Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Sacred Ground, A Visit to the Jeffers Petroglyphs: Tuesday's Reflection

Below my feet I feel the presence of the great rock. Among the markings, barely visible, I see the outlines of an ancient hand, scratched there tens of thousands of years ago by an unknown traveler. Without thinking, I get down and place my hand against the outline. It fits perfectly.

My hand is warm. The stone is cold. But in the touch something is passed, and I am humbled beyond understanding.
                   Voice in the Stones
                   Life Lessons from the 
                   Native Way
                   Kent Nerburn

Older than Stonehenge. 

Older than the pyramids.

Nestled in the native prairie, grasses swaying to their own music, red rock, Sioux quartzite, emerges like the back of a whale from the ocean. And on the back of these landed leviathans are ancient carvings ranging from 7,000 years old to a mere 250 years old.

Where am I? The Jeffers Petroglyphs in southwestern Minnesota, not far from the South Dakota border.

Our guide asks us to remove our shoes before stepping off the trail bordered by the waving grasses. I remember removing my shoes before entering a mosque in Malaysia and Buddhist temples in Thailand. I always remove my shoes before walking a labyrinth, before doing T'ai Chi, and most of the time as I enter our home. 

Sacred Ground. Sacred Space. A place of worship.

I walk carefully, slowly, knowing deep within that I am now walking where for thousands of years others have walked. 

In reverence. In wonder. In gratitude. 

As our guide points out the pock marked carvings of circles, people, buffalo, thunderbirds, my eyes adjust and I, too, begin to see the abundance of markings. Long-legged people. Crescent shapes. Turtles. Hands. 

 They are everywhere. 

Like Nerburn, I, too, bend to place my own hand in the hand carving. My hand nestles in the indentation. I am holding hands with those who have walked before me. 

To American Indians rock formations emerging from the earth provide a link between the physical and spiritual worlds. Much is unknown about why this place, what the specific symbols mean, and who was responsible for these gifts, but one thing seems clear:

            I was tied to the earth, and to all those who have 
            walked upon it, in a way as solid and fundamental 
            as the very rock itself.
                                                  Kent Nerburn

An Invitation
Where have you experienced sacred space? I would love to know. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Lull Time: Thursday's Reflection

"A lull can be soothing, tranquilizing, and even restorative. It can be a time to retune and replenish. A lull can suggest a state of peaceful hovering, a prolonged mental daydream, a weightless interval."

When I came across these words in Birds Art Life A Year of Observation by Kyo Maclear I recognized myself and what I am currently experiencing. 

A lull. Like a sailboat on a lake when there is no wind. All is calm and no one is panicky about the lack of movement. The shore is not far and the day is young. All is well. This is its own time. A gentle breeze will come eventually. Or the stillness may be replaced by stronger, more propelling, compelling forces. But this is now. 

I don't feel indecisive or stuck or exhausted or depressed. I don't feel uncertain or empty. I don't particularly feel a need for a time-out. I know what that feels like. I am not bored nor am I am wondering what the next big thing might be. Nor am I ignoring the everyday tasks that need to be done, like paying bills or doing the laundry. 

Instead I feel a certain contentment, a certain openness, a willingness to notice what it feels like not to rush from one thing to another. What moves slowly, undemandingly across my mind is "What would you like to do today?" Perhaps that is a summer question, one addressed while dozing in a hammock or in my case choosing the next book to read and do I want to read it sitting in our sanctuary garden, in the snug or my Girlfriend Chair in the garret? A lull leaves room for that level of questions. 

Maclear addresses the fear that a lull can turn into a rut and the muse can disappear. Perhaps, but not today. She adds, "By definition, one does not know whether a lull is interesting or uninteresting, fruitful or unfruitful, until it is over."

I've decided to trust that this time will bring its own benefits. I've decided to honor this lull time for what it is and whatever it turns out to be. 

An Invitation
When have you experienced a lull? What did that feel like? I would love to know. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Jury's Decision: Tuesday's Reflection

The jury delivered its verdict last week on the shooting of Philando Castile by police officer Jeronimo Yanez. Yanez was acquitted on all counts. I wasn't there. I didn't hear all the evidence, but once again our community is in the midst of pain and conflict.

I needed church on Sunday and was grateful I had a place to go where I would hear words of challenge, words of healing, words of compassion, words of confession. 

First, words from Patricia Lull, Bishop of the Saint Paul Area Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

         One jury has spoken. Another jury is still out. That
         second jury weighs our own response as people of faith.

         We have so much soul work to do. Can we learn to 
          listen to the frustration of the African-American
          community and hear in it an authentic cry for justice
          at the most profound level? Can we take the hard,
          consistent steps that all of us need to take to regard
          each other across the lines of race and ethnicity and
          class by checking our unnamed assumptions and fears? 
          Can we in the church hold ourselves to working 
          step by step to dismantle the racism that structures
          too much of our communal life?

And then words of confession and forgiveness:

          Gracious God, we thank you for making one
          human family of all the peoples of the earth and
          for creating all the wonderful diversity of cultures.

          Enrich our lives by ever-widening circles of 
          fellowship and show us your presence in those 
          who differ most from us. ...

          Forgive those of us who have been silent and
          apathetic in the face of racial intolerance and 
          bigotry, both overt and subtle, public and private.
          Take away the arrogance and hatred that infect our

          Break down the walls that separate us.
          Help us to find the unity that is the fruit of
          righteousness. Enable us to become your
          beloved community. 

          Empower us to speak boldly for justice and truth
          and help us to deal with one another without
          hatred or bitterness, working together with mutual
          forbearance and respect.
          Work through our struggles and confusion to 
           accomplish your purposes. 

An Invitation
I invite you to lift up your prayers for peace and justice. 
I invite you to reach out for peace and justice in some way. 


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Memory Time: Thursday's Reflection

When you return to a location where you once lived, you are apt to
be flooded with memories. That happened when we were in Madison to attend the 50th wedding anniversary party of dear friends. We lived in Madison for six years prior to moving back to St Paul. 

During that brief visit we went to our favorite bookstore in Spring Green, Arcadia Books. Don't miss it if you are in the area. We had lunch at a favorite restaurant Villa Dolce and enjoyed the pear gorgonzola pizza once again. 

The day after the party we drove to Monches Farm, a favorite nursery and gift shop about an hour away from Madison. 

As we drove down familiar streets and roads, we reminisced about the many things we enjoyed during the years we lived there. I guess this was a memory lane time. 

Since moving back to St Paul, I have tended to think about the Madison years as a transition time between our years in Ohio and the return to where we had raised our family. It can be challenging to be present and live fully when the next big thing is looming, but not quite happening. And part of our life in Madison was consumed by the next step.

But those years were not only about being in-between one place and another. We lived there. We made friends there. Bruce had a demanding and meaningful job there. Our home was often filled with family and friends. We developed a list of "favorites,"and a comfortable loop of life. We created memories. 

How good it was to be reminded that we had lived there, lived as fully as we could. How good it is to be reminded of the gifts in one's life. 

An Invitation
Is there something in your life that can be viewed in more than one way? I would love to know. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Summer Time: Tuesday's Post

 Every Sunday I like to plot the coming week. 

I open my notebook to a new page and write the heading "Week of ..." and then list each day of the new week and what is on the schedule, including our daughter Kate's requests for kid help. 

 As I create my "to do" list for the week, I think about writing I intend to do during the week. My Tuesday and Thursday blog posts, of course, but other writing plans as well. I list any church responsibilities I may have and what home tending and errand running I need to do. Over the course of the week I add other items as they occur to me--listing them under a heading called "add-ons." I am happy when I don't have anything under the "leftovers" category, but that usually is not the case. 

For the most part it is a good routine. I like going to bed on Sunday night having a basic idea of what to expect during the coming days. That generally works well for me and helps me juggle the variety of colorful balls in my life.  

Now that it is summer, however, I need to loosen my grip and let a ball or two drop to the sidelines.  

This week Bruce and I began our summer job as nannies for Peter and Maren. The job is not a difficult one and we welcome this opportunity to be involved in the grands' lives and to help our daughter and son-in-love. But there is a shift. My plans become much more about their plans and needs.  Swim team practice every morning. Maren bikes back and forth, but Pete needs a ride. Maren has three hours of classroom driver's ed for the next two weeks in an outlying suburb. Which days will I be the designated driver? And what about Pete when he isn't at camp? Will he just want to hang out at home or maybe he will want to start working on the wolf scrapbook we have discussed or go to the library? And, of course, there is the friend factor. Who is available for a Nerf Battle? 

Every week will be different. Each day is its own day. I will still think ahead as much as possible, but my mantra will be to let go when the plan changes. It means using the time I have and not regretting the time I don't. I'll move from one segment of the day to another, and the day will unfold. 

I don't promise to stop making lists this summer, but perhaps I can consult them a bit less and enjoy the space that creates in my life. To do that I need to be present to the gifts of this summer, this chapter of my life. And isn't that the ongoing opportunity and  challenge? Isn't that the main "to do" for the rest of my days? Be Present. 

An Invitation
In what ways will you be present to summer? I would love to know. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Summer Beauty: Thursday's Reflection

"May you breathe in the beauty of summer with its power of transformation." 

"May you seek and find spaces of repose during these summer months.
May these moments refresh and restore the tired places within you."

"May your eyes see the wonders of summer's colors."

"May these colors delight you and entice you into contemplation and joy."

"Blessed are you, summer,
season of long days and short night,
you pour forth light from your golden orb,
energizing the earth and calling forth growth."

An Invitation
What do you experience as summer blessings? I would love to know. 

NOTE: The words are from Joyce Rupp and Macrina Wiederkehr's book, The Circle of Life, The Heart's Journey Through the Seasons. The garden is by the master gardener at our house, my husband Bruce. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Summer Reading: Tuesday's Reflection

I wonder why I feel the need to create a summer reading list for
myself. I have great freedom to read whenever I want. Still, there is something about anticipating the three months ahead as an optimal reading time. I presume this is a leftover from the school years--both as a student and as a teacher. Whatever---I love thinking about and planning what I will read, almost as much as actually reading. 

Here are my offerings for the 2017 summer reading season.

1. Books by Gail Godwin. I just read her memoir, Publishing, A Writer's Memoir, and now I want to re-read The Odd Woman, and A Mother and Two Daughters, and Father Melancholy's Daughter and others. At one time I owned most of her books, but now off to the library I will go. 
2. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. (Just started it--only 125 pages in and so far I am entranced by the language._
3. Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham. We own such a lovely edition of this classic, and I imagine finding a sheltered place outdoors to re-read it.  
4. Additional Willa Cather books. I am about halfway through her reading her twelve novels, a 2017 goal. The next two are My Mortal Enemy and Death Comes to the Archbishop
5. The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende. 
6. Delight of Being Ordinary, A Road Trip With the Pope and the Dalai Lama. I came across this book in one of my favorite independent bookstores. I know nothing about it, but I love the cover and the concept intrigues me. 

I own all of the above books, but I also plan to buy three new novels: Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson, now in paperback; Home Going by Yaa Gyasi; and Anything is Possible by  Elizabeth Street.

I am more inclined to read fiction, but my shelves devoted to nonfiction books I own, but have not yet read are overflowing. I have set the following aside as potential for this summer.
1. I am currently reading a Joan Chittister, Following the Path, The Search for a Life of Passion, Purpose, and Joy, during my morning meditation time, and when I have finished that I will turn to On Living by hospice chaplain Kerry Egan.
2. Grounded, Finding God in the World, A Spiritual Revolution by Diana Butler Bass. At some point I read the first few chapters and then it got set aside. I am eager to revisit what I have read and to move forward with the rest. 
3. The Road to Character by David Brooks. I so respect Brooks as a writer for the New York Times and commentator on PBS's News Hour. Our book group selected this for discussion in September. 
4. Letters to a Young Muslim by Omar Said Ghobash. I think this will be a good follow-up to the "My Neighbor is Muslim" discussion group at church this spring. 
5. Birds, Art, Life, A Year of Observation by Kyo Maclear. "A luminous meditation on creativity, care taking, and the beauty of daily life--the small and significant moments that provide meaning and solace."
6. A Homemade Life, Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg. I think I have read this book before, but something I read recently directed me back to it. Feels delicious in my hands. 

I also have set aside a couple books from my shelves of writing books: Women, Writing and Soul-making by Peggy Tabor Millin and on a more practical level, 77 Reasons Why Your Book Was Rejected by Mike Nappa.  

Of course, I reserve the right to divert from my list. Isn't that what summer is all about--following the whim of the moment?

An Invitation
What do you plan to read this summer? I would love to know.