Thursday, December 30, 2010

Praise Wet Snow

The stark duality of everyday life sometimes drains my energy to the point of exhaustion. The ongoing vigil of staying present in the face of cold and warmth, disappointment and satisfaction, anger and equinimity, acceptance and rejection. Sometimes I'm so weary, yet still there is a joy and stillness deep in my core.  And so I "praise flow and change."

Denise Levertov had the idea in this poem:

Praise wet snow
falling early.
Praise the shadow
              my neighbor's chimney casts on the tile roof
even this gray October day that should, they say,
have been golden.
the invisible sun burning beyond
       the white cold sky,giving us
light and the chimney's shadow.
god or the gods, the unknown,
that which imagined us, which stays
our hand,
our murderous hand,
and gives us
in the shadow of death,
our daily life,
and the dream still
of goodwill, of peace on earth.
flow and change, night and
the pulse of day. 

Friday, December 24, 2010

Make of Yourself a Light

At Christmas there are the candles and the tree lights and lights on our houses ~ lights everywhere! It reminds me of all the ways we have been told that we are light.

Mary Oliver says it in her poem "The Buddha's Last Instruction"

Make of yourself a light said the Buddha, before he died...

And in "When I Am Among the Trees" she writes:

The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, "It's simple," they say,
"and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.

Just think what the world would be like if we did this!

Peace on Earth ~ Goodwill toward All ~ Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Tree Ornament

We returned home yesterday to find a small package in the mailbox.  Remembering so many Christmases past, I was a child again. Back then excitement over the mailman dropping off packages bubbled up like great geysers of joy bursting from all five of us kids.  There was such innocence in our curiosity; devoid of advertising-induced desires for the latest toy, we just wanted to know what it was and who sent it. Someone loved us enough to send a gift!

Every year packages arrived from our cousins. Their mother and ours were sisters and, though we lived 200 hundred miles apart, we were like extended siblings. This package, wrapped in the familiar brown paper the post office once required, was from one of our cousins. It was the first to arrive in many, many years. I wanted to open it and not wait as we always had to when we were young.

But such intense emotions filled my heart and burst out in all directions, not knowing how to be expressed.  This was a package from John & Karen; and I knew it must hold a precious memory. For in August, John's sister, Kay had died quite unexpectedly. My cousin Kay just a few years older was gone.  The sudden and cruel reality has left us all with eyes burning from tears and hearts weeping for the loss of time to spend laughing and just sharing life.

That a trucker driving a huge gravel truck had carelessly hit Kay as she tried to cross the street in downtown St. Charles is still so difficult to believe. Not a day goes by that I don't pause to remember her. Generous, kind, authentic, always meeting each of us with an open heart, really being present. Everyone who knew her shares the deep love and compassion that simply radiated from her.

Now there is this package that I slowly unwrap. There is small box wrapped in tissue paper, Christmas card greeting and a letter that at a glance looked like those familiar annual "brag" letters people send.  I knew at once it was not one of those, but a tender remembering of Kay and a sharing of what our cousins have experienced since August.

What is here now in this moment? Deep sadness for the loss of this remarkable woman; deep gratitude for the gift of her life.

The package, as it turns out, contained an ornament from Kay's collection of Christmas decorations. They decided to give people who knew and loved Kay each an ornament. I received one of the "Little Women" Hallmark collection as each of my three sisters did. I smile as I look at the tiny Josephine "Jo" March and my mind's eye fills with images of Kay's huge collection of Madame Alexander dolls.

"Jo" will grace our Christmas tree, along with angels, santas, little drummer boys, nutcrackers, stars, bells, shiny balls and all the precious handmade ornaments from Christmases so long ago. New ornaments join our treasures as grandsons proudly add their special gifts and adorn the tree with love and family memories more precious than gold.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

First Snow!

I awoke to white snow everywhere!  There's something about the first snow of the season. Snowflakes swirling, drifting, dancing, and alighting everywhere. Spectacular! Each flake is unique; mother nature's creative hand turning frozen crystalized water into artistic beauty. Awe-struck, I am filled with wonder, gratitude and joy.

Walking this morning was brutal; harsh winds made it feel like the tundra rather than central Illinois.  But Payton loved it!  He runs, jumps, and dives into the white fluffy stuff like a puppy's first winter adventure...

The Storm
Now through the white orchard my little dog
romps, breaking the new snow
with wild feet.
Running here running there, excited,
hardly able to stop, he leaps, he spins
until the white snow is written upon 
in large, exuberant letters,
a long sentence, expressing
the pleasures of the body in this world.
Oh, I could not have said it better!

by Mary Oliver

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Here You Are, Alive!

“That’s the big question, the one the world throws at you every morning. ‘Here you are, alive. Would you like to make a comment?’”

–Mary Oliver, from the foreword of her book 
Long Life: Essays and other Writing

My comment to the world is this: I want to pause and feel the space between my thoughts so that compassion, loving kindness, joy and peace can emerge from deep inside. I want to be spacious and open enough to hold the entire world, without judgment, without making assumptions, without fear.

This morning it was 10.5 degrees above zero when I awoke! That's COLD! I rolled my Yoga mat out in front of our gas fireplace with deep appreciation for this warm, cozy house. After my practice and meditation, I thought, "Do I dare take Payton for his walk?" Guilt got the best of me and I piled on layer upon layer, ending with my long down coat (good to 20 below). Finally, we were ready!

As we walked, the frigid air stung my face and it took only a few minutes for my hands to feel the bite of the cold, even through two pairs of gloves.  The sky was a winter blue, crisp, clear and light, too cold to hold any heavy molecules of moisture. Even in this harsh temperature, every cell of my body was dancing with joy. It's great to be alive!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Points of Light

Do you ever think about how everything is made up of points of light? Compacted vibrations that shimmer and radiate in all directions at the same time? In a dream last night everyone and everything were just sparkling lines of light. Zooming in I could see each tiny point and moving out there were the lines forming images and connections to one another. What about this? Could we be something more than what we are able to see with our physical eyes?

At this magical holiday time, it's easy to believe things that can't be 100% proved in the physical world. That's just one of the reasons I love this time of year. There is such excitement in the air ~ anticipation, joy, and wonder. That is, if we can awake each day with the heart of a child, wide open and ready for everything!

This morning as I look out my dining room window, I see a cold December dawn. Buddha sits contentedly against our red bud tree surrounded by fallen leaves and what remains of our perennials as the great winter's rest begins. And thoughts return again and again ~ Why are we here?  Who am I?

Buddha in Glory

Center of all centers, core of cores,
almond self-enclosed, and growing sweet--
all this universe, to the furthest stars
all beyond them, is your flesh, your fruit.

Now you feel how nothing clings to you;
your vast shell reaches into endless space,
and there the rich, thick fluids rise and flow.
Illuminated in your infinite peace,

a billion stars go spinning through the night,
blazing high above your head.
But in you is the presence that
will be, when all the stars are dead.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke ~

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is my all time favorite holiday... not for the huge dinner, all of the eating, but for giving and the thanks.  Each year I am amazed by the love that surrounds us and radiates from each of us.  No matter the group, his family, my family, assorted friends or neighbors, always there is the love.  The kind that is full of laughter and acceptance - a sharing of just plain joy and fun!  The work of preparing and cooking the feast doesn't seem like work at all.

Then there's the thanks; I can actually see it! Moving from one heart to another and out into the world is this energy flowing on invisible lines and renewing us with appreciation for each other, ourselves, and life itself.

The exotic recipes and sheer abundance of food are just a ruse, a cover-up for the real things - giving and thanks.                                    

Thanks for the beauty of the world.
Thanks for my life.
Mary Oliver

If the only prayer you say in your entire life is "thank you," that would suffice.
Meister Eckhart

If you want to talk about this
come to visit. I live in the house 
near the corner, which I have named
Mary Oliver