RENEWAL

This post goes back a few years.  I was reminded of it now while much of the world is burning up from forest fires.  The earth does renew herself,  as witnessed in the terrain of Mt. St. Helens in Washington state, USA. If we renew our souls as faithfully as nature renews herself, there is hope for us.

Geography of the Soul

In an effort to protect our egos, we leave in our wake  a destructive landscape of regret.  Our acts of protection are as much an animal response as protecting their physical lives is for other animals.  The difference, of course, is that we can strengthen our egos sufficiently to withstand attacks and move beyond them for the sake of the common good.  The process of moving beyond ego creates a soul-landscape rich in variety.  Remnants of ego caught on jagged crags, conjure memories of lies to self and others; charred skeletons of timber stand in witness to courageous suffering endured, and hopeless suffering self-inflected.

Our soul’s geography resembles the terrain of active volcanoes years after they have exploded. Destructive lava flow has given way to affluent bursts of bold, bright, wildflowers- the acts of justice and compassion sown as seeds alongside germs of ego.  Patches of green miraculously inch their way through the bowl of impenetrable metamorphic rock.

Just as rock can be intrinsically altered by the flow of hot lava, so is the soul dramatically altered by the movement of the Spirit, and our response to her. If we trust the Spirit, and trust ourselves to grapple with our instinct to protect our egos, seedlings will dot the horizon.  Wildflowers, once extirpated by fear, will burst forth like fireworks on Independence Day.

I recommend frequent road trips through the terrain of our souls.

“Restoration Area Stay Off”

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I have been feasting on the book, Whispers in the Wilderness by Erik Stensland.  That it was a gift from a friend who has great respect for restoration areas inside and outside, makes my stroll through its pages all the more poignant. In this book Strensland has compiled poignant photographs and reflections from hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. He says this about restoration areas

These [signs] are placed in areas that have been heavily visited, where the feet of far too many people have worn down the grass and flowers to bare dirt, turning a place of lush beauty into an area that resembles a well-used football field….I find great hope in these restoration signs.  After years of watching them, I’ve seen these places spring back to life when they are given the space they deserve.

I learned how to give that space to a high school senior once.  Her parents had a brief get-a-way on the Labor Day weekend. You can leave a trusted eighteen-year-old alone for two days.  But this time a man broke into her home, raped her and forced her to drink poison.  Thus began her coveted senior year.  After a couple of months of constant police interviews, survivor support group, counseling, compassionate hovering of friends, parents and teachers she put up the sign for me to see, “RESTORATION AREA: STAY OFF.” I had seen her sitting on the floor before her locker and sat down beside her, asking the dreaded question, “So, how are you doing?”  She was in desperate need of being left alone for a while, to restore, to find her center and get back to it.

I could relate.  I was twenty-seven in 1976 when the group I was a part of gave over all of our power to an abusive psychologist who experimented with “Disclosure-Confrontation” marathon sessions. At one point in that journey I thought I was losing my mind, I so desperately needed space away from the others.  I found the courage to plant the restoration sign in the ground of my soul, and was gradually restored.

It’s a matter of timing and we need to discern what time it is.  Is it time to reach out with physical presence and words, or is it time to hold vigil in the quiet space we give the other? May we listen compassionately and wisely.

 

https://books.google.com/books/about/Whispers_in_the_Wilderness.html?id=5rbEAQAACAAJ

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit: pexels.com

In Search of Abundance

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In another post I told the story of this photo, 

On my walk along the lake I spotted a maple leaf, dried to death by the intense summer heat, stunning in its aridity.  Unable to ignore its call, I snatched it up and carried it home to await the muse.

It called to me again as this season of Lent commenced, but I wasn’t prepared to receive its unexpected power.  The liturgical artists from my spiritual home, Seattle Mennonite Church, extended an invitation for us to engage our lenten theme, Parables of Abundance: “We are interested in creating a visual piece that reflects both the abundance we experience in trying to live with less, as well as our feelings of vulnerability, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.” We are invited to bring our image or our written piece to the sanctuary to create a rich collage of our experiences of abundance.

As the photographer, I instinctively positioned the leaf one way and have only seen it from that direction.  Until now. I decided to let the photo speak to me from all four possible positions.  I invite you to do the same.  You have my permission to position it as the spirit urges.

 

Lenten Meditation One

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Rose Petals Floating Downstream

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I recommend this lovely new book of Anita Neilson’s spiritual poetry:

https://anitaneilson.com/2018/12/07/its-raining-rose-petals/

Can We Care Again?

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The headline in the Seattle Times reads “For third day, grieving orca carries dead calf in water.” (July 26, 2018). As I write this morning it is the sixth day the mother has carried her dead baby on her nose, diving down deep to retrieve it whenever it slips off. I don’t have words to express how I feel. The photo says it.

Elephants also mourn, holding wakes for fallen elephants. In a PBS production I saw a herd come across the remains of a bull elephant. They circled the skull caressing it with their trunks, even lingering over it. Around and around they went, emitting those low rumbling sounds humans cannot hear by ears alone.

I mourn that many humans no longer hear. We seem to have forgotten how to care enough for one another to hold vigil.
My practice:

Breathing in I care
Breathing out I release indifference
Breathing in I care
Breathing out I release hate
Breathing in I care
Breathing out I release fear of the other.

Breathing in we care
Breathing out we release indifference
Breathing in we care
Breathing out we release hate
Breathing in we care
Breathing out we release fear of the other.

May the merits of this practice extend to all sentient beings in the universe.

Amen.

Photo Credit: Seattle Times

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/puget-sound/for-third-day-grieving-orca-whale-carries-dead-calf-in-water/

Breach the Beach

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I settled into my meditation on the dock this morning, luxuriating in black bird twitters and the flash of red wings. The sun on my back thawed my winterized bones.  Ahh, how good to be alone with the divine… until the holy muse quietly morphed into a magnificent Great Blue Heron holding vigil in the water lilies.  Her faithful practice spoke to me,”Stand still. Watch and wait.  Your authentic self will catch up with you.”

 

Beach Combing

The Homing Instinct

 

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It is both frightening and painful for many Americans to witness the daily unraveling of the principles we hold sacred without relinquishing all hope.  Today I am returning to the magic of Pat Conroy in his novel Beach Music.  Let the vibration of hundreds of loggerhead turtles on their first march to the sea get deep into your soul’s bones as you take in Conroy’s description:

Beach Music

We must not forget our spiritual homing instinct, our restless urge to go beyond ourselves to the Other, however we define that for ourselves.  Know your spiritual landscape.  Fix your eyes on the vast ocean of the Other’s love, and let’s head out together. In this lies hope.

 

 

photo credit: Eddietherocker <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/28393978@N07/35807963985″>Tres Turtles</a> via <a href=”http://Aphotopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Evidence of Flossing: A Book Review

Evidence of Flossing Cover

 

Jennifer A. Payne’s
WOW! WOMEN ON WRITING TOUR
OF
“Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind”

Book Summary:

Would God floss? Do spiders sing? Can you see the Universe in your reflection? Find the answers to these questions in more in this new book by Connecticut writer Jen Payne. Her poems in EVIDENCE OF FLOSSING: WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND investigate the human condition and its folly, the beauty of our natural world, and the possibility of divine connection. 80 original and vintage photographs include a series of discarded dental flossers that inspired the book’s title.
ALA Notable Book author Dale Carlson calls the book “a brilliantly incisive commentary on our simultaneous human sense of beauty and waste and loss.”
EVIDENCE OF FLOSSING speaks to the common heart that beats in you and in me, in the woods and on the streets, across oceans and around this planet. It asks us all to consider the effects of our actions and how they influence everything else in the Universe.

My Review:

Jen Payne’s book, Evidence of Flossing: What we leave Behind, carries prophetic power in the spaces between its words. It is truth and beauty delivered to us in wide-eyed wonder by a child’s heart passionately in love with nature.

The prophet shows up in bold statements like,”This watch around my neck doesn’t work,” (Time Peace) and “My fingers touch its teeth like rosary beads, penance for our collective apathy,” and “Numbed and dumbed by these machines,” (Now Trending>)

Other times we encounter a mystic drawing us into the essence of the universe, “Everything is flowing, god whispers. How foolish am I to resist?” (Resistance is Futile.)

In each poem Jen crawls inside a subject and settles in for a leisurely lie-in until she understands, then becomes her subject. The integrity of the process gifts readers with fresh insight and renewed commitment to be mindful of what they leave behind. As in this verse from “Sanctified without Assistance,” ‘Jen’s writing is sometimes spare, creating space for soulful birthing: “Come winter, bare-branch whispers of hope promised, stored.”

Evidence of Flossing: What we leave Behind should not be missed. You will come away with both righteous anger and with hope. You will be blessed with insight into the nature of spirituality and rekindled with the joy of nature.

Jen Payne Head Shot

 

About the Author:

Jen Payne is inspired by those life moments that move us most — love and loss, joy and disappointment, milestones and turning points. Her writing serves as witness to these in the form of poetry, creative non-fiction, flash fiction and essay. When she is not exploring our connections with one another, she enjoys writing about our relationships with nature, creativity, and mindfulness, and how these offer the clearest path to finding balance in our frenetic, spinning world.

Very often, her writing is accompanied by her own photography and artwork. As both a graphic designer and writer, Jen believes that partnering visuals and words layers the intentions of her work, and makes the communication more palpable.

In 2014, she published LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness, a collection of essays, poems and original photography. Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind is her second book.

Jen is the owner of Three Chairs Publishing and Words by Jen, a graphic design and creative services company founded in 1993, based in Branford, Connecticut. She is a member of the Arts Council of Greater New Haven, the Branford Arts and Cultural Alliance, the Connecticut Poetry Society, Guilford Arts Center, the Guilford Poets Guild, and the Independent Book Publishers Association.

Installations of her poetry were featured in Inauguration Nation an exhibition at Kehler Liddell Gallery in New Haven (2017), and Shuffle &amp; Shake at the Arts Council of Greater New Haven (2016). Her writing has been published by The Aurorean, Six Sentences, the Story Circle Network, WOW! Women on Writing, and The Perch, a publication by the Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health.

You can read more of her writing on her blog Random Acts of Writing, http://www.randomactsofwriting.net.

 

Jennifer can also be found online at:

Website: https://3chairspublishing.com/

Blog: https://randomactsofwriting.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/threechairspub

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ThreeChairsPub

Be sure to visit!