Saturday, December 1, 2012

Frozen buckets, dogs, alphabet dust, buttermilk, and bacon and eggs, with naked hope

This morning with coffee --as the soon rose....

Joel asleep, Paeha stretched on his lap, hot coffee waiting on the table

Paeha has claimed Joel's lap since the moment we got home. There we are.

Last night, at the comfort service for D, a member of the family spoke about losing the culture, the stories, the Way whenever an elder moved on --and then he spoke forcefully about God's judgment and the comfort in that.... When he had accomplished what he wanted to say, and I asked if there was anyone else that wanted to speak, and no one came forward, I began with an apology --asking forgiveness if anything I said was wrong or should be said in a different way.... And then I said that I didn't see a lost culture --but as an outsider, saw a vibrant culture alive and well.

And then I spoke about my grandmother, how she was born in a two-room sod house in North Dakota (and they all shook their heads yes --they know the little houses well), and how, when I was little, she used to tell me the stories of growing up on the Great Plains --and how when I first arrived here I missed her so very much and really wanted to hear her tell those stories again... and then, how I realized that what I really missed was her voice and her touch and the light in her eye --but the stories were alive and well in me --almost word for word.... And that it was alright to miss D's voice and touch and the light in her eye --but that her stories were alive in them, her hopes and dreams were alive in them --and that we have the promise of new life --so grieve in a holy way, holding the loss, the life within us, and the promise of new life in God together.... Practice living now as we shall surely live forever... with hope.

And after our prayers and songs and a blessing, I went outside --and in the vast expanse of stars and the moon in her cloak of soft white and the frost scattered thick as snow across the ground like so many fallen stars, I let my hope leap from me, unfinished. Hope ragged and tarnished and imperfect. Hope full of holes.

And my hope ran around in the dark, climbed the cottonwood tree, bathed in the moonlight, naked under the stars, leapt in to the frost and snow like an exotic cliff diver, making her way to me glittering with frozen bits lifting the rocks and logs to speak to the sleeping snakes --and returned to me unashamed --unabashed to speak to me of things that glimmer with reflected light --moon-like.... And she sat then, on my head, like a silly hat of some sort covered with broad stitches and foolish frosty sequins, folded over my forehead and draped down my neck --adorned in a folly which lit my way out of the dark yard, back to the door and the people....

--this is how to dance in the dark... this is the dance of hope... this is to mock death and the grave... my grandmother's stories never took the frozen ice seriously --I mean, she took it seriously, but it was never the end of the story....

Dressed in hope, I was able to eat the bologna sandwich offered in the parish hall --a sandwich of hope. How silly it is to hope... and there I was, full of it --playing with the children, Ezekiel, Noah --their questions like prayer flags catching every breath --talking with the adults who still held tears in the corners of their eyes --all of us without confidence --all of us silly --all of us adorned.... Holy grief.

All of us asleep as the sun rises, unexpected love draped across our laps... lost in the garden....

At prayer this morning ( a portion of Psalm 144)
Rescue me from the hurtful sword *
and deliver me from the hand of foreign peoples,
Whose mouths speak deceitfully *
and whose right hand is raised in falsehood. 
May our sons be like plants well nurtured from their youth, *
and our daughters like sculptured corners of a palace.
May our barns be filled to overflowing with all manner of crops; *
may the flocks in our pastures increase by thousands and tens of thousands;
may our cattle be fat and sleek.
May there be no breaching of the walls, no going into exile, *
no wailing in the public squares.
Happy are the people of whom this is so!

Hey God, it's margaret. Really and truly, I no longer want rescue --whatever. I want to remember what my grandmother said AFTER she spoke of the frozen buckets of water in her house and the dogs turning three times under her cot in the night, bumping her with their back, and then she practiced writing the alphabet with her toe in the dust.... I remember what it feels like to listen --the feelings her stories left in me, but I can't remember her words.... Did she really just turn and offer my grandfather a glass of buttermilk and fry him up some bacon and eggs?

Yeah. I think so....

And this then, is my story. Frozen buckets, dogs, alphabet dust, buttermilk, and bacon and eggs, with naked hope shining in moonlight and frost on her toes and the children waving prayer flags eating bologna sandwiches.

...there we are.

Peace out.


Ann said...

My grandmother and her family lived in a sod house in Nebraska when they first came here from Scotland - she was 14. She had a wonderful public school education in Scotland so there was nothing more for her here in those days. They would have hired her as a teacher (even at 14) but she was only 4'10 and they thought she could not handle the bigger boys (hah! she had 3 sons and they would cower when she spoke -even in old age). So she went to work for a doctor's family and rode sidesaddle each day to work at being a mother's helper. They moved on to Oregon after one winter of living on a diet of onions.

Prairie Soul said...

A diet of onions for a winter...makes every complaint I've ever made seem trivial and selfish.

I love these old prairie stories. Have you read O.E. Rolvaag's Giants in the Earth?

it's margaret said...

Not yet, Prairie Soul!

JCF said...

I do love me some fried onions, but as a mono-diet....

Aw, warm&fuzzy sleeping angel. Also Paeha. ;-)

I've lately often known the joys of dog-in-lap (Coco, whom I do doggie daycare for). But she's too heavy to last there for very long. No way I could sleep w/ her there!

Paula said...

You are such a wonderful writer, Margaret. I hope you will compile a book some day.

I don't know what your tastes might run to, but my cousin Jody is a writer recently returned to South Dakota (Pierre, I think) after years in the east working as a writer and editor for magazines. I understand he is celebrated for capturing the ordinary. If you are interested, his latest book is "The Christmas Plains." His name is Joseph Bottum. (I haven't read it.)

it's margaret said...

Paula --I'll look for it!