Category Archives: Nature

Isolation Journal: Week 8 -Abundant Craziness

As for me and my house
We will stay where we at.
– 1st Isolations 24:7
(From SistasinZion on Facebook)

IMG-0608I have no idea what to write at this point. I don’t think this week will go down as a wise, measured, or well-reasoned one in U.S. history (to put it mildly). No one in the country seems to really have a good plan – though I know some very good people are trying to give us one (and then another, and another).  This response to the pandemic is an experiment through and through. Conspiracy theories abound.

Unfortunately, the seeds of deep division in our country – political, racial, economic, gender-related, spiritual – have grown into a thick jungle of thorny weeds. The only response to this mire seems to be wild flailing whacks with a machete.

Any plan is upsetting to one group or the other. Racial hatred is again in the news the past few days with vivid and disturbing tragedy. Our national leader seeks to divide rather than unite and to fan the flames of hatred with every tweet. Behind the scenes ugly values are undoing the foundations of justice at a rapid pace (there does seem to be a plan in place in this area). Ugh.

Some U.S. states are making gradual returns to “normal” by allowing parts of the workforce to return. Some are opening restaurants, beaches, churches, others are still banning such gatherings. Angry people are refusing to wear a mask as a political “right” to liberty, and armed, masked (white) protesters have taken to various capitols to protest stay-at-home orders with very few consequences. Ugh again.

willieHere’s a mildly amusing reality. The good and bored and winter-worn folk in Minnesota plan to hold the well-beloved Fishing Opener (a huge state-wide annual weekend event) this weekend (while schools are still closed and shelter in place orders remain). The governor cancelled the “Governor’s Opener” but most everything else is still in place. Let’s see…pickup trucks and SUV’s hauling boats to lakes and resorts all over the state (resorts whose rental cabins are still closed). Only family groups in each boat (in theory) and round-trip is supposed to use only one tank of gas. Uh huh. In theory also, everyone will be socially distanced as they back their boats into the water at the few boat launches on each lake. Social distancing (and masks?) also when they buy fishing licenses, purchase munchies, bait, and so on. Okay. Then add massive quantities of beer and socially starved individuals to the scenario. No doubt this is going to go smoothly. Ditto in Wisconsin. What could possibly go wrong?

Okay, now, where in the world is the Sacred in the midst of these amusing, wacky, disturbing, and seriously menacing realities? Whew. Luckily, the answer is still: Everywhere.

This week, though, I need to step waaaaaaaaay back from social media and news to see this. Each morning, I have started my day with coffee on the patio as the songs of various birds serenade and Nature goes about her business. Today, a small red bird fluttered overhead, a jack rabbit ran by and two coyotes cleared out the brush as they cruised through in search of a morning snack.

D70AAD99-F9EF-4F1F-A6AB-AACF0FBF1601Joy this week has been found in natural beauty,  humor, friendship, music, Minecraft with my granddaughter, occasional texts from my daughters and friends, video chat with my sisters and sharing the occasional tasty morsel of food. (Yes, one more Chipotle order.) I am still “casting the Net of Light” each morning and night – sending love and light to friends and family near and far, to people who are hurting, to creation, to life.

What ways are you finding to support your soul? What contributions to the world’s light, peace, and love have you been making? Sometimes, the only answer we can come up with is that we’re doing our best to take care of ourselves and to not carry illness to our neighbors. If so, I believe that our best is all that is required.

This week, I’m going to try to incorporate Thich Nhat Hanh’s advice on how to cope with things (especially people) who drive you crazy. He writes, “When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change.”

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can
and wisdom to know the difference.  

Love, grace, humor and blessings to you, – Karen

225D72D6-C9C0-49C1-B957-303242C939A2

 

New Year’s Blessing

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting; the Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting and cometh from afar;
Not in entire forgetfulness, and not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come…

William Wordsworth, c. 1804

This week I had the opportunity to share the gifts of my spiritual journey with my husband and a good friend. We had both deeply spiritual and highly irreverent conversations. We touched on our deepest difficulties and hurts and we laughed until our sides hurt about our current lives and all that confounds us in this world.

Now, it is New Year’s Day. I’m remembering that we are not here to conquer or control life. We are here to open our eyes – to heighten our senses – and be present. If we pay attention, we will witness a series of miracles and moments of grace – of extraordinary moments in a sea of confusingly ordinary and sometimes overwhelming ones. That’s my experience, anyway. Whenever I feel that I have things figured out, the cosmos stirs things up and turns the world upside down, just to keep the process interesting. Laughter and a sense of humor are as essential, as is the ability to ride the ever-changing waves.

At midnight last night, after a quiet evening at home, I came upstairs and discovered my new year’s gift. The moon was shining bright and it had snowed about an eighth of an inch of big elegant flakes – enough to cover our deck and the fields below. The moon reflected like diamonds, making each surface sparkle with light. If you have eyes to see, ears to hear, and a soul that senses – our Source is seeking our awareness.

Let’s see if this year sparkles with that same promise as it continues to unfold. Let’s tell each other about the miracles we experience. Let’s laugh and cry and hold each other in our grief. And in the midst of all that, let’s find out if it is possible to stand in awe and soak in gratitude each and every day.

Valley clouds

Swimming in a Sea of Sacred Stuff

The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on
across the woods and across time,
and the world looks as if it had no age:
the landscape, like a line in the psalm book,
is seriousness and weight and eternity.

What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights with us is so great.
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too, and not need names

Rainer Maria Rilke, from “The Man Watching,” Trans. Robert Bly

IMG_2953I guess the planet, Mother Earth, is saying that it is time for us all to dive in and deepen our journeys. This is a time of great spiritual expansion. So much going on. So much light, love, and connection being shared upon the globe. Perhaps it is the balance to the many other things taking place where energies which are not creative, loving, or constructive are dominating attention. Many of us, however, are choosing to focus elsewhere.

I have two friends who, like me, felt called to start a women’s group – delving deeper into expansion, providing a sacred space for each other to share life journeys and amplify the sacred Feminine. I call this “soul support.” We all need it so much at this time (I know I do). How are you bringing or magnifying the love and light that is needed?

The Circle of Grandmothers and the net of light (netoflight.org) are quietly capturing attention and bringing the support of the sacred to those who feel they need additional support and clarity. Magic is happening where the Grandmothers are working with groups and individuals to anchor the net of spiritual light and love for our planet. I call on the Grandmothers many times each day.

My forays into the woods, the mountains, and the mystical right now are so rich. I’m hearing from others that this is the same for them. Growth, connection to the Sacred and to Mother Earth seem to be accelerating.

In my life, it has also been a time of grief and transition. Others are also opening to their own grief (both old and fresh), and learning how to let it rise to the surface, hold it, observe it, and hear what it may have to say to them. The journey is a deepening one and very expansive – connecting us to all beings. (This article by Jack Kornfield is lovely.)

IMG_3012Solstice has just passed and we are heading toward the full Buck Moon (or Thunder Moon). In August, a total eclipse of the sun is attracting solar tourists and driving prices for lodging way up due to the number of people who want the “best seat” for this event.

Each of these occurrences serves to remind us of greater forces all around us. Perhaps their message is to look up and out, or dive deeper – beyond the hubbub of distractions to what is greater than we are. Look beyond what is clambering all around you to see the cosmic backdrop, the sacred sea stretching out beyond the horizon. As a trusted guide recently said to me, “Pay attention.” The Sacred is right in front of us if we just open our eyes to see.

Let’s dive in together,
Karen

Back to Basics: Who do we stand with?

“Speak for those who cannot speak;
seek justice for all those on the verge of destruction.”
– Proverbs 31:8 (ISV)

interfaith-symbols

Everybody has their point of reference – a family, a community from which they discover their perspective. Sometimes we stay the same as our original family or group; other times, our perspectives are reactions against the way we’ve been raised; and sometimes we take what our families have given us and put our own spin on it. For the most part, I’m in the latter category. (Image source: http://www.peacemonger.org)

Lately, the world has been dividing itself into categories. So, who do you identify with? What categories do you fall in? Mine are:

+ Progressive Christian
+ Interfaith spirituality/eclectic Universalist beliefs
+ According to a conservative definition, I think I fall into the “hippie” category (which is somewhat hilarious – a truly boring hippie)
+ Feminist (prayerfully, peacefully, lovingly)
+ Nature lover/environmentalist (with some realism, some idealism)
+ Celebrate diverse humanity – I believe we are better humans when we embrace lots of differences – racial diversity, age diversity, ethnic diversity, diverse expressions of gender and sexual preferences, diversity of body size/shape, religious diversity and so on and so forth….

I could go on, but you get the picture. So, when certain groups are targeted and under fire, who do you stand up with and for?  What kind of oppression and persecution gets you so riled up that you get off your couch and march/make a phone call/write a letter/join a group?

As a long-time person of faith, a progressive Christian minister, the go-to phrases that come to mind during times of crisis are well known: “Love your neighbor as yourself,” “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The Judeo-Christian tradition is filled with reminders to never oppress, always to welcome “foreigners” or strangers, because we were once strangers ourselves. And there is that lovely passage from the old King James bible, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2) I believe this is reminding us that there is God-light in every person and we dare not turn away people based on our own fear of differences – we have no idea how precious that person is to the Divine (or how sacred to others).

So, I guess I arrive at a place where my job is to stand up to oppressors for any human being who is being unjustly treated. Of all the values taught in each world religion and for anyone claiming to be Christian, the highest value is Love. To use the words of Jesus or Buddha or Mohammed or any of our great spiritual leaders to do harm or to persecute is the greatest perversion of the Truth. So, we must revive an old saying and, “Speak the Truth to Power with Love.” Say it, sing it, paint it, dance it, mail it, phone it, sculpt it, shout it. But do it for love (not anger or hate). Stand up.

we-all-belong-here-poster

Note: Downloadable poster or coloring book may be found here.

Meeting a Mountain

Heaven and earth, the Celtic saying goes, are only three feet apart,
but in thin places that distance is even shorter.
The New York Times, March 11, 2012

Last Wednesday, Johnny and I arose a bit early to get a head start on the sun. We were hoping to miss all of the “leaf people” by going on Wednesday and still get up to Guanella Pass before the aspen leaves pass their peak. Johnny is fussy (or so I say) about light. He only likes his light for photos at dawn and right around dusk – first light and last light.

Anyway, the drive was gorgeous, we continued to climb toward the pass. Who doesn’t love a mountain drive, in fall, along a rolling river? I began to get anxious, however, believing that we hadn’t left early enough for him to get good early morning shots. All of a sudden we came up over a tall hillside and stretching out in front of us was a tundra-like landscape and a several tall mountains. No aspens here. We were above the tree line! I hadn’t expected that. The last photo outing had been up a neighboring pass – lots of trees up there. But we couldn’t stop to take it all in – we had some light to catch.

The short version of the story is that we arrived in plenty of time. This time the views from the road and neighboring woods were wonderful enough – we didn’t need to hike in any distance to get our photos. As usual, I ran around like a nut for a couple of hours looking at every possible perspective on the hill full of golden aspens and taking random shots while Johnny stayed put, focused on one thing and got spectacular photos of the mountainside. (There is a fairly obvious metaphor for how each of us approach our lives in that description.)

We continued down from the pass, stopping a couple of times for new perspectives. We parked at the base of the mountain in Georgetown, enjoyed a delicious breakfast and then walked around window shopping. It was the perfect fall day. Happy people milling about, chatting, smiling. Sunny, but delightfully cool air.

Then we headed back up the hill. One of our thoughts had been that if we spent enough time enjoying ourselves we might catch some acceptable afternoon light filtering through the leaves. As it turned out, that was indeed the case. But it was not what made my afternoon unforgettable.

We made our way back to the summit and parked in the busy lot so that I could use the restroom. Coming out, I could see that Johnny had set up the tripod and was taking some pictures. So, instead of getting back in the car, I headed over the nearest hill. As soon as I stepped over the top and onto the trail that headed into the distance, I was awe-struck. The plain, golden “moose bush”-covered landscape stretched out before me and Mt. Bierstadt’s rocky presence pulled me in.

I sheepishly returned and asked Johnny if he’d be willing to hike a bit up there. “Sure!” he said. Minutes later we were winding down the hill toward a large pond in the distance. As we started downward, he asked, “Just exactly how far did you want to go?” I smiled. Clouds billowed and rolled. The top of Mt. Bierstadt looked alive in the distance as wisps of rain clouds filtered through the high valleys. We got far enough along the trail to feel the mountain in front of us. I sat in the wind and breathed in the energy, the presence. Wow. I was certain: this is a place I will return to.

The magnetism of the mountain still has not left me – that trail winding upward in the distance is still calling. Our reverie was, however, broken by the drops of rain that began to fall as we quickly covered up Johnny’s new camera. A little sprint for him and speed walk for me and we were back up the hill in no time, headed toward the car.

I’ve been pondering the moment of communion with the mountain since then. At last the right term popped into my head: a “thin place”! As my geologist daughter once said to me about Point Reyes, “Mom, it IS a thin place! Not just a metaphor.” And then she talked about tectonic plates and subduction and so on. I’m not sure but what she missed my point. Her point was well taken, though. Mountains, too, have lots of crazy plates, thrusts, and geologic activity. As my daughter says, it is a thin place and I want to get close. Yep. It is.

Mount Bierstadt (Photo: John Gatlin)
Mount Bierstadt (Photo: John Gatlin)