Thursday, December 31, 2009
Left click on picture to enlarge for details!
This is being hosted by The Aurora History Museum, The Aurora Library, Tollgate Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. You are most welcome to attend any of the events. This will be a wonderful opportunity for young and old to experience Colonial American history. On Sunday, January, 10th at 2:00 p.m. The Daughters of the American Revolution will be in period dress as will the Sons of the American Revolution. Members of the the Children of the American Revolution will be there as well. Admission is free.
Take The Link for a Clear View Here
Colorado rarely has such a wonderful opportunity to explore this part of our nation's history. I recommend this to teachers, schools or anyone who is interested in learning more about the period.
“John Adams Unbound” has been organized by the Boston Public Library and the American Library Association Public Programs Office. This traveling exhibition has been made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: great ideas brought to life. The Friends of the Aurora Public Library is serving as a local sponsor.
Once in a blue moon there is one on New Year's Eve. This year revelers ringing in 2010 will be treated to a so-called blue moon. According to popular definition, a blue moon is the second full moon in a month. But don't expect it to be blue — the name has nothing to do with the color of our closest celestial neighbor.
A full moon occurred on Dec. 2. It will appear again on Thursday in time for the New Year's countdown. The popular definition of blue moon came about after a writer for Sky & Telescope magazine in 1946 misinterpreted the Maine Farmer's Almanac and labeled a blue moon as the second full moon in a month. In fact, the almanac defined a blue moon as the third full moon in a season with four full moons, not the usual three.
"If you're in Times Square, you'll see the full moon right above you. It's going to be that brilliant," said Jack Horkheimer, director emeritus of the Miami Space Transit Planetarium and host of a weekly astronomy TV show.
The New Year's Eve blue moon will be visible in the United States, Canada, Europe, South America and Africa. For partygoers in Australia and Asia, the full moon does not show up until New Year's Day, making January a blue moon month for them.
However, the Eastern Hemisphere can celebrate with a partial lunar eclipse on New Year's Eve when part of the moon enters the Earth's shadow. The eclipse will not be visible in the Americas. A full moon occurs every 29.5 days, and most years have 12. On average, an extra full moon in a month — a blue moon — occurs every 2.5 years. The last time there was a lunar double take was in May 2007. New Year's Eve blue moons are rarer, occurring every 19 years. The last time was in 1990; the next one won't come again until 2028.
Even though a 'Blue moon' is just a name in the same sense as a `hunter's moon' or a `harvest moon,', I will still be out with my camera to capture what is sure to be a beautiful moon!
Happy New Year!
Monday, December 28, 2009
The Cathedral of St. John in the Wilderness in Denver, Colorado is the seat of the Bishop and the Cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado and part of the Episcopal Church in the United States. Construction began in 1909, the first service held in the cathedral in 1911, and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
Father John H. Kehler traveled from Virginia to the group of mining camps known as Denver City in January 1860 and delivered the first public services of the Episcopal Church in what would become Colorado Territory. He eventually established the parish of St. Johns in the Wilderness, so named because the nearest Episcopal parish was seven hundred miles away in Kansas.
The first Cathedral was at 20th and Welton and held its first services in 1881. Dean H. Martyn Hart was the first dean of the Cathedral, and he worked with other Denver clergy in 1887 to create the Denver Charity Organization. the first community charity solicitation fund in the United States - later renamed The United Way. The cornerstone for the current Cathedral was laid on January 24, 1909, and the first service held within on November 5, 1911. Of the original design, the two transepts, choir and great tower have never been built. Only the nave was completed of limestone with a "temporary" brick chancel. The height of the ceiling in the Nave is 65 feet. It is 185 feet long and 52 feet wide. In the intervening years it has come to contain much artwork of significance, including Oberammergau carvings (many from the 1st Cathedral) and stained glass from the Edward Frampton studios of London and the Charles J. Connick studios of Boston.
In 2010, the Cathedral will be celebrating an anniversary. Look for follow up articles and related pictures to commemorate the event.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Every pet owner is suppose to be in love with their pets. In the case of my dogs, it is the absolute truth. I have talked about them before with a cute picture and an anecdote here and there. But this Christmas I was feeling particularly charmed by their adorable behavior. So I decided to film them, well one of them playing in the snow. Mimi, my Papillon is a miniature polar bear. She loves the snow. Nothing stops her from rolling in it. Making "Snow Angels", or in her case "Snow Papillons is her speciality. She can do this on command. I adore her so and she is always by my side.
Cricket my Chihuahua doesn't much care for anything cold, water, snow, even a cold day. He is a fair weather dog and will bask in the sunshine like he is a little sun god. Now that his sister, Mimi is around he will make an attempt at trudging through the snow, but it's mostly for show. He would just a soon, I pick him up and preferably in a nice warm blanket and carry him while we are out side. Sorry little buddy, not going to happen.
I enjoyed putting them on film. They are loaded with personality. Did I ever mention they are trained in four, yes four languages?! I have to practice on someone and there are no grandchildren yet.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009
A song we all have certainly heard or sung in our lifetimes. Was it a Catholic protest song? The answers may confuse and surprise you, enlightened or better yet make you look closer at what you believe. That is my purpose and hopefully my accomplishment here. Good Tidings.
Spoiler Alert - "Hens and Eiffel Tower"
I received a newsletter from one of the many organizations I belong to, and in it was the following adaptation to the song we all have grown up with, The Twelve Days of Christmas. The Editor of the newsletter added that there was was a time from 1558 until 1829, when Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. It has been contended that "someone during this era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics. Could that whimsical song of the love and excessive gifting have an agenda behind it. Hmmmm.
So I thought for arguments sake, I would explore their claim. My gifts are wrapped, my tree is decorated. I have the time. So I hope you will take some to read what unfolds about these mysterious days of Christmas.
As presented with no altering:
"The Partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.
Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.
Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.
The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
The five golden rings recall the Torah or first five books of the Torah.
The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.
Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit
-Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership and Mercy.
The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.
Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit - Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self Control.
The Ten Lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.
The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.
The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles Creed."
So does it, I ask? When was the song first written and was it from Merry Old England?
The answers may surprise you.
The earliest well-known performance of the song was by English scholar James O. Halliwell in 1842, and he published a version in 4th edition The Nursery Rhymes of England (1846), collected principally from 'oral tradition'. The song had become traditional as early as the 16th century. Who sets tradition?
Those in power usually at the head of State or The Church. Is this a case of a song that has just grown in meaning over the years? Could be.
In the early 20th century, English composer Frederic Austin wrote an arrangement in which he added his melody from "Five golden rings" onwards which has since become standard. The copyright to this arrangement was registered in 1909 and is still active by its owners, Novello & Co. Limited.
The twelve days in the song are the twelve days from the day after Christmas (December 26) (Boxing Day or St. Stephen's Day, as being the feast day of St. Stephen Protomartyr) to the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6, or the Twelfth Day).
Although the specific origins of the chant are not known, it possibly began as a Twelfth Night "memories-and-forfeits" game, in which a leader recited a verse, each of the players repeated the verse, the leader added another verse, and so on until one of the players made a mistake, with the player who erred having to pay a penalty, such as offering up a kiss or a sweet. Other faiths have whimsical chants that are added to in fun.
This is how the game is offered up in its earliest known printed version, in the children's book Mirth without Mischief (c. 1780) published in England, which 100 years later Lady Gomme, a collector of folktales and rhymes, described playing every Twelfth Day night before eating mince pies and twelfth cake.
Twelfth Night is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as "the evening of the fifth of January, preceding Twelfth Day, the eve of the Epiphany, formerly the last day of the Christmas festivities and observed as a time of merrymaking."
The song apparently is older than the printed version, though it is not known how much older. Textual evidence indicates that the song was not English in origin, but possibly French, though it is considered an English carol. Three French versions of the song are known.
If the "partridge in a pear tree" of the English version is to be taken literally, then it seems as if the chant comes from France, since the red-legged (or French) partridge, which perches in trees more frequently than the native common (or grey) partridge, was not successfully introduced into England until about 1770.
Actual Red Legged French Partridge (Above)
So, one begins to think that the above information dispels the first.
The Twelve Days of Christmas is probably the most misunderstood part of the church year among Christians who are not part of liturgical church traditions. Contrary to much popular belief, these are not the twelve days before Christmas, but in most of the Western Church are the twelve days from Christmas until the beginning of Epiphany (January 6th; the 12 days count from December 25th until January 5th). In some traditions, the first day of Christmas begins on the evening of December 25th with the following day considered the First Day of Christmas (December 26th). In these traditions, the twelve days begin December 26 and include Epiphany on January 6.
Are you lost yet? Don't be.
The origin and counting of the Twelve Days is complicated, and is related to differences in calendars, church traditions, and ways to observe this holy day in various cultures (see Christmas). In the Western church, Epiphany is usually celebrated as the time the Wise Men or Magi arrived to present gifts to the young Jesus (Matt. 2:1-12). Traditionally there were three Magi, probably from the fact of three gifts, even though the biblical narrative never says how many Magi came. In some cultures, especially Hispanic and Latin American culture, January 6th is observed as Three Kings Day, or simply the Day of the Kings (Span: la Fiesta de Reyes, el Dia de los Tres Reyes, or el Dia de los Reyes Magos; Dutch: Driekoningendag). Even though December 25th is celebrated as Christmas in these cultures, January 6th is often the day for giving gifts. In some places it is traditional to give Christmas gifts for each of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Since Eastern Orthodox traditions use a different religious calendar, they celebrate Christmas on January 7th and observe Epiphany or Theophany on January 19th.
Aren't you sorry you asked now?
By the 16th century, some European and Scandinavian cultures had combined the Twelve Days of Christmas with (sometimes pagan) festivals celebrating the changing of the year. These were usually associated with driving away evil spirits for the start of the new year.
Paganism, it will reach up and bite us every time!
So if the the Twelfth Night is January 5th, and the last of the Christmas Season is before Epiphany (January 6th). Then of course there is the other Eastern timeline.
In some church traditions, January 5th is considered the eleventh Day of Christmas, while the evening of January 5th is still counted as the Twelfth Night, the beginning of the Twelfth day of Christmas the following day. Twelfth Night often included feasting along with the removal of Christmas decorations. French and English celebrations of Twelfth Night included a King's Cake, remembering the visit of the Three Magi, and ale or wine (a King's Cake is part of the observance of Mardi Gras in French Catholic culture of the Southern USA). In some cultures, the King's Cake was part of the celebration of the day of Epiphany.
The popular song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is usually seen as simply a nonsense song for children with secular origins. However, some have suggested that it is a song of Christian instruction, perhaps dating to the 16th century religious wars in England, with hidden references to the basic teachings of the Christian Faith. They contend that it was a mnemonic device to teach the catechism to youngsters. The "true love" mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The "me" who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the "days" represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn.
However, many have questioned the historical accuracy of this origin of the song The Twelve Days of Christmas. While some have trying to debunk this as an "urban myth" out of personal agendas, others have tried to deal with this account of the song's origin in the name of historical accuracy (see Snopes on The 12 Days of Christmas). There is little "hard" evidence available either way. Some church historians affirm this account as basically accurate, while others point out apparent historical and logical discrepancies.
However, we need to acknowledge that the "evidence" on both sides is mostly in logical deduction and probabilities. Lack of positive evidence does not automatically provide negative evidence. One Internet site devoted to debunking hoaxes and legends says that, "there is no substantive evidence to demonstrate that the song 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' was created or used as a secret means of preserving tenets of the Catholic faith, or that this claim is anything but a fanciful modern day speculation. . .." What is omitted is that there is no "substantive evidence" that will disprove it either.
It is certainly possible, in fact probable, that this view of the song is legendary or anecdotal. Without corroboration and in the absence of "substantive evidence," we probably should not take rigid positions on either side and turn the song into a crusade for personal opinions. That would do more to violate the spirit of Christmas than the song is worth.
So, for the sake of historical accuracy, we need to acknowledge that in likelihood the song had secular origins.
However, on another level, this should not prevent us from using the song in celebration of Christmas. Many of the symbols of Christianity were not originally religious, including even the present date of Christmas, but were appropriated from contemporary culture by the Christian Faith as vehicles of worship and proclamation. Perhaps, when all is said and done, historical accuracy is not really the point. Perhaps more important is that Christians can celebrate their rich heritage, and God's grace, through one more avenue this Christmas. Now, when they hear what they once thought was only a secular "nonsense song," they will be reminded in one more way of the grace of God working in transforming ways in their lives and in our world. After all, is that not the meaning of Christmas anyway?
Here is a Christian view of the song:
On the 1st day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
A Partridge in a Pear Tree or...
The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, whose birthday we celebrate on December 25, the first day of Christmas. In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge that feigns injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings, recalling the expression of Christ's sadness over the fate of Jerusalem: "Jerusalem! Jerusalem! How often would I have sheltered you under my wings, as a hen does her chicks, but you would not have it so . . . ." (Luke 13:34) How did we go from partridge to hen so quickly, I want to know?
On the 2nd day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Two Turtle Doves or...
The Old and New Testaments, which together bear witness to God's self-revelation in history and the creation of a people to tell the Story of God to the world. This bugs me for a whole host of reasons, but that is for another day.
On the 3rd day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Three French Hens or...
The Three Theological Virtues: 1) Faith, 2) Hope, and 3) Love (1 Corinthians 13:13)
Hmmm, I would have thought of the Trinity of, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit here myself.
On the 4th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Four Calling Birds or...
The Four Gospels: 1) Matthew, 2) Mark, 3) Luke, and 4) John, which proclaim the Good News of God's reconciliation of the world to Himself in Jesus Christ.
There were so many other Gospels that were not canonized. Note: The book of John is considered by theologians to be the newest and least verified. Also, Matthew never met Jesus, but I digress.
On the 5th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Five Gold Rings or....
The first Five Books of the Old Testament, known as the Torah or the Pentateuch: 1) Genesis, 2) Exodus, 3) Leviticus, 4) Numbers, and 5) Deuteronomy, which gives the history of humanity's sinful failure and God's response of grace in the creation of a people to be a light to the world.
On the 6th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Six Geese A-laying or....
The six days of creation that confesses God as Creator and Sustainer of the world (Genesis 1).
On the 7th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Seven Swans A-swimming or....
The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: 1) prophecy, 2) ministry, 3) teaching, 4) exhortation, 5) giving, 6) leading, and 7) compassion (Romans 12:6-8; cf. 1 Corinthians 12:8-11) I would tend towards the Sabbath, since it is one of the 10 original commandments. Just a thought!
On the 8th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Eight Maids A-milking or....
The eight Beatitudes: 1) Blessed are the poor in spirit, 2) those who mourn, 3) the meek, 4) those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, 5) the merciful, 6) the pure in heart, 7) the peacemakers, 8) those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake. (Matthew 5:3-10)
On the 9th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Nine Ladies Dancing or....
The nine Fruit of the Holy Spirit: 1) love, 2) joy, 3) peace, 4) patience, 5) kindness, 6) generosity, 7) faithfulness, 8) gentleness, and 9) self-control. (Galatians 5:22)
On the 10th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Ten Lords A-leaping or....
The ten commandments: 1) You shall have no other gods before me; 2) Do not make an idol; 3) Do not take God's name in vain; 4) Remember the Sabbath Day; 5) Honor your father and mother; 6) Do not murder; 7) Do not commit adultery; 8) Do not steal; 9) Do not bear false witness; 10) Do not covet. (Exodus 20:1-17)
On the 11th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Eleven Pipers Piping or.....
The eleven Faithful Apostles: 1) Simon Peter, 2) Andrew, 3) James, 4) John, 5) Philip, 6) Bartholomew, 7) Matthew, 8) Thomas, 9) James bar Alphaeus, 10) Simon the Zealot, 11) Judas bar James. (Luke 6:14-16). The list does not include the twelfth disciple, Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus to the religious leaders and the Romans.
On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Twelve Drummers Drumming or....
The twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles' Creed: 1) I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. 2) I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. 3) He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. 4) He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell . 5) On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. 6) He will come again to judge the living and the dead. 7) I believe in the Holy Spirit, 8) the holy catholic Church, 9) the communion of saints, 10) the forgiveness of sins, 11) the resurrection of the body, 12) and life everlasting.
It doesn't fit the twelve model very well here. I would have picked the Twelve Tribes of Israel myself. But it is easy to see from this telling that this was placed on a Catholic model of faith. But I sincerely doubt it was a protest song to help teach poor mistreated Catholics their catchecism. It is too complicated for one, and a great number of those it was suppose to teach were unable to read or understand the Latin mass.
This is a nice neat package. Christianity as you know, has never been that as church history can tell you in vivid color, usually red... like blood. So be it far from me to tell you what to believe, or what symbolism you should or should not attached to a simple Christmas song. Please enjoy Christmas for it's truest meaning. Which by the way is the birth of Jesus.
Hey there is a can of worms....
Is Christmas really the birth of Jesus? Theologians are not really sure even what year it took place, or what month. The day was set by the early church as December 24th, to appease the followers in Rome of the cult of Mithra, the Roman god of the eternal sun. Also keep in mind that there are no records of the first three hundred years of the early church that have survivied.
In Rome, where winters were not as harsh as those in the far north, Saturnalia—a holiday in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture—was celebrated. Beginning in the week leading up to the winter solstice and continuing for a full month, Saturnalia was a hedonistic time, when food and drink were plentiful and the normal Roman social order was turned upside down. For a month, slaves would become masters. Peasants were in command of the city. Business and schools were closed so that everyone could join in the fun.
Also around the time of the winter solstice, Romans observed Juvenalia, a feast honoring the children of Rome. In addition, members of the upper classes often celebrated the birthday of Mithra, the god of the unconquerable sun, on December 25. It was believed that Mithra, an infant god, was born of a rock. For some Romans, Mithra's birthday was the most sacred day of the year.
In the early years of Christianity, Easter was the main holiday; the birth of Jesus was not celebrated. In the fourth century, church officials decided to institute the birth of Jesus as a holiday. Unfortunately, the Bible does not mention date for his birth (a fact Puritans later pointed out in order to deny the legitimacy of the celebration). Although some evidence suggests that his birth may have occurred in the spring (why would shepherds be herding in the middle of winter?), Pope Julius I chose December 25. It is commonly believed that the church chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival. First called the Feast of the Nativity, the custom spread to Egypt by 432 and to England by the end of the sixth century. By the end of the eighth century, the celebration of Christmas had spread all the way to Scandinavia. Today, in the Greek and Russian orthodox churches, Christmas is celebrated 13 days after the 25th, which is also referred to as the Epiphany or Three Kings Day. This is the day it is believed that the three wise men finally found Jesus in the manger.
By holding Christmas at the same time as traditional winter solstice festivals, church leaders increased the chances that Christmas would be popularly embraced, but gave up the ability to dictate how it was celebrated. By the Middle Ages, Christianity had, for the most part, replaced pagan religion.
On Christmas, believers attended church, then celebrated raucously in a drunken, carnival-like atmosphere similar to today's Mardi Gras. Each year, a beggar or student would be crowned the "lord of misrule" and eager celebrants played the part of his subjects. The poor would go to the houses of the rich and demand their best food and drink. If owners failed to comply, their visitors would most likely terrorize them with mischief. Christmas became the time of year when the upper classes could repay their real or imagined "debt" to society by entertaining less fortunate citizens.
Here is an interesting perspective
Here is another creative take
Gee, and I used to enjoy this fun song.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Photograph by Christine McClintock Copyright 2009
The cold clouds descend on this beautiful city at the base of the Rockies like a thick blanket. It is anything but warm for the people on the streets, the people of the streets. The thousands of countless humans who due to the loss of a job, family death, divorce, abuse, mental illness, or just grinding poverty are for some reason without a home in this beautiful city that once brought fortune seekers from afar for the color of the rocks in the hills , a place some still called paradise. For the homeless of Denver however and many cities in throughout the United States, hell is a place on earth.
One cannot help but see the huddled group of humans who wait so late at night at the bus stop. They want only to exchange their cold tired bodies for a bit of warmth on the bus. The lucky ones have already found a place for the night. For too many though, the night is a fight to stay alive and warm riding around the city all night on one of a few city bus that run.
Underneath all the layers of clothing some of the people who patiently wait for the warmth of the bus are women. One glance certainly does not betray their gender until you hear them speak in feminine tones. For many reasons including safety, they do not want to draw attention to their sex. They are women warriors each and everyone. They have fallen off the grid, lost home and hearth, children, and families. Many have spent time in prison. They have paid their debt to society but now must rebuild their lives. These are scary times for everyone. There are layoffs and companies closing their doors everyday and their numbers grow. Each one feels the pressure on the street but no one feels the threat of danger like homeless women.
Her name is Naomi for the sake of this story. She is a 53 year old woman. Her eyes are much older than her years. You can tell by the way she carries herself she is cautious and very alert to her environment. She makes no apologies for her homelessness. She was kicked out of her apartment when she and her husband of 12 years divorced. She has some medical training but nothing that pays much over the minimum wage. So she is forced to leave one of the only women shelters on a bus early each morning to show up at a site for day laborers. That is when her real battle begins. For in this society of the homeless she is competing for jobs that the homeless men feel should be theirs by right of their sex. The old sometimes forgotten notion, that each woman in the work place is taking a job from a homeless man is still alive and well. She takes constant harassment from the men who stand in line for work. She must hold her ground with these men to have the opportunity many of us take for granted each day. She tells them to leave her alone. She has the right to work. They disagree and make threatening gestures. She turns her back today to their threats. She is lucky and picked to work. By the time her day is over she will hold barely $40.00 in her hand and the work will be hard. For the 12 to 14 hours it takes her to earn it, she is making only $3.00 hour. She takes the bus home to the shelter and waits to have dinner, a bath and her bed. She is one of the lucky ones she says.
Many of the women at the shelter are fragile, some are sick and in need of medical care. Tammy has pneumonia and is suffering from a high fever. She has one little pouch of instant soup. If she could stop shaking so hard she could pour the contents of the envelope into a cup and try to ease her aching body. I stop and first ask for permission to help her, and then like a mother open the contents and make her soup for her. She says a tiny thank-you and disappears into the rooms of the shelter.
The rest of the women begin to line up for the evening meal. The kitchen staff have been busy making sure everything is ready for the 60 or so hungry women. Volunteers line up on one side of the counter to serve each woman her dinner according to her likes. Politeness is exchanged, but nothing more. There is a wall and both sides know it. I am there to serve often and afterwards I go and sit down with the women to eat. Some volunteers cannot do this. It is too uncomfortable for them. But I insist, because I want to learn from these incredibly strong women. They are truly survivors. I am not there for small talk. I am there to listen and what I hear sometimes scares me. The veil that separates me from them is but a whisper, one month of bad luck, an accident or serious illness or abusive relationship. I could be one of them, any one of us could for that matter.
All the women call her “Momma,” for reasons I do not know. She is morbidly obese and has to use a walker. They all file up to say hello to her during the meal. She talks about her children, one housed at Canyon City, a prison for men in Colorado, and her daughter who is incarcerated in a prison for women here in Colorado. She has heard from both of them and knows who had a nice meal for Thanksgiving and who wasn’t so lucky. I try not to show my horror over her acceptance of the plight of herself as homeless and her children’s current predicaments. But Momma is proud of her children and speaks not of the crimes that put them there, but the special privileges each has been able to earn while in prison. One notices right away the women who have just been release from prison at the shelter. They each have a shuffled walk and all look down and do not speak. It will take each months to drop the prison stance. The sooner, the better for they show it in every fiber of their bodies, every glance around the room. Momma seems content to be homeless and I would say she makes no plans to change her life. She feels she is where she should be and her children are taken care of by the State. I shake my head as this woman wants no more than what she has, learned homelessness. To her it is a way of life.
The experience of serving at a homeless shelter for women has brought me closer to the plight of women in our country. Through time spent, I have begun to see that life is hard on anyone who is homeless, but harder for a woman. These women are truly stronger than they give themselves credit for and softer than they will ever admit. But they are still here and fighting to stay alive in a city so many still think as paradise, but for some has lost it’s golden shine. It is just another day in paradise from a different perspective, one I have come to understand.
By Christine McClintock Copyright 2009