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Sheltered Reflections # 24

By Maureen Kalbus

Sheltering at home, I am reflecting upon Easter just passed. It was the second one we experienced during the Coronavirus scourge. We knew approaches would be different, as many traditions couldn’t happen, but everyone’s resilience and adaptability have been heartening. The world has continued to spin, with the important elements of the holiday observed. Holy Week was busy, with Worship Planning Meetings, rehearsals and services. Still using Zoom, it was a short walk from one room to another, connecting with our computer.

The Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services were steeped in significance, each reflecting the original Bible stories, and leaving us bathed in pathos. For Ralph and me, the highlight of our Easter experience was opening the church for three hours on Good Friday, enabling anyone who wanted to come into the church and quietly reflect. The Moving Forward Together Committee had given us the go ahead, and guidelines to keep each person safe. Flinging open the church’s main doors, then the Sanctuary doors and windows, was empowering. After a shuttered year, it was marvelous to let the fresh air float in, and see sunlight peek through the colored glass, splashing the wooden pews. Masked church members tentatively approached, their eyes sparkling as familiar faces greeted them. Most sat in their usual places. It was comforting to sit and listen to the creaking wood, and hear children’s voices from the nearby school. Calmness hung in the air, and comfort enshrouded us. It was like going home, after a period away.

I experienced the same uplifting peace, as I arranged flowers in the Sanctuary the next day, for the Easter Sunday Service. “It’s been two years” I thought, as I filled the brass container with Spring flowers, the yellows and whites of the Liturgical season.

On Easter Day, via Zoom, it was exhilarating, seeing them with the back-drop of the Sanctuary with its stained glass windows and rich, wooden pews, setting the scene for the talented trumpeter and violinist who played exquisite music throughout the service.

We all will soon have the opportunity of experiencing this, as we are nearing the time for worshipping together in First Presbyterian, our church nestled in San Anselmo. If you drive along Miracle Mile towards The Hub, take time to look left and appreciate the glorious median strip that has been created, thanks to George Lucas’ vision and funding. The naturally planted trees, shrubs and flowers are a riot of color!

After over a year of being cocooned in our homes, having had limited physical contacts with the outside world, we are bound to experience a guarded feeling of optimism and freedom. It will be wonderful anticipating being able to choose where to go and whom to see; to be free to make the decision to return to church, and share the space with friends, delighting in unified appreciation of having survived and being together. At the same time, we will be guided in precautions to keep us safe. Following a year of peace and quiet in our sheltered homes, harsh noise levels will assail our ears, traffic will have increased, and we will need to remember to check the back of our hairstyles, and swap comfy slippers for shoes!

As restrictions ease and are lifted, to what are you looking forward?

As you step away from the comfort blanket of your home, what are you wary of leaving?

What have you appreciated?

Over this past year, Ralph and I have greatly appreciated the house we were led to twenty one years ago. Beautifully situated on a hill with uninterrupted views over green pastures and trees, we instantly liked its size and lay out. Having flown up from Los Angeles for the day, we were shown five other houses. There was a price war at the time, so over banana splits in “The Rainbow Cafe” in San Rafael, we made our decision. We found out later that, although our bid was lower than other prospective buyers, the sellers wanted us to have their home. [We had met them as we toured the house] Over the years, we have made discreet changes, turning it into our home. During our sheltered existence, we have enjoyed each room, and the treasures we have gathered over the years, each reminding us of the stories behind them, people associated with them, and places we have been. A circular table has become our book table, with all kinds of genre piled. Particularly, we have delved into the garden, rooting out weeds, planting, and relishing the intricate, unique beauty of the shapes, designs and colors of the myriad of flowers. It has been a relief to take life at a gentler pace, searching out new pursuits, learning fresh technical skills, and valuing precious family time via Zoom. Time we have spent together has been a joy.

As we all perch on a wavering branch, preparing to take flight, our position is unique to us, yet shared by millions around the world. Never has a global pandemic closed countries, killed masses, and robbed us of our freedom. In order to stay safe, we have needed to be caged. Soon, as the door opens, we will hop forward, hesitate on the brink, and then launch into the reality of our new tomorrow. Maya Angelou’s poem “ I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” springs to mind:

“The free bird leaps on the back of the wind

and floats downstream till the current ends

and dips his wings in the orange sun rays

and darts to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks down his narrow cage

can seldom see through the bars of rage

his wings are chipped his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings with fearful trill

of the things unknown but longed for still

and his tune is heard on distant hill

for the caged bird sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze

and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees

and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright dawn

and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams

his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream

his wings are clipped and his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings with fearful trill

of the things unknown but longed for still

and his tune is heard on a distant hill

for the caged bird sings of freedom.”

Life will soon be fully opening up again. Mother Teresa of Calcutta said:

“In this life we cannot always do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”

The poem “Life” is attributed to her:

“Life is an opportunity, benefit from it. Life is beauty, admire it.

Life is bliss, taste it. Life is a dream, realize it.

Life is a challenge, meet it. Life is a duty, complete it.

Life is a game, play it. Life is costly, care for it.

Life is wealth, keep it. Life is love, enjoy it.

Life is mystery, know it. Life is a promise, fulfil it.

Life is sorrow, overcome it. Life is a song, sing it.

Life is a struggle, accept it. Life is a tragedy, confront it.

Life is an adventure, dare it. Life is luck, make it.

Life is too precious, do not destroy it. Life is life, fight for it.”

In the near future, I look forward to arranging flowers in front of the pulpit, with the prospect that our loving church family will be sitting in the pews, ready to embrace a fresh tomorrow.

Warm wishes,

Maureen Kalbus

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