Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Comfort of Traditions

 I have thought quite a lot about comfort this week. It  has been a week filled with pain and anxiety for so many people around  the world. The mass destruction of a country in front of our eyes makes one feel so vulnerable. It has caused me to pay close attention to the things around me that give me comfort.

This week I watched as  my brother-in-law's family struggled gracefully with the loss of their Mother, Grandmother and Great-Grandmother, the  Matriarch of their family. A passage of one generation to the next. Our generation has now donned the cloak of the elders. What a strange feeling. I've never thought of myself that way and actually I am not there yet. My Mother and Aunts and Uncles are still living late into their 80's and 90's so I have a little cushion of time to be the next generation to carry the mantle of wisdom and experience. But my brother-in-law is now one of the elders in his family. He will wear that cloak, as he does everything in his life, with dignity, responisbility and  pride. It will be safe in his hands.

 The dictionary defines "comfort" as a state of ease and satisfaction of bodily wants and needs , with freedom from pain and anxiety. I was struck by the comfort that traditions give to us while participating in the Greek funeral rituals. The soft chanting of four  priests, three of whom  I have known for many years, filled the air with a sense of calm.  We were all  young parents together just a few yesterdays ago. Baptisms, weddings, funerals,graduations,  anniversaries....all of life's passages.... have been shepherded by these fine men. What an honor to grow old along side them. How comforting to know that they share in the same human experience as we  and can relate on a very real basis to our cares,sorrows, vulnerabilities as well as the joy, hope and peace that we equally experience. Their voices comfort me now and I can only imagine how much comfort it has given my brother-in-law and his sister at this very difficult time in their lives.

As I sat through the funeral , being comforted by the rituals , my mind kept returning to the plight of the Japanese people . How do they receive comfort during this difficult time?  Will they receive comfort from the old traditions that have sustained them for countless generations? Times like this prove that we are all one in the human experience and that our traditions, no matter what they are, have been created from a need for freedom from pain and anxiety. We find comfort in our traditions.

Monday, March 7, 2011


I heard the tinkle of the raindrops gently falling last night. At first, I thought it was the fire crackling in the fireplace. Glancing out the window, I could see the wet street reflect the night lights. Instantly, a smile came to my face.

I don't know what it is about the rain that calms me. It's always been that way. The sound envelops me in its  warm embrace.

I remember as a child draping myself across the sofa in front of our bay window and watching the rain pound the street and sidewalk for hours at a time. . There was usually a fire blazing in the fireplace on those days. I felt safe, warm and loved.

As a young mother, rainy days blessed me with children playing at my feet. They seemed to get along with each other so well on those days. We would sit in front of the fire and drink hot cocoa and munch on fresh chocolate chip  cookies.  Rainy days and chocolate chips cookies go together. Baking is one of the things I do on rainy days.

When my children grew old enough to go to school, rainy days could start out as a nightmare of parents and cars trying to drop off their precious bundles at the door all at the same time. The traffic increased exponentially on those days. Each parent  wanting to make sure their child got to school safe and dry.

That isn't always possible in California. Rain here is usually not light, it pours.  We may not get a lot of the wet stuff each year but some years are unbelievable. Especially when we get an El Nino effect. Then you might as well just drive around in a boat.  It probably sounds silly to those who live in really difficult weather, but it's what we know here in sunny Southern California.

I was always so glad to get wet kids, books, lunch pails,backpacks,  friends, etc, packed into the old station wagon and home to the cookies, cocoa and fire.

Tonight's rain brings the same visceral experience. I fall asleep peacefully dreaming of years past when I was young .....when the world held endless possibilities....when the rain washed the cares of the world away for a few hours.When my children were safe by my side.