AUGUST 30, 2015 : A Special Thanks to Tom Lakenen for the trailer ride around the park and for all the wonderful opportunities he’s created with the establishment of Lakenenland!
Thanks also to Corrine Rockow for leading us in music from “Rise Up Singing.”
Good times, awesome weather and enjoyable service led by Tim VanderVeen.
“A Search for Place; Within and Without.”
“A place as big as this world we share. As small as that corner of our mind where we go for peace, quiet, reflection.
In Search of that place….
When I was a boy there was a good chance you could find me under a box in the back yard. You could see the box and presume I was there, but I was not. I was in another place; a quiet place where the only thoughts and voice that mattered were mine. I have an old photo of that box out in the yard. I don’t remember any thoughts I might have conjured up while in there or any revelations that struck there as nowhere else.
But, I have this image of a place that for a time in my childhood was important to me.
I don’t have such box anymore, except this one that a small freezer came in. But, I have doors I escape through, and walls that I retreat behind. I have places I can go when I want to clear the noise and settle into myself.
And we all need and deserve such a place.
There is this concept called “place.” It’s like art or beauty, you know it when you see it. This park is a place. That bench is a place. The ground beneath your feet is a place. We don’t always think about the place we are in, but think about the place where we’d like to be.
For some reason the image of the Good Witch, Glinda, swooping down from above in a giant bubble that brought her to Dorothy’s side comes to mind. That might be the perfect Place; one that we are in, and one that goes wherever we want to go.
Sometimes the place we find ourselves in reflects a choice we made. We moved. We left behind. We picked upstairs; downstairs. Alone. Together.
We may only understand the significance of a place after we’ve move on. Later the choice we made, the acts we committed can shape who we want to be. Who we think we are. And who we have become.
I lived for a while in what I referred to later “Purgatory.” I guess if you have a concept of Heaven and Hell, then Purgatory is sort of a way station. A waiting room where those in charge decide based on a preliminary application or resume, where to send you.
I only gave this place that name after leaving and looking back at what became of me while I lived there, and who I was when I left.
This was a second floor apartment in a 3 story building. Above me, a few steps closer to Heaven, I suppose, were three nuns. Full practicing habit-wearing nuns. I don’t know why they lived in the apartment above me. We seldom interacted directly. I just saw them in the hall once in a while. And I am sure we said, “Hi.”
Below in the ground floor apartment was a prostitute. I can almost remember her name, but not quite. She stopped by to borrow $5.00 once and promptly paid me back a few days later. I remember mostly a big car coming during the night to pick her up. I am cursed by not remembering our conversations or her name. Or maybe I am protected by not knowing.
At some point the owner of the building came to me and for some reason asked me to help evict the young woman downstairs. I am sure he told me she had not paid her rent. But, now as I think about this I wonder if the nuns played any role in ridding the building of this working woman.
I don’t know why the landlord appealed to me for help, or why I consented other than some false sense of importance on my part.
So, as instructed on the day my neighbor was gone I brought a co-worker with me to help remove all her belongings and put them out to the curb. And this is where my guilt turned to heart break.
In this normal, cozy apartment were many personal treasures. I gently lifted a Raggedy Ann doll from the quilt covered bed. I packed a diamond ring in a small box and put it inside another box. There were things from a grandmother, and mementos of a life so far. And I carried them outside and put them at the curb, where shortly thereafter, vulchers from the neighborhood swept in to collect and steal the bits and pieces of her life.
I don’t want to relive this, but I think a few days later she returned to her former home to gather up what was left. I never saw her or talked to her again.
We had both chosen a place in our lives that would likely haunt us for years to come. I can only judge my own actions and still find it hard to forgive myself.
So, place can be a stopping point. A lesson. A change. Place can be a brush with mortality. An anchor that keeps us from drifting. And it can be just where we are meant to be according to someone else’s plan.
I met a young man the other day who shared with me that he had lived in Northern California, just as I had. I lived in a small trailer, a rustic cabin, and an elderly retired teacher’s home. He lived in a dugout Redwood tree and under some bushes with his dog Grumpy.
He told me he did not want to be around people and until he got kicked out of the stump he was in the right place for him. Family ties brought him back here and he said the only thing he really likes about living here is the ease with which he can get away from people. His needs for a place may not match mine, but he knew what they were. In his home now he has no electricity, no computer, and no neighbors. He and Grumpy live the life they want to.
And we have friends who just want a safe place to sleep. A meal from time to time. And some hope for the future. Their need for a place may not match yours or mine, but they know it when they see it.
As I check Facebook from time to time, I see folks revisiting places that bring back memories or reconnect them with a meaningful moment or person from their lives.
Often the place is not the property or the building. It’s the person who stood next to us, or the person who greeted us. It’s the person who reached out to us. It’s the heart that touched our heart. And that touching of the heart is what takes us back to that place over and over again.
I’ve told this story before and it bears repeating today. Years ago, in fact in 1967, my girlfriend and I flew to Chicago. It was really just an excuse to fly on a jet. We’d neither flown before. Somehow once in Chicago we found ourselves on the southbound L-train and we took it to the end of the line. As we climbed down from the platform to the street below, it became clear we were in a world we never been in before. It was the black ghetto on the southside of Chicago.
Sometimes ignorance is bliss, and sometimes it’s just the right state of mind. We had no sense of direction. No sense of left or right, right or wrong. And it must have been clear to the locals who saw us standing there, perhaps a bit bewildered.
That is when a black man walked up to us and said, “Give me some skin, Man.” I thought he wanted some money. I told him I didn’t have any money. He laughed and said, No. No, I just want to shake your hand and let you know you are alright here. Everything is OK.” He was are greeter at the door. And he set the tone for our walk around the neighborhood. We saw people getting evicted. We saw neighbors talking to neighbors. I don’t remember the buildings, but I remember voices and faces. The people who went about life as we passed by. And those who had reached out to us to let us know ‘Everything was OK.” That was a place I’ll never forget, especially in light of all that followed that year across America, and in more recent years gone by.
I often look up at a photo of me and my dog Pappy that sits on the top of my small desk at which I wrote this message. We were standing atop Brockway Mountain Drive up near Copper Harbor and I was smiling, holding Pappy in my arms as she seemed intent on some distant object or scent. My late mother took the picture.
It was the first time Pappy and I drove all the way back here from the west coast and spent time with my mom. I am forever heartened by the image and the memory.
If you look in your pocket, purse, or wallet, you may find a piece of a place that still matters to you. Take it out or think of what you likely would find if you looked.
Where does it take you? How does it make you feel? Is that a smile on our face, or a sadness in your heart?
As a member of our congregation I often hear not only are folks struggling to find the words that describe who we are and what we believe ,but I also hear from those who visit that they are searching for a special place that touches their heart. We can’t always explain what touches our heart and we certainly can’t always guess what might touch someone else’s. But we continue the conversation to explain our own search and stops along the way. And we hope to be guides, mentors, and friends to those who join us on that journey.
If you’d like to share a word or two about your special or favorite place turn to the person nearest to you. Briefly share a bit of your journey with them.
Now is Place what we are looking for? Or is it a sense of well being, euphoria, solitude, or calm?
Are you searching for your soul, your self, your heart, and your meaning?
When you first visited our congregation can you put into words what you were seeking? Did you find it? How close do you think you came? How close are you today?
We share this moment and this place, and perhaps for some of us the search goes on…”