Friday, September 30, 2011

A Necklace of Sunbeams

As anyone who knows me intimately can tell you, I have a tendency to stop suddenly when walking to look at something that has caught my interest, and to stand and enjoy it for at least a few seconds, if not longer. For example, I stop to smell the beautiful pink roses that grow on temple hill every time we walk up to the temple. Every Thursday. EVERY time. Fortunately, I happen to have kind and tolerant temple buddies who permit my slight exentricities without complaint.

I did this the other day - this stopping and enjoying, not smelling roses - and ended up seeing something I wish to share with you. I was walking up to campus to go to class when I simply halted, surely startling everyone behind and around me, all of whom were trying to be punctual and hurry along their way. I honestly didn't pay them a second thought, so awestruck was I by the evergreen bushes.

Not the bushes exactly - but what was on them. Strung across the needled limbs were several swaths of spiderwebs, and each strand of each web was adorned with dozens of drops of fresh morning dew, all glittering in the newly-risen sun. I've never seen diamonds so flawless or pearls so bright as were those little dew drops. I stood and gazed for some time, an image materializing in my mind of a richly robed Queen Titania dancing in a moonlit forest, a necklace of fine spiderweb and sunbeams captured inside tiny dewdrops draped about her neck.

"Consider the lilies of the field. They toil not, niether do they spin, yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."

The Savior said those words to His disciples, reminding them that the Lord would provide for them. I've always loved this verse of scripture, because it really is true - humans simply are inferior when it comes to beautiful rainment. All our toiling and spinning and refining and dying and styling and perfecting won't amount to anything nearly so beautiful as Nature and God can create. I could appear to the world wearing all the silks of the orient and all the perfumes of Arabia and all the jewels in Christendom - and still I would not be arrayed with such beauty and perfection as can be found in a single sunset or blushing rose.

I don't think I should like all the silks and jewels anyway. No, I would much rather be seen with a freshness of life, and a bloom of youth, and a blush of health - the beauties Nature has given me.

And perhaps, someday, with a necklace of sunbeams.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

One Voice

As some of you may know, for some time now I have had the opportunity to learn sign language, both here at the Y and back in high school. It has set me thinking a good deal lately about communication - and so I share with you those wonderings.

One often hears person-to-person communication difficulties referenced by a specific name: the Language Barrier. It occurs when two people are attempting to talk and neither understands very much (or anything at all) of what the other person is trying say. These two people could stand there and yell the words in each others faces until the cows come home, and still neither would have the least idea what the other was trying to communicate.

I don't particularly like that phrase. It seems to me that if it's simply a matter of two people not understanding one another, I've seen enough couples (married and not) dealing with that problem who aren't speaking different languages at all. And as for those of us who do speak different languages, there's a special kind of Magic there that can make those barriers turn trasparent, as though they had never been at all.

That Magic, I believe, is what most people would call Humanity - those thing that make us people know matter who we are. There are ideas and beliefs and hopes and griefs and dreams and sorrows and loves that simply cannot be stopped by the Language barrier. They go straight through, and bring some of the rest of the thoughts and feelings in behind that we couldn't communicate before.

I can sign with a Deaf person - even from another country - who doesn't speak a word of my first language, and we can discover commonalities between ourselves we wouldn't have known otherwise. I can share a smile with someone in Italy or China or Finland, and there will be no question as to what it means. I can I can stand beneath the Weeping Rock at Zions or on the highest point of a mountain top, surrounded by people from countries all around the world, speaking all kinds of tongues beyond my understanding - but we can stand side by side, looking at the marvels of nature, and wonder together.

I had a really neat experience with this a couple days ago. There is a girl in my ward who hails from South America, a first-language Spanish speaker. She speaks very good English, but when we gather for ward choir to sing what I consider to be a well-known hymn, she sometimes has trouble putting it into the English words instead of the Spanish she is familiar with. She has a remarkable ear for notes and tone, and in fact has never learned to read music, relying upon simply hearing the notes to learn them. I, on the other hand, speak fluent English and not a word of Spanish, and can hardly pick out anything aside from the melody without music in front of my face.

We got to talking about our favorite songs. She said that she had been Primary Music Director back in her home stake, and there was one song that she had always loved. "What is it?" I asked. She did not know the title in Spanish, so she began to sing it:

Yo siento su amor
En la naturaleza
Amore del Salvador
Que en ti bia el corazon...

After the first line, I took up the tune as well:

I feel my Savior's love
In all the world around me
His spirit warms my soul
Through everything I see....

And then together:

Yo siempre lo seguire
Mi vida le dare...

He knows I will follow him
Give all my life to him...

Pues siento Su amor
Que me infunde calma.

I feel my Savior's love
The love he freely gives me.

I can't accurately show you what it felt like in words, but it was easily one of the most beautiful moments I have ever experienced - two women, two voices, singing in unison, each in her native tongue, praising the Savior together. It reminded me that Heavenly Father hears us all, no matter what language we sing or speak or pray in. Joan of Arc was accused of heresy for saying as much - no one would believe her when she claimed that when the Lord spoke to her, He spoke not in Latin but in French, her native tongue. He hears all languages and understands every one - none is better than another.

This a beautiful kind of Magic all its own, which is at anyone's fingertips - anyone with an open heart and a willing mind. Anyone can do it, and the world desperately needs it.It's called Love, and Patience, and Understanding, and Peace and Tolerance and Friendship - or, in other words, pure undefiled Humanity. And if used at its best, it is the kind of magic that will approach any barrier - language, culture, or otherwise - and make it vanish for good.

'Til next time...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Another Begining

Today is a marvelous day. It happens to be the day that the first Kit Carson movie debuted in the good old USA. It is also the anniversary of the publication of one of my favorite books - J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit." It is the day, over two centuries ago, when Benedict Arnold commited high treason against the American Continental Army. It is one of the last days of true summer, but two days shy of the Vernal Equinox - one of only two days in the year on which there is equal darkness and light from daybreak 'til nightfall. And it just so happens to be the one year anniversary of Everyday Magic.

Happy Birthday!!! Cake and confetti all around! Trumpet fanfares and a rousing chorus! Blow out the candles! Make a wish!

Just kidding. We could wait from now until next millenia for this blog to blow out a birthday candle and it wouldn't happen. Naturally - technology being what it is, one can't expect much better. However, everyone should feel free to make wishes... as many as you please.


And so we begin again. Once more, Autumn is upon us - with the color of leaves, and the sweet ripe peaches fat with juice, the crisp mornings and warm afternoons... A year of seasons past, and here we stand, watching Autumn make its entrance on nature's stage once again. One beautiful, wonderful, magical year later - and here I am.

The Magic is still here, too - it always is. Just the other day I walked through a lawn sprinkler on purpose, even in my school clothes, just to feel the cool mist on my sun warmed skin. I went out and sang in the rain one night, bare feet and all. Twice I have gone out to greet the sun as it climbs over the summit of the mountians and off into the sky, feeling its new warmth embrace me with the brightness of a new day. There are still peaches to sink your teeth into that will make your whole face sticky, and songs that you dance to until you can't possibly take another step, and stars to gaze up at and wonder. There are people who bring comfort in grief, cheer in sadness, companionship in lonliness. There are moments to smile, moments to cry, and moments to laugh until you feel your chest will burst. The small pleasures, the little graces, the tender mercies - the Magic - it's still there. It's always there - no matter how many years may pass.

This is me. Or rather, this is my blog. We are still carrying on, taking the weeks and the days and the hours as they come. I am still seeking the wonder and magic in the world, because no matter how many blog posts I write or prayers of thanksgiving I offer, there is always another treasure to be found. Autumn has come, Winter will follow, and Spring and Summer again... I cannot wait to see them all, and to share them with you once more.

Thank you to those who have read these musing and ramblings and wishes for so long. Thank you for a year of dedication and love. You truly are a Magic all your own.

'Til next time, my friends - and here's to another wonderful year to come.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Wise Servant's Talent

During His ministry on the earth, Jesus Christ told a parable about a master who has three servants. The master was about to go on a journey, but before he left he gave each of his servants a few pieces of money called talents - to the first servant he gave five, to the second, three, and to the last, only one. He told them to use their talents wisely, then left. The first servant, through trade and hard work, was able to make his five talents into ten. The second did the same and was able to make his three talents into six. The third servant was afraid he might lose his one talent, so he burried it where no one could take it away. When the master returned, he called his servants forth and asked them what they had done with their talents. The first and second showed how they had doubled their original allotment, and the third brought his one coin, dug up afresh. The master commended the first two servants, saying, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant. As thou has been faithful over a few things, I shall make thee ruler over many things. Enter thou into the joy of thy lord." The unfaithful servant had his one talent taken away and was cast out, for he had not used faithfully that which was given him.

I am not going to give you a gospel discourse, as much as I do enjoy gospel doctrine. However, with the way my life has gone lately, this story now has a special significance for me that I would like to share with you. You are no doubt fully aware of the similarity between the financial incrament "talent," and the word "talent" we use in our English vocabulary today. When I was a child, I thought the similitude was a coincidence. "Wow - that's cool. They use a word like ours!" I didn't figure it out until later that the similarity is meant and intentional.

You probably already know all of that as well. However, there is something particular that interested me last time. The foolish servant wasn't reprimanded for having few talents. He received his rebuke because he hadn't made more of what he had been given. He would have received the same words if he had been given five talents, or ten, or twenty. It wasn't a matter of a small number - it was a matter of slothfulness, and of not making more of oneself. Likewise, the wise servant was praised not for having many talents, but for having made more of what he was given. The praise and honor would have been the same if it had been twenty talents or two. This is evident to me in the fact that the servant with four talents received the same reward as he who had five.

Very few people in this world are exceptionally talented, and even fewer are truly gifted. The other ninety five percent of us have to get along in the world with fewer talents. We all have some given to us, but most of the world less than others. But the ammount is not what is important. In the end it isn't a matter of how many talents we had. It isn't even a matter of perfecting the ones we were given, because as mere mortals there's only so refined as we can get it. The point is that we worked to keep the talents we had, and to make more of them than the original allotment we were given. Even if the improvement is a small one, and even if some of those talents end up being flowers "born to blush unseen," it all counts. The improvement is there. More is returned than what was given, you and others have grown in the process, and the Master is well pleased.

That is what I want more than anything in the world - for the Master to be well pleased in me. My largest efforts may reap smaller results than others achieve in this life, but that is not the objective. If my talents are improved and built upon, and I am able to return more than I was given, that is all that matters. Exceptionality isn't the point. The point is being the best I can be, whether or not my talents are small.

And that is something the Master can be pleased with in the end.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

In Their Honor

In remembrance of those who perished in the attacks of September 11, 2001, and all their sacrifice stands for to us, the people of the United States.

I was but nine years old. I didn't listen to the news, or read the papers. I didn't know.

My father was about to drive away to work. He paused at the foot of the driveway and called me to him from where I stood waving on the porch. He wasn't cheerful anymore. He told me to run inside and tell my mother to turn on the radio. I did, confused. My mother seemed confused as well. She turned on the radio. I don't remember if I heard what was being said, but I cannot forget the way her face changed as she listened. I remember the shock I felt when I saw the shock on her expression.

When I got to school, we were all confused. My teacher kept calm, and her presence of mind caught on to her students. She gathered us in a corner and explained in the gentlest yet most truthful of terms what had happened that morning. I have been told that the footage played on the televisions at school. I don't remember. The first time I remember seeing it was when I came home. My father had come home early - an extremely unsusal proceeding - and was watching the news downstairs. I joined him on the couch and watched, too. Over and over and over again the clip was played - the airplanes crashing into the towers, catching on fire, demolishing the face of the building, sending up smoke clouds, taking lives, over and over and over again. I was frightened by what I was seeing and because I could feel that my parents were frightened. I began to cry. My father turned off the TV.

We prayed for them often after that - the people who had died, and their families. For a time, Terror and Tension remained present, showing their faces occasionally in memories and news reports. But soon Peace came again. The attacks were over. We were safe. We need not feel fear anymore.

However, that was only in the mind of a ten year old. Across the country, the smoldering remains of what had once been the Word Trade Center stood witness to the impact of what had occured. Hundreds of grieving families had not yet felt that peace, and would not for a long time to come. Leaders of the nation were congregating, Fear and Insecurity and Indecision keeping their company, though no one would address their presence. Fear, though subtle as a shadow, continued to reign.

Then war began. Though peace might have come to a naive ten year old, there was contention abroad. In a far away country, there was pain and punishment. There were wrongs committed by many, so that it was hard to tell anymore who was the victim and who the attacker. Fear reigned unveiled there, along with new accomplices - Death and War and Poverty and Ignorance and Suffering, each playing its own part.

Since that fateful day, and the fateful events that followed after, there are pieces of Fear that never have left. We search for them in security lines, interrogate them in our war prisons, and keep them controlled in our laws. Sometimes Fear shows itself again in small attacks and smaller attempts - but on the whole it has been banished.

It is not time, however, that has rid the country of its temporary tyrant. It was something else that was reborn along with Fear the day the twin towers fell. Courage - pure, patriotic, undying Courage. It took Courage for those on the unsuccessful flight to give the call "Let's roll!" and go to work to protect the innocent. It took Courage for those firefighters and brave citizens who endured the smoke and blaze of the towers to preserve as many lives as possible. It took Courage for the families of the fallen to pick up the pieces and move forward, having faith in a new day waiting on the horizon. And Courage has given birth to beautiful offspring - precious Hope and stalwart Loyalty, fair Compassion and constant Faith. They in turn have carried Prayer and Charity and Love and Strength upon their wake. America took Courage, and in doing so made itself a little more perfect.

All our gratitude for those who perished on September 11, for the brave souls who fought the good fight that day, for the loved ones who have shown our country what sacrifice means, and for those courages service men who rose to our defense and fight for us even now. My gratitude to those who knew that September 11 wasn't the end, who believed in healing and brighter tomorrows, and who helped to make it happen. All of these and more have done something to America that nothing else could have done - truly giving this nation a New Birth of Freedom.

Let us not soil the name that has been made, nor lose hope for what we have. America proved to herself ten years ago that she can endure whatever the powers of earth may send - and she can do it again. Courage, my friends - and Faith, and Hope, and Dedication. Following in the footsteps of those who fell there, and standing in the paths that they who fought there so nobly advanced, there will be nothing we cannot accomplish. A new tomorrow waits for us just beyond the dawning horizon. Let us go, one nation under God, and find it together.

God bless America - and God bless her people. Onward, my friends - onward.