Ever Widening Circles

It is the little things. The little things that are so simple, so mundane that it is easy to gloss over them with the simple, mindless movement used for brushing teeth or wiping down a kitchen counter. It’s often the little things that bring a touchstone, provide a ritual reminder of who we are and what it is we value most. These are the places and times of pure enjoyment and recognition of the privilege of being alive.

One such quirky ‘little thing’ for me is the ritual exercised at the end of each month when I make my way from calendar to calendar in our house and in my office as I turn the page to the next month, the new month. Yes. I am one of those people who still, in addition to the digital calendar on my phone and computer, has paper calendars. Lovely calendars of beautiful artwork that makes me wake up and feel something….joy, beauty, blessing, hope…..when I look at their pages. The sterile, factual black and white letters and numbers of my digital calendar can never do this. 

So on Wednesday as I made my ritual walk from calendar to calendar,turning the pages from June to July, I looked back at what had been in those first days of summer. Memories of lovely time with family and friends washed over me. Just as I turned the page on June, these words printed at the bottom of the page of one calendar, echoed their truth:”We experience ourselves as separate from the rest….We must free ourselves from this delusion…by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” The words are those of Albert Einstein. Not bad as a source of wisdom. I jotted down the words onto one of the many scraps of paper I keep tucked into books and a compartment in my purse so I could spend more time with them later.

What I realized about these words is that they make up a piece of my own personal faith statement and what I hope guides my life. This being a part of an ever widening circle of connection has been something I commit to every day. It is what keeps me honest and sane and, hopefully, a gentler, kinder human being. It is also what fills me with wonder and awe and deep humility that I get to have this life, this living, on this floating ball of blue and green in a Universe I can never possibly understand or comprehend. This widening circle is what keeps me from making more statements of surety than I ought and nudges me to try….to try…to understand more fully all I might believe to be ‘other’. It is always what keeps me in love with the world in all its beauty and terror.

Over the past weeks we have been overwhelmed with talk about ‘other’. I cannot call them conversations because that implies a give and take of listening that has rarely been present. In all the various media, we have been present to the digging in of heels and hearts over love, how we care for one another in illness and health, what symbols we hold sacred. I have been hoping for an ‘ever widening circle of compassion’, one in which we can see how intertwined we are in this living, not separate as we often like to act and speak. This ever widening circle of compassion calls us to a humility about which all our faith traditions speak. It is the language of love…..even when we disagree, even when we are still working on edging out thoughts and beliefs of separation. 

While in northern Wisconsin these last few days, I was reminded of this delusion of separation. Each day we were treated to an incredible sunset in which the Sun was hot pink, red, orange and various shades that seemed as showy as a Vegas dancer. Why? Because our skies are the same skies as those in Canada where fires are burning and sending smoke and color our way. While the beauty was amazing, the haze created kept us from seeing the night sky as we often can. A gift and a challenge. Isn’t it nearly always so?

In addition to the sky, we watched as a family stopped to prod a large turtle with a stick across the road to help hurry up its nature lest it be shattered by a less observant driver. Four humans poured compassionate connection onto this prehistoric creature. Only a few moments later a covey of grouse flew in front of our car while one of its members instead plowed into the side of our vehicle narrowly missing flying into the driver’s open window and my husband’s head. Shaking ourselves out of the shock of this encounter we turned our car around to check on its stunned body before watching it move quickly to rejoin those with wings. The experience widened our circle of compassion. 

How are you committed to widening your circle of compassion? The joy of it is that it is work that lasts a lifetime. The hope of it is the healing of the world.

  

Grace Squared

Grace squared. Grace multiplied by grace. It is a term Anne Lamott uses in one of her essays. I thought of these words, this concept as I drove through the Wisconsin countryside yesterday and was treated to field after field of wildflowers. All along roads and far out into fields, color dotted the green grass and flanked the pavement. It seemed almost too much of a gift to receive. Yellow, orange, dainty white and the occasional purple made brush strokes across the landscape…….all colors no one intentionally planted…..placed there simply to surprise and dazzle by an unseen hand. Grace squared.

The last weeks I seem to have been blessed by this grace over and over. In Washington a week ago, we climbed on the pathways of Mount Ranier. Higher above us snow covered the rock that climbers had come to conquer. Further down the mountain fields of wildflowers took my breath away. How did they get here? Whose plan was this? Why do they flourish so in all their variety and beauty? The sweetness of each blossom seemed to provide miracle upon miracle. Unlike the well thought out placement of the lovely flowers that make up our garden and the yards of neighbors, these colorful wonders have no particular rhyme or reason in their presentation and yet are more beautiful than any well manicured garden. The randomness only contributes to their beauty.

Driving along the country roads of Wisconsin, climbing further and further north, I became aware of the tall, white Queen Ann’s Lace that lined the roadside. I was reminded of a time when I was a small child. My mother and I had picked these dainty but showy flowers. At home in our kitchen my mother filled drinking glasses with water and drops of food coloring. Cutting the stems of the flowers she placed them in the colored water and I watched as the color traveled up the stem and into the petals creating a rainbow of flowers that had only minutes before been a pure white. At that moment I had the feeling that my mother must be the smartest and most clever woman who ever lived. These roadside wildflowers had created an experience of magic that dazzled my young eyes and heart.

Wild flowers are a sign for me of a God who wants us to wake us up. They are a visual reminder that there are things for which we do not, can not, plan. They are also another reminder that humans are not always the ones who create the beauty or paint the pictures of wonder. The seeds of these wild flowers came from……who knows where? They made their way to their planting place through the power of wind and wings and the walking about of mostly the four leggeds who carried that seed and then deposited it. From there the seeds spread and multiplied and created the blankets of flowers I have witnessed of late. It is a wildness we are a part of, a wildness that we don’t often think about or remember. It is a wildness on which we depend.      

Grace…..the free and unmerited, unasked for favor of the Sacred. Grace squared becomes a free favor that shows up in an abundance, that has us saying: ” What? Are you sure? You’ve got to be kidding! This is just all too much for little ‘ole me.” The appropriate response is then one of deep gratitude: ” Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”

And so that is what I have been doing for days now. Thank you for the Queen Ann’s Lace! Thank you he-loves-me, he-loves-me not Daisies! Thank you for the purple lupines! Thank you for the Marsh Marigolds! Thank you for the buttercups! Thank you for the Paintbrushes in all their colors….orange, magenta, scarlet! Thank you for the dainty lilies and especially the Pasqueflowers, spreading peace in their wake! 

For wildness and those who sow it and for the Sacred’s wake up call, my heart is filled to overflowing…..thank you!

  

Lost At Sea

Last week in Seattle, I had one of those recurring experiences that can happen when you remove yourself from your every day surroundings and begin to immerse yourself in ways of life uncommon to you. One afternoon we walked along the harbor and looked at the large fishing boats and yachts that make their way from the waters of Puget Sound out to the ocean. Many of these vessels were luxurious and beautiful with exotic names. We wondered about what we would name such a boat if we were ever to have one. Others were definitely working boats…paint was well worn, nets were scattered on the deck and nearby dock, coolers and lobster traps littered the area around them. 

In addition to the boats, people….mostly men…walked about in tall, rubber boots and what looked like overall waders worthy of their wet work. The clothes they needed to do their daily tasks was so far from anything I need that I had to laugh. Many of their faces showed the leathery skin of those who have spent much time in the sun and salt air. Lined skin relayed the hard work of the sea and being married to the lure of those waters.

Being a Midwesterner all my life, with only smaller lakes and rivers as the water that calls to me, these boats and this way of life is not familiar and is something I may want to romanticize. Many of the sites that caught my eye that afternoon belied the difficult and dangerous work that these who provide fish for dinner tables across the country face every day. A difficulty and danger that I have never considered. 

That is until I stood at the monument to ‘Those Lost at Sea” and began to read the names etched on bricks that lay beneath my feet. It was in a sense a memorial for the sailors who had given their lives…..some recovered from the sea and others not……so that we may enjoy the sweetness of salmon and the flakiness of cod deep fried on a Friday night. I marveled at the number of them, some who perished decades ago and others who were lost only last year. Like many places honoring the lives of loved ones, some of the bricks had flowers laid nearby. Others displayed little trinkets now faded by the sun. I watched as one man read each brick one by one making his way from the lost to the lost. It was as if he was paying homage to each soul now departed.

The truth is I do not have experience with the concept of being lost at sea. It is not something I have ever thought much about. But I do have a memory of a knitter friend who told of how women from the Celtic lands would knit particular patterns in the sweaters their fishermen wore, patterns that allowed them to be identified by the swirl and knots of yarn if they were lost at sea. I have never looked at an Irish sweater the same since.

It is unlikely that I or any of my nearest kin will ever be lost while sailing a boat on large waters. But we, all of us, will be lost from time to time. It is a condition of being human. We lose our way at some point of each and every day. We forget to notice the beauty around us or are distracted by the minute details that draw us from the path we hoped to travel. Sometimes we get lost trying to make our way toward a cherished dream or as we traverse a relationship. Other times we get lost trying to do the right thing or trying not to give into what we believe to be the wrong thing. Getting lost and being found is a part of the dance of life.

When I was in high school I sang in a choir that did a medley of the anthems of our US armed services. My favorite of the group was the Navy hymn. I loved how the bass part rolled like the waves of the sea: 

Eternal Father, strong to save,

Whose arm hath bound the restless wave, 

Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep

Its own appointed limits keep;

Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,

For those in peril on the sea! 

For all those who are in peril on the sea this day, prayers of protection. For all those in danger of being lost at sea, prayers of rescue. For all of us who may be wandering in some state of lost, prayers of finding solid ground, prayers of finding home.

  

Hoarding

These are dark days. Even though the Summer Solstice greeted us with enormous light over the weekend, I couldn’t help but feel the overshadowing weight of what happened in South Carolina blocking that light. Even the brilliant sun throwing its entrance to summer party was lessened by another reminder of the terror humans can visit upon one another. The groaning of Creation and Creator cut straight through the warm and yellow rays of a brilliantly beautiful day. Our collective hearts are broken and at the same time numbed by the horror of events like this that seem to be happening over and over again with no end in site, no wisdom gained, no change made.
At some point of the last days I realized what I wanted to do was hoard…..that’s right…..hoard. I wanted to begin hoarding all the kindness, gentleness, beauty and hope I could fit into the cracks and crevices of the brokenness. I wanted to pile high the lovely words that have been spoken, will be spoken, in a lifetime. I wanted to spend time looking at the tiniest of creatures and marveling once again at their being, their impossible being. I wanted to spend time listening to a young child’s laughter, the kind that makes it impossible to not also laugh and hear the way children break into song at the drop of a hat. I wanted to join in that song until voices become raw with the joy of the music. I wanted to sit still and be present to the gift of the present moment and to know myself blessed beyond believing.I wanted to hoard all of this….in closets and drawers, in hallways and garages, in the deep recesses of my heart.

Flying out to Seattle on Friday morning, I noticed a young man’s t-shirt as he made his way through the aisle of the plane. It was a brand new shirt, gray with bright blue letters: ‘Team William’ it read in large letters across his slender chest. Below it the signature hash tag mode of communication of these days:#BillGetWell. I wondered who Bill was and who this young was in relationship to him. Father? Uncle? Teacher? Coach? Friend? Was he coming to Seattle to do some kind of benefit for Bill, something to help with the financial implications of his unknown illness? I reflected on this young man’s desire to be a part of William’s ‘team’ and all the care and concern, the commitment to another’s life it communicated. 

In the shadows that prevailed, I held this young man’s movement as a sign of what is right with the world. The truth is that there are more people like this young man making their way through their lives than the one we now know caused so much pain in a small, historic church in Charleston. There are more people choosing to stand side by side with those in pain, illness, despair, hopelessness than there are those who are bent on destruction. I found a special place for all those who are signing on to be on someone’s Team today to the hoarding I am doing.

It would be easy to say that this hoarding I crave is a way of avoiding the issues, of putting my head in the proverbial sand. Perhaps, that is partially true. But I believe this act piling and holding onto things is doing something else. It is allowing the building blocks of hope to have a more solid ground and from that hope change is born. It is ground that is a reminder of our goodness as humanity, of our being made in the Image. A ground that is stronger in love and compassion than it is in hate and indifference. It is a grounding that is a reminder of the invisible lines of connection that hold us all together and, in the end I believe, will not let us go and will propel us to face up to the racism and injustice that runs through our veins and through the tributaries on our nation.

These lines can make us weep with despair and also rejoice with elation. They can take our breath away with beauty and also with terror. They are lines that pull us toward facing the work that must be done before we can become the beloved community we are called to be. Some see this more clearly than others which is one more reason to hold on through it all and to continue to hoard what will become the reminders of our goodness, of our strength and of our power. We need all the best of each other more than ever at times like this.

And so I am hoarding all the good bits……

   

The Act of Noticing

Do you remember Monday? This past Monday, I mean. It was such a nearly perfect day that I am still trying to conjure its presence. Waking early, I walked through our neighborhood allowing the morning creatures,those who also rise early, to serenade me. Birds whose songs I enjoy but cannot name created a soundtrack for my morning walk. Everywhere I looked color was bursting forth into the world. Dew lingered on hosta leaves looking like tiny lakes for fairies that must live just beneath these enormous, green umbrellas. People and their dogs were out…..animals with noses in the air experiencing something my human abilities could not fathom. Runners moved along morning routes taking it all in or, sadly, plugged into something that was keeping them from the morning concert. At least one young child, still in pajamas with bed-head hair hopped around outside, the memory of last night’s fun still present in his summer mind.

My drive on Monday took me along my leisurely path, the one I use when the day requires more meditation than speed. Most other people refer to it as the East River Road. Monday it was flooded with bikers. Coexisting with them as I was required to do made me think of the skill needed to drive in Amsterdam where bikers zip and fly, ruling the road over cars and walkers. It took all my energy to be present to them as my eyes were drawn to the day’s beauty unfolding, offering itself to me. Pay attention! Lives are at stake!

Making my final turn before merging onto the frontage road that would take me onto the short distance of freeway left before arriving at the office, I saw the one person who had truly dressed for the day in an appropriate manner. In the crosswalk as I waited for the light to turn, a tall, stately Somali woman sauntered leisurely across the street. Her long, flowing dress was of a deep, rich green with swirling, colorful paisley patterns just at the hem and moving up one side. Over her head was a long, kelly green cloth outlined with green sequins. My face opened up in an enormous smile. She looked like the Queen of this perfect morning. I looked down at my drab, understated clothes. This woman had dressed for the day. I wore a uniform.

All these experiences reminded me of something I had heard while listening to the radio on Sunday morning. I heard a person being interviewed say “There are things you don’t see when you are sleepwalking through your daily life.” It is true, isn’t it? Most of the time I am a sleepwalker. Are you? Quite often I can move through whole swathes of a day and not remember having been in those minutes, hours, experiences. 

And then there are days that will not allow this kind of behavior. Days that seem to work overtime to get our attention. Monday was one of them. I remember thinking that it was a shame I couldn’t simply give myself to that day, that I couldn’t just continue the work of noticing and never make my way into the office. I was fairly certain the young child in its pajamas I had seen earlier would do the work of noticing all day which is, after all, the work of children. I was also sure that the dogs would spend the day following their noses, breathing in the full, rich odors of an early summer day. And the woman in green? Her clothes would allow her to be a part of the celebration moving through the masterpiece the Earth was creating with each passing moment. There was a sadness of responsibility and loss that washed over me that I could not join their company.

Perhaps it is not possible to live a whole day doing the work of noticing. But it is possible to at least give attention to some moments or parts of the day, to wake up from our sleepwalking with an attention to the things we do not want to miss in these precious, fleeting days of summer. Can you do it? Can you choose a few moments to notice? It is risky business. This act of noticing might send you outside in your pajamas……or with your nose held high in the air breathing in the goodness. Or better yet, it might even find you dressing up to walk regally through Creation claiming your place as Queen or King of the day. 

Perhaps it is a good day for each of us to wipe the sleep from our eyes and begin noticing.

  
 

I Was Here

As humans, one of our great desires is to know that our living has made a difference, that somehow others will notice that we are here….have been here. This takes many forms. Some are heroic and prophetic. Others are gentle and understated. The chronicle of this happens as we consider our legacy or even write a resume. “Here are the ways I have shown up in the world.”, we say with each black slash on the white page, with each word that is spoken. As we live out our days which is after all the living of our lives, we cut away at the stone that will remind those who come after that we were here, that our lives mattered. It is actually a Beyoncé song that seems to speak to this……I wanna leave my footprints on the sands of time…..Know there was something that, meant something that I left behind……When I leave this world, I’ll leave no regrets……Leave something to remember, so they won’t forget…..I was here…..I lived, I loved……I was here.

It is something I was reminded of on a walk around Lake Como last week. Taking in the emerging spring on one of the few days without rain, my husband and I made our way around this sweet lake. People were out on the lake in paddleboats begging summer to arrive. Others walked dogs whose noses pointed heavenward as they took in all the fresh smells that had not long ago been buried beneath ice and snow. We observed ducks with young ones lined up behind the parent, learning how to maneuver the lake’s waters while on logs nearby turtles lined up to sun themselves. Honeysuckle sent sweet scents into the air and water irises bloomed on the banks. People were fishing and stood poised in hope. We followed a monarch…..yes!….from leaf to leaf as we tried to snap a photo of its early and longed for presence. It was a pure experience of pastoral beauty.

As we made a turn in the path and headed toward our car, I noticed a large stone. On the stone was a 21st century ‘cave’ drawing completed with gravel that had been found nearby. It was an image of a little girl created by placing stones into a form that delivered the sweet innocence of a child. I stopped in my tracks and took the time to notice it realizing that to notice the creation was also to honor the one who had created it. The image said….”I was here….I am alive….I was here.” 

It was not an expensive or fancy monument to a life but it was a monument none the less. I thought of all the times in the scriptures when stones were stacked to create an altar or at least a reminder that someone ‘was here’ and that the Holy had moved in that life. I also thought of the ways the Celts and other indigenous cultures stack stones to mark an important moment. All are ways for the human to say “I was here” and to remember that we are forever seen and known by the One who breathed us all into being. 

Many times we can feel invisible. Is anyone noticing that we are here? The greatest gift we can give another person is our presence to their living. It is what we all long for even when we cannot name it. How do you long to be noticed? How can you offer the gift of being present to another this day?

Each day we lay another stone that says we were here. May this day and every day be blessed with noticing. 

  

A Certain Order

There is a certain order to most things. That is, until there isn’t. I got to experience this first hand last week while staying at a hotel while attending a conference. It is a hotel I stay in nearly every year so I have a certain order, a particular rhythm to my arrival, my waking and sleeping, my departure. However, this year many of the things I had come to expect and count on were upended. Upon arrival I was thrown into the renovation of the hotel lobby as it changes from one owner to another. Walking into the space that had always been sleek and orderly, I was confronted head on with boxes piled high, floors that were ripped up and in the process of being tiled, chairs and sofas wrapped in plastic and stacked like doll house furniture. It was immediately unnerving as a feeling of having walked into the set of a DIY show washed over me.

At first I wondered about the noise. What time did the workers arrive…..as a saw that cut tile blared in my ears? Is the health club open? No. Will there be breakfast? Yes, but in a different room….one you get to through the torn up hallway and up the ramp. But I was soon to learn that the noise would be the least of my concerns. Over hearing that a wedding was happening in just two days and the space had to be ready, I began to notice how the tilers were still working at 10:00 o’clock at night and may literally have worked throughout the night for all I knew. I winced as we traipsed across the tiles, newly laid, not yet grouted. “Aren’t they supposed to ‘rest’ awhile before people can walk on them?” Someplace this cautionary voice from some long ago home project rang out in my head.

Coming down in the early morning, and I do mean early, the workers were already there, painting, hanging wallpaper, tiling, grouting….all simultaneously. Standing in the wings, others waited and as soon as one of these tasks was nearly completed, they swooped in to hang drapes while the wallpaper was still being smoothed. (My mother would have been horrified.)A few feet away surrounded by boxes both empty and still full, another worker was wiring up the large screen television setting the channel to a pastoral landscape that seemed so incongruous to what was going on all around. Scrape, swoosh, slap, bang. The sounds of frantic remodeling and decorating continued. 

As I walked into the lobby and climbed over yellow ‘caution’ tape,I noticed one nook of the lobby had been filled with furniture and there were now books on the shelves. Only a few feet away workers knelt still laying flooring and others stood on scaffolding, painting and hanging wallpaper near the ceiling. “What if the paint drops”, I thought, “or the wallpaper comes crashing down on the unprotected new furniture?” 

Each trip through the lobby raised my anxiety level. Upstairs, hotel staff were working away preparing the room where the wedding reception would happen. White lights twinkled in the doorways and across the ceiling. Tablecloths were being spread on tables while the dance floor was being prepared. Downstairs was pandemonium and upstairs everything was slowly unfolding.

Since I have returned from this experience, I have thought back so many times about what it all triggered in me. I recognized that it was not the clutter or even the work that seemed impossible to complete in a timely way that got to me. It was that the process they were employing seemed so out of an order I understood. Floors, painting, wallpapering,then furniture, artwork, drapes. That’s an order I get. But who said it had to be that way?

My sense is that the couple who was married and had their reception at this hotel won’t have a clue as to what took place the days before they arrived in celebration. It won’t matter a lick that the drapes were hung before the floor was finished and that the television was set to go before the furniture was in place. In the end, it all worked out which is all that really matters. 

There is a certain order to things……until there isn’t.

  

    

Becoming

A couple of weeks ago I was at a dinner where someone made the statement that  ’the only constant is becoming’. I quickly wrote it down on a piece of paper and tucked it in my purse. But this concept….this truth….has been traveling with me ever since I heard it. While we often say the only constant is change, ‘becoming’ has a different feel to it, doesn’t it? Often we can push back against what we perceive as change, but becoming……now that is a different thing altogether. Becoming fits right up there with blossoming and evolving, with emerging and unfolding. These words carry such promise.

Right now there is so much to visibly notice that is becoming. I have kept my eye on the irises reaching their long, leggy stems toward the sky. Like green arrows they are shooting up from their winter home. At their green ends a hint of purple is in its own act of becoming…..becoming the dainty flower that will offer its fragile, fleeting beauty to the world. It is this human’s blessed work to be witness to its becoming.

The month of May is the time to attend graduation parties of those young ones whose lives we have watched unfold. Many we have known since birth and we have watched their movement from infant to toddler, from gangly children to petulant adolescent. And now their becoming has brought them most often to a place of confident young adulthood, ready to take the next steps along a journey that lives in the imagination. Each has chosen the next steps of becoming, choices that will surprise and challenge, choices that will confound and trouble. 

Becoming is the currency of living. It is also the legacy of creativity and what we were all called to by our very birth. It is the ground into which we were all planted. Like the irises that are reaching toward the sun in their becoming, we each reach for those elements that guide us toward what is pulling us toward blossom. Books we cherish. Friendships that companion us. Silence that connects with soul. Art that inspires. Landscapes that remind us of our origins. Relationships that fill us with love and humility. So many contributions to our becoming.

This past week I have been at the annual gathering of United Methodists around Minnesota. It is always a wonderful time to see friends and colleagues, some not seen but at this one time in spring. It is a time of worship,reports,connection, legislation, voting, speaking, listening, singing and laughter. There are also tears of grief as we remember those who have served churches and who have died in the past year. And there are tears of joy for those being ordained into ministry in the church. It is a few days when we can recognize, if we are aware, the becoming that has happened, is happening,to this institution and the lives of the people who bring flesh and blood to its created structure. Some of the becoming is welcomed, hoped for…….and other forms of becoming are ones that many push against and seek to reject, want no part of.

And yet becoming continues. Whether we like it, long for it, reject it or resist it. What might our lives be like if we leaned into the becoming that is presenting itself right now? How might we wake up to the becoming that is planning its arrival? One of my spiritual mentors, Anne Lamott, throws these words of becoming out for us to ponder…..”Because this business of becoming conscious, of being a writer, is ultimately about asking yourself, How alive am I willing to be?

Whatever path of becoming is calling to you, niggling its way into the soil of your soul, perhaps the ultimate question is ‘How alive am I willing to be?’ Indeed…..whether iris or graduating student, whether church or individual lives…..being alive, fully alive seems the real, deep act of this becoming work.

So…..How alive are you willing to be? Becoming is happening. How will we give ourselves to it?

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Fallow Time

Fallow. This is a word that floated into my mind yesterday. I have no idea where it came from but knew it was significant. Most often the word is used to describe farmland……. land that is ‘plowed and harrowed but left unsown for a period in order to restore its fertility.’ It has been some time since I sat down to add to these pages or taken up any of the creative work that fills me up. The spring has been coming to our days but I have found myself in a place of distance from it. It has been unclear what that is about and so I have been sitting with it, trying to make sense of what it might be that has caused me to remove myself from some of the very things that bring life. Certainly putting words together on a page is one of those life-giving activities and yet I have found myself pushing away, choosing instead to do other things, anything, that would occupy my time and my thoughts. Has this ever happened to you? But as the word ‘fallow’ floated to the surface of my psyche, I realized it was what I had allowed for in the creativity that often marks my days.

Usually when these experiences come, the tendency is to think that something is ‘wrong’, that something must be ‘fixed’ in order to get the wheels rolling again. As the word ‘fallow’ was offered to me yesterday, I realized I did not need do a thing. It seemed such a relief that I actually quickly wrote the word down so I would have its memory, its companionship. I carried it with me throughout the day and allowed its presence to expand within me. I said it over and over….fallow, fallow, fallow.

We live in a world that demands constant production. We are pushed by many outer forces to be doing something at all times. Each day can be filled with so many tasks to be accomplished that we can find ourselves in a perpetual state of disappointment. That outer push creates a home even in our inner lives making it difficult for us to simply sit and be, to take the time to ‘do nothing’, to allow for our mind and spirits to be unsown for a time, making room for creativity to germinate. Fallow time. 

In the scriptures, we read the commands to allow fields to go fallow in the seventh year. From these fields will spring new life and the poor will be fed says the writer of Exodus. And the Sufi poet Rumi writes:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing………..and rightdoing there is a field……..I’ll meet you there…….When the soul lies down in that grass………..the world is too full to talk about.

Have you had the experience where the ‘world is too full to talk about.’? Perhaps some fallow time is in order. Perhaps a respite from all that pulls at your time is the prescription. Perhaps allowing the soul to lie down in the grass beyond any idea of what is right or what is wrong with the world, your life, your day, your desires, your hopes is what is called for.

I am imagining what happens to the soil of a field allowed to go fallow for a year. As the plowed, unsown soil soaks up the warmth of the Sun and embraces the rain as it flows down into its deepest places, nutrients begin to restore. The gentle winds of a year and the storms that rearrange the smallest of particles create a new chemistry for what will come in the year ahead. I can imagine the soil breathing in, resting in the elements that nourish, renewing for growth that is yet unimagined.

And so it is with us. When the soil of our souls is allowed a fallow time, new life will begin to find form, form we could not have had the energy or imagination for without the time of rest. 

So be it.

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Summer List


If you were busy enjoying the beautiful weather over the weekend, you may have not known that summer arrived. That is, in the Celtic calendar. The season of Beltane arrived on May 1st…May Day in some cultures….and is with us until the end of July. So….happy summer! While our mornings and evenings are still cool and do not feel so summer-like, all one need do is keep a window open and be awakened at 4:30 a.m. to know that the seasons have definitely changed. Whether you call it full-on spring or just plain summer, is up to you.

For many years I have used a small devotional book that follows these Celtic seasons. It is simply called Celtic Devotional and is written by Caitlin Matthews. Each of the four seasons has both a morning and evening prayer practice but also outlines some suggestions for approaching each season. I was particularly drawn to a few of the suggested intentions set forth for Beltane….the season of summer.

They begin: Regularly assess your motivations and your use of the gift of life. I don’t know about you but sometimes my true motivations get obscured by all manner of things……obligation, habit, pleasing others, stubbornness, magical thinking to name only a few. Why do we do the things we do? And what might our days be like if we paid particular attention and were truthful about our motivations. Would this lead to a more honest look at how we use the gift that is our very life? I somehow believe it would.

The suggestions go on: In this busy season, make time for proper soul-nurture. Of course this is an intention for every season. But somehow, in summer, it has been my experience that we can tend to schedule ourselves at the big smorgasbord that is this glorious season without taking the needed time to reflect, to be still, to be silent in the face of all that is being revealed to us. How are we living with the rhythm of summer rather than running full speed into what will soon be autumn? How is the power and presence of Sun’s movements calling to us to slow down and be present to the ‘gift of our life’?

Walk and meditate outdoors for at least a half-hour every day. I did this yesterday. I will confess that I most often walk outside with my phone, using the exercise time to catch up on phone calls. Yes, I am one of those people…..walking along talking to an unseen person. But yesterday I walked with only myself and the grand array as company. I walked like a toddler….or a dog….noticing every new addition to the landscape. Trees are slowly turning from their yellow-green springness to a darker green that spells summer. Tulips, crocuses, daffodils, azaleas…..and oh, my…….the magnolias! One house on my path had white, pink AND lavender lilacs….each with their own sweet scent. 

As you travel through the country of Summer, relate your spiritual journey to the bright gifts of this season. And how could we not, if we are awake, if we are present to all the glory that is everywhere? To see the possibility in each seed that is planted, each flower that is emerging from the tomb of earth that is winter. To gaze at a dandelion and declare it not weed but beauty and beacon for the honeybees that feed us all. To watch the path of the Sun and allow the Moon to bathe us in its ever-changing light. All these speak to the grace and mercy that is gift of the One who breathed us all into being and travels with us in both the darkness and the light of our lives.

The final suggestion: Create a spontaneous dance that physically expresses your kinship with the universe. It seems the only sensible thing to do, doesn’t it? So, welcome to summer. May it find each of us dancing for the gift of our life and the gifts of the life that is bursting forth all around us. I hope to see and do a lot of dancing as the days of summer come into their fullness.  Won’t you join me?