowing with…slug slime and the lovely multicolored creatures that produce it. They appear out of the ground after a rain like seeds that plump and germinate miraculously overnight. The slug crop burgeons, and with it, oozy trails of glistening slug slime.

We live on a hill, which means I need to walk downhill to the barn. On one particular day, the path included a slug (or three) under each foot. That produces a certain memorable squish factor.

I’ve learned to don my rubber boots and just squash and slide. There will undoubtedly be more slugs to replace the flattened lost, like watching freeze-dried shrinky dinks spontaneously rehydrate.

I’d love to send the rain to those who need it most, but part of the deal includes the slugs must go too. With gallons of slime.

Of course, I’d miss them and their sticky icky gooiness. But it is time for someone else to figure out what their purpose is.

I’ve given up.

like two slugs passing in the night…

Heart Ache

photo by Josh Scholten

…be comforted in the fact that the ache in your heart and the confusion in your soul means that you are still alive, still human, and still open to the beauty of the world, even though you have done nothing to deserve it.
Paul Harding in Tinkers

There is plenty of aching confusion this week about the nature of criminal intent, premeditated planning and the role of mental illness in excusing responsibility.  Seeing the blank confused eyes of the Colorado mass murderer during his first court appearance (was he faking it?  was he sedated? was he simply mentally “checked out”?) brings up the question of his competency and capacity to discern right from wrong.   He was certainly very competent and highly organized at setting up and executing a diabolical and intricate plan for killing as large a number of people as possible.    Incompetent people usually can’t plan breakfast much less mass murder.

So how do we know evil when we see it?  We don’t have to look very far.  It is hidden deep enough in each of us that we don’t usually confront it daily, but it is there.  For some it is their daily bread, feeding them as it is fed and growing.   It can be all-consuming, finally taking over the heart and the soul completely, leaving nothing recognizable behind.

Not recognizable, however though completely undeserving, redeemable.

May there be mercy for the aching, clarity for the confused and a new heart to replace the lost.

 

 

Everything Sad To Come Untrue

photo by Josh Scholten

“Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead! Is everything sad going to come untrue?”
J.R.R. Tolkien, Samwise Gamgee waking to find his friends all around him in The Lord of the Rings

“The answer is yes. And the answer of the Bible is yes. If the resurrection is true, then the answer is yes. Everything sad is going to come untrue.”
Pastor Tim Keller’s response in a sermon given in an ecumenical prayer service memorial in Lower Manhattan on the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11.

In our minds, we want to rewind and replay the events of a tragedy in a way that would prevent it from happening in the first place.   We want to bring the dead and injured back to health again.  The major devastating earthquake becomes a mere tremor, the flooding tsunami is only one foot, not over thirty feet tall, the terrorist hijackers are prevented from ever boarding a plane, the shooter changes his mind at the last minute, lays down his arms, disables his booby trap bombs and calls someone for help with his distress and anger.

We want so badly for it all to be untrue.  The bitter reality of horrendous suffering and sadness daily all over the earth is too much for us to absorb.   We plead for relief, beg for a better day.

Our minds may play mental tricks like this, but God does not play tricks.  He knows and feels what we do.  He too wants to see it rewound and replayed differently.  He has known grief and sadness, He has wept, He has suffered, He too has died.  And because of this, because of a God who came to dwell with us, was broken, died and then rose again whole and holy, we are assured,  in His time, everything sad is going to come untrue.

Our tears will be dried, our grief turned to joy, our pain nonexistent, not even a memory.  It will be a new day, a better day–as it is written, trustworthy and true.

May it come.

Quickly.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.  Revelation 21: 4-5

Mingled with Grief

“The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places.
But still there is much that is fair. And though in all lands, love is now
mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps, the greater.”
— J. R. R. Tolkien

What happened last night in Aurora, Colorado is not fair.  There could not have been a darker place than a theater where a masked gunman gassed, then shot and killed escaping movie goers at a midnight showing of the new Batman movie.  I’m not a fan of the genre of troubled superheroes but my children and their friends and many of my patients are.  They like to attend first movie showings at midnight in big batches, celebrating an anticipated release together.  The young people who were killed and injured are just like them.  It is so unfair, just like so many violent tragedies instigated by a desperate person wanting to prove a point through random killings, then make the news in a “suicide by police” gesture.

The media has just released information that the young shooter is a neuroscience graduate student withdrawing from his program–someone whose motives are still unknown but whose struggles were undoubtedly apparent to his family and mentors.  He must be a bright and talented individual to have made it into a PhD program so this somehow compounds the tragedy.   One of the stark realities of our time is that before a shooter is identified by the media, there are dozens, maybe hundreds,  of people who wonder if and fear their family member (or patient) could be the one.   There are so many struggling with dark impulses and those around them often have a clue and have tried to help.   I’ve seen students in my practice with such thoughts and it is a heavy burden for them and for me to sort out how best to reduce the risk of them acting out their impulses.  There have been times when hospitalization isn’t possible, when meds aren’t effective or not taken, when counselors are ignored, when families are non-existent support.   That is when I can only pray on my own for light in my patient’s darkness, that he will not become the next headline, the next suicide, the next mass shooting.

There must be unfathomable grief today on the part of the families of the killed and injured, and on the part of the family of the shooter, and the recent University administrators and others who may have tried to help him.   There is no response possible except to love these hurting people as deeply as possible, surrounding them with hope and prayer.   They will never be the same.  The shooter has made certain of that.

The shooter didn’t extinguish the light nor has he extinguished himself, no matter how hard he hoped to.  We need to make sure he failed in his goal.  The media needs to draw a curtain around this tragedy and limit exposure.   To dwell on it only encourages this and the next mass murderer in their quest for infamy.

Our grief mingled with love grows the light brighter than ever;  prayers for mercy can effectively flood and extinguish the darkest of places.

Perhaps the last thing James Holmes might expect is that there are people who will pray for him as well.

It is only fair.

Startling Joy

 

photo by Nate Gibson


Faith is what makes life bearable, with all its tragedies and ambiguities and sudden, startling joys.
~Madeleine L’Engle

It was another day of a virus with fever that kept me down and atypically quiet on a summer day.  There are peas to harvest in the garden, a barn to clean, a new puppy to train, flower gardens to water–not to mention the usual needs at work.  I could do none of it, not even the requisite two hours at the Dept of Motor Vehicles to get my drivers’ license renewed before my birthday next week.  It all must wait for another healthier day.

Amid my own chills and aches, and with just a little dose of self-pity, tonight I witnessed an expanding fever rise across the horizon in the western sky, exploding in intense red-orange light, coloring and covering everything. Then, having reached its peak,  it backed off. as a fever will do, gradually fading to gray, all once again returned to normal.

And so my fever will relent at some point and fade in my memory.

Tonight, the fever in the sky,  like faith that touches and colors everything in the rough times, was the sudden startling joy that has made everything bearable.

photo by Nate Gibson