Aprons mingle

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When the aprons mingle, women clucking like hens

discussing ancestral wisdom from way back when

The ancestors live in gestured words

the matriarchal echoes of blood’s songbirds

Strum the butter pat to the rhythm of snipped beans

lower the babies down from the hips of Queens

biscuits on the table, floured dough, cut rounds

the mother’s mother’s hands knead risen dough down

No family recipes laid writ in tattered tomes

each muscle memory “how to” made the house a home.

Where the aprons mingle clucking women like the hens

granting the ancestral wisdom from times long spent

Your friend for life, Bill

Bill Busing was a well respected man in Oak Ridge, TN. Heck, anywhere he went he was thought highly of because of his chemistry knowledge, his humanitarian efforts, and his advocacy for people with mental health issues. He was a positive ask-anyone-about-him type of fellow. Because of this, I don’t want to tell you about that. I’d like to tell you about my friendship with him.

Each Sunday at ORUUC (Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church), I would seek out and find those that needed hugs. It was my thing. Some people, like my dad, for instance, bring candy to church for the wee ones. I brought hugs in abundance. I hugged the old, the young, the feeble, the in-betweens, but I always sought out Bill. Not because I preferred him above others, but because he was born decades but days from my birthday. I felt a special bond with him that I can’t really explain.

When he didn’t show up for church, I’d miss him something awful. When he gave me his phone number so I wouldn’t worry about him, I felt like I’d been given the golden ticket. It wasn’t long before we decided to go for coffee. He seemed both pleased and genuinely surprised to discover that I really did seek his company.

We arranged and met at Starbucks on the Oak Ridge Turnpike. I got there first and I scored the corner seats with a table in between them. When he arrived he insisted on paying because he bought special fund raising cards from the church and he wanted to make sure they got used. I thought that very philanthropic, he thought it very practical.

Coffee in hand, we sat down in the corner and chatted for nearly two hours. We covered topics such as family, life events, careers (mine far shorter and less stellar than his), marriage and faith. He was not one for easy laughter, even with me. But when he did, it was rich and full-bodied and worth the effort to coax it from him. He was quite serious but not really; more like a human paradox (like we all are).

After that initial meeting, we met frequently at different venues around town. Sometimes we’d go to Panera Bread where he’d bring his close friend Cherie with him. It was always a delight to see the two of them interact because she was far more vibrant than he, but he seemed to find her antics amusing. Our conversations never stayed on one topic for very long. We’d cover a gamut of issues from politics to religion. He never shied away from anything. He was a brave conversationalist in that aspect.

Once, after I’d moved away, I had returned for a visit. After I walked him to his car, I hugged him extra tight, his hunched shoulders seemed to melt as he held me warmly.

“Bill, I’m so glad I got a chance to see you again. I want to make you a promise.”

“Oh, you don’t have to promise me anything. It’s okay.” He rebuffed me gently.

“No, really. I want to promise you that as long as I’m able, I’ll write to you every time I get a letter. I won’t forget you.” I said with earnest and sincerity.

“Oh, I thought you were getting serious on me.” He chuckled. “Then I will promise you the same thing. As long as I’m able, I will write you letters.”

From that day on, a card would arrive about once a week, most commonly bi-weekly. I replied as soon as I got one as did he. His favorite way to write letters was on the inside of various greeting cards. He talked about his daughter, Lesley, and his growing concern for her but also his joy that he could have dinner with her during the week. He told me about his adventures with Miss Cherie and the people he helped along the way.

During a particularly rough patch of grief, I wrote to Bill and lamented my despair. “I’m lost. I just feel like giving up some days. I miss my people. I miss my tribe. I miss my home.” Those aren’t the exact words, but they are close. His reply was gentle.

“Knowing grief is just a part of life. It comes and it goes. There is only one way to deal with it, just keep living. Being sad all the time isn’t going to make it better. You have to live. You have a new place to be with your husband and family. Don’t give up when there is life to live.” (again paraphrased).

At that time, I remember just crying harder because he, and people like him, are the very reason I was grieving in the first place. I held on to that March letter, in essence breaking my promise, pondering the words he’d written. By early April I’d decided he was right and I was not going to give up easily. I wrote him a letter telling him as much. I wrote the letter up and sent it out on Monday the 11th of April. He got the letter on the 12th. He passed on the 14th. No letter returned.

As I sit here on the first of January 2017, I think about how many times I’ve cried about giving up in this past year as I’ve battled a scary bout of depression. Even with people I love cheering me on, how he signed his letters is one of the key elements that keep me going. He really did teach me something better than chemistry.

Your friend for life, Bill.

 

These Are My People: Aunt Lizzie

The turning of the Wheel is honored in her space

the breathing of the seasons accounted at her grace

With eyes the color of summer sky she observes the holy

Appreciating each season as its revealed so slowly

Her hair is the color of bonfires, of cider mills or pumpkin pies

When she laughs, I mean really laughs, it could make you cry

She sees the world in music, notes upon a page,

Not a moment passes by that she’s not fully engaged.

She can make a piano dance a jig or an organ sing to God

But she believes, somewhere inside, that she is somehow flawed.

When she gives the gift of her, in whichever way she does,

There is never any doubt in mind, that you are truly loved.

 

Community Prayer

My neighbors,

We are gathered here today in peace

We honor the truth of the word love

We strive together to build a better community

To promote and create our neighborhood

That takes care of one another through

Respect, compassion, courage, and vision.

For anybody that would not honor our covenant

We will lead them by our actions to the light of love in your name.

Hear our prayer so that we may be one people, your people.

Thank you.

TAMP: ORRUCIANS

 

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2009 Unitarian Universalist

I ran away as fast as I could to find a safer place to be

I crossed rivers and swam oceans, foraged forests and climbed up trees

I ascended high rimmed mountains, rode hills with horses fast

I have kissed a thousand frogs and even married an ass!

I have met a fairy queen who tiptoe dances the floor

She is married to a humble bard who has to duck the doors

I stumbled into an elfin circle that sews with the finest of threads

And if you offer them rich brownies they take away the dreads

I heard a trumpeting truth come down from the pulpit hall

surrounded by the boughing trees, I heeded the beckoned call.

I danced naked with the witches circle at full moon and new

But never blocked by architecture, the witches window skewed.

I met the elders as they assembled together

to make magic happen in all kinds of weather.

I cherish the wisdom like life’s breath forgiven

I discovered a love that was so close to heaven

I was accepted as a magic star that glimmered in their midst

And with the breath of dandelion, I was granted my wish.

Safe harbor, my safe haven, my beloved fairyland

I carry with me the magic that you granted to my hands

These Are My People: Linda Looney

Linda and Mare

A relationship between a mother and daughter

is far more complicated than it oughter

be, with wrecks and disasters no happily ever after

as one struggles to hold on, the other to be free.

But if you ask them, one on one how they feel,

you’ll hear nothing but the true theist spiel

of love and emotion, undying devotion

between mother and child, where nothing is mild

when familial blood runs rivers through reconciled

years washed pure in the hopeful heart referred

“Glad to be of help.” the moniker tenured

Opinion: Rev. Morrill addresses ‘Black Lives Matter’

This past July, a church committee requested a new message on the electronic sign, which faces the Oak Ridge Turnpike. The message they requested was “Black Lives Matter.” The board of the Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church, or ORUUC, voted to approve it, and the message was added to the sign’s series of scrolling messages.

Source: Opinion: Rev. Morrill addresses ‘Black Lives Matter’