Bibles show mute evidence of the past.

I unexpectedly got in touch with my inner historical child today through an unexpected encounter with an old Bible.

I grew up loving stories about my grandma’s growing up on a homestead in Alberta and the family using catalog pages for toilet paper and Gram and her next-in-line sister, Meryle, perched on back of a horse to reach the local, one-room schoolhouse.

My great grandmother wrote down the names of each new daughter in the family Bible.

Another family Bible — now long vanished — played a role in showing where a 4x-great grandfather came from. Evidently, he never shared any details of his family or past with his wife and children and their children. Whatever happened to divide them, he stuck to his resolution to say nothing.

Except, in the family Bible. After his death, one of his descendants leafed through grandfather’s old Bible. And there she discovered he’d written down that he hailed from Pennsylvania. The lines for the writing of his mother and father’s names was blank.

I was reminded of those stories today while riding the bus today.  An older man sat down next to me much to my surprise. There were vacant seats to be had — however, he said he had something  I might like to see.

Now, I don’t know why he picked me. I wasn’t wearing a t-shirt marked with “History is the bomb!”

But I was glad he perched next to me. His treasure was a vintage Bible — leather bound, brass fittings. The original owner had signed his name and the year 1860. Gilt-edged pages still shone, the lithograph colored illustrations of King David and the Apostles still intact. The spine was in bad shape, but the new possessor said he planned to get the Bible restored.

1860. My 4x-great grandfather was still alive then and the westward movement was taking place with folks travelling to Oregon and California in covered wagons to homestead. On the national front, the debates over slavery and electing a new president raged. Women including my grandmother’s English-born grandma, using wood stoves, wash tubs and “sad” irons to care for their families and homes.

This Bible — and the ones owned by my great grandmother and 4x great grandfather — feature the elegant handwriting of the past. The recording — or not — of family lineage. The stories found in the Bible that probably provided the only entertainment allowed on the Sabbath days. Showing mute, small evidences of who these original owners were, like the delicate dried flower found in my great grandmother’s Bible.

Treasures indeed.

(C) 2017 by Mary Louise Van Dyke. All Rights Reserved. For more information contact her at marylvandyke03@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

Shaking off inflammatory learned behaviors

When I was a kid, I behaved like a kid. Ornery when dealing with what I thought of as in-my-face siblings. Shriveling internally when getting called names by some classmates who specialized in bullying. Ducking behind behind the covers of a book when life just got too overwhelming – which it seemed to do on a regular basis.

From those situations, emerged what I call “learned behaviors.”

You know, those inflamed automated responses that crop up. Such as sputtering “Shut up!” when discussing how much firewood I was allowed to use on a recent camp out. My next-in-line-to-me sibling was in charge of fire operations.

I stalked back to my tent. Brooded, growled and chewed over what I wanted to say. Versus how I should behave especially with younger family members watching. I located him later and scraped out an apology for the heated words. But not for how I felt about his assertion of being da boss. That – that part of him will never change so I need to accept that reality.

A few weeks ago my boss micro-managed a project. I understood they wanted a certain result – okay. However, the way they communicated their expectations, left me feeling like a first grader who’s struggling to figure out what C – A – T spells.

I’m still trying to figure out a pleasant and professional way to shape my response to that situation. One with using my “I” words versus the more inflammatory “you” words.

Yeah. Good luck to me on that one.

And of course there are other situations that trigger the learned behaviors of earlier adult years. For example, sharing a meal with a 20-something offspring – and wanting to spill out reams of parenting advice on how they could shape their lives into my image of success.

My” or “their” image? Hmm. I bit back the words that hovered on the tip of my tongue. Told myself, “hey, cupcake, this isn’t your life.” It’s tough. But all those lovely “how-to’s” and “you should do’s” need to be shared sparingly. Sometimes not at all, unless the object of my concern looks at me and says, “Mom, what do you think?”

Basically, shaping the responses that keep the doors of communication open calls for a lot of thinking.

In some ways, I think I’m making progress. Although I’d better be careful about saying that too loudly or life (karma?) will bonk me royally over the head.

My mother and I have survived nearly two years of life together under the same roof. Because her health issues, she needs quiet and simplicity. I am learning to clamp down on my tendency to overly explain myself. Inserting pauses that allow her to gather her thoughts. Knowing when to fill in the words she is struggling to say – and when to voice solutions that work for her.

So, I’m working to scrap off the old triggers and examine more thoughtfully what is happening between me and others. One event at a time.

© 2017 by Mary Louise Van Dyke. All Rights Reserved. The writer can be contacted at marylvandyke03@gmail.com.

Remembering a Captain who refused freedom

On this Memorial Day we honor those who died fighting for us in war. Capt Abraham Van Dyke of New York militia was imprisoned on a British ship following the Battles of Long Island and of Fort Washington during the Revolutionary War.

About 1700 Continental soldiers were imprisoned on ships in conditions horrific and rank. Hundreds succumbed to disease and neglect. Blankets not to be had even though it was winter time. Food scarce and foul.

The Captain refused an offer of freedom because he would not take his liberty if the men of his company remained behind imprisoned. The only option offered by the British was to fight on the side of the English.

Many soldiers of the New York patriots (like him) had been forced to flee their homes in New York City when the British took control there.

Abraham died on board the prison ship, March 1777, possibly of smallpox. Most of his fellow prisoners also perished with only  surviving to see freedom. Abraham’s wife and young daughter, living as refugees, also passed away that year. Only an infant son survived and was raised by his brother, Nicholas Van Dyke and his wife Charlotte of Delaware.

Abraham’s story is only one of the many who died in wartime.

To them — may we remember

Views of life

Right now I am deeply grateful for the varied glimpses of life I’ve experienced and observed, based on living in different locations around the United States, and being a reporter who covered numerous topics including religion and politics.

Reporting city council meetings brought me face to face with good folks on all sides presenting their cases on why city leaders must approve certain actions. You want disagreement? You’ll find it in the council chambers!

Sitting in varied religious places of worship where I focused on the elements we held in common. Whether in a Christian church, or mosque, or in a synagouge, beauty, prayer, reflections on the sacred writings are taking place. Along with little ones who are squirming to get free of parents and go run!

Yes illegal actions must be challenged. Stopped. Corrected.

Yes people’s rights as human beings must be affirmed and re-affirmed.

Certainly differences exist between us human beings. We all have differing views on life based on our experience, genetics, and views on life.

I writhe with frustration when these disagreements are played up to the max — possibly fueled by misinformation. No bridges of understanding allowed for. People saying “either you agree with me or you’re wrong wrong wrong!”

I can only speak for myself. My choice is to focus on we hold in common — and to show respect even when I don’t agree with the other person’s conclusions.

Peace be with you.

(C) 2017 by Mary Louise Van Dyke. All Rights Reserved.

For London

The Peanut Butter Years

For you in London, today is the day  life shifts

Tessaracts with the speed of light.

As unaware  you open the door

See the person who stands there

Sorry etched in shadowed eyes

Stumbling words poring out that mean nothing

Nothing!

But your heart quivers breaks rhythm

This is not real.

Beating thoughts rush through you of nights together

And this morning’s you saying pick up a gallon of milk while you’re at the store

And. All. Oh God all you wanted to say tonight

But tonight the supper already fixed will become rubbish fill

The comforter on the bed stay smooth

But there won’t be any comfort Not tonight. Maybe never again

As you plunge into the pit of unreality

Heaped on your heart.by those stumbling words

Of “I am sorry to say this… ”

By Mary Lou Van Dyke  © 2017

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For London

For you in London, today is the day  life shifts

Tessaracts with the speed of light.

As unaware  you open the door

See the person who stands there

Sorry etched in shadowed eyes

Stumbling words poring out that mean nothing

Nothing!

But your heart quivers breaks rhythm

This is not real.

Beating thoughts rush through you of nights together

And this morning’s you saying pick up a gallon of milk while you’re at the store

And. All. Oh God all you wanted to say tonight

But tonight the supper already fixed will become rubbish fill

The comforter on the bed stay smooth

But there won’t be any comfort Not tonight. Maybe never again

As you plunge into the pit of unreality

Heaped on your heart.by those stumbling words

Of “I am sorry to say this… ”

By Mary Lou Van Dyke  © 2017

Remembering the aunts

I am feeling the awkward tug of time as I realize I have one aunt left who is alive.
True, this is a reality for those of us who dwell in the middle years. Elderly relatives drawing breath a final time as they depart on their forever journeys.
Similar to Frodo and his uncle Bilbo’s leaving behind their home in Middle Earth In Lord of the Rings and setting sail for the Grey Havens and eternal rest.
His friends Sam, Merry and Pip are left to mourn and remember, and continue on with their lives.
aunt-connie-001
Aunt Connie
I am experiencing those shadows with the passing of the last aunt from my dad’s family. While feeling quiet joy at being newly reconnected, via FaceBook, with my mother’s only sister.
Last night I spent the wee hours, mulling over my aunts’ influence on my life. Each was mother to several children, two all-male clans, and the third and four to families of all daughters.
Being aunt must have been sliced in between those realities. For the most, part our interactions were limited to “hello’s” and “may I’s” when visiting their homes and playing with cousins.
But there were a few longer visits. What stands out even now were the books they kept at their homes, wandering through the woods, and berry-picking.
The only time I ever got lost was during a long visit to my maternal aunt when I was 9. My parents were away on a trip of reconciliation (that didn’t last long) and my cousins and I lugged “home” buckets of blackberries to be made into pies. A fragile, brown-covered book drew me into the saintly world of a little girl from the past.
The large woods close to their house beckoned and I decided to go on a walk there one afternoon. No cousins or brothers allowed. I soon found myself in shadowy, unfamiliar territory, and getting lost. Was that tree with its gnarled trunk familiar? Where did that path lead?
My woods at home was spread out over a hill.Up meant home. Down meant wandering territory.
These trees of huge pines, oaks, and alder spread out over a single level and those clues didn’t mean anything. It seemed like hours before I finally spied a familiar landmark and reached my aunt’s home and safety.
The other aunt I was closest to lived in the country and I gladly plunged into the role of “country girl.” on visits. My aunt must have chuckled at my early risings to mend torn linen dish towels with a needle and thread. Haul wood in for the wood stove. Feed the turkeys named Thanksgiving and Christmas and go through the woods to gather berries and view the wild mountain fed river that marked the far edge of their property.
I renewed my relationship with her in my early adult years, sad that a long-term illness confined her to her apartment. Her resilient spirit stayed upright, and her willingness to try the too crisp cookies baked by a little girl. Dunkers, she called those cookies.
There was never enough time for long visits in the final years — a fact that still frustrates me — but she is forever so close in my heart.
I so miss her. I miss each aunt in quiet ways. And I am happy to have this opportunity to relink with my last aunt before she is called away. . . .
(C) 2017 by Mary Louise Van Dyke. All Rights Reserved.

Outside inside the box

Don’t stuff me in a box and paste labels on me.
I can think inside – over- and outside the box.
I want homes for the neglected people who sleep on US streets and for refugees who come here.
I am flawed and need forgiveness — and I will do what I can for those who need my caring.
I advocate for those not yet born, and for the elderly and those individuals who live with intellectual and physical difficulties.
I pray and believe I am heard. Loved. — and my appreciation of science lets me know the composition and names of the constellations.
I want businesses to succeed and provide jobs for people of my community, and for our leaders to address the challenges to our environment.
I comb through fragile documents for vignettes of the past — and welcome news of increasingly better current medications and treatments.
I am a human being who appreciates dialoguing with people from North America, Europe and Japan, Israel and Africa.
With each new encounter, I grow.

— Mary Louise Van Dyke

(C) 2017 by Mary Louise Van Dyke. All Rights Reserved.

Take Flight

Little bird, clad in new flight feathers

You tremble. Gasp. Wings clench tight. 

Struggle to peer over the edge of your twigged sanctuary.

There! You spy a sibling perched on tree limb so far away.

Wings will you soar there?

But its so so far away.

Beak pokes down. Bright eyes follow to see what is there.

Oh too far. Too far! And is that “rowr” a cat?

You flop back into the cooling hollow of your nighttime hours.

Stay here. Must stay here.

Faintly in the distance you hear your siblings sounding bright chirps.

Made it! Made it!

Your heart beats strong stronger stronger strokes

Your wings flutter slightly. Open wider. You struggle to rise.

What is out there? A soft wind bats at your wings.

Come and play!

Once again you perch on the edge of the limb. Eyes close. Open

Spread out unshuttered wings

Come and play, breathes the wind

You lean forward breath in and take flight.

(C) 2017 by Mary Louise Van Dyke. All Rights Reserved.