5.15.20 If My Mother Taught Me Anything

9

IMG_0768

If my mother taught me anything … and she taught me everything … but nothing that mattered so much as this – to have faith. It is perhaps, paradoxically, the easiest and hardest thing to do. On one hand, I have found that life without it, to me, is depleted of meaning. But on the other hand, sometimes faith requires oh-so-much more courage than I feel I have. Still, silently screaming, I hold on as tight as I can to this truth … believing with the wishes wished on a thousand stars, with the prayers offered up of ten thousand prayers, that faith will be enough.

And it has been. Life has never left me hopeless, because it is not only this life I hope in. People have never disappointed me to the point of despair, because it is not only their love that I cling to.

I pray you too … in the midst of everything, of anything, can hold tight to faith. If you cannot find some, you may borrow some of mine. My mother taught me that too.

Elle

4.21.20 Tenacity

8

0F9F642F-AC7E-4948-A711-CA4624A28263

“Carry each other’s burdens.” Galatians 6:2

My favorite illustrator and great friend, P. Marin, once posted her word of the year … I fell in love with it and, after seeing it, asked if she could illustrate my favorite word on commission. Thus, this delightful little creature was born! P. Marin said, “It’s you,” and I’ve never been so flattered!

So … from her and I … hang on friends … this won’t last forever and we believe you’ve got all the grace, moxie, and tenacity to carry on. If you’re feeling weak or overwhelmed, send me a note and I’ll send some words to shield you. I’m hanging on, and until you can strengthen your grip, let others help carry you. All my love.

Elle

 

4.9.20 Just for You

8

There is too much noise

sometimes –

always.

Too much talk and chaos,

too much static in-between perspectives bent far

too right

or left.

And I wonder if we are losing our ability …

to value the wisdom in silence –

in the word not spoken,

in the opinion not shared.

How much greater is a story with an audience intent on listening to it –

taking it in for what it is,

and isn’t

as opposed to a version of that story …

twisted and conformed to a standardless society.

I wonder … do people even want the truth?

Or just truth according to a circumstance they can rally behind.

Amazing how little the world changes …

even after spinning two thousand times.

There was too much noise then too,

too many voices of people intent on holding power

just to keep others powerless.

In the chaos of following traditions

and superstitions …

they missed it.

They missed Him.

The orator who spoke stories that stirred the Spirit to action.

The gentleman who remained silent in times He could have condemned.

The brother who was paradoxically the hero called villain

in an attempt to protect.

How do we stay so confused when we have answers?

How do we remain so hazed in the season of hope?

There is too much noise

sometimes –

always. 

But if you lean into the stillness …

if you seek the whispered stories …

if you trace the living history …

the wisdom of silence will find you.

And you’ll fall into a truth

lived just for you.

3.23.20 Small Fib

7

IMG_1821

Dear Grandma:

Hello to you one of my all-time-favorite people in the history of ever and always. Grandma, there is SO much happening here on earth, and I wish for all the world you were here because I could really use some of your jubilant nature … some of your can-do-moxie, and one of your famous don’t-let-go hugs. But in the same breath, I am relieved that you are nestled in the grace of heaven, far from any more trials.

If we were together though, I know what you would say … and that is the blessing of knowing someone as special as you for so long … you’ve imprinted on my very spirit, and I can still hear you. If you were here, I’d start to cry. You would sweep my hair aside, put my head on your shoulder, rub my back and call me dolly. You would not only let me cry, but you would cry with me, wiping my tears just as fast as they fell, and planting kisses on my cheeks.

I would tell you how hard it is to be away from people I love, and you would remind me of the many people you had to say goodbye to. You would tell me that it is because love hurts, and sometimes pain is good. I would tell you that hiding and feeling trapped isn’t fair, and you would remind me that there was a time in history you lived through where people had to hide for much worse reasons than sickness. I would ask you how to deal with the dark thoughts and feelings that come, and you would tell me that joy is a choice, and it is about high time I start doing something fun.

If I were the me I imagine … the one who always came to you when I was feeling sad or scared, I know exactly what you’d do next. You’d scoop me onto your lap (even though I was nearly always taller than you) and you’d swing me back until our legs reached the sky and we dissolved into a fit of giggles. Then, you’d suggest we try on some of your jewelry … the best pieces you kept tucked in the boxes beneath your bed. I’d ask you to tell me all of your love stories, and you’d tell me small bits and pieces … just enough to keep me wondering at the girl you were, who stole hearts without meaning to, just by being you.

Grandma do you know how much I love you? How much I miss you? Still. Always. I love that you found a way to balance mischief and melancholy. You did not have an easy life … but somehow, you always found your way into another “dandy” time. I promise to do the same, and I promise to take as many with me as I can on each frolicking adventure into my imagination.

If I were with you, I’d ask you to never leave Grandma … and you’d squeeze my hand white-knuckle tight (like you always did) and you’d lie to me and say, “I’m not going anywhere.” Maybe just for today Gram I’m going to pretend that you’re not SO very far away … I might tell myself that I got to see you yesterday, and I can’t be so selfish with your time today. Do you think it’d be okay just this once to lie?

“It’s just a small fib,” you’d say. “No harm in that dolly.”

Oh Gram, meet me in a dream soon okay? Maybe tomorrow? So we can go bumming? So we can have a laugh and “get along real good,” like you always said we did. I know I just got to see you yesterday … but I might need tomorrow too.

I love you. I miss you. I need you still.

Tootaloo!

 

2.11.20 Damsel in a Ditch

6

IMG_8140

“I’m a damsel, I’m in distress, I can handle this. Have a nice day!”

– Meg, from Disney’s Hercules 

So I very, very rarely post twice in one week let alone two days in a row, but today warranted a post my friends! Trust me.

I love the picture above because it is the story of my life. No … there’s nothing wrong with your eyes, it is a blur, because that is the speed of life, and in my experience, trying to focus for even a second doesn’t really seem plausible. Today was no different. Maybe someday my memories will be in focus, and when they are, I hope I remember today.

So I dashed home from work to get home on time for my son’s personal tutor (he wanted to learn Japanese … GO HIM! So we hired someone wonderful to come once a week). She was pulling in as I was pulling in. He had lesson, and as soon as she left, we needed to get to soccer – but my daughter wasn’t done with her shower on time (she never is). Then, she was ready but he was “getting his socks.” That took another five minutes and so we were running behind.

Fast forward to thirty minutes later … we are nearly to the soccer field (new place, far, far away) and Google Maps tells me to do a U-turn. No. I did not miss my turn, this state I live in just has the absolute WORST road infrastructure and U-turns are as common as turning right or left. Let me back up and tell you now, most practices were canceled today because of the EXTREME rain we’ve been having. There was no track, no after school sports, no girls’ soccer … but oh yes. We still had boys soccer. Back to the road. I take my U-turn, knowing that my wheel will dip a smidge past the asphalt to the grass, but I see a few tire tracks and assume (yes, I know what assuming does) that it’ll be fine. So I get a bit of grass in my wheel.

Nope.

I got stuck. BIG TIME! My left-front wheel immediately sinks in about three inches below the lip of the asphalt. I try. And try. And try some more, furthering my predicament at every acceleration. My son, at this point says, “Oh no. Mom. Don’t worry. Are we stuck? Should I text my coach?” I told him sure, not knowing until later that he texted the entire team, “We are in a ditch.” Awesome. I’m that parent. The “ditch” parent. The “we-were-already-going-to-be-late-and-now-we-are-late-from-being-stuck- in-a-ditch,” parent! Here comes the damsel!

While I don’t like playing this role in the least … sometimes it is just true. Everyone needs help sometimes. This was my time. And you know what? God delivered. I wasn’t there more than two minutes when an angel in a Subway t-shirt walked across this suburban street. “Hey there,” he said, “I saw you through the window of my house right there,” he pointed behind him, “and I thought you might need help.”

I told him I wasn’t sure what to do and he said, “You get in and I’ll push.” He tried and tried some more and asked me if I had anything like a book or magazine I could put under the wheel. I gave him the one flimsy magazine I had, but nothing doing. Then he said, “I might have a piece of wood back by my house, I’ll put it under for some traction.” He just wouldn’t leave me alone and I could have cried. At that moment, a truck pulled up and another man jumped out and said, “I have some rope if you want, I think I could pull you out.” Then he signaled another truck filled with guys he worked with.

In a matter of minutes there were six men pushing my car up over that lip. I never wished more that I had something to give in my astonished gratitude. A whole host of angels descended and graced me with smiles and “no problems,” like they saved damsels every day. I promised to pay it forward and this is my first attempt to do so.

Be strong enough to accept when miracles happen – they’re among us, in Subway t-shirts, and muddy work boots. In tired, over-worked faces of men who stopped simply because they knew a damsel when they saw one, and had too much integrity as gentlemen to stand by and watch.

Thank you to my heroes.

Thank you God for miracles.

Thank you life for making me a damsel in a ditch.

 

Go be someone’s miracle today,

Elle

1.4.19 The Serendipity of Words

2

IMG_8154

Today I was checking my Instagram feed and came across this lovely tag from a woman I’ve never met named Debbie. Her post said, “A small line from a most beautiful poem written by Elle Harris, which inspired my journal page today.”

Can I just say I’m so, SO very humbled. Any of you who have followed me for awhile know the story of myself and my friend Michelle. We met because Michelle’s best friend, Katrina, was very sick with cancer, and in her final days, Michelle said that she read one of my poems to Katrina over and over again.

Nothing in my writing career has ever come close to mattering more to me than this story, because nothing in the world could ever compete with serendipitously being “there” to help comfort the journey of one’s spirit from this world to Heaven itself. From that time on, Michelle and I became very close and when she told me the story of Katrina, I wrote a piece for her, that eventually ended up in Bella Grace Magazine.

Fast forward to today. Debbie found the poem and used a line of it in her journal. When I messaged it to Michelle, she said that it came at a perfect time because this season marks the third anniversary of  Katrina’s passing. How like the Holy Spirit to tie all of the threads of these disconnected lives together. How like destiny to lace and weave time and space for such a moment as this. How like fate to know just when a whisper across worlds needs to be heard. What a gift that Katrina still speaks.

Sometimes it is so very easy to feel that my words are rootless … sent out into the void of space without direction … but on days like this … I remember that isn’t true. And if my simple words have found a way to matter this much, I shall write on.

Thank you Debbie. Thank you Michelle. Thank you Katrina.

You inspire.

All my love,

Elle Harris

12.24.18 Miraculously Still

4

IMG_9758

I wonder if the night was silent 

because it was too overwhelmed to speak

Maybe the fractals of light 

cast by the Bright Morning Star

were so incandescently stunning

that it somehow took nature’s breath away

and the gravity of heaven coming to earth

on the words of a promise

spoken by the lips of angels

resonated through the foundations of the world

in echoed whispers too sacred to be heard at all 

It might be that the love

transposed from ethereal divinity

into a mother’s young heart

was simply too pure to be translated into the

 imperfect reduction of words

Some feelings

after all

are simply beyond

Regardless of the why

the result of that ancient coming 

was simple

breathless

beauty

And the captivating 

overwhelming

absence of noise

must have come 

from the pivotal essence of it all

For one moment

for one breath

all

miraculously

was still

11.27.18 A Name Worth Speaking

10

IMG_7551

 

I only had a minute, but I called her – that’s the not-so-generous way time is with me. She only had a minute, but she answered – the same gift of time she didn’t have to spare. But we talked. And it mattered, because in the few minutes we shared, me hearing her voice and her hearing mine, she told me a story.

“I just got through talking to the neighbor,” she said.

“Anything wrong?”

“Yes, actually.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“Her mother died. It wasn’t very expected, but the way of it was powerful,” she went on. “Apparently, her mother had fallen, and being frail already, it was a decline enough to go on hospice.”

“That’s sad,” I said, imagining my own grandmother.

“It is, but then something amazing happened,” she went on. “I guess the family was all there, just visiting, and they were discussing nothing in particular when a chaplain came to ask if they wanted to pray. They said yes and right as the prayer started, her mother took one big breath … and was gone.”

“Just like that?” I asked.

“Just like that.”

“Wow,” I sat, momentarily struck by the beauty of it all.

“I know,” my mom said.

And she did.

To imagine that on the breath of a prayer, you can cross unfathomable distance. Your spirit and the doors of heaven meeting one another within the fraction of a whisper. To inhale here, and then exhale in exhalation ten million light years away. What a journey from breath to breath. What an assembly, with words spoken over you in intercession, to words ushered to you, entering you into eternity. What a journey.

This story, no, this reality, gave me pause in more ways than one, and I am honored that even in our trite “two minutes,” my mom offered me the gift of this telling. The truth is we really don’t know what lies between one breath and another. There is no “looking ahead” at the Author of Life’s chapter of your tale. And it makes you think doesn’t it? About what really matters one breath between another – and whether I’m using the breath within this very moment to compliment or curse, to speak or to listen, to drive away, or draw near. There may be nothing riding on a breath … or there may be everything.

The author Bansky once said, “… they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.” And if this is true, then I think it matters so much more to me that the coming of my second death is far removed from the first. I want to live a life worthy of the memory of a name worth speaking again, and again, long after my dust has settled. Don’t you?

May each of your next breaths count.

Elle

11.21.18 Happy Thanks-Living

4

“I think I’ll move to Australia.”

Judith Viorst, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Home Depot – maybe not the most romantic of dates, I’ll grant you that, but necessary … oh, so necessary! We’ve been living with a leaky freezer for way too long. Our stove had been acting up. Our sink has been dripping. It was beyond time for some changes. More money and a whole lot more than we came for later, we left … giddy for the installs, but a bit punch-drunk from the butterflies soaring out of our now-empty wallet.

Fast forward three days … exactly four more days BEFORE the new refrigerator was scheduled to be installed and yeah – that is where this sordid tale of woe begins. I got home at about five-thirty, excited to settle myself and my cold into a cup of something warm and write. Then my son said, “Eww. Why is the floor all wet?” Sure enough, the rug by the stove was soaked … and so was the tile by the refrigerator … and the dining room, all the way to the library. I went downstairs and the concrete was slick with water. The clocks were all flashing like the power had gone out, and boxes of photographs were sitting pretty in puddles.

Wearing a ballerina tulle skirt, I immediately started emptying boxes and putting the photographs in drier areas to sort through later. Wrapping paper was matted down wet and stuck to the floor … past the pictures, I didn’t know where to start. I called my angel neighbors as my husband wasn’t home from work yet, and one of them came over and suggested I empty my hutch, my curio cabinet, and that we move the piano as all three are made out of wood and sitting on carpet that is more like sponge at this point.

Dismantling the furniture, he heroically pushed it all to safer ground. When my husband came home, it was a bit of a war zone. I had spread every beach towel and bath towel I could across the floor and was doing a soggy, slow dance across them all to sop up the water. Apparently somehow our water spout had activated and literally flooded the first floor and basement. Our freezer since re-froze everything into a cascade of icicles which are somehow less charming when dangling off of a frozen pizza box than when you adore them in nature.

My husband and I called my dad, Mr. Fix-it, who (with my mom) unhelpfully live down south. Still, he was able to talk us off the ledge to figure out our next steps. Towels. Shop Vacuum. Fans. Stat! He also suggested we turn the water valve off but … no surprise there because why wouldn’t it happen to us … the valve was calcified solid and turning it would risk breaking it. My dad said to leave it until the new refrigerator instal comes Saturday because, “They have quick ways to fix it, and you two will just break it.” True. Sad. But true.

At 10:30 I was headed to Walmart to buy fans, and seeking pity telling my woes to my sweet in-laws who lived out west. In all honesty they were probably thanking their stars we were so many states away so they couldn’t be called in for reinforcements as they too are very handy. Sometimes I wonder how we could both have such amazingly handy parents and neither be capable of doing anything and then I realize, it’s because they could do everything, so we never had to learn! Mistake number one!

About three hundred and fifty dollars later I had new kitchen rugs, two purple box fans (because if I’m gonna have to look at them they might as well be purple), two air purifiers (from the dust we were kicking up and sneezing from), and three humidifiers for our rooms because did I mention we have colds here?

And so … our house is a hum of electrical devices, my dryer is ready to go on strike from load after load of towels, and I am taking a moment to tell you about it because … you guessed it … I need more pity. Just kidding. I am actually supremely grateful; it could have been SO much worse. Last year we were hosting Thanksgiving, this year we aren’t. The flood could have been broken pipes instead of a refrigerator we are already replacing. My kids get to sort through a million games from the basement they forgot they owned. I get to nostalgically sort through photos I haven’t looked at in ten years. True we’re tired and our pocket book is a little worse for the wear, but I choose to look at it as Thanks-living. We just had a dose of life tossed upon us, true, but we have more than we could ever ask for simply by realizing we aren’t facing the struggle alone. I hope you too realize that … wherever you are and whatever you’re facing, you are not alone. That is one thing my writing has taught me … we are all connected through shared stories, experiences, and even woes. I am so very blessed to have you, my readers, to turn to.

Elle

“Some days are like that, even in Australia.” 

Judith Viorst, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Trepidatious Hearts 9.30.18

13

IMG_7992 2

“Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid, one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.” – Douglas MacArthur

I am a little anxious writing tonight because I so desperately want to get this right. For the past few weeks I have been confronted with a tangle of thoughts and quotes and words and perspectives that have all built to a feeling to speak … I’m still not sure I know exactly what to say, but I can’t ignore the itch to try, and I pray something will come that is worthy of sharing, worthy of feeling and passing on.

I have been loving a song lately called “Charlie Boy,” by The Lumineers. It is about a young man feeling compelled by the speech of J.F.K. to enter into the war, and to fight for something bigger than himself – freedom. And as such, it is about a mother who is forced to accept his decision to fight, and ultimately, to die. The lyrics sing to her, “… don’t hang your head, love should make you feel goodIn uniform you raised a man, who volunteered to stand.” Based on of a true story, I wonder how many brave young men and women have heeded a call I consistently choose to ignore. I crave safety, not the price of it. I yearn to be protected, not defend myself. Having children has only deepened this yearning for sanctuary, I think because I want to offer my son and daughter a promise that’s not mine to give – that they’re always going to be okay.

When my son was five and in kindergarten the Sandy Hook shooting happened. As a teacher, I always knew the threat was real, but when I had a son in a school, and I wasn’t with him – something shifted in me that has perpetually remained unaltered. I’ll never forget the months of shaking hands when I hugged him goodbye and sent him off to class … the way I looked back at the locked door thinking it wasn’t safe enough … the way I questioned the administration about the how they planned to increase the security measures of a small private school. Nothing seemed right for a long time, and every afternoon, when I picked him up, I realized that I’d release a breath I hadn’t known I’d been holding. It’s the same feeling I now have when I read accounts of families sold into slavery, of the Holocaust, of human trafficking  … to me they are all tales of mothers being taken from their children. And I can’t read stories as impartial accounts of history anymore, because all I hear is the injustice of a mother’s broken heart, and the empathy in me rises so that I can hardly breathe.

There is something about my son, my daughter, that have made objectivity impossible. I can no longer look at a situation apart from them, because they are my own precious version of gravity, holding my identity in this time and space in history. And I wish – I wish with every fiber of my being, that the world could understand this love … because if it could, I really believe things would be better. I’m reading an amazing book called Circus Mirandus, and in it, there is a section where a magician offers a little boy an illusion to see anything he wishes to see, as long as he understands it cannot be real. The boy wishes to see his father home from war, and in the illusion, the boy’s mother says something to him that absolutely wrecks me … and I found myself wishing, beyond all wishes, that it wasn’t an illusion, that it wasn’t a beautiful part of a beautiful story, because it is so very acutely the way I believe things should be.

“The war ended all at once and very calmly. It was as if, between one moment and the next, all the mothers of all the soldiers in the world had checked their clocks and realized that their children had been out playing for too long … The soldiers shook hands with one another and wished one another well. Then they raced back to their mothers or to their wives and sons.” – Cassie Beasley

And can’t you just see it? Can’t you see all the misunderstandings, the judgements, the hatred erased as if it were one big confusing game that has just gone on too long? Can’t you picture soldiers, gang members, politicians, and rivals shaking their heads in sudden confusion, bewildered at the mistakes they didn’t ever intend to go that far? If only everyone heard their mothers’ voices calling them back to themselves. If only everyone heard their father calling them home.

What a world we could promise our children.

What peace our trepidatious hearts could feel.