Saturday, December 31, 2011

At Year's End- A Blessing by JO'D

The particular mind of the ocean
Filling the coastline’s longing
With such brief harvest
Of elegant, vanishing waves
Is like the mind of time
Opening us shapes of days.
As this year draws to its end,
We give thanks for the gifts it brought
And how they became inlaid within
Where neither time nor tide can touch them.
The days when the veil lifted
And the soul could see delight;
When a quiver caressed the heart
In the sheer exuberance of being here.
Surprises that came awake
In forgotten corners of old fields
Where expectation seemed to have quenched.
The slow, brooding times
When all was awkward
And the wave in the mind
Pierced every sore with salt.
The darkened days that stopped
The confidence of the dawn.
Days when beloved faces shone brighter
With light from beyond themselves;
And from the granite of some secret sorrow
A stream of buried tears loosened.
We bless this year for all we learned,
For all we loved and lost
And for the quiet way it brought us
Nearer to our invisible destination.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Turning Back the Pages

Last week I was re-reading earlier journal entries and remembering the different times and moods I felt six months ago. There is an African proverb that says, "to know where we are going, we must know where we've come." These wise words hold true in my life, and it's times when I re-read old journal scribblings, letters, book margin notes, etc. that help give my current situation perspective. I find that where I've been (emotionally, physically, spiritually) does indeed actively prelude where I am in the present moment. The forthcoming passage is taken from my hardbound, black Moleskine  pages, dated 28 January of this year. When I perused the pages again last week, I found a comfort and familiarity in the sentiment and images evoked. Compared to when this entry was written, I am now in a more confirmed and positive heartspace, yet I still resonate with feelings from the dark of winter, and it's in this soul's knowing that I find links to all the pieces of my past and current identity.
...I am going to be okay. 
I am okay.
I may not know where I'll be in a year. I may not know who I will be mated to. I may not know what vocation will fill the lengths of my days, but I do know some things.
I know about sacredness.
I know what I need.
I need to hear the rush of water. The rush of a freight train. An evening walk in March. A midnight cigarette while looking up at stars and feeling so, so small. A piece of buttered and jammed toast. A strong cup of coffee from a friend's French press. Writing a letter to a far-away kindred. Stained glass windows in an old chapel. Flannel sheets. Down pillows. Scarves. Mother, father, brother, sisters whom I love and who love and hold me. The one poem that ignites the core of my being to flutter. The simple, but always calming repetition of G, D, C chords played by my clumsy fingers on a flea-market guitar. Finishing a clean, cool glass of water and feeling hydrated to the bone. The clink and light splash of whiskey in ice. The flow and line from a truly good pen.

Of all these things, and many more, I hold and find truth, beauty, life. I thank God for my deep and often restless spirit and that heritage of contemplation that finds me pondering the subtle and simple mysteries of existence.
I am blessed beyond belief.
And, as my wise (and Irish Catholic) Rosemary used to say, quoting our risen Lord and Saviour, "to whom much is given, much is expected."
I have been given so, so much.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Southern Petals

In The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, Milan Kundera concludes, "...mother was right: tanks are mortal; pears eternal." Or in my case, as today would have it, tanks and bombs are still mortal, but strawberry muffins and wind in the dogwoods are lasting.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"The Invitation" written by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

     It doesn't interest my what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.
     It doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for you dream, for the adventure of being alive.
     It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life's betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain. I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it.
     I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or  your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.
     It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.
     I want to know if you can see beauty, even when it's not pretty, every day, and if you can source your own life from its presence.
     I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of the lake and should to the silver of the full moon, "Yes!"
     It doesn't interest me where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.
     It doesn't interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.
     It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else fades away.
     I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ashes and Dust

After coming home from work last night, I made it to the 7pm mass to receive ashes, symbolizing my mortality and ushering in the liturgical season of Lent. The solemnity of the service moved me into a place of remembrance.

It's a cold, rainy Thursday night in Asheville and I'm remembering this time last year. I was living and working at an outdoor education center in NY's Catskills. Our spring season had just started, complete with tapped sugar maples, muddy hiking trails, and changes in the barnyard. Twin lambs were born during the first week of Lent. The weak one died three days after Ash Wednesday, during February's darkest and longest storm. I remember feeling the sad irony of this small animal's death. I probably also gave more meaning to the situation than was deserved. Sheep, as most farmer's can attest, are stupid creatures. This unfortunate lamb was never recognized by its mother and therefore didn't stand a chance of receiving the nourishment of its first meal. My housemates and I stayed up late for those few days, nursing this lamb with baby formula from latex gloves and warming it by the stove. I think we all thought with some extra love and attention we could help this tiny creature and ensure it see spring. But nature has other plans. And humans like to interfere sometimes; we like to think we can override the natural order of being. The healthy lamb thrived, and was later named General by a group of our students. We got to see him grow into a fat and frolicky young sheep that spring, and by June I'd forgotten that it had had a twin. I'd forgotten how cold, uncomfortable, and dark it usually is in the last days of winter.

Lent, as I am learning, is a space of 40 days and nights before Easter, set aside for abstinence, fasting, penitence, and meditation. This is a time to become closer to the God of my understanding and a time to explore the dark night of the soul, before the light and life of spring come round again to renew in us the cycles and seasons of existence.

"Remember, from ashes you have come and to ashes you will return."

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Cup of Life

As I finish the last of my pinot noir for a week, I'm reminded of a Rumi poem:

"All night I danced round the house of my beloved. In the morning he came out and offered me some wine. I had no cup- 'Here's my empty skull,' I said. 'Pour your wine in here.'

May my thoughts and actions be mindful and merciful this week. May my hands do the work of God's intent. Selah.


Today begins the month of March in the year of our Lord 2011. Today I also begin my foray into the blogging sphere. I don't know why it's taken me so long to get here. I guess if I look at the patterns within my 27 years, I find that it's taken me a while to do anything: two years in pre-kidergarten, a year to get my driver's license, three semesters before declaring a major, 25 years before truly discovering Neil Young, 13 hours to drive from my Catskill home to a new life in the southern Appalachians...even now, it's taking me a bit of time to formulate my thoughts and write something coherent. Amidst it all, all my comings and goings, steps and stumbles, maybe yeses and maybe nos, here I am- right where I should be in this moment. And it's a good moment.

I am waiting for apricot-almond muffins to bake. I just paused to open the oven door and peek at my rising confections. I think this dozen will be something great. I've gotten into the pleasant habit of baking muffins for our Wednesday breakfast at work. Unlike most modern workers in this country, my work week begins on Wednesdays and ends exactly eight days later, after spending the entire week with clients and coworkers backpacking through the oldest mountains in the world. I'm sure to look back on my time in wilderness therapy as something wild and foreign. I've come to learn about myself in a more whole and vulnerable way since taking the job last July. I've come to recognize my bravery, stubbornness, passive-aggression, and penchant for routine and ritual. I've also come to a new understanding of my spirituality. (A subject I'm sure for later posts, especially as the Lenten season is soon upon us.)

I should mention that the name for this blog is a Gaelic phrase meaning "soul friend." It is with these feeble musings and letters that I attempt to unwrap the sacred moments of this life and celebrate universal human themes such as friendship, solitude, love, death, and worship. Apricot muffins seem like an appropriate place to start.