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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Unsettled Chapter 45 "Familiar Rhythms"

This was origianally Part IV-A of chapteer 43.
There is a word that reoccurs in my writing because it so often shapes my understanding of things. It’s a common word, but for much of my life I couldn’t spell it. Six letters, two syllables, and not a vowel in sight. I’d move the six letters back and forth until they looked right, but even then I often got it wrong. This tango of letters was ironic because the word I’m talking about is… rhythm. (I know, I know, I said “not a vowel in sight,” but Y is a pinch-hitter.) 

Then one day I noticed within those six letters is a kind of… rhythm...with an “h” in the middle of both halves. Ever since, I’ve not misspelled it. But enough about my accomplishments. There is an actual point to my introduction of this word before adding Part IV-B.

I should clarify that I’m not talking about the Fred Astaire kind of rhythm needed for song and dance.
I’m talking about the patterns of life kind of rhythm. Those that go unnoticed like breathing or are natural like the seasons or personal like haircuts. And most importantly those patterns we impose upon our lives, the ones meant to be shared such as meals, chores, worship, holidays, and traditions.

The Rhythm
Life is danced to rhythms
we soon forget are there.
The blink of eyes, the beat of hearts,
the breath and sigh of air
are lost to cycles of the sun
and pass with little care.
They slip our mind as measures
in time until we're unaware
we wake t’thm, walk t’thm,
work t’thm, talk t’thm,
laugh t’thm, cry t’thm,
live t’thm... die t’thm.
It becomes a most ungraceful dance
when we ignore the Hand that grants
the Grace and gently taps... the rhythm.
© Copyright 2007, TK, Patterns of Ink
When you think about it, rhythm is simply the relationship between specific moments and the continuum of time. In music, those moments are obvious because they are audible and sometimes make us tap our feet, but rhythm can play out in all of the senses. Waves lapping over your ankles at the water’s edge provide audible, visual, and tactile rhythm. The smell of coffee in the morning or a roast in the oven every Sunday after church are aromatic rhythms.

What has any of this got to do with the question of this last section of Unsettled: What makes a house a home? I’m getting there.

These sensory rhythms are somewhat universal like the smell of bread, but they become unique and tied to specific moments and places and people as a family lives under one roof. Over time the rhythms and pace become synchronized to various degrees. Never perfectly; rarely in unison; sometimes in harmony. But this ebb and flow is the essential essence of shared life. It gives meaning to familiar sights and sounds and smells and expectations we associate with home.

The rhythm of quiet expectation is a powerful thing. I don’t mean the big expectations of life—the new bike for Christmas or a promotion at work. I mean the thousands of daily unstated expectations that are routinely met through family interaction. We expect certain things of each other: courtesy, etiquette, company, favors, chores, and in this give and take there is a rhythm. For a child, sometimes the patterns are as soft as being tucked into bed at night, sometimes they're as stern as a properly applied spanking, and each pattern equally shows a parent's love. As we grow older, the expectations change.

Likewise there is rhytym in the expectations of our surroundings. We expect certain things upon entering the spaces we call home: sheet music in the piano bench, tools in the work bench, pictures on the wall, a thimble in the sewing drawer, and boots in the cubby-hole behind the back door. Basically the things about our homes that we could find blind-folded...these things are part of the sensory rhythm we call familiarity (a word derived, of course, from family). Each time these countless expectations are met, there is rhythm. Even finding certain things out-of-place can become a recognizable pattern—so much so that parents know which child's name to call first to correct the situation.

These familiar rhythms are not necessarily“right” or “wrong.” They can in fact be quirky. My wife’s grandmother saved used bread bags in the third kitchen drawer on the right. My mother saved folded paper grocery bags between the refrigerator and the wall. Every home is a blend of quirky patterns and rhythms that make it both unique and more familiar to those who know the quirks. In this respect, familiarity is simply the rhythm of finding things or people as you remember them to be.

Family rhythms are passed from generation to generation by observation and instruction, but the best form of "generational overlap" is story. Knowing the story behind a toaster, a roaster, a bucket of old tools, or even an antique vaccum sweeper...gives surprising insight to the lives that preceded our own. Each generation boasts of its desire for change, and change can be needed and good, but there is also a basic need for continuity in our lives. Stability is maintained by allowing the past to overlap with the present, not to prevent change, but to give change direction and perspective and to perpetuate the ideals that should never change.

Ideally, the rhythm of having needs met and meeting the needs of others becomes as natural as breathing. Unfortunately it's then that it goes unnoticed. But noticed or not, it fosters the unselfish interdependence and agápē love that is the tie that binds a marriage, a family, a home together from generation to generation. This can happen in a shack or a mansion, in a skyline apartment or a basement. But wherever it takes place, a rhythm of familiarity, meeting needs, and showing love generate that feeling of “home” and a sense of belonging.

I began that last paragraph with the word ideally because it is an ideal and not always a reality. Some homes have no rhythm, no continuity, no security, no “feeling of home.” Some people hunger for it but have no patterns upon which to make it true for the home they wish to build. Others scoff at the kind of home I attempt to portray in these chapters. Because the ideals have tarnished, they think no such place exists. Hollywood and TV have created an entire genre of dysfunctional family films and sit-coms as if to set lower "norms," to laugh at our brokenness, and to celebrate a collective rejection of the quaint but unattainable ideals of the past. Heaven help us.

My purpose in sharing the patterns of my childhood family is not to depict a perfect home for no such place exists. Wherever life and space are shared, there will be dissonant days, times when the rhythms clash, voices rise, paces change, and everyone is out of step or stepping out. Proverbs 10:12 says, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” I like the way it reads in The Message: “love pulls a quilt over the bickering." Ideally, Home is where that happens.

Home is a hearth for the buoyant and the broken heart. It is where the vow "for better or for worse" plays out. It is where the dust settles, where our offenses and foibles are treated the way my mom treated spots on a tablecloth. We did our best to prevent them, to undo them, and forgive the cause, but sometimes the shadow remained. Mom would simply cover the spot with a serving plate, and we gathered ‘round the table, joined hands to pray, and passed the food to the right.
The next chapter will be added here before the New Year. Thanks for sticking with this story this year and for reading this final post in installments. It has been written with continued input from all of my siblings over this Christmas Break. They are all coming to my house Thursday for New Years.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep posting stuff like this i really like it

23/1/10 6:38 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Thanks for coming by. I'll do my best. Glad you enjoy reading here.

28/1/10 3:28 PM  

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