Saturday, January 26, 2013

Going in Circles

He described it as a funk and he didn’t know which way to go to get out of it. Where should his next step be?

A picture came into my mind. I saw him standing at the center of a circle.

In my best Kung Fu imitation—which isn’t recognizable as anything close to blind Master Po but still fun to try—I shared my wisdom.

“When you are in the middle of a funk, Grasshopper, and do not know which direction to go to move forward, it does not matter which way you step out,” I said. “The goal surrounds the circle you are in. You are in the middle so any step you take towards the periphery is forward towards the goal.”

He looked at me with furrowed brow, but he also nodded. I felt encouraged to continue.

“Indeed, Grasshopper, it is most awful to feel stuck, immobilized, trapped, where you cannot see a path.

“Sometimes just the act of moving your leg and sticking it out from under the blankets in the morning—or afternoon…or…whenever,” My Master Po imitation was faltering but I carried on. “So, um, yeah. Toes on the floor moves you forward from dead center of Funk Circle.”

Another picture formed in my imagination. “Oh! And Funk Circle might be like a big—uh—oh, what do you call it? A maze? No, that’s not it,” Master Po sounded more like a ditzy silver-haired dame. I recovered with a cleansing breath and went on.

“Nevermind. It will come to me. So you start taking steps forward and the path seems to curve in a circular direction. You come around and the same situations touch you over and over, but yet with each orbit of the—Oh! It’s called a labyrinth! Yeah! Anyway, with each orbit of the labyrinth, you are that much closer to the outer rim of the circle. Suddenly the path seems to loop back alongside where you were before or even taking you back towards the center of the circle.

“No worries, Grasshopper, you just keep taking those steps and eventually the path loops its way toward the periphery.” I paused to check if his eyes had glazed over yet. Nope, he was still with me!

I continued, “The even bigger picture, Grasshopper, shows the circle you are trudging along is sheltered by God.

“God sits above the circle of the earth.
    The people below seem like grasshoppers to him!
He spreads out the heavens like a curtain
    and makes his tent from them.” (Isaiah 40:22 NLT)

“It might feel like life is just going in circles. Keep trusting that the circle takes you to the goal. This is totally opposite of what happens when the drain plug gets pulled.” Okay, so Master Po wouldn’t have said that last sentence but hey, my personality is just as valid as Master Po’s.

I patted his knee. “So Grasshopper, is it not reassuring to know you are not circling the drain?”

It was quite evident to me my wisdom was well-received because my husband said, “Thank you.” Although that may have been because I stopped blathering, I’m not sure.

--I have made use of a little bit of creative license in my accounting of this incident. Quite a little bit.

--Photos taken by me at: Bellflower Library Garden Park, St. Andrews Lutheran Church in Whittier, Emanuel Episcopal Church in Fullerton—all in California. The quest for photos to illustrate this blog post turned into a fun little adventure for hubby and me. Until this week I had no idea how many labyrinths are near my locale. We took the time to walk the labyrinth at Emanuel Episcopal and I would like to visit there again. It’s in a little field off to the side of the church campus, and for me the rustic setting felt more conducive to introspection and communion.

I’m adding this bonus photo from my sister Robyn Burke, who sent this shot she took of the labyrinth at Tall Timber Ranch, a church camp in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Bouquet in the Sand

An affinity for capturing segments of my life through my little camera and trying to be artsy with it led me to join a photo challenge group on Facebook. There are daily prompts that we are free to interpret in our pursuit of a photogenic moment. Then we post our choice on the group page. A couple days ago the prompt was ‘yellow’ and on a walk at the beach I found something that made me ask “Why? What? How?” My sister ‘hinted’ that I should write a story that answers those questions. Thus the following story emerged. Don’t know if the questions are answered but painting this scenario with words gave me some satisfaction and I’d like to share it with you.

Bouquet in the Sand
By Anita van der Elst
January 14, 2013

Rose petals flurry onto the sand, stems flopping in random array along with the yellow daisy and the orange mum.

“How could he do this to me? This is how he ends it? With flowers?” Rivulets on her cheeks mirror the estuary on the bay. She shakes clinging pale pink petals from her fingers; furiously swipes at her eyes with the backs of her hands. A man in a yellow kayak dips his double-ended oar from side to side on his steady way into the marina. It is a soothing sight. For a moment.

She climbs onto the rock jetty, remembers moonlit cruises from this very harbor. Fine dining on the yacht; promises made; whispered words of love—a cliché of clichés. She should have known, seen it coming. Meeting his family that first time gave her fair warning. Their condescension cloaked in political correctness. She ignored it, convinced love could conquer all such prejudice. Hers could. Apparently his could not.

A breeze tosses the twisted branches of the lone tree above her, eddies down, scattering the rose petals, drawing her back to the floral mess. Her heart breaks anew. Romance, once sweet and fresh, now compostable. She cannot bear it, sinks to her knees.

Knowing the impossibility of reassembling the petals, she reaches for the stems, pulling the remaining intact blossoms together, forming a bouquet. Tenderly nestles it between two knobby-kneed roots exposed in the sand. Her heart deserves this memorial.

She faces into the wind, welcoming the tingle on her skin.