Saturday, May 12, 2018

This Common Humanity

This absolutely fills me with joy.  This has me thinking about the Spirit and its different images/manifestations.  It’s like our best, deepest, greatest, inspired  humanity…flowing in harmonic waves and making music.  And it is happening Together.  Not alone…it’s not about my humanity…but Together…and it is a witness to Our Humanity.   

It seems to me that we are organically wired to respond to Bobby McFerrin’s invitation. We are creatures of pattern and rhythm…eyeblink, footfall, heartbeat……and we respond to each other in pattern and rhythm as well…finishing one another’s sentences among friends; the comforting recognition of the footfall of someone we love; breathing in time; reading aloud en masse—who teaches us to do these things?  

When we hear the traditional beginning to a story...whatever that beginning might be…Once upon a time…Había una vez…we ready ourselves to hear something that follows the dramatic curve.  Intro…rising action…climax…resolution.  It’s the pattern we know.  Around the world.

We listen for and follow the inherent rhythms and contours of language;  Everything from limericks and haiku to hip-hop depend on this.  So do leaders of protests, cheerleaders, and advertising departments.

We follow physical patterns and rhythms.  Someone on the street looks up, what do others start to do?  Just the other day, I was talking with someone about soldiers marching in step and how when they cross a bridge, they are to break step lest the power of the waves created by walking in rhythm with each other cause the bridge to collapse. (Engineers claim that modern construction techniques render this unnecessary.)

We are creatures of pattern and rhythm.

When watching this video, I am in awe of how Bobby McFerrin reminds us that we know this about ourselves.  He reminds us that we know this, interprets knowledge into notes, and he says “Enjoy it with me!” Enjoy this common humanity…let it become music.  Let us become music.  Together.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Ascension Thursday, 2018

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, --and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of --Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air...
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew --
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

It was as a part of a poetry unit that I first read this poem with a classroom of  fifth graders. The memory of our conversation, however, comes back in gratitude and wonder as I read the readings for today’s Feast of the Ascension.  

We’d watched YouTube clips of how network television would close out the day’s broadcasting by showing a jet soaring in the sky while a voice-over read Canadian RAF pilot John Magee’s words. We looked at the verbs, the descriptions, picked favorites…spoke of some of the hundred things we’d done that we had not dreamed of…  The kids LOVED his use of language and the imagery worked equally with boys and girls.

Then, in a moment of educational fervor, I quoted the last two lines and asked a room full of ten/eleven year olds— How many of you have done that?  How many of you have put out your hand and touched the face of God??

The hand of nearly every kid was raised. And we spent the rest of class telling those stories… Many of them were moments of beholding natural beauty, some were feelings of “just-right-ness” like running across the soccer field and royally whacking the ball…

It makes me well-up still, remembering that conversation with them.  I thought…You are ten.  You are eleven… and you walk around with experiences you consider to be “reaching out and touching the face of God.”  You believe not only that it is possible to touch God’s face, but that you have partaken of the possibility.  We are not so removed from that glory…Oh, please remember that you know that. 

I bring their faces to light in my memory again this morning and a multitude of others are in the crowd surrounding them…the faces of so many students I have taught and the faculties of schools where I have been; the regulars on each corner of Spring Garden Road; those people who get “the lonelies”; those in hospital with no one to visit them; shopkeepers; the children who have known only war; the women and men who have had no choice; poets, scientists, dreamers…they are all in my heart. I bring to mind their faces  and want to add… Especially in this world of ours….As Frederick Buechner wrote:  ~Here is the world.  Beautiful and Terrible things will happen.  Do not be afraid.~   Reach out and touch the face of God.

~Brothers and sisters: May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him. May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe, in accord with the exercise of his great might, which he worked in Christ, raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens, far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things beneath his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.~

-Ephesians 1:17-23-

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Earth Day Revelations

Beloved, see what love has been bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God.  Yet, so we are.  … Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed.  We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like God, for we shall see God face to face.

What we shall be has not yet been revealed…when it is…we shall be like God, for we shall see God face to face… Gory, what an enticing promise… 

I read that this morning while sitting in the embrace of a natural cathedral…the centre, the heart, of the Public Gardens. For the first time this season, the air was buoyed by a kiss of springtime; dormant colors had shaken off their outer layers, determined to begin a strength regimen toward regaining full, wakeful, glory; the textures of all that was alive seemed to be flexing, stretching forth, jockeying for a place in the sun that would ease stiff creases and freshen the dusty gauze.

It is as though the Earth too has Being not yet revealed…and creation is waiting with anticipation to see the splendor, the riotous display, of line, of hue, of beauty, of what it will become.

To think God is like that with us…to think that one day I will know…and meanwhile get to behold a thousand other becomings…

Absolutely incredible. Divinely thrilling.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A Snapshot in Haiku

Indigo Hour

Indigo hour calls
luminous and liminal;
Day’s end, thoughts lengthen.

(Known too as ‘holy basil’)
tea; my senses sigh.

House-sounds infusing
this contemplative here, now.
Such grace is welcome.

Kimberly M. King, RSCJ

(Thank you to friend, Lisa T. for the phrase, 'indigo hour.')

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Each Braided Bit a Story


Such roots as I have
are woven into a nest borne with me 
from place to place.

Delicate and fiercely capable, both; 
It can bear the wild whip-crack of rain
until it passes and meanwhile remember 
the cool sun-filled winds that will come
to dry and fresh bless this home
that has grown with me; each braided bit 
having told its story, adding to height or girth
or the number of windows and doors.

Windows and doors:
There are more of those now, affording a freedom 
of movement within and with-out. 

I have learned too
that once set into their jambs,
they can both help keep the rain at bay
while also letting 
the light, the light, the light
And the birdsong of neighbors; and 
the whispers between moon and comet.

Kimberly M. King, RSCJ

Friday, April 13, 2018

Through the Bend

From the notebook...

13 April, 2018
7:15 AM

In the sunroom with hot coffee rightly proportioned and sourdough toast with ricotta and cinnamon—an altogether lovely breakfast.  It is especially cozy to be in this particular room on a morning like today.  It is pouring and it is blowing—though in such a way that the roof fans have not yet started their cranky ‘whupping.’  So for now, it’s the wet-slap staccato pounding on the windows and deck that draws me deeper down, into the corner of the short couch, into a wakefulness grounded in You. Thank you for this.

It is no less a feeling of a fullness of you than last night with the beauty of the light and the cool evening air…and yet, entirely different. Somewhere…or some-when…overnight, we moved through the bend of the Moebius strip.  Outer into inner.  

I love that we do in fact move…that it is at your invitation…and that we do it together.

Walking home through Victoria Park after transcribing this entry

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Tis a Gift

Simple joys have always been important to me.  The onset of spring is no exception and today was a blue-skied beginning that worked its magic on my spirit.  

When I dropped someone off at the airport, I could have easily, so easily, kept on driving.  It was a day for a road trip, for adventure, cool sun-filled air, and deep fresh breaths.  
Alas, it was also a day for responsibility, so I returned to my work and took care of what needed doing. 

After a while indoors with emails, phone calls, and planning, it was time to run errands.  I just couldn’t imagine only looking at the day outside…I wanted to be IN IT; so off I went on the mundane errands a day can call for…adventures of a different sort.

And oh, the treasure…

I picked up a copy of a favorite childhood book as a present for a friend and had a lovely ten-minute conversation with the woman at the counter about the value of reading aloud and sharing simple moments in good company.

Upon leaving, I found myself on the sidewalk walking toward a woman I have been running into all over this part of the city in the last number of weeks.  I have no idea what her name is but we both enjoy the random encounters and greet one another with a big smile.  We haven’t ever had a conversation beyond wishing one another a good day and yet the smiles we exchange stay with me.

Coming home through Victoria park, I ran into a woman who comes to our house for Mass on Sundays. She introduced me to a neighbor and I helped them look for her neighbor’s family’s memorial brick in the walkway…and got a story about the neighbor having tamed crows in exchange for my hunting.

Between the park and the house, I was having a text exchange with a new friend and took two phone calls from people who wanted to sign up for a program at the Centre.  A great combination of new life.

Rather than go up the drive and in the back, I walked further on so I could make the turn and go in the front.  Some urge had me tuck inside the fence line to look at the blueberry bushes and while bending over them, looking for signs of new growth, I turned and saw one lone crocus blooming in its blue-purple fullness beneath the rhododendron—a delicate sign of light, promise, and the return of color.

It was a lovely day today.  

Thank you, God, for such simplicity as this.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Easter Grace, 2018

Easter Grace, 2018

We incline our ear toward you
and hear the cries of your people;
the ache of your earth, our home;
the complex symphony of seasons.

We incline our deepest joy toward you
and we celebrate relationship;
the bubble of laughter that breaks surface;
the counter-weight that steadies.

We incline our love toward you
and we give thanks for your fidelity,
your always and everywhere,
and “until the end.”

We incline our desire toward you:
to be an Easter people;
To proclaim Good News;
And one day, to rise, to rise, to rise.

And we ask your blessing
upon this meal,
upon the company we keep,
so that by both we are nourished
and this may all be so.


Sunday, March 25, 2018

On Praying...and Poaching Chicken

“All I was did was flip a potato pancake into the stove, and then I put it back into the pan, and I said: Well, if you're all alone in the kitchen, nobody will know.”

—Julia Child in a 1989 interview for Fresh Air with Terry Gross—

Exactly.  This is why I often sort out a new recipe when I am the only one who will be eating it.  Chances are I will be able to eat whatever the result is, unless something drastic happens.  And, if it works out well, voila…a recipe to add to the pool of what I can make and serve in community.

I love this kind of creative alone time.  I have a playlist labeled “Cooking” that is music with soulful groove best appreciated at an elevated volume and with space enough for the occasional dance move.  It is time to learn at my own pace; time to indulge the senses; time to marvel at chemistry and simplicity. 

It is also a time of prayerful, grounding, concentration.  Attending to the precision of my knife work is soothing to me…it helps ground me, gather me back from wherever my mind and spirit might be wandering.  Finding the sweet spot of flavor balance also calls for a contemplative attention that focuses my senses and asks that they be clear and open.    And in general, the more grounded and gathered and “transparent of senses”  I am, the more open I feel to awe, to wonder, to creativity, to Spirit, to God.

The recipes that are most appealing to me do not involve complex steps or rarified ingredients.  They are guidelines that teach me more about the possibilities of food’s potential to nourish, to satisfy, to delight. They involve paying attention, caring, learning, applying what I already know, and they invite me to enjoy the act of creating something pleasurable for the senses.

In some ways, this is not so far removed from my approach to prayer… Simple.  Find what is appealing and learn from it.  What allows me to pay attention?  What leads me to greater compassionate awareness about the world around me and opens me to God’s presence in it?  How do I delight in God? What does it feel like to my senses when I am in that centered, grounded, holy place with God? 

I can’t help but believe that the same organic desire that draws me to the kitchen is what draws me to prayer as well.  There is a hunger, a longing, that can only be met in that space.  Sometimes the net result is poached chicken with layered flavors of white wine and thyme; sometimes it is a deep abiding feeling of being Loved and of Loving….in the difficult complexity of what that sometimes means.

Is it like this every time I enter the kitchen or sit to pray?  Definitely not.  Sometimes in both cases, the result, however well intentioned, is serviceable and no more.  And with cooking and praying both, I can tell and so can others. 

Working at both is something that benefits me and all of those around me.  While I might be alone in the kitchen or alone in the morning with my coffee and the readings, the nourishment is meant for those around me too.

I cook alone to work out the recipe/technique—and then I share it.  I pray…and then the day begins and I share the fruit of that prayer in how I make my way through the day, how I interact with others.

Time alone in creativity and contemplation... for the sake of God’s people.  (Note to self: remember to leave room for the dance moves.)


You’ll find the dish that inspired this post here—

It was the white wine-onion-and herbs recipe.

While doing the chicken on top of the stove, I was roasting quartered golf ball sized potatoes in the oven.  When all was done, I put one chicken breast on my plate along with a scoop of the potatoes and spooned sauce over the lot.  Delicious.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Gravity, uncluttered

From my notebook, composed at the Halifax Farmers' Market this morning, around 7 AM.

~You can feel all kinds of gravity wherever you are everyday in different ways. And often, through human contact, you find your best gravity.~  poet Naomi Shihab Nye

While I do not yet know of its surrounding context which could hint at how the poet understood what she wrote, this quotation has nonetheless been inviting me to lengthen my mental stride into a steady strong lope of personal consideration these last days.

I’m quite taken with this expression of something I seem to know intuitively…. The beginning point for me was to think about gravity itself.  First, there’s the basic physics of 9.8 m/s2 , an undeniable earthly truth. That’s one kind of gravity.  Then, it feels like there is a sort of gravity that has to do with presence, with being grounded; a spacious gravity of invitation that draws together my sometimes disparate self.

And often, through human contact, you find your best gravity.  When I am out of sorts, feeling nowhere and everywhere, it is often the simple strength of another’s presence that grounds me again.  And the idea of ‘simple strength’ feels like an important thing…uncluttered presence… that might look or feel like a touch, a mug of tea, someone listening or asking a question, or someone able to simply be in the same space and let presence be enough…

And in their own way, aren’t each of these expressions of different aspects of Love…?

This kind of gravity of human contact is as organic and beautiful as the laws of physics.  And it too serves to draw me down to my center. I know though experience that it can help my scattered thoughts, feelings, psyche, knit back together into some semblance of a whole.  In that way, this best gravity also seems connected to direction and purpose.  It is easier to get a unified self headed in a direction than it is to try and corral a body and spirit out of relationship with each other.

It occurs to me, as I sit here in the early morning light of the Farmers' Market, that human contact of this sort—simple strength, invitational, uncluttered—can both bring us home and set us free.

Huh, what an idea—that these two things might not be so far removed from one another…

Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee, O Lord… (Saint Augustine)

Be my gravity, O Lord…draw me homeward and set me free… And may I learn how to offer this organic force of humanity and divinity, this Love,  to others in simple, uncluttered ways.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Tatting with Life and Language

I have written before about why I like carrying a book in my daily bag even if I know I might not get to read it. There is something about the company of a known written work that pleases me.  When read in different contexts or at different moments in time, the ideas, the language, create new lacework for me to explore; and yet, the thread remains familiar. There is a relationship between mind, heart, Word, and environment that is creative.  Doors open, veils drop, stone walls tumble, the boat is launched.  And with the crack of a spine or the ‘shoof’ of a page, I have entered a space that would not otherwise be available.  So, even when I don’t read the book in my bag, the possibility that it holds to lead me into these spaces, is a potential I find pleasing.

That said, there are other texts…those texts that are with me always, no matter the book in my bag.  The lines that are summoned during a wonder; the memory of a book or reference that informs a conversation; or a casual mention that has me recall—Oh yes, I remember meeting those lines, that poet, that rhythm or sound…—and I find myself mentally unfolding a piece of paper that had been saved but perhaps shuffled into a pile, or wad, of other memories/references.

That happened to me recently with a three-line Mary Oliver poem within a poem.  The lines are widely known, and in fact, known by heart by me; however, I hadn’t thought of them in a while.

Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

—from the poem “Sometimes” in Redbird; Beacon Press: Boston, 2009; p. 37—

At times, these lines have helped me frame my curiosity, wonder, and passion for written expression.  Given the context of their unfolding this time around—a gathering of 42 RSCJ ranging from their 30s-70s who spent the weekend together in prayer, laughter, and sometimes challenging invitation, in listening, and in meaningful conversation—I find in them a simple statement of that to which I have given my life. 

Pay attention…to God; to the world; to the neighbor; to the mirror; to that which cries out, aches, is in need.

Be astonished… be filled with awe, be angry, weep, gnash, act, learn, love, be open, be open, be open…to what is encountered.

Tell about it… Be affected, let the world affect me, who I am and how I am; Act out of that; write out of that; proclaim out of that in word and in deed and in the life lived and the things loved and the ideals believed in (Janet Erskine Stuart, RSCJ).

(And the tatting begins anew…)

Which all together calls to mind paragraph 4 of our Constitutions: 

By our charism, we are consecrated/ to GLORIFYING THE HEART OF JESUS: /we answer His call/to discover and reveal His love/ letting ourselves be transformed by His Spirit/ so as to live united and conformed to Him,/ and through our love and service/ to radiate the very love of His Heart.

As well as the poem, Famous by poet Naomi Shihab Nye:


    The river is famous to the fish.

    The loud voice is famous to silence,   
    which knew it would inherit the earth   
    before anybody said so.   

    The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds   
    watching him from the birdhouse.   

    The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.   

    The idea you carry close to your bosom   
    is famous to your bosom.   

    The boot is famous to the earth,   
    more famous than the dress shoe,   
    which is famous only to floors.

    The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it   
    and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.   

    I want to be famous to shuffling men   
    who smile while crossing streets,   
    sticky children in grocery lines,   
    famous as the one who smiled back.

    I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,   
    or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,   
    but because it never forgot what it could do.

And sometimes, to remember what that is, I find it helpful to write something down…to add a few knots of life and language to the lacework that somehow draws together what is lived, how it is lived and to what end, and the call to still more…

a free-form act of Love in the world.