Tuesday, March 15, 2011
This morning we leave for Texas. It’s just like me to be feeling a little lonesome—already, in this instance, for these blue, blue New Mexico skies. More than likely it’s just my way of dealing with the work I know lies ahead for me on the home place in Leon County and with the challenges of making a good and successful showing in the important spring Texas antiques market coming up in two weeks.
But, oh, what opportunities to give thanks await me at every turn. Soon I will be visiting with my two sisters, even some of my cousins, maybe my only remaining aunt, and a friend here and there. After a three-month absence from the 2-story barn I call home in Texas, I will no doubt smile as I walk in the front door. The smell of old wood, which will have grown stronger while the place has sat unoccupied these 10 weeks, will reward me for my connection to things past. The birds, which carry on in my absence in the front garden, will no doubt be busy enjoying the sights and smells of spring. They’ve grown accustomed to making it on their own—as if my presence really makes a difference.
Here’s to the blessings that I am blessed to celebrate. With gratitude I say, “and so it is”.
Heading to Texas—Albuquerque, New Mexico (March 15, 2011)
R. Harold Hollis
Monday, March 14, 2011
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
I blessedly continue to see things differently. Maybe that’s why I find myself with little to say about so much these days. Sunday night I watched “Secret Millionaire.” We had begun the evening taking a look at the “Next Great Restaurant”. Wait a minute. They’re both reality shows, along with “Extreme Makeover,” (which I’ve never developed a taste or habit for), a good bite of what I watch these days. I’ve dabbled with “Project Runway,” some of the hell’s kitchen offering on cooking in hellish circumstances, “America’s Got Talent,” “Dancing with the Stars,” and of course, absolutely, “American Idol”. Now on the surface of this, my instinct is to question my own choices in how I spend my evening leisure. If I didn’t know already that my days tend to feel fairly complete with reading, a healthy dose of daily outdoor exercise (for a few years now in the dry air, under the blue skies of New Mexico) my digital camera routinely handy, a little volunteering, my passion for treasure hunting, spending quality time with other residents of the planet—well, if I didn’t know this, I would be a lot more scared by this newish habit of reality TV. Give me a break!
Monday morning, after the launching episode of “Secret Millionaire,” I found myself browsing the Internet for what the critics—guess that could be any of us since the Internet is rife with people’s opinions—had to say about this newest offering on doing good for the least of us. How predictable I am, I realized, when I read a review from the Washington Post that described what the author thought the typical viewer was doing while watching the program unfold. Who is this secret millionaire, we allegedly asked ourselves, and our instinct was to go to our computers and search for her name, her story, her credibility. And so I had. And my instincts to question the merits of this show—this show that I had chosen to watch and was watching—were nurtured. Aha, she’s a pyramid promoter—or according to current terminology, a multi-level marketer. I’ve known some of those, I reflect, as if all of these marketers can be thrown categorically into a basket. I’ve even bought into the products some of these folks market, until I decided that the products weren’t, well at the time they weren’t worth my hard-earned money. And of course, I questioned whether the promised benefits were even noticeable to me. I’ve been offered health potions, the best deals on better utility rates, and avenues to more wealth. Right, I’m skeptical.
So I sat watching the secret millionaire of the evening move from situation to situation. I watched the people delight in her interest, shedding what were no doubt genuine tears over this interest (and later her generosity)—and I was puzzled by what the recipients of all this interest must have thought about the cameras that had to be present recording the exchange taking place—all the way to the denouement of the episode, when the checks were distributed, and everyone cried some more. I guess some things are better left unexplained. Although I had no right to expectation, I expected the checks to be larger. I wondered about the quantifiable exposure the millionaire must be getting. I assured myself that surely the recipients would reap further benefits from their own exposure. I wondered, and I concluded that I didn’t need to spend any more of my time on future episodes of this show. And somehow I couldn’t help but put a critical eye to all that shows like this represent to the viewer—including me, absolutely including me.
Well, for now, considering that I am changing all the time, I’ve spent too much time thinking about this. I can’t help but reflect on what the religious teachings of my past have told me. It is in giving that we receive (attributed to St. Francis). I know this to be true. “…so that your giving may be done in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." (Matthew 6:4) I understand the principle behind not making a show of your generosity. But I of course must ask, does it matter? And thankfully, I am reminded of this by a fellow sojourner. Think about all of the people of means whose generosity somehow comes to our attention, thanks to first-hand experience or public scrutiny and reporting. The size of the gift doesn’t matter, I know. Whether we should give is not even a question to be asked. Our gifts are not to be judged—by anyone. They are what they are. What counts is that we see the need, and then we are moved to share our abundance, regardless of how modest by comparison. And I am told these days not to spend too much precious time on comparison. Simply, we are honored to have the privilege of sharing.
In a column in the current issue of “Science of Mind” magazine—which this month focuses on the power of prayer—the writer concludes her comments with this: “We are the gift God has given to reveal Itself more fully. A Sufi story tells of a man who was overcome with sorrow about the condition of the world. He was so distraught that he sat on the earth and pounded it. ‘God, why haven’t you done something?’ he cried out. After a moment of Silence, God spoke: ‘I did do something. I sent you.’” (“The Prayer that God is Praying,” Rev. Dr. Kathy Hearn)
And so it is.
Continuing to See Things Differently—Albuquerque, New Mexico (March 9, 2011)
R. Harold Hollis
"The past is not dead; it is not even past." (William Faulkner) So quotes Wayne Teasdale, in "The Mystic Hours". Teasdale continue to explain, that reconciling the past "requires a willingness to heal, rather than forget. To heal is to become free of the hold of the past. Healing the past, and thus putting it finally aside, requires generosity from the two conflicting communities or individuals involved. It requires a generous spirit that seeks reconciliation and a building of mutual respect and trust."
Saturday, March 5, 2011
“Vivekananda taught that God is within each one of us, that each of us was born to rediscover his own God-nature. His favorite story was of a lion who imagined himself to be a sheep, until another lion showed him his reflection in a pool. ‘And you are lions,’ he would tell his hearers, ‘you are pure, infinite, and perfect souls.... He, for whom you have been weeping and praying in churches and temples...is your own Self.’” Christopher Isherwood, THE WISHING TREE, p. 113, the Vedanta Society of Southern California.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Today, in places like Austin, the state capitol, and Washington-on-the-Brazos, the site of the signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico on March 2, 1836, thousands of Texans will at least give some thought to the meaning of Texas Independence. “You can go to hell—I’m going to Texas.” So said Davy Crockett (1786-1836), one of the heroes of the Alamo. At least that’s what they say. And the same spirit that led so many brave (and perhaps foolhardy) men to give their lives in the battle at the Alamo, the now-long historic shrine to the spirit of independence, is still on the hearts of lots of people. Here on the plaza in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the back of the t-shirt sported by one of the people gathered there on an early evening to hear the music that is part of a Santa Fe summer, was Crockett’s proud, brave (and perhaps foolhardy) words. As they also say, you can take the Texan out of Texas, but you can’t Texas out of the Texan.
Although I still own a home in Texas, on land my sisters and I inherited from our parents (granted in spirit before them by our grandmother and before her our great-grandmother), I am away from Texas for much of each year. For 3-1/2 years I vacillated between giving up my Texas automobile license plates for New Mexico ones. And finally, just recently for practical reasons, I made the swap. First, it was the driver’s license. I’ve never had a driver’s license from any place other than Texas. And finally, after a process that required the better part of two months, the old front-and-rear Texas plates came off and the new rear plate went on. Ironically, the clerk who waited on me at the motor vehicle department had become a transplant to New Mexico at least 20 years earlier, and before that she had lived in New Mexico as a child. “We’ll be going back to Texas after my husband retires,” she told me. I thought about what that means to her, but I didn’t ask.
Virtually everyone I count among my friends in New Mexico has come here from some other place—among them, (New York, by way of Houston, Chicago and New Orleans; Wisconsin by way of Arizona; Ohio by way of Wyoming and Arizona; Illinois by way of Louisiana and Colorado; California; Puerto Rico by a route that I frankly can’t recall in the correct order). We’re all in motion. Among this group, I’m unaware if any one of these friends plans to be here for the duration. I don’t think about it, to be honest. I have a home in Texas on family land—a choice that I tried to change. But things have a way of working out differently sometimes, in spite of what we think we want.
One thing I know for sure. Regardless of where I am, and what license plates are on my car, I am a Texan, proud of my Texas roots. And even though I still prefer the sunshine and dry air of living in the high desert at close to 6000 feet, I don’t flinch when someone comments on Texas and Texans. You see, to a lot of people with strong roots in New Mexico, Texas and Texans do not and historically have not enjoyed a favorable reputation here in the land of enchantment. As the saying goes, we create our own bed, even though we might think at times that we are not the ones who made that bed—but yes, we have to sleep in it. Anyway, it’s a battle of perception and attitude that won’t be won, given the thousands of Texans who live or have second homes (does that give you an inkling of wherein the source of the problem might lie?) in New Mexico. Like it or not, for good or for worse, we are here. And of course, most of us defy the stereotypes that exist. Not all of us have lots of disposable and discretionary income, and most of us don’t spend our time shopping on the plaza in Santa Fe. I’ve spent my share of time on the plaza, but I realized a long time ago how much I just like to sit, enjoy the sites and sounds, and read a book. And yes, many of the museums are within a block.
I’ve just enjoyed a 30-minute round trip walk to the park in the Albuquerque neighborhood where I hang my hat these days. It’s a sunny and cool March 2 in the Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico. While on this walk, I remembered that this is a special day for Texans—especially for those of us who are born and bred, and especially for those of us who can trace our family’s Texas history back a couple of generations. As a child in the 1940s, I remember there were about five residences with the surname Hollis in the Houston directory. All of these Hollises were from our clan—which migrated from east Texas to Houston during the Depression. From England, through North Carolina and Alabama, these Hollises made their way to the Lone Star State. A good while ago, that number of Hollises in the Houston directory changed to hundreds, but now only a couple of them are related to me. The roots of my maternal German ancestors in the greater Houston area go back to time of the American War Between the States. Yes, I embrace this heritage.
Now today I’m not saying, you can go to hell—I’m going to Texas. I like my life here in New Mexico. With the backdoor open to this glorious day outside, I hear traffic, the noise of road construction nearby, and the “kwaak-kwaak” of one of the neighborhood ravens, flying or perched somewhere nearby. Ravens like to be near people, I’m told. In a couple of weeks I will, however, be making a bit of a spring migration to my home in Texas. It’s time to tend to some business, take care of my place, and see my family and some friends. This day, especially, I am remembering where I began this journey, and I embrace this beginning and where and how it has allowed me to be. God bless Texas! And so it is.
March 2, 2011—Albuquerque, NM (March 2, 2011)
R. Harold Hollis