May You Sing: Rest and Renewal

“Just Before Spring,” or “Last Day of Winter.”

Today is the first day of spring. There are few signs, but it is certainly on the way.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and planning this week. Universities, as most know, have transitioned fully to online instruction to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19.  Even though these are “troubled” times, I can’t help but notice a certain relief in the posture of my colleagues and students. Sure, there is disappointment and a little apprehension about this new way of doing things (for some), but there’s also a collective sigh, expelling loads of stress.

I am grateful.

I am not grateful for the virus. But I am grateful for the slowing down, for deliverance from the break-neck pace that had me feeling like life was spinning out of control and the only way to stop was to hit a metaphorical wall. I pray this wall is not as painful.

In the midst of the confusion, the questions, the planning, the poem below landed on my screen via a friend’s Facebook post. I felt every word. May the words carry you. May they lighten the heaviness of this load we’re all carrying. May they usher you into the magic and renewal of spring.

May you sing.

Lockdown by Fr. Richard Hendrick, March 2020

Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
But,
they say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
you can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
the sky is no longer thick with fumes
but blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
people are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighborhood
so that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary.
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting.
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way.
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality.
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love.
So we pray and we remember that:
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul.
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic.
the birds are singing again;
the sky is clearing;
spring is coming;
and we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
and though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
sing.

Into Morning | #WordlessWednesday

Sometimes, it’s necessary to ignore the ice cold temperature and race outdoors at the first sign of light to catch a glimpse of God.

“I Wake Close to Morning”
Mary Oliver

Why do people keep asking to see
God’s identity papers
when the darkness opening into morning
is more than enough?
Certainly any god might turn away in disgust.
Think of Sheba approaching
the kingdom of Solomon.
Do you think she had to ask,
“Is this the place?”

from Felicity, 2015

“There Is Simply the Rose” | #WordlessWednesday

“Man is timid and apologetic; he is no longer upright; he dares not say ‘I think,’ ‘I am,’ but quotes some saint or sage. He is ashamed before the blade of grass or the blowing rose. These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they exist with God to-day. There is no time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence. Before a leaf-bud has burst, its whole life acts; in the full-blown flower there is no more; in the leafless root there is no less. Its nature is satisfied, and it satisfies nature, in all moments alike. But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time.”

–Ralph Waldo Emerson, from “Self-Reliance,” (1841), emphasis mine

Heartwounds | #WordlessWednesday

I left my final class of the day saddened by comments made by one of the students. In our discussion about how two films define love, forgiveness, redemption, hope, and freedom, she spewed venom about love in a way that shocked most of the other students.

Sometimes it’s easier for a wounded individual to speak from anger than it is to confront deep pain, but, as an English professor, it’s not my place to “psychoanalyze” her or any other student. It is my “job,” however, to help her develop sound intellectual traits. But, because of her wound, she could not see the shortsightedness of her thinking.

I thought about my student this evening as I was reading through Anointed to Fly, a poetry collection by Dr. Gloria Wade Gayles. The words of “Heartwounds” [below] seemed to leap off the page. With incredible insight, the poem describes the  persistent ache of a woman who [once] loved.  I thought about my student as I read the poem.

“Heartwounds”
Gloria Wade Gayles, Anointed to Fly

Some men have not learned that heartwounds
as deep as a woman’s need for love
do not respond to phoney curatives
of roses, sweetened words and
make-up passion in scented rooms.

They do not heal themselves
with the passing of time
which erases time only
but not pain and the memory
of pain.

Let untreated
heartwounds become
sores
scabs
scars
ugly reminders of flawed love.

Some men believe
women were born
to endure
to understand
to forgive
to be irrational in all things.

It is that way,
they tell us,
with the pull of the moon.

They will not learn
perhaps cannot learn
that a woman’s heart
damaged by multiple wounds
beats faintly

and then

not
at
all


I’m sorry this isn’t a happy poem, and that this #WordlessWednesday is kind of wordy. You can skip the poem and just look at the pretty picture if you wish. I’ve been practicing photographing roses, so you’ll see another rose photo soon.

Snapshots from an Early Evening Walk

As I mentioned in the previous post, my guys and I took an evening walk some days ago in a nearby nature preserve to see if we could spot the recently released rabbits that were under our care. We didn’t find the bunnies, but we found nature being her wild best.

We love walking in this park. We encounter beauty with each step, whether on the open trail which frames the pond, or the covered trails where we’re more likely to encounter the creatures that make the park their home.

Though much of the brilliance of summer has faded, there’s still so much to enjoy: Unloved flowers showcasing their beauty for those who have learned to see it.

Bugs that feast on the flowers. [Look closely]

Sun-kissed clouds floating above the trees, making way for night.

Random splashes of color.

Feasts for birds…

and the smallest animals.

Remains of fallen trees that continue to give life.

A surprise gift–a moth waiting patiently to be photographed.

A brightly colored flower captured as we exited a trail.

The final gift of the evening.

I hope you take some time this weekend to sit [or walk] quietly in nature, find strength, heal your soul, connect with the Divine.

Lanai Views | #WordlessWednesday

Lanai

“In the Mountains,” Li Bai (Chinese Poet, 701-762)

You ask me what my idea is, staying in the green mountains?
I smile but have no reply, my heart at peace in itself.

As the peach blossom on the flowing water goes into the unknown,
there is another heaven and earth, not among people.

Trans. William P. Coleman


About the images: Photos from a trip to Maui, Hawaii many moons ago. The photos were shot from a yacht early one evening.

“It Is the Rain That Calms Me” | #WordlessWednesday

“Purple Hibiscus Unfolding”

“The Things That Consume Me”
Zubair Ahsan

It is the fire that consumes me;
It is an inexplicable love,

It is the rain that calms me;
It is a melody from above.

It is the wind that humbles me;
It is everywhere and nowhere,

It is the sand that fuels me;
It is the artistry of nature.

I’m consumed by what I am,
I’m calmed by a riotous noise,

I’m humbled through arrogance,
I’m fueled by what is in poise.

I’ve much cherished the mystifying,
I’ve heard the unreal symphonies,

I’ve been moved by the inevitable,
And I’ve hailed the epiphanies.