Monday, September 15, 2014

"White Owl..." by Mary Oliver

I make no pretense about how I feel about Snowy Owls.  I had previously posted this to Facebook but since not all my peeps "do" social media, it simply made my heart happy to repost it to my blog which is in reawakening-mode.   To whit...

Mary Oliver, “White Owl Flies Into and Out of the Field"

Coming down out of the freezing sky
with its depths of light,
like an angel, or a Buddha with wings,
it was beautiful, and accurate,
striking the snow and whatever was there
with a force that left the imprint
of the tips of its wings — five feet apart —
and the grabbing thrust of its feet,
and the indentation of what had been running
through the white valleys of the snow —
and then it rose, gracefully,
and flew back to the frozen marshes
to lurk there, like a little lighthouse,
in the blue shadows —
so I thought:
maybe death isn’t darkness, after all,
but so much light wrapping itself around us —
as soft as feathers —
that we are instantly weary of looking, and looking,
and shut our eyes, not without amazement,
and let ourselves be carried,
as through the translucence of mica,
to the river that is without the least dapple or shadow,
that is nothing but light — scalding, aortal light —
in which we are washed and washed
out of our bones.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Evening of the Senses

My office/library is a calming green.  It's 10:30pm and the neighborhood is quiet.  Sometime in the evening, a neighbor hung a plastic shopping bag with Cherokee Purple tomatoes on the door knob.  No wonder the security light came on...showed them the way...

The night air is cool and fragrant.  Honeysuckle vines are long past blooming, sending their intoxicating perfume across the street from the alley and right into the yard...I remember it well in June and July.  Sometimes it is a melding of the sunshine heat rising off of the pavers in the late evening with the ever-present light pinesome blanket of cypress essence mixing with that coolness that creates a kind of air I wish I could inhale all night without exhaling it ever.

The windows are open.  The moon-tinged air moves back and forth in the room on the gentlest of breezes.  It is very quiet now...the street is empty, asleep, except for the silent traffic of mice, cats and the slightly heard swoosh of an owl or the squeak of the little bats around the street lights.

Under the old English laurel hedge, knurled old root stock and weighted, thick branches, are layer upon layer of old, dried leaves...and there is life there, where all appears dead in the daylight.  I sit here, and hear the delicate rustle and rearrangement of this leaf or that twig, as life moves beneath.

Owls live in this neighborhood.  I've posted about them on social media.  They are fearless little hunters, and have no fear of humans--apparently.  I have become quite enamored of them.  I admire them for their intense gaze, their ear tufts and the startling way they become part of the hedge trunks. Oh, and the scrub jays, how they complain!  But even they move on, leaving the owl to its' nap...

The sun sets in summer are long in the Rogue Valley...and the blue gold light that rises over the western mountains, spreads under the cerulean sky like water, an ocean all its' own, over our heads.  And it is as if God needed a flashlight, and turned this sun set on to see....The sides of the valley covered in the darkest of green trees, yet we can see the hue and count the crowns.

I shall miss this summer in ways that can't be explained with was a much better one than last year...clear, fresh skies of pure azure.  White puffy clouds ever elegantly twisting and turning in their dance.  I could watch clouds all day.  I could stare into the infinite blue that becomes black with  pinpricks of various sizes dotting the darkness...but mercifully, we are special, in that we are in a kind of heaven on earth, full of conflict, cruelty, greed, is all we have right now...and it is abounding in mercy, compassion, goodness, sharing, and love, too.

This year has been particularly full of war and invasion, and the news has been terrible and deeply troubling.  Prayers for peace and end to suffering and conflict abound.  The hope endures.

There are crickets now...the hummingbirds and little songbirds are all tucked into the hedge for the  night.  There is a calm about it, the quiet night, where there is --at last -- a kind of peace.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

I knew Kay Atwood at Trinity Episcopal Church less than four years and only saw her once a month when we, as members of a team, prepared the altar and church for our monthly Contemplative Eucharist Service.  

Kay was soft-spoken and funny, modest about herself but always on the ball with her part in preparing our Danish Modern sanctuary and chancel with her assignment.  Whether candles, or icons, a reading or sitting quietly by the table in the vestibule ready to greet those who attended with lighted candles, programs and accepting love offerings, she accomplished these things with grace and gentleness, yet with a strength right under the surface, shining the Love of God toward everyone, all the time.

Kay is a well-known local author and authority on the history of the southern Oregon area.  

Among her titles are Illahe:  The Story of the Settlement of the Rogue River Canyon,   Mill Creek Journal:  Ashland Oregon 1850-1860,    Ashland Community Hospital:  A Century of Caring,   Jackson County Conversations,   Chaining Oregon: Surveying the Public Lands of the Pacific Northwest, 1851-1855.  

No doubt I have left some titles out but Kay was prolific in her writing and we are the richer for it.  As a professional researcher, she often mentored others in the art of researching and digging for the minutae of a particular subject's fine points.

Kay will be missed for all she did quietly in the community, for friendships made, wisdom shared and her love and dedication to family, including her church family.  I am thankful for getting to know her as much as I did and for the way she graced all of our lives with her presence, and consequently, the world was richer for her being in the world, and for that I give deep thanks.  Blessings to you Kay on your new adventure.  We know where to find you...on the other side of the veil.

 ~ Catherine ~

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Long time, no see

Life is time-consuming, hence the big blank between July of last year until now. Life still goes on but how does anyone find time to blog? Oy! I'm working on that as you can see…it's not much but it is a start….I'm working on a few topics so be patient a bit longer!


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Spiritual Rhythms and Medievalists...

I have always enjoyed and benefited from the wisdom and the sharing of resources of Christine Sine's blog, Godspace.  Her most recent entry is on spiritual rhythms that create resilience.  I commend it to you, dear readers, as it reminds me that I need to recreate my sacred space which I have had to move due to changes in the domestic rhythm of Sequoia House [the name given to this house that had a giant sequoia planted in its' backyard in 1947 by the original owners and is not more, since 1999].  These are very wonderful and happy changes, but still there is a need to maintain one's center.  This article regarding spiritual practice and how such practice helps us to bounce back to a holy balance no matter the changes going on in one's life.   To read it all, please click on the link above to Godspace.  Here is an excerpt from the article:

The response to my post Enhance Your Spiritual Resilience – Five Practices that Make a Difference made me realize that this is a topic that needs to be fleshed out in more detail. This post is designed to help flesh out some of the practices. It draws from my book Godspace which specifically addresses some of these issues.

According to Christian anthropologist Paul Hiebert there are two types of rituals, habits or practices we need in our lives, what he calls rituals of restoration and rituals of transformation.

Rituals of restoration are the most common. These are the practices that restore our faith in the beliefs that order our lives. They also connect us to and anchor us in the religious communities in which these beliefs are expressed. Restorative practices are highly structured & do not change from day to day or year to year. They reaffirm our sense of order & meaning in the universe, our community & our own lives.  Most importantly, they intentionally connect our daily activities to the life, death & resurrection of Christ.

Possibilities include a rhythm of prayer that reaffirms what we believe, sabbath practices, weekly church gathering, taking communion, following the liturgical calendar and the use of liturgical symbols like the sign of the cross, candles, and incense. I even find that writing prayers for Facebook each morning and preparing my blog posts is a stabilizing and restorative ritual.

The thing about Medievalists is that they find nuggets of wonder in history, art, music and philosophy that we rarely touch upon.  I was delighted to find an obscure link that someone posted on Facebook that lead me to their FB page and also their website where I could sign up for a weekly newsletter.  Oh, now I remember.  FB friend Barbara B had posted a link that led me there.  The articles have left me wanting for more, and more I shall receive!  The articles touch on all aspects of life as we know it, but in the Middle Ages, some of the ideas were borne of interaction with foreign countries and the ideas of those places...for instance:

Theorizing the Crusades, The Jew Who Wasn't There, Medieval Pet Names, and Real Tennis and the Civilising Process.  True, not the most tantalizing-sounding topics, but then I didn't include all of each is truly amazing stuff, gems of history, of life that brought us to the present as we know it, and yet we don't know it all.

You can read more on all the various aspects of how we got to where we are by visiting the website, and reading all the obscure good stuff yourself.  

Spiritual rhythms of resilience and reading about the Middle Ages...I personally can't think of better stuff to read or write about at the end of a long day.

Humbly, your servant,

Credits:  the image of the candle and icon are from Christine's blog post of July 11, 2013, and the series of stained glass windows are from Hakuba.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Living in the Mercy...

It is 12:51 am this very early Tuesday morning.  This insomniac night happens when I have a lot on my mind, or in my heart and body, when thoughts refuse to hear the last bedtime story with any solace, and begin murmuring after the lights should go out, but they don't, and busy themselves with suppressed little jobs like posting an entry to a much neglected blog...and of course Thoughts think they can help moping moaning Muscles to lower their voices, so here is where those busy little thoughts have brought me.

I pulled a book of poetry off the library table in the living room, careful not to knock over or bump this candle, or that tiny brass incense burner, seemingly and haphazardly placed alone along the spines of books by Oliver, Shelley, Cummings, Spenser, Wyatt, Browning, Hopkins, Rumi.  Dickinson, Donne, Milton, Tennyson, Housman.  No,  I choose Levertov.  And here is what she said to me because the Spirit spoke it to her, and she had to pen it down:

To Live in the Mercy of God

To lie back under the tallest
oldest trees.  How far the stems
rise, rise, 
               before the ribs of shelter

To live in the mercy of God.  The complete
sentence too adequate, has no give.
Awe, not comfort.  Stone, elbows of 
stoney wood beneath lenient
moss bed.

and awe suddenly
passing beyond itself.  Becomes
a form of comfort.
                            Becomes the steady
             air you glide on, arms
stretched like the wings of flying foxes.
To hear the multiple silence
of trees, the rainy
forest sepths of their listening.

To float, upheld,
              as salt water
              would hold you,
                                      once you dared.

To live in the mercy of God.

To feel vibrate the enraptured

              waterfall flinging itself 
              unabating down and down
                                                     to clench fists of rock.
              Swiftness of plunge,
              hour after year after century.
                                                           O or Ah
              uninterrupted, voice
                                             To breathe
              spray.  The smoke of it.
              of steelwhite foam, glissades
              of fugitive jade barely perceptible.  Such passions~
              rage or joy?
                                                 Thus, not mild, not temperate,
              God's love for the world.  Vast
              flood of mercy
                                         flung on resistance.

 Much mercy has been shown to me these last 2-3 years, especially from very close friends and from my parish.  I know I would not made it in many ways without them and their apparent love for me.  So, the mercy shown to me, experienced by me, has reached sunless depths within my heart, soul and mind.  It is my prayer and hope, I can really begin to give back and reciprocate all of the kindnesses shown me.

Right now others deserve very special kindness with the loss of loved ones, living the memory of they who will await our arrival at the Gate.  The Stream and the Sapphire is a volume I recommend highly.   Much to point to and ponder, pray about and contemplate.

Monday, May 20, 2013

"The Science of Loneliness: How Isolation Can Be Lethal" by Judith Schulevitz

We now know how it can ravage the body and brain. Judith Shulevitz is the science editor of The New Republic.

Here are excerpts from her astounding and revealing article:

Sometime in the late ’50s, Frieda Fromm-Reichmann sat down to write an essay about a subject that had been mostly overlooked by other psychoanalysts up to that point. Even Freud had only touched on it in passing. She was not sure, she wrote, “what inner forces” made her struggle with the problem of loneliness, though she had a notion. It might have been the young female catatonic patient who began to communicate only when Fromm-Reichmann asked her how lonely she was. “She raised her hand with her thumb lifted, the other four fingers bent toward her palm,” Fromm-Reichmann wrote. The thumb stood alone, “isolated from the four hidden fingers.” Fromm-Reichmann responded gently, “That lonely?” And at that, the woman’s “facial expression loosened up as though in great relief and gratitude, and her fingers opened.”

Fromm-Reichmann would later become world-famous as the dumpy little therapist mistaken for a housekeeper by a new patient, a severely disturbed schizophrenic girl named Joanne Greenberg. Fromm-Reichmann cured Greenberg, who had been deemed incurable. Greenberg left the hospital, went to college, became a writer, and immortalized her beloved analyst as “Dr. Fried” in the best-selling autobiographical novel I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (later also a movie and a pop song). Among analysts, Fromm-Reichmann, who had come to the United States from Germany to escape Hitler, was known for insisting that no patient was too sick to be healed through trust and intimacy. She figured that loneliness lay at the heart of nearly all mental illness and that the lonely person was just about the most terrifying spectacle in the world. She once chastised her fellow therapists for withdrawing from emotionally unreachable patients rather than risk being contaminated by them. The uncanny specter of loneliness “touches on our own possibility of loneliness,” she said. “We evade it and feel guilty.”

Her 1959 essay, “On Loneliness,” is considered a founding document in a fast-growing area of scientific research you might call loneliness studies. Over the past half-century, academic psychologists have largely abandoned psychoanalysis and made themselves over as biologists. And as they delve deeper into the workings of cells and nerves, they are confirming that loneliness is as monstrous as Fromm-Reichmann said it was. It has now been linked with a wide array of bodily ailments as well as the old mental ones.

In a way, these discoveries are as consequential as the germ theory of disease. Just as we once knew that infectious diseases killed, but didn’t know that germs spread them, we’ve known intuitively that loneliness hastens death, but haven’t been able to explain how. Psychobiologists can now show that loneliness sends misleading hormonal signals, rejiggers the molecules on genes that govern behavior, and wrenches a slew of other systems out of whack. They have proved that long-lasting loneliness not only makes you sick; it can kill you. Emotional isolation is ranked as high a risk factor for mortality as smoking. A partial list of the physical diseases thought to be caused or exacerbated by loneliness would include Alzheimer’s, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and even cancer—tumors can metastasize faster in lonely people.

The psychological definition of loneliness hasn’t changed much since Fromm-Reichmann laid it out. “Real loneliness,” as she called it, is not what the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard characterized as the “shut-upness” and solitariness of the civilized. Nor is “real loneliness” the happy solitude of the productive artist or the passing irritation of being cooped up with the flu while all your friends go off on some adventure. It’s not being dissatisfied with your companion of the moment—your friend or lover or even spouse— unless you chronically find yourself in that situation, in which case you may in fact be a lonely person. Fromm-Reichmann even distinguished “real loneliness” from mourning, since the well-adjusted eventually get over that, and from depression, which may be a symptom of loneliness but is rarely the cause. Loneliness, she said—and this will surprise no one—is the want of intimacy.

Today’s psychologists accept Fromm-Reichmann’s inventory of all the things that loneliness isn’t and add a wrinkle she would surely have approved of. They insist that loneliness must be seen as an interior, subjective experience, not an external, objective condition. Loneliness “is not synonymous with being alone, nor does being with others guarantee protection from feelings of loneliness,” writes John Cacioppo, the leading psychologist on the subject. Cacioppo privileges the emotion over the social fact because—remarkably—he’s sure that it’s the feeling that wreaks havoc on the body and brain. Not everyone agrees with him, of course. Another school of thought insists that loneliness is a failure of social networks. The lonely get sicker than the non-lonely, because they don’t have people to take care of them; they don’t have social support.

To read the rest of this fascinating and revolutionary article, please go here. What you learn ought to make you think twice about that cheerful person who seems to have it all together but really doesn't. That cheerfulness hides a deeper grief, a loneliness so profound as to create in them ravaging physical and emotional pain.