Mandalas


A filter manipulation of a bouquet of lisianthus and mint. Not a mandala, but yes, a mandala.

“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it is over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”
—Mary Oliver
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“Arm yourself with love and knowledge, and let’s work together for justice.” —Regina Shands Stoltzfus
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“To be strong does not mean to sprout muscles and flex. It means meeting one’s own numinosity without fleeing, actively living with the wild nature in one’s own way. It means to be able to learn, to be able to stand what we know. It means to stand and live.” —Clarissa Pinkola Estes
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“Prayer takes the mind out of the narrowness of self-interest, and enables us to see the world in the mirror of the holy. For when we betake ourselves to the extreme opposite of the ego, we can behold a situation from the aspect of God.”
—Abraham Joshua Heschel
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“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”
― James Baldwin“
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The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible — and achieve it, generation after generation.” —Pearl S Buck
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“May the sun bring you new energy by day;
May the moon softly restore you by night;
May the rain wash away your worries,
May the breeze blow new strength into your being.
May you walk through the world
and know its beauty all the days of your life.”
—Apache blessing


Gratitude List:
1. This kid, who is taking days and days to transfer our photo files from the old hard drive onto the cloud. I just kept saying I would do it some day, and now it’s just getting done!
2. Storms. Good solid, soaking rain.
3. Meeting another mostly-FB friend, and finding a real kindred spirit
4. Mandalas
5. Looking at old videos of the boys when they were babies. Reminiscing.

May we walk in Beauty!

Here We Go!

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I can’t remember which of my father’s books this came from. I felt like such a smarty-pants, realizing that I could take a photo of it, rather than interrupting the conversation to write it down, but then I forgot to keep track of which book it was in. I think it was one by John Philip Newell.
“. . .in every human I love something of You.” Such a sense of the Mystery immanent within everyone. Seek and you will find.

Here I sit, in the roller coaster at the very top of that first hill, the very moment of pause before release, and the first thrilling whoosh down the first slope. So much excitement and anticipation. A little anxiety. But I’ve ridden roller coasters before, and this is my third round on this one. This time, I might even be ready to throw my hands up and scream for sheer delight on some of the wild corners I know are coming.

Today is Faculty Day at school, and tomorrow we welcome the Bright and Shining Ones back into the halls. I’m looking forward to this ride. I know myself a little better this year. I’m calmer. Still excited. Carrying Etty Hillesum’s quotation with me into this year, to seek the Source, the Mystery, the Divine, in each of my colleagues and my students and their parents. Hillesum also wrote in her journals that she was seeking to open doors for God in each connection she made with other people. Let’s do that too, shall we?

Gratitude List:
1. Water that comes out of the sky. Soothing rain. Sitting with my parents on their front porch in the rain. Rain on the lisianthus.
2. That dragonfly who zipped back and forth through the heaviest part of the downpour, heedless of the raindrops. I think she was flying between them, actually. And then as we drove slowly away after the rain was gone, she hovered along beside us all the way to the stop sign.
3. The songs. The singing. “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea.”
4. Everyone is welcome at the table. Everyone.
5. All those shades of pink and violet on the altar yesterday.

May we walk in Beauty!

Lay Down Your Heart

fins
By Monday, the gills have expanded and developed, the underside of the universe.

Working up a poem that I wrote a year ago:

Lay down your heart, sister
for one mist-laden moment
on the bank of the river
where your ancestors wandered.

It will not end the clamor
or stop the blood that spills
over rocks in the deserts.

It will not offer you answers
to the why of war
or end the stench of battles.

Still, the waters may offer you
questions instead, questions
that will create the riddles
to draw you onto the path again
despite the darkness
that surrounds you.

Gratitude List:
1. I have been given this day in which to do my work.
2. How emotion settles in the body. I know this can be unsettling, too. I read something yesterday by Darshana Avila, about sensing the way that happiness and sadness settle in the body, noticing where they are, what they do in the body, not judging them or their presence as “good” or “bad.” She noted that when we reflect on the way emotions are sensed in the body, happiness and sadness don’t always feel that different.  They just are.  It reminds me of Rumi welcoming all comers to the guesthouse.
3. New questions. I have to ask Anne Marie sometime to remind me of the entire list she offered in church on Sunday, a series of questions that comes from the peacebuilding work of the Great Lakes Initiative in eastern Africa.  The ones that stick with me are, “What do you lament?” and “What does joy look like?” I like the way the questions are phrased, instead of simply asking what makes you sad or happy–which are equally valid questions.
4. This one feels a little petty because it’s so material, but it has wider implications for me: Yesterday I found some dresses at Columbia Re-Uzit, and then I drove past my friend’s farm stand, and she was also having a yard sale, and I bought some of her clothes. So now I feel like I have the outfitting necessary for the coming school season. It’s one more thing off my plate, accomplished with minimal effort and thought–that’s the piece I am grateful for. That, and the lovely colors and textures, and the thought that I will be wearing some things that my beautiful and gracious friend has worn. In that context, clothes are more than just clothes, you know?
5. What shall I pull out for this last one? I do not yet have a Thing of Beauty on the list, other than my lovely new dresses. Oh, here it is: the bouquet of lisianthus blossoms my mother brought to me yesterday to have on the table today as I am working on my class preparations. Deep purple-violet and vibrant red-violet. (My parents brought me flowers, AND they are caring for my children for a couple days so that I can focus solely on the preparations for school.)

May we walk in Beauty.

Watch Out for the Gremlins!

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Here is a little bit of a thought experiment I am doing on myself: My mother gave me this visually delicious bouquet of lisianthus yesterday.  I put it on the table with my bowl of prayer stones.  I’ve made my peace with orange/pink combinations and learned to really savor the complexity.  Instead of this image being jarring, I find it full of energy and life. Still, I hesitated to post it because I have a feeling that it’s sort of socially unacceptable.  Funny, isn’t it?  Even posting a photo of a pink flower on an orange backdrop makes some little gremlin in the back of my head start to chatter about being judged.  Those are the sorts of gremlins I am trying to weed out–they pop up in the strangest of situations.

Gremlins like this can be pretty insidious, and we don’t always know we are responding to them. This was a fairly innocuous one–easy to identify and easy to quash, but it’s not always that way. Powerful little critters, they weasel into the subconscious workings of the brain, and jump out to convince us that we look really ridiculous or that everyone is going to think that comment just now was completely stupid.  They get really insidious because they start working the other way, too.  They make us care so much about what other people are thinking of us, that we start to judge other people on their crazy criteria.

Part of learning to be whole, learning to be awake, part of walking toward wisdom, is to name the gremlins along with the blessings.  This one that I am looking at is a petty little fiend, and I am a little embarrassed to show him to you, but there he is.  (Next one’ll be a she, I promise. I think she might even be hiding within these parentheses.)  Now to pull out my magic wand and banish socialus awkwardus. . .at least for the time being.

Isn’t that pink flower on an orange background just sort of invigorating?

Gratitude List:
1. Lisianthus
2. The ongoing discussion yesterday, about despair/hope, about holding the furious opposites together, about paradox.
3. My parents, and their continuing dedication to engaging the hard questions, to inviting new conversation.
4. The poets.  All of them, always.  Today: Rilke and Rumi and Oriah Mountain Dreamer.
5. A fresh week.  A clean page.  A shining moment of sunshine.  I can make anything of it that I choose.

May we walk in Beauty!

Walking and Striving

lisianthus
Lisianthus–I think I have posted it before, but I love this flower in my parents’ garden.

Gratitude List:
1. Goldfinches (yes, they were on here recently)–Usually when I imagine that I can fly, I am a hawk or an eagle, sailing high with a long view. Or a crow, battling winds with a fierce wildness.  But were I a goldfinch, I would dance down sunbeams on my imaginary roller coaster–up and up, then coast, up again, and coast–golden in the sun’s golden.  And sing for joy.
2. My nieces and nephews.  They just keep being wonderful people.  Two of them visited yesterday, and we had a great conversation, hearing about their recent travels.  I love these people.
3. Morning walk.  It does make it harder to get up.  I do not like to exert myself in the mornings.  I like to wake up slowly.  But this old dog needs to try some new tricks, and I like the walking, and the being done walking.
4. Organizing.  Yesterday I went through the boxes and bags of files that I brought home to use or recycle as I get ready for fall classes.  One step closer. . .  I am beginning to get excited about the next season of school.  (But I am still planning to thoroughly enjoy the next few weeks of waking up after 6 and not having a scheduled day.)
5. Striving.  I think I am sort of good enough at many of the things that I do, and enthusiasm perhaps goes a long way toward making thing work out okay–but I have a lot of tweaks and improvements to make in many areas of my life.  I am glad that I don’t have to be perfect, that I get to keep trying, to keep trying to fix things up and do better.  As the journey itself is the destination, the striving–not the perfecting–is the work.

May we walk in Beauty!

Love and Hope

milkweed1  Love and Hope  eggses

“Where there is love, there is life.”  –Mahatma Gandhi

Today is US Independence Day:
May your celebrations today be filled with joyful moments with people you truly See you.

May we as a people live up to the ideals we set for ourselves, the dreams we claim to offer, and
the maturity that independence demands.

Here is your assignment for this morning, class: Set a timer for ten minutes.  Write a poem or an essay about what this day means to you without using the words freedom, values, ideals, dream, democracy, independence, liberty.  (Yes, I broke those rules in the little blessing I wrote up there–that’s what gave me this idea.)

Perhaps it is a function of the lazy rabbit-trail-filled brain-meanderings of summer, but a warning: Today’s gratitude list is rife with parenthetical notations.  I could not help myself, but I am not apologizing, nor am I amending.

Gratitude List:
1. I still haven’t seen one this season, but Jon keeps seeing them, and it makes me happy to know that they live here, too: black snakes.  They’re earnest and secretive, mysterious.
2. Yesterday I wrote about prayer, and a new and dear friend wrote to me of the Sufi concept of prayer as “opening to the divine radiance.” I looked it up, and my preliminary searches have found references to the phrase “Divine Radiance” in Muslim, Christian, and Jewish discussions of prayer.  This brings me great joy.  (And it was a lovely synchronicity, because I read her note just after a conversation with my parents, in which we had discussed Sufi mysticism, in which my father had been reading Hafiz poems to me. Am I not fortunate to have such parents? There’s a bonus gratitude thrown in for the morning.)
3. I love the charge in the air on a morning that is waiting for rain.
4. All the flowers.  In my parents’ (yes, there they are again) garden: deep red gloriosa lily with yellow tips, fluffy white hydrangea, deep purple and dusky rose lisianthus (because my name is Elizabeth Ann, I have this feeling that the Lizzy-Ann flower is personal to me), deep magenta rose, yellow day lily, violet clematis.  Along the roadsides, thousands of blue-eyed chicory (we used to call them cornflowers–I like both names), the elegant dusty green and golden-tipped heads of hag’s taper (mullein, but I like the common name), shaggy pink balls of milkweed that haven’t yet been mowed down (please let them stay!), bright orange day lilies, the delicate lace of Queen Anne, violet carpets of vetch, bright golden patches of buttercup.
5. Community conversations

May we walk–like the snakes, like the flowers, like the birds–in Beauty, in Wisdom, in Prayer.