Eleven Windows

We are in the middle of a major renovation. Our sanctuary no longer has carpet, pews, or an alter gracing its space on the corner of Union and Allegheny. Wooden sub-floors, a tightly sealed organ, and chandeliers will greet you if visiting in your future. Bare it is – as it should be. Our planning/renovation committee is hard at work making sure this stripped down space is, once again, colorfully clothed again shortly after Easter. We hope.

Yes, we hope. Up to this point, there have been some snags in the planning carpet. Nothing major, of course … anyone would expect some nicks and snickers. We worship, now, in our fellowship hall anticipating all goals meet a spiritual bulls-eye center a few months from now. We plan as if it is up to us, however, meditate because it is up to a greater force to decide how and when we will sit in that beautiful space once again.

… and a beautiful space it is. Eleven windows, with the sun’s daylight help, dance colors across wood floor sub-panels, paint fumes, and scaffolding. The unfolding of the gospel story, one stained glass panel at a time, is beautifully told through multiple vivid and dramatic pieces … meticulously placed for generational reflection.

They stand in watch awaiting our return.

We will go back within a few months recognizing the artistry that has been there all along. Steady and unchanging – these will be stalwart around new pews, carpet, and a paint hue not too far from what was already on the walls. These windows haven’t changed. They have a new border color, however, as a black onyx trim hugs each.

I’ve paused a few times … standing among disassembled scaffolding and turpentine odors late in the afternoon. Three large walls and eleven windows. Windows and walls, I’ve seen close to six decades now, speak quiet words across a very empty, large space every time I visit. I’ve heard these windows speak a message. The essence is one of eternal beauty in the midst of renewal.

These windows are us.

We are beautiful. We are, at our core, eleven unchanging, colorful, vibrant windows. Our sanctuary, this body shell we use to house our windows, is always changing, renovating.

Our windows are compassion and love for others, self-acceptance, creativity, honesty,
generosity, humility in the service of others,
optimism, patience, and sympathy &
empathy when appropriate. All of these
shine through our sanctuary that changes
and bends through problems faced and solved days, weeks, months at a time.

We are those eleven windows inside. They are us. There for generations, I finally saw them inside myself after seeing them outside for close to these six decades of life.

We should always work on our sanctuaries – keep renovating, changing. The beautiful, vibrant windows always allowing the light out, and in, for the benefit of others, and perhaps ourselves, will always be here to remind us we should never lose hope.

Compassion and love for others, self-acceptance, creativity, honesty,
generosity, humility in the service of others,
optimism, patience, and sympathy &

Eleven windows for a post-Easter celebration at Zion. Better yet, … anytime, anywhere, for any reason.

A renovation renewal for one … but for all.

It’s Christmas Eve, After All

It’s Christmas Eve. 5:24, to be exact. I am sitting on my little red chair beside the organ at Zion Lutheran Church. A break in the service as a sermon is about to begin.

No worries. I have two more services tonight to catch up with the Pastor’s message. Already, I have almost missed the third verse of our Hymn of the Day. This is my first service back after a week of miserable covid isolation and stress. To have been nearly absent-minded over a few lyrics is, I feel, a passable offense … considering.

It’s almost Christmas, after all.

The church is full. For once this year, our pews are relatively packed. Normally on a Saturday service, Santa and his reindeer could comfortably slide to rest in between any two people. Families I’ve never seen are happily filling in the spaces between beautiful stained glass windows. I cannot see empty diagonal lines from front to back.

It’s almost Christmas, after all.

I don’t know what our Pastor is talking about right now. If his message has anything to do with the gospel lesson, John is involved. There’s an ocean of red pedals in my line of sight, but no magnificent colors being painted by the sun through those wonderful stained glass windows. They are dark. The sun sets early these days.

It’s almost Christmas, after all.

Bitter cold embraces everyone’s outside breath. A cold spell came through yesterday which I thought would have dampened attendance this evening. The once-a-year faithful still crunched their way in, however, to see the decorated altar … and, possibly, to be seen by their peers. I recognize so very few from my perch up front. This is not to cast judgement upon anyone. Perhaps if I wasn’t providing a needed musical service, I would be the same on a very cold, bitter Saturday evening … 5 hours before this most celebrated Christian holiday of the year.

It’s almost Christmas, after all.

Of all the candles lit, only one solitary taper can be seen from my corner settlement. It’s a view so familiar to many a generation of organists who have graced this ornamented chair upon which I sit.

The Pastor’s message is leaning into a lonely shepherd. I am listening now – the second service of three this evening. I see one candle, yet there are many I know on the altar I cannot see, but are there. I see less friends here than before, but I know other friends are, possibly, holding their candles brightly at other places of worship. They are being shepherded in different ways.

It’s almost Christmas, after all.

It’s not just this moment. Many times I’ve heard, “… the presents are wrapped and trees are glistening with bulbs and tapestries of all shapes and colors.” Joy and merriment, as expected, has been seen in the eyes of children. Adults have been about meeting at coffee shops and restaurants – exchanging holiday smiles and hugs – discussing family plans and holiday hams. Packages have arrived from around the globe. Air tubes carrying passengers have flown millions of miles to destinations where anxious travelers finally embrace loved ones in crowded airports.

It’s almost Christmas, after all.

… and does any of this really matter?

I have no presents wrapped. No trees are decorated. Very few, if any, relatives are around anymore. The few I have here – daily – struggle with life in their own way. Distances, not measured by miles, separate us. Life is, well, life.

… and does this matter? YES! It’s almost Christmas, after all, and to what extent this holiday presents itself to any of us … it STILL matters.

It’s a reason to recognize what we DO have. Maybe not necessarily what we want or need, but simply what we have. Seems simple enough.

Strip away all the glitter and wrapping of the season. And yes, I dare say the “Reason for the Season”, platitudes so evident all over digital media these days. All the sappy gospel songs need to be shelved for a small period of time to sit and think. Reflect. Admire all we have. If it’s only a breath to get from one moment to another – that’s a thing.

Life seems more real this way … at least for now: an almost Christmas, 2022.

I have a third service to play. Tomorrow is, yes, Christmas. I will go out to eat with some friends and family. That’ll be a thing to celebrate.

There are always nuggets like these to have in our pockets. Memories to gather. Experiences to share with friends and family. Wrapping paper fades and trees are stored 11 months out of the year. “Wham!” will, of course, continue to torture us with, “Last Christmas”, until our collective ears bleed … this is unavoidable. What shouldn’t be missed are all the little, fun, memorable times we can tuck away to remember all year ’round.

So, tonight IS a time to remember, reflect, and recall all the special moments we have in our lives.

It’s almost Christmas, after all. Let’s unwrap tomorrow with all it’s present magic.

For now, Pastor Dave just started his third version of that same sermon. I am here, again, for one last time. Ornaments, the Christmas tree, … I’m finally listening to the whole message. The ugly tree ornaments. The shepherds, marginalized, were like those ugly ornaments hidden on the back of the Christmas tree. The gospel writer Luke, however, writes positively about shepherds. They are lifted up. Hope among the lowly, as it were. This is the message for this Christmas eve.

Thank you for being here. Today and tomorrow matter. Always. Christmas or not, days are special, after all.

Because every moment matters, look for the unseen candles in your life.

…and Merry Christmas, anyway.

Franco, Mom, and Me

When the news came, I was shocked – just as you most likely were. He was a legend in Western Pennsylvania. Still is. His unexpected death has not changed anyone’s opinion of this man’s accomplishments on, and off, fields of play and business. He is Franco … the only black and gold #32 most of us ever knew. The one we will never carve out of our childhood memories, or forget meeting during a chance encounter.

I never met him. Since his passing, though, I have become aware some of my friends met him in the past. Pictures of happy embraces grace my feed. In some instances, proud autographs are displayed. Just through those secondary seconds in time, I can imagine wonderful conversations. He must have been a gentleman.

There may be no other way for me to hug the moment – that is, to eulogize a man I only knew through little pieces of 2-dimensional cardboard – than to say: He must have been a gentle man.

This. From a musician far removed from any gridiron grit … who spent his time watching the sport mainly through colorful picture cards with posing players who never opposed anyone while in their inanimate state. This was my Franco, Terry, Lynn, and Rocky experience. Nolan, Roberto, and Mr. Yount became frequent visitors to my afternoon bungalows as time whisked away in imaginary playfields with my sister … and possibly a few friends who happened to stop by.

The real magic happened if a sickness (especially on a school day) happened to march into my sinus dugout. Up to bat came Mom to pinch hit with fresh wax packs of marvelous cards to open. Yah, know – to assist me in the “healing process” … I’m not sure if this was ever Dr. approved, but Mom always knew how to lift my spirits. Of course she did. Mom’s know. She was a gentle lady.

Yes, she was.

This Christmas will be the 10th without her. This is a hard holiday. Hard – not because she’s not in the kitchen baking cookies, or we’re not playing piano duets. Hard – not because the pinochle deck isn’t spread out all over the table beside a few unfinished puzzles of hers. Hard – not because we can’t talk and be goofy together.

Hard because of that gentleman, Franco Harris. Hard because I can’t ever give Mom anything back in return for what she gave me: love, respect, kindness, compassion, caring, and humor.

You see, the card above is the very last present I opened from Mom. It was randomly inserted in a pack of cards she bought, unopened, from a local hobby shop. She knew I love sports cards. Of course, she knew.

She was so sick. With only a few months to live, this was her gift. This pack – containing no guarantee of anything – was purchased and wrapped. Weeks later, opened by a very grateful son.

Decades earlier, I was sick. Fast forward. There I was feeling equally grateful to receive a pack of cards from my Mom – now, she was sick. Difference being, I would get better in a few days.

She died a few months later.

I’ve looked at this card every Christmas. The weird thing about all this is the serial number:

“It’s a Christmas miracle, Mom”, I whisper to myself every time this card appears before my teared up eyes. #12/25 could not have happened without the love and respect Mom and I had for each other throughout our lives.

Things like that happen because they have to. The piano connection was, almost, too easy. She needed a more clever way to stay in touch with me.

Yesterday was a Franco, Mom, and me day for sure.

Sunday will be a day to remember Mom, again, as her Christmas absence will be felt. That 2011 Certified Fabric of the Game relic card sits in a special place to be pulled out and cherished for a few minutes as usual. This year, I will pause an extra minute or so to honor Franco Harris as well.

He is the man I never met, but feel I’ve known my whole life. Through it all … he’s been with me in 2-dimensional form, however, has made a 3-dimensional difference in my life thanks to Mom.

She is hard to miss now, but was easy to love.

Merry Christmas, once again, Mom. Franco sends his best your way.

31 Flags

I don’t know most of their stories. Every day, for a few minutes, I stood on warm concrete slabs as individual flags folded into summer breezes. Quiet imaginations filled my head while honoring local heroes. They made an impression on a digital camera phone and a daily memory for me.

Their names etched in black on a pole placard… and each individual story supported by a family member who reached out to the Rotary Club.

For one of the thirty-one days, each hero earned a place of recognition on my Facebook page. It was, truly, my honor to do so.

As a tribute to those who served and are currently active, here are the thirty-one who gave me pause:

Alex H. Drummond – Air Force, John Paul Dibert – US Army, Robert S. Cramer – Sergeant First Class US Army Reserve 1957-1995 , Richard Gildea US Navy Radarman 2/C WW2, Adolph Goldstein – US Army WW2, Samuel Calvin McLanahan – US Navy 1863-1869, Robert D. Williams – Trooper PA State Police, Andrew C. Williams RN, BSN Clinical Supervisor Cardiology Services, Valentine Ranck – Lancaster Militia Revolutionary War, Colonel Terry Wagner – US Army, Gerald Grubb US Army Air Corp KIA 3/30/43, Cloyd P. Grubb US Army Infantry Purple Heart Recipient, Dennis E. McCready – US Army Korea, JW Straesser – US Army Air Corp WW2.

Colonel Paul Roscher – Decorated Pilot POW WW2, Louis J. Lusk USAF “Halo” Senior Master Sergeant Special Warfare, Thomas Tidd – US Navy WW2 Pacific Theatre, Colonel Craig L. Carlson – US Army, Dr. Bridget O. Corey – Blair Foot & Ankle podiatric medicine, Mike J. Corey US Army , Elle W. McConnell – Nurse Practitioner Blair Foot & Ankle, Carl C. Werner – Staff Sergeant E-6, Allegheny Lutheran Social Services Healthcare, Residents of the Lutheran Home of Hollidaysburg who served our Nation, William R. Collins Jr. – US Army, Gary A. Davis – US Marine Corps, Richard Burnett – US Army, John S. Sigrist – US Army Reserve, Tony Drummond – US Army Healthcare worker, Desmond T. Lutz – Air Force Staff Sergeant, and Edward Kopanski – Vietnam veteran.

Quite the list. Revolutionary War through present day. I knew Colonel Wagner and am personally familiar with a few others; however, I am still fascinated by the stories those flags told.

They are no longer there.

Gone are the early morning stops for me. I miss the moments. So much so that a late night pull over this evening – after a tiring food truck event – was necessary. I needed time. Time to pull life over from its busy lane just enough to remember other folks who do much more – give so much more – to allow all of us a life of work and leisure.

At the very end of an invisible 31st flag, the permanent digital display gave me this:

Another flag. Yes, it is always in the rotation between, now, 80+ degree temperature readings and the time. This was no miracle sent from the heavens. For me, simply a final image to capture, to bookend if you will, a marvelous experience.

My story is simple. Five minutes every morning, I was fortunate enough to stand in front of an American flag while honoring an individual who deserved my time.

On July 13th, thirty-one invisible flags – for thirty-one seconds during a quiet, dark evening – were settled into their repose until next year. I stood there, peacefully.

I figure a second for each one of their stories is worth a lifetime for us.

Catchin’ Fireflies

How crazy to think it’s been a while since sitting here at my desk, typing in words, instead of running around making life happen. Hours buzz by. If it wasn’t for a message coming over the Meta-network on my phone, an event would be less meat and cheese tomorrow. I, quite simply, forgot – and it never was entered into my digital calendar. Why? Who knows? This is how May and the first part of June has been.

Except for an occasional meal or entertainment carve out, the huge kraken of lore has come alive to unsettle the calm seas I found myself on at the beginning of 2022. I’ve been losing planks multiples at a time and a once firm grip as the helmsman of my life could be in peril.

Not to be an alarmist, I’ve been here and seen raging seas. Outside challenges have tugged at my personal goals. The needs of others have trumped mine before and surprising tidal waves rocked more than one vessel upon which I’ve found myself. Survival finds a way.

Most of us, I believe, have experienced rough waters. These past weeks aren’t anything new to me, or you. We make our way to calmer shores, right?

I’m not there at present. If the psycho-sextant I currently hold in my clenched hands is accurate, the angle between the horizon and my guiding star shows a position I didn’t intend to be at the moment. Now, either the star is really messed up in its celestial dark matter blanket, the horizon isn’t level, …, or, I truly am taking on too much water.

Damn the kraken of the seas known as “What the hell am I doing?”

Actually, I know. I knew it weeks ago. The different colors on my digital calendar – where “most” of the commitments I’ve made appeared – created a rainbow off in the distance. It appeared as I started a journey. A trek into weeks of scheduling personal, medical, social, musical, and business slaps into my calendar.

As the bow lifted high into the white crests of every 20-foot wave these past few days, that rainbow of over-commitments washed over my memory. This-and-thats for todays and tomorrows. Necessaries and optionals.

This evening, after I realized tomorrow’s event was almost missed … I stopped. It was time. To. Just. Stop.

This is what eventually kills the kraken. Every. Time.

After catching up with a few friends on messenger and texts, I stopped, sat on the edge of the bed and took a deep breath. Nothing was going to interfere with the calm seas I imagined at the moment. It was time to rebuild the ship and get a good grip at the helm. One more thing to do, however – check the status of a Facebook post from a few hours earlier. This proved to be magical.

On my feed was a picture with two words, “Catchin’ Fireflies”. If there was an image I needed to see, it was this:

Courtesy of K. C.

Two joyous lives through a jar held by two smiles. A dear friend and precious daughter who, by all accounts, were brightening up their evening … together. No over-commitments, no busy-ness, no calendar rainbow. Just. Life. Now.

A relation-ship as intended.

I sat for a few more minutes than planned – looking into the calm waters reflecting back images of all the kind, considerate, loving, sincere, genuine, and spectacular close friends who survive the journey with me. The smiles and laughter, especially.

It isn’t all fun, to be sure. You know this. I know it, too. With that said, how difficult would the voyage be without shipmates who care … who are willing to take a plank, or two, on our behalf?

At the beginning of the day, I didn’t know tomorrow was coming as it appears to be. I’ll be unexpectedly busy. This coming week will be challenging on the home front as well.

I’m so glad I stopped today. The kraken is dormant for now.

Rest easy, kraken. I am sure we will battle again. For now, I turn the wheel over to a few small lightening bugs.

In their light, I find the smiles and laughter of my friends who, together with me, guide all our ships forward one day at a time on, hopefully, calm seas.

The Key to Mother’s Day

If this was the way: I’d play one note. One magical press of a key – either black or white of the 88 – that would bring mom back to us.
Not just my musical, happy, funny mom … but your mom as well if you are holding dear memories today.
This I would do. For me. For you.
We need those assurances only moms can give. Tight, affirming hugs are missing now. Duets are silent behind magnificent pianos.
Memories aren’t quite enough on a Mother’s Day when everything is, well, a lot different than a mom would have expected.
There wasn’t one magical key to change cancer and mom’s destination with it. There isn’t one key to bring her back.
Fortunately, there are many at my disposal to honor her the best way I know how.
For my prelude at Zion Lutheran this weekend, I’ve chosen, “How Beautiful” by Twila Paris. It is a piano arrangement I had to tweak a little for the organ “keys”…
She will know. Somehow, she will know.
This I do. For me. For you … because moms are beautiful and they deserve our very best.

A Vase and a Friend

The only words I could find? “She was blessed to have you”. The news came as a shock, but wasn’t unexpected because I knew the person who sent the text kept me, somewhat, in the loop over the last few months.

Loss is hard. When a wonderful friend dies, our many great memories don’t soften the blow. That sudden void is huge. Their calming words and silent assurances will not longer be here for us. We can no longer cook for them, hug them during a thunderstorm, or laugh together at a silly joke. They are not here anymore.

She is not here anymore.

This particular lady was special. I didn’t know her nearly as well as her dear friend. They were, however, two flowers in the same vase when I saw them. Inseparable, one would say. Years apart in age, but so close in personality, outlook, and smiley humor. They laughed inseparably and shared a common, liturgical seat most Saturdays.

These past few years saw loss in all our lives. We laughed with so many who are not with us anymore. We shared a last hug … and then they were whisked away to mysterious spaces beyond our understanding.

I don’t have any pure, perfect answer to that place past the here and now. What I do have is my reply back to my friend who is experiencing the grief: “I don’t know what else there is … except to accept what is. Loss is sad.
I am thankful every day – this is what gets me past (the recent events in my life).
We can be so grateful for best friends (and loved ones) who walked with us …
…and will continue to inspire our grasp of this world and the hopes we have of what is to come”.

She was kind to point out two words – Thankful and Grateful – with the added phrase, “two wonderful takes in life”.

She is right to pull those two from my reply. If we can, simply, be thankful and grateful for who we are and what we have THROUGH knowing the life of the friend who died, …

… this is gain, not loss.

It was joy to know her. She was special. I can imagine how wonderful and magical it must have been to be her best friend. To, now, experience the loss is certainly heartbreaking. It should be. To care deeply means to grieve profoundly as well.

I closed my phone thinking about that text. It urged me forward toward this entry. After a chicken/bacon/ranch salad at Eat N’Park an hour after the news, tossed words formed into some clarity. I think, anyway.

Over the past six months, loss has been winning over gain here; however, I’ve never given up on being grateful or thankful.

No matter the circumstance, we can find a reason to be both.

Today, the loss weighs heavy and a bare, solitary stem rests in the vase. I am sure my friend will water each memory as the hours and days pass. In time, however, the seeds of reflection will sprout and a now empty vase will once again be filled with flowers, … surrounding her with forever scents of her best friend.

There will be no more loss and, at that time, both will be blessed to have each other. Again.

Pickles and Beef

A March 26th snow squall unexpectedly graced my windshield. It was a mere hour ago at a signal light where the red Toyota next to me was barely visible. Glancing between the sideways snowflakes, I made a squintiant, valiant effort to connect with the driver who, perhaps, may have been as surprised as I was at the less-than accomodating weather. No go.

Actually, my left turn arrow was a go before making any contact. That driver plowed forward, presumably, minutes after I pulled into a local grocery store to basket up some pickles and beef. Head down to avoid the high, white wind, I passed through double doors only to face faces in line at Starbucks. A long line of kiosk anticipators who, by all accounts, weren’t having their “best life now” …

I am not a coffee drinker, but there’s a rumor going around that some folks need their “fix” in the morning. This was a small convention of them. I may be a little grumpy paying around $48 per gallon, too, but can’t say I blame them. I pay the same for my green tea and when it’s not available? Look out!

There’s no need for displeasure in our lives, but all of us have to accept it. There’s no escaping the pull toward, “Really, why?”, or “I’ll just hang with this situation now until things get better …”. Life has a way of being more than we can handle at times.

…Thus coffee and green tea. The little cups of liquid that help the bitter stuff go down a bit easier.

I pondered this while deciding between 80/20 and 90/10 beef. Knowing Starbucks would probably sell more in fifteen minutes than I – during three hours at my stand in 40-degree weather – … the beefy decision came down to price vs fat content during grilling. Being an average guy, I split the difference and carried away one pack of each. With those, and a jar of bread & butter pickles, checking out was easy at one of nine self-service kiosks. Past the Starbucks, again, as those last were edging their way to first, I exited out into the wintry stew.

Walking through the lot, I noticed a middle-aged man in his car, head back against the rest, eyes closed. Almost positive he was waiting for someone as the blue Mazda was idling (presumably for heat). With nothing to offer but raw meat and pickles, or possibly nice conversation, I felt it best to be on my way. No medical emergency was apparent and this is very much and ordinary sight among us, right?

I wondered, however, was he thinking the same thoughts as us needing our green tea, and coffee fixes? Was he simply hanging out in the windy late-March flurry of laughable, languishing snow? “My companion went in for bread 45 minutes ago and hasn’t come out yet … ” like-sentences may have been parked in his third-to-last nerve space. Could someone inside be a partner whose face was contemplating a sugar-free latte and WAS, by extension, holding his hand? Without being extremely rude, potentially arrested, and late opening my trailer (definitely in that order), there really is no way to know.

I am truly happy not knowing.

… and was glad to be back at the same signal light to re-enter a busy highway.

Forward is a great direction. Whether it is toward a place we expected or not, we are still headed from somewhere to somewhere – with others beside us. This is my takeaway from the past few hours as I sit here watching traffic go by … While serving a few customers now and then.

The driver next to me in the snow, customers in line at Starbucks, and Mr. Mazda rester all have somewhere to be and a story in their March 26th day. They are doing their day now … as I am. We’re participating in life together, yet apart.

They made a small impact in my life, during a variation of March madness, without knowing it. By extension, I am sharing part of my day with you.

We all share the highs and lows. Our heads lean back on so many headrests. We lean back on friends, family, and yes … coffee & tea. Communities support us. Strangers reflect our thoughts and feelings even during unexpected snow squalls.

My left into grocery lot enlightenment was the right turn after all. I’m glad to be reminded it’s ok to stop, close my eyes, and rest.

Sure hope nobody walks by with beef and pickles, however.

It’s Crystal Clear

Crystal Clear Wellness, 517 Allegheny Street, Hollidaysburg Pa.

Someone very special in my life walked a few steps ahead of me the first time I stepped into this store. On that day, leaves didn’t sweep across a cold concrete sidewalk and a fall nip wasn’t in the air. It was a truly beautiful day. It was a day when excitement swirling about her matched the sun shining through a few mid-afternoon trees outside – welcoming our visit.

She was so glad to be there. A store so close to her heart.

“Oh, look at that … I need to have it!”, proclaimed the one to whom the crystals, wiccan wares, books, and various fascinations spoke. I saw a light shine from her soul that filled every little nook; without exception, all darkness hidden became available for all to see. She filled the small, quaint store with her sincerity and love for all things energetic and mysterious.

This was crystal clear. This was Greta.

I couldn’t help but think of her when walking by on a seasonally cold day. Honestly, I can’t recall a day since her passing when I don’t think of her. This Sunday past was no exception. Maybe it was the crunching of the leaves? Possibly a small puff of breeze at my feet that snagged my interest? I don’t know. Whatever the reason, stopping to take a picture and remember that wonderful day – while standing in the energy that was Greta – held another grateful memory moment in my heart.

This is Crystal Clear Wellness, too. Energetic and mysteriously wonderful. It is a place where I’ve been since … to check in – to see my friend Tony and all the other wonderful personnel so graciously willing to help out where – and when – they can. I have my special items from the store that mean so much now … more than ever. Understanding, in a very limited scope, the different edges of life previously undiscovered, I can start to appreciate the crystal that is my life. I am starting to appreciate the connection Greta had with vibrancy and vitality in the universe.

Was it perfect? Certainly not. Her body failed her at the end. We lost a beautiful person to a disease that ravaged and taunted her. All the healing vibes and energy didn’t save her. That same vibrancy and vitality wasn’t enough. The universe had other plans.

Those other plans are unfolding and I have a suspicion she set them in motion.

She was a friend of Tony’s and, by extension, the Crystal Clear Wellness family. Because of this, it’s a challenge for me to be in there and not think of her attachment to all of our collective lives. After thinking it over a bit, this is how it should be after all.

Places exist as memorials to those we loved. Everywhere we go – where they were – is a reminder, in some small or large way, of their passions and energies. We need to hug those places and embrace the folks who connect with us while we’re there. A small emporium universe or marketplace in which they visited is still part of ours. Experiencing them, without being able to hold a warm hand or touch a soft face, is still o.k.. We can be there alone. We can stand outside on a seasonally cold Sunday and still feel them beside us.

This is a special place. I will always know Greta is there. The last time in, I bought a small, decorative purple cloth with a pentagram design. It sits on my dresser underneath a few items. Representing the elements of Spirit, Air, Earth, Water and Fire, it is there as a reminder for me to ground myself in what will last beyond my years.

My life does goes on, of course. All of us have this path forward and we do what we can to heal after losing someone special.

It may seems like the energy goes away, but it doesn’t. A few moments outside a special store – remembering a time when I was inside with someone I saw “Oh, looking…” at everything – helped me realize this place is special. It was crystal clear to me when we were there together … and it’s very apparent, now, special wonderful widget stores can hold our broken hearts together as well.

If you’ve lost someone, find a place. They will be glad you came by. Even if it’s a bit cooler than the last time you were there with them, remembering your time together will warm up the rest of your journey forward.

Waiting Windows

With frost on my windshield for the second time this season, I headed out. It was a few minutes after 7 a.m. – a bit earlier than normal for this guy, but not for the early, double-caramel person I was meeting. We agreed upon the “Black Dog” for a pre-dawn sip and possible bagel consuming chit-chat. This eatery has been a local favorite for friendly, delicious smooshes … so, my beat-up Honda crunched its way from a wet driveway, over a mile of cold leafy sideroads, to a parking spot three spaces away from this latte-lighthouse.

I’m not one for the fancy drinks. To that end, not even a basic cup of hot coffee warms my soul. Chill it, or steam it … no latte or frappe will ever drape over the sill known as my lower lip. A simple mug of hot chocolate topped with a small dollop of whipped cream (or, perhaps a few small marshmallows) always, and forever, is my huggable winter-season drink of choice.

I’ve known Andy, the owner of the “Black Dog”, a long time. He works hard. Along the path of our friendship however, his hard work would never recognize my finicky taste in hot beverages. It’s not his job to pay attention to my weird ways. After all, a high percentage of his pre-dawn sippage sales IS most likely all the fancy, dancy grande cups and mugs ordered every day – not the marginal hot chocolate orders.

So, when I walked through the doors yesterday morning, a hot chocolate order was out of his norm, but graciously prepared. I sat alone for a few minutes at a table for four … recognizing how wonderful it was to wait for Andy to steam up a warm cup of hot chocolate. Wait for my company to arrive. Wait for the sun to come up through the windows of a very familiar cafe. Just sit, and wait.

After only a few ticks on the clock, two ladies arrived to order breakfast and then Andy’s “front of the house” day began. Although from what I gather, the soups for lunch were already started hours before and happily stewing away on the stove in the back. My company arrived shortly thereafter and we had a charmingly small visit.

During any normal day, I wouldn’t arrive until after 8:00, possibly 9:15, to meet friends for breakfast depending upon the day’s schedule. This was rare. The “Black Dog” is a common stop for lunches and late breakfasts in daily drive-abouts if I am floating around. Andy and his staff are wonderfully packed full of energy and engaged in everyone’s life which is why I try to get there when I can.

Yes, my friends are there, too. This is important. There’s a round table – not as significant as King Arthur’s – but one where compression of souls happens on a regular basis. Short folks, tall frames, skinny sorts, and sometimes well-suited suitors sit comfortably at this table enjoying the day’s news and, of course, one of five selected lunch choices. Andy prepares five diverse lunch choices, a variety of soups, and dessert items. Each day is different, … but only five per day. Simple. Most patrons, if not all over the years, prefer it this way. No surprises. Always delicious. Always fun and affordable, too.

It’s just a local cafe if you look at the “Black Dog” as a building. As a place to wait for a few minutes and think about what life is … it’s more than half-fogged up windows resting above a leaf-blown sidewalk. It’s about those very windows waiting for the sun to rise.

I walked through the doors thinking about those windows. The time was too early for me. I knew there was hot chocolate waiting inside, however. The few minutes once inside – waiting for Andy to brew up the mug’s warm interior liquidy goodness – gave me pause to consider the hour ahead. A sun would rise to evaporate the moisture off those windows. Pretty basic stuff. A day would start for so many, including me.

With all that’s been going on with my life, I forgot that days do have a beginning. The sun comes up. Good, predictable things happen every day. Waiting for them to happen – being patient – was a nice reminder yesterday.

If it’s good enough for the windows at the “Black Dog”, I can be patient, too.