An Essay on the Website of
the Red Dirt Writers Society

History and Healing on a Windowsill
by Brenda O'Hern Six (May 2011)

        The history of the earth sits on a windowsill above my kitchen sink. Only clutter, to the average person, uneducated in the past of each what-not. Standing at the sink, pouring hot tea from kettle to large pitcher, I watch as steam rises and dissipates in front of this row of epic past. The giant television in an adjacent living room blares a repeating soundtrack of the world’s latest shocking news. Darkness beyond the window glass provides a dramatic backdrop as I listen, make tea, and contemplate each odd object.

        On the far left, behind a hanging fruit basket, lies a small collection of wine bottle corks. Small, because wine is a sparse companion in my life. Coming from a family with alcoholic history, it seems best to keep things that way. Luckily, I do not like the taste of wine unless it is extremely sweet, not much stronger than grape juice really. But sometimes, remembering what Paul wrote to Timothy; I do have a glass, on rare occasion, when my gallbladder acts up. “Take a little wine for your stomach,” Paul wrote to his friend, about two thousand years ago. Paul’s advice, along with some grapefruit juice and fish oil pills, gets the rebellious gallbladder back on track. Smart man, that Paul.

        Next to the wine corks, is a small brown bottle labeled “Myrrh”. There quite by chance, purchased for its medicinal qualities. I plopped it on the ledge one Christmas, with a sentimental thought to the herb’s past in the nativity scene. Now, as the sound of fear booms in from the living quarters, I suddenly realize that the wine stoppers are lying next to the myrrh. It seems, at this moment, no small coincidence that Jesus was offered wine mixed with gall and myrrh at the end of his life. The mixture was meant to shorten and deaden his pain, yet Jesus turned it away. Hours of pain later, his body was hastily anointed with a mixture of Myrrh and aloe, and then buried. Days later, women came to properly prepare the body of their loved one. Did they carry myrrh with them? Probably.

        Standing at my kitchen sink, in a trance caught between the ages; I stare at this little dark bottle of Myrrh, and picture a small vessel of clay, lying on a dirt path, next to an empty tomb. Dropped by women in haste to tell the news. Oily contents spilling out of broken pottery, a flowing dark line of aromatic mud on vacant path.

        Next to the myrrh a few strange little ‘rocks’ are propped up together. The first is a round blob of fossils, picked up on a childhood road trip across the USA. They seem to be sea shells of some sort. The memory of its discovery has faded with time. Did my late father proudly show our family this unusual treasure on a mountain Colorado? Or was it New Mexico on a dusty path? Either place seems odd to have once housed an ocean. Which ocean? I wonder. Noah’s flood? Or just another day that land and ocean decided to trade places?

        The next little collectible is a piece of cement like pottery, found a few years ago in Rome. It was buried the dirt of the abandoned Circus Maximus. Our family had been walking all day, seeing the sights of the Eternal City. We had heard the remains of the Circus Maximus were nothing more than a huge, empty piece of ground, once used for a garbage dump. Still, we wanted to see it, so out of the way we walked some more. Hot and exhausted, our group fanned out, each finding a spot of grass to sit, rest and stare at this huge race track shaped indention in the middle of the bustling city. I noticed a stone, with right edges, obviously cut by man, sticking out of the gravel driving path, so I dug away and placed it in my bag. (Don’t tell the Romans.) (Hey, they were just driving on it.) I asked the kids to look and they found another rock, shaped just like the first. One of the munchkins handed a little 2 inch stone to me, saying that it was a “weird color”. I decided it would make a good tool to dig with, and, when finished, placed it with the other two rocks. It was only after we had returned back to Oklahoma, and stones from hills and roadsides in Germany, Italy, and Switzerland, were unceremoniously dumped in flower beds and potted plants, that I noticed a small carved pattern, washed the little stone off and placed it in the window sill.

        Newscasters quote statistics from the tube in the next room, words like “fatalities” and “estimated damages” float in the air.

        I listen, still gazing at the stones in front of me. Questions flit through my mind. Why did the Circus Maximus burn, starting the mega fire that destroyed so much of Rome? Why did God allow the blame for that horrible event to be placed upon all Christians? Maybe, just like the Christians in Judea, they were too comfortable, and the resulting disasters and persecution caused them to get out of their comfort zone, and move into new territories.

        Is that the purpose disaster serves? To move man forward? Not always. Next to the tiny remnant of Rome, are two similar remnants of Pompeii. (Don’t tell the people of Pompeii.) (On second thought, you can tell them. They aren’t there any longer. Both people and rocks, lost and later found in the dust underfoot.) Our family stepped into a time machine, and walked the streets of those long gone. Our children pretended to shop at the store front counters along the market street. A few blocks later, their father and I and had to distract them so they would not see the shockingly graphic art on walls of one of the many side street brothels.

        Next to the traces of European civilization past, is an Aloe Vera plant. It, like the myrrh, purchased for medicinal qualities, both used as a healing salve, and pain killing tonic. Both ancient remedies that were nearly left behind by advanced modern medicine.

        Remember the mention, a few paragraphs above, that Christ was wrapped in both myrrh and aloe?

        But it is not the Biblical reference that causes this aloe to reside on my windowsill. My mom always kept aloe plants around, to use for burns, as did her mother before her. I like having aloe in the house also, not only for the occasional cooking injury, but more because aloe reminds me of mom, Grandma Lucy, and our Native American ancestors. It is said that Lucy’s mother -my great Grandmother- was full blood Cherokee. Somewhere around here, there is a copy of her name in a Native American “Roll” book.

        When grown, Lucy refused to add her own name to the US Indian rolls. She said that she didn’t want “charity”, or to be on any Government “lists.” To her, it was no business of the government who she was or where she lived, and she did not want their “hand outs.” My memories of Lucy are few, and those are of a stern woman who rarely smiled, and had dreams that warned her of the deaths of her loved ones. She was a Christian, Religious, yet very superstitious. I think that she would have fit in well with her Native American Ancestors.

        Cherokees are an interesting group. According to some resources, the Cherokee had two names for the one God they worshipped. “Unelanvhi” means “the Creator,” or “Maker of all things,” and “Galvlati chi” means “the one who dwells above.” As time, other tribes, and Christian white men, flowed through their civilization; it seems that new names for their one God developed in their culture: “The Great Spirit” and “Yehowah” are seen on some records.

        The Cherokee themselves, like their God, had a name change along the way; some say the Muskogee Creek tribe gave the Cherokee their name in similar Creek words that mean “speakers of another tongue”. Others say it was the Choctaw who called them “those who live in the mountains”. To the Cherokee, their current name is a derivation of their own word “Tsalagi”; the word they use for themselves and their language. The oldest name for the Cherokees, the name that they gave themselves in history past, is Aniyvwiyai, which means “the principle people.” In other words -“People of God.”

        From the living room comes the latest bit of news, more death, more destruction, the entire earth seems to gasp in pain. I’m reminded of the scripture “There will be wars, and rumors of wars, and nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be earthquakes in various places, and famines, these are only the beginning of the birth pains.”

        What child is to be birthed by this earth? …Is it the Church completed by the very last soul saved? What fills the belly of this giant that we walk upon?... The wrath of a Holy God? What fills the molten womb until it can hold no more? …The souls of the dead?

        If that be the case, how many souls can death hold? Proverbs says the grave will never say “enough.” Maybe not the grave, but what about God? I have a feeling that one day God himself will say “enough.” Enough of this fallen, decaying planet, enough of this battle, enough of this sin, enough of this life on this present earth.

        Quickly to comfort myself, I think of the promise in Genesis: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”

That verse is often misquoted, by people who claim life as we know it now will continue forever. They seem to forget the first words in the verse, “While the earth remains.” It’s like a teacher telling the class, “While you remain in this room; these are the rules.” The very statement itself implies that at some point, the “remaining” will, itself, cease. However, at the moment, the pattern remains.

        On the front edge of my window sill sits a Jewish dreidel, a gift brought back from Jerusalem by my military son. I think of the special kind of fear and worry, that comes with knowing that your child is in a war zone. Then, I force my mind to leave that rabbit trail, and shift thoughts. I cannot allow myself to think back to yet another child in danger at this moment.

        The tea is made and poured into a lovely white tea cup. I sip, and like Goldilocks, find the cup too cool. But Goldilocks had no microwave. No international satellite news. No windowsill to stare at. I lean against the opposite cabinet, and wait for the neon numbers to tick down.

        Behind the dreidel, is an antique glass inkwell, given to me by my mother, when I was still a child. The loss of my mother is still too fresh, so instead of thinking of her, I force myself to remember childhood days in our sunroom, and Momma hovering over me as I dip a fountain pen in ink and write. It always took a lot of pleading, to be allowed to touch those precious items from Mother’s collection from scribes past. Mom and Dad both taught me, as a child, that to be able to read and write was a miracle, passed down from ancient days. They had books on things such as Egyptian Hieroglyphics and the Rosetta Stone.

        I pick up the dreidle and glance at the Hebrew text on the souvenir, and wonder what it says. The microwave bell “dings’” and I take out the cup and begin to sip the warm tea, still standing against the cabinets, not wanting to return to the living room and see the news that invades the peace of my kitchen with its sound.

        Next to the dreidel in the forefront, is a whimsical, plastic, teeny toy sea turtle; the prize from a German Chocolate Kinder Egg. The eggs aren’t allowed here in America. We don’t put tiny toys inside of our food for children. Too Dangerous. Too bad. So instead, we, along with a million other Americans, smuggle the egg cartons home from trips abroad. (Shh. Don’t tell US Customs.) (Actually, you can tell them because they already know. On one trip the customs agent by the luggage X-ray asked, “You wouldn’t have any candy in there, now would you?” “Not if I’m not supposed to,” I replied with a slight smile. “Ok, he said. "Good thing, because you’re not supposed to.”) Yes. I know that it is a sin to tell a lie.

        Funny things happen as you run to and fro on the face of the earth. We have been planning to visit a grown child in Asia, in the coming summer. “Lord willing, and if the creek don’t rise” I always say. The phrase drives my children crazy, (more the reason to repeat it.) I always remind them that it is true statement. The Bible says not to boast about what you are going to do tomorrow. “What is your life, but a vapor that passes away.” So we say, “If the Lord wills, we shall do such and such tomorrow.”

        Strange are the thoughts one thinks while mixing up a pitcher of tea in the midst of world cataclysms, Thoughts of blessings and cursings, miracles and mournings.

The Bible says the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike. It says that the race is not always to the swiftest, but time and chance happen to all.

        In the far right corner of my granite window sill ledge, is yet another aloe plant, with a clear glass container. Positioned in the container, so as to be readable from the sink, is a small slip of paper from a Chinese/Christian fortune cookie. The fortune reads, “The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.”

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