Gratitudes, Musings

Into the Dark, December 14

Every year at this time, I feel the anxiety and restlessness begin to rise within me, and the cold settles into my bones. Every year, I need to consciously ease my spirit into the season. This year, from the beginning of December until Epiphany, I will set it down here on the blog. May we journey into the darkness with intention and tenderness.

Yesterday was St. Lucia’s Day. I usually try to bring in holidays and celebrations from around the world in the first few moments of the class. By the end of the day, I was a little tired of repeating the story of her martyrdom–Diocletian had her eyes gouged out before she was killed. She has come to represent inner light, inner seeing. The tradition of wearing a wreath with lit candles represents that fact of life: that we have many forms of light, many ways to see. Even the St. Lucia buns that people eat on December 13, with the raisins swirled into the ends, represent eyes.

Yesterday I was preoccupied with a certain kind of seeing, of keeping my inner eyes on the beloved one who was in the hands of competent doctors. Prayer is a form of seeing, of watching, observing. Today’s word will be Seeing with a capital S: that watchfulness of what is happening inside, of keeping our beloveds and our world in that prayerful inner focus.


Gratitude List:
1. The sure hands of doctors. Medical technology. All went well in the surgery yesterday.
2. Painting with my small person
3. Eyes to see, and inner eyes to See
4. Fridays
5. Stories and ideas that percolate through the layers of dream

May we walk in Beauty!


“The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.”
—Muriel Rukeyser 
***
“At times you have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.”
—Alan Alda
***
“And love is always the bottom line.” -—Cynthia Bourgeault

Gratitudes, Musings

Remembering Old Friends

imag1857
This is one of the Lehmans’ fields, just about a week ago. Now their heads are all bowed, the petals have faded and dried up, and the seeds are filling in.

Last night I went to the viewing for a childhood friend of mine. When we moved to Pennsylvania when I was ten years old, Linda and her family lived about a mile away from us–a nice bike ride–and our families went to the same church.  Linda was tall and sort of shy; I was short and chatty. I remember hanging out in her family’s cool basement, reading each other the Dear Abby column from old newspapers, playing with her brother’s chemistry set (I think we wanted to make something blow up–what kid with a chemistry set doesn’t?), and riding our bikes down over the field to the Green Dragon yard sale and buying stuffed animals that our mothers wouldn’t let into the house.

We went to different high schools, but we remained friends, going to youth group together, and writing each other long notes during the week that we would give to each other to read each Sunday at church. On really cold winter afternoons, a bunch of us would head over to Leroy and Beulah’s pond for raucous games of MudSucker, a version of ice hockey with players on skates or in big old boots, and lots of body checking and laughter.

Linda was a loyal and gentle friend, always present in conversation, often smiling, thoughtful, and lots of fun to be with.

After high school, our lives went different ways, and I never made the effort to get back together. We each made attempts here and there to connect, but somehow we never managed to maintain the connection.  Every once in a while, I would wonder where she was, how she was doing. I reconnected with our friend Stacey a couple years ago on Facebook, and she at least updated me on Linda, but I still didn’t make the extra effort to get her number, to call her, to see her again.

This is a story about regret. I am trying to learn to sit with these crunchy emotions, to welcome them into my guesthouse (to use Rumi’s phrase). If I don’t sit with the tough emotions and listen to the stories they have for me, they get in anyway, and then they barrel around and destroy things. Regret turns to flaming shame and eats all the food in the house. Perhaps if I invite them in for a while, just to talk, and listen to the stories they have to tell me, I can learn something about myself and about the past.

This is a story about friendship. Treasure your friendships in your heart. Know that the friends you make will be there, ready to pick up the threads again when you reconnect. But never waver at a chance to re-connect, to make contact. Our friends become part of us, they shape and mold us in ways we can’t always name. I could vow to never again take a friendship for granted, to never completely lose touch again with people I have loved, but I think it is the way of the world, that people connect and move on, and the contact fades. I can, however, use this moment to remember the ways in which my friends over the years have blessed and changed me, and to be ready, whenever the moment presents itself, to take the time and attention to reconnect, to make that extra effort.

Gratitude List:
1. This weather. Yesterday’s weather was perfect. Thermal Delight.
2. Pawpaws. Like custardy mangoes. I really need to plant me a pawpaw tree.
3. Asian pears. For lunch, I have been eating a soft and tender pawpaw, and then a crisp and crunchy pear. Perfect crunch, perfect sweet tang.
4. Old friends. Even (or especially) in the painful times of death, it is nice to reconnect with friends I have known and loved long ago.
5. Fridays. Faculty hymn sing, a schedule that sort of teaches itself, and anticipating Saturday with the family. Rest. Breathing. Rejuvenating. (I will love Monday, too, when it comes.)

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Poems

Wings Wide

hummer
Just a picture of green leaves, but if you look really closely and squint your eyes and cock your head to the side, about a third of the way along the very bottom of the photo, you can make out the silhouette of the mother hummingbird’s head, her bill pointing down as she feeds her baby.

For the Vulture

When you came to rest upon the pole
and opened your wings
wide to the sky,
were you holding up that cloud, or
warming your shoulders in the sun?

Were you warning the people in the valley
that death will one day visit us all,
or reminding us that all of life
is one great cycle, with no beginning
and no end?

I felt it as a benediction,
the pastor raising her hands toward heaven
and blessing her tiny congregation
gathered under the sycamore tree.

Gratitude List:
1. Hummingbirds. I know. Every day, right? But yes, every single day, and yesterday I trained my binoculars on the nest when the mother flew away and saw two tiny needle beaks poking up above the nest’s rim. Picture a metal bottle cap–the inside of the nest is only millimeters deeper than that, and two tiny hearts beat inside two impossibly tiny winged creatures who live inside that space. My heart keeps falling on its knees.
2. Friday. I love teaching, love my new batch of students, love seeing my earnest colleagues daily. And. And. I am exhausted. The first week is a glorious whirl. At one point this week, I found myself telling one class about another class’s deadline.  One the day when I was orienting all the classes to the use of certain computer programs, I completely missed a step in the last class of the day because I thought I had told them already–I had said it so many times already. That said–I am eager for the weekend of rest.
3. Poetry. My life is so much richer for the beauty of language that surrounds me.
4. Hymn sing. Friday mornings, the faculty gathers before school to sing hymns together. It’s the perfect thing to wake up the spirit for the last day of the week. What a perfect, perfect metaphor for the work we do together, to sit and blend our harmonies once a week.
5. Solitude. (I need to carefully find my moments of solitude in the new rhythm of my life.)

May we walk in Beauty, ever ancient, ever new.