Thursday, April 26, 2018

The View From Spring

This World
Mary Oliver

I would like to write a poem about the world that has in it
nothing fancy.
But it seems impossible.
Whatever the subject, the morning sun
glimmers it.
The tulip feels the heat and flaps its petals open and becomes a star.
The ants bore into the peony bud and there is a dark
     pinprick well of sweetness.
As for the stones on the beach, forget it.
Each one could be set in gold.
So I tried with my eyes shut, but of course the birds
     were singing.
And the aspen trees were shaking the sweetest music
     out of their leaves.
And that was followed by, guess what, a momentous and
     beautiful silence
as comes to all of us, in little earfuls, if we’re not too
     hurried to hear it.
As for spiders, how the dew hangs in their webs
     even if they say nothing, or seem to say nothing.
So fancy is the world, who knows, maybe they sing.
So fancy is the world, who knows, maybe the stars sing too,
     and the ants, and the peonies, and the warm stones,
so happy to be where they are, on the beach, instead of being
     locked up in gold.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Rooting in Joy

I feel like it is finally okay to post this poem. After another 2" of snow this past week, adding up to a total of 198.5" for the winter, I couldn't care less for that last 1.5" that would give us the 200" record.

The Spring
(After Rilke)
by Delmore Schwartz

Spring has returned! Everything has returned!
The earth, just like a schoolgirl, memorizes
Poems, so many poems. ... Look, she has learned
So many famous poems, she has earned so many prizes!

Teacher was strict. We delighted in the white
Of the old man's beard, bright like the snow's:
Now we may ask which names are wrong, or right
For "blue," for "apple," for "ripe." She knows, she knows!

Lucky earth, let out of school, now you must play
Hide-and-seek with all the children every day:
You must hide that we may seek you: we will! We will!

The happiest child will hold you. She knows all the things
You taught her: the word for "hope," and for "believe,"
Are still upon her tongue. She sings and sings and sings.

My current hope takes me to the window sill of my monastic cell. I am entertaining my own sort of new life as I root in water a plant that had broken. I have been whispering to it and praying for its growth. Seeing each little root begin to form is pure joy!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

(The geese are equally ecstatic for the sunlight!)

Saturday, April 14, 2018


The Little Boy
by Helen E. Buckley

Once a little boy went to school.
He was quite a little boy.
And it was quite a big school.
But when the little boy
Found that he could go to his room
By walking right in from the door outside,
He was happy.
And the school did not seem
Quite so big any more.

One morning,
When the little boy had been in school a while,
The teacher said:
“Today we are going to make a picture.”
“Good!” thought the little boy.
He liked to make pictures.
He could make all kinds:
Lions and tigers,

Chickens and cows,
Trains and boats –
And he took out his box of crayons
And began to draw.

But the teacher said:
“Wait! It is not time to begin!”
And she waited until everyone looked ready.

“Now,” said the teacher,
“We are going to make flowers.”

“Good!” thought the little boy,
He liked to make flowers,
And he began to make beautiful ones
With his pink and orange and blue crayons.

But the teacher said,
“Wait! And I will show you how.”
And she drew a flower on the blackboard.
It was red, with a green stem.
“There,” said the teacher.
“Now you may begin.”

The little boy looked at the teacher’s flower.
Then he looked at his own flower,
He liked his flower better than the teacher’s.

But he did not say this,
He just turned his paper over
And made a flower like the teacher’s.
It was red, with a green stem.

On another day,
When the little boy had opened
The door from the outside all by himself,
The teacher said,
“Today we are going to make something with clay.”
“Good!” thought the boy.
He liked clay.

He could make all kinds of things with clay:
Snakes and snowmen,
Elephants and mice,
Cars and trucks –
And he began to pull and pinch
His ball of clay.

But the teacher said,
“Wait! And I will show you how.”
And she showed everyone how to make
One deep dish.
“There,” said the teacher.
“Now you may begin.”

The little boy looked at the teacher’s dish
Then he looked at his own.
He liked his dishes better than the teacher’s
But he did not say this,
He just rolled his clay into a big ball again,
And made a dish like the teacher’s.
It was a deep dish.

And pretty soon
The little boy learned to wait
And to watch,
And to make things just like the teacher.

And pretty soon
He didn’t make things of his own anymore.
Then it happened
That the little boy and his family
Moved to another house,
In another city,
And the little boy
Had to go to another school.

This school was even bigger
Than the other one,
And there was no door from the outside
Into his room.

He had to go up some big steps,
And walk down a long hall
To get to his room.

And the very first day
He was there, the teacher said,
“Today we are going to make a picture.”

“Good!” thought the little boy,
And he waited for the teacher
To tell him what to do
But the teacher didn’t say anything.

She just walked around the room.

When she came to the little boy,

She said, “Don’t you want to make a picture?”
“Yes,” said the little boy.
“What are we going to make?”
“I don’t know until you make it,” said the teacher.
“How shall I make it?” asked the little boy.
“Why, any way you like,” said the teacher.
“And any color?” asked the little boy.
“Any color,” said the teacher,
“If everyone made the same picture,
And used the same colors,
How would I know who made what,
“And which was which?”
“I don’t know,” said the little boy.
And he began to draw a flower.
It was red, with a green stem.

I heard this poem for the first time as a first-year teacher during the month of April when we celebrated National Poetry Month at our school. It has stayed with me since then, especially on Friday when we used stamp pads in our toddler classroom. Who knew there were so many ways to stamp? May we never stifle the children.

People desire healing and truth. Everyone learns about things of heaven when lives on earth are changed. Easter reimagines the past, offers emotional safety, and gives us all hope for tomorrow. The Holy Spirit gives us courage to live in exurberance, vitality, and expression. Our real possessions come from imagination and creativity to build joy and hope for people on earth.
From Give Us This Day (April 10, 2018), Fr. Ronald Raab

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Fearful, Yet Overjoyed

Some of my favorite words in Scripture come immediately after Easter. They are three short words in fact: "Fearful, yet overjoyed."

You might know these words refer to Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary's” emotions after encountering the empty tomb. I imagine others might favor these words, too, seeing as they give comfort to the oft-occurring intermingling of fear and joy in our lives. These words remind me that it is normal to experience fear and joy simultaneously. While it might feel a bit weird inside, I am not the only one. (The point being driven home especially well in Disney/Pixar’s wonderful film, Inside Out, by the way.)

While it’s easy and obvious to point out this deeply human experience, I discovered a real-life example this week as we continue to wait for that moment when it finally feels like spring.

How did we get more snow? I don’t know. But we did. For a few days this past week, there appeared yet more white stuff on the ground. The daffodils and croci are still trying to break through, though. They must truly understand the intermingling of fear and joy—having burst through the ground to new life—all the while still braving the harsh elements of cold and wind: fear and joy.

As I begin sharing time with a new group of kiddos at daycare, I imagine the same must be true at all times for parents—this simultaneous fear and joy—watching the life you have created and worrying so desperately about (and for) it, too.

As for me, I experience it when I think about how joyful my community makes me, but fear what happens when they aren’t here directly sharing their wisdom and love with me anymore.

April brings with it the grace of being National Poetry Month, so I will be sure to include poetry with each entry this month. Today, for lack of searching for something else, I will include the fitting Mary Oliver poem I posted a few weeks back.

We shake with joy, we shake with grief.
What a time they have, these two
house as they are in the same body.

I don’t doubt that Mary Oliver could have just as easily substituted the word fear where we read grief.

So, what do we do with all this? Last night I was reminded when we chanted Psalm 66 at Evening Praise. As a novice, one thing I had to do was memorize a few verses of a psalm each week to use a prayer. Last night I realized yet again why I had to do that as I came upon this line:

Constant love is the eternal promise.

I remembered choosing that line to memorize last year, for good reason it seems. Fear and joy sometimes have a home inside me at the same time, but in all those moments, so, too, does God’s love. May we commit that truth to memory.

All is well.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Hang in there, little buds. Your time is coming! 

Prophets of Peace

We spent this weekend celebrating the Feast of Saint Scholastica, Benedict's twin sister. Each year the community gives an award called ...