The darkness has not overcome [the light.]
John 1: 5 b
The darkness has not overcome [the light.]
John 1: 5 b
The light shines in the darkness. . .
Autumn is giving us her final wild, brilliant dance. Then she will collapse and rest.
Seeds are blowing. Who knows where? They too will enter a period of rest.
During the rest some things will go dormant.; others will begin to decay. Rest and decay prepare the soil for those waiting seeds and other new growth.
During this time of world turmoil combined with our own personal struggles it is important to find times to rest physically and internally.
I want to remember to stop. I want to take time to enjoy autumn’s artistry and ponder what might need to have its final fling within me – to let it rest or even decay. My desire is to meditate on those hidden seeds that may be blowing
around in me, carrying on their hidden, unidentified life. I hope to notice what I might need to do to prepare my inner soil.
Will you join me? Will you take time to rest and listen even though many other things demand your attention. Come find your autumnal, wild, brilliant dance.
Come dance, prepare and rest.
“. . .the evidence of God is in the roundness of things.” –Wally Lamb, I Know This Much Is True
The invitation: As you go through your day notice the shapes of things around you, both inside and out. What is the shape of the various areas of your life?
There are five beautiful, perfect eggs in the blue bird nest now. It’s exciting! Just the thought that there might be babies who live to fledge, that I might get to watch them learning to fly is wonderful!
But I’m blocked. I’m used to getting up and going outside. While waiting for my coffee I take the dog out onto the deck. Or we walk around the yard. We breathe deeply. The dog breathes many places. I like to feel the ground under my feet or at least the deck boards. I like to smell the weather – to get a feel for the day.
Now every time I step out back the blue bird flies off her nest. This is worrisome for me. It has been chilly and damp. I do not want her eggs to get too cold. I don’t know how long it takes for cold and damp to creep into a warm nest enclosed in a box. Presumably it would take a while. I’m uncertain.
So, I haven’t been going out that way. I miss it. I would have liked to take photos of the emerging changes in the plant life. I would have enjoyed sitting on the deck and reading on the few balmy days there have been. But no. I won’t.
Several weeks ago “practicing spring” was feeding me. My soul was joyful and hopeful. Practicing spring had a locus. My back yard was a place of retreat and growth. Now I’m blocked from that practice.
Sure, I can and do go out front. I don’t relax and linger in my house coat the way I would in the back yard though. It’s not comfortable to think the neighbors are watching. I know they are. There’s concrete evidence. I don’t much care if they see me, but it’s a different experience than solitary contemplation in a place of peace.
Sure, I can and do explore the neighborhood park and watch the growth and the wild things there. It’s a wonderful thing. Yet it requires preparation: eating first (there’s that low blood sugar thing) and dressing appropriately. Good shoes are a good idea. One must already know what the day is like before walking that far. One can’t be stepping out merely to test the day. By the time I get to the park I’m not just beginning my day. The day has already started.
Sure, I can and do watch developments out our lovely French doors. But being behind glass just isn’t the same. I can’t feel and smell the life on the other side.
So what do we do when something blocks our practice? When it just isn’t the same?
It’s time to feel sad—to acknowledge that I miss it. It’s time to look around for new opportunities. What new thing is drawing me? What else does or can touch my soul in an inviting, joyful way—can evoke praise and gratitude without effort? Perhaps such an impulse of joy and gratitude is unsustainable? I don’t know.
I haven’t found the new thing yet. I have to keep looking. That’s the thing right now: Keep looking.
Nevertheless, the rain keeps raining and the sun keeps shining. Day and night, springtime and harvest in their season still come and go. All manner of things will be well, even if they’re different and unsought.
And . . .there is still hope for fledglings. What a gift that would be!
It’s April. We’ve had a few days of sunshine just to tease us. Cold and wind have returned. Those who have planted are covering the tender shoots at night. Those of us, myself included, continue waiting.
March was difficult for me as I’ve written before. My kind husband took pity and took me to South Carolina for some genuinely warm temperatures. Never mind that we didn’t see much of the sun. The temperatures were warm in spite of the rain. When the sun did come out it was brilliant. We were able to do bird watching and walk on the beach wearing only light jackets. Flowers were blooming: azaleas, wisteria and jessamine.
Our dog was along. She is a timid sort of creature when facing something new. And she doesn’t like loud noises. We weren’t sure how she would do with the sight and sound of the ocean. She loved it. She ran and ran until she could run no more.
How delightful to experience a weekend of Spring ahead of time!
Not everyone has the privilege to pack up and get away. I have never done it before. I might like to become accustomed to that possibility. Nevertheless I needed to return to ordinary life.
Temperatures were milder when we arrived home. We had a few lovely days of balmy weather. It was wonderful!
However, the weather has changed with unseasonably cold temperatures and high winds. We’ve had nights below freezing. I’ve moved my pansies indoors! As I write this the temperature is 40 degrees F outside with wind chills around 34 degrees. In April! What’s up with that? I had hoped I’d be drinking something cold as I write this. Instead I’m having another cup of hot tea to warm my insides.
I’ve been looking closely though. There are buds on the Redbud tree and the rose bush I thought might be dying has sprouted out all over. Dutchmen’s Breeches have put out a few brave blossoms. Goldfinches are showing themselves. The Mourning Dove coos as the sun sets. I’ve seen House Finches and Purple Finches. I wake to the sound of Cardinal song. A few Robins have been plucking at the ground. I trust we’ll see a few more later.
Perhaps the most interesting sight has been the contest between Bluebirds and Chickadees for territory. We have a bird box which has been up for many years and never used. Last fall we enlarged the opening. Chickadees discovered it. I was enjoying watching them go in and out. Then a pair of Bluebirds arrived. They are gorgeous, dignified beings as opposed to the Chickadee’s darting style. The Bluebirds perched atop the clothesline pole and watched. One approached the box and looked in. Suddenly there was a flutter of wings and scolding. A Chickadee dashed at the Bluebird and drove it off. This has happened several times that I’ve witnessed. We quickly bought another box and put it up.
The Bluebirds have discovered the new box. As of yet they haven’t moved in. The Chickadees continue to use the one they claimed first. It will be interesting to watch the drama. I’ve also spotted a Cowbird pair. The Cowbird lays her egg in a Bluebird nest rather than bother with a nest of her own. Her chick will be larger and crowd out the Bluebird chicks who will die from a lack of the food the Cowbird chick hogs. The Cowbird and the unseasonable cold remind us that nature is not all romance. Neither are we.
We need to beware the Cowbirds who want to take over from the tender, more vulnerable babes that wish to grow inside us. We need to shelter from the cold. We need to keep our tea hot while we wait. Perhaps most importantly we need to watch the tender buds as they wait in readiness to burst forth. It begins ever so slowly, almost imperceptibly.
Where are we finding hope? Where are we budding? Are we able to hang on a little bit longer in trust?
Perhaps this is the time to hang in there with our regular practices even though we cannot see the future growth. Perhaps we don’t see the birds yet. Perhaps we don’t see the buds. Perhaps our regular practice doesn’t feel hopeful. That’s why we have a regular practice. The practice is in service of the growth, even the growth we can’t yet see.
Hang in there. Watch closely. And continue to make your tea and keep up whatever other practice you find meaningful– or at least had found meaningful. The days are longer. Spring is coming. Growth is happening. Nurture trust.
I’m finished with Winter. Seriously, it can be Spring now. Winter is fine as long as it stays outside of me. I can enjoy a snow-covered scene. I can revel in a cozy fire, book and cup of tea. A tete-a-tete with a friend can be one of the treasures of life. But I’m done now.
I’m more than ready for the cloud cover and cold to move on. If I’m not careful the clouds and cold will move inside – into me. I have the feeling that if I’m not careful, Winter may take up residence in my bones. I fear I may become as dried up as the bare branches of the tree outside my window. Except I’m not showing a hint of bud.
So what does one do? Life and responsibility call. It’s not feasible to hibernate until April. How shall I push through to the sunshine and new growth of Spring?
Just a couple of days ago I was thinking of sinking into my gray feelings and refusing to come out for a long, long time, and woe to the person who tried to interfere with that plan. And then an idea presented itself as part of the blanket I would wrap myself in. I “rediscovered” music. I remembered an old, favorite CD and put it on. Before I knew it my feelings had turned from dark gray, lightening to a blue and eventually shifted to green. I became more lighthearted and moved into a place of interior gratitude. What a transformation!
Such times are when having noticed the things that feed your soul can be a life-saver. Listen to music. Get a new coloring book. Do something creative. Visit a public garden or buy a new plant. Just a visit to the local garden center may be enough. Go for a walk. Call a friend. Go out for coffee. Light a candle. Pray. Turn off the news. It may be time to shift to a new practice or return to an old one that brought light in the past. It may be time to ask for help. Whatever it is, engage in something that is life-giving for you.
What lifts your heart? What helps you make the shift from grumpy retreat to gratitude?
I invite you to notice. What season are you feeling? What are the gifts of that season? What are the things or times that pull you into grayness? What are the things which draw you toward the light? Bring these things into your awareness, action and prayer.
So, it’s the end of January. How are you doing with those New Year’s Resolutions?
If you’ve already left them behind or are planning to “forget” them soon, here is an alternative suggestion. Choose a word for the year—a word such as grace, trust, joy, discipline or intention. Watch for how it is at work in your life this year. Notice when it is needed. See when you can be the messenger who brings it. From time to time reflect on the word in your journaling. Use it in your art or meditation.
Less daunting than doing something you’ve never been able to do consistently, it is just a word. But words have power. There is also power in noticing and being intentional. Remembering a simple word for the year doesn’t seem impossible but it could impact your whole year.
How do you choose this word? Has a word been floating around in the back of your mind as you’ve read this? That might be the one. Is there something that keeps coming up recently? Is there something you’ve been wanting to spend more time with? Or is there something that appeals to you? If you just can’t decide, wait a few days. Sit in silence and see what comes up. Pray about it. If you have the question, “Is this my word?” choose it. It’s really up to you to decide what seems inviting. There are no rules. You may change it if something else comes up later which demands your attention.
Now that you have your word, find a way to remember it. Journal. Do some artwork. Post it on your bathroom mirror. Whatever works for you. Consider doing an examen every now and then using the questions: How have I seen __________ at work? When has __________ been absent?
Keep an open heart and mind and see where the Spirit blows. Who knows how __________ may be active in your life this year! Watch to see how this practice serves you on your journey.
With thanks to Jane Bishop Halteman. For more ideas and to learn how she and her friends have used this practice visit her at her blog.