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.