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When we look critically at the many thoughts and feelings that fill our minds and hearts, we may come to the horrifying discovery that we often choose death instead of life, curse instead of blessing. Jealousy, envy, anger, resentment, greed, lust, vindictiveness, revenge, hatred … they all float in that large reservoir of our inner life. Often we take them for granted and allow them to be there and do their destructive work.
But God asks us to choose life and to choose blessing. This choice requires an immense inner discipline. It requires a great attentiveness to the death-forces within us and a great commitment to let the forces of life come to dominate our thoughts and feelings. We cannot always do this alone; often we need a caring guide or a loving community to support us. But it is important that we both make the inner effort and seek the support we need from others to help us choose life.
—for Tony’s cousin,who“ made it” out safely
Frustration as old as New Orleans,
where race was the unspoken issue, keeps
those who could not leave, after Katrina.
among the masses,
huddled in the mud and the urine,
the stench of death in torrid attics,
impatience and hunger, amid
the beatings and the suicides, (to say nothing of
the drownings, explosions, and fires). Too much water:
Humiliation floats in a woman’s hurried pee—
on the sidewalk, where she’s hidden only by a dying plant,
and a gentleman, whom she thinks to thank,
diverts his tired eyes, in the begging for
a bottle of water for one’s dying father, who is ninety,
only to be denied, lacking his physical presence,
and in the floods that glisten in the sun while being
transformed into sewer-water.
The poor left their everything at the levee,
that is, if they could leave, they left everything—
in the place where their ancestors were beaten,
after being “sold south,” then freed but given
nothing but Jim Crow. And now there’s nothing
but heat and shit here by the river’s mouth.
Somehow the hell goes on and on. (Hell
being three babies, dying in the Astrodome.)
Did folks not deserve better than
the armed police, who waved guns and
herded them like slaves or black pigs? A bus
overturned on its tardy way to the Promised Land:
Redemption being, once again, denied. But somehow—
the folks who make it will somehow “make a life”:
find purgatory where there used to be hell.
But in the Big Easy (after many prayers),
they knew that life was good,
first published in Washing the Color of Water Golden: A Hurricane Katrina Anthology
If you pray but aren’t praying for Anna, I wish you would.
God says, “I am offering you life or death, blessing or curse. Choose life, then, so that you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).
“Choose life.” That’s God’s call for us, and there is not a moment in which we do not have to make that choice. Life and death are always before us. In our imaginations, our thoughts, our words, our gestures, our actions … even in our nonactions. This choice for life starts in a deep interior place. Underneath very life-affirming behaviour I can still harbour death-thoughts and death-feelings. The most important question is not “Do I kill?” but “Do I carry a blessing in my heart or a curse?” The bullet that kills is only the final instrument of the hatred that began being nurtured in the heart long before the gun was picked up.
The kitchen floor is beautiful laminate flooring made to look like ceramic tile. It is now on the floor in the kitchen. 🙂 Thank you, Pat and Victor!
We still have to apply the molding, patch the wall where it got “hurt,” paint the new door, etc. But all of this is under our control and our timetable. We also have to locate and buy a new refrigerator. The old one has towels under it, so it will not leak on the new kitchen floor.
I am happy to say, “We no longer have the world’s ugliest floor!” And one day soon our table will sit on the new kitchen floor. I am happy, happy, happy! 🙂
As we grow older we have more and more people to remember, people who have died before us. It is very important to remember those who have loved us and those we have loved. Remembering them means letting their spirits inspire us in our daily lives. They can become part of our spiritual communities and gently help us as we make decisions on our journeys. Parents, spouses, children, and friends can become true spiritual companions after they have died. Sometimes they can become even more intimate to us after death than when they were with us in life.
Remembering the dead is choosing their ongoing companionship.
“Do not be too anxious about your advancement in the ways of prayer, because you have left the beaten track and are traveling by paths that cannot be charted and measured. Therefore leave God to take care of your degree of sanctity and of contemplation. If you yourself try to measure your own progress you will waste your time in futile introspection. Seek one thing alone: to purify your love of God more and more, to abandon yourself more and more perfectly to His will and to love Him more exclusively and more completely, but also more simply and more peacefully and with more total and uncompromising trust.”
From What is Contemplation? by Thomas Merton (Springfield, Illinois: Templegate Publishers, 1950), page 64-65.
Windows Toward the World is a featured blog today at WordPress.com. Tag: Literary Publications.
Not only is Jessicca Vidrine the editor of Southern Hum Press, who published my chapbook, Paper Snowflakes, and the editor of Southern Hum, but she is also a teacher, just beginning her first assignment. And not only is she a teacher, but she is also the mother of three small children.
And not only that, Jessicca, who lives in Louisiana, is a poet and fiction writer, who just learned that her chapbook, What it Means to Let Go, has been accepted for publication by FootHills Publishing. Congratulations Jessicca.
Copies of my chapbook, Paper Snowflakes, will be mailed to me this week. That means copies are for sale at Southern Hum Press. The editor, Jessicca Vidrine, said, “They are quite lovely.”
The cover picture, taken by my husband Bill, is my Mom’s house, where I grew up.