Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Architecture of Welcome

No mater where I have lived, I have found places I enjoy being...specific places...buildings, coffee shops, churches... The initial attraction might be purpose, it might be architecture, location, light, other people who use it... Usually, they are nook and cranny places, places I enjoy exploring, coming to know, and that provide a variety of perspectives for viewing; comfortable places where one might tuck into a corner table and watch for a while, write for a while, or have a good think or wander in a musing. I am beckoned to these places...finding them calls to my creative soul and brings a sense of place and peace to me.

Over the years, I have noticed something else about my relationship with certain places...there is an intimacy, a knowing of sorts...a knowing and a being known. Or, perhaps, a feeling of rightness of place, that brings the relationship of architecture and spirit that much closer together.

I was musing about that this morning as I sat and wrote the following...

People watching and catching up on the news...sigh...this is so nice...watching it fill up here reminds me of watching Xavier come to life in NYC. It is about coming early enough to be a part of the quiet of the building be accepted into the space quietly, intimately, like the friends who welcome one another's company in stillness. These are the friends who know things about one another...quiet you take your coffee, the sort of movie you'd want to see, what you need to feel free, what kind of welcome makes you feel at home...or the view from a particular vantage point, which window has sun at different times of day, which places others like to occupy, which people will arrive when...

To get here early enough to notice that, to feel that...and then to welcome the coming together of a new witness the blooming crescendo of a space becoming what it is called to delight in that, to feel is like the chance to witness a friend flourishing in her work and feeling that pride born of love--the quiet love that strengthens and sustains and yes, frees. It is the architecture of welcome...built with the heart and rendered in a grand diversity of ways...all with room for others...with room for me...I am grateful for these people and these places in my life.



Sunday, March 23, 2014

To infinity and beyond

But no matter how certain I am that there are in fact things happening during this apparent pause in the here and now, I sometimes find it difficult to answer when someone else asks "Where were you?"

I thought about this the other day when I was on a plane. Where was I? Up. Over. Going. Coming. Suspended. Defying. Contained. Nearer. Further. Neither. Nor. Honestly, it rather suited my mood to not know.

Yet I know that I have an equal desire to be certain of a given moment...the particulars don't necessarily faze me, but to know, wherever it is that I might be...this gives me place within the embrace of the universe.

If that means knowing I am lost, so be it. Knowing I am scared, so be it. Knowing I love or frustrate or am strong or am vulnerable or all of this all together, so be it. If it means that I am in the midst of a stanza or an ache or an encounter with God, so be it.

But I also know that there are in-between places. Liminal times of neither-here-nor-there-ness. And I know that those places and times afford a perspective on a much greater whole.

That's where I find myself going in the pauses...where the sky and the earth meet in gently curving light. Where there is a fullness, not an absence. A fullness of possibility, of dreams, of more wonder waiting...of new days dawning and star flecked rest beckoning.

The more I muse about this, I can't help reflecting on the connection between knowing where I am and the call of God...the connection between spending time in the limen and being free, loose, open, enough to listen without fear, to listen with desire.

It reminded me of a reflection I wrote once about Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne. It is good to find it again and take it to heart these traveling days.

Philippine dreamed big and listened wide for the voice, the call, of God. Whether working with those in need closer to home in Grenoble, or giving herself to a pull that would take her away from that which was physically familiar and ever deeper into the diverse terrain of the Heart where she made her true home, Philippine responded with disponibilite, creativity, and a broad, inclusive desire to make God's love known.

With fervor, she talked and wrote openly of her desires, her thoughts, her discernment with God. My contemporary imagination easily hears her saying year after year "and, oh, by the way ... if you need someone to cross an ocean and start something new ... I'm still open because that is where I believe God is calling me to go."

It is one thing to have the dream. It is another still to voice it. But it is something else altogether to drop everything and go forward once approval comes ... to go when the cost is dear and the unknowns looming; to go prayerfully and with courage; to say Yes and walk on knowing that doubt, fear, and challenge will be probable companions and might sometimes even gain the upper hand temporarily; to say Yes above all else to sharing the Love to which I too have given my life.

That level of freedom, that intensity of commitment to dreaming and discerning, to the Society, to God, and to God's people, is one of the qualities I admire most about Philippine.


Friday, March 14, 2014

The Best kind of AUGH!

I have been in a position of privilege this week. Well, honestly, it is the same position I am in every a chair or on my feet in front of students, teaching. But these last days overflow within me...absolutely overflow...and invite me to repeat what I have brought to God and proclaimed to those who are tolerant and patient enough to stand for a while in the breeze of my musing...

Number the Stars is over and spring vacations are about to begin. It is a poetry week again in 5th grade Literature. To keep the WWII theme going, students spent a while watching video clips of an eagle-cam and of newsreel footage of WWII Spitfire aircraft flying in formation. We then read and discussed WWII pilot/poet John Gillespie Magee’s poem High Flight and spoke at length about the images within the lines that moved the students and what it was about them that stirred their emotions.

After a bit of this, as well as a discussion about poetry being a response to experience, I threw my hands in the air and asked with rather unavoidable passion, “Who else among you has touched the face of God?!?”

Hands went in the air.

Hands went in the air!

And students spoke with care and depth and honest recognition about having touched the face of God…in waterfalls, in the birth of a sibling, in the quiet of a beach, being alone, the beauty of the sun, in a back yard, on an ice rink…

That students believe and KNOW bone deep down that they have touched the face of God…and could talk about it… well, that was an AUGH moment for me. To know and believe that at 11 years old…to walk with that. To have that confidence born of experience and nearness…it leaves me humbled and still with the quiet of God’s greatness.

It was a privilege just to hear them speak about it—to watch the experience play out anew on their faces and in their gestures.

Our next class began with a clip of the Saint Crispan’s Day speech from Kenneth Branagh’s version of Henry V. I admit to slipping into simultaneous translation mode for part of it to help them. Afterwards I invited the students to listen to a piece of music from the movie and to feel…what did they imagine might be happening in the movie based on the feel of the music? What was moved in them? What were the images that filled them?

From here, we went to the fields of France during WWI and read John McCrae’s In Flanders Fields while viewing images of poppy fields, doughboys, and cemeteries.

Then, one or two poems from children in the Terezin concentration camp from WWII.

The students then compared/contrasted the images of war/the feelings evoked in the different poems we read/heard.

Motivational, glory, warning, sad, different perspectives…

At week’s end I keep returning to a statement I made at the beginning:

God astounds me—and so do eleven year olds.