touching life

rolling pinThere is life in the chimes outside my window
As they ring their solemn joy into the dawn.

There is life in my grandmother’s rolling pin,
As it makes the pies that have fed the family celebrations across the years.
I hold that life in my hands as I shape the dough.

There is life in the rocks that we gathered to build our fireplace.
They hold whispers of that gathering
As we gather, again, around their warmth.

If chimes and rolling pins and rocks can come to life – can I?

[photo is my own)

letting the image speak

pensive cat

There are some images that speak for themselves.

As soon as you try to nail them down with words,
You make them smaller.
You tighten your focus, and lose the fullness.
Analysis can be good
But sometimes grateful acceptance is even better.

 

[photo is my own – you many use it under cc By-NC-SA 2.0]

inside the storm

stormI am on the deck of an old wooden sailing ship, conjured up from memories of pirate movies. It dips and sways in violent motion and I cannot stand without great effort. I am thrown against the mast and against the railings. I stagger and slip. There is a howling wind around me. It whips my hair and blows great sheets of water over me, drenching me with cold, wet saltiness. Then I am thrown again. I raise my voice to cry out in the storm, but though I am shouting, no sound can be heard above this turmoil. No one can hear my cry.

And I have no idea how to use the ship, how to steer, how to guide its passage. I am stuck here till the storm subsides. So I retreat inside the cabin and shut the door behind me. Two steps inside and I stop to listen. I had expected the same violent movement within the cabin – after all, it is a part of the ship in this storm. But it is calm in here. The lantern hanging from the ceiling sways in a comforting, slow rhythm. The wind is not whistling through the cracks. I look out the window and see that the storm is still in progress, but it cannot penetrate the quiet of this cabin.

I sit down at the table to rest and to take stock of where I am, of what is happening. There is a meal spread simply before me: manna and cool water. I begin to eat. My first bite stops me. A prayer of relief tumbles from my lips. I put my head on the table and sob with release from the pounding of the storm. I cry until there is no more tension within me and then I move to a bed which is secured to the wall and fall into its billows. I cannot move. Just before I slip into sleep, I whisper. “Thank you. Even within the storm, you provide an inner room of comfort and of rest. You give me peace, without which I am overcome.”   I release myself to sleep, without fear of the storm, which I know I must face again tomorrow. Its bluster can wait. Today I rest.

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[photo by Greg Moore per cc 2.0]

a blessing for my friends

budding beauty

May the cool fingers of morning
Brush your cheek as you arise.
May the deep peace of the meadow
Rock your soul in sweet embrace.
May the light of loving truth
Dawn upon your soul.

May you wake to the life
That belongs to you,
Seeded deep within your very self –
A gift of your creation,
The delight of all who love you.

May you find and live your areté.

[photo by Hafiz Issadeen per cc 2.0]

morning connection

morning sunrise

I stand on the hill beside the oak, arms across my chest, a little cocky. I warn myself to be careful about cockiness but I feel good – not defeated, not tired, not discouraged: good. I am ready for the day, pleased to be alive. That’s a surprise – no dread, no sigh. My head is buzzing from this feeling and it is strange enough that I feel wary about it. I drop my hands to my sides and stride off toward the well.

As I approach, my heart, still singing a light tune, feels the sense of awe in the amphitheater, and welcomes it. Awe and confidence at once. I come and seat myself quietly on one of the stone benches that surround the well. I watch the congregation gather. Angels, apostles, even animals come forward and find a place around the well. Everyone is quiet but there is a unsung song of joy on the hearts and faces of the crowd. On my face, too.

The well begins to overflow. The water rises slowly and flows over the edge in a clear smooth sheet. It gathers at the base and then flows off in a stream toward the edge of the meadow. One by one the members of the crowd go forward to the well and touch the surface of the water as it streams quietly over the edge.

Each one touches the well. Each one begins to glow with a soft light – it enters the fingertips and flows through the whole being of the one who is at the well. One comes and touches the water and then touches his own forehead. Another touches the water and touches her lips. A third touches the water and touches her heart. All, in turn, anointing themselves with the water and the energy that radiates from the well. All return to the congregation, take a seat and offer their hands to those seated next to them. Soon the whole congregation is holding hands and is surrounded by a faint glow.

Then the sun above the meadow breaks through a cloud. I had not missed it until it appeared, but now it’s brilliance shoots down and gleams off the surface of the well.

Suddenly the whole congregation bursts into song. It is a glorious, highly complicated melody where each member sings what seems to be a separate song, but, sung together, they make a whole of woven tunes so rich and yet so complex that the ear, not even the heart can really receive it all.

An angel on the other side of the well stands. He is seven or eight feet tall and towers over the congregation in great strength and beauty.. His face is both stern and soft, young and old, joyful and sorrowful. It is as if he holds the complexity and fullness of all of humanity in his features. He says, simply, “Today we take the time to rejoice, for it renews and completes us all.” He lifts his hands, as does the whole congregation, and they are pulled toward the sun and are gone.

I alone, am left on the benches. I still feel confident and strong, but I realize that my own piece in this complex web of life is very small. Humility and confidence have never sat so comfortably within me as they do now.

What a pleasant morning. What a blessing to be a part of the greater web of life.

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[photo by Norm Smith per cc 2.0]

deep circle of grace

blessing

May your heart find peace this day.
May you breathe in the holy breath of hope.
May it strengthen your soul and fortify your step.

May you know, deeply know, that you are not alone.
Just for a moment, may you feel the embrace of deepest love,
Circling round your very being, holding you tight.

May you know with deep assurance
That you will never fall,
Except you fall into those arms.

[photo by Demetrios Varoumas per cc 2.0]

An English Garden

peaceful garden
I am in a garden, an English style garden with hedges dividing plots of flowers and woven through with stone pathways. Benches are scattered throughout. I am sitting on one of those benches, smooth oak ribs on an iron frame. The air is cool. There is a pervasive quiet to this place. It is interesting to feel peace within this sculpted nature. I am more accustomed to seeking peace within the wildness of a forest.

I sit and drink in the measured, purposeful consolation of this place. It is for this that it was designed. It is for this that loving hands have tended beds and trimmed the hedges. This is a place of intentional rest.

On old woman comes down one of the stone paths toward me. She has a shawl wrapped around her shoulders and she walks with a cane, but her steps are confident. “Hello, my child,” she greets me. She seems very familiar, but I am not sure who she is.

“Good morning, grandmother.” I use the term as a title and not as a name.

“First time in this garden?”

“Yes ma’am, it is beautiful. Do you know whose it is?”

“It is ours: yours, mine, anyone’s who will come.”

“A public garden then.”

“No, a private one. One where privacy is carefully cultivated and given space.”

“Of course.”

She joins me on the bench and we sit together for a long time, not speaking, but not at all awkward in the silence.

“Such gardens require time,” she says at last. “They must be cultivated slowly and with discipline. That’s why the very young don’t come here often. The children can find their peace in wilder places, and are not hindered by the climb to the high mountain or the scramble through underbrush. I need the stone pathways to help me.”

I glance at her cane and wonder at the limits of the loss of movement.

“Don’t feel sorry for me, my dear,” she says, following my eyes. “I am not limited by my years, but freed. The journeys I have taken still inhabit my heart. But sometimes the thirst to continually see more can distract you from taking the time to understand what has been already seen. I have time for understanding now, in ways I never had before.”

“Why am I here?” I ask.

“It is not given to me to know the lot of others,” she replies. “But I began to come here when I was younger, before I felt the limits and liberation of my cane. It was a familiar spot to me, one of great comfort and joy even before the wilds became too hard for me to find. Perhaps it is the same for you.”

She continues, “Growing older in a world which values not the wisdom of silence can make the changes seem as if they were losses. You see the gray hairs and feel the frailty in your step and start to mourn. Yet, it is only loss if you refuse to move forward. There are new tasks for each age. Learn to pick up the next, and your hands will not be empty from the loss of the previous ones. I am closer to eternity than you. I feel its breath more clearly…not as a specter of evil, but a curtain of hope, which will rise on a beautiful and wondrous new place. Do not deny the passage of time, do not delay maturity. But welcome it as you welcomed childhood from infancy and young adulthood from adolescence.”

“Well, I must admit, I have never been very eager to grow. At least as long as I can remember, I have resisted the responsibilities of each new stage…. preferring the comfort and assurance of where I was. I was never quite sure I could meet the challenge of growing up.”

“You never meet the challenges until you are there, my dear. They are part of the process of change, they don’t precede it. It is as natural as physical growth, if you will let go of what has been.”

“I haven’t done all I need to do where I am.”

“Perhaps not, and I don’t believe your presence here means that it is time for you to leave your current stage. But I know that the tasks assigned to you in each stage of your life may be different than the ones you take up on your own. You may not always be able to judge when you are ready to move on. If you can trust, though, and know that the one who moves you also knows your path, your tasks, and your time. You have no need to fear or mourn. Enjoy the garden. You will no doubt come again. Do not fear the loss of the wild. It is not lost to you, but given greater depth as you move on. He will take your hand when it is time and lead you on.”

“Thank you, grandmother.” I reach out and touch her hand. It is small and covered with light brown age spots. Her skin is frail and thin, but when I touch it I am warmed and comforted. She places her other hand on top of mine and I realize that this is my grandmother Byrd, my true grandmother as well as my spiritual one. She smiles at me with love and with very knowing eyes.

“You make us proud, your grandfather and I. We are glad to see your journey and will wait to welcome you when it is done. We wait with the host of those who love you.” She rises to go and at the turn in the path, she is met by my grandfather,  Lawrence Lee. They lean toward each other, wrapped in common love and experience. He smiles at me, too, and they are gone.

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[photo by Bill Barber per cc 2.0]