Yesterday I was invited to post three images of my work on facebook each day for 5 days -- and this morning it occurred to me that I could use this as an incentive to photograph the pastels I did for a class I took about 10 years ago.
It was great fun to see the work again, and to see it with new eyes, now that I'm a painter as well as a photographer. At the time I thought the work was crap, but now I see it was an important way-station on the journey to where I am today.
So I invite you to take another look at something you did long ago -- a story, a picture, a poem, a recording. Look at it with the loving eyes of age, and pat yourself on the back: you've always been becoming the lovely human being you are now!
Love all of God's creation, the whole and every grain of sand of it. Love every leaf, every ray of God's light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything.
If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.
Have you ever loved a book so much that you were driven to correspond with the author? That's what happened for me with the book shown in this photo, In Trouble and In Wonder, and I wanted to share the story of that with you.
This book was actually written in stages. I was introduced to the first installment of it in the early 2000's, at a retreat in British Columbia with Cynthia Bourgeault. Lynn Bauman, who translated the Gospel of Thomas and prepared this study guide, allots four pages to each of the logia of the Gospel of Thomas, offering the passage itself, a summary overview, a full page study of its implications, a page of questions and exercises, and a page of related texts found in Christianity and other religions.
My faith and spirit were at a very low ebb at the time I was introduced to this work, but when I encountered Thomas it was re-awakened and inspired: this was the book that led me into the practice I still do today, of reading, studying, meditating, and then combining my responses with my art.
It was a while before the second installment of the study came out, and so I went back to the beginning of the book and started all over again, and by this time I felt such a close connection with its author that I asked Cynthia if she could give me his contact information. She did, I wrote, and he was very receptive-- I learned that he actually visited my little island from time to time to give workshops -- and over the next few years we became fast friends -- plus I ended up publishing my own book of photographic meditations on the Gospel of Thomas, inspired by Lynn's work.
So this is just to say that if you've wondered about my journey -- well, obviously it started a long time ago. But the most significant turning point began with this book, and I heartily recommend it. It's actually out of print at the moment, but you can do as I did and start with the first installment and see how you like it. I think you'll find the wisdom within to be a total life-changer -- in a good way!
I was recently approached by one of my facebook followers, who wanted to know which came first in my blog posts: the photo, or the words? And though I truthfully replied that unless it's a quote I want to share, the photo almost always comes first, I really want to say that yesterday's post was inspired by this poem by Teilhard de Chardin, which was shared in a letter from the Bishop of Maryland.
Trust in the slow work of God
Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.
Yet it is the law of all progress, that it is made by passing through some stages of instability, and that may take a very long time. And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually. Let them grow. Let them shape themselves without undue haste. Do not try to force them on as though you could be today what time — that is to say, grace — and circumstances acting on your own good will will make you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new Spirit gradually forming in you will be. Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.
Above all, trust in the slow work of God, our loving vine-dresser.
My daughter, now 26, who is the little girl shown in yesterday's photo, has been struggling lately with a transition between jobs, and so I shared the poem with her. Though she is not a person of faith, she expressed a deep appreciation for the thoughts in the poem, and so I found myself wanting to share the essence of these thoughts with a broader audience.
The words, in this case, came to me during meditation, and when I went looking for a photo to illustrate them, this was the one that surfaced. So I thought I would share that here, in case you're interested.
A few years ago I spent some time doing marketing for a local thrift store; taking pictures like this one for the facebook site I built for them.
I rarely go there now -- they're under new management -- but last night I dreamed I was there, or somewhere like it, and was drawn to a dress displayed on a mannequin.
The dress was actually ugly -- as I realized once I took it to the counter and started to purchase it. But behind the mannequin there was a book on display, open to a page on which was written "Ave Verum Corpus." And all of a sudden I could hear it being sung by the men's choir my father used to sing in, the whole thing, right to the end, with those gorgeous deep bass notes that bring it to its final close.
It is, I suppose, the curse of a classical education (not to mention singing in a church choir for years on end) that the memory of a song not heard or sung for years can return in such exquisite detail in a dream. But I find myself this morning feeling incredibly grateful, as if I've actually heard my father's voice again, the way it used to sound, before we had our falling out; back when I still believed his voice was the sound of love.
(Just in case you've never heard it, you can watch it on youtube here.)
I looked at this image, and suddenly heard echoes of a song we used to sing in music class, in third grade:
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free;
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless,
Tempest-tossed to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door."
It is -- for those of you who don't remember --the inscription at the base of the Statue of Liberty. Do you suppose school children still learn those words? I remember being moved -- inspired, even -- and proud to be part of a country that welcomed the downtrodden...
"Look at the sea...It was there long before we were thought of. It will be there long after we are forgotten, ebbing and flowing according to the law of the tides."
"Our little affairs are insignificant?"
"Far from it. Pain is not insignificant. Neither is bewilderment or fear. Or conditions like poverty or homelessness. But somewhere -- somewhere -- there is peace. It is not even far off. It is somewhere deep inside us, in fact, ever present, just waiting for us to look inward to find it."
"Is that how you learned to master your pain?"
"It was, at last, the only way of doing it... Whatever you discover here, the knowing cannot bring you any real harm even if it feels painful, for these things are whether you know them or not. And perhaps the knowing will bring you some understanding, and even perhaps some peace."