what’s love got to do with it

I have decided I’ve wasted too much time recently trying to understand. I’ve realized that all of this seeking a framework in which to understand and accept the ‘other’ (and, of course, myself) –moral foundations theories, ethical philosophies, and personality typologies — in an effort to stay out of judgment and remain in love has in many ways backfired. My attempts to both safeguard and gentle my heart, in fact, have in some way possibly even hardened it by building a protective wall of mental constructs and justifications around it. Yes, all of this seeking understanding—spending too much time in my head — has somehow separated me from my heart.

Perhaps I was simply seeking a way to deny my own anger – an anger based on feelings of hurt, betrayal, frustration, fear and injustice. Being angry/judgmental is not an emotion or aspect of myself that I particularly want to accept. And acknolwedging my hurt can sometimes make me feel selfish.

(Specifically, I have struggled mightily with persons whom I perceived as being willing to selfishly  put themselves above the needs of others. Persons either jumping the line by lying about conditions (at the time, when we had a limited supply, making up conditions to put themselves ahead of much more vulnerable populations, (there were sooo many instances of this) or alternately, refusing to get the vaccine for the sake of community welfare or to wear a mask in public for the sake of the other. Lebanon county , where I live, is such a hotbed—ahem, place for me to practice. We recently closed our mass vaccination site because not enough people were registering for open slots, when we currently have only a 17% vaccination rate and kids’ classrooms are forced to close because of a rise in cases. All the while, my personal sacrifices, my trying to do the right thing, for the sake of the other, have left be feeling alone, misunderstood, and left out (Easter was quite hard for me)  )

Although my seeking understanding was based upon my desire to not dismiss the other, steeped in my desire to remain in Love and out of judgment, and to somehow reconcile these feelings of dissonance within me, I realize now that Understanding is not a prerequisite for Love. My quest for understanding has been based in my deep knowing (belief?) that humanity is innately and inherently good, and worthy of the deepest compassion and mercy, despite the fact that we more often miss the mark and don’t always, or often even, act with that integrity (recognizing that another’s acts of integrity might look different than my own!) These feelings of anger/judgment in me have challenged both that pure belief in humanity’s goodness and my own self-concept – as one who sees and believes in humanity’s goodness. Coming face to face with our failures to Love in the face of our fears has challenged a naivitee in me, perhaps. Are we evil, or merely broken and confused? Are we selfish or merely afraid?

What I recognzie is that my seeking understanding has been a bit too urgent. I have perhaps used it as an antidote for my feelings of anger, fear, disbelief, betrayal, and judgment. It was a vain attempt to stay soft, because what I realize today is that Understanding like this is seated in my head- in constructs and paradigms, perspectives and world views. I guess the real question I must ask myself, then, is this—do I seek to understand the other because I Love, or am I seeking to understand the other so that I can love. Which one is primary in me? Can I love first, without reason, without understanding, simply because this is how I AM, and who I am to be. Love

Today, I am choosing to live from my heart. To love WITHOUT understanding, without reason, without cause. To fall (or jump) willingly from this ivory tower of my head into the softer mercy of my heart.

Go on then, Be different. See differently, believe differently, choose differently, act differently.

Today I am choosing Love.

Let the practice begin.

Sent from Mail for Windows 10

Seven Streams

Be a provenance of something gathered

a summation of previous intuitions

let your vulnerabilities walking

on the cracked sliding limestone

be this time, not a weakness, but a faculty

for understanding what’s about to happen

Stand above the seven streams

Letting the deep down current surface around you

Then branch and branch as they do

Back into the mountain – from the poem Seven Streams, by David Whyte

I’ve been suddenly captivated (and I word it this way deliberately because this feels very much like being captured by something outside of myself, not at all a pursuit that I followed) by the stories of my ancestors. I’ve ridiculed my new obsession as one more distraction, one more fix in my quest for knowledge, bemoaning my lack of devotion to the spiritual practice I’d intended to walk this season. Gone are the morning contemplative sits, the reading of spiritual books. I am instead compelled by the stories of those who came before me, as if that thirst in me is so parched that it cannot get enough to drink. In writing those words, of course, i can feel the broken connection to my family of origin— my mother and I were estranged, my father died when i was but 28— and recall the longing I’ve felt when pulling out the old photographs given to me by my grandmother when I was a young woman, wanting to know their stories, yearning for an old journal or something.

Then this week, came in my email, a reflection by Richard Rohr on the communion of saints, and the liminal space we enter when we vist our ancestors. (The celts recognized certain thin times of the year when we enter those spaces more readily… All Saints (hallow- eve) and St Brigid’s day (our groundhog day here… the day when cultures across time have begun looking for signs of life in the dark, which is close to when this all began for me) His email redeemed my draw (ok, obsession) into this space. As I mentioned, I’d felt as if I’d just thrown in the towel on any sort of intentional spiritual practice (again) and yet I was so very captivated by it (and isn’t that what they say about spiritual  experiences after all, that you can’t make them happen, they come and grab you? )  In the research, I’ve been aware that there is a sense of loss of time and getting lost in the big story….I guess that’s often the description of a spiritual experience.  There is finding my place in the circle of things and reorientation to place. There is reconnection and a grounding of spirit to place. And it is changing me too … I’ve a new understanding about family, humanity, our people, our country. As I drive through the landscape I’m looking at farms and homesteads differently, as if I am seeing through new eyes what previously felt like looking before from some distant objective viewpoint.

And then, yesterday, I had an experience with one of my children that left me feeling, as often is the case, vulnerable– that old family-iar feeling of both not-enoughness and of invisibility. Uncertain of my footing. Uncertain of my place. Uncertain of my worth… was i /am i enough? Feeling somehow ridiculed (there is that word again). What is this lack, this insecury, I feel?

I’ve noticed in myself the not wanting to admit frailty, or ineptitude, or incompetence, or ignorance, not to mention abject failure….this not wanting to be human? Is that a protective mechanism, a hardening of self with the need to be perfect or proficient, knowledgable and in control, that covers over my heart so, that I attempt instead to lead with my head (doing all the ‘right’ things, knowing all the ‘right’ answers, learning all the ‘right’ ways) Oh, the ways i fortify myself from this felt sense of tender vulnerabilty and brokeness.

And then this morning, in a conversation with a friend, she too noticing her feelings of anxiety around a visit with her adult children, and their overwhelming troubles, I felt such communion with her about what it feels like to be a human mother on this planet.

I thought about a son who is just embarking on this journey of parenthood, downstream from this moment in time. He is the one who inspired this opening in me when he innocently asked about the dates of birth of my parents and theirs for a chart he was creating for his newborn son. How the lineage of Love now flows through him and his brothers, those branches spreading out beneath me as wide as the ones before me. I am, for this moment in time, the fulcrum, the funnel, the moment, the speck of condensation, through which the past and the future flow. I thought about how he too will be imperfectly human, but will pass on Love through his wounds, nonetheless… or perhaps precisely as a consequence of our human frailty.

It sometimes feels too great a task we are charged with here, in this speck of humanity that we are, for all of this Love to flow through our smallness. And then I think of the way all of those generations of Love (and wounds) that we carry merge for the speck of a moment in the hourglass of time with another who is also carrying their own lineage forth … and then branches forth again, and again, in concentric multidimensional flows…. oh, how wondrous is that?

Anyway, back to the poem that came in a flash from this morning’s reading…

Seven Streams

I stand unsure-footed upon this slick rock,

vulnerable as it is to be a human here and now

and always

the gathered provenance of those who came before,

their stories flowing into

flowing through

washing over, filling

passing through

the hardened rock of this

my seemingly singular

human life

through which I’ve trod with so much trepidation

as if falling,

or failing

as if imperfection or loss

of control or capacity

were something to be feared.

And yet, it is the cracks, of course,

as always

that let the water flow,

somehow finding its way through this flawed surface

to emerge in streams of grace

beneath me, branching, branching

seven upon seven

and I see that I am not the rock at all

I am/we are the water finding its way

through this hourglass of time

pouring forth

into children… into children’s children

 carrying water

in the vessels of our lives

for a time,

until the exquisite vulnerability of stone

cracks open

into waterfalls of grace.

expansion

Is it light becoming Love that breaks us, then?

and this being human an essential

container in which Love

might become Real

like the velveteen rabbit, Divine Love matured

on the crucible of humanity

transformed within our experience here of tragedy

betrayal, heartbreak, loss

into these jewels –

compassion, forgiveness, tenderness, and mercy –

until this fragile blessed container becomes too constricted to withhold

Love’s exponential growth, at last breaking

open from within to reveal the hidden

My question then is this? Is it the breakage that inspires Love’s becoming

or growth in Love that forges the crack?

And is the crack where the light gets in

or out? And do we say

yes to this breaking open

before we are stuffed into these skins

shoved through this needle’s eye of birthing

Love.

http://paigebradley.com/blog/the-story-of-expansion/

the winter of my content

She asked, “And how are you this morning?”

Taking a moment to truly check in, scanning my internal landscape and seeking a word to describe what I saw and I felt there – quiet, still, settled, at peace—the word ‘content’ bubbled forth as the one that fit.

And then she went on to describe what she saw on the landscape spread out before her- the crsp early morning light, glinting off crystals of fresh snow, a finger of light reaching through the passage (that leads to the marsh where we paddle in summer)  to tickle the island awake.  The band of pink haloing the hilltop behind the cabin, where Don and I have nested like honeymooners, the interplay between that rise of land and the rising sun casting a line upon those frozen waters, separating (or connecting?) radiant light with blue shadowed ice. That pinkening spreading slowly to fill the sky, eventually kissing the same island, which that the finger of light had tickled awake. (oh you lucky island, how I envy you! ) The blush of pink that fades into the afterglow of gold.

I was transported. Her sun cracking the ice of this, my winter of content, until the tears dripped like honey, to the steady beat of my heart.  How could it be that beneath all this still silence, the quiet peace, that subtle surrender, there lay sleeping so much longing?

But has this been a time of ice, of coldness, of hardening? I want to trust that both can be present at once, in this complicated body of my humanity, that both can be true, concurrently – contentment and longing at once. That contentment has not meant either settling or suppression. I want to believe that one does not negate the other, that longing does not deny contentment, even as I trust that within this body of mine there is both something timeless and something constantly changing, an infinite yearning bound up in a finite body,  something profanely human and something profoundly divine,

(All is Well, and all is not well, as I have come to understand it)

Yet there it was, clear as the tears rolling down my cheeks, something melted in me by her words. A piece of my heart, perhaps frozen in that place where it has found home, in that beloved geography , which has been denied me because of a disease that has barricaded the border between us.

 I am in exile of sorts.

I thought I was ok with it, really. The piano that moved into my home has soothed my spirit. It is a place I can go to be present and free—similar enough to the way that I feel in a canoe paddling the shoreline. I am resilient that way, after all- good at surviving, to the point of thriving, it seems.  There are phone calls and zoom calls and books and prayer and new babies and snowshoe walks in the woods for connection.

 So what is this “longing’ all about? Longing for? Is it More, with a capital “M”? Is it Home? Belonging? (Did I not see the sign that said ‘Kensinger Cabin’ when I was there last?)  Intimacy?  Is it embodied, full-bodied (full spirited) living, body and soul in one place, at one with the earth, fully alive? A desire to dwell “in the undivided unity of a whyless Love’

If it is the Eros of the divine that got this whole wondrous ball rolling, the Alpha whose Omega point is Agape, (an Agape that could not be fulfilled without the human condition/experience  of heartbreak and suffering, and its resultant development of compassion and tenderness , forgiveness and fidelity, beauty and joy)  then I suppose this Eros in me just might be a Sacred thing, also.  This longing of mine may just be divine, not merely some human restlessness, not merely seeking some sort of escape, but desire for a deepening Love. And not seeking Love in all the wrong places, but in the right ones, hovering, perhaps, not over the waters, but under these frozen ones. Perhaps I can stop labeling my longing as a lesser/baser thing and integrate it as wholly holy.

Likewise feelings of exile (without which this Holy Longing would be absent) and grief and sorrow and loss and pain.  Each of these are Very Good, too, not feelings to deny as mere illusion, nor signs of my brokenness , nor of the inherent symptom of the ‘sin’ of humanity, but an aspect of its very gift, not as a sign of something false or wrong but of something very right and real. The line separating right feelings from wrong ones, sacred from profane, real from unreal, as much a illusion as that line cast upon the snow between blue shadowed ice and dazzling reflection.

And deep contentment and limitless longing can abide in the same body, as Love.

This Strange Land, Meister Eckhart, as translated by Mark Burrows

When you find yourself possessed by God,

you will enter a strange land, a wilderness,

which is nameless beyond names, and more

unknown than known; there you will find

that your I and God’s I are a single I

in the undivided Unity of a whyless Love

calm waters

My child,

We are in calm waters. At last or merely for now I cannot know, but for today, at least, it feels as if the storm has passed.

We cannot always, nor even often, see what is truly occurring in this world, or in our lives. What feels in the immediate to be catastrophic is often corrective; what feels destructive, creative. Try to remember this in the midst of your own turmoils and tumults- though it is during those times that it is most difficult to do so, hardest to hold to the center that knows this – hold onto Wisdom, and Love, and Trust, and the rightness of the Unfolding.

Perhaps that is why the image of being tossed in a violent storm at sea is so potent for us as human beings. (And I wonder, will this metaphor remain relevant for you?) In a storm at sea, there is nothing upon which to set our sights, upon which to get our bearings, and the waters upon which we navigat­­e are too deep to hold anchor.

In those moments, if you can, (and there is always mercy and grace, if you cannot), remember to anchor your identity not in that tiny boat, but in the ocean itself.  Remember this, if you can- that you are a part of that vastness.  Trust that you can breathe there, as you did in your mother’s salt water womb, that those waters can absorb and incorporate both your tears and the sweat of your fears. You can dive into its depths, beneath the unbridled surface of things, beneath even the swells upon which you rise and fall in more tranquil times.

Remember, my child, you are not merely the vessel. And, while the boat, in which you are journeying here, may one day be wrecked, the ocean will wash you ashore, bear you back into life, like a babe landing from those crashing waters in the arms of its mother. Let yourself be received by that Love, of which you are a part, which suffuses your very being.

But this morning the waters feel calm. Perhaps winter has finally come to our world.

What do I mean by that?

I have had the privilege of visiting true North just twice in my lifetime (thus far) during those frigid months, been awestruck by the feeling of stillness I experienced, gazing out upon, or walking across, those waters, which in the summer or autumn are so full of energy. I hadn’t realized just how much lifeforce—motion and sound– was contained in those waters until I witnessed them being stilled by winter. It felt like a sacred hand had silenced the land, rocked it to sleep, bestowed upon it, rest. No way, nor need, to climb into my boat then at all to Be One – with that Great Silence.

Winter, of course, is fleeting. And while it gives us the opportunity to enter that Great Silence during this lifetime, to remember that we are not merely our vessels, but that our humanness is simply the vehicle in which We are carried, in which we bear what is sacred in us into this Life, we must eventually climb back into those boats to continue the journey.  For that is what it means to be human too.

 As the poet David Whyte reminds us, “… to be human is to become visible while carrying what is hidden
as a gift to others…”

We are always both/and—while we are part of something much larger than ourselves, at work in the world, as humans we also require a vessel of some sort. It is perhaps the very definition of humanity.

Wreckage is always painful human experience. It fills us with angst and fear , sorrow and often despair, especially when we cannot see that Beyond.  But somehow, “in feeling our own pain and sorrow, our own ocean of tears, we come to know that ours is a shared pain and that the mystery and beauty and pain of life cannot be separated”* Again, both/and, my love. Both/and.

Life is terribly beautiful and exquisitely painful.

Birth is terribly beautiful and exquisitely painful.

Death is terribly beautiful and exquisitely painful.

We experience its Beauty when we step into the vast sacredness of the moment. We experience its pain when we enter into the intimate sacredness of the moment. And vice versa. Always vice versa.

But oh what wonders we might visit, and might be visited upon us,  as we carry that precious cargo forth.  So, when the storm has passed, Climb back into your boat, my love, and BE that bearer of light.

*quote attributed to Jack Kornfield

turtle island

Turtle Island

Many of you who read my ramblings here, or know me personally, are aware of how potent Turtle has been to me as totem, and also how She has transfigured for me along my journey. (a brief search of the word ‘turtle’ in the search box here reveals dozens of posts in which her Name is embedded)  From those early assurances of protection through withdrawal (an introvert’s credo) through the understanding that I am called to carry my home with me wherever I go, to not step outside of my centeredness in Love, belonging, and self (an inner/outer integrity) , to the way she burrows beneath the cold and sustains her very being with the essence of herself, she has tutored me well.  

Many indigenous cultures hold reverence for the Turtle. In the more watery regions of this earth, She is often understood as the Island where human life begins.  So, recently, when an image* came to me, with which to sit in prayer (a visio lectio meditation) of a woman (at least that is what I saw) kneeling in a posture of supplication… or was it desolation… or was it submission, grief, defeat…or the rest of child’s pose, I saw Turtle Island. Her legs and arms at the base of the sculpture were adorned in watery blues, and as the sculpture rose through the greens of shoulders, hips, back of head, to the tans and earthy browns of upper and lower back, and on upward to the gaping red swirl atop her back , above her heart, I saw the earth rising from the water. A newborn island of welcome erupted from a volcano.

And so, I wrote to Her in me/in you

 From deep within your pain
grief, arising,
emerging or erupting ,
- it matters not  to me
if it was slow or sudden,
violent or gentle-
you have been lifted
from that place in which you
were submerged, beneath
the dark or turbulent.  

Some see only your despair,
for now at least, but I
see you, in your rising,
laying down
of burden from your back,
vulnerability  now revealed
as sacred ground
like those volcanic islands
of the Ancient One
welcoming the human

You have risen from that dark sea,
your back at first aflame
where it opened to your heart,
flowing, overflowing, unseaming ,
and at first seeming,
to lay destruction
in your wake
But I see that watery hue
surrounding you
protecting you
you did no harm in rising

Your posture
is not one of power nor of import,
aggression nor attack-
no pillar of strength are you-
but of surrender,
stillness letting go
into something bigger than yourself
opening that heart
of yours to Universe

And you become
an island, lush,
of hospitality where life
on earth might be borne
where the weary or the wounded
might land or crawl
upon your submission
for refuge or for rest,
shelter, nurture, hope
but most of all,
belonging.
  • I am hoping to garner permission to share the image here. For now you might follow this link from the artist, Diane Therese Pinchot’s, page (scroll down, you’ll know which one )

Christmas passed

“How could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

― Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

Dear great…. granddaughter,

Here I sit in the early morning, 3 days post -Christmas, and not only has the Day passed, but so has the anxiety and pain that came along with the lead up to it. As things went the holy-days filled up with blessing upon blessing, despite -and perhaps because of- it not looking a thing like Christmases past. No physical gathering, no physical touch, no sharing of meals, yet intimacy and connection still somehow unfolded within the day’s embrace.

Packages were opened, virtually, after having been dropped on doorsteps in the monsoon-like rains of Christmas eve. “Appointments’ were made with each of our children’s families (so there were 7 of them in all) to meet, both one-on-one and as a whole, which made the 24 hours of Christmas eve and Christmas day quite full indeed.

Strangely, however, the computer somehow allowed for a disconnection from the material gifts, and an opening to one another’s presence, as opposed to their presents. Quieter conversations were enabled in the small ‘face-to-face’ meetings, outside of the chaos of more typical large gatherings. Even within the large screen mayhem of 7 households joining to open Secret Santa gifts, it was suddenly plain to see that the gift exchange is always really a means to an end- to get all of us to settle into one space in order to attend to one another, individually, within that large circle of belonging.  The packages, of course, are never the meaning, no matter how we stress over desiring to make some meaningful connection through that giving and receiving of gifts. It is about being seen— and the gift giving is merely the frame for containing that desire.

In the end, it was the gift of conversation this Christmas that I will cherish, long after those packages are forgotten. And while that didn’t happen so much in the large zoom gathering of all of those combined households, which in so many ways mimicked the chaos (Grinch would call it the ‘noise, noise, noise, noise!’) of an actual gathering of us all- with people talking over one another, and me being unable to pick up on what is being said across the room- I found that if I put myself on mute and just gazed upon them all, the deep joy of witnessing that abundance filled me.  Catching a glimpse of my own face from time to time on that screen, I noted my beaming countenance. That is a lesson for me of the posture I might assume in the future at such large gatherings of family— the sitting back to gaze in wonder at it all, not in a zoning out, but in a taking in the of the abundance.

Too often, I suspect, I have been looking for intimacy in the midst of those festivities, where that is truly impossible— looking for love in all the wrong places, or should I say, looking for the wrong kind of love, because the feeling I had on Christmas day was definitely one of Love. This was a setting aside of my ‘need’ to be seen in order to see, my ‘need’ for intimacy in order to receive abundance, gratitude, and joy. By being with the whole of it, embracing all of them, I realized the message I had received in the Newberry Award winning children’s book, which I had read a few days prior to Christmas, before gifting it to one of my granddaughters, “Love is not divided, It is multiplied!”

For so many years, I have thought of my love as needing to be divided in so many ways, and have so felt that there was never enough of me to go around. I have lamented not being able to develop the closer intimacies that I have observed in my friends’ relationships with their smaller families, which have enabled them to be more involved, to say ‘yes’ more easily within the confines of one finite human life.  I have, most often sadly, acknowledged the inherent differences between being a parent/grandparent of a large family versus a small one. I can’t possibly be with/for all of mine in the same way I see other women can. There is inherently more sacrificed in a large family, in so many ways, but what I realized more fully this season, is that there is also inherently more abundance.

There were precious one-on-one moments too, which occurred in the necessary scheduling of time–as in the sitting around a tinsel tree, bundled to the hilt, in a driveway- and in the impromptu- a last minute invitation to take a  hike a few days later, the early morning day-after phone call, alike. That morning phone call from one of my sons felt a bit like pillow talk after the frenzy of lovemaking, and I shall, like Mary of old, cherish those things that I heard in my heart.  My husband also connected with one of his sons, because of that structure we set up of setting aside one-on-one space, in a way that he hasn’t in years, and in a way that felt like opening the door to a healing of the brokenness between them.  (He, too, typically sees him only in the context of the larger family gathering. )

For many years now, Don and I have been lamenting not having had the opportunity at Christmastime to connect one-on-one with any of our children, have talked about changing the way that we ‘do’ Christmas. As full as those individual meetings with our families made of our overly scheduled day (I burnt every meal I tried to put on the table for the 2 of us because of those ‘distractions’, which made me realize too, how much energy is wasted around that particular striving– to offer the perfect holiday feast— when it is the gathering around the table for nurture, which is the point of that endeavor.), we learned that there was something in that instinct to change that was right. Oh, how often is it that we feel the urge to change but cannot affect it until the change is thrust upon us from outside of our control! I thank Covid for that.

For too many years, I have experienced the common post-Christmas let down, as that one day could never hold all those old worn-out expectations of mine — that it be a place of intimate connection for me, where I felt, perhaps, like I did as a child when, for that one day of the year, I felt attended to, seen,  beloved – when the gift was just right, as if the person truly knew me, or vice versa was received by the other as if they deeply valued me.  I have been trying to get, perhaps, what is impossible for one day to give.

And so, this holy human longing, which comes out so vulnerably at Christmas time for so many of us, and then leaves us feeling raw and exposed, strangely empty, or bereft, as if we are on the outside of something ‘looking in’ at what we imagine others are feeling or receiving, may be because we are asking it to provide the wrong thing, something innately impossible given its structure, especially in large families. You know what they say about expectation, after all.

What the day can offer, for me, I realized , is this stepping back – not as in being on the outside looking in, but to gaze in wonder at the abundance in the chaotic multiplication of Love in this place. That feels like maturity to me. That feels like Love to me, too. That feels a bit like Godde to me.  Synchronistically, the gift that my son, in that early ‘morning-after’ phone call, gave to me was his wonder and gratitude for the way I have been a loving presence in his life, simply watching in Love and letting him make his own journey without censure, knowing he his always beheld in that Love .

And, yet, I cannot leave my reflection of the day without acknowledging that my heart remaind heavy for one in our family, whom I deeply cherish, who is feeling so isolated and alone, especially so this year, without a human source for this deeper intimacy, this being known and seen in the ‘one soul to one soul’ way that human beings so need. How painful Christmas is for her, how she always feels like she is on the outside looking in at the closeness she perceives in others, craving their relationships like a starving ghost. And I think I understand that feeling in her just a little bit more than I did yesterday.  While she may be able to grasp, one day, this gazing in Love at the abundance of family, she does not yet have in her life the balancing, deepening, healing experience of that one deep, loving heart-to-heart connection.  My heart continues to break open for her in that longing.

I know a Source where I can go to be seen and received, which is not an external one, but perhaps that is far too easy for me to say, because I also have the intimacy of human love. And although all of us are truly alone (we can never fully be known by another) my own loneliness is not so prevalent a feeling in my life. I so long for her to know this human intimacy too. May it be so…..

So, yes, Christmas came and went, despite, or because of, the loss of Christmas. Isn’t it ‘funny’ how being stripped of something will do that ? – help you see past the clutter that was burying it to find the nugget of gold? How loss is so often succeeded by unexpected and previously unknown gifts? How we resist changing, and how blessed we are, in the end, by being changed?

And how the human heart… with all of its grief and longing and sorrow, hope and joy and love…. is always the gift to be unwrapped.

gentle grace of christmas morning

Dear great, great, grandaughter of mine,

It is Christmas morn, nearly 7 am, and across towns and cities, radiating in all directions, Christmas has arrived for children.. who are perhaps now your grandmothers. Magic has awakened them early. I send out messages of welcome, deep smiles of hope for that joy. I am glad.

But many are sad. (it is this way every Christmas. It is a difficult time for those who are grieving, who are lonely, who are suffering, but this year, it is particularly so). I’m aware of it in myself, now , too. It’s funny, how I didn’t think it was there, how really I thought I was content. Sorrow can be that way. It can hide under many faces, and it can be present alongside even contentment. A little nugget that screams for our attention, too, at times, like Horton’s Who, “I am here, I am here, I am here” We are never the whole of our feelings, though they can consume us at times, making us believe that is so.

As Walt Whitman once said, we contain multitudes.

And we are more than them too. We are the One who can see them all, hold them all, feel them all.

Yesterday, I felt it, the sorrow. I think it came out screaming at first in my feeling of unfairness that others were choosing/able to be with loved ones this Christmas. The feeling of being left out is a deep human pain… the pain of rejection, of abandonment, of being unloved and unseen are all wrapped up in that one. (hmm, wrapped up, as in a gift to be opened?).  I think yesterday morning’s letter, if you look closely, was thinly veiling some of that pain. We judge others often from that place. That can be easier sometimes than facing our own sorrows or failures.

I felt it in others yesterday too, the quick sharp retort and biting reactions , lashing outwards in anger at seeming slights and misunderstandings, from those whom I love , sometimes in the midst of conversation.  I felt like I was surely stepping on terribly painful toes—the proverbial, can’t say anything right, which you probably have experienced by now, that confuses you. There is so much tension in so many of us,  from holding so much, that we are snapping from it.

I read 2 things this week that helped me to see more clearly.

When you enter the world, you come to live on the threshold between the visible and the invisible. This tension infuses your life with longing. Now you belong fully neither to the visible nor to the invisible. This is precisely what kindles and rekindles your longing and your hunger to belong. You are both artist and pilgrim of the threshold. —John O’Donohue

Beneath every behavior there is a feeling. Beneath every feeling is a need. And when we meet that need, rather than focus on the behavior, we begin to deal with the cause, not the symptom. – Ashleigh Warner

So perhaps we are not being asked to do such a small thing, after all, as I wrote with such hubris yesterday, from my own lashing out pain. It is both a small thing and a big one. Here is the snake eating its tail again, that right/wrong circle of ambiguity. It is no wonder we ‘sin’ if it means ‘missing the mark’. It can be difficult even to know what the mark is…. Well, that is not entirely true either. Love is always the mark that we aim for.

Inquiry (in response to the second quote), a gentle curiosity, ‘what’s really going on?’, is always a good first step to aligning oneself to Love. Just that question alone is to be seen and often that is all Love asks of us, to see the other as Beloved, worthy of attentive grace and compassion. And I suppose that leads to meeting that ‘need’ – not necessarily fixing or providing for (or  taking away)  or easing the grief or pain that is causing the other’s behavior—but seeing it/‘meeting’ it. Perhaps if I begin there. Just there.. whether I am seeing the pain of a loved one or the pain of the earth or the pain in humanity that is making it act out. (that ache in yesterday’s post that we are trying to blindly fill with ‘all the wrong things’, because we are not ‘seeing’ it truly for what it is)

“Take the log out of your own eye” it was said, before you point out the splinter in the other.. It hurts to have a splinter in there, let alone a log !  We must acknowledge our own pain, it seems, or we project it.

Seek to see clearly, with Love.

(Ok, the texts announcing the waking up of my world are arriving, causing me to smile and to smirk at their silliness. That is love showing up….Don should be waking up soon too.

So I will leave you with that.

Love, Gaga

Christmas eve morn 2020

Dear great, great, grandchild of mine,

It is early morning, Christmas eve day. The light has not yet brightened the windows, which surround me with their dark, sheltering eyes, this rain-soaked dawn. Their panes are as black as night, though just above me, in the bedroom they were already brightening as I rose from the bed. In some ways, this space, then, feels like a burrow, tucked beneath the wrap around porch on 3 sides, the thick legs of sheltering trees beyond that, layer upon layer between me and that brightening, yet still heavy, world.

For now I am content to be within this shelter, though I must admit there are times when I need to crawl out, into the bright world beyond these walls, where, by day, that white light is now reflected by snow. Last evening, as we walked to the post office to check for a last-minute arrival, the moon, though just a drop fuller than half, was brilliant overhead, and I relished in the way that we can spy Her here in the winter season, with the lush, sheltering, summer canopy shed of its leaves.

On this Christmas eve, 2020, we are again, as we have throughout this long year, being asked to (re)consider what Love looks like. Some of us are noticing that, like 2000 years ago, Love does not necessarily look extravertedly lavish by the standards of a culture that has taught us a contorted version of Love’s extravagance. Love is both simpler and more outrageous than that– in the subtle and bold ways that it stretches the human heart– to give of itself, to be big by being small, to sacrifice for the sake of another.

These sacrifices that are being asked of us are really so small, though you would think we were being asked to choose which child to place upon the altar. ( Sadly, in many ways, we are doing just that, placing others on the altar of our collective foolishness, deciding that certain lives will be sacrificed, or are not worthy of concern. But this is not a true sacrifice, this selfishness, twisted somehow by some people into a perverse sort of expression of self-sacrifice, one that says ‘I’m willing to take my chances’).

We are not being asked to give so much really (There are people hungry, cold, and sick who are losing so much more). We are simply being asked to stay in place, with those immediate to us, to be still, like rabbits in our burrow, beneath the roots of the tree, beneath the snow. To not rush out a moment too soon, before it is time, attracting the predator to our communities. Still, many are struggling with this human urge, mightily.

Perhaps they long for the light. Perhaps they long for the open sky, for spaciousness, for fresh air in which to breathe. Perhaps their need (real or imagined) keeps them from seeing the ‘danger’ out there. Or their dens have been unaffected so they don’t believe the predator is real.

Perhaps they long for Love.

Perhaps, for some, the need for human contact is urgent, vital for their survival. ( of course, it is) We have been asked to isolate in varying ways for 9 long months now, a gestation some feel is urging them to push the limits of their confinement.

Perhaps it is the meaning of Love itself, so overlaid with the good feelings of the holiday season, that nudges them with longing. I understand that. Perhaps for some this is the only time that they feel it– this connection to their fellow human beings, this generosity of giving at one’s own expense (too often financial, in our current culture), this alleviation of loneliness.

Grandchild, there will be other stories told of this year, from different perspectives than mine. I am just one and can see only through the small lens of my own life and experiences. My own heart. My own mind. My own capacities. My own advantage. My own wounds. It is dangerous, in ways, to even tell the story, for one individual’s perspective, in its innate narrowness, risks being blind to the reality of others. Risks judgment. And there is never one way of seeing.

Love may look different on the surface to each of us, though deep within we know what it feels like. This year, with all of these shadows coming into the light, has been one of exposing that question, asking each one of us what Love is, what it looks like, how Love acts, How it feels.

In some ways, we are all at different places, seeing differently, yes, but also in our personal journeys, no matter our chronological age. An infant receives and gives and needs Love differently than the old woman sitting in her chair next to the fire, writing to a future grandchild. So it is in our collective life.

Some love is selfish. It needs so much. It is so hungry to be fed and does not yet have the capability or the know-how to feed itself. Some love requires human connection – body to body . Like lovers entwined beneath those white sheets, some cannot feel the ecstasy of being alive and connected without physical touch.

Human loneliness is so real. We strive in so many ways to alleviate that. We really do need one another. Please don’t imagine that I am saying otherwise, my child. Our relationships and communities of belonging here on this earth hold us and form us and grow us and keep us alive from the moment we are conceived in the womb. Some say, then, that they are willing to sacrifice others safety for the sake of alleviating/feeding that loneliness in themselves, for the sake of that longing to touch, for the sake being together.

Mostly, what i have heard though, is the unwillingness to sacrifice, encapsulated by the statement ‘I’m willing to take the risk’, a devil may care attitude that puts others at risk, likely persons they will never see or know, if this surge of deaths that is anticipated occurs. That is a hard concept for humans to grasp, the abstract. As sensate beings, we are so very concrete and immediate in our awarness and our understandings.

In so many ways, we are being asked to open our hearts and our minds beyond ourselves, to see how our choices affect the whole. From an earth in crisis- from mass extinctions to ecological collapse-, to a culture (and a self within that culture) that has benefited on the backs of an oppressed race and the poverty of masses, to a hidden virus that spreads according to our whims, our willingness to sacrifice for the sake of others is being called forth.

It is not easy for us to give up what we believe we deserve, have a right to, or need. Many cannot see how giving up looks like Love, how having less feels like Love, how there is freedom and deep joy in that. Some are noticing it, however. They are glimpsing, for instance, what sabbath looks like, how it feels to let go of the fullness of our days, to simply be present to whomever and whatever they are with. They are experiencing the enoughness of simplicity .They are glimpsing the intimacy that can come with less spreading out of oneself– of one’s energy and attention and time– an intimacy that fulfills the need for human connection. Some are glimpsing how connection can be nurtured in the heart, beyond the need even for human-to-human touch, how deepening can occur when walls are erected, which keep us from spreading too wide, unsupported by roots. (I think here also of a cup vs a tabletop, or a well that is dug too shallow )

But not all have noticed this. Some have not opened the gift of letting go. Letting go of control. They rail– on both sides— not understanding that the railing is poisoning their own wells, making them sick. We are just humans, wanting our own way, unable to see how that doesn’t enrich us, but makes of us tyrants.

Some have not noticed because they are in real human strife. They are hungry, or cold, or sick, or poor, or lonely, or experiencing the grief of loss, or frightened of being so. For these I have deep compassion.

Mary’s maginificat keeps swelling up within me these weeks. Many of us need to be brought low, many of us need to be lifted, by a Love that says not ‘me first’, but ‘yes, if that is your will’. This Love that is asking us to say ‘yes’ to being humbled, to risk bearing the shame of a culture that finds us inconsequential, or foolish, or delusional to believe that this is a message of Love, to which we are being asked to submit.

Oh child, I have digressed, as so often I do when writing to you. As you can probably tell, my heart, too, is heavy this morning with longing- to be with those whom I love– and I find myself feeling particularly sad this morning, and if i am honest, (which i find it possible to be here with you) angry too. When i see so many others unwilling to sacrifice, i notice my own longing increase, the loss feels more potent perhaps when you feel you are bearing it alone. I feel left out. That’s an aspect of community belonging too, the bearing of burdens feels lighter when shared, then when placed on the backs of a few.

And I digress again. Just as in life, i suppose, there are no straight lines. All is circular it seems… even what is right and what is wrong looks like a snake swallowing its tail…. the coyote who kills the rabbit to feed its young pups. Is our species so very different then in our actions? I wonder though. Our hunger feels so very out of proportion to our need. Why do we act as if we are starving? That, i suspect, is where the work must begin, to somehow feed this hidden hunger that drives us, so that we stop consuming each other, consuming too much of the wrong things— things that never reach that deep ache for Love anyway.

I hope that in this letter you hear grace and not righteousness. That you hear my own humanity. For, as I wrote near the beginning of this winding tail (spelling intended), i am but one small human with one small perspective. While I believe I have gleaned some wisdom from life, I am just as certain that i am as blind as my neighbor.

The windows are now bright. Through the west facing panes, I see the snow upon my neighbor’s roof.

Love, Gaga

moving toward night, i become more morning

In the east window, the sky turns blue, not like the flash of incandescence under the coffeepot this dark December morn, but shy, like the rain that rustles before it falls, or the first note of the first bird. Sometimes we know them, moments incandescent, but more often the meaning comes only as time burnishes it, candle, not lightning, pearl after slow pearl strung in secret, as we grow more wise. The light turns blue, the coffee steams. Each day now, the world darkening toward zero, I rise earlier just to know that first incandescent blue. Moving toward night, I grow more morning

Judith Cordary

Each day, this season leading to winter, I’ve also found myself rising earlier and earlier, the bedroom surround of windows whispering of the coming dawn, nudging me to wake, the room no longer charcoal black but more like those ashes after the heat is spent.

In the quiet grey, next to the fire, I too sit with my coffee, not heated by the incandescent blue gas flame of the poet, but with the touch of my finger upon the neon blue button of my friend, Keurig. It is the fire next to me that burns blue, but that too was ignited by the touch of a button. I flip the switch, it blazes hot. Across the room, the blue light of the aquarium full of friends, who remind me what it feels like to swim underwater, glows next to the Yule tree, whom I have come to learn was originally adorned with lights to symbolize the sun, moon, and stars gazing upon the Tree of Life. I’ve lain beneath wise old conifers in the dark of a northern night, and witnessed that crowd of stars twinkling in the grace of their branches, and understood that ancient connection.

Gradually, the windows surrounding me let in the light, and I see. Silhouettes of trees, likewise, surrounding me. Concentric circles of surroundedness, expanding beyond the pinpoint of light that i am. Soon, the noise of the day- that light that blinds us to the enveloping darkness– will begin to make itself known, will fill this spaciousness with the clutter (and beauty) of life.

As I grow older, I am coming to prefer these moments of quiet darkness, of invisibility, if you will. They say, in our culture, in particular, that as we grow older, we become more and more invisible– as if that is a shame. I understand what ‘they’ are saying. I feel that too, the poignancy of that loss of identity, of importance, of centrality, of vitality (as in, being seen as vital). If i am not careful, I can trip in the darkness and fall into that same old hole. It is in truth, a very young hole, an old wound, the feeling of being invisible in one’s own family, unseen and unloved, the feeling of unbelonging, and one that i must take care to walk gingerly past, gazing with grace upon it, like an old friend. That hole is also an ego hole, though, the need to be seen as important.

Here, in the dark, I know invisibility as comfort, as strength, as ultimate belonging. It is quiet. It is full. It is mystery. It is deep contentment. It is withness. It is wisdom. Wisdom, that needs not attention, nor affirmation. Wisdom that simply is . Wisdom that is not seen; it sees.

Here in the dark, I rise, as I have now for ages. My hair is now the color of moonlight, reflecting an inner sun that has moved deep beneath the horizon of others, to the center of my soul. I am content, mostly, these days to be that steady unassuming gaze, in the background smiling, a subtler being on the landscape, no longer the center of orbit. I know that, even in the dark, the wisdom of the Moon may light a path across the water… or draw a world-weary eye to wonder, for a moment, at least, pulled out of distraction or despair— or draw the tides of change (although those down below will always imagine it was their cleverness that engineered it). Here in the dark of morning, I see. That to withdraw from the chaos is to see, is to call for the stillness from which true movement might be noticed and embraced.

Here in the dark, no longer standing at a fiery center that demands all to orbit about me, I see. The fire of so many hearths. Hearths that are centers of intimacy and belonging and Love, hearths that were lighted by Love– some of them, perhaps, from mine, before i was thrust into this farther orbit. From this vantage, that is a sight to behold. Being the moon is Ok. I suspect her rising is simply maturing of Love within me.

The world is darkening toward zero. I rise, melting into the morning .

The coffee is cold in my cup. Obstructions grow more visible. I sense their sharpness and shadows. But I step around that hole. With the wisdom of age, Love also matures, and that stepping aside is beginning to feel easy. Right. Natural.

I carry the Wisdom of darkness within me, more and more, these days, even when the light threatens to overwhelm its truth of wholeness, of completeness, of oneness.

Of stillness.

Of presence.

Of peace.

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