Two Things I Learned in May

For me, May is the month of mile-wide grins and counting years.

It is a month of flowers in my Oregon garden: irises, variegated hostas, Stellas, happy-faced violas and dogwoods. It is my birthday, my wedding anniversary and Mama's Day, all in the first week.

As May surrenders to June and I see the top of Summer's dirty blonde head, I snip a few May flowers for you.

Here is my petite bouquet from May, part Grand Ol' Opry, part Devotion, all bridge*.

1.I gotta keep finding his heart.

I called Mike one day and said, "I'm listening to Flagship and thinking of you." After listening he knew why, but he knew a different why. Both were true.

This month Mike and I celebrated being married thirty one years. I got to thinking about us and I may have finally touched on why I have an eye for old faded bridges. I need them with all their rust and rivets. They get me across.

Bridges are a connection between two shores. Their length has crossing and criss-crossing to tell of, people and their pilgrimages. Also there is story in the river that runs beneath the span.

M a r r i a g e.

I thought long and hard on what to get him as a gift. The years have been large and full, layered with ordinary moments and big scares. I wanted my gift to match somehow.

Way back in February, I came across the idea of a silver guitar pick from As You Wish Designs. It took me months to settle on what to say to him on the stamp. I finally chose a line from the song.

You gotta keep yourself naive
In spite of all the evidence believe
And volunteer to lose touch with the world
And focus on one solitary girl

Jason Isbell, Flagship

I like being his solitary girl. Even a thousand miles apart, I want to keep finding his heart.

Baby, let's don't ever see it fade.

To love well is an art, it takes all the creativity, determination, sacrifice and fire you have in you. And then some. It may surprise you how it burns. Ours began bright and now heats the whole house.

The love and tenderness, flawed knowing and mystery between two people married for decades is hard to say well. With every anniversary, I try to say it better, set it to music.

Jason sings it strong and fine. There's story in his words and I keep returning to them. I have Mike's endless heart to bridge.

Here's Jason Isbell singing Flagship at the Grand Ol' Opry with his wife, Amanda Shirers on the fiddle.

Talk about story.

2.I found the best definition of devotion.

Mike gave me a book he heard about on the radio, just because it sounded like something I might like. Just because. (He's good at finding my heart.)

The book is called Introduction to the Devout Life. It was written by a seventeenth century monk named Saint Francis De Sales for people of all sorts from farmers to those presented at court, to deepen their faith in little thoughtful steps.

In the first few pages, I found the best definition of devotion.

When love meets the soul, it becomes grace.

When grace makes us do good, it becomes charity.

When charity is practiced long enough and deep enough that we do good and do it carefully, frequently and promptly, that is devotion.

Step by little step. In friendship, in marriage, in both together.

I printed this sequence into my commonplace book to read and re-read.

L o v e. G r a c e. C h a r i t y.

C a r e f u l l y. F r e q u e n t l y. P r o m p t l y.

De Sales writing reminded me of Thomas Kelly's A Testament of Devotion and having a "sanctuary frame of mind".

Deep within us there is an amazing sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine center, a speaking Voice to which we may continually return.

A bridge.

I want to
carry the sanctuary frame of mind
out into the world,
into its turmoil and its fitfulness

At least I want to try and try hard. There is a heart to keep finding and my heart to surrender in little steps of devotion.

*Written at the Cherrywood Coffeehouse in Austin, Texas.

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