Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The path of the fool

One of the reasons I chose the name "plain foolish" for this blog is that I've always had a special love for the "sacred fool" story - whether Nasruddin Hoca or the juggler of Notre Dame. I often feel like I am doing my clumsy best while seeing the world maybe a little sideways from what everyone else seems to see.

A very special moment in my recent trip involved meeting up with my sister in Phoenix before we travelled together to Hawaii, and seeing balloons poking out of her pack - twisting balloons, the kind you use to make animals. I know how to make them, too, and the two of us ended up doing a little bit of clowning together as we made origami (from the paper in my pack) and twisted balloons for a large family with many children. After we had all arrived in Hawaii, the parents told my sister that the children had played with their new toys for the entire trip. During the trip itself, I unfortunately was unable to cope with the pressure changes as we landed in Hawaii, and couldn't get to my medicine for migraine. A very kind woman seated near me handed me some over the counter remedy that did help, and I was astounded that the origami crane I made for her pleased her so much.

There are days I feel I should be doing more clowning around. I've been having a few of them lately, and tomorrow, I have an excuse. I'll be taking my origami and some balloons with me onto the bus, and I will be dressed in my brightest, tackiest dress, the one from the tie-dyed daisy fabric that my husband liked on the clearance shelf of the fabric store. With unmatched loud stripy socks, and a hat knit to look like a stuffed chicken, and some makeup from my time as a theatrical costume person. (The wierd thing is that it's only the fabric that I'm changing. I'm still wearing my cloth conservative cut and it works... Save for color, I'm still in my plain dress.)

I intend to fold up a lot of that paper into butterflies, peace cranes, and flowers to be presented to the public at large.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

I've written before...

about a friend of mine who is working on the problem of hunger in her own community. She was one of the friends who shared that worship service outdoors with me, when we sat in a tent, watching the sun go down, pretty much quiet, and just appreciating where we were. I've been blessed to call her my friend for years, and she's been giving me her quiet (and sometimes not so quiet) commentary on what I've written her for some time.

She now has a journal and I wanted to welcome her. Hey, Rae, good to see you here.

Friday, October 27, 2006

See the face of God and live

Over on Quaker Pagan Reflections, there's a post on the nature of grace, and seeing God in others. It spoke to me and to an experience that's been very long-running and an important part of who I've become.

For the longest time as a child, I was drawn to a hymn with the words "You shall see the face of God and live" ("Eagle's Wings") Until one day, as I sat in church, not praying, not doing anything in particular, just sitting there thinking whatever thoughts chose to show up, I felt as though a little light had lit up inside me. That light seemed to say that the way to see the face of God was to look, that I wouldn't see it if I weren't looking. And slowly, I can't say that it happened then or at any one time - it's been a process more than a revelation - I've been led along a path with glimpses of that light again and again.

And I've been allowed to see that divine light in other people, in the beauty of creation, in folks working together. I can't say that I've had blinding Revelation, like Paul on the road to Damascus. (I've gotta say, though, that I've suspected him of exaggerating. He seems to do that a fair bit in his writings. The gospels stay much simpler than the epistles.) I can't say even that I'm a Christian. I think people over time have had this same experience and put it into the best words they could find, but the words wind up misconstrued, and sometimes even substituted for the light they're supposed to convey.

And I really don't think it's something I could evangelize. My experience of that light hasn't been tied to one religion or anything that easy to pin down. All I can do, I think, is say what my experience of it has been. At times, it's been like an aching love for other people - both people I've known all my life, and people I met for an afternoon, or even just smiled at on the street. Other times, it's been an experience of intense caring, that I am cared for, loved, cradled in the universe. At times, it's burned within me, asking me what I am doing about injustice, about wrong. And other times, it's wonder and awe. I love Niagara Falls. Despite the tacky tourist strip, despite the concrete acreage, despite the snowglobes and memorial spoons, despite even that stupid colored light show. I just love to hear the water, watch the birds, walk down the trail to the rapids below, and feel that awe, know that sometimes the universe does just put on a magnificent show.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Atheist Evangelical

Oy. The Washington Post has an article on a guy intent on telling the world to renounce religion and God for the evils done in their names. Even moderates come in for it as mere covers for the more "fanatical" elements of any religion.


The one part of the article I found very revealing was when a meditation teacher who had taught him years before said:

"His passion was for deep philosophical questions, and he could talk for hours and hours," Salzberg recalls. "Sometimes you'd want to say to him, 'What about the Yankees?' or 'Look at the leaves, they're changing color!' "

My own sense of the divine is so much entangled with creation (How can you understand an artist without looking deeply at their art?) that I likely would have asked him to think about whether he might be putting words between himself and the world, and to just sit with some leaves or with a fellow creature and appreciate the fall for the exquisite moment that it is.

But what do I know? I believe that he's throwing out the baby, soap, and washtub as well as the water. (Maybe even the towels and baby lotion, too.) The God I believe in issues a call, continuously and throughout history, to kindness, to peace, to joy, to love. There's this beautiful world we're in, with its cycles and marvellous creations. (From the sea turtles with their graceful flicks of a fin to go wherever they want, to the delicate grace of cobwebs, to all the wonderful people I've been blessed to meet, to...)

And then there's the irony of someone with such a black-and-white view of the world criticing folks for embracing "extremism" - sigh.

Still gathering energy

Wow. Until this trip, I had not understood how I think of time. I don't wear a watch because if I'm outdoors, I can usually tell about what the time is by looking around, and if I'm indoors, most places have clocks of one sort or another, plus I am the death of watches. My parents tried hard to encourage me to wear a watch - they even bought me a Pooh watch, featuring not the Disney Pooh, but the classic version. It came with me to college and went missing within a month. I tried wearing a pretty "locket-style" watch, but hated having to fuss with it, and hated how it would get in my way. And my cell phone can sit for weeks without being charged.

So doing without a watch is my default. And when I passed through something like 6 time zones in 12 hours, it threw me off. Suddenly, not only was I without a watch, I also didn't *know* what time it was, and being much closer to the equator, my "celestial clock" wasn't helping me. When on vacation, what time it is doesn't matter so much, except that you do need to know when the food places open and close, and a clue when sunset is coming is a good idea, so for a week I drifted in a timeless state, not sure what hour or even day it was. Even now, I am having difficulty knowing what day things happened on. I know mostly what happened before what, but couldn't really tell you for sure which day anything happened on except the earthquake and a theatrical performance I attended. (Thanks to newspapers and ticket stubs.)

When I came back, however, I realized that my body had made certain adjustments and didn't want to un-make them. I literally went a few days without getting much sleep, because my body wanted to sleep while I was at work, and then wouldn't settle down when I got home and it was time to sleep. The first part of time I got back was a realization of the season. I'm now oddly grateful that this trip happened in fall because fall is such a varied season, beginning with the first drying out of the leaves, then the changing colors, then the leaf-fall, so that the passage of time is marked in a progressive fashion, and the tree colors helped me to reorient to the season. Then going to work made me remember the day. Finally, my body gave in and slept, and I'm once again oriented to the hours here.

Hawaii is lovely, but I am now convinced that jet-lag is meant to remind us to take our time, to travel more slowly, to appreciate the trip as well as the destination.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

From my travel journal: casting myself on the waters

This morning, I actually saw someone surfing. There in the early morning* light, riding the waves in to shore, and I realized how different it is to see the real thing.

When one sees surfing in a picture or a movie, one doesn't hear the birds singing, twittering, and flying about. One rarely hears the surf crashing, or sees the gentle morning colors. The distant mountains of another island are never seen. Most pictures show the artistry, the athletic prowess of the feat at the expense of the simple beauty I witnessed this morning of man learning the wave, the shape of it, the feel of it. And then, in a moment that must be pure joy, in becoming a particle caught in the wave, swept by it, riding it to shore.

Yesterday, I watched a mother teach her child to feel the sea, lowering him into the water to feel the receding waves sucking at his legs, the sand shifting under his feet, but lifting him in time to avoid the incoming wave, until one very small wave arrived, and she let him feel that wave come in up to his waist. He waved his hands at the water as though he were trying what King Canute would not: asking the waves to abate themselves for him. But his request was fruitless. The waves kept coming and even increased their force, until mother and child walked on and more surfers arrived.

When I was a girl, my parents would take me on vacations to the Atlantic - Ocean City, Maryland and Virginia Beach. There, I would joyfully throw myself into the ocean, body surfing back to the sand. It was that moment of joining the wave in its rush to shore that I loved. But that moment requires a fearlessness, a willingness to give myself to the ocean, and hope that the ocean will return me that I wonder if I still possess sometimes. And the Atlantic, a little warmer, more gentle, is not the Pacific. I wonder whether my courage will hold in deeper waters.**

* Do not try this at home, dear readers. While the sight was beautiful, it was also very risky. Don't go out on the ocean alone at any time - drowning is still a very real possibility in the ocean, and most shark experts recommend avoiding the dusk, night, and early morning for going in, as that is often when larger sharks venture closer to land looking for food. While I was astounded by the beauty, I also wondered a little whether this person had given thought to any of this.

** It did, though not without an awareness of the dangers of the waters. On two days I went body surfing - one for a short time when it didn't feel right, and one all day, though the ocean beat me against the shore over and over again, once even removing my surf pants in the process. (My husband, the deist, is now convinced that there is some kind of sentience in the ocean and that he intends to sue as soon as he can find a court that will take the sexual harassment case. For once, I'm the one saying, look, that's the nature of the ocean.)

My day of snorkelling was rather calmer, with the highlight that I was actually approached by a sea turtle. I was so mesmerized by the elegant beauty of the creature, a seemingly lazy flick of a flipper moving him far faster than I would have expected, that I felt very clumsy in trying to get out of the way.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Rustle, rustle

Despite my earlier whining, I am here for fall, and it's wonderful. I walked to the bank to deposit my pay slip and get my bank to refund a withdrawl that was never completed, due to the earthquake aftershocks. (The electricity had come back on, and I thought I'd better withdraw some money to prepare for possible difficulties. Unfortunately, the transaction was interrupted, but my bank counted it anyway, though I didn't get the money. Meh.)

As I walked, leaves skittered around my feet like little puppies excited to be out for a walk. I was wrapped about in color - scarlet, yellow, green, brown leaves rustling in the wind. I thought about how the leaves have no choice but to trust themselves to the wind, and it brought to mind my week in Maui, both the times when I allowed the ocean to carry me, and the moment of panic as I woke up to an earthquake.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

It's been awhile

...since I last posted. I had intended to do a last post before I left, but found that I just couldn't. As it was, a few things that I'd wanted to do in preparation didn't get done. Yes, we were there for the earthquakes. Yes, we're all fine.

It's been a wierd week, and my body still doesn't know what time it is or anything. I'll write again soon.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The rain falls down

The rain falls down, soaking the ground,
Running along the trees in a gentle caress.
I am warm and snug, sipping apple cider
Yet longing to join the rain in its graceful,
spinning, falling dance through the air,
Becoming the rivulet, stream, river, ocean
Resting in the arms of every other drop,
Skipping joyfully to the ocean.

Spiritual forebears

Over at Reflections of a Spiritual Franciscan, Don has written about his "spiritual ancestry" and asked his readers about theirs. This started out as a comment, but ended up being a little long for a comment, so I moved it here.

I don't think you'll be surprised to hear that I consider St. Francis and Father Damien of Molokai to be among mine. I also owe much to Mulla Nasruddin's gentle way of teaching. Rabbi Hillel. My great-granddaddy who did his best to teach his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren his love of God and of God's creation. William Penn and George Fox, with their calls to closeness with God and to peace among people. A woman back home who called herself a witch and believed that meant being responsible for taking care of the land and the people who grow from the land.

Sister Loretta who ran the library of a small town school, and reached out to a kid who was deeply unhappy, and physically unwell. "The shell lady" who took pleasure in the simple things, sharing what she had and living close to the ground. Father B. who showed me that humor could go right along with deep belief. Miz Leista who told me that God wants to hear every voice around that Throne, that the choir won't be complete until everyone is singing. And my parents who founded a tiny health clinic in Appalachia and give of themselves every day.

I've been amazed by the blessings God has rained down on me by sending teacher after teacher to light my path forward. Some have formally taught me, and others just had that divine light shining through in everything they did. I feel like my "spiritual family" becomes wider and wider as I get older. Some have passed on, yet others arrive constantly. Not just ancesters, but brothers and sisters to rejoice with, to share burdens with, to love deeply.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Last night

Normally, Wednesday nights are set aside for "Warped Wednesday" - an evening of talking and fiber arts - originally weaving (hence the name) but now also a wide variety of arts involving string and cloth. I didn't get a bit of work accomplished. No sewing, no crochet, no knitting, no naalbinding. I talked with friends, with the visiting parents of friends, and read stories to a kindergartener. And discovered something cool: I've passed on one of the stories my dad used to tell me at that age. When I got down the storybook to read A.A. Milne's inspired poem about a king who simply wanted a bit of butter for his bread, she shook her head. "No, I want to hear the story about the fox and the rabbit." (No one ever accused this child of not knowing what she wants.)

Fox and rabbit, fox and rabbit... which story did she mean? I know a few stories about old Mr. Fox and Mr. Rabbit. Which one? When it became obvious that I was not clever enough to figure out which story she wanted, she told me a simplifed version of it. "The fox wants to eat the rabbit, but puts him in the briar patch. Tell me that one."

Oh, that one. How old Mr. Fox loses his temper, so Mr. Rabbit tricks him. Dad used to tell me that one when I'd lose my temper or get impatient. I think I told her that one a few weeks ago when she was getting upset that everything was not going the way she wanted it to. Wow. I wonder if someday she'll find herself telling that same story.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Whine whine whine

My last few posts have been pretty negative, and it's driving me nuts, too.

Things to look forward to on this trip:

1) A week with my family, including my sister and Granny, whom I don't see too much.

2) I've never been more than a couple hours west of the Mississippi, and now I'll be going to Hawaii. Wow.

3) Fresh pineapple for breakfast. And dessert, and... Both my husband and I like pineapple.

4) I might get to see a volcano, which just sounds totally neat.

5) Even if I don't get to visit Molokai itself, I'll be close. I've always wanted to visit Molokai because of Father Damien, whom I admire a fair bit.

6) I have a new swimsuit that is sun protective and fun looking (It's pink, purple, and blue in a large all-over diamond pattern - a jester's suit, basically, but water-friendly.) And I'm planning some really space looking suits to sew this weekend.

7) At the end of the trip, I'll be seeing a friend I haven't seen since my wedding and really miss.

8) I have some blunt plastic needles and travel disks for three whole days of naalbinding and braiding.

9) Hawaii is supposed to have some truly interesting food.

10) If my banjo's arrived by tonight, I can annoy everyone by practicing...

11) When Mom and I get together, she usually lets me raid her reading stash, and Granny and I also like reading similar stuff...

12) One can tell tall tales on a coastline just as well as in the hills ("I'm telling you, that fish was a clever one...") If there's no canoeing to be done, there will be some snorkelling.

13) I may spot a bento while I'm out there, and that's a souvenir I'd actually use.

14) Telling Oma all about our adventures when we get back.

15) If there aren't too many lights, we could do some star observation of a few things I've never seen before.

16) Flying fish! In 2001, my family quickly arranged a trip to Mexico for the holidays so that we could be sure of having Dad with us for the whole trip. While on a ferry, I was astounded at the boldness of what I thought at first were tropical birds that flew so close to the waves, until I realized they were fish gliding from wave to wave. Truly, one of the miracles of creation. I could just sit and watch flying fish for hours.

17) I plan to bring a little bit of origami paper with me to use in the airports and airplanes. It's amazing how much cheering up other people can make your day better. And maybe I'll find a little bit more paper there.

18) Waves make almost as good a sleep aid as does campfire singing. (One of my favorite things about camping is going to sleep hearing someone several campfires over singing campfire songs.)

Still not settled...

But I did manage a really yummy and inexpensive dinner last night - mushroom soup in a sourdough breadbowl with salad greens. Yum. And the soup was made with reasonably fresh crimini.

My current line is that I am owed a vacation to make up for the ones that have been ruined by the shadow of Dad's deployment since this whole mess began. I've lost track of how many, frankly. I just want a normal vacation - maybe some camping in Kentucky with my family. Hot dog roasting and getting Dad to bring his campfire popcorn popper, tall tales and stargazing, renting a canoe and hoping the cheese sandwiches (colby for Mom, sharp cheddar and pickle for me, maybe some Marmite ones as well) don't get too squashed. No wondering if Dad will be getting orders the second we get back, no worrying about the orders he's already got, and (total fantasy now, thanks to the war) no seeing Dad flinch when a big truck goes past. I'd even get up and make the morning hash browns and omelettes. And I am not a morning person.

Perhaps it's my ambivalence about the whole thing that's responsible for the fact that I have yards of material waiting for the final sewing into swimsuits (though I've got the prototype done). Meh. Tonight, I'll take one of my sewing projects with me to the usual craft night and see how far it gets.

Also, I like fall - I like apples, apple cider, pumpkins, pumpkin anything, Halloween, sweaters, shawls, falling leaves, the rustle of squirrels gathering acorns, soup, the slight nip in the air. I feel like I'm leaving my favorite time of the year this year, and I'm going to miss it. It's one thing to head for the tropics in the dreariest part of winter or summer, but I really love the transitional seasons and am disappointed that I won't be here for fall unfolding. From the looks of it, the trees may turn just as I leave.

And I'm feeling like I'm being totally selfish here. Meh.