Saturday, January 24, 2009

Rites of Passage I

A couple of weeks ago, the church calendar marked the baptism of Jesus. Reflecting on it, I wrote this poem.


When I was baptised
there was no River Jordan.
Just a dented tub
in an ugly room.

No hairy prophet presided
but a smooth-skinned man
who told me to read Tillich first.

God's voice never thundered.
The heavens stayed resolutely shut.
Not even a small bird fluttered down from the skies.

Coming up from the waters I felt
No more sure of God's love
or my direction
or my self.

Yet somehow
In all its smallness
It was enough.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Talking about the moon

Er er er er er, said my baby, just 5 months old.
Er er er er er, said my 5 year old back.
Er er er er er, said the baby.
Er er er er er, said the 5 year old.
Back and forth they went, repeating simple sounds to each other.
And then the 5 year old said to me, We're talking about the moon!

The moon is full, rising low and heavy over the rooftops. My older daughters watch it with rapt fascination. It is their intimate and familiar friend. They watch its journey across the skies, its changing form from week to week. 'Moon!' was one of their first words. They would bellow it out from the back of the car, startling adults into awareness and reminding us of its presence and beauty. Now they are passing on their love to their baby sister in playful conversations and stories. One day soon she too will shout 'Moon!' and we will again be roused from our waking slumber and invited to notice, celebrate, name, and sing the creation with her.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

An old typewriter

Three kids asleep! So I sat down for a time of deep relaxation. While my monkey mind chattered on at me to hang out the washing, clean the bathroom and do something useful, I found my deeper self becoming vaguely aware of the usual questions: who am I? what am I doing here in the world? And as I relaxed more deeply I slipped down and found myself at my core. At my core was a small bare room. In the room was a simple wooden table. And on the table sat an old black typewriter, just waiting for me.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The idea of home

I have an image of my house, an image of home, which is not how my house looks at all. In my mind's eye, I see a soft blue board-lined hall, with pegs for coats and boots. A wide staircase rises out of the hall to comfortable rooms above. The light is dappled, and I sit on the stairs and look through the bannisters to the floor below. Patches of sun warm the floor.

In my imaginary house, a flywire door bangs shut on a hot afternoon. Kids fly through the hall, but they are not mine. I am a grandmother showing them how to make jam, or fetching out the box of old toys from under the stairs.

Other times I just sit in my imaginary house, listening to the grandfather clock ticking. My rocking chair creaks, and some small task lies idle in my hands.

My house is spare, cool, inviting, quiet. Dust motes drift through a shaft of sunlight. I am alone in the house, sufficient, content.

In this house, I drink tea not coffee. There is a tin full of biscuits. There are no toys on the floor, no piles of washing, and so few dishes that I do them by hand. Pots of geraniums brighten my window sill.

Some say the image of a house is the image of a person. If this is true, then I am a granny. I am cool, spare, and self sufficient. I don't need much except a bit of quiet. I like geraniums.

In contrast, my real house is full. We have three kids and lots of visitors and piles of washing and scattered blocks and nappies to be folded and toddler art which falls off the fridge in a great drift every time the wind blows through the back door. I make dozens of jars of jam and tomato sauce and cook mountains of food and load the dishwasher and sterilize bottles and buy bread and wipe faces. I eat in a rush before feeding the baby; dinner conversations are dominated by children's chatter and adult admonitions. Sit up straight. Eat your dinner. Keep your feet off the table. Leave that on the floor. Don't pick your nose! Yes, you may go to the toilet. Did you wash your hands? It's messy and noisy and joyful and cranky and intimate and oh! so alive.

But when it all gets too much, I think of my imaginary house, my idea of home. It reminds me that this is all just one stage of life. And while I enjoy the chaos of now, there is also a part of me that anticipates with pleasure a time of quiet, seclusion, solitude. This part of me needs some time to herself, time to reflect, muse, and even write a little. So I dream my imaginary house, and fill my real house with flowers. As my kids squabble and riot, I listen for that ticking clock, and keep an eye out for a few silvery dust motes dancing in the sun.
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