Friday, May 31, 2019

In the Sea-Damp Fog

What was intended as a quick errand to drop mail into the postbox turned into a lovely thick amble down the main shopping street near here and then up a side street to Citadel Hill; and along there until reaching the northeast corner entrance to the Public Gardens. I turned in and, as happens sometimes, I had the loveliest sensation of being among friends…and by that I mean the magnolias and the pond with her drooping willows, the azaleas nearly unable to restrain their excitement at what was coming for them, the dandelions turned asterisks that had danced their finale in last night’s ovation of rain. The crows with infinitesimal prismatic droplets of water strewn upon their blackness. It looked as though the moon, the stars, and the night sky had taken on an avian countenance. Contemplative galaxies in flight.
I got that feeling (and if I am honest, still get that feeling) when reading as a child too…All I had to do was open the book and all was alive and waiting for my company, my curiosity, my senses and imagination. 

The half-light rolling tight 
embrace of sea-damp fog 
reminds me of childhood table-tents
where the old double sheet was weighted
with a bright red edition of the Britannica; 
I was fond of choosing the volumes 
that covered a span of letters; somehow that made 
more room underneath for the magic act 
of disappearing 
for a while.

—Kimberly M. King, RSCJ—

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Mystical Technicolor Landscape of God

It’s funny the unexpected things that can happen before noon in a day…You can wake up singing show tunes (which I did this morning); You can shoof-shoof-shoof the flappy ears of a puppy, brush a cat, and lay witness to a duck on a wander…all in the middle of a city, all within twenty minutes, each in three different places; and, you can have a conversation with a woman who will be ordained an Anglican priest that leads you both to look at beauty, discernment, and the Wizard of Oz in a whole new way.
I’m hard pressed to remember why one of us said “We’re not in Kansas anymore…” while in the middle of an initial conversation welcoming her to the Spirituality Centre. This sparked the memory I have of the sweeping winter vista from upstairs at the Farmer’s Market. How you can look out over the beauty of grayscale and move one’s eyes through the wall of the market building and then pass into the Market where suddenly everything blooms into technicolor and textural glory. The table where I usually perch is right along that wall…right where the crossover happens from cold clear-edged units of neutral tones alongside each other into the humid wonder of sensory saturation. 
The black and white tonal world is much clearer…like Kansas was for Dorothy. Rules and roles laid out with clarity; little to doubt or question; One can move through and know that This is not That; and They are of There whereas We are of Here; Right is clear from Wrong and so the puzzle fits together.
That works for some people. The clarity is comforting, if potentially limiting. 
For those who are able to pass through the tornado, or wall, or sometimes, the normative social convention, technicolor awaits with its splendour and its confusion, both. There is where we meet those people we might not otherwise; On the journey we take together, we learn to be vulnerable, scared, and strong together, to watch out for each other, to grow in self-knowledge and grace. It loosens us without untethering us…allows us to see beyond the limits of our sight.
That technicolor place is the territory of the mystics and creatives; the curious and the daring; the soul-traveller, star-walker; the what-iffers and those who give themselves over to the call to Love.
I believe we are made in the technicolor image of God, wondrous, confusing, full, of the senses, of glory, of edges that blur into expanses of welcome where there is room for all who seek a road that leads onward, together, toward Home. Toward home. Wiser for the journey, kinder for those we have met, bolder for the adventure, more grounded in hope, more courageous because we know that we are not alone and that amazing things can happen when we give ourselves to possibility rather than limitation, when we open outward even when afraid. 
And then we shall be marvelling, and yes, likely struggling, together, in the landscape of the heart of God.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Post-Feast of Saint Madeleine Sophie, 2019

This past Saturday was the celebration of the Feast of Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat, the foundress of the Society of the Sacred Heart. I choose to believe she  understands why I did not get out anything ahead of time this year. It was a crazy full May... I hope she would have delighted in how I did spend her Feast.
It began at the Farmer’s Market, down at the harbour...
Am at the market and it is stunning in here today. Full sun, blessed sun, warm, rainbow-casting sun...there are rainbows everywhere this morning—not sure why and why not important. I am delighting in their tumble and cascade over the stairs in the centre, over the cement “aisles,” and, especially smile-raising, bending around the contours of the radishes laid out like brickwork—stem to root, every   other, at Acres of Peace. Augh! How the sunlight heals and cheers the soul and how it highlights texture and colour. The aesthetic aspect of being here is not to be     underestimated at any time or season, but Augh, when the vegetables are fresh-bright and the morning is yet young and the sunlight is wrapping each one in kindly light that wants nothing more than to fill each bend, contour, knot, root, plane, crumb, and curve, with beauty and organic celebration of identity... I can’t help but wonder whether the sun does that for us too, in some way.
I was thinking of Sophie as I wandered the different stalls and also as I looked out over the waters...watching the tugs and the container ship, marveling at the illumination of the water—its ‘lightness,’ even with such lumbering transportation asking permission to cleave a way forward. She was a woman of commerce and prayer, nature and business, communication and contemplation. I believe she    understood practical realities and also the grace of beauty. These things, all alive within her, had me thinking about the both/and of the Sacred Heart itself. Not human OR divine; instead, the twining of the two. Both and each, wholly and completely. 
Creating space for drawing near to that heart is something each community is called to do...that is done in many ways...including how we treat one another and in tending to our surroundings themselves. Sometimes creating that space calls us away from where we live most of the time and invites us to relax in a different setting. 
The province has a vacation house about an hour from here. It is new to us as of last September. On Saturday afternoon, thirteen RSCJ, Associates, family members, and friends, gathered to enjoy the space and relax together on Sophie’s Feast. We also used that time to bless the house, as it was the largest gathering to date and included so many circles of relationship. The prayer, in essence, was that the house be a place Sophie would recognize as a house of the Society, a place for discovery and revelation, prayer, conversation, transformation, and love...

Saint Madeleine Sophie,

You asked us to be humble and simple and reminded us to bring joy to others.
May this place provide a welcome of simple beauty, humble heart, and may it bring joy to all who cross its threshold.

When you sat with your sisters, a pin went into the candle and each one spoke until the flame burned down.
May this home be home to conversations and prayer among sisters and friends about things great and small, about the future, the past, and the now.

To our list of behaviors as people of faith, you stressed, Above all, get in the habit of thinking about God.
May this house at Martins River inspire those who visit to do just that and may those thoughts of God add layers to the warmth, to the good, to the grace, that is felt within these walls.

You wondered —And what is God? And you answered: Supreme happiness, that is all.
May the waters of the cove, the quiet of the nights, the company of the animals, and all that happens here help lead each one who comes here to that contentment and knowledge.

And when the time comes for us to leave this space for a while and return to the paths that led us here, may we too always remember to repay our God, love for love, heart for heart.


May this be so for us all, wherever we may live and work...discovering and revealing...making Love manifest in a world that is in such desperate need.  Happy Continuing Feast, all...

Monday, May 20, 2019

Three in One...Emily, Thomas, and Teilhard

       There is a within of things... 
—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
We are a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects. 
—Thomas Berry
She was not daily bread. She was stardust.
—Martha Dickinson Bianchi (1914) speaking of her aunt, poet Emily Dickinson

Three quotations I thought to record in the midst of different sets of notes over the last week. They met each other off-page in my mind and imagination and that encounter led to this bit of musing...
Emily Dickinson was not a friend to my youth. I knew of her and seem to have a vague memory of needing to memorize Because I could not stop for death... for Mrs. Herndon in 6th grade reading class. Mr. Heaps in 10th grade told the class that any of her works could be sung to the tune of “The Yellow Rose of Texas.” She did not rise in my estimation. 
It feels now, decades hence, that she has been waiting for me. Walking the halls of her house in Amherst, perhaps...scribbling on the scraps of paper and envelope backs that received her verse...wondering when I would feel like I could again knock at her door. Or maybe more likely, not knock at all. Simply walk in and have a seat, quietly, not wanting to disturb.
Not wanting to disturb...instead desiring to experience or come to know something of her own Teilhard-ian ‘within’ that made it into her verse. The aspects that led her to seeming reclusiveness as well as the aspects that had her love deeply and with great feeling; the ‘within’ that afforded her such insightful connections with nature as to recognize hope as a thing with feathers and knowledge of its intimate spark that would flame into verse: Beauty crowds me till I die/Beauty, mercy have on me!/But if I expire today,/let it be in sight of thee.
It seems as though she intuitively recognized/experienced what eco-theologian Thomas Berry later frequently repeated: We are a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects.  Hope, beauty, death, nature, all manner of creation, all of this has Beingness and Voice in Emily Dickinson’s lines. These are not objects to subdue but rather subjects to observe, to listen to, from which one might learn of the universe both mystical and upon enchanted ground.
Mrs. Herndon, Mr. Heaps, understandably introduced Emily to my classmates and me as daily bread. Woman, dressed in white, recluse, dates, facts, more well-known verse. We were young and not yet ready for the complex wonder of stardust. I am so glad to now be able to experience that cosmic aspect of her...the freedom, the grandeur, the elemental and organic. It feels like that arena was home for her much more truly than her house in Amherst, MA. And that is something time has taught me to appreciate both in myself and in others. 

Thank you, Emily Dickinson, for your works, your praises, your constellation of apocrypha, apocalypse, and ascension. And thanks for leaving your door open...

Friday, May 10, 2019

This Side of Eternity

A beautiful bit of interior space recently opened for me when I read a friend’s reaction to the death of Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arche community. She posted the announcement and commented—A great loss for this side of eternity. That way of putting it washed over me with an exquisite tenderness. Ever so true and ever such an invitation, really. An invitation to considering that if there can be loss to this side of eternity, and surely Jean Vanier’s death is a keen example of it, then there can be gain as well. 

During these recent weeks, I have been able to see some of that gain in my ambling about on errands and taking advantage of the Public Gardens being an optional way to get from here to lots of theres. The azalea on the corner that will eventually offer a brilliance of electric salmon colored flowers is beginning to green. Magnolias are peeling free of winter layers and drinking deeply of spring air. The forsythia has come dancing with skirts hoisted for a raucous showing of yellow, much to the delight of birds newly alive with hope for the future and busy about finding mates. The mother walking her well swaddled two week old son, showing him the beauty of his city, holding him to the sun. New scientific discoveries and young children learning to read. Gain for this side of eternity...

And yes, there is loss yet beyond that felt at the death of a man many have already been proclaiming a saint. There is unbridled violence all around our world. There are tensions, abuses, deprivations, deaths of many kinds, loss of justice, loss of dignity, loss of safety, respect, hope, place, potential...

There is gain and there is loss on this side of eternity. And I’m not sure I can say it balances least not in a timeframe I have yet lived...nor am I always sure which way it tips. What I know and believe is that both are present. And that God is present. And that the veil between this side and that of eternity is extraordinarily thin. Things change and they can change slowly or quickly, sometimes drastically, sometimes for loss and sometimes for gain.  Somehow, it feels like being sensitive to that, to the gains and losses and the reality of God and a wavering veil, is a good thing. 

The poet Mary Oliver wrote, Attention is the beginning of devotion. We are called to be devoted to the grace and the challenge on this side, while we are here. We are called to pay attention, to be open, to offer, to try and heal, to understand, walk humbly, act justly, to love, to be the face and the hands, the heart, mind, and actions, that speak of that Love, within the reality of our world, until the end when the thin veil shifts aside and we are welcomed home and gain.