When the well goes dry, listen.
Sit by it, your ear pressed to its rim.
Hear the empty and the hollow of it.
Let be. Let be.
When finally you hear your breath
echo back to you,
let this sound be your first prayer.
Where there is breath,
there is water somewhere.
In the Sanctuary of Women: A Companion for Reflection & Prayer
Photo Credit: http://www.zdrillerteam.com/is-your-water-well-going-dry-5-common-warning-signs/
For an enlightening read on this practice, see:
Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People
Book by Anthony Greenwald and Mahzarin Banaji
The virtue of patience often eludes me. Today I am longing to return to the swimming pool in the worst way. The confines of covid don’t bother me, nor do long periods alone, because it is my intentional lifestyle. But my poor old body can barely wait to get back to the pool.
A meditation on I Ching 5 hexagram this morning is helpful, especially this line:
It is only through patience that you can
become the bridge between the fickle fish
and the eventual feast.
I send you the gift of graceful waiting today.
The Great Blue Heron
Lurches from side to side
Scouting succulent salmon
Twitching in the tide.
Settling on a spot in which to spy
She turns her head sideways
To see salmon swimming.
In my dotage
I too lurch from leg to cane to leg,
Longing for the feast, but missing it,
Too intent upon ego offerings
That clamor for attention.
The wait is too long;
“Succulent salmon, slither hither!”
c. Rita H Kowats 5-28-18, revised 7-7-20
Photo Credit: Photo by Hilary Halliwell from Pexels
May this blessing from Jan Richardson console us as we wrestle with so much these days.
Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. —Genesis 32:24
If this blessing were easy, anyone could claim it.
As it is, I am here to tell you that it will take some work.
This is the blessing that visits you
in the struggling,
in the wrestling,
in the striving.
This is the blessing that comes
after you have left everything behind,
after you have stepped out,
after you have crossed into that realm
beyond every landmark you have known.
This is the blessing that takes all night to find.
It’s not that this blessing is so difficult,
as if it were not filled with grace
or with the love that lives in every line.
It’s simply that it requires you to want it,
to ask for it, to place yourself in its path.
It demands that you stand to meet it when it arrives,
that you stretch yourself in ways
you didn’t know you could move,
that you agree to not give up.
So when this blessing comes,
borne in the hands of the difficult angel who has chosen you, do not let go. Give yourself into its grip.
It will wound you, but I tell you there will come a day
when what felt to you like limping
was something more like dancing
as you moved into the cadence
of your new and blessed name.
Jan Richardson in The Cure For Sorrow: A Book Of Blessings In Times Of Grief
Recently I wrote that one “Celtic tradition holds that some persons are themselves a “thin place.” I know these persons to be the true deep listeners among us. We come away from an encounter with them knowing that we have been seen, knowing that we are known.” I offer another pondering of this piece posted three years ago. We needed to be clean well lighted places for one another then. We need to be now, more than ever.
It is time to revisit Ernest Hemingway’s poignant masterpiece, “A Clean Well Lighted Place.” It is a short story about a cafe which shelters the lonely and distraught, affording them safe harbor for a few hours. A clean well lighted place where one can feel at home. A place where “everyone knows your name.”
An older waiter is convinced that all is “nada,” nothing, meaningless and that his elderly customer is there to push the nothingness away for a while because “This is a clean and pleasant cafe. It is well lighted. The light is very good and also, now, there are shadows of the leaves.”
Isn’t that all each of us desires, to sit with someone in the light when “nada” starts closing in? Let’s do that for one another when we feel hopeless, when panic pushes up from our gut threatening to take over our lives. Be that clean well lighted place, a safe haven for one another.
An old codger on a bar stool
Spins victory vignettes.
He sways in sync
With the melodies of stories
That play in his head,
Hoping for a listener to relieve him
Of the nothingness that calls him
To the warmth of the cafe.
RIta H Kowats 1-27-2017
Photo Credit: https://www.pexels.com/photo/light-road-nature-night-1163/
Hand tucked casually in pocket
While knee on neck snuffs out
The breath of another human being.
Just business as usual
In the neighborhood.
The spiritual life is not
A casual meandering
Down a safe garden path.
Our path must diverge into acts of justice
Lest the spiritual life become self-serving.
Take your hand out of your pocket.
c. rita h kowats 6-2-20
Photo Credit: Facebook/Darnella Frazier/AFP via Getty Images in the NY Post
The year 2004 brought us an extraordinary film written and directed by Paul Haggis. Crash won three Academy Awards, Best Picture one of them. The film deals with every shade of the complex human experience of race in America. It is on my mind as we wrestle with the reality of George Floyd’s murder. The film calls me as a white person to see the truth straight on, ask the hard questions and work toward conversion and acts of justice. It calls every race to do that by holding a mirror to the consequences if we continue to ignore our inner work. Two scenes contain the seed of the whole film.
The first scene, “Pat Down by the Police” will ask you to be brave. It is not for the faint of heart, containing violent language and action toward a woman of color. Officer John Ryan (Matt Dillon) stops a car taking Hollywood director Cameron Thayer (Terrence Howard) and his wife Christine (Thandie Newton) home after an awards event. Its truth is stark and powerful.
The second scene, “Car Fire,” turns the previous scene upside down and we are forced to examine the meaning of trust and vulnerability.
I invite us to gather in living rooms as adults and older teens to view this film for the first time or again. Open a discussion of how it relates to George Floyd’s death and how we each carry the seeds of racism buried deep or edging to the surface. Spirituality is to be born in acts of justice. We must not hoard it for self-gazing.