two different strategies for safety

a doorway through the wall.jpg

It may seem like the best way to stay safe
is to build a wall around ourselves,
keeping out all that looks unfamiliar.
That makes for a lonely and limited existence.

A better strategy may be
to build a strong and inclusive community,
where we can look out for one another
and learn from one another.

But, you must know that
neither strategy will shelter you from all harm.
Pain, suffering and death come to us all,
It’s just that they are harder to bear alone.

 

[photo by Tiziana Peressutti per cc 2.0]

the crystal globe

rose preserved in resin globe.jpg

I walk slowly into the darkened room. A small, dim glow is coming from a table in the middle of the room, barely visible from the door. The room is large and it is quiet. So very quiet. I hesitate to move and disturb the stillness, but that little light is calling to me, ‘Come, come.’

So, I step cautiously forward, trying to keep my movements from disturbing even the air around me. I make my way to the table. It is a dark, rich wood. In the middle is a small ball or globe with something inside. That is the source of the tiny light.

I put my hands on the table for balance and lean forward for a closer look. It is a globe of crystal, perfectly clear, its rounded edges almost invisible. And there within the crystal is a rose, encased, preserved … imprisoned?

That final thought catches me by surprise, but then becomes unavoidable. A rose is a living thing. It cannot stay still, even in ‘perfect’ suspension, else it dies. As beautiful as this is – this crystal globe, this perfect rose, it is, somehow wrong. It is not meant to be preserved, unchanging. It is meant for life.

I reach out a tentative finger and touch the globe. My fingerprint mars the surface, making its edges clearer, defining the surface that keeps me separate from the rose itself.

‘Look, but don’t touch,’ it seems to say. But the message of the globe and the message of the rose are different. The globe wants to keep things in their current state – clear, pure, perfect. The rose wants to grow.

It is then I see the small dark hammer that sits beside the globe, almost camouflaged against the dark grain of the table. I look around. I cannot see anyone else in the room, but it is large and dark, so I cannot tell for sure. The quiet seems to speak of absence, as well, but, again, I cannot know.

So, I do what I know I must do. I pick up the hammer and, at first tentatively, I tap the crystal globe. It makes a ringing sound, but does not break. The ringing seems to crack the stillness and quiet of the room … but the globe is unchanged. It does seem that the light has grown a bit brighter.

I take a deep breath and strike harder at the globe. It is a glancing blow that slides off the side of the globe, but the ringing that results shatters the quiet and I hear a rumble of voices around me. I begin to see movement at the sides of the room and feel a current of … anger? How dare I strike this perfect thing?

Yet the rose, still trapped within, is calling to me again. Before I can change my mind, I strike the crystal with a focused intensity and it shatters with a scream. I drop the hammer and put my hands over my ears and crumple forward against the edge of the table.

The voices from the sides of the room become figures – tall and majestic and, yes, very angry. They rush the table and surround me. One grabs me by the collar and shakes me, hard.

But the scream has subsided and in its place there is a melody – a song of joy – that has erupted from among the shards of crystal that lie upon the table. The rose is singing. Strong and free at last, it unfolds its leaves a bit and shakes its petals and sends forth a song and a fragrance that fills the room.

The shock of this change takes the figures around me by surprise. The leader drops my collar and stumbles back a few steps. Then they all turn and run, their hands over their ears. It is as if the song, for them, is as piercing as the scream had been for me.

And so I am left alone with the rose. Or so I think, at first. I am leaning over the table, looking closely at the rose when I feel a presence beside me. It is, I can tell, a holy presence. It begins to sing with the rose – a lilting harmony that twines itself with the rose’s melody and almost paints a visible image in the air. I find myself singing, as well, softly, but in harmony.

Then other voices fill the room, coming from all corners and in all languages: thin, high voices and deep, low thunders that seem to shake the room to its depths. These others … other people, yes … and mythical creatures and even vines and flowers interweave themselves around the table, arm in arm, spirit in spirit.

And the rose begins to grow. It opens its petals to a light that seems to shine on it from … from all the crowd and from a source bigger, fuller, more real, that is just beyond perception. The light comes from the rose, as well. We are all bathed in it; encompassed by it; filled with it.

Then, to my dismay, the rose, which has fully opened, begins to drop its petals. They fall upon the table. It is part of a flower’s pattern of growth to bloom and then to die. But, even as my eyes well up with tears, I see the seeds fall from its center onto a deep loam that is there at the roots of the rose. My own tears and those of others standing near provide the water for those seeds, as they begin to sprout and grow.

The beauty of the crystal globe, the quiet solemnity of the room, are far surpassed by this joyous, melodic celebration of growth and change … and life.

My heart is full.

 

[photo by Sam Villaroman per cc 2.0]

new

beautiful day.jpg

it’s not the turning of a clock
but the turning of my heart
that makes for a new year

some days are just one more
of the days that went before
until I stop to notice

so, this year
is less about resolutions to break
and more about attention and appreciation

the nice thing about this frame
is that as soon as I remember my intention
it’s already accomplished

What a delight
to face the new year
without anticipated guilt

I’m smiling when write ’19’

[photo by jesuscm_Huawei P20 series per cc 2.0]

in the image

mirror image

I keep trying to make you in my image:
Liking what I like,
Rejecting what I reject …

But then I remember that I got it backwards, again.
You ask me to love what you love
Leaving your fingerprints on all I touch.
Becoming a small aperture of grace.

Open me to this possibility – that you might
Live through me, in this small corner of the new reality,
Giving light to my light; life to my life.

[image by John&Fish per cc 2.0]

deep wood

dark wood

I am in a dark wood, trying to find my way. All the trees look the same. What seems to be a path will disappear in a tangle of brush after just a few steps. The moon has not come up. The sounds of the night wear a menacing edge.

I try to keep from panicking. I tell myself to breathe. How did I get here? How can I find my way home? It is as if I suddenly came to consciousness in this place. It seems I’ve been here quite a while, but unaware. Which means, unfortunately, that I can’t retrace my steps.

There is no visible threat, but my heart is beating in my ears. I can hardly think. I’ve heard the stories of terror and all of them are breathing down my neck at once. My imagination fuels my fear.

As I cast to the right and to the left, I see the dark form of a large tree. I make my way there and, circling the bulk, I push aside a low branch, and crawl inside the canopy. I find a place where there is a bit of room and I lean myself against the trunk.

With my back to the tree and a large branch on either side, I feel my panic begin to subside. Here, at least for a moment, I can breathe and take stock of my surroundings. Here, cuddled up against the bulk of the tree, I release my frantic wanderings and whisper a prayer.

Then, to my surprise, I begin to notice other things. I feel the slightest breeze and it carries the scent of pine upon its breath. I notice that the ground beneath me is covered with a blanket of pine needles, softening its surface. The branches on either side are full of life, earning their monicker of ever-green. I raise my eyes to see the stars through the highest branches, punctuating the night sky with hope.

The moon sneaks out from behind a cloud. It had been there all along. It’s face wears a craggy smile as it sends its shimmering light upon the grasses down the hill. Turns out, this tree is at the edge of a clearing. From it, I watch a cautious doe lead her fawn out into the open space. She lifts her head at a sharp sound and sniffs the air. Then she resumes her grazing.

The wood is full of undeniable danger, but it is also filled with beauty. Now my prayer has turned from desperation to gratitude. For a moment I am in a wood that is deep with wonder. It is the same wood – mysterious, and whispering grace.

 

[photo by ShinyPhotoScotland per cc 2.0]