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


 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Architecture of Welcome

No mater where I have lived, I have found places I enjoy being...specific places...buildings, coffee shops, churches... The initial attraction might be purpose, it might be architecture, location, light, other people who use it... Usually, they are nook and cranny places, places I enjoy exploring, coming to know, and that provide a variety of perspectives for viewing; comfortable places where one might tuck into a corner table and watch for a while, write for a while, or have a good think or wander in a musing. I am beckoned to these places...finding them calls to my creative soul and brings a sense of place and peace to me.

Over the years, I have noticed something else about my relationship with certain places...there is an intimacy, a knowing of sorts...a knowing and a being known. Or, perhaps, a feeling of rightness of place, that brings the relationship of architecture and spirit that much closer together.

I was musing about that this morning as I sat and wrote the following...

People watching and catching up on the news...sigh...this is so nice...watching it fill up here reminds me of watching Xavier come to life in NYC. It is about coming early enough to be a part of the quiet of the building itself...to be accepted into the space quietly, intimately, like the friends who welcome one another's company in stillness. These are the friends who know things about one another...quiet things...how you take your coffee, the sort of movie you'd want to see, what you need to feel free, what kind of welcome makes you feel at home...or the view from a particular vantage point, which window has sun at different times of day, which places others like to occupy, which people will arrive when...

To get here early enough to notice that, to feel that...and then to welcome the coming together of a new day...to witness the blooming crescendo of a space becoming what it is called to be...to delight in that, to feel that...it is like the chance to witness a friend flourishing in her work and feeling that pride born of love--the quiet love that strengthens and sustains and yes, frees. It is the architecture of welcome...built with the heart and rendered in a grand diversity of ways...all with room for others...with room for me...I am grateful for these people and these places in my life.
http://www.dezsantana.com/img/s1/v19/p476123354-3.jpg

 

 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

To infinity and beyond

But no matter how certain I am that there are in fact things happening during this apparent pause in the here and now, I sometimes find it difficult to answer when someone else asks "Where were you?"

I thought about this the other day when I was on a plane. Where was I? Up. Over. Going. Coming. Suspended. Defying. Contained. Nearer. Further. Neither. Nor. Honestly, it rather suited my mood to not know.

Yet I know that I have an equal desire to be certain of a given moment...the particulars don't necessarily faze me, but to know, wherever it is that I might be...this gives me place within the embrace of the universe.

If that means knowing I am lost, so be it. Knowing I am scared, so be it. Knowing I love or frustrate or am strong or am vulnerable or all of this all together, so be it. If it means that I am in the midst of a stanza or an ache or an encounter with God, so be it.

But I also know that there are in-between places. Liminal times of neither-here-nor-there-ness. And I know that those places and times afford a perspective on a much greater whole.

That's where I find myself going in the pauses...where the sky and the earth meet in gently curving light. Where there is a fullness, not an absence. A fullness of possibility, of dreams, of more wonder waiting...of new days dawning and star flecked rest beckoning.

The more I muse about this, I can't help reflecting on the connection between knowing where I am and the call of God...the connection between spending time in the limen and being free, loose, open, enough to listen without fear, to listen with desire.

It reminded me of a reflection I wrote once about Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne. It is good to find it again and take it to heart these traveling days.

Philippine dreamed big and listened wide for the voice, the call, of God. Whether working with those in need closer to home in Grenoble, or giving herself to a pull that would take her away from that which was physically familiar and ever deeper into the diverse terrain of the Heart where she made her true home, Philippine responded with disponibilite, creativity, and a broad, inclusive desire to make God's love known.

With fervor, she talked and wrote openly of her desires, her thoughts, her discernment with God. My contemporary imagination easily hears her saying year after year "and, oh, by the way ... if you need someone to cross an ocean and start something new ... I'm still open because that is where I believe God is calling me to go."

It is one thing to have the dream. It is another still to voice it. But it is something else altogether to drop everything and go forward once approval comes ... to go when the cost is dear and the unknowns looming; to go prayerfully and with courage; to say Yes and walk on knowing that doubt, fear, and challenge will be probable companions and might sometimes even gain the upper hand temporarily; to say Yes above all else to sharing the Love to which I too have given my life.

That level of freedom, that intensity of commitment to dreaming and discerning, to the Society, to God, and to God's people, is one of the qualities I admire most about Philippine.

 

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Best kind of AUGH!

I have been in a position of privilege this week. Well, honestly, it is the same position I am in every week...in a chair or on my feet in front of students, teaching. But these last days overflow within me...absolutely overflow...and invite me to repeat what I have brought to God and proclaimed to those who are tolerant and patient enough to stand for a while in the breeze of my musing...

Number the Stars is over and spring vacations are about to begin. It is a poetry week again in 5th grade Literature. To keep the WWII theme going, students spent a while watching video clips of an eagle-cam and of newsreel footage of WWII Spitfire aircraft flying in formation. We then read and discussed WWII pilot/poet John Gillespie Magee’s poem High Flight and spoke at length about the images within the lines that moved the students and what it was about them that stirred their emotions.

After a bit of this, as well as a discussion about poetry being a response to experience, I threw my hands in the air and asked with rather unavoidable passion, “Who else among you has touched the face of God?!?”

Hands went in the air.

Hands went in the air!

And students spoke with care and depth and honest recognition about having touched the face of God…in waterfalls, in the birth of a sibling, in the quiet of a beach, being alone, the beauty of the sun, in a back yard, on an ice rink…

That students believe and KNOW bone deep down that they have touched the face of God…and could talk about it… well, that was an AUGH moment for me. To know and believe that at 11 years old…to walk with that. To have that confidence born of experience and nearness…it leaves me humbled and still with the quiet of God’s greatness.

It was a privilege just to hear them speak about it—to watch the experience play out anew on their faces and in their gestures.

Our next class began with a clip of the Saint Crispan’s Day speech from Kenneth Branagh’s version of Henry V. I admit to slipping into simultaneous translation mode for part of it to help them. Afterwards I invited the students to listen to a piece of music from the movie and to feel…what did they imagine might be happening in the movie based on the feel of the music? What was moved in them? What were the images that filled them?

From here, we went to the fields of France during WWI and read John McCrae’s In Flanders Fields while viewing images of poppy fields, doughboys, and cemeteries.

Then, one or two poems from children in the Terezin concentration camp from WWII.

The students then compared/contrasted the images of war/the feelings evoked in the different poems we read/heard.

Motivational, glory, warning, sad, different perspectives…






At week’s end I keep returning to a statement I made at the beginning:

God astounds me—and so do eleven year olds.