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The Heart Knows

I was thinking of nothing in particular yesterday.  My mind wandered aimlessly through thoughts about work and home.  My morning mental list of menial tasks grew rapidly as I sat, gazing at my hands, folding my fingers, deciding where to begin.

Then my eyes focused on the ring; my grandmother’s ring.  The diamond sparkled, surrounded by yellow gold, and I was mesmerized for a few quiet moments.  How long had it been now?  A year and a half?  No, it had to be over two years now since the funeral.  “Time moves too quickly,” I thought.  I studied her wedding ring for a few minutes, looking at the details, turning it on my finger.  I had been wearing it on my right hand now for almost two years, and I found that it gave me a kind of quiet comfort.  I recognized that as the days rolled by, a cursory glance at the ring brought me peace, kept me grounded, and reminded me of the unending circular, spiritual, eternal parts of life.

Grandma.  She was important to me, and her ring had become a reminder that the important things are not things.  The true diamonds in our lives are people.  I pulled the ring from my hand and turned it over, taking in its smooth round shape, its beauty, its quality and its sturdiness.  The ring had endured my grandmother’s labors.  She canned beans and kneaded bread.  She washed clothes, and cleaned, and gardened.  Oh, how she loved to garden!  Her flowerbeds thrived under her care.  If only this ring would bestow the power of that green thumb!

I smiled while continuing my inspection.  It was a simple design with the diamond set inside a smooth square of gold.  The wedding band and the engagement ring had been soldered together for comfort and convenience.  I held it between my two hands and called forth the image of this ring on her boney fingers.  I could still see her hands.

For no particular reason, I did not return the ring to my right hand, as was my habit.  Instead, I passed it to my left hand, gave a little push, and placed it on the finger next to my own wedding band.  Why not wear it there?  Now there were two gold rings sitting side by side, gleaming in the light, “keeping each other company,” it seemed.

A few hours later, I learned that Grandma’s sister left us that very morning.  Aunt Opal.  She had always been a sweet spirit, a jewel among women.  I realized that I had passed Grandma’s ring from one hand to the other- not knowing that here, too, passed the spirit of her sister.

Now, they are keeping each other company, in the never ending presence of God.  Now, I know that Grandma’s ring will continue its work.  It is a remembrance of God, family, and eternal love.  The important things are not things.  Jewels will pass from one hand to another, but the true diamonds are the people who touch our hearts.

Somehow, yesterday, my heart recognized well before my mind that Opal had passed from one realm to another.  Something important happened yesterday.  Someone important moved on.  And, somehow, the heart always knows.

GRANDMA – In Memory of Muriel Blaine

The willow and the hammock,

The flowers, the open sky,

I remember her home with fondness

Even as the years go by.

Her hard work in the garden,

Her doilies in crochet,

Those evenings on the porch swing

Mean more than I can say.

Sunday beads and earrings,

With Bible by her side,

She knew the Lord, she loved the hymns,

She sang and hummed and cried.

Her voice was love and kindness,

Her heart, wise as her owls,

The children were her jewels

She talked with us for hours.

The games we played as family

Are memories I will keep.

She laughed and squealed and screamed in delight

And made our fun complete.

In the kitchen when guitars strummed

We loved to watch in awe

As she and Grandad jitterbugged

Without a care at all.

They’re reaching for each other’s hands,

I can see them still.

One crosses, and one waits in joy–

Together in The City on the hill.

—-Julie Blaine Morris

Soul Mate

Deep soul,

Though nothing said-

Deep well,

Emotion’s thread.

A selfish will,

A Shallow swim-

No current pulls

And stagnant wins.

The Loss of Ellen

A piece of paper

At our birth

Saves us space

Upon this Earth

A note on paper

In our death

Decrees our absence,

A halting breath

This bit of paper

Held in my hand

Sinks emotion,

Sifts through time’s sand

A sheet of paper

When we grieve,

A whisper thin wafer

As we bereave

A crumpled paper

Brings hot tears

Among these laughing

Happy years

A snatch of paper

Held in my hand

Glares black and white

It cannot stand!

Your legal paper

I grasp in awe

My mouth is dumb

My features fall

Your patch of paper

Pains my head

The heart denies

You can’t be dead!

This clinic paper

Shows not your sum,

Your life, your smile-

Your songs unsung!

This strip of paper

Insults the whole,

Unglads my God,

Unties my soul.

Their tat of paper

Is not the love

Who nurtured me,

Who’s gone above.

Take back this paper,

Recycle, reuse.

She’s not this pulp,

She’s mom– I refuse.

The Mourning Winter

Winter knew he was gone.

The season saw us all alone,

And so winter snowed and snowed.

Bare trees wept and groaned,

The silent white morning

Mourned his spirit going.

The dead leaves bowed down,

The dark sky made no sound

As flakes fell to the ground-

Respectful silence all around.

And our hearts were hurt, and raged

For his going now, at this age.

He left us like the sun

In winter’s clutches, light was done.

The darkened void he left-

Felt more than just a death.

Winter covered our depression

In hopes the pain would lessen.

The cold season sat beside us.

It sat unmoving, cried with us.

Died with us.

O White winter, bleak and bare,

O Metaphor of soul’s despair,

Deep drifting blanket still and frozen,

As a cold memorial, you’re chosen.

O Winter un-removed, unfinished,

Leave us!  Our rest and hope’s diminished.

Happy New Year!

From the Morris Family

Before all of you decide that I am very rude for not sending you a Christmas card, I must give my pitiful excuses…

  1. I bought Christmas cards last year on sale, but could not find them in my disorganized house.
  2. My husband moved out of his “office,” giving our teenager her own room, which brings us back to excuse number one.
  3. Every time I sat down to start making homemade Christmas cards I found that my children had absconded with the craft box or an integral part thereof, which leads us (unbelievably, I know) back to number one.
  4. I contracted a nasty poison sumac rash from helping my husband with a university art project, which consisted of twisting vines ( poisonous, I can now vouch for that) into primitive wreaths (God help whoever takes them out of the university courtyard, for it has taken me two shots and two courses of steroids and I am still itching!)
  5. My eyelids were too swollen to see properly, let alone write upon the Christmas cards (see number four), and photo cards seemed completely out of the realm of possibility (again see number four.)
  6. Five days before Christmas, a snowstorm hit our little village, which took out the power lines and left us without electricity for four days, so the Christmas cards again went by the wayside.
  7. After power was restored, we were too busy celebrating about hot showers and warm bedrooms to write to anyone.
  8. When it seemed our lives had returned to some kind of normality, it was December 26th and how could I send out Christmas cards after Christmas???

And so, it had nothing to do with being “green” or saving money (although that is a definite plus.)
It was just life getting in the way. Here is a non-nutshell, unabridged, lengthy letter about our newsworthy items and events. Enjoy… or just skip to the end (smile):

Barney— is on the home stretch now with his degree in Art Education. He will be student teaching in the fall and graduating in December, 2010 if all goes as planned. He is always on the Dean’s list and his professors love his talent. He has been very busy working weekends and taking a full load of coursework. He brings home all of his art and sculpting projects and puts them in various corners of the house, along with so many books and papers that Julie has given up hopes of organization (see number one and number two) until that blessed graduation day. He is still very much a media-maniac and collects movies and music. Every three months or so, he looks forward to what he and his friends have dubbed, “Bad Movie Day”– a full blown festival of sorts, where making fun of bad movies is the thing, where testosterone levels are high and the movie reviews are very low.

Julie— is still quite itchy at the moment, feels that it is horribly unfair that Barney missed all of the poison fun, and so she has indignantly sworn off all future art projects (see number four.) Julie is still teaching Spanish and French at Ripley High School and enjoys her work. — In her free time, (hahahahahahaha! Sardonic laughter) she enjoys reading good books, taking long, brisk walks, hiking, collecting catalogs and circling everything she wants in them– (it is a learned family neurosis), cross stitching, GOOD movies (hint, Barney) and baking desserts! Last but not least, Julie became an aunt again on November 30th, when sister Jeanna and brother-in-law Joe had their second daughter, Abby Hope. She is a darling!

Cassandra—Barney’s oldest daughter is now 23, living in Parkersburg and waitressing, still unsure whether she will go to a technical school or get a cosmetology/ hairdressing certificate. She has two beautiful little girls, Lillie Addison age 4, and Lorelie Rose, age 10 months. Grammy Pamy (Julie’s mom) is ecstatic to share a middle name with Lorelie. It is a zoo at the Morris house when everyone is together, but Barney and Julie love being Papa and Nana. Julie usually cares for Lorelie every other weekend to help out. (Rowan is quite jealous and says she doesn’t like babies on account of their germs and stickiness…) Cassandra is still so beauty-queen beautiful, and everyone is very proud of how she takes care of her little family on her own. She is a great mom.


 


Tegan— is now fifteen, a freshman at Ripley High School, and enjoys hanging out with friends at school, while sometimes ignoring her mother who works in the same building. She looks forward to getting her driving permit as soon as possible. Tegan has grown into a beautiful young lady who is almost as tall as her mother and almost as opinionated as her father. She has a boyfriend named Darren, who is a sweet boy. However, her parents will not yet allow her to go on dates (she thinks this is stupid and completely pointless as rules go.) She loves sci-fi books and is a huge “Doctor Who” fan. She enjoys her new room that she does not have to share with smaller siblings (see number 2) Tegan has enjoyed the company of her new kitten, Rafiki. The resident cat, Doctor Byron Orpheus, tolerates the newcomer well, however he shares the opinion of many, that Rafiki is a mental case. Tegan disagrees, maintaining that tail-chasing, separation anxiety (meowing at 4 in the morning), missing the point of the litter box, and sitting on top of anything anyone is reading are all normal cat tendencies. Much to Tegan’s disappointment, he is now an outside cat with marginal inside privileges, especially at night.

Benjamin— is now almost ten years old, in the fourth grade, and is elated to have our good friend and neighbor, Mr. Knopp, as his teacher this year. Ben still enjoys LEGOS and video games. He is always so funny and animated, and yet he can spend hours building forts and creating projectile-launching contraptions with LEGOS. So, I am not sure whether he will be an architect or an entertainer. He played baseball this past spring for the first time. He isn’t into sports much, he is an intellectual and a self-proclaimed nerd, but his mother thinks it did him some good to broaden his interests, be a part of a team and make new friends. Ben does not plan to continue baseball, but his mother is certain to have him try some other activity just so she gets the chance to scream his name from the bleachers. Ben is as smart as a whip and can still outdo anyone in asking questions about life, the universe, and everything…

Rowan—Where shall we start?? Rowan is a kindergartener this year and has had some difficulty adjusting. Her enthusiastic spirit and imagination often get the best of her, meaning that she prefers to be a cat at school rather than a human, and if anyone disrespects her stuffed animals, she has been known to clobber even the largest of kindergarten boys! Her teacher, Mrs. Kennedy, has stated on more than one occasion that Rowan is very stubborn, but very smart, and “unique.” (Rowan’s mom who is also a teacher is able to decode her true meaning, which is “I don’t understand your child and I am grasping at straws to say something positive.” Chuckle!) It is no secret that Rowan is a strong-willed child, but the good news is that Rowan is quite a fearless and determined individual, and she will accomplish much if mom and dad mold her character carefully. Rowan’s MRI of the left arm went well, and her visit to see Dr. Kozin in Philadelphia confirmed that her arm strength and her agility are still very good despite her birth injury, but may not improve much. We hope for 10 percent improvement per year. Rowan’s mother was mortified to realize that she brought kindergarten cooties with her to the Philadelphia appointment. Life lessons in humility abound this year! After the flight home, Rowan had to endure de-lousing… Being a kindergarten parent is not for sissies.

A serious note— Many of you know that Barney’s father is in critical condition at the moment. Bud had been in serious back pain for four months and finally decided he could no longer endure it, opting for surgery. The surgery went well, but he contracted a serious pneumonia which has caused him to be sedated, on a ventilator. He will be 80 in a few days. He has always been such a strong and wiry farmer, and it is very difficult to see him in these circumstances. All is uncertain at this time. Please continue to pray for his recovery, and for his doctors.

We also lost our favorite little dachshund, Fritz, to a road accident this month. We were not at home and poor Barney had to perform the burial rites alone. He was over 12 years old and will be sadly missed.

So, despite the trials, the tribulations, there is still joy and jubilation for our loving family, our good friends, our warm house, and our Great God. Thank you, Friends and Family, and may all of us enjoy a bright New Year, seeing it as a clean slate upon which we will write so many blessings. “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light…and find out what pleases the Lord.” Ephesians 5:8

With much love,    The Morrises

God’s Taxi

When travelling from place to place, I love to ride in taxis! My conversations with cab drivers are often the highlight of a humdrum trip. They are so multicultural, so interesting, and have such wonderful stories to tell. I am rarely in need of a cab, except when taking my youngest daughter to her orthopedic specialist in Philadelphia. Over the years, my most memorable cab encounters have included parlés with an African exile, with a Middle Eastern émigré, with a naturalized citizen from Russia, with a Hispanic gentleman, and with an American family man. Because I am a very curious being, I am truly interested in their situations. What brought them to their present career? Where are they from? And so before long, we are exchanging stories. I ask how long they have been driving a cab, if they have a family, when they came to the city or to the country, and why. I always come away feeling blessed to know them, if only for a small moment. I take a mental snippet, a snapshot, of each driver as we pass into and out of each other’s company for the first and last time.

 

The young African cabbie who drove us out of Philadelphia one autumn afternoon had been in the country for over five years. He was a student at a college nearby. We spoke to each other in French and English. He and his brother came to the United States for a better life, and they would often send money to their mother, to their family, who still resided overseas. When I asked if he missed his family or how he could bear being so far away, he smiled and said that his life without them was a small sacrifice that he was glad to pay in order to give them a better chance at living. He and his brother planned to bring their mother to the States very soon; then afterward, a few family members at a time. Where he had come from, the government was very corrupt and there was little hope for the common people. Most of the drivers I have spoken with are seekers. They are seeking out peace and personal liberty, which makes me realize that despite our differences in backgrounds, we are all searching for the same things.

 

In another taxi experience, I hailed a cab to go from the airport into the city, and we were chauffeured by a Middle Eastern gentleman in a black turban. My daughter, Rowan, looked at him with big, curious eyes. He was a formidable figure dressed in black, speaking polite, broken English. At that moment in time, many Americans were feeling threatened by strangers in Muslim attire, but as I tried to talk with him, I noticed that he was feeling just as uncomfortable and awkward as many Americans felt. In speaking with him, we found a common ground and began to feel at ease. As humans from different world views, our basic needs were still the same- to be respected and understood.

 

As a foreign language teacher, I am always eager to practice and hone my skills. It is such a thrill to understand and to be understood in a foreign tongue. When riding with a Hispanic gentleman, we conversed in Spanish about the direction in which we needed to go. He was sure it was this way, but I was sure it was the other way. In the end, and one u-turn later, he had to concede that my memory for the best route was correct.

 

When speaking with a Russian driver, I was at a loss in speaking his native dialect. His eyes were wise, and his mouth curled at the sides in a calm and benign smile. I learned much about his culture and way of life in only a few minutes as he spoke very good English. For starters, I learned that there is a large Russian presence in a number of Northern cities. (There was also the question in the back of my mind about Russian mafia groups, but I convinced myself that a man with such a pleasant face could not be bad!) He spoke to me of his grown children, of his home, and he asked me about my travels and my family. At the end of our journey as the airport came into view, I believe we were both truly sorry not to have the time to learn more about the other.

 

Only once in about six cab rides have I had the experience of riding with an American driver! He enjoyed talking as much as I enjoyed listening. As we conversed, I learned that he had a daughter who was a teacher, like me, and he had grandkids about the same age as my own children. We seemed to have a lot in common, and I could tell that he enjoyed speaking with someone who was interested in more than just the destination.

 

As cab rides go, however, I never had a better experience than when God took matters into His own hands. I remember clearly how stressed and worried I was about our next trip to Philadelphia. I was not only worried about Rowan’s upcoming orthopedic appointment, but also about money. How was I going to afford the cab rides this time? I prayed about the situation, asking God for guidance to get us there safely and cheaply. I decided to go to the train platform at the airport. I knew absolutely nothing about the trains into the city, but it would cost less than half of the fare for a taxi. Rowan and I stood on the train platform for a few minutes, staring at an incomprehensible schedule attached to a concrete post. It was Greek to me.

 

I walked back toward the airport entrance where I had noticed an older gentleman sitting and chatting on the phone. He had an airport ID badge, so I assumed he could not be too dangerous. He was pleased to help, as I told him we would be aiming for the Ronald McDonald House downtown. The gentleman would not be going all the way into town, but he would go part of the way and point us in the right direction. Meanwhile, two businessmen had come down from the airport ramp and were milling around the train platform as I spoke to Mr. Airport ID Badge. My daughter and I walked toward the businessmen, ready to wait on the train. They were also staring at the train schedule, unable to make heads or tails out of the information. The taller one spoke a few words to me: “Do you know anything about these trains?” I had to confess my ignorance and mentioned my new best friend, Mr. ID Badge. He smiled and walked back to his colleague for a brief conference. They nodded their heads in agreement as they talked. Rowan and I stayed in the background a few steps away. The two men then approached me stating they had decided to hail a cab, and since they would be taking the fare as a business expense, would we like to ride with them??…A smile spread across my face as I thanked God for my rescuers!

 

Soon, introductions were made. Rowan and I were walking with two businessmen from Pittsburgh, Brian and Kirk, toward a line of taxicabs. Unbeknownst to them, they were acting as guardian angels to us that day. My fears dwindled, and I felt secure in God’s hands. Our angels from Pittsburgh were so helpful in getting us situated inside the taxi. Then, I turned toward the cab driver. As I have explained, I love talking to cab drivers. I am a student of culture, so I could not resist taking a long look at him. Our driver that day was very dark, sporting a white-toothed welcoming smile. He spoke broken English with a West African accent. Then, I spied something which was both astounding and comforting to me. The driver left a Bible resting next to his seat on the dashboard in plain sight. A thin devotional book accompanied the Bible, and I knew that my prayers had been answered that day. God had heard my need and filled it. He had taken care of me, a lone mother with a five year old daughter, in the big city. Both the Bible and the cab driver’s kind smile confirmed that I was not alone on the journey. Kirk and Brian took us to our destination, which was completely out of their way, refusing any kind of payment. May God bless them.

 

Although I learned a little bit about Kirk and Brian on the drive, I did not get the chance to talk with the taxi driver this time. I would have loved to have gotten to speak with him, to ask him about his story, to tell him how God used him in a small but significant way that day. But then again, maybe he knows all about God’s grace. Maybe he knows God cares for us all. Maybe he already knows that God uses each of us to confirm His love and existence to other journey-weary people, even if it is just for a miniscule moment. A lot can happen in those small snapshot moments– when we pass each other once in life, never to meet again.

 

Thank goodness for people like Kirk and Brian who step up to the plate when a stranger is in need. Thank God for helpful people like Mr. ID Badge. Thank God for the little moments, and thank God for those taxi drivers.