Monday, August 26, 2013

Jewel Tones

Modelling Sophie
My first memory of you is a serene face atop a black suit with a flash of amethyst silk at your neck. Your sapphire eyes sparkled and you reminded me of a beautiful Annette Bening.

"She'd be someone I would love to know ..." I remember thinking wistfully.

That was back in 1995 or '96.

And, it turns out, you are.

Colour is important to you - you notice the prism-like beauty of a sun dog, the mysteries of the variegated greens as you run through a forest. You affectionately called your much-loved mother-in-law a peacock because of her sense of style and passion for vivid hues.

The Christmas after I got Josephine, you gave me a ruby hat adorned by a black band festooned with silk flowers. Pinned inside the hat was a hand-written tag saying her name was Sophie. "Wear her when you're out and about with Josephine," you suggested.

We were in Quebec City at a Carswell conference on a break years ago, window shopping in a store stocked with richly woven woollen goods, when we really started talking. We were both at question marks in that period of our lives. I remember how easy it was to confide in you, how I knew I could trust your wisdom, your discretion, your perspective.

From then on you became in a sense my personal Polaris. 

You are the only person I know who has a concert grand in her living room, who knew that music was so important to the fibre of her being that one of the primary criteria when searching for a home of her dreams was that there be room for the piano of her dreams.

You understand the pull of Handel's Messiah every year. You mourn during the Easter production of the selected Requiem. You gave me the book of Beethoven sonatas that I turn to both in joy and in sorrow.

Your voice itself is melodious, often reminding me of Mozart and the light and beauty he brought - he brings - through his music.

You know the power of the perfect little black dress.

You brought the magic of Paris - a lifelong dream for you! - back to us, who waited eagerly to hear your stories.

You and John plan great swaths of your life with care and much thought; and yet you are flexible enough to live in the moment, to adapt to someone else's plans and schedule without losing sight of your desired end:

At my 50th birthday luncheon

Blue coffees ...

Indian restaurants for plates of copper-coloured butter chicken curry on pearly basmati rice ...

Lazy afternoon in your back yard drinking some delectable amber beverage and nibbling on avocados ripened to a perfect jade ...

Drive to Three Hills for a quick lunch in the purple chairs ... (You are one of the very few people who have ever come out to see me rather than simply meeting me when I'm in the city; do you know how very much that means?)

Even when we haven't seen each other for some time, you make it easy to pick up the threads of our lives right where we left off. You have always welcomed me to share your family table, and it has been a joy to see snippets of your two boys as they have grown and matured into the truly wonderful young men they are today.

You accept adversity, and adjust your plans accordingly, with a minimum of outward protest and a maximum of inner strength. You set a powerful, compelling example of grace in action.

This year it's time to tell you thank you for your presence in my life. Thank you for the music and the colour you bring just by being. Thank you for your friendship.

Happy birthday - you are pitch perfect.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Pure Gold


(Symbol Au) A soft, yellow, corrosion-resistant element, the most malleable and ductile metal, occurring in veins and alluvial deposits and recovered by mining or by panning or sluicing. A good thermal and electrical conductor, gold is generally alloyed to increase its strength, and it is used as an international monetary standard, in jewelry, for decoration, and as a plated coating on a wide variety of electrical and mechanical components. Atomic number 79; atomic weight 196.967; melting point 1,063.0°C; boiling point 2,966.0°C; specific gravity 19.32; valence 1, 3.

The symbol Au is from the Latin: aurum, according to some sources meaning "shining dawn," from Sabine ausum "glowing dawn."

Gold is the most malleable of all metals; a single gram can be beaten into a sheet of 1 square meter, or an ounce into 300 square feet. Gold leaf can be beaten thin enough to become transparent. The transmitted light appears greenish blue, because gold strongly reflects yellow and red.Such semi-transparent sheets also strongly reflect infrared light, making them useful as infrared (radiant heat) shields in visors of heat-resistant suits, and in sun-visors for spacesuits. 
Aristotle in his ethics used gold symbolism when referring to what is now commonly known as the golden mean. Similarly, gold is associated with perfect or divine principles, such as in the case of the golden ratio and the golden rule.
Gold is further associated with the wisdom of aging and fruition. The fiftieth wedding anniversary is golden. Our precious latter years are sometimes considered "golden years." The height of a civilization is referred to as a "golden age."
Something regarded as having great value or goodness.
(from Wikipedia and the Free Online Dictionary)

When I think of gold 
I think of light, like the sun
warmth, like the fire

When I think of gold
I think of love, like a ring
sparkle, like champagne

I think of mystery, like the harvest moon
exotica, like the crux of a peacock's feather

When I think of gold
I think of foil, on a creamy Indian sweet
wrapping, of a 5-Star chocolate bar

I think of nine metres, shimmering shot silk
holiday chappals, Kolapurs on dusty roads

When I think of gold
I think of history past, my first friend
History present, her sons almost men

I think of two sisters singing:
The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;
More to be desired are they than gold,
yea, than much fine gold ...

I think of patient Job, trusting,
"But He knows the way that I take -
 When He has tried me,
 I shall come forth as gold."

When I think of gold
I think of mining depths
sifting through detritus
testing mettle
furnace purifying

Unto the perfect day

I think of

Friday, August 2, 2013

Full of Grace and Truth

I went to visit Dad a couple of days ago for a few minutes. We were talking about hard subjects, difficult topics. Toward the end of the conversation, just before we prayed together, he looked up at me and said something like this:

"I've been struck by the verse, 'And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth [Gospel of John chapter 1, verse 14].'

"Have you ever noticed how grace comes before truth?" he went on. "Truth is of course indispensable; but Grace is listed first ..."

I ventured my thought: "Perhaps Grace comes first because it's the gentle support, the cushioning, that enables Truth to be brought out and looked at directly in the eye, to be faced head on?" 

Sometimes truth is so harsh, so painful, that without the accompanying grace we would be left raw and bleeding by the side of the road.

Dad and I talked about three words that come to mind when one thinks about Grace. The first is Justice - Justice sentences us to the penalty we deserve. The second is Mercy - Mercy is about not receiving the penalty we deserve. And then there's Grace. Grace grants us the goodness that we do not deserve.

A few days ago I went with a friend to visit a loved one who is unwell. I wandered into the little chapel and sat on one of two old-fashioned wooden pews pressed apologetically against the back walls - the new chairs were stacked, tower-like, at the front of the room.

My face was positioned downward, looking at the floor. The weight of the day was lodged between my shoulders and it seemed like I couldn't hold my head up any longer. I had no words, no clarity of thought, in those moments of heaviness and loss.

The sun must have emerged from the cloudy gloom outside because suddenly the rays filtering into the room were gorgeous, lighting up the wooden maze inlaid into the floor and making it decipherable. I looked up, slightly startled by the amber warmth. For the first time I noticed the simple lectern and the clean lines of the table, and the sweetly basic piano -the sum of the rest of the furniture - also bathed in the same forgiving aura. 

I noticed the knot between my shoulders slowly shrinking. My fingers, which I had wrapped around each other, started to unwind. I relaxed into the hard welcome of my well worn pew perch and I started to pray, for my friends, for my family, for myself, for grace. As I was finishing, I happened to glance upward, glimpsing for the first time the overhead lampshades. A wooden cross was on each of the panels. And I fancied that the natural, outside light had caused me to lift up my head; it had turned me to the cross, the source of grace. 

Between the front two electric lights was a narrow panel through which natural light streamed:

And I thought of the words of the old, old song written by Julia H Johnston:

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary's mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilled.

Grace, grace, God's grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God's grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin!

Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
Threaten the soul with infinite loss;
Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.

Dark is the stain that we cannot hide;
What can we do to wash it away?
Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,
Brighter than snow you may be today.

Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
Freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see His face,
Will you this moment His grace receive?

Full of truth, but swaddled in grace.

I traced the maze on the floor from the outside to the very centre, which was also the centre of the tiny chapel. "Welcome home," it seemed to whisper.