Sunday, November 20, 2011

Peek-A-Boo


The moon followed me home tonight.

I caught sight of its bright, lopsided smile as soon as I got on the freeway and couldn’t stop staring. It was HUGE! Ginormous, even. But definitely lopsided. I don’t know what you call a two-thirds harvest moon, but that’s what it was.

And it was in a playful mood.

At some point when you’re doing seventy-five on a freeway, you have to stop staring at glowing celestial orbs and pay attention to traffic. Which, apparently, hurt the moon’s little feelings. Because when I glanced up to marvel at its enormousness, it wasn’t there anymore.

How could it just, disappear like that? I mean, the thing was not only the size of a house, it was absolutely neon. I quickly glanced over my shoulder and out the back window. Maybe the freeway curved when I wasn’t paying attention. Nah, that wasn’t it. Or I was driving faster than the speed of light. Yeah, that actually was a possibility. Where the heck did it go?!?

I gave up and went back to the corn maze of thoughts that distracted me from my playmate in the first place. Guess the earth rotates faster than I realized, I thought to myself. Searching the dark night through the windshield, suddenly there it was again. Just a little piece of it this time—an odd glowing wedge peeking out from behind . . . a cloud? No, it was a clear night. What on earth was it hiding behind? How could it possibly play peek-a-boo with me when there wasn’t a cloud in the sky?

It grew a little bit, shrank down, disappeared for a nano-second, reappeared in another mutation of itself. A virtual lava lamp in the sky, it slowly morphed from one bright shape to another, never entirely revealing itself, rising and falling like a roller coaster in slow motion. Finally, I realized who its silent partner was—the Superstition Mountains. So dark was the night as I drove further east into the desert, I couldn’t make out the huge mountain range at all and forgot it was even there. Until the moon began playing hide and seek behind its back and the Superstitions cried out, “ollie ollie oxen free!” in protest.

Chuckling at its own joke and nodding at the stars who twinkled their admiration, the moon stepped out into the open and took a little bow. “See ya later,” I offered silently. “Thanks for the entertainment!” And I turned south away from its celestial stage. But I was never in control of this chum's antics, and circling the roundabout near my neighborhood, I caught sight of the jocular orb in my peripheral vision the way a child on a carousel sees a smiling parent just before another dizzying turn. “There’s no getting rid of you, I see,” I laughed, enjoying the attention on my lonely drive home.

It was a big moon for this late at night. And the question is: how can something that bright conceal itself in the middle of a cloudless ten o’clock sky? It hides in plain sight. It never moved at all. The mountains conspired playfully with my perspective and only gave away the moon’s hiding place when they tired of the game.

Safe at home, I stepped outside in the backyard with my faithful dog who always waits for me and together we waved good night to the celestial nightlight, now leaning casually against the black backdrop. I know it’s keeping an eye on things.

Playing peek-a-boo with the moon. How wonderful.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

To The Unknown Soldier In Walgreens



I was in a hurry. He was in my way. This stop at Walgreens was just another item on a to-do list that I didn’t feel like doing and now, well, there he stood, right in front of the shelf I needed to reach. I waited impatiently for a minute or so, glancing at my watch while he considered his purchase. Finally, my pressing schedule forced me to interrupt his concentration with a barely polite, “Excuse me?” He stepped back as I reached quickly for the buckwheat pillow I’d come to buy.

“Do those really work?” he asked as I turned to go.

I should have made this my last stop, I thought with annoyance.

“They’re not too comfortable at first, but they really support your neck and head,” I replied. “My husband can’t sleep without one now.”

He listened intently, considering my rapid endorsement. I hoped my courteous answer was enough to let me off the hook here. I had three more stores and the post office to hit before I took everything home where I still needed to start dinner and . . .

My checklist was sidelined as I realized he was speaking to me again. I smiled stiffly, tuning back in until he finished so I could leave.

“I was a prisoner of war in World War II,” he was saying. “They gave me a roll of old material for a pillow. It was all I had for three years, and it was hard as a rock.” Here he smiled and ended, “I’m afraid this doesn’t look any more comfortable than that was.” Then he shook his head, turned, and stiffly walked away.

He had cleared the aisle and rounded the corner before I could think of anything to say. And now it was too late. His tall form, now slightly bent, still communicated strength and character. His gait, slow and deliberate, modeled confidence born of hardship. It’s odd how you can tell so much about a person without even knowing their name. But I never asked his name. Didn’t ask to shake his hand. Never even said thank you. And I never saw him again. Speechless and ashamed of my self-centered agenda, I made my purchase and left the store.

It was a moment born of serendipity. And I missed it. I had an opportunity like none before and none since--nearly fourteen years later--to thank a hero. But I didn’t recognize it. Late one sleepless night, about a year afterwards, I journaled the experience in a letter to the editor of our newspaper, hoping the stranger might at least read my belated appreciation for his sacrifices. But I don’t know if he ever saw it. Just like I never saw him until it was too late.

How much I miss when I walk through life with my head down. I wonder how many other wounded warriors walk silently beside me in anonymity. There are more and more of them now, much younger than this gentleman, putting it all on the line so we can retain whatever freedoms are still left to us.

So once again, to the Unknown Soldier in Walgreens as well as to the others who walk in your shadow, thank you. Only you and God know what you have given and suffered to protect us. May God bless you and your families. And despite ignorant hearts like mine, may God continue to protect the safe harbor He made of these United States of America.

We don’t deserve it, but so far, we are still the land of the free because of the brave.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Love Song In The Wind

Wood Wind ChimeI wept in the wind tonight. Lured outside by a distant flash of lightning, I brought my tea and grieving heart and sat outside alone on the patio.

When will my wounded soul mend?” I pleaded through escaping tears . “Will I ever give thanks and see beauty in these scars?” I looked up to the dark sky and silently accused my Creator of tardiness. Abruptly, my thoughts—dark like the evening clouds—were interrupted by lyrical notes. A cool breeze tousled the wind chimes, offering a joyful song composed by the passing storm. My wind-kissed tears dried as I listened to the jubilant harmonies.

Chimes don’t ring on their own. They offer gentle melodies directed by light breezes, but they play a symphony in a storm. My life has broken places only recently recognized that I must grieve before I can go on. But healing will come. And even while I mourned this night, God sang a love song to my heart--echoed by the concerto of the chimes--comforting me.

Encouraged, I spoke into the storm. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities . . .” then stopped, not remembering the rest of the verse. The sky lit up in affirmation. So I continued. “Stand, therefore, (in the armor of God.) And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will mount garrison over your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.” The sky illuminated encouragement. I kept speaking truth into the threatening face of the gale. “Peace give I to you. Not as the world gives.” “”Don’t let your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. I’m going to prepare a place for you.”

There’s a place for me. Unique, special, created just for me by the Lover of my soul.

The dark cloud moved off, taking the lightning and thunder with it. The chimes swayed slowly, exhausted and spent, while hope consumed my tears.

I am accepted. Included. Beloved. He rejoices over me with singing.

And plays a love song in the storm.