A train in the night – a daily prompt on seasons

IMG_0204 winter 2It was winter. As cold, crunchy, white and freezing as only a Norwegian afternoon at the end of January can be.

We rushed into the steaming compartment the minute the doors opened, making ourself comfortable. Settling in for the seven hour train ride through the mountains north to Trondheim. Scarves, jackets, mittens and boots were off. Crosswords, coffee, books, knitting and snacks were out.

Except for one traveller. His heavy boots, the sheepskin jacket, the green muffler, all stayed on – even if he finally tore his gloves off. An hour into the ride the passenger next to him leaned over and asked:” Why don’t you take off your winter gear?” ” Oh, I couldn’t do that,” he answered, ” You see, I am changing trains in Trondheim.”

IMG_3795 vinter skogWhen we first moved to the states, I was surprised at how everyone jumped into each season, no regrets, no anticipation, just :hey! It’s memorial day! It’s summer! Let’s celebrate! Or the day after Halloween, filling their carts at Hobby Lobby with decorations for Thanksgiving. Making the most of each season, even while they always were saving for something, college, retirement, vacation.

I love it! Just now I am having a pumpkin spice latte, in the october sunshine, it is fall!

I know, winter will come. Next week will be busy. Next month I will be traveling. After that we will be ” changing trains” and go back to Norway. But just not now, in this moment I am here, to the full, in fall.IMG_0054 fall Indiana

True courage

IMG_2701 cheeringMy mother’s mother is one of God’s silent heroes. I use the present term, even if she has been gone for years now. I am sure she is cheering me on, up in the bleachers, as Paul says those who are dead do. Eagerly watching to see if we have the support we need, if we are staying the course, if we have heeded the warnings and stored the loving advice they gave us through their lives.

She used to be timid, just as me, able to conjure the worst catastrophes, not always trusting her own abilities. Yet always doing what she thought was right, with a serving and loving heart.

IMG_0275 dark cloudsThen one summer morning our world was shattered. My aunt and her husband had been stabbed to death by their neighbor.

I will not write about the anguish and pain, the grief and the fear. Months went by, the shadows of that day adding darkness to the other tragedies we had lived through as a family.

I thought my grandmother would never be able to straighten her back after that blow. She kept praying, serving and believing though.

I had to ask her: Why? How are you able to live?

She stopped knitting, but she did not answer at once. Then she looked at me, her voice still quiet, her eyes glowing strong.

” The worst has happened, after this nothing can frighten me. The worst has happened and God carried me through even that. That gives me courage to face my days, and to know that the small tasks he reminds me to do is important.”

IMG_5888 hortensiaI have seen illness, evil, death and  sorrow afflict my own family. I have listened to patients,clients and victims of evil hurt by violence, illness, shock, grief and death. I do not need to be reminded of the scary, terrible facts and deeds of life. I do need to be  inspired by everyone who keeps believing in beauty and love. I do need to share joy and laughter to pick up strength to keep striving for justice and a good life.

I need to stock up on beauty, truth and love to take me trough whatever fears I still will need to face in my life.

To do that I heed another advice Paul gave the Philippians : Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”

That’s a lot, and enough for me!
IMG_5859 rose

The unplugged voice

P1020880 bottlepostWow, it looks like a message in a bottle! And it was! We opened it carefully, used all our ingenuity to get it out of its container. Put it to dry on a paper towel, and waited eagerly to read the message. As it was, two young people had met, were sitting together in their car at the beach, and wanted to communicate how special it all was to the world. Facebook was not enough.The bottle was washed ashore in the first tide, just some miles from where they had been.

Let's go into the world!

Let’s go into the world!

It is still like that, and I think it will always be; the touch, the feel, the interaction between people needs to be present in the material world to be felt as significant. Even our social media, is social only as long as we know there are people out there. I do know when I have been to long at my computer because I get restless from lack of fresh air, but I never tire of hearing other people’s reflections on life, their stories, their joys. to me it not a question of plugged or unplugged, it is all about life.

Two in one, time for thought and a garden!

Two in one, time for thought and a garden!

I just looked through some of my pictures when writing this post, and I realized that I always do the same, writing, talking, reflecting, creating, caring, taking pictures, reading, traveling.

This is more like it!

This is more like it!

Either connected or unplugged, I always look for light, beauty, joy and truth.

And then there is totally unplugged coffee time

And then there is totally unplugged coffee time

Venus of the rags – a daily prompt on clothing

The lilies of the field

The lilies of the field

When it comes to clothes, Jesus tells us not to worry, as even the lilies in the field in their short-lived robes are more glorious than a kings garments. Just so, they are.

The bit about worrying gets a new meaning in our part of the world though. I still never have been cold, naked or dressed in rags from pure need.  Still, in our abundance, we tend to worry.

Venus of the rags, by Michelangelo Pistoletto

Venus of the rags, by Michelangelo Pistoletto

Not about having something to wear, but about what our outfit signalize to the world around us. As we are part of a material world what we do, and how we look do signalize something,  if we want it to or not. As any other way of being, what we do, what we say, how we use our resources and talents, how we dress signals values. It is not  only as in how I use money, but in what my appearance tells others of how I regard them, and myself.

Clothes that speak of freedom...

Clothes that speak of freedom…

I like my clothes to do what Jesus said, look at the lilies, or the birds, or the fish, the sky, the water. I like to listen to the rustle of fresh tulips or brittle eucalyptus, I like to understand how the design of a flower is created both to be beautiful and practical. I love to learn how the fur of my dog keeps him warm and dries quickly when he has been swimming. In short, I love to create, buy, find and use clothes that are beautiful, practical and comfortable. I like my clothes to tell the world that as a human, I am one of God’s creations made to create, work, comfort, love and enjoy.

IMG_1573 seasonalSo there are clothes for serving, for spreading love and cheer.

IMG_7279 practicalThere are clothes for working.

IMG_2348 enjoyingThere are clothes made for exploring and enjoying the world, and what could inspire more than the colors of a norwegian mountain in fall?

No creepers

No creepers

I do not like to blend in, as I believe every one of us deserves to be seen, to be useful and to recognize the special talents and calling that each of us has.

P1030362 workmanshipI like structure, texture and workmanship that matches what I am planning to do!

I once made this quilt, describing how I sometimes feel like an ice bird together with tropical beauties, as what I love, do not always show on the outside.IMG_3021 tropical scrap

 

But most of all, oh to be dressed like a flower!IMG_4548 peony 2

A serving heart

Old Statue in Oppdal church, washing each others feet

Old Statue in Oppdal church, washing each others feet

A kid was crying,loudly.
The plane was fully booked, and late.
The trip had not even started,yet everybody was annoyed.

Then a kind voice is heard in the loudspeaker.

“Hello, everybody, I know we did not do our best today, for the rest of the trip we will do better.”

And then:
“Even if you rightly feel someone should serve you now, I will ask you all to see if you can find in your heart the kindness to serve this little boy first. He is crying because we did another mistake and placed him away from his mother. Who can help him? And as you know every good service you do will come back to you!”

An angel of goodwill passed through the crowded plane, everyone relaxed, and lots of people waived their hands willing to switch seats, willing to serve.

Even if I had to stay with my own kids I felt that this kind stewardess at Southwest Airlines made the trip better for all of us, by just practising the very basics of human relations, asking forgiveness, asking for help and being willing to serve.

To do what works, to know what does- a daily post on learning

Life is not that easy

Life is not that easy

I am a hands on person, even the theoretical stuff has to work on some level or other for me to grasp it. So when I studied theology  I could feel my brain go all mushy when studying theories of ethics, to do what’s right? Yes.

Lloyd Schermer: An America Puzzle, 2005

Lloyd Schermer: An America Puzzle, 2005

To be able to categorize the different intellectual schools defining” how and why and if so”s? No.  Even God makes it simple,  to love your neighbor as yourself. That’s it.

To me that is what life is all about, understanding this: to know what works we have to ask, not presume that I know what is best for someone else, but constantly learning, asking, being willing to think new thoughts, look for new solutions.

Greensboro Lunch Counter, Museum of American History

Greensboro Lunch Counter, Museum of American History

The irony is that when I went back to do my MBA at a business school,  ethics was suddenly interesting, necessary and important, even as an academic subject. I think the reason was just that, I was older.  I had lived, asked, wondered and been curious so that I could grasp  the existential questions behind the theory.

Now Aristotle and his ethics is my constant companion when I am working with groups of people. He insisted that the highest wisdom, phronesis, is the practical wisdom, the one we learn through doing, reflecting, sharing, to be able to repeat doing what works. Not that books and tools is not important, it is just that they alone can not be a road to happiness, still according to Aristotle.

There is an enormous energy and endless possibilities in asking people to contribute, to share their practical wisdom. There is no force stronger than  a group of people who stand together and has decided, this is our values, this is what important to us, this is what I have to stand for to respect myself, this is how we will build a better world.

Last week I walked from Union Station in Washington DC, down Constitution Avenue, to the Reflecting pool. Next week it will be 50 years since the March on Washington also followed that path. Have we learned? Yes. Are we still learning? Yes. Do we still have a long road to go till that dream is true? Yes. Is it possible? Only if we keep asking, sharing, standing together, only if we keep being willing to learn from one another.

IMG_8402 capitol

A handful of choices or a hand full of choices

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If there was any professionalism at all in the palm reader in today’s prompt, she would have asked to change seats. If not she would soon have known that she had met her equal. Not for reading palms, but for loving to hear people talk about them selves.
Of course I would have taken her hand.
I would have listened for the tremble in her soul.
I would have searched her eyes for her guidance light.
I would have felt for the energy in the space her body occupied.
Most of all I would have been eager to let her talk, all the way probing her words for what she really believed in.
As for my hands, I know what they would tell her, as I just had a manicurist tell me that.
She turned them over, looked at them, and looked surprised. “You know”,she said, ” I think you actually use your hands!”
I was so happy to hear that, I would have been sorry if somebody thought I let that precious gift lie idle.
If they could I would hope they tell a story about being open, not clenched.
Of lifting people up, not holding them down.
Of giving comfort, not sorrow.
Of creating, not destructing.
Of caring, not neglecting.
Above of all of love not war, of peace, not conflict.
And even if I do not believe in palm readers, I believe our heart shows in our actions, as in our hands.
Walking through the Smithsonian National Art Gallery in Washington DC today, I found hands showing hearts all over. Well, at least as the artists saw them! Perhaps it is all a lie?!

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