Treble Makers Under a Rest

Fruitless mulberries had once lined the street – with one in front of every lot.  Or, so she had been told.  She had met another “nosey neighbor” at an open house. When she had described which property was hers (to see if the two of them were neighbors), the elderly lady had exclaimed “oh, the house with the perfectly sculpted tree!”

It was… perfectly sculpted.  The trunk had been pruned to resemble a hand.  With her second eye, she always saw a tree house sitting in it.  She wondered which alternate reality that was in.  Yet, maybe it wasn’t an alternate reality.  Maybe it was the future. 

When she had first bought the house, she had thought about cutting it down.  It provided no fall color and no fruit.  However, the love that had gone into the maintenance of the tree could not be denied. 

One year she had it pruned back to the “hand”.  The summer after had been unbearable inside her house as the tree struggled to regrow its canopy.  She had discovered what the tree was for.  It was for shade.  The lesson had solved another problem.  The neighbor across the street who had constantly complained about it, never complained again.  She guessed it had been a hot summer for them as well. 

The tree had proven it’s worth.  Moira would keep it.  Taking the under canopy up, she provided a space for undergrowth trees and populated it with Dogwood and Japanese Maples. These under canopy trees would provide the fall foliage she needed.  As a day dreamer she recognized the importance of keeping and celebrating the passage of time.  In a place where seasons were not distinct, she tried to provide some structure for mother nature wherever she could. 

While the tree thought of itself as ancient (it was probably the oldest tree in the neighborhood), it was (in reality) a mere fifty.  Since she had decided that the tree would stay, Moira bought a boulder for it to have as a friend with the hopes that the much older rock would impart some wisdom to the provincial tree. 

Moira was sitting under it now on that very boulder as she mentally prepared herself to go to work.  There was nothing hard about her job, but she liked to be in the right space before she arrived.  Also, Donny, her neighbor Jakes housemate, was going to catch a ride to work with her.  So, she was also waiting for him.

Gwydion, her employer, had given Donnie a job in house keeping in the café at the resort and hot springs she worked at teaching yoga.  She was also preparing for her meeting with Gwen regarding expanding her role there.  Gwydion was trying to establish music for the grounds and was hoping to start training talent as they were having some difficulty securing local musicians.  As with everything with Gwen, it was long term thinking – seeds planted now for shade trees and fruit tomorrow.  She also suspected that Gwen was laying out the first steps in a path to make her his second in command. 

Gwen had laid out four areas of focus for the resort – water, earth, wind, and fire. 

Water was represented by the hot springs and bathhouse.  It was a chance to be clean.  To wash things away.  It also represented the heart and was the most social part of the resort.

Earth was represented by the grounds.  They were laid out with a compliment of edible, medicinal, and ornamental plants.  It was a place devoted to the care of the body.  

Wind was represented by the amphitheater.  It was a place where ballets, lectures, and concerts were given addressed the needs of the mind.   

Fire was represented everywhere.  It could be found in the heat of the drawn bath.  It could be found in the oven of the kitchen.  It could be found in the illumination of the theater.  Fire was transformative.  It addressed the needs of the soul. 

Moira’s instrument of calling was Double Bass, but she played all the string instruments.  She had taught both her grandchildren violin – her little treble makers as she liked to call them.  Adjacent to the amphitheater, Gwen had plans for a school.  One of the classes taught there would be music, but Gwen had hinted that her role would be one of a “principle” of sorts. 

Moira had the background to pull it off.  She had started her life in classical music and dance before moving on to university and then a corporate position of leadership all the while dabbling in fine arts to amuse herself. 

It was corporate life that had introduced her to the concept of “retreat”.  These “work vacations” had become important to her as a time of deconstruction and reconstruction.  When she retired, she found herself gravitating to all sorts of retreats.  Yoga retreats, music retreats, writing retreats, ceramic retreats – you name it.  Moira enjoyed it all. 

It was at one such retreat she had met Gwydion, sailing.  He had discussed with her his resort.  They had a likeness of minds and a relaxed way of speaking to each other. He was also very easy on the eyes which made her school girls heart glad.  He made her feel young.  Before she knew it she had been recruited to join his team of workers.   

Which brought her to now – under this tree – sitting on this rock.  Yoga instructor hadn’t really felt like work.  It had felt like a calling.  But the resort also had the feeling of a calling.  Taking on more didn’t feel like signing up for more somehow.  It felt like another step down her right path.  It was a path that had brought her to this house, this neighborhood, this town.  There was magic here.  She could feel it. 

A noise distracted her and she looked up to see Donnie on his way accompanied by her other neighbors Tyco and Jamison Lee.  They were delivering fresh eggs and had dropped some off at Jakes just in time to escort Donnie over. 

A new friend, a new opportunity, and fresh eggs.  There were even blueberries on the bush and peaches on the tree.  At a time in her life that she should be thinking of how to wrap it up, it felt like she was just beginning.  Her wandering soul was at rest.  She had arrived.  Like the tree her reason for being had not immediately been apparent.  It was time for her to start providing shade for others to sit under.    

Lemons to Lemonade

There was a little fountain outside the office window playing a melody of nature that (thankfully) distracted from the silence of the room.  The faintest hint of incense kept his nose busy searching for it. Sometimes the fragrance was there and sometimes it wasn’t – as if his mind had made it up.  He fiddled with his hands noticing that three of his fingernails were dirty.  He hadn’t slept very well stressing about this interview and had rushed to get ready this morning.  Fiddling with his hair, he noticed that it felt funny and he wondered if he had remembered to rinse the shampoo out.  His clothes were clean, of that he was at least sure of.  Jake (his new roommate) had made sure he had washed his small assortment of clothing with detergent and in hot water.    

One month ago, he had been homeless (One month ago.  One lifetime ago. Already, he was somebody different).  He had been earning enough to eat as a street performer juggling.  But, not enough for much of anything else.  He had been sleeping under a bridge enjoying the summer outside – vaguely worried about winter.  That’s how he had met Jake.  

Jake was a puppeteer and his puppets had fascinated him.  Donny had always loved dolls but (as a child) his opportunity to play with them had been very limited.  He was shocked to come face to face with a grown man playing with them in public – dressing them up, making them tell stories, making them sing and dance…

In return Jake had been fascinated by Donny’s juggling abilities.  

Donny came by them honestly. His mother had been a fourth-generation circus performer from Czechoslovakia.  She had been teaching him since he was a little boy.  She had taught him other things as well.  Like how to pick pockets.  He hadn’t shared that with Jake and hadn’t used that talent in many years – at least not for keeps.  He enjoyed practicing and so would sometimes pick peoples pockets and then put the stuff back before they had a chance to miss them.  

He remembered all the stories she had shared with him about the old world and how they had come to the good fortune of their tract home on the end of the cul-de-sac.  She had been on tour in the United States when she had met his father.  In a whirl wind of romance, she had left the circus to become a wife and then a mother. She had been eager to leave the road and settle into a suburban life.  As a little girl she had come into a windfall of old Life magazines.  The ads had seemed like a story out of fiction.  The magazines offered a reality so different, the United States might as well have been on Mars – their reality was so different. By marrying his father, her fantasy of being an “American” had come true.    

His father was a miner. They had lived well until the mine closed when Donny was eight.  His father had gone to Alaska to look for seasonal work on a fishing ship while his parents figured out what to do next.  That had been ten years ago.  

His mother had been killed in a car accident while his father was away.  Donny had been put in foster care while they looked for his father or other close relatives.  The state hadn’t found either and he had been in foster care until he had turned eighteen. 

Eighteen had come six months ago.  Until that time, he had had three sets of foster parents.  He had never felt like a son to any of them.  He had felt like a job and duty.  He had been invited in to help pay the rent; and, he had never been allowed to forget that.   He had never been close to his last set of foster parents.  They had been strict and religious.  The foster parents before that had moved out of state and had left him to be rehomed so he had only know these latest foster parents for a year – his last year in social services.   

All of his foster parents had been a series of middle class, mid-western people who had been disapproving of a circus background and suspicions of his talents.  He had once overheard his circus abilities described as “unnatural, like witchcraft”.  

It seemed everything important about himself, he had overheard.  With his last foster parents, he had overheard them talking about what he was going to do when he turned 18.  They had been worried about how he was going to move out.  He had a little money saved from mowing lawns and knew it was enough for a bus ticket to a city large enough to have street performers.  He would juggle.  If necessary, he would steal.  He could get by and figure out a life for himself.  

Donny told his foster parents he had been in touch with some family and would be going to stay with them. They had been relieved to hear he had someplace to go and had never pressed him on the details of his lie. It had broken his heart a little more to be cared about so little.  These little heartbreaks were the worst.  It was as if pieces of him were disappearing every time someone disappointed him – making him nobody.    

One morning Jake had spied him tumbling out of the bushes on his way to the old part of town where they both did side walk shows.  Donny had emerged tousled and bed worn, maybe a little dirty.  It had been impossible to disguise what was going on – that he was homeless.  After a brief morning greeting, they walked in silence for a while as if they met each other like this every morning to stroll to work.  

“Is this where you’re sleeping?” Jake had asked him.  

“Just for a little while,” said Donny casually, trying to reassure Jake, “until I get enough money for a place”.   

They had a long talk after that while Jake pressed him for details about his age and background.  “You can’t stay under the bridge anymore.  You are going to have to stay with me until we figure you out,” Jake had told him firmly.  

And that was it.  Like a miracle Donny had gone from being lost and thrown away to having people again.  Where once he felt himself going feral – losing parts of his mind and soul that made him human and connected, the reverse was happening now.  Jake felt like family.  He was introducing him to community.  Donny started remembering things about himself.  He was remembering how to smile.  He was (slowly) remembering how to groom himself.  He was remembering how to hope, as the glimpse of a future presented its self.  He was remembering possibility and pride.      

Now he was at this interview – a possible job.  

The man he had been expecting came into the room.  “Hi, I’m Gwydion,” he said with a big smile and a friendly demeanor extending his hand to shake “but everyone calls me Gwen.  Sorry to keep you waiting.”

Donny took his hand and smiled.  Gwen was a handsome, tall, athletic man that made people feel immediately at home.  He possessed a smile that made his eyes twinkle. He had a face that should have been lined but wasn’t.   He had hair that should have shown silver but instead was chestnut brown.  He seemed older than time; and, (at the same time) newly born.  Donny relaxed under the enchanting gaze of this handsome man.    

“I’m Dominik.  But everyone calls me Donny. Thank you for taking time to meet me.”  

Puppet Master

The early morning was still quite with the smallest chill.  A lingering memory of a warm night could still be sensed.  As often happened in the post dawn light, the garden spoke to him. It needed to happen now.  If he left on his mission – right now – all would go well with it.  It was a sudden flash of intuition that he knew to be correct.  If he was going to steal those rocks it would have to be… right… now.

He had noticed the rocks on his way to the old part of town where he performed his sidewalk puppet show. It was under an overpass next to a county park.  They (whomever was in charge of such things) had shorn up the soil – eroding under the bridge – with a beautiful jagged blue rock.   While some were boulders and way to large for a person to pick up, some were normal sized and portable, he needed rocks for his garden.  He was using a blue Mexican pebble to create his stone waterbed to mimic a creek.  These squarish jagged stones would provide the perfect little erratics.  Or, one could imagine them as gnome sitting stones.

As he made a mental list of how he would pull this off he realized the first thing he would need is a partner in crime.

He knocked on the fence and peeked over.  Moira (his neighbor) was sitting in lotus – meditating.

“Moira, care to go on an adventure with me this morning?” he asked.  “we have to go right now.”

Moira gathered the folds of her diaphanous robe and rose to come closer.  Standing under the fence she looked up at Jake.

“Where are we going?”

“I want to go under the overpass and take some of the blue rocks.  I need a look out.”

“We are going to go steal rocks?” asked Moira tilting her head sideways wondering if he was for real.

“I’m thinking of it more as a tax refund.  Are you in?”

“Let me grab my boots and hat.  I’ll meet you in front of your garage.”

Moira and Jake were silent as they drove.  Moira was sipping coffee enjoying the fuzziness of morning.

“Here’s the plan,” Jake interrupted, “We are going to use my wagon that I transport my puppets in to get the rocks.  We will park at the parking lot nearby in the park and put blankets in it to make it look like we are going for a picnic.  When we get to the rocks you will be the look out.  I need six to ten rocks.  I will place them under the blanket and then we will take them back.  The danger will be while I am collecting the rocks and then unloading them into the trunk.  What do you think.”

“I think this is the stupidest reason to be arrested I can think of.  I hope it doesn’t end up in the paper.”  Moira answered dryly.

Moira and Jake had been neighbors for many years.  When Moira had moved in next door, Jakes wife had been dying of cancer.  Jake had dutifully introduced himself.  Then, they really hadn’t spoken for the first year as opportunity had never presented itself.  Most of their interactions had been Moira watching Jake.  She had watched him help his wife in and out of the car in the driveway to what she assumed were trips to the doctor.  Since she didn’t really know them, it seemed like the politest thing to do would be to overt her eyes and give them some privacy. It would prove to be her constant strategy and the least she could do as her neighbors dealt with the hand fate had played them.

Moira had moved here to be employed as a yoga instructor at the nearby resort that boasted hot springs and a bathhouse.  The chance to be friends with the neighbors had come and gone as she settled into her new work and reality and proceeded to populate her life with new friends.

Then one day she came home to Jakes house overflowing with people and she knew his wife had passed away.

A month later she had brought over a casserole, gave her condolences, and stayed for a quick chat. Then a week later he had returned the pan with a peach cobbler from peaches stolen from her tree and a friendship began.  He was a good cook and they both liked to garden.

The puppets had come out a year later.  His late wife had hated them, he explained to Moira.  He had been a clown with the circus before having a family and trading in his paint and puppets for boardrooms and business.  Even after retirement he had found that entertainment was in his blood.  His sidewalk circus fulfilled the need.

With this revelation, Moira had found him a little odder and a little more interesting.

Moira’s memories retreated as they pulled into the parking lot near the overpass.  Surprisingly (considering the early hour) there were already cars parked. There were one or two people also – on the other side of the parking lot.  Jake quickly but deliberately prepared the wagon.  Once he placed the blankets in the bottom they headed up the hill to the overpass.

Jake wondered briefly about how going down a hill with a wagon full of heavy rocks with no brakes was going to work as they made their way up the hill towards their destination. He wondered what other obstacles they would encounter that he hadn’t planned for on their trip.  He decided he would think about it on the way back and hope for the best.

They reached the path under the bridge without incident or interference.  While there had been people in the parking lot, there were none yet on the bike path that went under the overpass next to the rocks.

Jake quickly loaded up his wagon.

They were on their way back (the steep hill wasn’t adversely affecting control of the wagon), when they spied the ranger coming up the road from the parking lot heading towards them. They realized that he must have been in the parking lot the whole time and they had been concentrating so hard they had not seen him.  It also occurred to them that the ranger would just miss them stealing rocks.  If he left but five minutes earlier, he would have been able to watch the progress of their perfidy on his way out.

Moira took Jakes hand. Jake looked at her noticing for the first time how pretty she looked.  The wind had caught her silver hair and flowing jacket pressing the clothing against her toned yoga body whisking her hair back into a flowing wave.

The ranger smiled at them and waved.  Moira smiled and waved back.  Jake held onto the wagon and squeezed her hand.

New Testament Number One “Judas Iscariot”

First Published as “Judas’ Story” by A Church For All on 4/1/16
I had a dream that I went to heaven and visited with God. When I got there God looked up from his work, smiled at me, and said “what are you doing here? You’re not expected yet.” I could tell God WAS expecting me and this was God’s tactful way of telling me that I had strayed from my plan again.
Instead of scolding me as I was expecting, God took the day off to spend time with me. We walked through the gardens, along the beach, hiked through the forest, and climbed the mountain. When we returned we reached God’s door just in time to turn around and watch the sun set on the water. I laughed in delight at God’s perfect timing and turned to God to ask with a grin on my face “Did you plan this?”
We had talked and visited all along the way and I was very comforted. But, God could tell something was still troubling me – something we hadn’t talked about yet.

img_1108

“Tell me” God said. And I began to tell him about how I had recently been to church (last Sunday was Easter and we both know that’s the day I go to church) and how the story of Judas had upset me. Judas seemed so essential to the story and I was confused that God had used him like that. The story seemed to betray everything I thought I knew about God. Where was God’s love for Judas? Where was Judas‘ redemption? How could he let him kill himself like that in sorrow and destitution?
God was quite for a second, letting me catch my breath and finish my rant. When I had quieted down, God spoke with sad but kind and gentle words “I think I’ll let Judas tell you that story, It’s really his to tell”. Then Judas came into the room slowly and shyly. I smiled at him and took his hand and then hugged him, because somehow I knew that this is what I would want from me, and that it was the right thing to extend to him. We paused for a second sharing the warmth of kindness and then he led me to a great room in God’s house.
“What is this room?” I asked.
“This is God’s room of stories. It houses the perfect edition of each of our lives.” He paused for a second as I took it all in secretly wondering where mine was. “Can I tell you my story?” he asked me. I nodded yes. I felt familiar with his story, but maybe there was something I had missed or something he still needed to re-share with me. Considering his past, it seemed too intimate a request to deny. Then, he began to share his story.
When he was done I looked up with tears in my eyes. “But, that’s not the story I have been told! This is a beautiful story. Everything important still happens exactly the way it was supposed to; but, so much better! This story makes me wish I had been you, and this was my story to tell! Why didn’t it happen this way? Look at how much better the world would have been!”
Judas was also crying. “Yes”, he said. “What you just experienced is the story as God originally wrote it… without all my changes. As you know, he was still able to use me, but not to the full glory of the original manuscript. What you know about me was not Gods plan, it was mine. I heard the voice of God, but chose to listen to my own voice instead.”
Then God came in to the room and comforted us.
“Is my story here as well God? Will you let me read it?” I asked afraid of the answer. And God let me read my story. God let me read it right up to the present day – to that very moment.
It was such a better story than the one I had been living.
I was sad and quite when the story was lifted from my hands. I was so disappointed about all the gifts God had planned for me, but that I had missed out on.
“Is there any way to get back on track?” I asked. “Is there any way to get back to living your plan?”
“Yes, but I can’t give you the gifts back that you have already missed out on.
You chose not to take them.

However, no matter how off track you are, I can always use the choices you have made to put you BACK on track. Stop looking behind you, and know that you still have gifts in your future. Listen to my voice, and only mine. Be obedient to my will, and you will always find your path to me. That is my plan for you.”

Amusement Park Number One “Is that all there is?”

The new sundress, the bright sunny day, the amusement park, nothing could brighten her attitude. Her favorite toy had been redistributed to her favorite cousin, Stacy. She couldn’t help hating him a little bit today. It was the ‘Fisher Price Little People Castle Play Set’ and her mother had informed her (on her birthday…) that she was too old to play with it. It had been packed up that morning to live somewhere else. Charlie was depressed.

“Charlotte, you are thirteen years old today and too old to be playing with dolls. It’s time to spend your free-time on

your appearance,

learning to run a brush through your hair,

paying some attention to the disgrace you call nails,”

her mother, Claudette, had scolded. Charlie had bowed her head in deference to her lecture. Thirteen in name only she thought looking down. Her sundress and long hair were the only things securing her place in the pantheon of womanhood. Otherwise, she was all flat plains and angles.

She was supposed to be more special, being a dragon child. The lady who lived up the street from her grandmother, Evelyn, had taught her that. The Chinese witch, that’s what everyone called her. Charlie, however, knew she wasn’t Chinese. While she had been born in Hong Kong and owned the local Chinese restaurant, her family was Japanese. She supposed she really was a witch.

It had been Evelyn’s granddaughter, Taura, that had told her this. Her two sisters, Momoko and Ryoko, had sat in solemn silent agreement pouring imaginary tea into little cups. They had all draped themselves in old pieces of fabric (towels, blankets, table clothes, and curtains) artfully tied up in what they imagined to be kimono’s. They were playing at being geishas having a party. “My grandmother is a witch. And, since they are always together, yours probably is as well”, Taura shared. Evelyn’s grandchildren often recruited her for their elaborate tea parties – being that they were all more-or-less the same age. “I supposed that means we might all be witches. Everyone knows it runs in families”, she continued mysteriously.

Charlie thought this was probably true as well. Her grandmother and Evelyn were always collecting herbs together and making special drinks. One time, when she was supposed to be asleep, she had actually heard Evelyn tell her grandmother to collect some of her hair and nails when she died so that she could come back and visit her from the grave.

It hadn’t bothered Charlie. The thought of her grandmother being a witch did not worry her, upset her, or concern her. Both women were larger than life to her. It made sense that they were also witches. Besides, it was Evelyne that had given her the castle play set. She had found it at a garage sale – practically new. She said she was giving it to her because she was a dragon and the playset had a dragon in it. That’s how she found out that she was born in the year of the dragon and that she was special.

It was the pink dragon that was breaking her heart to part with. She could part with the whole play set but she would rather keep the dragon. What if Stacy banished the dragon to the cave at the bottom of the toy castle? He might not know that Puff was the ruler.

IMG_0382

The amusement park was supposed to be a special treat, but Charlie couldn’t stop sulking and being distraught over Puff. Even as she got on to ride her favorite character of the carousel, a green dragon, she was still melancholy. The carousel held no magic today, but her green dragon did. In her mind this dragon was also Puff, but grown. She always supposed her little pink dragon at home was Puff as a baby.

There was no conflict yet in her developing mind that Puff was different at this park than he was at home. She had tried to explain it to her mother once but her mother had insisted that it was not possible to be in two places at once; and, furthermore, you could not be a child and an adult at the same time.

Yet Charlie knew that what she had told her mother was true. All she had to do was look in the mirror and see that she was someplace else at the same time and an adult as well as a child – all at once. It seemed that getting older made things harder to understand.   With the loss of her dear pink dragon, (on this the day of her birthday) getting older didn’t seem like such a great reward. She wondered ‘Is that all there is? Would it just be disappointment from here on out? Wasn’t she a dragon and possibly a witch? Surely her life was meant to be more special.’

She looked up just in time to see Stacy getting out of the car. She could see the parking lot from here. She decided today – she would find a moment to pinch him – hard. The thought made her smile.