Sleeping Under Four Stories, Four Quilts: Everyday Magic, Day 198

As the temperatures plummeted, I huddled close to cat and man under flannel sheets and four stories of quilt, each one holding its own narrative. The top quilt with its mix of leafy greens, golden stars against the blue batik sky and all manner of other freckled images is the one I made us to celebrate 25 years of marriage, the earth and sky.

The next quilt — squares connected to squares, and some squares divided into Brady Bunch type squares — was made by our cousin Janet with great help from Woody, when he was obviously still alive, and their church in San Diego, then mailed to Diane and Sheldon in Lawrence (now San Francisco) so that they could arrange for various friends from the Jewish center to tie knots in it and make wishes for my total recovery from cancer. Finally, members of my family tied knots and made wishes as they gave me the quilt.

The quilt beneath that was one I hand-sewed, my first buy cialis online no rx quilt, in 1996, in between nursing Forest and settling into this house we designed and help build. Triangles and diamonds in purple, rose and green, this quilt helped bring me home. It also holds the memory of listening to many Native American performers and writers — Sherman Alexie, R. Carlos Nakai and others — as I sat in audiences, sewing. I was a faculty member at Haskell Indian Nations University, where I was honored to be a witness to the lives of my students, who came from over 100 tribes.

The bottom quilt, with its red gingham and snappy little sailboats, was created by Ken’s great-grandmother when he was a boy out of scraps, simplicity and imagination. She made quilts for all her grandchildren, each inch of inch hand-sewn with great care and precision.

We sleep under these four stories forged by friends, family, community and ourselves, and in that sleep, we dream deep in gratitude and amazement.

Not By Might and Not By Power: The Passing of Debbie Friedman and the Tucson Tragedy: Everyday Magic, Day 175

In the aftermath of the Tucson tragedy that took six lives and shattered dozens more, and as we wait to see if Rep. Gabby Giffords recovers, Jewish singer-songwriter Debbie Friedman died. She was in a medicine-induced coma as a result of a long illness. Meanwhile, Giffords recovers — I hope — while being held in a medicine-induced coma. Jewish identity was important to both women, but neither was divided away from the rest of world because of her beliefs and culture.

All day, Friedman’s song “Not by Might and Not by Power” runs through my mind because of its simply chorus, carrying an old testament phrase in new language: “Not by might and not by power. By spirit alone, shall all live in peace.” I remember singing that song 35 years ago with my local synagogue youth group in central New Jersey, and how at the very end, we yelled out, “Ruah!”, the Hebrew word for “spirit.” Now I scan the web for photos of people holding candles in the darkness, and read updates on Giffords and others connected with this tragedy, which was incited by the language of hatred, which is always the language of division. Debbie Friedman’s music consistently did the opposite with songs like “MiSheberech,” which unified people in calling for healing, and “L’chi Lach,” which calls us together to journey to a new land of greater peace. But it wasn’t just the words: she devoted her life to gathering people together in song, which is a kind of language always about unity, and therefore, about love.

It’s long past time to find our way back to the language of love, even and especially when speaking with people who believe totally different views on issues than we do. We make out way into such conversations not by might or power, but truly, by spirit along. It takes great awareness and courage to stop polarizing, whether you’re a Palin-Tea Party supporter or someone like me, who believes still in the promise of Obama and the greatly-damaged and corrupted democratic process. Even writing this, I realize how it’s hard to speak of people with vividly different views without putting them in one box, myself in another.

I don’t mean to suggest it’s easy or even possible to reach across these divides, but in memory of Debbie Friedman and so many others who showed us ways to cross over, it’s clear to me how much we need to keep trying anyway. I’m thinking of how best I can do this more expansively in my heart and life. Meanwhile, I have this example from Debbie of “Turning Mourning into Dancing.”

Second helpings: Sing the MisSheberich for Debbie Friedman

Gratitude for Healing & Community: Everday Magic, Day 68

Tonight, my daughter texted me, needing details about the terrible car accident that almost took the life of Forest, my youngest son, nine years ago. She had a memoir writing assignment for an English class and wanted to write about this experience half her life earlier, when she was only nine. I quickly went to a long essay I wrote about this accident. Rereading it brought me full circle to my gratitude for Forest’s survival and the deepest healing community and prayer can bring. Here is an excerpt from that essay, written about returning to the site of the accident to clean up the mess we left there:

Sometime in the middle of March, I drove our new old Mercury Villager van to the accident site and parked. Laurie was already there, with a big hunk of (what else?) brownies in her backpack. Jerry soon drove up and parked, as did Vicky, and then Ken with the kids. We were here to clean the site, to help heal the part of the earth that we damaged in our crashing into it. The whole south side of the slope was covered in broken glass and small toys, crayons crushed everywhere.

We took plastic and paper bags and carefully crawled around and bent here and there to pick up what we could, trying to separate handfuls of grass from glass. Forest went down to the water, which was low and brown, and he walked through it and over it and generally explored the dimensions of the site. Natalie kept saying that it was a different place, that it couldn’t have been where the accident happened. Daniel, who had to be lulled into driving down this street again and was reluctant to see the site, quickly got into picking up glass and looking around at it.

It was the place where we almost died. It was the place that took the impact, took the hit, and let us live. It was mud and grass and slope and stretch of land. It was water and dirt, the eastern edge of the wetlands, all of which were so threatened by another highway that local native people and environmentalists had fended off thus far successfully for two years.

It was a beautiful place with great blue herons occasionally flying solo overhead.

We picked up all we could, gathered the trash in the back of our van, and then went to a somewhat flat part just cialis generic webmd west of the slope where we had the accident. You could still see the dents in the earth from the van. We gathered hands, the eight of us, and I thanked the earth for saving us, and so did Ken. We all thanked the earth and each other.

Then we hugged goodbye, and Laurie walked up the wetlands, around to her home while Jerry and Vicky returned with us to our house to eat the brownies, and other food too, and sit around the kitchen table, putting labels on the annual issue of our bioregional newsletter. Jerry told us the story of when he left the army, simply walked away, and how his life changed in that moment. Vicky spoke about the work she loved and the boss there who made staying with that work intolerable. Both of them told different stories, yet both stories were about leaving what wounds and seeking out what heals.

When I hugged them goodbye, and later, stepped outside on the deck alone to look at the cold stars, I thought about the place of the accident, and how what wounds it gave us were actually ways to heal much older, larger wounds, wounds that came from not being part of community, from not having access to the healing tools and energies needed. Wounds that came from being separate from love, not in the middle of it.

Then I went back inside to Forest’s room and lifted, from the edge of his bed, the prayer quilt, beautiful in its gold and orange and brown and green, made for him by the church of his great-cousin and name-sake, Ken’s cousin Forrest. I put the quilt on his sleeping body and placed Mariah dog beside him. All of him had come back, and in the process, more of me, lost in ways I can’t remember long ago, returned too.

“You two have suffered so much,” a lawyer friend said to me earlier that week. But that wasn’t so true. We had been given this gift of love, this shining spirit of community. The gift of the accident that didn’t take what we loved most but showed us, in stunning clarity, what love looks like as a verb.

Picture: From The Lawrence Journal-World of Forest being life-flighted from the site of the accident. Note: Some of you reading this will remember the accident. Thank you for all you did to help us then!