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A Place for Sanctuary. Daily Dose (May 3 – 6)

Tuesday — This week we remember that the ordinary is the hiding place for the holy. Where we make space for self-care, when life feels unraveled.
We start with Rachel Carson’s wisdom (and I might add, a dose of Celtic spirituality), “Those who dwell among the beauties and the mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.” 

My morning walk, here in Port Ludlow, WA, a palette with hypnotic and calming shades of green, a cathedral of cedar, fir and hemlock, and a backdrop of the Puget Sound.
On the pond visible from the new living room, our resident geese, Irv and Dottie, with their new family of three.
“To be available to the spell (beauty) is very easy.  All you need to do is calm down and look around.  To be imperious to the spell requires a far greater effort–plus it costs more in lost quality of life.”  Terry Theise
Let us never underestimate the healing power in beauty and wonder.
So, this week: the permission for reset buttons.
You see, when we are disconnected from the sacrament of the present, and from the gift of enough, we disconnect from ourselves, and we need a reset button. Each button a way of saying, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for our well-being if we quit keeping score, in order to remember what really matters. (And I confess, my little talk was mostly aimed at me.)
It’s never easy to admit (or say out loud) when the load you carry is heavy, in part because so many are carrying much, much heavier loads. And I don’t want to make a fuss. But my spirit knows I’ve been lugging a lot, and I shake my head, knowing that I don’t give myself the permission to set that stuff down, and to take nourishment. It’s been one of my life-long wrestling matches.

I love Lynne Twist’s reminder, “The problem is not simply that we work too much, the problem is that we are working for the wrong reward… We are paid in the wrong currency.  What if we were to expand our definition of wealth to include those things that grow only in time-time to walk in the park, time to take a nap, time to play with children, to read a good book, to dance, to put our hands in the garden, to cook playful meals with friends, to paint, to sing, to meditate, to keep a journal.”
Gratefully and gladly, the full force of life (the gift in the ordinary) and the gift of enough, usually envelops me when I’m looking the other way, say for answers or magic or resolve (maybe a reprieve from the disquiet of moving). It is a lot like grace in that way. It enters in, slows the heartbeat, and before you know it, you’re sitting still. Relishing, contemplating, savoring and just being, if only for a moment.

Wednesday — I share French writer Georges Perec’s instinct that if we devalue the ordinary we devalue ourselves. I would say that if we value the ordinary — if we can learn to see God in the ordinary — then we may be strengthened, empowered, enabled to become reconnected to the source of our true selves. And to others.
In his 1952 book, This I Believe, Andre Kostelanetz writes, “We found (Henri) Matisse  living in a small house, with a magnificent, sweeping view beyond his vegetable garden. In one room there was a cage with a lot of fluttering birds. The place was covered with paintings, most of them obviously new ones. I marveled at his production and I asked him, ‘What is your inspiration?’
‘I grow artichokes,’ he said.
His eyes smiled at my surprise and he went on to explain: ‘Every morning I go into the garden and watch these plants.  I see the play of light and shade on the leaves and I discover new combinations of colors and fantastic patterns. I study them. They inspire me. Then I go back to the studio and paint.'”
I read in Leonardo Da Vinci Reflections that he was inspired by details that other people likely deemed insignificant, and more than likely, ignored.
Some people see. Some people don’t.  

Here’s the deal: People who love life, embrace particularity. Particularity means not shying away from the detail. In fact, particularity throws caution to the wind and jumps, whole hog, into the fray of details. It’s about awareness. Noting the specifics. Slowing us down and immersing us in the full weight, the density of the daily and the ordinary.
Yes, the ordinary, the hiding place for the holy.
“’Real life,’ as we once knew it, lacks our newfound essential need for sustained titillation,” Neil Postman recently wrote. “Therefore, solitude and the pleasure of a cup of coffee while lounging outside in leisure soaking in the bliss of a garden or a setting in nature becomes an abhorrent abyss of boredom. This sort of pleasure (of ‘real life’) satisfies the soul while ‘toys’ arouse only the outer senses… Like love, we seek pleasure in all the wrong places… the real loss is the negation of my soul.”  

Thursday — “I am tired. Most days, it is not from weeding—not from the same root cause as the sensation at the back of my legs, when I climb the stairs at the end of a too-long session outside. It is deeper, and simply from being in the world, a landscape of invasive, impossible headlines. The garden is where I go to sort it out, what ‘it’ has been along the way, during the past four decades,” Margaret Roach wrote in the New York Times this week. And I said out loud, “Amen.”

Another affirmation that the ordinary is the hiding place for the holy.
Where we make space for self-care, to Pause, when life feels unraveled. Where we hear Rachel Carson’s wisdom (and I might add, a dose of Celtic spirituality), “Those who dwell among the beauties and the mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.” 

“Even a wounded world is feeding us. Even a wounded world holds us, giving us moments of wonder and joy. I choose joy over despair. Not because I have my head in the sand, but because joy is what the earth gives me daily and I must return the gift.” Thank you Robin Wall Kimmerer (Braiding Sweetgrass)

So, I was grateful for Parker Palmer’s observations this week… “Gardening is rich with metaphors for a well-lived life. Amend and prepare the soil. Plant the seeds, tend them, and weed out whatever impedes growth. Marvel at the process and share the harvest: we’re here to feed one another as well as ourselves.
Here’s a May Sarton poem that offers a less obvious metaphor. A well-lived life needs to be both gentle and strong, tender and fierce.
So many important things depend on our ability to hold that paradox: raising a child, being a good friend or teacher, advocating for love, truth, and justice in a world that’s often hostile to those virtues.
None of our most important tasks can be done well if ‘niceness’ or an aversion to conflict keeps us from doing the right thing.
As Sarton says, we must ‘pay with some toughness for a gentle world.’ We may emerge with scarred hands, as her mother did, but they will be the scars of love.”

An Observation
True gardeners cannot bear a glove
Between the sure touch and the tender root,
Must let their hands grow knotted as they move
With a rough sensitivity about
Under the earth, between the rock and shoot,
Never to bruise or wound the hidden fruit.
And so I watched my mother’s hands grow scarred,
She who could heal the wounded plant or friend
With the same vulnerable yet rigorous love;
I minded once to see her beauty gnarled,
But now her truth is given me to live,
As I learn for myself we must be hard
To move among the tender with an open hand,
And to stay sensitive up to the end
Pay with some toughness for a gentle world.
May Sarton (from A Private Mythology) 

Friday — “When your life is filled with the desire to see the holiness in everyday life, something magical happens: ordinary life becomes extraordinary, and the very process of life begins to nourish your soul! With each new circumstance that comes your way, another opportunity presents itself to nourish your soul.” Thank you Rabbi Harold Kushner

Seeing the sacred in the ordinary helps us change our paradigm; from big world to small world.
You see, the big world feels, often overwhelming and outside of our ability to change or affect change. On so many big world issues, people give up. “It’s not my problem, after all.”
But the small world is right in front of me. And the small world invites me to be present for the sacred (even in brokenness). (Which also means I’m present, to see people before anxieties… people with faces and names. People with real tangible emotions, fears, exhilaration, joys, hopes and burdens. When I start with the person, I put down my labels or tendency to prejudge, now open to leaning, growing, giving, caring, healing.)

“Even a wounded world is feeding us. Even a wounded world holds us, giving us moments of wonder and joy. I choose joy over despair. Not because I have my head in the sand, but because joy is what the earth gives me daily and I must return the gift.” Thank you Robin Wall Kimmerer (Braiding Sweetgrass)

This week I enjoyed Tish Harrison Warren’s “The case for taking 10 minutes to watch a rainstorm. It rained one morning this week. I moved back to Texas last year, in part for the rainstorms. Here, it rains decisively, gloriously, like it really means it. It explodes, pounds, roars, thunders and then, suddenly, moves on. I stepped on my back porch, not wanting to miss the show.

I sat, silent, smelling that indescribable rain scent and stretching out my hands, palms open in supplication, the same position I use in church to receive communion. The physicality of the experience, the sensual joy of sounds, smells, touch and sight, was profoundly humanizing. In a very real way, I am made for that. I am made to notice the rain. I’m made to love it.

We are creatures made to encounter beauty and goodness in the material world.”

“O God,
we thank Thee for this universe our great home;
for its vastness and its riches,
and for the manifold blessing of the life which teems upon it
and of which we are part.

We praise Thee for the arching sky and the blessed winds,
for the driving clouds and the constellations on high.
We praise Thee for the salt sea and the running water,
for the everlasting hills,
for the trees and for the grass under our feet.

We thank Thee for our senses
by which we can see the splendor of the morning,
and hear the jubilant song of the birds,
taste the autumn fruits,
rejoice in the feel of snow
and smell the breath of springtime.

Grant us, we pray Thee,
a heart wide open to all this joy and beauty,
and save our souls from being so steeped in care
or so darkened by passion
that we pass heedless and unseeing
when even the thorn bush by the wayside
is aflame with Thy glory.

O God, our creator who livest and reignest for ever and ever.

Walter Rauschenbusch, A Celtic Liturgy

So today, let’s pause. And embrace our invitation to spill light in the small world, where we can…

Quote for our week…
“Dear Lord, grant me the grace of wonder. Surprise me, amaze me, awe me in every crevice of your universe. Each day enrapture me with your marvelous things without number. I do not ask to see the reason for it all; I ask only to share the wonder of it all.” Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Here’s our Prayer Blessing…
A Blessing for Beauty
May the beauty of your life become more visible to you, that you may glimpse your wild divinity.
May the wonders of the earth call you forth from all your small, secret prisons and set your feet free in the pastures of possibilities.
May the light of dawn anoint your eyes that you may behold what a miracle a day is.
May the liturgy of twilight shelter all your fears and darkness within the circle of ease.
May the angel of memory surprise you in bleak times with new gifts from the harvest of your vanished days.
May you allow no dark hand to quench the candle of hope in your heart.
May you discover a new generosity towards yourself, and encourage yourself to engage your life as a great adventure.
May the outside voices of fear and despair find no echo in you.
May you always trust the urgency and wisdom of your own spirit.
May the shelter and nourishment of all the good you have done, the love you have shown, the suffering you have carried, awaken around you to bless your life a thousand times.
And when love finds the path to your door may you open like the earth to the dawn, and trust your every hidden color towards its nourishment of light.
May you find enough stillness and silence to savor the kiss of God on your soul and delight in the eternity that shaped you, that holds you and calls you.
And may you know that despite confusion, anxiety and emptiness, your name is written in Heaven.
And may you come to see your life as a quiet sacrament of service, which awakens around you a rhythm where doubt gives way to the grace of wonder, where what is awkward and strained can find elegance, and where crippled hope can find wings, and torment enter at last unto the grace of serenity.
May Divine Beauty bless you.
John O’Donohue, from Beauty – The Invisible Embrace

Photo… “Good morning Terry–A beautiful morning amongst Skagit Valley Tulips (Skagit Valley, WA),” Cheryl Woolcock

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