A memory of Friends Meeting

It’s been years since I’ve gone to Friends’ Meeting (what we often call Quaker Meeting), mostly because there is no meeting place here in town and the nearest meeting is 90 miles away. However, I remember a concept we had there, a way of thinking about the world and our actions. Actually, two concepts related to each other.

The first is waiting for the way to open. When one is choosing an action, one doesn’t give it up right away, assuming that it will fail. Instead, one waits for the way to open, waits for something to happen, with the guidance of other Friends which we call a clearness committee.

By Boscophotos – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The other is laying something down. We also do this with the guidance of other Friends. The idea behind this is that sometimes it’s just time to let go of what we’re doing, again with a clearness committee.

The idea with the clearness committee isn’t that they speak from their own opinions. The committee centers themselves with the speaker with the belief they will speak from Spirit and give inspired guidance. Does this always work? I have a divorce that proves it doesn’t. But it’s good to feel supported by others.

I need a clearness committee

I have a lot of things going on that are unsuccessful by most standards. I have unread books, a blog with 10 regular followers, not much luck with social media, and a feeling of aimlessness. Is it time to lay my writing career down or try new tricks with promoting?

My husband might get called into a committee soon. I’ll let you know.

Time to Quit Hibernating

Being around people again

It’s been a while, it turns out, since I’ve really been around people, at least in the way where I have real conversations with them.

Photo by Jopwell on

Last night, I met up at The Pub (yes, the place is called The Pub as if it were an oasis of pub-ness in the middle of uncivilized America) with a friend who’s been out of town for a while. I didn’t realize I was his friend until I was invited to the meetup; he was a former student at the college whose life touched mine tangentially, and we mostly connected over Facebook.

There were six of us, and there was a lot of catching up, and a certain amount of talking about Big Audacious Goals. And we had them, and some of us had fulfilled some, and we sounded hopeful, which is rare in these days.

A whisp of memory

Conversing with the group felt like a fond memory of a group of people I used to hang out with in my college days. We referred to the group as “Saturday Night Group” (which, oddly, sounds like calling a pub “The Pub”). We were a group that watched Star Trek, hung out, and sometimes talked about serious things.

I learned who I really was in that group. I was a bit of a misfit that pined for unavailable men and wandered aimlessly before then, and that group pulled out of me the person I am today — all the mischief, all the depth, all the dreams. I thought I had lost that as part of “growing up”.

Now, however, I know it’s possible, and I will have to put myself forward with people to see if I can find that again. Time to quit hibernating.

People Move Away and Time Flows On

People move away

I’m having coffee with a friend today. She will be moving to Arizona soon to enjoy her retirement in new surroundings. I don’t blame her; this is not a good town to retire in.

Coffee morning concept, coffee cup with small dish putting on old plank together with stack of notebook over forest outside as background.

We haven’t seen each other in the longest time because of COVID, but we’ve corresponded online in that somewhat indirect way allowed by Facebook. She participates in community band and runs marathons. I, on the other hand, write and self-publish, hoping to get some of my work traditionally published.

Our coffee date will no doubt be a way to catch up and, in a way, to get closure even with Facebook as a medium of exchange. She is embarking on an adventure.

Time flows on without me

I admit I’m jealous of my friend. I have been caught in gaffa (as in the Kate Bush song) for so long, with my writing, my adventures only in books. I used to ask God, “What am I called to do?” but got no tingling that told me what direction to go. I’m not getting too much excitement from writing these days. Nothing is calling me on a quest. No serendipity calls my name, and when I think it does, it falls flat.

I have spoken about this before. I don’t know if this anhedonia is something normal people feel, or if I’m just comparing this pale mood with the elations and depressions I felt before I was diagnosed with bipolar II.

But I’m looking for a quest, a re-energization within COVID, a pleasant surprise, a story to tell as I tell my friend goodbye.

Memorial Day

Sunday morning and — No, it’s Monday. Memorial Day, when we look back at all those who have died in military service. 

As a Friend (Quaker), I am a pacifist. We believe that violence, even violent words, is to be avoided. We call this the Peace Testimony, and that is one of the most vital creeds of a religion that has no dogma.

We hold nothing against our men and women in the military; we abhor the system that exploits them for battle. Quakers believe there are no just wars and that there are alternatives that need to be tried.  Wars are fought for geopolitical advantage these days, and in earlier days were fought for land and empire. They were not fought for ordinary folk, but ordinary folk stood as cannon fodder. 

This doesn’t mean the Friends don’t honor the soldiers who have died in war. We mourn them deeply, perhaps more so because we feel they didn’t have to die. 

So Memorial Day is a strange day for me, a reminder that thousands go to war and fewer return. And I would thank every soldier for following their convictions, yet hope they find a way clear from that path.

On returning home

No matter how far I’ve strayed, I feel at home when I come back to Champaign-Urbana. It’s not the landscape, which has changed so much since I’ve gone with all the new, taller downtown buildings, and it’s not the old hangouts, which aren’t what they used to be. It’s the people I used to know, and how we still talk as if we just talked yesterday.

Jodi and I talked yesterday as to how convoluted our lives were and how intertwined the different groups who knew Les really were. I know of people Jody didn’t know who knew Les — I’m not expecting them to come to the wake or memorial, because they’ve grown away. 

How to articulate this feeling? It’s like being home.

Home is a strange concept. My family doesn’t feel like home since my mother died, perhaps because my mother died in the Christmas season. I feel home at Starved Rick Lodge, however, because it seems welcoming. 
I’m glad to be here, even if it’s for a sad reason.

Day 21 Reflection: Friendship

As I said in these pages before, my best friend Celia died about ten years ago (I’m bad with dates) this week. She taught me a lot about friendship.

We met at a professional conference as the two slowest graduate students.  Celia dealt with arthritis through her back and hips, while I had a broken leg from being hit by a car.

The first thing Celia taught me is that friendship is unconditional. She accepted me as I was — at times giddy, at times depressed. She gave me moral support during that rose petal wine disaster when the siphon got clogged and I got drunk trying to clear it. She took me to dinner when my husband at the time dropped a bombshell that led to our divorce. 

The unconditional acceptance went both ways. I accepted her movement limitations and assisted her where I could. I helped scrub her back in the shower when she recovered from carpal tunnel surgery in both wrists. 

I accepted that she was an introverted bookworm and she accepted that I was a voluble one that took naps when I felt talked out. 

I envied her her drive to excel scholastically — she was a research leader, while I was a follower who had been encouraged to work at Master’s 1 rather than Research 1 schools. We complemented each other in research, because I have always been very good with words and she had excelled at research design. I didn’t let my jealousy get in the way of our friendship — that was my problem, not hers.

The day she died of a heart attack, Celia had sent a message on Facebook for my wedding anniversary, and as far as I can tell, she sent it just before she called the ambulance. She didn’t make it, and her daughter called me later while I was out with my husband and a couple other friends. I didn’t cry, mostly because I felt numb and helpless.  

It’s been a while, but I still miss her.

Facebook, Stories, and Getting to Know You

On Facebook, getting to know someone looks like this:

Have you ever been arrested? Y/N
Had a parent die?  Y/N
Traveled overseas? Y/N
Gotten married? Y/N
(My answers are, in order, N, Y, Y, Y).

I don’t think that’s getting to know someone. Getting to know someone involves listening to the stories behind the answers above. In doing so, one can detect the feelings and thoughts of the person who’s telling the story.

It’s hard to do this on Facebook. People don’t tell their stories when they don’t think the other is listening, and it’s hard to look like one’s listening behind a screen. Nuances are lost. Emotions are lost.

That’s not to say that I don’t feel connected to people on Facebook. I feel connected to the people I’m friends with in real life. They’re the ones who have my stories.

PS: To My Friends

If I base a character on you, it is not you. Seriously, if that were the case, I wouldn’t be able to kill off any of my characters.

More specifically:

  • Some characters only look like you. 
  • Some characters have some of your basic characteristics (personality, looks, likes), but not your stories.
  • Some characters have your stories, but don’t share your basic characteristics.
  • Some characters are you from the Mirror Universe. 
Why do I base my characters on people I know?
  • I can’t visualize people. Honestly, if I try to call up your face in my mind, your nose floats off somewhere and I can’t see your eyes. So, yeah, you have hair.
  • Apparently, from what I can see in Wattpad, everyone does this, except they base their characters on movie and TV stars. My characters are quirkier than that, so they look like you.
  • My friends (including you, reader, a friend I haven’t met) have cool stories.
  • My friends (including you, reader, etc), have rich personalities.
On the other hand, I once killed off my ex-husband in a novel after establishing him as a pathetic womanizer. I have a t-shirt that says “You are dangerously close to being killed off in my novel.”  So I suppose there is some danger of being killed off by me. Sorry.

PS: My Valentine to You

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! This includes the Russian Bot, the Portuguese mystery, my daily visitor from Ukraine, the one person my sister knows from Germany, the one person I know from Canada, India and Hong Kong, and the charming girl from Poland who might also be Portugal. Oh, yes, and Peru. How could I forget Peru?

And Happy Valentines Day from my fans in the US, which sometimes even let me know who they are.

In a perfect world, this would be my valentine:

We would all go out to coffee together and meet each other, some of us for the first time. Hugs would be optional, but I would work hard to feel the hugs in the spirit of how they were meant. I would introduce all of you to each other. We would talk about what your favorite coffeeshop beverage was, but because this is Valentine’s Day and not Heaven, I would not be able to indulge you in herb tea or samovar or Turkish coffee. That’s okay, because we are all friends. I would tell you what you mean to me. That would be my valentine.

Isn’t fantasy wonderful?

Melancholy October

The clock on my computer reads 6 AM, and there’s no sign of light through the window.  The first day of autumn was a month ago, and the leaves of the trees I cannot see in the opaqueness of pre-dawn have shifted to brilliant russet and orange and yellow.

Fall breaks my heart, the way it wrings out the greatest beauty of the leaves before they die and blow away in spicy, earthy drifts. The rustle of leaf piles, the days and nights of rain from delicate sprinkles to sibilant showers to pounding gullywashers speak the truth of autumn, that it’s all about the last hurrah before the earth sleeps through the winter.

Flocks of starlings, like sooty leaves tumbled in a wind, wheel across the sky in everchanging patterns — billows grown big, then small; gathering for their migration south. The unprepossessing slate-colored juncos in their grey and white move in and outnumber the year-round drab sparrows. The cardinals stay through the winter, flashing red against the snow; seeing one seems like a promise that summer will come.

It is time to tuck away my summer fancies for those things that stay, that last through the winter. I will invite those friends to my hearth to drink hot chocolate and tell stories; I will welcome them as my own.