The Adult Swim Lesson

I stood in the warm water of the teaching pool helping Nahla (not her real name) float on her back. It was my second time giving adult swim lessons, and, honestly, I love it.

Nahla had grown up in another culture, one that didn’t have access to swimming pools and swimming lessons. She wasn’t the person who started me thinking about immigration, but it has been weighing on my mind. I’m too much of a news junky not to think about it, but I’m always frustrated with the one-sided telling of the story.

“What do you think of immigration?” I asked a wise friend a few days later.

Jonathan paused before he answered me. “That’s a big question,” he said.

I had made a quick trip to Washington, DC, and gotten together with some people I know from Hutchmoot. I knew that I would get a thoughtful answer.

My own experience is limited. It is, perhaps, a downfall of living in a small, rural community. A few weeks of international travel opened my eyes, but certainly has not made me an expert on much of anything.

Doug, the other person at the mini-moot in Washington, joined in by telling a story about something that had happened when he was working with refugees. Then he told a story about his father, followed by a story from Sweden. He strung the stories together with the common thread of immigration. Some revealed one side of the issue; others revealed the other.

Never once did he tell me what I should think. Nor did tell me exactly what he thought.

His and Jonathan’s stories made the topic of immigration multi-dimensional. I could walk around the issue while I thought about it — kicking the tires, tooting the horn, taking it for a test drive.

On the other hand, memes — and I feel like I’ve been inundated with memes lately — take a complex issue and flatten it into a pithy saying.  Sometimes the pith is crumpled, fed into a cannon, and fired at those with opposing views. Those who agree laugh and A-men. The targets become offended and angry.

Memes are not conversation, nor are they conducive to conversation.

Last week, a picture showed up in my Instagram feed that showed a young woman holding a sign that said, “Behind millions of successful women is a an abortion they don’t regret.” Frankly, I found it offensive.

I thought, I’d love to introduce you to some women who do have regrets about their abortion.

I thought, I’d love to introduce you to some women who didn’t choose to have the abortion, and yet are still successful.”

And how do you measure success anyway?

Then I thought about the fact that the woman holding the poster has a story, too. I need to hear her story — with open ears and an open mind. She probably won’t change mine, and I won’t change hers, but we’ll be one step closer to understanding each other.

I thought about the pro-lifers who wave posters showing gruesome pictures of aborted fetuses. I’ve wanted to tell them about my friend who 30-some years ago had a late-term abortion because complications with the pregnancy were causing her kidneys to shut down. She and her husband had to make a Sophie’s choice. They don’t need their noses rubbed in it.

Oh, how we need to hear each other’s stories!

So I stand in the teaching pool, gently supporting Nahla’s back, encouraging her that it’s okay because I’m right there in the water with her.

A thousand thoughts run through my head — thoughts on immigration and fear and courage and the struggles women have and how grateful I am for this moment.

Mostly, that’s it — I’m grateful.

 

 

 

October Gratitude

On October 29, I am grateful for these — collected over the course of the month.

  1. Harvest time
  2. A few stalks left behind
  3. Airports
  4. A full-circle rainbow seen from above
  5. Tennessee sunrise
  6. A quiet place to stay
  7. That bald-headed guy resting his arm on the chair (below)
  8. The woman in the middle in the greenish shirt (above) (Her eyes always sparkle.)
  9. Dining with friends
  10. A new book
  11. An afternoon walking around a mall with a friend (sorry, no picture)
  12. The Dalek I saw there
  13. A bald eagle sighting
  14. A new job
  15. Chipmunks in the house (only the tail visible here)
  16. Mice trapped in an empty can and released into the wild
  17. Beautiful sunsets
  18. A girl to take the picture for me while I drive (rearview mirror)
  19. Late autumn colors
  20. The way the afternoon sun hits the hills
  21. Concentric spiky circles
  22. Apples
  23. Pears
  24. Hallmark movies
  25. Family humor
  26. A funny sign
  27. A visit from my grandson (the walker isn’t his)
  28. My father and my grandson playing together
  29. A military funeral (no photo, but a memory I’ll hold onto)

How has your October been?

 

Cold Morning

i thank You God for most this amazing day:
for the glittering icy brilliance of snow
and the pink-streaked watercolor dawn;
for the bare branches of trees whose tiniest twigs
point upward,
upward,
upward,
reminding me there is more.

thank you for the take-my-breath-away cold
that freezes in my throat,
and for the merino warmth of my scarf, hat, mittens, socks.
the bitterest cold helps me to appreciate
the snuggliest warmth.

this, this is a privilege
that my southern neighbors rarely know —
the nip on my nose,
the tears frozen in my eyes,
the soft flakes that land
(and sometimes melt)
on upturned chilly cheeks

thank You God for winter —
for leaned-on shovels
and salt-sprinkled sidewalks;
for glacial ground
where grass breaks instead of bends;
for barren landscapes
that belie the promise
of new Life
and Spring.

thank You God for most this amazing day.
may the ears of my ears awaken to hear
and the eyes of my eyes open to see.

may the tastebuds of my tongue
rejoice in snowflakes that land there,
outstretched and waiting,
as i am
for You

IMG_5220[1]I woke up this morning with the words of e e cummings’ poem “i thank You God for most this amazing” running through my head, but winter in New York has no “greenly leaping spirits of trees.” Instead, we have snow forecast.  Still, I’m thankful.