Invincible Summer Is Somewhere Within

Staying warm in winter

This quote from a book given to me by my daughter, Kristen, grabbed my attention this morning.  “In the midst of winter, I found there was within me, an invincible summer.”  In the long days of waiting for my feet to heal, it seemed to be written for me.  Good poetry is like that.  The art has as much to do with what has been left unwritten as it is about the choice of words on the page.  It allows me to super-impose my own story in the verse.

IMG_4847My mind drifted to summer, the season of growth before the harvest.  All things are possible.  Then somewhere in the middle of the season, there is just TOO MUCH in the garden.  Back in my gardening days, during August the prolific greens … even the flowers I planted myself needed to be cut back.

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My mind drifted to the author of the quote.  Who was the author of this quote – Albert Camus?  What was the context of his words?  I found his poem from “The Stranger” (translated from French to English) and read a bit about the life of this Nobel Prize recipient from Algeria.  No doubt I will come back to this.

My dear,

In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love.

In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile.

In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm.

I realized, through it all, that…

In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.

And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.

Truly yours
Albert Camus, The Stranger

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The Pursuit of Happiness

IMG_6299At Christmas I received a book called “52 Lists for Happiness” from my daughter, Kristen, to use in my morning meditations.  It has 52 weekly list-making prompts, and I found this one very interesting:  “List the ways you think someone you love would describe you.”  I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t make myself write-out-loud what I thought someone would say about me. So I changed it up and thought of 3 people I loved that I saw yesterday and wrote down some words that I would use to describe them.

Tod Smith:  Strong, lighthearted, athletic, fun, observant, witty, generous, helpful.

Joyce Cohen:  Kindhearted, creative, resilient, gentle, wise, other-centered, artistic.

Mom/Dad (Yes, the 2 have become one!):  Independent, nurturing, playful, responsible, loving, faithful, gentle.

It was easy to name people who loved me, which was a good exercise in gratitude.  The question of “Who do they say that I am?” still remains.  I went on a search for Jane Kenyon’s poem “Happiness” because my mind works that way.  Tod calls it “drifting.”

Happiness

Jane Kenyon, 19471995

There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.

It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basketmaker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.
       It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.

 

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Yesterday morning I noticed there was no pain when I put full weight on my foot, nor did I have to elevate it off and on to keep the swelling down.  That was good news on a sunny, but frigid, day in January when my plans included a country ride with my girlfriends, Nancy and Cindy, for a photo shoot and hot soup afterwards.

I felt confident enough to leave my scooter at home.  That freedom led me to think about how it will feel next week when my cast is removed and I slide my bare foot between the sheets at night. I imagined a long shower with no plastic bag on my leg.  Just thinking of these simple pleasures made me giddy.  Note to self:  make an appointment for a pedicure, buy an exfoliant to smooth the scaly leg, shop around for shoes.  I began to hope for a bike ride on a mild day in February before I repeat surgery on the other foot.  It made my face smile all day long — even later when I lay on the couch elevating the foot that swelled after all that fun.  I could see the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel.”

I woke up with a happy-for-no-particular-reason feeling. Contented.  Did you ever notice how a mood can spill over and color the day?  How anger can lead to more anger;  how despair breeds despair, how sadness can be a downward spiral?  Likewise, hope begets hope.

I poured my coffee and lit a candle for my morning routine at sunrise.  The metaphor seems obvious.IMG_6271

Solstice

ImageA couple of conversations yesterday left me thinking of those who suffer from holiday tensions and sadnesses. (All of us?) This morning I think especially about those who are separated from loved ones. Distance. Disease. Death. Disagreement. Whatever the reasons for our separations, this is the dark side of the holidays. Today marks the Winter Solstice, the darkest day of the year. In ancient times, the Festival of the Unconquered Sun was celebrated at this time of year when the sun was so low in the sky it looked as if it might sail out of existence. Candles and twinkling lights symbolize a faith that Darkness will not overpower the Light. I choose to live with that Hope in a painful world that often lacks evidence. May God bless us, every one, with hope and light in these dark days. Here’s to unnecessary kindnesses today. Cheers!

Shadows, long even at midday.

Overhead the sun

Looks as if it might

Sail out of existence.

Try to hold on to Light

In a world that lacks evidence.

Come, oh come,

Emmanuel.

Wrestling with Advent, Settling in to Stillness

 

 

The cast on my foot reminds me of a cocoon.  I wonder if, after as an insect spins itself inside, it has any second thoughts?  Does it struggle as it settles in for the transformation.  I long to work up an honest sweat on a hot summer day, and nothing could be further from my reality.  I dwell on minutia that feels urgent, but does not deserve my attention.  Then there’s all that darkness going on outside this time of year.

Today I took time for Advent Retreat, a day of reflection at St. John’s led by some of my favorite Jesuits:  Jim Clifton, Larry Gillick, and Andy Alexander.  It was good medicine for my cranky spirit!!

Larry Gillick used scripture from John:  “ … a light that darkness cannot overpower” for his reflection.  An ancient celebration at this time of the year was the “Festival of the Unconquered Sun” on the darkest day of the year.  I took a break outdoors near noon.  Even then, the sun was low in the sky.  A case might be made that the sun appears to  be going out of existence. Still we hope.  In a dark world.

Andy Alexander used the phrase “wrestling with Advent” in a season where Christmas gets way ahead of itself.  I found myself settling in to the shadowy stillness instead of wrestling with it.  It doesn’t hurt that my foot is getting better.  17 days after surgery, it doesn’t swell up all the time.  And when Christmas DOES arrive, I have permission to start putting a little weight on the foot.   A light at the end of the tunnel.  Overtones of Advent, the Hope of Christmas.

May the Hope be with us all.  Patience people, Christmas is coming!

I Know It’s Just My Toe

I did not want to go here for the winter, but now I sit on the couch, restless, trying to settle into a routine where slower is faster and “toes above my nose” is the norm.   What I know:  Pain free walking is the goal, and 6 months is a small investment to heal these lame, misshapen feet.  How it feels:  My resistance to sitting still and staying indoors is powerful.  Healing is harder than I thought.  I miss my bike!!

Noted with some acrostic poetry.

FRUSTRATION *** HIBERNATION

Feeling suspended in time

Rummaging though stuff

Useful to the infirm

Simple tasks are hard

Tipped over a coffee cup that

Remained from yesterday

Apparently I didn’t finish it

Then my scooter-cart coasted

Itself all the way across the apartment

Opted for safety and scooted on my butt

Noticed that the floor is filthy.


How the small annoyances send me

In defeat

Back to the couch to

Elevate my foot

Recovery is

Nowhere on the horizon

Afflicted by frustrations

That seem tiny when I say them out loud

Injured by the pantry door

On the way to ice my swollen foot

Now the gel pack heals my head instead.