With All My Heart

Leave the dishes.
Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don’t patch the cup.
Don’t patch anything. Don’t mend. Buy safety pins.
Don’t even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don’t keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll’s tiny shoes in pairs, don’t worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic—decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don’t even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don’t sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we’re all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don’t answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in through the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don’t read it, don’t read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity

~Louise Erdrich “Advice to Myself”

I am a messy person, coming from a long line of messy people. My paternal grandmother never had a clear kitchen counter, or a dining room table without piles of books and papers, spilling over with knickknacks and half-completed craft projects everywhere. I loved the chaos of her house since the messes left behind by her grandchildren weren’t as noticeable. I always felt at home, as if I was not being constantly monitored as a potential mess about to happen.

During this past (very hot) week, in our own home some sixty years later, we have grown from two residents to twelve with a lovely reunion of our children and grandchildren after four years of living far-flung and unable to gather. With four children under six years of age together, our house became even more of a whirlwind than it ordinarily is. I took no photos to demonstrate this, but trust me, the floor was covered with all manner of organic and inorganic matter most of the time. This was bliss, as long as I didn’t step on something sharp or suspiciously slimy in my bare feet.

The biggest surprise was a very early morning, about 4:30 AM, when the house was still dark and quiet except for our ten month old grandson who had not adapted yet to our time zone, so was up early for his breakfast. As I tiptoed quietly into my <very messy chaotic> kitchen to retrieve something, I noticed a good sized dust bunny on the linoleum floor and bent down to pick it up to toss in the trash can. To my surprise, it leaped away from my fingers!

It kept jumping away and when my eyes finally focused in the early morning light, I realized it wasn’t an escaping dust bunny, but a tree frog covered in dust fuzz from my less than tidy floor. It must have come in the house from the perpetually open front door and hidden under a piece of furniture, being transformed into a furry froggy Frankenstein.

I caught it and carried it outside into the morning dawn, setting it free into the chaos of the world outside, rather than coping inside with my insufficient housekeeping. No, I didn’t think to get a photo. Oh, well. Some things you just have to take on faith.

After all, my heart has been leaping and rejoicing all week to have our family under one roof for a brief few days and whether the house was clean was simply a secondary concern. It actually is not a concern at all.

You can’t clean out a mama’s heart; it carries so much over the years that may need sweeping and scrubbing, but this was not the week to worry about it. My worth is not in what I own or how pristine I keep things, but in the depth of my commitment to those who I am given the privilege to know and love.

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Lenten Grace — Forestalling Burial

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..earth sifts over things. If you stay still, earth buries you, ready or not. The debris on the tops of your feet or shoes thickens, windblown dirt piles around it, and pretty soon your feet are underground..

Micrometeorite dust can bury you, too, if you wait: a ton falls on earth every hour.

Quick: Why aren’t you dusting? On every continent, we sweep floors and wipe tabletops not only to shine the place, but to forestall burial.
~Annie Dillard from For the Time Being

I conveniently thought dust came from flakes of old dead skin innocuously loosening and lazily floating away from their body of origin to accumulate on the piano, or book shelves, or hide innocently in surreptitious dust-bunny clumps under the bed.   Each house is it’s own self-sustaining dust-factory thanks to its exfoliating occupants.   I hadn’t given too much thought to all that alien dust outside our doors, much of it originating from something quite extraterrestial.

A mega-ton meteor comes roaring out of the sky, breaking sound barriers and everything around, including people, and busts into millions of microscopic particles on impact.   Now that is real DUST, overwhelming dust, a beyond-our-comprehension debris burying us from above with shock and awe brightness.

We dust compulsively in our daily lives, trying to forestall our ultimate burial, hoping to avoid the harsh reality of being covered up only to become dust ourselves someday —  all dust and nothing but dust.

Truly, in one fell swoop, we will all be changed, in a blink of any eye.   A little meteor exploding from the heavens is nothing compared to the cataclysm of the Son of Man hung, dying, buried, to be returned to dust like us all,  and yet rising to walk again.   Instead he dusts us up, shines us clean, and readies us to live when he comes again.

No more dead skin to forestall.  We will be so much more than mere dust.

Everything exists, everything is true and the earth is just a bit of dust beneath our feet.
~ W. B. Yeats

Better was it to go unknown and leave behind you an arch, then to burn like a meteor and leave no dust.
~ Virginia Woolf

Borborygmus and Dust Bunnies

from http://www.pops-shop.com

(fictional story written on a theme of “GRRR!” for http://www.faithwriters.com)

“Mommy?…”

No response.  Five year old Ethan waits a minute in the dark, huddling under the covers, watching and listening.

“Mom!”

Still no response.  Ethan’s eyes are wide open now, staring over at his older brother Erik’s bed, where eight year old Erik is fast asleep, breathing slow and easy.

“MOM!!!”

Their sleepy looking mother, hair askew, bathrobe barely wrapped around her, opens the bedroom door and peers in.

“What is going on?  What’s wrong? It’s 3 AM, for goodness’ sake.”

“There’s something under Erik’s bed making terrible noises…. It woke me up but he is still asleep.  It must have snuck in here before we went to bed and it’s hiding under there.  I can hear it growling.”

She closed her weary eyes, attempting to organize her thoughts into coherence, wishing she was back snug in bed.

“Ethan, there can’t be anything under Erik’s bed.  You must have been dreaming.”

“Mom!  It’s real!   I heard it!  It sounded just like this: ‘GRRRR!’ “

“Ethan, there is nothing under Erik’s bed other than too many toys and dust bunnies that reproduce themselves.”

“Mom, get a flashlight!  I think it must be a wolf!  Get Dad!  Do something!”

“I’m not waking up your father. He has to be up in another two hours to get ready for work.  You aren’t making any sense.  It was just a bad dream. Now go back to sleep.”

She closes the door and starts to feel her way back down the dark hallway.

“MOM!”

She stops.  Turns around. Opens the door again and looks in.

“It just growled again!  It sounds really hungry!  You’ve got to get it out of there!”

She stands at the doorway, eyes closed, when she hears it.

“Did you hear it??  Now you believe me? Mom, it’s real!”

She smiled.   Ethan is whimpering now.

“Ethan, you have just heard the dreaded ‘borborygmus.’  It likes to growl.  That’s all it can ever do.  It will never bite or hurt anyone.  But you are right, it does sound very hungry…

“Mom!! Make the borbory-mus leave!  PLEEEASE get it out of here!”

“Ethan, it’s just Erik’s stomach growling.  That’s all it is.  It must have been the pepperoni pizza we had for dinner.  Let’s hope he’s not about to get sick.  Now that’s something for which you can call me out of bed. Good night now, go back to sleep. ”

And she headed back down the hallway.

Ethan sat in the dark, now more annoyed than relieved, watching his brother sleeping soundly, oblivious to the rumbling growls coming from inside his tummy.  Then worry snuck back and attaches itself to Ethan like Velcro.

“Mom!”

One more time, with all the patience she can muster, she cracks open the bedroom door, tempted to growl at him herself.   But she is a good Mommy, so she only says in a very quiet controlled tone worthy of an Oscar winning performance:

“What is it now?”

“Mom, do you think dust bunnies bite?”

She took in a deep breath, hesitating for only a moment.

“No, but a tired Mommy certainly might if she isn’t allowed to go back to bed.”

“OK, night, Mommy.  Thank you for saving me from the borbory-whatever. You are really a great Mom, you know?

And as she crawled back into bed, she knew he was right…