what if ….

Maybe it’s the aloneness, though I don’t think so. I am used to being on my own (present furry canine rescue company excepted). Maybe it’s that the entire United States of America (who’d have ever thought) has come to a grinding halt.

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Or maybe the thought that, not unlike Passover, a silent death creeps among us.

Or maybe it’s all of it. But lately I have had many things brought to mind for which I need to make amends. And I have followed those promptings. A note to a kind neighbor that I may have slighted. An overdue apology to my son for hurtful things once said. Phone calls made that were put off for far too long, these are reminders to me that this is not a dress rehearsal. This life is temporal. Getting it right is not as important as grace, kindness, patience.

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What would you do if this were your last month/ week/ day to live? Somehow for me, this question has become quite real.

This viral plague that, in order to protect ourselves and others has restricted us so harshly has made me stop and think.

I have never been in a situation before where I cheated death. I have also not yet lived regret-free.

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But I’d certainly like to, if not get a do-over, at least a restart.

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you just never know

I love trees. Maybe ever since my grandmother recited Joyce Kilmer’s poem, “Trees” when I was a little girl. There are simply too many reasons to love trees… they give shade, they are lovely to look at, they offer shelter from storms for birds and small animals, birds nest in their branches, they provide food for insects which provides food for birds, they respire and cool the air and maybe most importantly they convert carbon dioxide to oxygen. Trees are kind of essential to survival of many species.

So when my neighbor, whom I had not met after nearly a year, rang my doorbell I had no idea what I was in for.

Let me digress for a moment… I live alone (well, with 2 rescue dogs, Lily and Lulu) and am very happy this way. My son is grown and off on his own successful life and our paths cross in the occasional text, phone call, birthday. I see my brother’s family once or twice a year. I have a few friends with whom I stay in touch, get together with for coffee, lunch, and I do some volunteer work. So otherwise I am completely unobtrusive. Invisible almost. Well, except for this blog and walking all over, I try to stay out of other people’s way. You know, things are so busy and fast-paced now. Not so much that I can’t keep up… well maybe I can’t but the truth is I don’t want to anymore, I’ve done that.

So people basically know I live here but that’s about it.

Until this neighbor.

At the time I had no idea the history here. He bought his house with his wife 20 years ago when the house was built. Evidently the person who bought the house I live in also loved trees.  And planted 3 river birch trees. This is a lovely tree with peeling, papery bark and lush foliage. This foliage grew quickly over my neighbor’s garage. He said he’d pleaded with the initial homeowner to not plant the trees where he did but was ignored. So the enmity for these trees goes way back. At the time of our encounter I did not know this. I only saw an angry gentleman, personally angry with me over this tree that I inherited. When I did ultimately get the whole story out of him I learned the subsequent 2 or 3 residents up to me had ignored him as well. I explained what I knew: that he could cut any portion of this tree that hung over his property, but that I would really like the tree to live. I asked that he please let me know when someone would be cutting the tree. That is where we left it.

Nothing happened for weeks.

One day another knock at my door. The landscaper is explaining he is there to trim the tree. But my neighbor was not at home. I called him. Learned he is at hospital with his wife and no, he now has someone different in mind to cut the tree, do not allow the people who are there to do anything. I asked him to speak to them himself and handed over the phone.

A few weeks later a strange gentleman is at my door. Says he is the cousin of my neighbor and will be cutting the tree. I ask if my neighbor is there? No. So now I realize I will also be paying for this. In addition, I found myself bracing their rickety ladder and praying at the bottom that nobody fall off my neighbor’s garage roof. They cut the offending limbs. The tree is, for the most part, still all there and everybody except my wallet is happy.

My neighbor’s wife returned home, some better. A week or two later, on a lovely sunny Sunday afternoon I hear chainsaws, very nearby. I look out my back window and see a large limb, trembling precariously over my newly planted shrubs and plants. I ran outside, too late to stop anything but in time to watch the limb fall with a sickening thud on my small garden. To make matters worse one of the men started yanking on the sawed off end of the limb tearing up my plants in the process. Uncharacteristically I started yelling for him to stop. Either he did not hear or in his fervor to remove the offending limb simply chose to ignore me so I grabbed the branches on my side and, finally realizing I was the reason the limb was stuck he stopped pulling. So I explained how I would heave the limb over the fence and try to salvage my plants.

I stayed on my porch the rest of the afternoon until they finished hacking at trees lining the perimeter of my neighbor’s yard.

A few days later I joined my family for a week’s vacation at the beach, wondering occasionally what I would find left of my trees when I returned. I found them just as I had left them, however my neighbor’s wife had taken seriously ill this time. It turned out she did not recover and passed away a few days ago.

So I learned something very important in all of this. When someone comes at you with anger disproportionate to whatever it is they are complaining about there is likely a backstory. In my neighbor’s case it was 20 years of being ignored by residents of this house and, more recently an emotionally upending roller coaster ride with his wife’s sudden and dramatic illness. While I feared he hated me because of a long history with these trees it actually had nothing to do with me at all.

You just never know.

 

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“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”    James 4:14

transparent

I am no physicist, nor chemist.

Now that that’s out of the way, I love that water has skin.

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Its surface, unlike human skin, is easily penetrable. And it is transparent, usually. You can see beneath whether it is deep or if it’s shallow, whatever lurks in its depths.

Not so with people unless we decide to be transparent. Then we give from whatever it is beneath our surface. Behind the smile, is it joy or hiding something?

Water, you can tell. People you can’t always tell.

And gelatin has skin. Sort of. It’s viscous though… its skin is basically the same all the way to the bottom and sides of the bowl. And it’s transparent, but it has nothing but gelatin unless you put fruit or something in before it jelled. But if you touch it you leave an impression. And if you break the surface unlike water it stays that way.

With water you can look at the surface if it’s still, undisturbed and see your reflection, but not yourself. Sometimes with a person you can see your reflection in their eyes, and sometimes see yourself as well. You touch the surface of water and your hand comes away with part of its molecular structure. You touch a person, maybe a few cells get stuck but only if the connection is in a heart or in a mind in understanding, empathy you have a part of who they really are. And they you. Like with gelatin. An impression is made. Sometimes we may not like what we see. Sometimes we may misunderstand what we see. People change. Their thoughts, their hearts, their hopes.

And life changes people.

It’s just something you know

Sometimes.

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Mirrors

They only reflect, they do not accurately inform. They may be flawed, warped, narrow. They are two-dimensional. They do not accurately portray who we are. They only use what is before them, the light, the image, the backdrop. Yet we are so much more than what we see in a mirror.

I’ve never paid much attention to mirrors. I have them, in the bathrooms, over my dresser, in my dining room, one just inside the front door in the foyer. They are only there to let me know whether or not my sweater is buttoned right, or my hair is combed. I do not let them tell me I look too tired, or got too much sun or gained a few pounds. They merely provide me with technical information so to speak, not personal.

Now Murphy, my little dog who recently crossed the Rainbow Bridge understood more of what mirrors could do. If he was ready to get up for the day he would use the mirror to look into the next room, in case I happened by. Then he would catch my eye, his head would bob up and his ears would perk. He would turn to look away from the mirror at me, and I would know he wanted or needed something. So I would go get him. If he watched for me and did not happen to catch my eye and wanted something he would bark, and I would then see he was up and ready for the day.

For him mirrors were very personal. They helped him function in his daily life. And they helped me be more of whatever it was he wanted or needed.