What an indescribably painful time.
I picked up Christine, to join me in a jaunt up to Rindge, NH for a walk through , The Cathedral of Pines. I love this spot. It is beautiful and sacred. One of my all time favorite places in the world. If you don’t know what it is, go look it up.
I got out of the car and we walked to the enterance where the bell tower looms above as you walk by. An right away,, I noticed something wasn’t quite right. I figured it was my memory hadn’t held onto enough of this place to have noticed the enterance to the catherdral being this low lying and landscaped, then I met upon a clearing. If you know anything about The Cathedral of Pines, the only clearings are ones for memorial gardens wrapped around the back perimeter of The Pines. I stood in horror. I couldn’t grasp what I was seeing. It was all too shocking. It was all gone. Other than the Alter of Nations, everything was gone. All the huge, tall, spyring Pine trees were all gone. The lovely benches tucked under the the tall pines that you could sit in and just breath in the peace of this place and look out between the trees the Alter of Nations with Mount Monadnock as the backdrop. It was alll wrong!!
What had happened?! All was landscaped mounds as you traveled a path to the a small seating area aroung the Alter. None of the memorials were kept up in their beauty and serenity. The paths were overgrown, gardens were missing and dug up in some locations. The pagan circle that took so much to actually have placed there was now leveled dirt as so many of the surrounding sacred places with in these grounds. It was horrifying.
I walked around taking in all that I could manage and we entered the museum and teetered on about all the neat items folks have donated over the years as memorials to loved one. We entered the main hall and there is was. An Explanation. Ice Storm of 2008. It had brought down every single Pine of the Cathedral. I just didn’t know what to say or do. I don’t dare take pictures of what it looks like now. It is definitely not the same place as my memories held. Instead I took these:
Today is St. Martin’s Day all over Europe. This year I decided to incorperate it into our studies. Breifly, St. Martin was a Soldier who preferred the life of a Monk. During his life he helped beggars, drunkards, poor, homeless and anyone else he thought be in need. There are many stories about his life and history behind a lot of it. I researched online for quite a bit of information to present to the boys, and then followed it with a story written by Marsha Johson, a Waldorf teacher and founder of a school in the north western part of the US. We created lanterns out of tissue paper, glue and balloons and had a feast of vienna sausages, mozzerella cheese and grapes, followed by blueberry dumplings. It was delcious and fun. Though this Saint is obviously of Christian origin, I was able to use it to show that no matter our values or faith we should always follow it, though not break any laws in the process. We don’t share the Christian faith, but we do share the strength in our values and principles in such a way that this story can be relative.
T. had decided during this last Sunday’s Passages Service that he wanted to be dedicated to the church. This would be something similar to baptism is christian religions. He will be welcomed as an official extended family member to everyone of the congregants. It was pretty cool and kinda outta the blue that T. wanted this. I wasn’t sure what his motivations were, but I know he really loves the time he spends with so many folks here at the local UU. They truely are our extended family. I am lucky to have found such a welcoming and kind group of folks upon arriving in New York almost four years ago now.
These are a few pictures of the actual ceremony that almost didn’t happen. T. sat there in the pew, with our special guests grandma and grandpa. All of a sudden, in mid hymn, “I don’t want to be dedicated”. Tears in his eyes and pulling me upon him. Oh dear. I was feeling a little disheartened. I kelpt encouraging him that he could do this and that there was nothing to fear about going up to the pulpit. Nothing helped. His sobs only got louder. Finally it came time and Douglas came over with mike in hand announcing T.’s dedication and T. balled out his loudest yet that he didn’t want to be dedicated! My face was probably turning shades of all sorts by this point. What was I going to do You can’t say you have to. to something like this. Douglas was so kind and flexible, knowing T. very well, he tried to give him all control over the matter. “If you change your mind, I have everything set up for you. We will just move on with the rest of the service. Just let me know.” Things were lite again in T.’s eyes and he jumped up to the pulpit. We all followed him up there. So T.!!! LOL
Sunday I was hoping to actually be able to sit and listen to a sermon from Douglas Taylor our minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Binghamton and have B. in Religious Education class without any incedents, but I was way off base. I woke to find T. wanting to attend Spirit Play! I was astonished! Why you say? Well, he can’t really handle group things without a melt down of sorts so he avoids them like the plague with the exception of playgroups on Wednesdays. Last Sunday was out UUPal brunch. This consists of Secret Adult Pals meeting their youth pal over brunch to exchange gifts and knowledge about one another. The lead up to this event id fun for the adults and the children as adults leave secret notes and items for the children through out the month. T. did not perticpate this year becuase I would not sign him up if he were not going to particpate in Religious education or other church functions. He was upset, understandably but I was standing firm on this. Surprise! That pushed him to reach out and explore Spirit Play, our montessori based religious education program for his particular age group. I went over with him the format of class and expectations of him while particpating in a classroom event. He tentatively entered the room, not allowing me out of his site and took his place amoung the circle. Normally having another adult in the room would be frowned upon but I kept myself small and focused solely upon him and reassuring him. He made it! All the way through class and enjoyed himself thoroughly! He even said he wanted to do this every Sunday! This is major break through for T. I was so happy to see him sit through the story and explore all the baskets of stories he has missed from previous class stories. It was facinating! His teachers were wonderful and supportive.
That’s not all!
I realized after class that it was the day of our church’s MAY DAY celebration. Good thing I realized before I left, as I was signed up to help at the craft table! 😛 This meant staying through out coffee hour and through second service with T. running free for most of it. Coffee hour went well. T. played with his freinds on the playground while I helped set up and catch up with several folks I had not seen in a while. Then it came Chapel time for the children and T. was not going to particpate. I figured if he made it this far in the day without issues I was not going to push his involvment in this. I left him to play. I little while later the children had chosen the May Queen and King and proceeded to the May Pole. T. then came crying inside to me, at the craft table, becuase “they had started without him”. I am not sure what he was thinking, but I told him that he chose not to participate by not entering Children’s Chapel and if he really wanted to join in I could help him or he could simply ask the Acting DRE to help him find a spot. At that, he decided he would just play around in the same area. That was fine. After the Maypole Dance the kids were let loose. They took advantage of the trees and room to run. It was chaos, but a good chaos. Until……T. took offense to another child removing, without permission, his friend, Pirans’s backpack from his body. He instantly picked up a stick and started kicking the child. The entire process was carefully watched and dealt with swiftly and lovingly by the Acting DRE, Laurie McCoy. She is wonderful! We found in our conversations with T. that his initial upset that happened prior to the Maypole dance, was the fact that his favorite adult, Bill Thorpe, was not there. He was looking forward to playing with him. That was sad, but his daughter ensured him that he would see him soon and he had no choice about not being here. That worked for T.! He was off and running and having a great time and all was forgiven between parties. I kept my eye on him to see if he was losing touch with reality at all but he held fast. It was so pleasant not to have to have been his mediator for that time period. It was great breathe of fresh air.
That is not all!
Of course all good things must come to an end! Well, five minute warnings were given to both children and with only a slight altercation between brothers, was accepted with only a little groan. Upon the one minute warning I was initially greeted with a loud outburst vocally “No!” but when I stated that a five minute warning was given so he should be ready, I actually got a repsonse of “Okay”. My jaw practically dropped off my face! Both boys went back outside to play….or that is what I thought. In actuality! Both had made their rounds of good byes and were waiting for me at the car!!!!!! AT THE CAR!!!!!! I was the one running behind and late for them!! This was miraculous! I couldn’t have asked for a better morning!
This weekend I was extremely fortunate enough to have been able to attend my local Unitarian Universalist Spirituality Retreat. The theme for this retreat was Sound and Music. Singing in front of others or even with others has been extremely difficult for me all throughout my life, even though I love singing and music is general. I knew that I was going to do whatever it took to really push myself this weekend and explore this issue. I was at times really timid and certainly challenged out of my comfort zone, but I still felt safe. The entire weekend I was safe. No one was there to ridicule another. No one was held in higher esteem of another. No one was untrustworthy. These may seem obvious to you or not, but to me these were huge revelations that hit me like a ton of bricks.
It was not as though I were ever told I couldn’t sing. On the contrary I was praised as a youth for singing. I guess that standing out amoungst the crowd has just been something I grew up as. My youth was different than the masses and I always wanted not to stand out. Rather, I wanted to be invisible and just do what needed to be done. But circumstances as they were, that was just not in the cards for me. So, I guess that carried over into much of my life, including areas such as my art, singing, and opinions. These were the most challenging to me. They are open expressions of myself for others to make their judgements upon as good or bad. Since that is not the intent that you enter into these actions with, I guarded them against the world by shying away from public speaking, exhibition, and particpation. This wall is a barrier so thickly enforced now that the slightest release brings such a flood of emotions that it feels as if I have gone crazy and have no control over my senses or sensabilities. Knowing this while entering into this weekend of exposing myself, I went in gaurded to the hilt so I wouldn’t break rather I could absorb all the intellectual aspects of it all then in my own time I could delve into the exercises on my own time without fear.
Well, that is not exactly what occurred.
A few observations stood out to me. Each person came for totally different reasons. Everyone felt as though they were putting them self out there on the line. We were all there to enjoy ourselves. We were all there to make connections with new folks and to deepen the ones we already had. No one was there to be hurtful! Out of nervousness of the tasks we were asked to do we broke out in jokes and laughter to ease the tension that occurs when we have to expose ourselves vocally and individually. It was challenging but exhilerating at the same time. We all managed to get through the exercises and was joyfully surprised at how fufilling the experiences were. In a playshop I attended in particular I found my self challenged beyond any comfort zone I thought I might have had there. Improvisation with an individual sound added upon each others sound within the group. I couldn’t find a sound to fit. I couldn’t let my self stand out. I couldn’t find a sound that wasn’t words. I couldn’t keep up with the changes. It all came down to risking myself and making something clearly all on my own accord to shape a whole as a group. I did end up finding an exercise that gave me enough comfort that particpating was easier for me to grasp. I got a lot out of this playshop. I found that the poeple in this playshop to be so extremely helpful and caring and supportive even in those times where I was just pushed beyond my ability to particpate. The discussions and the play we entered into during that class will stay with me for a very long time. I knew this fear of risk is also a factor in my difficulty with terms such as “faith” and “God”. I am not sure if the folks in the group with me knew how connected this was to me in other areas of my spirituality.
Have you ever had your name sung to you by all your peers? Well let me tell you, that is one experience that truely speaks to your soul. That is really all I can say about that. Beyond profound!
The poeple, the tasks, the play, the place…all these were factors to making this a most spectacular weekend. I have so much to absorb still and decifer. I came away from this experience with so many tools, but most importantly I found a community that I can be somewhat ungaurded and allow myself to stretch beyond me and to practice being me with.