Light Wins by Shining

 

 

dscf3123We’ve been healing from the daily news explosions by taking long walks in the snow and listening for what is needed that we can offer our family, community, and world.

The Lord of Misrule used to be a peasant appointed to “rule” over the manor’s Christmas revelries, a kind of topsy-turvy silliness enjoyed for a few hours every year.dscf3218For us, the Lord of Misrule and his minions will begin their reign on January 20th, and the Feast of Fools will last four years. Maybe. The world is in a dangerous mood and silliness is not the proper response, so the feeling that anything could happen is more pronounced than when educated and sensible minds are at the helm.dscf3220So we lie awake and worry, or enjoy a few hours of denial here and there, or divert our attention to complete the tasks before us, or…well, you get the idea.dscf3162Walking in the snow, especially if it’s falling while we walk, calms the heart like nothing else. The world, so far as we experience it, is stilled, hushed, and peaceful. The expansive white engenders a quiet hopefulness, and if a full moon is rising, our spirits can’t help but rise as well.dscf3114dscf3018Last weekend, we went out to gather a few gifts. On the way home, Phillip dropped me off at the state park near our home. The snow was falling and I was alone, walking around acres that supported a thriving community 1,000 years ago. I walked through the spirits of babies, mothers, fathers, athletes, leaders, gossips, and artists. Most, I expect, were what we’d call “good” people; I imagine there were also a few who upset others routinely, and perversely pursued ego gratification, just like people in our culture do.dscf3066dscf3060dscf3047The only signs they were here at all are several mounds and reconstructed “forts” marking where theirs existed, because scholars and scientists cared to do this and, at the time, our state supported them. The ancient community seemed to end rather abruptly, after thriving for 300 years, and archaeologists are still trying to figure out what happened. I wonder if they elected a Lord of Misrule.dscf3086dscf3076dscf3032I walked home musing about all those who walked this land for centuries, over a thousand years ago, and what it all meant. We have no records of them as individual personalities, just tools, jewelry, artifacts, and suppositions, but they were real; they lived and breathed and laughed, and worked, and played, and maybe walked in the snow when worry overtook them.dscf3077dscf3058dscf3095dscf3112Phillip and the pups met me, and we walked along the trail and over the river where the Aztalan people hunted and fished. We enjoyed Micky’s navigation of his first snowfall, and then the sweet grace of just being here and now and present to small joys lifted my heart.dscf2930dscf2993dscf2979Life is a flicker of light and then we’re a long time dead, and possibly, in a thousand years, forgotten altogether. The miracle of being here at all is far too precious to waste on worry, I know, especially when the possible nightmares that are keeping me awake are utterly out of my control to prevent.dscf2951What I can do is find my peace, speak my peace, and be my peace. What I can do is be present to all the beauty, and the joy, and the great love that lights my life, and not avert my eyes or attention from it to fret about bogus and hollow men in power. When their madness affects me, I’d rather meet it as one practiced in love, peace, joy, and presence, then as the Mistress of Worry and Fear.dscf3217Dying and being forgotten isn’t a problem; not having infused every day I lived with as much love, peace, and joy, as I believe we all should—now that’s sad. Light doesn’t win by cowering and hiding; light wins by shining.dscf3168

Bless your gatherings and partings during this season of hope.

Bless your giving and receiving, your traveling and nesting.

Bless your heart and its tender yearning,

Bless your mind: May it be free of worry,

And deeply nourished by cheerful thoughts and merry company.

Bless your actions and their congruence to your words;

Bless your words and their congruence to your heart.

May you be the Light you’re here to be, and shine in the darkness

So others may see.

Joy to you,

And to the world.

Love to you,

And to the world.

Peace to you,

And to the world.

The Light That Fills the World

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I think over again my small adventures, my fears, those small ones that seemed so big, all those vital things I had to reach and to possess, and yet there is only one great thing: to live and see the great day that dawns, and the light that fills the world.  ~ Old Inuit Song

These days, the pre-selected and formatted news of the world comes to us whether we want it or not, it seems.

It seeps through the pores of our days, flashing its dire warnings, keening the earth’s death song, screaming the antics of strange players, interrupting the flow of our choices and preferences, and scrolling across the bottom of our daily round. You turn on an information source to learn the weather forecast and you’re flattened by the psychic attack created by some media celebrity spewing hype about the latest battle between police and citizens, or vying political candidates, or warring countries. Somewhere, a city’s exploded, a plane has crashed, and another murder has robbed us of someone’s gifts. In the wake of what was once journalism, the circus entertainment that’s replaced it never sleeps.

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And, truly, there are choices being made by leaders that affect us all and should be discussed, even argued against and protested. There is sloppy thinking, a loss of respect for fact and intellectual reasoning, and a backsliding of concern for the common good. Language is cruder and interactions are ruder.

But I think we can get mired in anger and fear, the result of over-exposure to these things, and lose the ability to think our own thoughts and remain focused on our next creative action in our own little corner of the world. The rush of bad news accelerates our anxiety, and we surrender the time and space necessary to locate the inherent peace and stillness within ourselves that allow us to move in the world with balanced energy and perspective, doing the good we’re here to do.

Happily, Full Moon Cottage has been offering us a lovely summer of sunlight and rain, fireflies and flowers, June’s gorgeous solstice and full moon, and social gatherings that reinforce the light that fills the world and renews our spirits.

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Last week, our buddy Jax was our guest once again, and he seemed quite certain that 4:30 A.M. was the best time to wake and enjoy our morning walk. We thought otherwise, but had to agree the sunrises were amazing, making our hesitant efforts to offer hospitality worth it, and far more sincere on subsequent mornings.

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The fireflies have been surprisingly abundant this summer, and their nightly show invites meditation and peace. We turn down the indoor lights, grab a window-seat and 4-legged companion, and watch. And breathe. And benefit greatly. Malarky and I enjoyed both fireflies and the solstice together at about 1:00 in the morning, when nature called us, in many and different ways. I’m sorry I’m not a more skillful photographer and lack a better camera, but here you can (kind of) see the full moon and the blinks of fireflies.

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Like the early walks with Jax and the pups, this was an enchanting break in the routine for me. I don’t mind losing sleep when it’s surrendered for a silent stroll in light and mystery. These encounters bring me back to hope and joy.

In mid-June, a friend called and offered to bring an entire feast, and her little pup, for a visit to celebrate my birthday. (Well, I made the carrot cake!) It was such a kind gesture and perfect gift of a day; I’m still smiling whenever I think about the fun we had.

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Later in the month, I was asked to officiate at another friend’s wedding, a light-filled celebration, if there ever was one. Weddings fill my cup of hope to overflowing. I love creating the service with a young couple, and celebrating their joy with a community of people who love and support them. We’re all changed, every time, it seems, taken back to memories of our own partnerships in life and their deepening.

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We also had company visit for a few days, and the weather obliged. My older brother came south from the Twin Cities (although here, we just say “the Cities,”) and his daughter drove west from Milwaukee, and we had a merry visit indeed. So merry, I didn’t take photos, but just relaxed and laughed. A lot. You’ll have to imagine our visits to a local winery, restaurant, antique stores, and then a pub, where we brought a picnic and listened to wonderful music. And our long visits on the back deck with the pups chasing around our chairs, the fireflies seeking true love in the trees and gardens, and the river flowing by in peace.

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The gardens are making a comeback from last year’s devastating storm; the freezer is crammed with berries; the bird feeders have been very active; this year’s turkey nursery parades through the yard most mornings; and, except for the annual onslaught of Japanese Beetles, peace reigns and sustains at Full Moon Cottage.

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Blessing and gratitude keep me going when the world’s noise and fear crowd in. The light that fills the world shines through, shines on, nurturing our hope, peace, and love, and that is the only one great thing: To let that light lead us into our days and through our lives. Gentle peace to you and yours.

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All is Bright

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It’s hard to believe that tomorrow is St. Nicholas Day. As kids, we’d make cookies for Santa and hang our Christmas stockings on the night of December 5th. We’d hear a story from Daddy and go to bed excited about the enchantment imminently expected to overtake our home: a visit from St. Nick! (Technically, Santa Claus, but we didn’t question magic. Why question anything that brings chocolate and gifts? Just be grateful!)

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The stockings held our precious letters for Santa that outlined our Christmas wishes and promises of continued good behavior. The next morning, we’d discover an empty cookie tray, small treats in our stockings, and an elegantly-scripted note from Santa. These memories always conflate with images of snowfalls, sledding, skating, snowmen, and icicles…

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This year, my poppies are leafing out in spring viridity and the lawn is ready for the Easter bunny to come hopping along. Chickadees are singing spring songs and, although our mornings can be frosty, our afternoon temperatures have been climbing to 50° F/10° C.

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We had a beautiful snowfall just before Thanksgiving, and Malarky’s excitement and wonder as he explored this new phenomena made it almost as magical for me.

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We even enjoyed our November full moon midnight-potty-excursions (his, not mine). Somehow, being roused from sleep isn’t so bad when the outside world is sparkling with snow and stars.

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So the current experience of climate change is odd, but not without its blessings. Although I’m not transplanting anything in the garden, I can remove the dandelions and other weeds that are taking advantage of the warmth. Getting my hands muddy in December is an adventure. I received this link from a friend last week, and better understand why mucking around in soil is good for the spirit. Much better than a bout of winter-induced seasonal affective disorder!

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Our home is decorated for the season, too, so indoors, it looks like Christmas, even if outside, it looks like we’ve moved to the South.

The 4-leggeds are blissfully content, another reminder that letting go of expectations for how things should be, or hanging the joy of now upon its conformity to memories, even happy ones, is pointless. I’m grateful for a happy childhood, but I’m happy for now, too.

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All is bright.

I hope it’s the same for you this lovely, wonderful holiday season. Happy St. Nick’s!

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Legacy
It comes for everyone, doesn’t it?
The inevitable end of all this, the flower petals
falling, the leaves falling, the day falling into night.
Here’s what I’ll remember, though:
Sitting in the garden on your last morning,
holding your hand, breathing,
watching the butterfly’s wing-tattered
body-battered flight
through the holy colored brilliance to the pinkest bloom,
where it came to perfect stillness
and drank deeply of life
as though it would last forever.
And in that moment
everything I’d ever loved in you came clear—
this was the theme of your life, your constant song:
Choose joy, take it in, share its light.
And as it rose again, and your spirit, too,
leaving,
illumined within and without,
you (I know it was) brushed against the poppy’s ghost
and I saw
I saw the tiny seeds
falling.
I should have expected this:
you always left me gifted
and blessed.

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Holy Night

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Last June I celebrated my 59th birthday and, as I began my 60th turn around the sun, I felt a need to be present to my life in ways that wouldn’t have made for interesting blog posts, or at least not in ways I wanted to explore in public.

I could say 60 is “just a number,” but I think it’s a number that represents a life shift and certainly signals a new decade is beginning, a kind of chronological beacon reminding me of life’s finitude.

I wanted to assess and set my course into “elderhood” with deliberate and authentic thought, rather than just allow my energy to drift into life’s next stage without purpose or clear intent.

I’ve made some decisions, set some demons running and made peace with others. I’ve gathered in joys, winnowed through relationships and sorted through possessions…I’m feeling lighter and clearer, but am mindful there are six months left to prepare for inaugurating my next decade, and whatever years I have left to “still become.” So, I continue to listen, sift, question, name and chart…

But it’s time for me to re-engage with sharing ideas and unveiling feelings and thoughts in my writing. I enjoy it and am ready to renew my practice.

The daily round has unfolded in darkness and light this past year, as it does every year; perhaps the darkness seems stronger and the blessings more precious because of the scrutiny I’ve brought to bear upon them, but I’m choosing to end the year on this, its holy and longest night, in gratitude and joy.

Despite the anger and violence that swirls through this old world and receives perhaps too much of our attention, I believe there so many, so very many reasons to be hopeful, to celebrate light and to share it, especially with the children inheriting what comes of our choices.

So on this Solstice Night leading to our great celebrations of Love’s rebirth, I choose to honor the light that has shone in my life and throughout the world this year, and pray that the New Year will be even brighter. How else can love set the world on fire but through our choices to share its light, moment by moment, day by day?

I’m grateful for those I love and with whom I celebrated some of my life’s milestones this past year.

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I’m grateful for friends who share their arts with the world and surprise me with gifts.

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I’m grateful for companions who share my days and illuminate even the smallest moments with their spirits.

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I’m grateful for my home and the gardens we’ve tended and the harvests we’ve enjoyed.

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I’m grateful for the wild things who bless my life and teach me deep lessons about presence, coexistence, conservation and compassion.

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I’m grateful for former students who check in and let me know how hard they’re working to tend their many gifts and keep the light shining.

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I’m grateful for the many, many people I know or know about, who share their gifts, their energy, their arts, and their wealth with others, who speak truth to the cruel, the wasteful, the fearful, and the angry and so diminish their power.

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I’m grateful for the children with whom I’m able to spend my days. They keep me young in spirit, creative, joyful, and ever hopeful.

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And I am most grateful for a partner determined to be as honest and intentional on his path as he is in supporting my own journey. I’m especially grateful for the laughter we co-create.

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May we light the fires of joy around us in the coming year; may we love wildly and laugh often; may we be quick to forgive, and to feed upon hope.

And may we be kind.

Blessings upon your gatherings, your partings, your celebrations, your prayers, and the creative use of your energy. And may your New Year be light-filled, delightful and joyful.

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Holy, Holy, Holy

DSCF3174Advent, despite all earnestness, is a time of refuge because it has received a message. Oh, if people know nothing about the message and the promises any more, if they only experience the four walls and the prison windows of their gray days, and no longer perceive the quiet footsteps of the announcing angels, if the angels’ murmured word does not simultaneously shake us to the depths and lift up our souls–then it is over for us. Then we are living wasted time, and we are dead, long before they do anything to us.  ~ Father Alfred Delp, Source: Advent of the Heart

DSCF3178Holiness comes wrapped in the ordinary. There are burning bushes all around you. Every tree is full of angels. Hidden beauty is waiting in every crumb.  ~ Macrina Wiederkehr, O.S.B

DSCF2698Only when we tarry do we touch the holy. ~Rainer Maria Rilke, In Praise of Mortality, translated and edited by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

DSCF2758Being extravagantly generous is an enchanting way to become holy and Godlike, for God is awesomely extravagant — as is revealed by even a casual glance at creation. ~ Edward Hays

DSCF2555The world is holy. We are holy. All life is holy. Daily prayers are delivered on the lips of breaking waves, the whisperings of grasses, the shimmering of leaves.  ~ Terry Tempest Williams, from Talking to God: Portrait of a World at Prayer (anthology)

DSCF2948…We live in a world alive with holy moments. We need only take the time to bring these moments into the light.  ~ Kent Nerburn in Small Graces

DSCF3128Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace. The garden door is always open to the holy. ~ May Sarton, Source: Gardening by Heart

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…All this is God,
right here in my pea-green house
each morning
and I mean,
though often forget,
to give thanks
to faint down by the kitchen table
in a prayer of rejoicing
as the holy birds at the kitchen window
peck into their marriage of seeds…

~ Source: “Welcome Morning” by Anne Sexton, Dancing With Joy edited by Roger Housden

DSCF3031To bless a thing is to remind ourselves that the very object is one of God’s gifts given to bring us to wholeness of life. Once we understand that, we also realize it is the way we respond to things that makes us holy. Then nothing is for nothing in our lives.  ~ Joan Chittister

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Let my small story
connect to your larger one.
May we breathe with one breath.
May we make the day holy together.
~ Nita Penfold, Pocket Prayers, collected by June Cotner

DSCF3113I think over again my small adventures, my fears, those small ones that seemed so big, all those vital things I had to get and to reach, and yet there is only one great thing: to live and see the great day that dawns, and the light that fills the world. ~ Old Innuit Song

DSCF3172The world is a holy place. Venite adoremus. Come let us adore.  ~ Teilhard de Chardin

DSCF3131Ways to Miss the Hidden God

1. LIVE life at high speed. No exceptions. Run hard.

2. STAY scattered and distracted. The more clutter and activity, the better.

3. TAKE everything personally. Never evaluate. Agree.

4. USE blame liberally. It’s so invigorating. I wasn’t responsible, you were. Everything’s your fault.

5. DON’T laugh, especially at yourself.

6. STAY tied to your past. Elevate it to greatness.  Live remembering and longing. Or missing. Why do it halfway? Go for it.

7. USE the word ‘because.’ ‘I can’t change, because.’  Because is so little appreciated as a solvent for responsibility. Try using because. This will work.

8. NEVER question or think for yourself. Just keep moving and accepting. (Refer to #1 and #3.)

9. CONTINUE to think of God as invisible and distant. Surely not present in this room. At this moment. Not while I’m reading a book.

10. REINFORCE the belief that your life is going to happen soon. This is not it, not yet. But one day. Maybe when I finish reading.

 ~ from: Sacred Threshold: Crossing the Inner Barrier to a Deeper Love, by Paula D’Arcy

‘Tis the Season

DSCF2361Full Moon Cottage has been dressed for Christmas over the past week. Objects encrusted with memories have been scattered around the rooms, and spirits we love have been fully welcomed back into our midst, not just those of our parents, who are always with us, but all those characters and places that populated our childhood stories: great-aunts and uncles, grandparents, friends, teachers, janitors, cafeteria ladies, bus drivers, piano teachers and the neighborhood personalities who bordered the edges of our days. DSCF2145 DSCF2212DSCF2201I can see the Park and Market grocery, and the ice skating rink, where tinny Christmas music blared as we glided round and round. I remember how Santa rode through town on a shiny red fire engine, so loaded with lights that I never stopped to wonder at the absence of his sleigh and reindeer. I never stopped to question any of the incongruities and obvious fallacies offered to us during the Christmas season. Every year, we were happily willing to be drenched in magic and readily surrendered our doubt to exist wholly in a world of fantastical impossibilities. Because they were true, at the heart level, where children seem to more easily live and breathe and have their being. DSCF2161I had a happy childhood, and at no time of year am I more grateful than during the Christmas season, when the flood of memories, visions, and smells mix with the magic of nostalgia, sparkle of winter, and the natural tendency to gather in towards light and warmth. For a month or two, I revisit those times and places that created me and allow me to treasure the present with greater depth. DSCF2465I’ve always loved Lent and its invitations to whittle away and purge in preparation for spring’s rebirth, but the rituals and traditions of Advent cheer my heart. They seem to counter and balance the season’s darkening and chilling environment so tenderly. The cinnamon, chocolate, orange, and anise smells of seasonal baking, the glitter of ornaments, the soothing and jubilant sounds of Christmas music, and the focus on the excitement of anticipation and joy: what could be better? DSCF2475So many spiritual traditions seem to center on light and gift in winter; it’s encouraging (“heart-centered”) that many humans get it all perfectly right once a year, anyway. DSCF2442 DSCF2193I wish we could resist the urge to allow corporate marketers to dictate the meaning of this season to us and their attempts to drive people into greater frenzy and stress and spending, instead of slowing down, gathering in, cherishing each holy moment. The heavy burdens of pragmatic doubt regarding the magic of the world, the pain of self-judgments, and the accepted need to replace our innate value with things, things, and more things we must endlessly buy, may be set down; we did not need these rampant desires as children and certainly do not benefit from them as adults. DSCF2178Christmas helps us retrieve the gifts of childhood, if we listen. A friend posted on a social site that she’d enjoyed a four-hour lunch with an old friend: Just to read it made me hopeful and happy for both of them, but for all of us as well. I know they pushed back against demanding jobs and demanding lives to make way for this time together and yet did so, valuing friendship above tasks. So, for now, I abstain from the entreaties to constantly shop, and from what is called “news,” and instead rest in the Good News always coming, always here: we are made of Love, embraced by Love, and asked only to Love in return, until to Love we return and with Love we merge. And that is enough. And that is everything. DSCF2096May the deep peace of the season gift you with a warm heart, clear vision, and a community of family and friends–and four-leggeds–to see, hear, hold, and enjoy. We are called to be merry; let us do so, drenched in magic and readily surrendering our doubt. Love reminds us we already exist wholly in a world of fantastical impossibilities. Joyeux Noel! DSCF2191 DSCF2183