There is a quiet place, a secret place, that is yours for restoration. There is a realness in the stillness. Go there, when you can; when you need to. It's safe. For me, it is the Other Side of the Trees.
During a recent couple of days of life on the planet, I encountered something that changed my thinking; an encounter with rest. I’m a man who has spent very little time in the hospital. The first time was when I was born, and I remember very little about it.
Since then there have been three hospital incidents: an eighth-grade surgery on a toe; a false alarm for a heart attack, 2000; and then this week’s incident, a lower right abdomen surgery. This was a “routine surgery”, one that would happen in about an hour, with another hour in “post-op”, followed by my departure for home – – – to the Other Side of the Trees. The surgery was a success, with no hiccups / complications. In the post-op stage of the game, however, I was not getting enough oxygen. The moment I drifted off into a bit of sleep, the alarm in the machine (attached to a little white sensor clipped to my finger) sounded off, indicating I was not getting enough oxygen. For the next four hours, a nurse monitored the percentage of oxygen I was inhaling. Every three minutes, the nurse’s kind but concerned, voice startled me out of sleep: “Breathe, T, breathe. You have to breathe.” I breathed the best I could for a couple of minutes, drifted off. and startled again out of my sleep, being told to breathe. This went on for about four hours. When I entered a sleep mode, even to a shallow degree, it showed that I was hardly breathing at all. The medical staff then came to a conclusion that I would stay overnight at their non-resort hospital. Then came the”blur” …
of being rolled on a gurney to a room somewhere in the hospital maze, mysteriously moved from gurney to bed, and connected to this machine and that machine. There were some gadgets, like the one that makes the bed go upwards, and downwards, a TV remote (which I never turned on until four in the morning because I could not sleep), a pad with a series of buttons including a call to the nurses’ club (I rarely used). What I have walked away with, from this experience, is that even in those small stretches of pain (because I couldn’t reach the nurse to bring me the periodic PRN med for the post-surgery pain), there was a continual enigma of rest.
Enigma of Rest
Confined to a bed, fairly far from home; no chores to resolve, no kids to track with, no logistical / problem-solving discussions with my wife. There were no visitors other than quick appearances from nurses and care attendants (one visitor came a couple of hours prior to discharge) Boredom darted in and out. But a stronger flow of peace … a most different peace … resonated in the room, in my heart and soul. Anxiety showed up once or twice, quickly faded, unexplainably. This encounter of rest was an excellent example of ambivalence: (my paraphrased definition) the existence of two mutually exclusive emotions / thoughts at the same time. I experienced disruption because of my limited movement and control; I experienced rest, placed in a situation where I drifted in and out of sleep, and accomplished virtually nothing. Actual rest can happen, even when it is not pleasant. And to think that the catalyst for all this was my lack of breathing. Do I get so busy, in life, that I forget to breathe?
The following post, rooted in my imagination, should not be taken literally. Imagination has always been a highly valued resource for me. As I become older, I try to remember to practice that imagination. ‘Hope you enjoy. And, have a stellar Christmas.
His appearance changes, and there are some odd theories out there, about … where … the man might be, at any given time. Steven Wright’s theory:
Yuletide Man: a man, a healthy girth, covers much ground, much air space (without being shot down), undeniably a mysterious man.
Below left: image from satellite of the SOC (Santa’s Operation Center). Below right: sketching of Santa Claus from a confidential source.
Yuletide Man: a man, a healthy girth, covers much ground, much air space (without being shot down), undeniably a mysterious man.
Visionary, a hope agent, an “other-centered” man; a logistical-minded man, a genius, this “Santa Claus”.
His has organized a system for the storage of multitudes of gifts, the movement from storage to the loading docks, distribution plans … all of this is amazing.
A report from a confidential source, classified, slipped through the cracks back in the late nineties, made its way to my desk, with the request to burn the report as soon as possible. I will get around to that, eventually. The polar regions (North and South) have always been monitored carefully: some men / women are about keeping the North Pole safe, a neutral place, where Santa can work; and others are interested in claiming the north pole for strategic purposes, with some degree of ill intent on their minds.
I attempted to do some research on the security protocols for keeping SOC (Santa’s Operations Center) safe. A few days after I began my research, the dogs started barking, and I knew we had visitors. I opened the front door to see a group of ominous looking vehicles: two black vans, with men dressed like SWAT – guys coming out, guns drawn; and three SUVs with running lights on the top. Long story short: I was asked in depth, about my interest in the security protocols with the North Pole. I was told that this information is classified to protect Santa Clause and the work he is doing, year round.
Indeed, the man is truly elusive; not only the man but the work that goes on there. When NORAD’s Santa Tracker emerged, I experienced some degree of relief, knowing that there are people tracking with SOC. That link, by the way, is: http://www.noradsanta.org/
I am doing a re-write of a post, from another blog, about an issue I am immensely passionate about. Passion, a strange thing, reminds me of anger. Anger reminds me of a quote about anger, one I heard from my dad.
“Anger is like a sword without a handle: you have to hold it by the blade.”
Passion is sort of like anger (righteous and unrighteous). Passion can be used for good. There are times, unfortunately, when passion is not so good. My anger about this particular issue is passionate. And, as I live and breathe, as I write this post, I hold my sword-like passion and anger by the blade: carefully.
My heart truly goes out to the victims of sexual abuse at the hands of those specific Catholic priests / nuns who are sex offenders. My heart goes out, additionally, to the countless goodhearted, wise, godly, Catholics … angry and saddened … for their fellow-Catholics sexually abused by Catholic priests / nuns. The excerpt below from a recent story in the news, regarding victims of sexual abuse, perpetrated upon by Catholic priests, in Seattle, v a l i d a t e s the reality of such violence … a violence that many have attempted to hide for countless generations.
These words, in particular, from this man – – – Pope Francis – – – stir up my anguish:
“The Catholic Church had to take a stronger stand on a sexual abuse crisis that has disgraced it for more than two decades.”
Sexual abuse … happening in the Catholic Church since … the 1950’s (if not before then?) … And the Catholic Church is now recently expressing this profound observation … that there needs to be more action taken regarding the priests and nuns who are sex offenders. Why the sudden observation? Pope Francis’ words refer to the Catholic Church being “disgraced”. My reading of this article led me to consider this question: “Is the Catholic Church leadership more concerned about how the Catholic Church is viewed, rather than the hearts / minds / souls of their victims of sexual abuse?” Another question came up, for me: “If the sexual abuse was not exposed to the American public, would the Catholic Church still have been disgraced?”
And if the Catholic Church had not been disgraced, then would their really be a problem in their eyes? “Hush Money” (the term) has been used in articles / news referring to funds for victims of sexual abuse … to be quiet … about their abuse. “Hush Money”, therefore, is for keeping the Catholic Church from disgrace. Did the sexual abuse victims feel “disgraced” after they had been sexually abused? I think anyone would feel disgrace after being violated in a sexually abusive way. Many victims kept silent for a long time. Why? Shame? Fear of reprisal? Concern that no one would believe them? “Disgrace”? And yet, the Catholic Church communicates their concern, more about the Catholic Church’s disgrace, than with the victims of the sexual abuse from Catholic priests. For the cases that have been exposed, it was no longer “Hush Money” … but now, it is more of a pitiful rationalization, my paraphrase: “If we pay you this money, then its all settled. You go your way, and we will continue to do what we do (what does that mean?).”
The Church (globally) in America calls people to live with integrity, to be safe, to be honorable, to be virtuous. Some good news in all of this is that … the “Hush Money” is exposed; sex offender priests / nuns are being exposed; the numbers (settlements and victims) are being made known. All of this stands up against the secrets continuing.
Is a predominant theme …
In the depravity / violence of …
Sex offenders …
And the fear / shame of …
When the secrets are told, the secrets lose power.
Here are some numbers, some of many, that are staggering.
*Roman Catholics spent $615 million on sex abuse cases in 2007, alone. *$85 million in September of 2003 (just that month). *$100 million in 2005, January.
Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain said in a statement on Tuesday (6/24/14), according to the Seattle Times newspaper,
“Our hope is that this settlement will bring them closure and allow them to continue the process of healing.”
REALITY CHECK, people. Let’s not be so naive as to think that there is going to be significant healing for allof these men and women who have been victimized. For some, yes there will be healing. For others, no: there will be little or no healing. And its possible that some individuals are hearing Sartain say … my paraphrase …
“Hey, here’s the money; and its a lot of money; so, since we are paying out a lot of money, then we expect for there to be a lot of healing, and then we won’t feel so bad. And we don’t want to hear anymore about this. Now, get out of here.”
Now, I know; I know, I know, I know … that those were not the words from the archbishop from Seattle … but if I was a victim of sexual abuse from the Catholic Church, I might just think that way about what Sartain is saying.
The money … d o e s n o t c h a n g e … what happened. The money … d o e s n o t g u a r a n t e e … full healing …
The money does not guarantee that the sexual abuse will stop. So, healing for everyone? No. It doesn’t work that way.
‘Revisiting some (old) lyrics, and a theme, previously posted, perused in one of the blogospheres (I don’t know how many there are) … A different direction emerged while the muse came by. Two fellas, met up in 1953, the elementary school-scene in Queens (N.Y.) became famous in their school play, Alice in Wonderland. One was the White Rabbit (Paul Simon) and the other was the Cheshire Cat (Art Garfunkel). Actually, they did not get famous from their work in the theater, doing Alice in Wonderland. They continued to be bro’s through junior high school and high school. Simon and Garfunkel, their junior year, emerged as “Tom and Jerry” playing some good music. Seriously? Yes. Someone in the recording studio brought up the “Tom and Jerry” thing … and it faded quickly. “Simon and Garfunkle” was the balm, apparently. Eventually, after “The Sound of Silence” which put them on the map, they put together this song, “I Am A Rock”, with the lyrics … here:
” … Gazing from my window to the streets below / On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow. / I am a rock, / I am an island. I’ve built walls / A fortress deep and mighty … “
I really love these lyrics, for quite a few reasons. One of my favorite writing quotes goes like this: “My wife doesn’t understand that when I am staring out the window, I’m actually working.” I agree. Productive? Maybe not, but … still … working. Because a writer is always watching, observing, taking it all in, appreciating (some) details, editing others. A writer would take time to ” … gaze from (his / her) window to the streets below, taking notice of the freshly fallen silent shroud of snow …” And a writer is also aware of how easy it would be to become “a rock … an island”, with “walls, a fortress …” Such imagery.
” … friendship causes pain. / It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain …”
I believe that some writers struggle with friendship more than others. I actually acknowledge my envy of individuals who don’t seem to struggle at all, ever, with friendships. They seem to be sufficiently charismatic, cool, and people love to be around these individuals. Friendships are sometimes hard, and I do think that such struggles contribute to a writer’s persistence in writing, and reading. And that is why these lyrics, here, resonate for me. And … a question emerges that I pass your way: would you say, on some level, that you “hide” with books? With poetry? And do you have your armor that you protect yourself with?
“I have my books And my poetry to protect me; I am shielded in my armor, Hiding in my room, safe within my womb. I touch no one and no one touches me. I am a rock, I am an island. And a rock feels no pain; And an island never cries.”
What is a bit weird is that I really find … asylum … with the spy novels (Thor, Ludlum, etc.) sometimes the Western novels (Johnstone, Lamour), and sometimes the good old mystery-“Who Dunnit”s (Charles Todd, Castle, Craig Johnson). And there is that great line from Shadowlands (movie): “We read to know … we are not alone.”
So, yeah … I was just curious if you guys “hide” … from time to time … in your books, your poetry, your armor.
“Someone’s knockin’ at the door /Somebody’s ringin’ the bell / Someone’s knockin’ at the door / Somebody’s ringin’ the bell / Do me a favor / Open the door and let’em in, ooh yeah … “ (Paul McCartney, “Let’em In”)
Thinking about doors, and don’t know why … Stranger things have happened, and I don’t know why. Stranger things are not always a loss, not always a bummer, not always a washout. And doors get opened, and doors get closed, and I really, seriously, don’t know why.
“When people keep repeating / That you’ll never fall in love /When everybody keeps retreating / But you can’t seem to get enough / Let my love open the door / Let my love open the door / Let my love open the door … To your heart.”(Pete Townsend, “Let My Love Open The Door”)
Someone told me doors are to keep people out, and to keep people in. Some sojourners are looking for a safe place, a place of rest. Others may be looking for a non-safe place, where the crazy-talk is, where emotions are hellish. I like safe places, and doors play a part in all that. Closed doors can really get to me. Times like that, I ask “What am I supposed to do? Where am I supposed to go?” So, if you come by, find the door locked, leave me a voicemail, an EMAIL, a text, a scribbled note with some tape on the door, or a carrier pidgeon.
What do I know to be true? Know yourself, and I will know myself, and if I come up short in that area, then … then … What? Then what? Oh, my! Maybe the earth will rip off its axis and hurl into the sun!!!!
No, I doubt that will happen. Here’s one truth about me: I am able. I am able to do both good, and not-so-good. I am able to empower (good). I am able to enable (bummer, not-so-good). I’ve walked with many folks over the last 20 years in the counseling context. And in the realm of addictions, I have encountered the “enabling” dynamic a great deal. And, if an individual is an “enabler”, that does not mean … that their heart is not good. In fact, with every enabler I have sat with, there has always been a good heart. We, with our good hearts, are able to miss the bigger picture, to mess up the smaller picture. And we, with our good hearts, are able to walk with a soul and inspire, without many words. We, with our good hearts, are able to run races with specific individuals who have come into our world who want to run well, with love in their hearts … a healthy love, an empowering love, a fragrant love, a tough love, a tough love not without honor, a tough love not without integrity, a tough love not without gentleness.
I am able. I am able to go after myself with rocks and razored insults; rage and disgust. There is a fancy word for it, I think: “self-contempt”. Truly, I am not exempt from self-contempt. And, truly, there is no exemption from redemption.
And, to use the title of one of my favorite films, “When a Man Loves a Woman”, there is an indescribably intense piece of fighting with honor and love and fairness and staying in the place of a safe place. Not fighting with physical warfare. Not fighting with psychological abuse; or verbal abuse; or emotional abuse. No … this is a fighting where, at the core, is a deep authentic love for the other; caring for the other; and choosing to not let the other “off the hook” … because that is the last thing we need, to escape the responsibility of loving well and “doing relationship” well.
And that is all I’m going to say about that, for now.
The trees below are from someone’s “Other Side of the Trees”, not mine.
A road, or a path, or both, heading outward or inward; or both. It is good to be out, accompanied by trees. It was my path. Yesterday, I knew I was to be … there. I was concerned about more firewood.
We had snow … two nights ago, and a lighter sprinkling last night. Our wood, close to the house, is almost out. That makes sense, as we are on the final snows, I think. My backup firewood is down on the other edge of the property. There is a place where one can pull in, or back in, there. I have used the space to pile up downed trees. After I chainsaw, I haul up the logs to our house, right after I chop. But this past summer, I kept chopping and never got around to hauling. I made my way through the thick two feet of snow, pulling a long sled behind me. A strange sight: shoveling snow off logs. I loaded the logs on the sled, and used bungee chords (which are like gold) to keep the logs from falling out of the sled. Once back at the house, out of breath, I unloaded the firewood. I was looking forward to calling it a day, when I couldn’t ignore the dog, Stash (short “o”), her .deep resonating barks … just loud enough to be a nuisance. Stash is our Bernese Mountain Dog.
To get Stash into the house requires a patient “herding” strategy. How do you herd a dog that has come from many generations of seasoned Swiss “herders”? I walk through the deep snow one way, then walk back the other way, depending on where Stash is going.
Once inside, my daughter gave me a great hug … and she said “Dad, you smell good!” I didn’t know if she was being serious. I thought she was talking about my perspiration. She said “You smell fresh, like you have been out with the evergreens.”
Now, all of this was happening on my “Other Side of the Trees”. But the picture at the top is of trees from someone else’s “Other Side of the Trees”. My hope is that you are able to find your own quiet place: your “Other Side of the Trees”, or some other beautiful, healing, place.