Bowling with Angels offers insight into the choice of personal perspective and the influence of childhood events on adult belief.
Last Saturday night, I believe Tulsa hosted the Galactic Angel Bowling League Grand Championship.
How do I know? Because my Grammy Flora told me so when I was a child. Let me explain!
In the early summer, when I was about nine years old, I spent a week on my own at my grandparent’s house in Dallas, Texas. (I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma where I now live after 30+ years on the west coast.)
Back then, my Grandfather worked a swing shift as a pressman at the Dallas Morning News. He’d eat dinner with Grandmother and I, and then off he would go to work and return in the early morning with the first newspaper literally hot off the press. He’d have a bit of breakfast and then sleep into the early afternoon.
During the day, Grandmother and I were free to do as we pleased. Actually, this meant she and I had made plans to work on a craft project together. She wasn’t just an early crafter as almost everything she did was born of necessity in her early life.
Our most favorite project was making plaster plaques decorated with pressed wildflowers and butterflies. Not a short, two-hour project, this was a week-long endeavor we did together.
To help us, Grandfather made a special wooden flower press. I knew what laid in between the blank sheets of newspaper in the press because I had helped Grandmother pick the flowers and chase the butterflies. I knew how to carefully lay out the flowers on the paper, pile them up in between thin boards and then work the bolts to tighten down everything to flatten and dry.
Each plaque received an artful arrangement of dried flower, leaf, and butterfly glued on and then covered with several layers of clear shellac. Grandmother had a secret recipe for the glue we used, specially formulated to dry clear not cloudy white. The best part was applying the gold paint to the edge of the plaques – the final step done on my last full day.
Around 3pm, Grandfather would get up and join us for conversation as we were finishing and moving toward getting dinner on the table. He sat at the head of the kitchen table and asked me questions about the flowers and butterflies to see if I knew what was what.
The best was when he would get up, walk into the kitchen, hug my Grandmother, and grab the small jelly jar glass they kept just for me. Walking back to the table, glass in hand, he would make some comment about hard work needing a reward.
I knew what was coming – my favorite and his favorite! Setting the glass in front of me, he used a teaspoon to fish a couple of ice cubes from his glass into mine and then filled my glass with our much-loved Dr. Pepper.
I’d wait until he’d sat then I’d smile, say thank you, and take a glorious sip. The cold amber liquid bubbled down my throat and slowly we’d sip our drinks until Grandmother called me to the kitchen to help fix dinner.
At their house, my bed was in the front bedroom with windows on two sides and doors in the two remaining interior walls. My bed was pushed up against one of the windows. At night, the cool breeze blowing across my face eased me quickly to sleep. I could hear the bushes outside rustling in the wind with cricket chirps and a lightning bug here and there.
One night, I woke up to the loud drum of raindrops hitting the windows. The bushes had turned into goblin hands hitting the windows in a frightening, random beat, threatening to break glass and grab me from my bed. The flashing lightning threw an eerie glow into the room and reflected the grasping hands on all the walls and floor. I pulled the sheet and blanket up around my head so only my eyes could peek out and I began to yell for my Grandmother to come save me from the grabbing claws.
Peeking under the edge of the sheet, I saw her quickly come into my room. She had a tender smile for me as she sat on my bed asking me what was wrong.
“I’m scared,” I breathed.
“Oh, Sugar! I’m sorry I forgot to tell you.”
She took my hands in hers and squeezed.
“It’s the angels.”
I looked around in confusion and could only see monsters. The storm seemed to gather strength and there was a bolt of lightning followed by a deep house rattling boom.
“The angels are bowling tonight!”
Grandmother looked in my eyes with the gentle twinkle I adored – no fear, no worry, only love in her gaze.
Another heart shaking rattle and boom. Squeezing my hands, she explained.
“Every time there is a lightning bolt an angel has knocked down all the pins in heaven’s bowling alley!”
She gathered me into her arms.
“Listen! Let’s see how they do!”
Lightning flared again, illuminating the room.
“Wow!” She exclaimed, “They’re really winning tonight!”
In the face of her belief and her delight, it was easy for me to let go of my fears. The rumbles made sense to me. I could imagine angels bowling and having fun. The bushes weren’t monster hands – those were angels clapping with excitement.
She sat with me for a bit longer and as the game began to wind down, she let me go back to sleep having helped me set my fears aside.
Ever since, thunderstorms no longer frighten me.
That’s why I’m certain that there was a galactic match last Saturday. A huge thunderstorm with 90 mile per hour winds blew through Tulsa and took out power across the city and through much of my corner of the state. Takes lots of electricity to power enough bowling lanes for the entire angelic host.
Since then, I’ve thought much about how early childhood events influence adult perspectives and beliefs.
Saturday night I was awakened by the storm warning siren – which at first in my half-sleep, I took as a strange choice by Spotify for the sleep music I had playing.
Looking through my bedroom window, I was struck by the silent, roaring fury of the wind. The old 60-foot oak in my front yard was swaying up and down like a bull whip flung by an expert cowboy at a curled rattlesnake. Only the limbs of the tree were much thicker than any whip or snake I’ve ever seen.
Holding my breath, I watched the fury in slow motion and realized the slow was so fast, speed had nothing to do with the movement of the storm. The wind and rain had melded to appear as water-soaked sheets of wind barreling down the street, parallel to the road. Curtain after curtain of windy water accelerated past faster than I could blink.
Like a waterfall tilted 90 degrees, my street had settled into the clear assurance of a powerful waterfall like Niagara or Victoria. The storm followed a path of least resistance allowing the rain and wind an open channel to let free and let fly. Incredible, single-minded focus matched by gigantic volume to blow by faster than most baseballs travel. So fast, time seemed to stand still, composed for action finished in the spark of electric beat.
I must have watched for at least 30 minutes and there was no slowing down. Instead, a constant motion because each drop and each wind gust knew without hesitation exactly where to go. There was no holding back. There was full absorption and total commitment.
Knowing exactly where to go without hesitation can feel impossible for us humans. The uber-concern of being right and perfect and correct limit spontaneity – limit exploration and adventure – limit life to the constraints of certainty and the flatness of expectation and assumption.
While the loving words from my Grammy Flora certainly helped me tame my fear of thunderstorms, in recent years I’ve taken in another lesson from her words.
In other words, in the midst of anything, there is always a way to shift personal perception to find a perspective which releases tension and disarms fear.
Sometimes this new perspective is just to be totally open to exactly What Is in the situation. Throw the excuses, justifications, dissembling, and denial out the door. Be present and acknowledge what you see and what you feel without judgment or snark.
However, sometimes relief comes in seeing the situation with a new story – like angels bowling. The story need not be “real” because the explanation is helping you connect with the unknown without fear. The story is connecting to that essence which is true – yet beyond rational awareness in the moment.
Plus, the inner urge to be right and correct pushes to find a reason – any reason. Often the why of a situation takes time to come forward.
Fear abides in the uncertainty of life.
Finding peace for yourself with the unknown disarms fear.
Without the focus of fear, life finds its way down the path of least resistance within a sense of balance and resonance.
No longer distracted by why, life arises within the peace of your heart, rather than from a forced explanation based on imagined failure.
Witnessing that magnificent storm on Saturday was possible because of the perspective my grandmother offered me long ago.
Instead of experiencing the fear of monsters out to get me, I witnessed the power of nature’s certainty. Water and wind came together with pressure and temperature to create a magnificent dance that has no need to be right or ask why.
Any storm is the balance inherent within its own existence.
Thus, as part of nature, we each have our own inherent balance available in every moment of personal awareness.
Grammy Flora filled my life with love and gave me the beautiful gift of awe.
She bowls with the angels now. Every lightning strike is her gift to me. Last Saturday night, she showed me how to bowl an awesome game.
Because of her, fear has no room in my heart or in my life.
Life! Bring it on! I bowl with my awesome angels always!