Saying Grace

IMG_1063                      Our entire Satsuma harvest – but the tree is very small.
                                 
 As we move toward the end of November, our garden is a reminder of things that can be counted on: Gulf Coast Muhly fronds mound up like pink froth.   Satsumas are ready for harvest, Meyer lemons are hanging ready on the tree, the last of our okra and tender herbs fade as the first frost comes. Marigolds, chrysanthemums and calendula bloom gold and copper. Thanksgiving is less than a week away.  We will gather friends and family and favorite foods at full tables.

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Marigolds

I am remembering childhood meals around my Terrell grandparent’s table in Smith County, Texas. There were hearty breakfasts with farm fresh eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy,  dinners (at lunchtime) that often included  peas and tomatoes from their garden and an iron skillet of cornbread cut into wedges.There were suppers, often the same food reheated or a bowl of soup, and Sunday dinners after church. There were holiday meals at Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas where the table and kitchen were both filled with chicken and dressing or a ham, plus those garden fresh vegetables which had been put up into canning jars. To follow, there would be an assortment of sweets – cookies, sweet potato, pecan, and mince pies, and often a pound cake. The food and occasion might vary, but there was always the same beginning: This, too, was something I could count on.  Papa Terrell would say grace. Today we may say a blessing or give thanks, but he always said grace.  The words were always the same, and rattled off so quickly I could never understand them.  But his posture spoke to my heart with no need for words.  Over 70 years later, now I see him clearly in my mind:  gray head bent forward and bowed in humility.

“We offer grace at table as a form of waiting with confidence…reciting such a prayer is sometimes referred to as a way of preparing to receive all that has been granted to us. We offer grace in amazement that even the good things we have rejected are being offered again. And then we eat, and the food meets an earthly need of our souls, and we are made whole.” – Cynthia Rigby, W.C. Brown Professor of Theology, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary*

For me, the calendar days designated to Thanksgiving are a wonderful approach to  beginning of Advent exactly because of this waiting with confidence…preparing to receive all that has been granted to us. Our family will gather once again around the old oak table, the very same one that Grandma loaded with food and where Papa said grace.

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Pink Gulf Coast Muhly, a coastal grass

*as quoted by Wayne Slater in DallasNews, a Texas Faith Blog

Story Telling

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gray and grateful, I am

glad to be grandmother

holding this child who continues my story

she sleeps in my arms

as if melted and poured out,

I am melted and poured out too

 

Nothing in my life prepared me for how being a grandmother would change me.  I should have suspected, remembering the molding and mentoring of my own grandmother and seeing the love and tenderness my mother gave with abandon to my sons when she became a grandmother.  Our first granddaughter came to us when she was three, when our oldest son brought her and her mother to meet us for the first time. I enjoyed fussing over her, and when my son married the two of them, was tickled when she began calling me my Grandmother name, Granmary, instead of Mary Ann. I jumped into being a grandmother without a second thought,love, tea parties and all.  And when her sister Skye was born.12 years ago, I was ready and waiting to be crazy about this baby,  cherished from the moment of the announcement of her conception. I kept a journal during the time we waited for her birth, a practice which I continued 9 years ago with Madelyn, 6 years ago with Jordann, and this year with Nora! This is something I now realize helped me tell family story to them and to welcome them into that story. As they grow and interact with me, I have many exciting opportunities to add to our together stories!

Every grandchild that is born is another leap of heart and soul for me, each one unique.  I am changed forever in my love for them and my joy in them.  And I am increasingly aware of the importance of our story and the need to tell it.  It is another Mary Oliver moment: “Pay attention, be astonished, and tell about it.”

“My story is important not because it is mine, God knows, but because if I tell it anything like right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is also yours.

Maybe nothing is more important than that we keep track, you and I, of these stories of who we are and where we have come from and the people we have met along the way because it is precisely through these stories in all their particularity, as I have long believed and often said, that God makes himself known to each of us most powerfully and personally.

If this is true, it means that to lose track of our stories is to be profoundly impoverished not only humanly but also spiritually. The God of biblical faith is a God who started history going in the first place. He is also a God who moment by moment, day by day continues to act in history always, which means both the history that gets written down in the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle and at the same time my history and your history, which for the most don’t get written down anywhere except in the few lines that may be allotted to us some day on the obituary page.

The Exodus, the Covenant, the entry into the Promised Land—such mighty acts of God as these appear in Scripture, but no less mighty are the acts of God as they appear in our own lives.”    Frederick Buechner

 

Clinging

hear November whisper and sing

rain drops and ball moss cling

morning light holds onto night

a few brown leaves hang on tight

I linger like these  and pray

reluctant to busy my day

yet still, yet silent

clinging

 

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A Different Way of Seeing

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Underneath a caladium leaf in morning light

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Standing in front of the same caladium leaf in the same light.

 

“What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.”

C.S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew

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The pot of caladiums on my front porch continues to multiply and thrive in our cool mornings and sunny afternoons. Every time I come in that door I pause to to appreciate the soft colors and hint of scarlet at the center and edge of the leaves. They are pretty. But this morning when I opened the front door to go outside, I looked from a different place and what I saw took my breath away. Veined and shaded, the leaf’s translucency drew me closer. Morning light streamed through emerald tissue and glowed like stained glass.  In this moment,, in just this angle of sunlight, there was beauty I would have missed if had hurried by.  I believe we have countless opportunities like this to see with the eyes of our heart. I am grateful for this one.

 

Autumn in An Unexpected Place

 

 

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I might have been sitting on an agreeable rock or  lying under a Chinese Tallow tree, one of our few Texas Gulf Coast trees that can be counted on to scatter scarlet and gold leaves in the Fall.

I might have traveled a few hundred miles north to woods that were a childhood delight for me when the leaves turned.

But I only traveled to the Medical Center. I only lay on a hard, narrow table under a computerized tomography scanner that rotated around my body, assessing my lungs – a painless procedure that is a tool for detecting and identifying problems in my body. I have done this many times before because I have nodules in my lungs that need to be monitored plus some respiratory difficulties. But when I looked up from my narrow perch, this time I saw this illuminated image. And it took my breath away – in a good way. It made me smile, and I thanked the technician for this gift.

I thank God for the natural beauty which someone photographed. It takes little imagination to shut out all the antiseptic environment in that room and be transported to “light pouring down into the woods and breaking into the shapes and tones of things.”

,

Directions (excerpt)

The best time is late afternoon
when the sun strobes through
the columns of trees as you are hiking up,
and when you find an agreeable rock
to sit on, you will be able to see
the light pouring down into the woods
and breaking into the shapes and tones
of things and you will hear nothing
but a sprig of birdsong or the leafy
falling of a cone or nut through the trees,
and if this is your day you might even
spot a hare or feel the wing-beats of geese
driving overhead toward some destination.

But it is hard to speak of these things
how the voices of light enter the body
and begin to recite their stories
how the earth holds us painfully against
its breast made of humus and brambles
how we who will soon be gone regard
the entities that continue to return
greener than ever, spring water flowing
through a meadow and the shadows of clouds
passing over the hills and the ground
where we stand in the tremble of thought
taking the vast outside into ourselves.

—Billy Collins, The Art of Drowning

October

Listen! the wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves,
We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves!  ~Humbert Wolf

October evenings in our part of Southeast Texas don’t get cooler and then cold. We are as likely to have echoes of summer heat as to welcome sweater weather. But that does not mean Fall has not arrived.  We may not have trees blazing with orange and red and gold, but we do have autumnal flags.

 

a scattering of scarlet crepe myrtle leaves

a skittering of breeze stirred grasses

and pumpkins on my porch