Everyday Heroes

I suppose I have heroes. I can quick think of: Jesus, Mary Poppins, Yoda, Wonder Woman,  veterans, Bill, Olive. But I knew Bill and Olive personally. I connected with Olive through church and I connected with Bill through fruits and vegetables.

While living in Washington state, I managed a farmer’s market.

One dry, hot morning, a man limped over to me, wearing a broad grin that matched his magnified happy eyes behind glasses. His limp didn’t cause me to think he was elderly, although he was, because he was strong and upright. It was the limp of…what’s the word?

“Hi, I’m Bill,” he told me before asking. “I live on Garfield Street and have a big garden with extra fruits and vegetables. Can I become a vendor?”

“Are you the person with the grape rows covered in nets?” I asked.

“Yes,” he marveled.

“We live on Garfield Street too, and I always notice gardens,” I explained.

Ca-clang, clink. We were securely attached. It was as if we’d known each other forever.

I told Bill he could sell his fruits and vegetables at our stand, where my husband sold sweet cherries. In no time, Bill showed proficiency. We could rely on him to run the stand. “Can we pay you?” we asked.

“I don’t want your money,” he told us. “I want something to do. I retired a few years back and I need work, I need to think and count or I’ll get stupid.”

Bill had energy not only to sell at the market twice weekly, but also drive up Garfield Street to help us on our orchard.

When our girls entered school, Bill’s house was the drop off for their bicycles before walking over a dirt path to the school. He made sure the tires were filled properly and the chains were oiled. Bill was my peace of mind, as I knew he was watching the children like a caring wise hawk.

Like Olive, Bill lived into his nineties and died before the turn of this century. They talked about life “outside” the 1918 flu epidemic, the great depression, World War II, the Asian wars, no electricity to homes, births, deaths, fads, family dysfunctions, financial losses, financial gains.

To clarify, neither Olive nor Bill was stoic. By no means. Olive and Bill expressed feelings, not as if they owned those feelings, but as if those feelings come and go. They could be serious or humorous.

Olive and Bill treated life from the position that all human events are neither unprecedented nor uncertain. Neither precedented nor certain.

Olive and Bill caused me to ponder transcendent feelings and events.

“I learned to weld and build fighter planes during World War II,” Olive told me once with the same humble, matter of fact tone that talked about going to the grocery store.

“When I had a wife and two kids, we sold everything, bought a trailer and truck, and drove around the country to find jobs. One job was teaching myself how to lay cement and build a tarmac,” said Bill with the same aplomb that sold fruits and vegetables as if it was a rich adventure.

My heroes.

Piano lessons

Piano practice persists in our household. Daily, our adult daughter thumps out Mozart classics, ragtime, and a few songs from Star Wars. I don’t mind the noise, I mean music, even when the sounds curdle my brain. Imperfect practices lead to perfect performances, or so the cliché wants us to believe. But I do believe music encompasses more than sound.

When I was a kid in Washington state, piano lessons were mandatory for two years. Mom would shuffle me and my four siblings to Mrs. Courteau’s brick house once a week for lessons. My older brother and younger sister were naturals. Or they paid attention and practiced, either way, they improved to performance level, in front of people other than family and obligated parents of other students during piano recitals. When grown and married, each with two children, all four of my nieces and nephews became piano students also.

My younger brother unambiguously marked the calendar and quit piano on the 730th day after he started lessons. He hasn’t touched a piano since. “I’d never force my children to take piano lessons,” he told me years ago.

The middle sister and I quit piano lessons before we were seniors in high school. Probably because we’d rather spend thirty minutes watching Gilligan’s Island on television rather than practicing piano. Although, the change in activity didn’t require much thought. Whether watching TV or practicing piano, our priority was casual snacking. Piano keys jammed with cookie crumbs.

After I went to college in Colorado, I was shocked to find myself searching for a door to a large brick building, after hearing piano playing through an open window. After finding the door, I walked into the foyer and acted as if I was majoring in music. Not horticulture.

To map out the music building, I walked the halls and noticed small rooms, each room containing a beat-up piano and bench. This discovery initiated a quest to find piano books. A hymnal from church was a cinch to acquire, and thus I began what amounted to piano therapy for four years of college. Which in turn, after getting married, piano playing was my marriage therapy, then mother-calmer, then a tool for our children to practice on, then empty nest friend. Christmas carols always a favorite.

Middle Sister has pianos in her household also, however, it’s because she restores them to former glory after decades of neglect in a barn or storage shed.

I brought a used, dandy piano to Warwick. Our six-year old granddaughter and three-year old grandson sit with their mother and thump high and low end keys while she plays. Sometimes, our son-in-law takes his violin and bow out of its case and plays along with the piano.

No lack of wrong notes played. Timing nonexistent.

But they keep practicing, week after week, and I notice my ears slowly agreeing with my heart, which knows that harmony and order have never been broken or lost. Harmony exists, alive and well, and can be found in the slightest movements and tones.

Looking Up

Blooming Dogwood trees. It’s happening around town. And for me, each tree causes a flush of memories and calm. I’m not talking about a calm that sits down with a cup of cocoa and good book to read. I’m talking about a calm that says, I know, I know, I don’t know.

The statement begins agitatedly, I KNOW. Then quieter, I know. Then in a whisper, admits, I don’t know.

I release all “my knowing,” look up and…calm. Even if for a second. It’s the calm of trusting goodness.

In Washington state, one Dogwood tree ornamented our orchard. One. One Dogwood tree on the outskirt of our forty-acre orchard. An orchard planted with about eight-thousand trees, all blooming delicate pinks and whites.

The one stood out.

While the fruit tree flowers came in bunches of nickel-sized florets, flailing every which way, the Dogwood flowers carried a look of independence. The Dogwood flowers were large, the size of saltines and they faced upward.

Each time this year, I’d walk to the one Dogwood tree and cut a few long stalks of flowers to take home, arrange in a vase, and put on top of the piano. The Dogwood flowers became my classic décor when hosting Easter dinners for family and friends and anyone else I previously bumped into in town to invite, no matter what their religious or nonreligious background.

We all had one thing in common, appreciation for, or at least getting a kick out of the dignity and uniqueness of the grandiose Dogwood bouquet.

But the next day, those flowers went to the compost pile, because they started stinking.

I know, I won’t be hosting a dinner anytime soon or bumping into people, because I hardly go into town and when I do, I avoid people.

I know, my typical way of seeing and celebrating this time of the year, full of renewal and friendship, has been contradicted and dashed.

It’s enough to make me look down and feel afraid, frustrated, weary. Apathy grabs me. But I shake it off and say, nope, I don’t know. Or rather, I admit that what I currently do know won’t last. I don’t need to hold onto what I know.

More knowledge will come. It is coming.

And every day of late, even when I’m not trying, glances of Dogwood flowers infuse me with increased knowledge of a trust in life and renewal.

I John 1:1-4
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.”

Something to do during COVID-19 pandemic

From the “Index” of 21st Century Science and Health, 6th edition, look up references to your choice of the following words, typed in bold font below. When reading the references, ask yourself questions.

Guidance.

How can we feel Soul guiding us through social-distancing, rather than feel the pull of emotionalism?

Angels are exalted thoughts that guide us, so what type of indestructible angels get us through chaos and vulnerability?

Divine Truth guides byspiritual rules, not human rules, therefore what human rules can we distance ourselves from? What spiritual rules can we live, move, and breath?

Environment.

How do we read human mind without fear, but with healing compassion, such as Christ Jesus did?

What other types of activities and ideas, other than “song, sermon, and Science” show trust in Spirit and spirituality and offer comfort to humanity?

How do we possess and reflect “God’s dominion to bless the environment” when using the internet?

Peace.

Staying on the side of “Science and peace” isn’t danger-free, so what errors of thought do we banish to stay protected and safe?

The “peace and order of divine Mind” doesn’t come by avoiding COVID-19, but by treating it with spiritual understanding, by respecting advanced thinkers, and what else?

Like a “dove,” how are we symbols of peace? Like “evening,” we can trust peace and rest to overpower mystification and weariness.

World events stretch Easter

Easter stretches like Silly Putty as world events yank and squash our views. And the COVID-19 pandemic has me wondering, can I get new views of Easter from divine Mind, rather than from world events?

Arguably, Easter began before Christianity, to celebrate the world event of the beginning of spring, signifying new life.

Among many other amazing world events came Jesus and his story of resurrecting, three days after being crucified. About three-hundred years of yanking and squashing, in 325 the Council of Nicaea stretched Easter and people began observing the resurrection. Basically, Easter shaped into a Christian holiday.

When reviewing the story of Jesus up against the current pandemic, I’ve noticed Easter take on a new shape: Jesus’ resurrection can be my resurrection, defined as rebirth. In other words, my goal isn’t to avoid disease or death but to live the patience, integrity, and trust in Spirit that Jesus did.

We read in Matthew that before Jesus prayed alone in Gethsemane, he told a few of his disciples, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” Well, the disciples didn’t “watch” but that’s another story. “And going a little farther [Jesus] fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.’”

Jesus was sorrowful, sad, a sadness that would lead to death, however Jesus didn’t go to death because he ultimately did the will of God, Life, and lived.

Rather than be obsessed with COVID-19, I can prayerfully contemplate divine Mind and thoughts.

Unseen ungodlike thoughts can be dangerous and they do die, whether it’s a virus or human vanity, however, I can not be sad and I can do the will of God with my heart, soul, and body by rebirthing patience, integrity, and a trust in divine Spirit. I can see and feel Easter being stretched into clearer views of a life worth living.

“The resurrection advances individual and collective consciousness, it moves thought out of spiritual dullness and blind belief into the perception of infinite possibilities.”—21st Century Science and Health

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Overwatered houseplants

A couple of weeks ago, I stopped driving into town five days a week, to work at our shop.

My new routine embraces a lot more home time.

My old routine allowed me time with the public. Lots of people. We talked. We laughed. We shared ideas. The job confirmed that many of us, no matter what language we use, understand the meaning and healing power of love and life.

When busy in the shop, I spent fewer hours at home and would forget to water our four plants. The ivy and spider plants would soon look dry and thirsty, reminding me, water please.

They also promptly forgave me after I gave them a drink.

Before the COVID-19 containment mandates went into effect, we closed our shop and began staying home. Now, the ivy and spider plants tell me, no more water please, you gave us a drink two days ago. Enough already.

I smile.

World history requires routine changes. Humans adjust. It is the very adjustments and changes that confirm an understanding of love and life. If human routines don’t change or improve, we succumb into the worst characters and harden into hate and death.

It may be the death of people, businesses, churches, or communities. But love and life survive.

The reason we closed our shop relates to the reason our state governor eventually mandated non-essential employees to stay home. To contain COVID-19. And I believe it must be done with love and life rather than with fear and selfishness.

We stay home to allow space for people who supply food and healthcare. They deserve my respect and intelligence.

Although I’m not sick, I hear this counsel from the modern version of Mary Baker Eddy’s book, Science and Health:

“Selfishness pushes the weight of human existence toward the side of error, not toward Truth. Denial of the oneness of Mind causes our energy to veer into the gutter of mortality, rather than stay on track with Spirit, good.

“In divine Science, we are well even if the physical senses say we are sick, however, this doesn’t discount our responsibility to tell others we are sick or contagious while yet proving in Science that health is normal and disease is abnormal.

“Continue to recognize the nothingness of illusions—stay on the path Science is walking—and the ingrained illusions of human beings will be replaced with reality.”

The counsel isn’t new. It goes way back. In Bible language, I read about following the path of love and life, and not veering to the right or left unless led to by God.

Moses wrapped up his speech regarding the Ten Commandments by saying, “You shall be careful therefore to do as the Lord your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess.”—Deut. 5:32-33

From II Chronicles:

“Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, and walked in the ways of David his father; and he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet a boy, he began to seek the God of David his father, and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, and the carved and the metal images.”

In this time of contagious disease, there’s evidence of an ever-growing understanding of love and life as all-in-all. My goal isn’t to not get sick. My goal is to follow love and life. It’s happened for thousands of years and people are doing so today even if it’s scary.

From the Gospel Mark:

“And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. 54 And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire. 55 Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. 56 For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. 57 And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” 59 Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. 60 And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” 61 But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” 62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” 63 And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? 64 You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death.”

I can’t let human routines decide anything. I want to follow and tend to love and life. Because it is love and life that make the last call.

Faith in contagious good

Coronavirus-2019 shows me the bottom line isn’t financial but spiritual. It shows me the value of faith.

While distancing myself physically from others, I also strive to remain in touch with behaviors that support cleanliness and health. I can spread wisdom rather than disease. And I think wisdom involves respect for one another as mentioned in Romans 12: 4-12.

“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”

As expressions of the one God, we each have different gifts and together those gifts express purpose, health, and love. It’s not a gift to point fingers and blame. It’s not a gift to pretend to be an arm and tell the leg how to act. It’s not a gift to pretend to be an arm when we’re really a leg.

But we can be our self and respect others, because behaving as one, has throughout history, served humanity better.

While I understand more each day about this virus and how to behave with respect, patience, and zeal in society, I don’t want to forget faith. I don’t want to struggle to understand more and more about this world-problem, since an obsessed mind isn’t mindful.

I can take time to cherish faith, my faith in God, the one Mind, and in divine Science teaching me, as read in 21st Century Science and Health, “Nothing except divine power is capable of doing more for human beings than we do for ourselves.”

I don’t fully understand divine power, but I believe it resounds goodness, not for a few, but for the whole.

Provoking images

Cartoonist Bill Watterson.

I’ve never met the guy except through his comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes. But his creative talent sure invokes images that still give me a chuckle today.

Calvin’s character portrayed a rascal, kindergarten age, who tussled with life issues in unusual ways that strike consciousness with new perspectives. Hobbes was his stuffed cat, a tabby. A furball of honest friendship and common sense.

When Watterson retired in 1995, we bought his books for posterity and found ourselves reading and rereading the Calvin and Hobbes comics. Within a few years, the pages were dog-tagged and blotched with jam or dry hot chocolate.

During our empty nest phase in life, my husband and I got a couple of kittens. A brother and sister. A tabby and a tuxedo, respectively.

Unable to come up with names we’d remember, my husband watched the kittens and said, “The tabby is Hobbes. Watch him. His attitude is Hobbes all over.” Sealed deal. Calvin and Hobbes became part of our family.

Along with a granddaughter.

Our granddaughter grew up getting to know and adore Calvin and Hobbes.

When our granddaughter was three years old, she went to the doctor’s office with her mommy and noticed happy, yet solemn attention was given to a big round tummy. “What are you doing?” she asked her mommy.

“There’s a baby inside my tummy. We’re checking to see when the baby will come out,” our daughter answered.

“What’s its name?” our granddaughter asked.

“Calvin,” her mommy said.

“Oh, we get a cat,” she remarked enthusiastically.

“Well, no, it will be a baby human.”

Slight disappointment.

No worries. That was three years ago, and our granddaughter took to her brother just fine. We do however need clarification sometimes, “You mean feed Calvin the cat or Calvin my brother?”

One day, I’ll introduce our granddaughter and grandson to Watterson’s popular comic strip. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of images they get from Calvin and Hobbes.

Eavesdropping

Apparently, the word “eavesdrop” came about in the 17th century and described a noun, like dirt, but more specifically as “the ground on to which water drips from the eaves of a house.” Today, eavesdropping signifies a verb meaning “listening into a conversation without the knowledge of the people involved in it.”

Not too long ago, I had to make strategic efforts to eavesdrop. It required tiptoeing undercover, with inhaled breath, near a hushed conversation, to hopefully gather curious or pertinent information. Not anymore.

I can stand in the line at the grocery store and listen to, albeit one-sided, conversations about sold properties, other children’s behavior, and where they want to eat dinner that night.

Granted, most conversations aren’t pertinent and tend in this direction.

“Hey.”

“I’m at the grocery store.”

Louder. “I’m at the grocery store.”

Impatience kicks in. “Why can’t you hear me, where are you?”

“I’m at the grocery store.”

“I’ll be home in ten minutes.”

“I said, I’ll be home in ten minutes.”

Right. Those type of conversations happen so often that I now make efforts to ignore what I hear. I don’t want to know what I hear, and I don’t think I’m alone. Why do most people stuff earbuds in their ears?

Which brings me to riding the subway in New York City. Where I see ears chockfull of buds. As I did last week after traveling to Washington state. A grand trip it turned out.

My return flight to New York landed at JFK airport. I still had the Air-train, subway, bus, and car to navigate before reaching home. From the subway, I wanted to get to Port Authority and sort of knew to get off at 42nd Street, but when in doubt, I ask the person next to me.

I was told by a confident person, “Get off on 35th.”

I got off at 35th and started looking for signs to Port Authority. None.

I heard a calm but clear voice, “You want 42nd, get back on before the door closes.”

I did.

“Get off at 42nd and follow the signs,” he told me.

The voice came from a guy who was sitting in the subway car I just exited. He was seated at least seven people away from where I’d been standing. How did he hear my conversation through the track rattling and his hoodie covered head? I don’t know.

All I knew was, I could have made it to Port Authority from 35th but I was carrying a heavier than normal backpack and looking for the shortest distance to walk. Thankfully, someone eavesdropped. They listened. Or did they answer a call for pertinent information?

Society is a foolish juror, listening only to one side of the case. Justice often comes too late to secure a verdict. People with mental work before them have no time for gossip about false law or testimony. To reconstruct timid justice and place the fact above the falsehood, is the work of time.”–21st Century Science and Health

[Jesus said] “Are you listening to me? Really listening? 16-19 “How can I account for this generation? The people have been like spoiled children whining to their parents, ‘We wanted to skip rope, and you were always too tired; we wanted to talk, but you were always too busy.’ John came fasting and they called him crazy. I came feasting and they called me a lush, a friend of the riffraff. Opinion polls don’t count for much, do they? The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”–The Message

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