Another year is (almost) dawning as the Christmas season wanes.
At Christmas, we celebrate, among other things, a fresh start for the human race in the person of the Holy Christ Child. So it seems appropriate to me that shortly after we celebrate this fresh start, we also celebrate the fresh start a new year brings us. And there are special songs to help us celebrate these fresh starts. If you are like me, some of these songs have woven their way through my life for many years.
Out in the land behind our Sedona house I found something that always reminds me of the importance of songs and singing in all the seasons of my life. It is a large red rock formation I call "The Singers" because in the rock pillar I see the silhouettes of two faces looking in opposite directions, and they both seem to be singing. They remind me that one can sing in the midst of the opposites of life and death, joy and sorrow, beginnings and endings.
One of my favorite songs is "How Can I Keep from Singing?"
Here are the words:
My life goes on in endless song above earth's lamentation
I hear the real, though far off song, that hails a New Creation.
Through all the tumult and the strife, its voice to me is ringing.
It sounds an echo in my soul. How can I keep from singing?
Whenever I see these singers, especially on a sunrise walk, I imagine they are singing in the New Creation for which this weary world is waiting.
And so am I!
Here is a poem I wrote to go with the picture of The Singers:
This is the season of Advent in the Christian calendar, and is considered the beginning of the new (liturgical) year. The picture above is taken at sunrise, the beginning of a new day.
Both times are apt for making new beginnings of one kind or another in one's life. Especially as we grow older, inertia can set it, and it is all too easy to keep doing the "same old same old"
in our lives. Change challenges us, and offers opportunities for growth, or at least, for
keeping fresh and flexible.
So, in honor of the new liturgical year and new days, I am going to try something new on my blog.
From time to time, I am going to write poetry in my blog, which has been completely in prose so far. I like to think of my poems as shadows of the soul on the landscape of our lives.
To accompany what I write, I will continue posting my pictures. My new thing will be to post pics of art I have done. I was inspired to do this at a recent meeting I attended at a wonderful local bookstore called, aptly, "The Well Read Coyote." The meeting featured a fine local artist, Susan Pitcairn, who has just published a book which pairs pictures of her beautiful paintings with the poems she wrote as she pondered them. Her book is titled "Spirit of the Earth" in case any of you are inclined to order and read it. (Amazon has it)
As I leafed through her book, I realized how powerful the pairing of art and poetry can be.
I decided I would try doing some of this on my blog. I know my art and poetry are those of an amateur, but they are faithful shadows of my soul, and I want a record of those shadows.
If they are authentic, there will be something in them that may speak to your soul, and that is more than enough reason for me to give this a try.
As I pondered the pic I posted of a shadow of me playing the flute at sunrise out in a field near our Sedona house, this is what came to me:
A sunrise shadow--
a moment caught in music
and golden light.
You will notice I will often write a form of poetry called Haiku. It is my favorite poetic form these days. Writing haiku helps me be more aware of moments in each day that speak to my soul---if I am listening. Being in a haiku habit helps me do that.
One book that has helped me get "into" Haiku is Jane Reichhold's book "Writing and Enjoying Haiku." I recommend it to you if have any interest in the subject.
Snow. Sometimes it comes to Sedona. This is what it looks like from our living room window. I have seen lots of pictures of snow from many of you on Facebook! It is beautiful, wherever it happens, at least when it is freshly fallen. It reminds me of Amazing Grace, which covers the sludge on the streets of our lives, and transforms what seems hum-drum and unattractive into something beautiful.
Snow, however, doesn't stick around out here in the desert southwest. It melts away quickly out here in the sunshine that floods the landscape almost every day. White Christmases are uncommon, as they are in a large part of our huge country. Moreover, a great part of our world has never experienced a white Christmas. Still, the images of Christmas linked with winter and snow are dominant.
When it comes right down to it, is there any logic to this, other than the dominance of cultures familiar with snow? Or is there some kind of deeper,
archetypal linkage between the meaning of Christmas and the symbolism of snow and winter? What do you think?
Of all the things I am grateful for, music is near the top.
I was blessed to grow up in a musical family. My mother was aways singing and humming as she did whatever she was doing. (She still does, at age 101!)
She also played the piano by ear, as well as being able to read notes.
She taught me to do both, and made sure I had piano lessons that took me beyond what she could teach me. When we did dishes, my mother, sister, and I delighted in singing old folk songs and hymns in harmony, which we could also do "by ear."
When our family went on car trips, we spent a lot of time singing all kinds of songs, from "the sublime to the ridiculous" as my mother would say with a smile.
I still enjoy playing the piano as a way of praying as well as relaxing.
And in the past few years, I have also learned to play the native american flute, which I love. A native american flute player told me "just take a deep breath, center yourself, and then let whatever is in you come out as you blow out into the flute." That is what I do, and for me it is the most intuitive way to play music, and it does feel as if it comes straight from my soul.
In earlier years, I learned to play the accordion and psaltery and auto-harp and mouth organ, and even the ukelele a little bit. I never got really good on these instruments, but was content to play them for my own enjoyment. That is one of the reasons I love it that we use the word "play" for what we do with instruments. Playing is something many of us could use more of, and playing music seems to me to be one of the best kinds of play possible.
I think I'll go play a thank-you song on the piano now!
Our reflections: in the water, in mirrors, in windows,and in our heads.
Outer reflections can mirror a moment in which our inner reflections reveal themselves in some way. Have you ever caught a quick glimpse of a reflection of yourself and become newly aware of something about yourself?
In this reflection I am looking down into clear mountain stream water from a bridge. My reflection seems to meld with the reflections of leaves and stones in a way that reveals how imbedded in nature I am. We all are, really. Even if we live in an urban environment and live most of our days and nights barely aware of the natural world, we are nevertheless profoundly and constantly affected by it far beyond our usual awareness.
On unusually beautiful days, or in beautiful places, we become more aware of the gift of the beauty of our world. When natural disasters strike, or we are inconvenienced by bad weather, we become more aware of how powerful nature is,
and how vulnerable we are.
It seems important to me that you and I reflect more on how we are children of a mysterious and vast universe and a marvelous planet. Its elements and processes are reflected in what we are and how our lives evolve.
Take water, for instance. Water composes a large percentage of our bodies.
Water absorbs. So do we---physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.
What we absorb makes a huge difference in our lives, just as what water absorbs makes a huge difference in its quality.
I just posted my delight in recently finding ducks (and other water-fowl) in the desert near here! The place of which I speak is a wetlands, with ponds, bull-rushes and other lush water-plants, and paths winding through it all, made possible by the creative use of human waste by the local water purification plant. Here is what it looks like.
As I walked through this park, I was musing thusly:
I wonder what sort of purification process I/we/you need in order to turn our--um--(you know the words for human waste!)
stinky, dis-ease carrying thoughts/attitudes/words into fertile, life-giving substance?
What works for me?
Well, gratitude, for one. And not just for what it is easy to be grateful for.
Gratitude for the trials, the struggles, the pain---all of it.
And, encouraging myself and others, when it would be so easy to be nothing but critical, to "let something good be said."
And this: to expand the Golden Rule to not only doing to others as I would want them to do to me, but even thinking and speaking of others as I would want them to think and speak of me.
I thought of all the you-know-what that would purify. And it looked pretty good to me.
People often use the expression "A Blast from the Past" when hearing from someone they have not seen or heard from for a long time. I experienced a different and very impressive "Blast from the past" when my husband John and I visited the Meteor Crater site about a half hour's drive east of Flagstaff on I-40. This blast happened, scientists think, about 500,000 years ago. A meteor hit the earth on this site and created a mile big crater, blowing itself into smithereens in the process. There are pieces of it in a few museums, including in Chicago and New York's natural history museums. Apparently, meteors have slammed into the earth regularly for millennia, but most don't get noticed because they plunge into the ocean. Some, of course, cause spectacular destruction wherever they land on earth. And more are coming our way. There is actually an organization dedicated to figuring out how to protect humanity for the possible catastrophe of a meteor hit on land in the future. Now I confess that on my list of stuff to worry about, especially natural disasters, this particular kind has never made it anywhere near the top. It just wasn't on my radar. And I don't think that it will ascend to a very much higher status on my "dangers to be concerned about" list. After we saw the short film that portrayed how scientists and others are planning to try and protect the earth (though cost was never mentioned!) I asked myself, "How much energy and time are we going to put into trying to protect ourselves from this sort of thing? Are there not immediate, already-with-us disasters in the making we should be putting more resources and thought into averting? Like nuclear accidents or war? Catastrophic climate changes because of our life-style? epidemics? monster hurricanes and floods? You get the picture and I am sure you could mention other causes for concern. But all this raises yet another question: How much of our energy, imagination, resources, and intelligence is it wise to invest in possible disasters? That goes for us as individuals too. How much can we realistically avoid or prevent of all the dire things that might happen? Yes, life is fragile and uncertain. Which makes it all the more precious and worth savoring. I certainly would rather focus on creating, on making the most of my life while I can, on serving others, on enjoying this gorgeous world. I don't want to live under the dark shadow of fear. In spite of all the threats to my/our/the world's well being which lurk out there, I choose to believe that, as Shakespeare said, "There is a Providence that shapes our ends, rough hew them as we will." And, as Lady Julian the famous mystic famously said, "All will be well and all manner of things will be well." Some days, that is not an easy thing to believe, but I get to choose and so I do! One day at a time.
I have now lived on this earth, this stunningly beautiful and challenging planet, for 72 years. I arrived here as World War II was getting underway, and right in the thick of it too. My parents were on their way from the USA to serve as medical missionaries in India. They took the last civilian ship allowed across the Pacific, because of the spread of the war. My mother was great with child. That would be me. The ship sailed from San Francisco and docked in Rangoon. My mother went into labor two weeks prematurely, and they had to race her up the river that ran from the harbor into the city in a sampan. She gave birth to me at Dufferin Hospital. A few days later, all ex-patriates were warned to flee the city, because of an imminent Japanese attack. My parents managed to secure passage on a boat sailing across the Bay of Bengal to Calcutta. There was a big storm but they had to leave. My mother gets motion sickness easily. Can you imagine how tough it was for her to make this passage under such duress with a new premature baby in arms? The made it to Calcutta and from there took trains( with me in a little basket: I still have a picture of myself in it) all the way across India to Karachi in what is now Pakistan. Shortly after arriving there, they were notified by telegram that my mother's father, in his mid-fifties, had been killed in a car crash. Shortly after that, Pearl Harbor happened, and they were notified that my mother's brother had enlisted in the Navy as the USA joined the war. During the first two years of my life, my mother almost died of hepatitis. My father also got very sick. And before I was five I almost died of rheumatic fever.
I called my mom, who is now 101, to thank her for her hard labor in giving me birth and all she underwent to care for me in very tough circumstances. She just laughed. It must be the perspective she has at her advanced age! So. I am still here. And so are all of you who are reading this. And I bet you have had what my mom describes as "close calls" too. Why was I spared to go on living? Why were you? My father told me, when I was in high school and we were having a "heart to heart" talk that he thought God spared my life because there were things God wanted me to do and be in service to the world. What do you think? To me the rainbow is a beautiful symbol of the chances we all get, over and over again, to make a fresh start, to try to do better, to create anew. More about that in my next blog.
Hello again, friends! After more than two and a half years, I am back to blogging.
During the interim, I got on FaceBook with the aid of my daughter Rachel.
I enjoy it in many ways, but it doesn't provide me with a place to share my musings about life.
Facebook is like a snapshot; blogging is more like….well, let's just say more. I am going to let my friends on FaceBook know I am back on my blog, and how to find me. And I hope some folks find me who I don't even know----yet. So why, with all the kinds of media communication out there, do I choose to blog again? First, honestly, for my own sake. It keeps me musing, keeps me writing, and helps me feel connected with others. It also surfaces, clarifies, and expresses things that don't seem to come up when I don't do this. In a way, it feels like a sort of public journal, a way to let others know what I am experiencing and pondering below the surface events of (my) life. As I scroll back through my blogs, I have come to realize what a valuable record they are of all this. In fact, I have a three-ring notebook with all my previous blogs printed up in it, book-fashion. As you might guess, I love books, and I like having things I have written in that kind of format, not just in digital form on a computer. That feels too "ether--eal" !
I happen to believe that we all do whatever we do in the first place for ourselves, even when we call it service to others, or social action, or whatever other label we use. That doesn't mean we don't also do whatever it is for others too. But it's both. Let me give you an example. I give someone who needs it a ride to the doctor. I don't really like driving all that much, but still, its not just to help the other person, it's for me too. I will feel good that I did it. I am willing to have this experience, and be with this person needing a ride, for I expect I will learn something or get something else valuable from this act of service. That includes any so-called "negative" part of the experience. Ponder what you do, and assume you are doing it, at least in part, for yourself. What comes up for you? I look forward to your comments on that following this blog!