Archive | August 2017

Even More Beauty in Houston

TheseHouston residents are NOT standing in line the day after the rain stopped to get a free meal or to register for monetary help. No, they have lined up to volunteer. So many showed up that first morning, they had to turn people away. This is  the real, everyday, hometown America. Pay no attention to the staged riots showing up frequently on the airwaves while news readers insist we are hopelessly divided.

This is another view of the same early morning line.

Beauty from Harvey

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Volunteer leads the way

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Woman and baby rescued from freeway

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Whoever needs help, gets it from whomever is available

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Fifteen-year-olds using dad’s boat and their energy to help neighbors

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This man and his boat were busy all day helping anyone needing to be rescued

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A flotilla of volunteers working during the rain to help neighbors and strangers

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Some came from Louisiana and some from Waco, Texas to spend their time, money, energy, and equipment to save the lives of strangers.

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Using whatever you can find to do the job at hand

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US Coast Guard coming inland to offer their services

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Pets are not left either

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Look closely – this is a cattle drive through town to pasture on higher ground

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Life is always more important than mere possessions

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Even beer companies shut down the usual production lines to produce free cans of drinking water to send to the flood areas in a far away state

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After twelve frantic hours of rescuing scared, stranded people, you rest wherever and whenever you can find a spot

 

 

Redux #2: Beauty of True Riches

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The only things that can never be taken

from you are your memories.

Create beautiful memories; they are your true riches.

Dr. Marvin E. Patterson

Shortly after posting the above quote last week, two friends responded by reminding me that our memories can be taken away from us too. This is Part Two of my response. 

If you live in a country where English is the first language, you no doubt have heard the hundred year old hymn, “The Love of God.” The story of how it was written sheds light on our dilemma of whether or not memories can be kept a lifetime even when someone appears to have lost the capability of thinking and remembering.

In the eighteenth century, a certain man was considered so hopelessly insane that he existed for years locked in a tiny cell where he could do no harm to himself or to others. Food and necessities were provided, but he was considered incapable of rational thought or conversation. After his death, as the attendants were preparing his cell for a new occupant, they found the following poem scratched into the wall.

     Were the sky of parchment made,

     A quill each reed, each twig and blade,

     Could we with ink the oceans fill,

     Were every man a scribe of skill,

     The marvelous story, Of God’s great glory

     Would still remain untold; For He, most high

     The earth and sky Created alone of old.

At first, everyone presumed the poor man had composed it himself in occasional moments of lucidity.  News about the discovery spread as the public wondered how a deranged man unable to communicate with others could achieve such lyrical grace with words.

As the story passed from person to person, town to town, and country to country,  someone finally discovered that actually it had been written in the eleventh century by a cantor for the Synagogue in Worms, Germany, Meir Ben Issac Nehorai. These lines were  part of a hymn used during the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost.

So the insane man knew the old poem and could remember it even though he didn’t appear to be able to even think. Not only could he remember, it comforted him or he would not have written it on the wall in his cell.

* * *

To finish the story of the hymn, in 1917, Frederick M. Layman, an American living in California, was impressed by the story of the poem above. In fact, he was so impressed, he  adjusted the translated words to fit the meter of a hymn he, himself had started, but couldn’t seem to finish. His reworked translation of the Jewish poem became the third stanza:

     Could we with ink the ocean fill,

        And were the skies of parchment made;

     Were every stalk on earth a quill,

        And every man a scribe by trade;

     To write the love of God above

        Would drain the ocean dry;

     Nor could the scroll contain the whole,

        Though stretched from sky to sky.

No one ever really knows what is going on inside another person, what they’re thinking, or what they remember. One can judge by facial expression, body language, or words, but still not know even if another person is  telling the truth or not. Family members of patients who are in a comatose state are now warned to speak encouraging words when around the patient because he may be aware, although unresponsive. Patients coming out of anesthesia after surgery sometimes hear what is being said by others, even though they are still unable to speak. Even when a person appears to not understand, respond, or remember, there still is that inner being that appreciates and recollects.

Wise and happy people strive to make beautiful memories realizing that they really are true riches.

Copyright 2017 by Kaye Fairweather

Redux #1: Beauty of True Riches

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The only things that can never be taken

from you are your memories.

Create beautiful memories; they are your true riches.

Dr. Marvin E. Patterson

Shortly after posting the above quote last week, two friends responded by reminding me that our memories can be taken away from us too. This is Part One of my response. 

The quote is from a very dear friend of mine, the late Dr. Marvin Patterson. It was the framework he used to help me struggle through some daunting legal and personal problems that I faced through no fault of my own. As a naive optimist, I had been totally unprepared for the calumny, rejection, and betrayal that had created these life changing economic, social, and logistical predicaments. For at least three years, I often muttered under my breath, “Of course I’m depressed. I would have to be crazy to not be depressed.”

But bit by bit he helped me face reality, accept my losses, and start facing the future with equanimity and forgiveness. There were times that only through my daydreams about creating beautiful memories for my family, could I muster the courage to put one foot in front of the other. Planning spur-of-the-moment picnics, decorating the house for holidays, cooking special meals for impromptu celebrations, or planning occasional trips together kept me going until life seemed to be worthwhile again. Creating beautiful memories became my raison d’être.

There is no way that I could have ever repaid him for his kindness. But, I know that if they do give big, solid gold stars in heaven for doing good work, he earned a thousand or so for helping me.

Also, I am quite aware that drugs, alcohol, and old age can affect one’s mind so badly that people tend to think the person is no longer “there” or is crazy. I go through a new realization of that every time I call my own mother. First, I have to explain that I am her daughter, Kaye, even though I was the only daughter she had. Then I have to make all of the conversation, keeping everything simple. We can no longer discuss ideas or current events because apparently they are now beyond her understanding. And frequently she forgets within an hour that it was I who called her.

So her beautiful memory is not about facts and pictures in her mind anymore, but about good feelings. It makes her feel good when anyone calls her, even for five minutes, because it reminds her that she is loved. And that is a beautiful memory whether she remembers it was I or not.

As always, the person who does the mitzvah, is rewarded double what the other person receives. So I have an especially beautiful memory of repaying her for her early mitzvahs to me. Beautiful memories are true riches, indeed.

Copyright by Kaye Fairweather, 2017

Icons?

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Typology is a seldom used word; it’s related to symbolism. In our computer dominated world, software engineers, understanding typology, have developed little symbols that indicate where to click for new pages on the Internet. Many times a day we use use those symbols, called icons,  to tap into additional, but related information. That’s typology. Our modern geeks adapted the concept from ancient Christian icons.

The seemingly static Russian or Byzantine icons are human attempts to express heavenly realities through art. The typology that permeates them suggests that the subject of the icon relates to, illustrates, or expands on similar ineffable concepts. Contemplating Christian icons can open up new ideas to consider just as clicking on the computer icon opens up a new page.

I didn’t always understand this. In fact, looking at icons used to bother me. They were so stilted and disproportional that it irritated me to view them, except in passing. I thought they bordered on ugly and never imagined that I would ever                                                                  buy one for my own house.

Then one day, a friend of mine from Lebanon explained that the iconographers used color and symbols to paint a picture of spiritual reality.  As an amateur photographer, I understood that concept. All photographers know that the human being is more than that physical body in front of them. No, the real person is inside, animating the body and the photographer hopes to capture the essence of that real person through facial expression, body language, clothing, lighting, back drops, etc. One can not photograph personality, but one hopes to suggest it in the photo.

In a similar way, the iconographer uses color as one method to achieve his goal of expressing the divine in a painting. Color suggests certain broad concepts:

  • Red indicates life, vitality, beauty
  • Blue indicates heaven and mystery
  • Gold indicates sanctity, splendor, the glory of God, life in the heavenly kingdom
  • Purple indicates wealth, power, authority
  • Green indicates youth, fertility, or vegetation
  • White indicates purity, the divine world, innocence

In order to transcend the earthly concepts of time and space, the icon is always static, showing no movement, suggesting eternity to the viewer. Mouths are always closed to encourage silence. The hands often hold a symbolic object.

One should contemplate icons, not just glance at them. Through meditation  of these symbols, one enters into that new transcendent reality far beyond one’s current situation.

I found the icon above of Christ the Teacher especially appealing, perhaps because I was a teacher. His right hand is raised in blessing; his left hand holds the open New Testament. His clothes are red and blue, overlaid with gold. to indicate his divine, yet human nature. I haven’t progressed to the point of praying with icons, as many do, but I hope that this one always reminds me that each one of us should function as both teacher and student all of our lives.

Copyright 2017 by Kaye Fairweather

Once There Was Beauty

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Once upon a time beauty bloomed inside Effie’s mind as she planned the best design for the edging that would trim the sheets and pillowcases needed to complete her dowry. She often hurried to finish the farm chores to allow time to complete a few extra inches of lace before bedtime.  After each harvest, she eagerly counted out her coins, hoping on the next trip to town to buy more linen to make hand towels and napkins to monogram during the winter.

All was finished and packed away in a separate wooden trunk by the time she climbed into the family’s wagon to be driven to Simmons College for her teaching degree. When things got tough at school, she comforted herself with daydreams about using the beautiful things carefully folded and waiting in her hope chest. After graduation, she moved to the territory of New Mexico to start her new life as a single woman teaching school in what became Lea County. Every month, she bought a few pieces of  delicate, hand painted fine china to add to her dowry. And she kept it all under lock and key for safety’s sake.

After she married, they decided to build only a very small frame house to live in temporarily because they were living as simply as possible while getting the sheep ranch and small farm started. All of these precious linens and good china would be used in the new house – the real house they would build after proving the claim and after they had more money.  But right now, they were just getting by.

Especially with growing children though, every year the nice house seemed to be further and further down the road. Occasionally Effie would open the trunk to look again at the lovely things they would use some day and show them to her three girls, provided they washed their hands before touching any of the treasures. Their big eyes drank in the glory of delicate hand painted tea cups and they begged to use them right now – today.

But cautious Effie always said,  “No, not until we build the new house; these things are just too nice to use here. But then, we’ll use them every day and especially when we have company come over for dinner.”

But one Sunday, when the oldest girl was eight and the youngest a toddler, before the new house was built,  they returned home after church to a smoldering  pile of ashes. No one knows how the fire started or even when. They were grateful that the wind had not spread it to the corrals, so none of the livestock was lost. The windmill was still pumping water from under the ground, but no one had been there to use it to put out the fire.

Of course none of them had ever gotten to use the beautiful things that had been made with such generosity and such anticipation of the delight of sharing beauty with the people you love most of all.

* * * *

Share whatever beautiful things you have with everyone you love while both are still with you. Each of us needs all the beauty we can get from mundane tools neatly arranged to a marvelous view of our own back yard to a table set neatly in a quiet house to encourage conversation during the shared meal. Thus we build real memories instead of trying to live in air castles.

Copyright 2017 by Kaye Fairweather