Monday, February 18, 2013

Learning to See

During this time of readjustment to the US, I have learned the value of silence.  I've learned the value of slowing down, of reading the Bible slowly and reflectively, of letting God speak to me.  One of the hardest things for me about living in China was the constant noise and chaos.  Sometimes it was fun but often overwhelming.  Now I am in a phase of my life where I crave silence.  Silence helps me to hear and it helps me to see.

Last week I went to a birding class at the Portland Audubon Society.  It was a basic class on identifying birds.  The basic message?  Stand still and look. Look for shape, look for marking, look for size.  We looked at guide books, identified similar birds by pictures.  On Sunday, a Rufous Towhee came to my feeder.  How did I know it wasn't a strangely marked robin?  By looking.  By seeing.  Today a peregrine landed on our fence.  How did I know?  By looking, by seeing, by checking the guidebook.

Wendell Berry says this.
How to Be a Poet.

Make a place to sit down.   
Sit down. Be quiet.   
You must depend upon   
affection, reading, knowledge,   
skill—more of each   
than you have—inspiration,   
work, growing older, patience,   
for patience joins time   
to eternity. Any readers   
who like your poems,   
doubt their judgment.   


Breathe with unconditional breath   
the unconditioned air.   
Shun electric wire.   
Communicate slowly. Live   
a three-dimensioned life;   
stay away from screens.   
Stay away from anything   
that obscures the place it is in.   
There are no unsacred places;   
there are only sacred places   
and desecrated places.   


Accept what comes from silence.   
Make the best you can of it.   
Of the little words that come   
out of the silence, like prayers   
prayed back to the one who prays,   
make a poem that does not disturb   
the silence from which it came.

On Ash Wednesday, I went to an all day reflective retreat.  During a time of individual silence, I looked out of the chapel window and saw this.

Can you see it?  Look closely.  There is a scrub jay hidden in those bushes.  I spent quite a bit of time watching him fly in and out of that bush. Fascinating.

As I walked on the grounds of the retreat center, I saw the stations of the cross.  I am not normally drawn to stations of the cross but these were quite lovely in their simplicity.

The women at the cross.  

This year, I am trying to have a quiet and reflective Lent.  I am taking things out so that God can put what I need in.  I am reading the gospel of John with its beautiful words and imagery slowly.  Phrases like "Bread of Life, Living Water" are staying in my mind.  I've put several things around our home to remind us of this dark season.

A cross made of rose thorns and tied with purple and black ribbon.

Seven candles for the seven weeks of Lent.  Each week, we light one less until we reach Maundy Thursday. We have less and less light as we enter  further into the darkness of Lent.

Three purple candles for the three days between Maundy Thursday and Easter.
I've often felt a loss when Easter came and I hadn't spent time really preparing and thinking.  This year, I hope it's different, as I take time to slow down and to really see.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

More poetry and a lovely piece on memorizing by heart.

Memorizing by Heart  An interview with a new program in Great Great Britain where they are wanting to memorize by heart, not by rote.

This is so lovely I may have to memorize it.


There's just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.

It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basket maker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.
It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.