Monday, September 24, 2018

Fall’s First Sunday

Yesterday morning, I put away dishes and finished making beds after a large group had been in to use the Spirituality Centre on Friday and Saturday.  This was followed by Mass and friendly banter with the regulars who come.

Next, a visit with a friend who is in rehab after a fall where she broke both hip and elbow. Both of us seem to enjoy the “shoes and ships” conversations we have each time I come.  (The time has come, said the Walrus, to speak of many things...of shoes and ships and ceiling wax and cabbages and kings...and why the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings...Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland).  We might talk of literacy, books, politics, the environment, the Church, science and religion... and no matter the topic, it is a delight.  We each tell stories and speak our minds, enjoying each other’s easy company.  I leave the visits we have with a smile and a chuckle at the feeling that I might well be seeing something of a version of my older self when I stop by.

I was making my way to the library after that and discovered a street festival happening on Spring Garden Road.  What a simple joy to stroll down the centre of the closed off principle shopping street of downtown!  Kids were playing games, artists were covering the sidewalk in chalk masterpieces, and there was ‘fair food’ for the having if you needed a bite or wanted a quick snack.  

Live at the library, I watched a woman dance Flamenco as though she was made of both liquid and steel.  Her look opened doors into the possibility of other dimensions here on Earth.  Smokey dimensions that vibrated with a complex lacing of guitar music and rang with the dense authoritative pound of feet that knew the magnetic glory of gravity’s force.   

My entire mid-section was set aglow when walking home and chancing upon a pipe and drum performance at the Robert Burns statue in Victoria Park.  Had I stayed longer, I’m certain that I’d have acquired the ability to both levitate and walk extraordinary distances without much need for sustenance beyond fresh water and poetry—and with time, I think perhaps I could have accomplished the both simultaneously.

In the evening, I went to Evensong at the Anglican Cathedral and sat before stained glass back-lit by the close of the day and the design of which was created anew by birds that ignored its known lines in favour of free-winging and letting their shadows solder patterns freshly imagined.   The choir illuminated the sanctuary through the coming together of their lofted notes and reaching wavelengths whereby a clearer vision within could be had by those who prayed in its company.

At the end of the day, I couldn’t help but feel an extraordinary gratitude for the mix of all things that allowed for such a Sunday.  Sabbath indeed...

Monday, September 17, 2018

~As Defined by our Faults as by our Substance~

Limestone cliff on the east coast of Osmussar, by Axiraa

~Of all the stones of the archipelago, limestone has always been the best accomplice to metaphysics.  W.H. Auden , who so loved the karst shires of the northern Pennines, adored limestone.  What most moved him about it was the way it eroded.  Limestone’s solubility in water means that any fault-lines in the original rock get slowly deepened by a process of soft liquid wear.  In this way, the form into which limestone grows over time is determined by its first flaws.  For Auden, this was a human as well as a geological quality—an acknowledgement that we are as defined by our faults as by our substance.~ —Robert Macfarlane, The Wild Places p. 173-4

I read this and found myself thinking about the Roman Catholic Church these days…Through scandal after scandal, illegality after illegality, poor judgements accumulating one after another… we are learning that the Church too is soluble; that which was seen as solid by many, is eroding according to our fault-lines.  

The fault-line of misplaced pride and the devastating idea that some within the Church are above reproach or even criminal prosecution in order to save face, save money, or save the security of righteousness.  

The fault-line of our humanity.  Errors are made because we are human.  Serious errors in judgment; errors in behaviour that civil law labels as illegal; Errors in the practice of our faith. 

The fault-line of fear…fear of losing control, fear of humility, fear of pain, fear of truth…

And I ask myself…

For those who choose to stay, what will the shape of the land, this soluble rock we call the Roman Catholic Church, be that is left after this Erosion Age?  

Where do my own fault-lines fit in with those of the Church?  

Do I contribute to the fissuring by my apathy, my absence, my scorn—by some of my own poor judgments—and sever relationships either intentionally or as a result of my own choices?  

Or, do I bring all that is jarring, moving in great sweeping tides, within me—sadness, anger, upset, commitment, faith, compassion, justice, reconciliation, humanity, Love…and say, How can I let this serve?  How can I direct these waters so that something new is carved from the land that remains?  Something new that is useful, beautiful, humble, human, real…that facilitates for Today, this centuries old way of worshiping God and believing in the fully human, completely divine, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus?  

I have read about a gate at the Trappist Monastery of Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky…Arched over the iron door are two words— GOD ALONE.  I find it helpful to remember that.  Should this land we are on erode beyond current recognition—and it might—perhaps must…we are not without foundation. 

NB… I write this as someone who has not been the victim of clergy sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church and I make no judgements about those for whom staying is too high a cost.  

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Let Me Behold You...

I regularly hear people preach about how We only turn to God when there is tragedy or we are in need of something…   I don’t know how true that really is.  I wonder if it isn’t a matter of vocabulary…helping people expand their ideas about God language and those moments that can be acknowledged as directly connected to God’s self-revelation.  Marvel, fascination, curiosity, wonder, awe, appreciation, beauty, stamina, strength, courage, passion…All capacities to encounter God in the midst of the daily whatnot of our lives.  Sure, sometimes they are more tuned in than others…we are more “present” sometimes than others… The key for me, though, when that happens, is to realize that even when I am not entirely present, God is.  “Let me behold you…” What a beautiful reflexive prayer that is…

Here are three Behelds from this past week… three encounters of different sorts…

From Way Back, there was family lore about me, spiders, and Kleenex.  It didn’t matter how many layers were used to contain the corpus aranea, I KNEW I could feel the lump.  And that bothered me.  With years came enlightenment about the goodness of spiders and their place in the universe (which, thank you, is STILL NOT MY BEDROOM—but when I find them I move them instead of squish them, at least when living places where the chances are high that they are non-venomous) and I can appreciate their vocation, their artistry, and their resilience.  

For weeks now, there has been a spider living between the screen and the window pane of our casement kitchen window.  It is an agreeable place for her or him…protected and yet open for supper.  I have to say, I have grown rather fond of the octoped and check on him or her every morning as I stand at the sink to fill the coffeepot.  A familiar presence who clearly desires to stay.

I think half of us thought there was something familiar in this next encounter.  Toward the end of the week last week, I was walking up Summer from the Halifax infirmary and while I usually tuck into the Public Gardens and wander home that way, I stayed on the sidewalk.  Somewhere after the second crosswalk, this young (maybe 1 or 2 years old) child came buzzing up to the fence line from within the gardens as soon as she saw me. She had  BIG smile, all kinds of waving and Hi-ing were going on… Who knows who she thought I was or what she saw in me, but the simple honest joy of that greeting absolutely made my day.  She wouldn’t leave the fence until I did.  Her parents were laughing, I was laughing… She continued to look at me with such a blue intensity…all I could think of was “Here’s an old soul in fresh clothes…”

Last evening I had the good fortune to go hear Measha Brueggergosman as part of the Cecilia concert series here in Halifax.  And I think her voice must come from that place where the old souls wander… The musicians she had playing with her —three violinists, a cellist, and a pianist, were each extremely talented and played with a theatrical mix of flair and technical prowess that demonstrated the degree to which each one of them finds union with their instrument so that together they produce such incredible emotion, scenery, sound-paintings, Story.  Measha too cuts quite the theatrical figure on stage…I’d dare say she could tell a whole story with a lift of the brow and a look in the eye.  And her singing…oh, glory.  She sings from within the space just beyond the arrangement of notes…As though she is within what is described by the notes and is telling that story—And as her telling passes through the lacework of the notes in their coming together, music is produced.  The Story becomes music…enchanting music that is big, wide, deep, and Right There…yet somehow, just enough beyond that you know you can’t stay.  It was a glorious visit, though…glorious.

Thank you, God…for this and for all.  

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Improv for Dinner

Improv for Dinner by Kimberly M. King, RSCJ

I am fairly confident
that my tastebuds just heard jazz
delivered by a salad strewn with voices
in a creative tension of flavor, texture, and color:
Strings of zucchini, curled and coiled
next to the jigsaw that once was chicken and
the netsuke sphere of purple cabbage, tucked
in-between orderly cubes of sweet potatoes
that balance on the rhythm of kohlrabi rhyme...
all wrapped in an riff of melted goat cheese
and building to the final crashing cymbal 
of vinegar-soaked onions.

Monday, September 10, 2018

On the Map

~I wondered about McRory-Smith’s journey north.  What questions had he asked of those he had met on his way?  What ghosts had he been in flight from, or in search of, that had brought him to this land?  What had decided him that he should settle here?  Perhaps it was only that there was nowhere further north to go.~
p. 138, The Wild Places, by Robert Macfarlane.

Aside from this quotation being from an exquisitely painted book…one into which I do not dip so much as sigh, settle, and steep…there are two things I love about the above quotation which I read this morning while in the farmer’s market.

First, the idea that there was no where further north to go.  ("Travel as far north-west on the British mainland as the public roads will allow..then carry on, along wild mountain tracks, over a sweeping river and across a wide swathe of barren moorland, and you will each the cottage of Strathchailleach...") And that 'no where further' was reason to stop.  End of the line; No more; Here, or head south again.  And it seems like heading south would have put him in closer proximity to what he was trying to leave that a fullness that became too much or an absence that became a yearning too keen to ignore.

And then the wondering about ghosts...whether they were behind him, baying after him on the moors, so to speak...or were they images, imaginings, that he sought to concretize?  Visions he was hoping for?  Either one can be reason for pulling up stakes and heading onward.

Later on in this same chapter, The Cape, Macfarlane speaks of cartography...grid maps and story maps.  One followed to prevent mystery, the other composed to express it, to give it contour.

If I look at my life as a story map and give name to the glaciers, waterfalls, and wiggly bits of roadway that I have navigated...Yes, there is Mystery.  It’s a mystery that all of that topography has ended up in the same map; it’s a mystery that this journey has landed me in my current cross-section of time and geography; and, yes, there have been ghosts behind and before me—though fewer as the years go onward.

No less mysteriously—in fact, most mysteriously of all, God too has been behind and before me; charting this incredible journey...accompanying me through fields of peace, delighting me with rushing waters of awe, offering a calibrating balm when my spirits ache from the exertion of an uphill climb.  

McRory-Smith stopped when there was no where further north to go.  I don’t know that I’ll ever be quite that content when the journey into the Heart of God is never without further to go...until at last we Arrive.  

And even then, into lands I can not yet know or even imagine, the story-map continues, with paths of Mystery lit with the sunrise of Grace, dappled with shadows of Glory. 

No ghosts, though.  Only God, only God, only God.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

If, Then, Maybe, Maybe Not

From SOULSpot
I saw this posted the other day and at first, I knew that I'd modify the first paragraph--Actions are terrible, not people...and maybe I'd even say that "I know that there is evil out there..." And then I moved on to paragraph two and it made me chuckle.  

I saw it AFTER I’d been walking down Spring Garden Road and noticed a man—I’ll guess in his 70s—heading toward me.  He was in khakis, a button-down and tie, and a glorious Panama hat/straw fedora that he clearly enjoyed wearing.  He had bounce in his step and light surrounding him.  I couldn’t help but begin to grin. He saw me notice and started to smile in return.  He got closer and I told him— You look *fabulous* in that hat!  His grin got bigger and he simply said “Well, thank you very much!” And we both kept going.  

This was the same day that I’d been through the Public Gardens to see the dahlias in their last glory for the season.  The light was full…not piercing, not hazy, just pure and clear and, well, luminous.  Because of that, the colours of the flowers stood out and the petals seemed to tighten up their exquisitely mathematical arrangements, proudly posturing to all who would wander by.  

It was the same day I noticed a random rainbow coloured line in the middle of a patch of sidewalk and had a bird hanging out and watching me about three inches away from my notebook and the pen in my hand while I wrote about the fact that there was a bird about three inches from my notebook and the pen in my hand.

That image was posted on the Facebook page for vocations that is maintained by one of my sisters in the province.  It garnered many, many, likes and a whole lot of shares.  And, it received a comment that stood out:  “You should drastically reconsider your social media posts.  A return to our Lord would be great, IMHO.”

I wondered, if it had been that person wearing the hat when the compliment had been paid and received freely, in peace and with joy, would the response have been the same?  If that person had a chance to sit with friends at a meal, talk about what was happening and where they were going, what was happening in their hearts, and the craziness of the world, would the response have been the same?  If they’d beheld a beautiful gesture, a wonder of creation; if they’d laughed or cried and had someone who listened, who understood... Would the presence of a God who is love, the presence of Jesus who was in the midst of it all, lived the chaos and the beauty and the fullness of humanity twined with complete divinity... have been apparent to them?


Maybe not.

In the end, I thought about what I knew of love.  How wide it is and how free.  How inviting and how encompassing.  The sweep of the skies and the depths of the seas do not compare, and yet, when I stare at the heavens or beyond the point where the harbour becomes open ocean, I can not but think of that love and feel no need to return to anything—instead the call is to go, to go, to go, to Love, and with Love, and for Love, and to Love.

Saturday, September 1, 2018


I went to Church this afternoon.  For five hours.  I went to Church as I folded sheets and brochures; went to church as I read the news notices coming into my phone about the latest political messes around the world.  I went to Church with a friend who was 3,738 miles away.  As I caught up with emails and some editing, I went to church and prayed and sang and yes, even clapped and thumped the desk once or twice.  It was the funeral of Aretha Franklin and it was Something.  

It was Something and it did Something.  And I am grateful.  

I am grateful in a similar way that I was grateful for the Met when I lived in New York City, odd as that might sound.  Now and then I would recognize that I was in need of a beauty fix and would take the community museum pass and go steep myself in favorites.  

I am grateful in a way similar to what I would feel sometimes at Xavier...when I simply needed to stop and let ritual wash over me.  I needed to not think and just steep myself in familiar ritual.

Yesterday, watching Aretha Franklin’s funeral, I recognized that I had been missing the power of oratory.  Speech that seeks out the dips and curves and heights of the currents flowing through room and syllable and rides the ‘footless halls of air...’ so that in that ‘high untrespassed sanctity of space’ we might each ‘put out our hands and touch the face of God.’ (lines in quotation marks taken from John Gillespie Magee’s poem High Flight.  Nothing to do with Aretha’s funeral—the images just speak to me.)

Oratory is an art that literally and figuratively speaks to my heart and is for me more than flourish, more than is a calling forth of the very power of the word and the Word.  Treating language to that sort of dimension is to free it into is a glimpse within at what it contains....

It is prayer to hear it done well and it is my prayer to have the freedom to practice it when it is called forth by mood, by occasion, by Spirit.


There are times when Oratory is called for.
When God is to be proclaimed, not spoken of.
Proclaimed straight-up
to joy up, raise up, lift up, those who are
too tired, too worn, to remember
what it feels like to look at Love and 
dance; to look at Love and
say Yes, I believe; to look at Love
and rest in awe and be filled 
with the faith that sustains.

There are times for Oratory
that celebrates and honors,
that respects, dignifies, and gives glory
in fullness of voice and confidence of heart;
confidence of heart, and mind, and being;
and in passion that sees a mountain and says
I will climb; feels the wind and says, I will stand.

There are times for Oratory:
to offer it; to receive it;
to let it cleanse and let it heal.

Kimberly M. King, RSCJ