Beauty Rises Beauty rises. No matter what. It rises from rich loam and from tomes teeming with dreaming. A sunflower in Donetsk region lifts its face, offering seeds to a waiting lark. One errant seed clinging to a claw drops into the rubble of the besieged city. The seed pushes up through a crack in the rubble. Beauty rises. No matter what. c. Rita Hemmer Kowats June 2, 2022
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/
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.
Soon we live again exuberant and relieved; But now we do a strange Lindy Hop In a marathon not of our making, We drag our weary bodies and souls behind us Waiting for the Big Band to play the last note, Releasing us from our dis-ease. We yearn to dance again with abandon; But in the time between we endure, Faithful to this dance here and now. Learning the steps as we go Leaning against one another, Cheering on, crying with. Tomorrow’s dance is for tomorrow. Dance today’s dance Today. c. Rita H Kowats 3/20/2021
A bit of context. You can have this day’s dance. I don’t want it. I imagine there are some dances you don’t want either. This one is called pneumonia. The fact that precautions weren’t enough in this precarious time is what sticks in my craw. I feel more vulnerable. So I searched my posts for a spiritual practice that sustained me in another time. I’m getting ready for the Lindy Hop.
I often use the Insight Timer free meditation app on Google play. My favorite music is “Delta Waves and Oceanic Sounds.” I like it because I can sync my breathing with the ebb and flow of the waves and because it is unobtrusive.
Inhaling, I breathe in healing energy.
Exhaling I send it to every place in my body that needs healing (to my mind as well, in an effort to dispel fear and anxiety).
Inhaling I gather up all sick energy from my body.
Exhaling I send it down to the earth where it can be renewed.
Soon we live again exuberant and relieved;Ssdo a strange Lindy Hop In a marathon not of our making, We drag our weary Sssssbodies and souls behind us Waiting for the Big Band to play the last note, Releasing us from our dis-ease. We yearn to dance again with abandon; But in the time between we endure, Faithful to this dance here and now. Learning the steps as we go Leaning against one another, Cheering on, crying with. Tomorrow’s dance is for tomorrow. Dance today. c. Rita H Kowats 3/20/2021
What to do in the Darkness by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre Go slowly Consent to it But don’t wallow in it Know it as a place of germination And growth Remember the light Take an outstretched hand if you find one Exercise unused senses Find the path by walking it Practice trust Watch for dawn
Soul lethargy is not Letting go. It is soul sloth. Like Sherlock asleep on his exercise wheel, I emerge from this pandemic afraid to get back on the wheel, curled up instead around my COVID fat feeling sorry for myself. Feeling pseudo-safe in a cocoon of my own making. A cocoon leading not to new life but to one doomed to die by soul sloth. Up! My soul opens like a morning glory starved for sunlight, waiting for grace to pull me up. Divine Spirit ever folding and unfolding, Show me the way out. In the asking, soul sloth becomes Letting-go. c. Rita H Kowats 5-30-21 * Apologies to my feline sleuth for so cavalierly exposing his soul and fat belly for all to see.
“He was pinned to himself to die,
a royal tern with a black crest blown back
as if he flew in his own private wind.”
Gracious Goodness by Marge Piercy
On the beach where we had been idly
telling the shell coins
cat’s paw, cross-barred Venus, china cockle,
we both saw at once the sea bird fall to the sand
and flap grotesquely.
He had taken a great barbed hook
out through the cheek and fixed
in the big wing.
He was pinned to himself to die,
a royal tern with a black crest blown back
as if he flew in his own private wind.
He felt good in my hands, not fragile
but muscular and glossy and strong,
the beak that could have split my hand
opening only to cry
as we yanked on the barbs.
We borrowed a clippers, cut and drew out the hook.
Then the royal tern took off, wavering,
then acrobat returned to his element, dipped,
zoomed, and sailed out to dive for a fish.
Virtue: what a sunrise in the belly.
Why is there nothing
I have ever done with anybody
that seems to me so obviously right?
I offer this poem once again because it speaks to the place many of us find ourselves in today, “pinned to ourselves to die,” and waiting for some one, some event, to unpin us. I have added new lines to my meta prayer:
May we be content with our own best selves.
May we be open to receive the help that we need.
May we recover those who are pinned.
May it be so.
“Why is there nothing
I have ever done with anybody
that seems to me so obviously right?”
Photo Credit: Media Tweets by Teresa Fernandez (@TeresaF35309694) on Twitter
Finally. This post election poem has seen the light of day. May we heal. May we trust.
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