Wednesday, June 30, 2010
I have misunderstood,
I have heard what you did not say.
How easy, how natural,
How perfectly normal,
To assume your words were clear.
How luxurious to hear your explanation,
How blissful then to understand.
How peaceful to have no reply.
R. Harold Hollis (Santa Fe, New Mexico)
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
“Hey, I’m retired. What’s all this craziness?” So I reminded myself yesterday afternoon, following a 1500-mile round trip to my home in Texas—in the throes of summer—a trip that was about work. Sure, it was by choice. By choice I had once again overwhelmed myself and my tiny condo here at the foot of the mountains with stuff, and so I chose to make a run to Texas to remove some of this stuff to my Texas barn home. There it waits an opportunity to belong to someone else this fall when I trek to Texas again for the fall antiques market.
For the better part of seven years, I have fretted over the small portico on the west side of the barn. The portico was put up in haste by someone I had hired. It was part of a larger project, and it came at the tail end of three weeks of working against an unrealistic deadline. As is often the case with contractors, he had underestimated the time required by the project, and he had his two sons half ass the portico at the last minute. Finally, on this recent trip to Texas, a friend accepted my invitation to go along—and work—in the Texas summer—to make this portico right and lovely.
Even if you’re smart by braving the humidity in the early morning before the day begins to take its toll, Texas summers are tough, especially for folks who have escaped to the high and dry of 7000 feet, even if these folks grew up in Texas or have spent long years near the Gulf coast. Once again, I puzzle over how my forbears tolerated the heat and the mosquitoes—and without air conditioning. And again, I remind myself that I didn’t grow up with air conditioning in the 1950s. That luxury came when I, the youngest of three, was in college.
My friend, who had apparently forgotten what 98 degrees and humidity feels like, discovered quickly on day one of our efforts to make right this terribly wrong portico. Actually he was doing the making. It was his design, his plan. I just bought the materials, provided the tools, and served as helper and questioner. “Shouldn’t we fasten all of the old two by sixes with screws?” “Shouldn’t we wait until early tomorrow morning to work?”
But I remind myself that I’m retired. Each time I go away from Texas—usually for at least two months at a time—during what I also remind myself is the growing season—I come back to one of two things. Either Texas has had rain and the place is a jungle, lush with the blooms that can prosper in heat beating away each day. Or, Texas hasn’t had rain, and only the weeds are prospering nonetheless. Regardless of the circumstance, it all spells work. Our part of Texas had close to 10 inches of rain in early June. I couldn’t even wrap my mind around the reality. Yet I remind myself that blooms and weeds are far easier on the eye and soul than an untended garden that has suffered the Texas summer without water.
As I finally sat down yesterday in my tiny living room here in New Mexico—following the return leg of the trip to Texas, portico repaired and stained, garden untended though flourishing right now, and following a day of tending to matters that just needed taking care of—I thought, “What’s all this craziness?” “I am retired!” Even the things that feed my spirit, which right then were just one more chore, had little appeal.
All I had done for over a week is go. I needed a second wind. I needed to make a different choice or two, right then. The dusty county road that leads to my place was already a 14-hour drive behind me, and the chores of choice biding their time until my return to Texas in late summer. As soon as I cross something off the list of that place, at least two new things make their way onto the list. They all require time, energy, and most often, money. I give thanks for a willing, capable friend.
This morning I’m back to my routine here. Road weary still, I headed to the little gym in our condo community at 5:50 a.m. Last night I chose to go to the weekly practice session of the drum choir I joined in January. This morning I go to my volunteer work in the visitor center of the Audubon center. Right now just about everything seems like drudgery, even though I know that all of these choices add meaning to my life. The monthly spiritual guide that I read most mornings went unnoticed on my trip to Texas. I thought I was too busy to take time each morning. So this morning, after my trip to the gym, I opened the guide to the reading that I would have read 10 days ago, if I had taken the time. “Give me the strength to be free,” it begins. “What pictures come to your mind when you see or hear the word ‘freedom’?...Are you ready to jump in your car and get on an open road under the blue sky?...Or is there some kind of change or reordering that you feel compelled to do?” (Science of Mind for June 12, 2010)
The writer of the meditation quotes Howard Thurman (1899-1981). According to my favorite Internet friend, Wikipedia, Thurman was an influential American author, philosopher, theologian, educator and civil rights leader. He was Dean of Theology and the chapels at Howard University and Boston University for more than two decades. He authored 20 books and in 1944 helped found the first racially integrated, multicultural church in the United States. Thurman “spoke of freedom as the ability to deal with the realities of one’s situation so as not to be overcome by them.”
The writer continues, “I found that…freedom and I are often having a tug-of-war about that very thing. Initially I feel free to choose to get involved in this or that, but when I have taken on a large chunk of ‘to-dos,’ I feel so overwhelmed that it is difficult to think, sleep, or even eat. In a sense, this can be like self-sabotage because I become so overwhelmed that I give up everything.” She closes with the affirmation, “I am free to be, for the Power within me can handle it all.”
Over the years I’ve been reminded that “it’s all about choices.” My habit is not to wrap my mind around this—what do we call it: truth, premise—even though more and more I know it to be so. I get to choose, even something as simple as opening my little magazine to the meditation I didn’t read 10 days ago—a message that was spot on for just how I’ve been feeling for a few days. And I get to choose to pay attention to the message. I give thanks. And so it is.
On the Go—Santa Fe, New Mexico (June 22, 2010)
R. Harold Hollis
Thursday, June 10, 2010
To all of the trash talking and divisiveness that happens right before our eyes, right where live, I say “No”. Yesterday I received a welcome message from a sojourner I don’t even know reminding me that efforts to spread misinformation meant to enflame and divide don’t have to go unchallenged.
It is sometimes hard for me to wrap my mind and heart around the teachings most of us learn as we grow up. We are all loved equally by God, regardless of how we imagine and define god. We are all worthy, regardless of how well we are taught to believe in our unworthiness. When we judge ourselves and others unworthy, we do so out of fear that we fail to recognize as just that. We are all equal and perfect in God’s eyes, all equally deserving in God’s eyes. God’s abundance is right here, now, not in some distant, hoped-for heaven. In God’s eyes, none of us has a birthright or earned right to more than someone else, especially at the expense of someone else.
We are all in this together. We succeed and fail together. I read this, I am told this, and I believe it. I give thanks for the reminder that you and I are not at war, regardless of what you mistakenly believe. To the notion that we gain courage and strength at someone else’s expense, I say to myself, “No”. Sometimes I have the courage to say to the messenger, “No.” Spare me your lies and hate. Spare me your fear masquerading as truth. Spare me your dissatisfaction. Spare me your belief in failure. If hate feeds you and you think that is how I’m nurtured, spare me, please. And so it is.
Spare Me—Santa Fe, New Mexico (June 10, 2010)
R. Harold Hollis