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Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

Sending my love to you, from my heavenly home…

clouds
When you come to the shore on a sunny day…I’ll be the salt in the air, and that seventh wave. The one that’s largest, and makes the most spray.
When you walk where you might, I’ll be the shiny penny there at your feet, the smile on the faces of strangers I’ll hope you may meet.
I’ll be the teardrop that escapes you on a chilled winter noon, when you walk with a brisk Norther at your back, and the warm hearth that calls to you, and makes your steps a bit more urgent to bring you to home a little more soon.
I’ll be a promise not broken, but not quite kept. The clouds in your coffee, after the last minutes of your sleep were best on the cool side of the pillow, and a happy dream that found you as you slept.
I’ll be the silence that sings out to you when you meditate there, in the shade of our tree. The face that’s familiar of a stranger as he passes by. The smile that finds you for no reason whilst you toil through a mundane task and are bored as can be.
I’ll be the melody of an old song, the words of which you can’t quite recall…A twinge that accompanies bagpipes being played that you hear on the breeze, and the strength to keep going, long after you’ve given your all.
I’ll be the warmest feeling, and perhaps, the most desolate too. Like the laughter that erupts while you take in our old favorite movie…the best of your memories, and those not made yet.
I’ll be here loving only you, and I am sorry I had to leave you there alone…but when reveille was called that day as I walked off into the fray, and Lord help me, that proverbial bullet was already waiting for me…and I swear, you were the last thought I had before Taps was blown on that fateful day.
Please, remember me.

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Lately I have struggled and searched to join the masses in feeling the joy of the holidays. The spirit was sadly eluding me and I longed for inspiration to find me so that I might write for all of you in honor the celebration just days away.

Yesterday the spirit of the season came to me through a quiet knock on my front storm door. It was above freezing outside, just barely. A meager snow that had fallen the day before had begun to melt some and was slush on the street out front. But in the shadow of my house, the sidewalk there was still in ice and snow.

I opened my door actually expecting to see a client who was on the way to pick up a computer I had fixed for her. Instead, I was greeted by a young boy, who had recently become a neighbor. He stood silent there on my porch. He said nothing, but had a broad smile on his face and snow shovel in his hand, blade to the top. The handle had been resting on my porch, but he raised it up a bit and smiled even broader. I asked him if “he thought I should use it to clean my walk?”, but he just said no. I told him “if he did that for me, I would give him a bit of money”…He just smiled again and turned to walked down the porch steps, still having said but a word or two. And still this great young kid wore that wonderful smile that can win over the day, which was by coincidence the winter solstice.

As I heard the blade start to scrape the concrete and ice, my mind wandered back to another frozen sidewalk…Back to the north a few hundred miles and forty five long years ago. Another boy had shovel in hands, and chipped away at a hard frozen layer of ice and snow, clearing a span of sidewalk without a fee in mind.

The day before, my Momma had been walking on that walk and slipped to fall and broke several of the small bones that joined arm to hand. I felt a duty and need to go make the world a safer place for her to walk, a less hazardous place to weather the British Columbia winter.

So with shovel in hand and winter clothes over all, I set out to honor my due as a boy with a cast-wearing mom. And as I recall, it was likely the first time dealing with such a chore, and I was a scrub of a boy, winded and sweaty as I made safe passage for all that ventured there…perhaps too little too late, but my life as a protector was about to begin.

I was just seven or eight years old then…rather small and in the middle of seven kids born to my folks. It wasn’t a time of prosperity. And having to share the needs and desires of life with so many siblings often left a kid with more of a tendency to spend hours browsing through the ‘Simpsons-Sears” (the Canadian version of America’s Sears and Roebucks) winter “wish book”. And I also recall being more than envious of some of the kids of more affluent families thereabouts who often kindly shared their bounty of gifts with me at play time.

I was old enough to believe otherwise, but I still harbored close the belief in Santa, in his ability to somehow know of my wants and wishes…And perhaps it was that same year that I was again to have my belief validated. Made true in the discovery of a new red bicycle in the living room there on Christmas dawn. I had always ridden well-worn and used bikes until then. It might not have been a Schwinn with a drag slick in back and a springer front fork with a small wheel up front, and banana seat and high bars and a five speed shifter, and all that (I still want one of those)…But it was mine. It was brand new, and Santa had heard me and delivered it to the side of the tree! Whew! I get breathless just remembering.

And not only did I believe in old St Nick. I was also being given insight to the true meaning of Christmas, sent to Catechism on Wednesday evenings, attended services on Sundays there at the Catholic Church in Abbotsford…I even had my first communion during that time in the Western most Province. I was far from a saint and had more than my share of trouble inside…and I needed all the help given my parents and siblings. But I was in truth being given the tools I would need later in life.

I will share that I was a troubled soul even then. I was in fact a bit of a brat. I admit that I often felt perhaps I was less that loveable, at times undeserving of favor by Santa, of blessings by God. I can also share that I was never slighted by Santa, even when I was caught peeking at gifts under the tree and otherwise spoiled Christmas for myself. But Santa came through, and my family and God too still loved me.

And as far as God loving me, I found strong evidence of that when I was riding my shiny red bike along a busy thoroughfare, and somehow got in the way of a very large Cadillac. I was to be sent through the air quite a ways, and deposited on my little melon. But I never lost consciousness, nor did I break a bone. I was treated to a headache and a visit to the hospital directly across the street from the accident scene. And my very bent shiny red bicycle was in turn repaired by my father and put back in service in short order.

While reflecting on the events from my past as that smiling boy scraped snow and ice from my walk, I dipped into the cup in my bathroom where I keep all my change. I pulled ten quarters out of it and joined that boy on the sidewalk. I handed them to him, and told him there were ten of them in his gloved hand. I quizzed him in math by asking him how much they added up to. For a minute we reasoned and multiplied, added and figured the issue successfully. He is a pretty bright boy.

I returned to my house and waited to see if he would end his efforts now that he had been paid. I was rewarded by the resumption of the sounds of scraping and chipping by the shovel wielding boy. And I rewarded the honorable young man by returning to the sidewalk with a couple cookies. I inquired then of his age, and through a smile he replied that he was eleven. I looked at this great kid there in his sweat pants and baggy sweat coat, and mittens, with a mussed up healthy head of hair. I asked what his name was. He told me, “I’m Richard, at school the kids call me Richie, but you can call me Richard or Richie, whichever you want.”

I said, “thank you Richie…you’re a good kid”. He smiled and I went back inside. I felt a sigh while knowing I had found there on my porch in a smiling and earnest boy named Richard or Richie, the very spirit of Christmas that had been eluding me, escaping me. In a ten minute span, I was again gifted through the present and the past my belief in Santa, in family, in Christmas, in the reasons for the season, Jesus and God…and in fact; in ME.

There have been many reminders come flooding to me since those divine minutes of yesterday afternoon, and many good souls have reached out to me to reinforce the spirit of things…

But most of all, I found the young boy in me again through the boy on my porch. And I know that this year Christmas found me standing there on my porch through a boy named Richie with a shovel, a smile, an already admirable work ethic…and a spirit to remind me of what I’ve been missing so far since Thanksgiving had faded in my mind.

Thanks to Richie, to Santa, my parents, and to a generous God, I can wish you all a very Merry Christmas. I remind you to hug your folks, to embrace your family, to thank God for sending us his only Son…and to open your minds, hearts, arms, and doors…’cause you never know what you might find…

Thanks Momma and Dad. Love, Matthew Lyle…

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Image

Come gather here, on this frosty morn. Invite lost souls, from family torn. Assemble where kettles boil, ovens roast, and fires warm. No matter, if it be a meager meal or something more, come gather around and seek a hand to touch, to warm and hold. Then offer thanks and prayers.

Get together with fond memories, of one who toiled in a kitchen over yester-years. A labor of love began in the dawn of the day, not just to cook, but to beckon, to invite, to hearken back where echoes remain…incited by scent, by laughter, sighs, and a lingering presence from a celestial place. And again I’ll spend the day with a collective blend of all such days once spent, and sigh a sigh of such fondness and sentiment that love for departed brings her to home again…and I’ll look to the dusting of flour for a simple fingerprint left, a whiff of cologne that drifts from a place beyond…and I will smile a quiet smile at just the faint wistfulness of such a divine day…

Come gather here to give retreat for the prodigal, embrace to the chilled. To offer love from thin air where yearnings thrive, and relief eludes.

Come gather here, be it just two, or twenty. And give thanks for the offering of the day, be it in retrospect or hopeful of a cache of fresh inspiration to be dipped into in later days…It is otherwise just another Thursday, but is much more. And linger there on Friday…and even a day or two more.

My heart feels a resigned twinge of the constant barrage of offerings on a Friday called black…a Friday that reminds us to gather for the later giving…but it is time and patience and compassion in need of sharing, contrary to the things one might place in box or bag. It is love, it is promise. It is a pledge to be there in the dark months ahead that should be written in IOU’s for family and friend…It is a black Friday indeed that we look beyond our door to fill what the souls truly need.

I give thanks this year for simple things that find and fill me when I close my eyes at day’s end…and a knowing that all I see behind closed eyes is what accompanies me and gives relevance to not just the day of Thanksgiving, but all the days in between.

I will seek to find you, both to give refuge, and to seek it. Come gather here around tables large and small…and bask in the fires of home, whether from hearth or heart, to chase away the chills and lonesome days.

I call out to the hearts of those close and far, be it by miles or a lack of agreement on life’s issues…I will long for a glad closure of the miles or mind.

Come gather here and offer gratitude to your version of a higher power for the blessings past, present, or in wishful days to come. Gather here and let your spirits flourish and give freely of things which can be found only in smiles and laughter, and essential faith…Come gather here.

Happy Thanksgiving and good wishes in the season ahead.

Matthew Lyle.

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Memorial Day…

It’s just a piece of paper, folded several times. Containing a few well thought out words, written over time. Times when things were quiet, sometimes by flashlight, moonlight, others; the light of day.

ww2-soldier-writing

One carries that paper till it’s ragged and tattered, nearly confetti. But one carries it close to the heart. And hopes it stays there till a guy or gal is home, unpacked, reunited, well fed, hugged and reassured by a night of quiet sleep in an old familiar bed.

Even then, the letter is tucked away, like a faded photograph or a misty memory.

But for now, the world is on fire, and the days all blend together in a nightmarish collection of close calls and cold sweats and all the “things I haven’t done yet…”, moments of lucidity, and others of utter chaos.

Then comes a fateful moment, a flash, a thud, a struggled breath, a pool of blood. A brilliant light, and a pair of reaching hands…one taking the letter carrier away to a celestial muster…And another to seek out the pocket where such letters are customarily stored.

marinecasket

 

There will be a flight, a Freebird home, and a gathering…where a tattered letter will accompany another typed on finer paper, with signatures and sincere thanks from a grateful nation. And too, a folded flag.

condolence

That tired piece of paper folded several times is now carried next to another heart, stained in tears and holding a new meaning and stark reality…all the things that could have been.

Look to the sky and give thanks… Happy Memorial Day.

boots

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I have been hit by a barrage of advertisements for Mother’s Day declaring that if I REALLY love my mother, I will do as they say and buy what they say at the retailer of their saying and present it as they say…or I might simply be a bad son for having turned my back on the material greed of the retail generated mothers.

I haven’t a mother, just the memories of having had one, for a decade now. What is it that a son can do for his late mother on the designated Sunday in May? I thought perhaps on this spring Wednesday afternoon I might visit her grave, appraise the condition of her granite upright monument, and make a plan to clean the effects  a decade in desert weather has inflicted on it.

I know it has been cleaned in the past by family members. I know that grass clippings have been whisked away in the warmer months, that snow has been brushed aside during the dark months…and that I have illuminated her name etched there with headlamps during the hours between dusk and dawn. A lot of moments that found me in need of her presence in my life have led me there, despondent at times, happily sharing in others. Some visits have left me in tears for various reasons; others have left me without emotion, resolute to the point of being cold, distant, or simply strong.

I did return there after a conference with a well-intended cemetery attendant over the causes and cures for the staining of granite exposed to elements. He did offer a possible stain removal solution, and also the opportunity to be buried near my parents, without a large expenditure of cash up front. I am considering buying a plot on my own, as the plot of my life is tending to see the numbers of family still interested in my membership in said family, to be dwindling at best.

After returning to the grand old cemetery with sunshine overhead, music from my car radio through a pair of open windows, a bounty of the subscribed cleaning supplies and a well lubed elbow to see to it that mom would soon know I loved her still…I set about the task of scrubbing her stone and making it right come Mother’s Day this weekend…my version of honoring the day in a public display of dedication to a corner lot with a granite creation in the midst.

As I applied the warm mix of cleansing solution to the engraved names of my parents, the date of birth of them both, the date of death of just one so far…I thought about the ten years and four months that has passed since her burial.

One can’t fathom the influence of a true matriarch has had on a family until she is in a diminished state and finally passes into the next life.  In the weeks and days leading up to her death, her family remained at her side, but as a cohesive unit…it will suffice to say that she was the adhering factor and would be missed deeply. That hunch has proven prophetic and I dearly miss the occasions when we gathered together as one and rallied around her for whatever reasons. It has become but a state of memories and fond recollections.

Although I reapplied the cleanser again and again, and brushed more in earnest, it came to me; the stain and the truth were both there for the duration. It has been ten years. I can’t imagine living with the heartache that accompanied the time period when that stone was pristine and newly set where she lay. So I rinsed it in cool water and drove away.

And I wondered if the stone already carried an as of yet not evident mark from the day it was set in place, tarnished by the division of her flock, the decay of the honoring the rules of her home left behind. I have to admit that I appreciate her effectiveness as a mom and community influence more than ever. And that over time, it becomes more evident just how remarkable a human being, woman, mother, and friend that she was. Her influence lives on in many people and I am honored to have called her mom. And too, I admit her effect and the respect that followed her in life, has been diminished to some since her death. If she were still living among us, certain others would carry a much different attitude in light of her way of urging more fitting behavior.

I pondered if a soul in heaven could or would truly sense the dissent and mourn the erosion of what she created and was taken away from too soon. I wondered if such behavior could make her time in heaven less than rewarding for fragments of the time.

I wondered in truth that perhaps my disappointment over the demise of my family over time was the only sorrow being felt. There may be other living souls feeling the twinge of the broken family unit, but perhaps there is no such a letdown in heaven. And it made me glad to believe so.

It is now plain to see that for today at least, the mark of time and the elements are to remain on her (and my father’s) names there carved in the stone.

And I thought about the significance of Mother’s day itself and the other days mainly promoted by retailers. There is no way to meet their lofty and expensive standards, unless of course we actually just loved and respected our moms on the days before and after such days on the calendar.

I recalled that regardless of the days marked in red on the calendars over the years, she was always our mother, even when we scarcely were earning her love and devotion…All the days between the days she was obligated to care (either by the church or the retailers) she always stayed a mom.

And it occurred to me that few, if any of my efforts should evolve around a specific Sunday in May. It came to me that my efforts ought not to be a forced effort at all and that my daily existence and substance ought to honor my mother.

It also became clear to me that flowers at her grave are trivial because she can see and smell flowers in every garden spot that exists under heaven. It dawned on me that a scrubbed stone in the corner of an old grave yard might be minimized by the fact she can soar above even the tallest of mountain ranges, made up of granite or otherwise…and convene with soaring eagles. She can assure the nested fawn, marvel at the wobbly legged new foal. Or even look in on her great grandchildren when they are kneeling for night time prayers or are up to their ankles in a joyous mud puddle.

She can be anywhere. I know this because for many hours on most days, she chooses to accompany me here inside my thoughts, my heart, my drives, my laughter, my tears, and my life dreams…And I know she is proud of me even as I lend my hands to the keys here. She needn’t tell me what to say here and now…she taught me those things long ago…and I think perhaps for the past few years I have been channeling more writings and have been the blessed recipient of more epiphanies than before she left her earthly bounds. And I think perhaps that is not a coincidence…

I looked around today, at well preserved old cars with well-worn but still intact paint jobs. And I passed ancient farms with the weathered barn wood and fence rails that wear the badge of smooth spots from livestock reaching out to the greener grasses there beyond the corral. The Statue of Liberty has a proud coat of green patina from her life standing in marine air, no longer gleaming copper.

I thought of my father’s work hardened hands, once so immense and strong…now mostly resting and tellingly full of stories of the pipes he fit and the wrenches he turned and the long life they spent together.

As I returned to my mom’s multi-hued grey stone, I reflected on the decade since it had been set there. I looked into the rear view mirror at my own reflection and the weathering that time had added to my face, and my eyes. I looked at the growth in the surrounding trees and thought of her grandchildren now being no longer kids, no longer babies.

I looked at the big picture, knowing the marks of time there on her stone had been well earned and are reflective of the years that had passed.

And I realized that between mom and I, just one of us was growing older, and perhaps the next time I see her we will be closer to the same age and yet forever young. And maybe she’ll take my hand and lead me to where she is now. And that old stone will be a mere step, the last here on God’s green earth, and the first on the journey to places beyond.

And neither one of us will notice the weathering left over time.

Happy Mother’s Day Momma. Every day.

Love, Matthew Lyle

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I cannot fault the earth that gave place for the tree to root, nor the rain and sun that provided it life.  And yet there grew the tree.

I won’t place blame on the axe that fell it, nor the man that wielded it and brought it to crash on the life giving ground.

I cannot fault the carpenter that gave it form and function, or the blacksmith that forged the spikes. I can’t blame the hammer that drove them. A hammer can both build and be used to break…or in the case of assembling a particular cross; both.

reflections on Christ - crucifixion

I cannot blame the thorny bush, or the soul who cut the branch that formed a crown.

I cannot fault the sun that rose and shone that day, or the path he walked while those that gathered stood idle.

sunrise

I cannot blame the day that was passing during which he died, or the fabric his perished being was wrapped in.

cross

I won’t place blame on the darkness in which he was laid to rest, or the strength of the men who placed a boulder to seal the implacable tomb.

But I can be thankful for the dawn, for the deliverance and evident rebirth. I will continue to praise the miracle and reunion when the third sunrise came to pass.

I can be forgiving of those who put timber and tools to use, who brought an end to one life as we know it…and in turn, eternal life to being. It seems that even misguided evil can manifest mystery and miracle.

In all of my life, I have been taught sacrifice on so many levels, but I think I finally understand how love makes it worthwhile, hope makes it possible, and faith–faith makes it real.

I cannot see the wind, but I never question that it rustles the leaves and lifts the desert. I cannot touch the sunshine, yet it brings me sight and accompanies me through shadow and warmth. I cannot understand why the stream fills with salmon that return to spawn and die, without ever knowing if the effort would turn to fry and perpetuate the life cycle. And yet they leave the sea and head home nonetheless.

I no longer feel my mother’s hand upon mine, and yet she never ceases to touch me. And I won’t stop believing that she waits for me and others where she is now.

All I need is forgiveness, acceptance, patience, faith, and most of all love…to know that come morning, the stone will have moved, and reunion will be at hand.

And sure as the sun will rise at Sunday’s dawn…so too will have the Son.

cross tomb

Keep the faith and be good to each other. I bid Happy Easter to one and all.

Matthew Lyle Landsman

Early Easter 2012

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Please do your very best stay in touch
with each other. Give heartier handshakes, let conversations linger.
Have an extra coffee or two with your loved ones after those too rare
family meals. Let there be an added half hour of goodbye loitering when
two or more of you gather. Hug tighter; be generous with your gifts
of time, with your love too. I am told that you’ll never see a hearse
towing a U-Haul trailer to a funeral, so sacrifice a few dollars earned
thru too many hours working away from family and friends. The only things
you take with you are memories; the biggest things you leave behind
are your legacy, your love and smiles, and the echo of your laughter.
Make sure they are bountiful and always fresh and recently replenished.

Please take good care of yourself, take
one more walk and have one less drink or cigarette. I need all of you,
and we all seem to need more of each other more than ever before. I
Hope we can love one another more deeply, be sincere in our greetings
and farewells.  I pray that Christmas and other faith filled days can
see a return to their roots – and linger past the designated days.
If someone crosses your mind; find them, call them. There are reasons
for those thoughts and memories returning to us. Follow through. You
can never make up for time lost once someone has gone on ahead. And
always part on glad terms, just in case that parting with another ends
up the last that either you or the other is left to live on with. Go
on by leaving folks with a hearty hug, rather than a scowl and a grudge.
 

Matthew Landsman

Autumn 2007

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