An Unusual Braid

It was the last days of October 2020…..no time like the present to begin the process of finding new homes for Mom’s things.  As the first step in that my sisters and I took turns choosing things that meant something to us.  Among other things I chose the pair of  Willowtree figurines seen here.  I thought I remembered my Mom saying they represent her and her remaining sister.  I am very close with her sisters daughter, my cousin Jodi, so I took “the girls” home to the ranch, for me they were to be about the bond in our generation. 
I enjoyed taking pictures of “the girls” and sending them to Jodi.
During the April storm I took them to the dog room and set them up.  I was working on a cold, wet calf.  I sent the pic to Jodi, “working on saving a life, thinking of you.”
The cat knocked them over, Morgan set them up again like this.  I took a picture and sent it to Jodi, “looks like the girls have had a fight.”
I enjoyed taking the girls with me to check cows.
When they got back from the pasture the girls fell into a deep conversation.  Jodi suggested they were discussing the goodness of grass fed beef.
This past week they came to the chute for an afternoon. 
At one point Russ asked me to pack up my girls and go on an adventure.  It was just a little ways away to the gate where the cows and calves met up, like the door to a waiting room at the dentist office.  The calves needed a bit of urging to make their way out among the large number of waiting cows.  The girls were busy talking to each other and missed watching me.
This is my favorite shot from the afternoon.  It seems they are watching over things and applauding.
And that applauding image put me in mind of one of my favorite Bible verses.  This one here….it affirms that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, those that have gone before us, who somehow have a nearness that allows them still to be our cheerleaders. 
As I looked further for images of the Cloud of Witnesses this collage came up, the images have so many faces to ponder.  The poem in small print, written by Joseph R. Veneroso goes like this.
We do not run the race alone
Nor go into exile by ourselves
For we journey along the Way
Made smooth by those who’ve gone before.

And though invisible to the eye
They are with us still, forebears in faith,
Whose example, wisdom and yes, prayers
Inspire, encourage and guide us
Through the valleys and mountains of life.

And in the silence of the night
Listen for the soft whisper of
Ancestors, relatives and friends
Who, though gone, from the sidelines
Still cheer us on and
Whose love and countless kindnesses
Brought us to this very day.

Alone no longer
(as if we ever were)
We are part of a vast, unending
Procession of love and life
Past, present and to come
Where memory and meaning mingle
To create an eternal, dynamic
Community of souls and
Communion of saints.

The notion of taking comfort and strength from those not physically with us has been on my mind in a very particular way lately.  I have been listening to alot of Maya Angelou interviews.   Several times I have heard her say “I take my people with me” when doing something scary or challenging.  I like that, but, besides packing up my figurines I can’t quite figure out how it works.  But then this morning she said this, “I come as one, but I stand as 10,000.” That clicked.  I like that it affirms my individuality and competence as I come to a hard thing but it doesn’t leave me on my own.  It links me to all that has come before and those who have faced the challenges and prevailed.  It invites me to think about the names and faces I know and find strength from, those who have walked this walk too. In the realm of women ranching with their husbands I think of Marlene, Kay, Carol, Donalee, Sheila, Lyla, Melissa, Bonnie, Donna, Molly, Georgie and Gail. Those are the names I know, but I stand in a long line and a wide circle of women doing this life. I come as one but I stand as many.

The “Cloud of Witnesses” mural was painted in 2012 by Jon McDonald, an artist at Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University. The “witnesses” featured in the clouds comprise a small but diverse collection of individuals who sacrificed their lives during the Civil Rights Era. In their own, unique ways, these individuals paid the ultimate price on the long, difficult path to making the United States a more democratic and egalitarian society.

This mural and the write up about it I took from a page on the internet. Its another illustration of a great cloud of witnesses and I like that it illumines some of those witnesses Maya Angelou brought with her to her life stage. She spoke of friendships with Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, they are here.

I am in the midst of setting up a new desk location for myself in our home. I am almost there. One of the last jobs is to hang some beautiful portraits of my Mom and Dad. There were terrific encouragers and I want their faces near to remind me to persevere when I am scared or daunted or tired.

This post has been for me an unusual braid…..the utter ridiculousness of hauling figurines around the ranch and telling you about it, woven together with Holy Scripture, poetry, art and song and then the ongoing story of finding my courage, healing and strength in the midst of all that life holds. Some people think of braids as something to do with hair, but we do alot of braiding here lately as part of ropes and lead shanks and halters. They hold alot of weight and provide alot of security. The same might be said of the clouds of witnesses that exist for you and for me.

If you have a minute, look through the lyrics to this Carolyn Arends song. They are so vivid and thought provoking for me. Here is a link to the song as Carolyn performs it.

I was just four, my grandmother’s place
I knelt by her sofa and started this race
And now I’ve been running for such a long while
I’ve kind of lost track of the miles
Sometimes I press on, sometimes I look back
Sometimes I just lay in the road on my back
When I’ve got to get up and I don’t know how
I hear in the distance the roar of a crowd

It’s the great cloud of witnesses
Cheering me on each step that I go
It’s the great cloud of witnesses
They say the finish is worth every inch of the road

Moses is there, up in his seat
With my Grandad Wilfred, my Nana Bernice
There’s Abraham, Isaac and my buddy Rich
And I think they’re shouting “don’t quit”

So if you are tired, and your back is sore
If you’re not so sure you can run anymore
Then just take a moment and listen real close
Do you hear a sound like a heavenly host?

It’s the great cloud of witnesses
Cheering us on each step that we go
It’s the great cloud of witnesses
They say the finish is worth every inch of the road

It’s friends and relations and each generation of saints who believed
And received The Prize
They have looked into His eyes

It’s the great cloud of witnesses …

3 Comments

  1. Verla Pierce says:

    Kathy you may have left the pulpit, but you are always so straight on with your messages. You are a true inspiration. Thank you.

    Like

    1. kathyseeking says:

      Thank you Verla🙂💓.

      Like

  2. jamesmarty says:

    Kathy, thankyou for sharing your thoughts. I love the way you put things into perspective; sometimes my thoughts are totaly different but you seem to bring them home.

    Like

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