Walking in dream catchers
"When the moon is full we wish for rabbit tracks." jwk
"Why lock your doors at night? Love is there. Trust is there. Justice and Peace are there. Don't lock them out." Advent window # Nine
Years ago at Cass Methodist a Liberian parishioner told me of his first U.S. Christmas. In his country the custom on Christmas day was to gather in the village center to share a common feast brought from all quarters. So when he saw the frenetic scale of preparations going on in this country, beginning as early as Thanksgiving, he said to himself, "This is going to be some feast!" Accordingly on Christmas morning, he loaded his family into the car, filled the trunk with good things and sweets to share - and drove to downtown Detroit. Only to find it empty, bereft, abandoned. A parable of sorts - warning against all empty preparation, marketing and hollow hype - without delivery day. These days of feasting in the Word, nevertheless, we think of you dear friends, and honor the incarnation.
For some of you this will be an annual Christmastide letter. For others an overdue update on Jeanie's health. Start there. We had a very good MRI this month. Apart from some over- cautious equivocation in the radiologist's reading, these pictures show stable if not reduced tumor. I've seen it with my own eyes. My anxiety going in had stemmed not so much from Jeanie's estate, as from the fact that we had changed methods of delivery for the viral treatment (from intravenous port to a nebulizer breath machine, known to be less efficient - and ours was mechanically unpredictable even at that). But as it turns out the tumor picture is good.
Moreover, she's been well enough to travel with me repeatedly this fall, most recently to DC where the Sojourners (who have lit their candles from day one of this illness) laid eyes and hands and prayers upon her.
Meanwhile, however, Jeanie's seizures have continued about every two weeks since summer (the last on Christmas day, surrounded on the floor by gifts and my family members) all unabated by the multiple medications which do get titrated up, making her lose track or nod off mid sentence. Add to which a sinus infection these recent weeks that fogs her head yet the more. Im eager to see her through it. [Since this was written, she's turned the corner. Much improved.]
So in these days of winter fog, I watch her gather things into piles, indiscriminately. Baptismal certificates, cardboard coupons, letters from friends, junkmail, photos, and work faxes all get scooped and wrapped and carefully stashed by her lights. She is in effect holding it all together. Or packing for a cabin journey north. But I confess to spending inordinate time looking for things I've just put down. Then, of course, comes the occasion I've misplaced it myself, but am feverishly searching places I imagine Jeanie might have put it.
In one pile yesterday I came upon a file of confidential email correspondence several years old covering the enneagram spiritual typology and her inner life. I read only far enough to understand what it was - and to let my heart ache a bit. It's the sort of work she couldn't do at present. But then again her distilled integration, her pure and straightforward Jeanie-ness, her sweet self-possession, even her fight against the fog, is the fruit of such work and prayer.
In Cambridge at a Contributing Editors meeting this fall, the Witness staff stayed up late one night playing "heresy," a biblical version of "fictionary" wherein one person selects an obscure verse and everyone tries to fabricate a line or two which others might guess to be authentic. It can be quite hilarious and was. Jeanie held her own. And then as we reached the point of exhaustion, she scribbled this on her slip - purporting to be something from 2 Kings or maybe the Psalms: "When the moon is full we wish for rabbit tracks." A couple weeks back a homemade CD arrived in the mail from our friend Jay McDaniel. He'd turned her logion into a winsome song about the sufficient presence of God, an intercession and a hymn to the incarnation titled, "I'll Be the Rabbit Tracks."
We had a lovely host of homemade gifts this year: photo collages, drawings, a hand-sown travel pillow, shelves crafted to fit odd places, a St. Lucy crown bedecked with holly and candles for a doll - but the best was actually a birthday present for Jeanie in November (in truth for us both): an oversized Advent calendar with pictures and personal poems for each day and a love letter on the back of Christmas eve's door - destined to become an annual fixture of the season. Lydia, the conceptual organizer of that project and author of the love letter, is a freshman at Mercy High School. She delights in Choir and Speech, above all - though seems to do well across the board. If telephone time be any measure, her closest friends (including a certain boy) are the circle of regulars in this community youth theater group, Paperbag Productions. They're readying a musical Tom Sawyer for the new year, with Once Upon a Mattress and Wizard of Oz in the wings.(For the latter she has herself pre-cast as the wicked witch to Lucy's Dorothy).
Jointly, she and Lucy - now a 5th grader at St. Thomas Aquinas - have become caretakers of a new kitten named Scatters - for reasons apparent. (I like the name because when you want him to come you can say Scat!) I like the cat too, but keep my distance - for reasons allergic. Lucy is learning to break a full court press in basketball and seems to have an eager gift for poetry, as above from those advent verses. Last week she and I went for a cabin walk in two feet of snow using the gorgeous wood and leather snowshoes we recently inherited from Jeanie's parents. Pausing to catch our breaths in a pine clearing, she captured the oddity and beauty in a single phrase, "It's like walking in dreamcatchers!" May we ever so.
My work at the Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education, making forays to Chicago but working mainly from the house, has actually facilitated time and presence with Jeanie. Beginning in January and stretching through March, however, the road demands get excessive with new courses, additional teaching, and SCUPE's biannual Congress on Urban Ministry into which we've integrated a training event for seminary faculty. I'm bracing for the work, scrambling to arrange care, and praying Jeanie keeps her keel even. In addition a longstanding conversation about an "underground seminary" is coalescing in a discernment retreat late next month here in Detroit. The organization is thoroughly ad hoc and envisions something radically biblical inhabiting the space between movement, congregation, and academy. Who knows if or where it will lead.
In all things we follow the word. We wish for rabbit tracks. We walk in dreamcatchers.
And in Love,
Bill (and Jeanie, Lydia, Lucy)