Tag Archiv: courage

Mighty

white_footed_mouse2

I keep up with the news in bits and snatches. Children who cannot eat, mothers who cannot get medical help for their families, fathers who cannot protect them, these things weigh heavily on me. It does not take much for the enormity of the world’s suffering to overwhelm me. I don’t know the answers to children neglected by people with the physical resources to do better. Everywhere I look, life is about things. People seem worth less every day in the craving to fill emotional spaces with things. When we cannot have things, we have pictures of things. Virtual things. Pretend things. Anything, just not living breathing, uncontrollable love and life.

I won’t belabor the point, but the world troubles me deeply. I feel helpless and alone against forces ridiculously beyond my control. Enter a mouse.

My father was helping us fix a wall on our barn. I sent the boys out to clean out the straw and dirt shoved all along its edge. They came back excited. They’d found a nest of baby mice. Everywhere was ready but they’d left the nest area intact. Too late, the message came and another eager cleaner had finished the job.

I looked but to no avail. Through piles of dust and straw I searched, trying to find something still alive. There was nothing to do but continue. An hour or so later, my father pointed. Four feet away on the stone fence was the mother mouse come back for her babies. I wished there was a way to tell her that was too late. That they were probably already suffocated under one of the piles on the barn floor. Again, there was little to do but continue.

I didn’t see it myself. I went in to make dinner. But my father swears he saw the mouse come back as he worked, dig through the piles and carry living babies off into the bushes. I still don’t know if I believe it but I’ve decided I don’t care. Whether she found them or not, with my own eyes I saw her come looking. The chaos we created in her fragile world couldn’t have seemed any less overwhelming than the chaos of my own. She came back because her babies weren’t where they were supposed to be. She didn’t have a plan for the winter, the fall, or the rest of the week. She noted our gigantic presence, the destruction of her home and worried only about doing what she could do right then to be who she was made to be.

Oh mighty mouse, may your days be long, your food stores full, your babies fat, your nest restored. Smaller than my daughter’s palm, brave mother mouse, you give me much courage and hope.

Acts of Courage

David gegen Goliath, by Gebhard Fugel. Early 19th century

David gegen Goliath, by Gebhard Fugel. Early 19th century

 

It came to me the other day that to be happy was sometimes an act of courage. The idea surprised me enough to keep me thinking about courage for days. If being happy can be a bold counter cultural statement about being loved in the face of loud messages that beg to differ, what else might courage look like?

Like my mother before me, there is nothing so comforting in a trial or helpful in a confusion, as a list. A work in progress, but here’s where I’ve come so far.

Acts of courage:

1. To be happy. (i.e. to act as one who is unmistakably beloved and secure in the love)

2. To be hopeful when logical reasons for such sentiment seem lacking. (13.5 years into mothering, no child yet gives a hoot about cleaning their rooms or taking care of possessions, theirs or others. My attempts at book publication repeatedly miss the mark. And yet.)

3. To believe that I can change and become the person I have repeatedly failed to become. (Despite my elite level skills in flippant, sarcastic, and caustic remarks, I will someday be free of those crutches.)

4. To believe that others can change and become the person they dream of becoming. (I build the boxes I put people in too small. The timing of when they rise up to overcoming is not my concern. The least I can do is leave the lids off.)

5. To believe that failure does not define people. Me, or anybody else. (Failure, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. No matter who sees it or says it, apt or not, it remains separate from our value as human beings.)

6. To believe that others are doing the best they can and to make this the underlying premise and starting point for every relationship I have. (I cannot logically believe this 100% of the time, but I cannot see what there would be to lose for acting as if it were true the 5% of the time it isn’t.)

7.  To start each day with no strings attached, a day of new beginnings devoid of the weight of yesterdays dead ends, engine troubles, and thirty car pile ups.

 

That’s as deep as I’ve dug so far. I’m going to mine the hill a little longer in case there’s something I missed that applies to now. Then again, it might be enough of a challenge already.

Thanksgiving, thanks and more thanks

Growing up we never lived close to my grandparents, but I felt their love all the same. Especially from my grandmother. As a small child, I sometimes wondered if my grandfather even knew my name, but somewhere in there, he started talking. He’s never really stopped since. I know entire extended families rather well through the stories of my grandmother. My grandfather and I share a love of silly rhymes.

I wasn’t sure how things would work after my mother died.  Usually it had been my mother that kept us together.

My grandma called me on the phone.  “I call my kids in order. All their numbers are on the wall. I’m too old to change from four to three. I’m putting you in at your mother’s spot,” she said.

She travelled up to meet my first baby. I travelled down with the other three when they arrived.  She bought me diapers and tucked twenty dollar bills in my coat for gas. I sent pictures and letters I had never taken the time to write before. We weren’t  forgetting my mother. We were loving somebody else who loved her. Along the way, we found a lot of love and joy between us. My mother would like that.

My grandfather doesn’t remember things now. He has cancer that he isn’t treating. Many conversations, he can’t follow. He joins in by telling jokes he thinks of.

This year we had an early Thanksgiving dinner together. My grandparents, my girls, and me. I brought one of our chickens. The girls drew turkey pictures and made place cards. We ate brownies for dessert and saved the pumpkin pie for the next day so we could properly enjoy it.

I went to bed afterwards thinking about books. How every chapter should be the best you can make it. Every sentence matters. But as good as it all is, if it’s done right, the last chapter is the best. Everything comes together. The beautiful intensifies to a level you had no idea was even possible back when you were reading in the middle and enjoying every page.

I am struck with my grandfather’s gentleness amidst confusion. His quiet trust in my grandmother is not a tenderness I could have imagined in him twenty years ago.  He needs a lot of help navigating daily life. My grandmother learns what she needs to do, and does it.  She does not spend her days grieving who my grandfather is not. She looks at the man who is present, figures out how to give him what he needs, and loves him as he is.

I have been reading the book of their lives for a long time now. So many different chapters. So much for me to learn. But this last chapter. It takes my words away and sits me down quiet with wonder. About love. And it never, ever being too late to become like the Velveteen rabbit. More real. More beautiful.