Friday, June 27, 2014

Rights of Passage

In Münster, Germany

June is one of those months, you know!  Weddings, graduations, and more weddings.

Did you know that in the Netherlands, when you graduate from secondary school, you hang your backpack outside your bedroom window…or somewhere in the front of your house, even on the flagpole!  The other day while walking in nearby Utrecht, we saw four backpacks hanging from a row of houses next to each other.  They’ll be friends for life, you can be sure.

Oh, and don’t forget all those June birthdays.  In my birth family, 3 of us 10 were born in June.  Yesterday Mom would have been 98.  Tomorrow brother Bennett would be 66, 3 years my junior.  He made it to 47.

Which leads to death, of course.  We don’t like to talk about this rite, even though it’s the surest of them all....

But where Astrid and I live in our senior community, it’s closer than I’ve ever experienced, except for when working in assisted living.  And it's here, surrounded by those so close to death, where I am learning to cherish the beauty of this rite, especially after a life well-lived.

For instance, Pie (pronounced pee), at age 98, is one chic lady who attends every Friday’s Happy Hour with the grace and stateliness of a queen.  If you ask her how she’s doing, she might mention the pain in her back but will add, with a serene smile, “Other than that, I’m just fine.”

And there’s Arend, age 86, who walks past our apartment two times every day to eat with his lady friend, Bettie, who’s 91.  He’s a widower, she a widow, both still wearing their wedding rings from past lives.  They do everything together, including cruises, bus trips and flights to nearby countries.  Though she’s quick to tell you they are NOT married, they are definitely companions…a right they both enjoy.

Speaking of Arend, I’m quite sure he is the model Shel Silverstein used in The Giving Tree for the caricature of the Boy who became the Old Man.  Every time I look at Arend’s wrinkled, gnarled face at Rummikub on Fridays, I see the boy a tree loved....

And I see death as a rite that is…a beautiful right to cherish.  Our last rite.  Our last right…even if totally unexpected (as with Marcie’s mother) or seemingly before its time (my brother)!

But way before that…and the Holy Communions and bar/bat mitzvahs, the sweet-16s, the driver’s licenses, the coming of age, giving birth, the marriages and divorces, job promotions, retirements....

It’s this Pacifier Tree that stops me dead in my tracks.

I suppose we chose the rite of birth for our own children but did we know then anything about these trees popping up all around the world today?  They’re usually in neighborhoods near schools where the youngest siblings of school children get strolled by their parents.

When exactly the light goes on that the binky in the child’s mouth is like those up in the tree, I don’t know, but one day the wee child “gets” it and decides it’s time to “hang it up.”  Whether encouraged or prodded by others, she’s lifted up on the shoulders of Mommy/Daddy and SHE does it.  SHE gives it up.  I don’t know if she’ll remember it the rest of her life but…it’s as much a rite of passage as any that will follow.

Let’s call it the first rite of passage:  giving up the pacifier.  Do you suppose it'll be a good kick-starter for those other rites/rights to follow?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Pentecost Monday

“Very few of us understand Honorable Bird, except to acknowledge that without his power and grace nothing would be written, painted, or composed at all. To say anything beyond this about the creative process is like pulling all the petals off a flower in order to analyze it, and ending up having destroyed the flower.”  
-- Madeleine L'Engle (A Circle of Quiet)

[Today, Pentecost/Whit Monday, is a federal holiday in the Netherlands, as well as in many other countries of the world.  The above image is a mural painting in the Catholic Church of the Holy Spirit in Münster, Germany.]

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Our Shoppe Gallery

While celebrating our weekends, and in the spirit of our global collaboration and community of support, we are featuring our personal art as 'Vision to Verb' notecards.
Our hope is that they'll inspire you to join with us in our support of KIVA - empowering people around the world with start-up business loans.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Why War?

Our Shutterchance photoblog meet-up in England three Sundays ago was held at the Royal Air Force Museum in Cosford.   One of the exhibits was about the Vietnam War, showing the many war buttons and placards people in England (and America!) wore or carried, back in the 60s and 70s:

Hell No We Won’t Go
Make Love Not War
Ban the Bomb


While out-n-about there in England, I was delighted to find a used copy of one of my favorite movies, the adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s beloved “Where the Wild Things Are.”  When Astrid and I watched it last week I was reminded, with tears in my eyes, of one of its main taglines:

It’s hard being a family.


The above image is a picture I took last year of a WWII war poster from the Clervaux Castle war museum on the Battle of the Bulge in northern Luxembourg (only the framing/border is added).  It asks one question:



Back in 1932, Albert Einstein (the physicist) was invited by the League of Nations to reflect with someone of his choice on any issue of importance.  He chose Sigmund Freud (the psychoanalyst) and selected this question: “Is there any way of delivering humankind from the menace of war?”  Their exchange was published over 70 years ago in three languages and widely distributed throughout Western Europe under the title:

Why War?


One of the first things I learned in Sunday School as a little girl was the shortest verse in the Bible (John 11:35), after Jesus heard about the death of his beloved friend, Lazarus:
Jesus wept.

That reminds me of the soulful, mourning ballad of loss by Roy Orbison:

Crying Crying Crying.
I’ll always be crying over you.


As America celebrates her federal Memorial Day today, commemorating the men and women who died while serving in her armed forces, I’m trying to connect many disconnected thoughts:

It’s hard to maintain peace.
Nothing about war makes sense. 
I hope we’re all crying.