Lent 2011

It is time.
Lent will be here soon and I feel a strong calling this year.  I always enjoy the Lenten season mostly because it ends in spring.  Spring, not only in the season, but in my soul.  It is a new beginning. 
Throughout my childhood, and many years later, I tried giving something up for Lent.  I clearly remember Valentine’s Day parties at my Catholic grade school when Lent arrived early.  We still gave each other our cards, but partaking in the pleasure of those conversation hearts had to wait until Easter morning.  I remember eating fish sticks or tuna casserole every Friday because we couldn’t eat “meat.”  It wasn’t until I was an adult that I wondered if fish isn’t “meat,” what is it?  It certainly isn’t a vegetable. 
Even as an adult, if I could complete the six-week task of prohibition, I never felt a true change in myself.  I always went back to the temptation without real appreciation.  Then came the movement in the Church that instead of deprivation during Lent, we were to do something to make a difference in the world.  In the sacrifice of doing a good deed, one would find a change of heart or a peace or an understanding not known before.  That didn’t work either.
So here I am closing out my fifty-fourth year on this planet and I still do not grasp the idea of sacrifice nor have I experienced the real meaning of Lent.  What I should say is that I understand it intellectually, but I haven’t allowed it to transform my life.
This morning as I was sitting in church with my Dad waiting for Mass to begin, I read the three passages from the Mass to familiarize myself with the day’s message.  The gospel couldn’t have been more appropriate for my Lenten quest.  Below is the passage from Matthew 6:24-34 from my favorite bible translation – The New Jerusalem Bible.  Coincidentally, this is also the reading we chose for our wedding Mass thirty-two years ago.
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘No one can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.
  ‘That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and how you are to clothe it. Surely life means more than food, and the body more than clothing! Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap or gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are we not worth much more than they are? Can any of you, for all his worrying, add one single cubit to his span of life? And why worry about clothing? Think of the flowers growing in the fields; they never have to work or spin; yet I assure you that not even Solomon in all his regalia was robed like one of these. Now if that is how God clothes the grass in the field which is there today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, will he not much more look after you, you men of little faith? So do not worry; do not say, “What are we to eat? What are we to drink? How are we to be clothed?” It is the pagans who set their hearts on all these things. Your heavenly Father knows you need them all. Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on his righteousness, and all these other things will be given you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.’
So here is where my Lenten journey begins.  In the past I always tried to do too much or too little.  This will be a year of reflection and simplicity for me.  I want to be prepared for Ash Wednesday, so I will begin with planning.   I want to be ready to make the commitment to use these weeks of Lent for change and understanding.   I want to open my heart to the beauty that He has blessed me with.  I want to share His gifts to me.   I want to be present in every moment without overwhelming myself with worry of the future or guilt of the past.  Here is the path I will take.
I will write.  I will make the commitment to write everyday as I did with the Reverb10 project in December.  I enjoy having a prompt to give me that nudge into writing.  
During this week of planning I hope to gather words or phrases to guide me through this season of writing.   It may be from scripture or nature or a word heard in passing.  I plan to ask friends to help with this list.  I will also figure out what I need to do with my physical world and  make it ready and inviting for me to accomplish my reflection without excuse.
I have so much.   As a matter of fact, I have too much.  Therefore my time is taken not only with the care of these things, but the overwhelming guilt of not being able to give the appropriate amount of time to care for everything I have.  I spend my days either rushing to complete my tasks or falling into the black hole of guilt and not being able to do any of it because I am so overwhelmed.
This Lent I will begin the deliberate process of simplifying my life.  I am going to attempt to let go of possessions that take my time or those that I don’t give the appropriate consideration to.  Daily I will chose items to release from my life.  If they are precious, I will honor them in some way before they are liberated.  If they are extra minutia floating in my space, I will be sure to open the window and let the live elsewhere.
This is where I begin.

Valentine’s Day, 2011

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Hearts are breaking, stopping,
not moving any more.
The saint of this spate must be playing a trick.
She was a grandmother,
too young to leave grandchildren so far behind.
He was my age, almost,
a silent sleep in the sky above.
She could have been my mom,
but mine is gone too,
what seems too long ago.
He was eleven.
Can heaven really be ready for him?
This saint of loving hearts
lost his head for the one he loved,
a jailer, with bars, but a heart wide open.
This day we pay tribute, not knowing the real story,
with hearts and flowers,
kisses and smiles.
But hearts are broken this eve,
not to be mended with a simple bow,
stitched with a pointed arrow dipped in sentiment.
In remembrance of those hearts stopped,
those hearts left broken,
and not the cherubed saint,
I look to the sky.
Because I was told, by a wise and wondrous
woman whose grandmother
laid herself down on the grass
in the heat of a summer night
and grasped her granddaughter’s hand;
a grandmother, mother, from Russia, a babushka,
told her grandchild to look at the stars
for they are only windows to heaven.
The babushka, the mother, the grandmother from Russia,
she promised to look down upon the earth,
to smile at the ones left behind,
to see their joys and pray for their sorrows,
knowing that one day
they will lay together again,
on their bellies, 
in heaven,
holding hands,
and smiling down upon us.
Author’s Note:
Today we lost a child in our school.  This poem is dedicated to Heather who recently lost her grandmother; Jim who fell asleep on a plane; Linda whose mom said goodbye; Sheila and Lita as Milt is now resting; Matthew who was eleven; and Patricia P. who tells amazing stories to help us understand.

Seneca Ruiz

         Seneca Ruiz walked dogs, but he looked like a nuthatch. His nose was pointed and he always carried a bag of peanuts, or cashews on special days, in his pocket so he could nibble as he hopped from sidewalk to stair or across busy lanes dodging cars as his dogs yipped and pulled.  His eyebrows stretched across his visage with his head solidly joined to his short neck.  He was small, not just short or thin, but small.  When he went to the dry cleaners to take in his white serge suit, he was sure to wear his perfectly fitted Panama so it would poke up just above the counter acknowledging his presence to Mr. Lee. 
          Seneca was lucky that his stubby legs ended in a pair of large feet.  At least they were large in comparison to his overall size.  It made buying shoes easier, especially since he had a liking for Gucci that he proudly acquired only on sale at Saks during their Winter Blast.  Big feet also gave Seneca a sense of safety as he clicked down the streets in the late evening after a lovely dinner of pasta, Shiraz and tiramisu at Gabriel’s.  However, no one would ever think of messing around with Seneca Ruiz.  He was small in stature but robust with charisma.  Most thought he was just plain nuts and ignored him.
Author’s note: This short piece came from our writing prompt at Wednesday Afternoon Writers. I like Seneca and want to see more of him. Stay tuned.