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 service and 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 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 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 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 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 witness the blooming crescendo of a space becoming what it is called to delight in that, to feel 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.



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 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.