Angels

Full disclosure:  I am not, as a colleague of mine says, “Church-y” in the slightest.

But this, I know for sure.

Angels really do exist.

How do I know this?  Mainly, because several years ago, a student at the college where I work drew a picture of mine and hand delivered it to me.  Apparently,  my angel had been hanging out above my office door, unseen by everyone but the art student mystic.  As she gave me the sketch, she told me how the angel had communicated with her, sending a message, telling her to tell me to “dance more.”

Even now, writing those words sends a shiver down my spine.  Here’s why.  The artist and I had no previous relationship short of a “good morning” as we passed each other on campus.  As such, she did not, could not,  have known that as a child, I had danced and had dreamed of being a dancer.

The picture hangs in my office here at home, a daily reminder to have faith in things not seen. To listen carefully. To be present. To look for joy.  She’s not very pretty in the traditional Angel ways. There is  no white flowing gown, no golden wings, no harp.  My angel is bare and scrawny, with long arms, graceful hands and knobby knees.  She is mostly bald save for a halo of wispy white hair.  But her eyes are familiar; She is familiar. She looks serene and optimistic and sassy….like an angel who knows how to bust a move.

If she is my Guardian Angel, she’s had it pretty easy up to now.

I have had a relatively safe and healthy life so far. In 52 years, I’ve only broken one bone and have never been in an accident.  I am mostly careful, hate going fast, fear heights and believe I am relatively sane.  That said,  I’m pretty sure  She was with me in December of 1978 on the  night I was alone on a deserted county road driving much, much too fast, heading home from college for the Holidays. It was after midnight, and the roads had been dry for 150 miles.  Suddenly, out of nowhere,  I ran into blizzard conditions.   I crept along the highway, cursing the change in weather, anxious to get home.   I rounded a curve, and three deer were standing in my lane of the road.  I slowed to a stop and watched them.   As soon as they crossed and I was able to continue on, the snow stopped.  I drove the rest of the way in silence, feeling lucky.  Feeling protected.

Being a Guardian Angel must be stressful work. They’re on duty from the moment their human beings are born until the day their humans  die.  If the human decides to fly to Chicago, the angel has to go along whether she feels like going to Chicago or not.  Guardian angels of boys probably have it the worst.  All those football injuries and pocket knives and  frontal lobes slowly developing.  Even so, Guardian Angels work day after day…year after year….with no recognition, no thanks, no vacation or sick days.  And unless they happen upon someone like the artist,  they really never get to speak their minds.

“Dance more” she said.

Tonight, I am grateful to the angels who rode in two other cars of two other college students this afternoon, a daughter’s and a son’s….watching for deer and black ice and the million and one real and imaginary dangers that can stop a mother’s heart from beating.

And say to my own, “I’ll try.”

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Grace

Warning:  You may want to wait to read this until your own turkey is in the oven.  Or at least until you’ve had your coffee.

It is Tuesday. My naked, sad, cold turkey is thawing.  Thanksgiving morning, I will rise, eat breakfast, have two cups of strong, hot coffee, and deal with this pale, goosebump-y creature who has taken up an entire refrigerator shelf for days.   I will perform the bathing and dressing ritual for a bird who, less than a month ago, was probably wandering around stupidly in a pen, with vacant eyes,  oblivious to the fact that her number had come up.

I will christen her.   She deserves a name. Maybe….. Trudy.  Or Eunice.  Or Grace.  Yes, she looks like a Grace.

Violating a large, cold, slippery large breasted bird every November.  What an odd, odd custom when you stop and think about it.

Today I spotted a half dozen of her distant, luckier cousins out in the middle of a barren  farm field,  huddled together, pecking away at nothing much.  Over the past several years, this has become a common site in rural Minnesota.  Often, the turkeys trudge single file, heads down, along the shoulders of gravel roads, like sad refugees.  They are enormous and kind of ugly and do not look happy.  They look worried.  Like they have a lot on their minds.

I am thankful for turkeys.  The tame ones and the wild ones, too.  No other holiday main dish is as generous as a turkey, with leftovers that seem to improve with age throughout the long weekend. Until Sunday evening, when everyone wants pizza.

I’m thankful for so much.

What a lucky blessing to live in peace and plenty.  As I write this, on the other side of the world brown-skinned children huddle together in the dark, the hum of Drone aircraft above them and missiles exploding in their neighborhoods.  Discussions about “peace agreements” and who has the “right to exist” on land that is both historic and sacred continues decade after decade.  I wonder what one is thankful for during an air strike.

But here, on this side of the world,  this week we will shop and clean and bake and gather our people together at tables on Thursday.  We will count our blessings.  Eat Grace.  Be Thankful.

Ever thankful.

Never, ever, thankful enough.

I Know What a Hotdish is, and I Approved This Message

One more day.  Just One. More. Day.

One more day of political junk mail to recycle without reading.  I read the first pamphlet.  The hundredth one I’ve received in the past six months hasn’t  said anything any more enlightening than the first one did.

One more day of thirty second television ads that range from the bizarre to the ridiculous to the darn right frightening.

One more day of 24 hour a day television coverage by “experts” and “surrogates” and “pundits” on cable news shows.

One more day of polls and Loud Talkers and electoral maps and Red states and Blue states.

One more day of noise.

Tomorrow, Americans will vote.  In small towns and huge towns and all the towns in between.  For Leaders.  It’s not a perfect system, but compared to a lot of other systems throughout the world, it’s pretty darn good.

If you are breathing, and unless you have been comatose for the past year, you know that here, in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, you will also be asked to decide whether or not the word marriage  will be defined as legal and valid only for couples composed of one man and one woman.  It’s important to understand that voting No does not mean that marriage will suddenly become legal for same-sex partners in this state, people.  It is about the definition of a word.

I’m a little bit surprised that Minnesota needs help with this.  Our children are all above average, after all.  We have dictionaries.  I just checked mine.

Yeah.  That’s pretty much what I thought the word meant.  Thanks, Mr. Webster. Obviously, the word is, well….a word.   It starts with a consonant and ends with a vowel and has eight letters.  It’s a word that has been around and in use for centuries.  It’s a noun.  It means union.  Between two people. Married couples define it every day in their own homes and lives by choosing to live together, work together, love one another.   This is harder work for some couples than others.  Some succeed.  Some fail.  This is because marriage isn’t easy.  And because the marriages we sign up for when we are young and optimistic and madly in love are almost unrecognizable at other times throughout the course of our lives.

Life redefines marriage.  Time redefines marriage.   And anyone brave enough and optimistic enough and crazy enough to want to take this wild ride called Marriage with another person should, in my opinion, be allowed to stand in line, buy the ticket, get on the roller coaster, hold hands and scream their heads off.   Religious beliefs and politics aside,  I believe we are stronger as people when we do…and any children we choose to raise are generally happier when we do….and life is infinitely more interesting when we do… in any house or village or country or world.  Or couple. At least, that’s what I think.

Marriage is a choice.  If you’re lucky, the benefits outweigh the burdens.  It’s an imperfect system, like democracy, but it allows most of us who make that choice to work at becoming part of a more perfect union every day.

When we begin to try to define this word as  a verb, and when we begin to attribute our own very personal religious or social or sexual connotations to it, things get mighty complicated awfully fast.  And in my opinion,  it is not very Minnesota Nice to want to define it in rhetoric that divides us or determines, ultimately, which brave and foolish couples  buy that ticket and make that decision to take that bumpy ride…holding onto each other for dear life.

Uff da.  Not so much.