Solitude

When from our better selves we have too long
Been parted by the hurrying world, and droop,
Sick of its business, of its pleasures tired,
How gracious, how benign is Solitude!  

—Hermit

 

I arrived at the Hambidge Center  in Rabun Gap, GA in the summer of 1988. It was late at night.  In the darkness, I drove into the driveway after my long journey from western Pennsylvania. I walked  to the main house where I met the manager  who would take me to where I would live  for the next month. I was going to be doing a Residency  and would be given a studio and place to live where I could do my art every day.  It was a great opportunity and a dream come true for me.

My guide  said, “I hope you like isolation.” My reply was, “Oh, yes! I love isolation.” The fact is, I did not have an inkling what isolation was but it sounded good to me.

Of course, I had no idea what isolation truly was for I had just arrived at this isolated art colony deep in the Georgia mountains. My normal life was back in Pennsylvania where I managed my busy home and family.  I cooked meals from scratch every day for my husband and 5 children. My homemade pies were famous among the ladies at my church.   The first thing I did each morning was 3 loads of Laundry.  In between the layers of  the business of taking care of husband, kids, dogs, cats, and anything else that came up, I was a non-traditional student pursuing the Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree.  Every spare moment I could find, I painted.  Painting was my obsession.

Driving up the steep mountain road, I followed his car.  Then we turned onto a pathway to the isolated little house where I would be living and working.  After the man left me there, alone, in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains – in utter darkness – I began to get an idea of what solitude would be like. While I was excited to be there, to have this opportunity, I was also stuck with the reality (and fear) of solitude.

My life was changing. I was diagnosed with breast cancer just 2 months before this trip.  And, my father died 2 weeks before the day I found myself alone at night in a strange place where I would live for the next month. My nerves were a frazzle.

 

But, the month I spent there, away from everyone and everything that was my normal life  was one of the most productive times in my creative life.  In this mountain solitude,  I was united with my “better self.”  Twenty-nine years later, I remain at peace  and solidly united with my “better self.”

Article and Photography by Lunda McKinney Lambert.

Copyright, May 16, 2017. Lynda McKinney Lambert. All rights reserved.

Lynda  McKinney Lambert

.Front Cover

Blogger:

Author:

Concerti: Psalms for the Pilgrimage (Kota Press), 2002.

   

Walking by Inner Vision: Stories & Poems, DLD Books, 2017 

Lynda is a Peer Adviser  and writes articles on sight loss and blindness for  Vision Aware Blog

CONTACT ME: riverwoman@zoominternet.net

 Author – Blogger – Visual Artist

Lynda Lambert: Interview

I was a guest on the Branco Broadcast

on Monday, March 6, 2017

The interview is recorded and you can click on this link to listen in to my presentation on how my latest book developed.

Lynda talks about her NEW BOOK

You can also listen to my FIRST interview on the Braco Broadcast, last December. In this interview I discuss my sight loss  and how I learned to live and work in new ways. I discuss my first book,

Concerti: Psalms for the Pilgrimage. 

Lynda talks about INTENTIONS

 

 

I am the author of the new book

Walking by Inner Vision: Stories & Poems 

Lynda’s Author Page

Envision a Ship Coming In

Envision  a Ship Coming In

by Lynda Lambert

People often say, “I hope my ship comes in.”

In other words, they WANT to have something good come to them in some unexpected way. It usually means they need  a financial windfall  or help with something material they want to come to them. Definitely, this phrase expresses a need in their life and a longing for a quick fix.

The phrase also signifies a person feels helpless and really doubts that anything will change for them. It feels a bit helpless when you hear this longing desire for “somehthing,” doesn’t it? It makes me sad.

There is a universal law known as “SOWING & REAPING.”

When we are in need of a HARVEST, we must first plant the seeds for it.

Without the actions of preparing the soil and planting the seend, there is seldom a harvest.

As I hear a person  wondering if their ship will come in, I have to ask:

How many ships did you SEND OUT?

 

I send out a LOT of ships, so I can live in the expectation that many ships will come in for me.  And, just like we ENVISION, they DO come in – or come BACK ,  in DUE time.

Often my SHIPS come back through the mail. When my husband brings in the mail each day, I ask him:  “Did a ship come in the mailbox today?”

What DOES your SHIP LOOK LIKE? 

My SHIPS come in the form of CHECKS that arrive by MAIL Some  ships come in the form of INVITATIONS to important events that I will enjoy.

Occasionally ships come in the disguise of AWARDS for work I have done in writing and art. That is what I DO, it’s my profession. When I do it extremely well, I get paid with MONEY, FRIENDSHIPS,  LOVE, RESPECT, AWARDS, Publications   or  PUBLIC RECOGNITION.

 

Ships can arrive in dreams, in the middle of the night.  Ships will  come in conversations with others. Ideas for new projects or answers to difficult questions we are wrestling with can come unexpectedly.

 

Ships can be SENT OUT anywhere and at any time.

Ships can COME IN anywhere and at any time, too!

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 Many years ago, I read a book by a well-known California pastor, Rev. Robert Schuller.

He spoke on reaping a harvest from God for our work. He said to CELEBRATE every award we receive, put those AWARD ribbons and plaques on our WALL and LOOK at them EVERY DAY – to remember that all our harvests come from GOD.

In my art studio, a wall is covered from ceiling to floor with colorful satin ribbons from all over the world –  they inspire me to do MORE and they affirm that what I do has been recognized by colleagues in my field. Each award is an affirmation by an expert in my field that my work passed the test and came in as a winner.

Likewise, in my office where I write; the walls are adorned  with plaques and framed recognition certificates I have received over the years  from  organizations I  served.  My diplomas from universities  where I earned 3 degrees push me forward to stay focused on what is important in my pursuit of  life-long learning.  I plan to do research and share my gifts with others even more in the years ahead. Diplomas are far more than a piece of paper. They are ships that vrought me through years of personal effort and dedication. When I look at them now, I feel like they are anchors that hold my ship fast  in any storm and keep me on course.

How about you?  

You may have many ships  yet to come in but if you have not yet sent them out, you will never be able to say, “My ship came in!”

When your SHIP does come IN, be sure to thank God for it, put the award ribbon or plaque on your wall, cash your checks, see your work in publications, and send off more ships – plant more seeds for an abundant harvest.

And, yes, stand proud and take a bow and pause to recognize your harvest.

 

OH, I almost forgot to share a ship that returned to me this morning.  You can read my wonderful NEWS today at this link:

http://www.visionaware.org/info/emotional-support/personal-stories/recreation-and-leisure-personal-stories/introducing-lynda-lambert-seasoned-writer-and-artist/1235

Please LIKE my  POST and offer me some comments. I enjoy it so much.

 

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Copyright 2016. Lynda McKinney Lambert. All rights reserved.

 

Contact Lynda: riverroad@zoominternet.net

Lynda’s newest book, “Walking by Inner Vision” will soon be published.

She is the author of “Concerti: Psalms for the Pilgrimage,” by Kota Press.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goals or Intentions?

Goals or Intentions?

What’s the DIFFERENCE?

Goals are NOT Intentions. 

Intentions are NOT Goals!

by Lynda McKinney Lambert

What’s the BIG DEAL?   Well, it is a very big deal and can make all the difference in the world as to How you ENVISION  your life: what you DO;  Who you ARE;  What you will BE,

I will be important to know the differences between two words that many people misunderstand. 

The two words are not  interchangeable.

Knowing the difference can make a remarkable change in your life this year.

 

Photo_Chopra_Intention

What is a TRIGGER for Transformation?

 

I would like to explore this idea with you today!

 

 

 

 

 

Knitting15_Scarf9_4

Lynda  McKinney Lambert 

I feel like a star  and I love to sparkle.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Bob Lambert, 2015

Lynda’s Bio

Lynda McKinney Lambert – author of “Concerti: Psalms for the Pilgrimage” published by  Kota Press. To order, click here:  Concerti: Psalms for the Pilgrimage
Lynda  authors two blogs on writing, the humanities, arts, and faith.
She is a freelance writer and her poetry and essays appear in numerous books and literary journals.  She is a retired professor of fine arts and humanities and she exhibits her fiber arts in exhibitions worldwide.
Currently, Lynda  has two books in development for publication in late 2016.

If you would like a signed copy of my book, contact me for information.

Remembering Grandma Farm

 

NOTE:  With many thanks to my creative friend Lynda Lambert for asking me to be one of her “guest bloggers,” I happily share with you a post from my Word walk blog.  The following memoir and poem comprised a Word walk post on May 14, 2014.  The accompanying photos of my grandmother’s lace pieces were taken this summer by my sister, Mary Elizabeth Fanyo, of Colorado.  As you enjoy looking at the photos, remember that my grandmother never crocheted from a pattern–except the patterns that were in her artistic mind.

 Blog15_SCAN_Massa_LacePiece5

Remembering Grandma Farm on the 122nd Anniversary of Her Birth:

 May 17, 1892-February 27, 1988

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

Photography by Mary Fanyo

 

 

At times when I am walking home from Metro Market with a bag full of groceries in my right arm, other groceries in my backpack, and my left hand on my Leader Dog’s harness handle—I  think of my paternal grandmother, Elizabeth (Liza) Massa, who too frequently walked the three miles from Klondyke, Indiana, to the nearest town of Clinton to purchase groceries.  While I am walking just a few blocks home, I ponder the load my grandmother carried for a few miles.  Since she lived on the small farm at the curve in the gravel road in Klondyke, so many of us called this remarkably strong woman “Grandma Farm.”

 

Born in Levone, Italy, on May 17, 1892, my grandmother quickly matured into a very young woman whose dreams looked toward a new life in the United States of America.  Having had a not too easy life in Northern Italy where she was raised by her peddler father and an unkind stepmother, Liza worked for a ship captain and his family before she and her dreams set sail.  In 1910, my grandmother took the SS La Savoie from La Havre, France, to New York.  The story is that aboard this ship, she danced across the Atlantic Ocean.  At Ellis Island, Liza became “Elizabeth.”  My grandmother ventured onward to the Midwest; soon after arriving in Indiana, Elizabeth kept her promise and married a tall, thin coal miner (who was also from Levone) on June 29, 1910.  James and Elizabeth Massa had six children.  After the arrival of sons Charles (Charlie) in 1911, James (Jimmy, my father) in 1913, and John (Johnny) in 1916—my grandmother gave birth to a beautiful baby girl named Rosemary in 1925; but sadly, Aunt Rosemary died in infancy.  Then, my grandmother had two more children—Jules in 1926 and Katherine Mae in 1937.  Besides raising her five surviving children, cooking, gardening, working on the farm, keeping a meticulously clean farmhouse and outhouse—my grandmother learned English and loved to talk with family and her many friends.  Both of my grandparents were truly proud to become citizens of the United States.

 

Blog15_SCAN_Massa_Lace4The period which demonstrated her greatest strength and her greatest worries was during World War II when four blue stars were proudly displayed on a window of the farmhouse.  Yes, all four of my grandmother’s sons served in the United States Army, in Europe, during WW II.  Throughout those long years, I cannot begin to imagine how many prayers and rosaries my grandmother must have said nor how many tears she must have shed.  Most fortunately, all four of her sons returned safely home after serving their country.  Soon after the homecomings, the years of enjoying grandchildren—ten of us–ensued.

 

I can still picture my grandmother wearing her dark royal blue and white dress and donning a hat for her daughter’s wedding on June 16, 1956.  A few years later, in 1960, what a celebration our family had for my grandparents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary!  Grandma even wore a corsage for the dinner at Binole’s Restaurant, followed by a reception at Aunt Kathy’s house.

 

When I was in high school, my grandparents left the farm with its grape arbor and front-porch swing to move to a nice house with indoor plumbing—a house just across the very small town of Blanford where my parents, my sister, and I lived.

 

Whether in Klondyke playing cards with her good friends Julia and Dominic or in Blanford visiting with relatives at a family reunion, Grandma Farm knew how to have a good and happy time with company around her.  Although life was not always easy for my grandmother, she had a way of finding and sharing good cheer and keeping up with modern times.  When her beloved daughter Kathy and her family moved to New Jersey, my grandmother—with Italian salami and brick cheese in her train case—flew in a jet to the East Coast to visit her daughter, son-in-law, and the three grandchildren—as well as visit our nation’s capital.  When my sister was married in 1975, my grandmother attended her first wedding reception at a hotel.  Throughout the years, Grandma Farm wrote a letter each week to her son Jules who still lives in California.  Watching the news on television, reading The Daily Clintonian newspaper, talking with her friends and family at her home or on the telephone—Grandma kept in touch.  Besides her ready laugh, she had a forceful voice and was not at all hesitant about giving advice.  Although Grandma continued to speak Italian at times, she was perfectly adept at speaking English, with a little Italian accent.  Not even once did I hear her talk about returning to the “Old Country”—her family, friends, and home were in America, the country of which she was a proud citizen.

 

Although I most remember my grandmother’s apple pies, apple turnovers, and yellow cake—I am gratefully surrounded by her artistry.  When she came to the United States from Northern Italy, my grandmother brought with her—only in her mind—the skills and patterns for remarkable crocheting.  Not only did Grandma Farm crochet afghans for all her children and their spouses, grandchildren, and others—Grandma crocheted from thread exquisite lace pieces.  Called “doilies” by some, my grandmother’s lace pieces numbered into the hundreds and were of many patterns and sizes.  Her lace pieces would rank her as a textile artist today.  Although the majority of the lace pieces were white or ecru, some thread which she worked into her patterns were pink, blue, and green.  Even though the lace pieces were traditionally starched, I still use her lace pieces, but do not starch them.  Her lace pieces of varying shapes were made to adorn the tops of tables, end tables, bookcases, and my piano.  While many of her designs are floral patterns, others are geometric patterns.  Having these treasured lace pieces in various rooms of my townhouse allows me to keep warm memories of my very artistic grandmother who—despite her arthritis—could crochet with yarn or thread faster and more precisely than you could ever imagine.

 

One day, a number of years ago, after the death of my grandmother at almost 96 years, I began pondering the lace pieces that were around me and thought of the following poem as a tribute to her textile artistry.  Blog15_SCAN_Massa_Lace2

At a local copy shop, I had note cards made with this poem on the front of the  card and gave sets of these cards to relatives.  This poem has special meaning for me, and I reprise it here to honor the 122nd anniversary of Elizabeth Massa’s birth.

 

Blog15_SCAN_Massa_LacePiece7_

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lace Pieces

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

More than just dust-catchers,

 

these snowflake look-alikes—

 

lace pieces from the Old Country—

 

become starched artistic monuments

 

which once could have dressed angels

 

at the Sistine Chapel,

 

now rest pristine on tables

 

to gather soft memories of

 

hands that crocheted them,

 

hands that starched them,

 

piece by piece—

 

not for famous chapels,

 

but for family hope chests.

 

 

God bless all on our Massa Family Tree and all on your family tree, too!

Alice

 

May 14, 2014, Wednesday—the eleventh month birthday

of Grandma Farm’s great-great-granddaughter Lanie

 

* * *

Blog15_SCAN_Massa_LacePiece7

Biography:  Alice Jane-Marie Massa

After earning two master’s degrees and teaching for 25 years, Alice Jane-Marie Massa retired from teaching writing and public speaking at a technical college.

Alice invites you to visit her blog:  http://alice13wordwalk.wordpress.com, where she posts her poetry, essays, short stories, recipes, or memoirs each Wednesday.  Her writings on Wordwalk frequently focus on her guide dogs, her rural hometown, her Italian family heritage, and holidays.  Being the current president of Behind Our Eyes also fills hours of her retirement.  Away from her desk, Alice most enjoys long walks with her third Leader Dog (Zoe), container gardening, and the television program Jeopardy.

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Copyright 2015.  Featured  GUEST BLOGGER on

SCANdalous-Recollections Blog

28 November 2015 – by Lynda McKinney Lambert.

All rights reserved by the author, Alice Jane-Marie Massa.

 

 

Happy SCANdalous Birthday!

Send off the FIREWORKS

LIGHT UP THE SKY-

This week  is our HAPPY SCANdalous BIRTHDAY Celebration

 

 

ONE YEAR of publishing essays  is a landmark so let’s CELEBRATE!.

Let’s take a LOOK BACK to what I was  thinking about one year ago as I wrote the first blog article on the new blog.

The FIRST  article I wrote and  published is

“When I Begin my Day with Mozart.”

Blog2014_Photo_Mozart

When I Begin my Day with Mozart…an essay by Lynda McKinney Lambert

I did not know at the time I wrote it that it would launch my writing into a new career. One year later I am a “freelance writer.”

The essay was published in LIGHT Magazine, Sept/October issue, 2015.  This magazine is published by Christian Record, PO Box 6097, Lincoln, NB 68596.  (I will post the original essay below my comments here so you can read it.)

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Some STATS on Scandalous-Recollections at the one year anniversary:

Most popular post this first year is “Kaleidoscope: Collecting Patterns of Light and Dreams.”  777 views

I wrote this story, originally, as a GUEST BLOGGER, for Amy Bovaird’s blog.

Here is the link if you want to read it:

Kaleidoscope: Collecting Patterns of Light and Dreams

How many visitors did we have in the first twelve months?  1,308 visitors

How many VIEWS did my posts have?   2,247 views

 

 

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Essay:  When I Begin my Day with Mozart

(First published on November 11, 2014)

Today:

I put the morning coffee on to brew and then reached   for a CD of Mozart’s Violin Sonata in B flat. After I carefully placed it in the CD player.  pushed the  “play” button on the remote  and my Bose player began filling  the kitchen with music. The soft, slow opening lines of the Largo – Allegro began. I listened.  A piano and a violin began to gracefully move  me to listen closely  to this  composition, written  centuries ago. The lyrical melody  begins and I close my eyes  awhile before I continue writing my essay. There is something compelling about Mozart’s music; it gently  urges  me to stop whatever I am doing.  The music  takes me back in time – but not the time in the Eighteenth century when the music was first performed for a royal audience.  It is  my own time,  near the end of the Twentieth century when the music of Mozart became a core element in my personal  life. While listening to this music,  my mind is taken on a journey far away from this present  chilly, gray November day. My  musings  create layers of memories.

As I begin writing the opening thoughts of this essay,  I enjoy  my  cup of fresh coffee. I spiced it up with some hazelnut creamer. The days and years of past times  come visiting me  once again as I slowly recall  my first exciting days in Austria.  Yes! It  was just  Mozart and me.

Salzburg, Austria

Salzburg, Austria

When Mozart first performed this original composition on April 29, 1784, in Vienna, there was a surprising bit of information that came out of the  original  performance.   It’s  a  unique story  that lies behind the music I am listening to today.   In the audience, that day was  Emperor Joseph II.  As Mozart played the piano, the Emperor made a shocking discovery.  He had eventually  noticed that  Mozart was actually looking at blank sheets of “music” instead of the traditional written music that a musician would use.    It turns out that Mozart did not have time to copy the composition that was in his mind. He had to play it from his memory and did not want the audience to  know he had no actual sheet music. Therefore, He put the blank sheets on the piano and began to play that day. You can read about this and other interesting facts about Mozart by visiting this link

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violin_Sonata_No._32_(Mozart)

***

My first trip to Europe was  in the summer of 1991. The trip was a gift I gave myself  to celebrate a goal I had completed in May.  I  finished my MFA degree  at West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV. Soon after my graduation, I arrived in Salzburg, Austria at the beginning. My arrival  was  just in time to join in the celebration festivities  for the 200th anniversary of Mozart’s death. My month-long visit was filled with special art exhibitions in palaces and museums, all focused on  some aspect of Mozart’s life or his music.   I attended as many concerts as I could, and viewed special exhibits of art that month. OH, I was hooked on Mozart! I walked through his birth house, and  death house, and stood  inside the churches where he performed for masses.  I attended the Mozart Mass at the Dom du Salzburg and basked in the sweet aroma of swirling,  smoky incense as the priests entered the sanctuary.  I even found the grave sites of  his family members and his wife, Costanza.   Like most tourists, I purchased the famous   Mozart candy, Mozart t-shirts and sent out lots of  Mozart postcards to all my friends and family.

I know you must want to know what took me there that month.  I had enrolled in a drawing class that was taught by a former professor. We students  were in classes Monday through Thursday mornings.  I was so excited to be there and was prolific in my art adventure.  I created a  body of work on the theme of Mozart’s death and  music.  I wrote continuously as I traveled and viewed exhibitions and listened to concerts. I made many ink sketches on white paper. I chose to do all the artworks black and white. The works on paper would make it easier for me to transport  them back to the US.  After I returned  back home, I put my  work together and it became a traveling art exhibition. The mixed-media works on paper appeared in museums and galleries.  I called my show,“Memory of a Requiem.”

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     Ten years after my first trip,  some of my poems, sketches,  and reflections from that experience were crafted into a book, “Concerti:  Psalms for the Pilgrimage.” The book was published by KotaPress.

***

Prior to the  trip to Austria, I was in graduate school pursuing my MFA degree.  I worked diligently during those two intense years doing  research, creating art,  and teaching. At times, I  was so  exhausted from working days and nights. When I went back to my apartment for a rest and some meals, I often  refreshed  my mind by listening to Mozart’s music. I was particularly  drawn to his Requiem Mass because it echoed my own weariness.   My visit to the city of  Mozart’s  birth and death was a natural choice.

***

While in Austria, I made an intention for my own life.  I realized that I fell in love with Austria, the artworks,  architecture,  the people I met, and the music of the masterful composers who lived in Austria over the centuries. I intended to order my life in such a way that I would spend my summers there every year. Of course, I had no idea how that would happen, or if it could happen, but I knew it would be the life I would choose to live.

Eventually, my own professional teaching career began when I  accepted  a tenure-track position at Geneva College,  a private college in western Pennsylvania.  This was just five years after I had visited Austria for the first time as a student myself. As a new  Professor of Fine Arts and Humanities, I  quickly realized there was no study program for  students that provided the opportunity to study in  Austria or Germany.   I proposed to create such a course and the following year I was back in the city I love, with students of my own. This was the first of many years that I would have the joy of bringing students to Austria every summer. I taught a course called, “Drawing and Writing in Salzburg.”

My students came from  across America

to work in a studio in a small village in the Alps.

Most days, we met early in the morning and then traveled somewhere to draw and write at  the different places we explored. It was a dream that became my reality. I had the joy of sharing this magnificent country with my students every summer for a  month-long sojourn. On  long weekends, we traveled together through  Germany, Czech Republic, and  Italy.  We climbed mountains; we  stood on a mountain peak and gazed  down in amazement at the eagles lying beneath us.  On one such sunny afternoon,  I  locked  arms with one of the students and we  skipped down a high   Alpine path.  We stopped only when we ran out of energy and we bent over double,  laughing together,  gasping for breath.   We wrote poems and stories  in our  journals; we wrote about our own experiences.  Art was the focus of all we did. We  created drawings and paintings in our morning studio and took our sketchbooks and journals to the  streets and mountain pathways. Together, we trekked our way through the new places we found. Later,  our sketchbooks and journals would provide us with information and memories to work with once we were back home and working on new projects.

***

Gradually, over the years,  I began to realize that the seeds of what we love become the life we live when we set our intentions in that direction.   On that first visit, I had set something in motion that would become my life journey at a later time.  It would be years, though, before I would understand it all. 

Now, sitting here in my office typing up this essay, I listen closely as the final piece of music comes to a conclusion. The piano and the violin have been playing together as I write. Each instrument is strong and one never overpowers the other – they are a good match!

If you would like to enjoy this lovely work of art by Mozart, you can listen to it here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-KDzAYOroI

The Violin Sonata continues  and I listen to the rapid notes of the piano moving of playfully  through the house in what seems like a race with the violin.  I can envision a spring afternoon in an Alpine meadow.  At other moments, the violin and piano seem to me to be romping in the sunshine, chasing each other about on the lawn of a Bavarian castle, or around a formal rose garden in the city. . At times, if sounds like the piano takes the lead, yet, this is not the case. The violin weaves through the many notes and in the end they are one.  I listen as applause breaks out immediately as the piano and violin strike the final note together.

This day will take me on other, more mundane  journeys as I walk my dogs, care for my cats, take my husband to the hospital for a check-up, and edit this essay tonight. At special moments throughout my day, I just might hear a few bars of Mozart’s Violin Sonata in B flat  Oh,  I hope so!  Oh, I hope…at the end of this day the music and I are on the same note.

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Essay by Lynda McKinney Lambert. Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

Visit my website for additional information at: “Walking by Inner Vision”

 

 

 

 

 

Kaleidoscope: Collecting Patterns of Light and Dreams

“Kaleidoscope: Collecting Patterns of Light and Dreams”

by Lynda McKinney Lambert, 2015

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Note:  The first version of this essay was first published on “Amy’s Adventures Blog, by Amy Bovaird,

April 24, 2015.  Thank you, Amy, for inviting me to create a guest blog for you.

You can VISIT me at Amy’s Blog by clicking here:

 http://amybovaird.com/friday-friends-spotlight-on-lynda-lambert/

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“For behold, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.

The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come,

and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.

Song of Solomon 2:11-12 ~

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Patti and I walked down the old, narrow stone path on an April afternoon in the 1950s. Our pastel plaid dresses fluttered slightly in the soft afternoon breeze.  We removed our cotton sweaters, draped them carelessly over our arm for the journey back home. Like most days in April in western Pennsylvania it had been raining in the morning that day. A few hours later, the day took a turn and now it had warmed up significantly since our early morning walk to school. We felt happy because there was not a rain cloud in sight as we took our time walking along our familiar path. Now we meandered at an easy pace in the opposite direction.  School was over for the day and there was no reason to walk faster.   We walked a short distance and then we were standing beside a large field.  The aroma coming from the thick blanket of woods violets slowed us down even more as we scanned the field. In a moment, without speaking to each other, we stepped lightly between the moistened deep green leaves that flourished in thick patches of weeds and flowers. We were absorbed at the moment, bent over the deep blue-violet blossoms and reached out to gather some dainty flowers.  One by one, we snapped the fragile, slender stems of the violets.  While we picked our violets with our right hand, we placed each one in the grasp of our left hand.  Our bear arms were hot as the late afternoon sunshine turned our pale skin bright pink. When our left had could hold no more violets, we stepped away from the field and continued our walk home where our Mother was waiting for us to return   we came into the 1920s frame house through the back door with our fists full of violets, she was delighted with our small gifts.  She went to her cupboard, got out two small glass jelly jars and put the bouquets in water to keep them fresh. Our floral  gifts remained on the windowsill in our kitchen.

***

This year I set my intentions on observing small details in nature.  The landscape is changing continuously.

I see crystal  drops of dew on tender new leaves in the meadow.  They are sprinkled with transparent silvery diamonds.   Another turn, and I am walking beside a field of dewy dark green leaves with little periwinkle flowers peeking through the moisture.

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I felt the velvet softness of Sumac branches. I looked at layers of last autumn’s leaves intermingled with shoots of new grass, and budding Hyacinths   Along the stone walk, I observed the red stalks of Peony bushes forging upwards through the moist earth.   Oh, Yes!  It’s Spring!

 ***

All these thoughts bring me to think about the beauty I have seen in a kaleidoscope. The word “kaleidoscope” has Greek roots.  It means “a form beautiful to see.”  I am compelled to ask you…

“When is the last time you have had a kaleidoscope in your hands with one eye focused through the small round window?”

“Do you recall the vivid colors, ever-changing shapes, as you slightly moved your hand around the barrel of the kaleidoscope?”

You give it a small twist and all the shapes fall into new pictures.  Hidden fragments inside the instrument create  numerous symmetrical, abstract  pictures.   Envision the world such as you have seen in a kaleidoscope!

 

Could you describe what you feel as the colors dance and flow over the mirror images inside? And did you know that inside the kaleidoscope are tiny, ordinary objects such as buttons, stones, chips and fragments – every illusion you enjoyed viewing is merely a collection of ordinary little things someone gathered and put inside with mirrors set at 60 degree angles

***

It has been over six decades since I picked wild violets with my sister in a rural farmer’s field.  I realize my faith in God still works in the same way it did when I was a child gathering God’s little presents.  Just a small twist takes us to a new landscape.

***

Big things make headline news, are celebrated and sought after. There is no mention of the ache we have in our inner being and the feeling that something is just not right.  Oh, I know that yearning that whispers from deep inside my body.  Could it be that once again I have walked on that familiar pathway that led me to places where I was not called by God to be?  There is always a sense of discomfort and painful stumbling blocks to be experienced when we are outside of his will or his calling, for our life. Fortunately, we can turn around, retrace our steps back to where we need to be and get our direction going once again. That is the good news – we can change direction!

***

Sitting in silence, being calm, listening for God’s still, small voice takes us to his glory.   Small treasures surround us   When I sit down and spend time alone with him, in silence, I experience transformation.  I turn another bend, there is a shift in perspective, and those little gifts are reflected by the mirrored light of his countenance. I am transformed yet again, by small gifts.

***

God works just like that!

The longer we look at him, the more our faith grows.  Each turn we take towards him opens up a new landscape that shows us insight into his character. I approach quietly.   Slowly, I realized the rain has stopped. I tilted my head towards the sky, listened for the songs of the circling birds as they hover above the tall trees; it is happening again.  Something new.  My feet are damp from the spring shower. Just another small turn of the kaleidoscope – yes! I can see it now.

Transformation.

***

Copyright, 2015. Lynda McKinney Lambert. May 9, 2015. All rights reserved.

Written for publication by Amy Bovaird. April 24, 2015. With much gratitude for the kind invitation to write for Amy’s Adventures Blog. Thank you!

 http://amybovaird.com/friday-friends-spotlight-on-lynda-lambert/

On When the Bear Goes Over the Mountain…

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The Bear Goes Over the Mountains, to see what she can see…

Can you SING along with me?  

OH, the bear goes over the mountain

the bear goes over the mountain,

The bear goes over the mountain, to see what she can see…

Did YOU ever sing this little song when you were a kid? I sure did!

Click on this link to hear the song and sing along:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGJuoodm_BM

***

Well, OK, I hope you took the little side trip and saw the video and now you have a happy heart and a joyful spirit after singing along. It’s good for my spirit to be a child again this morning and spend some time just singing along and watching a video that is so cheerful and happy. Isn’t it?

Take a deep breath now, and RELAX.  Go ahead, and do it a few more times. Let your hands go limp, relax your feet and legs, breathe in and HOLD IT, and then slowly EXHALE.  OH, it feels so good!

***

This morning, Mama Bear  (that would be me, of course) climbed  back  over the MOUNTAIN and ARRIVED at  January 6, 2014. The climb up that mountain is treacherous and at times I thought I might not make it all the way up. I slipped backwards a few times, made mistakes, stumbled, fell, and got discouraged. But then, I decided to pick me up and keep on going UP. I INTENDED to reach the top of the mountain, and so I did. Now, what do I see from here?

  On my other  blog, Walking by Inner Vision, I saw  what I could see.   I saw dreams and goals at the top of the mountain and I saw me as I sat at my computer writing my first  blog article for 2014, just one year ago.  Today,  Mama Bear stands  at the beginning of 2015.  I can see over that mountain through all the months that brought me here to where I stand today.

**

 There was only ONE THING I planned to concentrate on for the entire year –

The Essence of Intentions.  Today, my intentions are stronger and wiser than they were a year ago. I have grown. 

 May I suggest that we spend a few days, right now, to map out the journey YOU will be taking in 2015? If you have not yet done it – this might be the day.

 INTENTION  begins the moment when we decide to take the action of thinking about what we want to do, where we want to go, and what we might become in the future.

Oh, I know, it is so easy to make excuses for our failures, but please don’t bother to even think of failures or short comings, any  inability to deal with your life! Please don’t be so hard on yourself.  When I am walking the dogs and they sniff into things that are not good for them, I say, “Leave  It”  and that means – move on!

A long time ago the brilliant  author and Nazi death camp survivor, Corrie ten Boom, was thinking about her mistakes  and failures, and then she remembered what the Bible teaches us. Corrie  said that -after we recognize we have sinned, we can ask God  for forgiveness –  and then she said “God has buried our sins in the deepest sea and he has put up a sign  that says, “NO FISHING.”  My dear friends, please think of that and don’t go fishing for what has already been forgotten. Your mistakes are buried, never to be revealed again so the next time you try to dredge them up, say to yourself, “leave it.”

The only person who can CONTROL each of your DAYS, and how you think of them,  is YOU! Your day is your choice, so choose what makes you delighted.

Don’t be afraid of failure. Write your INTENTIONS out and keep them on your mind for the following year and a year from now, you can climb the mountain and see what you can see. I think you will like the view from the TOP of the MOUNTAIN!

 Be GOOD to yourself!

  How can we determine what our INTENTIONS will be?

 We begin by asking ONLY ONE question:

 “What will I GIVE?” 

 What is it that you want to GIVE to OTHERS  this year?

 The only thing we know for sure is that we have this moment, today. We have no assurance that we will see another day, as we consider our intentions for the unknown future we imagine we may have.

  Sit down today and begin to write YOUR INTENTIONS down. 

Sit down today and think about your lifestyle, your gifts, your talents,  and write down how  to  make a difference in your own life and GIVE from your HEART to others.  What do YOU have to share?  Everyone already has things to give. What will be your gifts for others this year?

 I  have created  a list of my own intentions for this year.  I’ll be walking on the HIGH ROAD, and it will be STEEP at times, and sometimes even frightening, but I will keep on going. How about YOU?

What path will you CHOOSE to be walking on this year?  I choose the mountain path…to see what I can see. BLOG_2015_Road_Mountains_PHOTO

 I’ll share a few of my intentions with you, and others are mine alone to keep in my heart – between me and God.  All of my intentions are based on my love of art, music, philosophy, and faith.  My faith in Jesus Christ and His guidance form my life is the core of my world view.

Each of my intentions recognizes the gifts I was given by God, and my desire to follow the path He has for my life. that

1.) I INTEND to spend some time in silence and prayer each day. If only for short periods of time – maybe I’ll begin by sitting quietly in a secluded place where I can be alone for awhile. Silence is where we can be open to the leading of God in our life.  I can begin by just sitting alone for 15 minutes, twice a day.

2.) I INTEND  to nurture my own creative spirit  through art and writing time. When we get quiet and begin to do creative work, we find we pass into a place that is “timelessness.”  There is nothing else in our life that is as important as spending some time alone to experience what creativity can do for our spirit and in our life.

For me, that means I’ll be working on art projects in my studio; reading GREAT books in my library; writing my TWO BLOGS; getting my work PUBLISHED in books and periodicals; displaying my ART in galleries and museums, and whatever else may come Up that will be a nice surprise for me this year.  (God has great surprises and HE is always right on time.)

3.) I intend to REST each day, to restore and refresh  my inner being.  Life is not about what we DO as much as  who we ARE inside, in our thoughts and our intentions;  I’ll stay focused on BEing  rather than DOing this year.

4.) I INTEND to surround myself with friends who are like-minded, those who  love the Arts and Faith –  those who sow seeds of Faith,  encouragement and  life.  That means I won’t be reading or watching  things that tear down, demean, or dishonor people of good will.  Life or death is in our tongue and in the words we say.  I’ll choose life!

5.) I INTEND  to read rigorous texts and follow the trail of ideas that have come to us from centuries before we lived.  There is nothing that exists today that does not have an historical context.  I have set a goal and made a list of the books I will read this year.

6.) I INTEND, THIS YEAR,   to financially and physically  support  ONLY charities in my own locale –  people in my own community and state are worthy to receive our help and it’s part of being  a good citizen to help them as we can.  My focus for gifting will be on

1.) animal protection and rescue in our county

2.) regional art organizations

3.) institutions of higher learning in our area.

Bob and I believe  in building strong communities and it begins at HOME as we all pitch in to make our HOME a better place to BE.  We will be buying all we can locally. We want to support local people. We love our village, our small western Pennsylvania city, our state and this is where we chose to spend our lives so of course, we want to make it better.  We are proud to live in Ellwood City, PA and we are committed to bringing honor to our own community organizations.  We love our neighbors and we love our community and our state. We have a grateful and thankful heart for them all.

***

If you want to see what my INTENTIONS were for last year you can go here and read them:

http://lyndalambert.com/the-essence-of-our-intentions/

Shift…2014 From the Rear View Mirror

 ~Happy New Year  2015 ~

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 Opal, our cat, watched me  from her perch in the book shelf.

Blog_NewYear__OpalinbooksI AM determined to write a Christmas Greeting this year!

It was December 22 and I was racing against a deadline, well aware that last year I did not get this  accomplished.   But I had good reasons, because I encountered some unexpected circumstances that exploded our world just one year ago. No one could have anticipated what would enter  our life as we walked unaware, into 2014. That was one year ago, today!  This article is a look back through 2014, from the rear view mirror.

***

January, was an exciting month for me as an artist.  My mixed media fiber piece, The Dragon’s Healing Breast Plate,  was on display at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, in the New Collective exhibition. Bob and I attended the opening night.   So exciting!

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A couple weeks later,  back at the PCA  I participated on a  four person panel at  a conference on sight loss and the arts. After that  program, I was photographed in the gallery with my art work. This photo appeared in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. I think it is  a great photo because  my mobility cane is clearly visible – my long white cane – my badge of courage – my  guide through life – my visible  life as a blind artist and writer.  This  photo shows what is  “normal” for me these days, yet,  I seldom even think about it. I just keep on going. After all, we are all the person we THINK about being, and I think about being productive and happy as much as possible.  Most of all, I think about sharing the gifts I have with everyone –  gifts of Humanities and Faith.

***

Well, yes, you can already imagine that January was a crazy busy month –  I presented a workshop at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania. It would be at a conference on Disabilities and Inclusion, sponsored annually  by the university president.  Bob and I arrived very early in the morning to set up my display of pottery and fiber arts. I addressed the audience about how a blind person functions in everyday life, and how I adapted as a visual artist who had lost most of my sight just 7 years earlier.  It was so nice to be back on campus and see all the fantastic changes that have made the university  I earned  2 of my 3 degrees  at SRU. (Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1998;  MA in English Literature  in 1994.) The audience at SRU was engaging. Bob and I had such a pleasant day meeting people and  looking over the new buildings on  campus.  The official photographer took many photos  and a video was made during my presentation. It was such a good day for Bob and I to be there together. SRU became a central part of my academic life from 1985 through 1994. How great it is to occasionally have a look back.

***

Oh, but amid all that good stuff I just related, something else was going on, too. In January, Bob had symptoms of “something wrong.”  Those fluttering, persistent, and silent  symptoms escalated quickly; Bob collapsed and was unconscious  in a local restaurant. The Bob_Apr19_1rescue squad arrived within two minutes and after a long time of working on him in the back of an ambulance, he was “brought back” by the rescue team, then  taken  by ambulance to the local hospital.  For the next three months, Bob was tested, prodded, stuck with needles, thumped, scoped, observed, catheterized, and mis-diagnosed by numerous local doctors and specialists.

***

Blog_NewYear_MewithFlowerGardens2014***

At last, the two-person exhibition, Vision and Revision,  opened. I had conceived, organized, and promoted this show for over a year. Opening night was on March 7th at Merrick Art Gallery, New Brighton, PA.   When I stood in the gallery and surveyed the work of my hands. I was so joyful as I greeted my friends, family, and gallery visitors who  flooded into the show for several hours.  Prior to this night, I had worked in my solitary studio for over a year to make my art  of  Ceramic sculpture and Mixed-Media Fiber for this special show. Bob had worked diligently with me to set up my work so it was cohesive and on opening night some of our family members came early  to greet visitors and handle the many  sales of my work. The night was a  success and  sales exceeded my dreams.  In such moments I can feel the love that peple have for me and my work because they love it and want to live with it in their own homes. That is the highest compliment I can ever have.  I get so excited when I  get  the “red dots” put up on the walls beside my work – the red dot  means the work is sold.  I  posed  for photographs with the visitors and the collectors.   We  artists  gave a special “artist talk”  during an intermission  and the audience kept asking me so many questions about my work and how I do it without sight.  Bob and I had a stunning night  and we felt so happy. It was a “night to remember” for a life-time in the arts for me.  In  2015 I will celebrate 39 years of exhibiting my art work world-wide.

***

As our year progressed, it was finally on April 17th that  Bob  received a correct  diagnoses. We both stood at the phone when Dr. Islam called and said,   “Bob, this is a very aggressive disease. It is blood cancer. It’s called Acute Myeloid Leukemia, AML, and you have to get to the hospital in Pittsburgh immediately. We have to begin treatment…you will be there for a month…it has to begin today!”

Bob and Ilsa, April 19, 2014 West Penn Hospital, Pittsburgh, PA

At that moment, a shift took place in the lives of our entire family. At 9 pm, Bob entered  his new home-away-from-home for this year.  This floor is called, T-7 at West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA.   Our daughter, Salome’ drove  to our  house, gathered  us up and deliver us to the hospital. We were all in shock, numb. What do you take on a moments  notice when you are told you will be there for a month?  There was no way anyone could prepare for this night in any way. We were drifting along in a dream that had turned into our worst nightmare.  We felt lost at sea.

Spring and summer passed and the warm  weather and pleasant  days are a blur in my mind.  This year is remembered by admission  and discharge dates at the hospital.  We packed bags to leave home;  we unpacked bags when he came back home. Departures  and arrivals are the keys to our  our normal mind-set most of the time  We circled around in  the troubled waters of a disease which  tried  to swallow our entire family.  Bob had more hospitalizations –  more chemo treatments-  more rough seasons – more medications – more – more – and more.

***

I did my best to keep things as normal as I could at home with the four cats and two dogs to care for, interspersed with little periods of creativity and trying to manage our home and our business affairs.   I had water problems that a friend came and fixed. Then, I had electrical issues, and another  friend showed up to fix them.  Lawnwork needed to be done by family and friends who showed up and helped out. I cannot drive, so needed transportation – and sometimes it was hard to find and frustrating.  At those times it was very lonely and unsteady.

 Art making took a shift to the back of my thoughts and somehow I managed to get 2 pieces of fiber art work done for the entire year – and another piece in progress laying on my table at the end of the year. That will turn into my first piece of the New Year, I suspect.  Writing continued to be a passion as it has been my entire life.  Words have always been important for me in dealing with everything from the highest highs, to the lowest depths of my life-journey.

And, so, it was, that I started a Facebook page for Bob’s journey. I called it “Bob Lambert Diary” for I expected it would be a photo diary of his journey from the beginning of his life with AML. This was a way that I could disperse information on the disease to help others, and a way to let the public know what was happening with bo. And, most of all, it was a way to let people know what his prayer needs are because I know for certain that prayers will be what brings us all through this shift in our lives.  This diary would give us wonderful photos to look back over so we could see how far we have traveled as we look back in the rear view mirror of the journey to wholeness for Bob.  Today, on the first day of 2015, I am looking BACK and smiling in the rear view mirror of the last year.

***

I had another exhibition of   “Vision and Revision: Two Artists with Sight Loss, Not Loss of Vision.” It was at Jameson Hospital in New Castle, PA and ran from April  7th  through July 7th.  I was unable to attend the opening but got to enjoy the show later in it’s run with Bob when he returned home from his first stay in the hospital on June 2nd. What a joy to walk through this beautiful show with him and know he could enjoy it with me. Later, I visited the show with our daughters, Ilsa and Heidi. We had fun taking photos of  my work on display in such a lovely gallery setting.

 Two additional juried exhibitions finished  out the year and moved  into the New year.  Somehow, I managed to write, make art,  serve on two panel discussions and conferences, and do my  exhibitions and publications between all the hard times and hospitalizations.  That is how creativity is – nothing can take it away.  When God pours out such gifts to people, the gifts  are forever available in all the challenges of life.  That is why I sing about the glories of the Humanities and Faith in all I do.

***

???????????????????????????????On  September 25th,  Bob  was hospitalized for the fourth time. Now, he would get a fourth round for a week.  The long awaited day came on   October 2,  when he had a stem cell transplant. His donor lives in a different country and the stem cells were flown to Pittsburgh and transplanted into Bob. It is a miraculous process and at age 73 Bob was given the immune system of a 48 year old man. This hospitalization would be a month-long one, too. It was followed up by several weeks in “short stay” and two or three trips to Pittsburgh every week for the remainder of the year and into the New Year! Our daughter Salome’ took off work each week to transport us back and forth – a gift beyond price. It is also a gift of her presence for us, as before this time we were not able to see her so often due to her work schedule. It was also another blessing for us to have another pair of eyes and ears taking in all the complex medical changes and scheduling the many hour-long trips to Pittsburgh.

***

Each day brings new challenges. Thankfully, we are blessed with a wonderful family, good neighbors, and dear friends who have helped us in many ways.  The challenges are beyond anything we could ever imagine in our worst nightmares.  In the middle of it all, our God is with us and we have had miraculous guidance and the best oncology team possible. Keep Bob in your prayers please, for the upcoming year!

???????????????????????????????Photo:  bob with daughter Salome, Christmas Day, 2014

Currently, Bob is working on our income tax materials!  He works during the times when his energy level is up and rests in-between as needed. He does what he can and he is a determined warrior – armed  for the battle against AML.  I stay  busy helping him out and most of all keeping his spirits up. We find many things to enjoy and laugh about every day no matter what is going on. We do our best to keep our speech positive and uplifting and to encourage others.  I think Bob is a great candidate for a POSTER CHILD for AML, if there was such a thing! Bob has more courage than any person I have ever known – he is brave beyond boundaries.

As we walked down the street together last week.  I was laughing. He asked me why. I said, “Look at the two of us. We are still standing. We are together. and we are at the end of a year of more trials than anyone would ever want or choose to go through. Yet, we are here and I am walking beside you. You are a miracle!” He laughed with me in the cold winter sunshine.

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Bob and I saying “good bye” to T-7 at West Penn Hospital last November.

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At  the beginning of 2015 – here is what I know for sure:

God is good. I can say from my heart,  He can bring you through any trials you may encounter at any time in your life. Oh, but wait just  a minute!  This is not the end!

***

 Bob has a Community Page on FaceBook at:  https://www.facebook.com/boblambertdiary

Lynda has a FaceBook Page  at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/River-Road-Studio/175785105811956

SCANdalous,  llambert363.wordpress.com   – My blog features  essays which  focus on Humanities and Faith.

My website and blog (Walking by Inner Vision) :  www.lyndalambert.com too!

***

Thanks for being our FRIEND in real life, or, 

 through your prayers, and on the “net” – Lynda and Bob

Lynda McKinney Lambert. Copyright, 2015.  All Rights Reserved.

The Living Room – I Believe in Christmas Eve!

The Living Room

I Believe in Christmas Eve!

 Christmastreesoutside“A baby on its mother’s back does not know the way is long”. African Proverb.

 Esther looked forward to one special night of the year when she won’t be lonely in her quiet home.  Esther walked slowly through the stillness and then she stopped briefly to look out the large picture window in her spacious living room. She checked once again to see if anyone had arrived yet.  She won’t be alone tonight because it is Christmas Eve.  Every year Esther’s four grown children returned home with their families to celebrate this special evening together. Esther’s face will be radiant with happiness throughout this evening and she’ll be transformed into the queen of the night. Esther is the lone matriarch of the family.

 The elongated living room will quickly fill up with her children, grand children, and even great grandchildren tonight. This room was built with enough space for holding large gatherings for all sorts of family events. Along the one long wall, there is a gray stone fireplace. As she had done for many years previously, it was decorated with her hand painted ceramic angels.

christmasTree1The three elegant angels are glazed all over in pearly white. Each carried a different musical instrument. She had accented those instruments with a glittering gold paint that matched the halo on each angel’s head.  She always placed cranberry red candles among the angels and carefully arranged boughs of pine across the mantle. The graceful holiday decorations created shimmering reflections in the wide mirror that stretched out the entire length of the mantle behind them. The reflections made the room seem joyful and optimistic as the little multi-colored twinkle lights flashed brilliantly around the edges of the mirror. .  When Esther’s husband, Bill, was still alive he always made a crackling fire in that fireplace. Now it is bare and unused.  She did not turn on the stereo tonight because she did not think about it

 

For this special occasion, Esther selected her favorite Christmas sweater. She has had it for years.  The bright holiday sweater makes her feel happy.  It is a warm sweater in bright Christmas red and on the front it has white poinsettias and golden ribbons woven into the fabric.  She did not think about what her two sisters will probably be wearing when they arrive tonight.   The two elderly women, Fanchion and Bettie arrived early in the evening and as usual, each lady wore a noticeably similar Christmas sweater.  The three sisters always shopped together and most of the time, when one sister selected something to buy, the other two bought one just like it. Bettie, the youngest sibling of the trio, complained to someone, later in the evening about it.  She remarked, “I pick out this pretty sweater for myself. I found the sweaters first when we were shopping, and the other two had to copy me and buy one just like mine! They do this all the time. Why can’t they just pick out things for themselves?”

 ChristmasTree2

The three often grumbled about each other, but the siblings went shopping together often. Shopping helped fill the emptiness of their long days.  The sisters each lived separately, in their own hone. They lived about two miles apart.   They came from a family of seven children.   At this time, only four girls survived. They had lost the two brothers and one sister in the last decade.  Esther did not think about them very often any more. Sometime she even forgot they were no longer living and seemed surprised when someone mentioned they passed away.  She became agitated; her eyes widened as she said,

 

“They died? Oh, no! I didn’t know that. Why didn’t you tell me they died? I wanted to see them again! I wanted to go to their funeral. Why didn’t anyone let me know about this?”

 

Each time she learned again that one of her siblings was dead, she wept all over again. It always happened as someone brought up a conversation about their deaths. Each time it was the beginning of grieving for her.

 

When Esther’s children look back through old family photos they laugh when they see the three sisters sitting at a wedding reception. Each sister is dressed in a delicate little flowered dress.  Very often another sister, Jeanne, is there in the photos and sometimes her outfit looks like the other sister’s clothing. Strange, isn’t it? They all have the same taste.

 Esther’s husband, Bill, died eleven years before tonight. It happened suddenly one Saturday morning. It was in July.  While Esther prepared their breakfast in the kitchen at the opposite end of the home, Bill had left this world. He was in their bedroom and had not yet come out to have his breakfast with Esther. His sudden departure was a shock she never really recovered from, I recall several occasions when she grew silent and it was apparent she was overcome with sadness as she spoke. I turned my head away for her words were too hard for me to take in.  I tried to hold back my own tears as I silently inhaled and held my breath.

 

“I never got to even say good bye to Bill. I realize he didn’t come out of our room yet, I am in the kitchen reading my morning devotions. I hear him get up and go to the bathroom. Then, I think he should have come out for breakfast by now. Where is he?  I walk through the living room and into our bedroom   He is just laying there on the bed. All stretched out on his back.  His arms are wide open and his feet hang down almost touching the floor.  He is wearing one sock but the other foot is bare. I see he was putting on his socks. But he’s not moving.  I scream and rush over to him. I shake him, but he never moves. I try to put my mouth over his open mouth, and I try to breathe into him to wake him up. Nothing is working. I leave him and I run as fast as I can run, through the house, out the door, across the lawn to the neighbor’s house. I need help! Bill needs help he isn’t breathing and I cannot wake him up.” Bill left Esther alone at 6:30 am on July 17th, 1988. This is the year they would have celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary, on Christmas Day!

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Esther was now seventy-nine years old – still a beautiful woman.   Her sharp, deep amber-brown eyes had clouded over.  They looked like a gray film had grown over the rich darkness of her eyes. She was still tall and looked stately. Her dark raven hair had slowly transformed into a soft, short silver color. She patiently watched out the thick glass window at the end of the living room.

 “I am sure someone will be here soon,” she whispered to the empty living room.

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Some people told Esther she should sell her house and move into a smaller one. They said she needed one without such a big yard to take care of since Bill isn’t here anymore.  Her four children spoke about this to each other and once in awhile one of her children told  her she needed to move out of the big house so she would not have so many things to worry about and such a large yard that needed tending. But, Esther’s response to everyone who said something like that was,

  “No, Bill built this house, and I can never leave it. And, if I sold this house we would not have a place for our Christmas Eve party.” 

 

Esther was stoic in her determination to stay in the home she helped build. She managed to hold on to her home because it was built just for her and she loved it. The walls of every room surrounded her with a lifetime of memories. And, it held future possibilities for her Christmas Eve parties for her family.

 Bill and Esther did build the house, just like they had planned.   When they were younger and their four children were all at home, Esther and Bill dreamed about the house they would build some day.  Bill, a good artist and draftsman, entertained the children with his drawings of cartoons and animals. He made sketches of the ideas they formulated and envisioned their new house. Each of the children can recall the many times their parents poured over plans for a new home they wanted to build. . Bill even constructed a meticulous scale model of the house they planned together.  The model he built was large.  It was on a sheet of plywood. Bill spent the long, solitary winter months in the basement working on the model.  One of the features they planned so carefully was the spacious living room.  It was the most important room in their home.

 Now, so many years later, Esther is here all alone inside their dream house. They had worked side by side to build this home.     Esther was 38 years old and Bill was 42 when they moved their young family of four children into this house. It is the house where the children grew up together.

Esther and Bill had dreams of living in a nice neighborhood and in a house that they built. They made their dream come true. It was a little at a time, as they could pay for the things they needed when building it.  Bill was a Pennsylvania steelworker.  I can remember so many times when the men who worked in the steel mill went out on strike or when there would be lay-offs, and those times were difficult for our family.  After they started building the house, there would be several times when things came to a stand-still due to unemployment.  Our whole family actually moved into the basement of the house.  I was fifteen years old that summer. While our family lived in that basement, the upstairs was being built.  In a year or so, we all finally moved upstairs into the newly finished house.

 ***

It was exciting for me, as a fifteen year old girl, to be part of this new adventure in our life.

 ***

“It is a sultry, warm summer day and the men are here to start mixing up the fresh batches of plasterer. They set up all the equipment outside the front room, right there in the mud. They laid down some boards and they are walking back and forth on the boards, pushing the wheelbarrow. Some of the men are carrying the wet plaster on large boards. They hold the boards up with their arm and balance it on a shoulder, and walk as fast as they can towards the house.  They are really strong men and this is hard work carrying all the plaster into the house and to the room where they are putting it on the walls.  With each trip into the house the men start to cover the open studding. They are making wet walls that are getting thick and strong. I like to hang around watching the men and joke with them a lot. When they came today, I told them I wanted them to make the plaster lavender for my room. The man told me they never made lavender plaster before, but they said they would see if they can do it.  I really want lavender plaster in my room! They worked at it for a while, and then, they did start carrying in the lavender plaster for my room. I have to share this new room with my sister, Patti, and I hope she likes lavender because that is just what we are getting! And once we get the room plastered, then Mom said we can go pick our fabric for the new drapes she will order for it. I am going to pick out fabric that has black and white abstract print on it.”

***

 Our long-awaited new house was completed over the next week as the laborers made trip after trip from the mixing place outside, into the rooms inside the new ranch style house…

 “I have always loved real hand crafted plaster. The walls seem so solid and give me a feeling that I am safe inside of them. When I rap on a real plastered wall, I can hear the dull thud that does not make an echo.  The house seems to have a nicer voice once it is dry and has aged.  The older it gets, the clearer it sounds.  Handmade plaster sounds soft, and friendly.  When I lay my ear beside those walls, I can listen to the men talking as they carried it and slathered it onto the walls. I can hear the men bring in the plaster and the sounds of my two brothers and my sister as we danced about inside the bare, unfinished house. Memories whisper to me and I can hear the many voices from the past .The plastered walls have the power to speak and the voices of our family remain inside the plastered walls.”

 ***

One of the loveliest sounds that echoed through the house was Esther’s voice as she sang hymns. She was a strong singer with a ringing alto voice.  The living room was her concert hall as she dusted the table tops or washed the large picture window. 

***

Esther Luella Kirker started singing as a small child with her family.  Almost her entire family sang or played a musical instrument. Everyone who knew the Kirker family always remarked about the music they all made together at the local Wurtemburg Methodist Church. Esther’s father, James, played the coronet in the church orchestra. Her oldest brother, Clair, was there, too, because he played the tenor saxophone.  Sister Jeanne played the Piano.  Esther sang along with the family musicians. Her voice was her instrument. Esther sang at church.  Members of the congregation often asked her to sing their favorite hymns. She continued   singing those old time heavenly songs by memory her entire life. My Mother had forgotten many things these days, but she never forgot how to sing. She never forgot the words or the melodies of the old hymns. “How Great Thou Art” and “In the Garden” are two hymns that still ring in my memories today. I remember my Mother’s voice.

 ***

Around 7 PM everyone began to arrive tonight.  They parked on the blacktop driveway at the Mercer Road residence.  Cars soon lined the driveway and even down the sides onto the frozen lawn. Our entire family members came bursting through the front door. They called out, “Merry Christmas” and laughed as they greeted each other with hugs and smiles.  They carried in holiday foods wrapped up with foil and they juggled boxes and bags of bright wrapped gifts.  Each person wore holiday outfits for this special night.  Christmas Eve at our house was a grand affair and everyone always dressed in their sparkling new outfits; velvet, silk, and taffeta dresses were on all the little curly haired granddaughters.  Their little brothers had slicked down hair and they arrived with small metal model s of cars and soft stuffed toys to keep them busy.

 ***

Once her family members began arriving with their arms stacked with wrapped gifts and foods, we quickly put   out the colorful holiday food on the table Esther had prepared for this feast.  Esther served the very same punch every year. It is a fruity punch and we all expected to enjoy it. If she ever changed and used a different recipe, it would not be the same for us. We loved her frothy pink fruit punch.  When my father was still living, I brought him his favorite pie, an old fashioned Shoo-fly Pie or a mincemeat pie.

 ***

When the new house was nearly finished, Bill brought some spindly trees home from the woods. He planted them around the house and down the driveway.  One neighbor remarked, “Those trees from the woods will never grow.”  Tonight, the bare winter branches of the Maple and Sycamore Trees stand tall and strong in the early darkness of a Pennsylvania winter.  They were just like my Father and Mother might have imagined them forty years ago. Our Father’s hands were hardened by years of labor in the steel mill yet he carefully crafted this house and surrounding beauty of the yard through years of sacrifice and labor.

 ***

Tonight, in the gently beating heart of our family home,  our Mother’s swollen arthritic hands struggle to open the gifts are stacked around her. She looks so fragile and seems almost like she is drifting away to another place while we sit and watch her surrounded by her unopened gifts. These days, she struggles with almost everything. She often forgets ordinary things she had done for many years in earlier times of her life. She does not say very much tonight but she keeps on smiling. It is almost like she is part of a dream. She is like a Christmas angel, surrounded by her many offspring. She is quieter tonight. Sometimes she looks lost in the middle of the family celebration in the living room. At times, I watch her and try to imagine what she might be thinking about in the middle of this noisy laughter.

***

  As I glance over at her, I wonder if she is listening to the walls, hearing the voices from the past years.  Esther looks out over the five generations who have gathered here every Christmas Eve. The annual photos record the changes in the family. Small babies who once crawled on the floor now bring their own little babies to squirm through the ocean of wrapping paper. Bill is no longer in any of the family Christmas photos. Esther looks frail, and smaller than she looks in the old family photos.

 The living room has now become a witness in the house we filled with laughter, tears and secrets. The living room is part of a conspiracy tonight.

 We all know that this Christmas Eve gathering is Esther’s last Christmas Eve party in her home. We will never again be here as a family gathered around together. We are all facing a shift in our life. We will all be going in different directions after this night. While we smile and chat, we are lonely and deeply sad. I wrote a special poem about the house and gave a copy of it to every family member tonight.  There are tears behind our smiles. We all feel the meaning of the word “bittersweet.”

Epilogue:

The day after Christmas, I took my Mom to the local hospital for an evaluation. As we had all suspected, she was diagnosed with advanced Alzheimer’s disease. She lived another eight years but we would never again be in the living room of our childhood home for another celebration… This was the end of all our happy holidays together as a family. Our Mother’s life changed and so did we.  Each Christmas Eve, the living room remains the same as we always knew it, in our memories.

 TONIGHT, I miss the Living Room!

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Lynda Lambert.  Copyright 2012 and 2014.  All rights reserved.