The Peace of Wild Things

Farther Along

There’s no doubt we are going through some pretty wild times right now, both here at home in the United States and globally. Sometimes it seems everything is falling apart. This past week made me so anxious that my lower back stiffened up. I can’t wait for yoga tonight. Six o’clock can’t come soon enough. The anxiety is building up day by day.

I bet I’m one of millions who feel the same way. This observation is based on the thousands who meditate with me (check out the app Insight Timer) each morning and night. I started taking Passiflora, a natural supplement for anxiety, and pounding the treadmill downstairs AND I’ve become a cleaning fanatic. I’m sure the latter has to do with control issues as well as working out the anxiety jitters.

This morning, as I washed the dishes after cleaning the bathroom sinks and considering washing the bathroom…

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Sweet Reading

It was as black in the closet as old blood.  They had shoved me in and locked the door.  The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Alan Bradley.

So begins the  macabre,hilarious tale of a little girl detective who is delightfully, deliciously sticking her nose into all the grown up business and making sense of it all.  Flavia is a little bit Harry Potter, a bit Charles Adams with her potions in her lab room, busily conniving in a big house undeterred by plotting family members! She plots herself!

When a mysterious dead bird with a postage stamp ends up on the front doorstep, she gets on  her bicycle, rides into town, interviews suspects, and spies on adult conversations behind closed door. She remains undaunted by murder and the arrest of her father.  If there is a mystery it is made to be solved.  Through the many twists and turns of the plot,  Flavia comes out on top defeating any improbable foil the author may throw her way.

This book is chocked full of science.    For any young person aspiring to a scientific career, this book will inspire and educate.  Tidbits of chemical knowledge are given as Flavia enthusiastically whips up concoctions such as a bit of poison ivy liquid placed in her sister’s lipstick.

Stoppering the retort, I connected it on one side to a flask in which water was already boiling, and on the other to a coiled glass condensing tube whose open end hung suspended over an empty beaker.  … the leaves … were beginning to curl and soften as the hot vapor opened the tiny pockets between their cells,releasing the oils that were the essence of the living plant. 

This was the way the ancient alchemists had practiced their art: fire and steam, steam and fire.  Distillation.

Have fun with this book which is the beginning of a series starring our little hero.  Flavia de Luce will delight and surprise on every page!

 

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War and Peace

Mugongo has been my home for forty-three years now, and it is here that I intend to spend the rest of my days.  The little orphanage that began as a dream has become a haven of love and laughter and a symbol of hope to all who have been a part of it. – Rosamond Halsey Carr, August 1997. Land of a Thousand Hills, My Life in Rwanda

Roz Carr was a remarkable American white woman who left her life in New York City to live first in Rwanda, then the Congo with her much older English husband, Kenneth Carr.  Her friends and family were astonished at her choice.  Africa in 1949 was extremely remote and she would be traveling to a very isolated area in Rwanda.  She hardly knew Kenneth as it turned out, and the marriage fell apart after several years.  In the meantime, she learned how to manage a pyrethrum flower plantation, as well as household management of a cook, houseboys and a gardener.

The Carrs were not wealthy, but worked hard and pursued opportunity as it came.  When times got hard at Mugongo Plantation in Rwanda, they took the job of managing Buniole Plantation in the Congo which was forty miles from the nearest town.  Deciding that a separation would be good for her marriage, Roz went back to Mugongo to manage the plantation on her own, and that was the beginning of a long, adventurous life for her.  She lived and worked with the plantation staff and workers and considered many to be her friends.

Incredibly, when civil war broke out between the Tutsi and Hutu, she remained at the plantation until the very last moment.  After the horrific massacre of the Tutsi, she came back to smoldering ruins.  A touching reunion with her dogs and cat helped her decide to stay and rebuild. They emerged from the jungle as she was weeping over the devastation; having survived in the wild for weeks.  Roz was convinced the dogs had survived with the help of the cat bringing them her kills.

The orphanage was established after the massacre to care for some of the hundreds of Rwandan children left with no one to care for them.  It still operates today even though Roz has since died.

http://www.rwandaproject.org/project_orphanage.html

 

 

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Vere Latitat (Truly Hidden)

There are no ordinary people.  You have never talked to a mere mortal.  … it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.   -C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

I am attending a series of lectures this summer with a womens group at my church.  Fr. Chris spoke last week and as part of his talk on bringing vibrancy to our faith he included a copy of the above article.  I have just finished reading it this morning and there were a couple of points that I found very meaningful.

The first point involves the concept that beauty, love, God can be found in all things.  All of creation is a reflection of God’s glory but also infused with His love.  In this article, C.S. Lewis suggests that everything of beauty, whether of the natural world, or a piece of lovely music or art is a messenger of glory.  We manage to catch a glimpse of heaven on earth.   Did you ever feel just that tinge of wonder, perhaps that fleeting moment of something so large that it’s gone before you can snatch it and make it your own?   These moments are hard to come by, but be on the lookout for events in your daily life which might be waiting for your notice.   We are surrounded by “triggers” or “pop-outs” of glory.  Take them in and accept their reward. You deserve it!

The second point, the above quote, is amazing.  As we are all drops of water in the ocean, we are a part of each other and need to love and support each other.  I need lots of help on this one.  Some people seem so difficult, but I am trying to see that their struggle is a part of my own.

Christ vere latitat.

 

 

 

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Love Is All Around

In each of us there is a little of all of us. – Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

The oneness of humanity.  Yes, its existence is real, but we are living in a strange, rather unreal world, aren’t we?  When I think about the universe and its vastness, and the equal vastness of a microbial world, I wonder how we fit in, exactly.  Lucky me, I’m able to have the “time” in this overly busy world to ponder this age old question!

Spirituality comes wrapped up in a variety of packages.  We all should have what suits us, but often we don’t feel connected to anything, and we’ve stopped trying to find fulfillment or “happiness”.  That’s a dark place to be, and most of us have been there.  If you are experiencing this in your life, I hope and pray that you will find that inner peace and love which lives within you.  One way to do this is to sit down quietly and just breathe in and out, concentrating on your breathing only.  Envision your little ball of light within yourself and say, “hello” to the real you.  That little light is God within you; your connection to the universe; your oneness with humanity and all creation.  Pretty powerful stuff and hard to realize at first, but give it a chance to grow bigger and brighter in your life.  And, guess what?  You have a friend and companion for life … always.

But, there is more.  Each person has this “real” self within them, and all those little balls of light can actually merge together.  The power of prayer, community worship, the moments of grace that create a burst of intense love; those are light converging events.  For me, personally, I am overwhelmed with thankfulness to my God for this realization.

Build your “light community”.  Part of my community is Jesus, Mary, the saints, and my beautiful deceased relatives, and those surrounding me on earth.

Enough for today!  I’ve written more than I’d planned, but will finish with a song I love, “Love is All Around”,  It’s written on the wind, it’s everywhere I go. 

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My Home is Yours

We are all of us, every man, woman, and child, every dog and cat, every bird that flies searching over land and sea, looking for our place — that spot where we truly belong. Our homes gift us with an end to that search. They give us our place.” – Barry Dixon

Home is where the heart is.  Home Sweet Home.  There’s no place like home.  A house does not make a home.  So many quotes!!  Our homes are our safe haven, our refuge from the harsh, often cruel world outside.  A home should be a shield; our last or first defense.  It is where we create, love, seek nourishment, and rest.  It is supposed to be a place where we find acceptance and security; when it doesn’t we feel lost and groundless.  Our feet slip out from under us, and we lose our confidence and identity.  If this is prolonged, we can actually begin to lose our sanity.

Used to be, we lived most of our lives in one place or one town, anyway.  We all know that’s changed and so we carry “home” with us in the form of keepsakes and treasures; and pile it all in the U-Haul.  My husband and I have just cleaned out my mother in law’s house.  She died about two years ago, and now it’s time to sell her house.  She gave it all up before she died, and lived with us the last year or so of her life.  Perhaps it was easier for her to do that knowing she had labeled hundreds of photos and identified contents of boxes piled in kitchen, closets, attics, and basement.  We did our best in family distribution, and now the house is empty, almost ready for its new occupants and their belongings.

What do I treasure the most?  What could I give up at a moment’s notice?  If I lost it all, would I feel a part of “me” had gone?   I hope not.  Home is our heart and soul and how we embrace others in love.  Our belongings should be an extension of that… and if they are given away to those we love, they have served their purpose.

 

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Hope of the World, by Joseph Auslander

Rounding up old volumes of books to give away and came across this newspaper clipping from 1963.  It’s a poem that my grandmother must have liked very much:

World, O world of muddled men, Seek the Peace of God again:  In the humble faith that kneels, In the hallowed Word that heals; In the courage of a tree, In the rock’s integrity; In the hill that holds the sky, The star you pull your heart up by:  In the laughter of a child, Altogether undefiled; In the hope that answers doubt, Love that drives the darkness out …Frantic, frightened, foolish men, Take God by the hand again.

May you find peace and love and give it back to the world.

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Misericordes Sicut Pater

Happy Easter!  Yes, it still is … for 50 days until Pentecost which is May 15, which happens to be my birthday.  Haven’t written in ages, but figure I’d better just get going with it when I have something on my mind.  We sang the hymn for the Holy Year of Mercy today in church as we always do, and it always sends me into a meditative state, guaranteed.  Wish I could include a recording of it for you but perhaps it’s on the internet somewhere? It’s all about mercy.

Mercy involves forgiving, not forgetting, and including others in our love of the world and the divine presence in all of us.  Reading a book about Venice, The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt (the same author as Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil) and the range of colorful characters is on par with that book … all struggling with how to save themselves and Venice from perceived ruin.  Society figures and lowly alike are crying out for attention and fighting against loneliness in their own expressive ways.  It all boils down to acceptance of self and others as they are.  A good read.

Have a wonderful Spring and a blessed Easter, if you celebrate, and remember the translation of “Misericordes” hymn.  “Merciful, just as the Father is, His mercy endures forever.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Trilogy

I feel as though it is catch up time after reading three books and no posts about any of them!  Apologies.  Written In My Own Heart’s Blood took up my whole summer, and I eeked out every moment with it for its pure enjoyment.  Diana Gabaldon is one of my favorite authors and I’ve read her whole series of eight Outlander books set in eighteenth century Scotland and modern times, plus her Lord John series.  Of course, I watched all the Starz TV Season One episodes, and can’t wait for April when the series starts airing its concluding segments.  Diana Gabaldon is a terrific story teller and she weaves in her extensive research on the places, times, and customs of her characters.  She also includes poetry (sometimes her own) in Gaelic and English, and rich spiritual and sensual material. In other words, her stories incorporate all of life and pose questions about the meaning of our existence.

Who builds God? … We all do… If God makes man in His image, we all return the favor… But God’s there, nonetheless, whether we ken quite what He is or not.

How Big Is Your God, The Freedom to Experience the Divine, by Paul Coutinho, SJ explores our relationship with the Divine.  The chapter titles give you an idea of the content: “God – an Experience, Not a Theology”, “Can You be Religious without Knowing God?” (yes), “Moving from Charity to Compassion”, “Four Ways of Relating with God” (and the next four chapters explore each way), “Transcending Your Images of God”, “Prayer, a Pathway to Freedom and Love”, “Are We Enslaved by Things We Do Not Fully Enjoy?” (key note: fully enjoy your possessions before giving them away!), “Life Does Not Offer Us Pleasure – It Offers Us Meaning”.

Each chapter is short enough for a nightly reading before bed, and as a Jesuit, the author is not shy about offering advice from the eastern religions.

Pleasure is a byproduct of meaningful activity.

Situations in themselves do not produce feelings.  It is our perception of the situation that makes us feel good or bad.

The next book is a doozy and you won’t forget this one.  Wise Blood, by Flannery O’Connor is a description of hell on earth, in my estimation.   The characters are all unsavory, and they search for meaningful relationships and inclusion into society from their exclusive (alienated) positions.  It’s a dark comedy of errors and some of the images are rather horrifying. It’s a depressing read, but makes one extremely thankful for the gifts given us. It made me aware of the grace of God, which is really the purpose of the author.  In her note to the second edition she writes:

It is a comic book about a Christian malgre lui, and as such, very serious, for all comic novels that are any good must be about matters of life and death… That belief in Christ is to some a matter of life and death has been a stumbling block for readers who would prefer to think it a matter of no great consequence.

Hope I haven’t swamped you.  Happy reading to all.

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Redwood Majesty

I had the pleasure of visiting the tallest living things in the world last week. The redwoods of Muir Woods, California, welcomed us branches spread up over two hundred feet and for hundreds of years have held their ground majestically. A grove was specially reserved for quiet and most of the tourists complied, creating a space for contemplation and quiet meditation in nature’s cathedral. Here is a poem I found on a postcard in the gift shop. I hope you can also visit these beautiful woods and experience a little of the divine. A tip: Get there early in the morning before most of the tourists arrive!

Here, sown by the Creator’s hand,
In serried ranks, the Redwoods stand.
No other clime is honored so,
No other lands their glory know.
The greatest of Earth’s living forms,
Tall conquerors that laugh at storms;
Their challenge still unanswered rings,
Through fifty centuries of kings.

The nations that with them were young,
Rich empires, with their forts far-flung
Lie buried now – their splendor gone,redwoods1
But these proud monarchs still live on.
So shall they live, where ends our day,
When our crude citadels decay:
For brief the years allotted man,
But infinite perennials’ span.

This is their temple, vaulted high,
And here we pause with reverent eye,
With silent tongue and awe-struck soul;
For here we sense life’s proper goal;
To be like these, straight, true and fine,
To make our world, like theirs, a shrine;
Sink down, Oh, traveller, on your knees,
God stands before you in these trees.

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