A Brief Book Review: Kadian Journal

On a warm and cloudless July evening in Wiltshire Downs, England, Thomas Harding and his son Kadian, bicycles with a group of four others to a family dinner.  At one point, their route ends suddenly and they momentarily lose their way.  Kadian, an experienced and enthusiastic bicyclist, finds another route and leads the way down a new, somewhat steep, route.  As the path descends, Kadian accelerates, but his brakes fail as he approaches an intersection, and a fast-moving van hits him, killing him instantly.  Only a few minutes before, Kadian had looked out across a field, smiling and saying, “It’s so beautiful here. It’s so beautiful.”  Now he is gone.

Harding speaks with raw courage and honesty in his book Kadian Journal: A Father’s Memoir, describing his son’s life and death and the grief that plagued him in the days, weeks and months ahead.  We learn of a fourteen-year-old boy who loved life with a passion, who shared many talents and interests with friends and family, who was curious and creative, unafraid to try new things and delve into new projects.  We learn of a husband and wife, devoted to Kadian and his sister, Sam, who frequently sought activities to enjoy together.  We learn about the grief Harding struggled with and the strength he found in his wife, Debora.

Both tough and tender, this book demonstrates that what is most personal is most universal: our human need for love and the pain we feel when loss occurs.   It is a book I heartily recommend, without reservation.

A Trip to Plains

“Why don’t we go to Jimmy Carter’s Sunday School Class?”  I asked.

The idea came up fast.  I’d just read an interview with Carter in the newspaper and was reminded of his Sunday morning classes, taught almost weekly at Maranatha Baptist Church in his hometown of Plains, Georgia.  Since we live only five and a half hours from Plains, the decision to go was easy.  In an instant (unlike most decisions we make) Rick and I began preparing for our trip!

Included in our plans was a several-hour stop in Savannah, Georgia, a city we had wanted to visit for some time.  We arrived on Saturday morning, barely in time to honor our reservations for a bicycle tour of the beautiful downtown.  After a delicious lunch and a walk in a downtown park, we traveled to a small town near Plains where we stayed overnight.  Awakening to a five-thirty Sunday morning alarm, we dressed, downed a bit of breakfast, and arrived at the church by 6:30 a.m., where we waited for the eight a.m. seating in the sanctuary.

Prior to the class, one of the church’s members led us in an orientation and information session.   I learned that the class hosted attendees from a variety of states as well as a number of countries, including France, Panama, Germany, Guatemala, and India.  (We were told that at one of Carter’s recent classes, forty-eight countries were represented!)

During this orientation, I learned more than I’d known before about the Carters’ generosity and commitment to peace between nations and wellness for all people.  The Carters, Jimmy and Rosalynn, have given to others through teaching, writing, working for human rights, and building homes for Habitat for Humanity.  Through their Foundation, the Carter Center, they have alleviated suffering from disease around the world.

As Carter began his class, his soft-spoken and caring message filled the sanctuary with a gentle, kind atmosphere.   The audience listened to this wise and thoughtful man who spoke with humility and breadth of knowledge.  Never preachy or dogmatic, Carter opened the hearts and minds of his audience, reminding us that everyone can choose to become better persons.

I left the church that morning inspired, grateful, and hopeful.  Many thanks to Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter for their selfless, caring work.

Maranatha Baptist Church, Plains, GA
Maranatha Baptist Church, Plains, GA.   Photo J. Stanton

 

Carter Teaches
Jimmy Carter teaches a Sunday School class.   Photo J. Stanton

 

Carters and Stantons
Rick and I with the Carters.

 

The Piano (with a quote from Wendell Berry, “The Man Born to Farming”)

My husband, a fine classical pianist,
said, “the piano
is a living thing.”

A living thing—not
dead
inanimate
lifeless
or even asleep—but
dynamic
animated
breathing
feeling
expressing.

It must be treated
respectfully, and
reverently.

Let me put it this way:
Wendell Berry says,
The grower of trees, the gardener, the man born to farming,
whose hands reach into the ground and sprout,
to him the soil is a divine thing.

In similar fashion, I respond,
The player of music, the performer, the man born to playing,
whose hands reach into the keyboard and sing,
to him the piano is a divine thing.

–Jan Stanton, 2017

Photo Challenge: Solitude

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is solitude.  Here are some thoughts from writers of the past, accompanied by pictures I’ve chosen to reflect their thoughts.

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“Let silence take you to the core of life.” –Rumi

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“In solitude, where we are least alone.”  — Lord Byron

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“The quieter you become the more you are able to hear.”  –Rumi

ecs-reruiting-room
This is the “recruiting room” of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, taken at her historic home in Seneca Falls, New York.

“And yet, there is a solitude, which each and every one of us has always carried with him, more inaccessible than the ice-cold mountains more profound than the midnight sea; the solitude of self.  Our inner being, which we call ourself, no eye nor touch of man or angel has every pierced.  It is more hidden than the caves of the gnome; the sacred adytum of the oracle; the hidden chamber of Eleusinian mystery; for to it only omniscience is permitted to enter.  –Elizabeth Cady Stanton

 

 

Speaking out: The Women’s March

On Saturday morning, hundreds of thousands of women and men gathered in Washington, D.C. to stand for the rights of women and all those marginalized and threatened by the promised policies of our new administration.  This march was never planned as a protest but, rather, as a time of coming together in solidarity for the rights of all.  Their website states:

The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.

More than six hundred sister marches also took place in cities around the country—even around the world.  Charleston was one of those cities.

In spite of rain, over two thousand people marched and gathered at Brittlebank Park in downtown Charleston, where Rick and I, along with a friend, joined them. I was inspired and encouraged by those who expended their time and energy to speak boldly and loudly of their strong convictions.  We hope these efforts will continue.

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Rick and I, with friend Art, at the sister Women’s March in Charleston, S.C.

 

 

 

Thresholds: Moving Forward

 

During my morning run through the neighborhood, I sometimes find myself looking at seasonal décor displayed on front doors.   I love looking at the creativity of homeowners and the beauty each design contributes to the neighborhood.  During this past holiday season, I noticed that some doors displayed a dignified look, like the popular holiday wreaths done in reds, greens and golds.  Others, more whimsical and cute, presented a picture of Santa or reindeer or even teddy bears.

Doors, even without décor, are powerful symbols.  They suggest a passage into something new, something perhaps yet undiscovered.  They can draw us into a world of imagination and wonder, and when we stand on their thresholds, we stand in between the old and the new.  We are positioned at the portal of no-longer and not-yet.

So, too, with our threshold-filled lives.  How often do we find ourselves standing between two places, having left the old but not yet fully immersed in the new?  Retirement has been such a place for me.  I had to leave the old—the full-time work I’d been doing for years—before I could begin to enter the new.  And now, one and a half years later, a part of me still stands in that threshold.   True, I’ve designed my schedule and have discovered meaningful and fulfilling activities, but I sense that some things are still unfolding.

I stand at this portal of no-longer and not-yet with joy and eager anticipation.  I wonder what new opportunities, relationships, and discoveries it will lead me to. I also understand that thresholds–not just the destinations they point us to— offer their own distinct gifts.  I will try to stay awake and aware of their offerings.

Today we all stand together on the threshold of a new year.  Some of us stand in hope, anticipating exciting new personal ventures.  Some of us stand in fear, wondering what the future will hold.  Others of us stand in grief, seeking healing for a painful loss.   Whatever threshold you stand on today, may it lead you toward a year of new growth, healing, opportunity, and appreciation.  Happy New Year!