All Hearts Clear
New Year’s Eve 2021
Some years I write Christmas cards, some years I write a birthday letter, this year I am going to write a letter and mail it to everyone who sent me a card. I hope you are glad to hear from me.
It is my birthday and I am 64. Apparently, they still need me, and are still willing to feed me. I spent the entire day with, or speaking to people I love. Such good luck!
I am well, better than I have any right to be. My children have grown into people that I admire and respect. I am in love with my best friend, and she is here with me. I have a grand-daughter is the distillation of generations of strong women – can’t wait to see what she becomes.
I have been blessed beyond measure with work that is meaningful to me, continuing with the school for teenage school rejects. But my favorite work this year has been a writing project with a group of men you will never meet, writing a small book you will never read. They live in the Oregon State Penitentiary and we have been contextualizing the trauma healing work of Dr J. Eric Gentry for the incarcerated population. They have been in lockdown for 22 months so we work for about an hour, most weeks, whenever a chaplain has the time to get us a phone connection. That work is almost ready. But I don’t think I will get back inside.
I was born on a cusp, a transition, the liminal point between years. I feel it tonight. I do. We are on the edge of some big transitions. Early this Spring I am going to lay down my work with the high school. We will sell this house – my home of 32 years – and move to New Mexico. I am not ready to stop working, but I am ready to do different work. We will live with Emily, Chris and Nia, and have shared responsibility for the house. Nia is 13 - I look forward to being her creative co-conspirator.
Alivia and I have retired from church work. We have spent the pandemic trying to downsize. So much stuff! An attic, a basement, a garage, five bedrooms, a studio. Early on in the planning I figured we needed to divest of 80% of the stuff we own, and learn to live on about 40% of the income we have had these last few years. The first part of that has turned out to be a lot harder than the second part. I am attempting to wrestle a blessing out of the process. I am pretty sure this is a spiritual process, maybe a spiritual discipline. I will let you know how it goes.
Alivia will be in Albuquerque by Feb 20. I will be there mid-April.
We can already receive mail at:
9920 Greene Ave NW, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87114
Please update your Christmas card list – Thanks - Peggy
Late, on the tenth day of darkness, something changed. I heard a sound of water slapping leaves.
I took my dinner of left-over pizza and laid on slabs of home-grown tomatoes, poured a tall glass of wine, and headed to the front porch.
The air was still acrid to the tongue. Thick clouds above thick smoke had the street lights on. I sat down and watched fat drops of water splash the pavement and then stop. A promise, nothing more.
Then thunder, lumbering in from the west. Lightning high up - cloud to cloud.
The storm attempted to be ominous.
But after the last year, and the last 10 days, we are sorta spook-proof.
So I slipped aside and enjoyed that last light of a perfect summer evening that the calendar insisted. And I knew by the clock that the sun had not set so I lifted my glass to the blue skies above.
The tomatoes gave evidence. Tomatoes never lie.
I accept the promise of the first rain drops.
Christ vs. Anti-Christ
According to the Sermon on the Mount
1 Those who are down will be lifted up. Don't worry if you are down.
4 Perfection mean that your inside and outside is the same.
10 Pray – simply, often and in private.
The exact opposite - Line by line
1 Make sure you are on top or appear to be.
2 Appearing effective is more important than being effective.
3 Being noticed is the most important thing.
4 Have lots of secrets, Fear exposure.
5 Offense is the best defense.
6 Keep your addictions out of sight
7 Hoard, if you do give, brag about it.
8 Lie as a regular practice
9 Reward those that are useful, hate those who are not.
10 If you practice religion, do it very publicly, and only publicly.
11 Never let go of a grudge.
12 Trust no one.
13 Judge and ridicule those you fear or don’t like.
14 Never admit weakness. Never surrender, to God or anyone else.
15 Flatter the powerful – cheat, ignore, those who aren’t
There are 2 ways to live your life.
Report from the Crack of Dawn Covid Grocery Shopping:
I observed that the produce man was a professional. He was stacking his head lettuce like Tetris. Like in some other life he had been a dryrock master mason. Fitting them by shape into a perfect, vertical wall without crushing or deforming any of them.
I reached in, and aimed at the keystone head, dead center, low in the stack. I hesitated. His eyebrows shot up and he shot me a look of dismay as I threatened his perfection, but he said nothing behind his mask.
"Just kidding! " I said. and chose the top row left. He laughed. I laughed.
Its hard to get a laugh in the grocery store these days.
I also observed a woman pound her fist on her horn at a red light that was, yes, taking a little long. She was first in line, and this wasn't going to speed up the light. God Bless Her.
Just for today.
I am going to stack my lettuce heads with patience and intention.
Me and the Postman
Postmen have always been my friends. I grew up in a 2.5 floors up flat. I loved getting mail. I was a tyke when mom let me go to the bottom of the stairs and wait for our postman.The door was not locked. He was an older gentleman, gray haired, and dignified. He occasionally brought me presents. I don't suppose I was allowed to know, or call him, by his first name. But he was my friend. Now into my 7th decade of getting the mail, I have known many of postpeople. Some for years and years like the first one. Sear's catalogues, Christmas and Birthday cards (which came together) Bills I didn't know how I was going to pay. Surprises, like finding out I was in an old spinster's will. When my father was in hospice, and our guy brought what he knew to be pain meds to aid dying, he sat on the front porch with me for a few minutes, and he cried first. Now ballots for a couple of decades. The mail is dependable, regular, in my opinion it is socialism at its very best.
Here is a repeat of my only blog post about a postman. Maybe my very favorite postman.
So There I was... Looking for a way through.
I was motorcycling down a major arterial in my neighborhood. It was a sunny, dry, morning and traffic was light. Stopped at the next side street on my right was our local letter carrier. His name is Gerry. He is a friend of mine. I always smile when I see him in his postal truck. He is a good man and a good presence in our neighborhood. He knows me, and my bikes.
As I came up on him I smiled – I had my visor up. He was looking right at me. I thought we made eye contact. I nodded my head (can’t always wave on a bike). Then, just as I approached the street, he pulled out – right in front of me – making a left turn onto the big street. I had one nanosecond to decide what to do before I hit the side of his truck.
When you are in motorcycle safety school (and no one should ride without this experience) they drum into you head that you must always be scanning the road ahead for potential dangers and potential solutions to those dangers. The advantages of the bike over the cage (your car) are maneuverability and quicker acceleration/deceleration. We can go, stop and turn faster than you can. This is a simple fact of physics; much less mass, nearly equal power. This saves our live – a lot. One of our major disadvantages is visibility. We are smaller and your brain is accustomed to notice cars and trucks, and often you just don’t see us, even when you see us. This endangers our lives – a lot. After alcohol and excess speed – both completely avoidable – the number one cause of motorcycle deaths is a car making a turn into your immediate path. This is unavoidable. But it is manageable. You make a mental discipline of presuming that you are either invisible, or that if visible, that the vehicle ahead will attempt to intentionally kill you. Making this presumption, you plan you way of escape. There is always a way of escape, usually more than one. You ride your bike in a manner that makes escape possible at any time. Then you get to live.
On the day of my near postal collision, I had four choices; none of them really good. 1-Swerve left – in front of his path. He might stop at the last second and I could scoot in front of him. I rejected this, as it is folly to bank on his seeing me, when he clearly had not seen me to this point. 2- Swerve right – and try and go behind him as he continued his left turn. This might work if he moved quickly enough, but it presumed that he would not see me at the last second and hit his brakes. In my experience they almost always see you at some point and slamming on the brakes is always the natural response. I rejected this because it bet my safety on his response. I like to keep my safety in my own hands when ever possible. 3- Try and make the right hand turn. Move onto the street that he was leaving. This could work if I did not have too much speed going into the turn. It would require lots of lean for my cruiser-style bike. If you fail, you go down into a slide, but that is preferable to hitting a large object directly. People survive slides. I was wearing good leathers. 4- Attempt the very fast emergency stop. If you are not going too fast this often works. But if you lock up your brakes you slide, often into the object you are trying to avoid. Going under a truck is not recommended.
There was not actually time to think through these options. These options had to be wired into my sinews and nerve endings. I attempted a combo of three and four. He did see me at the last moment and he did slam on his brakes, coming to a stop completely blocking the road in front of me. I turned to the right, leaned, and put the bike into a controlled sideways slide. I stood up, foot on my back brake and hand on the front brake. I was prepared to attempt to leave the bike if she went under the truck. I sacrificed a lot of good tire tread.
And I stopped, facing to the right, parallel to the truck, right at Gerry’s driver side window. I stood the bike upright. I had managed not to soil myself. Gerry looked down at me and said “Expletive, Peg, expletive I ‘m sorry. I did not expletive see you! Expletive!” I looked up and said. “Expletive Gerry! Good thing I saw you! You almost expletive killed me! That would have sucked!” Gerry: “No Expletive!”
We were blocking traffic in two directions. He moved his truck across the street. I moved the bike to the side street. We both stayed put until we recovered. We did both recover. This is yet another set of motorcycle truths that easily move into the spiritual realm. Don’t travel so fast that you don’t have time to deal with emergencies. Scan your horizon for trouble, but do it with a calm, relaxed, open attitude – fear and panic are not your friends. Always look for the way of escape – it is always there.
The Apostle Paul talks to the folks in Corinth about this. He says: “There is not a situation that will test you that is not natural and common. God is faithful and fair. You will not be tested you above your skill level. With the test there always comes a way of escape.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 (paraphrase mine) The word I have translated as test is often translated temptation, but test or trial is also a fair use of the Greek. So is assay, like checking the level of a precious metal.
This passage is often preached narrowly as being about temptation to sin. And the ‘take away’ is – You have no excuse for sin, there is always a way out.This is fair, but limited exegesis. We do not learn without opportunities to test and use our skills. But we do not need to fear God as an assayer. God is not trying to catch us being bad; God is a fair educator who is on our side. Giving us skills, the opportunities to use them, and a way to survive and thrive during the learning process. God made us, and knows that we have ‘the right stuff.’ God wants to use that stuff to whatever level we will take it. With God there is always a chance to retake the test. With motorcycles, inattention can take away the re-test.
So ride safe! Shiny side up, rubber side down! Keep your eyes open and mind your escape route.