A Seeking Pilgrim Considers Easter and Good Friday

grass-labyrinth

 A Seeking Pilgrim Considers Easter and Good Friday

While my faith has faltered and wavered over the years, I have always considered Good Friday and Easter as touchstones for Christianity’s connection with a life lived. And, now that I think of it, I’ll include Palm Sunday in that trinity of events.

What resonates for me is how those three events can mirror life, an ordinary life. I go back to that wonderful line from Jersey Boys: “the bad times never last; neither do the good times.” So that week that Christians celebrate every year speaks to me of the rhythm of life. From the hosannas of Palm Sunday, entering to cheers, but riding on an ass – its symbolism not unnoticed, and a short number of days later, crucified. Well, haven’t we all experienced that in one way or another. Feeling on top of the world, applauded, appreciated, never noticing that we are riding on an ass, or being one. And then being flummoxed, when “a week later,” we are pilloried, or crucified, figuratively one would hope. We never see it coming, do we?  I’ve been there, more than once. The second time I had the life experience to realize that “these things happen” to all of us. It didn’t lessen the pain of the moment, but the knowledge that “the bad times never last” helped me see it through.

And then comes Easter, supposedly the ultimate “gotcha” to those who scoffed. Well, maybe …. or maybe not. But for those of us normal folks, perhaps we can interpret that event in a way that incorporates the truisms of all the great faiths – that there is a cycle to life, that if we come to an acceptance of our experience, a contentment with what life has shown us, that our spirit, after all, can surmount defeat.

Walking a labyrinth can bring this concept even closer. A path appears to lead us directly to the center. Aha, we think. Victory! Then, as in life, the path takes an unexpected turn, directs us away from our coveted destination, the one that we are sure will make all the difference for us. But we keep on walking, and thinking, and walking.

Well, you know the end of the story. For it is our ultimate destination to find the center, though not necessarily on the path that we would have chosen.

Call it fate; call it life. Some might call it God. As for me, I’m still a pilgrim, searching.

Another Sunday, http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

On Wondering Why We Didn’t Do What We Wanted To Do – or The Ken Burns Effect

armor

On Wondering Why We Didn’t Do What We Wanted To Do, or, The Ken Burns Effect

And in between what might have been and what has come to pass….”

So last evening I watched a DVRed documentary on the last days of the US in Vietnam. Rory Kennedy directed it and did a superb and even-handed job. (I lived through those weeks, but was obviously so caught up in the drama of my own life, that the true spectacle half a world away washed over me without a ripple.)

And I thought as I watched, that’s what I should have been — a documentarian. Yes, if I had done that, well, my life would have been….and you can fill in the blanks.

Don’t we all do this? Something catches our eye, or our heart, and we think “Well, I could have done that with my life. Yes, that’s what I wanted to do.” And then we wonder.

Is it retrospection that causes this? For if we really wanted that, why didn’t we just do it? The act of looking back, all those “opportunity costs” (sorry, a throwback to my MBA days) take on a sepia hue, romantic in fantasies of only the congenial parts, without the all-too- often-experienced downsides of real life.

It will soon be ten years since I left the world of paid employment. What I’ve gained is freedom; what I’ve lost is the excuse of saying “if only.” Now all those “ifs” are up to me.

So, if I want to be a costume designer, or documentarian, or historian, or talk show host (no, really, I’m over that one), it is up to me to pursue it, or indulge in an enjoyable fantasy with no regrets. Most likely it will be the latter.

For this is what I was – a relatively successful business woman in an age where professional, nay, all women in the world of work had a pretty rough go of it. I believed that I had to be hard-as-nails, the proverbial “bitch in high heels.” It was a costume that I donned willingly, and it wasn’t until it far into the game that I realized just how heavy a burden that armor was. Ten years ago I shed it. I have never looked back.

Another Sunday, http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

 

On Downton Abbey, 1940

Downton-Abbey-3-downton-abbey-30467137-1280-1024

It might look as if things are going pretty well for the Crawleys. but we, of course, know better. And for those who feel that the series ended on way-too-happy a note, here’s my assessment on what the future holds for them:

Downton Abbey, 1940 (not such a good year for Britain)

Lady Mary is now queen of the manor, her father, Robert succumbing to a heart attack from a few too many scotches. He is buried beside his trusted and loved Isis. Cora, soon after, died from an overdose of sweetness. Violet could have told her that a douse of vinegar once in a while would help her personality from its saccharine encumbrance.

Mary, long since bored with husband Henry, has formed a close relationship with Thomas Barrow. They venture to London every few weeks for some nightclubbing. Anna has given them matching hairdos (all that beautiful black hair not gone to waste), and Mary adores wearing men’s clothes. Thomas just smiles. Mary apparently has forgotten that she has two children, which turns out to be fine with them. George has joined the RAF, hoping that it will make a man of him. The second child wandered off somewhere in the late 1920s, but it wasn’t until 1932 that anyone noticed.  And Mr. Bates. There was a murder somewhere in England, and it was thought best by the police to arrest him, just in case.

Meanwhile, Henry has tired of the used car business and simply roams around the grounds looking for a purpose, much like his late father-in-law, but without the uniform.

Branson, finding Thirsk a tad more to his taste than the hinterlands of Downton, has set up a bachelor apartment above the car works. He has realized that the smell of motor oil excites him more than perfume. Sibbie has gone to London, where she has found a job in an art gallery. Her main job is to look like a Lady. She is semi-successful at this, until the blitz comes a bit too close.

Daisy and Andy are happy on the pig farm. Mrs. Patmore has allied with Mr. Mason, although no wedding bells have pealed. They built a bed and breakfast on the farm, but soon learned that such a venture was best placed upwind of the stable. When the depression came, they were glad for the pigs.

After Isobel saved Lord Merton from his evil son and daughter-in-law and he miraculously recovered from his pernicious anemia, they embarked on a round-the-world cruise. They have not been heard from since 1926, and are living anonymously in Bali or Fiji or one of those places in the Pacific. There was talk to bringing charges against the Mertons, younger, for poisoning said father, but it was decided that it was too much trouble. The couple stayed in Yorkshire, but aren’t invited to any parties.

Now for Lady Edith. You really didn’t think that she was destined for happiness. No indeed. In fact, on her honeymoon, who should show up at the dinner table (she really needs to watch that) but Michael Gregson. Yes!  She immediately left, before even ordering her entrée, and she and Marigold returned to Germany with him. She was so in love with her beloved Michael that she became a German citizen post haste. Well, what can I say?

You may be wondering about Carson and Mrs. Hughes. They are still living on the estate. Mrs. Hughes has learned to cook, and Carson has learned not to criticize it. Dear Molesley is now principal of the school in Thirsk, and misses teaching.

And the Dowager is still here, although slowed down a bit, still ably served by Spratt who in his spare time writes for Tattler. Denker is still trying to get him fired, also into bed.

1940 was not the best year for Britain, but through grit and fortitude they persevered. So, we can be sure, will the denizens of Downton Abbey.

Another Sunday,  www.cynthiastrauff.com

On Odors of Remembrance

upwindofthestable

emeraude

On Odors of Remembrance

The sense of smell can be extraordinarily evocative, bringing back pictures as sharp as photographs that had left the conscious mind – Thalassa Cruso

And here are some of mine:

  1. An auto paint shop – My parents’ business had a paint shop in the back. That sharp, acrid scent brings back memories of nickel cokes in bottles, plastic sofas in the waiting room, and Dick, the night watchman who taught me to love the Yankees.
  2. Emeraude Perfume – My mother’s “everyday” scent, a creamy amber/vanilla mix, a chartreuse liquid in its distinctive bottle.
  3. The first drops of rain on a paved road – Opening the top half of our Dutch door to inhale the smell rising from the driveway.
  4. Lilac blossoms – Cutting fresh blossoms, still wet with morning’s dew, my mother wrapping the stems in aluminum foil, to take to my 5th grade teacher.

View original post 149 more words

On Odors of Remembrance

emeraude

On Odors of Remembrance

The sense of smell can be extraordinarily evocative, bringing back pictures as sharp as photographs that had left the conscious mind – Thalassa Cruso

And here are some of mine:

  1. An auto paint shop – My parents’ business had a paint shop in the back. That sharp, acrid scent brings back memories of nickel cokes in bottles, plastic sofas in the waiting room, and Dick, the night watchman who taught me to love the Yankees.
  2. Emeraude Perfume – My mother’s “everyday” scent, a creamy amber/vanilla mix, a chartreuse liquid in its distinctive bottle.
  3. The first drops of rain on a paved road – Opening the top half of our Dutch door to inhale the smell rising from the driveway.
  4. Lilac blossoms – Cutting fresh blossoms, still wet with morning’s dew, my mother wrapping the stems in aluminum foil, to take to my 5th grade teacher.
  5. Burning Peat – A trip to Ireland and a visit to an historic site where they burned (for tourists, I’m sure) peat. It must have touched some primeval memory, and I long to inhale the pungent, earth-smell again.
  6. Steak-on-the-barbie – We don’t grill, but we love it when the smoke of our neighbors’ efforts wafts our way.
  7. Grass – I leave it to the reader to interpret.
  8. Cat breath – If you’ve ever loved a cat (or two), you know what I’m talking about.
  9. Westchester Consolidated Elementary School – That special school aroma came to me on my first day of school. When I returned, fifty years later, the never-to-be-forgotten bouquet was there, a mixture of chalk dust, mimeograph ink, and bleach that had permeated floors and walls.
  10. German food – The pungent, vinegary tang of the Ratheskeller of the Deutches Haus, a lost Baltimore landmark.

Another Sunday, http://www.cynthiastrauff.com