Monday, August 17, 2015

In the Company of Trees

Now and then I read something that inspires the Dickinson Effect within my psyche. ~ If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.~ (Emily Dickinson)

Now and then I read something that pushes me back in my chair and whispers, "I think you understand, reader..."

So it was when I made my way through Flipboard one morning and clicked on one of my favorite sections-- Brain Pickings by Maria Popova. She was reflecting on the memoir of Eve Ensler, writer, activist, playwright.

There was the tree. My tree. Not that I owned it. I had no desire for that. But it had come to be my friend, my point of connection and meditation, my new reason to live. I was not writing or producing or on the phone or causing anything happen...I was not contributing much more than my appreciation of the tree, my love of green, my commitment to trunk and bark, my celebration of branch, my insane delight over the gentle white May blossoms that were beginning to flower everywhere.

--Eve Ensler, from her memoir, In the Body of the World

In each place I have lived for the last number of years, I too have had a tree.

In Grand Coteau, it was the sweet olive on the corner between the library door and the arcade. Her light flowerypeachy scent inspired the first poem I ever published and remains one of the most beautiful perfumes I have ever caught on a breeze.

Gonna be like

Heaven gonna smell

like sweet-olive, friend;

Gonna have galleries for sitting

breezes for cooling

singing to joy-up the choir of

souls swinging

a coming-home


flowers gonna jump

into bouquets of beauty

branches gonna clap their leaves

for the God-feel in the air;

sleep gonna be deep

dreams of no more hurt

no pain but the release

of joy sighs

at the taste of

salt rivers flowing

into the ocean

of arms-open


Kimberly M. King, rscj; Copyright 2002, National Catholic Reporter

In New York City, there is a tree in Central Park right at the end of 91st Street as you come in from Madison where the bus leaves you off. When in her fullness, her glory spanned the whole width of the street. In the fall, she stood in her sticks with dignity, hope, and promise. I talked to her almost every least a friendly greeting.

In Saint Charles, it was the pair of trees that held branches on the far side of the soccer field. Sigh, it is possible that they have now been cut down as they make their way through changes to the campus. At least they'd have been cut down together, if they are gone. I can't imagine one lasting long without the other...stretching her leaves in a desire to connect with the one that rooted itself beside her. I loved that they were company for one blooming times and the fallow seasons, both.

Then here in Halifax...the marvelous godly tree who opens herself so boldly to each new day. I love praying with her and being with her in the mornings and watching the changing dance with you throughout the year.

And, there have been other times...

In Washington state, Shelton, it must have been, there was the tree that understood. The weeping tree, that simply stood with me in the fog.

Going back many years, there were the apple trees at the base of my grandparents' yard...the buckeye at the top of of the garden at one childhood home, the crabapple at a friend's house with branches low enough for me to climb without acrobatics and certain danger... Each one of these, a refuge, a sanctuary, of peace and security.

Thank you for watching over me in so many beautiful guises...






Sunday, August 9, 2015

Glimpses of Holy

I went to the market early yesterday morning. As I walked down from where I parked the car, I saw the same guy I see every week I go, sitting on the guardrail by the sidewalk. He always seems to be waiting for something, or someone, or perhaps not. I passed and greeted him with a "Good morning!" He responded, "You're the first one I've seen! Can I tell you a story? My friend sat on my knee last night! Just sat right on my knee. Now THAT doesn't happen very often, does it? A baby starling, right there on my knee! We had a conversation and then he flew away."


Yesterday I went into The Smiling Goat to review French. I got up to the counter and the young woman helping me grinned and said "Hey! I passed you on the street the other day and thought-- I haven't seen her in here in forever! How's your summer? What can I get you to drink?" I told her about my summer as she made up my iced americano. "That sounds cool...and I am glad you're back."




From an opera performance of Emily Dickinson poetry that I went to on Thursday at the local public library... "I find ecstasy in living-- the mere sense of living is joy enough."

When I think of the fullness and and diverse facets of what I believe it means to truly live...all I can say is Amen.


I was away near Lunenburg, NS for a couple of days last week. One of those nights, I went on to the porch to say good night to the evening sky. As soon as I lifted my head to gaze into the spread of infinity, a shooting star sparked her path triumphant across the palette of darkness.


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Art of Conversation

I tucked into one of my favorite local thought spots to write a letter this morning. Another woman was across the big common table from me, diligently tikka-takking away on her keyboard. She looked up, smiling, as a I sat down. I smiled back and we both ducked into the thick of our writing.

Until a guy several tables away let a gigantic sneeze storm through his whole being.

She hung her head, shaking and laughing. "That's got to feel so good!" she said. We both cracked up and exchanged light conversation which ended when she packed up and left with "Good luck with your work!" It was so simple and genuine an interaction. Lovely, really.

I made my way down the street to the office where I dropped off the letter and headed back via the public library. I went in to use the restroom...which happens to be located beyond the quick pick mystery shelves... which usually manage to draw my attention away from whatever my original intent. Standing there, studiously tilted, was another reader. A reader who sighed when removing a volume and said "I've read it already...but it was so awfully good..." I noticed what she had in her hand and said "Oh! If that's the sort of thing you like, have you read..." and I pulled a couple off the shelf. We launched into a short excursion across time and continents, recommending books to one another. She snapped photos of covers and I wrote down an author's name before parting on a "Thanks! Have a good rest of your day!" Again, really basic stuff, but an honest human connection and engaging conversation.

I needed to get a birthday card for a community member before returning home so I stopped in the bookstore. Found the card, poked around, and went to pay. I pulled out some coins and noticed that what remained in my change pouch would be just enough to cover an ice cream in the public gardens sometime this week. I made mention of this to the guy helping me who said "Isn't that a nice treat now and then?? Do you remember the Dairy Queen on the corner up here?...." And we were off onto summer expeditions from years earlier...including the shared memory of eating home made ice cream and helping by sitting on the board across the top while an adult churned." Our time together lasted no longer than five to seven minutes but has lingered brightly all day long.

As I walked the last blocks home, I kept thinking about the grace of the conversations I had today...and how much they meant to me because they were so simple, so kind, so honest and uncomplicated and engaging. Each time, our common humanity was recognized and enriched. Enriched by joy, by spontaneity, by connection, by recognition.

... Sigh ...

Giving thanks is a great way to go to sleep this evening.





Friday, July 24, 2015

Back from Away

I have been away for a short while. I still had with me the tools of technology I employ for writing...pen, paper, IPad...but nonetheless, there has been a refreshing pause in posting much until now.

I left home July 4th to head to McAllen, Texas, at the U.S/Mexico border, to work with two of my sisters on a leadership program for 42 engaged and committed young adults who live in the surrounding colonias and who are a part of ARISE, A Resource in Serving Equality, an organization in the Rio Grande Valley, founded by Sister of Mercy Gerrie Naughton in 1987. Over the week during which we flowed freely between English and Spanish, the young adults were taken through the process of project development as they created programs they were prepared to take back to their local centers and implement. Goal setting, resource analysis, public speaking, budgeting, and needs assessment, are all a part of the workshop which has the tag line, Leadership is Action, not Position.

This is my second summer helping out with this program. As I learn more, grow both more comfortable with it and more challenged to learn from it, and am inspired by the tremendous commitment of the young adults to effect positive change on a local, personal, level, my soul is nourished.

A dear and wondrous friend came to the McAllen central bus terminal in order to ride together back to her community. These were two days of pure joy...two days of knowing the nearness of someone who loves me as I am, for who I am, with whom there are conversations about everything and nothing. Two days of seeing and experiencing her world. Two days of grace and deep mutuality. The visit was short...too short, on many levels...yet also a concentrated gift that I wouldn't have wanted to miss for anything.

From there onto Saint Louis, where I met with a group of friends with whom I used to teach and celebrated our friendship with rounds of laughter and an all too brief catching-up. The day after my evening arrival was the opening of a five day Assembly and Chapter of the United States-Canada Province of the Society of the Sacred Heart. 236 people, 180 or so RSCJ, and much conversation about future directions and ways of organizing ourselves.

Many, many, people commented on what they saw as "my new look." In part, that was because I wore a skirt one day--a skirt I actually like, because it is comfortable, suits me in its cut, and has a pattern that reminds me of Matisse's cut out leaves. Slightly funky, well fitting, and suitable for me. Others commented on the colors of my, rose, purple... On one hand, I suppose I can understand their comments...On the other, I couldn't help but think, this is not "a new look." This is Me. Perhaps it is a new "seeing" that circumstance and personal freedom have allowed to happen.

Then, home again. Home with a sigh for the joy of it and another sigh for missing some pieces of these last weeks. Home with gratitude and home with a full heart that knows what it is to be loved and to love in return, with a grounded heart that seeks to not bother trying to be anything but who I am called to be, and allowing that self to be seen because I can not contain it.

Amen...thanks be to God.



Saturday, June 27, 2015

A Credo after these Days

Some days ago I received a gift in the mail. It had no fewer than 37 stamps stuck on the outside of it and it was wrapped in paper. An 85 year old sister of mine had been collecting my writings over the years and as part of her paring down, she sent me a binder full of them.

So many memories are in these pages...each poem or letter or essay is a point of time on the journey that has brought me to the here and now... Many of the pieces served their moment and can retire to history, some can be reworked and used again on different occasions.

One pair of pages, though, stood out, especially during these last couple of days when there has been a concentration of beautiful and devastating events in the world. Sometime in the early 2000s I wrote a creed. It got posted early on in my blogging career.

Finding it again, just now, inspires me to write one as who I am at This moment.

I Believe--in the wonder that is God.

I believe the wonder of God is caught up in Love and I believe Love will lead me home. Love for me is all about God and the God who has my heart filled to overflowing is expansive, uncontainable, passionate, and utterly astounding. This Love has no room for hate. No room for "not welcome," for "better than," or for "not worthy."

And God calls me on it when I veer down any other path and start filling up on something less.

Love has no room for bombs. It has no room for guns wielded against innocents, for prejudice, for condemnation, for subtraction or division.

This Love I believe in has room only for multiplication and addition. This Love is about life, and transformation and not being alone, about compassion and mercy and justice.

This Love is what calls me to act, calls me to put my gifts and my talents at the service of a wounded world that is teeming with contradiction, violence on a horrific scale, devastating righteousness, grace-filled humanity, deep beauty, and unshakable hope.

When all is said and done, I believe that Love is the light shining in the darkness and the darkness will not ever overcome it.

This I believe.


Sunday, May 31, 2015

Glory Be

This Trinity Sunday, I was caught more than ever by the all encompassing nature of our triune God..Point of origin, companion on the journey, and what will bear us home. There is no blank page in the empty moment. That is the way it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be...the trinty of time.

To reflect on this, to re-member this, is the call of Moses to the people in the first reading from Deuteronomy. It is a great reading (that BEGS to be proclaimed with a certain fervor); however, it is the last line of the Gospel that stays with me at day's end as I take up pen and keyboard.

And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.

And behold. Take note. Take awe seriously. Go ahead and laugh too. And beauty? Revel in it. Create it, share it, encourage it. Note the prism in tears too, and what is within. Stand with those in pain, those who suffer. Be ready to ache. And even if you are ready, it is going to out and out hurt sometimes. Behold with your being.

I am with you. So go forth and fall sometimes when you try something new. Say Yes. Try. Why not? It's not like I'm ever letting you go. Things are in your favor-- you will ultimately rise once more than you fall.

I am with you always. That? Yes, I know. The time when... Yep. Even though... Um Hm. Always. Remember, I made you. And it was a great idea I had. Trust me. Nothing can separate you from my love. Full stop.

Until the end of the ages. You know when you hold somebody and you sometimes say, "I've got you...I've got you...?" It's like that. Until you become a part of it All. Until you return...Glory unto Glory.

And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.

As I look back over the last week or so of my writings, I see this truth born out over and again. They have been weeks of encounter in a whole variety of settings and ways...The forsythia blooming with might and stupendous intensity; an invitation by someone who thought it would be fun to sing together; coming up with helpful metaphors for a sixteen year old to understand different academic topics; laughing loud and hard with a dear long-time friend; quiet, care filled, sharing at the end of the day with another friend; struggles in knowing how to best serve the needs of the literacy student I help, chatting with people at the farmer's market, airport runs at sunset, helping get ready for our Assembly/Chapter this summer, a stranger holding the door for me when I had a full cup of coffee...

There is no blank page in the story. Glory be to God, thanks be to God, world without end, Amen.



Monday, May 18, 2015

Hand in hand

An entry from this morning...

6:37 AM... Est l'heure de prendre un café avec une chatte qui mange son petit-déjeuner...

I woke to my room being filled with the most wonderful light...first light, warm, embracing light. Hope for that was part of my motivation for leaving my blind slats open when going to bed last night, I confess...

I enjoy the wonder of serendipity and receiving the unexpected joys of trying to live open to you; the unexpected joys of walking with my arms down at my sides, desiring to be spacious, rooted And loosely bound, the both, aware and available. That grand bit of leaf art yesterday is a perfect example. Such thorough gift sown plentifully in my wandering journey.

That said, I also enjoy planning for encounters with you. Leaving the blind slats open; rising early enough to watch the sun blink over the horizon; waiting for the fireflies; even intentionally setting out on a walk through the Public Gardens or traipsing off on a meander through the farmers' market that holds the promise of coffee, a munch, people watching, and writing.

It's a both-and, a hand in hand... I love that about you.

(And the daffodils are spectacular, by the way.)