Sunday, May 26, 2013

A trinitarian confluence

I remember learning the meaning of the word confluence as a young summer vacations growing up meant visting both sets of grandparents and some great grand parents in far eastern Ohio, close to the Ohio river. This was the land of KDKA on the radio, Mail Pouch tobacco signs painted on the sides of barns, and the Pittsburgh Pirates. It is the confluence of the Ohio, the Allegheny, and the Monongahela rivers that forms Three River stadium where the Pirates played.

This morning and afternoon brought back some of those childhood memories for a wholly other type of confluence...this one to do with bees, public radio, God, and poetry...among other things.
This morning as I drove back from spending the night in Saint Louis, i listened to an interview on public radio. The person being interviewed referred to poetry as that place where "reality slips" and room is created for us to step in and name more truly, touch more deeply, the essential of what surrounds us. Poetry as the place where the ineffably divine meets what is most real.
With that already dancing in my spirit, I spent time this afternoon in the backyard of a friend's house...a backyard that includes much life and many things that bloom, including a variety of flowering sage. I was captivated by the extraordinary number of bees that honed in on the purple spikes and found myself wanting to be see more intimately what the bees were doing. So, I rolled down my sleeves...and a while later wrote this...
...just spent some long moments with my head as part of the border in a batch of flowering sage, watching the congregation of bees working their way diligently up and down each bees, bumble bees, drones... Because I was sitting on the brick, my head was just level with the flowers and the fifty-plus bees that were in a buzz. It was a uniquely intimate experience to be in the midst of them and not be afraid of being stung. In fact, the bees seemed to know of my presence but skimmed by me, never landing. Moments like this are the same sorts of moments in poetry when reality slips...when I have the chance to take a step into the Great Ineffable through extraordinary connection with what surrounds me...when it is possible to believe again as I did as a child that if I pay close enough attention, I will be afforded a glimpse of the inner life, the inner working, of whatever bit of Glory is the present captivation.
There is divinity within reality and reality can be poetic and the poetic can reveal the divine.
Where divinity, poetry, and reality meet, oh, what a fertile confluence...
Three in one and one in three.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Pentecost, 2013 (or, the Coming of the Muse)

Acts Frontispiece from the St. John's Bible

They were all filled with the Holy Spirit / and spoke of the marvels of God.

(Communion antiphon for Liturgy of Pentecost. Acts 2:4,11)

When I was a child, I used to love being intentional about my reading or writing experience. If I was reading a mystery, perhaps I would put a magnifying glass in the satchel that carried the book. If the main character enjoyed a certain food, I would try to approximate it as I read. (Tomato sandwiches come to mind...if you have read Harriet the Spy...). I would carry pens, a feather, pencils, a bottle of india ink that once belonged to my mother, to write...because certain sorts of writing asked for certain writing instruments and I wanted to be prepared.

In some ways, this habit has continued into my adult life. But, it has become more organic...more intuitive...more an integrated part of me... As to what is this IT of which I write and speak and breathe and welcome...I can only call it relationship with Word.

And so it is that the contexts surrounding and filling me as I write on this Pentecost Sunday make for a pleasing coherence. On my left are the original and drafts of a document I have been translating and a page for vocabulary. There are two pens on top, one clicked open, ready for use. On my right, thesauri in two languages, a dictionary, a flopped open missalette, Teilhard de Chardin's Hymn of the Universe, a laminated and by now much travelled image of Jesus given to me in Rome by the director of my long retreat, poems by Pedro Casaldáliga, and a fresh hot mug of coffee ideally dosed with milk. In my heart, I am in Mexico, Indonesia, and Chile. I am in Cuba and Maine and New York, and my friend's kitchen. I am within the warmth of a friend's embrace and walking on the shoulder of a busy road listening to the clack of sticks against a push cart... I am in stillness, I am grounded, I feel free...

On this day when the Church celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit, the story is told with fire, with Word and language, with breath and gift. And I can feel that Story alive within and around me as I listen and respond, as I receive and shape words, as I touch and wonder and learn the contours of ideas. I am intimately aware of and infinitely grateful for the Spirit that inspires me...for the Holy Muse that, according to the Latin, inflames and blows into my being...For I AM becoming the great diversity of ALL THAT IS.

The other day I was asked to give a toast for someone at a book release party. I had never done that before and had only a moment's notice to prepare. It was carried off with apparent success and the effort prompted several people to approach me afterward to ask...How do you DO that? I responded honestly, if with a hint of trepidation...I appeal to the Muse for inspiration and trust in her kindness and generosity. I try to remain open, to listen, and to not take advantage.

Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat said, If we have the Holy Spirit, we have everything. I see the coming of the Spirit...the an act of Love, an act of Generosity, Creativity, and elemental Hope. Indeed, what more? If I am open to receiving, if I am open to letting it pass through me as a whisper, rest upon me like fire...what more??

I know something of what that feels like and looks like and it renders me filled with awe when I experience it and am witness to it.

Like those long ago who were all in one place together, I am brought to a clamorous fullness by the great diversity of gifts made manifest in our world that speak in multitudinous ways of the marvels of God.