But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God”. Ruth 1:16
Imagine this. Your father is eighty years old and his wife of 55+ years has just entered a Memory Care Unit. Every visit to his wife is a painful death. The added stress of learning how to manage his household and care for his own aging body is quickly depleting him of energy.
Like the biblical Ruth you hear a call that is more than duty. The call to loving compassion sounds clearly and insistently across Badlands and Cascades: Uproot. Go. Your people shall be my people. So you leave everything to make a new home with your father.
Who does such a thing? I am in awe of the courage and aware of the challenges. May I someday learn to be this selfless.
vibrates along every vein in every root
pulsing and pulling
tapping the primal tattoo heard by Ruth before you:
You scoop up your scattered roots,
clutch them close and set out.
©Rita H. Kowats March 23, 2018
The Badlands Photo Credit: Thomas James Caldwell <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/81643710@N00/15497697471″>Erosive Effects</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Cascade Mountains Photo Credit: jcolman N00/3475838105″>The Olympic Mountains in morning sunlight via photopin (license)
Tree: Photo by Daniel Watson from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/gray-trunk-green-leaf-tree-beside-body-of-water-762679/
(Drawing by Mervyn Peake)
“Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide sea!
And never a saint took pity on
My soul in agony.”
― Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
I heaved my 27-year-old body onto the bed and sobbed until not a single tear could not be wrung from my soul. I had been cruelly abandoned by peers, and given no explanation. Even now at 73 I can say that I have never felt as alone as I did in that moment. I was terrified that I would lose my mind. In desperation I called out, “God help me!” A solution emerged and a sense of peace replaced the terror.
We had participated in a week-long Disclosure-Confrontation Marathon, one of the many experiments of psychologists in the 1970’s. This one later lost his license to practice anywhere in the United States. He had insisted that the way for us to grow was to hold “mini-sessions” among ourselves where we would disclose and confront one another. We held one session. I disclosed and became the target. William Golding’s classic novel Lord of the Flies comes to mind. In it children are marooned on an island without adult supervision and the outcome is harrowing.
I survived. Sometimes I even thrive. In the years following this traumatic experience I practiced riding the waves of loneliness safely to the shore, buoyed by the trust that divine presence is a constant in my life. It has been important to me to identify spiritually advanced persons to guide me through these times. At Spiritual Directors International, http://www.sdiworld.org, one can connect to a spiritual guide.
We walk this human journey together. As I post this reflection I light my candle and hold vigil for all who experience being alone. Be well, my friends.
Relinquishment (I Kings 19:11-13)
You come to me
In the whisper that
Lures me out of the cave
Into the light.
Here I am. Send me
© Rita H Kowats May 21,2017, revisited 3-9-18
For a while now I have been yearning to hear mention of the Common Good in the media and on the lips of everyday people. Today, it seems, the Common good is often equated with political correctness in America and is scorned as a weak liberal conspiracy to rob people of their rights. But, plain and simple, it is just kindness. May we begin a movement of kindness right now, today, within our circles of influence. **
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
Naomi Shihab Nye
You can listen to Naomi read her poem here
You can hear the story behind Naomi’s poem here.
**Find an excellent explanation of a circle of influence here.
Photo Credit: HUFF POST.COM
When I heard Li-Young Lee read this stunning love poem I instantly dissolved in tears. It’s depth took me to regions beyond human love to that intense longing for the beyond, the more, to the inscrutable mysteries of the universe where I have found the divine in my old age. I can hear it whispered by desert mothers and fathers in the caves of Cappadocia and encounter it wafting on the notes of Hildegard von Bingin’s ethereal chants. This is the stuff of mystics. Enjoy.
Weekend All Things Considered February 24 interviewed Li-Young Lee. (Listen here)
I Loved You before I Was Born
I loved you before I was born.
It doesn’t make sense, I know.
I saw your eyes before I had eyes to see.
And I’ve lived longing
for your every look ever since.
That longing entered time as this body.
And the longing grew as this body waxed.
And the longing grows as this body wanes.
That longing will outlive this body.
I loved you before I was born.
It makes no sense, I know.
Long before eternity, I caught a glimpse
of your neck and shoulders, your ankles and toes.
And I’ve been lonely for you from that instant.
That loneliness appeared on earth as this body.
And my share of time has been nothing
but your name outrunning my ever saying it clearly.
Your face fleeing my ever
kissing it firmly once on the mouth.
In longing, I am most myself, rapt,
my lamp mortal, my light hidden and singing.
I give you my blank heart.
Please write on it
what you wish.
I was dragging my body of spent muscles
out of the locker room at the YMCA when
I stopped in my tracks (plodding though they were)
before a big window displaying the Tai Chi class in motion.
There before me stood a twenty-something hulk of a man
Serenely engaged in the exercise, seemingly suspended from the ceiling
By an invisible wire attached to the bristles
Of his Lisbeth Salander Mohawk.
I giggled with delight at this delicious oxymoron
Placed along my one-size-fits-all path to wake me up.
Divinity lurks in the oxymorons of life,
Showing up where and how we least expect it.
© Rita H Kowats 2-8-18
photo credit: Thomas Hawk <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/51035555243@N01/15801792012″>Punks Not Dead</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Two books which I have found very helpful in opening my wounds to let the light in:
Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach
Heart of Forgiveness: A Practical Path to Healing by Madeleine Ko-i Bastis
For a few years I rented an apartment located across the street from Volunteer Park in Seattle where I would visit the conservatory to escape the incessant, driving rain of winter. Some of you are experiencing the harshness of desert heat at this time. Others can hardly endure freezing temperatures. Relief, pour out your sweet elixir!
By the time I walked through the conservatory doors
my rain-drenched coat dripped
into rivulets between the tiles of the green ceramic floor.
The moist heat cocooned me in an aura of sensuous pleasure
releasing me from the burden of my winter coat.
I strolled from room to room
Eyes feasting on a kaleidoscope of vivid color
Paraded with pride by paradise flowers
Orchids Birds of Paradise Hibiscus
Reaching the desert succulent wing
I sat for a while to ponder the plants.
How do you survive this intense aridity?
How do I survive this incessant humidity?
They survive because they must
We survive because we know
That relief lies latent
In the recesses of our souls
Warming us like the moist heat
Of a conservatory on a winter day.
Visit often and spring befalls us
Like pollen cascading from fuchsia Hibiscus.
© Rita H Kowats 1-23-18
Good Morning, everyone. Today is a day to take our souls out to play. I will meet you in the backyard at the ancient cedars and we will swing away our cares.
TO BUILD A SWING
All the ingredients
To turn your life into a nightmare—
Don’t mix them!
You have all the genius
To build a swing in your backyard
Like a hell of a lot more fun.
Let’s start laughing, drawing blueprints,
Gathering our talented friends.
I will help you
With my divine lyre and drum.
Will sing a thousand words
You can take into your hands,
Like golden saws,
Strong silk rope.
You carry all the ingredients
To turn your existence into joy,
Mix them, mix Them!
Photo Credit: photopin.com, creative commons
The day after
the expanse of sometimes blue sky
is speckled with thick, sooty elephant-skin clouds
That bleed disdain on Lady Liberty
who holds vigil in the harbor
of the land of the free and the home of the brave.
shrieks, reeks inhumanity, holding us hostage
until we dare say it out loud:
Brothers and sisters, forgive us,
for we know exactly what we do.
© Rita H Kowats 1-12-18
Photo Credit: Getty