Thursday, November 21, 2013

coffee, tea, they and we


In a week and a half we trundled between four houses. We visited friends in Ohio one weekend, back home for the work week, then a weekend with our grandson in their apartment while his parents got away. We arrived home Sunday with a storm that took out power (and a mighty spruce), so we moved into our son’s house in town until power was restored two days later.

Personal rituals and routines lay dormant in our dark farmhouse, next to the broom and dustpan. Meditating or talking in the hot tub under our particular night sky rising from behind the barn. Reading, writing and correspondence with morning coffee in my hand-thrown mug and its chipped notch. The familiar dark, lit by a wood fire, alone while my husband sleeps. My little closet with clothes, shoes and necklaces in my mother’s baby blue jewelry box. Without home habits I felt like a leaf or branch skimming along the surface of the grass.

I didn’t feel ill at ease in anyone’s home. I slept well, the food was very good. I drank morning coffee in a mug chosen from a pretty array in each house. I bore the weight of having all our needs and preferences closely attended, of being conspicuously happy. We had clean sheets and towels, nightlights and conversation. It became humbling, really, to be the focus of comfort for three sets of hosts in such a short time. You must submit to the pose of receiving, and breathe.

Intimate things happen when staying overnight. The sound of feet passing on the wood floor outside our room. The dog’s nails stopping at the door, her nose reaching for me still in bed. Entering the kitchen shyly in freshly washed face, pajamas, taking coffee back to the chair chosen the night before as temporary territory. Being under the same roof for days on end, surrendering to the routines of others, playing at them as if they are your own.

At our son’s house each evening they offered us tea made in the Keureg machine. We rarely drink tea. But our son and his wife pulled out big white bowl-mugs they’d picked in their bridal registry last year, and read the list of teas, sounding irresistible. They chose sugar cookie the first night, cinnamon the second, so we took the same. I felt my soul reach for this tea, in this living room, with these our children. I was a genuine tea drinker for two days, joined in their ceremony that was just a vehicle for conversation.

Thanksgiving is next week, the start of holidays together with our children, their spouses and our grandson at the farm. I’ll experience the other side, as host, sharing our space and habits.

Rumi said that


When you are not with close friends,
you are not in the presence.

It is sad to leave the people you travel with.
How much moreso those who remind you of God.
Hurry back to the ones protecting you.

On every trip, have only one objective,
to meet those who are friends
inside the presence.

If you stay home, keep the same purpose,
to meet the innermost presence
as it lives in people.

Be a pilgrim to the kaaba inside a human being,
and Mecca will rise into view on its own.


Ultimately, we are all wayfaring strangers looking for home, the inner presence. Rilke said that even in very unfamiliar circumstances, our solitude can be a home and support.

This is where I want to be this holiday, inside the kaaba of human beings I love. And in my comfort, they will hopefully find their own.



24 comments:

  1. A lovely piece, Ruth, reflecting the many dimensions of what it is to be human — the need for personal intimacy with others versus the need for solitude and reflection, the need for movement versus the need for stilllness, the need to not only give, but to occasionally "submit to the pose of receiving . . . " It sounds like you are able to engage in this multitasking with more finesse than I could.

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    1. Thanks, George. You're catching me at the end of this period of visits, after some reflection, and after being home one night with my first morning solitude in a while. I am less able to cope with crowds than earlier in my life, and so we've made adjustments to our holiday commitments, keeping them small. But it still takes a toll, all that giving up of routine, quiet and solitude. I'd like to get better at Rilke's call to find solitude even in strange circumstances. Maybe if I find solitude for myself when people are around, they will be relieved to find their own solitude too. One can hope.

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  2. Your post really captures something that resonates with me. Something about the way you just "tell it as it is" really strikes a chord. And I liked the Rumi very much, thank you.

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    1. So nice to hear, Dominic. Thank you!

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  3. I love this piece. It gives me pause... So many wonderful phrases inviting me in to your sense of inner "home"...Sounds like you have a lovely family! I also love your openness and awareness with which you met each situation. Good example for me to remember in my encounters as well... "Surrendering to the routine of others" - so poignant. And love the Rumi poem - "meeting the inner most presence..." <3

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    1. Wendy, thank you for joining me with this reflection on my experience the last couple of weeks. The truth is that what Rumi says here is how I feel about my blog friends, and being away from those who remind me of God during this period gave me an ache. I feel challenged to get better at meeting the innermost presence wherever I am. Thank you.

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    2. Oh yes, I know the feeling too, of not being with Friends who can remind me of "God". I'd like to carry them in my pocket :) I too need to get (much) better at "meeting the innermost presence" wherever I am... Is partly why I need more time spent in "The Silence" (the "innermost presence). But you seemed to meet It so well!!! Thanks, Christine... (actually "Wendy" is my alter ego - learning to be free and fly like Peter Pan :) lol

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    3. I have no idea why I called you "Wendy" Christine! I know who you are. Forgive me! :)

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    4. :) No problem... Actually I found it funny. You are not the first one to call me "Wendy" :) Interesting...

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    5. We are wayfaring strangers looking for home, the inner presence. I love this and the sweep of your sharing about your travels and staying centered. Reminded me of the book from years ago "chop wood, carry water" about the centering through everyday things. I'm still trying to work that out as well. I've had lots of practice visiting my daughter's family in Trinidad but it took until last year to purposely carve out quiet, reflective time there! Thank you for the poem by Rumi since it touched me deeply. Ah yes, the presence...

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    6. Oops- not sure how I ended up here rather than the end.

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    7. Mary, good for you that you found a way to carve out your own time of solitude and reflection when you visit your daughter and family. I'm glad the Rumi touched you too. xo

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  4. How you could be so comfortable outside your comfort zone, Ruthie, is a testament to something "bigger" about you than you probably realize. The way you have descibed it to us is its own gift of presence.

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    1. Boots, thank you, or maybe it's just something bigger than me, not necessarily something bigger about me. It has really helped me anticipate what our children (as "guests") might feel, or anyone, when they stay in our home. The exchange of relationships is intensified, and it can be exhausting. It is always good to get home, no matter how luxurious it can feel to be pampered in someone else's. You and Astrid do this for others often, very thoughtfully, and it blesses me. xoxo

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  5. A very sweet post, Ruth. I know it is not that easy to be away from home, but at least you were with friends or family. When I came to this country and stayed at many people’s homes I became so shy and afraid to do or say something wrong – and I sometime did! We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving at home in France, so I can’t say I miss my French family at that time, but I have become used to the festivities and enjoy being with my husband and our family for this holiday. I wish you many hours of happiness on that festive day.

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    1. Vagabonde, staying in someone else's home is a microcosmic "cross-cultural" experience. When you go to another country, there is much to be unsure of. If only we could be like children, natural and making mistakes without too much thought, learning and adjusting quickly.

      Thanksgiving is the loveliest holiday in many ways. No religious trappings, no need to buy and give gifts, only gratitude and a feast. Of course commercialism has crept in on Black Friday, and now even on Thanksgiving Day. But we can choose what we want in our life in that regard and stay at home if we want to, and not watch TV where all the ads make a person crazy.

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  6. I'm glad you was able to find a place safe to wait for your power to come back on. What a storm it was!! My town seem to be one of the lucky ones with very little damage. I just drove through Kokomo yesterday and got to see some of the damage the tornado left behind.
    I love visiting friends and family making for great conversations, bonding, and moments we rarely get in this busy world.

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    1. Liz, I'm grateful you came through the storm OK too. Lovely that you enjoy visiting friends and family, focusing on the connections.

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  7. It's always a journey for the solitary writer out to human company, whether a beloved sleeping inches away in the bed or in the house of one's own grown-up child out of necessity (a storm, or, in later years, when one becomes to old to live on their own). But happily the writer-self is just one of our masks and personae and happy is the person who can wear the various ones with ease. I think that comes as we age, and it makes us even happier with our solitude. Happy Thanksgiving, Ruth.

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    1. Thanks, Brendan. It's true that we learn ourselves enough to take on various roles and positions. I do feel that I am growing less interested in company as I age!

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  8. You write so well, Ruth, of the intimate details of life. It's wonderful to read you.

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    1. Nathalie, how good of you to leave this comment. Thank you so much.

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  9. C'est faire preuve de générosité que de raconter son quotidien. C'est aussi faire confiance au lecteur. C'est ainsi que l'on cultive l'humanité et puis lorsque c'est si bien écrit.
    Merci Ruth et belle soirée;

    Roger

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    1. Thank you, Roger. I wish you a beautiful day.

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All responses are welcome.