It’s 6:00 a.m. in Mexico, and my birthday started at noon yesterday — in Australia

I’m up early on a chilly San Miguel morning, counting blessings, one of which is having an awesome, multi-talented, multi-faceted group of friends spread all over the globe. They make me feel at home wherever any of us are.

Here are a few more:

I’m grateful that I realized in the shower this morning that what would make me really excited today is to go to La Mega or La Comer — whatever they call it these days — meet a friend for coffee, and treat myself to a brand new bottle of shampoo. That’s right. I’m just going to toss out what remains in that bottle of Suave and go crazy.

I’m grateful that Zack is sleeping once more through the night, and that the “kennel cough” is practically gone. I assume the neighbors are happy about that, too.

I’m grateful to have summer here at home for a change– a leisurely recovery time between travels. I’m grateful that all the street construction going on gives me a good excuse not to get out in traffic, and I don’t need to feel guilty about just staying home most days.

Pursuant to the above, I’m grateful for taxis.

And I’m grateful to snuggle back down in bed (now that the sun’s up) and catch a little more sleep.

Something Sacred Every Day

Everyday sacred. As in banal, routine, quotidian. It’s holy, because I feel whole.

Just a short post to express gratitude that Larry is back and order has been re-established. I’ve joked that if I’m the kite, he’s my string. But I COUNT on him being here.

Larry is the living expression of fidelity. He goes to bed at the same time every night, he gets up at the same time every morning. He makes the bed. He takes the dog out. He makes a cup of tea and a piece of toast and sits down to watch a recorded episode of “Fast ‘n Loud.” He leaves at exactly 9:00 and walks into town with Zack the dog, and Donald McDonald the neighbor. I then have three hours basically to myself.

RE that cruise we just went on. I’d expressed hope that I’d have time to process the Holy Land trip while on it, that maybe it could be sort of a monastic experience, only with a breakfast buffet. Well, it wasn’t.  I think my monastic contemplative time is probably right here with Larry.

Longing for clarity.

This is my last Facebook post.

Well, sort of.

I’ve decided that if I have anything worth saying, I’ll say it here in my blog. A notice will go up on my Facebook timeline, so at least you’ll know I’m still around. If you want to engage with what I’m saying, join me here, at Virgin Territory. I just can’t swim in the Facebook newsfeed any longer. That river is polluted.

If you are specially dear to me, (especially people who make me laugh) I will go to your timeline and see what you’ve been doing, but I don’t have to know everything about everybody I love every day. Frankly, it’s crazy-making. If it’s really important, call me. Or (old school) send me an email. I’ll stay connected in those wonderful closed groups, where I’ve made really dear friends who have common interests. You may also be able to reach me on Messenger. I get little dingdings when someone posts there, and that’s the only way I’m connected to some of you. But life in the mainstream newsfeed, for me, is OVER.

The last two months or so I’ve been pretty much off the grid. It’s amazing how refreshing it was.

Mid April, I left for the Holy Land with a group of ten other women for two weeks of exploring places particularly associated with the women who played major roles in the life of Christ Jesus. I have lots of photos and stories I’ll be writing about.

While I was in Israel, I got a call from Larry. You know, he-who-would-rather-be-shot-than- get-on-an-airplane. He had booked us on a cruise. It was leaving May 10, just a few days after my return home. It was on the Norwegian Bliss, an inaugural voyage of two weeks, out of Miami, through the Panama Canal, landing (is that the right word?) in Los Angeles.

OK! I’ve got my bucket list. He’s got his. Glad he wants me to go along with him.

It was amazing. We went with friends Virginia and George, the people who bought our house in Guayabitos. Virginia found these fabulous fares, which were evidently offered at the last minute to fill that huge ship COMPLETELY. Onboard, we met people who had booked this journey almost two years before, when construction on the Bliss had begun. They’d paid almost three times what we did, for the same accommodations. All in all, we were a total of 4,000 passengers from all over the world. Ports of call were Cartagena in Colombia, then through the Canal, Puerto Arenas in Costa Rica, Puerto Quetzal in Guatemala, Puerto Vallarta (fun being there as a tourist, instead of getting the car fixed or going to COSTCO), and Mazatlán (which I’d never seen before and with which I was very favourably impressed!).

I flew home from Los Angeles and Larry flew to New York with George and Virginia. From there he joined up with his friend Danny, who was taking his boat on its last trip before it was sold. So this is the year for Larry to go through canals. He’s been through the Erie Canal twice in the last two weeks. He’s headed home (as I write) and will be here in San Miguel this afternoon.

I’m ready to have him home and I look forward to spending some time reconnecting and reassessing. There have been deaths — the public ones that have hit us all hard. Kate Spade. Anthony Bourdain. There have been deaths closer to home. I need some time to think. I need some time to pray.

There’s nothing like treading stones that have been there for millennia, dipping back into first century Christianity at its roots, and then having hours to gaze at ocean and horizon with no internet, news or interruptions. A poem of Langston Hughes was quoted in an inspirational article I read yesterday in the Christian Science Monitor. The poem’s title is “Suicide’s Note.” It has only three lines:

The calm,
Cool face of the river
Asked me for a kiss.

I get that. I think a lot of us do. But that kiss leaves ripples the size of tsunamis in the psyches of those left on the river banks. I can’t believe personal peace can be gained when it leaves such turmoil in its wake.

So this is my prayer for today:

Make me a river. I will do all I can to keep the current of my thought clear, strong and approachable. Navigable. A blessing, not a danger, to those I come near. Make me mindful of my unpolluted source. Let me honour it always, and in all ways.
Amen.

Mexico Sings to the World

It happened again yesterday, like I’ve experienced so many times in Mexico. I heard heartbreakingly beautiful music, asked who was singing, or who had written it, and then spent to the wee small hours of the morning chasing links on YouTube and Google. I am continually dumbfounded by the variety and depth of Mexican music. From comments that unfold below the videos, I know I am not alone in the world. I would venture to say that more than mangos and tomatoes, Mexico’s chief export to the rest of the world is its music.

Ironically, though it’s me who speaks Spanish, it’s been my husband and his Harley motorcycle club connections that have provided us with a wealth of Mexican friends, mostly husbands and wives. Larry has hit it off with one man in particular, and his wife and I have become friends, as well. Mainly we are linked by the fact that Larry and Ernesto are about thirty years older than anyone else in the club. Ernesto’s wife Lucha had a birthday comida yesterday, and I was honored to be included. It was not like the ladies’ luncheons I was used to back in the States.

For one thing there was a lot of tequila and sangria involved. About three hours in, after the food had been cleared away there was dancing — the kind that women do when there are no men around and we’re just ecstatic to be alive. It was, of course, to live music. Live music seems to be a staple at any gathering involving over ten people. This was a school teacher/tenor from León, Victor Centeno, and his keyboardist, a surprise gift from Lucha’s sister.  Things got rolling starting with the strains of the traditional birthday song, “Las Mananitas,” and went on from there. He responded to requests, and most of us made quite a few.

The music didn’t stop the conversation, and with over twenty women, I smiled and laughed a lot at things I totally didn’t understand.  That can get me into trouble sometimes, but yesterday, for me,  it was all about the music.

My sister and brother-in-law recently bought a house near us here in San Miguel. For the both of them, it’s also all about the music.  Emily wanted a primer on Mexican music, so I put together the following email for her. I started out with Maria Grever (sometimes spelled Griber), because she’s a woman, and my sister plays the piano. Here’s the link to just the piano playing “Alma Mía,” though I hope you explore further and listen to the words.

Because I’m talking to YOU, who may not know the first thing about Mexican music. I thought I’d go ahead and share all this info I compiled for Emily and Jay to get you interested.  It is just a bare introduction to the basics, sort of like introducing Frank Sinatra and Rosemary Clooney to people who don’t know anything about American music. Most of these people go way back. But look at the numbers of records sold by some of these singers! Prepare to be swept away in canciones muy románticas!

So here’s what I wrote to Emily

….Maria Grever’s name came up during an animated conversation about whether Buki or Juan Gabriel is the better poet/composer. So I had to google Buki (Marco Antonio Solis) because I’d never heard of him. The song of his the ladies were raving about was “Donde Estara Mi Primavera?” …..
Here’s more info:

Juan Gabriel is like a god in Mexico. The nation went into mourning last summer when he passed away. The link I’ve given takes you to Wikipedia.

Luis Miguel is another legend. He is not a poet or composer, but boy, does he deliver a song.

Jose Alfredo Jimenez is from the state of Guanajuato and his grave is in Dolores Hidalgo. Legendary composer.

Lola Beltran is definitely a woman worth mentioning. Iconic.

Lucha Villa  is another icon who is still living.

Amalia Mendoza I include, just to keep things even between men and women.

But they’re not. There are so many male singers that make my heartstrings flutter, including Alejandro Fernandez (son of Vicente Fernandez), Jose Jose, and I should also include Armando Manzanero, who I discovered when I was a student down here back in the sixties.

Think of it. I’m just putting Mexican musicians here. There are many Argentinian, Colombian, Peruvian, Spanish (I left out Puerto Rico!)….on and on artists that have huge followings. Though I think Mexico definitely leads the pack of Spanish language musicians — but I’m kind of biased these days. So many more. You could get lost in YouTube. It’s fun seeing the comments sections there. Evidently Mexican music has a huge following all over the world.

Important words to know: bolero, ranchero, canciones romanticas.

Also look on YouTube for “La Hija del Mariachi” which evidently was a Colombian telenovela based on Mexican ranchera songs. The clips available are enormously entertaining. Passion!!!

Other women singers that deliver Mexican songs: Linda Ronstadt, Vikki Carr, Eydie Gorme and Los Tres Panchos.”

That’s where I left off, thinking that would give them a good start on their Mexican music education. I know I’ve left a lot of important people out — composers like Augustin Lara and Mario Talavera (Chris Raymond lived on a street named for him.) I invite readers to share with me who I’ve missed. I’m always up for another late night Google session!

I don’t want to talk about it.

I’m expressing solidarity with Mexico, for the earthquake in Chiapas and Oaxaca. No word from U.S. government of support for their neighboring country down here to the south, but also no word of support for the red state of Montana which is going up in flames. No blame here — honest. So much stuff going on, words and more words just seem — noisy. As usual, it’s the actions of individuals that are most meaningful — heartfelt, responsive. They always speak more than words.
 
I have to admit a short, ironic laugh escaped me at Frank Koughan‘s cryptic Facebook post the other day: “Oops. Maybe we shouldn’t have opened that seventh seal.” But it made me go reread Revelation, and no I’m not going to pontificate like some evangelical, hellfire and brimstone preacher about the open-to-many-interpretations-and-has-anyone-ever-heard-of-metaphor words you can find there. What did catch my eye, though, was the verse at the beginning of Chapter 8: “And when he had opened the seventh seal there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.”
 
Really? Silence? That wouldn’t be hell. I would call that heaven! Just QUIET!
 
Now I happen to be one of those heaven-here-on-earth types — you know, taking Jesus literally when he said “the kingdom of heaven is within you?” Between you and me, my heaven-on-earth has been severely challenged recently, and I admit that probably most of it has been the noise in my own head about what/who I perceive “out there” on many fronts.
 
I need to keep reading, researching, listening, going deep. Praying. I’ve learned when I do that last one first, and above all, it comes to me how I can be most effective  — what practical steps to take that would be most helpful.
But I need mental quiet to do that, and if I’m railing or ranting or reacting, I’m not much good to anyone. I remember a story about Elijah going through earthquake, wind, and fire and being told God wasn’t it them, but in a still, small voice. That’s the voice I want to hear. 
OK, so shut up, monkey mind. Let me hear that QUIET. I know it’s there, right in the eye of the storm. It is a LOW pressure system, isn’t it? Sort of the opposite of the high pressure stuff we’ve been assaulted with? Is there metaphor there? Don’t know.
Listening.
And this comes: A Fresh Air interview Terry Gross did with someone in the week following 9/11. It was a woman who was on the 98th floor of the first tower when the jet crashed through the window of the office she was working in. Her assessment of the experience has stayed with me all these years, and I quote as I remember it: “It wasn’t until the next day that I realized how horrible it was,” she said, “when I saw it on television.” (These are mine: !!)
She continued: “But in that moment, in all the chaos, all I was conscious of was the great love of those around me. We were checking on each other, caring for each other. Everyone was so calm. That’s what I remember most.”
That’s a first hand perspective from the middle of disaster. I think it’s worth contemplating — quietly.  Shh. Just think about it.
One more Bible quote, this one from Isaiah, who usually has a lot of words of comfort —
“For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength:”

Confronting where I’ve been.

I’ve been thinking about this panel discussion on healing which I’ve been invited to participate in tomorrow at St. Paul’s in San Miguel. I’m billed as a former Christian Science practitioner, a profession/denomination usually referred to as “those people who don’t go to doctors.” Right. I didn’t. Then I did. Now not so much anymore. It’s ironic that sometimes your credibility increases when you’ve failed spectacularly at something. One question I’ve been asking myself these past few days is “When was I healed of being a racist?” And “Am I well and truly healed?”

It’s time to speak about this. I hope I can do it with compassion for myself, for my parents (who are both gone), and for anyone who happens to read this. The events of the past few days, particularly the words and actions of the “leader of the free world,” have evoked a visceral reaction in me that I’ve been loathe to voice, mainly because I look at those tiki-torch bearers, and think “There but for the grace of God…”

I’m not going to say “go I,” because if you notice, they were all men carrying those torches. Now that’s a whole other riff, but not one I’m going to pursue at this moment. For now I’m sticking with blatant racism. I would dearly love to see some healing take place along these lines. I speak as one who has been in that fire.

I like to think that when push came to shove, my father and brother and uncles would not have been in such a crowd. But let’s just say that sweeping racial generalizations and stereotypical judgments were pretty standard fare in our house. Dad and Mom were ardent Goldwater supporters, and in 1967, (this is so difficult) Dad was the local poll representative for George Wallace’s American Independent Party.

There. I’ve said it. But I need to say more, because at the time I thought my Daddy was the smartest man in the world and if anyone thought differently, I at least didn’t hear them voice what needed to be said then and needs to be — no, must be said now. Dad was wrong, wrong, wrong. And my mother was wrong when she questioned President Obama’s birth certificate, and when she said Michelle didn’t “look like” a first lady.

I loved these people. They loved me and I believe on the whole they raised me well. Many would say I don’t need to say these things about them now, raking up the rotten and exposing the yuck. But if there’s anything I’ve learned in these last few years of studying history on sight, it’s that the most important stories, the ones that most affect the course of countries and of the world, are seldom written down.

My purpose in writing this story down now is that I know from my own experience, that racism can be healed. I hope I stand as living proof. I have to admit that even as I write this, a nagging inside voice says “Don’t be a Pollyanna. We’re not going to get through this by joining hands and singing Cum By Ya.” (or however you spell it.) But my higher self asks me to consider the alternative: As a people, the American people, we need to hold to the fact that healing does happen — even when confronted with all those young white male fire-lit faces in Charlottesville. Racism has to be recognized, called out and condemned as evil. That’s where Number 45 has failed so miserably. But despite what anyone else does or doesn’t do, we ourselves can make an effort to follow the Jesus-example. He cast out the demons, and healed the individuals. He didn’t fight fire with more fire or fury. He snuffed out insanity with his unconditional love and moral authority.

So in this healing process, I have to start work with myself and my history. I have to recognize where I’ve been, how far I’ve come, and acknowledge how far I have to go. I have to cherish every honest human heart, even though that heart is misdirected, misguided and mistaken. That goes especially for my own. We human beings are always works in progress.

My parents did raise me to “seek truth righteously,” even if in retrospect there was a lot more self-righteousness in their manner of seeking than any of us recognized at the time. But because of this innate love of truth, the opinions I so passionately parroted in junior high and high school quickly became cringe-worthy and repugnant when I was actually exposed to and engaged with people of color in college and in the workplace. I trust, I hope, and I pray that Mom and Dad have moved on in their life-after-life experience like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. In the meantime, on this side, I will continue with deeper attention to the prayer I learned in the Sunday School they sent me to, Mary Baker Eddy’s “daily prayer:”

“Thy kingdom come.”
Let the reign of divine Truth, Life and Love be established in me,
And rule out of me all sin.
And may Thy word enrich the affections of all mankind,
And govern them.

Gratitude Part Deux

having a birthday 2

Well, it’s pretty easy to be grateful when you’ve got Facebook Friends by the minute wishing you a happy birthday, and memories like this one from last year cropping up. (As I post this, I realize I’m wearing the exact same shirt today as I did one year ago, so I’ll start out by saying I’m grateful I still (choose one) a) like my clothes, b) fit in my clothes. Oh, heck. I’ll choose both.

This was taken in France in the company of a group of remarkable women and a few fine men. Many of you know that I’ve been traveling these past five years on the trail of early Christian history in Europe. Travels have taken me to Turkey, Spain, England and France. Especially France. Such special stories from France, all ultimately centered around Mary Magdalene. For those of you who are not familiar with Mary Magdalene’s history and presence in France, maybe if I say “Madeleine” instead, the pieces may fall into place. Yep, that wonderful church in Paris where all the fashionable weddings take place. Yep, that cockle-shelled cookie the crumbling of which launched Marcel Proust  on his 3,000 page epic A La Recherché Du Temps Perdu — Remembrance of Things Past. Why am I “mansplaining?” You people have read The DaVinci Code. But before that, there was Margaret Starbird and her Woman with the Alabaster Jar, as well as all the research done by Kathleen McGowan which resulted in her bestselling Magdalene series of historical novels. (Kathleen is who I’ve been traveling with this summer and the two prior.) My point is, Marie Madeleine, Mary Magdalene, Maria Magdalena, is in the spiritual DNA of southern France and much of Western Europe.

I’m going to be writing more about Mary Magdalene, a lot more. Turns out she’s in my spiritual DNA, as well. I first encountered her in the Christian Science Sunday School where every Easter Sunday I could look forward to a new scratchy petticoat and singing one of my favorite hymns. The first verse goes:

What brightness dawned in resurrection/And shown in Mary’s wondering eyes?               Her heart was thrilled with new affection/She saw her Lord in Life arise.

I liked that idea of light reflecting back out of a woman’s “wondering eyes.” There was a lot I had started “wondering” about, myself. Still wondering, if truth be told.

My birthday misses her Feast Day (tomorrow) by just one day. It was funny, or “coincidental” (you know what they say about that word…) that out of that group of around forty people, there were four of us with birthdays on July 21, and three with birthdays on July 22. We each got a cupcake with a candle. Kind of sweet and special.

So winding up this edition of my gratitude journal, I’m grateful that my husband wanted to do something special for me this evening, and I’m grateful I had the courage to say what I really, really want: order in pizza, early into jammies, and a night of binge-watching Outlander. (I know! I know! But I’ve just found it!). I’m grateful I love my life and my husband so much I just want it to go on and on like this. Blessings on your day!