Love ripens in the strangest gardens. Ann and Adoniram Judson lived in Burma (Myanmar). When there was war between England and Burma, the Burmese imprisoned Adoniram because they assumed he was British (which he wasn’t).
Unlike her husband, Ann had learned the language of their adopted country. Her repeated appeals to the government to spare Adoniram’s life eventually led to his release. In the meantime, she brought food and clothing daily and wisely hid her husband’s papers in the pillow in his cell so his work would not be destroyed.
Cicero believed we should measure affection by its strength and constancy. On a scale of 1 to 10, Ann and Adoniram scored A+.
Haydn’s “Lord Nelson Mass” is a brilliant, thrilling work. But recently I learned it has nothing to do with Lord Nelson! There are several coincidences connecting the Mass to Lord Nelson: the crushing of Napoleon’s navy in the Battle of the Nile on August 1, 1798, or the Admiral’s presence at a performance of the Mass in Haydn’s hometown in 1800, or the destruction of the Danish fleet in 1801, or Trafalgar and the securing of hegemony over the seas by the British fleet in 1805. Church choirs sing this brilliant Mass with a warrior’s name attached to it, but it’s not a celebration of the violence Lord Nelson left in his wake. In fact, Haydn originally called it “Missa in angustiis” (Mass in time of tribulation).
If Haydn were here today, I believe he would agree with something Tevya says in Fiddler on the Roof: “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, makes for a blind and toothless world.” Resistance and vengeance, violence and retaliation are unnecessary if we work together to weave justice into the fabric of everyday life. In James Crawford’s words: “If we will ground our relationships in mutuality and solidarity, friendship and hope,” society will make a U-turn and thrive with peace.
Theologian Robert McAfee Brown has said, “I believe we are placed here to be companions—a wonderful word that comes from cum panis (“with bread”). We are here to share bread with one another so that everyone has enough. The sharing begins in our homes and ripples out to all of society.
Another writer, a woman named Abbie Graham, explained it like this:
(Love) lives not, I think, in bread and wine, but in the breaking of bread and in the sharing of wine. Bread unbroken does not fortify the heart, but bread divided among all who hunger will sustain the spirit.
Companionship is excellent bread for the world. May we all find fresh ways of living and loving together, while growing in freedom and love for others.
Norman Vincent Peale was once asked to give a message to America and he gave it in six words: “Expect a miracle. Make it happen.” These six words strike a balance between expecting and doing.
Lowell M. Atkinson then asked, “And what gets in the way?” Atkinson believed our negative thoughts, our worries and anxieties and depressions, and our fears often keep many thousands of miracles from happening. This negative thinking blankets our eyes and makes it so we can’t see anything good.
Someone asked a positive thinker, “Don’t you ever entertain negative thoughts?” and she said, “I have negative thoughts; they come to me — but I don’t entertain them. I don’t welcome them. I don’t hold on to them; I don’t nurture them.” If instead of nurturing our negative thoughts we reversed them, we would surely begin making good things happen.
The truth is negative thinking is toxic. It can blind us to wonderful possibilities we might enjoy if we worked to help them along.
In Nevada Barr’s novel, A Superior Death, Ms. Barr describes a tender encounter between the principal character, Anna Pigeon, and a diver named Hawk.
“I’m sleeping on the Belle tonight,” she said. “Can I offer you a nightcap?”
“Only if the night comes with it.”
They walked together, not touching, to the boat. Anna latched the cabin door behind them… Hawk sat on the blue-vinyl-covered bench and watched without speaking as Anna cranked open the hatch, letting in the soft night air, the light of the stars. He watched while she put two cassettes in her well-used player and punched play on one side and pause/play on the other. As Cher’s voice sang, “It’s in his kiss,” he smiled.
“Be gentle with me,” he said and Anna laughed.
“Your first time?”
“Might as well be.”
“Orphans in the storm.” She sat beside him and he took her face in his hands, smoothed her hair back with callused fingers.
“If anything was new to Anna, it was the sadness. As they made love, sweetly, gently, she felt Hawk’s tears falling on her neck and breast. She found herself crying too, without knowing why. In sympathy, she realized, but whether for Hawk or herself she couldn’t tell.”
Excerpt from A Superior Death by Nevada Barr
A tender encounter, for sure. And the tears, the tears falling on Anna’s neck and breast. A mix of Hawk’s from not being able to be with someone he loved more than Anna and of Anna’s from missing a husband who died much too soon.
We make lots of concessions on our way through life, especially in honor of love. The more painful ones come to tears. But love is not a feeling. It is being for the other person. “To love is to be for another and to act for another, even at a cost to oneself” (Charlene Payne Kammerer). In the freedom we give ourselves for loving, the loving may require a payment in a currency of tears.
Summer, a magical time when the shadows are short and the days are long. A time to abandon shoes and run through lush grasses like a child. Stop to pick wild flowers along the way to nowhere. Run in circles and roam aimlessly beneath blue skies, releasing worries to the wind. Get lost. Find your way. Get lost again. Let the day take you where it will.
Go deep within the Milky Way at night. Dream until the sun comes up. Rise at will and do it all over again.
There are lovers who are lonely, beds full of dreamless bodies that toss and turn on each other, crying themselves into darkness, darkness taking over the moonlight, the sunlight falling way to rain.
Their thoughts are dappled with ambivalence, bleeding hearts rimmed with emptiness, spilling everything that was into the nothingness of now, for they gave and lost themselves, and lost and gave and lost again.
No longer shining like the sea nor raging like rivers, they drift into the doldrums, the place where half souls dwell without their mates, existing as ghosts in the flesh.
Longing for the movement of bodies of water, longing for completion of souls, longing to go back, longing to take back, longing, longing, longing to hear the wind whisper I’ve got you and I’ll carry you home.
Frida Kahlo once wrote to Diego Rivera: “Nothing compares to your hands, nothing like the green-gold of your eyes. My body is filled with you for days and days. You are the mirror of the night. The violent flash of lightning. The dampness of the earth. The hollow of your armpits is my shelter. My fingers touch your blood. All my joy is to feel life spring from your flower-fountain that mine keeps to fill all the paths of my nerves which are yours.”
Today this exquisite expression of love might be paraphrased as:
Nothing compares to your hands, to be healed by their touch. My soul is forever imprinted with the burn of your gaze from the moment we met. You are the light that outshines all darkness. The warm and glowing rays of the sun. The romantic and mystical beams of the moon. Our orchestrated union is rejoiced in the heavens. All that I am, all that I was created to be, is made better by you. I am completed by your existence, made whole by your presence.
When Nature gives a gorgeous rose, Or yields the simplest fern, She writes this motto on the leaves— To whom it may concern!” And so it is the poet comes And revels in her bowers, And, though another hold the land, Is owner of the flowers.
John Godfrey Saxe
To whom it may concern, and darling, this concerns you. Today I write of the Athyrium filix-femina, better known as the lady fern. Hers is a quiet beauty. Unlike a rose, she does not dazzle with showy and sweet smelling blossoms, nor does she need to. She’s been around for 60 million years — she knows what she’s doing. Her hardiness defies her fragile looks and delicate nature. Give her a damp, shady environment and she will grow in abundance. The lady fern is native to northern regions of North America, Europe and Asia. This lovely lady is well travelled.
It’s easy to see the beauty in a gorgeous rose. The everyday beauty you bring into my life allows me to see beyond the obvious. More and more, I am drawn to the simplest fern. Everywhere I look is a memory of you, of us, and a dream of our future. So let’s settle in and embrace what is simple and enduring. When we find the grace and elegance in everyday life, we are bound to thrive.
To the countless moms and dads and teachers and mentors and health care workers and professional and unprofessional caregivers who offer their love, attention, and guidance to children everywhere, we thank you!
The Virginia-born musician, Swamp Dogg, has just released a new album called “Sorry You Couldn’t Make It.” John Prine joins him on two songs, and in one them they ask life to let them go ‘round again. “Oh life, won’t you afford us another chance? Everything we put our hands on, we blew it. Women, jobs, money, friends, and we knew it. Acting crazy and talking dumb all the time.” I can’t sing a note but I’ve hummed that refrain before. Life, please afford me another chance.
The other morning I noticed a flower spreading its petals toward the sun. It seemed to me to be lifting its arms toward the heavens instinctively embracing the day with no worries about getting to go ‘round again. I guessed it was filled with a heaping-helping of gratitude for whatever the day would provide. Not a wasteful use of one’s time and energy.