Seeing Anew

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Several years ago, during a regular eye exam, my doctor mentioned to me that my cataracts were growing pretty quickly. While I heard what he was saying, I was in no mood to schedule an elective surgery. And while I could tell I was losing some depth perception, in general I did not think my vision was that compromised.

That doctor retired, and my husband and I began seeing Dr. John Campagna here in San Antonio. The first time he looked at my eyes, about a year and a half ago, he said, “You know, these cataracts could come out any time.” I sort of yelped, and said, “No!” He kindly smiled and said, “Well, you will know when the time is right.”

Last June, Doug and I were having lunch at Teka Molino, a favorite Mexican restaurant. I was facing the windows, and the sunlight was creating a glare. A friend approached us, and when he said hello, I had to confess that I could not see him. I knew my cataracts were getting in the way. I had not recognized him in the bright glare. This friend had just had cataract surgery, and encouraged us to do the same. His euphoria was contagious.

Over the last several months, both Doug and I have had both eyes set free from cataracts. The surgery was so easy, and the staff at Methodist North Central Ambulatory Care Center proved to be both professional and personable.

Now I am seeing through new lenses—not glasses—lenses implanted in my eyes. I am astounded by the radiance that I now perceive. So much luminescence! So much beauty! Colors and textures have a depth and a richness that I’d long forgotten. I have a lot of peripheral vision again, and catch glimmers of movement off to the side, glimmers that I would have missed before the surgeries.

And, we did not have to have our white kitchen repainted! I had thought that the paint had yellowed quickly. The kitchen had been painted only two years ago, and I had been fussing about the quality of the paint. How could it already have gotten so dingy? Two cataract surgeries later, and I know that I was looking through the yucky yellow grey of the cataract. Now the kitchen looks bright and shiny—no painting necessary.

I’m giving humble and hearty thanks for modern medicine, and for our physicians. We are the beneficiaries of so much research, and so much technical skill on the part of those who measure the eye, create the lenses, prepare the eye drops that facilitate the healing.

I’m also reflecting on the ways in which my sight may have dulled in other ways. What might I have missed because of some cataract-like tissue on the soul? A gentle nudge toward awareness. A kind invitation to be mindful of my limitations in every regard.

More than anything, I’m enjoying the feast of truly being able to see, and beholding the garden, the border collies, the fat cat, Doug, the household, with delight in seeing them all anew.

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Slow Summer Time

  Thank God, we are now in what is known as “ordinary time” in the liturgical cycle of Christian faith and practice. We just observed Trinity Sunday on June 11. For the next six months, our Episcopal altars will be draped in green, and we will reflect on ordinary, daily living of life, a life of faith, hope and love. A life that chooses to be alive, aware of the beauty of this world.

    For this household, early summer means moving from active gardening to harvesting. Doug is bringing in bowls of bright yellow Sungold tomatoes and Ichiban eggplant. We weed a bit, and water as needed. We are also pulling up the plants that are suffering from the heat. But mostly, we are savoring the fruits of the garden, breathing in the heady aromas of copper canyon daisy and rosemary and oregano. The hot weather flowers (cosmos, hibiscus, bouganvilla, rock rose, salvia, lantana, Pride of Barbados) are bursting with color. Summer mornings and evenings, when the southeast wind comes off the Gulf of Mexico, the air has a distinctive softness.

    When I was growing up, many weekends were spent at my Kopecky grandparents’ place in the country. There was no running water, no indoor toilet. It was almost like camping, but not quite, because we slept in beds in simple cabins. Summer days were a feast of the senses. Simple peanut butter and onion sandwiches made by my grandmother. Swimming in the creek. Catching perch and striped bass with a cane fishing pole. Watching turkey vultures circle overhead in the deep blue vault of the Texas sky. Reading Marvel comics during quiet time in the heat of the afternoon.

    Time slowed down. Time became oriented toward natural rhythms, rather than the clock. We stayed up later and caught fireflies, listened to stories with whippoorwills calling in the background.

    As the liturgical calendar leads us into the slow time of June and July, before the planning activities of mid-August, even our beloved animal companions move into more relaxed patterns. Leftovers, our 22 pound cat, lolls in the grass or on the deck. He appears to be completely enjoying the balmy, warm mornings. Graford and Fiona, the border collies, choose to chase the tennis ball, but for half the time. Good naps on the cool Saltillo tile make up the bulk of their days.

    And the humans? We are savoring siesta. Eating vegetables still warm from the sun. Reading and going to movies. Slowing and remembering, entering the reverie of remembered times on the Guadalupe River and Canyon Lake, noticing our own deep craving for time that opens out, time that is easy, time that is no time.

 

Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Ordination of Women in the Episcopal Church

On Sunday, January 22, 2017, seven women priests gathered to co-celebrate at the altar at the Episcopal Church of Reconciliation in San Antonio, Texas to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the ordination of women in the Episcopal Church. What a glorious and joy-filled eucharist!

This is the congregation that sponsored both my husband Doug and me in the process to become priests in the Episcopal Church. (Because we were the first clergy couple in the diocese, I was also required to have a second congregation sponsor me, Trinity Episcopal Church in Victoria, TX.) The gathering was baptized by tears of joy and wonder. We remembered the Philadelphia Eleven, and the bishops who ordained those first women despite threats to the bishops’ lives. We beheld the faces of the Rev. Katy Riggs, first woman ordained in the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas and women clergy who had served at Reconciliation in various capacities.

And we delighted in the celebration of so many strong women lay leaders in that parish. Those spiritual mothers were crucial to my own journey. Women like Abbie McLennan and Stella Brown, Betty Storrs and Saradell Crawford. These were women who never blanched at the thought of clergy couple, and who fully embraced the possibility of women presiding at the eucharist, preaching and blessing.

When Doug and I arrived at Reconciliation in the summer of 1979, it was Abbie McLennan who immediately spotted us during worship, then later introduced us to other members and made us welcome.

I was 31 at the time; our sons Jason and Bryan were 3 and 6.  I was teaching Spanish at the University of Texas at San Antonio. I was in the beginning steps of what I later realized was a path into contemplative prayer. Some of the spiritual mothers at Reconciliation knew of this improbable call of mine to holy orders. And so, they began to bring it up. They claimed it for me before I could fully claim it for myself.

And here's the amazing thing: while our dear bishop and the archdeacon and the members of the Standing Committee and Commission on Ministry were all sort of baffled by the idea of a clergy couple, these spiritual mothers at Reconciliation never faltered. They could SEE it. They knew it was possible. They held a vision that Doug and I could never have held by ourselves.

One day, after Doug had been accepted to seminary and I was going to be working as the parish secretary at St. George's in Austin (after teaching at UTSA), Betty Trail, (one of those beloved mothers) and I were in the sanctuary together, oiling pews. Betty was an RN, a divorcee, and pretty outspoken. She was instrumental in getting Reconciliation involved in early hunger ministries and the Battered Women's Shelter. Betty turned to me, and said like a prophet, "You will become a priest. I know this. And I can imagine that day!" She said this with a twinkle--a little like a fairy godmother. And then she went back to oiling the pews. I was stunned. From time to time another spiritual mother would either send me a card or say something in person. They began speaking my priestly vocation into being out loud, unapologetically, when I was still scared of saying it for myself.

On the institutional side of things, it is certainly true that professors at the Seminary of the Southwest, our bishop and other male clergy shepherded my process toward ordination. On the maternal, feisty, hopeful side of things it was Betty Trail and other spiritual mothers of mine who held the hope, when I figured I'd be teaching the Spanish subjunctive for the rest of my life. It just goes to show how significant community is, and how we are all woven together. 

Many of those spiritual mothers of the parish are now among the community of saints. On Sunday, as six of women clergy stood beside the Rev. Judith Rhodes as she presided at eucharist, I felt their presence and joy so strongly. It simply took my breath away. As living members of the Body of Christ, they have helped birth new life, and dared to believe the gospel includes us all—every single one of us. They delight in our ongoing embodiment of the dignity of every human being.