Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Another one in the books

Come on in, I have some nice oranges, some egg nog, some whiskey. I'm sure we can also rustle up some kind of meaty thing as well. Come on in and enjoy the festive spirits.

Another semester done. Was a tough one, sickness, death, all kinds of distractions. Got through it though. Was a feat of itself and I've still got a high enough average to apply for honours. Yah me.

And of course, it is that time of year. Christmas. I've said it before, not a fan, but whatev. I wish all of you out there in the ether a fine holiday and joyous spirits to celebrate with friends and family. And of course fight with them. No holiday is complete without a family fight or two. It's the beauty of the season. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

That Crazy Coyote

Come on in, and enjoy the fire, watch the smoke again... maybe you can see the story it tells...

I like Coyote. Coyote likes me too. That crazy Coyote loves to tell a story and boy sometimes Coyote loves to really trip me up. I should tell you a story Coyote told me and you can see how that crazy critter messed things up and put them straight. Coyote loves to listen to this story too, sitting there in the shadows with that giggling grin. It is a fantastic story, one that makes me feel like I should bleed it out rather than write it but it ends happy so that is good. The question is: How dark does it get before Coyote uncovers your eyes?

There was this boy, you see, and he was very unhappy. From the moment his mother let him fall to the earth he had nothing but problems. He was too curious, so curious Coyote felt a bit jealous. So Coyote laid traps, big ones, the kind of traps that could kill a moose! The boy walked into every one of them too! That Coyote got a good laugh out of them, grinning his giggling grin and barking his bouncing bark. “That boy is nothing next to me, watch him, he falls all the time, nothing makes him better!”

You see these traps held so many dark corners and spaces that the boy felt he was always in the dark. And when you are in the dark nothing can be done but to grope around for anything you can find. You see this boy had a father, powerful man, a man so strong the world was molded by his very touch. But he didn’t want to be powerful, he told that world, “You can’t make me yours!” He found holes to crawl into, bad places, dark like the boy’s. Places filled with poison and bad spirits. Until one day he did an Awful Thing. He knew his time of fighting the world was over and he walked out, poof. Gone and gone but never let go. He spent so much time fighting the world that he did not realize that it swallowed him up, just like Coyote when it catches a mouse. This was the first trap Coyote left for the boy.

The boy did not understand how such a powerful man, a giant really, could leave so soon and not leave any of the love he needed. He wept so hard that blood fell from his eyes and pooled at his feet. It made the dark slippery and even harder to navigate, so he clung to the things that were dark and bad, he relished those traps. He learned to change the shape of the world around him so no one would recognize what he did. This upset Coyote as well, for the boy never changed but could change the world with a touch. Coyote got jealous again and laid more traps.

The boy’s mother was also strong, but she never understood why the boy acted as he did when he had such marvelous powers. She would scold, and admonish the boy, but because she was so far away she had to do it so loud that it hurt the boy, cut him more so that the blood around his feet grew thicker still. No matter what the mother tried the boy still did not learn, instead he seemed to run right into Coyote’s traps, jumping in head first and suffering the most horrible consequences.

That the boy kept going started to really upset Coyote, so much so he left the biggest trap of all. He taught the boy about the worst things human beings could do to each other and left it there where the boy could think of nothing else. Coyote knew this would finally stop the boy because the people around the boy would surely kill him for such awful things.

And so the boy did it. He did the most Awful Thing. He did not hide it either by changing the world so no one would know. He fell into the trap so completely that he was sure to die.

Fortunately for the boy, Owl watched. For dark things are of Owl and Owl did not like Coyote touching Its things. He watched as the world closed around the boy, waiting to swallow him like his father was. Before the final darkness could be laid over the boy, Owl swooped down and plucked him out, setting him down in a place where No One Could Be Hurt. As the two flew to this place Owl told the boy he was Very Bad, but that Very Bad was just a part of the Whole. Sometimes Very Bad Things had to happen so we all knew what was Very Good. Like the blood.

The boy cried to the Owl, let me go, let me leave this place. It does not want me and I do not want it, but Owl said, “No. You are one of my Very Bad Things now and you must let the world see that.” The boy asked for his wounds to be healed at the very least, for he knew he was to suffer even more, for he saw that he could make no changes in the place where No One Could Be Hurt, and this would hurt him despite the name. Owl said, “No. You have to learn to do that yourself. Watch Coyote.”

“But it is so dark, I never see him or his traps!” The boy wailed to Owl to let him see in the dark at least, and Owl finally said yes.

“You may see in the dark boy but that means you will see the worst there is. Seeing in the dark will not help you heal and will only make you know that what you are is what I am.” Owl dropped the boy and flew off, but kept watch, for Owl did not want Coyote to play with Its things again.

Coyote was furious and growls and snarled for quite a while that his trap did not work. Coyote was mad at Owl because Coyote felt the boy was his to play with and not Owls. “He is both of ours Coyote,” Owl coo’d, “For you gave him something of Mine and now we must share.” Coyote was not good at sharing.

Coyote watched the boy from outside the place where No One Could Get Hurt, waiting for the boy to be let free. Coyote could not get to the boy inside that place so Coyote got to thinking, “What if the boy were all mine? Then I could really get him good.” At this Coyote came up with a plan and it was a very good one.

You see once the boy got out he was sent to a new school, a place where they let you do all kinds of things. Unfortunately, because the boy was of Owl now, the Very Awful Thing he did followed him so he was never really safe. The people who wanted to kill him were still around but the boy thought, “If I must die, I will do so without giving up.” It seems the boy learned something after all.

Now Coyote’s plan was to become someone who could teach the boy. Since Coyote could never come across as a real teacher, instead became a large gruff man who would teach the boy how to fight on grass. This involved a lot of heavy things, helmets and such, and Coyote knew it would interest the boy.

Coyote set his final trap here, knowing that the boy would fall for anything. Coyote arranged that the boy would never know true success and would instead become only a Mite-uv. A Mite-uv is a horrible creature that talks of what he could have been and knew that it would be the worst thing he could make out of the boy.

What Coyote did not know was that the boy could see in the dark and he had watched Coyote change. While watching him change it gave the boy an idea. “What if instead of changing the world outside me, I changed it inside me?” Being able to see the huge trap off in the distance now because of Owl, the boy started to mimic Coyote.

After many years, Coyote knew it was time to spring the trap. Coyote had not noticed that the boy had been watching and copying Coyote. Coyote thought himself far too clever, especially in man-skin, for the boy to ever outwit Coyote. As the fated time came Coyote failed to see that the boy was luring Coyote ever closer to the trap as well, and when it was finally sprung, the boy leaped clear away from it and instead shoved Coyote in! Once Coyote was trapped, the boy said, “I make one last change on the world,” and forced Coyote out of the man-skin. Coyote was very mad, and very upset, but the boy was no longer cruel.

It was true what Owl had said; seeing in the dark let the boy see all the awful things of the world and understand them better than he had ever wanted to. Because of that compassion and caring grew in him and he recognized now that while Coyote may have left the traps, it was the boy who always jumped in head first. “Coyote, you are not mean, you are just you, and I am sorry I have made you angry. I will let you out, even if it means you will forever be trying to trap me.”

Once out, Coyote was overjoyed! He bounced and barked, and grinned and giggled. “Boy,” Coyote said, “I think I love you.”

That Coyote eh? You never can tell when Coyote grins. Coyote teaches, but never like you want. And the boy? Oh yes Coyote still traps him from time to time, but usually they both end up in it. Luckily Owl still watches.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Loving Goodbye

Come on in, and enjoy the fire, still a bit low. Life is certainly different now. Here are the words I chose to speak at my Grandmother's memorial. A huge thank you to Cenobyte for her careful editting, I owe you so much friend, thanks.

Thank you for coming to share your grief at the passing of my Grandmother, Phyllis Mathews, and to celebrate her life. She was a remarkable woman who led a remarkable life; we will miss her and cherish the memories we have of her. I would like for each of you to think of a memory or two you have of Phyllis that gives you joy and reflect on it. There will be a short quiz when I am finished. While you're reminiscing, I'd like to offer this prayer from the Book of Common Prayer.

O HEAVENLY Father, help us to trust our loved ones to thy care. When sorrow darkens our lives, help us to look up to thee, remembering the cloud of witnesses by which we are compassed about. And grant that we on earth, rejoicing ever in thy presence, may share with them the rest and peace which thy presence gives; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thank you Grandma for the time you spent with us; thank you Phyllis for the love and caring you have shown us. You will be forever missed, cherished, and celebrated for a life that has had such an amazing impact on the world around you. Once bound to us in flesh you now are free and flow through us in spirit. With joy I stand here and speak of the beauty and grace you demonstrated and embraced. The impact you have had on this world has not diminished, nor will it. Instead, your spirit will continue to grow through the love you have shown us and that we in turn offer to others. You have made of us mirrors of your own indomitable spirit. Through fortitude and patience you showed time and again that you would seize from life what you wanted, never complaining that you did not get what you deserved, instead rejoicing in what you had.
I would like to recite a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins called “The Caged Skylark,” that speaks to the freedom of the spirit after death.

AS a dare-gale skylark scanted in a dull cage
Man’s mounting spirit in his bone-house, mean house, dwells—
That bird beyond the remembering his free fells;
This in drudgery, day-labouring-out life’s age.

Though aloft on turf or perch or poor low stage,
Both sing sometímes the sweetest, sweetest spells,
Yet both droop deadly sómetimes in their cells
Or wring their barriers in bursts of fear or rage.

Not that the sweet-fowl, song-fowl, needs no rest—
Why, hear him, hear him babble and drop down to his nest,
But his own nest, wild nest, no prison.

Man’s spirit will be flesh-bound when found at best,
But uncumbered: meadow-down is not distressed
For a rainbow footing it nor he for his bónes rísen.

Thank you Grandma, I love you.

Death is never easy, and each of you feel and live your grief in your own way. The experience of grieving is universal: all things die, but it is inside that experience we find a place where we all share our sorrow. Right alongside our grief is the hope of eternal life.

I cannot speak with enough skill to concepts of the afterlife; like death it is a universal concept that is expressed individually. What I can speak to is the immortality that we each gain through love. Each of you carries memories of Phyllis that nurtures you, guides you, and comforts you. Through her actions, her love for each of you, she has created a space that will carry forward who she was and what she represented.

This is not just an act of remembrance; the essential truth is that we are, in part, who we love. There is no action or inaction that does not represent who we are and those we love. It is a never ending cycle that enriches our lives and gives us the room for growth we all need and desire.

I would like to come back to those memories of Phyllis that I asked you to recall, and think of them again during this prayer, also from the Book of Common Prayer.

O LORD, support us all the day long of this troublous life, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes, the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then, Lord, in thy mercy, grant us safe lodging, a holy rest, and peace at the last; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Those memories we rejoice in are the eternal life I spoke of earlier. Each of those instances is moments when the things that defined Phyllis came out and we took notice. In that moment we saw the truth that was her and loved it, made it a part of us and we continue to do so.

And so in that spirit I wish to share a couple of my favorite memories of my grandma with you. When I’m done I want to invite each of you to do the same, to come up here and share with the rest of us the memory you most cherish of Phyllis and help enrich the world with her presence. Just remember this is an invitation, feel free to keep your memories private, because as I’ve said we each embrace our grief in our own ways.

One of the things I’ve always marveled at about my grandmother was her toughness. I often referred to her as the toughest person ever. I think on the multitude of injuries and afflictions she lived through with little to no complaint. The most significant was when I visited her the day after her first hip replacement. First I find out that she did it with only a local anesthetic, and was aware and speaking with the surgeon the whole time, but the most she took for pain killers after the surgery was Tylenol 3. I’m not going to go into the gory details of hip replacement but I cannot imagine anyone going through that procedure with so little anesthetic to dull the extreme trauma that was done to her body. That fortitude always amazed me and is something I too try to emulate to this day.

Coupled with that toughness was her thirst for life. Her ability to go out and enjoy what she wanted to enjoy, and seize life, sometimes literally, for all it was worth. Specifically I’m reminded of a time I had a friend over and we were playing cards and discussing heading to our local watering hole. My grandmother was also in town for the week and she and my mother had gone out for supper and returned around 9. When they entered my mother greeted my friend and commented that my grandmother had never met him and I waved her over, while imploring my friend to stand up. Normally not something I’d mention but my friend is 7 feet tall. So grandma went over to say hi and stare up at him, throwing her arm around his waist, or so I thought, as she talked with him.

My friend looked over at me and said rather quickly “We should go soon,” with a somewhat surprised look on his face. I said “ok,” and said my good byes, and grandma kept chatting up my rather tall friend until we left. Once we got in the car he told me why he wanted to leave so soon. Apparently grandma did not have her hand around my friend’s waist; instead she was doing a very good job of groping his butt. Yep, to this day we still tease said friend about the day my grandma got a piece of his ass.

There are so many memories I could share, we could be here all day. Instead I want to hear yours. I want to, for today, revel in who she was and what she meant to each of us. To rejoice in the things that were essentially the true Phyllis Mathews and laugh and cry and smile and live. So please come on up, and no matter the story, how long or short, although under an hour per story would be good, and share with us the Phyllis you knew and loved.

If you out in this virtual space have a memory of my grandmother you'd like to share, please feel free. Thanks.