gratitude

the sand gets in, no matter, so pervasive it is.

flood it with water, it simply becomes

a solution, and not at all the kind

that solves. rather it muddies one’s vision

 

for a time

the grit irritates and clogs and turns

smooth surfaces coarse, so that kneeling

is merely painful

then the only thing left is to sit

let it settle, decant, quench one’s thirst

on the crystalline water poured out

dig for the pearl in the sludge

 

treasure its smooth iridescence

 

 

 

 

 

hope

is a book

that persuades you to sit for another hour and lures you to turn yet another page, 

invention of nature

as you learn of  a man born centuries ago, who is driven by a sense of wonder, who charges from his tent to drink in the wild array, who believes he might go mad if the wonders don’t stop, who hears “nature everywhere speaking to him in a voice familiar to his soul’, whose pen dances across the page to that melody, who understands his journal as a record of his love, who unabashedly marries his sensual delight to his probing intellect, who recites the science of the cosmos as the most sublime of poems, whose spirit is alive with awe

who makes you believe that the world is safe in our hands,

or if it is not, at least assures you that you are not in it alone

 

hope is a book,

who has saved my life more than once

literally

 

 

deny

golden scissors

Yesterday, I felt it. How quickly a tug upon my heart can tip my sense of equilibrium until I spill into a pool of overwhelm. A part of me wonders, am I that full that it takes so few drops to make me overflow? Or is it that I’m just that empty?

It is true that I have fallen lax on the practices that fill me. Though I guess I’d hoped the draining wouldn’t occur quite so rapidly as this. It seems that in my daily life I am more a kitchen sink in that regard than I am an ocean, and I really do need to spend some daily time diving into that ocean in order to refresh the well from which I draw. I need to dive deep and make contact with who I am beneath the surface turbulence. So that all of these drops of salt water might not make such a dent in my sense of self, in my sense of peace.

Today this quote was brought to my attention.

“There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will spend all of your days on the end of strings that someone else pulls” – Howard Thurman

When I was on that retreat a month ago, during that same guided meditation that I wrote about yesterday, there was one more piece of the story that I haven’t quite wanted to own. After She entered into that painful situation for me, after She had felt enough, She rose and I followed Her out the door into the garden. There She reached into her robes and pulled forth a gift for me. To my surprise, it was a pair of golden scissors.

If I am honest, I recoiled a bit at that, for the only acts I could imagine performing with a pair of scissors felt painful, as if something would bleed. As if nurture would be cut off. As if the net would come unraveled. As if roots would be severed. As if loss would be certain.

I pictured roots entangled and interdependent within the soil, a Mother Root with her many offshoots. I imagined digging into the soil and cutting them apart, praying that the cuttings had enough rootstock from which to draw in order to support new growth. Oh, my head understood that dependency keeps things stunted and bound (blessed be the ties that bind?). Intellectually I understood that new ways of relating are possible only when old cords are cut. An infant becomes a separate being with whom one can relate outside of the womb only when the umbilical cord is cut, for instance.

So, I took the golden scissors and tucked them into my purse. While there was a glimmer of hope for my sense of self-integrity and freedom, another part of me didn’t REALLY want to have to use them. Perhaps my individuation might happen on its own?

What I denied in this vision for myself was this. The very presence of the scissors is reliant upon my taking them into my own hands. Magical golden scissors that will do the work for me these are not. Paradoxically, it is only by picking up these scissors that I can remain whole, not pulled to shreds by that which competes for my attention.** I must return again and again to that place from which they materialized, that place of deep listening, of remembering what is Good and True, what is Love, what is Sacred, what is Genuine. I must return again and again to that ocean of Being within, which holds and beholds me and the whole of life through a wider lens of Wisdom, a perspective that does not get swept into the waves of chaos that fear wants me to believe are truth.

Unexpectedly, I see that it is me, who upon cutting those strings, must find a way to nurture myself, must grow roots deep enough to sustain my growth. I need not cut the others’ reliance upon my nurture so much as I need cut mine upon them..their approval or love… a reliance I have before this moment wanted to deny.

“Did I not see you in the garden with Her?”

 

**“With a new awareness, both painful and humorous, I begin to understand why the saints were rarely married woman. I am convinced it has nothing inherently to do, as I once supposed, with chastity or children. It has to do primarily with distractions; human relationships with their myriad pulls–woman’s normal occupations in general run counter to creative life, or contemplative life, or saintly life. The problem is not merely one of Woman and Career, Woman and the Home, Woman and Relationship, Woman and Independence. It is more basically: how to remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life; how to remain balanced, no matter what centrifugal forces tend to pull one off center; how to remain strong, no matter what shocks come in at the periphery and tend to crack the hub of the wheel.”

“Women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves” ―Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

 

open

door ajar

accessible; clear; free; susceptible; agape; naked; empty; exposed; expand; apparent; amenable; willing; cooperative; approachable; honest; direct; guileless; blossom; unfold; indefinite; undecided; candid; kickoff; break; carve; sever; ajar; uncluttered; broad; expressive; uncover; discretionary; loose; unrestrained; unclear; begin….

Each word taken in, slowly digested, bringing its own kind of nurture, how should I taste you today? Do I pry or shall I be undecided? Am I free or merely empty? Unfolding or unclear?.

Reading this list lectio divina style, as one might prayerfully practice the sacred reading of any text, the word that “pops off the page” at me, grabbing my eyes, inviting my curiosity, and tugging at my heart, like a hand grasping mine and pulling me through that wide open door, is this one-

agape

For you see, when I first read it, I saw not the word that means ‘mouth wide open with wonder or surprise’, but the one that means ‘unselfish love of one for another”. The kind of Love that opens to receive the ‘guileless, broken, unfolding, susceptible, undecided, uncovered, naked and vulnerable’ me.

My heart is agape.

remember

The day I remembered was the eve of the solstice, that shortest of days when my ancestors kept watch in the ever darkening season for the return of the light. I was with my sisters for a few nights, and I’d brought with me a few seeds of ideas for our more structured time together . The first was the pulled-off-the-internet invitation to create a seed mandala, the seed at the center, layers of nurture and protection blanketed about it. The second was a journal article, sent to me by a friend, that invited me to look beneath the surface of my seemingly frivolous addictions, longings, and passions for the seed of truth hidden within them.

At the time, I, like the author of the article, had been smitten – she by a character in a silly television series, me by some corny canoe love songs. (believe it or not, there are songs written by men about their canoe paddling women). It didn’t take long in the silence to discover what was scarcely covered over in my foolish fondness for those tunes- the desire to be seen through such tender eyes, the yearning to be celebrated for who i am, the pain of being seen as ridiculous (ridicule is scarcely embedded in that word).

Quite suddenly, though I hadn’t at all known it lay buried within me, it was clear that what i was longing for, and what had been lost, was the sense of my Belovedness. Yet, there was that tender seed, wrinkled and dry but still full of potential, in me and I vowed to nurture and to protect that seed I had uncovered.

I came to a retreat in Massachusetts a few weeks later bearing gently that awaiting seed. My intent, beginning that week of silence, was to tend to it, to build up the soil around and beneath it, a soil that felt both dry and barren. I wondered if the seed had grown a hard covering to survive that harshness. I wondered at the long dark winter she had endured, yet somehow survived.

During my time on that retreat, there was a deep familiarity, a deep remembrance, in the words and the stories that were shared by the teacher, in the practices and prayers that were lovingly offered. I had been drawn to the presenter because, listening to him speak on podcasts at home and reading his words on the page, I noted a familiar tenderness, which I hadn’t experienced in some time. I had joked with persons back home that he was my ‘grownup Mr Rogers’, the way his words and his voice touched me. He re-minded me, I suppose you could say, by speaking the language of value, understanding and Love.

I heard in that familiarly, resounding echoes of an earlier time in my life, when I had been similarly lost. It was then that I understood that the seed inside of me wasn’t some sort of anomaly uncovered, dropped from someplace outside of me. It was lying there in the bed of my being because something in me had bloomed once before. Blossomed and fruited Ripened and died.

Dropped that seed.

In the resonances of the language of that Heart-full retreat I remembered the beauty and the fragrance of that long ago blossom, and I wept. Tears of loss. Tears of tenderness. Tears of reunion. Tears perhaps that might water that seed in me.

There was an exercise we were given one afternoon. We were asked to recall a recent painful experience, to embody it as fully as possible, with all of our senses. Once we held the fully felt awareness of that experience, we were invited to imagine a knock upon the door, a luminous being of some sort come to help. When I opened the door, there She stood, radiant and full of tenderness. The suggestion given was to allow Her to switch places with me, let Her enter my body and walk into the painful place in my place while I observed. As I watched that scene unfold in my mind’s eye, She was disregarded and diminished when she sat down at that table, same as I, as if those in her midst also could not see her love-liness. There was something so profoundly painful in that for me, in seeing this Beloved One being dishonored in such fashion, that I wept once again. The tears were much harder this time, filled with the hardness of the pain I’d been holding inside my body. It was as if only through Her eyes could I acknowledge that pain, extend to it the compassion, tenderness and even fierce protection I have been unable to give to myself. So thoroughly defended have I been that even Love has not been granted entrance.

And the hardened soil around that seed began to thaw as the warming light of the Sun slowly returned on that horizon.

Now, I realize that the Love that I seek cannot be found outside of me. In lover, or beloved teacher. In the positive regard of others. Not even the Earth Herself. I realize that the luminous Being of my imagination lies within me. She embodies my own Wisdom and Love. It is me who must give to myself the regard that I seek, believe in my value and worth, behold my lovability. Sometimes that task feels too large. There is deeper despair within that, which I haven’t completely named, for the thing that has been lost to me that I cannot seem to re-member is the presence of a Beloved Other, who can hold that for me when I can’t. I wish that Member might return to reconnect with me, that Blessed One who made that blossom to flourish those long years ago, but somehow I doubt I can let that One in. I can’t seem to find the place where She fits.

listening (for the murmur of Love)

The expression ‘listening for the heartbeat of God’ describes the desire to look for the presence of the sacred in the midst of life- its persons, places, experiences, moments- to listen for the pulse of Love within it all, if you will. On occasion, that heartbeat resounds with a booming and resonant cadence. When standing at the thresholds of life- births and deaths, marriages and sudden loses -you hear it virtually echo through those openings. Experiences of profound Beauty will open that doorway too. The separation between the chambers of sacred and mundane grows thin in times such as these, and the earth virtually teems with mystery and wonder

Lately it feels as if I’m standing in such a thin place. There seems to be a lot in my life (and my self) that is dying, being left behind in that previous chamber I so dearly inhabited (I can say that now that the departure is real) But this transition seems to be taking such a very long time, no all-at-once delineation of before and after is this, but a gradual wearing away of old bindings and opening up to spaciousness.. It makes me wonder if this thinness is just an aspect of life at this stage of being human, for the sounds that i hear, though sonorous, are subtler. No profound Mystical experience at this passing through, but a more pervasive low level presence of Beauty.

I’ve recently learned that I have a heart murmur. There is something quite tender in this image for me. I ponder what it means to listen for the murmur of God. Murmur: ‘to say something in a low, subtle, or indistinct voice’, ‘to make a low continuous sound, like the wind murmuring through the trees’. A quiet sound. It invites me to ask two questions.

Is this what the murmuring of Godde sounds like? ( Oh, there is something so terribly precious in pondering that)

And

What is murmuring of my heart and what does it ask me to hear?

Today was a full hearted kind of mundane day. There was a bit of the ordinary – morning coffee by the fireplace. There was a bit of grief – an everyday kind of loss, of which I seem to be more keenly aware these days, the kind that makes me notice the fleet nature of life, inviting me to embrace it as treasure and hold it lightly all at once. There was a moment of shame – the inappropriate variety that is more about feeling exposed and vulnerable and open to rejection than it is about having done anything worthy of scorn. There was a bit of tenderness – a conversation with a son in which i glimpsed his humble wisdom and nobility. There was a bit of sorrow at the brokenness of relationship. There was a moment of disorientation – feeling utterly and foolishly lost, a wanting to give up. There was a precious, healing reconnection with Love, one i thought i had forever lost, rediscovered in a few moments sitting in the rain with an old soul friend. There was unexpected, bringing-one-back-down-to-earth, news that some things are never going to heal There was the beauty of an Irish melody that quieted my spirit. There was the feeling of utter inadequacy and misfittedness. There was an awareness of grace unfolding.

A few weeks ago, during a quiet morning meditation, I brought these many feelings of mine, which can sometimes seem impossible to reconcile, into the presence of Love. She offered me a wide and shallow bowl, reminding me that my heart is big enough to hold it all. Within that bowl, the stuff of life is cradled, but the bowl is not overwhelmed.

I am that bowl.

When the heart has a murmur, the flow of blood can pass freely from chamber to chamber as the valves begin to wear down. It is that way with the murmurings of the sacred within life, perhaps, too. There are seldom such distinct boundaries as birth, marriage, or death. In the quotidian mysteries of life, losses and new life flow one into the other across those thresholds, often unnoticed, backing up and passing through in fits and starts and regurgitations. The border between the sacred and the mundane dissipate into a soft, low, continuous murmur that one needs not heart-stopping experiences to hear.

And love murmurs as it flows through those open doors.

pray

DSCN8366 (2)

i don’t know exactly what prayer is, but i do know how to kneel in a canoe, how to ease into it’s belly and drop down to my knees, how to breathe the deep sigh of release as it slips from shore and drifts into dusk, how to move reverently upon those dark waters, watching for what might be present, beaver or loon, turtle or frog, heron or moose, how to share this wordless place with them all. i do know how to softly dip my paddle, let its rhythm attune with the heartbeat, let the drops fall like kisses from the blade, spread out on the water like sun, how to follow the faintest of shorelines, shrouded in fog, how to bathe in the sky. how to be still. let the waters bless me. how to say yes to this. being loved.

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