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Gentle on the mind (12/02/2007)
By Janet Lewis Burns
"Prayer does not use artificial energy, doesn't burn up any fossil fuel, and doesn't pollute. Neither does song, neither does love, neither does the dance." - Margaret Mead

Does a girl ever forget her first love? A guy always seems to remember those hunting trips with his dad. Most mothers tenderly bring back images of a grown son or daughter as a little child. Unexpected flashbacks of our youth can jar heart-warmers, as well as bad experiences we'd hoped had vanished with the passing of time.

Memories gilded with gold creep into empty dreams as one slumbers, riding on breezes that betray the season, cruelly arousing caresses dormant on wrinkled, white flesh. Young dreamers and old fools both yearn for similar affection, the young with anticipation, the old in submissive defeat.

Certain fond recollections seem to relocate with a person throughout his or her lifetime, memories planted and transplanted, a private cache to bring out on occasion to remind one of more vibrant times. Forgotten postscripts never delivered to intended recipients dangle from thoughts of relationships deserted somewhere along the way. You begin to wonder how long you've been looking in the mirror with blinded eyes. Couldn't you see remnants of depleted time upon your face?

An invasive scent or a distant sound can conjure up a young and playful face, flirting with long lost possibility. Words that rise from floral stationary are too blurry to make out. A special, long ago Christmas makes its way through a misplaced photograph negative. How could he forget the first girl he kissed? How could he remember? Blame it on age. Chalk it up to a mind reeling with clutter.

A child's whimper floats into my mindless sleep, arousing a motherly instinct that hasn't surfaced for many moons. In cracks of light from the window blinds I stumble through the dark. The whimper becomes a cry from one as confused as I. Seeds of remembrance blossom when I see those little moonlit arms reaching out to me from tear-stained cheeks. I lift her from the crib to the breast that once soothed her mother...my perfect granddaughter. How could I have forgotten her in my exhaustion?

I sit upon a swing at Lake Winona on this 13th day of November. It's autumn time - cool and breezy. The change in the air cuts like an old loneliness. Lake waters ripple to shore, where their roots anchor Winona's disarming landscape and the ancient, colorless hills beyond.

From across the lake St. Stan's Catholic Church looms, the house of angels, where my maternal potential was sanctified on my wedding day 42 years ago. Her white dome breaks through a backdrop of bulging, gray skies, a reminder that in life deeply lived we must be prepared to brace firm against the storms even as we delight in the transitory sunshine.

Sorrow never leaves us where it found us. Mother Teresa saw firsthand so much human suffering that she couldn't bear it. She went through a 50-year crisis of faith. (See the September 3rd edition of TIME Magazine.) She felt deserted by God. Letters to others revealed this after her death. Mother Teresa once said, "I know that God will not give me anything I cannot handle. I just wish He didn't trust me so much."

We play the roles that fate has cast from our ancestors' molds. We can neither run from their evil nor take any credit for their accomplishments and their virtues. We are left to forge our own paths.

"Be humble," logic warns me. "A great deal was spoken years and centuries before you were a reality." I have no right to take myself so seriously.

I found this quote in a tablet with no name to credit it to: "If logic tells you that life is a meaningless accident, don't give up on life. Give up on logic." Anyway, who cares who said it? Each thinker grasps truth fragment by fragment, not in one huge gulp.

On the journey to wisdom one's most mindful attribute lies in knowing what to keep and what to let go. 


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