gratitude

the sand gets in, no matter, so pervasive it is.

flood it with water, it simply becomes

a solution, and not at all the kind

that solves. rather it muddies one’s vision

 

for a time

the grit irritates and clogs and turns

smooth surfaces coarse, so that kneeling

is merely painful

then the only thing left is to sit

let it settle, decant, quench one’s thirst

on the crystalline water poured out

dig for the pearl in the sludge

 

treasure its smooth iridescence

 

 

 

 

 

hope

is a book

that persuades you to sit for another hour and lures you to turn yet another page, 

invention of nature

as you learn of  a man born centuries ago, who is driven by a sense of wonder, who charges from his tent to drink in the wild array, who believes he might go mad if the wonders don’t stop, who hears “nature everywhere speaking to him in a voice familiar to his soul’, whose pen dances across the page to that melody, who understands his journal as a record of his love, who unabashedly marries his sensual delight to his probing intellect, who recites the science of the cosmos as the most sublime of poems, whose spirit is alive with awe

who makes you believe that the world is safe in our hands,

or if it is not, at least assures you that you are not in it alone

 

hope is a book,

who has saved my life more than once

literally

 

 

deny

golden scissors

Yesterday, I felt it. How quickly a tug upon my heart can tip my sense of equilibrium until I spill into a pool of overwhelm. A part of me wonders, am I that full that it takes so few drops to make me overflow? Or is it that I’m just that empty?

It is true that I have fallen lax on the practices that fill me. Though I guess I’d hoped the draining wouldn’t occur quite so rapidly as this. It seems that in my daily life I am more a kitchen sink in that regard than I am an ocean, and I really do need to spend some daily time diving into that ocean in order to refresh the well from which I draw. I need to dive deep and make contact with who I am beneath the surface turbulence. So that all of these drops of salt water might not make such a dent in my sense of self, in my sense of peace.

Today this quote was brought to my attention.

“There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will spend all of your days on the end of strings that someone else pulls” – Howard Thurman

When I was on that retreat a month ago, during that same guided meditation that I wrote about yesterday, there was one more piece of the story that I haven’t quite wanted to own. After She entered into that painful situation for me, after She had felt enough, She rose and I followed Her out the door into the garden. There She reached into her robes and pulled forth a gift for me. To my surprise, it was a pair of golden scissors.

If I am honest, I recoiled a bit at that, for the only acts I could imagine performing with a pair of scissors felt painful, as if something would bleed. As if nurture would be cut off. As if the net would come unraveled. As if roots would be severed. As if loss would be certain.

I pictured roots entangled and interdependent within the soil, a Mother Root with her many offshoots. I imagined digging into the soil and cutting them apart, praying that the cuttings had enough rootstock from which to draw in order to support new growth. Oh, my head understood that dependency keeps things stunted and bound (blessed be the ties that bind?). Intellectually I understood that new ways of relating are possible only when old cords are cut. An infant becomes a separate being with whom one can relate outside of the womb only when the umbilical cord is cut, for instance.

So, I took the golden scissors and tucked them into my purse. While there was a glimmer of hope for my sense of self-integrity and freedom, another part of me didn’t REALLY want to have to use them. Perhaps my individuation might happen on its own?

What I denied in this vision for myself was this. The very presence of the scissors is reliant upon my taking them into my own hands. Magical golden scissors that will do the work for me these are not. Paradoxically, it is only by picking up these scissors that I can remain whole, not pulled to shreds by that which competes for my attention.** I must return again and again to that place from which they materialized, that place of deep listening, of remembering what is Good and True, what is Love, what is Sacred, what is Genuine. I must return again and again to that ocean of Being within, which holds and beholds me and the whole of life through a wider lens of Wisdom, a perspective that does not get swept into the waves of chaos that fear wants me to believe are truth.

Unexpectedly, I see that it is me, who upon cutting those strings, must find a way to nurture myself, must grow roots deep enough to sustain my growth. I need not cut the others’ reliance upon my nurture so much as I need cut mine upon them..their approval or love… a reliance I have before this moment wanted to deny.

“Did I not see you in the garden with Her?”

 

**“With a new awareness, both painful and humorous, I begin to understand why the saints were rarely married woman. I am convinced it has nothing inherently to do, as I once supposed, with chastity or children. It has to do primarily with distractions; human relationships with their myriad pulls–woman’s normal occupations in general run counter to creative life, or contemplative life, or saintly life. The problem is not merely one of Woman and Career, Woman and the Home, Woman and Relationship, Woman and Independence. It is more basically: how to remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life; how to remain balanced, no matter what centrifugal forces tend to pull one off center; how to remain strong, no matter what shocks come in at the periphery and tend to crack the hub of the wheel.”

“Women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves” ―Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

 

open

door ajar

accessible; clear; free; susceptible; agape; naked; empty; exposed; expand; apparent; amenable; willing; cooperative; approachable; honest; direct; guileless; blossom; unfold; indefinite; undecided; candid; kickoff; break; carve; sever; ajar; uncluttered; broad; expressive; uncover; discretionary; loose; unrestrained; unclear; begin….

Each word taken in, slowly digested, bringing its own kind of nurture, how should I taste you today? Do I pry or shall I be undecided? Am I free or merely empty? Unfolding or unclear?.

Reading this list lectio divina style, as one might prayerfully practice the sacred reading of any text, the word that “pops off the page” at me, grabbing my eyes, inviting my curiosity, and tugging at my heart, like a hand grasping mine and pulling me through that wide open door, is this one-

agape

For you see, when I first read it, I saw not the word that means ‘mouth wide open with wonder or surprise’, but the one that means ‘unselfish love of one for another”. The kind of Love that opens to receive the ‘guileless, broken, unfolding, susceptible, undecided, uncovered, naked and vulnerable’ me.

My heart is agape.

remember

The day I remembered was the eve of the solstice, that shortest of days when my ancestors kept watch in the ever darkening season for the return of the light. I was with my sisters for a few nights, and I’d brought with me a few seeds of ideas for our more structured time together . The first was the pulled-off-the-internet invitation to create a seed mandala, the seed at the center, layers of nurture and protection blanketed about it. The second was a journal article, sent to me by a friend, that invited me to look beneath the surface of my seemingly frivolous addictions, longings, and passions for the seed of truth hidden within them.

At the time, I, like the author of the article, had been smitten – she by a character in a silly television series, me by some corny canoe love songs. (believe it or not, there are songs written by men about their canoe paddling women). It didn’t take long in the silence to discover what was scarcely covered over in my foolish fondness for those tunes- the desire to be seen through such tender eyes, the yearning to be celebrated for who i am, the pain of being seen as ridiculous (ridicule is scarcely embedded in that word).

Quite suddenly, though I hadn’t at all known it lay buried within me, it was clear that what i was longing for, and what had been lost, was the sense of my Belovedness. Yet, there was that tender seed, wrinkled and dry but still full of potential, in me and I vowed to nurture and to protect that seed I had uncovered.

I came to a retreat in Massachusetts a few weeks later bearing gently that awaiting seed. My intent, beginning that week of silence, was to tend to it, to build up the soil around and beneath it, a soil that felt both dry and barren. I wondered if the seed had grown a hard covering to survive that harshness. I wondered at the long dark winter she had endured, yet somehow survived.

During my time on that retreat, there was a deep familiarity, a deep remembrance, in the words and the stories that were shared by the teacher, in the practices and prayers that were lovingly offered. I had been drawn to the presenter because, listening to him speak on podcasts at home and reading his words on the page, I noted a familiar tenderness, which I hadn’t experienced in some time. I had joked with persons back home that he was my ‘grownup Mr Rogers’, the way his words and his voice touched me. He re-minded me, I suppose you could say, by speaking the language of value, understanding and Love.

I heard in that familiarly, resounding echoes of an earlier time in my life, when I had been similarly lost. It was then that I understood that the seed inside of me wasn’t some sort of anomaly uncovered, dropped from someplace outside of me. It was lying there in the bed of my being because something in me had bloomed once before. Blossomed and fruited Ripened and died.

Dropped that seed.

In the resonances of the language of that Heart-full retreat I remembered the beauty and the fragrance of that long ago blossom, and I wept. Tears of loss. Tears of tenderness. Tears of reunion. Tears perhaps that might water that seed in me.

There was an exercise we were given one afternoon. We were asked to recall a recent painful experience, to embody it as fully as possible, with all of our senses. Once we held the fully felt awareness of that experience, we were invited to imagine a knock upon the door, a luminous being of some sort come to help. When I opened the door, there She stood, radiant and full of tenderness. The suggestion given was to allow Her to switch places with me, let Her enter my body and walk into the painful place in my place while I observed. As I watched that scene unfold in my mind’s eye, She was disregarded and diminished when she sat down at that table, same as I, as if those in her midst also could not see her love-liness. There was something so profoundly painful in that for me, in seeing this Beloved One being dishonored in such fashion, that I wept once again. The tears were much harder this time, filled with the hardness of the pain I’d been holding inside my body. It was as if only through Her eyes could I acknowledge that pain, extend to it the compassion, tenderness and even fierce protection I have been unable to give to myself. So thoroughly defended have I been that even Love has not been granted entrance.

And the hardened soil around that seed began to thaw as the warming light of the Sun slowly returned on that horizon.

Now, I realize that the Love that I seek cannot be found outside of me. In lover, or beloved teacher. In the positive regard of others. Not even the Earth Herself. I realize that the luminous Being of my imagination lies within me. She embodies my own Wisdom and Love. It is me who must give to myself the regard that I seek, believe in my value and worth, behold my lovability. Sometimes that task feels too large. There is deeper despair within that, which I haven’t completely named, for the thing that has been lost to me that I cannot seem to re-member is the presence of a Beloved Other, who can hold that for me when I can’t. I wish that Member might return to reconnect with me, that Blessed One who made that blossom to flourish those long years ago, but somehow I doubt I can let that One in. I can’t seem to find the place where She fits.

listening (for the murmur of Love)

The expression ‘listening for the heartbeat of God’ describes the desire to look for the presence of the sacred in the midst of life- its persons, places, experiences, moments- to listen for the pulse of Love within it all, if you will. On occasion, that heartbeat resounds with a booming and resonant cadence. When standing at the thresholds of life- births and deaths, marriages and sudden loses -you hear it virtually echo through those openings. Experiences of profound Beauty will open that doorway too. The separation between the chambers of sacred and mundane grows thin in times such as these, and the earth virtually teems with mystery and wonder

Lately it feels as if I’m standing in such a thin place. There seems to be a lot in my life (and my self) that is dying, being left behind in that previous chamber I so dearly inhabited (I can say that now that the departure is real) But this transition seems to be taking such a very long time, no all-at-once delineation of before and after is this, but a gradual wearing away of old bindings and opening up to spaciousness.. It makes me wonder if this thinness is just an aspect of life at this stage of being human, for the sounds that i hear, though sonorous, are subtler. No profound Mystical experience at this passing through, but a more pervasive low level presence of Beauty.

I’ve recently learned that I have a heart murmur. There is something quite tender in this image for me. I ponder what it means to listen for the murmur of God. Murmur: ‘to say something in a low, subtle, or indistinct voice’, ‘to make a low continuous sound, like the wind murmuring through the trees’. A quiet sound. It invites me to ask two questions.

Is this what the murmuring of Godde sounds like? ( Oh, there is something so terribly precious in pondering that)

And

What is murmuring of my heart and what does it ask me to hear?

Today was a full hearted kind of mundane day. There was a bit of the ordinary – morning coffee by the fireplace. There was a bit of grief – an everyday kind of loss, of which I seem to be more keenly aware these days, the kind that makes me notice the fleet nature of life, inviting me to embrace it as treasure and hold it lightly all at once. There was a moment of shame – the inappropriate variety that is more about feeling exposed and vulnerable and open to rejection than it is about having done anything worthy of scorn. There was a bit of tenderness – a conversation with a son in which i glimpsed his humble wisdom and nobility. There was a bit of sorrow at the brokenness of relationship. There was a moment of disorientation – feeling utterly and foolishly lost, a wanting to give up. There was a precious, healing reconnection with Love, one i thought i had forever lost, rediscovered in a few moments sitting in the rain with an old soul friend. There was unexpected, bringing-one-back-down-to-earth, news that some things are never going to heal There was the beauty of an Irish melody that quieted my spirit. There was the feeling of utter inadequacy and misfittedness. There was an awareness of grace unfolding.

A few weeks ago, during a quiet morning meditation, I brought these many feelings of mine, which can sometimes seem impossible to reconcile, into the presence of Love. She offered me a wide and shallow bowl, reminding me that my heart is big enough to hold it all. Within that bowl, the stuff of life is cradled, but the bowl is not overwhelmed.

I am that bowl.

When the heart has a murmur, the flow of blood can pass freely from chamber to chamber as the valves begin to wear down. It is that way with the murmurings of the sacred within life, perhaps, too. There are seldom such distinct boundaries as birth, marriage, or death. In the quotidian mysteries of life, losses and new life flow one into the other across those thresholds, often unnoticed, backing up and passing through in fits and starts and regurgitations. The border between the sacred and the mundane dissipate into a soft, low, continuous murmur that one needs not heart-stopping experiences to hear.

And love murmurs as it flows through those open doors.

pray

DSCN8366 (2)

i don’t know exactly what prayer is, but i do know how to kneel in a canoe, how to ease into it’s belly and drop down to my knees, how to breathe the deep sigh of release as it slips from shore and drifts into dusk, how to move reverently upon those dark waters, watching for what might be present, beaver or loon, turtle or frog, heron or moose, how to share this wordless place with them all. i do know how to softly dip my paddle, let its rhythm attune with the heartbeat, let the drops fall like kisses from the blade, spread out on the water like sun, how to follow the faintest of shorelines, shrouded in fog, how to bathe in the sky. how to be still. let the waters bless me. how to say yes to this. being loved.

faith

Faith. Another laden word for me. Sigh.

But a favorite author that I read uses it like this, ‘faith in the wellspring of life’. Wendell Berry suggests that when despair for the world grows in me, I take myself to the ‘peace of the wild things, come into the presence of still water, and feel above me the day-blind stars’. There is little that restores my faith in the deep goodness and beauty of life more than paddling a canoe in the waters of a northern lake and lying back upon her granite shoreline to bathe in that great dome of sky. While some may think these annual migrations are escape from the ‘real’ world, I have come to understand them as homecoming instead. A coming home to what is real, what is true. A coming home to myself. A return to my remembrance of the sacred.

In her book, Behold Your Life, Macrina Weiderkehr explains the purpose of a pilgrimage

“A pilgrimage is a journey with a hallowed purpose. A pilgrimage is not a vacation; it is a transformational journey during which significant change takes place. Life giving challenges emerge. New insights are given. Deeper understanding is attained. New and old places in the heart are visited. Blessings are received and healing takes place. On return from the pilgrimage, life is seen with different eyes. Nothing will ever be quite the same again.”

Yes.

Like the snow geese whose calls echo in the shrouded dome of this fog laden day, my spirit this time of year begins to call me home to a place of quiet and simple belonging, where something I have not yet been able to name is being incubated in me, as in those northern nests. Perhaps it is peace.

When I was a girl, I remember climbing up on risers on the stage of the capitol forum to sing with a specially selected chorus. That year my wing was broken, slung in a cast, and I felt quite a bit off balance on that top rung. As it turns out, that would be the first of many breakings of my young wings and not long after that, I stopped singing. My young life was off balance for many long years afterwards, but the song that we sang that day soothed like a lullaby.

The mystery of music is perhaps a second thing that restores my faith. How is it that something ineffable carried by those melodies and chords speaks to the human soul of what is deep and true. I am reminded of the story told by a pianist who played for nursing homes as a volunteer. He was performing a piece written by a prisoner of war during his imprisonment as a way of expressing the profound grief of losing a friend who had been shot down. The playing of that piece 60 years later stirred similar memories awake in an old man listening, bringing him to tears in the remembrance of losing one of his own friends, who was similarly shot down in the war all those years ago.

That song i sang as a girl has likewise come back to me all these years later. I don’t know what this particular piece of music is awakening in me, but I’ve been listening to it on repeat over the last 2 months now. Each time it soothes me like medicine for my soul. Who understands a mystery such as that? What is inscribed in that Melody? Perhaps my Scots-Irish ancesters’ blood is stirred. Perhaps my longing is addressed and expressed. Perhaps my young self, with broken wing, is tended.

I have faith that there is meaning in it, even, and perhaps especially, if I cannot name it. The same holds true of life. My deepest knowing is that Love is encoded within it all. And that I belong to it somehow.

Today, I spent the better part of the morning bringing together these two… this sacred geography of my heart and this tender piece of music, and then most of the afternoon listening to and watching the images that were like a lovesong from my soul to my soul, feeling deeply the presence of Beauty. Deep Sorrow and Great Joy were there in one place. My heart awake, listening, calling, responding.

I have faith that something is answering me.

‘Everyone must believe in something. I believe I’ll go canoeing” -Henry David Thoreau

limited

My response to this word feels like pure grace. Contained with its seven letters is the simple invitation for me to remember who i am.

While often the invitation to ‘remember who you are‘ is extended to uplift one who is feeling diminished in some way — as a reminder for instance of how beloved they truly are (eg “little lower than the angels and crowned with glory”, or “O, nobly born, remember the fundamental dignity that was born into you”), an appeal for them to reclaim their birthright as bearers of something divine — this evening ‘remembering who i am‘ feels much smaller than that, a bringing me down to earth, a remembrance of my humanity.

I am as blessed by that remembrance as I am by the remembrance of my sacredness. It is good to remember my smallness. Good to recall that I cannot be Godde, nor even Godde incarnate. An antidote for feeling overwhelmed, for feeling powerless, for feeling not-enoughness, remembering my humanity heals my feelings of inadequacy and shame.

It is good to know I have boundaries and to bless them. Boundaries of body. Boundaries of time. Boundaries of energy and gift. To know that I am but one within and beheld by the One, even while holding the hope that the Love is somehow embodied and working through this particular me in some small enough way.

In the last few weeks, I have had to say ‘no’ to quite a few invitations. While a part of me longed to rush into them, in order to say ‘yes’ required me saying ‘no’ to other equally beloved relationships and/or ideals. Carrying around the weight of those choices was difficult and even felt heartbreaking. But what i discovered is that when i finally let go and accepted my ‘no’, the heaviness lifted almost at once.

I am a finite being and, no, despite what the culture teaches, I cannot do it all, have it all, be it all. I am not all powerful nor all knowing. Thinking that I should be makes me a little neurotic, a lot anxious, and mostly feel like a huge failure. I cannot begin to recount the number of times the word ‘overwhelmed’ shows up in my journals. (When I typed the word into the search box of even this public confessional blog of mine, 25 posts came up with the word in its text.) When I spread myself too thin, try to juggle too many loves, I cannot be generous with any one and am left feeling as if there is not enough me.

I don’t think that’s what we are supposed to take in with the nourishment that we are ‘just a little lower than the angels’. I suspect that our spirit is supposed to be a little (a lot) more grounded than that, that we are supposed to do and to be ‘one’, not all, and to trust that our very finite and earthbound oneness is both beloved and essential.

I also suspect that this is the secret hidden within the word sacrifice, that in order to be and to bring our gift of light to this place, we have to say ‘no’ to other equally light-filled paths, let some other ‘one’ follow that other star, so that we can focus the light of the gift that we are, and so pour it out generously. (I also suspect that this word, sacrifice, will come up later in the list so I’ll save that pondering for later). In the meantime, Indra’s net comes to mind, each one of us a bejeweled knot in the web, holding the world together by keeping our place. Tonight I cherish the preciousness of that binding knot.

tell me what is it you plan to do with your ONE wild and precious life- Mary Oliver

wilderness afterthoughts – what if we truly belong?

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This one won’t let me go.

I couldn’t figure out how to finish that previous post, kept returning to edit here and then there (you may notice the subtle changes and additions) and still it feels incomplete, as if there is more stirring in me beneath that barely scratched surface.

I think (and perhaps that’s the real problem! LOL) that some part of me recognizes the alienation I create in the delineation between what is included as good and what is not, (the good nature/bad human dichotomy) and feels that as heart dis-ease when some deeper wisdom wants my heart to open to hold it all.

I am aware that my heart feels heavy when I walk with my eyes looking for brokenness and devastation. I also know that my heart can choose to seek beauty even there within it. It can and it does see wonder in the ruins when I gaze through those tendered eyes. I am also aware that the definitions I choose to believe color the way that my eyes see. What is good? Who is bad?

To put it simply, have I made the same mistake that my ancestors made when they separated out what was wilderness from what was human? Good over here. Bad over there. Is my desire to keep the ‘bad’ ( man ) out of ‘pristine’ wilderness just the flip side of their desire to separate the bad wilderness ‘out there’ from man. Perhaps both perspectives contain a large dose of the hubris that colors humanity’s vision, as if humans are somehow separate but not equal.

What if we are truly part of the wilderness. Included. As the wild creatures that we are with our particular impact upon the whole. What if we truly belong? – to one another, our wild animal self to the earth’s.

Can I love the creatures that trammel without labeling them as waste-full, even as i love the creatures that perish because of that trammeling, the way that I love the beaver and also the trees that she smothers to death. Can I honor the true needs of both without putting one over the other?

listening….

My heart wants to allow while also inviting healing. Again, it suggests a return to relationship. I see that if we insert ourselves as dominant over and view the earth as commodity at our disposal, there is a huge imbalance of power, which is devastating, of course, in any relationship. Conversely, if we view nature as set apart, requiring our protection, are we not also making it smaller than us and ourselves as master? Hmmm.

Can we envision a relationship of mutual need, where we honor the gifts that the other offers as different than our own, not lesser or more than, but sacred and worthy of reverence? How might we relate differently to an other whom we view with such tenderness and respect? Gratitude is invited, humility is deepened, care is extended. And not to leave ourselves out of this imagined equation, how might we feel to find ourselves viewed through the same lens? Our gifts and our needs also honored? Our place and inherent dignity valued. How might we act differently from this feeling of being valued?

Still, this tiny treatise veers toward ‘us and them’ thinking, when what i am feeling is so much more whole than that, more ‘one’ if you will.

We are wilderness.

Untameable, pristine, dark, mysterious.

Everything.

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