Home-A Poem in Three Parts

Beginning

Years and miles evaporate

like the morning’s ocean fog where

the strong, bright gleam of

friendship holds true.

Holds true like trees that have

weathered decades of sun as we

weathered our own wearying

waves of life, lapping at the edge

of our friendship, threatening

to erode the years of tears

and laughter, the breaking

in between.

In between we hold on, reach

out past the yesterdays touching this

day as we raise high our glasses,

crystal etching the air, the sound

like a chime announcing

we are still here.

Middle

I threw myself at roaring rolls

of foam and froth, abandoned

my limbs skyward as I jumped

the tops of broken, bowing

breakers, exploded in laughter,

surprised after all these years that

I still know how to dive when needed,

that my body remembers the bounce

and bob of moving water and most

of all, recalls the healing taste of salt,

the wondrous sky-blaze balm

that is the sun.

End

The melodious midnight insistence

of cricket backdrops my sleep.

I drift into memories of summer

nights when this accompaniment

was the only sound, a lullaby

for my youthful self; I rest

with a song.

-c. Jody Lee Collins 2017

 ~~~~~

I recently returned from a 5 day visit to Southern California, the land where I grew up. I spent my days and evenings with family and friends, enjoying the rich, singular experience of a place that is buried deep in my bones. My mind was flooded with memories when I came home and, as usual, poured out into words. (‘Beginning’ first appeared on this blog in September, 2016).

 

 

Nouns-Some Thoughts on People, Places & Things

“…you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink

but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone

but on tablets of human hearts.”     II Corinthians 3:3

Last week I traveled to Southern California, the land where I grew up and lived until I married.  Five days of returning and rejuvenating was definitely good for my soul. Although I often visit there each summer to see my sisters—usually in August–this was my first trip in the month of May. (There are some definite perks to being a retired teacher). I knew the area had seen more rain than ever this year so I was looking forward to green hillsides, rich tropical flowers and blooms of the jacaranda trees.

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I was especially looking forward to eating fresh California strawberries.

As soon as I hopped into my rental car I headed down the freeway to one of the last remaining strawberry farms in the So Cal beach area. The bright colors of fresh produce were a balm to my eyes, if there is such a thing, and the aroma of fresh strawberries jogged a place deep in my memory.20170501_121438

After selecting three baskets of ruby red fruit, one of the farm’s owners and I chatted about changes we’ve seen in the last twenty-five years. The near disappearance of strawberry fields which dotted varying plots of land throughout Orange County, including several acres across the street from Disneyland. Also gone were hundreds of acres of orange orchards; the fragrant smell of orange blossoms on the evening breeze a thing of the past. No more open spaces, just tracts and tracts of homes on the hillsides, crowded beaches and ten-lane (!!) freeways. Yes, the land of my birth had changed drastically.

I was surprised to see signs between the airport and the ocean announcing “Tourist Information Ahead.” The place where our humble (poor) family lived all my growing up years was now a tourist destination. I wondered if there were maps for the movies stars’ houses (or maybe mine?)

Anticipating sunshine, warm temperatures and blue skies, I happily settled in after arriving at my sister’s house. My brother and sister-in-law also joined us for the week ahead. One great joy I had during the week was going out two different mornings to watch my brother the surfing pastor paddle out and ride the waves. (He caught two!) There may not have been any orange blossom fragrance wafting on the breeze, but with my back to the crowds and my eyes on the sea, I was at home; the sand at my feet and ocean view the same as I remembered.

Water and waves still form and crest as they always had. Shorebirds chased back and forth, rocks rolled towards my feet in the drenched sand. The water, waves, birds and shore were unchanged.

~*~*~*

The culmination of our visit was a ‘goodbye house’ party, thrown by my sister on the occasion of her upcoming move. My siblings and I, along with our spouses and children, have twenty nine years of memories in that house–hours in the pool, movie nights together, backyard barbecues. Baby showers, weddings, birthdays–years of special gatherings. Because my siblings are all close in age and went to the same schools, we also shared many of the same friends, some of whom were invited that night.

Life is weird in high school, to say the least. But it’s funny when you’re older how cliques and cool cars and the right clothes pale in comparison to true friendship. My sister had stayed close to a small of circle of classmates whom my brother and I also knew; most of us had been friends for (cough) fifty years. My heart overflowed with gratefulness as folks sat around the living room, desperately trying to follow varying conversations. The decibel level rose and fell, people were sharing photos on phones, telling old stories, laughing at “rememberwhens?”

As I stopped to listen, I realized most of the people in the room–all of the people in the room–had been there for my sister during devastating, difficult times, including a cancer diagnosis and the loss of a child. These were true friends, a rare treasure.

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~*~*~*~*

I thought about how orange trees form and grow only to be torn down, strawberry fields are ripped out, paved over open land becomes freeways….but what remains? Is there anything we can recognize, count on, remember by?

I’m mixing images here—waves and water and friends that anchor us—but I couldn’t help thinking about the Israelites setting up stone markers as monuments to God’s faithfulness over the years. Every time there was a deliverance or God intervened, the people were told to gather stones and pile them in place to remember.  Decades would pass, places would change and grow, populations would impact the landscape but one thing that remained were the markers of the goodness of God.

Sometimes people are those markers. When the land you’re born in is unrecognizable or you feel adrift, friendships that last through thick and thin, good times and bad are like the waves and water—constant, true, powerful when you need them.

No matter where I live or what it looks like, the friends who’ve stayed in place remind me of not only who God is, but who I am and where I am in the world.

Those friends are letters written not in stone, but etched deep in my heart.

 

For Friends Too Many to Name

Years and miles evaporate

like the season’s new-birthed fog,

leaving the strong, bright gleam of

friendship lighthouse true.

Holding true like the trees weathered

through decades of sun as we

weathered our own wearying

waves of life, lapping at the edge

of our friendship, threatening

to erode the years of tears

and laughter, the space and distance

breakers in between.

In between we hold on, reach

out past the yesterdays touching this

day as we raise high our glasses

crystal etching the air, the glittering sound

noting the miracle we are still here.

(you can read more of my poetry Here on my poetry blog.)

~~~~~~~~

Culling through several decades of cards and letters has put me in a pensive-yet-thankful mood; thankful for lifelong friends from the beginning of time. This poem is for all of them; they know who they are.

Why Self-Care Needs a Dose of Fun

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Moi, five (?) years old. Redondo Beach, Ca.

My netbook is propped on my lap as I type these words, the summer sounds of Southern California floating through my sister’s living room windows.  The cool breezes, the rush of cars on the street, the sounds of new-to-me birds remind me I am Somewhere Else.

Somewhere Else besides my Seattle area home. A place where the sun and the sand the surf are less than a mile away down the highway.  A place I remember like the lines in a book I read, where the words are etched in my memory, no, etched deep in my bones.

Last week, while visiting my other sister (I have two-how lucky am I?) we decided to spend an entire day at the beach. (L. also lives only a few miles from the ocean.) We hauled beach umbrellas–one a piece–beach chairs, thick towels, a cooler with lunch and our 60+ year old selves down to the shore.  The sun was bright, the water temperature inviting…a perfect day.

After setting up camp and surveying the scene we contemplated our first dive into the ocean.  Considering options–toes first touching the lap, lap, lapping waves or should we just run like fools and belly flop over a wave like crazy people?

Up out of our chairs, inching towards the water across the sand, we slap-splashed into the waves and voila! the crazy times had begun.  My sister and I each dove into the soupy surf and came up sputtering and laughing. Laughing at the sight of our far-from-svelte selves and at the sheer joy of being in the water once again.

Every dive under the breakers prompted chortles of glee.  These were not perfectly shaped curls to dive through but more like a salt water washing machine, churning us to pieces. Our guffaws signalled astonishment that we’d survived, sputtering as we came up for air after sloshing to the surface.

We were getting pummeled and we had a blast.

Three times that day we ventured into the water joining 2,000 of our closest friends as we frolicked in the saltwater like sun crazed fools.  I can’t remember the last time I laughed that hard; it was so.much.fun.

There’s a reason God’s word says, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” (Proverbs 17:22). Because it does. Laughing releases endorphins in the brain, relieving stress, strengthening the heart. The delight is like a daily dose of God-given touch on our wound-too-tight lives.  Oh, how we need it.

Many times in conversations that followed I encouraged my sister (and myself) to take time to do something fun. Not just take time, but make time.  We often think self-care and soul-care should consist of quiet and contemplative times, space for conversation, prayer with friends and the like.

However as we walk out our faith, I think we may have convinced ourselves (or maybe it’s just me) that fun and laughter are somehow less ‘spiritual.’

That relishing in delight and joy are just too carnal for those of us who call ourselves believers. As if Jesus wants us to wear our serious face all the time, you know, ’cause life is a Very Big Deal.

My point exactly; life IS way too serious. We live in a sin-wracked world, challenges face us daily, people die, our faith is tested, we can’t keep up. All the more reason we should revel in joy, make a space for laughter, allow opportunities for fun. And while we shouldn’t spend our days seeking it, we can live with open arms to make space in our days for delight.  God knows we need it.  God knows the world needs it.

Like medicine with eternal shelf-life, laughter can be a well of life, too.  Jump in, get wet, and drink deep. Throw your hands in the air like a crazy fool once in a while and let God heal your soul.