"I close my eyes,
only for a moment,
and the moment's gone
All my dreams,
pass before my eyes,
Dust in the wind,
all they are is dust in the wind...."
The actual sound of, and the lyrics to, Kansas' "Dust in the Wind," always make me want to cry softly in my pillow for something I can't quite put my finger on. But, it was the first song that tiptoed across my heart when, a few weeks ago, I found this statement, by Anne Frank, scribbled on a piece of notebook paper in an old journal:
"I have one outstanding trait in my character, which must strike anyone who knows me for any length of time, and that is my knowledge of myself.
I can watch myself and my actions, just like an outsider. The Anne of every day, I can face entirely without prejudice, without making excuses for her, and watch what's good and what's bad about her.
This 'self-consciousness' haunts me, and every time I open my mouth I know as soon as I've spoken whether 'that ought to have been different' or 'that was right as it was.'
There are so many things about myself that I condemn; I couldn't begin to name them all. I understand more and more how true Daddy's words were when he said: 'All children must look after their own upbringing.'
Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands."
I haven't been able to let it go. It sits on my desk as a reminder...a haunting reminder of the inconsequence of "age" in assessing a "child's" spiritual maturity, and self-awareness.
In 1945, Holocaust victim Annelies Marie Frank, passed on at the age of fifteen, while interred as a prisoner in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. She is best known as the author of "The Diary of a Young Girl," which records her family's experience, while in hiding (before their capture, separation, and imprisonment), during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam. The pathos, and power, of its heart-rending honesty have been wept over by readers of all ages since its publication in 1947.
It's impact on my girlhood was life-altering. I began journaling. I felt like I had a friend in Anne. She was a girl like me. She found herself in a situation that often left her feeling a bit discouraged, but she never stopped dreaming about love, finding life-purpose in the simple act of recording her thoughts, and living with a heart full of hope.
In relationship to Anne, I especially remember being twelve. In so many ways, I felt helpless. I didn't have many friends because we moved so often. Sometimes I was overwhelmed by my family...they were wonderful, but there were so many of them. Mom, dad, and five siblings all cozied (or crowded) up together in one little house, after another. And once the twins came along..some years later, we would be a family of ten.
I remember one particular Saturday when, while wandering the stacks at the public library...unable to decide on the next book to disappear into...when I came across my old friend, Anne's slim volume, tucked between two fat novels.
I'd read "The Diary of a Young Girl" a number of times before, but that particular day it was like walking down the street of a foreign city, feeling terribly lonely, unable to speak the language, and then, quite serendipitously, running into an old friend. Every plan you have had, up till that moment, for how you might spend the day, disappears like "Dust in the Wind," and you can't imagine doing anything but sitting across from her, and listening, and listening...just catching up.
I pulled the small, slim, clothbound book, from between the broad shoulders of her beefy shelfmates, and took it to a quiet corner filled with sunlight. There, I fell into the hidden rooms, the whispered dinners, the unspoken fears, the closeted spaces of the Frank family...their courage, their simple joys, the sweet affection, their terrifying ordeal...through their daughter's eyes, and her musings on love and hope. As the sun moved from east to west that day, my family complaints...our tiny house, the cacophony of sharing a small bedroom with three sisters, a tight budget, and no privacy...all seemed so silly, petty, selfish, the annoyances of a selfish child...not the concerns of a person of character, courage, self-knowledge, and grace. Not the concerns of someone worthy of being Anne Frank's friend.
I read it through, completely, from cover-to-cover, before I left the library that day. Then I carried it to the librarian's desk and checked it out. I needed to take Anne home with me. She would think that my family privileged, living like American royalty. Open windows, fresh air, full tummies, baths. So that I wouldn't forget what I had, I would also visit her home "in hiding" again, and again, before returning her diary to the library when it was due. Later I would buy my own copy of her diary from the dusty shelves of a used bookstore. I think my visits with Anne's family, changed the kind of daughter, and sister, I became...at least for a while. It's a "place" I think I need to return to more frequently.
Mary Baker Eddy says, in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:
"Thou art right, immortal Shakespeare, great poet of humanity:
Sweet are the uses of adversity;
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head.
Trials teach mortals not to lean on a material staff, - a broken reed, which pierces the heart. We do not half remember this in the sunshine of joy and prosperity. Sorrow is salutary. Through great tribulation we enter the kingdom. Trials are proofs of God's care. Spiritual development germinates not from seed sown in the soil of material hopes, but when these decay, Love propagates anew the higher joys of Spirit, which have no taint of earth. Each successive stage of experience unfolds new views of divine goodness and love."
I believe this is true. I pray that my friend, Anne...that funny, smart, creative, deeply kind, ridiculously hopeful friend, Anne...found beauty, new views of divine goodness and love wherever her journey has taken her. That she is enjoying "the higher joys of Spirit, which have no taint of earth."
It is this "taint of earth" that, like "dust in the wind" only lasts for a moment, and then, those moments...of fear, worry, doubt, plotting and planning...are gone. But what remains has weight, substance...is good, real, lasting, eternal, and pure. Like Anne's thought they take root, they germinate in thoughts, they grow wild in us as deeds, and they bear rich, abundant, bountiful fruit...the fruit of lives lived humbly, joyfully, gracefully, simply in service to God, and to mankind.
If an ordeal-free life is the goal, the measure, the outcome of a well-prayed spirirual existence, none of my heroes have succeeded. Jesus Christ, Mary Baker Eddy, Julian of Norwich, Anne Frank, Ghandhi, Nelson Mandela, my mom, my mentor, my best friend..none of them has passed through this human experience without a detour throught a fire, a prison, a war, a loss, a trial, persecution...or two. But if the measure of a man, woman,...or child, is the self-knowledge, humility, love...and grace...with which he or she, travels that journey, then my heroes...as well as each of you...are champions. Those fiery ordeals have only served to melt away the dross...the dust, the chaff, the tares...and reveal the substance...the gold...the true metal of who you are.
Eddy, in her definition of "children," says that they are:
"not in embryo, but in maturity."
Rarely has this statement rung so true, as in the heart of Annelise Marie Frank. I love her childlike wisdom. I love the raw self-knowledge, humility, and love she shares with us in the passage above, that opens this post. I just love her.
always her friend...and yours,
Kate Robertson, CS
[lead photo credit: St. George Island - Ryan Kingsbery 2010]