Is This my Prayer, my Meditation, my Breath? Who Am I Today?

Prayer for Beginners | Desiring God

Is This my Prayer, my Meditation, my Breath? Who Am I Today?

By Jane Tawel

November 22, 2021

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Be right.

Be the light.

When darkness comes, breathe it in again and again,

until I am finally able to exhale only light.

Hold all things lightly in my hands,

so that my hands may be open to receive more.

As soon as is possible, and as soon as is right,

 with love for others,

I will seek to depart from the wrong paths I take.

I will shun the wrong companionship

 of hate and fear and anger.

I will seek to return to All that has been True Truth

from the Beginning, to the End of All Time,

and I will choose only

Love.

My faith will be

love of family, love of friends, love of enemy,

love of The Divine and love of self.

Following the One Way, I will Be In…

and there I will realize that All is In

and only nothingness is outside…

and Life is

a Heaven on Earth that I simply call Home.

Peacefully, with self-care,

and with wisdom and care for others,

I will seek to return my wrong self to my True Self.

Within only this single moment, I will seek to find,

and knock, to have the doors opened,

and ask only to live in peaceful harmony within The Question.

Today I find only today’s steps on The Path,

and it is enough to lead further in and further up

to Compassion without suffering,

Liberation without judgment,

Insight without fear,

and Joy without limits.

Inside, numinous and alive,

longing to escape into light and resurrection,

Shalom is wholeness.

Outside, awesome and wondrous,

God is, I Am,

longing to enter in the mystery,

 and begin The Dance.

*

© Jane Tawel November 22, 2021

When We Shall See, We Shall Know

Two Paths Through the Tangled Japanese Forest
“Two Paths Through the Tangled Japanese Forest” by Trey Ratcliff is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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When We See, We Shall Know

By Jane Tawel

November 14, 2021

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When we see,

that others also see,

and even though we do things differently,

we all seek to be,

that which no matter the endeavor,

seeks to live forever,

why then,

we know in part,

somewhere deep inside our hearts,

that if we’re honest, what we really know

is all we do not know.

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It must be true,

it must be,

for when through Time

and history,

the stories repeat and reveal,

that evil must be repealed,

and there must be something more than this,

and that all of us just want some respect,

and to believe that all people are valuable,

and that the Earth is good, so very Good,

and we are all just trying our best

to live fully and someday, perhaps to rest

in heaven, nirvana, or bliss,

because the Truth has always been there in the Myths.

When I get a glimpse,

that you believe that too,

why then I know

no matter Who we think we worship,

it must be true.

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There are lots of jots and tittles that we focus on,

and thereby lose the locus on–

the journey’s not completed in a day.

Our compasses get skewed along the Way.

And while we age towards rebirth,

we must re-calibrate True North.

Insisting there is just one passage,

is never Love’s True Message.

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You call it Dharma,

I call it God’s Law.

I call it Christ,

You call it All.

I take the cross,

You empty you.

Yet words are words,

but truth is Truth.

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We see through mirrors dimly.

Our expectations lie.

When peering through this veil,

we won’t pass through, until we die,

what’s on the other side of strife

somehow, we all have faith will be new life.

*

So, what I call my point of view,

can have a different name than you

call yours. We all have precious worth

in this great journey to rebirth.

*

Today I finally stopped to hear,

and put away my childish fears

and sat awhile and did my lessons

in others’ sages, books, and heavens.

And when I stopped my fear’s critiquing,

I found in All, we all are seeking,

the same great hope, a faith, The Way,

to make tomorrow, better than today.

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No one’s belief is ever perfect,

but if my choice has this effect:

that Love is growing day by day,

then I am walking in The Way.

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No matter what we think we know,

the only way to truly see,

Heaven, The Light, The Christ, The Path,

is not by doing simple math

of you’re wrong here, and I’m right there,

but losing hatreds born of fear,

and living lives of grace and care.

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And as we stride this petty pace,

and rush from holy place to place,

we sometimes need to simply– Stop.

*

and Breathe.

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The Truth is not, as yet, reality,

at least on that we all agree.

Yet, if I seek, I’ll surely find

That every heart, and soul, and mind,

is longing, hoping, always yearning,

for that Great Love beyond our learning.

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What I don’t know,

I’ll someday see,

was always there, right in front of me,

and All our Love will live eternally.

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Breathe, on me, Breath of God,

Breathe through me, in me,

Breath of Life.

And when all breath is gone,

may my true being be One with Love.

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You don’t know now.

I can’t see all.

But One Day, hand in hand, we shall,

be free

and see.

And I will know your true name,

and you shall know mine.

*

© Jane Tawel, November 2021

I Choose the Chocolate-Covered Broccoli

By Jane Tawel

November 4, 2021

bunch of red cherries in brown bowl
https://unsplash.com/photos/3ANwn-zUfNQ

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I had a super fun reality check today. After all my years and careers in what might be considered “professional professions”, I got a job posting notification supposedly “matching my profile” that I am qualified for the job opening at a hospital of “Cook / Grill – Evening Shift”. I love it! I have no idea how any of my known rubrics could have led them to think this, but it completely tickled my strange little self. Perhaps they sensed I am my Grandma Gladys Cook’s current incarnation? (She spent years cooking for a nursing care home after years of cooking for her four boys and many grandchildren.) Or maybe the hospital algorithm robot finally grew a heart and knew that my heart was always happiest when preparing food for people I care about and love? Either way — maybe it’s a sign I should apply? Reinventing myself is one of my favorite parlor tricks.

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So, even though I have not only been around the block a few times but have been around long before quite a few of the new blocks were even a gleam in a city-planner’s eye, something can still pop-up out of the blue and tickle me pink. Sometimes the randomness of the universe can get me down, but the randomness of a comment can make my day.

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We go through life not always listening to the signals and signs that appear to guide us to a better vision of what our “True Self” has been, is today, and perhaps with nurturing and a little luck, can be tomorrow. But now and then, like a sudden sound that wakes you from a deep sleep, something tickles, or jars, or lands like a bolt from the sky on your understanding of Self, and Life, and All. Sometimes the “bolting upright” is a result of a comment about oneself from a friend or family member. My daughters have been more often than I like to admit very good at making a comment that, like it or not, shakes my view of who I am. Daughters can be good at that if you let them. Good friends can, too. Or maybe you get a serious invitation to apply for a job that really thrills you with the possibility of who you might become, but you are afraid of leaving who you are comfortable being. Maybe instead it is an offer of some kind that slightly unbalances you with an insight of what you have already become. I have found I can be caught unawares by a side note from a coworker I barely know or even a complete stranger who assumes something about me that makes me take another look at my grocery cart or my bad attitude.

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But for us privileged folks who live above the poverty line and not under the threat of bodily harm or mental abuse, we can develop an attitude of listening for signals from beyond one’s self-centeredness. This is not to imply all of us struggle with selfishness but we do all tend to keep our focus on the self that is only a “partial” self. Listening, really, honestly developing an aptitude for quick and deep listening, enables us to hear, even in the seemingly random or silly or anger-making conversations. Hearing  past the surface, can allow me to hear the signals from beyond, calling me to a fuller, truer, more open and whole Self.  Some of us call this attitude of listening intuition, or consciousness, or mindfulness, and some of us just call it God.

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But then it comes to the hard part. The words we read or the comment we hear, just like the sudden sound in the night, may break through our un-listening barriers we have built against the mundane or may scale the walls of the self-defensive attack-mode we adopt as a protection for our vulnerabilities, or it may lift us from the  stuck-in-a-rut-ness most of have fallen into, but just hearing something doesn’t mean we choose to listen to it. The noise may wake me from my spiritual slumber, but I can choose to go back to sleep.

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Sometimes it may seem that we are only offered negative perspective choices – like a choice between eating over-cooked limpid broccoli or slime-encrusted crunchy lima beans. No thank you, to both! Rarely, but sometimes a choice may be hard because you have to choose between the chocolate soufflé or the slice of cherry pie with whipped cream. But hearing something and truly listening to something are such very different things, that we can confuse the positive nutrients with a negative presentation. I remember reading once that sour cherries are just as good for you as the sweet ones. Doesn’t mean I prefer them, but I can still get the health-impacting goodness from them. When I hear something, truly hear it, I far too seldom take the time to calm my mind, steady my will, and open my heart to really listen to it.  And that is true whether it appears yummy or yucky at first. When my daughter says something that opens my eyes, I can choose to open my heart to that (and her) or not. When I read an email from or have a discussion with someone who is asking for something by adopting an attitude of superiority, I can choose to figuratively step away, take some time for silent meditation, and then see through the persons’ posing to the person’s real need for attention or their desperation to feel in control, and then I can choose to sympathize or even empathize. Because we all misspeak sometimes, even if we think we don’t. We all project onto others our needs and fears and hopes and confuse them and ourselves into thinking that we want to be more powerful or smarter or better, when what we always really only want is to feel loved.

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 If I really listen to what is murmuring beyond someone’s posture of grandiosity or anxiety or anger; listen for the tick-tock of the human heart that we who are all lucky enough to still be alive have beating within us, even in those who have covered it over with lots of ego-armor; if I walk in the shoes of someone before I try to rip the carpet out from under them, or dismiss what they have said, then that kind of listening opens up a cosmos of possibility of who they are, and who I am, and who we both might be becoming. In a world that pays little attention to the best of us, too much attention to the worst of us, and no attention at all to the Whole of Us, as that iconic little salesman in Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman”, once said, we are all just trying to make the others understand, “Attention must be paid.”  And on a planet which we have tragically lost control of, to let go of needing to control things, is the first step toward healing ourselves – and possibly the planet as well. 

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 Being made aware of something and choosing to use it for Good are different things. And I have found that I can often choose whether I am going to allow something meant for evil to grow roots in me, or, instead, I will let even the manure of life be used to grow something beautiful. As that amazing Hebrew, Joseph of Egypt told his conniving, lying, cheating, murdering own brothers! – “you meant it for evil, but God meant it for the good of me and many others.” (Genesis 50:20). Think of any hero you greatly admire, and you will probably find that the words and actions that others used against them for evil, were often the very ones the Greats turn into a great good.

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And now, as Monty Python, might approve (and I think Jesus would as well), onto the secret weapon of using something for the good of me and others – the underrated weapon of Humor. I  have found if I put my overly serious self aside, that I can have some fun with something, hopefully not at anyone’s expense but the “anyone” of my False Self, the self that I usually let take things far too seriously. I can, if I listen to the True heartbeat of the world, hear the magic that undergirds Creation, and that is the magical gift of holding things lightly. Learn to listen for the lightness. Listen for the giggles of elves or fairies, the chuckles of God, and the deep rumbling laughter of a universe that knows how small and puny we humans are but delights in us anyway. A comment can make me wiser and a better human but it can also make me simply happier or sillier. Too often I allow things to wriggle, slug-like and anxiously on my life’s plate like a slimy lima bean or I take it in, but I keep rolling it around in my mind like a chokingly bitter hunk of kale on my tongue. It reminds me of seeing people turning-up their noses at food served them, as if it isn’t good enough. But what it feels like to the server is that he is not good enough. Let’s not miss the point of what keeps us truly living. It’s just food, folks, don’t mistake it for meaning. The meaning is in the person who is giving it to you. Psalm 34:8 has a fascinating precursor to the later words of Jesus who asks us to “eat” him. The Psalmist writes, “Taste and see that the Lord is good, how blessed are those who shelter in God.” Think about it: eating God and sheltering in God. That’s an incredible, glorious strange mixed metaphor, even for me. God in us, nourishing our True Self, and God outside of us, sheltering us, serving us, with His Love.

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How often do we gag down a day’s unique moments without ever tasting them? How often do we “take our medicine” like a grown-up but never wash away the bitter aftertaste of a comment or a memory or a mistake? Why do I not take the antacid of peace and joy when Nature or a friend or God offers it to me? Why do I hang on to the stomach-churning anxiety of something I am trying to digest before I have even finished what is on today’s plate of responsibilities or concerns? Sometimes I just have to say to my mind and heart and fledgling soul, “Jane, ole girl, choose to listen for the Good that is inside everything and the Good that is nurturing the world outside. Get out the chocolate syrup hidden in the pantry of your soul and pour that stuff all over life’s liver and onions!”

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So, I was offered to apply to be a “Cook/Grill – Evening Shift”.

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My first job when I was twelve was working at a sort of Christian camp dining hall cafeteria line. I was paid $1.25 per hour – (yeah, we won’t go there right now, ok?) I later was upgraded to work in the snack bar, making $1.75 an hour, where I served ice cream, soft pretzels, and what back then we called “Californians”. A Californian was a drink that had all the different soda pops– Coke, Root beer, Orange, Sprite, Mountain Dew–everything in the soda fountain machine, and they were all mixed together. It was never an exact science in terms of quantities of each and if I had to drink one now, I would probably gag, but back in the day and back in the small town of Indiana where I served sodas and floats and ice cream cones, a Californian was a fun drink, and a “secret” menu item not listed on the overhead menu board with the straight lines of slotted black lettering. I didn’t know then that someday I would live in the Magical Land of California, the number one place in the world for diversity, a land where the greatest mix of peoples, nations, tribes, and beliefs (and probably soda pop types too) are all gathered together in one giant oblong of pieced-together hopes and dreams.

California dreaming
“California dreaming” by Astro_Alex is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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Most people wouldn’t know this part, but the job offer I received is especially ironic because my maiden name was Cook. Think about it. I was born a Cook and then became a lot of different things with different names; names like nursing home assistant and personal assistant and assistant to the director and executive assistant (My goodness, I am the “always a bridesmaid, never bride” sort of person – always an assistant?! Oh, the metaphors I could murder in that one.) For a time, I even had a stage name and now my name is Tawel. Sadly, my husband doesn’t find it funny when people pronounce it Towel, but then that is his choice. I find it hilarious.  And so once upon a time this Jane was a Cook, and she was now being offered a look back? a way back? symbolically at least, to being a…. Cook. Or was it a way to circle back around but arrive at a different Cook-Me? It has brought to mind one of my all-time favorite Joni Mitchell songs, one I sang a lot to my kiddos in The Big Bed, and years earlier, sang with my dearest bestest childhood and survivor-in-arms of the yearning pre-teen years, my pal, Lisa. Mitchell calls it “The Circle Game”, and in this Westernized into straight, marching lines world, I long for a world that returns us to the truth of circles.  The well-known refrain, in case you have forgotten goes like this:

And the seasons, they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return, we can only look
Behind, from where we came
And go round and round and round, in the circle game

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Oh, it is lovely to still be going round and round on this wonderful carousel of time. It is a privilege to have one more day – one more moment–on this circular conveyor belt of choices. As Mitchel sings, looking at where we have come from can be a fruitful endeavor, as long as we look back ourselves with the Eyes of Love. We don’t have to think all apples have a worm inside (or a snake offering them.) If you get an apple with a worm, eat around it and gently return the worm to the earth. If there really is a Satan behind something someone did to you or does or says today, destroy its power over you by refusing to take it into yourself. There really is evil in the world, just as there is Goodness, but when you sense it, do your best to spit it out. Whenever necessary, use the emetic agent of humor or self-centering self-care or deep breathing, or prayer, or the greatest emetic of all to help vomit out bad things you have swallowed – the cleansing, restorative, health-sharing agent of sharing Love.

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 Remember that old song – “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries”? The first part goes like this:

Life is just a bowl of cherries
Don’t take it serious
Life’s too mysterious
You work, you save, you worry so
But you can’t take your dough
When you go, go, go
Keep repeating, it’s the berries

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You never know when you might be offered a job for a “Cook/Grill – Evening Shift”. Of course, on the flip side (get it? Flip it – like a Grill Cook would do? I think I’ve got this job nailed.) – on the flip side, you never know when today might be the day you get offered a job as an angel. And the only thing you can take with you to that job is all the Love you gave away in your last job.

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Bottom line? Choose to live. Live as if there is a surprise, like the perfect center in a piece of chocolate, a joyful response inside you, just waiting for what you are given in your Inbox, in your desk drawer, in your yard, on the sidewalk, or in the words of the person you have just met or the one you have known all your life. Live as if today could be the last day – or it could be the first. Live large. Live free. Live well. Live in all the love you gather up and then share it.

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My first job was serving food and I had many waitressing jobs through the years (I grew up in very gender specific times, so… ) and I did a lot of waiting on tables and taking people’s orders and some jobs in which I was preparing food. (At a deli I used the giant meat slicer thingy which still makes me tremble to think about whenever I look at my intact fingers. Especially because I still call it a “thingy”.). And I had no idea through all the years of food service, as I dreamt of what I really thought I wanted to be which was either a famous movie star or a famous writer, or a famous professor at some big-deal college, that all along I really had this “thing” waiting to be born within me. I had that seed we all have, that longs to grow to a ripe maturity. And mine would never make me famous or rich but would give me the love I had craved since before the beginning of time. And it would not just be a job but a calling; a purpose that was waiting and one that would allow me to give the love that I had had ready to share — ready to burst out of my heart-seams. That job waiting for me to be ready for it, was being a parent. But whether your calling is to be a parent or not, your purpose is to find that place in the world where there is Real Love and your True Self.

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As I mixed the Californians, or took the orders for pastrami on rye, I was being “ripened” for the very most wonderful bestest job I would ever have. And this job would also involve food prep and service,  because the best job I ever, ever had was being a mother, in my very own home, with my children, and my children’s father, and our dogs and rabbits and guinea pigs and lizards and hamsters and serving them all the breakfasts and lunches and dinners and snacks and left-overs and first tastings of books to read, and sights and sounds of new and old places to be in, and imbibings of music to hear, and encompassing, centering, heart-warming snuggles to snuggle, and all the partakings in together of all the love. All the love. All the love.

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When you dream of all the Love—when you hold in your heart and mind’s eye, your own True Self –who are you? Who and what are standing by, ready and willing to serve you your Meaning?

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I am an assistant to The Chef, The One Who has made the whole Banquet. I am merely a “Cook/ Grill – Evening Shift”.  And God said, “it is good. It is very good”.

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I am not a gourmet chef like my husband and some of my friends. I am a cook. Thankfully I am not yet past my sell-by date. Sometimes I still get to do the job I have loved most in the world, and sometimes that job involves my making and serving food for my adult children and my hubby. Sometimes it involves making or serving food to friends, the people who become that family you are allowed to choose, or making baked goods for coworkers or neighbors. And all these folks, family and friends, people I work with or for, give my cooking and my life a greater purpose than merely feeding myself. And because some of these people are the people who are the people I love most of all while riding this whole crazy merry-go-round we call life, I am made better for having opportunities to sometimes be their maker and server of food. Because loving someone with an action to it, is the most wonderful thing in the world. It is, in fact, the only thing that makes everything in the world, better. Even broccoli.

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Every moment I get to be the new and evolving me with the new and evolving people I love and who sometimes bring the people they love and who make me feel both loved and yes, often unsettled, challenged, smarter and wiser, stupider and more needy, comforted, uncertain, yearning and complete, curious and sated — and oh, oh, oh so hopeful—then no matter what job I have at that moment or task finished or left unfinished, or role in other people’s lives, then I am both full and hungry, serving and served, centered, whole, and loved.  This is God, isn’t it? God is hungry and sated, serving and served, and the Maker and Preparer of all the world and all the life and all the Love.

God is the Meaning behind all portions.

If you are searching for a higher purpose or higher calling or Higher Being, you need look no further than the table in front of you. Taste, eat, for it is good.

Chocolate surprise cupcake
“Chocolate surprise cupcake” by Angelina Cupcake is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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When life’s smorgasbord brings bitterness or rottenness, I don’t have to choose it. And sometimes I need to swallow my pride or hurt and say, hey, this can be digested and then used for the good of me. I will also allow myself to enjoy the chocolate crepes and warm apple crisps of being loved by someone. Love bestows on us the nourishment we need. Yes, we really do live in a world of a giant mix of often mixed-up people. But aren’t we all looking down the length of our own life’s table hoping that the Good stuff will be passed around and shared? Isn’t every one of us hoping that someone else will want to share in what we made and declare it, “good”? We can look at our full plates and find better ways of serving others. We can find pleasure in what is on offer in the Now. And we can taste and eat all God has prepared and provided, take it in for our growth, nourishment, and enjoyment.

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Whatever the Banquet of Life offers me today, whether I am serving it up myself, or being offered some insight or slaving over the grilling, hard work of a relationship or just getting a taste of my own medicine from someone else, whenever possible, I will “taste, eat and see” that the Spirit Who not only made and provides the Banquet, but Is the Banquet is Good. And God said, “it is all Very Good. Eat it. Eat Me.”

cooked food on table
https://unsplash.com/photos/1R7iHPt63Lc

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Today I shall attempt to cover my broccoli with sprinkles of Goodness and the sweet honey of Love. I may far too often, need the reality checks of things that are hard to swallow, but that doesn’t mean I can’t sweeten them up with some healing self-reflection, some joy in the journey, some giggles and smiles, and sometimes, let’s be honest, just some literal chocolate. I may not always get to choose my life’s ingredients, but I can choose how to use them and how to dish them up. As Psalm 81:16 assures us, that just as I love to give my loved ones, good things to eat, The Universe, The One Who Is, God, if you will, also longs to give us good things: “But God would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock, She would satisfy you.”

I haven’t the faintest inkling as to why I got a request to apply for a job of Cook/Grill- Evening Shift. “Life’s too mysterious”, as the song goes. But I’m so glad I did. Finding meaning in every ingredient of my life’s own strange casserole is what makes it fun. . Well, that, and the occasional chocolate cupcake.

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© Jane Tawel, November 4, 2021

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“Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries”

By Brown Lew and Henderson Ray

Life is just a bowl of cherries
Don’t take it serious
Life’s too mysterious
You work, you save, you worry so
But you can’t take your dough
When you go, go, go
Keep repeating, it’s the berries
The strongest oak must fall
The best things in life to you were just loaned
So how can you lose what you never owned
Life is just a bowl of cherries
So live and laugh at it all
Keep repeating, it’s the berries
You know the strongest oak has got to fall
The sweet things in life to you were just loaned
So how can you lose what you never owned
Life is just a bowl of cherries
So live it, love it, wriggle your ears
And think nothing of it, you can’t do without it
There’s no two ways about it
You live and you laugh at it all

Live your life today – it’s the best offer you are ever  going to get. – Shalom, Jane

©November 2021, Jane (Cook) Tawel

I See a Tree

Tree in the Fog (Explored)
“Tree in the Fog (Explored)” by Iguanasan is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I See a Tree

By Jane Tawel

October 30, 2021

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All Wisdom of what is,

does not come, does not arrive,

is not stagnated, is not owned,

but movingly stilled

relates the I to the Eternal You.

No one can say from whence the Spirit will blow.

Spirit Kingdom comes,

in every sphere,

like a breath, perceived, according to its manner,

whether of the earth or of the heavens,

the Great Relation is present.

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The mantle of wonder fills the temple of this world,

and trippingly, with blood,

I grasp at the hem of miracle, of life.

And my flow is staunched,

while Yours pours forth, fusing me with….

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I see a tree.

Does the tree see me?

To question is to admit to

that which is the greater knowledge.

The equation is unsolvable,

for who can divide the indivisible?

And in the Absolute Unknowable,

we can rest in peace.

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From books only for adults,

like Alice down the Rabbit Hole,

or those meant only to be read by children,

like the Books of Isaiah or Mark,

we learn that experience can badly fool and mar us,

but relationship is all;

all there ever was In The Beginning, 

all there ever is and all we ever seek to find,

all there ever will be, on earth as in Eternity.

All that is good, all that is true,

all that is needed for our daily bread,

is I and You.

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My will and grace enjoin my soul

to contemplate the mystery,

to kill the tree that bears no fruit,

so that the forest can speak to me.

If a tree falls and dies, and no one sees it,

then a new tree will grow from its decay.

There is no life, without first, death.

There is no death, without at last, eternal life.

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I see the tree.

The tree sees me.

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© Jane Tawel  October 30, 2021

(Joining a world of indebted and fledgling learning to Martin Buber, Isaiah, those who wrote the books called simply Good News, and to Jesus of Nazareth)

Accomplishments Are So Over-Rated in Pet Heaven on Earth

Beni and Raoul

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Accomplishments Are So Over-Rated in Pet Heaven

By Jane Tawel

October 25, 2021

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When I was about ten or eleven, my mom moved her four kids to Monmouth, Illinois to be near our dad who had left us but we didn’t know it yet. And as I often say to Raoul, this could have been the beginning of my being a heroin addict or a serial killer, but instead I went into acting. Going into theater by way of getting an MFA, is the most expensive kind of psychotherapy a girl can get and it was worth every penny because today I am an ex-English teacher slash secretary slash waitress looking forward to someday having monthly Social Security checks in the high two figures. But then, I got to be a mom for a couple of decades, which is the hardest greatest best paid job in the world, so … Meh! to my dreams of sitting on the Tonight Show riffing about my latest accomplishments. Which brings me to the point – accomplishments.

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This past week Raoul and I got to puppy-sit our only grandpuppy, Beni. Grand-paw and I have several adorable grand-cats but only one grandpuppy. And while this Grandmeow loves all her grandcritters equally, Grandpaw Raoul has fallen head-over-tails in love with Beni. Look at that face and you can see why we both are rather smitten (exhausted but smitten). And let me tell you something beneficial about loving one of God’s critters as opposed to loving one of God’s children. Loving an animal, especially a pet, especially a cute but naughty, tear-up-your-slippers, accident-on-the-floor, wake-you-at-an-unholy-hour, nip-at-your-calves little beastie –being in a relationship with a critter is a giant wake-up call to what I think God and Jesus and all other spiritually minded Beings mean when they try to teach us about “heaven on earth”.  The reasons are many but here are a few I woke up to this morning, as my old girl Daisy and I adjusted to Beni being back home with his Mommy.

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Why Animals “Get” Heaven on Earth More than People “Get” It:

  1. Animals are very forgiving. They don’t spend any time at all stewing over past spankings or harsh words. They encourage their humans to do the same. If you are going to have an animal in your life, get ready to find forgiveness easy, which can be unsettling, because we really should find forgiveness and asking forgiveness much more easy with the people in our lives –like we do with our pets.
  2. Many animals, but especially the dogs I have observed love everything that you share with them and that they can share with you. They love life. Everything is always new to a dog because it is a new moment to experience it. Same walk?  “Let’s explore!” Bad smell, good smell, pee smell, food smell – “Mmmmgrrrr, I Love It!” The Mailman is at the door again– “ Who are you? WOOF! WOOF! Heeeelllllloooooooo!”  Same ball thrown for the five-millionth time? – “This is so much fun! Here I brought it back to you, Mommy. Want to play tug-of-war again? Okay, throw it again!  Isn’t this fun!!! Do it again! Again! Again!” Oh, if I could love living life in just this moment, like a dog does. That alone would bring me a heaven to earth.
  3. Animals have a sure, secure, and content sense of who they are without having any ego at all. Name one animal you have met with an inflated sense of ego? (Well, okay, cats. Let’s just say, cats have an ego, but can we really say it is an inflated ego? I mean, maybe when kitty gives you that look, they really are trying to communicate to you: “Oh, foolish human, do you not yet recognize a goddess when you see one?”)
Justine’s cat Artemis (yes, like the goddess) studying theology with me

But back to the sense of self of animals (probably sans kitties).

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On the flip side of animals having no egos, name one beast you have met that isn’t completely content and at peace with being who they are. It doesn’t matter one bit to your chihuahua that his isn’t as big as the Great Dane’s or to the alley cat on your street that the Siamese in the mansion has a more expensive fur on than hers. Animals exist in the absolute center of what psychologists and spiritual people call the “True Self”, not the “False Self”. And one thing I noticed about Raoul and I during our pup-sitting week, we became more our True Selves – more loving, more giving, but also more needing and more accepting – of the love we each shared together and individually with our grand-puppy. Granted, we would not sustain this if we had him for years instead of a week, and I know this because we have had dogs our whole family life and sustaining the kind of love we had with Beni this week is an impossibility, which brings me back to Thank God! our pets are so forgiving. Living in the kind of world we think of as a perfect world is hard work, just like taking care of a pet, but it is the kind of hard work whose greatest and perhaps only accomplishment is a loving relationship where I know myself as I am and accept you as someone you are and we both are at peace with who we are while also trying to be better together. If we took care of other humans as well as we do our pets, what a heaven on earth this would be.  Maybe for a while we should think of  The Golden Rule as saying, “Do unto others as you would have your pets do unto you.”

  • Finally (for today’s revelations) Animals help us think differently about Time. We didn’t “accomplish” much with Beni around, at least not as much as we could have if he weren’t around and that was wonderful –because we were with Beni –and today we will get to go back to accomplishing more and it will be a bit sad and depressing, and lonely and not as meaningful – because we aren’t with Beni.

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And when I look at my life, so many of the truly meaningful parts were when I wasn’t really accomplishing all that much. I never did accomplish a great acting career, and yet, my theatre teachers, and my experiences when I was acting, were some of the critical ones that shaped and defined me in ways I am still unpacking.

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And my memories of my children growing up? I don’t treasure all the things I “helped” them accomplish or the things we accomplished together, or the trophies or awards they got, nearly as much as I treasure the times we snuggled in the Big Bed reading or singing or just snuggling. Or the times I sat in the yard or by the pool and just listened to them play. Or talks around festival tables. Or traditions we shared. Or bike rides or walking dogs and picking up fallen leaves or pretty stones or shells on the beach. Or the times we splashed in mud puddles or laughed at silly jokes or took pre-technology-kid-coma-inducing long car trips, or….. we just were us together, accomplishing nothing. Nothing but relationship.

*

So my mom took us to Monmouth, Illinois to accomplish something with my dad, but it didn’t. It was always a great sorrow to her, which I only understood much later. You know, my mom passed this summer – I keep waking up or being startled at odd times during the day to realize that all over again – she is gone. wow. If you have someone in your life that you deeply loved that died, this year or fifty years ago, you know what I mean. Time changes forever when that person you loved so much is no longer in the same Time-plane that you are. I don’t know what Time-plane my mom is in now, or what any of my departed loved ones live in now that is a kind of  “Heaven-Time”, but I think they must be in something like an Eternal Puppy Time; a Pet-Time when there is nothing more important to accomplish than loving everyone and everything around you. And smelling stuff. And snuggling.

*

When someone you love leaves, like Beni left us last night temporarily, and my mom left us this summer, less temporarily; then you realize that it sure didn’t always feel like heaven on earth when you were with them, but that you can, if you try, hang on to the heaven on earth moments that happen in all true relationships and in all True Selves. Because it was really heaven on earth when they were with you because heaven is just another word for Love—the kind of love that loves others with a sense that renewal and newness are in our power to create together, with enjoyment in doing the same things over and over, with the kind of love that forgives and asks to be forgiven knowing that soon you will both forget the bad thing ever even happened. Heaven on earth is simply loving what you are, not what you can do, and loving relationships more than accomplishments.

*

Heavenly love is the earthiest kind of love there is because we are all  just critters of this amazing, wonderful Earth, full of smells and accidents to be cleaned up, and sounds, and the same people who can get on your last nerve but keep showing up, and an Earth rooted deep in Time and yet ever expanding, expanding just enough to keep holding on to each other and also allowing each other to run. We are all part of the Earth, revolving into days and nights and if we try hard enough to stop trying, part of the great DNA Dance of All Living Things, things and humans and beasts that can for a little while – maybe even a week — lose track of Time completely because we are caring for a puppy and we are in love and because of someone else, we are loving life so much that heaven is on earth.

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Living like you are worthy of living in heaven forever is really just living like you are the most special person to the most special pet you have ever known. One of my husband’s favorite songs when he was growing up was one that Donny Osmond sang and the famous refrain was, “And they call it puppy love”. 

*

Find your “puppy love” today, whether it is in an actual doggie pet, or kitty-goddess, or human man-child, or needy friend, or that other-you that needs you to love her today. Go into the world looking for the messes you can clean-up and the forgivness you can offer. Apologize for your wrongs to others as if you just kicked the dog who wasn’t doing anything other than being herself. Sniff things, and touch things, and enjoy your feed  even if it is the same chow you had every day this week. Look into the eyes of the people you care about and let them know you need them and that also you are there for them when they need you. Take a nap when you are tired and don’t feel guilty about. Take a walk. Take lots of walks. And if love is something you are desperate for, like it was for my mom when she moved to try to find love with my father, but only finally found when she had grandchildren — if you want love — then don’t hang your tail and let your ears droop and give up. Never grow weary as you keep chasing and fetching and bringing love back to lay at the feet of Love. Just keep doing it. Just keep loving and asking for love. Keep the ball in play and you will find heaven on earth. Again, and again, and again.

My Mom: Gram and her grandkids

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© Jane Tawel, October 25, 2021

Not Knowing Left from Right

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Not Knowing Left from Right

By Jane Tawel

October 20, 2021

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I am directionally challenged,

not knowing left from right,

which has worked to my advantage,

in silly political fights.

*

And if you ask me up? or down?

My head will spin quite right around,

for even heaven and hell, my dear.

are not out there but present with us here, I fear.

We don’t have that much far to go,

to peer inside to what we know,

and lose the bad, to find the good,

within us is Eternal Flow.

*

The truth is?—Life is seek and sway.

So, walk in circles to walk The Way.

By finding what you think’s outside,

You’ll find you have The Way inside.

*

Yes, to The God, direction-less,

I hope that I can do my best,

and not know what is out or in,

or on my right, or on my left,

or left behind, or up ahead,

or down below, or up above,

but that I will get lost and tossed,

and topsy-turvy in True North’s Love.

*

© Jane Tawel October 20, 2021

A Lack Recognized May Lead to Why

forest trees marked with question marks
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A Lack Recognized May Lead to Why

By Jane Tawel

October 19, 2021

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A lack of contentment often leads us,

when really, it should follow.

It takes us out of acceptance and peace,

and into pursuits most hollow.

*

With no sense of acquiring completion,

We look not inwards but out,

to therapy, religion, addiction,

or buying or trading in love’s parody.

Without Presence and cohesion

We are lured by the sirens of repletion.

*

We wake, immediately dissatisfied,

and search within books or tasks,

and we think we are looking for answers,

but all we’re left with are questions we ask, ask, ask.

It’s the Why, and the Why, and the Why that we lack.

It’s “The Reason” we keep looking for.

It’s the focus on what we once had once before,

It’s the looking beyond for a new exit door,

It’s the upping our game in the need to outscore,

And we buy and we buy so we don’t feel so poor,

and we’re always left lonely and searching for more.

*

And you surely can hear in rhymes’ reiteration,

the mode we live in is vast acceleration.

So, to leave us all with just one bit of advice,

Let the worries and joys of today all suffice.

For yesterday can be the gift that you seek,

if you let your heart’s memories be lovingly tweaked,

and keep only the good and the healthful remembrance,

for the rest is a burden and ill-causing encumbrance.

And Tomorrow – why that is the gift we don’t have yet.

So why think what might happen?–that’s just a fool’s bad bet.

If we know that by waking tomorrow we win,

then to anticipate sorrow is truly a sin.

*

So Rejoice! You have Choice!

Choose today to embrace–

just your time, just your self, just your life in this place!

And no matter how bad your life truly is seeming,

You’re important – remember, your life has a meaning.

You’re created by special intent and design.

You are loved. You are God’s child. You are truly divine.

So today, treat yourself as if you’re more than matter,

Because Someone believes that you really do “matter”.

You are You. We are We. They are They. I am I.

And that’s it. That is all. That alone, answers, “Why”.

*

© Jane Tawel October 19, 2021

The Child’s and My Circle

30 Easy Sidewalk Chalk Ideas that will Keep Kids Busy for Hours - Simply  Well Balanced
Simply-Well-Balanced

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The Child’s and My Circle

By Jane Tawel

October 9, 2021

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Within me, every molecule

is still the little child.

She longs for my protection

but also, to run wild.

She was, but also is now;

and though I don’t know how,

she asks for my tomorrows,

to also let her be.

*

Without,

 I gaze with glazéd heart,

upon a world that glistens.

And if I only listen

to what comes whispered,

deep inside the stillness,

all integrates and merges.

Yes, I am on the verge of

Soul and soul emerging.

Then I and All have meaning

if and only if I stop demeaning

The Flow, the Interbeing.

*

My life is not an arc or line.

It is a lovely, broken circle.

And every moment,

point by point,

the circle formless, forms.

Each empty space,

each place misshapen,

asks my adult for perseveration.

The child is offered chalk and ink

to recreate today

the incomplete and always turning,

Circle of my life.

*

Respect and innocence await my adult fear

to give my child permission to

explore, imagine, anticipate,

and often just to rest.

The universe teems

with puddles of hope to jump in,

and Love watches for me to enter The Stream,

 raw and ready,

purposeful as an infant to receive.

*

Create in me, Oh, Oneness One,

relation, integration, adoration.

And manifest in me,

a childlike curiosity,

a vision of not what is,

but what might be;

the only thing that is forever,

the real deal,

eternally real–

the insurrection of wonder.

And may amazement of all things,

bright and beautiful,

formless, wordless, true–

be freed in me,

once more to play

in awe of Life,

at peace with other children.

 *

© Jane Tawel, October 2021

Walls

grayscale photo of man between shingle wall
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Walls

By Jane Tawel

September 25, 2021

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I wake and sleep to thoughts,

that my mind makes into strong walls

defending me against peace and rest.

And as my self tries to leap over

the bricks and mortar of my so-called beliefs,

I get caught in the tangles like barbed wire

constructed by doubt and fear

 at the highest points of my mind’s reach.

*

Some days there are brambles in my memories

of you and them,

and they sting like nettles,

and I refuse the salve of letting go.

The air is so close,

and the storm threatens like unforgiveness.

I panic in the calm

knowing that this too, feels like death.

*

Then, and only then,

does something in my mind break

and the pieces fall into place

forming a rickety ladder of

something made from something I cannot know;

a ladder somehow, for a moment, strong enough

sure enough to trust enough

 to scale the walls.

And I feel as I scramble within the brambles,

that love is hidden like rose buds, yet to bloom.

I can see through walls;

the soul rises and falls,

with the hope that all that ever existed

was your love and their love

and my love

and for a moment, just a moment,

I have fallen onto the other side

of faith.

*

© Jane Tawel, September 2021

The Bucket List I Never Made, Come True

Shackelford Island Ponies

The Bucket List I Never Made, Come True

By Jane Tawel

September 13, 2021

I have never made nor contemplated making a bucket list. I have absolutely nothing against making one, and I love to hear about other folks’ items on their bucket lists. I find them incredibly revelatory and hopeful. And of course, like everyone, I play the game of “someday, I would like to….”  or “before I die, I want to….”.  When a person’s dreams die, they aren’t just old, they are dead, no matter if a physical body indicates otherwise. As The Bard says, “we are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep” – all too soon that sleep comes, so have at it with those Bucket Lists while ye may!

So, when I kick it, you won’t find a hidden Bucket List among my many pieces of revelatory, self-incriminating written logs. Then yesterday, something happened; and though I never went in search of greatness from a list of To Do’s Before Doom’s Day, a Bucket List item was thrust upon me. Shakespeare once more, said it first: “Some are born with Bucket Lists, some achieve their Bucket Lists, and some have Bucket Lists thrust upon them.”

I am visiting the beautiful (there is just no other word for the topography here) State of North Carolina where one of my darling daughters works and lives with my grand-furbies, Artemis and Apollo.  Apollo is up and awake with me right now, being the young whippersnapper that he is, and he is bouncing all over the house waiting for his mistress to get up and feed him. I am forbidden to feed him, and if he bites my finger in hunger or starts chewing on the cord of my laptop, I am supposed to somehow catch him and shove him in his little time-out cage until said darling daughter arises to give him his breakfast. It’s hard being a Grand-meow who can’t spoil her dear grand-furby, but, the wrath of an adult child is nothing to mess around with I have found, being four adult-children down at the count. I love them more than my own life, but I miss them when they were little tykes and all I had to do was hold them tight when they were upset or kiss them when they were sad or laugh along with them at some silly thing that never made sense in hindsight but was just a way to joy in the moment. Now I am a helpless old thing against the tides and times that they have inherited from me personally and from my generation in general and from all the good and bad we try to control in the world and in ourselves with various degrees of success and failure. May the sins of my children’s mother not be carried on to the third and fourth generation*, but may I be forgiven the consequences of my mea culpas in their lovely, much-loved lives and futures.

My children all have Bucket Lists. They don’t share a lot of the items with me and that is as it should be. Bucket Lists should not be made into common currency or YouTubes, Tik-Toks or even movies with famous actors filling in for real people. Bucket lists should have a few sharable items: I would like to visit New Zealand. I would like to finish a Marathon. Stuff like that. But mostly Bucket Lists should be those hidden, cherished, held-close desires of the heart that let us dream of what might be in a perfect world, personal and public. They should be full of items that let us imagine being something other than what we are today, with a hope and prayer of doing at least some of those things.  Most importantly, Bucket List dreams should be about being all that we imagine the Human Being is capable of doing and being, whatever that might mean to me, or you, or my child, or your friend. And the lovely thing about a Bucket List is mine doesn’t have to be at all like yours to be valid and important.  Bucket Lists just might be the most uncompromised by cultural, national, or religious symbol of the most personal / communal Dream-Worlds of Endless Life Possibilities ideas in existence. I mean, isn’t Heaven really, just another word for Bucket List? Isn’t Heaven is also just another symbol for that endless eternal ability to be and do everything that the human divine soul was created to be and do? Isn’t the ultimate Bucket List really just another form of desiring a glorious, godly, divine, and endlessly available and possibility-enhanced Eternal Life?

A Bucket List is not just about creating an amazing future though, as I found yesterday. It is also about our deepest selves’ broken pieces being a little bit patched up; our short-circuits reconnected. The items on a list about things we want to do before we kick the bucket, reveal what got broken, or subverted, or short-circuited or stopped just that little bit short of realization. A Bucket List is not just about what may happen but what should have happened. We like to imagine a better future when we can’t deal with the bad stuff in the past or the present, (another reason so many religions got the underprivileged, non-wielding Bucket List folks, like slaves or minorities, living for Heaven, instead of focusing on what could be done about the present problems in their lives).  Thinking about the fact that we are still alive enough to have hopes, dreams and desires – big ones, like the ones on a Bucket List – return us to the possibilities we imagined when we were children; when we still had dreams, when as children we envisioned an eternal future without any limitations. Our Bucket Lists are about finally going skydiving, because we dreamt of flying like Peter Pan, when we were children; or  we want to check off a safari, and riding an elephant, because we imagined as children that we were wild animals roaming the jungles. When we were young, we romped together in our imagined worlds of play and  in our freedom from soul-sucking jobs, or relationships that were hard, or physical ailments that meant we were unable to walk or move without pain, let alone check off our list the desire to surf Maui. Bucket Lists return us to not just hope for the future, or a belief we can fix something in the past, but also to at least for one minute, a joy in the fact, that “where there is life now, there is hope”. Bucket Lists are really about suddenly being present to ourselves as valuable, worth-while, dreaming, hoping, believing beings.

Yesterday my daughter and husband and I took a ferry to an island in North Carolina with a lighthouse. Seeing lighthouses is literally on my husband’s Bucket List, and we were able to check that off his personal list, with the help of his beloved daughter, by seeing two of the beautiful lighthouses that still operate today. Lighthouses were created to keep sailors and ships safe from the world’s dangerous waters and unforeseen shoals.  Maybe Bucket Lists do the same for people. 

On our way to the island yesterday, we passed Shackelford Banks. And as our captain, slowly passed by the banks, there they were — my eyes are tearing up as I write this, and remember it now– just as yesterday without anticipation, I found myself silently crying as I saw something that I immediately knew had been on my Bucket List without my ever understanding it was there. There in front of me were three wild Shackelford ponies, one a foal still gangly and unsure in the shallows.

When I was about eight years old, and my parents were a mess and going through a divorce that they never told their four kids about, and at a time I didn’t realize how what another relative was doing to me wasn’t appropriate, and my childhood seemed to be getting snatched away from me but I didn’t know it, my father, gave me a book called “Misty of Chincoteague”. It’s a famous children’s book by Marguerite Henry. You should read it if you still have a bit of child in your heart, or at least get it for a child you know and love. Later, when my dad let me choose a pinto pony for my own, he let me call it “Misty”. After a few years of my broken family being in a strange existence that isn’t about Bucket Lists at all, my mom remarried and moved us away and I rarely saw my dad and never saw Misty again. I guess she must have died, along with my own childhood.

Yesterday I saw those wild ponies, not on the Chincoteague of my youthful book-inspired dreams, but on Shackelford Island, while I sat next to the dreams I never knew I had – a husband of thirty-three years and one of my own dear, beloved children, grown to adulthood with her own shared and private dreams and Bucket List items. And the little girl I was, Janie Karen, came rushing up to meet me in the sight of those horses, and I realized: “I made it. I made it here to see this – to see them – to see Misty—after all these years. I did it. I made the dreams I never knew I had come true.”

And I checked off an item from the Bucket List I have never made:

#1: I will keep my childlike faith. I will continue to imagine and dream and look for the wild ponies in life, where ever they may appear.

“And it shall come to pass, that your young ones shall be divinely inspired; and your old ones shall dream dreams; and all will have the ability to plan the future with imagination and wisdom.” **

© Jane Tawel, September 2021

*Deuteronomy 5:9

** Joel 2:28 (paraphrased by me)

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