Early June, long day at work, dusk on the horizon ... a jeep, wind in my hair and a drive. Succumbing to a last minute impulse, I headed south on the freeway. Freedom within my grasp, I set my course toward a two lane highway which would eventually end up at a remote beach famous for "blown out" waves, historic burgers and primitive camping along the Pacific Ocean. The rhythm and pace splashing the dirt off my tired spirt, I felt momentarily carefree. This familiar road when I was twenty-one was a frequent destination. Tent camping, showering in cold water and brushing the sand off my feet as I headed to work, this place was a precipice for change.
I had a vague idea where I was going. The exit off the freeway was easy but my mind questioned whether I would find the entrance to the two-lane road which would lead me there. I wasn't really thinking about distance; it was a guess. To my surprise, the left hand turn toward the beach was now clearly marked. No fog or cool breeze, the air was warm; my hair loose, sandals and a sundress I traveled backwards in time while at the same time traveling forward with intention and determination. I pulled to the side of the road, sent one text message indicating the likelihood of no cell coverage and my being home after dark and set my odometer to "go".
Traversing back and forth through winding turns, my anticipation propelled me toward a train track. There is a long winding road, a train track and a sharp turn right. Then, almost out of nowhere, a brilliant, panoramic view of the ocean against rugged rocky terrain. Faint memories of this beach whispers me forward. A twenty or so mile drive stood in my way. My mind was wondering; not thinking about the details, I drove on ill-equipped.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw another gage - the fuel gage and an "empty" pin vibrating back and forth. "Crap" - did I really forget to put gas in the jeep? Do I turn back? Do I move forward hoping there was a gas pump at the camp ground? Do I panic? Do I trust? If I do run out of gas, do I smile and hope for the best? Dang- this is probably a good reason jeep owners keep a spare container of gas on hand - a worthy investment next time I'm at the automotive supply store. Impulse and a bit of "Russian Roulette" I "pulled the trigger" and drove on. Noticing the bouncing needle between half and empty, I hoped there was some gas left in reserve.
I sit in a doctor's office on a couch looking at the framed shadow boxes of knots. Crisp, clean white fibers displayed in an array of shapes and sizes. Sailboats, tents, tree houses... ropes to connect, ropes to distance, ropes to hold, ropes to let go. Words neatly typed, I couldn't make the letters out. My mind sailed beyond the boundaries of walls. Cool water splashing up, fast pace motion, calm seas, canvas rustling as I tack, ropes loose, then tight as i peer out beyond the bow. Quickly I move from port to starboard avoiding the entanglement of ropes... quickly, moving side to side as the sails adjust to winds. Peace sweeps through.
To be honest, no words or thoughts were coming to me this month. Have I allowed the fuel gage to hit empty? Slow, steady, stale-mate on the chessboard with an ever-so-slight breeze through a cracked window blowing through my mind. My hurried pace, my slowed melody, words scattered like checkers in black and white.
My morning routine includes worship music, sometimes dance, words and colors scribbled on paper. Haunting whispers calling me though open fields, I move forward through fog and rain to beaches white and pristine. Quickly leaving for work, I remember I haven't written to a savior I love and in a hurried pace, write the following words splashed onto blank pages; contents of my heart seeping through:
Lord God, I don't want to forget you:
This month, I think back to a sunset on water and words carelessly scribbled into a poem... I remember clearly one evening sitting on a bed with a woman twenty-five years my senior. She was recovering from an out-patient surgery; I was talking to her about the patient I was taking care of who was slowly slipping away. He had had a full life but melancholy still cast it's shadow upon me as we equated eternity to the sun dipping into water and the lingering life beyond it's shores.
Those hours alone with him were slow, steady movements of air through masts as the juxtaposition of sails moved between loose and taut. It would be a cruel twist of fate should I be the one to see his death. I was following through on a promise I made to his wife to take care of him until the end and here it was. The moment I squeezed his hand, I knew the sun was setting on his life. All of a sudden, I felt a rush of energy pour out from my body into his hands. Exhausted, I whispered good-bye and drove home. I slept for more than twelve hours that night and into the next day. As he passed away in the night, my fuel gage moved to empty; there was no reserve container with which I could draw. I didn't go to the funeral. I didn't help with the memorial. I just often found myself sitting at a beach, across a railroad track and hoping to go home.
I withdrew my name from nursing as a profession.
Proverbs 23:19 Listen and be wise, and set your heart on the right path..
Blank canvas... no people.
Dry, brittle and parched, California is in desperate need of water. Everywhere I turn, lakes, reservoirs and water sources are drying up. What once held lush green and yellow mustard seed plants at my favorite prayer spot has long, narrow sticks twisted and knotted from a lack of water. Beads of sweat ran down my chest today as I walked up the road in the heat and sun to my favorite vista. I needed the cool, cold drink of prayer to quench my thirsty soul. Sometimes taking my shoes off at the moment I step onto wooden boards, in reverence and submission, I symbolically remember the sacrifice made on a cross. I am the first to confess I am not worthy to step into His shores of grace but His choice to pick me has left me forever a servant in need of the life giving water of his love.
In an intimate communion of prayer, I leave less equipped than when I arrived but more humble. Empty of my self-sufficiency, i cling more lovingly into His strength and head back down the hill willing to do His work on the Mission's Field. I have a dinner party planned for 10 (which grows to 12) later that evening. As I make three stops along the way, I am reminded of the lush garden of compassionate offerings, child-like enthusiasm and kind words. My first stop: a sign that reads, "tomatoes." Knowing I was making Bruschetta as an hors d' oeuvre, fresh grown tomatoes are a welcomed temptation to the store-bought ones down the road. Expensive because I must buy the whole box, I am reminded of the most delicious tomatoes my papa grew. A little extra money for the lovingly grown produce at the adjacent lot seemed a worthy price to pay for my honored guests that evening. The conversation stood a stark contrast to the dry, brittle sticks I had just seen. His words were light and cordial and I left pleased with my purchase. He called me back offering me a box of cherry sized tomatoes and a green pepper as a gift; I graciously accepted his offering. Sweeter than candy, the tomatoes were a reminder of the life-giving water of compassion.
My next stop was a sign that said "peaches." Knowing I would make a simple peach pie for dessert, I drove down the narrow dirt road. Expecting to see the open barn for peaches, I was pleasantly surprised to see a face I recognized: it was a young girl. At first we talked about the new school year starting but it quickly expanded to a conversation about vegetables. Two different types of watermelon, yellow zucchini and some produce I had never heard of, both girls demonstrated their interest and enthusiasm to teach me all they knew about the produce they were selling. The conversation was a welcomed distraction to my intention of buying peaches. The dialog reminded me of the importance of being recognized. Each of us are uniquely designed and created and bring to the table life experiences and perspectives all our own; It reminded me of the lushness of gardens - not produce but people. No wonder faith often takes place around a meal and a table.
My final stop on this stretch of road was immediately across the paved road to a semi-permanent strawberry stand. This woman is ALWAYS there. As I stepped out of the car and walked closer, I said, "it is too hot for you to be working in this stand." Cool water and a fan would be a welcomed addition to the heat emanating from the confines of three walls. Always a smile, her kindness is seen in her quiet, meek spirit. Predictable and steady, I get a sense of the well planted fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in contrast to my sometimes parched fruit of self-importance. I graciously exchange pleasantries as I purchase several containers of berries.
I hadn't planned the stops along the way but I was open and available for the conversations that took place. It was a tangible reminder of the bounty of a gardener's hands. With water, sunlight and soil, much grows in the goodness of rich, vibrant intent. My dry, empty feeling of a thirsty, dehydrated soul continued to be sprinkled with the fresh water of the remnants of prayer and people along the way; I was a servant for the teaching.
The canvas is not blank; color strokes are painted each and every day changing a single taupe color to the extravagant vibrancy of many colors. People - they are there; they are the ones who recognize and smile at the mention of your name. Water - it not only moistens the paint brush but provides a respite from the beating sun.
In college, there are some classes that just fit into the schedule. No rhyme or reason; it satisfies a requirement and so went my literature class on Don Quixote. A book published in two volumes in 1605. A Spanish novel, The Ingenious gentlemen Don Quixote of La Mancha was written by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra and was taught to me by a short, intellectual professor over seventy years of age from Spain. To say he LOVED the book would be an understatement. Each paragraph written brought diverse, in-depth conversations and commentary of the social, political and religious climate of the fifteenth century. So many years have passed but I will forever remember the feelings associated not only with the book but the contagious, inspiration of the professor who taught it. Should I dust the book off a shelf, it wouldn't be the same for the life within the words were the perspective and passion with which he spoke.
A girlfriend remembered this about me and recently bought two tickets to a local theatrical production to see a loose adaptation called Man of La Mancha. As I evaluate whether my fuel gage has hit empty this month, I'm encouraged by the feelings associated with the simplicity of a fictional man from La Mancha. Overly simplifying, Quixote imagines himself to be a knight-errant who demonstrates acts of chivalry with his sidekick, Sancho Panza. He is Inspired each step of the way by the thought of his great love, Dulcinea. The stage has been transformed into a dark, ominous prison cell where the verdict of his sanity lies.
The story begins far above the stage along plank-like boards. Led by two men known as the "inquisition", they deliver the man and sidekick down a lowered staircase into a cell with others who stand trial. Men and women, who on outward appearance alone, stand as criminals. Through the crowd of deviants, a handful of actors emerge. The staircase rises and the strangers are left pleading their case. Men toss coins toward a feisty, independent waitress hoping to drink more than the slammed mugs of liquid on tables of selfish desire and filthy expectation. The man of La Mancha doesn't see her as the prostitute she believes herself to be but a grand princess worthy of courtship from a chivalrous knight. Simple and pure, the humility of his heart stands in stark contrast to the depravity around him. His love far exceeds the monetary value of gold and silver.
God calls us to a child-like faith. Easily distracted, I spent a full ten minutes chasing the most beautiful butterfly I had ever seen today. Truly ... it stopped me in my tracks. I first saw it against a backdrop of green leaves. It's wings were outstretched with the perfect amount of sunlit illumination. Like sails on windblown seas, these wings displayed a glorious array of yellow and black splashes of color. The etchings along the bottom edge were so intricately woven, it was as if it was an expensive hand-made piece of lace from Italy. With a wingspan of at least four inches, it was also the largest butterfly I had ever seen. I am not sure how long the lifespan of a butterfly is but trying to immortalize it's beauty, I fluttered from tree to flower in pursuit of it's beauty.
Like the man from La Mancha who chases windmills, butterflies, jeep rides and words splashed upon pages, I wonder if I might be more Dame of La Mancha than who I really am. A bit embarrassed by the raw emotion from which I write, I hope that you are not disappointed. I never thought of myself as a writer, just a follower of Jesus. Frail and flawed, like the butterfly, the contents of my heart are fragile. A man: simple and focused was his pursuit - chivalrous acts of valor. He was propelled forward in this journey by a great love, Dulcinea. He was encouraged along the trail by the companionship of his friend, Sancho and a horse, Rocinante. Stories to be told about the people and situations that came along his way, the verdict of his sanity was seen in the fruit of his character. A simple story. It is one of love.
And, the butterfly I chased this morning? In the midst of delivering supplies to classrooms void of students, I consider my audience of one. No single person may ever see the magnificent beauty of that butterfly. It's beauty was there for me to see. I just happened to come alongside at the perfect time. Wings outstretched, sunlight filtering through delicately designed lace against a backdrop of leaves gown from a plant sprinkled with water. This is the faith we are called to. This website has been one of me stretching my wings; like you, I am growing, learning and trying to be obedient in the little things.
A knot and a picture. This is where I began. Sailing, canvas, serenity - these were lyrics splashed upon the shores of my heart. A pin rocking back and forth between empty and 1/2 full, this was the faith that propelled me forward. I made it to the camp-ground just beyond the railroad track that day. There was no gas pump at my destination but I made it back safely to the first station home; I have since bought a 2 gallon reserve tank I keep in my jeep. The produce bought for a dinner party was sprinkled with laughter, love and raised glasses to the bounty of blessings. My pursuit of chasing a butterfly is best heard than seen in a song I played over and over years long past; it is not a reminder of the past but a hope for the future and to my reader, thank you. Thank you for the distraction off your path to chase fluttering, delicate wings.
Pictures either purchased through fotolia or lovingly provided by me.
A person who searches for depth and beauty in the simple things.