Why Dogs? December 18, 2018

Recently my Pack has experienced significant losses.

Thanksgiving weekend, Hannah and Molly pushed out the door with the faulty latch and disappeared over the horizon. I found Hannah’s body at the pound on Sunday, November 25, thoughtfully wrapped in two plastic bags. She had been hit by something, and her jaw was broken. She was still soft, so it was a recent event. Joe and Marsha helped me take her to the crematorium. Hannah MacKenzie was four years old.

Two days later, Wednesday, November 28, after Joe and Marsha continued the quest to find Molly, she was found at the pound. I went up on Thursday after work and bailed my girl out of Puppy Prison. She came home with a limp, a sore abdomen, and a new attitude – which we need to work on. Molly Regen is two and a half years old.

The following Sunday, Maeda Jayne, my 13-year-old, had what appeared to be a stroke, and was not well.

On Monday, Joe and Marsha picked up Hannah’s ashes and brought them to the house.

The next day, December 4, 2018, I came home to find Maeda struggling for breath, looking like it was going to be our last good-bye. It was. She and I sat together, exchanging memories and snuggles, before she took her last breath, wagged her tail, and was gone. The dogs outside began to howl.

Joe and Marsha came again to help take her to the crematorium.

On Wednesday, I passed Glorianna to a neighbor, because I did not have the energy for this shepherd mix puppy, formerly of San Carlos Apache Reservation.

On Wednesday, I found lesions on Freckles, and some odd growth around her lip.
She and I went to the vet on Friday. She was banished to quarantine for ten days. Freckles McGee is four and a half years old.

The neighbor brought Glorianna back home.

Molly and I are negotiating her responsibilities in the Pack.

She growls at everyone, including me.

She still gets sore if we walk more than a half mile.

Interlude: I celebrate my father’s birthday December 6, also St. Nikolaus Tag. On this day, I found a gold and sapphire ring in the mud at school. It fits, so I assume it is a gift from the Earth, my dad, and my dogs. Happy St. Nikolaus Tag, I love you, too.

The school where I work is fraught with trauma, violence, and daily overdoses of anxiety and chaos.
The nights have become impossible at home – nightmares, my own anxiety attacks, and the chemistry of grief.

Never mind that Christmas is coming soon, and my family in the East are not the Magi.

I am a wreck.

Many of my friends and most of the community wonder that I have a multi-dog Pack. Some have been gracious, even though they don’t get it. So, I am writing this essay as an explanation, of sorts.

Why Dogs?

Why dogs?

Because everyone needs to love someone and be loved in return.

Why dogs?

Because they get all excited when I’m around, anxious to spend time with me, overjoyed to just hang out. Not once have I ever heard them say, “Wow. I just wasted 70 minutes talking to you.”

Why dogs?

Because in the middle of the night, when the nightmares are too strong, I wake up, and lying next to me, against my body, their head or paw on my leg comforting me are good friends. Not once have they said, “Just drink a beer, and go back to sleep.”

Why dogs?

Because when we are playing, and a right hook catches my cheek, it is because we are playing, not because I confronted my mother’s addiction and her right hand cracked my face into the next county, leaving me dazed and confused, in tears in the kitchen.

Why dogs?

Because if I want to go for a walk in the rain, the snow, or on a cold day, they wag themselves silly with anticipation. They don’t sigh deeply or in scorn, asking, “Why kind of idiot goes out in weather like this.”
I do. Does this mean I’m an idiot?

Why dogs?

Because I like to hike, to camp, to travel, to explore. I don’t have a husband (divorced), an elder brother (former addict, now deceased), a father (estranged, now deceased), or other male relative to protect and defend me because sexist societal rules say I should not go out ‘alone’. If I had succumbed to the notion that ‘girls can’t/shouldn’t’, I would never have seen the Great Divide – in the dark because, on our way from Arizona  to Connecticut, 2015, I had to pull over so Hannah could piddle; from the southern end of the Rocky Mountains, 2016, when we headed north to avoid a tunnel; from  the northern end – which included my first sighting of sheep, mountain sheep, long-horn sheep. All this with dogs in the car, wanting to get out and take a look, too.

I cried with sorrow that the people I left behind were not there to share this with me. But, they’ve seen it on television, and for them, that is enough.
It isn’t even close.

Why dogs?

Because I love the sound of coyotes and to watch the night sky – especially when the coyotes are close, and my dogs howl with them.
I am more alive when we are outside, in the woods, among the coyote and the elk, the pine and the wild turkey. Among the Wild Things.

I don’t need to explain this to the dogs. They come back from their expeditions, grinning from ear to ear, covered in the weeds and mud of the local pond or creek, tired, exhausted, exhilarated.

They know.

They, and the illusion that minute measures of tent fabric will be enough to keep out the bear, the lion, the whatever that thing is that is breaking through the underbrush at three in the morning, make me feel safe.

One dog invites a visit from a stranger: “Need help setting up the tent?”

Nope.

Two dogs invite a conversation from a respectable distance as they gage my ability to set up camp alone.

Three or more? People nod and walk on, making comments like, “Nice dogs you have there.”
Morgen used to wag his 98 pounds at them. Duncan stood closer to me. Maeda Jayne, all husky and shepherd, gave them the ‘look’. Hannah used to bark them away.
I don’t know, but I get the feeling Molly has taken over the care-taking position, practicing her growling at the puppy, and her hair-raising barking at the Mastiff next door.

Why dogs?

Because God can’t be everywhere. He sends companions, guardians, protectors. But even they go away. Morgen is now romping through the Eternal Woods with my grandfather. Duncan is somewhere listening to Johann Sebastian Bach play the Brandenburg Concertos live – and waiting for me. Maeda Jayne is with my grandmother, swimming with the mallards and geese. Hannah? I don’t think Hannah has left just yet. Her Spirit is here, training Molly. Protecting our Pack.

Kyte, Bruno, and Abigail Fenstermacher, Meshach, Patty, and Sam, who came before, remember.

Why dogs?

Because it is lonely without them. Times are uncertain and I need reassurance. But, I wonder if Molly prefers to run free. Then I recall Hannah’s fractured jaw; the dead and rotting corpses lining the road where I found Freckles; the cold and rainy night Molly was abandoned; the emaciated bones and skin Glorianna wore the day we met.

I know that I cannot prevent violence. I can not stop addiction. I can not change society’s rules.
But I can live.

And I do.

With dogs.

 

January 2, 2016 Hannah at the Lake

Hannah at Roosevelt Lake, Arizona

 

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Maeda by the Shetucket River, Connecticut

 

About that tent … May 27, 2019

About that tent …
Amy Lynn Reifsnyder
May 27, 2019

For three of the last four summers, I have been identified as ‘homeless’. According to social service agencies, because I was living from my car and tent, I qualify for this label. The first time I was identified as homeless, I was shocked and embarrassed. Yes, I qualified for food benefits. I was also given money to have the oil changed in the car. But the term. I didn’t mind volunteering at local soup kitchens and pantries. I even took pride in being able to help my fellow humans. One of the most sacred things I’ve ever done was wash the feet of an exhausted ‘working woman’ who lived under the local bridge. But me? Homeless? My older brother had been a homeless junkie (who later recovered and became a pastor and counselor for other junkies). My sister worked as a hooker for some years, and was picked up by Seattle police from a city park. (They sent her home via Greyhound Bus’s teen runaway return program; Thank You, Greyhound Bus Company!) I, of course, NEVER wanted to be like THEM! How demoralizing! How demeaning! … How sanctimonious and judgmental I have been.

Being seasonally homeless – camping in between stints as a classroom teacher – has been a gift. Oh, yes, it has been frustrating as hell some days. See Psalm 43: 1-4

“Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people; from deceitful and unjust men deliver me! For thou are the God in whom I take refuge; why hast thou cast me off? Why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? Oh, send out they light and thy truth; let them lead me to thy holy hill and to thy dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; and I will praise thee with the lyre, O God, my God.”
(Revised Standard Version)

I spent one evening tucked into my tent on a backroad off a backroad shouting this at God, reminding him of his promises of ‘abundant living’. How dare he allow me to be living such an uncertain life, away from all I’ve come to claim as ‘home’ and ‘family’! How dare he allow me to pack up my possessions, store them in someone else’s garage, and go hiking and camping for weeks on end! How dare he allow me to live in harmony with the elk, the owl, and the coyote! …

How dare he give me the desire of my heart? Wasn’t I the one who read the Little House on the Prairie series over and over again because I wanted to live on the trail, in the Big Woods, in a house made of Earth? Wasn’t I the Girl Scout who wanted to camp solo to earn the Order of the Arrow? Wasn’t I the one who disappeared into the woods, with dogs, to celebrate every good thing in my life? To deal with every unpleasant thing in my life? Wasn’t I the one who slept outside on hot muggy nights despite having an air conditioner which cooled the whole house? Heck, it’s even hard to watch a meteor shower if all you’re looking out of is one set of windows.

Yes. Being identified as ‘homeless’ has had its blessings. When my ‘mothers’ died one September, I headed to the woods. On our way I was stopped in the road by a bull elk, who lifted his front left leg, and appeared to bow toward me before he sauntered up the hill and stopped a little higher than eye level, so we could chat. I don’t believe this would have happened if I and the dogs had not spent the summer camping in his turf. To be honored in such a way made me feel reassured, comforted, loved.

But for many thousands of people, being homeless is anything but a blessing. I have had an opportunity to camp in a number of Walmart parking lots. The other folks there are all on the road for one reason or another. One restless night, a fellow ‘parker’ invited me to share his meal of Ramen noodles and anchovies – his ‘last supper’, you know, of ‘bread’ and fish. In Farmington, New Mexico, one of the police officers who patrolled the parking lot recommended a safer location across town. Many of the parkers simply have no other place to go. They may have run out of gas, run out of food, run out of personal energy. Uncertainty can be exhausting.

If you pay attention, it is possible to see the various sub-cultures of people taking advantage of Walmart’s generosity. Travelers in cars and vans often pull in after dark, wake early, use the facilities in the store and are gone before the morning shoppers arrive. At dusk, street people enter Walmart and then spend the night ‘shopping’ so they have a dry, warm place to stay until sunrise. Then, they, too, use the facilities and head out.

The morning I thanked the Walmart associate for the use of the parking lot and bathroom, she replied, “Oh, I was homeless one winter in Utah. I know what it’s like.”

I nodded. Time and again, I have met people who have been or are ‘homeless’, and they are not junkies, hookers, mentally incapacitated. Some are former military. Others are single women who are left alone, sometimes by death, sometimes for other reasons, who didn’t have enough resources to keep the family home, pay the utilities, feed the children. Some are adult children whose family want nothing to do with them because of lifestyle differences, clashes of religious beliefs, abuse.

Homeless also turn up in free camping areas – thus, the summer I spent with the elk. Recently, however, I returned to a campground near to a town with two-dollar access to the swimming pool, whirlpool, and showers in the local aquatic center; free water in the park or at the library; charging ports at the local library; soup kitchens; free hot dogs on Fridays; and food pantries. I am fortunate; I have a car, and am currently living on unemployment money, so I can buy gas, pay for my phone, and buy dog food. The folks who pulled in at sunrise one morning, on the other hand, do not.

When I awoke, I saw a young man pop up, wave, and then drop out of sight. Later, we met. He, his sister and brother, and both parents, were living from their car. Turns out, his mother had had an accident that resulted in her back being broken in three places. She was denied temporary disability. The house they had been living in was condemned due to black mold, and they did not have the resources to move into new housing for a family of five. Mom had found work at a local senior housing facility; she was working as many shifts as possible. Dad was in charge of the kids, ages ten, eight, seven. He was looking for work that complemented his wife’s schedule so the kids would have an adult with them at all times. With his father’s permission, the kids came over to say hello to me and my two dogs. They were courteous, thoughtful, and offered to help with anything I needed help with – such as helping me pot two cactus I had picked up from the roadside. Without asking for anything, it became obvious they were hungry. I had packages of breakfast bars and single servings of apple sauce that were welcome. Their father and mother appreciated what I could share. Not once did they beg.

As the day went by, and we became more acquainted, I learned they had no silverware, no cookware, and no tent. They had not yet grasped the economy of living ‘free’, shall we say. I, on the other hand, have plenty of everything except money. And, I found the most appropriate use for my tent. Apparently, it doesn’t just hold one woman and two dogs. It houses a family of five who understand that it has a broken zipper and will leak when it rains. I think my dogs – Morgen, Duncan, Maeda, Nala, Freckles, Hannah, and Molly – would approve.

Amy Lynn Reifsnyder

Retiring of the Tent May 11, 2019

Retiring of the Tent

May 11, 2019

Amy Lynn Reifsnyder

 

Part of my income is derived by editing academic essays for students in colleges and universities throughout the United States. One assignment for students in Developmental English classes was to write about an object – identify the object and explain what it represents, and why. I am going to write about a tent.

This tent is a three-person (or one person, two dogs) tent made by Academy Broadway. The walls are hunter green; the mesh used to be white. The rainfly is the color of lichen, trimmed in red. I have already cut off the toggles used to keep the screen flaps open. I’ve already removed the rings which (theoretically) fastened the fly to the sides of the tent. After I find my scissors, I will remove the pouch that held my keys, my glasses, my inhaler, the pepper spray.

I considered setting it up for the dogs to use as shade, but the cross piece snapped through the sleeve. Yes, I could duct tape the sleeve together, but there is duct tape elsewhere. Sometime along the way – probably in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts – a hole developed in the floor of the tent…hence, more duct tape. Add to this the broken zipper of the front door (thank you, hasty dogs), and the reality that Scotch Guard only keeps out some water – not necessarily the River of Life that seeps through the walls in a rainstorm – it is time to retire the tent.

I feel a need for Ceremony. This object, this tent, has sheltered me and my dogs mile after mile after mile. Morgen and Duncan at Savoy, Pachaug, Hopeville Pond ; Maeda and Nala across the United States from Connecticut to Arizona and back again. I bought a larger one for Maeda, Freckles, Hannah and Molly. But Maeda and Hannah are no longer here; neither is their tent. (Mae was incontinent for her last few years. You understand it was easier to send that one away.)

Freckles, Molly, and I have recently been camping in New Mexico. In New Mexico we slept more often in the car than in the tent. Wind and storm require sturdier stuff than my ancient green tent has left. The hail was something else altogether.

A friend kept admonishing me to just go and get another one.

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

I will, I told him, knowing this would be logical. Nevertheless, I’m not ready to retire this tent. It’s nurturing capacity has supported me through a divorce, multiple deaths, ignorant accusations, ridicule, and other basic forms of stupidity.

It has kept mosquitoes at bay, provided privacy, and let in the stars on moonless nights.

This tent held Mr. Morgen – the other half of my soul. Duncan lay beside me on nights of darkness. Maeda preferred the open sky, but would sometimes come and keep me warm after midnight. Nala got over her claustrophobia. Freckles and Molly dragged me through the broken flap one starlit morning when some grumbly animal was too close.

This tent shares a hundred stories, thousands of miles, the love of my canine family, the beauty of all creation – worn, torn, and faded though it may be, it is not ‘just a tent’. And, yes, I did buy a new one. But what to do with this old one?

I have it laid out on the ground, drying from yesterday’s downpour. Freckles apparently, has her own ideas. She’s stretched out on the collapsed fabric, soaking up the morning sun.

This makes me happy.

I can’t possibly get rid of the tent now.

Bound to Earth May 2019

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Bound to Earth

Roswell, New Mexico and Other Sacred Spaces

May 2019

Amy Lynn Reifsnyder

In 1947, a conspiracy of silence was created in a field outside of Roswell, New Mexico. This silence followed atomic testing in near-by areas. It came on the heels of yet another ‘war to end all wars’. This silence followed yet another ‘impossible’, ‘unbelievable’ experience – strangers from across the galaxy landed in a farm field.

The cattle apparently didn’t mind.

The United States government, on the other hand, most certainly did.

According to documents pasted in the UFO museum in downtown Roswell, anyone and everyone who knew anything were threatened to keep their silence, lest the government come and take them away – permanently.

Welcome to Earth.

But fear, violence, and ignorance are not the only characteristics of our planet. Despite their apparent strength, they don’t even run the place. Something else does. Maybe even ‘Someone’ else.

Having glimpsed this phenomenon previously – an older brother wrapping a sand-covered little brother in a beach towel; a solo dogsled rider and his dog; Eric Clapton’s hands; G. O. Smith and his guitar – I was still – am still – I don’t even know the word: ‘reeling’ sounds too chaotic; ‘amazed’ says nothing; ‘recovering’ sounds ominous. Maybe ‘laughing’, ‘smiling’, ‘glowing’, ‘celebrating’… Celebrating – in starlight and wonder; in sunlight and wind; in water and stone; in joy and springtime cascade; in snow from a million hillsides now water, now rain, now hail, tears and song.

‘Halleluiah’ doesn’t even come close. But it’s a start.

I know this because I was there. Am there. Will always be there, even when I’m miles and miles away.

If I give you directions to the place, you won’t find it. You’ll show up with expectations and judgement – and it will end up being another disappointment tacked onto a soul already beaten down by cynicism, loss, and regret.

You can’t look for – whatever it is. But if it shows up by the water’s edge, as hail in the nighttime, naughty dogs in the afternoon, and tea in the morning, you’ll know, recognize it; and celebrate.

No bells and whistle.

The stuff we are made of.

I belong to a people

to a galaxy

to Earth

Meteors fly by

throwing light across the night sky

Water transfers energy from the spring in the chasm

to the waves on the shore

Fish nibble tender legs –

If you stop.

If you see.

If you hear.

When you become who you are and you find out

You’re not alone after all.

There is a woman of water.

A woman of colors.

A woman of compassion.

A woman of struggle.

A woman of stone, pebble, and glass.

And then there’s me.
Because these women hold up the sky wherever we are –

I exist.

Bound to Earth.

For Emily, Kris, Rita, Jewel, Terri

 

Get your hiking shoes … March 19, 2019

I might be claiming this for myself.
 
As I struggle with current events, I am reminded:
I survived my family the first time.
I sent a man to jail for harassment and sexual assault after the seven (7) women he raped could not. The women in our city had a brief respite from at least one (term I should not use in public).
I left the man who stalked me for 11 years with my mother, who was the source of contact information for him. I still tend to move like a rabbit running from a coyote.
I left a husband who told me and treated me like I was a waste of time.
I am living in my car with two dogs who spent the night roaming the desert and came back, tired, exhausted, but with hugs and snuggles.
 
I am loved.
I have a warm and toasty car, and some warm and toasty friends.
 
I am a survivor and I live a rich life.
It isn’t conventional, but it is mine.
 
My mom called Christmas Eve to let me know she is not well, would I come for a visit.
I went. After 27 years of silence, it seemed like a good idea.
While on the east coast, I collected the rest of my things – including Christmas decorations I haven’t seen in five years. I visited my ex and confirmed that leaving was a very good idea.
I visited friends and family who love me.
I ate good food.
I went to see the touchstones of my past.
 
I am not in the East anymore.
While traveling through the southern desert, I realized my skin tone matches the scenery – same colors, similar textures. I match. I belong.
Here.
 
Not in the nightmares of the early morning.
Not in the anxiety of mid-afternoon when I have to begin to decide where we’ll stop for the night.
Not in the panic unleashed by the bats in the belfry, the ghosts in the attic, the skeletons in the closets, the dragons under the bed – who collectively are out and about and totally driving me nuts.
 
But I have friends and family who love me.
So, while my paradigms are being shattered, along with my soul, I am aware that I am becoming someone new, someone needed, someone loved.
 
I am.
 
Me.
So, yes, the mountain is moving. Some days by force of will. Some days just as the dirt clinging to my shoes.
But it’s my mountain.
And it’s moving.
 
It sucks and I am not really enjoying this process. But wotthehell.
 
Get your backpack and hiking shoes or get the hell out of my way.
 
Amenamy

 

Ice February 20, 2019

Ice

February 20, 2019

Amy Lynn Reifsnyder

 

I’ve been sick.

I am sick.

You know, the headacheytossthesoup kind of sick.

My youngest dog has been, too. I’m blaming her mess on the new chewies she’s no longer allowed to have.

Me? I wish it was the chewies.

I’m sure it’s stress. Imagine …

Have you ever taken a running start and then let yourself glide on wet ice?
Well, imagine…

Imagine launching yourself onto a slippery slope, intentionally, knowing that you could fall, crash, slam, at any moment but in the meantime, Look, Ma! No hands! And besides, you were still moving forward, right?

Now. For unexplainable reasons, say you were sailing along, holding yourself up, giggling when you thought you might fall, relieved when you didn’t, and out of absolutely no where, someone drops a large, sharp-edged boulderleadstuddedwall smack dab directly in front of you.
You know you can not possibly careen around it.
It isn’t going to move.

And you’re going to hit it. Head on. Hard.

No chance of stopping. Nothing on which to brace yourself for the impact.

You just know you’re going.

And then, despite the Laws of Physics, you collide, crash, slam

And rather than a transfer of energy

The large, sharp-edged boulderleadstuddedwall absorbs nothing, and every particle, every molecule, every grain of sand or dead plant life that created this large, sharp-edged boulderleadstuddedwall suddenly shifts all, and I mean, all, of it’s restrained bound unified organized molten compressed disarray of destruction construction onto you.

And then it shatters. Crumbles. Falls apart.

And you, do, too.

My hands aren’t big enough to stop the collision.

My arms flail, trying to protect my eyes, my ears, my heart.

My legs have hit land.

I am destroyed. Broken. In pieces.

Me and the Boulder. Just like that.

Just like that.

And in real life without imagery or metaphor?
My mom called.
My mom.

Called.

Years of training and a swift backhand have taught me the value of going home immediately when Mom calls.
Even the neighbors know.

She’d call, and all the kids in a whistle-mile distance would turn their blanched faces toward me

Fearful.

Ame. You’re mom’s calling. You better go.

So, I did.
Go.

Along the way, I – I –

I don’t remember the trip East. Not right now. Not at 4:30 on a cold and frosty morning with a stunning full moon setting … and a bucket beside me, just in case.

I can’t remember anything past Audrey’s house. Past New Mexico.

Hell, I misplaced January once, and I missed Ohio on a previous trip. But there’s a big piece of Texas to Pennsylvania that does not come to mind.

My dad called. “Not my real dad” but the dad I grew up with. Where was I? Was I on my way?

Am I safe?

No. Really. That’s what he wanted. I didn’t delete the message. He wanted to be sure I was safe.

This could be funny if I remembered how to laugh.

The other one? After silence for five years, eleven days before he died, he asked me to forgive him.

Yup. Hallmark, I’ve got the script for your next holiday special.

Hell. I have more than one.

But I digress… I am stalling, trying to recall Oklahoma, Arkansas, Anything…

My cousin is a saint. She invited me to stay with her.
Ohmygod.

Apparently I walked around in circles repeating myself and asking questions that don’t have answers.

Thirty years.

Twenty-six if we count the phone call I got the Christmas after I got married. She missed the wedding but wanted to meet my husband and our foster child.
Hail Mary, full of grace …

Thirty years.

There is usually an expletive in the middle of that term, but I have tender friends who don’t approve of that sort of thing. Somewhere inside of me is the memory of once knowing how to be a friend. But I have forgotten.

Thirty years

Of anger, confusion, therapy, seizures, medication, mistakes, stupid living, faith, alcohol, and chocolate.

Lots of chocolate

Lots of walking

Lots of lonely. Lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of lonely…

Did you know, the letters in ‘lots’ spell ‘lost’?

Mistakes teach you things if you pay attention.

I tried. Oh, how I tried

To pay attention

But sooner or later, there is nothing to pay with

And now, here, on this clear and cold winter morning with a stunning moon setting

I have nothing. I am nothing.

I eat. I sleep. I work. I hug my dogs.

But there is a big piece of 28 to 58 that I can not recall

Laughter. Confidence. Determination.

Love.
I have nothing left.

My soul is broken

And I can not cry.

Ice.

Come. Lookit…

I hadn’t planned on taking a cross-country expedition with dogs this summer. But since my mom wanted to see me before she forgets everything, Molly and Freckles and I headed east… and north … and south …. and west.
 
We have re-established our unity as a pack, following the loss of Hannah and Mae.
We are home now, and Glorianna is slowly being integrated into our smaller family.
 
Time away was a blessing. Time together a healing.
Take to the highways – and then take the back roads in a place you’ve never been before.
Sleep in a strange bed (KOA,Motel 6, a friend’s daughter’s bed) or a strange position (in the car with two dogs).
Rediscover rain, snow, sleet, floods, lightning, and starry nights with constellations you’ve never seen before.
Look for alligators, and be grateful you didn’t see any.
Pray for the driver of the car that flipped onto the highway.
 
Remember where you came from, so you know you have the strength to go somewhere new.
 
Breathe deeply, unless you’re in Socorro, Texas. There you want to pray that the air cleaners on the oil stacks work better, and the EPA standards are increased, not removed.
 
We’re home now. But we’ll go again… we always go again…
It’s a cool planet. Come. Lookit …

The Story of the Prodigal Mother – Part 1 January 3, 2019

I’m going to make this quick because I am exhausted. Tired. Whipped. Overwhelmed.
Why? Because my mother, who has not intentionally spoken to me but once in the past thirty years – and that was twenty-six years ago – called last week. She said before she crossed the river, she wanted me to know where she had gone and what happened to her… “When can be get together?”

I live 2500-ish miles west of my hometown, for, as far as I am concerned, very good reason.
However, since I believe in all that Jesus – Forgiveness Thing, I loaded up the car with two dogs, Molly and Freckles, a couple different bags of clothing – possible funeral; hiking; everyday – some food, and what little money I had if I postponed paying a few bills.
I did not bring the Christmas cards and presents I forgot to post in the midst of the death of Hannah and Maeda.
I did not bring certainty or confidence, either.
After all, this is my mother we’re talking about.

The short version?

I met with her and my step-dad first.
The next visit included my sister, her husband, two of their children, one of their grandchildren; the three daughters of my deceased niece; and the eldest son of my deceased little brother.
I had seen my sister three years ago at my aunt’s funeral – the first time we have spoken in over thirty years.
I had met her husband there.
I had also met one of her granddaughters.

The son of my little brother I haven’t seen in twenty-nine years.

There is still one  more nephew I have never met.

I have a family. Not just two cousins (whom I love and appreciate dearly) and a dotty ninety-two-year-old aunt. (Please don’t tell her I called her ‘dotty’. Actually, she is amazing for her age, but there are times ….). I have parents again – no matter how brief this relationship might be. I have a sister, nieces, grand-nieces, and a nephew or two.

I have a family.

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

Who needs Hallmark Hall of Fame?

 

There is more to this. October 28, 2018

Dear Anybody,
I haven’t posted anything in a while. It  isn’t because I’ve been busy – and I have  been. It is because I have been feeling overwhelmed.
There are words for all of this, but they are scattered among the confusion and mayhem I have been trying to avoid.
In the meantime, I have begun an online “course” in gratefulness.
This is sponsored by people I do not know but who speak in a language I used to know and understand.
So, I decided I’d rely on them and their words to balance out the violence, insult, and condemnation that pervades the community where I have been hired to teach.
I’ll tell you about it sometime soon.
But for now, cherish your families, honestly compliment your partner, smile at strangers, and embrace the joy of living.

The following is one of the exercises. We were asked to choose one of four prompts. This is my submission.

My brightest light allows me to see …

Shadow Boxing

Amy Lynn Reifsnyder

October 28, 2018

My brightest light allows me to see that what I may perceive as mistakes in me are really opportunities for blessing. My pride, for instance, requires much attention. While I have considered myself better than others, more intelligent than others, more – whatever – I have learned that pride is not a particularly helpful thing when confronted with a community and a classroom of people whose values are diametrically opposed to just about everything I have ever believed in. I have found myself confronting my paradigms, my training, and my personal experience and coming up short. I have found that what I have believed to be true has been nothing more than cleverly disguised self-righteousness and pride. Consequently, the brightest Light is shining boldly into my shadow regions and casting out the fear and anger that have been skulking around in a drape, a mask of pride.

My brightest light allows me to see myself in a much more realistic pattern, which therefore allows me to become a New Creation.