Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Faith of our fathers

The faith of my childhood left me feeling that God, Christ, and Spirit were very distant (and not necessarily distinct) entities, and that faith was a difficult path, only accessible for those who were particularly skilled, equipped, and trained; an impossible journey into a very black and white world, where one misstep could send you hurtling to eternal death.

I became aware, over time, that there was in fact a loving presence in the world, much closer than the fearsome angry God of my childhood. But that awareness -- and I think there are many of us who find this to be true -- was hard to reconcile with what I knew of church and Christianity. If I were to follow my instincts toward worship and prayer, I wanted to worship and pray to that loving presence, not the powerful distant being worshipped in so many congregations.

That, I think, was the gift of the Gospel of Thomas, and why it's still so important to me: here, in these words, I found a transformed image of Christ, a Christ I could believe in; a Christ for whom -- and through whom -- that loving Presence was very much here, and now...

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Fire is your water

 Most people guard against going into the fire
and so end up in it.
Those who love the water of pleasure
and make it their devotion
are cheated with this reversal.

The trickery goes further.
The voice of the fire tells the truth, saying,
"I am not fire.  I am fountain head.
Come into me and don't mind the sparks."

If you are a friend of the presence,
fire is your water.

-- Rumi

Monday, April 28, 2014

Compelling landscape

"Who can look each day at a beautiful landscape in the distance
and not at some point long to investigate more fully?

... It is good if something compels you
to explore your potential...

The Holy, like a good poem, may enter you
and coax your mind to climb
to some more challenging internal space."

-- Hafiz

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sky ballet

You drive.
I'll lean my head against the glass
and watch this bright blue stage,
the tiny ballerinas,
dressed in palest yellow,
pirouetting by the footlights;
the larger dancers gliding with slow grace
in puffs of gray across the set,
circling round,
then parting for the great reveal:
the spotlight's up,
and now we see
there's been a costume change --
the prima, clad in rainbows,
leaps her grand jeté across the stage,
a moment's flash of color, and then

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Questioning assumptions

I know; it looks a bit unrealistic, doesn't it?  But those are the actual colors of the mountains and the sky -- or at least the colors my camera captured.  Spectacularly gorgeous landscape.

But of course the mountains aren't actually blue; we just see them that way, my camera and I.  It's a gentle reminder that our perceptions color everything we see -- which brings me back to yesterday's post: How much of what we think is true -- or blue -- is really as we see it? We really need to be willing to question our assumptions.

Friday, April 25, 2014


How can we ever know the truth
if we refuse to open our eyes?

(Brickhead sculpture by Santa Fe artist James Tyler)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

On limits and obstacles

Reading this morning about limits and obstacles, I am coming to understand the difference between the two.

I've known people over the years who object to limits (I'm thinking of fidelity in marriage as an example, or certain more permissive child-rearing practices) and see them as obstacles to growth. But in fact thoughtfully constructed limits can serve as a way to channel and focus energy.  A river in flood, for example, is a highly destructive and random force; a river properly channeled can provide energy for thousands of homes.

The dailiness of life and its challenges can put up lots of obstacles to faith.  But the conscious discipline of a daily practice -- whatever it might be -- can serve as a frame to focus and channel the work of the spirit, so it shines through whatever obstructions may occur...

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Loss to gain

Spring comes again, and then the petals fall.
We hate to see them go and mourn their loss,
Forgetting it's a harbinger of that sweet fruit to come.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

This river, love

This river, love,
Whose currents carve deep channels
Through the panels of my heart,
Can slice, creating deep divides
Of absence, or an overflow of presence
That floods and fills
each hollow cavern,
Uproots deep-planted prejudice,
And carries all our obstacles 
downstream; deposits them
On sharp rocks where, exposed 
In all their agony,
With tattered remnants of past glory
Hanging from their gnarled and grasping arms,
They scrabble tortured fingers 
against the harsh light of the sky.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Be here now

From time to time these quizzes appear on Facebook: "Which Hindu goddess/ 50's TV character/ comic book hero are you?" The results are always amusing but tend to be dependent on your mood of the moment. It makes me think of a lyric from an old Doobie Brothers tune: 
"Where would you be now?"

So. If you could be anywhere, where would YOU be now?

Or perhaps more importantly, what's special about where you ARE right now?

Sunday, April 20, 2014


Let trumpets sound and birds take flight;
Let flowers bloom and glow with light.
Let all the world sing songs of praise
And hearts delight, rejoicing.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Holy Saturday

There are days when it seems
This longest of journeys will never end; 
The distant mountains never will be reached.
Patience, my dear one:
Tomorrow will come
In its own good time.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday

Into each life that moment comes
When hearts and hands are aching,
Full of grief.
What gift could ever hope
To redeem such loss?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Maundy Thursday

Night falls,
Familiar landscapes fade to gray, 
And so the wait begins...

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Coastal fog

The blessing in getting away from the dailiness of life 
and back to the hills 
lies in  learning yet again 
how small a role our lives play 
in the magnitude of creation...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

No place like home

There have always been people who wondered at our decision to live on an island; who couldn't imagine living "that far" from civilization (when a 30 minute ferry ride will put you right in downtown Seattle, or, if you prefer, a 30 minute drive will take you across a bridge to a typical suburban mall).

But we love it here; love the relative peace and quiet, the lighter traffic, the trees, the sense of community, the emphasis on the arts... and, of course, the water.  I'm always happy to travel -- there are lots of beautiful places in the world to visit -- but I'm happier still to return, to leave the city behind, glide across the water, and slip back into this lovely place we call home.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Waiting for Easter

Growth is never a steady path, a single incline with no dips or curves.  But when your internal eye is set on the goal it can be hard to be patient with those long dull stretches when it feels like you're getting nowhere, or with those dark times when you wonder if you'll ever be out of the woods.

Holy Week -- the exhilaration of the beginning, the impatience in the temple, the humility of Maundy Thursday, the agony of the cross, the waiting -- both in the garden, and by the tomb -- and the rejoicing in glory that illuminates its completion -- encapsulates that whole growth process for me. 

And, just like Holy Week, it happens over and over again; there are always new tasks to master, new moments of humility, new trials to overcome, and new arrivals and discoveries to celebrate.  With each new round we find ourselves again caught in the wheel, awash in the emotions of the moment, eager for the revelations to come even as we struggle with the bonds that hold us back.

I mention all this because this painting feels a bit like Easter to me.  I know we're not supposed to be there quite yet, but hey -- my personal Easter doesn't always keep to the liturgical calendar!  For me this painting is the culmination of a year of study and exploration, and a promise of possibility, and a reminder that sometimes the missing piece, that problem you've been trying to solve, that resolution you seek, can come in a blinding flash of insight when you least expect it, when your mind is on other things and that restless seeking inside has finally given up and taken a nap.

And, as always, whenever Easter arrives, there is this enormous rush of gratitude -- and my evangelical roots come running out, waving their hands and crying "Thank you, Jesus!"

Silly, I know.  But such a wonderful part of life...

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Palm Sunday Blessing

"Blessing is at the heart of any spiritual practice.  For ultimately all such practices are about remembrance, connectedness, wholeness, and being a participant in the flow of love that weaves the world together from the most numinous to the most material. 

They are not about how we may develop ourselves or become holy, saved, or enlightened.  Spiritual practices are about how we give of ourselves, sharing our life, our presence, and our substance so that the body of creation may be seamless and the infinite may be reflected in the presence of the finite."

David Spangler, Blessing

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A blue true dream of sky

I thank you God for most this amazing 
day; for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, 
and a blue true dream of sky and for everything 
which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes
-- e.e. cummings

Friday, April 11, 2014

Refill your cup

Each morning
I refill this cup with love
and sip it slowly, breathing,
feeling tenderness slip gently down
to smoothe the ruffled edges of my soul.

Drink up, refill, and sip, and sip again;
let grace become the lining
of my heart
and quench the urge
to hurl back bitter words;
transform their acid churning
into sweetness that will nourish,
even energize,
creative acts and thoughts
in the days to come.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

On presence

I said you were not there,
and yet you were.
I felt your presence,
an emptiness between the seats,
a yawn and then a distance;
a greeting at the end of course,
then home to other things.

Some other presence here,
and yet it's not;
a heart, though empty,
feeling that it's full,
a blessing,
wafting in the air,
a touch,
though there's no finger there.

And which is it that's real?
That body or this love
that radiates acceptance
into every pore of being?
No wonder all those saints held fast;
No wonder.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


 Each day I dream of flying,
and each night I'm caught again
in the web of life.

Each morning I build a room of love
where you and I together sit,
pluck gently at the strands that hold me fast
as once I held my daughter between my knees
and ran my fingers through her golden curls
in search of nits.

And for each strand we find,
lean in together and examine:
what is the glue that holds me there?
What substance, slick, like love,
might dissolve its grip
and leave us with a thread to weave
into some new creation --
story, poem or art --
whose impact is enhanced
by that bright filament;
enlightened and resolved,
released -- a gift, a breath of air
to lift some other wings
(if not my own) into the stratosphere
where each of us belongs.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

And now for something completely different...

Like many women, I've spent a lifetime trying to ascertain and do what's expected of me, so painting purely out of the "what would _I_ like?" space is both healing and refreshing.  But every once in a while it's also surprising!

It's been a bit of a rough week, and it seems like forever since I've painted anything worth keeping. So I had to laugh when this appeared and took over my canvas this afternoon: it's so completely out of character! I can't decide if it's an attempt to soothe and console myself, a retreat into safety, or a courageous new endeavor. 

Who cares if it's a little retro, or if it's a little over-purple, or if it's a lot more realistic than I usually create? It was great fun to paint, and I find it very soothing. So -- best, I think, to just let it be what it is and not worry if it's a trend. Kind of like life: one day at a time.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Spring Training

Lined up on the bench for a practice exhibition
 with surreptitious flexing of outstanding color muscles, 
hoping to be chosen:
Who will make the cut?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

True mysteries

"The true mysteries of life accomplish themselves so softly, with so easy and assured a grace, so frank an acceptance of our breeding, striving, dying, and unresting world, that the unimaginative natural man -- all agog for the marvellous -- is hardly startled by their daily and radiant revelation of infinite wisdom and love...the Transcendent Life for which we crave is revealed... not on some remote and arid plane of being, in the cunning explanations of philosophy; but in the normal acts of our diurnal experience, suddenly made significant for us."

-- Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism

Saturday, April 5, 2014

New opportunities

New opportunities, new paths
sometimes appear in unexpected places.
How ready are you
to explore new possibilities?
How willing are you
to leave the road you're on and go exploring?

Friday, April 4, 2014

A ladder to the stars

Come, climb with me, this ladder to the stars;
come dive with me, and swim in seas of joy.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

When is enough?

If four shells and a piece of string
can turn the belly of this tree
into an enticing Indian maiden
what need have I of five?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

When will we learn?

As I slowly begin to return to "normal" life (whatever that means) after months of immersion in Robert Schenkkan's Pulitzer-Prize-winning play, The Kentucky Cycle, I find I am left with a new intensity of conviction that whenever we act out of self-interest, greed, or revenge we drive ourselves -- and potentially generations of humanity to follow -- further from that for which we actually hunger.

When -- if ever -- will we come to understand that the root of that hunger (which we so often see as a desire for more of whatever it is that we think we crave -- more love; more attention; more power, influence, or prestige; more excitement; more money; more things) is, at its core, a longing to return to oneness, to innocence, to wholeness... even to the kind of connectedness we feel when we are part of something larger than ourselves; working together with others for the common good.

However flawed movements like socialism, communism, and the unions that were envisioned by my character, Mother Jones, might be, they have at their root an understanding that greed and inequity -- the impoverishment, enslavement, imprisonment or abuse of any group or class of people to feed an excess of wealth in others -- is simply wrong; is not only not what is best for humanity as a whole but inevitably triggers whole new cycles of resentment, entitlement and revenge.

When will we learn, I wonder.

When will we learn? 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Our day begins

Our day begins
when we become this liquid light,
when color fills our hearts with song
and joy begins to dance the clouds away.