Sunday, October 26, 2008

Miles Davis, me, the poetry of hardwood, and pea gravel

This past Sunday, I felt a poetry storm start to brew. It is the time of year when verses waft and rise; the words are steam floating; they evaporate on memory's breeze. So it's best to pay attention; it's best to write often, so the elusive words can be captured.

Miles Davis, the great jazz composer, disclosed a secret to the art of his jazz making: he would sit transfixed in a gymnasium during a basketball contest, perhaps during a New York Knicks game, close his eyes, and listen to the syncopated rhythm of rubber soled shoes as they squeaked and yowled on the hardwood. The marriage of synthetic soles, the certitude of wood, and the collision of leather with flesh and pine evoked a rift on the trumpet, he would convert the observations, auditory and visual to composition. Horns shriek and yawn; rhymes and crazy metres all borne from the aesthetic of basketball-amazing.

Last Sunday, as I left a baby shower, I marched on a thick carpet of a pea gravel; vowels and consonants showered my consciousness.....when my feet crunched into the gravel, my brain's filing cabinet sifted through years of data- there is a song of the pea gravel from the driveway of the home where I grew up. I could hear the thousands of steps I'd taken across the pepper brown path; running to get the newspaper on a foggy morning; the comforting crunch of the rocks under the weight of an automobile as it pulled in the drive. I was immediately thrust into the past, a song might not yet have formed, but the inspiration has arrived. My feet, their heaviness, and the pea gravel are the sneaker shod feet of Madison Square Garden and the roundball that woke Davis' soul.

Who knows what may come of the sound of pea gravel? Are there sounds that evoke poems and speeches in you? I would love to hear about them.

In Praise of Farms

Yesterday, I took my niece and nephew to the Gentry farm, in Franklin Tennessee, to fetch a pumpkin or two, (we bought four) walk the corn maze, and take a hay ride. The farm, in America, is a vanishing way of life. The Gentry family knows this all too well, as on every side of them, development encroaches. This is not an anti-development post, but, as the title suggests, a doxology to the farm.

If you've got food on your table, (which if you are able to read this post on a computer, you do) thank a farmer. Thank generations of them.

The man who drove the tractor that pulled a yuppie crowd of suburbanites through the Gentry property gave us some facts about farm life that were all but lost on the consumerists we all know ourselves to be. The Gentrys know it too- we paid $6.00 to get in the farm to wander, to play to buy. He told us all the homes on the property were built from material harvested from the land itself except for the glass in the windows. How many of us can say the land on which we live sustains our existence? Does the phrase Got milk indicate to you that it probably meant something entirely different to farmers just fifty years ago?

We had a great time, my niece, nephew and me. As we drove off the property, over the flattened grass, and onto the highway, we passed a sign erected for this, and all seasons; it read: Praise God from whom all blessings flow. It resounds and makes me thankful there are farmers who know to whom their praise is due.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Zippy in Canaan

Here she is, planted, no longer adrift-
once a Wandering Jew, who
walked parched through
forty years of desert;
Here she is, grounded, no longer adrift.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Zippy and Me

Wherefore I desire that you faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. For this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ...That Christ may dwell in your your hearts by faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth and height, and to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that you might be filled with all the fullness of God. - Ephesians 3:13-19

I'll take a new picture soon, but for now, let these words suffice: she has been rescued from the flowing Jordan, the angry Red Sea, the river Jabbok, and is now rooted and grounded in good soil. I put her in an honest to God planter, so her roots can truly thrive and not simply sway and swim. She's in Canaan now, in the land of the living. She and I wait, groaning for the new earth, for eternal life.

In deference to her past, the old photo of her in the water will be tough to beat. What does that say about the nature of our pasts? How does our gardener use those seasons of trial and wandering to transform us into the men and women he created us to be?

In the watery interim, (since my last Zippy post) Zippy's roots began to gather an algae-like covering. As I had at first, I ignored her well-being and merely hoped with scant hope her condition would change. Finally, I wished she would die so I would not have to see her suffering- so I would not have to change.

In the plant world, Zippy is a type of Joseph; her distant cousin Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. He endured excruciating hardship and trial at the hands of his captors to one day rule and reign in Egypt. That very path eventually led him back to his brothers, the same brothers who betrayed him. Joseph had the good grace to tell them what they, his own flesh and blood meant for ill, God used for his good. Joseph, like Zippy, was transplanted, and reformed into the man God called him to be. The attempted murder his brothers conspired to commit set in motion events that only God could redeem.

In the human world, I am mother Eve, succumbing to the temptation to be like God by ignoring God's injunction to obey; I am the brothers of Joseph scheming and self-absorbed; I am David willing to kill for pleasure; and I am Peter, petulant, argumentative; To my self, think me not too cruel. Who else are my fore bearers? Who are yours? The poor helpless drifting plant relied on me to care for her; my inaction coupled with overt desire to see her demise so I would not have to die to self, amounts to a heap of debt and wrong which I cannot right in myself or in Zippy.

Like Zippy, I need a rescue and a rescuer. Just as God saved Eve by covering her as he cast her from the garden, he saved Judah and his conniving brothers through Joseph's mercy; he saved David from his murderous lusts and created in him a new heart; in kind, he rescued Peter from his impetuousness and built the very Church he came to die for on Peter, the rock.

Zippy's a botanical icon, because the God of heaven quickened in me a call to do right by her. Planting her in soil does not, in itself, amount to righteousness; it, the act of planting, is instead a response to the righteousness of God wrought [ in me ] by and through Jesus the redeemer gardener.
As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk you in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding with thanksgiving. -Colossians 2:6-7

So it is we are thankful- Zippy and me-for more than we can say. To God be the glory.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Belated Rant

In the current political campaign for the office of the President of the United States, whatever your leanings, this much is true- it's getting dicey. Stuff is flying. Fact checkers are losing sleep. Junkies of information have had their fill, but still want more. I've got nothing to offer that I have not said already. Know your candidate. Research their record. Lastly, insist they stand for truth. I don't care what the naysayers and the cynic who lives in your (and my ) heart say about you 've got your truth and I've got mine. There is a bottom line. Truth does matter. There's no wiggling around it.

Which reminds me of a bumper sticker that really hacked me off a few years ago. It still makes me furious. It said: "Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty." This declarative statement caves in on itself. To practice is a volitional act, one, which if practiced randomly would end in senselessness, but be void of beauty. Kindness and beauty are deserving of more than the hi-jacked adjectives on this bumper sticker.

There. Rant ended.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Have had a chest cold for about a week now. I'm ready, no, past ready for it to be gone. Breathing as I ought, without coughing every two or three minutes is far preferable to the current state of being. Some things have come to mind as I cough and grumble:

My demand not to be suffering in the body. Period. I'm tired of navigating life as one who is physically challenged. As soon as those pixels form on the page, I am chastened to recall what gifts I have; not just in the abilities I retain, but the gift of impaired ability, the gift of suffering.

I went to the memorial service yesterday of a dear cousin whose body succumbed to cancer. The ravaging malignant tumors gradually took her life at least in part. But her true life is now complete, she enjoys the fullness for which she was made and is raucously celebrating with her siblings, family and friends as she worships her king.

Yesterday's service also prompted the memory of another death. Keith Searcy. He was the young adult son of a co-worker. Before I became aware of the work connection, I knew Keith from Easter Seal camp. Keith was, like me, deprived of oxygen at birth. Unlike me, cerebral palsy severely limited his mobility; but not his verve. He was a talker, an irreverent schemer and pranking young man when I met him nearly thirty years ago. He did walk, but he swaggered awkwardly, throwing himself from side to side-cerebral palsy had caused a rigor mortis like stiffness in his limbs. His hands and arms were affected too, as well as his speech. Keith was not handsome, nor someone to whom most would be drawn. He was, at times, loud, over-bearing and attention seeking. But he had this intense gusto for life even in the throes of severe disability. At summer camp, I found myself interacting with him often; his life had great impact on mine, yet it was his death that changed me for eternity. On the day before his burial, I went with some co-workers to be of comfort to his mother, our friend. I'd seen Keith every now and then since Easter Seal camp, but I was not prepared for what I saw as he lay in the open casket. His body, once fraught with tension, was now at rest. No sign of the constant fury evident in his living body remained. I stood with his mother beside the coffin, and held her hand. We never uttered a word. What was so plain to me must have been exponentially true for her. We were not looking at Keith, but a mere tent that had, for a time, housed his essence. Keith, like my cousin, laughed last because of Jesus' triumph over death.

Those are my ruminations as result of this blasted cough. St. Paul penned some letters on the topic of suffering. I encourage you to read 2 Corinthians 4: 7-18; 2 Corinthians 5: 1-4 and Romans 8:18-25.

Blessings on your day.