Winter And Spring

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Winter 2015

I heard the sabers rattling
In digital space last night,
The same sabers heard in ‘90 and ‘03.
The blade smiths deftly forged their words
Hard as metal and plunged
Them into the furnace of fear
Where they shaped and tempered them
Into the fine point
That is called war.

Today I listen for the words
Of prophets rising above the din of sabers,
Their words clear and clean and true
Forged in the furnace of their souls
Shaped and honed by a justice
Crafted with eyes wide open.
I summon the prophet 
Who lives in the furnace of my own soul:
“Come forth!”

c. Rita Hemmer Kowats 
December 2015



Spring 2022

The blade smiths are busy in Ukraine
As I grieve for a neighbor who died yesterday.
Loved ones draped his coffin with the flag 
That stood at attention in the alcove of his apartment. 
They donated his prosthetic legs to the next victims 
Of the boys in the back room.

“Oh, when will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?”
Today Pete Seeger’s lyrics wafted 
Over the shower stall at the YMCA
And froze me on the battlefield of Ukraine.
Joining in on the next verse I felt that prophet 
In the furnace of my soul 
Rising
Resolving
Replacing complacence with justice.
We sang the whole song, 
Strangers standing together at last 
In the hushed silence of truth laid bare.

c. Rita Hemmer Kowats
March 14, 2022


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When Will We Ever Learn?

© Negro Elkha / Adobe Stock/epthinktank.eu

This morning after I swam with my 60’s generation peers I heard this in the next shower, ”Oh, when will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?” I joined in singing to the last verse. I cried. She said she couldn’t get it out if her head today and I responded ironically , ”I wonder why.” “What a fire in the belly (Marge Piercy)” this experience was for me. May we learn soon.

Where Have All the Flowers Gone? 

Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?
Where have all the flowers gone, long time ago?
Where have all the flowers gone?
Young girls have picked them everyone
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the young girls gone, long time passing?
Where have all the young girls gone, long time ago?
Where have all the young girls gone?
Gone for husbands everyone
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the husbands gone, long time passing?
Where have all the husbands gone, long time ago?
Where have all the husbands gone?
Gone for soldiers everyone
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the soldiers gone, long time passing?
Where have all the soldiers gone, long time ago?
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards, everyone
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the graveyards gone, long time passing?
Where have all the graveyards gone, long time ago?
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Gone to flowers everyone
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

The 1955 song by Pete Seeger, who died on Jan 28, 2014. He was 94 years old. This is one of the most familiar American folk songs.



A Protection Ritual For Violent Times

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My apartment building is a microcosm of contemporary American culture. The mood is taut. Recently the thin thread connecting us snapped. A disgruntled resident became violent and police and aid units responded. The attacker was taken to jail. The police found guns in his apartment.

At first I was quite shaken by the incident, even if I did not witness it. That violent energy had invaded my home. I wanted to run away, but where could I go? I had no illusion that a nonviolent utopia existed anywhere in this sleepy suburb. So I had to extend the protection I do for myself to all the residents in this building.  I walked the halls while silently praying the protection. I continue praying it from within my own apartment.

This morning as a miasma of violent energy gathers on the borders of Ukraine, I surround it with this protection. May it be a help for you as well.

Protection Ritual

I call on the Light Bearers

All holy spirit-filled souls and angels.

Surround me with your light. Cast it around me, above, below, before, behind me.

Light within and through me. Light showing me my wounds, cauterizing and healing them.

Be a boundary around me.

Repel violent energy.

Welcome the greatest good..


May it be so.

“Call Me By My True Names”II

Thich Nhat Hanh 12 (cropped).jpg

I will forever remember Thich Nhat Hanh for the challenge he offers me in this stark and powerful poem. If we can get to the point of recognizing how evil intention lives in ourselves, perhaps we can get to the point of forgiveness and reconciliation with the perpetrators of evil deeds. Thank you, Thãy.

Call Me by My True Names
by Thich Nhat Hanh

From: Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Thich Nhat Hanh

In Plum Village, where I live in France, we receive many letters from the refugee camps in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines, hundreds each week. It is very painful to read them, but we have to do it, we have to be in contact. We try our best to help, but the suffering is enormous, and sometimes we are discouraged. It is said that half the boat people die in the ocean. Only half arrive at the shores in Southeast Asia, and even then they may not be safe.

There are many young girls, boat people, who are raped by sea pirates. Even though the United Nations and many countries try to help the government of Thailand prevent that kind of piracy, sea pirates continue to inflict much suffering on the refugees. One day we received a letter telling us about a young girl on a small boat who was raped by a Thai pirate. She was only twelve, and she jumped into the ocean and drowned herself.

When you first learn of something like that, you get angry at the pirate. You naturally take the side of the girl. As you look more deeply you will see it differently. If you take the side of the little girl, then it is easy. You only have to take a gun and shoot the pirate. But we cannot do that. In my meditation I saw that if I had been born in the village of the pirate and raised in the same conditions as he was, there is a great likelihood that I would become a pirate. I saw that many babies are born along the Gulf of Siam, hundreds every day, and if we educators, social workers, politicians, and others do not do something about the situation, in twenty-five years a number of them will become sea pirates. That is certain. If you or I were born today in those fishing villages, we may become sea pirates in twenty-five years. If you take a gun and shoot the pirate, all of us are to some extent responsible for this state of affairs.

After a long meditation, I wrote this poem. In it, there are three people: the twelve-year-old girl, the pirate, and me. Can we look at each other and recognize ourselves in each other? The tide of the poem is “Please Call Me by My True Names,” because I have so many names. When I hear one of the of these names, I have to say, “Yes.”

Call Me by My True Names

Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.

Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time
to eat the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to
Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea
pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and
loving.

I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my
hands,
and I am the man who has to pay his “debt of blood” to, my
people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.

My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all
walks of life.
My pain if like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Dharma Writing Workshop

The Dharma Writing Workshop http://www.quietspaces.com/dharmawriting.html

Photo Credit:  Wikipedia

Photo credit: Wikipedia

“ A Calming Of The Clamoring”

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…let depart all that keeps you in its cage.

Jan Richardson “Blessing in the Chaos”
Blessing in the Chaos
Jan Richardson

To all that is chaotic in you, 
let there come silence. 
Let there be a calming of the clamoring, 
a stilling of the voices that have laid their claim on you, 
that have made their home in you, 
that go with you even to the holy places 
but will not let you rest, 
will not let you hear your life with wholeness 
or feel the grace that fashioned you.

Let what distracts you cease. 
Let what divides you cease. 
Let there come an end to what diminishes and demeans, 
and let depart all that keeps you in its cage. 

Let there be an opening into the quiet that lies beneath the chaos, 
where you find the peace you did not think possible 
and see what shimmers within the storm.

Jan Richardson in The Cure For Sorrow: A Book Of Blessings For Times Of Grief

Morning Meditation

Andy Bennett ”An Autumn Morning”

Morning Meditation

Hunting for solace
Fleet-footed and soul-suppled,
We dash down labyrinthine paths,
Crosscuts furrowed by unbounded grace. 

Like steam-fog rising 
from ponds in early morning,
Grace rises from well-worn paths 
And enfolds us in a holy embrace.

If we let her.

c. Rita H Kowats January 8, 2022

With a grateful nod to The Hound of Heaven by Francis Thompson




Standing Watch

Glass Houses, features a cobrador, a “cloaked figure acting as a conscience to those without one. Forcing payment of a moral debt.”

Louise Penny Glass Houses

When the pandemic first began, I longed for the comfort of Three Pines Village featured in the Louise Penny mystery series. So I reread all of the books. It helped! “Some might argue that Three Pines itself isn’t real, and they’d be right, but limited in their view. The village does not exist, physically. But I think of it as existing in ways that are far more important and powerful. Three Pines is a state of mind. When we choose tolerance over hate. Kindness over cruelty. Goodness over bullying. When we choose to be hopeful, not cynical. Then we live in Three Pines.” (Louise Penny)  So I read. And read. It’s time to go back to Three Pines on this anniversary of the horror perpetrated in the U,S. Capital.

One of Penny’s books, Glass Houses, features a cobrador, a “cloaked figure acting as a conscience to those without one. Forcing payment of a moral debt.” (Penny)  He/she stands wordlessly in the village green. Waiting. I’m reminded of that book every day lately when I see an unsheltered person come to rest on the bench across the street. Sometimes in chilling, drenching rain and high wind. They just sit for a while, and I hold vigil with them from my warm, dry apartment. I pray for forgiveness for my complicity with an unjust system that keeps them unsheltered. The visitor to the bench is a cobrador for me, calling me to accountability and inspiring me to action. My hope is that all of us will stand as a conscience that reminds us that there is still such a thing as the common good. That we will stand as a conscience that says no to violence and selfishness.

We stand. With or without words. We stand boldly in our “no.”

The Light Bearers

Carry your light into the dark.
Swing it wide 
Into the hidden cupboards
Tucked away 
Under the staircases of our souls.

Illuminate
The shadows that loom 
And shatter peace
By piece by piece,
But gentle your swings-
Don’t show us all at once
Lest you send us scampering
Deeper into the cupboard.

Illuminate.
Carry your light into the dark.
Swing it wide 
Into the hidden cupboards
Tucked away 
Under the staircases of our souls.

Cauterize.
Bring your light beside our wound
To staunch the steady stream of negativity 
That threatens our well-being;
A slow burn, endearing and enduring.
Cauterize.

Carry your light into the dark.
Swing it wide 
Into the hidden cupboards
Tucked away 
Under the staircases of our souls.

Heal,
Lightbearer.
Ignite us with love
And stoke it, until transformed,
We bear the light to others.
Heal.

Carry your light into the dark.
Swing it wide 
Into the hidden cupboards
Tucked away 
Under the staircases of our souls.

c. Rita H Kowats 2021


photo credit: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/227572587397001342/

More Spiritual Backwalking

Pixabay,com by Franz Josef

We find the courage to walk inside the dangerous fissures of constant change and uncertainty.  We take on a holy vulnerability when we risk

spiritual backwalking.

RHK 12-2019

I’ve been taking a hike through my blog this morning in search of nourishment to navigate this new terrain I’ve landed in. I first wrote about spiritual backwalking in December 2019 when I could not have known that our lives were about to change in ways not seen since my grandfather and his sisters died in the 1917 flu epidemic, leaving my mother destitute. Today would have been her 113 birthday, and I am only now reflecting on how her experience of a pandemic shaped her life, and consequently, my life. What fears did her trauma pass on to me? How did she imprint me with resilience? The covid pandemic is teaching me how to walk backwards, as it taught the child who became my mother.

I have recently been gifted with a profound metaphor that I will share with you, but first

TWO STORIES.  A treasured member of my faith community lives with early on-set Parkinson’s Disease.  When his brain stops moving him forwad, he walks backward.  Healthline.com says, “It’s a simple way for you to challenge different muscles and force your mind to focus and operate differently.”  Rather than stopping, my friend lets go and imagines another way to move.  Backwards becomes frontwards.

In the 1960’s war novel, Catch-22, Yosarian walks backwards, “…because he was continually spinning around as he walked to make certain no one was sneaking up on him from behind.”  Yosarian was experiencing the reality of war, not paranoia.  The enemy was sneaking up behind him with intent to kill.  His fixation on fear had taken possession of him, so he walked backwards to be safe. And now

THE METAPHOR.  What if we trained our souls to stop the unhealthy ego-spin by walking backwards?  This spiritual practice necessitates a profound letting-go, just as it does when our bodies attempt to walk backwards.  We are awkward and afraid of falling, so we rely on a friend’s arm or trekking poles, and our progress is slow.  Spiritual backwalking requires us to rely on the movements of the Spirit instead of relying solely on an out-of-control ego.  We find the courage to walk inside the dangerous fissures of constant change and uncertaintly.  We take on a holy vulnerability when we risk this spiritual backwalking.

Our society doesn’t endorse walking backwards.  It’s motto is forward-thrust with great gusto, a speed which supports all manner of unhealthy ego-patterns, the worst of them being an inordinate drive to control self and others at all cost.  This is the war zone we find ourselves in at this moment and like Yosarian, we have to walk backwards to be safe.  We have to let go and trust Spirit to companion us through the change and uncertainty that bombards us. 

Coming Home In The New Year

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Beannacht (New Year Blessing) – John O’Donohue

On the day when
The weight deadens
On your shoulders
And you stumble,
May the clay dance
To balance you.

And when your eyes
Freeze behind
The grey window
And the ghost of loss
Gets in to you,
May a flock of colours,
Indigo, red, green,
And azure blue,
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
In the currach of thought
And a stain of ocean
Blackens beneath you,
May there come across the waters
A path of yellow moonlight
To bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow
Wind work these words
Of love around you,
An invisible cloak
To mind your life.

by John O’Donohue
In To bless the space between us: A Book of Blessings

Welcoming New Energy

HOPE


Creator and Sustainer of Time

Hold us close on this last day
of the year, as we disentangle unwelcome energies 
from body and soul.
Spirit these burnt-out energies
away on the updraft of time.

Rejoice with us over past energies
that sustained and enlivened 
our weary souls.

Bring us, we beg, 
seasoned courage and hope
wafting on the currents of your love.

Creator and Sustainer of Time,
May it be so.

Amen

c. Rita Hemmer Kowats
    December 31, 2021