Advent 21: The Shortest Day

We arrive at the shortest day.
Silence.
Stillness.
This moment, when I am writing, is the darkness just before the dawn.
The year, too, is dawning.
Sit in the dark.
Feel the empty quiet around you.
Breathe in.
Breathe out.
Holy, holy, holy.


Gratitude List:
1. Laughing with my family. Somebody said last night that they were glad we get to celebrate Winter Stoltzfus together.
2. The long night is over and the day is dawning.
3. There are still many days to become acquainted with the shadows, but the light is returning.
4. How the house lights make the dew sparkle and twinkle. Light and shadow. Light and shadow
5. Now the day begins, the laughter, the clatter, the murmurs, the music the twinkling eyes.

May your day be filled with Shine!

Shadow and Flame

What would you see if you could look through that window?

Gratitude List:
1. Elderberry wine. It’s a great comfort for a cold.
2. Windows, on many levels
3. Quiet and solitude
4. Color
5. DreamsThe dream as I woke up this morning went like this:
Two sisters were holding each other.
One says, “Don’t worry. Everything is going to be okay.”
The Other says, “I wish I could believe that.”
The First says, “It’s okay. I’ll believe it for both of us. You just concentrate on taking one step at a time.”
This was after a harrowing dream about trying to get somewhere that I needed to go, and trying to contact Jon to tell him I would be late, and the taxi just wouldn’t come, and my phone was blinking out, and I couldn’t remember whether I had closed the door to keep the cats from getting out.

May we walk in Beauty!


“Quiet the mind enough
so it is the heart
that gives the prayer.”
—Ingrid Goff-Maidoff


“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” —Martin Luther King Jr.


“People are like stained glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.” —Elisabeth Kubler-Ross


“Creative acts of social justice constitute life’s highest performance art.” —Rebecca Alban Hoffberger


“If you will, you can become all flame.” —Abba Joseph


“Become all shadow.
Become all light.”
—Beth Weaver-Kreider


“You cannot use someone else’s fire; you can only use your own. And in order to do that, you must first be willing to believe you have it.” —Audre Lorde


“The first duty of love is to listen.”
—Paul Tillich


“Doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is one element of faith. The opposite of faith is certainty.”
—Paul Tillich


“When you go to your place of prayer, don’t try to think too much or manufacture feelings or sensations. Don’t worry about what words you should say or what posture you should take. It’s not about you or what you do. Simply allow Love to look at you—and trust what God sees! God just keeps looking at you and loving you center to center. ” —Richard Rohr


“All through your life, the most precious experiences seemed to vanish. Transience turns everything to air. You look behind and see no sign even of a yesterday that was so intense. Yet in truth, nothing ever disappears, nothing is lost. Everything that happens to us in the world passes into us. It all becomes part of the inner temple of the soul and it can never be lost. This is the art of the soul: to harvest your deeper life from all the seasons of your experience. This is probably why the soul never surfaces fully. The intimacy and tenderness of its light would blind us. We continue in our days to wander between the shadowing and the brightening, while all the time a more subtle brightness sustains us. If we could but realize the sureness around us, we would be much more courageous in our lives. The frames of anxiety that keep us caged would dissolve. We would live the life we love and in that way, day by day, free our future from the weight of regret.” —John O’Donohue


“People with a psychological need to believe in marvels are no more prejudiced and gullible than people with a psychological need not to believe in marvels.” —Charles Fort


“O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t.” —Shakespeare, The Tempest

Minds Like Still Water

“On teaching:…the job seems to require the sort of skills one would need to pilot a bus full of live chickens backwards, with no brakes, down a rocky road through the Andes while simultaneously providing colorful and informative commentary on the scenery.” ―Franklin Habit
*
“We can make our minds so like still water that beings gather about us that they may see, it may be, their own images, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life because of our quiet.” ―W.B. Yeats
*
“We’re all lovers and we’re all destroyers. We’re all frightened and at the same time we all want terribly to trust. This is part of our struggle. We have to help what is most beautiful to emerge in us and to divert the powers of darkness and violence. I learn to be able to say, ‘This is my fragility. I must learn about it and use it in a constructive way.'” ―Jean Vanier
*
“I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire. 
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid, more accessible;
to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance,
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom,
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.”
―Dawna Markova


Gratitude:
Not so much a list tonight. A recognition, perhaps of the thrumming of the web, the sense of connection and holding spaces for each other. The warmth of face-to-face connections and eye contact. Twinkling eyes. The fierce protectiveness we feel for the ones in our care, and the sense of being cared for just so fiercely by others. The way lines on a page–a screen–can be drawn between us, so that we can come away with a sense that we Know each other, that we Belong in each other’s circles. That mystical sense of knowing that someone is
praying
spelling
dreaming
sending energy
holding the light
carrying stones
on my behalf, on your behalf, on behalf of the world.

May you feel yourself upon the web.

Cocooned


The hollow is cocooned in a bowl of fog and mist. The songbirds are striking up the second movement in the dawn chorus, and the gang of crows that were arguing in the bosque has moved on to other venues. The mourning dove is giving voice to her emotions. Perhaps three cars have passed in the hour I have been sitting here.

I have been thinking more about how we live in layers, how the past and the present come together in this moment, and sometimes we seem to be living in the layers of time simultaneously. In recent years, Facebook has become my diary, showing me what I have done on this day in years past. I have been fascinated by some of the uncanny coincidences. We went to the Shoe House for ice cream on the exact same day two years in a row–the only two times we have taken our children there. Yesterday before we took Fred to the vet to release him from his pain and confusion, Jon had a tender encounter with a hummingbird who hovered for a few seconds so close to him that he could hear her wings. This morning, I read that two years ago yesterday, I had a similar encounter with a hummingbird. These are lovely little whimsical connections, but they draw my mind to the deeper ones, to the circles and spirals and overlaps of my existence here. Nothing that happens has happened before. Everything has happened before. All moments are unique and separate, and all moments are one single moment.

Sometimes I would like to be one of those crows and sail above the landscape of my life, looking for patterns, gaining perspective. I suppose these moments of reflection are just that. But I can’t live my life with that sort of distance, that sort of intellectual fascination. I have to live down here, in the moments that come, holding within me the fragments of the map as I glimpse them, and experiencing everything as though it is both the freshest and newest thing and also a part of the ancient pattern.
*****

I have done very little writing of my own this summer, choosing instead to curate the words of others. In the past decade, I have been honing my craft, finding my voice, building up a body of poems. I have self-published two little books, and that has been immensely satisfying, but I am feeling unsettled again, like I need to find my voice in a wider space. I have been playing with submitting poems and short stories to various publications this summer, and garnering the requisite rejections. I am not discouraged, although I have come to the realization that I need to find a better focus for the work of submission. I have worked in publishing myself (25 years ago), yet I still don’t think I have the requisite savvy for the art of selling my work to the appropriate venues.  That’s my goal for the coming season–not just to submit my poems to random contests and magazines, but to target publications that might appreciate my particular perspectives. Advice is always welcome.


“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, who had ever been alive.” ~James Baldwin
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“Three things cannot be hidden: the Moon, the Sun and the Truth.” ~ Gautama Buddha
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“Those doing soul work, who want the searing truth more than solace or applause, know each other right away. Those who want something else turn and take a seat in another room. Soul-makers find each other’s company” ~ Rumi
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“Going within is the only way out.” ~Toko-pa Turner
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“What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it, all the rest are not only useless, but disastrous.”
~Thomas Merton
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“Let me fall, if I must. The one I will become will catch me.” ~Baal Shem Tov
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“The sky itself
Reels with love.”
—Rumi
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“That’s a tough spirituality. That’s not any kind of sweet-by-and-by spirituality. That’s a spirituality that takes on the world as it is and says, ‘I’m gonna figure this out one way or another.’ The mystic and the Moses.” ~Vincent Harding (On Being interview)
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“How do you survive through time and chance,
through the twisty songs of fate?
Plant your roots deep,
cling to rock and boulder.
Send your strong trunk up into sky.
Live in the stillness.
Breathe.” ~Beth Weaver-Kreider
*
“May you know the fearlessness of an open heart. May you never meet anyone you consider a stranger, and know that no matter what, you are not alone. May you have compassion for others’ suffering and joy in their delights. May you be free to give and receive love.” –Sharon Salzberg
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“In our culture, we use the word ‘dreamy’ derogatively to describe someone who is unrealistic or without ambition. But what thrills and amazes me about dreamwork is how truly grounding it is. One of the reasons this is true, is because dreams are expressions of that larger ecosystem in which we are embedded, and which has a design for our lives within that greater context! So rather than taking our cues from consensus culture, instead we are listening to the mystery which combines us. As Jungian analyst Ann Bedford Ulanov puts it, “the Self is that within us that knows about God.” So when we come together in dreamsharing community, our symbols can begin to heal one another as we work within our psychic commons.” – Dreamwork with Toko-pa


Gratitude List:
1. The tenderness of the folks at St. Francis Animal Hospital. They gave us space to grieve, and one woman walked us out to the car afterward. There’s a hole in our hearts, and we were at loose ends much of the day yesterday, but we are grateful that Fred is no longer suffering. It’s the contract we make when we take animals into our care, that we will be ready to make the hard decision to relieve them of their pain when life is about endurance rather than contentment.
2. These quiet moments on the porch, in the fog, in the bowl of birdsong and silence.
3. The work of the coming day. This is the season of clearing clutter and making spaces that work for us.
4. Yesterday’s storm.
5. The human urge to create and to make.

May we walk in Beauty!