30 April, 2011

The Power of Forgiveness


It has taken over fifty years for me to begin to discover the power of forgiveness. A surprising corollary to that understanding has been that, whenever I stop assigning power to the person or event that hurt me, I am a happier person.  Every time I find the strength to forgive someone, something good rushes in to fill the space my resentment once occupied.  It’s as if condemnation, with its far-reaching and evil tentacles, tries to stifle goodness.  It takes persistence, desire and vigilance to achieve forgiveness.

Since Sunday-school teachers drilled it, grade-school teachers recited it, and high-school teachers demanded it, I have tried to live by the Golden Rule to “do unto others as you would have the do unto you.” I have done a fair-to-middling job in that practice.  Where I have been most deficient is in tearing up the list of misdeeds I have suffered. In self-indulgent moments, I imagine a long-robed judge sitting through my recitation of the wrongs I have endured.  Her head nods in silent encouragement as I pour forth with my sorry tales.  Finally, she sets forth her judgment, proclaiming as justified and warranted my feelings of anger and resentment. Her legitimization leaves me righteous and satisfied.   I am left with a twinge of disappointment when my fabricated Goddess fades from view.

                When we suffer an injustice or hurt by another, we rush to judge them and condemn them for having made us suffer.  That anger is pernicious.  Before long, it becomes the dye in which our world is colored.  Hard-earned experience has taught me that forgiveness is like an invisible contract we have to make between ourselves and the ghost of the person who hurt us.

To break it down, there are seven steps to practicing forgiveness.                                                                                                                                    
Seven Steps to Forgiveness
1.     Acknowledge your feelings of anger and resentment.

2.     Identify why you have these emotions.

3.     Allow yourself time to experience these feelings.

4.     Desire the release that forgiveness offers.

5.     Picture how things would be without this negativity in your life.
Practice blame-free living in short bursts.
Dig deep and offer light and goodness to the person or people who hurt you.  Repeat    “I forgive you, I release you, I am letting you go.”

6.     Repeat Steps 4 and 5 until you feel detached from the person or people that hurt you.
      7.  Accept that forgiveness is a process. Expect to go three steps forward and two steps back. Blame and resentment can resurface without warning.  Be prepared to renew your efforts.   

Forgiveness is an act that demands that we let go our sense of the injustice we have suffered.  When we release our judgments and seek understanding instead, we are giving
to others what we would ask for ourselves.  We must not forgive once, twice nor even seventeen times.  We must forgive until we find only love in our hearts; be assured that love comes back to us and multiplies.  Through forgiveness, there is redemption. In forgiveness, we are made whole.

24 April, 2011

Why Easter Means More Than Chocolate Bunnies

           Easter’s origins are sacred to those whose practice Christianity.  The holiday is sacred to me for wholly different reasons.  As a young child, Easter promised a litany of traditions that were strictly observed in our family:  a new dress, a new slip, white gloves, bobby socks, and shiny new
patent-leather shoes.  The most cherished addition to the Easter outfit was a “bonnet”; I was often able to choose a pert new hat to set off my dress.  There were Easter baskets filled with small gifts and chocolate bunnies that
helped the hour or so before church pass quickly.  Holding my mother’s hand, I loved stepping into the nave of the church buffeted by the triumphant musical offerings that heralded the Good News. Easter Sundays forced the minister to truncate his sermon in order to make room for the choir director’s choral arrangements. In my Protestant church, timeliness was never violated; the notion of running more than the prescribed hour for a service was anathema to the congregation.  Contrary to other Sunday services, I did not doze or scribble or play mindless games such as counting the number of bricks in the ceiling.  Instead, on Easters, I nibbled every so slowly on the one, foil-wrapped chocolate bunny I was allowed to tuck into my little purse along side my white hankie bearing the letter “D and a quarter for the offertory plate.

         When I was twelve, my knees frequently dislocated when I walked.  A renowned orthopedic surgeon in New Jersey advised us that I needed to have my knees repaired as soon as possible; beside the painful nature of this problem, I was doing irreparable damage to the cartilage. We would start with the right knee during Easter vacation.  In addition, I would miss another week or ten days of school.  Three to six months later, he would repair the left knee. 

My surgeon’s schedule dictated I arrive at the hospital the day before the surgery. I underwent lots of blood work and x-rays and a thorough scrubbing before being wheeled down to the operating room at 6a.m. the next morning.  The post-surgical week was filled with pain, glimpses of my parents and sister, morphine delirium and friendly bunnies hopping off the walls.  By Easter morning, my doctor deemed me fit for a daytime-leave from the hospital.  I was to be back in my hospital bed by 6 p.m..  Our traditions for the day were put aside to accommodate my condition.  For example, for my Easter outfit, my mother delighted me by making me a pair of flowing palazzo pants in a psychedelic pink fabric that I had admired.  The pants fit easily over my thigh to ankle cast. My flip-flops were the only shoes that fit my swollen foot. Our family had dinner in a dark, crowded restaurant.  Its wooden dance floor still haunts me as I remember crutching back from the Ladies Room and taking a clumsy spill on the somewhat forgiving surface. Fortunately, I more bounced than fell.  I was publicly mortified when my father scooped me up and placed back in my wheelchair.  However, those splendid palazzo pants gave me the confidence to be wheeled back to the car under the curious eyes of the other restaurant guests.

     I turned very quiet on the car ride back to the hospital.  I was faced with another painful week of physical therapy.   My mind was desperately trying to reconcile the meaning of Easter with the idea of spiritual resurrection and with the daunting tasks ahead.  I was faced with having to recuperate from the right knee surgery then return to repeat the entire process on my left knee. I remember the thrill when I had first had a glimmer of an insight; the only way through these challenges was going to be with the help of my family, my friends, and my faith.   
         Easter was all about the impossible. Easter that year had not included most of our traditional observances.  We didn’t attend church or enjoy the familiar music that always lifted my spirits.  The flowers, oh the flowers – lily’s and hyacinths and tulips and daffodils – all so integral in proclaiming Easter—were not in sight.  There was no Easter egg hunt.    However, a cataclysmic shift took place in my understanding of Easter.  The resurrection of hope could not be confined to one oft-told tale of of a young man’s sojourn to death and back again.  For me, Easter had come to have an enormous significance for anyone who believed in the possibility of new beginnings. Anyone who wished to could lay down the burden of their past and, instead, pick up the promise of the future. 
         In the last gasp of pre-teen awareness, I understood that Easter was not about the new hat, the new dress or the chocolate Easter bunny.  Easter was about the crocuses pushing their way up through the cool, dark soil to bring a spot of color to a spring day.  Easter was about the sunrise when the fingers of first light promised the dawn of a new day. 

          In the forty years since that Easter, nothing has diminished my belief that Easter serves to remind us that hope is a certainty; it is among God’s greatest gifts to mankind.   Darkened skies and  defeated spirits can not withstand the restorative power of hope….Hope, buoyed by love and a positive attitude,  always brings with it a better, brighter tomorrow.  

17 April, 2011

Charles Frank Film

This is a link to Charles Frank's trailer for a short he is entering in a film contest in Easthampton, MA.


While there, check out his film called, "Tag."  He won a prize for it last year.  This is a proud mother.

08 April, 2011

Chestnut Mountain View

            Years ago, the cover of a newsstand magazine caught my attention.  Headlined in the August edition was the 1996 Better Homes and Gardens Home of the Year.  Ever since then, I have kept that magazine preserved in a manila envelope covered with large bold words in red ink; SAVE, SAVE, SAVE.  The plans in that magazine changed my life.
            Back in August, 1996, my husband, three children, two cats and one bird were pushing out the boundaries of our 2200sq. foot restored farmhouse.  We were at a cross-road; we needed to expand our living quarters, build or purchase a new home.  The plans in Better Homes and Gardens captivated our attention and claimed out hearts.  I mailed a check for the architectural plans and we allowed our dreams to blossom.  We searched six months for an appropriate lot that would meet our budget and construction requirements.  Our efforts were not fruitful.  Reluctantly, we shelved our desire to build the 1996 Better Homes and Gardens Home of the Year.  We put our one hundred year old home on stilts, dug a full basement, constructed a solid foundation and added a family room and a library.  We loved the property we rebuilt.  We had a comfortable home, an in-ground pool and over a acre of land for privacy. And yet…
            From a box, under our bed, in an envelope labeled SAVE, SAVE, SAVE our future whispered to us.  By tacit, unspoken agreement, we kept a six-year vigil for the hillside property that might accommodate our house.  My husband stumbled upon it in a casual conversation with an insurance client.  The property had proven difficult to develop and he wanted to sell it.             
            Together, my husband and I hiked up the remnants of a logging road that disappeared into an overgrown tangle of thicket .  After climbing 400 feet up Chestnut Mountain, we took to trails left by deer and other fauna of western Massachusetts.  My husband gained purchase of the view by shimmying up a tree.  I climbed on until I reached a rock-roped ridge with a stream of water trickling down it.  My heart beat loud and fast, whether from exhilaration or exertion, I was not concerned.  I had a strong, sure sense of coming home.  Unfolding below us was the wide, expansive vista of the rolling hills and mountains that lend the geographic identity to this region.  The Connecticut River Valley coursed through it, threading its way south toward Springfield, toward the sea. 
            The land purchase was readily accomplished.  What followed was anything but easy.  We endured a two-year legal wrangle with the local Zoning Board who were invested in flexing their muscles on our project.  Less committed dreamers may have abandoned their dreams, but we had a secret inspiration.  We had a magazine with a full photo-shoot of our dream house as it would rise from the end of a 1200 foot long mountainous driveway.  
            We moved in December, 2005.  Numerous projects are still underway, including:  landscaping, constructing the wrap-around porch, finishing the first floor space.  Time, energy and resources have been at a premium.  These facts in no way diminish our deep sense of gratitude that we live on ten acres in a home that can only be described as a hallowed place: we live perched between earth and sky in a spacious and light-filled home once featured in Better Homes and Gardens.
 March 2010

An Homage to Emily; When love comes to call.

When love comes to call, it sends no couriers.
It oft arrives without preamble, forewarning or thought.
It becomes incarnate in its hosts for time without measure.
Its duration, the eternity stored between the rollicking beats of two
Loving hearts.

When love lays its claim,
It rushes to secure its newly gained ground –
Its geography and landscape ripe with new promise.
It basks in the rich pleasure of each stolen moment
Converting the vanquished to victor anew.

When love loses luster
Habit and pattern oft times linger as glue.
The dizzying pulse of new love untethered
As events, sometimes capricious, pry lovers
Apart.  Love’s glossy coat may be worn and tattered
But steady the metronome of two beating hearts.

When love, resurrected, endures decades
Embattled, its old magic echoes in harmonic
The half-lift of a brow, the brush of a palm, a ghost
Of a smile, a language its own. 
When love comes to call, it lingers a lifetime until,
At last, its labored breath exhales as one.

d.evans    April 8, 2011