Thursday, August 28, 2014

Two weeks and an Era


 

14 August, 2014

6:50 AM

On a corner of the dining room table in NYC. However, I feel compelled to say that this sad skeleton is not the place where I came to know the Society for three years, where I also lived for a bit more than four years... Or, on some level, maybe this has always been its skeleton and as things age and diminish, more of the skeleton is exposed--like in humans. Hm...in a way, the community I knew was people...and this time is about place...but in its own way, this building has been a living organism for over forty years...accepting without question and accommodating for untold numbers of residents and guests who stayed for greater or lesser amounts of time--but each leaving a mark of presence...stories that have become both a part of the pattern of its skin and in some cases, stories that have caused a crack or two, testing the limits of what these constructed confines can accept before something has to give.

The laughter that has filled this place, the multitude of languages, the prayer, the mourning, the keening, the death, the blessing, the difficulties, challenges, conversations, verbal sparring, and the Love... It has experienced a life of great meaning, this place, and now its body is tired and sore.

It helps me to believe that what I am doing here is helping anoint this space...helping to prepare it for death, for evolution, for whatever it is that will come...and this anointing happens by the care I take, by attitude and disposition, by my spirit.

I find myself returning to my understanding of Love...and how deeply that spirit, that feeling, can go... and yet, for Love to be as large and expansive as it can be--that is to say, for Me to experience an ever greater fullness of God, for this Love to be the home I know, there must also be within me a spirit of freedom and detachment... I met the Society in this building...among many women who are now gathered to God and keeping watch...In fact, I met death here in the living room...I was welcomed here, found a place here, and was sent forth from here a better person, a kinder person on some levels, wiser, more authentic, because of all of the challenge and all of the grace.

It is this mix of prismatic light that I pray fills me, inspires me, and grounds me, as I work to free this space from what holds it bound and honor the the incredible swirl of spirit that has embraced it for so long.

----

28 August, 2014

I am back in Halifax now, having arrived utterly exhausted last night. I am back from the loving embraces of folks at Xavier; back from a slowly emptying edifice that seemed to close in on itself; back from the morning jokes with the guys at the parking garage across the street; back from washing my hands at least ten times a day; back from the conversations and laughter that can happen with strangers; back from a friend driving down an avenue, seeing me on the sidewalk, and calling my name through her open car window as she crammed into a parking spot; back from clamor and echoes against bare walls; back from dust and the well-settled accumulated whatnot of longevity; back from the memory of my first grand adventure, working for the New York Public Library; back from a City that has always had room for me, for who I am.

And yes, it is a bittersweet mixture that fills me here...listening to the seagulls, doing translations, and unpacking the final two boxes that were sprung at last from their month and a half long purgatory in a warehouse somewhere.

The doors needed to close. I could see that. And fittingly on this feast day, I believe too that "Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee, Oh God..."

In thee, Oh God. Not in a particular address or a city or a country. In thee....a home so much more expansive, accommodating, liberating, diverse, endless, fascinating, and freeing than any other I can imagine.

 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

For God

by Lyn Mason, 2006

For God, In Gratitude


It would seem

that you

delight in me.

 

Thank you

for that.

 

I too

find joy in you

and love it

 

when you

play hide

and seek

 

just to watch

my face

when you open

 

deep inside outside

wide your love

and sing

 

in the voice of a snapdragon,

in the challenging grace of change,

in the heart of an embrace,

 

Here I am

Here I am

Here I am.

Kimberly M. King, rscj.

Monday, August 4, 2014

So Begins a new Adventure...

 

And so begins a new adventure...with games of Scrabble and laughter and cooking in a new kitchen with someone else who also was unfamiliar with the treasures hidden within drawers and behind cupboards...Have you seen a wooden spoon? Ah...and oil...where do you suppose...?

And it begins with a library card and long wanders and small discoveries that delight--the rose entwined lamp post, the morning sun that streams in my bedroom window, the big purple sign that might actually spell out the name of a store but for me says "If you can see me, you are turned in the right direction to walk to the majority of the places you might want to go."

And it begins with writing...(this from the other day)

2 August, 2014

3:15 pm On a bench in the public garden, having had a day of walking and good adventure. Went with A and M down the the farmer's market--such a delight. M and I sampled our way through on the most delicious bites of things--little tastes, no more, but they were just the thing...they were beautifully enough to be bright gifts for the senses. A bit of cracker with gingered pear jam and a lovely peppered strawberry preserve that begged to be enjoyed with well paced hope and concentration. It is good to be back in a nook and cranny city where you can walk with a purpose and also step aside into a thought, into a twisting bit of greenery, a welcome bench, an interesting statue or bit of architecture, or step back to lean a while against a wall or post and watch what passes while letting the mind and heart 'see into the life of things' ...things that are immediate and things that are further afield.

 

Too, it begins with gratitude...when I was leaving Saint Charles, I made a point of standing in the classroom where I taught last year and giving thanks for the life that filled that space...the life of the mind, the life of the heart and spirit, the lives of each of my beloved students...and I stopped in the library...and gave thanks for the light that fills that space...for the learning and the growing--both for the students and for myself...for the joy and yes, for the magic...because extraordinary things happened there... A boy understood how an author made people fly, a tiny woman engaged the imaginations of class-fulls of students, and countless students found a book to enter and explore...there are so many stories... Stories with pages, stories of friends who love me, stories of students being who God is calling them to be...and they are all worth reading and re-reading...

And it begins with gratitude for the present moment and what is to come...the 'unknown what lies ahead' and the 'lo más allá.'

Yes, thanks for it all...for this life I have been given to live with my being and shape with love given and received...as grace and growth and joy and challenge...thank you.

 

 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

A Beautiful Reminder

I wrote this in my notebook yesterday afternoon...

...having spent four (when I wrote three on Facebook, the book wasn't done yet and I just couldn't stop...) hours reading this morning...four uninterrupted hours immersed in the world of Delicious...four hours of sensory bliss, four hours of the best sort of fading away--loosening the hold, letting go and rising, entering...four hours of being cared for by Story. Though I know how I feel when a friend reads to me, I had forgotten the feeling of intimacy that also comes with reading myself...the feeling of having the story told to me, as though the story found me, specifically and delightedly. It made me think of what it is like when you tell me stories, and how often you do just that...how you invite me to pay attention, to "see into the life of things" (thank you, Wordsworth)...That thought, that feeling, made me so happy...the simple ache of sensual joy that comes from Story. Thank you for the gift of knowing how this feels...for giving me the chance to feel it again...for reminding me that you are a God of Word and Imagination, sensuality and deep knowing...

On the one hand, it made me twinge inside to realize that I had forgotten the feeling I described, and yet on a wholly other plane, I was so humbly grateful for the gentle gift being given to me... Whether it was new, or a reminder of something forgotten, doesn't really matter.

...four hours of being cared for by story... Being cared for by Story! Yes! In so many ways, that is what reading is for me! When I was a child, books took me elsewhere...transported me...showed me that there was more, there were places that made sense, places where I could fit, places of possibility, and those places welcomed me. As an adult, reading does something of the same thing...serves as a portal, a map, or an island, or a slide, or an interesting path leading down the road less traveled.

As an adult, though, reading has also taken on a deeper aspect of divinity that was certainly present when I was a child, but I was not as able to articulate it. When I read poetry, for example, the sounds made by the words sparking, bumping, nestling, on the page, are God-sounds...the rhythms, the spaces, pauses... And I recognize that as much as I love the hint and suggestion of poetry...just enough kindling language to begin the fire within my spirit, I also willfully revel in bathing my way through pages of sensory description...In the hours I read Delicious I spent months, years, walking beside the main character, tasting Sal's spring Parmigiano, smelling the papery history of wartime correspondence Billie discovers, and steeping in the heady swirl that is walking down a NYC sidewalk. This level of sensory involvement is part of the story God tells, too, I believe.

Some would say "The Devil is in the details," but I seriously wonder...

I think it might take all sorts of Story to reveal God...And that becomes all the clearer to me when I think of the whole variety of ways God tells stories already...aside from the way the people of God tell stories about God...

Flowers. Silent tears. The gift of listening to a friend. A shadow. A stone. A kiss. The inspiration behind a work of art. The crash of a wave, the hand of a loved one, a lifetime.

This diversity is reflected in the recorded collection of holy Story Iturn to time and again... I see it in the exquisite metaphors of Wisdom, the unspoken commentary of the woman caught in adultery, the conversation on the road to Emmaus, the poetry of Isaiah, the detail of the three young men dancing in the furnace, the anguish and ache of the Crucifixion...

And I am invited in...invited to loosen my hold and open the imagination given to me in abundance by a wondrous God who knows every curve and quirk of my mind, spirit, and being...my Story.

I am invited to encounter, to learn, to grow, to be cared for...And use my own life to open the cover for others.

 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Fullness of Light

I was brought to quiet tears today by an image of such beauty, such love...the image of a dear friend sitting in the light of God, letting it flow all around her, through her... I was so deeply happy for her and so moved by the tenderness of God... This prayer filled me as I blessed her for the adventures awaiting her in the months ahead...

Light came to me again as I prepared dinner...the light produced in flavor and texture combinations...Tonight it was the balanced coming together of salt, chile, balsamic vinager, and the natural sweetness of roasted vegetables. Add in the chewy crunch of garlic, the melt of zucchini, the unashamed uniqueness of asparagus, and the meaty heft of quartered mushrooms, and the whole experience was both bonfire and fireworks.

I have been sitting in my more empty than full room this evening, watching the lullaby playing on the horizon...evening gently weaving her fingers into the branches, touching each leaf, soothing away the heat with her cooling half-light song... and yet still filling my room...filling me...

And as I give thanks for the day that has been, I remember how in difficult situations or stretches of time, it has been Light that calls me home.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (Prologue to John, v.4)

Amen, alleluia.

 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

An Aching Nearness

It is no secret that I truly enjoy being in a kitchen...the chemistry, the flavors, the creativity, the textures and colors....it is a place of the senses, of poetry and music and love and prayer.

There have been several things I have wanted to master over the years. Most of the time, I am attracted to those things that take a certain amount of focus while also faring far better if one trusts more and thinks a bit less. Juggling falls into that category. It turns out that caramelizing onions does too.

The instructions I read before attempting to invite an onion into this other stage of being were fairly simple... melt a bit of butter in a heavy bottomed pan or skillet, layer in the onions, watch them, listen to them, and stir now and again. Listen to the onions! While taking care of other elements in the meal, also keep an ear to the conversion happening in the pan. Watch the onions! Note the changes that happen with time and chemistry...let it happen...but watch for the moment, the moment where the next step would be one too far.

But, all of this takes time...about 45 minutes. In the grand scheme, that is a pretty quick bit of wonder. However, in terms of cooking on the stove, that asks a slow and steady patience. An in-between-time patience that can be filled with other wanderings...into the music that might accompany my dinner preparation...into a review of the day that has happened...into the grace and memory of a meaningful friendship...into my list of what I'd like to get done...into the company of God as I wonder about the next adventure that awaits.

All of this while also remaining present to the onions in the pan.

This space, this time of contemplative, spacious, attention, is a place where much happens, I think. It speaks to my experience of silence being a fullness, not an absence...like light is a fullness of color. In some ways, it is here that I feel most me...focused and loose in the molecules...present and exploring...being and creating...still and thoroughly alive.

For Octavio Paz, poetry lives here too.

Between what I see and what I say,/ between what I say and what I keep silent,/between what I keep silent and what I dream,/between what I dream and what I forget,/poetry.

Surely much of what is most intimate, most inside blooming-drawing out, happens here. The moment of a flower's first petal unfolding into spring's sunlight, the grounding feel of a friend's hand, the coming together of olive oil, vinager, lemon, and mustard into a dressing, the coming together of information into new understanding, noticing a hummingbird...

All of this coming together in an aching nearness of God, in a gentle waft of butter and onion.

Monday, April 21, 2014

These Last Days


Last Wednesday morning while I was reading and praying, I came to discover that it was the feast day of 17th century Mexican poet, scholar, and religious, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. I do not study to know more, but rather to be ignorant of less. I first posted this quotation on Facebook with a slightly different translation-- but rather to ignore less... which I also liked. Rightly or wrongly, I associate ignorance with head knowledge. But studying in order to ignore less...that speaks to me of paying attention to what is outside and being able to consider it deeply within the heart and mind because one has knowledge of it, or knowledge that allows one to approach something with curiosity and possibility... or, as Wordsworth put it...

While with an eye made quiet by the power/ Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,/ We see into the life of things.

I was quite content with this bit of contemplation...turning it over in my mind and heart as I made my way through the day. And then! Then a dear friend who knows me well forwarded me a set of photographs she had taken of a placard about Sor Juana which included the line "...she spread the meaning and significance of cooking as a creative act of love."

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz... the original "poet in the kitchen!"--a moniker I have used frequently. I love knowing this about her and the feeling of kindred connection over the centuries.

Sigrid Koder

Holy Thursday brought a different connection --this one over thousands of miles. I began the day praying with a friend over Google Hangouts. It was a beautiful use of technology...she had set up a prayer space we could both see and included a bowl of water for washing the feet of those we offered in prayer... There was such a simple beauty about it...about the space but even more about the connection, about the deep quiet, about being before God and offering anew our lives...in service and vulnerability...to a world in need...and remembering too that it was around a table, in the context of meal, celebration, leave-taking, blessing.

Both of these experiences came with me as I spent time in contemplation with pots and Pyrex in the kitchen that afternoon. And I am utterly convinced that the mushroom stroganoff was richer for it. What a lovely while it was, preparing a meal for my community...witnessing the chemistry...guiding the favors...whisking occasionally and letting it be...attending both to the wonder of what was taking shape and the nourishment it would offer others...noticing how much it meant to me to be a part of that and to be absolutely present.

That evening I went to mass at a local university. The music was grand, the people both celebratory and solemn...the symbols were well used and the ritual thoughtful. Within that environment, the day was made whole and I had the sensation of being entirely together...entirely together and at the same time nearly inside out, expansive, everywhere, dispersed in Love.

 

 

I spent Friday mostly outside...the wind became the shouts of God witnessing the suffering of the world and flowers, though created by God, were also reminders to God of the deeper hope, the insistent call of Life...

The wind became the chaos of voices in our world...voices calling for condemnation and violence, voices shouting to be set free, voices wailing with fear and keening in loss, silent voices in the pause of the breeze, staring voices, unable to carry the quake of sound...

And the flowers bloom on, and the trees are in bud, and the sun was brilliant and warm... reminding me, reminding me.

 

 

 

Holy Saturday brought time with another friend and helping her prepare food for a gathering as well as another glorious celebration at the university...water flowed, oil was lavished upon heads, bread was broken, Light bloomed and spread, great song was raised and the Alleluia rang from tenor and timpani, child and elder! Even with all of this, though, the homily was what brought it together for me...it spoke of the relationship between grief and love...the embrace of one is the freedom for the other. It was transparent and invitational...give in to our humanity...live it well, live it wholly, live it in the company of God and as witness to the fullness of Jesus...alive, risen, and ever so present.


from The Saint John's Bible