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.


  1. Thank you for the reminder to slow down. I truly appreciate you sharing your experiences.

  2. I really like your candle idea....moving into darkness. Wow.

  3. Beautiful thoughts. I too have a craving for silence. Took a quiet retreat during the Super Bowl. Was very nourishing. But still want more. Am trying to set aside 30 minutes each day to be quiet. Easier on the routine days. Haven't done so well on these snow days. Glad to hear your heart and desires.

  4. I would name your blog the dreamland! While Santa knocks at our Cheap Dog Carrier, Luxury Dog Carrier, Cheap Dog Bedsdoor just once per year, you blog is open the whole year – wow!