Advent 17: Loneliness

On the way to and from school these days, the kids and I are listening to Maggie Stiefvater’s magical book series, The Raven Cycle. Yesterday, she explored one character’s way of being/not being with others in a tender discussion of loneliness and lonesomeness and aloneness. I can’t reconstruct her dreamy prose here, but the idea caught the flighty bird of my attention.

I have been considering these concepts lately, too, because one of the shadows that overwhelms in this season of shifting shadows is loneliness. Let’s keep our eyes open and hearts aware, as we walk this path together, of those who live with a deep sense of isolation and lack of connection from others. I see them at school, those who–for whatever reason–remain separate from the rest, keep their heads down and their eyes low, who take up so little body space they can almost make themselves invisible. Whether it’s fear or shyness or past pain or perceived difference, they live in isolation from others, and it takes deep tenderness and patience to step through the veil toward them. Social anxiety is a monstrous fear for so many young people these days, and it breeds an aching loneliness.

It’s also possible to be extremely socially interactive and still feel separate and apart, lonesome. In places where you feel a profound sense of unbroachable difference with others, it’s easy to feel isolated, no matter how gregarious and interactive your relationships. Yesterday, I posted Brene Brown’s message on my board at school: “If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, I fit in.” The holiest communities for me have been the ones where we can acknowledge and appreciate the ways in which we are different, where we can revel in the uniqueness of each individual while meeting at our common points. In this season, I have been more acutely aware of some of the challenges of meeting in ways that appreciate difference when theological and political discussions have created such chasms. Our current cultural divide heightens our separation and makes belongingness even more elusive. It is possible to be interactive and friendly on the surface while feeling the width of the chasm between self and others as a poignant and painful lonesomeness.

One of my deep, deep longings, especially at times when the rest of the world seems to gearing up the energy to a frenzy, is for long periods of quiet aloneness, a nearly impossible commodity in this season. The demands of the world outside become so intense that I can find it hard to catch my breath. I need to take my aloneness when I can, and keep my schedule as loose and open as possible. I need to be my own dragon at the gate. It’s hard at times to keep the open and watchful heart that is ready to notice the lonely hearts of others when I am protecting my own aloneness, and I feel this tension acutely in the shadow season.

Let’s keep our hearts aware and awake to our own needs for space and quiet in this season, even while we offer belonging to those in our communities who may be feeling invisible or isolated.


Gratitude List:
1. Quiet moments of restful aloneness
2. Belongingness. Deep, true heart-meeting belongingness
3. Warm fleeces and flannels
4. Watching students open themselves to being known
5. You, out there, breathing and thinking and dreaming and being present.

May we walk in Beauty and Belongingness.

Into the Dreamtime, Christmas Morning

Inner and Outer Worlds, Sunrise

Blessings to you this morning, whether you are spending it in quiet contemplation or amidst the chaos of children and relatives, whether you are filled with a sense of longing or a sense of belonging, whether you are satisfied or whether you are wishing to change your lot. May your heart find the light. May your soul be restful in the shadows. May you know yourself to be a part of the web of things.


Gratitude List:
1. The inner and outer worlds
2. Darkness and light
3. Peppermint meltaways
4. Mary’s Canticle
5. You. Always You.

May we walk in Beauty!


“From the halls of power to the fortress tower,
not a stone will be left on stone.
Let the king beware for your justice tears
every tyrant from his throne.
The hungry poor shall weep no more,
for the food they can never earn;
These are tables spread, ev’ry mouth be fed,
for the world is about to turn.

My heart shall sing of the day you bring.
Let the fires of your justice burn.
Wipe away all tears,
For the dawn draws near,
And the world is about to turn.”
—Rory Cooney, from “Canticle of the Turning”


Making the House Ready for the Lord
by Mary Oliver

Dear Lord, I have swept and I have washed but
still nothing is as shining as it should be
for you. Under the sink, for example, is an
uproar of mice–it is the season of their
many children. What shall I do? And under the eaves
and through the walls the squirrels
have gnawed their ragged entrances–but it is the season
when they need shelter, so what shall I do? And
the raccoon limps into the kitchen and opens the cupboard
while the dog snores, the cat hugs the pillow;
what shall I do? Beautiful is the new snow falling
in the yard and the fox who is staring boldly
up the path, to the door. And still I believe you will
come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox,
the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know
that really I am speaking to you whenever I say,
as I do all morning and afternoon: Come in, Come in.


“I am a hole in a flute
that the Christ’s breath moves through
listen to this music
I am the concert from the mouth of every creature
singing with the myriad chorus” —Hafiz


“May I be the tiniest nail in the house of the universe, tiny but useful.” ―Mary Oliver


“We’re all just walking each other home.” —Ram Dass


“I learned from Whitman that the poem is a temple—or a green field—a place to enter, and in which to feel.” ―Mary Oliver