Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Inspiration of Rachel's road trip

Our daughter Rachel just spent a week with us over the Thanksgiving holiday. Since she is a party waiting to happen, you can imagine it was a lively week! She brings much life, light, joy, and fun wherever she goes, and when she leaves after a visit, I always walk around with an ache in my heart for awhile, in an all-too-quiet house. Those of you who know me will hardly believe I could actually think anything was too quiet!
I took pictures as Rachel prepared to leave in her convertible with yes, the top down. It was 23 degrees above zero when I walked the dog this morning. Okay, it was around 41 by noon, when she was preparing to leave. And sunny. But still!!! She carefully prepared a place for her new dog, Oprah, in the back seat, amongst her fluffy soft comforter and pillow, with a bit of luggage around it. Howie, her faithful old dog, got to sit in the front seat next to her, with more luggage. Of course, the trunk was already stuffed. Finally, Rachel herself climbed into the driver's seat, and after a goodbye kiss, she was off. We heard the voice of Rick Springfield, one of her favorite singers, boom out as she rode away. John and I laughed and shook our heads and I said, "That girl knows how to travel."
Later today, I pondered the scene, and the pics I took, (posted with this blog) and I wrote this sort-of-poem about it:

As you travel the Road of Life
go with a sense of
Yet know there is more
than one route to your
Surround yourself with
story and song.
Let yourself be dogged with
unconditional love.
And for heaven's sake,
keep the top down,
your head open
to sun and wind,
connecting, feeling
Big Sky, Big Dreams, Big Ideas.

Monday, November 22, 2010

musing on music

I have travelled in many countries, and heard the music of many languages. An Indian guru I visited once advised me to listen to the music of a strange language before I tried to work on learning its words. The heart of every language was in the music it made when it was spoken, he said. I have always remembered that advice, and when I was enormously frustrated, as I usually was, when I could not communicate with people in their language (whether Arabic, Hausa, German, or Navajo, for instance) I at least could tune in on the particular rhythms and tones of their language as they spoke it.
But much more gratifying was the discovery in my travels of the experience of sharing music with people, for it is a universal language, and a language of the heart. Nowadays there is even a genre called "world music," and indeed, thanks to technology, the music of the whole world is available to us. On my little ipod alone I have the spiritual music, in the form of instrumentals and chant, of all the world's great religions. And right here in the small town of Sedona,
I have attended "Kirtan" which is the chanting of sanskrit mantras; Sufi dances to the chants from that tradition; Taize chants led by a small ensemble from the local Catholic church and Korean chants led by the teacher of class in Dahn yoga. Last night I attended a full moon drumming circle and joined in Native American style drumming and chanting with people of at least three different nationalities and backgrounds. What a rich experience! For me, the spiritual music of a people is one of the most powerful ways to enter into their prayer and faith in a way that opens my heart to the treasures they are sharing through their worshipful music.
I have the good fortune of coming from a musical family on my mother's side, and in that way music has been woven into my life in important ways. My mom and sister and I would sing songs in harmony while doing dishes together. Our whole family would sing in the car on our long road trips. I still have old recordings of my mother's brothers singing on the radio long ago. And I was blessed to be born with an ear for music, so I can play familiar songs by ear on the piano or accordian or flute or whatever. In our family, we often sang grace at the table, and I always put my children and grandchildren to bed with lullabies.
One of the first things I pack to take with me to Sedona is my collections of CD's, my flute, my drum, and certain songbooks to play out of on my keyboard here. Like my mother, I also hum often as I go about whatever I am doing, and I love singing with other people in all kinds of ways and places. Lately, as I read more about music, I am realizing why it is so vital and wonderful a part of human life, so universal, so ancient, and so new. And more than that, music is an integral part of the Great Mystery of life and creation itself. A brilliant scientist I heard in New York a few years ago, Prof. Kaku, likened the universe to "a symphony of vibrating strings." Someone else said one could translate the word universe itself as "One Song."
I love the thought that you and I are a song, or a note in the song, which God is always singing.
What is music to you?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Dwelling in Beulah Land

Sometime in my childhood, I heard an old gospel song called "Dwelling in Beulah Land."
I remember the chorus and first verse still, but have never been able to find the song in any hymnal I have ever come across. Well! I found it yesterday in a book called "Rise Up Singing" which is a collection of the words of all kinds of songs for group singing. I have it here and often play from it on my keyboard. I was delighted to come across this old favorite, and I want to write the words of the song for you, because they describe how I feel being out here in this gorgeous place. The song is also a metaphor, as so many gospel songs are, for a state of soul, or "consciousness" as we might say these days. I chose some choice pics from my collection which to me capture some of what the words of this Gospel song are saying.

Far away the noise of strife upon my ear is falling,
Then I know the sins of man beset on every hand.
Doubt and fear and greed and lies in vain to me are calling,
None of these shall move me from Beulah Land.
I'm living on the mountain underneath a cloudless sky.
I'm drinking at the fountain that never shall run dry
O yes I'm feasting on the manna from a bountiful supply
For I am dwelling in Beulah land.
Let the story breezes blow, their blast cannot alarm me,
I am safely sheltered here, protected by God's hand.
Here the sun is always shining, here there's naught can harm me.
I am safe forever in Beulah land! (repeat chorus)
Viewing here the works of God, I sink in contemplation
Hearing now Her blessed voice, I see the way She planned.
Dwelling in the Spirit, here I learn of God's great Vision,
Gladly will I tarry in Beulah Land. (chorus)

okay. I did edit the words a tiny bit! But you get the picture!
Being out here for me does feel like Beulah land, literally.
And living in such a place of Beauty does help me dwell in "Beulah Land" consciousness.
Beauty is, for me, the Face of God, and here that Face shines in particular splendor.
However, even here, I am not always free from doubt or fear or other attitudes that make it hard to dwell in Beulah Land Consciousness. I can echo the words of this old hymn for hours, sometimes even days, but I am not yet always dwelling in Beulah Land, and I wonder if I ever will on this earth, given life's ups and downs and my state of spiritual evolvement.
But I am grateful for the glimpses, the moments, the hours of dwelling in Beulah Land, and I hope that all of you who read this blog also experience the bliss, at least at times, of dwelling in Beulah land, no matter where you live. And someday, I believe, we will all dwell always and forever in Beulah Land!

Monday, November 15, 2010

why I blog

Today I was reading "Finding What You Didn't Lose," a book about expressing truth and creativity through poem making, and found this wonderful quote which captures for me why I blog, and why I sometimes like to share a poem or painting or drawing, and why I have loved preaching for so long, and leading retreats, and doing spiritual direction with people, and writing articles and books for publication, and giving speeches, and all the other ways there are to share some of the many many riches and blessings of my life with others.
Here is the quote from the author of the book, John Fox. Actually, he is quoting Thomas Berry.

"Our deepest desire is to share our riches, and this desire is rooted in the dynamics of the cosmos. What began as an outward expansion of the universe in the fireball ripens into your desire to flood all things with goodness. Whenever you are filled with a desire to fling your gifts into the world, you have become this cosmic dynamic of celebration, feelings its urgency to pour forth just as the stars felt the same urgency to pour themselves out."

That's it! do you ever feel that too? I love those two key phrases and invite you to ponder them as an expression of your life and purpose:
"the desire to flood all things with goodness" and to "fling your gifts into the world."
If this blog does either of these things even a little bit, and inspires others to do the same, what more could I ask?
And there are so many, many ways to fling one's gifts into the world, one lifetime is just not long enough.
Then there is the blessing of receiving the gifts others are flinging out into the world....gifts that surprise or delight or deeply move me. I just celebrated a birthday, and on that day alone, this was the case. A dear friend handwrote a card with words that profoundly touched my heart. Another couple of friends presented me with a huge gorgeous pot of bright yellow mums, which now grace the fireplace room in which I sit. Two neighbors surprised me with cards. I have no idea how they even knew it was my birthday. John got me a pair of fine, waterproof hiking boots, which he knows I will wear out, probably by my next birthday! And though he is not all that fond of the food, he took me to an Indian restaurant where I could enjoy the food I grew up on as a child in India. One daughter sent a cake made of flowers! and another gave me a silver charm of India on a chain to wear as a necklace. I am sure you, too, could list many, many gifts flung into your world by people you know and love, and strangers too.
As if that were not enough, it seems mother nature delights in offering her gifts to us too. Never a day goes by that is not filled with these gifts. Sometimes I am preoccupied and don't even notice. More's the pity. But as I grow older and enjoy the opportunity (and sometime necessity) of slowing down, I notice these gifts more and more, and "My cup runneth over," as the Psalmist sings.
Let me close today's blog with the gift of a quote from a well-known poem by Maya Angelou
called "On the Pulse of Morning" The pics I chose for today are meant to go with her words.

Across the wall of the world,
a River sings a beautiful song. It says,
Come, rest here by my side.
. . . . . . .
Lift up your eyes
Upon this day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What time is it?

This week the rest of the country once again changed time. That is to say, people set their clocks back an hour on Nov. 7, if that is really changing Time?????????Not here. For reasons I have still to find out, Arizona just keeps the same time all year. Which, given the fact we no longer live in an agricultural society, makes sense to me. Sort of. If clocks make sense at all.
I mean, what is time anyway? Really? If you could ask any animal or bird what time it was, it would make no sense to them. Ancient people always connected time to stars and their movements, the moon's phases, the sun's position in the sky, etc.
Our use of clocks fits our industrial-age way of life, but it is artificial, isn't it? Whether the clock says it is 5:30 or 6:30, the sun still sets and rises at the same "time" and the natural life of the world continues in its usual way and pace.
Then there is the mystery of our own personal sense of time. How it flies when we are having fun, and drags when we are not, or when we are eager for something in the future to happen as soon as possible.
To further complicate things, our increasingly interconnected internet world, where conversations occur across "time zones" and life keeps getting faster and faster, is warping time in some really interesting ways. I notice in gift catalogs that come at this time of year an increase in items intended to help travelers and others cope with the country and world's various time zones. Stop. What time is right now in London? and isn't it passing strange that the little island country of England would be where "Greenwich mean time" is, or the time by which all other clock time is calculated. Weird.
I have a good mind, now that I am thinking about it, to quit wearing my watch, and look at the clock on our kitchen wall (see pics) as little as possible, just to get more in tune with any innate sense of the passing of "time' I may have left after 69 years in a world/society seemingly ruled by clocks and watches!
Isn't it time you some time took a time out from keeping time?
O dear. I see it's "time" to go!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Walking the Pathway of Gold

A golden opportunity presented itself this morning at sunrise. Literally. Knowing the golden colors of fall would soon be fading, I took my camera, Leo, my flute, and an eager eye on an early walk out in a meadow nearby. From the time I set foot on the path towards the meadow, and all the way through it, everywhere I looked I was surrounded by gold---foliage of gold, flowers of gold, the gold light of the rising sun. I was walking a pathway of gold, though not the kind of gold men came out west for during the gold rush, which brought in its wake the sad consequences of greed and violence, ruined lives, and grievous damage to mother earth. The glorious glow of of gold that gladdened my heart this morning came from the heart and imagination of the Creator of all, bringing nothing but joy.
I saw what I considered a sign of this when I spied a great black desert raven sitting on the tippy top of a tall pine tree along the trail, facing the sun, and cawing in a soft and curiously beautiful way as the sun rose. I took out my flute and joined in the praise. It was a truly magical moment. When the sun had cleared the horizon, the raven flew off, and I kept walking through the world of gold about me, reflecting.
It struck me how full of joy and comfort the beauty of nature is, given so freely and grace-fully to us in so many ways. It is always there for us, whatever may be happening in our lives, and all we have to do is become aware of it and receive the gift--far more precious than metal
gold. And I also realized that the path of life I walk can also be a path of gold if it is the gold in all that I see, in all that happens, that I focus on with a grateful heart.
I could say more, but want instead to share a poem from a wonderful book of poems entitled "Why I Wake Early" by Mary Oliver, one of my favorite poets. She says so eloquently what I have stammered to say. Listen to her......
Every day
I see or I hear
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It is what I was born for----
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world---
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant---
but of the ordinary,
the common,

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
i say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these--
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean's shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Watch for the Signs

John and I arrived last night in our beloved Sedona, one of the most beautiful places in the world. Being here really is the result of "going confidently in the direction of a dream" I have had all my adult life of someday being able to live overlooking the sea and the mountains. I imagined that might be one and the same place, like the beautiful home of a friend I visited years ago in the Virgin Islands, which overlooked mountains and a beach. Instead, I was gifted by Amazing Grace with a home on the Inland sea we call Lake Michigan, and a home at the edge of the Red Rock mountains and wilderness of Sedona.
There is a Native American chant I learned some time ago which goes like this: "I walk in Beauty; beauty is above me, beauty is below me, before me and behind me. Beauty surrounds me."
That is really the essence of my dream: to live and walk in beauty all the days of my life.
For to me, beauty is the Face of God. And it is present, not only in beautiful places, but everwhere, if we just have the eyes to see it, for as the poet said, "beauty is in the eyes of the beholder." There is such beauty in human faces, like the Native American grandmothers pictured above. There is beauty in the sound of the wind, and laughter, and singing.
What makes something beautiful to you or me is a mystery still unravelled by philosophers, but celebrated by poets. One of my favorites is Gerard Manley Hopkins. I love his line "Give beauty, beauty, beauty back to God, Beauty's Self and Beauty's Giver." Well said!
Do you walk in beauty? What beauty did you see today, or yesterday? And what will you do to be more aware of beauty tomorrow? What difference does beauty make in your life?