Technology and Faith

When I went to England, I had to see Canterbury cathedral, mostly because of Chaucer’s Tales.

That night I shut my eyes that night I felt myself flying through the arches up and up and up. I was freed from gravity by those layers of rock sending me to heaven.

But it took time to make those arches. It took trial and error and it took donations from a lot of poor people over generations. I just picked up Ken Follet’s Pillars of the Earth where he talks about the time of cathedral building.

It was science and blood and dirt, and it was faith and spirit. That is powerful stuff.

One of the glorious things of these cathedrals is how many people came. The church was open to everyone. And it was so beautiful!

I try to create beauty with my home, and I’ve been able over time to make it a bit nicer.

But the cathedral is the most beautiful and it is for everyone.

Everywhere I looked was crafted and beautiful: centuries of planning and singlemindedness.

My church does not look like Canterbury. But it too is beautiful. It does not have Gothic arches and flying buttresses, which were the science of their day.

We have stained glass windows for inspiration and loveliness.

We have a sound system with wireless mics, and we have WIFI.

These technologies were not invented for churches like flying buttresses were. But we use them because of the faith we have and to spread love and peace.

Right now, we are not using the church or the wireless mics. We are shut down, doors locked. But we are not oppressed, we just can’t come together in the church.

We can still use technology to spread peace and love and talk about our faith.

Tom, the mason in Pillars of the Earth, in the very first chapter, talks about how he learned to improve his craft and make the pillars even straighter and smoother because cathedrals were special

I am seeing faith leaders from all over coming to terms with my technology. 20+ years in this industry and faith is finding a new way to stretch this remote communication.

Because they believe in what they must share. And this technology—which is awkward and foreign—is being formed into art with their handling.

Just like the cathedral. Art, engineering, blood and faith.

Time for accomodations

Time hung spinning in the now with nowhere to land.
-The Russian American School of Tomorrow

I never miss a meeting for work. I am obsessively careful with time, not letting even casual phone calls go too long. There was an order to things.

There is no order now. It’s a joke “what day is it?” There is nothing to make our days different.

At least when I had my job, I had some flashing signs to direct my traffic.

There is no one waiting for me to show up and go through an agenda. Now it is just me.

But I’ve been here all along.

For 9 years, I had a job with a vehicle. It was shared, but I was officially the one who drove it most.

I did not set the radio buttons to my stations on that car for years. It didn’t feel like I was allowed to.

I remember that car now. This has been my life all along, and yet I have not set my presets.

My inbox piles up and I don’t clean it out. It’s just me. And maybe all those mass mailings will give me just what I need.

Can’t throw it away. You never know.

My fairy godmother could be in one of those.

I got nothing on my calendar anymore. But I have a ton of things I want to do.

But if it’s only me, I’ll stand myself up every time.

My urgency and drive look elsewhere.

I’m trying, but this shelter-at-home situation makes it hard on everyone. That reminded me of the quote from my book, when we crossed the international date line and had no idea what day or time it was.

But I want to do stuff. I am doing stuff, just not at the same rigidity.

And here is the example. This Weekly Wonder was not ready. I was going to write it, like I always do. But things. And stuff

Got in the way. Things that were supposed to happen did, and stuff that was supposed to be shorter was longer and the staging of the piece didn’t happen.

I am still committed to creating my writing. I am still very grateful to my readers. But I’ve become unstuck in time. And I am willing that my self-imposed deadline be flexible this time.

I am making accommodations but still keeping the vision. This is my life. I get to life in it. I will make it more my own, but apparently it takes some time.

When It’s Dark

I had to get out and be by myself. This is a whole lot of togetherness. I wanted my thoughts to myself.

I grabbed my headphones and went for a walk.  I picked a sad soulful song, and as I walked I felt so free I sang out loud.

Like it was my first time and I didn’t know that I was out loud and in a wobbly key.

This time I did know, but I was glad to be alone.

Walking past all my neighbors’ backyard fences I wondered if I was actually alone. My voice could carry into their backyards.

I was okay with that.

It was worth it to me.

This shelter in place situation is asking me to learn a new way of being. Learn to get along with my housemates/family in new ways. New coping tools to get through the day.

And revive old coping tools.

I remember my cassette Walkman as a teenager. I remember learning what it meant to sing with the headphones in my ears. Embarrassing! I did not sound as good as I though. I learned not to sing out loud.

But today, why not?

This was a good song, and I could sing! Even if someone MIGHT hear me.

I could dance, even though people can see me.

This house arrest is not the boss of me. I am not going to play small. I get to choose.

I’m not hurting anybody with my steps. That’s what I came here for, to clear up my mind.

To remember who I am and what I love.

I haven’t lived through a pandemic before. But to borrow a phrase, I’ve had apocalypse-adjacent experiences. Remember the nuclear war that never happened?

This is happening, and I am willing to be messy while I am living through it. I want to be messy in the right direction.

Be messy more as my truest happiest self.

And that involves singing and dancing while loving and hiding from my family.

That’s me choosing life. Let there be light.

Arranging the pieces

He was arranging the pieces into words, but he could never quite manage to make the word he wanted

            The Snow Queen, by Hans Christian Andersen

We put a puzzle together last week. Not so many pieces, but at last she was ready. She’d never been patient enough for puzzles before. But now we are ready to try anything to pass the time.

So much time.

There would not have been so much time if I hadn’t lost my job. My job took a lot of time. But now we have even more time.


And we need a new puzzle. I asked around and a friend gave me one she had finished.

The magic cannot be invoked twice. It must be passed on.

This new puzzle magic was bigger though. We started it like the last one, on the kitchen table, handling the pieces and familiarizing ourselves.

It was not long before I recognized a problem. This was not a quick puzzle. We would need this table to eat from before the puzzle was done.

It had to be moved to another surface. We brought in side tables and this took some of the joy out. Still, we had made progress–we’d found all the corner pieces.

So the puzzle work was set aside in another room for later.

And later came sooner than I thought. That very night I work up in the dark. Hours passed. Sleep would not return.

But when the horizon turned light, I turned to the puzzle. 

Through the fog and the tired, I tried to arrange these pieces. My thoughts, my future, my goals, my life and I just found the corner of that book.  But where is the mouse right next to the corner?

I was sure we had lost pieces in the transfer. And in my sleepless fog I was sure I was missing pieces on the plan for the future, and the plan for the present which sure should have been better than trying to put together a cat puzzle alone.

Putting the puzzle together was not hard. I could do it. And maybe I could come up with a plan for the rest.

I remembered the story of the Snow Queen, one of the darkest scenes when the magic-deceived boy Kay is left by the wicked snow queen to put the pieces of the ice puzzle together. The wicked queen has left him to die of cold, but he is determined to put the pieces together. His faithful friend saves him from the impossible deadly task.

Oh there is the mouse, finally! I really thought I had lost the piece. I am not Kay. And even Kay was rescued.

This will come together. Yes, I may have lost a piece in all the moving, which will be sad. It will still be okay. Order will come out of chaos, with time and attention and a whole lot of little actions.

What the Elephant thought

Babs the elephant reached down into the lovely dust with her trunk and whisked it up her side. Her mother was next to her, having shown her this spot when she was a child.Dust baths made the elephants feel like she should.

“You weren’t there,” Barbara said to her mom. “They were gentle and kind.”

The matriarch threw a big trunkful of dust on her back. “There is no such thing. You have not seen what I’ve seen.”

Babs loved her mother and respected her wisdom. But there was something about the six shuffling men that touched her. They did touch herbody, but also they touched her heart.

Mother flipped the dust up to her forehead and let it flow over her broad face. “I’ve seen the graveyard of the elephants: tusks torn out and whole bodies left. This was man’s doing! You cannot trust them.” Her sides rippled in revulsion at the memory. To comfort herself she threw more dust on her side.

Babs knew of this memory. Her mother had a suspicion of men from long ago, and told her often she should feel the same way. She had not seen the elephant graveyard but it sounded horrible.Did the men really kill elephants this way?

Not all of them did, surely. 

“Mother, these men were not killers.” She flapped her ears and the dust settled nicely behind them. “They wanted to know me. They separated and surrounded me. Each one touched me, carefully and then more insistently. They meant no harm.”

She was honored by their attention. They were so small and frail. And still, they wanted to know more about her. One of them caressed her trunk, while the other investigated her tail. They each had a focus and took the time to touch her intently.

Men walking were so funny: upright like birds, but without wings to balance them. How did they do it?

“Mother, they came not to hurt me, but to find out more. They were kind.”

Mother huffed. “In their hearts, they are killers.”

Babs swished her tail. She thought about the men who must have killed the elephants her mother saw. Who were they? What was in their hearts? 

Then she thought of the gentle probing hands of the slow shuffling men. Their hearts had something other than killing. They seemed interested in knowing her.

“Mother, perhaps we just don’t know the men well enough. I cannot say what is in their hearts. We should meet more men and then we could really know what they are all about.”

Mother threw dust on her head. She threw dust on her belly. Then, as she tossed dust onto her back, she said, “I am willing to learn more about what men are.”

Babs flapped her ears with pleasure. “The world is big and you are very wise, Mother. I want to learn too.”

Sap Rising

I can see snow on the mountains. It is far away. Snow has never piled up on my land, like it did when I was a kid.

Easter has just passed, the time of resurrection and spring. Some parts of the world are still covered in snow when Easter happens.

I have seen those places pick pussy willows for Easter.

That was not my Easter tradition, but watching pussy willows come out was definitely a spring tradition.

Winter is long and cold. The snow stays long past being fun and I could wonder when it would thaw out. I walked through the woods every day, walking through paths I’d already tramped through the snow. It looked the same as ever.

Until

Tiny fur buds popped along the willow switches. Willows were not even trees, only thin wands. Thin tight bumps with silver kitten toes–I would pet the fur when I saw it.

Did this mean the snow would melt?

What did this baby tree know? My breath blew white and this branch was growing.

It didn’t always mean the snow would melt. The pussy willow would emerge, and the cold would return.

The branches would go dormant again. This might happen a few times.

Those willows sprouted whenever the sap started to move. And it was eager to move. They had growing to do!

Eventually they would prevail. If the cold was finally gone, the pussy toes would get bigger, spraying out into a fluffy pollen spray. Leaves were right behind.

I think of them now, not just because it is spring. I think of their eagerness to get out. And how they would push out even before it was fully safe to do it.

I love their pioneer courage. Rush the gates! Even if thrown back it’s worth the attempt.

And it’s only a plant.

I am stuck waiting.

Waiting.

Waiting.

But I know the sap will run again. I’m ready for it.

There be Monsters

Old maps recorded as much as they knew. After they reached the end of their knowledge, they drew sea monsters.

The unknown is dangerous. It’s scary and should not be messed with.

And yet we know we must. Every day is filled with possibilities, and we don’t know what will happen.

On a good day, that’s really exciting and wonderful.

On a bad day, it’s terrifying.

What is going to happen today? 

In the world of pandemic today, a whole lot of us know what is going to happen. I am going to stay home. I will take a walk and not breathe the air of anyone but my family.

How boring.

How stressful.

I don’t know what will happen.

When will this stay-at-home thing be lifted? What will this disease do? And what will happen to the world because of our measures? What businesses and what people will be left?

I don’t know. No one knows yet.

In my job, I have to take high-powered executives through the process of a project. Something they want done needs to go through the process from start to finish. And always always there is a snag along the way. Something that we didn’t expect.

It’s my job to take that unknown and wrestle it into the plan. But while it is still unknown I have to talk to all the people working on it. The high-powered execs want to know “What is going on and will you fix it?”

I have to make the unknown look small and fixable. Mostly this is done in two ways:

Review what has already been successfully completed

Pick the very next task to work on

I spend a lot of time and energy on this for my customers at work. I am resolving to do it for myself too. I don’t have to do all of it today. Just the next thing. Look how I’ve already come so far!

unexpected

Road trip! Suzanne and packed a tent and our sleeping bags and headed off to the Grand Canyon. Like so many things she’d already been there. This was my first time.

We had our road music and drove and drove through the bare desert. We turned off into the national park, still sandy rock and pine trees. We got out and walked the little insignificant trail.

And then I saw it. A very big hole in the ground. Breath- taking. I was rooted at the sight.

At the camp that night, I said, “There was no warning. Mountains, you see from far away. But a canyon? Nothing nothing nothing all the way up to the end and THEN! Everything is different.”

I could not see that I would be trapped voluntarily at home. I did not know that my whole family would lock ourselves away from other people and develop strategies to avoid the air of other people for as long as possible.

I did not see that coming.

Very few of us did. So the grocery stores are picked clean like a swarm of locust. No toilet paper, bread, bananas, milk or eggs.

During Soviet Russia, at least they had bread.

None of the other things. In 1992, I made it my job to walk to every single store in town to see what they might have and make sure we got what we needed. Usually in 40 below weather.

The shelves were bare. I never did find toilet paper or baking soda. Not the whole year.

Walking through the stores now grips my lungs with the memory of those uncertain times with the reality of these new times.

My family–husband daughter dog and cat–are staying home. For a month at least. Today was the first day of no school. Day one of 30.

And it is raining. Spring is the rainy season.

Rain means life. Blessing. Especially in our dry county.

Growth and new life are all around.

My tree has tight buds. Perhaps the leaves and the people will burst forth together.

Some things you don’t see coming.

Women

Last Sunday was International Women’s Day, one of my favorite holidays. It’s such an easy thing to celebrate. Of course! What took us so long to come up with this holiday?

Places with a history of communism celebrate this with pleasure. Many other places celebrate it with guilt.

Google had a doodle for it. A circular parade of paper dolls in what appeared to be women in the costumes of different professions.

I”ve been looking forward to this woman’s day, 2020, since it marks the 100th year anniversary of American women getting the vote (most of them, anyway). And I’ve been reading a lot of feminist literature.

That’s a lot to think about.

One of the books pointed out that women think in terms of relationship. How will policies and personal decisions affect those around us?

And I realize what bothers me about that google doodle. They are not in relationship with each other.

As a woman, I think of myself in relationship to others all of the time. A mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter a friend.

I have a lot of connections, and they pull me and I pull them.

Equality is a small part of the story. An important part, but nowhere near the whole picture.

In the creation of a person, which we women do, and in the creation of a society, which we all do, there are a lot of components. There are an incalculable number of compromising, giving and takings, sacrifices and demands.

It impossible to keep track of it all.

These books have convinced me to take better care of myself in these interactions. To fight for myself as much as I would for my family. To require an equal partnership moment by moment and to speak out when I am blocked or hampered.

What give me courage to do that is that I am not doing it only for myslef. In woman-fashion, when I speak up and demand I am doing it for everyone.

Better all the time

He did set his lower lip when he played the bass. His daughter pointed it out to me. We had been friends for a long time. She was one of the few friends I could trust.

Thing is, most of the time I didn’t see him. He was playing the bass behind in the seat behind me as I played the piano.

He had a band, and he played really well. He played at home, with an amp and a guitar out in the living room. He was the real thing.

Sometimes I would get to go to some of his band’s performances. They played Christian music, of course. But I loved it. I loved being near the performance, done by people I knew. Impossibly cool.

He encouraged me, and told me how to be in a music team–that is what it was called when we played the songs at church. But it was kind of a band. And I was the lead instrument.

That’s what he said.

I wanted that to be true. And it was true, when we all played together. I wanted to be a real musician, but I had no idea what that was. I’d taught myself how to play, and even though he said I was the lead instrument I was sure that I was secretly deficient in all kinds of ways. As if I had huge hole in the back of my pants but could never quite see it.

I practiced, all alone, learning what I could on the Casio keyboard I’d bought from Costco. I was alone and ashamed, but I did all I could.

I asked him, the one who knew, “Is this how it works? That I will get to a certain level as a musician, and then I’ll stay there? That I’ll be set?”

He cocked his head, trying to understand my point of view. Then he shook his head decisively. “No, you keep getting better.”

“You do?”

“Sure. I practice, and I think I’m better than I was last month. I know I’m better than I was a few years ago.”

I looked at him, wanting it to be true. Wanting there to be something I could be good at and get better and better. To have something in my future that I could count on and look forward to.

I trusted him. He was a full-on grown up. And he said I was good. Probably he was saying it to be nice, but when we all played together, it did sound good.

But then things happened and we didn’t play together anymore.  And I became a grown up and I didn’t play much anymore. Life has a way of catching up with all my time.

This year, I decided I had to do something creative. I had to make time. I wanted to write more. I also gave myself permission to buy a new keyboard.

And it was there. In a way that writing was not. I remembered how to play the keys. The way I had learned to play never left me, and I could play something new every single time.

It was right there. Practically where I left it.

And I remembered. I thought about Bill and his bass. I wondered if I could find people to jam with. Maybe I could find a band.

Somewhere between the chord changes, I thought maybe someday I’d get to play with him again. That would be incredible! I’d kept in touch with his daughter. It felt good to imagine that bass behind whatever progression I was working out.

Then I heard the news. Bill’s heart gave out.  It’s done.

I owe him. I owe him big. I wish I could tell him.

He made room in his life for creation, for music and performance. I didn’t know then how hard that could be for grownups.

I want to get better. I know I’ll remember him as I do.