A Girl Catching Bees

Like a hair perm gone terribly awry, frizzed, unmanageable, and impossibly unkempt, the wisteria tendrils and shoots amassed around the base of the towering black walnut tree in the side yard of Grannie’s house, that is, until sometime in late February or early March when the unruly mass of vines inconceivably transformed into a living, throbbing, buzzing island of lavender blossoms, green stems, and black-headed and yellow-headed bumble bees.  The wisteria was alive with color and sound, alive with an invisible cloud of perfume luring the bees and me to her tangled mess; the wisteria with her siren song of smell secreted pheromones like a trail of little candies leading her children home.  So summoned, so lured, so enticed, we all presented ourselves before her.  She needed us; we needed her, the bees and me.

wisteria2 2011

The black and yellow-headed bumbled bees penetrated the purple concave openings of each tiny bud sipping her nectar, brushing against her pollen, retrieving the first food of spring flowers draping trees and bushes in our small region of south Alabama.  A week or two more, and she would have been competing with the azaleas on the front side of the house.  I was not bedazzled by the flowers, by the pollen or the nectar; I was drawn by the bees.  As an eight year old, I thought I was playing with the bees; but as an adult I know, I captured and suffocated them.  In hindsight, I came to kill the bees.  I know now that the reason I went to her, following the bees, was because I was bored.  I was also powerful, and the bees were available.

With my bare hands, I caught the yellow-headed bumble bees.  I stalked the blossoms, waiting for the moment of in-between hovering when I could see for certain that the head of bee was stained with a patch of yellow.  (The black-headed bees would sting.  I didn’t catch those.)  When I snatched one in mid-air, I marveled at my ability to contain the bee’s aliveness in my young fist, to feel its beating wings and throbbing thorax in the palm of my hand and on the underside of my fingers.  I felt the power of defying my natural enemy without being stung, of glorying in the impotence of these yellow-headed bees.  I always wanted to catch more of them.  How many could I catch?  With a sharp butcher knife, I stabbed slots into the flat shiny surface of a mason jar lid.  I deposited bee after bee into the quart jar, with a balance upwards of twenty most days.  In the jar, the bees fell silent, no humming buzz, no beating wings, no vibrating body.  Disoriented and drunk for lack of freedom and air, they stumbled and fell upon one another while my marvel wilted alongside the cluster of wisteria blossoms I had picked to keep them company.

I was a little girl enamored with the chaos of a living, throbbing, buzzing island of flora and fauna.  I was a little girl unaware of the living, throbbing, buzzing island of chaos at the base of my little tree of life.

© Amy Persons Parkes 2013

Forgiveness: A Prayer

Loyola House Feb 2012 007

The trouble is,
I don’t know if I want to forgive.
I’m afraid I’m all out of discernment
when it comes to this problem.

The trouble is, God,
I’m not sure I know what it means
to let go all that has passed between us.
The list of offenses is piled so high,
and the piles are so numerous;
the site of the injury reminds me
of the dumping grounds in India.

The trouble is, God,
I don’t think you understand
what I’m dealing with here.
The orphans of my heart
are starved for reconciliation
and healing.
But I only know to let them roam
among the piles of offenses
in search of any morsel to keep them alive.
Because alive is better… right, God?

The trouble is, God,
I can’t pray a little harder
or believe with more sincerity
or act with more kindness than I already have.
I am stuck in this wasteland of garbage
and while part of me searches for some nourishment here
another part of me keeps pushing the piles around
believing that rearranging the memories might
provide some opening for escape.

The trouble is, God,
I can’t imagine the beauty and freedom
of a life apart from this dump.
And no matter how hard I try
I cannot envision another possibility.
I am not able to set myself free.

The trouble is, God,
I need some help —
when you are available,
when you have some time.
I don’t want to be a bother.

© Amy Persons Parkes 2011

Written as part of my final project for the Two Year Academy of Spiritual Formation.

What is Your Emotional Equator?

flat map ocean

What if the world is not flat?

What if the North Star’s dive below the horizon as you make your way south of the equator is not an indicator that the end of all things is near?

What if the truth everyone believes, isn’t really True?

What if the most important aspect of your life is only an emotional boundary that you can’t bring yourself to cross for fear of what monsters and end of time horrors await on the other side?

What if the edge of the only world you can imagine is only a passage to another world you never even dreamed existed?

What if speaking the truth of who you are and what you know does not have the power to crush another person?  What if, instead, the speaking of this truth has the power to set you free, to set the other free?

What if the expectations you think God has of you are really the expectations of your people that have been handed down from generation to generation, and what if they have nothing at all to do with God?

I devoured the first chapter of Edwin Friedman’s book A Failure of Nerve, and I am setting sail on an adventure toward my emotional equator.  Like the early explorers of the late 15th century, I wonder what will appear on the horizon when I stretch out into the boundaries of my fears and press into the deeper unknowable presence of God.

What is your emotional equator?

© Amy Persons Parkes 2013

A Different Epiphany Journey

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Father Thomas Keating describes centering prayer as being like a scuba diver settled on a large rock upon a riverbed.  You do not rest on the rock alone; God is present alongside you.  The river is Life, streaming, flowing, trickling, cascading and altering current and course with flood and drought, with falling rock and shifting ground.  Anchored by God’s presence, you allow the waters to flow past you, over you, and around you.  Above the riverbed your thoughts and feelings float like boats on the water’s surface.  From your underwater perch on the river’s floor, you can distinguish each thought and feeling, observing the boats come about, heel, pitch, heave to, and founder and thus giving freedom to your thoughts to be just as they are.

On this day of Epiphany, on this day of enlightenment, of gift-giving, of insight, I allow the vessels of my thoughts and feelings to jostle against one another – sloshing and spitting water, spraying and listing. Some are catching wind.  Some lay dead in the water, awaiting a brisk breeze.  I am aware of them.  I know from a glance at their sunken underbellies what lies tucked away in each hull above.

But for this Epiphany, on this day of light, I will sink to the riverbed; and I will place my openness before the Ground of Being, before the Source of all Light, before the One who gives desire to travel far and to see and know wonder.

For this Epiphany, I will sit on the river’s bottom with the One who birthed my being and know that these boats sail only for a time; and then, they will pass.  I will wait in the deep down place knowing even I, too, will be changed from “glory into glory,” knowing that once I was no more than a slumbering hot water bottle radiating heat on my mother’s chest.  I will rest below the river’s surface for this Epiphany knowing in the end, I will release the mainsail of my breath and I will surrender the headsail of my ego and sail on in another river as another vessel.

In loving memory of Wayne and his puckered whiskered lips, ready for another smoke and his next witty retort.

© Amy Persons Parkes 2013