Sunday, December 22, 2013

Solstice labyrinth

Solstice! Let there be Light.

We drove half an hour in the darkness last night to a church three towns over that had created a candlelit labyrinth in their open sanctuary. I'd walked a labyrinth years ago by myself on an outdoor path and remembered it as a peaceful experience. But never one lit by candles, and never one on the longest night of the year.

The idea is that we're on a journey. We walk the maze of the labyrinth not knowing where we're going.  We arrive at the center. Then we walk back out. It can be a meditation, religious or spiritual. Or something else, perhaps.

The labyrinth was like the one at Chartres; here's the design:

The path was shaped by 400 tea lights within white luminaria bags, like this:

Within the sanctuary, this is something like how it looked:

One at a time, about a minute apart, we entered the labyrinth to quiet non-melodic music. There was a path in front of me about three feet wide. I could only see a few feet ahead and the path revealed itself gradually. I felt very alone, a little afraid, but trusting that the lights would lead me. And they did - to the center of the labyrinth and a single tall candle, where I gazed into the flame. Then I retraced my steps to the beginning of the labyrinth. When you're done, you can sit quietly or you can leave. We stayed.

There were about 60 people who walked the labyrinth, from elementary school age children to retired folks.  At any given time there were four to nine people walking. From outside the labyrinth, in the semidarkness, they looked like wandering ghosts, moving randomly. But I knew that each was on the same path, in a different place. Sometimes a person moving toward the center met a person returning. When that happened, the person returning stepped aside to allow the other to continue on their path. It was like an act of kindness and honoring from the returning person.

There are mazes all over the world, some from ancient times. We who are living now have the same hopes and yearnings and wonderings as those from centuries ago. We all walk the same path.

Let there be Light!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Traditions old and new

After several holiday seasons where we simplified and simplified some more - including, last year, asking our kids to take the tree ornaments they wanted - we've come up with new traditions that suit us better now. We decided on them during a conversation we had just before Thanksgiving. Art doesn't like the holidays because they're hectic and seem hypocritical to him; I don't much care for them because our children are grown and gone and the excitement of the season is mostly for the young. At least the non-religious part. We're both spiritual but not religious.

So, we've begun a couple of different traditions this year.

In the 70s and 80s I was a liturgical musician, participating in the seasonal rituals. We have brought back the Advent wreath and candles at our house. On each Sunday of Advent, at dinner, I put on music of chanting monks and find an Old Testament reading while Art lights the candles. The readings are familiar to both of us, bringing back old memories. And, in the darkest days of the year, which we're in now, lighting candles has meaning for both of us.

In the 40s and 50s Art was growing up in a large Catholic family that celebrated the twelve days of Christmas between Christmas day and Epiphany, "when the wise guys showed up in Bethlehem." That was a gift-giving time for his family. We decided that this year on Christmas Day, we'll start with the little cedar box our old cat Muffin's ashes were returned to us in. On the first day we'll add a dollar, on the second day we'll add two dollars, and so on. By the twelfth day, we'll have 78 dollars, which we'll then donate to the food bank in Tucson, where we'll be by that time.

As far as decorating the house, I brought out a holiday scented candle. We plugged in the lights that live in our artificial ficus in the living room. We put a wreath on the front door and a Santa hat on the little giraffe in our entryway. Very simple, easy to put away before we leave on December 23.

It feels good, these new traditions coming from our pasts.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

In Hawaii, tanning

It has been 40 years since I put on a bathing suit and lay out in the sun. Probably it's because I do water aerobics at home and have become friends with my bathing suit. This week, I put on sunscreen, walked over to the pool and chose a reclining lounge chair.  Monday I spent five minutes on each side, increasing each day until yesterday at 30 minutes on a side. I am getting plenty of vitamin D and I am getting brown! It has been about 82 degrees every day.

I have also read six of the ten magazines I brought along (copies of Time, The Week, Smithsonian, and The Sun) and a book "We Were All Absolutely Beside Ourselves".

And, finally, started working on the travel book.

Otherwise, I have done nothing. I like that sometimes, but not always.

I need conversation, and my husband is not a talker. When we travel, just the two of us, and especially when we spend a week or two in just one place, he reads quietly for hours at a time. Or he watches movies or sports on TV, which he never does at home.

This week at poolside I had conversations. I met a woman about my age from Idaho, and we talked on three days, sitting in the one-foot-deep pool. She is such a fabulous listener and open-ended questioner that I talked a lot about myself. As a mediator I mostly listen, and I told her so. She asked how it felt to be doing the talking instead of the listening, and I said it felt like therapy! We both laughed.

On Monday we went to a timeshare sales pitch. We'd planned on dinner and entertainment at the Parker Ranch, and it was pricey, and if we went to the pitch we'd get a $100 credit. So we went. We didn't buy any more timeshare points, and we did get our credit. That was good.

However, when I was parking the car before the appointment, I backed into another car that had come up behind me. The driver, a man, was calm as we exchanged information; the woman was not. "This is a brand new car," she shouted. I sympathized, but it turned out their vehicle was a rental too. So what was the big deal? I reported it to our insurance agency and they are taking care of it. Minimal damage.

I confess this was not a first for me. I have had, I think, seven backing-into-something incidents in the last 40 years. Two of those times I backed out of my driveway and hit a vehicle parked across the street. Once it was a mailbox on an icy, hilly driveway. Twice it was a pillar in a carport or parking garage. Once it was at a Jack in the Box drive-through line. It embarrasses me, but there you are. No other at-fault accidents in my entire life.

The Parker Ranch evening was fun. Food and entertainment were both good and the conversation with our table mates was interesting. We would never have gone, though, unless they'd picked us up at our condo and delivered us back at the end of the evening. Roads on the Big Island are DARK at night!

Tomorrow we are going on a short guided hike on the Saddle road that connects the dry west side of the island to the rainy east side. We hiked years ago with this same man. He knows a phenomenal amount about the island and the animals and plants. As it turns out, we are the only two who have signed up, so we'll get a personalized hike for much cheaper than if we'd signed up for a customized one for just us. Hiking boots and jeans and light jackets, since the hiking area is at 4,000 feet.

We fly out Wednesday, just as the cold snap is ending where we live in the Pacific Northwest. I actually like the cold, so I'm sorry we've missed it. We'll be returning to rain. Oh, well!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

In Hawaii, remembering

We are spending 12 days on the Big Island of Hawaii. We have a timeshare here about 25 miles north of Kona, five miles upslope from the beach. The condo is comfortable and quiet, on a golf course with a flock of resident turkeys who approach us hopefully as we sit on our patio, or run by nearby on the grass.

This is our sixth trip to the Big Island. On our last visit we were joined by our daughter and son-in-law; on the one before we rented a glass-bottomed boat and scattered my mother's ashes offshore near a pod of whales. We've walked the length of Alii Drive in Kona and crossed the crater in Volcanoes National Park.  We've explored most of the rest of the island.

On this trip, we have a couple of outings planned. On Wednesday we'll be picked up and taken to a cattle ranch north of here for dinner and entertainment. And next Monday we're taking a guided hike on Saddle Road, which crosses the island to Hilo on the rainy side. Otherwise, our days are open so far.

My father was a Marine. When I was in college in California, my parents lived on Oahu, at the Kaneohe Marine Corps Air Station. I came home for Christmas and summers. For two years I participated in local summertime Gilbert and Sullivan musicals. In Kailua, where the musicals were held, I met local teenagers who were also in the plays. I especially remembered Jenean. She was 16 then, I think, and I was 19. We hit it off immediately, having long talks and enjoying the goofiness that happens during rehearsals. We became good friends.

Jenean and I lost touch soon after.  Yesterday I was sitting in our quiet condo and I suddenly remembered how to spell her first name. I'd recalled before that it was an unusual spelling but had forgotten the combination of letters. Anyway, I looked her up on Facebook and found her! I sent a message: "Did you and I do summer musicals together in the late 60s in Kailua?" She responded yes. We talked on Facebook Messenger for an hour and a half, catching up. She lives in the Bay Area now and works for Facebook! She travels all over the world for her work. We've decided to meet up the next time she's in the Pacific Northwest.

I first came to Hawaii over 45 years ago. Some things have changed - but not the weather, or the quiet, or the beauty. I'm glad we're back again.