Sunday, October 17, 2021
Saturday, October 16, 2021
I've been thinking of enchanted forests. I've been thinking of a cottage in the woods and what happens to wicked witches who mellow. I've been thinking about herb gardens and ovens that bake bread, not little boys.
This morning I thought of the Bruno Bettelheim text, once classic now somewhat discredited, The Uses of Enchantment. I thought of all those children using fairy tales to process the scary, incomprehensible stuff going on in their lives. Am I doing the same thing for my mid-life fears?
Yesterday I took my daily walk by the tidal lake, as I do each day. For the past several weeks, the lake has been jumping--or more precisely, the fish have been jumping. I've seen a dolphin here and there. I've seen lots of little fish skittering out, as if they were members of a water ballet company. Yesterday, the word "enchanted" came to mind.
If we grew up hearing stories about enchanted lakes instead of enchanted forests, would our imaginations function differently? Would we do more to protect bodies of water? Probably not.
I think of the orchid on my office windowsill, the one that has bloomed continuously since July of 2020 when I got it from colleagues at work.
Orchids are not supposed to bloom continuously for 15 months, but this one has:
People come into my office and stop at the sight of the orchid. They ask me my secret. I say, "Every day I pour the dregs of my cups of tea into it. Maybe it likes the tannins." I try to beam my best swamp witch radiance when I say things like this.
I've been trying to transform another corner of my office, not with enchantments, but with a potted mum in an autumnal hue, with pumpkins, with fake trees mingling with the fairy light trees, and lights strung across the trees:
Pumpkins make me so happy.
I may go buy some more today. It's cheap therapy, and I can support the local church. My church has canceled its pumpkin patch because of the pandemic, so I'm happy to support a church in my neighborhood (First Presbyterian, where Hollywood Blvd. comes into the Arts Park Circle.
Thursday, October 14, 2021
In my Hebrew Bible class, we've just finished Genesis (we're reading the Hebrew Bible, but not reading the Bible in the Hebrew language). Our discussion thread prompt has prompted me to keep thinking. Here's the prompt: "What/who was Jacob wrestling with at the Jabbok River? Please make reference to the assigned readings and videos in your post. In your relationship with God, do you tend to wrestle like Jacob or quietly accept? Why?"
As I thought about the question, I realized that I don't see my relationship with God in either of those ways. I don't feel like I wrestle or quietly accept. I don't see God that way at all.
I wrote a longer discussion post, but I don't want to paste it here, because my work hasn't been graded yet. I don't want the anti-plagiarism software to flag my work, which it might, if it finds something similar out there, even if the something similar is my own work.
Yesterday morning, I woke up thinking about how many of our stories in the Bible have the hero, usually male, wrestling with God. There's Jacob, the obvious choice. Others come to mind: Moses, various prophets, Job, Paul. How many chosen ones quietly accept? We might list Mary, the mother of Jesus. The quiet accepters don't command our attention in the same way; it's not the same kind of compelling story.
Yesterday morning I was wishing that I had a friend who was a rabbi who could meet me for coffee and analyze this pattern. I'd like to get a Jewish take on these stories, from someone who's been trained in theology. I have a sudden vision of a book club, one with people theologically trained in different traditions. I would never want to leave that coffee shop!
What if we had a different story about God? What if we saw God as the best kind of boss, the kind who knows how to bring out our best qualities? What if we saw God as the best kind of teacher, the one with skills that we didn't even know we needed, until we were taught them? What if we saw God as the patient, kind, and wise type of animal trainer, the one who knows how to help us move beyond our fears?
I thought about how our societies might have been so different if we had these kinds of different theology. It's too late to change the past--can we change the future by adopting a different theology?
Wednesday, October 13, 2021
I had planned to be on my way to Lutheridge this morning. I had such a great time at quilt camp last year, that I vowed to go again. But in the spring, I couldn't because my school was in transition, and I wasn't allowed to use my vacation time. Some day, I'll look back on that sentence and shake my head about how I have allowed capitalism and the workplace to destroy the elements of the life I want to be living and to lay waste to what I truly believe in--but that's a blog post for another day.
This year, I am neck deep in projects that require me to be here or at least, I thought I was when I made the final decision last week not to go. I have spent the intervening week second guessing myself.
I want to fill this time with some of the activities I might have been doing had I gotten away to the mountains for a camp experience, so last night my spouse and I went to a brewery at the beach--yes, Hollywood, Florida has a brewery at the beach. Once they called themselves an organic brewery, but they've long since dropped that part from their name, and I wouldn't be surprised if they no longer brew the beer there either. Still, they have great beer, and good specials: last night, we each got a burger and fries, and a free beer. I want my beer to taste like liquid bread, so I always get their stout.
I was surprised by how crowded the beach was for a Tuesday night. Long ago, in the late 90's when we first moved here, September and October were months when the beach would be fairly empty on week nights. I looked at the mobs of people last night. Were they tourists? Locals? The beach has more condo buildings so maybe I was seeing people out for an evening stroll. But it didn't have that kind of vibe. I couldn't quite place the vibe I was seeing--there was a sexual prowling kind of vibe, along with a vacationing kind of vibe, along with an exhausted parent kind of vibe, along with a let's get this intense workout done kind of vibe, all these vibes swirling around, refusing to be neatly categorized. I wondered about my own vibe or if I have I finally settled into the invisibility that comes at midlife, the invisibility that allows some safety and detachment, the invisibility that untethers all vibes.
It was a beautiful evening, not too hot, with a bit of breeze. It was not crowded, so we didn't have to worry about anyone sitting near us, and it was an outdoor eating area, up above the Broadwalk where the hoards of people thronged. The sun set offstage, to our west, behind the building, but that unseen sunset stained the eastern clouds with pinks and purples. Unlike past years, the horizon held no cargo ships, no cruise ships, and I decided to ignore the economic implications of that clear vista.
I did think about the other changes, the high rises on this beach, condos in a time of climate collapse. I thought about years ago when I would drive my car early in the morning to run down the Broadwalk and those mornings when I saw the huge steel vats in the building and wondered, could they be building a brewery? And indeed, they were. I think of this brewery as new, but it's been here a long time, especially in beach years, where in the words of Dorothy in Oz, "Things come and go so quickly here."*
As we drove home, I was on the lookout for Halloween lights, but their absence heralds another change. These neighborhoods have been shifting from residential to short term rental, and Air BnBers do not string up Halloween decorations.
It was good to get out, good to sit on a patio that's not my own, good to watch the waves and the people, from a safe distance. It was good to resist the lure of reruns of past programming on TV. It was good to get away from our screens and to look at each other again.
*Dorothy actually said that people come and go so quickly here.