A Visit to New Hampshire

One Sunday in May, Star and I traveled to New Hampshire to visit the Church of the Woods. It is 100 acres of land near Canterbury Center in the middle of the state, perhaps best described as in the foothills of the White Mountains. There we met the founding priest Steve Blackmer and enjoyed an outdoor worship experience. First it was a little uncomfortable because there were swarms of black flies, but after a liberal dose of bug spray I felt that I could give my attention to the worship time. Being Episcopalian, Steve did have an order of worship that followed the lectionary yet each passage was brought to life in this sanctuary of the earth. The Acts passage said: “In God we live and move and have our being.” After the readings and a song or two, we headed out into the woods opening ourselves to what the gifts of the earth would bring us. We walked, and sat, and looked an listened. 

Here is Star’s reflection: “As I lay on the great maple log and looked up into the new green of the trees above tied together with gossamer rainbows made of spider silk and light, I felt conscious of the shade and swarms of insects around me.  The longer I gazed into the leaves, some of which were white with sunlight, the less I was aware of the level where my body was and the more I felt lifted into the brightness above me.  

I loved that the songs of birds were just as loud as our voices raised in song.  And for me, one of the most meaningful moments was when Rev. Steve offered the first piece of bread to the earth and then poured out the remaining wine beside it.  That act reminded me that all of God's creation is precious, all, sacred, all, good and I am a part of that.  As Rev. Steve pointed out, we give blood to the biting insects; the birds eat them; we become bird.  Of course, for the ones that succeed in reproducing, we also become black fly and mosquito.  That should teach us humility if nothing else.  To share in the worship of the Creator with the trees, birds, insects, water and the very earth itself was an incredibly moving experience for me.  I saw that the earth never ceases to give praise to the Lord.  May I learn to do likewise.” 

The sound of a noisy gong, or was it a cow bell brought us back together and we talked about our experiences. Each person brought back a token of their 20 minute alone time in the woods and explained how it spoke to them.  After sharing our offering experiences to each other, we shared a simple Eucharist and visited for hours. The black flies that completely had my attention at the beginning were still there, but unnoticed. That reminds me of our times of meditation, sometimes I try and sit and the thoughts just keep buzzing around like a bunch of mad black flies, but when the focus of peace is clear, those thoughts just disappear. 

 

Adirondack April

 April

showers

bird song 

chirps, honks, ….

snow

morning ice turns to afternoon mud

melting dirty snow

muddy snow

torrential rain

more new snow

ponds on the rod

deep driveway ruts

 

buds pushing off crackling oak leaves

fallen branches litter lawns 

half under snow 

half on wet, brown earth

mud

 

transitions take time

can there be spring without mud?

the crocus doesn’t care

she pushes up through the mire and muck.

She, the beacon of spring hope

Is she also a healer? 

 

Star and I heard a great lecture at the Unitarian Universalist Church about caring for creation.  They have made a resolution to actionafter learning about the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s projected effects of climate change. It is a sad document, but the fact the people care and want to help care for creation is hopeful. . We can make changes in our lives, small changes can mean a lot in the long run.  It seems that when we live out of our values, out of what we love and want to preserve, then the earth and all creation has a chance to be healed. Here is a blessing we heard at the meeting:

Climate Blessing 

We hold the Earth. We hold brothers and sisters who suffer from storms and droughts intensified by climate change. We hold all species who suffer. We hold world leaders delegated to make decisions for life. We pray that the web of life may be mended throughcourageous actions to limit carbon emissions. We pray for right actions for adaptation and mitigation to help our already suffering earth community. We pray that love and wisdom might inspire my actions and our actions as communities so that we may, with integrity, look into the eyes of brothers and sisters and all Beings and truthfully say we are doing our part to care for them and the future of our children. May love transform us and our world with new steps toward life.” (From Interfaith Power and Light) 

There is a lot of information on the New York Interfaith Power and Light website. (http://www.newyorkipl.org)

 

Glitter Snow

One night while I was driving home, the falling snow made me feel as though I were driving into hyperspace. You know, like being in a space ship in Star Wars, where reality distorts as they jump into a speed faster than light, accelerating into another weave of space. Anyway, the snow was coming at me, but it was not blinding. It was the soft, fluffy lake effect snow that comes from Lake Ontario. But since I was driving into it, it came straight into my windshield. As the snow approached, stretching out into long points of white, I noticed sparkles, glittering diamonds lighting up the road ahead of me. There was one, then four, then ten like I was driving through the glitter on a child's Valentine's card. It's so hard to express the beauty of this feeling, of being in the midst of all this brilliance! I wanted to stop the car and just sit--be immersed in the points of light, but then a snow plow approached from the other direction and the tiny lights vanished. 

    Wouldn't it be wonderful to give this kind of gift of light to another person, to offer beauty when the grayness of winter is expected? To bring awe while driving through a snow storm?

For Lent this year, I'm reflecting on light. (If you want to receive these daily emails, just let me know.) John Philip Newell has a whole chapter on light in his book The Rebirthing of God. He says: “To be bearers of Light— which is pure gift and not of our own doing— means that we are made to shine. But when we truly shine, and when we work for the true shining of every child, woman, man, and creature, we find that sometimes we create discomfort in the people around us and in the holders of power in our communities and our world. Not only do they feel uncomfortable; sometimes they feel threatened. This is as true in our personal relationships and workplaces as it is in the great struggles of communities and nations. Those who cling to power for their own sake, or for the sake only of their chosen communities and their special interest groups, do not want everyone to shine. The shadow side of power is a determination that only some should shine, and that only some should be considered worthy.” (Newell, John Philip (2014-06-06). The Rebirthing of God: Christianity's Struggle for New Beginnings (pp. 55-56). Turner Publishing Company. Kindle Edition.) 

    Newell reminds us that being light bearers is not all glitz and glitter. Working for peace and justice is part of our calling. We are called to sit and contemplate the beauty around us, and we are also called to action, to work for justice. May be find the balance that is needed. 

    

Snow

“Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow.” is a line from Christina Rosetti’s poem/song In the Bleak Midwinter. I don’t know if it’s bleak, it’s really white and when the sun is up, there is a light above the lake effect snow band that is hopeful. Lake effect snow bands are so interesting, they flow and travel where they will, and you might drive out of one in a few miles and when you do the sun is blindingly brilliant, illuminating crystals that dazzle your eyes. In a lake effect snow band, the snow may be so heavy you can’t see three feet in front of you, or it may be soft and gentle. The snow may fall in bunched up flakes, or in tiny needles like rain, it all depends on the temperature and the wind. The wind blows the snow one way and the next minute in another way, it dances and swirls. One of the best things about winter is staying inside on a cold day and just watching the snow.  Here is an excerpt from Weaving Home’s e-course last year:

In The Rebirthing of God by John Philip Newell, he talks about our being created in the image of God and our deep yearning to reconnect with the earth as part of the creation and part of ourselves. That’s why being present, even with snow is an enlightening experience. Newell says, we have a “desire to move back into relationships with everything else that is of God. It means choosing to move in harmony with the universe again, knowing the rising of the sun and the whiteness of the moon as part of us, seeing the beauty and wildness of the creatures as expressions of what is also within us, the unnamable and untamable presence of the Divine in all things. It means growing in awareness of earth’s sacredness, knowing that its moist greenness issues forth directive from the ever-fresh fecundity of God.”  

    That reconnection invites us to not make enemies out of what is out there, but to welcome it as we welcome what is within ourselves. This means getting in touch with the snow, that cold, white frozen water, can be a sacred experience.  

    Snow creates a protective layer over the plants below providing a time for dormancy, for things to rest and renew. Winter is a time of slowing down and watching.  

 

Cranberry Beans

"And in this he showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazel nut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed. And it was as round as any ball. I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding, and thought, ëWhat may this be?í And it was answered generally thus, ëIt is all that is made.í I marveled how it might last, for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God....In this little thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it. The second that God loves it. And the third, that God keeps it."  - Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love
    
    During our semi-silent retreat, I spent some time sitting around a campfire shelling beans. Yes, that's right, they were beans that Star had grown in her garden and let dry on the vine. She harvested them and let them dry some more in baskets so that the bean seeds hardened into those wonderful dry beans that you make baked beans with. But these beans weren't the red kidney beans or white navy beans or the black beans you find in a store. No, these beans were speckled.  A delightfully spotted bean, smooth and plump, called cranberry beans. You can read about them on the internet, they are an Italian bean (borlotti bean) and can be used in a variety of recipes.
    Sitting with feet warming near the fire, picking up bean after bean,  breaking apart the crisp shell and watching the beans pop out in the wicker bowl was a calming experience. The magenta and black spots on the cream colored beans caught my imagination - was there a pattern there? A picture? Some secret message? Perhaps the message was just in their being, as Julian of Norwich observes in her hazelnut. 
    But all the beans weren't perfect. In fact, some were soft and moldy and had to be thrown into the fire.  Some were diseased and couldn't be stored with the others. But that is how farming is, not all that is grown can be used, some has to be let go so that others aren't ruined.  And then I began thinking, why are some lost? Does that make them worse than the others? We can get into a big theological discussion about the brokenness of the world and why there is so much dualism in the New Testament (sheep go to heaven and goats go to hell.) 
    The more you think about the dualist nature of the world, the more you see it. Pema Chodron tells a story about walking down the street and noticing how many things are a delight to you, and how many things are an aversion. Like you walk and see a beautiful flower, and you're drawn to it, the next second you step in something that was left by a dog. Disgusting!  We are people who make distinctions, that is in our nature. Chodron tells us instead of trying to change that, it's better to simply notice and be aware that we are judging and making distinctions. Don't be down on yourself for doing it, but be aware.
    In studying Cynthia Bourgeault's teaching about Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the reawakening of the ideas of  the marriage of science and religion, she quotes: "To take on Teilhard requires a lot of hard work -- and the willingness to let go of more than a few sacred cows. And that capacity ultimately lies -- for us, as it did for Teilhard -- in a vigorous reawakening of contemplative vision: the ability to stop thinking and simply see." 
    So on that quiet Saturday afternoon, I finally did stop thinking and simply shelled the beans, and there were the three properties that Julian noted above: "God made it, God loves it, God keeps it."
    
    

Autumn Leaves

    A line of cars crawls up Route 28. No, it isn’t ice or snow that slows their pace, it’s the foliage. October is the time of year when the trees inspire people to stop and look. The drivers watch in awe as mountains of color - red, yellow, orange, gold, peach, brown, and green - mix together to offer a glimpse of heaven. The leaves are ablaze and they leave us breathless - even as they beg the question: why such a display when they are only going to fall off next week?

    I was filled with gratitude for the colors and the warmth, the blaze of glory that autumn provided for us. And I wasn’t the only one. I saw people driving with their mouths open. A friend told me that she became so absorbed and aware in the life all around her that she had to stop her car and pull over and simply stare at the colors. She couldn’t even take a picture.

    One morning when there was no fog and the leaves were awash in a vivid orange, the sun rose behind a faint cloud cover and the trees seemed to color the air, every drop of moisture tinged brilliance. This is an easy time to be grateful, an easy time to be filled with gratitude for all of creation. 

    When the leaves are flaming the whole color of the world changes. The light is different: warmer, brighter, inviting us to stop and look and perhaps even dance. Do you ever wonder whether the burning bush that Moses saw in Exodus chapter 3 was really burning or just bedecked in its autumn plumage? Whatever he saw, it invited him to turn aside, to stop and take a breath. And so he stopped, like the cars on the side of the road, and then he heard a voice that said, ‘take off your shoes you’re standing on holy ground.’ 

    The colors change so fast - red today, gone tomorrow. Are they going out in a blaze of glory? Is it only at the end of  their lives when they shine with all their true colors? Do they know that one gust of strong wind or one heavy rainfall with knock them all to the ground? Do they care?

    One of my favorite hymns says “we blossom and flourish like leaves on a tree, then wither and perish but naught changeth thee.” It sometimes seems that life is like that. But if I were writing the hymn I might have some additions to make, like in dying the leaves fulfill their purpose to provide nutrients to the soil to promote growth again. (Really I’ll have to work on that, it doesn’t fit the hymn meter at all.) The old leaves on the forest floor are not perfect like they were in the spring. They are chewed up, moths and bugs have driven holes into them and they look a bit like swiss cheese. Another purpose for their life is to provide food and shelter for the insects who also are providing something (I’m really not sure what - bugs aren’t my favorite thing.) Maybe the bugs become what they eat. Which takes me to the whole idea of communion - the great thanksgiving - we say when we eat the bread - ‘the bread of life, the body of Christ, become what you eat.”

    Do we also become what we watch or gaze at? Watching the autumn unfold before us, watching the geese fly in long v’s across the sky, feeling the breeze turn chilly when it has been warm and comforting. While we stop in awe, we are also being mindful, present, fully alive in the Presence of nature.

- Edited by BJ Kelly

Reflections on Mindfulness in the Garden Retreat

As evening fell and the soft sounds of night rolled in
We had been blessed with:
crunchy oats and French toast
Farm to table
    leeks, celeriac, onions, zucchini, carrots & cabbage, calendula flowers,
cocoa balls, baked bread, goat cheese, 
muscle stretches
spirit stretches
welcoming beds of deep rest
duck mummers
sideways glance of geese
orange cat visitations
red cushions
red spotted beans
heart opening
smoke rising to the sky
smoke rising to the eyes
cool breezes - warm stove
recorder notes floating in the air
no words spoken,  wide smiles
new friends drawn together from silence
close to each other in the great dance of three. 

The Gifts of the Earth

Last week, I was walking our dog early in the morning and I heard a strange sound. At first, I thought it was the low and haunting cry of a loon - a family of loons has been living on the pond all summer, their ancient wails welcoming the morning and eulogizing the sunset. Yet the distinct noise couldn’t have been a loon, as it was a more high pitched noise, - maybe it wasa dog, I thought, a small dog, yipping. No not one dog, I decided as the sound carried on, coyotes, yes, that was it, a pack of coyotes joining voices and howling into the morning. I thought they only howled at night, but my husband assured me that they howl whenever they get together. A celebration!  Nature has so much to teach us—that is one of the reasons I started Weaving Home: to look at this vast world around us and notice how it can point us toward love and community. 

“The beauty and grandeur of nature touches each one of us. From panoramic vistas to the tiniest living form, nature is a constant source of wonder and awe. It is also a continuous revelation of the divine.” - Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

    Don’t you feel part of this great creation?  The glow of the rising sun fills the dawn sky, bringing color and light, calling the birds to sing in joy, glinting off of their wings. Warming, rising fingers of light stretching over the land, catching a branch and turning it red for just one incomparable moment. It has been captured in song, in poetry, in paintings and in photographs - all reflections of the gift of the sun. We accept the gift of the sun with gratitude because from it, we receive gifts from the Earth. The earth absorbs the energy and creates life. 

    The warm, moist earth nurtures the seeds that grow into grasses, flowers, trees, vegetables; feeding us, giving us oxygen, providing shelter.  One of my earliest memories is sitting on the edge of the garden, my father toiling away, my bare legs on the warm clay soil, my fingers breaking up clumps, watching it turn to grains of dirt -  the stuff of the earth.  Gardening is still a revitalizing activity. Every year I can’t wait until I can get in and dig in the dirt - mostly with a shovel, but sometimes with my hands. 

    When I am in the forest or by a stream or on a hill overlooking a meadow, I feel like I am part of the vastness of the earth. It is home, it is belonging. A gust of wind will take my attention and I can feel the earth breathing with me. I am in awe and at the same time a part of the awe. A drop of dew on a flower petal holds my reflection and the mystery of all reflections. 

Sometimes when we get older we decide to stay clean and don’t take our shoes off anymore to walk on the earth. I can’t remember the last time I walked barefoot over the earth until I started yoga. I love outdoor yoga when we take our shoes off and ground our toes, heel, whole foot intothe earth. And that reminds me of what it was like to be a child running barefoot on the earth, sending my energy down into the ground, as it feeds its life force back up to me.

    In Christine Valter Paintner’s book, Water, Wind, Earth and Fire, she talks about the element of the earth. In ancient traditions the earth element was associated with the direction of north and the season of winter. And she offers this quote:

    “If we think of ourselves as coming out of the earth, rather than having been thrown in here from somewhere else, we see that we are the earth, we are the consciousness of the earth. These are the eyes of the earth. And this is the voice of the earth.” Joseph Campbell

    Often we fail to live in this kind of connective relationship, but if we take the time to think that what I do to the earth, or to the creatures, I’m doing to myself. 

    Last year, I decided to move my rose bush from the back of my garden to the front. I dug so much it felt as if I had bored all the way to the center of the earth, and while I got most of it, and the rose bushes did leaf out this year, there were no roses. I guess there was too much trauma in moving them, because my husband reminded me that the soil around the roots of the rose bush contains things like microbes, bugs, and nutrients that are unique to the rose bush and that dirt, so when I move them I disturb the balance.  The connections are so strong. It is amazing how we are dependent on each other, and on the earth, how where we live and what we see everyday gets imprinted on us, so that while we like to see different things, there is one place we know as home. It might be a place, it could be a person, so when you’re not in the place or with the person, we are lost and out of touch, or we grieve and search so that we can find home again. 

    We seek connection among all that goes on that distracts us—that lures us away from where we need to be. I find connection with the Source of all by being in nature, by walking, by listening, and when I’m with people by trying to spread light and love instead of darkness and fear.  Where do you find connection? How do you celebrate the gifts of the earth? 

(Thanks to BJ Kelly for his photo and editing.)

A Grass Prayer Bowl

“Bono queries, “Why do we need art? Why do we need the lyric poetry of sounds? Because the only way we can approach God is, if we are honest, though metaphor, through symbol. So art becomes essential, not decorative.” (from SDI newsletter, The Psalms with Bono and Eugene Peterson )

Krista Tippet interviewed Elizabeth Gilbert recently on On Being. They were talking about curiosity and creativity. At one point they said that creativity is hard work and mostly boring, you just have to keep slogging though a project, but then there is a moment, like magic, when you get it, you understand what all the mundane work was for and you have a new creation. That is what we found when we wove our prayer bowls, we complained, ‘I can’t do this,’  but we kept going. The starting of any project takes time, and if the start doesn’t go well, we’re invited to begin again. There is a Buddhist teaching about having a beginner’s mind - not having any preconceptions of what something is supposed to be, being open to whatever happens.  The Psalms talk about God’s faithfulness which is new every morning.   Relaxing into the beginning opened the way for creativity to enter. The beginning leads to the middle where we found we got into a rhythm, our fingers had learned their task and beganto have a will of their own as they deftly twisted and sewed the sheaves of grass coaxing it into a bowl shape. 

We learned it’s OK to take breaks, to step away, to let things settle. There are fallow times in our lives when we stop and walk away. It gives us time to get fresh perspective, time to reflect and say, ahah I see where I’m going. A time totake stock, and realize the need to stop. When all this happens without judgment we can experience resting in the space between. 

Finishing a project is rewarding. We have the results for our effort.  Endings invite us to celebrate the product, and they also invite us to think what is next? How can this be better? How can I begin again?  

“God isn’t “out there, “remote from us, but rather “at the tip of my pen, my shovel, my paint brush, my sewing needle…my heart and thoughts,” as Teilhard says.”  - (Gabrielle Stoner, a reflection on Teilhard de Chardin in the Mendicant CAC)

 

++++

What is a prayer bowl used for? Well, it can be a receptacle for those things that are weighing on your heart. Write them down and put them in the bowl and forget them. A prayer bowl can also be used at your prayer time as a focus to hold in your hands as you symbolically placethe desires of your heart within.  You can keep the bowl on your home altar to remind you of prayer, contemplation and the day you created it.  Even if the bowl doesn’t have a useful purpose, just taking the time to make it, helps us connect with the Eternal, by being present and mindful. 

“Presence is experienced in a participative way, not by thinking about it. The mind, by nature, is intent on judging, controlling, and analyzing instead of seeing, tasting, and loving. This is exactly why the mind cannot be present or live in the naked now. The mind wants a job and believes that its job is to process things by its own criteria. The key to stopping this obsessive game is, quite simply, peace, silence, or stillness. Silence is God’s primary language; “everything else is a poor translation,” as Fr. Thomas Keating wisely observes.” - Richard Rohr

A Walk Around Moss Lake

    Walking in the woods can be a heavenly experience. Recently we took the familiar walk around Moss Lake, yes there were a lot of people camping, walking, recreating, but the forest is so vast that in minutes you can be alone with hardly a sound of civilization. The path looms ahead of you arched with pine, birch, maple - tree after tree. A tree was even growing on top of a rock.  I’m always impressed by the way trees will try and grow anywhere. 

    Up hill and down hill, crossing a brook that feeds into the lake; ferns, witch hobble, lichens and moss are everywhere that the eye takes time to look upon. At noon, you can hear the Eagle Bay fire siren reminding you to eat, distant voices and laughter are heard here and there, but other than that when you are far enough from the road you think you’re in a very secluded place. When you listen in stillness,  there is the haunting sound of the wood thrush, a few chickadees,  and above all there is peace. 

    There are huge rocks along the trail, and you wonder where did they come from, how did they get there? The answer is they were pushed in place by the huge glacier that covered the whole area in the last ice age which receded about ten thousand years ago. Ancient rocks, rocks of ages, it is awesome to think of how long they’ve been there, and how long you have not. John Wilde’s words to to mind: 

“We are
intimately,
intricately,
infinitely
connected
by a matrix of
unconditional,
unlimited,
uniting
LOVE
which is
miraculous,
mysterious and
marvelous.” 

and that we, like the rocks are made up of star dust. We have our heavenliness in common. 

    The hush of the forest whispers many stories, that we have passed this way before, that this is new, that we are a part of something that is much bigger than we think, that we are known intimately. We drink in the quiet, we let is surround us and in that present moment we are experiencing heavenliness. 

Silence & Noise

"Silence is God's first language; everything else is a poor translation. In order to hear the language, we must learn to be still and to rest in God."
-- Thomas Keating in Invitation to Love read more at http://abundancetrekblog.blogspot.com/2016/02/spiritual-explorations-71.html 


    One morning I had such a wonderful walk, there was hardly any noise coming from the town, everyone was probably still asleep. The dog and I climbed the hill and she ran free for a while, stopping to sniff here and there, and I didn’t even hear her foot-falls on the dry leaves, we were both moving in such stillness. But the world wasn’t totally silent, there were peaceful noises, like the morning bird calls, the woodpeckers looking for the first bug of the morning, knocking gently  on the trees, “Hello, good morning breakfast!”  What peace, what quiet, the language of God.
    That same afternoon it was so warm and beautiful that I decided to take another walk just to be out in the sunshine because it was too early to work in the garden. The neighbors were all out raking lawns, saying ‘hi, hello, beautiful day!’ We really hadn’t had such a beautiful warm day, so for the Adirondacks this was like the first day of spring. There were all kinds of noises -  barking dogs, the dogs wanted to be out too, enjoying the weather, sniffing, running, talking to each other. A car alarm went off and kept up an annoying buzz until a police car drove up and showed the owner how to shut the alarm off. There were more than twenty motorcycles outside Fast Track getting refreshments, revving their engines, as only motorcycles can do, there was traffic all around, motors, engines, leaf blowers, electric guitars playing music out on sidewalks - the noise was deafening. 
    My dog didn’t seem to mind, just kept walking along, but I found myself wishing for another quiet walk, another noiseless afternoon. But if we always had a noiseless afternoon there would be no reason for this town to be here - we are a tourist town and that’s how we make a living. People have different needs or levels of needs. I’m sure the motorcyclists love the noise of their engines - oh that gets to a Bruce Springsteen song - remember “Baby We Were Born to Run”? We are at different places in our lives, and excepting that is a learning experience. 
    As John Wilde put it so well in the blog above - we learn to take the silence that we’ve cultivated into the noise in order to find peace in situations that would normally drive us mad. We let the people who need the noise and excitement have it, and are glad for them. Really, I don’t think I’d like  peace and quiet all the time. The other night I went to a concert where my daughter was playing her French Horn in an orchestra - they were playing Handel’s Water Music - now that is some lively music. Probably the adults who heard Handel’s music for the first time were thinking, what is this world coming to? Why are the young so loud? 
    We have this song that says: “Listen in the silence, listen in the noise, listen to the sound of the Spirit’s voice.” So noise is a relative term - it is our perception of silence or noise that determines our reaction to it. Silence can be long, and uncomfortable, it can feel lonely, it can also bring us to an awareness of our need for wholeness. Noise can be joyful, singing in community is sometimes noisy, but also relationship building.  May you find peace and joy in the language of silence or in the language of noise. 

The Spring Wind

Our porch has four different wind chimes, and today they are all ringing. Sometimes all at once, sometimes they take turns, sometimes just one lone chime. I tried to make a movie of them ringing, but alas I need a videographer. The dried brown leaves from last fall are dancing, running and swirling across the lawn..  My husband’s anemometer is spinning fast, he says the high wind speed is about 15 miles an hour.  The clouds are gathering and parting, bringing shadows and light, it’s like a March day - drying up the winter’s moisture, getting the ground ready for planting. 

    Of course this all reminds me of Spirit, the Hebrew word for wind is ‘ruah’ which also means Spirit or breath, Qi Gong and Yoga are both about breathing - what is that quote ‘where there’s breath there’s hope.’ Something like that. 

    I like to think of the wind moving things, shaking things up. I had a shake up the other day, I was reading Ken Wilber’s book Integral Meditation: Mindfulness as a Way to Grow Up, Wake Up, and Show Up in your Life, and as usual Ken likes to talk about our stages of growth and development. As I was reading them and feeling pretty smug, he began to talk  about how at the Pluralistic Postmodern level we think everyone is the same, and we  shouldn’t judge. (Those were the points I could understand.)  But being, Ken Wilber he went on about this and that, I think he is some kind of genius. So I said, that’s nice, then I went on Facebook and saw something that I thought was judgmental, oh my, I even wrote something back that contradicted the judgment of the other person and I never comment on things like that. There I was all righteous, the wind was blowing in my direction. Then I went back to reading and Ken said how we who say not to judge,  are some of the worst judgers, and we don’t even notice it! Wow, that was very insightful of him. I can’t tell you how many sermons I’ve preached on not judging, but then there I was condemning another person’s opinion. He had a lot more to say about this and I’ll quote him here: “So whether you think all judging is bad, or whether you hold several items in strong judgment, doesn’t really matter, in a sense. By making our present subject object - whatever it is-  the new, next higher, more inclusive and more conscious subject and self will naturally emerge. If your present judgments are somehow true and universal and genuinely good, they won’t go anywhere; you’ll become more aware of them, but you won’t change them fundamentally. If, however, there are higher judgments, higher types of judgements or better judgements or more loving and conscious judgments, available anywhere in your system (laid down in the entire human race by millions of years of evolution), then you will start to identity with those - they will become part of your new, higher, more inclusive, more whole, more conscious self and subject. And guess what? This continues straight to God.” 

    I know he’s hard to understand  sometimes, and I haven’t read the whole book yet, but he does make many good points. He believes we can all evolve to higher levels of consciousness and that will help us in our endeavors to be more loving, and isn’t that what the season of Easter is all about, about rebirth, about new opportunities, and of course then to follow that wind or Spirit where it leads.

    There is this song from “Seasons of the Spirit” that we taught the children it goes like this:

“The Spirit in me greets the Spirit in you, alleluia. God’s in us and we’re in God, alleluia.” That is very similar to saying Namaste after Yoga practice.  And also, ‘my the wind be always at your back!’ So enjoy the winds of April, the winds of change, and keep following the Spirit to higher levels of consciousness. 

Walls and Fences

It all started when Star shared this poem at a poetry workshop she was leading for the library. 

MENDING WALL

BY Robert Frost

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,

That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,

And spills the upper boulders in the sun;

And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.

The work of hunters is another thing:

I have come after them and made repair

Where they have left not one stone on a stone,

But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,

To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,

No one has seen them made or heard them made,

But at spring mending-time we find them there.

I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;

And on a day we meet to walk the line

And set the wall between us once again.

We keep the wall between us as we go.

To each the boulders that have fallen to each.

And some are loaves and some so nearly balls

We have to use a spell to make them balance:

"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"

We wear our fingers rough with handling them.

Oh, just another kind of out-door game,

One on a side. It comes to little more:

There where it is we do not need the wall:

He is all pine and I am apple orchard.

My apple trees will never get across

And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.

He only says, "Good fences make good neighbors."

Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder

If I could put a notion in his head:

"Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it

Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.

Before I built a wall I'd ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offence.

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,

That wants it down." I could say "Elves" to him,

But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather

He said it for himself. I see him there

Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top

In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.

He moves in darkness as it seems to me,

Not of woods only and the shade of trees.

He will not go behind his father's saying,

And he likes having thought of it so well

He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors.”

 

    So while I was at Silver Bay YMCA camp, I began to notice the wall. There were stone fences, concrete blocks keeping a hill in place and a lovely wooden fence that could have been a railing for climbing instead as something that divided property lines.  The stone fence that went along the roadway was beautiful, although in someplace the stones were on the ground. There was even a cement cap on the top of the wall in places where you could have walked if you wanted to, but it was more for aesthetics or for keeping the wall in place. 

    The roots of downed trees had taken big stones out of the wall and some stones did look like Frost’s description - ‘loaves of bread.’  What a great a amount of work to keep a wall like that in place in the Adirondacks, where a few good winters could topple the whole thing. 

    I have a fence around my garden to keep the deer out, if I didn’t I wouldn’t have any flowers or vegetables. (Not that I get much anyway.) But our Old Forge deer love to get their hooves in places they don’t belong. So walls and fences can be useful things. 

    On the other hand, there are the deeper walls that we put up around ourselves. Walls so we don’t feel, walls that divide or walls to keep others away. These kinds of walls keep us from being truly alive. They shut us off from feeling or grief that is too hard to bear. It’s interesting that Father Greg Boyle SJ, has his ministry in the gang areas of Los Angeles, and he is right there with the people in pain, he does not put walls around his heart even when he has to bury a gang member that he has known and cared for for many years. He goes into the pain and lets it teach him about life. (Read his story in Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Unboundless Compassion.)

    Why do we erect walls in our lives, walls that divide, walls that shut others out?  America is always good at putting up walls especially during an election year. Wow, I can’t even listen to all this fighting, bickering and name calling. Walls are created when we think dualistically that someone has to be wrong and I have to be right. How do we stop that kind of madness? 

    Thomas Merton was quoted in the Journal Weavings as saying “the fully realized person integrates on the higher level by knowing ‘I love, therefore I am.’” It seems he found that breaking down walls within himself, to get to his true inner nature was freeing and opened him to see with the eyes of the other - to see that we are all one. I am a long way from that, but I want to think that breaking down wall after wall, or layer after layer that keeps me from thinking I’m better or different from another person, is something that is worth working on. Thomas Hart said in a recent article in Presence Magazine “a genuinely spiritual life keeps calling for a complete change of heart. Of course, we all love sometimes, but love as a way of life remains a huge challenge.” 

   Frost found that his  neighbor was a challenge because he would not move beyond his father’s thinking. Being stuck with someone else’s ideas can be crippling. We have choices to keep the walls of division in place or to let them crack open. John O’Donahue , in his book Eternal Echoes, talks about how we limit ourselves and it’s like walling ourselves off. He says: “It is strange how being caught makes you lose the sense of the outside and beyond. You become trapped on one side of a wall. After a while you learn to see only what cages you; you begin to forget other views and possibilities.”  

     Christine Valters Paintner says in The Soul of a Pilgrim “when I act with integrity, it means I’m always moving toward wholeness and oneness.”    As we work toward a life where love is totally integrated, where walls of division are broken open, where we can see with the eyes of heart, we can take the time to admire the beauty of a stone wall and say - wow what amazing workmanship - we’re an amazing piece of workmanship too, and we choose to keep on moving toward the beauty of a whole, integrated life!

 

Wilderness Places

It seems like driving on the New York State Thruway in February can be a Lenten wilderness experience. First, there are many obstacles: accidents, repair trucks, snow plowers, the stranded motorist, and of course the State Police hiding in the turn arounds trying to capture a speeder so there won’t be more accidents and repair trucks. Then, there are those huge tractor trailers hauling two freight boxes - why aren’t they on the railroad and why isn’t this illegal??!!! Also, there is the  dry road that turns into a snow covered road in the night when you can’t see the change and wonder why the cars are slowing down, until you get into the passing lane and see the reason. And then there is driving through Albany at night during rush hour. Oh I know it’s much worse off the thruway, in fact getting off at one of the Albany exits, there is often a line of cars backed up on the exit ramp. This is just an easy trip, it wasn’t anywhere near New York City or Buffalo. 
    As I was driving through Albany, in the dark, with falling snow, at a fast rate, there were cars passing on both sides, cutting in and out. I normally would be screaming and swearing at them, ‘what is wrong with you?’  I get so angry because I’m afraid to drive with all that traffic, first because I’m used to driving with just a few cars around and a lot of deer, second because I didn’t get my drivers license until I was 40-something and that doesn’t give you a lot of young ‘I can do anything’ confidence. But I’ve been working on stillness, detachment and letting go, so instead of screaming, I sent the other drivers love, though I was still afraid, it wasn’t so bad. And  by sending them love, I stopped judging them and began to wonder if the other drivers are afraid too, I wonder if they drive so fast threw the many lanes of Albany traffic because they want to get out of there too? 
    "Be not afraid" does not say that we should not have fears — and if it did, we could dismiss it as an impossible counsel of perfection. Instead, it says that we do not need to be our fears, quite a different proposition.  — Parker J. Palmer in The Courage to Teach
    So we can come face to face with ourselves in the wilderness, with our fears, with what gets under our skin and makes us act in certain ways,. When we are on a Lenten journey, we take the time to see, to let our inner nature see the false self that so often holds us hostage. Seeng with the eyes of the heart can reveal all the pettiness and fear that tends to drive us into habitual directions of non-functionality.  
    The first gospel reading for the first Sunday in Lent is always Jesus going out into the wilderness to face his inner demons, or his false self. So being in the  wilderness can be a time of deeply looking  into the mirror of our self and seeing those things that keep us from our true self or wholeness. Sometimes just noticing them is enough, sometimes, after we’ve noticed them a couple of times we can let them go. But often we have to notice them a lot of times before we can let them go. 
    An amazing thing about those things that hold us back is that part of them are true.  In the Bible story, Jesus could have turned stones into bread for himself, but instead he turned 5 loaves and two fishes into a big meal to feed five thousand people. He could have taken over the government but instead he taught people about the value of believing in peace so much that he would not use violence against violence. And he didn’t throw himself from the top of the temple but he walked on water, he raised people from the dead, he turned water into wine. He used his power to bring life and health and peace, not glory to himself. 
    That is what the wilderness taught Jesus when he ventured out after his momentous baptism. What does the wilderness teach us? How do we react to life as it happens around us? Are we sending out love or fear? It’s up to us to choose.

 

Lycopodium

Last week Lycopodiinae  caught my attention. They are also called club moss or ground pine. Our field guide says that this species has fossil records that date back to the Paleozoic Era - that must be why they are green, even in December. That is one of the great things about Lycopodium-  they are ever green. So when the forest is dark and brown, these beautiful little green plants stand out amidst the darkness. That is such a good message for us, because often when things around us are bleak, we become bleak too, but when we take the time to realize that shining within us is  a light that can dispel the bleakness not only for ourselves, but for the world around us, it becomes a great calling.  How are you bringing brightness to the world?

 What do you notice about yourself as you walk by the wonders of creation? 

Some Lycopodium are spiky,  some look like miniature trees - they make beautiful Christmas wreaths, although they are a protected species some people pick them anyway. It’s hard to know whether or not you are harming something when there seems to be so much. We talk a lot about abundance, especially at stewardship time at church. What does abundance really mean? The passage in the Gospel according to John talks about abundance as a bushel basket filled with wheat, shaken so that there is absolutely no room left in it because it is filled to the brim. That means there is enough, there is more than enough, there is enough to share. On the other hand, although there is more than enough, our consumer mentality often creates a  tendency  to take what we really don’t need.  When we  look at all the endangered and extinct species we see what our grasping for more has done.  Our needs are met, but often our wishes outweigh our real needs. We get caught up in “I want everything” attitude especially at Christmas time.  When do you know you have enough?

Ice

To understand the world, knowledge is not enough. You must see it, touch it, live in its presence and drink the vital heat of existence in the very heart of reality.” Teilhard de Chardin
    
    The first week of December,  ice was our theme. I don’t like slipping and sliding on ice unaware, but it can be beautiful to look at, it can be smooth to the touch, you can glide on ice with skates, or slip on ice with boots.  One day my daughter and I were walking to church and as we were crossing the road down she's goes, I reached for her and fell down right beside her. We had a good laugh because neither of us saw the ice that was hidden beneath the light powder of snow. Ice is like that, it can surprise you by it’s clearness. 
    Ice is beautiful as well as dangerous. We hear of accidents because there was black ice on the road and the driver was totally unaware. In Barbara Brown Taylor’s book An Altar in the World, she talks about the practice of paying attention and how she learned reverence:  “paying attention, taking care, respecting things that can kill you, making the passage from fear to awe.” We were talking about have a cautious respect for ice is a form of reverence. All of creation deserves our reverence, our stopping to turn aside and pay attention. One way of tuning into that reverence is to stop. 
    When I think about the pond or the river being frozen I think about how all that motion of flow and waves have stopped or are stilled. I’m sure that the molecules in the ice are still popping around, but what I see is quiet stillness.  John Wilde has been writing about ‘stillness’ in his blog. He has many great quotes. One talks about stillness as being like a spinning top. “… Stillness is like a perfectly centered top, spinning so fast it appears motionless. It appears this way not because it isn't moving, but because it's spinning at full speed. Stillness is not the absence or negation of energy, life, or movement. Stillness is dynamic. It is unconflicted movement, life in harmony with itself, skill in action. It can be experienced whenever there is total, uninhibited, unconflicted participation in the moment you are in - when you are wholeheartedly present with whatever you are doing.” -- Erich Schiffman in Moving Into Stillness. Read more at http://www.movingintostillness.com/teachings.html
    For me, taking these pictures each week is a practice in reverence and stillness. As I walk things call me to turn aside from the trial and look, or be present. I hope you can take some moments to stop and enjoy ‘the vital heat of existence in the very heart of reality.” T deC. 
    

 

Squirrels

    Last week, squirrels were our theme.  Why? I have no idea, but they are all over the place. We have 4 or 5 squirrels in our yard regularly, there are the black variety of the gray squirrel and of course the gray squirrel. They love being at our house, and we would've invited them for Thanksgiving dinner, if they didn’t fight so much. They love to gnaw down our bird feeders and then feast on the contents, the poor birds just perch on the overhanging branches watching. My husband has gone to extreme measures to keep the squirrels out of the bird feeders. First there were squirrel proof bird feeders, bird feeders out in an open space between the trees, then the baffle over the bird feeder, If they couldn't get into the feeder they chewed the ropes down that held them and down would come baffle, bird feeder and all. He is now thinking about  putting up chains instead of ropes to hold them.  I don’t think they have a preference between shelled sunflower seeds or thistle seeds - they eat everything. A friend said her family would have a squirrel feeder and a bird feeder. That makes a lot of sense and is a kind thing to do for the squirrels, unless of course they start getting into your house. One of my 80-something year old friend shoots at the red squirrels through her second story window because they get in her house, between the walls and it can be very annoying in the winter to hear that scratching all the time, and who knows what they’re eating … insulation, walls, etc. 
    In life it’s always easier to fight than to give up. At least that’s what we’re taught, fight the wrong, fight the cancer, fight the squirrels. But what if for once we listened to some wise teacher who said - ‘let it be, let it be’ -  it is love rather than fear that needs to win, and it often takes a life time for us to realize that. 
 
    The black and gray squirrels are the same species and probably they are the same family. I don’t know, it’s interesting because for years we only had gray squirrels and then one year there was a genetic variation or something and bam, most of the squirrels were black. I don’t know if this is good because the gray squirrels blend in with the scenery better, so they are safer, but the black ones seem to stick out. Maybe this is OK for Old Forge because there really aren’t many squirrel predators in our neighborhood. They are too big for our cat and dogs don’t seem to be able to catch them. 
    Sometimes when we look at our churches in the north country there doesn’t seem to be any diversity, we are all the same, we like the same music, we believe the same things, at least on the surface. It is easy to get caught up in doing everything the same. For years our towns and our churches have done everything the same way, this is the right way to do it we tell ourselves. But the same isn’t always the best way, sometimes it’s just the easy way. You know how we get in a rut and let things just happen in the same way over and over again? 
    In Old Forge they’ve been having Christmas on main street on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving and advertising it as a family time to say that it’s OK not to go crazy shopping on the day after (or day of) Thanksgiving. It brings people into town. This year for the first time, Niccolls Church said, how can we serve our community.  So they opened their church as a warming station, there was hot cocoa, children’s games, the 4H was there teaching crafts, they put movies on the big screen in the sanctuary, and had a sing a long every hour for 3 hours. What a way to serve!- meeting your community where they are and offering  your service. 
        

Cloud Gazing

    At yoga this summer we practiced outside as many days as we could. While doing copse pose we were able to look up at the passing clouds. When was the last time you laid on the ground cloud gazing? I don’t like to lay on the ground anymore because of bugs, when you’re young you don’t think about bugs you just lay on the ground and enjoy the view. You dream, you become one with the sky, you see dragons, and  wild horses running, the scene changes every few minutes, a frog, an antelope. It had been years since I watched all those wonderful shapes and faces passing by. 
    Why don’t we take the time to lay on the ground and look at clouds, of course some of us can’t get back up once we’re down, but we can cloud  gaze standing, and  there are yoga mats or blankets or lounge chairs, but actually being on the ground and looking up has a lot to teach us. One, we become one with ground, sailing on a space ship called the earth, grounded, rooted, a part of creation. And it seems that yoga and Qigong were meant to be practiced outside, with bare feet connected to the ground,  because so many of the moves and poses are taken right from nature. There is this great dance of Qigong called the 'Da Wu" - you can find it on YouTube.  It is really beautiful and and as we practice the movements the crane comes to life,  the flower reaches up opening to heaven.  Careful observation of nature has so much to teach us, and the number one thing is being alive and present to the moment, not hurrying by and hardly seeing things, but looking deeply and intentionally.  
    I read that before the 1800s clouds were called ‘essences.’ ‘The word 'essences’ gives those white puffy things floating by a mystical quality.  But modern science liked to take the mystery out of things and we can certainly understand that because there was a lot of superstition that caused a lot of harm.  My small Peterson First Guides: Clouds and Weather by John A. Day and Vincent J. Schaefer says that a young man named  Luke Howard (1773-1864) was sent to school to learn Latin and Greek but instead of memorizing amo, amas, amat….., he watched the clouds. When he grew up, he became a pharmacist but he still was interested in the sky so he joined a scientific society in London and named the clouds. “Howard noted that there are three basic shapes of clouds: 1) Heaps of separated cloud masses with flat bottoms and cauliflower tops which he named cumulus (heap) 2) layers of cloud much wider than they are thick, like a blanket or mattress, which he named stratus (layer) and 3) wispy curls, like a child’s hair which he called cirrus (curl).”  Isn’t that fascinating that those names we’re so familiar came from one man’s observations in the early 1800s! 
    My husband has a wall poster of clouds so that we can find out what type of cloud we’re looking at, it is fun to know the names of things. Sometimes when we know things we get into this mindset that ‘I am right and you are wrong because I have this information.’ We can talk forever about right and wrong religious belief. But I wonder if what we’re really saying to each other is ‘God loves me and not you because I believe this way, or know that fact.’ That is not a happy way to live, or the way of love. Information and classification is necessary in some disciplines, but it seems to me that life in the Spirit is more about oneness than about differentiation. 
    Cloud gazing  invites us to look up and let go of what's holding us down, the dualism that tears us apart, the constant striving to be better than someone else that wear us down or out, the small details that seem to be so important - things we fight over, things we kill over, things we are fearful of , or angry about.   We can lay on the ground, or stand - stop, hold still and look up. Then we get a real perspective of what is important.  

    

Bare Branches

This week our theme is the bare branches. There was  a woman I met in a nursing home. She was very ill, on oxygen, and sitting in a chair staring out the window at a steel gray November sky. I thought she must be so sad, she is dying and she’s never going to see summer again, and all she can see is this bleakness of November.  I walked in and sat on the corner of her bed expecting to hear a lament from her,   but instead a light came to her eyes and she said to me, ‘even the bare branches are beautiful.’ It made me stop and ask myself, am I looking at life the same way she is? Am I seeing the beauty  or just seeing the darkness and despair?  That is often the way it is in nursing homes, you think everyone is just waiting to die, but instead they are often more fully alive than the rest of us. You can see it in their eyes, their spirits are right there to see and sometimes they glow. 
    The rhythms of nature teach us so much, If the leaves stayed on the trees all winter, the tree would suffer a lot of damage or even die, when the wind and ice comes. The leaves are there for a purpose to provide nutrition, increase photosynthesis, protection. But leaves, like us all,  have a life cycle.  As one of my favorite hymns says: ‘we blossom and flourish like leaves on a tree, and wither and parish but naught changeth Thee.” 
    We change and grow.  Branches remind me of hands spreading out, reach up, growing, growing toward the sky.  It is from these growing branches that the tree reaches up and out. 
    Often when a tree is full of leaves it looks round and full and beautiful. But  when the leaves fall off you see the skeleton  of the tree, it’s branches going every which way, full of character, showing growth, twists and turns.  A bare spot that a wind storm destroyed, a place where the branches decided to grow into each other. These twists and turns create the character of the tree.
    And sometimes if you are in the right place at the right time, the branches themselves awesome.   There are the evenings when you’re driving west as the sun is setting and you catch a glimpse of the branches in your rear view mirror and you almost stop in awe because the branches look like they are on fire, red streams from the setting sun on the branches and makes them alive, a bright crimson, lighting up the night. Or there are times when you are driving on a morning after there was freezing rain and then it snowed, and the sun comes out, and the icy/snow coated branches glitter like morning diamonds all around you and you are in an enchanted land. It takes your breath away. 
    Yes, even the bare branches are beautiful. And if we are lucky or present enough to see the beauty in bare branches on a bleak November day, then we are truly seeing with the eyes of the heart. 

 

November & Cultivating Light

We have a great retreat on November 7th and here are some haiku from our participants:

Covering the rock
Yellow blanket over moss
Tamarack needles - Sam Pendergrast

Look above, a web
Reaching for sun, all niches filled
Rising out of earth - Marjorie Hughes

A rock, not so solid
A growing place for lichens
Dissolved into earth - Marjorie Hughes

I don’t know about you, but November can be a hard month for me. It is such an in-betweenmonth; is it fall or is it winter? We don’t know, November doesn’t know. I hear people say that all the time who live here, I love the fall, but November is so gray and depressing, it can’t make up its mind. We have rhythms in our lives, like the ebb and flow of the sea, like summer and winter, like light and darkness. Rhymes that invite us to work, to rest, to ponder, to let go, to hold on, to sleep, to dream. I dream of being in rhythm with the seasons, of resting in the winter, of working hard in the summer, but often it is hard to get in touch with what we are really called to do and be. 

    In November, the farms have been harvested, Star has things hanging from her walls drying for the winter. Maybe because we want everything to be summer all the time - hurry up, grow, produce -  I have trouble sitting down and just letting life be. Even our grocery stores stock strawberries that have been shipped from summer climates so we can have shortcake in December. Do we really needfresh strawberry shortcake in December? Is it really the time and the place? That is a simple example of how we want everything all the time without paying attention to nature’s rhythm.  And how we want things now! 

    November 1st we changed to eastern standard time, leaving daylight savings time behind, and it seems all light behind too. We not only awake in darkness but our drive home is very dark.. Barbara Brown Taylor’s book “Learning to Walk in the Dark: talks about our fasciation with light. She says: “it seems clear that eliminating darkness is pretty high on the agenda, not just physical darkness, but also metaphysical darkest, which includes psychological, emotional, relational, and spiritual darkness.”  Is it really in our best interest to eliminate darkness from our lives? She concludes that we need that dark as much as we need the light. 

    St. John of the Cross talked about the Dark Night of the Soul. I always thought that meant that it’s like we feel alone, there is no presence ofGod, and there are not answers, sort of like being in a deep depression. Like stumbling around in the dark without a night light.  

    Last November, that idea resonated with me,  it seemed that the darkness and the gloom began to seep into my being, made me want to just stop, to run away, and to have no hope that there was anyway out.  But, John of the Cross did not see the dark night as a negative thing, but as a transition from one way of knowing and relating to God, to another, deeper way. His life was not pretty. He was locked away, his teachings were forbidden, yet he continued to write and try to make changes in his order. Don’t you love the passion of the reformers, they just kept on against all the forces that tried to stop them. He used the pain and suffering in his life to grow into greater relationship with God.

    How can we cultivate that kind of passion, how can we be more in line with the inner light that is in all of us? How can we embrace the darkness so it becomes a means to a deeper understanding of who we are and our relationship to the sacred?

    In one of Richard Rohr’s daily meditation he said: “Astrophysicists tell us that 95% of the known universe is dark energy and dark matter and seemingly empty space--not open to our analysis it seems. Yet we now know that all that darkness is objectively not darkness at all; what looks to the human eye like darkness is actually filled with billions of neutrinos--which are light. This sounds to me like John's Gospel: "A light that shines on in the dark, a light that darkness cannot overcome" (1:5).” the darkness has much to teach us, when we stop fighting it, and let those billions of tiny lights begin to teach us to see. 

    A Taize Chant goes: “Within our darkest night, you kindle the fire that never dies away, never dies away.”   

    So it is in the month of November that we come face to face with darkness, and begin to befriend if, because it will be with us for a long time, as we look more deeply into the darkness, we begin to learn of the hidden revelations that is has to teach us. Sam sent me this Mary Oliver poem:

Someone I loved once gave me

a box full of darkness. 

It took me years to understand

that this, too, was a gift.

 - Mary Oliver