Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
When I was in 8th grade our school was on double sessions. That meant we started at noon and ended in the evening. Our bus driver would play the radio during the dark ride home and I remember Petula Clark singing,
"When you're alone and life is making you lonely, you can always go, downtown,
When you got worries all the noise and the hurry seem to help, I know, downtown,
Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city,
Linger on the sidewalks where the neon signs are pretty, how can you lose..."
You know the words. The city seemed so exciting and glamorous to me then. When I was in high school my best friend and I skipped school and rode a bus to the big city of St. Louis. I wasn't impressed. It was exciting to be on our own for a day, but the city was smelly with diesel and I still remember the awful lunch I had in a downtown cafeteria.
Since that time I've walked many big cities of the world--Madrid, Paris, Washington D.C., Guangzhou. More recently, the girls and I were invited to a birthday party in New York City and we all had a marvelous time. Big cities can be thrilling with the bustle of the crowds, the skyscrapers, the exotic food, and watching people who live an entirely different existence from ours. They ride taxis all day and have important jobs where men always wear suits and women don't even wobble in the highest of heels. But always in the shadow of the glitz is the poverty and crime. It makes me uneasy, at the same time sad and on guard.
We live near a big city now, but I never drive there. Occasionally we take the train. This year, for the first time in my life, I've seen why people love the city and choose to live there. That's because a friend of mine moved downtown. Twice this summer she invited us for a walking tour, shopping, and lunch. Finally, the city in my own area became more familiar to me, not a foreign, scary place. My friend is so comfortable there that she put me at ease.
Last week we met her at the subway station for a day at the aquarium. The girls and I were amazed by the variety of creatures God has created. We enjoyed the exhibits and also our lunch outdoors along the river, catching up with my friend and our families' news. In the afternoon she dropped us off at a corner in Chinatown. It's rare that the girls and I would be loose on the streets of the big city to do whatever we wanted! Arielle and Liana's big request: they wanted bubble tea. That's what they had last time were in the city with our friend. We wandered around looking into shops and then headed for the train station, the girls quiet on the way home as they considered our adventure. I watched the heavy traffic along the highway parallel to the tracks as we all enjoyed our relaxing ride.
I love the freedom of getting around without a car. I love the history behind our city and the generations of people who made it their home. I love the diversity of people of every race and ethnic group. Kind of like the aquarium, so many different kinds, all swimming together, and for the most, living peacefully with each other.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Friday, September 11, 2009
I am a week behind on things I would like to write. If I don't have early morning time, forget it. But the girls' school work is top priority. We did have a fun holiday weekend. We attempted another bike trail and this time Marissa went with us.
This trail was safer but much more strenuous. We climbed steep hills huffing and puffing and we flew down curvy slopes. I was very proud of the little girls. No one fell and they both kept up.
At one point the path led us into an area very familiar to us in earlier times. Fred and I had taken our big kids to play in this wildlife refuge years ago when they were the age of Arielle and Liana now. We came here often because we lived in a development right next to the park. We hadn't been back here in the woods in a long time and were surprised to see paved bike roadways where before there were just dirt foot paths. Suddenly we were all alone. The trail was so steep I guess most cyclists avoid it. Marissa and I kept pointing and saying, "Remember that?" We found a drop-off through dense vegetation where we once slid down on our bottoms, covering our clothes with mud and our hair with dry leaves. (I can't believe I really did that, or why. Wasn't I worried about poison ivy?) I looked over the edge down into the hole and was amazed at my foolish younger self. What fun we had though! Funny though, Arielle and Liana could never be enticed to do that.
We found the old path where Fred and Marissa used to race each other, Marissa trying hard to beat her old man. And then there was the place we once made a fort in the woods with Jon, Anthony and Marissa. We played some kind of pursuit game there, I remember. There was the grassy field where deer slept at night, and I guess still do, and where we once found our lost cat after he was missing for days. Later on, I got off my bike and looked through the overgrown brush to the apartment building where we used to live. Fred asked, "Going back in time?" Yes...but the present is so much better. It's not good to look too long at the past.
We were all in a thoughtful mood as we rode our bikes back to the car. I noticed people gathering in the pavillion. It looked like it was set up for a wedding reception. The last time we were in that pavillion was in February for the memorial service for our hometown soldier. Today the park is green and lush and warm. It's hard to believe it was once a place of sorrow and tears.
As we approached the parking lot, we heard music. Three people were singing, one playing a guitar. Their voices clear and sure sang, "Come thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace, streams of mercy never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise..." God's hand was on us this day, the beautiful music a gentle reminder of his constant presence, in times of heartbreak and also on a perfect day like this.
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
Sunday, September 06, 2009
When you're young you know you have a limited number of days on this earth, but there are just so many of them (you think) that you don't need to analyze this reality, and it's okay to waste some of these days. But I often think now about the finite number of years I have left and in the words of a song, "I don't want to miss a thing." I don't want to throw even one day away. So how do we put the brakes on a life careening ahead to its final destination?
I need to be in the moment. Not thinking about what is happening next week or that night or even the next hour. I tell myself to slow down! I practiced this on Friday. I am a task-doer. I have things to do and all day long I do them. Always thinking about the next task and how to efficiently complete it. I miss so much that way. My kids will remember me as busy, busy, busy, always doing. So last Friday, this is what we tried instead:
I sat next to Arielle at the computer while she did math and instead of looking ahead to see how many more problems she had left so we could get on to the next task, I enjoyed watching her work. What a gift to have my daughter beside me, helping her grasp the concepts and work the problems. I took the moment, pondered it, held on to it.
We walked to the mailbox and I noticed the the cool breeze that has come with September and what a perfectly heavenly day it was, sunny, with the late summer chorus of cicadas. On the back porch I found a perfectly whole, dead cricket, a female with an ovipositor, and I brought it inside to show Liana since she is studying insects and had just learned about the ovipositor!
Later, Marissa came over and I had laundry to fold and dishes to wash, but I just sat at the table with her and the girls and talked. I made her some gazpacho to try but mostly we did nothing but enjoy the evening. (I feel like I'm becoming my mother. She loves to sit and talk and, come to think of it, she used to be so busy too. But she has learned to slow down.)
Liana set up a Polly Pocket town and she wanted to show me who lived where and what each little house was for. These toys are very old. Marissa had given Liana her childhood collection. I didn't look for a way out of the doll talk but engaged in it. Liana wondered why there were no black haired dolls and I couldn't adequately answer that. (Toy companies weren't concerned about political correctness back then.)
At night I got both girls to bed, an accomplishment no matter how old your kids are, and then I noticed there was a full moon with a very bright star next to it. I went on-line to see what that "star" was. It was Jupiter! So I got the girls back out of bed so we could look outside at God's wonders.
One day of being in the moment. Not rushing, just holding and examining the treasures of life. The past is full of regret, best left alone. The future is uncertain for us all. But we have right now and this was a perfect day. I need something to remind me to stop when I'm tempted to DO rather than just to BE.