Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning

Monday, December 28, 2020

Those who inhabit us

I believe that we carry within us the strength of generations and that we, too, are inhabited by those who have gone before, by their brokenness and the pain that their decisions have sometimes inflicted upon us, yes, but also by their wisdom, by the courage of their choices made for healing and freedom.  There are wise ones who inhabit our blood, their dreams and hope flowing through us, their voices echoing in the pounding of our hearts.

                     Jan Richardson  In Wisdoms Path  p. 29



I barely knew my grandparents

distance and death took their toll

and they were early gone, leaving behind vague memories


Grandpa Kliewer, that tall, distinguished one

Peter Albert was a fitting name for this Mennonite minister

who, ravaged by the Spanish flu, was often ill

and often lay in bed in a back room, a mystery

but sometimes emerged with a kind smile

and held me proudly, the first Kliewer grandson


Grandmother Kliewer

the power in the family, that one with stern visage

who never quite accepted my mother,

but had a weakness for Chinese checkers

because playing cards was a “sin” (as were many, many other things)

and would play for hours with her young grandson


that one who pushed my gentle grandfather into

a semblance of sternness and impelled him into the local

bars to “rescue the sinners”

when he would much rather play baseball with the team he formed

with his Cheyenne brothers


Peter was inclusive, not imposing his white culture on the Cheyenne

he served, but translating much into their language, and valuing their culture


You did not cross Grandmother Kliewer

You did not slouch, or put your elbows on the table

But you could still make her smile


Grandfather Fairbanks, the descendent of early settlers

his family coming to America in 1635, and building

the Fairbanks House (which still stands in Dedham, Mass)

people of prominence and wealth


But grandpa was simple soul

Short and thin, with a huge flock of white hair

he lived a hard scrabble life, eking a living from the hard ground

of southeast Nebraska, a dirt farmer

who never owned a tractor, only horses

and whose house never had running water


but his poverty was delightful in my innocence

baths taken on the back porch, with water heated on a wood stove

loose hay in the barn, an outhouse in the back yard

possum hunts

trips to check the catfish lines in the channels, and searches for crawdads

lightening bugs flickering in the evening

He worked hard, and smoked hard, and died of emphysema far too young


Grandma was short and round

And filled the house with the scent of fried catfish and other wonders

An immigrant, fresh from Switzerland, I have no idea

How she came to Nebraska, or met my small and quiet grandfather,

But they fit together, comfortably, and raised many children, including my mother

And after grandpa’s death stayed on the farm (now plumbed by my parents)

And with the help of some sons, stayed there for many years

Watching her soap operas with passion


The blood of these people flows in my veins

The devote kindness of Peter Albert Kliewer

The stubborn intensity of Katherine Ruth Braun Kliewer

The love of the soil of James Fairbanks

And the resilience of Emma Deutschman Fairbanks


They passed on so much to my parents

Paul Kliewer, and Mavis Fairbanks Kliewer

Those qualities of service, even servanthood

That awareness of common good

The stubbornness, and intensity

The persistence

That driven need to work and accomplish

The love


for good and for ill, the blood of these people

flowed in the veins of my parents, and now

flows in my veins


They were shaped by time and the history of the world

by depressions and wars

Impacted by the history of their bodies

with emphysema and heart damage (due to the Spanish flu)

and cancer and bulbar palsy


Shaped by all that

They shaped my parents

Who shaped me


And I suspect I have passed on

both the best and the world to my children


“There are wise ones who inhabit my blood,

their dreams and hope flowing through me,

their voices echoing in the pounding of my heart,”


we may walk through a chaotic and scary world

but we do not walk alone

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