The Witness

“All day the blanket snapped and swelled on the line, roused by a hot spring wind….
From there it witnessed the first sparrow, early flies lifting their sticky feet, and a green haze on the south-sloping hills.
Clouds rose over the mountain….At dusk I took the blanket in, and we slept, restless, under its fragrant weight. “
–Jane Kenyon

It is spring and soon time to empty the beds of blankets and quilts for their day of renewal by clothesline hanging in the sun.  The airing of bedding is a May tradition from generations past, allowing the wind to buff all fresh again with scent of ambient apple and lilac blossoms.

This quilted veil covers our dreams, our fevers, our loving, our deep sleep, our wakeful tossing; now allowed flapping freedom for a day before returning to the weighty responsibility of becoming comfort and protection, tucked, folded, smoothed and ordered.  As we climb back into the realm of the dark, burrowing beneath its weight, breathing deeply from the fragrant breeze of freedom in the fabric, we see through closed eyes the snowy mountains in the distance, smell clouds of pink-white orchard bloom just up the hill,  feel the tousling wind in our hair.  All this from the safety of our bed.

Our dreams, each deep and rhythmic breath, sleep shrouded by the blanketing of spring.

November Gratitude–For the Sacrifice of a Few For Freedom for Many

Field of Stars at the WWII Memorial in Washington D.C.

My father was one of the lucky ones who came home after three years serving in the Marines Corp from 1942 to 1945 on Tarawa, Saipan and Tinian.  Hundreds of thousands of his colleagues didn’t come home, dying on beaches and battlefields.  Thousands more came home forever marked, through physical or psychological injury, by the experience of war.

No matter how one views WWII, or the subsequent wars that our nation has fought and currently is fighting, we must support and care for the men and women who have made the commitment to be on the front line for freedom’s sake and for our sake.

To our U.S. veterans–with deep appreciation and gratitude–for the freedoms you have defended on behalf of us all.

Rochester New York Vietnam War Memorial

To Sing Until Smooth

photo by Nate Gibson

Our favorite beach on Vancouver Island, visited over a dozen times over the last 29 years, has a rocky section of what I call “singing stones.”  The waves crash repeatedly over them, and then as the water pulls back to the ocean, a burbling song arises as the stones are turned over and over, rolling against each other as if in a natural rock tumbler.  Eons of tides have smoothed them to a perfectly round or oval finish with few defects. Depending on where I walk on this beach, the stones can be several inches across, or can be reduced to tiny pebbles.  They tend to keep company with those the same size.

The smoother the surface, the more easily the stones roll as the wave turns them over and the louder they “sing” as they clink against each other when the wave pulls back.  In fact, I hear them “cry out.”

Over the years, I’ve brought home a few as tangible memories of my time on this beach.  For now my smooth stones lie immobile, no longer singing, no longer rolling, no longer tossed one against the other thousands of times daily.  I’ve stopped their inexorable transformation to seek comfort in their steadfast permanence.   I have dreams of a small rock garden, maybe a little waterfall, possibly a fish or two.  I have a plan for each stone I carry and cherish.

So too I cry out when I’m rolled over and over by life’s wave action, my rough edges worn down over the years.  Each day smooths me a little bit more, rounds my corners to a gloss, until such time I’m picked up and pocketed, perhaps on to a new adventure.

Then I will sing a new song.

For Painful Remembrance

On my fifty sixth Memorial Day, I need to be reminded not to forget the sacrifices made by my fellow countrymen.  This is not a vacation day.  This is a day meant for the hard work of painful remembrance.  This is a day to slog through the mud of the battlefields, the searing heat of the deserts, the dripping humidity of the jungles, the icy snowbanks of wintertime battle fronts.

I do not want to forget what it means to get up each morning clothed in liberty, and fall asleep each night without fear.  We are meant to cry this day, to weep over the loss of life over the generations, the losses in battles that continue to this day.

The cost of staying free must not bankrupt our souls even as it taxes our resources.   Once we forget, if even one of us forgets, then the battle comes home, moves inside us, and we will never truly be free.

Today is a day for weeping.  We shed tears of grief over who we have lost and continue to lose, and tears of gratitude for what they have given us through their shed blood.