Wednesday, December 27, 2017

THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS RUNS THROUGH PAWTUCKET? WHO KNEW?

Does my Road to Damascus Runs Through Pawtucket??


For the past  couple of years I have been struggling with two seeming contradictory situations: 
1. I have been beset with health and physical mobility problems that made  me able to do less and  less
2.I have become convinced that the  most necessary task of the  rest of my  life is to discover how I  can best respond to God's love and how I can  show forth  my own increasing awareness of the divinity that is with in me and every human being.
 
So that with diminished  physical powers  I am trying to find a way to explore and  expand my God-given spiritual powers. This paradox is a hard one to explain and also  seems to me to demand some kind of  dedication and devotion. I am  especially moved by how many times Jesus gives his newly chosen apostles just one simple direction :FOLLOW ME.  I don't see what the path of my following would  be. I do see clearly that for Jesus it was a path that lead him to Golgotha and I have seen the increase of my own suffering but it  is not comparable to that of the Savior.

I am uneasy even expressing these ideas.  When I feel a little better I start imagining myself undertaking and completing some pilgrimage or taking up some form of active  work of mercy--visiting the imprisoned,  helping the homeless. But I am unable to do much  except send  limited charitable  donations to  support the good works of others.

So what can I do? What is the path that I am to seek out and follow when I can barely walk at  all?  I am reminded of Milton's poignant question in the sonnet on his  blindness 
"Does  God exact day-labor light denied?"
Here is the entire sonnet:

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg'd with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
"Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?"
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o'er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait." 
The poet  finds an answer to his question and expresses it in the final six lines:

 "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o'er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait." 
What are the implications of  that answer that Patience gives in the poem for my  life and my limits? So God  does not need me to do anything?  I need to adjust my attitude  to bear  my mild  yoke.  That is literally the rub for me.
That means that what is right before me--the daily  inconvenient, pain ridden, boring  routine of rising and  trying to maintain this household that consists of a  person-me- who can do very little, and a person --my husband-- with dementia and memory loss who can do many things but no longer remembers? 
Is that the meal the Lord has set before me and that the poet George Herbert tells us is a LOVE FEAST?
286. Love
  
LOVE bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back, 
      Guilty of dust and sin. 
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack 
      From my first entrance in, 
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning         5
      If I lack'd anything. 
 
'A guest,' I answer'd, 'worthy to be here:' 
     Love said, 'You shall be he.' 
'I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear, 
      I cannot look on Thee.'  10
Love took my hand and smiling did reply, 
      'Who made the eyes but I?' 
 
'Truth, Lord; but I have marr'd them: let my shame 
      Go where it doth deserve.' 
'And know you not,' says Love, 'Who bore the blame?'  15
      'My dear, then I will serve.' 
'You must sit down,' says Love, 'and taste my meat.' 
      So I did sit and eat.


Where do I go from here?


Thursday, December 21, 2017

Pawtucket's Assets

I broke off abruptly to return to the Packers game and the return of Aaron Rodgers.  Sadly, that didn't go so well, The Packers lost and Cam  did a better job than Aaron who seemed to be still recovering.  Since I am still recovering, I  think I understand Rodgers  thinking he was ready to go back when he was not.  He is back on IR injured reserve list and I  hope he is back with all his usual laughter and  energy next year,  
The debate goes on about  where  the Pawsox will go and how  a new stadium will be  financed. I listed the loss of the Pawsox as one of the blows that Pawtucket  has suffered recently.  Probably the changes in the Memorial Hospital are  things that will make  the most impact on the well-being of the residents of Pawtucket and Central Falls.  What is left to us?  So much history has happened here  in this small but important city  straddling the banks of the Blackstone.
The river and the falls provide a  wonderful scenic setting, and it was when I first  visited San Antonio that I became  aware of how  vibrant and successful a RIVERWALK can be.   If the Apex site is selected for a new  stadium, I hope it unleashes a new sense of  what is possible to create along the banks of the Blackstone from City Hall  to  RIVERSIDE Cemetery and the Lebanon  Mills on the  east side of the river. That would be a great re-imagining of a major asset that we  can never lose. We need to  research and
make  better known the  history of this  city. We have a proud  colonial history as  starting point for Foundry and metal work  under the leadership of Joseph Jenks and  the first mill  to manufacture cloth under the  direction of Samuel Slater.  However, Pawtucket has also had an illustrious  history of labor organizing and  working class struggles.  This history  needs to  be recalled and celebrated.
One of the most  illustrious  assets we hold is celebrated in poetry, oratory and song internationally.
What am I talking about??  Pawtucket's greatest jewel??
 Pawtucket holds a FENIAN GRAVE.   

Sunday, December 17, 2017

A GIFT FROM MY FATHER

 INADVERTENT ADVENT WREATH IN PAWTUCKET


Why don't you think of him as the one who is coming, who has been
approaching from all eternity, the one who will someday arrive, the
ultimate fruit of a tree whose leaves we are? RILKE
I.
Today I went outside to feed
the birds and found myself pulling
the vines down from trees, wound them round
in a giant circle.,
Weaving rosehips, dried berries
of honeysuckles to make what
I surprised myself by seeing
was a wreath.
I placed it on the wall


II.
of the garage and tied into
it treats for birds and squirrels.
I had not known when I went outside
what I was going to do there.
Only the sense that they have long
ago been discarded stops me
from looking for old strings of lights,
glass balls and a tin angel.
Tonight, a cold December night,




III.
I sit and tick off all the mess
I spare myself: no tree, no creche,
no Advent candle.
I try to recall a single Christmas hour
that was special. For a long time
I draw blanks; then like timid guests
they peek around corners of my mind.
Half memories blurred by years
and tears that I am not sure how


IV.
much I remember and how much
I only hope was true and how
much I cannot bear to recall.
Gifts that brought me delight conjures
only skates, a doll and dollhouse
--nothing more ? Wait --one time a cross
on a gold chain--another time
a simple string of pearls.
I want to believe that they were from you,


V.
but since you left when I was nine
I doubt—but wait --one Christmas
morning: I walk into your room
to ask if we can see what Santa left.
Your hand reaches under the pillow
for a small green velvet box
-- gold cross and chain--I still wear--
so this must be true.
Tonight the only joys I bring to mind


VI.
smeared by your defection: your vice--
the doll house you shoplifted;
the trike we later learned you stole;
the tree you won in a card game.
But, once, yes, once I sang solo
at Midnight Mass and you came there.
Adeste Fidelis --among the faithful ones
from the choir, I saw you stand in the side door,
faithless, no longer singing, still longing to adore.

Waiting for more than Aaron's Return or Tom's Triumph in Advent

I am writing this blog post while waiting for the start of the Pacers  game and then on to the Patriots against the Steelers,  I have finished all my Xmas shopping--all on line and sometimes augmented by a telephone order.  This has been a season of recovery and recuperation and  several  financial scares.
But I was blessed with excellent physical therapists  who came twice a week to help me  regain my strength and mobility So it is heartening to me to see Aaron back in the Packers uniform.  His shoulder is healed and he is back in fighting form.  I do find consolation in watching the full recovery of  these super  athletes.  Always the fantasist ,  I  hope that I may return to a fighting form. Not  like Rodgers but like my  former self.

 But I am still waiting for that  full recovery to occur.  Instead I recover some of my function and form  but on a level that is always lower than what it was before.  Then I think that this is Advent--the season of  WAITING and LONGING and HOPING.

What are we waiting for in Pawtucket--for the Pawtucket Red Sox to get a new stadium in Pawtucket?

 For the Pawtucket Memorial Hospital to decide to stay open  and  return full services to the people of Pawtucket and Central Falls?

For the Gamm Theater  to give up the  idea of moving to Warwick and to  recognize that they  can work well with the space they have in the Armory in Pawtucket?

What I  have listed here are the three huge losses that have been  announced in the Bucket in the past few  months.

Just now Aaron Rodgers in the second possession of the game has kept  the  chances alive by  carrying and sliding to get the needed first down,  He takes what he can get--there's a lesson there. .
I need to take what   I can get in the Bucket.  

SOMETIMES WHEN I AM DRIVING AROUND  DOING  ERRANDS LOCALLY, ALL I CAN SEE IS WHAT IS NOT THERE.  That's for another blog of memory.

Today let me  count what  we still have  in the Bucket---
Slater Park-- with its wonderful baby geese and right now the  decorated Xmas trees to celebrate Family and to memorialize our beloved departed family members and friends.

 Well, the Packers just scored their first touchdown so I must give the game  my full attention and also make lunch here.


Remembering my Aunt Anna at Xmas time

Making those skeletons dance--Anna's Way

WHAT ANNA TAUGHT ME

Because my mother, Anna's older sister, Margaret was the constant reader, writer and thinker in our family I thought that she was my most active life teacher. After all in constant consultation with her brother Joe who was a Christian Brother and taught school all his life, she was always reading to me and taking me to libraries and encouraging me to prize my mind as she prized hers—they cannot take your education away, she often told me. My mother sort of knew that "they" would try to take anything else one had. gathered on life's precarious journey.

Anna, on the other hand, only read the newspaper and style and fashion magazines. Her favorite activities were Shopping, Bingo. Gambling and experimenting with make up and ironing new clothes. She was vain and gossipy and mocking and very funny. What did she have to teach me?

It turns out that she taught very valuable lessons in three areas—loyalty, vanity, and show business.
Let's face the music and dance.--That was her unspoken but constantly enacted performance.
Anna taught me the value of putting on a show. She taught me the heroism of cheerful, uncomplaining show boating.

Many days it would get very difficult to amuse my two sisters who had Down syndrome and were extremely active and restless. When my mother had exhausted all of her and my resources—play store with them, Norma, play hide and go seek. Read to them. She would pull out the last and unfailing stop--
Time to put on a show.

And depending on the time of year and what holiday season we were near we would begin practicing the Carols, or the love songs or the patriotic airs or Irish favorites. Then Margaret would take up her top hat and cane and I would act as Master of Ceremonies.

We would wait until Anna came home from her day job at the Corning Glass Works. And when she came through the door on the second floor on Englewood Avenue—she would see the costumes and the drum, and after a day inspecting glass from a hot furnace, she wold take her turn and do her set pieces—a sailor's hornpipe and a kind of modified can can. We would all join in the uproar and applause and bows--we had made it through another day.
 Years later when my mentor quoted Bernard Shaw's remark--”We all have skeletons in our closet, the trick is to make them dance,” I got it instantly-- wept and laughed copiously—that advice went straight to my heart—with Anna we certainly had made them dance.

Yes, Anna taught me the value of putting on a show. the heroism of cheerful, uncomplaining show boating.

Friday, December 15, 2017

GETTING CREATIVE IN THE BUCKET


I have never agreed with people who say that we cannot learn or teach the creative arts.  since I believe that creativity is  part of every human experience, I cannot  support the idea that there are only a few creative  souls. We all have  the creative spark--the fact is that  our society does much to dampen our creative enthusiasm .  Sometimes teachers are guilty of  discouraging  students by telling them that they have no talents. To borrow a phrase  that Pope Francis has used in another context--WHO AM I TO JUDGE.
We all have talents --the job of teachers is to help  those who  are in their  classes to discover their  talents and nurture them.  Self-expression is not meant only for the best--it is  for everyone.  Remember in the New Testament  the story of the talents--Jesus speaks most against the  person who buries his talent in a field--That is the  only wrong thing to do with talent--to bury it and not use what you have been given.  by God or by Nature or just your unique DNA expressing itself.  You pick your belief --but it all adds up to the fact that you are the keeper of your talents.  USE THEM UP..

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Recalling my last visit to my Uncle Irving


"If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness." Paul II Corinthians

I find that as the Xmas season approaches  the joy of awaiting the  birth of the Christ child is  mixed with recalling past  Xmas times and people  I loved who are no longer here.

I began thinking of the Mowry family, my paternal grandmother was a Mowry.  I suddenly  began recalling the last days of  one son of Ida Mowry Jenckes, my Uncle Irving Jenckes, my father's only brother.  Dying of cancer, he was being cared for at home and I went to visit him.  When he learned that I was downstairs waiting to see him, he asked that I be brought upstairs to his bedside.  When I saw him, he was sitting reading his Bible which he did daily.  He asked my Aunt Winnie, his wife, to leave us alone and  then he began reading aloud to me from St Paul's  Letter to the Corinthians--the great  teaching about love:
"If I should speak with the tongue of  man and angels but have not  love, I am as  tinkling brass or clanging cymbals."  He would pause and ask me what each line meant.  He was very intense and his gaze searched my face fiercely. When  he got to the lines that begin--"When I was a child"  and conclude "Now that I am a man I put away childish things."He came to a full stop.

"Explain this to me," he demanded. He asked, " what are the childish things?"
I remember that I thought--why he reads this Bible every day, he is a  staunch Baptist--he must know the answers.

Then I thought again --maybe he is aware that now  I have a PhD.  and  he is asking me as a scholar to  interpret the lines. Such a self-flattering thought to calm my nerves.
So I took up the old, worn Bible and read the passage aloud several times.  Then I treated it as if it were a problem  of literary criticism--some crux in  a sonnet by Shakespeare or a dense passage from Eliot's The Wasteland. I explained to Irving that the childish things could be the toys, the tantrums, the willful disobedience and defiance of youth.
I'll never forget how he looked at me and said simply,"No, try again." after I tried and he repeated that direction three times, I put the Bible down and said "OK I give up." 
And he asked me directly--  what childish things I had given up, discarded--and in the throes of my  prideful agnosticism I thought and I wanted to blurt out--
my rosaries, my scapulars, my novenas, my childish Faith--

I said nothing, just picked up the leather bound volume and resumed  reading. When I reached the  point about "seeing through a glass darkly," he stopped me again--"what is that glass and why darkly?"

Then I had another not so brilliant thought--oh, he is dying and he  is reading Corinthians for solace--. So I mustered up my Platonism and told him that the  fact that we have bodies and eyes of flesh permits us to see only material, earthly things, but when we die and our spirits are free of the constraints of the  physical  then we will know the  spiritual truth of everything.
Well--he said wearily--that's a start..  He dropped his head back on the pillow and closed those eyes. Almost on cue my Aunt Winnie came into the room to say that I should go down for tea with my cousins, Mary, Grace and Roberta. And I must admit I was glad to leave that room.

It has taken me many years to see that interview less darkly and to understand that  Irving was not asking me  questions for his sake, he was doing it for my sake. He was bearing witness, using his scarce energy to  raise  questions in my mind about  FAITH, HOPE and LOVE.
He was  acting like that  notorious HOUND OF HEAVEN,  acting on behalf of that GOOD SHEPHERD,  seeking that lost  sheep that was his niece and turning me towards eternity.

"Whoever brought me here will have to take me home,"  Rumi