La Dolce Vita

He does look like Charlton Heston.

While waiting in the car at the DMV, Ellie asked about getting her passport. “Where does she think she’s going?” I thought…but then I remembered she was 19. Anyway, I told her I had my passport and looked in my purse. I didn’t have mine, but I did have Baby Evangelina’s from 1996 when she, my mom and I went to Rome. Twenty-five years ago. The last time I was in Europe, the last time I flew, the last time I went anywhere as exciting as Rome with my mother, except maybe JoAnn’s. We had a great time. And there are stories.

First story background. When I was a student at Simpson College in San Francisco, I had to take three semesters of Western Civ. Ugh…I loved the history part, but dreaded the Art section. Surprisingly, Dr. Humphries made the material very interesting and found works with compelling stories. During the Renaissance period, Dr. Humphries presented the works of Leonardo DaVinci, Michelangelo as well as many others. I was smitten with Michelangelo’s Moses. Dr. Humphries said it was called “Moses on Mt. Nebo” with the understanding that Moses was looking at the Promised Land, the land he wasn’t permitted to enter. The intensity of his gaze was powerful. And, I thought then, if I ever go to Rome…I must see this Moses. One of those little whispered spontaneous prayer-desires that only God hears. And remembers.

In 1996, my father was given a trip for two to Rome for his retirement. He wasn’t keen on going, but no one was going to stop my mom from going. I offered to accompany her, but I would have to take baby Evangelina. Everyone was OK with that, so off we go. First flight from SFO to Newark, New Jersey, then after the long flight from Newark, we landed in Rome, the Eternal City.

After we gathered our luggage, we went to get our ride to the hotel. But, the hotel transportation never arrived, and, as it turns out, there were no reservations at the hotel we thought we were booked at. Of course, we had to call my father when we landed, and he, par for the course, flipped out that we had no lodgings. We, on the other hand, were so tired from flying that we just sat and waited for the travel agent to take care of the mix up. Which she did. And so, remarkably, providentially, and delightfully, we were rerouted to the Hotel Palatine on the Via Cavour. Across the street from the staircase that led to the San Pietro in Vincoli chapel…the home of Michelangelo’s Moses, which we happily visited many times. I love the Lord for remembering my barely breathed wisp of a prayer more than ten years earlier. He does those things, you know. I love His surprises. I love the fact that He knows me, He knows my thoughts.

A chuckle of a story has to do with my, at the time, quasi-rigid Baptist dogmatism. Before we left, my mom told me the Archbishop of San Francisco, a friend of the family, arranged for us an audience with the Pope, Pope John Paul II, who my mother really admired. Wow…that’s cool. But then my aforementioned dogmatism gripped me when, in the fertile imagination of my mind, I imagined a generous Pontiff offering to baptize three month old Evangelina. In my fantasy scenario, I would have to kindly decline his gracious offer, because of my strong adherence to full immersion. Perhaps even discussing the finer points of the sacrament. My mother, in my imagination, would be rightly horrified. This low grade fear followed me throughout the trip until the scheduled audience. Imagine my relief and wry embarrassment, when the audience was not an intimate gathering of congregants at all, but a crowd of over 5000. I laughed to myself while I watched my mother run hither and yon trying to get a picture of John Paul in his Pope-mobile. She was pretty spry for nearly 67.

Our first stop in Rome was, of course, McDonald’s up the street from our hotel room. We went there a lot, food tasted the same. One night, we had room service prepare a fish dinner which we both enjoyed. We also agreed the best Chinese food was the meals we had in Rome. We ordered a meal for my birthday. The only Italian cuisine I remember was the ice cream from a street vendor. Ten days was not nearly enough time to see even a fraction of this great city. But we made the most of it. We flew through the Sistine Chapel, we paid homage to the Pietà in St. Peter’s which was my mother’s wish to see, and we shuffled our way through the winding crevices of the catacombs of St. Callistus. We visited the Colosseum, which was only three blocks away from our providentially placed hotel. We had a great time.

Years later, my trip to Rome gained new meaning. Often, I come across a piece of art whether it’s a song, a film, a book or evidently a sculpture that mysteriously resonates with me. That’s what happened when I watched the movie “Of Gods and Men” in 2012. This film tells the story of seven French Trappist monks who were abducted, and eventually killed. During the night of March 27th. In 1996. The night I was enjoying a birthday dinner with my mother and Evangelina in Rome.

This film tells their lovely, but tragic story while incorporating all that is beautiful in the Catholic Church. The simple liturgy, the acapella worship, the spiritual academia and the rich art history. Never has a movie so holistically moved me. These brothers – my brothers in Christ – lived and ministered to the townspeople of Tibhirine in the Atlas Mountains of Algeria. They were caught in the clutches of a brutal civil war, and were killed. To this day, their murderers are unknown, except to God, in Whose presence these monks are now basking.

THIS is Christianity. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends, and that is just what my brothers did for their friends in Algeria. This, my friends, is a modern example of walking “in His steps”. I am not glorifying their deaths, I am glorifying their lives.

My trip to Rome and the story of the monks of Tibhirine have taught me how much God knows me, and how much He loves me. David wrote in Psalm 139: “O LORD, You have searched me, and known me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You understand my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down; You are aware of all my ways.” What makes this life so sweet is being known by God, by being loved by Him. I am seen. I am known, and I am not alone. My brothers that served in Algeria knew this too. My mother knew it as well.

Easter is the great event that makes this relationship possible. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Our Lord bridged the gap between God, the Father and man. There is nothing sweeter than knowing Jesus.

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Psalm 34:8

What to Really Expect…

Jean-Honoré Fragonard - The Good Mother

Like many moms-to-be in the late ’80’s (which extended to the mid-2000’s for me), I had a copy of the now maternity classic, What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel. They gave us the low down on what to expect in the first, second and third trimesters, what to expect during labor and what to expect afterwards. But, if I recall, there was a lot of information missing. As a experienced mom of way too many kids, I have gleaned some things that were unexpected. So here are a few things to really expect….

A Newborn’s Smell

I think the book may have mentioned that a newborn smells nice. I’m not talking about how they smell after they are bathed. Just their essential smell. A new sweet presence. A smell that instinctively causes you to draw them near. To cuddle. No one told me about that sensation. No one told me how emotionally powerful that simple smell would feel like. Also, nobody said how transient it would be. You only get a couple months of newborn smell….drink it in!

Intense Joy

There are times when I’d watch my kids and be overcome with a joy that was mingled with contentment, wonder and love. They do things that tap into that well of joy, and sometimes so unexpectedly, you are in tears while you drive. One of my kids, one of the very frugal ones, was on his way home. I was picking him up at BART. You have to understand we rarely had extra money. But this kind-hearted, sweet soul of a son, parted with a five dollar bill to one who according to him, “I just thought he needed it more than me.” When my kids do things like that, a wellspring of joy, pride and admiration spring up and seep out my eyes. I don’t think the book mentioned that feeling.

Terrifying Fear

I had always been fearful. An anxious and highly imaginative father, a deep connection to Catholic guilt and a hyperactive constitution was a perfect recipe for anxious foreboding. As much as I was afraid of things temporal and eternal before I had kids, after I had them, things got worse. All of a sudden I became acutely aware of the dangers that preyed on little kids. We lived in Northern California at a time where many little girls were kidnapped…often out in the open. My kids were not allowed out the gate because of that. They still don’t get it. The book didn’t mention how worried you’ll be. And that doesn’t go away. I like the line from “What a Girl Wants” with Amanda Bynes, Kelly Preston and uhm, the handsome Colin Firth. He calls Kelly’s character, Amanda’s mom, and complains their daughter went off on a motorcycle with her boyfriend. He then asks her, “Does it ever go away?” “What, Henry?” she responds. “Worry.” “No, Henry, it doesn’t” The book doesn’t really mention that you’re gonna worry about your twenty-three year old as much as you worry about your three year old. Just different circumstances. Be prepared!

Grandchildren

I had ten kids. Grandchildren were never on my radar. Many of my kids, especially my oldest, declared they were not having children. “Mom, don’t expect grandkids.” more than one announced. Uhm, I was still raising kids so I didn’t really care. Not until one March afternoon when I received a downloading photo text from my son-in-law. What could James be sending me? A picture. A grainy, black and white sonogram image with the message “Congratulations, Grandma!” My coworker thought there was a death in the family when she heard my response.

The book didn’t tell me what to expect when I was expecting grandchildren. Maybe that was out of their purview. But, after the scream, I wept. I didn’t think I was going to respond that way. And I pretty much did the same thing with the three others that came after little Elena.

What to really expect when you’re expecting…expect intense, joyful emotions, fierce protective instincts, love that you didn’t think you were capable of and unimaginable blessings.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

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Rodents, Roaches, Reptiles and Resilience

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Well, here we are in the east East Bay. We’ve rented a nice four bedroom house. Not a place I thought I’d ever live; but, alas, here is where He has led us. And Amen to that.

I knew I’d be facing torrid temperatures, but I was confident in all of the AC systems at work and at home. I knew I may be facing adverse attitudes from children about the extreme relocation; however, our new place has had surprisingly nice blessings. My son has found a very sweet girlfriend who lives down the street, and my youngest is pretty happy at the local high school. I’m close enough to all my grandchildren and see them on a regular basis. My job is not only challenging, but also pays well. My desire to move northward yet remains. That I will rest in the Lord’s hands, rather than wrest it from His hands which is normally my modus operandi.

However….what I did not consider…what I did not even anticipate, nor even think about was the indigenous creature population of this region. I thought maybe roaches and was kinda worried because I’m not the greatest housekeeper, but rats, reptiles….little ants that bite?? Yikes! The roaches over here are giant, and play dead for a second, but if you move, they scurry away to some nearby hideout. Only a few have come into the house, they mostly stay outside or in the garage. An agreed detante.

When I first looked at the house, I noticed some rodent activity. I brought my concerns to the property manager, and she assured me that steps were being taken to mitigate the problem. Because I was so excited to be able to afford a four bedroom house and finally have my own room, I took a step of faith and signed the lease agreement. First night, though, we had visitors…I saw the evidence the next morning. I called the property manager right away..and she sent the exterminator. Problem solved…right?

The rodents had been gnawing under the kitchen cabinets, and one night – first night I was all alone – I went into the kitchen late for some warm milk, and I heard the gnawing…ugh! I texted my daughter and asked if I could come over there to Martinez, since I was a big wimp. She responded that everyone was asleep. So, instead of disrupting my oldest’s household, I manned up and put on my Eowyn face. Eowyn wouldn’t be scared of some rats…she fricking faced the Nazgul. I can do this…and I did. I called the property management the next day…and for now, our problem has been abated.

I am a jumpy kinda person, much like the hare I relate to. Well, I have a friend who keeps me on my toes. His name is Frankie, and he is a lizard who lives in the the front yard, and his mission in life is to see how high I can jump when coming from the car. I don’t even walk on the walkway anymore, he has taken over like he owns the place. Come on, Frankie, give me a break! Evidently, Frankie has friends.

Rats, roaches, even lizards are creatures I am sort of familiar with. Please refer to my story “The Day I Shot the Rat”. What I never imagined, never anticipated was rattlesnakes. Yep…a rattlesnake. Right at the start of Shelter in Place, I came home for lunch one very warm Friday. Work had been stressful at the District and our office was managing how to do school in the new normal. I parked my car, got out, did the Frankie dance, and, voile, there’s a snake at the front door. Whattt!!!??? I looked close and saw a little rattle…a rattlesnake, are you kidding me?? I immediately called the girls and told them not to open the door. I called the property manager, no response. I texted people. One colleague said call animal control which I did. While waiting in the 90+ degree heat for animal control, Frankie came out to taunt me. Not a good time, Frankie. Give me a break!

I texted my boss, and told him I’m not coming back today. I waited for over two hours for animal control’s 45 second visit where he grabbed the snake, bucketed it and went along his merry way. I went inside and, no doubt, ate carbs and watched movies for the rest of the weekend. I don’t even really remember.

These creatures sure have wrecked havoc on my nervous system, but I am acclimating to this new environment. I’m mindful now when I go into the garage that I may run into a bug or two. I’m not ignorant that I must co-exist with my geography and its inhabitants, so I have developed some resilience and am not so jumpy anymore. If I see a roach, I don’t scream or call for my son, I grab the broom and sweep it outside or pick up a handy bazooka and blast it into eternity. When I go into the backyard, I don’t anticipate seeing deer like I did at the old house or a little bunny, but dead rats or, perhaps, a lion, tiger or bear. Oh my!

Next up: My Nemeses: Pincher Bugs, Pharoah Ants and Swooping Barn Swallows

Unmoored

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About a year and a half ago, my dad, Bob Moore, passed away. I didn’t realize that his death would leave me feeling untethered, unmoored, if you will (no pun intended).  I thought I had grown to a point to not need him; evidently, even with his deteriorating condition, his presence, his life was still “a strong pier to which I latched my little barque.”

After taking a new job and moving to a new city, I thought I’d eventually get my bearings. Then our Quarantine Shelter-in-Place descended upon us. My dad’s passing, changing jobs and moving to a place where I knew few folks contributed to a sense of disorientation; however, this quarantine has made it much worse.

I had started this blog after he died and titled it “Untethered” because that’s how I felt. But I had to go on, even though I felt like a little boat out in a sometimes tempestuous sea without anchor, harbor or mooring. Now, with this global pandemic upon us, I feel even more “unmoored”. Overnight, things we were accustomed to, perhaps took for granted: work, school, church, recreation stopped. Quite quickly. Thankfully, I have a position that is secure, but not so for many of my kids. Not so for many, many other folks. Unnerving, scary, almost un-“bear”able.

To add to this disorientation is a political landscape and suspect media that do NOT cultivate calm, competency or control. To that mess, I must trust Jesus’ words, “Be ye not troubled.” That aspect of this situation is just too overwhelming.

But here in the corner of my little world, how do I find some sense of perspective, peace and protection? My environment helps. My new town is surrounded on the south side by luscious green hills, so it’s easy to look up, and remember from where my help comes.

Oddly, as I grapple with this disorientation, I’ve yearned to go to someplace familiar, like the Russian River, grasping to feel some connection with my childhood that seemed to have some security, some foundation, some familiarity. In my new town, there is not one river, but two; two rivers where small boats skirt by freighter ships. A providential plus.

However, we’re not the only generation to suffer through global crises.  Certainly my parents and their parents remember the Great Depression. Then that was followed by a global conflict, a conflict that resulted in the death of millions. A pandemic of Evil. A World Unmoored.

Also, two thousand years ago, on the small stage of Judea, in Rome’s Palestine, a Man had been born, had lived and was killed by the various powers that be. And yet for the handful of men and women who counted Him as Lord and Savior, the Anointed One, the very Messiah of Israel, they were left bewildered, lost, and unmoored after His gruesome death. For three days, they hid, and they feared for their own lives.

Until that glorious first Easter day…He Lives! The resurrection of Jesus Christ exploded all religious models. Here was the Way, the Truth and the Life. Here was the Creator God extending His reconciling Hand to mankind. Who was, still lives. And the fact of the Resurrection drove the first generation of believers to boldly proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, even in the face of great persecution. Their hope was strong and steadfast.

When the disciples struggled with their boat on the troubled Sea of Galilee, and our Lord slept below…they not only feared their deaths, but they also thought Jesus was unconcerned. When they finally awakened the Lord, He gently, quietly rebuked the storm, and the disciples, “‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?'”

So in the midst of unknown new surroundings and the temporary scary new normals, I look to the One who calmed the seas. I look to the One to Whom I can latch my little barque. I look to the One Who asks me – asks us – “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 

“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.”

— Psalm 42:5

  “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast…”  

       — Hebrews 6:19 

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Kinda Irish

FROM THE SHOE

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I’m kinda Irish. Actually, I’m half Irish, but it’s old Irish blood that runs through my veins. My paternal grandmother’s parents were born in Canada to Irish parents, and my paternal grandfather’s family were old American Irish from the South; so I’d like to think there’s still a “lilt of Irish laughter” in me. But on St. Patrick’s Day, everyone feels kinda Irish. It’s a happy day that celebrates the beauty of an old culture. Of course, we all know that St. Patrick wasn’t even Irish, but he has become the patron saint of the Emerald Isle for his missionary work nearly two millennia ago. Everyone wants to be an Irishman on St. Paddy’s Day. Well, there are some Irish folks that I want to be like everyday.

Every summer, my family went to the Russian River like a lot of San Francisco families did. One of those families…

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Life Is But A Preface

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Life is but a preface

To a never ending tome.

A story yet unwritten,

Waiting to unfold.

There will be no epilogue,

“The road goes ever on,”

As someone wisely wrote

Not so long ago.”

Our short stay here on earth is like the preface of a book. Short and sometimes sweet. If we stand back and put our years into perspective of just known history, our lives are very short indeed. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” As my parents have gotten older just like when my grandmother and great aunt had aged, I seem to be walking through the valley of the shadow of death. I am surrounded by their mortality, and reminded of my own.  One day, it will be my turn. And for the record, no one knows when it’s their turn. I don’t like to presume I have thirty more years, we’ve all learned, sadly, that some will go sooner than expected.

So somber, so sad…especially for those who left unexpectedly. But…as believers in Jesus Christ, the good news is that life really is just a preface, a short introduction to the complete story, the purpose of the literary creation. A preface to a wonderful story yet to be written by the One Who created the beautiful heavens and the luscious earth, the One Who wonderfully and fearfully created you and me. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

I have come to accept the finish line of this earthly race, whether it’s far ahead or near, I can’t tell. My eyesight has worsened since my 40’s. My hare-like nature has wizened up a bit, and is trying to apply some tortoise-shaped brakes to the break neck speed I’m used to. Always in a hurry. Time to slow down and ponder this short brief “vapor” of a life I’m living.

What is life all about? Is life nothing more than a library of stories of those who came before us, those who share our point in time and those who are to come? Our brief tango with time. Will our accumulation of experiences and memories only disappear after our deaths or, at best, linger in the memories of our family and friends? What’s it all about, Alfie?

When I was a young adult, I struggled with these questions. I struggled to find my place in my family and in this world. I sought for truth. The true understanding of what this life was about. I found the answer in Jesus Christ. He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”  Coming from a catholic background, it wasn’t hard to personally embrace the teachings of the New Testament. Being born again was and continues to be the prime reality for me. Yay, Jesus lives! There is eternal life, and there is meaning to our lives here on earth. And there is Someone Who loves us beyond our imagination.

So after I made this decision, my life was perfect, right? Hahaha…ad infinitum. No, it wasn’t. I was still saddled with this human, sinful nature. I’ve made my share of mistakes, poor decisions and sins of omission. I’m at a place where I look around at the landscape of my past and try to understand my present. I am thankful God in Christ has forgiven me, and for all that is in Christ which is now mine. It’s taken me a long time to apprehend the treasures we’ve received as Christians. I hope I can redeem the remaining time for the benefit of my kids, to provide a somewhat sturdy, albeit at times stumbling example to walking in His steps.

Moses is attributed to writing Psalm 90. In this lovely piece of Hebrew poetry, he writes, So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.As I look forward (meaning looking forward (ahead), not looking forward) to the conclusion of my preface, however long that might be, I look to Him to teach me to number my days, that I may present to Him a heart of wisdom. Something I can take from this life, and hopefully, something that will linger in the memories of my family and friends to point them to the Ancient of Days, the only true God and Jesus Christ Whom He had sent.

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith “A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!”
-Robert Browning

A Thing of Beauty…

FROM THE SHOE

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December 24, 2019 – Our gift from God is not only redeeming, reconciling and resurrecting; but our new relationship with Him through Jesus Christ is also a Thing of Beauty. Merry Christmas, and “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”

August 2015

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever,” so said Mary Poppins. Well, she borrowed that line from John Keats who wrote a poem about “A thing of beauty…” Many nights I get the privilege to drive by the ocean. Each time I am overwhelmed by its beauty and majesty. Tonight’s sunset was especially beautiful.

One of the wonderful things about beauty is its ubiquitousness, its omnipresence. It’s everywhere. You just have to look for it. The flowers blooming along the path, the smell of newly cut lawns (not much of that now though), someone’s kindness, a favorite song, sound of water rippling over rocks, I could…

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Count Thy Sunbeams Now!

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This morning I drove my son to work early. I got a good night’s sleep…thank you, Lord…and was listening to this new song I discovered from one of those corny Hallmark Christmas movies. It’s a sad Christmas song, and I think if the songwriter added an emotional bridge, it would be a classic.

Anyway, this song reminded me of a very painful Christmas sixteen years ago. There was a fight, and me and the nine kids (I was pregnant with the caboose) left and went to my parents for the holiday. It was the beginning of many low points. It was the beginning of the end.

The song reminded me of the days of many children. The days of many regrets…not regretting the kids, but many of my decisions during those years. Normally this line of thinking would land me in the “depths of despair” to quote Ms. Shirley, but not this morning, I just left it for what it was. Mistakes were made, but there were some good memories.

After I got home, I read today’s devotional in Mrs. Cowman’s Streams in the Desert, Vol. II. She quotes Psalm 92:1, It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord. She starts the devotional with these lines:

The remorse of memory is the pain of having failed to enjoy yourself. Have you ever felt that kind of remorse? Have you ever come to a time in which you looked back upon the past, and learned how little you valued it? To find that days were happy when the days are gone, to learn that one is passing through Elysium and not know it, to see the light on the hill only when it is setting – that is one of the saddest of all experiences. It is the climax of pain when I say with the poetess: “Oh, while my brother with me played, Would I had loved him more!”

I had read that quote before and didn’t understand it, until this morning. When we add gratitude to our lives, gratitude for the good and the bad, we create appreciation, value if you will, to those times. As I look back at that painful Christmas, I realize how good my kids were, for enduring what they did with resiliency and grace. They were and continue to be good sports.

Below is the rest of the devotional, which I must add because it is written by George Matheson, one of my favorite brothers in the Lord. I am looking forward to meeting him when I go….

My soul, wouldst thou be free from that pain — that remorse of memory? Thou mayest be so; live in present thanksgiving! Count thy sunbeams now! Treasure today the gems that are strewn upon thy path! The love that is merely retrospective is a very painful thing. I would not have thee wake to the glory of a past only when it is past —  desire one of the days of the Son of Man after He ascended. If thy days of sorrow at any time should cloud thy days of joy, I should like thee to be able to say, ‘Well, while they lasted, I did appreciate them.’ There are some who want to feel at death that their life has been a vain show. I would not have it so with thee, O my soul. I should like when death comes, to feel that I had thoroughly enjoyed life —  taken the honey from the flower as God meant me to take it. I should like to know that I had not defrauded myself of my birthright, that I made room for others because I had had my share. The cup of gladness which my Father has given me shall I not drink it, even unto the dregs!

I shall thank Him for every bird that sings. I shall praise Him for every flower that blows. I shall bless Him for every stream that warbles. I shall love Him for every heart that loves. I shall see the sparkling of the cup ere it passes to the hand of my brother. There shall be no remorse of memory when I have thanked God for today.                                              — George Matheseon

Hallelujah, and thank you, Lord for this chilly, wonderful Day.

 

 

A Trembling Reminder

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A couple nights ago, the East Bay was rocked by a nice size earthquake. Long enough to fear that it could be “the big one”. Strong enough to remind me of the many earthquakes I’ve been through.

I was born in San Francisco back in the late ’50’s. You’d think I would’ve become accustomed to this Bay Area phenomenon. Nah…I still don’t like ’em. I still have memories of the many I’ve experienced.

Fifty years ago this month in Santa Rosa, a pair of earthquakes seered into my childhood memory, into my being. And to this day…yes, even now…I often get chills around 10:00 PM…remembering that night. Thirty years ago, today, I remember the Loma Prieta quake, but it didn’t have the same effect on me as the quakes of 1969. Across the decades, I have a spattering of memories from the little quakes that have peppered the area.

In 1969, I was a ten year old tomboy sleeping in my top bunk bed. I was transitioning from consciousness to that wonderful place of slumber when the house violently shook like some giant grabbed it and shook it like an Etch-A-Sketch, and then put it right down. I remember being terrified, I remember my father running down the hallway, I remember hearing swearing, no doubt when my dad stepped on a tack from the fallen bulletin board. The only physical injury sustained in the Moore home.

“What was that?” I screamed. “An Earthquake!” someone replied. That earthquake and the two that followed were the most fearful things I’d ever experienced. Afterwards, most of the neighbors gathered in the middle of the street…very unlike our 4th of July celebrations when we would close off the entire street and celebrate. We all stood around in our nightgowns and pajamas…parents wondering what to do next.

By the time we had settled back into bed, around 11:15…bam came the second quake. That’s it, I’m sleeping with my parents. I don’t know when I feel asleep…but eventually did. I woke up when my dad did sometime after 5, just in time for a powerful aftershock. I’ll never forget that day…the absolute fear and helplessness of being confronted with a natural event so powerful.

Loma Prieta….luckily for me, I had just hopped into my nice little Honda to drive to the Mission District. Turned the key just at 5:04 PM….why was everyone running into the street? My little boy sat near my friend’s front yard palm tree with his sister while my sister, friend and their kids rushed to the street. Then I felt the tail end of the biggest quake to hit the Bay Area since ’06.

“Oh…it’s ok, it’s just a little earthquake.”  as I got out of the car. I assured everyone in my smart alecky way. The looks I got spoke otherwise.

“Oh no it wasn’t, that was a big one!” Bonnie said just as her husband rushed out of their house still covered in soap. “I saw the street rippling.”

It wasn’t until I got home did I realize the magnitude of this earthquake. The broken water pipe was a little inconvenience for my family, the furniture could be picked up and broken things could be replaced. When the images of the damage started to flood the news stations, it is remarkable that more folks were not killed.

My husband and my father were both stuck in Oakland, not arriving home until after 11 having to travel through Marin to get home. I spent that night, sleepless of course, with Dennis and Elaine…praying with them as recovery efforts continued for days at the Cypress Structure. Forty-two lives were lost when the Cypress arm of 880 collapsed. It Was Apocalyptic.

Over the years, there have been many small quakes. Little fake ones in Daly City which were really sonic booms in March 1971, the day we moved into our new home. A few more there over the years. None in the Pacifica house since it was built on rock…how many piers did Papa say were driven into the rock, Katie? My mom, in 1989, thought a large truck had driven by. A few scary ones when we lived in Berkeley, thought I was safe when we moved to San Pablo only to find out we were sitting on the Hayward Fault…site of the next big one. Great!

As my phobia of earthquakes ebbed and flowed over the years, I realized I’ve always lived on a faultline. I’ve always been in danger of these unpredictable seismic events, these trembling reminders of the kind of geography we inhabit. These trembling reminders that our lives can change in a matter of seconds. These trembling reminders that our lives are short and the future is uncertain.

So teach us to number our days,
That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90:12

 

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Frolicking in the Autumn Mist

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Every year it seems, I write a blog about autumn. Last year I wrote The Warmth of the Sun, the year before, The Intimations of Autumn, and others that include Autumn Days are the Best, Autumn and Joe Montana and Delicious Autumn! My Soul is Wedded to it. There may be others as well. Evidently, I love autumn. What is it about this season that produces such nostalgia, such longing, such remembrance of things past?

Monday I was in a kinda funk. So to feel better, I played around on my phone, checking out social media. I posted some of my favorite pictures, and updated one of the aforementioned autumn themed blogs. Still feeling a little out-of-sorts, maybe I was looking for “my own spot to stand,” to quasi-quote Jim Weatherley lyrics. I stumbled on some very cool Autumn themed Facebook pages, joined a few and was greeted by other fall-a-philes.

Finding these pages reminded me of my love for this season and some of my favorite memories. As I frolicked, like Puff, in this kind of autumn mist of misty-colored memories of the far past, my out-of-sorts sorted itself out. When I reconnected with things I loved and others that loved them too, I got re-grounded. There’s more than just memories here.

I consider myself in the autumn time of my life, being past 50. And as I age, I appreciate this season more and more. I know my autumns are numbered, as all of ours are, and I’m determined to extract all the joy and pleasure I can from its colors, its celebrations, its sensations, its weather and its memories. True pleasures are few and far between.

However, C.S. Lewis said something interesting in The Weight of Glory, when speaking of a universal sense of elusive longing, a longing which appears to be related to nostalgia, but not necessarily so:

We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter.

Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing.

These things – the beauty, the memory of our own past – are good images of what we really desire….For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.

I believe this is what autumn does to me…those good memories I have are really like beautiful phantoms. If I went back to those days, granted many joyful moments remain, but the beauty that Mr. Lewis speaks of, the longing, the saudades is elusive; it is a reminder and longing for something else. It’s the thing I long for when I look for a home.  Mr. Lewis continues:

We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is a bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words – to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become a part of it…

For if we take the imagery of Scripture seriously, if we believe that God will one day give us the Morning Star and cause us to put on the splendor of the sun, then we may surmise that both the ancient myths and the modern poetry, so false as history, may be very near the truth as prophecy.

At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendors we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumor that it will not always be so. Someday, God willing, we shall get in.

In the meantime, and during my remaining autumns, I will frolick in the autumn mist of my happy childhood memories of Santa Rosa, my summers at the Russian River. I will remember school, mud football, Halloween, Thanksgivings and Christmases with my grandmother. The old memories. I will also remember, misty-eyed, the lean Christmases with my babies, listening to Evie’s Come On, Ring Those Bells while decorating the house and making homemade Christmas presents. Running around now with three grandchildren, I have NO IDEA how I managed to tend to ten kids. Grace abounding.

And as I remember, I understand swirling about those memories are gleanings of a far away country, a place where He is preparing for me an eternal abiding place. Something wonderful this way comes….

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”

Revelation 21:1-5

Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

C.S. Lewis – The Weight of Glory