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Posts Tagged ‘Ann Tyler’

“Confiscation of property” goes back a long, long time in the guise of political necessity or religious cleansing. Could I let go of my stuff willingly in the face of injustice?


Hebrews 10:34
You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.

As a first generation American, stories abounded at the dinner table about the terrible losses our family and their friends suffered at the hands of both the Nazis and Communists during WWII.

When I met my half-sister for the first time in Latvia, 1997, she regaled me with stories about “our” father in his youth and then the terrible time of flight from oncoming forces, first from the West and then from the East. Karlis, in fear of conscription, fled his farmland and hoped his wife and child would be safe enough. Instead, the communists came through and took the land, giving the women only a few days to gather what they could carry and flee to the city of Riga. Once there, they were never united with my father again, who was caught by the Germans and forced into service as a guard.

They lost everything. This is just one family’s story, but of course, just a quick look at a newspaper shows entire villages fleeing for their lives, bundles piled upon their heads. They take what they can carry and no more.

What would I take? What is the most valuable? Would I lug out my laptop or my hard drive? Albums of pictures? My bible? Which clothes? How much can I really carry? Would I get the cat carriers, the dog leashes, the plant I’ve nurtured over 30 years of marriage?

No. Not really. These are the things of the “matrix.” No matter how tender I may feel toward them all, there is really just life itself and faith in the eternal Spirit.

One of my favorite Ann Tyler books is Ladder of Years: the main character walks away from her family and leaves everything, including them, during a beach vacation. Naturally, she causes her family some chaos and pain and concern, but for me, the tantalizing part is her slow discovery of self without the stuff that had come to rule her identity. She walked until she couldn’t walk anymore. She hitched a ride, she ended up in a boarding house room and there she stayed for a long time. She had nothing. And yet, she had everything she needed to live on.

Sometimes it’s a storm, a Tsunami, a tornado, that takes away our possessions. And there is no way to minimize the dreadful sense of loss. And yet, if life remains, then spirit remains, and anything is possible next.

Will that day of challenge come into my life still? Could be. Yes. Could be.

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