But Isn’t Today Beautiful?

How many times have you heard someone say, “Well, tomorrow is supposed to be beautiful.”?  Maybe the sky’s grey. Or it’s raining buckets. Or the mercury plunged unexpectedly. I heard that phrase last week felt sad on behalf of the day at hand for having been summarily dismissed because it wasn’t living up to someone’s idea of a beautiful day. And what if tomorrow isn’t “beautiful”? Will it get dismissed too?

There are plenty of days that are truly ugly, horrific and filled with terror, grief and fury. I’m not denying life here. I’m merely suggesting that when those oh-so-easy words of dismissal begin to form, we take a moment and find beauty. Today.  On this day. If we’ve been given the gift of breath today, surely we can discover something beautiful and proclaim it.

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And now something else to share.

I had a poignant upsetting experience yesterday that has stayed with me.

Martin and I were out for a walk when we came upon a baby robin that had fallen from its next. But it wasn’t a robin yet. It was a bird-to-be: wet, cupped in its turquoise halfshell, eyes sealed behind dark grey lids, bony wings plastered to its side. Its beak was a good half an inch long.

I stood rooted in place and began searching for something to scoop it to the grass edging the sidewalk. And then I saw its tiny chest pulsing.  The birdling was alive. What was I supposed to do now? Surely its mother wasn’t coming for it and even if she did, for what? Other than mourning?

I couldn’t bury it. It was alive. I didn’t want it to be stepped on, either. I grabbed a couple of sticks for a makeshift travois and scooped it onto the grass. Its beak opened in silent protest or perhaps pain. The life of this pitiful near-bird was ebbing before my eyes. Maneuvering  it onto the grass I placed a curved piece of bark over it hoping it would stay undiscovered. I placed a small stone upon the bark. “You held God’s breath for such a short time, little bird.” We resumed our walk but it felt terrible to leave it dying alone. 

Don’t ask me why I went through such motions . I just had to do something to mark the bird’s brief time on a sun-baked sidewalk in a random midwest neighborhood on this third rock from the sun.

 

Who Is Ted Grussing?

Martin and I met Ted in a roundabout way. Friends we knew in Sedona shared his photo site with us.  He is a phenomenal photographer. Ted and I got to be email pen pals and our next time in Sedona I invited him over for scones. That is our tradition now whenever we are back in Sedona: scones, great coffee and delightful conversations.

Renaissance man doesn’t even begin to describe where Ted has taken his life for eight plus decades.  Attorney, gemologist, writer, lecturer, inventor, pilot, photographer, devoted caregiver to the love of his life, his wife Corky. Corky developed MS when she was 28. Their daughters were one and two.  Ted is one of the most alive people I know, thankful for each breath, eager to meet each moment.

I’m grateful to Ted for his friendship, for welcoming Martin and me to his monthly photography reviews with his camera buddies (who are all incredible as well), and for modeling what it means to be engaged with life no matter what. And one more thing: I’ll never forget the afternoon Ted took me up in his two-seater plane. I didn’t know it at the time but Mariah would soon be sold to a new owner. I was Ted’s last passenger.

It was an incredible flight. Not till I was strapped in did Ted mention that some of his passengers threw up on their first flight. I didn’t. When Ted made that first turn over the valley,        I lost all sense of proportion. If my heart had had a jaw, it would have dropped in astonishment at the view. It was thrilling t to look down on the trails I’d hiked so many times. Ted pointed out extinct volcanoes, rock formations and valleys. From above, the area was so green. This is high desert and heavily treed. It was a relief to see that the madness of development down below was still dwarfed by junipers and pines.  Too soon, Ted began turning toward the airport. A perfect landing and we were back on earth. I understood why Ted went up every afternoon and I am eternally glad for the experience of riding shot-gun with him that late December afternoon.

Who is Ted Grussing? A really great guy who makes me smile whenever I think of him.

Visit Ted’s photo site and sign up to recieve his photos  (4x/week.)

         

 

 

 

What Will You Do When the Pandemic is Over?

The time will come. Day by day some of the binds are loosening. The CDC has announced that those who are vaccinated no longer need to wear masks for small outside gatherings. The end may not yet be in sight, but it feels reasonable to envision it around a not-too-distant corner.

I would love to go to the movies again, to sit in the dark with fellow movie-goers all of us experiencing together cinematic storytelling. I look forward to seeing my children and grandchildren, swooping them to me in great big  jubilant hugs, the pall of the pandemic a thing of the past. What will it be like to speak to someone full face? To see their smile and hear their laughter unmuffled by a mask?  I think of Alfred Eisenstadt’s iconic image of the sailor embracing and kissing the nurse on V-J Day in Times Square. Will there be such an image capturing Covid’s end? What do you imagine it to be? What is the first thing you intend to do?

 

What Comes First, The Answer or the Question?

In synagogue last week, we read a passage from Samuel that left us stunned by the unfairness it recounted. Uzzah and his brother Ahio were charged with transporting the Holy Ark of the Covenant from one place to another. When the ox pulling the cart in which the Ark was being transported stumbled, Uzzah reached out and touched the ark to steady it. Touching the Ark, to which was affixed the Divine Name, was a no-no of Leviathan proportions. Immediately, God struck Uzzah down “on the spot.”.

What? Why? How unjust! How unfair! Would it have been better to let the Ark fall? To wait a beat or two to see if the ox would steady itself thus putting the cart before the Ark? The more my friend and I kept at it, I realized that perhaps the finding of an answer was less important than the actual search for an answer.

How could God do that? has kept students and scholars discussing this and other impenetrable questions for millennia. Arrive at an answer and you move on, putting the question aside once and for all. But if you are returned to the struggle time and again, different insights can arise. A conversation with a different friend can shed new light and/or perspectives. Pat answers close a door; the search for answers props doors, and minds, open for as long as it takes. Sometimes it takes forever.

Then again, some questions are simply unanswerable. I no longer grapple with, Why the Shoah?* God is either all knowing and powerless or powerful and indifferent. Neither option invites relationship. My answer to that question is this: my puny human spirit-mind is beyond understanding such impenetrables. Think Jack Nicholson on the stand in A Few Good Men. The answer is a truth I cannot, and have not been created to, handle. Some may call mine the coward’s way out. I prefer to think of it as setting aside the impossible to leave energy for taking on the possible.

God’s first question to Adam, indeed the first question in the Hebrew Bible is Where are you? The Divine had caught wind of Adam and Eve’s encounter with the snake and their alfresco fruit sampling. Centuries of answers grapple with that question. Where are you? invites a lifetime of answering, discovering within hidden wells of strength and potential growth.

One year our answer to Where are you? might be, “snared in pain and resentment.” Then one day, Where are you? comes at us again and we have a new answer, one sourced from compassion and forgiveness. Another year and perhaps we might answer from a place of understanding and empathy.

Answers matter. For me, however, the questions matter more.

 

*Shoah is a Hebrew word meaning utter and complete destruction. Holocaust is derived from the Greek word holokauston meaning a sacrifice that is consumed by fire, as was done in Biblical times. The preference for using Shoah reinforces the truth that Hitler’s murder of six million Jews was not a sacrifice to a deity but an incomprehensible destruction of human life