Time-slip. Abandoned project #5

Savanna could see the open door, plain as day, but she chose not to walk through. Not yet. It would disturb the counselors. She’d been in this particular asylum for two days now, and wasn’t yet bored. They treated her well enough, as well as could be expected, you understand. A time in the loony bin wasn’t a vacation by any stretch. The food was okay, and the beds were nicer than those in a real hospital, that was for sure. They weren’t hospital quality, of course, but they didn’t have the weird side-rails either.

Maybe tonight she would walk out and look at the stars. They never let the patients out to see the stars, or even the sun. Fresh air was forbidden to them, as if their disease was catching, like it could spread in the air. They were locked away in theory for their own good but really it was for the community. It wouldn’t do to have any sort of weakness on display. It was like how some communities banned homeless people from selling newspapers on street corners out of embarrassment that they were proof that homeless people lived within their boundaries.

She’d walk out as she always did. She would simply walk forward, shifting her vision to the past, back to before the building was there. She’d done this for most of her life. It would get her out of here. It was also what happened to get her into here.

Perhaps her unusual gift was a side effect of her amblyopia. Her eyes hadn’t worked together her whole life. Abnormal vision was her normal. She’d learned to switch her vision from her left eye to her right, because she didn’t have bifocal vision. Her eye doctors didn’t like it one bit that she could switch, didn’t understand it. But it made sense. You make do with what you have. You make it work, even when others think it is broken. If you don’t know otherwise, “broken” becomes a blessing, because it teaches you to see in other ways. Sometimes literally.

While figuring out how to use her (unknown to her) defective eyes, she learned to see the space between time, the shimmering edge between “then” and “now”. These days, Savannah calls this a time-slip, but then she wasn’t aware that what she was doing was any different from anyone else. She could push that shimmering line a little, bend it, fold it back upon itself. Then it was just a little effort more to focus with her inner eye to see what used to be. Thankfully her crib had been on the first floor or she would have been in for a terrible drop the first time she tried her talent.

The first time she tried she was six months old. She shifted back to long before the house was there, before the subdivision, before the town even. She fell 3 feet from what was the first floor of the house onto a rolling hill. Breath knocked out of her, she sputtered in her amazement and suddenly found herself in her own time again, but this time falling into the basement. Her Mama found her there, wailing and dirty near the abandoned coal chute. They never did figure out how she got there. She certainly didn’t know, and at that age wasn’t able to tell even if she did.

That experience stuck with her, and over the course of her childhood she learned how to stay in the past longer and walk around. When her Sunday School teacher told the class about Peter walking out of prison she had an idea it wasn’t an angel who helped, but she wasn’t saying. She knew better by then to not talk about it.

She’d noticed that her ability wasn’t just unusual, it was downright unheard-of. After a few tentative efforts to inquire about it, she learned it was better to keep silent. If nothing else, it made games of hide and go seek much easier.

She learned she could walk to wherever she wanted to while she was in the past and then refocus and return to the present. By that point she could be on the other side of the playground or the neighborhood. She could stay hidden for as long as she wanted, or if she was “it” she could pop in on her prey without making a sound. After a while the other kids stopped playing with her, but she didn’t mind. This gave her more time to play with her friends in the past.

They were native children, who had lived here long ago, but had been dispersed when the whites came. They were like wild animals to these new settlers, who were fleeing religious persecution. It was too bad that their religious practice didn’t extend to seeing the natives as neighbors. The natives were relocated – land was found hundreds of miles away. It wasn’t the same quality of land, but it was somewhere, and the whites thought them ungrateful for not accepting their “charity”. The thought never occurred to them that if they had lived in harmony instead of pushing the inhabitants out that such kindness of a gift of scrubland wouldn’t be necessary.

When she was on her early wanders, Savanna had thankfully shifted into a time before all that unpleasantness, a time before the natives had reason to be wary. Plus, she was a child. Nobody felt threatened by a child.

But this was now, and the amusement of being in a loony bin was wearing thin. She wasn’t afraid like most of the residents. She knew she wasn’t trapped. The counselors and doctors didn’t know (or didn’t care) that their locked-door policy only made the symptoms worse for the residents. Large signs warning of patients “eloping” were affixed to the doors to warn visitors to not let a patient sneak out as they left.

There was no sneaking out now. She’d had her supper and the night shift was signing in. It was as good a time as any. She squinted and saw the shimmer of time bunch up. A twist, a shift and she was over the threshold, neat as you please. She walked out into the twilight painted field and went west towards the sunset. A mile later and she shifted back near a corner café with a payphone. She had researched this place a year ago when she moved to the area. It was best to be prepared. She knew the area around the jail too, just in case. Fortunately she had not concerned anyone enough to get put in there, but you never knew. Some small towns didn’t know the difference between dangerous and delusional so they ended up erring on the side of caution.

How has she ended up in this hospital? A time-slip wander that led to a fall, and a trip to a regular hospital had been the beginning. She had not planned on that wander, not that time. She was tired, overworked. Not enough “work/life balance” as her job prattled on about. She mused that if they really cared they would let her work less and pay her the same. Five days of work with two days off wasn’t balanced no matter how you did the math. This was especially true when most of her time off was spent doing chores and errands. When was she supposed to have some of that “me” time that people were always going on about?

That Thursday afternoon she had wandered at lunch and never came back to work. She was found, unconscious, near the river. She had gone back two hundred years before the river had come this far west, before the flood that had rerouted it almost overnight. She had gone back without thought, without plan and lost her bearings in the foggy haze of sleep deprivation and anxiety which had become her normal over the past year. She had spent so long feeling bad that feeling good was a distant memory. She would have been suspicious of it if it had dared to show up.

But then she slipped and knocked her head while “then”, so she woke up “now”, her head bruised. She forgot what had happened, forgot to keep her mouth shut too when she was found, and babbled on about the past and her native friends, and that very night found her the newest resident of the funny farm.

Yet it wasn’t funny at all, and it certainly wasn’t a farm. If it had been either, or both, maybe it could have done some good for its hapless residents. As it was, it only made things worse with its insistence on mind-bending drugs and no exercise out in the fresh air. Her time-slip wander was the only way to get out in under a week, when most were freed in eleven days. Not because they were healed, you understand. That was just when the insurance money ran out.

But now she was out, and it was time to look for a new place to live. It wouldn’t do for word to get out that she was less than normal. She’d have to be more diligent in the next town. All this moving was getting old.

(The photo was found on Pinterest. Unknown photographer or location.)

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A different communion

I was at St. Meinrad Archabbey monastery on Sunday, September 11th, 2016.

I knew that I was not officially allowed to take communion there, because I’m not Catholic.  Jesus made no such rules or limitations, but that does not seem to bother them. Perhaps the monks understand the hurtful nature of this made-up rule.  Or perhaps they think that those of us who are not Catholic are in the dark, and not deserving of this sacrament.

I’d already checked out of my room and was wandering around the grounds by this point.  I wasn’t sure when Mass would end, but I wanted to be in there afterwards to smell the incense.  I walked up to the side door and saw that it was still going on.

There is no way to sneak into that place.  The doors are very creaky and loud.  I couldn’t slip in and stand at the back and just listen.  They were at the main point, where the priest was facing the altar and saying the words that (they think) blesses the bread and wine.

God blesses it, and blesses us.  People don’t do that.  They can’t.

I sat outside, near the Mercy door.  There are windows there.  Perhaps one of the many priests there saw me, outside, sitting, listening to their ritual.

These rules of who is in and who is out are man-made.  They are not from God.

So I left, and found my own communion.  I went to the kitchen and made tea and toast.  The tea was herbal – and to my surprise, red.

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The toast was from bread the monks had made there, with their own hands.  I added peanut butter, and honey, and raisins, and cinnamon.

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I chose to say the blessings in Hebrew, and enjoy my quiet moment with God.

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You can’t wish depression away.

This is a conversation I had online about how to cure depression. I read something in a group I belong to that I felt needed some comments from someone who had been there. However, it was a waste of my time to even try.

You can’t wave the victim flag and the victor flag at the same time. As long as people are stuck in the same old broken story that people’s mental health is entirely due to their attitude, they will continue to be sick. This is victim blaming at its finest. We don’t blame people who have diabetes for their bodies not working properly.  So why do we blame people with depression for their minds not working properly?  We must get over the idea that body and mind are separate in order to heal.

The Original post – “This is a special request that only a true friend can give and I appreciate all you Beautiful people out there,so I post this- I have a Beautiful Friend called Ruth who fights depression every day,She has an Absolute heart of Gold so I thought what better way than to show how much she is loved by others.Would you be so kind as to post a lovely heart or picture that you have done so I can save it to show she has support and well wishes because she just could do with that extra boost that she can’t do for herself right now!!! Thank you kindly and I can’t wait to share with her your Beautiful posts and love- God bless you All.”

I waited for a few hours before replying.  It was a knee-jerk response, and I wanted to cool down first.

I replied – “From personal experience – take her for a walk outside. Take her out for lunch and feed her healthy food. Depression is fed by inactivity and junk food – fried foods, few vegetables, too much carbs, too much sugar. It is something that can be overcome. It requires a lot of work, but the results are worth it. Pretty pictures will not do it.”

One person commented – “Anything done with love is a great idea. Maybe it isn’t a solution. But, it may put a smile on her face. Or even stop the tears. And that is positive.”

My reply – “Yes, love and positivity are good. However, I’m aiming for something more permanent than a quick fix. It requires a lot of self-discipline, which is super hard when you are depressed. It is like pushing a heavy ball up a muddy slope. But – the view from the top is so much better than the one at the bottom. We don’t treat diabetes and heart disease by kind thoughts. They require complete lifestyle changes. Depression is the same. Full disclosure- I am bipolar and have hospitalized myself twice. I take medicine daily. But the best medicine I take is self-care. Journaling is part of that. So is eating well and getting regular exercise.”

Another person replied – “Art journaling would be a great thing for Ruth – Art heals, for sure.”

By this point I was getting frustrated.  Nobody was listening.

The original poster said  – “I appreciate your comments and Ruth does try very hard with diet but its abuse from others that causes alot of her depression its not just from not trying other methods because she does really try,she just needed to know people love with a genuine love right now xxx”

 

Silence and stillness and stuff

When I read this verse “He said to them, ‘Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic…'” (Luke 9:3) I think I’m doing retreats entirely wrong. I take a lot of “stuff” so I won’t get bored. Perhaps it isn’t the silence that is the issue – but the fear of really being alone with God. Making art, writing, reading books – all of that can be noise. Maybe “silence” for me is more about “stillness”.

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The rock garden at St. Meinrad used to be my favorite place. Now it is full of “stuff”

I feel that the garden needs some editing. Like the “stuff” needs to be rotated out, like an art display. How much is “whimsy” and how much is “crazy”?

Yes – you need to slow down and really look here. That is part of the point. To get you to see things that are small or hidden.

You will never see this rock unless you crouch down.  It is at most five inches high.

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How are you to hear God’s voice amidst a lot of noise?  Noise isn’t just sound – it can also be visual clutter, or too many things to do.

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God didn’t start speaking to Moses from the bush until Moses stopped – turned around – and came back to look at it. He almost walked by. He almost didn’t get the order to lead Israel out of slavery.  What are we missing being freed from – and leading others out of their slavery (to false gods, to addiction, to worry) by failing to take the time to really notice God’s messages to us?

This was in another courtyard, but I have seen the same thing in the rock garden.

This is a daylily –

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While this is a seed pod – brown and decaying.

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There is a lot of this decay in the garden.  And yet – this is beautiful.  I’d never see this shape if it had been taken away in a need to keep everything tidy.  Sometimes “clutter” is helpful.

Put God first, and everything falls into place

A friend and I were talking about this verse, and were wondering about how God directs our paths. Her translation said that God “will make our paths straight”, but I feel this translation is more helpful for this lesson. (All translations here are HCSB)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding;
think about Him in all your ways,
and He will guide you on the right paths.
–Proverbs 3:5-6

I was reminded of this from the prophet Isaiah –

Therefore the Lord is waiting to show you mercy,
and is rising up to show you compassion,
for the Lord is a just God.
All who wait patiently for Him are happy.
For you people will live on Zion in Jerusalem and will never cry again. He will show favor to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears, He will answer you. The Lord will give you meager bread and water during oppression, but your Teacher will not hide Himself any longer. Your eyes will see your Teacher, and whenever you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear this command behind you: “This is the way. Walk in it.”
—Isaiah 30:18-21

God will direct our paths, telling us which way to go. This will make our paths straight, because God is keeping us from straying to the left or the right. This phrase is used often in the book of Joshua. Here is one example –

“Be strong and courageous, for you will distribute the land I swore to their fathers to give them as an inheritance. Above all, be strong and very courageous to carefully observe the whole instruction My servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go. This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to recite it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do. Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
–Joshua 1:6-9

Jesus echoes the most important part to how this works –

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
–Matthew 6:33-34

We must seek God first. When we follow God, we won’t get lost. This is how out paths, and our lives, will be straight.

Don’t make plans and then ask God to bless them. That is doing it in the wrong order.
Follow God, and God will fill you with God’s desires, and direct your way.
Then you will go in the right direction.

Them Bones

How long was she supposed to wait? How long was long enough to know that she’d been cured of her phobia of death?

He could wait all day. He could wait forever, in fact. Well, forever meaning until his bones finally crumbled apart, became just calcium and not bones, in the way that boulders became pebbles over time. It all decays, after all – all that is physical – and that was exactly why she was here for this treatment.

Mary Frances’ fear of death was pervasive. She wasn’t simply afraid of her own death or of the deaths of her parents or spouse. She was afraid of all death, of all change. Any evidence of time passing rendered her inert, full-stop. She no longer could go to doctor’s appointments downtown because of all the change happening there. Too many new apartments! Too many new parking garages! All of her landmarks were gone, well, all save for the Krispy Kreme and Sitar, the Indian buffet. They thankfully never changed and still had actual parking lots right next to their buildings. She wondered how long it would be before some developer snatched them away.

Even the season’s change through her for a loop. She dressed for the weather she wanted and not what was forecast. Her friends were always listening to her complaints about how hot or cold it was, and their efforts to get her to dress more appropriately fell on deaf ears.

Her friend Theresa heard about a new treatment for people who were afraid of change. It was based on something that young Buddhist monks had to undergo as part of their novitiate. They had to spend several days with a corpse to learn non-attachment. She talked Mary Frances into the program by saying it was a fashion show. She was told she’d take all off her clothes and be measured as precisely as possible, and then bespoke clothes would be produced for her. Everything would finally fit perfectly for a change. This sound like a grand idea even though it involved an alteration of her rigid routine. Even though going to this appointment was a change, in the end it would mean no more change – no more having to go to the shop to buy clothes, then to the tailor to have them altered…it was a great trade-off.

But things hadn’t ended up as she had planned. She was welcomed into the office, with its stiff high-back old-fashioned sofa. Mary Frances finally identified it as a camelback and not a Chesterfield as she had first suspected. It was a bit drab but serviceable. She noted that the window was high over her head, like at the gynecologist’s office.

After she removed her clothes in the attached bathroom, she was instructed to return to the room with the sofa. She was disconcerted to notice that there was then someone else in the room – or at least the remains of someone else. By the time she recovered herself the door had been locked. She was stuck with the skeleton. She beat upon the door with her fists but to no avail. All the therapist would say was “It is for your own good”. Over and over she repeated this, regardless of the question from Mary Frances.

After an hour of pacing the room, Mary Frances needed to sit. However, the only option was that couch. There was no way she was sitting with a skeleton! And propriety also demanded she not sit on fabric while naked. That just wasn’t hygienic, and certainly not ladylike. It was two hours later when she finally sat, after a small tray of food was pushed through a low slot in the door. She’d not noticed that before. Why would she? She hadn’t suspected she’d be trapped here.

The therapist made sure she wanted for nothing. The temperature was a pleasant 74° and there was a half-bath attached to the room. Mary Frances considered hiding out in there initially but thought twice about that idea. The room was cold with its porcelain tile and really just too small for staying in very long.

She finally decided to sit on the sofa anyway. If they didn’t care enough about her to provide her with an alternative, they deserved what they got. But there was still the matter of the skeleton.

Something shifted in her after she finally got settled. The skeleton started to look less intimidating. Her years of making art became the way out of her fear. She started to observe the skeleton, not as a reminder of death but as a sculpture, a collection of lines and shadows. She started to look at it – really look at it – and see how beautiful it was. She became an observer, no longer possessed by her fears, but now able to be objective and present.

When the therapist finally opened the door she found her client contentedly gazing at the skeleton, instead of recoiled, huddling in the corner. The treatment was a success.