Tears

I’ve been crying every day for many days now.

When I watch the evening news, I cry. When Steve Hartman’s ‘On the Road’ segment shows the amazing love that is in people, stretching over generations, living through war, even joining strangers, in endless variety and power, I cry.

When I see sorrow or fear or abandonment on the faces of men or women or especially children anywhere in the world, I cry. This last week and more, when I see people carrying coffins – long lines of coffins – in Haiti since the earthquake, I cry. When I see families outside the airport in Kabul, sitting there with only the hope that is in their hearts, I cry. When I watch the video taken by the woman in Tennessee in her son’s house as the flood waters roll by higher and higher, until the picture tilts and she cries out, and he says something you can’t quite make out, and then it ends, and so does her life they say . . . then I cry. When the young couple appear on the screen with their two little children and talk about their 7-month old twins, torn away from their father’s arms by that same flood, and the photo of the two smiling babies suddenly is there, I cry.

When I hear the sharp words of division between people in this land of blessings, when I hear people curse each other over their disagreements, when I see individuals make decisions that move Death to rub his cold hands together in glee, then I cry.

When I stand with friends at the bedsides of their loved ones who have lived with disabilities, but also with laughter and a joy deeper than any loss, all their lives; when I recognize their strength and see the light of God’s face in theirs, I cry.

When I feel so tired and near-overwhelmed, when the way forward is fogged and my sight is poor; when I turn to prayer and feel there the embrace of the One who is energy and light and way and truth and life, I cry.

When I visit with old friends over good food and drink, when the blessings of memories are freely shared and conversation brings forth the unity of understanding and the light of a little shared wisdom, I leave their company with a smile at last, and go to the car and sit in gratitude, and cry.

When I see a photo of my Mom, one that I’ve not seen before or for a long time, with that familiar smile and those eyes of light, and I hear that voice crying out in astonishing welcome the name she and Dad gave me to carry, I cry.

When the silence is full here in the little chapel, and the fullness an embrace, and the embrace a promise, and the promise held, then I cry.

I read just recently that Ignatius of Loyola for years cried, all the time. Eventually he just told God he was going to stop, that the tears were affecting his sight, and stop he did. But not before shedding how many tears over the sorrow of sin, of the pain of the world, of what was and what might have been? I just read this for the first time after all these years. And I was glad that God is giving me a life long enough to continue to learn, and a path to find what I need to know. And I cried.

I don’t mean to say that I am always feeling sad. That would not be true. In fact I’m often not feeling sad at all when the tears come. I laugh each and every day as well. Heartily and deeply. But I am learning hour by hour that one fitting response of the living heart to the reality of this human world is precisely,

readily,

willingly,

to cry. It is, as the prayer says, right and just so to do.

The salt water of our tears flows down the cheeks and away,

and joining all the others since Abel’s tears in the face of his brother’s rage,

become the waves of our every ocean, rolling up on every shore in a timeless rhythm that endlessly repeats those first words, heard by none and known by all,

spoken by that Voice never heard and heard always, whispered by the Creator who is the first and the last and the always to cry over us the benediction of loving tears,

“It is good, it is good, it is very good.”

~ JP McGinty 8.25.21 Feast of Saint Louis, King of France

Shifaaz shamoon, on Unsplash

The Ride Home

Brothers, sister, nieces, nephews,

family, midsummer around a barbecue.

how many backyards over how many August days and summer years?

good to be to see to laugh to remember together

and i think there was welcome evidence of her twice or more, I do

the sighting of a certain fabric moving in gesture? a fragment of lasting laughter still moving in still air?

pulling away I look to the right, that seat, how many rides home from that very meeting?

and then she speaks, they’re all so tall and strong, so wise and funny, so good

they grow from your roots, I say, you walk in them

I tear, she smiles. It’s all alright she says. I look and she is perfectly composed.

are you tired, I offer. Never, any more.

how do you know, I glance over, that it will stay alright?

you can see it, is her only answer.

arriving I pause at the familiar address, where she lived. But she is more than home.

I face forward, fool, and weep. She leans over and gives a mother’s kiss.

In Praise of the Slow Mow

I went to mow the lawn yesterday only to find that the very impressive rider-mower that came with the premises was unwilling to make a sound, never mind to cut grass.  In the corner of the garage stands my well-used old manual push mower.  You push, it cuts.  At least, it cuts some of what it rolls over.  So the old mower and I were pressed into service together.

Several differences were immediately evident regarding the use of one grass-cutting tool over another.  First, it was much quieter.  I see my neighbors wearing headsets as they twirl around their yards on their own rider-mowers.  One would look preternaturally silly wearing headphones while pushing the old manual mower, unless of course one were listening to the best of Elton John as his final concert approaches, or fill-in-your-favorite-music.  Secondly, it took more time.  I completed half the lawn in about twice the time it would’ve taken to complete the whole of it on mower-back.  Thirdly, it took more effort.  As I am fond of saying, in terms of physical effort the rider-mower proves only that I retain sufficient balance to remain upright in a seat (even in motion!).  If I live long enough the day will likely arrive when this is no longer true, but thank God at the present time it doesn’t feel like much of an accomplishment.  And finally, the quieter, slower, more taxing method of getting the job done invites, allows, and almost requires me to actually get to know the yard, to actually see the lawn, its makeup of a startling variety of local weeds in various shades of green which, when cut low, masquerade a lawn with admirable efficacy.  

Why do I impose this reflection on the rest of the reading world?  

For one reason.  All four of the differences outlined between the newer, powered manner of reaching the goal and the older, self-propelled way seem to me to argue that the older and simpler is (at least sometimes) better.  And perhaps not just when it comes to getting the yard to look nice.  

Think about it.

Lately I have taken to setting the GPS to avoid toll roads and interstates.  In doing so I have nothing against that marvel of national roadways that bear the name of President Eisenhower.  There are times and circumstances – many of them – where what he and others wrought in the building of that system is just what is needed.  But, if the trip is within the state, or from one New England state to another, to avoid the bigger and better reveals the same differences and allied benefits uncovered in my front yard.  The voyage is quieter, slower, asks a livelier attentiveness of the driver, and allows the part of creation between the beginning and ending points to actually present itself in all its wonder, beauty, and uniqueness.  

All these are benefits, both along the way and on arrival.  Postmodern life wants you to hurry everywhere, and when you get here to hurry to accomplish what you came for.  Pshaw on that.  The quiet allows the inner dialogue in your brain to slow, to allow memories to be recalled by what is seen and heard along the way, and to link those memories to life here and now.  The seeing and hearing along the way, paying attention to the kind of curve that doesn’t often come on a super-highway, gasping in awe at the brook swollen by recent rains by the side of the road and a few miles along noticing where it becomes a valued contributor to a river – these are gifts to the traveler, awake and aware.  

Examples could be multiplied.  Writing a letter with a pen, folding it, placing it in an envelope, greeting the postal service person and chatting as you purchase a stamp, addressing that envelope and placing it in the mailbox with a whispered prayer for the recipient: all this is a richer experience by far than pecking out an email in 2 minutes and sending it without another thought at minute 2.5.  Walking, where and when possible, to complete a simple shopping errand places me in touch with the actual place I live in a way that hopping in car and driving there just cannot do.  And walking without an errand, without a reason, without a cause, is even better.  Enough of that at least brings to life the memory of childhood when you moved just because.  And most of the time you couldn’t name the cause.

So.  Though I’ve naught against rider-mowers, you can read here that at least some of them should be re-tooled as planters in the front yard, decorative reminders of some of what we would be better off letting go of between pandemics.  Like the kind of rushing around that numbs the mind.  And the busy-ness that puts the heart to sleep and threatens to allow me to forget the good of my neighbor.  And the world’s noise that drowns out the tiny whisper of the voice of God, a voice that is not saying . . . ever . . . Hurry up, will you???

© John McGinty 7/25/2021