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What Tears May Come

Tornados on Wednesday morning.

The aftermath and outpouring of support.

The show of love and concern by all those who got in contact to check on me and my family.

And another round of storms today.

It has been an emotionally-charged and physically-demanding week. I have been grateful, heartbroken, exhausted, disappointed, relieved, anxious, worried, frustrated and frightened.

But today, I was moved to tears.

Of all the things that might have done it, it was this image that opened the floodgates. (And this editorial only multiplied the effect.)

Having grown up in Harrisburg in rural Southern Illinois, I have lived many years with an awareness of the gulf between the sensibilities of the big city (Chicago) and the small town.

Today, the Chicago Tribune reminded me that there is nothing so powerful as standing in solidarity with another, there is no action more meaningful than standing shoulder-to-shoulder with someone to silently convey, “You are not alone.”

How much more significant is that act when offered by a brother or sister with whom you don’t always see eye to eye. The silent tears on my face are a testament to that fact.

Thank you, Illinois. You ARE Harrisburg.

Life in the Aftermath

I’ve noticed that most folks from Harrisburg are using social media to post pictures of the tornado damage. The images that have really moved me in the last 24 hours, though, aren’t pictures of destruction. They’re pictures of compassion …

 

Life Church in Marion: “I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink.”

Alltel is charging phones for those without access to power.

And lots of folks – volunteers and professionals – who just want to help.

(I don’t even know where Lemont is! How nice that they would come, though!)

As seen at locations all over town: stockpiles of water and supplies that are being donated.

The Running of the Sap

‘Tis the season to tap maple trees and invite them to share some of their delicious bounty.

Unusual winter weather does not seem to have affected the harvest; I taste-tested some of this year’s “crop” this morning at the Maple Festival at Touch of Nature (on Little Grassy Lake, south of Carbondale) and it was more than satisfactory.

To be honest, I almost didn’t go to the festival. Ash Wednesday, my first full week in a new church community, a lot of planning for Lent, a broken clothes dryer, and dogs with upset stomachs … it has been a very long week.

But at 7:45 this morning, I got the text from wonderful friends with whom I was anxious to spend time … so despite the urge to take a cup of tea and my journal and curl up somewhere quiet, I loaded up the dogs and headed for the woods.

The dogs burned some energy at Giant City State Park prior to our visit to the festival, and their mania at the sun and the smells and the water and the woods made me laugh. After they had worn themselves down, I let them nap in a warm and sunny car while I ate pancakes and sausage with local maple syrup and then learned the ins and outs of tapping trees.

I was sure that my greatest need today was to putter gently around my house, rather than spend one more day this week driving around Southern Illinois. But  it turns out that I was wrong.

Laughing with friends, learning something new, and bringing pleasure to the critters whose care is entrusted to me was what my spirit needed most. As it happens, I only discovered that truth in the doing of those things.

In honor of the season, here are a couple of photos:

Trade Ya’

In a phone call yesterday, a friend shared some exciting news: he has decided to keep chickens.

His suggestion – since he knows of my excitement about the garden I am planting this year – was to suggest trading some of the eggs from his chickens for some of my tomatoes.

(I’m flattered by his confidence in my ability to actually keep a tomato plant alive long enough for it to produce a tomato!)

My response was: “This is country living at its best!”

As I give the matter more thought, though, I am forced to retract that statement.

This desire to trade isn’t a trait born or developed only by folks who inhabit rural areas. I’m convinced that it’s a trait that is born in each of us.

Don’t believe me? Sit down at lunch with some elementary-age students and watch the mealtime bartering.

Need more proof? Check out a flea market sometime.

Human beings seem to have an innate need to pass on the things they no longer want or need, or the things which they have in abundance.

The great number of flea markets, estate sales, food swaps, thrift stores and consignment shops around the country seem to indicate that, in addition to the need to pass on, we also have inherited a willingness to receive those items that have been offered.

I suspect this is our survival instinct showing itself. Somewhere deep inside us, our cells remember (even if our conscious minds do not) that we were made to live symbiotically.

In modern America (although, probably not limited to here), it seems that too often, symbiosis is disdained in favor of individualism, living simply and interdependently is dismissed in favor of hoarding and stockpiling, and talking heads seem to suggest that the attempt to live more cooperatively is somehow insidious, that it somehow undermines the “American spirit”.

But those attitudes cannot negate the fact that, whether we accept it or not, we live in a web of connectedness. Embracing that web leads to richer fuller lives for all of us, while attempting to disengage from the web diminishes our common life.

But it’s not easy. Living in such a way requires that we live honestly, offering up both our gifts and our needs to the larger community.

Sometimes, I’m not sure which is more difficult: claiming the knowledge of our own gifts so that we might offer them up without hesitation, or admitting to our need or weakness, so that others might have the opportunity to support and sustain us.

Either offering requires courage. And there are days that I just don’t have it.

But I think I can at least start with a tomato.

 

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