Wednesday, December 23, 2015

THE HAND OF A FRIEND





These are shots of Loose Park in Kansas City.

I couldn't get over the trees there--and my new apartment in Pasadena likewise overlooks a crazy expanse of tall old-growth black walnuts, olive trees, possibly ash, a lemon tree, and a persimmon which is festooned at the moment with orange fruit. I went out and picked all the ripe ones yesterday and plan to make a persimmon pudding for Christmas dinner.

To which ten are expected, and maybe a few strays. Prime rib, ham, Opaline's celery root soup, red cabbage with hazelnuts, brussels sprouts with bacon-herb bread crumbs, cranberry orange cake et cetera.

One of the guests has been tasked with bringing a table and chairs as I have none. In fact, I don't even have a bed yet and have been sleeping on a friend's futon.

What I do have is a fully tricked-out kitchen, bathroom, desk, big green chair and Christmas decorations galore. Also a balcony of beautiful succulents and agaves. My friend Gerry has pledged to help me start a garden out back! But all in good time.

I got to go to Twin Towers jail last night with my friend Joan and share our experience, strength and hope with some of the alcoholic/addict inmates.

One guy came up afterward, took my hand, and said, "Thank you so much. I've been doing meth since I was 14. I'm 30 now and I'm getting out January 4th and I want to be a counselor. But I'm afraid I'll go right back to my friends who drink and do drugs."

Our drive for friendship and connection and love is so strong that we'll even go to people who aren't really, can't really, be our friends. I know what that's like. I still struggle with it in certain ways. Maybe in fact that's our central struggle as humans--wanting more from people than they can give us. Wanting other people to fulfill a longing that is really for something greater than ourselves. Thus relationships falter, we turn to shopping, food, drink, drugs, sex, guns. Wars start. The scientists try to engineer imperfection out of the human person.

To be human is to BE imperfect. That's our glory, that we stumble forward anyway, making art, telling stories, composing music, gazing up at the night stars. Trying to connect.

Possibly the very best thing about my recent move is that I have discovered St. Elizabeth's of Hungary up on North Lake Ave. I went to 8:30 am Mass one day and found it is held in a little whitewashed side chapel. Dark beams, big heavy wooden cushioned chairs with scallop shell backs, old Colonial light fixtures, clay tile floor--just primo. I told a neighbor/friend about it and he reported back that the chapel is OPEN (he visited after dropping his two-year-old son off at day care) from 9 am to 9 pm. I've crept up there in the dark a few times now, around 6, and had the whole place to myself and said Evening Prayer, and then just sat, the red light burning by the tabernacle.

I thought of Therese of Lisieux sitting in the chapel at the abbey school she attended, the one where the other girls for whatever reason didn't like her, and thinking, at the age of ten: Wasn't Jesus my only Friend? And how when someone once asked, "What do you say to Jesus when you pray?" she thought for a minute, then replied: "I don't say much of anything. I just love him."

So after this busy year with a lot of travel and a lot of unsettledness of various kinds, I want to give myself a couple of days before the rush, work and buzz of Christmas day to be quiet. To love him. To reflect upon the fact that the whole world still acknowledges, still grinds to a kind of halt, still strings garlands of lights, still in its way celebrates the coming of a baby.

And may the world light a candle for that guy who started doing meth at 14, and all like him. That he feels the hand of a Friend. That he finds his way.






11 comments:

  1. Merry Christmas, Heather! Much love, and ardent, cordial wishes for peace and abundant blessings in the New Year.

    "Making art, composing music, telling stories, gazing up at the night stars. Trying to connect."

    And yes, let us just love Him -- through others around us, the promising and the unpromising, the illustrious and the notorious, the innocent and the guilty, the strong and the weak, the neat and the sloppy, the old and the young, the obviously broken and those dangerous souls who think they've got it all together.

    True friends do save us, don't they? Thank you for being a light and a grace and a friend. Pax et bonum. Peace and good.

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  2. Heather, it was a pleasure to have become one of your readers this year. Quoting Kerouac's On the road:"Lord bless you all and merry tender Christmas on all your rooftops and I hope angels squat there the night of the big rich real Star". Merry Xmas! Loads of happiness! Antonio-RJ

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  3. "Therein lies the 'grace of Christmas' spiritual people like to talk about so much but often miss when it comes their way. St. Francis of Assisi thought of such adverse experiences as 'perfect joy'."

    My life.

    Merry Christmas Heather.

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  4. Merry Christmas Heather! So happy to hear about your new place.

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  5. Have a Blessed Christmas, dear Heather, and may God grant you many blessings this year.

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  6. Merry Christmas, Heather. It is hard to put into words, but it is always a comfort to me that you can put into words both the profound sense of loneliness that at times comes from living in this place, together with the profound sense of peace that can flood us in the embrace of Jesus. That they both exist together is what you seem to grasp, and I so appreciate that.

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  7. Oh people, thank you so much for these tidings of warmth, connection, joy...Such a mystery, this life, this Cross...In one way it is all suffering, and in another it is all joy! I hope to have a little time in the coming week to reflect on 2015 which for me was an extra-intense 12 months. Am flying into Boston on New Year's Eve to visit with my family in NH for four days...

    Thank you for the support, the understanding, the love. I often get emails from folks who say "I don't agree with everything you say but you challenge me to think more deeply." That makes me know I'm doing my job, and I can only pray I extend the same courtesy and humility to others.

    I hope you all had a blessed Christmas day and here we are at the Feast of the Holy Family...Peace, hope and joy to all--

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  8. This was lovely Heather. I'm a bit late but Merry Christmas! I am happy for you that you found a new place and that there is a beautiful church nearby. Thank you for continuing to share your gifts with us. Many blessings in the New Year.
    Sincerely,
    Dana Laviano

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    1. Thank you, Dana, I did indeed find both an apt and a beautiful nearby church! Let me know if you know of a little studio anywhere near the Seacoast I could rent for a month or so this summer. Lenten blessings to you and all in NH...

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  9. "To be human is to BE imperfect." Indeed. It's hard to accept this and to forgive myself, not for my imperfections, which I accept, but for the effects of my imperfections. I can accept who I am but not what I do. I wonder whether self-forgiveness is a prerequisite to reconciliation.
    I wonder how that fellow is doing, who got out on January 4th. I hope he's doing well.

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    1. Thanks, Kady, yeah that guy is doing well, too. I believe that in some mysterious way, planting a seed or cooking dinner for friends helps him. Those things that lead us out from ourselves and toward the world also go toward forgiving ourselves and reconciling with God, ourselves, and each other...

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