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Thursday, July 31, 2008

All Sacred

After speculating about the “what if’s” of war prevention last week, I’m now focused on a different kind of what if—the averted tragedy. While sitting at the dining room table with my daughter yesterday afternoon, I literally watched a huge tree limb peel off of the trunk like a band-aid. It stretched from our neighbor’s yard, across our garden fence diagonally, also filling the ally that runs behind the houses and the yard of the third house in the row. It just missed the car of the fourth neighbor. More importantly, there were no kids playing in the ally, as is often the case in summer. There were no cars driving down the ally, no one doing yard work. In short, we were all very lucky. In fact, I had been just about to open our kitchen windows, which would have been sliced off had I not gotten distracted by my daughter’s craft project. As it is, the tree tips are pressed up against the kitchen window like a green shade.

There is something about this sort of surprise that brings life into sharp focus. I could feel my adrenaline as I called the phone and electric companies to figure out which lines were down. Only one neighbor’s phone line is out, and the phone company seems in no hurry to fix it, overwhelmed as they are by all the other phone lines that have been downed by trees this summer. On the bright side, the neighbors have come together, offering help to the woman without a phone. The owners of the tree happen to be away, but that too is a blessing. Had they been here, our kids and theirs would likely have been in the ally.

The spiritual challenge for me this morning is to be present without getting anxious when more things to do suddenly get added to my list. For example, before getting the kids out the door to camp this morning, I was trying to figure out how to get the pictures from my camera onto my computer and then up to a web site that I couldn’t remember my user name for so that they could be seen by my vacationing neighbors. In the midst of it, my daughter wanted a bit of my attention, and my son wanted to discuss the DS games he’d like to own, which was the thing that made me snap at both of them to leave me alone. Afterwards I thought of the play Our Town, which Tom and I saw this summer. In the third act, a woman who has just died gets to come back and observe a day of her life. The other deceased of the town warn her not to do it, but she goes and observes her 12th birthday. She realizes how hurried her mother is, how even in doing the birthday preparations, she isn’t really seeing and appreciating her daughter, who (as the audience knows) won’t be there forever. I bawled through the whole scene; it was much too close to home. So as I speak to the insurance company on the phone tonight—something that really does need to be done—the trick will be to be present to all the needs around me. I’m finding it helpful to remember an interaction this weekend at Pendle Hill, where I was leading an Inquirer’s Weekend (a very good experience, by the way). I needed help with some equipment on Sunday morning, and a staff member went to take care of it right before worship. When I later apologized because she missed worship to help me, she replied, “It’s all sacred.” It was clear she really meant it, and we later talked about the importance of caring for other people with attention and love, even in the mundane details.

I tend to forget that the mundane details are sacred too, but the fallen tree reminds me that appreciating the fragility of life and taking care of life’s little details are both important and need to be integrated.


Blogger Jennifer said...

Hi Eileen,

I'm very glad to have found your blog. I'm currently reading your pamphlet, God Raising Us. I have come to find parenting a very intense spiritual journey as well, and I am so glad to have found a fellow traveler. :)

Sorry about your trees. Trees are precious here in Texas (relief from the heat!). Will it have to be taken down entirely?


8:53 PM  
Blogger Eileen Flanagan said...

Thanks, Jennifer. Not sure about the rest of the tree yet, but it will probably come down. I feel a bit guilty because I was the one neighbor who wanted the tree to stay while others have been complaining for years about the mulberries it drops on everyone's yards, maybe because we don't have air conditioning and appreciate the shade more than others. I'm sure I'd want as many trees as possible in Texas.

9:07 PM  
Blogger mona said...

Does anyone live in a subdivision where there are several people who ignore the subdivision rules?
I do. No one is supposed to have those ugly fences on the top of their pools, and it seems that everyone in the sub with a pool has one of those. My neighbor has one, and I have to look at that hideous thing every time I look out my window. Then there is my other neighbor who has three dogs.
The maximum number of dogs is supposed to be two. I wouldn't mind the three, but two of them are pit bulls who viciously snarl and growl and act like they are going
to eat my dog when they are outside. Even the owners scream at them to stop. It is very unnerving. Then one of the board members is delinquent by 3 years on the dues because she has decided she doesn't need to pay since she is on the board. I can't take the neighbors around here. I was looking for a forum to vent about the jerks around here and I came across this site called and I sent all of those idiots on the board and all my lovely neighbors with the ugly pools an anonymous card. LOL I loved it. I know it sounds stupid but I feel better. He he he.

11:00 AM  
Blogger Eileen Flanagan said...

I'm not sure what about my post inspired your rant about your neighbors, Mona, except maybe the picture of the fence. I find that my relations with my neighbors are best when I try to imagine their perspective. For example, an ugly fence might be there to keep children from drowning. Have you ever asked? I acknowledge that being sympathetic is not always easy. I was the recipient of an angry, accusatory note from a neighbor several months ago complaining about people's trash cans. I took it as a personal attack, though I later learned she had put the same note in everyone's box. It may have made her feel better momentarily, but I think the long-term effect has been to distance this woman from the rest of the neighborhood even more.

11:25 AM  
Blogger naturalmom said...

Wow, I'm so glad no one was hurt! We had some major, major storm damage here in my neck of the woods a few weeks ago. Nothing too bad in our yard -- just a couple medium size limbs -- but two of our neighbors had very large trees uproot and fall on their roofs. They were very lucky and escaped injury as well. It really does make you step back for a moment and remember your priorities, doesn't it?

11:41 PM  

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