Tuesday, June 20, 2017

In Exchange


The other day, I read an opinion piece in The Chronicle Herald, Halifax’s local paper.  It was at once brash, harsh, and held elements of truth taken to an extreme.  (Click here to read) Elements of truth or at least shards of a mirror.  On that same day between the front section of the local paper and the front section of The Globe and Mail, there were articles about the case against Bill Cosby ending in mistrial; the acquittal of the cop accused of fatally shooting Philando Castile; the fatal shooting by police of Charleena Lyles in Seattle; the death count from the devastating fire in Grenfell Tower in London; the death count from a forest fire in Portugal; a Dal medical student being found guilty of first degree murder for killing a fellow student from whom he was buying drugs to resell and finance his university studies. 

Venezuela has been in the papers; congressional hearings in the US; the shooting of a Republican congressman; a change in the laws about how many days someone can be put into solitary confinement in Canada’s prisons after an indigenous prisoner spent over a 1,000 days there; Vans driving into crowds

And on and on and on.

The issues are huge and the price is dear. In some ways, it seems the world is asking for our humanity in exchange for surviving reality. 

In asking for our humanity, we are invited to become numb.  Sink in to the anesthesia of over saturation, of violence, and ride the highway to/through hell in a handbasket car.

Or in asking for our humanity, the world is crying out for the best we have to offer. To take notice; to act with mercy, compassion, generosity; to bear the mantle of love’s sometimes difficult honor.

Both of these reflect our human nature. Indifference/self-interest/self-preservation and offering the best; welcoming; reaching out; believing in something grander and that something else is possible. The rich man who walked away; the good Samaritan who stopped.  Those calling for the woman to be stoned; The father who welcomed his child home again. 

There are terrible truths in our world.  But I can’t believe that’s the whole of it.  I need to know, to believe, that it isn’t a matter of having the world on one side of the scale and our job is to balance it out on the other side.  It’s about how we are making our way through…

We choose over and again on a very local, intimate, level, how we interact with what is real.  Sometimes, though, that “how” is the question.  How, when things loom so large, do we try to live out of our humanity in a way that helps the world spin a bit more smoothly, with a bit more decency, kindness, and joy?

So I asked people, 295 or so of them, if they’d be willing to compose a statement beginning with “I believe…” that reflected their own attempts at living that way in our world where beautiful and terrible things happen.  What follows is the result.

I believe that love is stronger than hate and love is stronger than death, and that all creation is ultimately held together in its embrace.

I believe that every person has a sacred worth and value.

I believe things can be better.

I believe in the power of love and the power of words and that both make a difference.

I believe Jesus cries with those who suffer and challenges people who are comfortable.

I believe happiness is a choice and love is the answer.

I believe smiling has a positive effect on friends and strangers.

I believe that women supporting other women is the most powerful magic in the world.

I believe that, although words are powerful, sometimes silent presence is our best gift to one another.

I believe that every life is precious—even the people in front of us every day.

I believe kindness is underrated.

I believe each person has a ‘core’ of goodness because we all were born with a good heart.

I believe in a higher power and the goodness of others.

I believe that treating people with consistent kindness is not just pleasant and right, but also logical and useful to everyone in the long run—meaning that it is pleasant, right, and smart.  I also believe that art (understood broadly) is one of the most important things human beings do or have.

I believe that everything happens for a reason.

I believe that we should seek the face of the Divine in everyone we encounter…and be that face to them.

I believe in wearing faith like a loose garment.

I believe that I am a work-in-progress and that self-reflection leads to growth.

I believe in kindness.


Thank you to those who responded.  Thank you for those I encounter daily who make these and other similar beliefs manifest.  World reality challenges me to look at my own behavior and my own humanity on scales large and small and make conscious choices about how I am in this world.  It is good that we journey together.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

In your Sanctuaries




O God, you are my God, I seek you,
    my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
    beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
    my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
    I will lift up my hands and call on your name.
(Psalm 63:1-4)


I have laid witness to you, O God, in many sanctuaries these days... 

In the sanctuary of pages... 

Gutenberg's Fingerprint by Merilyn Simonds ... He takes the page from me and holds it flat, at eye level.  Instead of reading the words, I look across the terrain of paper, shaped now into hills and valleys, pools of commas, fjords of t's and f's, rushing rivulets of s's.  'Words make an impression,' he says. (p.12)

The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit...To hear is to let the sound wander all the way through the labyrinth of your ear; to listen is to travel the other way to meet it. (p. 193)

My Bookstore, an anthology... There is no community without a common resource. (Dale Bates, an architect in Ketchum, Idaho, speaking about the bookstore, Chapter One.)

In the sanctuary of nature...

You welcome me with open stem and petal and leaf these days.  You say 'there is room for you within me, within the embrace of my branches and the undulation of my wind.' 'Feast!', you invite me.  On color, on texture, on line or arc or overlay, on shadow and hidden wonder... (From my notebook)


In the sanctuary of the kitchen...

Leaping Greenly Soup (an experiment that worked...named for ee cummings' poem)

1 large yellow onion, diced
2 big cloves garlic, diced
a bit of fresh ginger, (diameter of a quarter and two quarters thick), diced
3 good sized zucchini, sliced
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled and sliced
3 or 4 baby bok choi, bottoms trimmed off, rough chopped
a fist sized thin skinned potato, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
a shake or two or three of garam masala
Chicken or vegetable stock
Olive oil

Olive oil in the soup pot--onion, garlic, ginger, pepper, salt, garam masala into pot to sautée
Zucchini and apple into pot...shoosh around a bit
Bok choi into pot; potatoes into pot
Add stock to cover
Let burble for a half hour
Blend
Adjust to taste















In the sanctuary of the sky...

















In the sanctuary of your quiet company, joy, delight, and love.




Sunday, June 4, 2017

Stardust and Song


I went to hear the University of King’s College Chapel Choir late this afternoon in the Anglican cathedral down the street and over a half block.  I have been to several of their concerts this season—each one absolutely exquisite. Listening to them sing stirs me…draws me down and sets me loose at the same time… I ache with beauty and longing…

There is a sense for me of being drawn into a breathing, flexing, living shape of praise… a murmuration comprised of sound instead of birds.  There is One Great Sound lifted into the universe…a sound that moves with incredible grace… The precision of it, the way all of the notes are bound into this shape, this sound, because of this precision… fascinated me.  There is cohesion and there is movement because of how the notes fit with one another.

In the midst of this glory, I began to think about the Roman aqueducts of Segovia, Spain… there is nothing holding the stones in place except the precision of how they fit together…because of that exceptional exertion of forces working together in union and harmony, water was carried to citizens from the second half of the 1st century CE on into the 20th.  

This music, this encompassing swell of glory...augh...these notes bending and blending with one another…they too bear something.  They carry forth our desire, our aching, our prayer…so enticing is the tidal draw of their bond, their breathing, I could feel myself opening to allow as much room as possible for the music to pass through me and bear my offerings too.

Someone was giving a presentation at Barat Spirituality Centre this past Saturday and reminded us all of the basic law of physics that says the matter that IS is the matter that always has been.  There is no more of it, there is no less.  It simply takes on different forms.  So these notes, sent forth by humans...humans made of the same stuff as stars...they don't disappear.  They become.  If this One Great Sound is part of what has been, what is, and what will be, beyond the confines of time or space...  then this music that took on the shape of the wind this late afternoon can be felt by my sisters and my brothers who are suffering, who hurt, who are scared, who want to hope yet fear tomorrow.

Saturated with stardust and aching and prayer, may this music now loosed into the universe serve as a balm for the wounds of our world…

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Eggsestential Poetry


A Course in Omelettics



With a sliced chord
of onion, purple and white,
removed in one movement
from an uprooted underground 
well layered minaret;
With translucent pages
knifed cleanly away
from the contoured spine
of red-pepper quires
that meet in bright binding;
With albumen and yoke
binding all to all 
in simple, in graceful,
communion,
I cook; I praise;
I delight in the glory of creating.


Kimberly M. King, RSCJ








Sunday, May 28, 2017

Grace and a thought for Saint Madeleine Sophie


I went to a funeral this year on the feast of Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat.  It was a funeral that was important to have someone from the community attend...two others were away and the third was occupied at the school next door.  We had decided to celebrate the Feast tonight instead.  There was dinner with the Associates, some of the community members who live in a building with Sisters of Charity about fifteen minutes away, and the 99 year old mother of a community member.   I helped spearhead the preparation of the main dish--the rest was being brought by others who were coming.  I was also asked to do grace.

It was a different grace than if I'd composed it for her actual feast on the 25th.  I've read two things since then...one was a double page spread article in The Globe and Mail (TGAM) on Saturday, May 27th. "The Forever War," by Mark Mackinnon was a thoughtful piece about becoming a culture acclimatized to acts of terror.  The other was a line in an essay about the bookstore Chapter One in Ketchum, Idaho.  "There is no community without a common resource." (Dale Bates, local architect)

The combination of those two things had me wondering, "What is our common resource?"  What is it that we put out there for the use of the Whole:  the big Whole and the smaller wholes...  It makes sense that an abundance or a scarcity of Resource shapes the community who uses or needs it.  Water; Freedoms; Food; Hate; Shelter; Fear; Stability; Ignorance; Love....  

What is our common resource and how does it shape our identity as community?  In our best moments, I pray that the resources we put forth serve to build up, to console, to lead community toward greater ideals.  And to bring in the article from TGAM, do we make the acquisition or manipulation of those resources into contests of superiority or quantity...or do we see sharing what builds us up as a community as a call to offer it because we have it to offer for the good of the Whole and the wholes?

Anyway, this is what I was thinking about as I wrote grace for Saint Madeleine Sophie's feast.  Thank you, Sophie, for understanding why it was a couple of days later than usual this year.

Grace for the Feast of Saint Madeleine Sophie, 2017

The print on pages,
staining fingers and
provoking a sigh already
at a day’s fresh rising,
has said “The memorials are always sad
and beautiful, but
the fact that they’ve become common scenes
tells us love
isn’t winning the contest
with hate.”

Madeleine Sophie, you
lived a revolution
of fire and vision;
courage, challenge, and
strength measured in Love.

For you, it was never a contest to win;
it was a call to answer…
A life to live for the sake of a child,
for neighbor, for Sister, for All.

We ask that you bless each of us.
Bless each of us who desire to
make known with our lives the Love
that is the Heart of Jesus:
a heart that is wholly given,
given without reservation,
so that tomorrow may be met
with hope, in faith, and with the confidence
that we are not alone.


May this meal nourish us and strengthen us
that this might be so.

Amen.



(Quotation: Mark Mackinnon in “The Forever War,” The Globe and Mail, 27 May, 2017; written in the aftermath of the suicide bomber in Manchester, England)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Your Voice


This brings me back to thoughts of the voice of God…remembrance of when the choir director told me that notes are made up of harmonic waves.  What if the note of the voice of God is also made up of these waves?  Those waves being bits of the wind, bits of laughter, wailing, loving, soothing, shouting, mourning, foghorns, ram’s horns, car horns…elements of the noise of life’s fullness harmonizing into the note that is the voice of God.  (KMK on CTL, April 8, 2009, “Harmonics.”)

I don’t usually think of you in gendered human terms… but while listening to music recently, I realized that the feeling I get when listening to a rich alto sing is a feeling I associate with you…so relaxing, so open, so soothing, inviting… 

I remembered a conversation I had once at Xavier after John found me flat on my back in the middle of the center aisle, looking up at the ceiling.  (I had thought I was alone.) Then, I started thinking about other sounds: The sirens that pass by day and night; the caffeinated gurgle of the coffee pot; the wind, brushing out the knots and tangles of tree branches at dusk; the panicked shout of parents looking for their child; the fish breaking surface in the wide-quiet of a lakeside morning; the first cry and the last breath; the wake cut by a low flying swift skimming through crops; the rain; the pounding of feet running away in fear…all of this…all of this comes together in your voice. The harmonic waves of all that it means to be alive and part of creation in the midst of our messy and glorious world…they meet in your voice. 

Yours is the voice of understanding; the sigh of awe; the steadying ballast; the strength to let go; the beckon; the scrape of the chair when someone we trust moves closer to listen; the metronome of every heart; the music that bears us home. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Simply A Good Weekend


In my imagination, I could see myself picking up words, looking through them at what lay beyond; draping them like shawls; offering them on raised hands—lifting them up; scooping them from puddles and pools, allowing them to wash over me and make me laugh and smile; drinking them from waterfalls, filling up with the life their waters contain…allowing them to take my shape and feeling my own shape change and swell with liberation as they lived into my marrow and whispered their secret beauties. (KMK on CTL, May 6, 2009, ‘Playing with Treasure’)



~Vincent VanGogh, in his letters to his brother, Theo, outlined a life filled with the tangible.  Vincent loved to look, to touch, to smell, and to taste the world about him.  Most of all, he loved to look, and then feel, with his hands grasping the charcoal or brush, what he had just seen.  His hands roamed all over his mind, trying to decipher the different grains of thought and emotion…~Writer Lucy Grealy in an essay called “My God.”



I spent the last several days at the Religious of Atlantic Canada conference which took place at a local university.  The theme was “Keep your Hand on the Plough.” Over the course of the gathering, I found myself talking about things that are important to me with around 40 other Sisters from at least six different congregations:  It was so refreshing to splash my hands in the pools of my heart and draw forth JOY…draw forth DELIGHT and FREEDOM…to feel the sustaining vibration of LAUGHTER as it saw new light… Each of these words are filled with experience…they wriggle with those grains of thought and emotion; they wriggle with the divine stuff of life that cannot be contained…and it was gift to hear and to feel them whisper their secret beauties once again. 

That was gift, just as it was gift to hear the life-words of others…to hear the sound of voices merging when we prayed by singing…to have newly met many people who have also said Yes to God and to great mystery and grand adventure with all that they have to offer.