Hello Goodbye

I have just spent some time at the airport ushering our youngest off to another year of college. Where did the summer go? Where did the years go? As I stood watching the people coming and going, greeting one another and saying goodbye, I was once again flooded with the realization that, odd as it may seem, airports are often holy ground. Even with all the sterility and suspicion that has invaded what was once a place of excitement and even glamor, there is still something wonderful that happens in an airport. As people form lines and file past those who look us directly in the face and play a match game with our present image and one that exists on a small plastic card, we participate in a transition from one place to another that still seems impossible, even magical, to me. Within the span of a few hours we can move from one climate to another, from one language to another, from a place of comfort to one that is quite foreign.

But it is the airport itself that always brings me up short. Today I was once again reminded of the opening scene to the film ‘Love Actually’. Have you seen it? It begins with image after image of people moving through an airport. As it begins to unfold you realize you are seeing individuals and families reunite. Over and over, there are embraces, kisses, hugs, smiles, tears, gifts exchanged. The faces are of varying ages, ethnic backgrounds. The people are dressed in a myriad of ways from casual to formal. The act that unites them is their joy in greeting someone they love.

Today I stood on the other side of that picture. It was the ‘saying goodbye’ place. Lovers kissed before parting at the rope that would divide the traveler from the one left behind. Grandparents hugged babies and small children for one last time before these young families headed back to their own home. In the elder’s embrace was the sure knowledge that these little ones will change perhaps drastically before they see them again. Business travelers quickly pecked a partner on the cheek before heading off to another trip that will take them away for only a short time. There were a few lucky vacationers,those who still had the look of summer about them. They quickly hugged the loved one who had dropped them off at the airport for just one more slice of freedom. And of course, there were a couple of parents like myself, the ones with a Year’s worth of luggage, sending their dear ones off for another installment in their college career. Our hugs were filled with a mixture of emotions defined by how far and how often that parenting cord had been unfurled. Saying goodbye to a freshman is very different than the one said someone in their junior year.

These mammoth buildings built to move people from one place to another were created for safety, efficiency and comfort. In airports, most people simply want to get from point A to point B with a limited amount of hassle and the maximum amount of ease. With a few places for a good, quick meal in between.

But anyone who needs a good dose of hope in the human capacity for love need only spend a few moments standing outside the exit door that leads people from an arriving flight. Watch the faces descending the escalator search the crowds for that face that looks back expectably and see the searching eyes turn into smiling ones. Be present to the arms that reach out, the heads coming together in kisses and words of welcome and relief. “You’re here! You’re home.” These are the moments that provide a picture of what matters. Humans reconnecting. Hands holding. Hearts opened. Love shared.

A time of transition is settling over not only our home but the season itself. By next week all children and young people will be back in school. The rhythm of the year will shift and take on a new shape that is yet to be known. Soon the trees and the landscape will take on a different form, new colors will emerge from what was green. Life is change and change is life.

But if I need a reminder of what does not change, I can always head to the airport. I can watch as hellos and goodbyes are said. I can be witness to the coming together of people who are overjoyed to see one another or are bereft to see a loved one leave. And so it goes. Over and over again.

And would we have it any other way? I don’t think so.



A few weeks ago I took a little trip to Savannah, Georgia with my mother. It was a wonderful drive through mountains green with hardwood trees that in just a few weeks will paint a palette along the roadways with swashes of red, orange and gold. As we drove along we imagined what a sight that will be.

Once in the lovely city of Savannah, we took a trolley ride around the city as we learned some of the city’s history and horticulture. At one point we turned a corner near Forsythe Park and learned of a very special tree. The enormous Candler Oak stands sentinel over this beautiful park from a lonely spot on a parking lot near a hospital that has been long closed. The story told by our guide recounted a failed development deal between some New York builders who wanted buy the empty hospital and put up housing. The catch? The 300 year old tree would have to go. The people of Savannah said “No way.” and the building still sits empty.

It was a wonderful story and I hope it is true. The idea that, in these modern times any group of people would forgo such an economic deal for the love of a tree, warms my heart. As we passed the towering tree, I have to admit to feeling a deep emotion stir within me and I can’t get the image of that magnificent tree out of my mind. To what has this tree been present over these three centuries? Wars? Romances? Children growing? People aging? Who has stood, as I did, giving thanks for its strong trunk, its sheltering branches? Just imagine the life, and the changes in lives, that have been witnessed by this giant oak.

Tonight while searching through some worship resources, I read these words of Howard Thurman. ” When the storms blew, the branches of the large oak in our backyard would snap and fall. But the utmost branches of the oak tree would sway just enough to save themselves from snapping loose. I needed the strength of that tree, and, like it, I wanted to hold my ground. Eventually, I discovered that the oak tree and I had a unique relationship. I could sit, my back against its trunk, and feel the same peace that would come to me in my bed at night. I could reach down in the quiet places of my spirit, take out my bruises and my joys, unfold them, and talk about them. I could talk aloud to the oak tree and know that I was understood.”

Perhaps those who made the decision to rule, not in the favor of progress, but for the life of this oak understood what it means to ‘need the strength of a tree.’ In their decision
to save this glorious tree, they made an investment. An investment in relationship. An investment in quiet places, in spirit, in peace and in healing.

The tree, at 300 years, cannot stand forever. But those who chose to let the tree live, to stand their ground, have provided an example of things that matter for the long haul. Hopefully, that has made all the difference, not only for this mighty oak, but for all who choose to learn from its story.


Fair Prayer

“I send prayers of gratitude to all
that has given of itself on this day.
The strong beans and the hardy grains,
The beautiful leafy green plants and the sweet juicy fruits.
I thank the sun that warmed and vitalized them,
just as it does me
and the earth that held and nourished them, as it does me,
and the waters that bathed and refreshed them, as they do for me.
I thank the fire that transformed them,
just as I wish to be transformed by the fires of Spirit.
I thank the hands that grew and prepared this food,
just as I thank all those that have touched me in so many ways.”
~Sedonia Cahill

We have reached a pivotal time in the life cycle of a year. Those of us who have gardens are being held in the grip of bounty. A friend said to me just the other day that she needed to head home and make something for supper that included tomatoes. Otherwise, the balance would tip and the tomatoes would overtake the human capacity to deal with them. This morning’s trip to the St. Paul Farmer’s Market was a testament to this pivotal time. The bright reds and greens of summer produce sat along-side apples and squash, a herald of the autumn abundance that is just around the corner.

And of course, the Minnesota State Fair began a few days ago. This yearly homage to all things Minnesotan is a delight to many and a necessary evil to others. But no matter your feelings about the State Fair, it is clearly an opportunity to connect with the bounty, both beautiful and bizarre, that the earth can produce. This morning when I read this prayer meant to be a table grace, I thought of my own experience of the Fair.

You see, when I attend this annual extravaganza, I am not attracted to the thrill of rides or the kitschy trinkets found along the midway. I am not even attracted by the chance to rub elbows with local celebrities or politicians. From the moment I enter the gates I am aware of all the many ways this is a place to showcase what has been brought to fruition by hard work, creativity, collaboration, innovation and a big dose of humor. This is all held together with a sense of sacrifice. Sacrifice of resources, time, and even ego on the part of the humans. Anything grown or fed from the Earth is a practice in remembering that none of us acts independently. Sacrifice of energy, rain, soil, nutrients on the part of Creation, provide gifts which are less easy to find a listening ear to offer our gratitude.

When I see row upon row of prize-winning vegetables, the enormous pumpkins, the deep purple eggplants, the perfectly formed green beans, I am moved nearly to tears by the notion of all that went into their being present before my eyes. Gazing on all the handmade pies, cakes, canned goods, and artwork, I am overwhelmed by all the hands that have offered their work for my inspiration and enjoyment. Watching the young people show their animals….sheep, goats, pigs, cattle, horses…..I think of the countless hours logged to raise these creatures who have been nurtured since birth by hopeful hands and loving hearts. No doubt much human energy and care has been poured into seeing this animal walk into a pen,far from home, to be judged by people who are knowledgable in ways that is beyond my comprehension.

Visiting the State Fair provides a wide angle lens to what is the microscopic lens with which we usually live our daily lives. The lens shows us that we are……Intricately woven together with others we will never meet. Sustained by forces we cannot see or understand. At home in a Universe that demands our dependence upon one another. Held in a dancing balance by the Spirit.

And so ‘I send prayers of gratitude to all that has given of itself this day.’ For the warming and vitalizing sun, the nourishing earth and refreshing waters,the transforming fires, I offer my thanks. May this pivotal time of year find me remembering all the hands that have tended my food and my life. May this memory be present not just for a few days at the end of the summer, but every day.

Blessed be.

Poet Laureate

This morning’s paper brought good news. Minnesota has a new poet laureate. It seems the governor has taken a step toward lifting up before all of us someone who will be ‘an advocate, lover and promoter of Minnesota poets and poetry. Sandwiched between stories of the waves of vandalism and earthquake reports and tales of the troubled places around the world, was this announcement that my state, our state is taking a moment to step back, taking a deep breath and valuing the importance of minimal words. I felt hope rush all over me with this announcement.

Joyce Sutphen’s smiling face looked back at me from the front page. David O’Fallon of the Minnesota Humanities Center made this affirmation of her announcement: “We really need poetry at this time that is a little divisive and a little crazy.” Well said. Indeed, in the midst of a lack of civility that seems to grip all ages and stations of our common life, the gift of poetry can be a healing balm. I have not read Sutphen’s work but look forward to delving into the words that accompany such a lovely, welcoming face.

Many times over this summer I have found myself engaged in conversations that often begin something like this. “How did we get to this place?” or “What has happened to everyone? Why can’t we be nice to one another anymore?” It seems so many of the words, on television, in print, on the airwaves and online, have become so filled with meanness that it is easy to feel as if we need to be on our guard at all times lest we get punched by ugly, hurtful words. And as the political season begins to ramp up for the 2012 elections, I shudder to think how it can get any worse. The lack of civility seems to be a run-away train.

So the presence of a poet laureate among us seems such a civilized and promising thing. With Sutphen’s influence, perhaps each of us might greet the morning with a little e.e. cummings on our lips: ‘i thank you god for most this amazing day’. Or when the news of the day threatens to overcome us, we might turn to the person near by and offer a line of Wallace Stevens:’ Light the first light of evening, as in a room/In which we rest and, for small reason, think/ The world imagined is the ultimate good.’

On days when we are too tired or too angry or cannot muster the enthusiasm for work or the news of the day or the person who makes us crazy or much of anything, perhaps the wisdom of Jane Kenyon will come to us: ” I got out of bed on two strong legs./It might have been otherwise./I ate cereal, sweet milk, ripe, flawless peach. It might have been otherwise./ I took the dog uphill to the birch wood./ All morning I did the work I love./……..But one day, I know, it will be otherwise.”

And who can shy away from the challenge of poet Mary Oliver’s ultimate and challenging question: ” Tell me, what do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” These words of poetry float through my mind at the most mundane and powerful moments. It is the question with which each of us must grapple, all held in the final line of an exquisite poem.

Perhaps the fact that Minnesota has a new poet laureate won’t change much of anything. We will still get up, if we are lucky, and put our feet firmly on the ground and head into whatever our lives offer us. The news will continue to trouble and confound. Politicians will begin to ramp up hateful words to fling at one another and our ears and hearts will get caught in the crossfire. The economy will, no doubt, ride the roller coaster it has created for itself.

But if words are as important as we know they are, we might take up Mary Oliver’s challenging question by reading more poetry. By allowing those well chosen words to soften our hearts and our interactions with one another. We might gently lay a poem on the desk of a co-worker or on the pillow of a child. We might even begin to commit to memory a line of this poem or that one, so we can offer it at just the right moment, to create a crack in this culture of incivility.

We can do all this as welcome to our new poet laureate. And as a way to soften the edges of what seems like an ever-hardening world.


This morning I was up early and couldn’t see any evidence of the newspaper on our front steps. Without the usual words on paper to guide my first steps into the day, I took my coffee and opened the door to the deck to listen to the rain falling softly outside. What a comforting, cleansing sound. Resting gently in this sound, I picked up a book I hadn’t for some time and read an entry meant for this day, August 23. One particular phrase caught my attention: “If you have lived all your life hearing another voice in your heart…..” I smiled.

These words were written by Sarah Ban Breathnach in her book Simple Abundance. She wrote the phrase to describe poet Amy Clampitt who published her first full length book of poetry when she was 63. Although she had been a poet all her life, she found, what she referred to as her authentic voice, in her mid-fifties. I thought of all the people, not necessarily poets, who might describe themselves in a similar fashion.

I thought of the many other “voices” beside my own that I have heard over the years. I also thought of the times I have forgotten to listen to the voice that was in my own heart. Like most people, for many years, I carried the voice of a parent in my head and I tried to follow that voice for all kinds of reasons, some of them helpful and some not. I listened to the voices of what was considered ‘right’ or ‘proper’ for a young woman of my generation. These voices also fit for me at times and at others led me down paths that were sometimes painful and certainly not authentic to my heart-voice. As a person who has always found a home within the church, I have listened to voices who would have me fit into a mold that was a certain brand of Christian that was too narrow for me, that did not allow the freedom or room I heard in the voice of Jesus. Stepping out from those voices often felt like a heart-breaking. But as I walked further away and listened more deeply within, I knew the voice I was hearing as my own led to the path to which I was called. I could say a prayer of blessing for those voices which did not reflect my own. I could offer a prayer of gratitude for my own walk, my own hearing.

Sometime it takes immense quiet to be able to hear our own heart-voices. Whether it is the din of sounds that fly at us at every turn in this 21st century world we travel or the sheer volume of information that gets stuffed into our daily living, it can be difficult to be in tune with the voice that is ours and ours alone. What is your heart-voice saying to you these days? Can you hear its unique sound among all the others? How are you following the lead it offers you? Are you able to turn from all the voices that might be offering you sage advice and hear your own true, authentic self speaking?

It seems to me, when we are quiet enough to listen, truly listen, the voice that speaks deepest within us is the voice of Spirit dancing with our own. That voice which emanates from our core is the one that was birthed within us and continues to work to be given speech through our living. Whether through poetry or parenting, through music or mission, through humor or humility, we each have a voice that is needed for the healing of the world.

Perhaps today is the day to let your voice be heard.


Beginning my morning run today, I hit the play button on my iPod. It was, in some ways, a random choice. Unlike many people who run, I do not have a set playlist that gets me going, keeps my pace or helps me cool down. I play mostly whatever strikes my fancy. I can run as easily to a chant as I can to rock ‘n roll. This may tell you something about my running style.

Today’s punch of the button brought up k.d. lang’s version of the Leonard Cohen song ‘Hallelujah’. In some ways it is a strange song and I have to admit I really don’t understand all the lyrics or their intention. It weaves a complicated telling of the King David story with a lot of poetic, thick phrases that leave much room for interpretation. But the phrase ‘a broken hallelujah’ is woven throughout. The song builds to repetition of Hallelujah that pulls at your heart.

As I made my way down our street I became aware of the fact that this very churchy word, unused in most regular conversation, seemed to be the perfect affirmation of this beautiful day. A day perched between summer and fall. The beauty of what has come to fruition is holding the ‘what next’ in its outstretched hand. I know it is true because I saw the first fallen leaf from our maple tree, brilliant red and nestled in the carpet of green grass. Hallelujah seemed to be the appropriate soundtrack to the unfolding morning, the yet to be known season, and all the glory they both embody.

I began to think about the word ‘hallelujah’, how rarely I use it. Certainly I say it on rare occasions we sing a traditional hymn that uses this exclamation. In my past I have been present in worship services in which the preacher’s words have elicited a ‘hallelujah’ from those in the pews. Even if I had felt that word welling up, I would have been unlikely to have gone beyond my comfort zone and joined them in their enthusiasm. Hallelujah is just not a word that rolls off most people’s tongues with ease.

And yet, as I think about it, of the seeds planted within us at our birth, perhaps ‘hallelujah’ is one of the deepest. What child does not come into the world, after the work of laboring to be born, without ‘hallelujah’ springing from their crying lips? And it is the blessing of most mothers, fathers, grandparents and siblings who first glimpse this newborn to feel the rising of a ‘hallelujah’ deep in the pit of their stomachs. As humans we were created for ‘hallelujah’.

Yet Cohen is correct that our hallelujahs are often broken. I remember with a certain poignancy watching k.d. lang sing this song at the closing ceremonies of last year’s Winter Olympics. She stood, alone, dressed in a white suit in the enormous Vancouver stadium surrounded by people from around the world. As she began this ballad, I remember thinking this was far too quiet, too simple a song to sing for such an event. But as the crowd grew silent and she stood in the single, shining light, I knew I need not worry. Soon everyone, regardless of nationality or political party, was held in the power that lived deep within. The Hallelujah that was theirs was being spoken for them by this one, powerful voice. All the broken hallelujahs that had gone before were healed in that moment.

This morning, listening to this song once again, I sang ‘Hallelujah’ to the green trees and the blue sky. I thought of the broken places in our world, the broken places within me. Places where ‘hallelujah’ seems so difficult to utter. I breathed in the fresh, clean air and felt my legs carrying me and breathed out ‘hallelujah’. I thought of the institutions and relationships that are broken and cannot find their hallelujah.

And then I remembered the small, red leaf. Though broken hallelujahs abound, the deep rhythms of Creation cannot be silenced. They continue to sing their praise into the world……even when we cannot.


Bridge Closed Ahead

“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts.”
~Thich Nhat Hahn 

There is a saying in Minnesota that there are really only two seasons: winter and road construction. We are firmly planted in the later in these waning August days. Everywhere we travel there is the prevalence of bright orange…..cones, signs, trucks and equipment. Sprinkled throughout this sea of orange are all the many workers in their brilliant yellow-green vests. It can make for a very colorful drive as we weave in and out of roads that have been diverted or routes that have been changed. One of the things I like about this time of year is that driving demands a certain caution and an awareness of, not only the other drivers, but of all those precious human bodies working on our behalf as cars speed by them.

For some reason this past week I have become very aware of one particular sign as I make my way on my familiar route between church and home, home and church. Among all the other bright orange messages, one stands out: Bridge Closed Ahead. Perhaps I am aware of it because it is impossible to see without thinking of the many bridges I cross each day on this simple journey. The ways in which the Mississippi River snakes through the Twin Cities makes it nearly impossible not to cross a bridge at one point or another. Bridges make our living here possible.

But bridges are also such a wonderful metaphor. We need these connectors not only in a literal sense but also in our relationships, our creative lives, our understanding of faith, the living of our unfolding days. How many times I have needed just the right words that will bridge a hurt I have caused another. How many times I have searched for and finally found the perfect bridge that connected an idea I had been birthing to another person’s idea,  creating an answer to a problem, a fuller picture of how to move forward. How many times I have heard one person’s words about God’s movement in their lives, words that have built a bridge to a greater understanding of God’s movement in my own. And how often I am in the presence of someone of another generation and experience the building of a bridge of years that brings me greater insight and generosity with where I am in my own life.

Bridges are important. They connect us and help us move from one place to the next. But I am also aware of people who are up against a ‘bridge closed ahead’ sign and they do not know how to re-route themselves. No detour is in sight or seems possible. That message of the bridge that is unavailable can be a devastating experience. I’ve experienced it, have you?

Perhaps I am also aware of bridges because I have just returned from a road trip where many bridges were crossed. Bridges across rivers and streams and through the Low Country waters of South Carolina. As we made our way across bridge after bridge, nothing had prepared us for the most magnificent bridge of all: the Talmadge Bridge that led us into the beautiful city of Savannah. It is a bridge that actually bows up in the middle and at one point you cannot see the other side. It feels as if you might be driving off into the water of the horizon. It makes your stomach leave you.

What bridges are you crossing these days? What bridges have closed for you? Which bridges seem to be sending you into the abyss? Each day is a bridge between this day’s gift of life and the next. May each of us be led gently from one side to the other. May we have faithful companions for the journey. May we have the courage and the patience to re-route ourselves when a bridge closes. And may the One who breathed us into being be beside us at every turn.


Good Use of Time

Since returning from my vacation, I have been wading through all the things that can stack up over a week’s time. Emails. Phone calls. Things you forgot to do before you left. Meetings. Laundry. You get the picture. So, I haven’t made it to this space in my regular fashion. The time just seemed to get away from me.

Now that I have taken care of most of those things, I want to pass on something I observed today. I was driving down the very busy Hennepin Avenue to meet a friend for a long-planned birthday lunch. Half listening the radio, I was reveling in the absolute beauty of this summer day. The cooler temperatures have moved in, making the sunny skies, the green of the grass and trees and colors of flowers even more brilliant than ever. It was one of those days when I actually thought to remind myself: “It  is good to be alive.” Very good.

Apparently I was not the only person who thought this. As I stopped at the stoplight on Hennepin & Franklin, I noticed the black car in the lefthand lane facing me. This car, headed north on Hennepin, had its blinker on to turn left at this busy intersection, always a tricky maneuver. The driver’s car door was open and the driver was standing on the median waiting for the light to turn green. The driving was dancing! Right there for all the world to see! I watched as he grooved to the left and then the right. He snapped his fingers and twirled around. Michael Jackson-like. He jived first one way and then the other. He had the wonderful ability some people do of being able to swivel his head and neck in an amazing circular fashion. I could just faintly hear the beat he was hearing from his radio as it wafted across the airwaves toward my car. Its rhythm made my talk radio seem pretty dull.

Some people were crossing the street and chose to look down, trying to ignore this flight of fancy dancing. The woman whose car idled by mine furrowed her brow as she continued to talk on her phone. I wondered how they could not be taken in by this man, moved to dance, as he passed the time waiting for the light to change. He was a good dancer. He was enjoying himself. He was providing all of us with something ‘you won’t see every day’ , as the saying goes. Why not drink it in in all its fullness?

This dancing man was, after all, just making good use of what can feel like idle time. Sitting at a stoplight. Waiting to move from red to green. I have a friend who keeps a book on the front seat and reads at stoplights. While this might be safer, it certainly doesn’t seem as much fun as dancing.

Watching him, I thought of that quote attributed to William W. Purkey . It urges us to stay in tune with the zest for life:
“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.”

On this particular August day, with the sun shining down and traffic whizzing by, I was thankful for someone who had the courage to jump out of his car and dance. It was a good use of his time and a little reminder of another heavenly day.


Growing? Coping?

Occasionally I give an update on the daily bits of wisdom parceled out to me through my daily horoscope. This past week’s words caught my attention at the breakfast table. It read: ” Are you growing or merely coping? You make so much happen in a day(and so much happens to you, as well) that you can’t help but wonder when the sun is setting how it’s all adding up.” So much for a trivial beginning to a regular Thursday. Instead I was offered big questions to help shape what I thought was going to be just an ordinary day. The horoscope seemed significant so I tore it out and threw it into my purse.

Growing? Or simply coping? Are you ever plagued by this conundrum? Of course, every morning most of us wake up with the pure intention of growing, of blossoming beyond belief for the whole world to see. But the truth of the matter is that all those things we might make happen or that might happen to us often result in mostly coping. It can find us at the setting of the sun wondering what we did do with the precious hours, minutes and seconds that were offered to us. How did we remember to breathe in the goodness that came our way? How did we keep our hearts open to acts of compassion that brushed up against our broken spirits? What were the moments of simplicity that reached out to grab our deepest longings? When did we allow the eyes behind our eyes to take a snapshot that might last a lifetime?

Often the intention with which we begin each day most often gets overshadowed by invisible threads,pieces of lint and bits of paper that make up the pile with which we end the day. Have you ever had the experience of finding yourself unable to remember what actually happened during large sections of a day that is just ending? I find this to be quite unnerving and a sure sign that I may be in a coping rather than a growing mode.

What is growing in your life these days? Summer is so full of growth. It is visible all around us. In gardens and yards, flowers and plants are reaching toward the sun offering both beauty and nutrition. In neighborhoods all around, those who are aware, can observe the children who began June at one height, arrive in August’s final days a few inches taller, some able to ride bikes without training wheels or swim the length of the pool. Those of us blessed to have college aged young adults around are quite aware of the growth that has happened in the months that have passed. Summer makes that growing visible to family and friends and can be filled with both excitement and poignancy.

No matter the season……summer, fall, winter, spring…….the longing for growth is a part of what it means to be human. We each, I believe, long to understand how our days, how our lives are adding up. And so it is always a good thing to ask the question: Did today find me merely coping? Or were there moments, true moments, when something nudged me to ‘moreness’, toward some place of growth? Did I take the training wheels off something today or swim farther than ever before? Did I grow a few inches in understanding, in compassion, in peacefulness, in love? Was I able to reflect on the past nine months and see movement, perhaps, toward a hope for goal?

Over the past few days I have been traveling and I intentionally left Thursday’s horoscope in the pocket of an airplane seat for some unsuspecting traveler. If it was not found and discarded by a tenacious cleaning person, this question of growing or coping may now be rolling around in someone else’s mind. It is a delicious thought. In the heat that has wrapped us all this summer, may we find only tiny moments of coping and instead find a reason to celebrate all that has grown.

Blessed be.

What We Love

“Use the things of the world as nature needs them, but not with excessive attachment. For it would be very displeasing to God if you were to set your heart on something of less value than yourself…..People become like what they love.”
~Catherine of Siena

Over the past week I have been on vacation. I have been traveling throughout the southeastern part of the country from Ohio to Georgia and back. It was a road trip with my mother that has been much anticipated. As I was preparing to leave for this respite, I was also acutely aware of the economic turmoil that has gripped our nation and the great divisions that have played themselves out in angry sound bites. Like most people, I was drawn into watching and listening as a lack of civility was being slung back and forth. It often felt like a very helpless place to be.

So, while I hoped it wasn’t an act of burying my head in the sand, I looked forward to unplugging for a week of vacation, of turning off the constant sources of information that can become my daily food. Loading up the car to head south, I looked forward to conversation that would be filled with mostly reminiscences of family times, of what seems like simpler times. Settling in to the ten hour drive to Georgia from my small hometown in southern Ohio, I let go of the anxieties that could push and pull at my psyche and my spirit. It felt very good to set this intention.

As we made our way through West Virginia, I was once again startled by the beauty of this often undervalued state. The unfolding mountain ranges, filled to capacity with hardwood trees that created a blanket of rippling greens, took my breath away. As we continued to drive we seemed to free fall into the mountains of North Carolina, again, so stupendous with trees that, come fall, will create a patchwork of autumn hues that will rival the quilts made famous by the artisans of the area. Finally we drove into Georgia and through the Low Country as it takes on a mysterious palette of waving grasses and waters interrupted by long, wooden walkways that cause people to look like miraculous walkers-on-water. Our destination of Savannah seemed to open its arms with a full southern welcome of heat, humidity and the slow movements of people who have long moved through such temperatures and no longer fight the elements.

Along the drive we rarely listened to the radio and only tuned into television a few times. What I found was that I had slowly allowed what my eyes had pulled in……the beauty of trees ancient and new, the assurance of mountains and water, the sweet,welcoming dispositions of the people we encountered……to act as a balm. These gifts of Creation had calmed and healed some place in me. I know no other way to explain it.

Catherine of Siena was a wise woman who also lived in troubled times. (And then again, which ‘times’ know no trouble?) The words she writes about ‘excessive attachment’ remind me of the wisdom we often associate with our Buddhist brothers and sisters. They encourage an ability to connect with what is truly of value, allowing our lives to reflect a depth that cannot be bounced around by the whims of a fragile, often fickle, world. At the same time the words caution against trying to hold too tightly to anyone or anything in an effort to believe ourselves more in control than is ever possible.

Holding ourselves and our world gently, I have found, can result in living a more faithful, less anxious life. I don’t know about you, but it is certainly my hope that I might become more like ‘what I love’. Steadfast as the mountains. Nimble as the moving waters. Able to bend and reflect the beauty of changing seasons as the trees do. Responsive to and welcoming of the rhythm of the many climates we are blessed to experience. These are some of the gifts of both Creator and Creation which I hope will continue to inform and shape who I become in the face of both troubled and terrific times.

As this vacation draws to a quiet close, I pray I can continue to be bathed in the lessons of the landscape that has offered me its grace. When the lack of civility that seems to be our daily bread becomes too much to stomach, may I remember: Strong mountains. Tall trees. Bridges that connect. Water that holds wondrous life. And faces that register welcome and hospitality. A slower pace that allows time to revel in it all.

How about you? What do you love? How do you hope to become more like what you love?