Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Numinous Experience

Gaining the mountain top, I climbed the old Blue Ridge lookout tower.
Dwarfed by the giant microwave towers around it,
It still gave a clear vista.
The sun was doing its daily magic,
Glowing Homer’s Nose, Dennison Peak, Moses and Maggie
Into a deep rose,
Moving a dark shadow up their flanks
As the opposing magician sank behind the coast range in the west.

The full moon sprang up behind Maggie,
Like a smaller sun, glowing orange.
I was caught in the enchanted place I knew from childhood stories:
East of the sun and west of the moon.

The enchantment so filled me that I forgot to breathe.
Lost in beauty, every cell rejoicing,
Privileged to be in that exact place at that exact moment.
Closing my eyes, I still feel the cool breeze bathing my body.
See the rosy glow all around me. Hear the silence.

Could it be that on each full moon,
At certain points around the Earth,
Unsuspecting chosen ones witness this magic,
This enchanting moment when
Mother Earth turns,
Grandmother Moon springs into view,
And Father Sun looks on, smiling,
As he dips beneath the western horizon,
Dramatizing the blessing of being human?
These are the moments that sustain us when being human doesn't seem so wonderful. My laundry room  sink sprang a leak, evidently weeks ago, wetting the floor beneath the tile, unnoticed until the water wicked up the walls. Now the room is gutted, the insurance adjuster has come and gone and tomorrow the demolition of the kitchen flooring starts. I definitely hadn't planned this, but I know it is time to purge in order to rebuild in my consciousness, so perhaps this is another exterior drama to illustrate a spiritual truth, like the beautiful moment on top of Blue Ridge.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Letting Go

This is the way we let go in life.
The terms of surrender are given.
We must accept the terms.

Dark night follows day.
We let go of the light
And accept the darkness.

Soft colors of spring end with summer.
We let go of the softness
And accept the bright heat.

We pass from childhood and let go gladly,
We become independent,
Embracing our youth.

Youth ends. We’re powerless once again.
Acknowledging the signs of age,
We must let go.

It is no wonder that we want to stop
This continual surrender,
This unceasing good-bye.

This is a spring housecleaning poem. I'm doing a ceremony tonight to symbolically let go of persons, places and things that keep me from being fully in the present moment, as part of the 21 Day Consciousness Cleanse by Debbie Ford. Today is Liberation Day. Hope to follow up the ceremony with a thorough purge of things in my house that no longer serve me or help me to serve the world. Or as Saint Kris Kristofferson says, " Freedom's just another world for nothing left to lose."

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fraidy Cat

Fear led me to this foolish act of bravado.
Standing on the steep edge of a meteor crater,
 Knuckles white on my handlebars,
Ears red with shame brought on by truth:
My brother Joe's taunt: "Fraidy Cat!"

My belly a block of ice,
Eyelids weighted down,
World around me darkened
And out of focus,
I took the plunge.

Whatever pain or loss awaiting me
Couldn't be as unbearable as
The shame of being what I was:
A Fraidy Cat.
Only exhilaration followed.

Yesterday was my wedding anniversary, the third since Fred died, the 55th since our wedding. This morning I realized that I'd avoided thinking about it, barely acknowledging it all day, out of fear of the grief it would bring up. So the grief surfaced this morning. Just as exhilaration followed my plunge into the meteor crater near Odessa, Texas, when I was nine, gratitude and creativity followed my plunge into the truth of my emotions this morning. Thank you, dear Wisdom.  

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


I like the word.
My analysis of any situation is never wholly accurate; its use implies a certain humility.
Maybe I’m right and maybe I’m wrong.
Maybe anything is possible.
Maybe wonderful things will happen.
Maybe it’ll be awful!
Maybe I will and maybe I won’t commit.
I can make a commitment based on “Maybe this will work and maybe it won’t.”
I like the word.
Maybe it sums up the whole human condition.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Wheel

As the Lost Child,
I walked on air,
Carried by the invisible, saving wings
Of my imagination.

As the Chosen One,
I walked through fire,
Given the passion to work miracles,
My heart ablaze.

As the Despairing One,
I walked on water,
Over the chaos and wreckage of my dreams,
My womb barren.

Now, as the Healed One,
I experience the greatest miracle thus rar:
I walk daily on the Good Earth,
My feet firm.

This was a version of my life story when I wrote it in the mid-80's. I was passionately doing the 12 Steps of Alchoholics Anonymous. I believe that going around the wheel is a natural process that repeats itself throughout life as we face the inevitable changes that life brings.

Perhaps the phases could be called "Egg, Larva, Cocoon and Butterfly" rather than "Lost Child, Chosen One, Despairing One, Healed One." The phase I once judged to be a time of despair and barrenness was a time of profound development. It was a dark time; the purpose my Higher Power was working in my life was hidden from me. Even then I knew that I was "walking on water," sustained and supported despite my own hopelessness.

Now I love the darkness of night, of winter, of the dream time. I honor my entire journey as a gift.  It was very wise of the church fathers who decided to include the words, "descended into hell" in the great Apostles Creed. Denying difficulty and struggle cuts off a necessary part of the creative process life is meant to be. 

Friday, February 11, 2011


He called me "Daughter." With so many grandchildren, perhaps his aging brain couldn't recall my name. But I liked being called Daughter. I liked the old, clean smell of him, of soap and Prince Albert pipe tobacco, the gentle scratch of his whiskers on my cheek, and how far down he had to bend to give me a hug.
He taught me to play checkers, and respected me enough not to give me easy wins. It was enough for me, at four years old, to gain a king occasionally. If my king jumped one of his, I was elated. I celebrated, even as I fell into his trap. He was a jolly, vibrant old man with me and the checkers. I loved hearing him laugh.
Before meals, he washed my small hands with his huge ones, then gave me one end of the towel as he dried with the other, chanting, "Dry together, be friends forever," in his soft, Georgia-tinged accent.
He and Grandmother raised eight children on a west Texas farm. It couldn't have been easy. They had moved from east Texas after four of the babies had been born. I wonder if it was to keep their children from witnessing the lynchings that were still common there. In their new county, there were only white people. Both the proud Comanches and the great herds they had hunted there were gone. We never thought of them.
Granddaddy's neighbors elected him county commissioner. I remember a road grader parked in the long driveway leading to his farmhouse. Aunt Ina Rae told me that Grandmother said being elected ruined him. All he wanted to do was go to the courthouse and talk. But it didn't last long. Elections are won and elections are lost.
He owned a grain elevator that could be seen for twenty miles across the High Plains. It burned, but he must have risen from the ashes, since that happened long before he taught me to play checkers, to wash my hands and to be friends forever.
It's sad, remembering his long and lonely decline after Grandmother's stroke. His mind weakened and departed while his body was still strong. How shocked I was, at thirteen years old, when he came home from town raving about there being a n______ in town. Granddaddy's face was red. His eyes were bloodshot with rage. He was yelling at the top of his voice that this man was walking on the sidewalk with white people. He kept repeating, clearly horrified, "ON THE SIDEWALK!"
That was 1950. It would be years before I enjoyed the pleasure of a racially integrated social setting. But I think I knew even then that integration was coming, and anticipated it with satisfaction. The twentieth century was at its midpoint and still had much to teach us. Granddaddy had taught me about love and light. At that moment, when he so horrified me in his horror, he taught me something else. We do not escape our inner darkness, no matter how far away we move from its external forms.
Jann McGuire, September 13, 2006
 I find I don't have much to say about this piece, except to celebrate once more the progress we've made in race relations in this country. I have to remember that on those occasions when  the inner darkness of racism makes itself clear. May all wounds of our history be healed and their scars erased. So be it.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


My most vivid memory of my grandmother is her laugh. It was like a bell, welcoming us to her house.
It woke me there mornings, snuggled under her comforting quilts. Her laughter and the smell of coffee drifted into my sleep, drawing me into the warm kitchen, with its chipped enamel-top table and good food.
Though she left Georgia as a small child, Geaw-jah nevah left huh speech, which fit puhfectly with the silvah laugh.
In her dark blue dress, printed with little white flowers, she took me to the dime store for a treat. I remember a mother-of-pearl brooch that looked like a small animal, a box of delicate hankies, a pair of pillowcases for me to embroider. All the people in the town of Floydada, Texas, knew her. Her laugh rang out often as we walked down the street, holding hands. I was so proud to be with her.
The best thing about visiting Grandmother were the hugs. The soft crepe dresses, Grandmother's velvety skin and the wonderful smell of her talcum powder blended impeccably with the music of her laughter. What a comfort to be snuggled in that soft world, to be loved so!
Now I am a grandmother. My grandchildren draw laughter from me as if they pulled the rope tolling a silver bell.

Recently my second cousin e-mailed to ask about my memories of my grandparents, her great-grandparents. I looked up the vignette above, written more than 20 years ago, when being a grandmother was new, fresh and delightful, to send to her.
Now the three grandchildren I had when I wrote this are busy young men, having negotiated the dangerous years of adolescence. The other five range in age from 12 to 20 years. Being with Grandma is not cool. I know they love me, but also feel that they want me to keep my distance.
I long for the all-too-brief days when they wanted to be with me, to play, read stories, fly kites. No wonder my grandmother loved me so much. She had thirteen grandchildren older than I who no longer cared to be with her. She was still vibrantly healthy when her sweet welcome rang out as we arrived at her door. The five younger ones remember her as an old woman, still sweet and welcoming, but not active.
It strikes me that staying current with relationships is one of life's greatest challenges.