Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Grace: One small act at a time

Missiles are being launched and countries that are armed to the gills and seething are being taunted.  Presidents are pardoning racists and proclaiming them upstanding.  The heavens have opened and floods are plaguing creation.  Gunmen enter libraries and kill.  Cars are driven into crowds; people are "disappeared," trafficked, bullied, ignored.

All of this and still, grace abounds.  In fact, I think it is at world moments like this that grace flourishes.  It might look like the Cajun Navy setting off with every means of conveyance to lend a hand in Houston.  It might look like someone tapping out a smoke and sharing it with the shaky guy on the corner or strangers helping those who are injured.  I think she can sound like laughter; can sound like Big Quiet; can feel like the warm wrap of someone's embrace; taste like coffee, like cold water, like meatloaf and mashed potatoes or red lentil lemon soup.  Grace, a fullness of presence/kindness/mercy/awareness/recognition/wonder/welcome, unsolicited and freely shared... I think it can save us like nothing else can.  It does not run.  It abides.  Not to mitigate reality...to help us make our way within it as humanly as possible.

I have the sense too that she dresses simply, at least the grace I know.  It's easier to move that way...to flow, dance, crouch, shimmy, sun salute, dig a hole, plant a seed, tend a heart.  It's also easier to recognize her that way.  Not so many layers.  She reminds me of my favorite of the 99 Names of God...Al-Latif...the Subtle One.

I have had several encounters with her within the last week.  Moments that since they happened are never too far away from present to me...right there, in the corner of my heart...swooping up, abuzz like a hummingbird.

The first, I got a haircut.  A simple task.  But the forty-five minutes to an hour every couple of months that I spend with the woman who cuts my hair is time I anticipate with joy.  She cares about the art and technique of her craft, to be sure.  It's more, though.  She seems to care about how she makes her way in the world and honors the Being of others. We have wide ranging conversations--one from last week being about 'the nearness of voice,' and what it is to walk with a voice of Love inside-and to experience that love through voice in a variety of ways--laughter, shared quiet, serious conversation, reading aloud, etc.  The conversation and the time was a gift.

Next, I went to the Farmers' Market as is my usual habit on a Saturday early morning.  This time, all of the table spots were taken, so I went out to the skinny deck off the second floor and claimed a bench.  About fifteen minutes later, a more fashionable version of myself was standing beside me asking, "May I share your bench?"  She was about my age, similar hair, glasses, backpack, a hot drink in a travel mug.  I said, "Of course--please.." and scooted my backpack closer while continuing to read.  That was all we said to each other until I got up to go about a half hour later.  "Have a good rest of your Saturday," I said with a quiet smile.  She looked up from her e-reader--"It's been a great way to begin it-- Thank you."  So simple.  So lovely.

Then, I was the only person who showed up for a program at the public library.  The library had been collecting people's suggestions all summer about "What Halifax should read next!"  on Post-its and this was to be a conversation about the results--the data had been collated, a bibliography produced, etc.  I walked in the room and there was the librarian...and an empty semi-circle of chairs.  She showed me the bibliography and was mentioning other programs...passing a reasonable number of minutes to allow for any last minute stragglers to enter the room.  No one.  So she and I started talking.  We spent over an hour talking about books on the list and off, book covers, what worked and what didn't...the joys of walking around with a book in your bag whether you get a chance to read it or not...and laughing, laughing, at times...  I stood to leave and said "I'm really sorry that no one else came to your program after all of the preparations--but I have enjoyed myself thoroughly!  Thanks!" She responded--"And, if only one was going to show, I'm glad it was you!"   We closed with a handshake and an exchange of names.


One small act at a time.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Charlottesville...Showing up...and Beauty

The news of Charlottesville, Virginia puts the lingering thoughts of my retreat, from which I returned a week ago, into stark relief.

In a way.

On the other hand, my notes help provide a way to structure my response to the hatred, the fear, the violence, that includes and goes far beyond and far deeper than what made the news on the 12th of August in one particular town in one specific state of a nation seen by many in the world as sliding precipitously down the steeply pitched path to implosion.

The question that came back to me while listening and watching the news…the armed militiamen, the KKK, those who joined their voices to theirs and those who protested that presence with voice, chant, placard, and as a group of clergy did, with a silent witness of peace…comes from a book that accompanied my retreat—Becoming Wise by Krista Tippett.

In it, she recalls an interview she did with Jacqueline Novogratz who posed the question—What are you doing when you feel most beautiful? (Becoming Wise p. 78)  This was within the context of a larger discussion on beauty which included John O’Donohue’s musing beauty isn’t all about niceness, loveliness.  Beauty is about more rounded substantial becoming.  And when we cross a new threshold worthily, what we do is we heal the patterns of repetition that were in us that had us caught somewhere. So I think beauty in that sense is about an emerging fullness, a greater sense of grace and elegance, a deeper sense of depth and also a kind of homecoming…of your unfolding life. (Becoming Wise pp. 76-77)  

Looking at the pictures, watching the video clips, reading the articles, accounts, tweets, and formal responses, I found myself wanting to ask the militia with their weapons and camouflage; wanting to ask the Klan and other white supremacy groups; wanting to ask them all –THIS?? Could THIS possibly be what you do when you feel most beautiful? Stand for hate; stand for exclusion; stand for violence; Believe yourself better than; run a car into a crowd and kill a woman?  And to those people who have offered a response—Did writing your words feel like a help toward healing patterns of repetition?  Did the words seem to invoke or inspire a sense of depth, a call to grace or elegance, or did they recognize and condemn the inciting longstanding blight of racism?

Are our actions, our responses, the best we have to offer?  If that is what the world witnessed on August 12th, the best and most beautiful we have to offer, God help us.  

If we can do better, God help us so that every aspect of our being is oriented toward that fullness of dignity and character to which we are all called. 

We need to do better.

Calling one another to that means a building up of relationship; it means letting go in freedom and walking toward in peace; it means standing with; it means the difficult honor of love; it means solidarity.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Wingspan of One's Voice

This morning I was listening to a recording of a radio interview featuring two folksingers—Elise Witt and Sara Thomsen.  During the conversation, Elise made mention of “the wingspan" of voice. How fortunate I felt that such a lovely expression was one of the first things I began to consider as I sipped coffee. It led me to think about my own voice and what fits within its wingspan… How my voice has learned to stretch, to shelter, to take flight…

Ever since I was a child, I have loved to read out loud.  Words felt good in my mouth.  I was amused by them, curious about what they meant, and they made me laugh.  I can still remember reading poetry aloud to myself while sitting cross-legged on my bed and repeating over and again the parts that were especially delicious to me.  My mother and father both read aloud to me and did so with intention and meaning.  I was aware of the connection between the sound of voice and sense-making, Intonation and what it could convey.

Then there was the speech class requirement in high school-- a dread I put off until the final semester of my senior year.  At one point I had to do a personal experience speech and for a host of reasons, I did not want to share an actual experience of mine with the class. I asked the teacher if I could make one up and he gave me permission.  I developed a ten-fifteen minute talk about the day I met the Queen of England. The entire class believed me.  This was a different sort of power that I began to associate with voice.  To speak well in public was a way to have people attend to what was being said.  People would listen and care about what I had to say if I spoke with confidence (or freedom), with strength, and with a sense of story.

Combining these two essential bits of knowledge—the connection between sound and sense-making and speaking with freedom and a sense of story—has helped to both shape my sense of self and given me ways to express it.  My voice, in both its internal and external expressions—whether vocal or written, is a way for me to connect, to communicate, to discover and to reveal…

The wingspan of my voice

Oh glory what can gather
in the wingspan of my voice…
a way to release-ha…
a way to sing-yeah…
a way to call-mmhmm…
These wings, my voice-
oh the pleasure 
when it flies,
when it smooths and when it
pauses; when it rises;
when it follows a sonnet’s contours,
when it wails and when it laughs;
when it is freed on the power
of a spiritual truth and wakes
the Word from the page
and conforms to it, tastes
the story and speaks the feast;
These wings, my voice.
Oh, Job said…
that my words were written down,
that they were inscribed in a book!
For I know that my Redeemer lives.
I know my Redeemer lives—
what I do not yet know, what I consider,
in awe and curiosity,
is how far this voice,
can stretch.
I want to use these wings until
at day’s end they are weary
and can go no further.
I want
to soar
on the currents of God.

Kimberly M. King, RSCJ

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Ten Perfect Raspberries

Ten Perfect Raspberries

Retreat, 2017 at Martin’s River

When it begins 
with being able to call dinner a feast,
(Dinner is a pair 
of hard-boiled eggs
and ten perfect raspberries,
eaten with my feet up,
and the door open and the light
resting easy and the air
all soft and salty and cool, full 
of the nearness of you.) 
it must be
that I am writing a love letter.

I wasn’t sure
until I blew a handful of soap suds
into the sunset and laughed by myself.
Alone, but not really… in fact,
not at all.

Kimberly M. King, RSCJ