When We Come To It

I look around at what’s going on with this coronavirus and I wonder, “Will we come to it?” Is this the time when we will be brave enough to listen . . . to change course and accept a new normal and not go back to status quo?

We have such power to carve out mountain ranges, genetically modify our food and our bodies, rearrange rivers, go to the moon and outer space, blow up countries; and, yet, one small microscopic virus has silently and invisibly swept across our world causing countries to shut down, stock markets to plummet and people to die. Can we accept the challenge in what’s happening; that it can touch each of us and is no longer just happening to someone else?

I don’t think we’ve dealt with something like this before on a global scale; though, in the past, we’ve had plagues and pandemics far greater in number than this one. Have you ever thought about that? Why this one? Maybe, this is it.

Maybe this is the time when we come out of this on the other side and there will be countries, beliefs, families — people in general — coming together, settling differences and living in harmony. I felt it early on as a child in wanting peace in my home with my parents. Events happen, catastrophes occur and we always wait for the dust to settle so we can get back to our normal lives, instead of looking beyond and consider something different.

I suspect there’s been a lot of the same tug-and-pull down through the ages and, still wonder, if now we are able to come to it? Come to reconcile conflicts within ourselves, others, and face what’s there in our lives that have been trying to get our attention. Truly learn to be kind and live in peace with one another, particularly now, when we have the capability to seriously damage or destroy this world as we know it?

I believe this is a major crossroad in humanity where we have an opportunity to be quiet, listen and hear and, maybe, for the first time, get the message on what’s calling to show us how to do that: consider maybe we’re the problem and feel life and love we’ve been given. I think we’ll hear and answer the call this time. I’ve already seen so many stories with people reaching out to one another in innovative ways to connect on the internet and many others. It’s beginning.

Over the years, I’ve become more sensitive to life and death and can’t watch anything close to violent movies or shows or even play “bloody” video games with my grandsons. It stays with me. Even to the point where Hubby helps capture spiders and moths for me in the house and puts them outside. I know it sounds crazy, and maybe over the top, but I can’t help it. He has gotten used to my many quirks over the years and I feel if I smash a bug I can’t go back one minute before and put life in it and bring it back to the way it was crawling or flying. But, you know, we don’t have many bugs.

Or, I have a strong feeling when I smell fresh cut pine. It bothers me, even though we’ve chopped down our own Christmas trees for many years when the girls were young. I always sense a feeling they’re stuck planted right where they are with no ability to run. Can you imagine the feeling when the sound of a chain saw starts coming your way and you can’t move (aghh – one of those dreams waiting to happen). Then, there are the cattle trucks I pass on the highway and get emotional knowing their fate, even though I enjoy a good hamburger. It’s not perfect and I still have a lot in reconciling balance within my own life.

The world out there is much different than mine. Big entertainment is popular with killing and blowing things up. People seem to take pleasure in getting even and watching things die. We puff ourselves up and think we’re all so powerful in what we can destroy and conquer but can we put life in one flower or create the song of a bird. Maybe that’s what’s going on in this coronavirus is that it will show us what’s precious. After this, I don’t think we’ll be able to go back to the way it was. Too much will have changed and what was before will no longer serve us. Nature, sun and the moon, earth and many universes beyond will move on. Question is: Will we give up our power plays and petty differences to move on and be there with them?

I came across this poem the other day that spoke to the many things I’ve described above. It seemed to resonate in ways I’ve long felt but never until now seen words put to them so beautifully. It’s really powerful if you listen to Maya Angelou’s voice from the video while following along with her words in this poem. Maya Angelou reading her poem “A Brave and Startling Truth”.


By Maya Angelou

We, this people, on a small and lonely planet

Traveling through casual space

Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns

To a destination where all signs tell us

It is possible and imperative that we discover

A brave and startling truth

And when we come to it

To the day of peacemaking

When we release our fingers

From fists of hostility

And allow the pure air to cool our palms

When we come to it

When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate

And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean

When battlefields and coliseum

No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters

Up with the bruised and bloody grass

To lie in identical plots in foreign lands

When the rapacious storming of the churches

The screaming racket in the temples have ceased

When the pennants are waving gaily

When the banners of the world tremble

Stoutly in the good, clean breeze

When we come to it

When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders

And children dress their dolls in flags of truce

When land mines of death have been removed

And the aged may walk into evenings of peace

When the religious ritual is not perfumed

By the incense of burning flesh

And childhood dreams are not kicked awake

By nightmares of abuse

When we come to it

Then we will confess that not the Pyramids

With their stones set in mysterious perfection

Not the Garden of Babylon

Hanging as eternal beauty

In our collective memory

Not the Grand Canyon

Kindled into delicious color

By Western sunsets

Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe

Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji

Stretching to the Rising Sun

Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor,

Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores

These are not the only wonders of the world

When we come to it

We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe

Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade, the dagger

Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace

We, this people on this mote of matter

In whose mouths abide cankerous words

Which challenge our existence

Yet out of those same mouths

Can come songs of such exquisite sweetness

That the heart falters in its labor

And the body is quieted into awe

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet

Whose hands can strike with such abandon

That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living

Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness

That the haughty neck is happy to bow

And the proud back is glad to bend

Out of such chaos, of such contradiction

We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

When we come to it

We, this people, on this wayward, floating body

Created on this earth, of this earth

Have the power to fashion for this earth

A climate where every man and every woman

Can live freely without sanctimonious piety and

without crippling fear

When we come to it

We must confess that we are the possible

We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world

That is when, and only when We come to it.

Like Maya Angelou presents in her poem, I believe we’ll come to it. We’ll find a way. It may not be my way or your way . . . maybe, a third way, like William Ury talks about, the perfect blend of both ways plus a little more.

It will happen, if we allow it and do our part and when it does maybe we will see something miraculous. Another true wonder of the world – the human realizing they’re true potential.

Pat from the ‘ol kitchen table

The Picture

picture of my mother

Personal photo of my mother © Pat Ruppel

Isn’t she beautiful?  This is a picture of my mother, Myrtle Mae (Shaw) Collingwood, taken in the 1930’s and is the picture that mysteriously
brought two young lovers together – my mother and father.

As the story goes, my father was in the military and stationed in Norfolk. My mother lived across the Chesapeake Bay in a small Virginian town on the Eastern Shore.  A buddy of my dad’s showed him this picture and since his buddy had lost interest in asking her out gave the picture to my dad.

Love at first sight, my dad carried this picture with him where ever he went.  He had to find this girl and on his weekend leaves traveled across the bay in search of her.

The stories of how my dad found her and their romance have been lost over time but I know they ultimately met, fell in love and were married on this day, July 13, 1939, by a Justice of the Peace some 73 years ago.

Here they were a young couple, Yankee and a Southerner, in love and ready to embark on a new life together facing a new decade.  The 1940’s brought happiness and 2 daughters but also brought the strain and fears of WWII.  My sister was born before the war and I was born after the war.  As my mother received letters from my dad overseas in harm’s way, she cared for her baby girl maintaining the home anxiously awaiting the return of her man.

The war ended and dad was back home and life lovingly picked up where it left off with the addition of a home of their own and me.  Dad went on to a career in welding on ships and bridges wherever staying close to the sea would take him, my mother pursued nursing and we grew.  Life seemed normal and happy at first and then it took a definite turn that would last for the rest of our lives together.

I was too young to remember (toddler years) an event that caused the shift but it seemed to be like day and night.  My sister and I could never figure it out and they would never say.  My mother became obsessively jealous of my dad and with every denial of accusation the struggles and strain continued between them shutting us out and the world around them.

Over the years, I felt I had lost my mother and tried to get them to talk it out – reconcile – to no avail.  I could still see a distant spark of love in their eyes for each other occasionally.  It hadn’t died – it was just buried.

Nowadays couples just split, get divorced and go separate ways.  The children hold onto that hope of reconciliation in their hearts until a parent remarries and moves on and the hope wanes.  I can understand their loss but my parents stayed together and I still held my hope. In that era, wedding vows were taken very seriously and literally when you say to each other, “…for better or worse.” Divorce for them was not an option.

Maybe the reconciliation was more for me than them.  I wanted my mother.  I missed growing up with the birthday parties, primping and fussing over clothes, going shopping and mother and daughter girly talks.

Every time I would go back east to visit, I would say to myself, “It will be different this time. They’re older and surely they would talk things out, I’ll help and they’ll be happy together again.”  But when I would come in town it was as if I had never left.  We’d visit and catch up but then it was as if a cloud crept over.  The back and forth accusations and denials would begin between them and I was shut out as if I wasn’t there.  They were lost again in another world but I still held onto that hope.

More years passed and one day in 1985 I got a call from my sister to come home. Mom had died suddenly and peacefully in her sleep. I flew back in shock, devastated. We helped dad deal with the loss of the love of his life and our mother. It was over and there would be no more chances of reconciliation at least not in this world.

After arrangements were made and my mother was laid to rest, I flew home with a hole in my heart and a feeling like the world had been pulled out from under me.  I truly believed in the end things would turn out differently for them and this blindsided me.  I was a mixed bag of emotions but mostly mad – mad at God.  I thought there was an unspoken understanding between us of reconciliation and I was betrayed.  We humans are so silly in our expectations, narrow views and beliefs.

One night not long after my mother’s death, I was awakened with the memories of a vivid dream. I saw my mother but she was wrapped with coils of steel from top to bottom. I then saw a hand come in with shears snipping one coil at a time until she was totally free of the demons.  I was okay after that and found closure and peace and thankful for the grace of that dream.

My dad almost 15 years later in his early 80’s left just as suddenly and peacefully – and the picture was still with him on the night table in the same plastic frame.  He never forgot the woman he met and fell in love with so many years ago. I never saw the reconciliation but I would like to think they had finally made peace on the other side.

If you have similar reflections, I would love you to share or comment.

Pat – from the ol’ kitchen tableDigiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2013 Pat Ruppel