Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Broks

Some excerpts that move me.

 

Loose one’s footing, as I did, and age matters not.  Ones cede all claims to childish innocence.   And my own sins were not mere nursery mischief but matter etched in stone upon the tablets of mortal error.  I broke the Commandments, day after day.  And I did it knowingly…. Like Eve, I thirsted after forbidden knowledge and ate the forbidden fruit.  For her, the apple, for me, the white hellebore [drink that coming of age Indians drink that causes hallucinatory experience] – different plant, proffered from the same hand.  And just as the serpent must have been lovely – I see him, his lustrous, shimmering scales, pouring liquid over Eve’s shoulders, his jewel eyes luminous as they gazed into her own – so too did Satan come to me in the form of irresistible beauty.

We are taught early here to see Nature as a foe to be subdued.  But I came, by stages, to worship it.

I picked up scallop shells in diverse colors and sizes – warm reds and yellows; cool stippled grays – and reflected on the diversity of God’s creation, and what might be the use and meaning of his making so many varieties of a single thing.  If he created scallops simply for our nourishment, why paint each shell with such delicate and particular colors? … It came to me then that God must must desire us to use each of our senses, to take delight in the varied tastes and sights and textures of his world.  Yet this seemed to go against so many of our preachment against the sumptuary and the carnal.

I thought of the shining bass in my friend’s hands, the raised rock, and his gentle words of thanks to the creature.  This no longer seemed outlandish to me, but fitting and somehow decent.  The idea that this heathen youth should show more refinement than we in such a matter only added to my leaden mood.

[Caleb]  “That is where he lives, is it not, your one God?  Up there, beyond the inconstant clouds?”  … “Only one god.  Strange, that you English, who gather about you so many things, are content with one only.  And so distant, up there in the sky.  I do not have to look so far.  I can see me skygod clear enough, right there,” he said, stretching out an arm towards the sun. “By day, Keesakand.  Tonight Nanpawshat.” … He prattled on, cataloging his pantheon of heathenish idols.  Trees, fish, animals and the like vanities, all of them invested with souls, all wielding powers.  But then I remembered …  the whispering to me that I already knew Keesakand, that I had already worshiped him many time as I bathed in the radiance of a sunrise, or paused to witness the glory of his sunset. … It was good, the voice whispered.  It was right and well to know these powers, to live in a world aswirl with spirits, everywhere ablaze with divinity.

…The Indians were more Christ-like that we Christians, who clung to our possessions even as read the gospel’s clear injunction to give up all we owned.

What profit was there in requiring little ones to behave like adults?  Why bridle their spirits and struggle to break their God-given nature before they had the least understanding of what was wanted of them?

[about Caleb]  In every outward particular, he was now a Christian.  But who could see into his heart?

[Of the cairns made in respect for Bethia’s father]  The stones had a kind of inner radiance that answered to the sun’s changing light at different times of the day…  We were, I think, taken aback by its power to touch our deeper feeling, every time we went to it.

[Caleb]  “Life is better then death.  I knw this.  Tequamuck says it is the coward’s talk.  I say it is braver, sometimes, to bend.”

[While Bethia and husband are int Italy] On feast days we would marvel at the procession of he papists, carrying their gilded, flower-bedecked statues through the streets.  In time, even Samuel came to wonder if our austere form or worship was the only one way to be godly.

Caleb was a hero, there was no doubt of it.  He ventured forth from one world to another with an explore’s courage, armored by the hope that he could serve his people.  He stood shoulder to shoulder with the most of learned of his day, ready to take the place with them as a man of affairs. … I am not a hero.  Life has not required it of me.  But neither will I go to my grave a coward, silent about what I did, and what it cost.  So, let these past pages be my death song — even if at the end it is no paean, but as it must be: a dissonant and tragic lament.

my grandmother asked me to tell’s sorry – Fredrik Backman

Some excerpts that move me.

…”All daughters are angry with their mothers about something. But she was a good grandmother..  She was the most fantastic grandmother anyone could imagine.”

The mightiest power of death is not that it can make people die, but that it makes the people left behind want to stop living, she thinks, without remembering where she heard that.

..I think it could mean that if you hate the one who hates you, you could risk becoming like the one you hate.

It’s snowing again, and Elsa decides that even if people she likes have been shits on earlier occasions, she has to learn to carry on liking them,  You’d quickly run out of people if you had to disqualify all those who at some point have been shits.

“‘We want to be loved, ‘” quotes Britt-Marie,  “‘Failing that, admired; failing that, feared; failing that, hated and despised.  At all costs we want to stir up some sort of feeling in others.  The soul abhors a vacuum. At all costs it longs for contact.'”

Lost and Found…

Upon mom’s passing we have been fortunate to be contacted by some of her family from Belgium.  Christian Gaule, first cousin to mom, reached out to Sabine and I and sending us pictures of mom.  I’d like to keep adding them to this blog; we love the pictures.  Christian has also confirmed mom’s nickname that she inherited at 20 months of age,  Poupette, which is French for butterfly.

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Milestone(s).

Got my chemotherapy power port removed today. True to my mom’s wish she was alive to see me through my treatment and double mastectomy for breast cancer before passing away from her own fight with ovarian cancer 3 weeks ago. My mom, my light and strength who taught me how to fight and be strong. I love and miss you every day mom. 🕊 — at Saint Francis Cancer Center.

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i love you mom

Marie José Kapoor 1943 – 2016 It was only 19 short years ago that Marie Kapoor was given a terminal diagnosis of ovarian cancer and a life expectancy of six months. Her response was confident and composed, “It is not yet my time.” Daughter of the late Victor Gaule and Julia Plainchamps Gaule, Marie was born on January 31, 1943 in Namur, Belgium. After receiving her master’s degree in business administration, she moved to Germany and accepted a position teaching French at a university. Marie met her future husband Raj Kapoor at a weekly dance hosted by the university, and the two waltzed their way to the altar within a year. The couple married in Belgium with Marie’s closest family present and shortly after moved to Arkansas where Raj pursued a master’s degree in engineering. While in Arkansas, they were blessed by the birth of their twin daughters, Catherine and Sabine. The next three years were spent in Kansas where Raj completed his PhD and finally after years of relocation the young family settled in Granby, Connecticut. The Kapoors cherished 43 wonderful years in Granby and consider it home. Learning English was a challenge for Marie. A brilliant woman who was proficient in many languages, Marie did not feel comfortable with her English upon arrival in the United States and dedicated herself to learning both the spoken language and culture. She spent countless hours watching television and reading books, especially the dictionary. Her mastery of the English language has made her the champion “Apples-to-Apples” player at all holiday events. Marie was eager to reenter the workforce and was hired as an administrator at Mount Sinai Hospital in Hartford. In a relatively short period, she had proven herself repeatedly and became a valued asset. Her beautiful smile and French accent complemented her magnetic personality and her natural ability to engage people and resolve conflicts. Marie was promoted to Risk Manager and was routinely called upon to settle disputes and clarify complicated situations when away from the office. After her diagnosis in 1997, Marie began her long journey of treatments and healing while maintaining a very active career. That same year and in 1998 she was deemed a “Super Responder” after successfully completing not one, but two stem cell transplant trials administered by Yale New Haven at Saint Francis Hospital. Marie was determined to survive and endured each day with grace and poise. She set a goal to continue sharing her life with her loved ones, colleagues, and patients. The birth of her first grandchild, Kelly, came in 1998 and motivated her more than any other force imaginable. Marie was an active and engaging Grammy to her three little ones and was always ready for trips to the library, board games, and sing-a-longs. Marie managed her illness privately and continued to work taking each challenge in stride. After Mount Sinai Hospital merged with Saint Francis Hospital, Marie saw an enormous opportunity and once again rose to achieve more responsibility within a larger Risk Management Department at the new location. Saint Francis became her new “home” and after years of dedicated service she retired in 2008. In recent years Marie frequently returned to Saint Francis for treatments and was always touched by the special care and consideration she received from the physicians, technicians, nurses, aides, and staff. Throughout her journey she was supportive of those around her and made sure to lessen the burden of others with gentle reminders, “I can fight this fight¿please do not be sad for me.” Marie constantly reminded her husband Raj and family that she was going to be okay no matter the outcome and that their love and presence were healing in and of themselves. Marie became a mentor and guide for women battling cancer, even her own daughter, and would counsel those new to this disease providing both education and encouragement. Marie did not lose a battle, she did not finish a race¿her time came and she elegantly exited the party. She is forever cherished by her husband Raj Kapoor of Granby, two daughters Catherine Garber and her husband Frank of Burlington and Sabine Zell and her husband David of Simsbury; three grandchildren, Kelly Garber, Jennifer Garber, and Nicholas Zell. She also leaves a brother, Ferdinand Gaule and his family of Belgium. Her family wishes to thank Dr. Susan Rabinowe and Dr. Beth Nelson for being ever present friends and champions. Marie’s services will be privately held and memorial donations in her honor made to Saint Francis Hospital by visiting http://www.saintfrancisdonor.com/Giving/Ways_to_Give/

**Information provided by Catherine and Sabine and written by Wendy Smith Thames, funeral director of Carmon’s Funeral Home in Windsor, CT.

Cold Mountain

Some excerpts that move me.

…but he did believe that there is a world invisible to us. He [Inman] no longer thought of that world as heaven, nor did he still think that we get to go there when we die.  Those teaching had been burned away.  But he still could not abide by a universe composed only of what he could see, especially when it was frequently foul.  So he held onto the idea of another world, a better place…

“The comeliest order on earth but is a heap of random sweepings.”

Nature, Inman was fully aware, sometimes calls attention to its special features and recommends them for interpretation.

The Tennessee boy peered up at the start so indicated and said, How do you know its name is Rigel.-I read it in a book, Inman said. -Then that’s just a name we give it, the boy said.  It ain’t God’s name. Inman had thought on the same issue a minute and then said, How would you ever come to know God’s name for that star? -You wouldn’t, He holds it close, the boy said.  It’s a thing you’ll never know.  It’s a lesson that sometimes we’re meant to settle for ignorance.  Right there’s what mostly comes from knowledge, the boy said, tipping his chin out at the broken land, apparently not even finding it worthy of sweeping a hand across its contours in a sigh of dismissal.  At the time, Inman had thought the boy a fool and had remained content to know our name for Orion’s principal star and to let God keep His dark secret.  But now he wondered if the boy might have had a point about knowledge, or at least some varieties of it.

Monroe [Ada’s father] would have dismissed such beliefs as superstition, folklore.  But Ada, increasingly covetous of Ruby’s learning in the ways living things inhabited this particular place, chose to view the signs as metaphoric.  They were, as Ada saw them, an expression of stewardship, a means of taking care, a discipline.  They provided a ritual of concern for the patterns and tendencies of the material world.  Ultimately, she decided, the signs were a way of being alert, and under those terms she could honor them.

When three crows harried a hawk across the sky, Ruby expressed her great respect for the normally reviled crow, finding much worthy of emulation in their outlook on life.  She noted with disapproval that many a bird would die rather than eat any but food it relishes.  Crows will relish what presents itself.  She admired their keenness of wit, lack of pridefullness, love of practical jokes, slyness in a fight.  All of these she saw as making up the genius of crow, which was a kind of willed mastery over what she assumed was a natural inclination toward bile and melancholy, as evidenced by its drear plumage.-We might all take instruction from crow, Ruby said pointedly, for Ada was clearly in something of a mood, the lifting of which lagged considerably behind the fairing sky.

-What are you doing up here? she said aloud to the heron.  But she knew by the look of him that his nature was anchorite and mystic.  Like all of his kind, he was a solitary pilgrim, strange in his ways and governed by no policy or creed common to flocking birds.  Ada wondered that herons could tolerate each other close enough to breed.  She had seen a scant number in her life, and those so lonesome as to make the heart sting on their behalf.  Exile birds.  Everywhere they were seemed far from home.

-I wish I had something to pay you with, Inman said. – I might not have took it anyway, the man said.

There were crows in the limbs above him, three of them, and the were harrying a rat snake  they had discovered up in the tree.  They sat on the limbs above the snake.  They sat on the limbs above the snake and grabbed at it, and now and again one flew close by and feinted at it with glinting bill.  The snake made the customary vicious displays of its kind, erecting itself and hooding out its neck and hissing and striking as if it were deadly.  But all its efforts were met with hilarity and ridicule by the crows, and the snake soon departed. The crows stayed on through much of the afternoon, celebrating their victory.  Inman watched them anytime his eyes were open, observing closely their deportment and method of expression.  And when his eyes were closed, he dreamed he lived in a kind of world where if a man wished it he could think himself to crow form, so that, though filled with dark error, he still had power either to fly from enemies or laugh them away.  Then, after awhile of passing time in such wise, Inman watched night fall, and it seemed to him as if the crows had swelled out to blacken everything.

Ruby pressed her lips to the velvet nose of the horse and then backed off an inch and opened her mouth wide an blew out a deep slow breath into its flanged nostrils.  The dispatch sent by such a gesture, she believed, concerned an understanding between them.  What it said was that she and Ralph [horse] were of like minds on the issue at hand.  You settled horses’ thinking that way.  They took it as a message to let down from their usual state of high nerves.  You could calm white-eyed horses with such a companionable breath.

[Ada’s letter] Working in the fields, there are are brief times when I go totally without thought.  Not one idea crosses my mind, though my senses are alert to all around me.  Should a crow fly over, I mark it in all its details, but I do not seek analogy for its blackness.  I know it is a type of nothing, not metaphoric.  A thing unto itself without comparison.  I believe those moments to the root of my new mien.  You would not know it on me for I suspect it is somehow akin to contentment.

She [Ada re: of the character in her books she reads] wished all the people of the story to be more expansive, not so cramped by circumstance.  What they needed was more scope, greater range.

Its ultimate line was: Come back to me is my request. …just saying what your heart felt, straight and simple and unguarded, could be more useful than four thousand lines of Keats.  She had never been able to do it in her whole life, but she thought she would like to learn how.

My imagination thus wholly engaged in the contemplation of this magnificent landscape, infinitely varied, and without bound, I was almost insensible or regardless of the charming objects more within my reach.

Where the [creek] ran shallower and slower, then, were the places prone to freezing. He [Ada’s father] would have said what the match of the creek’s parts would be in a person’s life, what God intended it to be the type of.  All God’s works would elaborate analogy.  Every bright image in the visible world only a shadow of a divine thing, so that earth and heaven, low and high, strangely agree in form and meaning because they were in fact congruent.

But you could not say the song had been improved, for as was true of all human effort, there was never advancement.  Everything added meant something lost, and about as often as not the thing lost was preferable to the thing gained, so that over time we’d be lucky if we just broke even.  Any thought otherwise was empty pride.

As they walked, Ada talked to Inman in the voice she had heard Ruby use too speak to the horse when it was nervous.  The words did not much matter.  You could say anything.  Speculate the most common way on the weather or recite the lines from the Ancient Mariner, it was all the same.  All that was needed was a calming tone, the easement of a companion voice.

Any wound might heal on the skin side but keep on burrowing inward to a man’s core until it ate him up.  The why of it, like much in life, offered little access to logic.

And it was pointless, he [Inman] said, to think how those years could have been put to better use… There was no recovering from them now.  You could grieve endlessly for the loss of time and for the damage done therein.  For the dead, and for youe own lost self.  But the wisdom of the ages says is that we do well not to grieve on and on.  And those old ones knew a thing or two and had some truth to tell… for you can grieve your heart out and in the end you are still where you were. All your grief hasn’t changed a thing.  What you have lost will not be returned o you.  It always be lost. You’re left with only your scars to mark the void.  All you can choose to do is go on or not.  But if you go on, it’s knowing you carry your scars with you.

[Inman] There was a goatwoman that fed me, and she claimed it’s a sign of God’s mercy the He won’t let us remember the reddest details of pain. He knows the parts we can’t bear and won’t let our minds render them again.  In time, from disuse, they pale away.  At least such was her thinking.  God lays the unbearable on you and then takes some back. … Ada begged to differ with part of the goatwoman’s thoughts.  She said, I think you have to give Him some help in forgetting.  You have to work at not trying to call such thoughts up, for if you call hard enough they’ll come.

…being beaten breed compassion.  It can.   But it can also breed hardness. There to some degree a choice.