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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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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Solstice: Peace After the Storm

Snowstorm 254A glorious blizzard has kept us home for the past two days. I walked out early yesterday to enjoy the snowfall. The air was warmer than I expected and the snow was heavy and wet. The woods were magical and the trail deserted.

Snowstorm 059The sky told of the blizzard to come.

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Snowstorm 077By the time I’d turned back, high winds were causing very low visibility and the snow stung my face and hands.

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Snowstorm 263Phillip started plowing early, but eventually stopped to let the winds have their way.

Snowstorm 158We decided to watch movies, eat Christmas cookies, and enjoy our snowday. The winds howled furiously throughout the night. We were both awake until after one o’clock and then dropped off, despite the wind’s wailing. We woke to find a lovely old ash tree had fallen across the drive.

Blizzard, aftermath, birds 096While Phillip removed the tree, I watched feathered visitors bob up and down in the birch tree, risk flights to the feeders, and then fly quickly back their perches.

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Blizzard, aftermath, birds 189Tonight, the winds have quieted and we’re all hoping for a peaceful Solstice sleep…after more Christmas movies, a toasty fire, and popcorn to celebrate.

057Wishing you all a season of light and eruptions of joy…

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Meeting Life on the Inside: Breathe In

The wheel of the year has turned to the position we call winter; we recognize the year’s shortest day with the solstice and the “sun’s rebirth” as days begin to lengthen again. The daily round is marked with celebrations and traditions honoring sacred understandings of light-in-darkness. Winter offers invitations to explore one’s interior yearning, healing, and relationships, so we may go forth again in spring renewed, centered, and focused upon our unique forms of service and connections to our outer relationships and communities.

The word “hibernate” is derived from the Latin word for winter (hiberno: I winter) and generates the wonderful noun “hibernaculum,” which, zoologically, is the place where an animal winters, and, botanically, is the protective bud or covering a plant uses to survive the challenges of dormancy. I love that the letters of the word “hibernate” form the anagram “breathe in,” for winter is my time for assessing, deepening, and strengthening my meditation practice and more earnestly tending my dreams.

My “hibernaculum” is a small meditation room with a futon, my piano, lovely artwork created by friends, and a beautiful cabinet made my Phillip. I use it to store books, candles, discernment cards, CD’s, and a small TV for viewing the excellent Spirituality and Practice DVD series, Spiritual Literacy: Reading the Sacred in Everyday Life as a prelude to meditation.(http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/spiritualliteracy/) This room is a sanctuary I value; I suppose it’s the feminine spiritual equivalent of a “man cave.” It’s where I go to consciously “breathe in.”

 Coleman Barks, the wonderful translator of the Sufi mystic Rumi’s poetry, tells of a meeting with a spiritual master who asked him, “Will you meet me on the inside or on the outside?”

 Barks recalls that he answered “with English-teacherly evasiveness,” saying, “Isn’t it always both?” Reviewing his response years later, he regrets this attempt at sophisticated cleverness and writes, “I should have bowed and said, Inside.” (From The Drowned Book: Ecstatic and Earthly Reflections of Bahauddin the Father of Rumi, by Coleman Barks and John Moyne.)

This is a time when we gather to celebrate and mark festivities of light with gift-giving. Often the gifts are mere gestures, empty of true, heartfelt meaning. How lovely if we could daily gift ourselves with times of stillness and inner peace, and encourage others to do so as well. Twenty minutes in the morning and the evening are possible; more than that, I have learned, they are necessary, wholly holy, and healing moments of the day, when I may retreat, meditate, and again meet myself “on the inside.”

 At no point in the year’s turning are we more generously invited to be with our authentic selves this way: to sift through blessings, losses, lessons, hopes, realignment, and redirection. Winter speaks to my beloved inner hermit and beckons her to explore and honor the wisdom yielded by another year on the path.

It can be helpful during the time of the solstice to create a timeline of the closing year and note the patterns danced by my spirit. When was I most strongly true to myself and where did my spirit waver? Are there any opportunities to ask for or grant forgiveness and so strengthen relationships in the life I’m creating? What learning do I most desire in the year to come? What do my senses crave; what colors, smells, imagery and totems are calling; what paths are opening? What relationships need mending, tending—or ending? What gifts have been neglected or over-extended? What parts of me need regeneration and where can greater balance be restored?

I truly and happily anticipate this retreat, this time of hibernation and restoration, this annual opportunity to deeply “breathe in,” to bow to Spirit, to greet myself and therefore others with true Namaste. (“My Source/Spirit recognizes, acknowledges, and bows to yours.”)

I sometimes wonder if those who proclaim their dislike of winter are really denying–or fearing–the naked encounter with the self that calls to and from the heart during this season, and if that is the case, I’m sad for their unconscious fear of what, for me, has always been a loving boon and gentle way to welcome a new year. As counter-cultural as stillness and darkness are, entering them openly and with a candle lit by self-compassion can steady and deepen one’s orientation towards, and connection to, the Mystery that is the stillpoint at the center of our existence. Now is always the time, but certainly the winter solstice (when the sun stands still) gentles the spirit inward to gaze on the Love at its center more sweetly than any other time of the year.

May the peace, wisdom, love, and joy of the season be yours.