Once Upon a Life…


“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” C.S. Lewis

I have always loved pretend stories. Fairy tales, tall tales, folklore, mythology, fables; they have enchanted me since I was little. As I have aged, like many others who share this love of fairy stories, I have seen grains of truth and life lessons inside these tales. Many, like Aesop’s Fables, have morals and lessons woven into their fabric. Other tales are presumably told for the love of storytelling. As we go through life, however, we learn that every story has a moral. Sometimes we see actions to emulate; and other times we might witness perils to avoid.

Our own lives are filled at times with goblins, enchanted forests, vile sorcerers, shining heroes, and the rest. What we can take away from this is that, unlike a pre-written tale where the actors have no say about its many twists and turns, our stories are peopled with those we happen upon as well as those we choose. Our actions have much to do with our ultimate conclusion, so much more than our initial story’s setting. We can all be working toward our “happily everafter”. The farther you have to go to reach this end, the greater the accomplishment, the more inspiring and harrowing your life’s tale will be. Who wants to read a story that goes from “once upon a time” to “happily everafter” with nothing in between or after? (Happily everafter takes some work.)

Many of the most popular stories have a great opening.  “In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit.” – C.S. Lewis, The Hobbit.   “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” – John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath  “Call me Ishmael.” – Herman Melville, Moby Dick. The very best tales, however, have a good ending.

Does not wisdom call out?

Does not understanding raise her voice?

At the highest point along the way,
where the paths meet, she takes her stand;
beside the gate leading into the city,
at the entrance, she cries aloud:
To you, O people, I call out;
I raise my voice to all mankind.
You who are simple, gain prudence;
you who are foolish, set your hearts on it.
Listen, for I have trustworthy things to say;
I open my lips to speak what is right.
My mouth speaks what is true,
for my lips detest wickedness.
All the words of my mouth are just;
none of them is crooked or perverse.
To the discerning all of them are right;
they are upright to those who have found knowledge.
Choose my instruction instead of silver,
knowledge rather than choice gold,
for wisdom is more precious than rubies,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.”  Proverbs 8:1-11

 

 

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Echos of Eden


Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay.

– Nothing Gold Can Stay, by Robert Frost

When spring rolls around every year, I find myself wanting a garden. Not just any garden will do, either. I want a magnificent Eden, full of the vast array and color spectrum contained in nature. I want plants to look at and plants to eat, preferably all of them beautifully arranged and accessible.  I can definitely relate to Tolkien’s Hobbits when they are described as loving all things that grow. There is just something so satisfying in watching things that you have planted grow from seeds into full maturity as plants or various kinds. My son once grew a single tomato plant from seed that was still growing,  producing and flowering at our 3500 ft elevation when we first started getting frost. (It was a Pompeii tomato, in case you were interested.) Gardening is interesting for all ages. Is it maybe because we began that way?

There are a lot of folksy sayings about when to plant this or that, how to tell if your garden is doing well, when to harvest, etc. Growing food, flowers, or any kind of plant really, just seems to be party of our basic nature. There is such a huge movement toward going green, getting back to nature, organic self-sustaining living, and on and on. At the same time that we are moving away from older ways of doing things and modernizing, it seems many people are realizing the wisdom of looking back to former generations’ wisdom and ways.

It seems to me that if we are realizing the wisdom of doing certain things for ourselves again because it worked well once and still works now, we might want to consider many of the other things that were once standard operating procedure. Things like loyalty, honesty, fairness, justice, and unselfishness might seem outdated or passe, but these values were once just the way things were. It was just the way people behaved. You could count on it like the sun rising in the morning. Perhaps, instead of bemoaning the cruelty and insane selfishness that seems to be the daily diet served up by the evening news, you can be someone who makes a difference for the better. Maybe, if we all lived our lives in parallel to another old-fashioned concept known as the Golden Rule, no matter what the color or preferences or beliefs of the people you encounter everyday whether in person or online (those online avatars represent actual people just like you and me, after all); maybe if we remembered that our ears were made to always be open, but our mouths can actually close from time to time (and should); maybe if we listened to our grandmothers and Thumper’s father “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all”; if we all acted the way we say we want everyone else to…..we would all live in a much happier world overall.

The next time you are tempted to think of something as “old-fashioned” and therefore no longer valid, remember that many of the things we are missing in this world were voted out, modernized, or made unpopular a little bit at a time, until we all learned the bittersweet lesson to be careful what we wish for. Sometimes we get it, and it is a good thing, true. Hand-in-hand with getting our way are the consequences of getting our way, however; and all the political filibustering and campaigning and white-washing and spin-doctoring in the world cannot make things different (in reality) than they actually are. Until we reach a day when “the former things are passed away”, we might just take a look backward from time to time at some of the tried-and-true and see what we’ve been missing.

At any rate, I went online and ordered more seed and plant catalogs than I can possibly use this season. We are in our own home at last, only renting, but nonetheless I want to be able to dream my Hobbity dreams and plan and imagine my perfect garden. I always daydream about a space MUCH bigger than the one I am actually able to use. I don’t ever accomplish the things I imagine, but I go on imagining all the same. Maybe a lot of us just need to find a place like Eden inside of our imaginations where we can go and walk when things get a little too modern and impersonal for comfort.

Thus says the Lord God: In the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities I will [also] cause [Israel’s] cities to be inhabited, and the waste places shall be rebuilt. And the desolate land shall be tilled, that which had lain desolate in the sight of all who passed by. And they shall say, This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden, and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are fortified and inhabited. Then the nations that are left round about you shall know that I the Lord have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate. I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it. – Ezekiel 36:33-36

 

 

Nature’s first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf’s a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay. – See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/19977#sthash.Wt06AMf6.dpuf

Celebrating Along the Way


Most people are prisoners, thinking only about the future or living in the past. They are not in the present, and the present is where everything begins. 
Carlos Santana

Let’s put something on the table right now: I am crazy about the Lord of the Rings. I love the genteel way that women were treated, instead of objectified. I love the heroes who were willing to fight and struggle and sacrifice their own opinions and comfort in order to do what was right and stand up for the good things in the world.

Let’s consider Hobbits for a moment. Hobbits are very much in the moment, even though sometimes others don’t think their habits are practical or appropriate. In the movies, for instance, there were many times when the Hobbits stopped to celebrate with food or a pipe, or both. Sometimes, when danger threatens, or disaster looms, it may not always seem like a good idea to stop everything and celebrate, especially when surrounded by Nazgul.

In life, however, there can be periods of time when we seem to be constantly facing danger, hardship, or disappointment. It IS important to stop and smell the roses along the way and learn to celebrate along the way to our dreams. Maybe you didn’t land a great job (or any job, as is still the case for many) yet. Maybe you are going through unpleasant relationship issues or battling health problems or find yourself mired in legal proceedings. We are all going to be beset by “stuff” from time to time, many times, for longer than you imagined you could endure.

This doesn’t mean, however, that your life should be free from release, rest, and down time, even in the midst of your trials. For one thing, if you are able to actively enjoy things in your life even though the big picture is not going your way, you prove that you are more than just your circumstances. You show the world that life does not have to be perfect in order to find meaning and enjoyment in the midst of it. When you are willing to invite a fellow traveler into your life by means of encouragement, help, companionship, and compassion, you are punching a giant hole in the darkness that hovers over this world. Not everyone will understand when you celebrate your milestones and make the best of a tough situation, but you will be much happier on the whole because of it.

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter —
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousnesswill go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
    with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
    and your night will become like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you always;
    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
    Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. Isaiah 58 : 6-12