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Category Archives: Community

Prayer of St. Francis

I did post this March 19, 2020 at One Step, Then Another, but it is special. Kathy and I celebrate our anniversary today and this was a reading at our wedding. Initially, the priest was reluctant. I think he saw the disappointment and let us use it.

When I heard the organ, I stood, literally shaking I was so nervous. I turned, looked at Kathy and her Dad, and stopped shaking. What was meant to be was meant to be.

Regardless of one’s relationship with others, intimate or distant, these are words to guide how we accept the Other, as Emmanuel Levinas said. This way lifts the Other to a human subject in an I-Thou relationship, rather than as an object and it.

Lord make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
And where there is sadness, joy.
O divine master grant that I may
Not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive-
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned.
And it’s in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.
We took this at the Grand Canyon several years ago.

Metamorphosis

As I reflect on my blogging, I note a significant change in tone, voice, and content. When I began, I did it for the wrong reasons, driven from ego. Transformation is about one’s self.

Thich Nhat Hanh shared the following about the miracle of being alive:

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child—our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”

Transforming is not the same as change. Change is always happening, often running below the radar. When something or someone transforms, I bear witness to it or that human. I am pulled up short and take a second look, perhaps more. I become aware of the remarkable change, which is part of a larger, less visible cycle. I am aware of the remarkableness of the world and its inhabitants.

Experiencing metamorphosis is about seeing one’s life in its simplicity and ordinary elements, in the extraordinary. In this way, living is the miracle. Just being aware of what surrounds me and what I encounter is the mindfulness that makes life a miracle.

I took this picture of a butterfly. I was aware of its beauty and how it made life fuller.

Merely changing,

Occupies my idle mind.

Denying, silencing–

Another self.

Questioning–

One’s inner terrain.

Who is this self?

What life is this self living?

Maturing,

Emerging,

A chrysalis–

Thoughtful gift.

Flourishing beyond rhetoric,

Journeying with others,

Appreciating–

Valorizing.

Life As a Panorama

Kathy took these panoramic pictures as we drove to Waterton. I wonder how I make sense of life without a more complete picture and the haze fades, revealing a complete and panoramic view. Even at that, life’s complexity shrouds the mystery, as there is too much to take in.

As a still shot,

Life–

Emerges by image by image,

Parsed, fitting my definition.

As a broad view,

Life–

Evidencing no visible pattern,

Full, rich, ineffable.

As a quilt,

Weaving—

One stitch into the next,

Ragged, seamless paradox.

As community member,

Retaining one’s self—

Binding together,

Adhering disparate parts into one.

Weaving the Sacred

Humans often set the sacred in opposition to the profane and mundane. In what we might consider of as less sophisticated or mystical traditions, the distinctions are less in evidence. The sacred and profane blend together and are readily experienced in the traditions and daily lives of people. Sophisticated has to do with wisdom (sophia, so who am I to judge what is wisdom in a world I am an outsider to? This stands out to me when I visit Indigenous sites in Alberta and beyond. In ways they are stewards of Nature in ways I cannot be as I do not understand my relationship to Nature in a proper way.

On our way to Waterton, we went to Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump Interpretive Centre. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Archaeologists discovered evidence the site was on a migratory path for indigenous people, primarily the Niitsítapi (Blackfoot Confederacy), who used innovative ways to hunt plains bison at least 5500 years ago. A jump or ‘pishkun’ in Niitsítapi used drive lanes marked by rock cairns. The buffalo ran between the cairns and the last part of the drive lane sloped up, making the jump unnoticeable. The process required perfect human timing and was extremely dangerous.

Legend has it the name comes from an unfortunate incident when a young man wanted a closer view of the action. He waited at the base of the cliff. The hunt was successful and, when he was found, he sustained a broken skull and died.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is at the confluence of three geological formations. The Rocky Mountains and Great Plains are well-known. The picture below shows the rise into the Porcupine Hills. Young Niitsítapi men transitioned to manhood through a vision quest and went to the hill in the foreground. The hill, with spiritual meaning to the Niitsítapi, does not have public access.

Journeying alone

Enter spiritual space

Questing for adulthood.

At Smashed-In-Buffalo-Jump’s interpreprative centre, we watched traditional dancing and heard traditional drumming and singing. The drum symbolizes Mother Earth’s heartbeat in Niitsítapi and other indigenous traditions.

Beating hearts gather

Singing, dancing, encircling

Joining as one with Her.

I took this picture as we turned towards Waterton. It was a hot, hazy day, blocking a view of the mountains.

The Niitsítapi meaning ‘original people,’ had their tradtional homes here. The Piikáni (North Piegan), a member of the confederacy, traveled to Waterton’s Blakiston Valley and gathered at Akaitapi (good campsite), providing food, water, and shelter. The area was also used by the Ktunaxa (Kootenay or Kootenai) who traveled from the west, through what is now the Crowsnest Pass.

hot, hazy beauty

shimmering above prairies

block distant bastions.

A small herd of bison live in a paddock at Waterton. At one time bison covered the Great Plains of North America. This was literal. People heard them long before they came into view and, when they were visible, it was a mass of brown and black that covered the prairies. Indigenous people used this animals as a ‘walking supermarket’ as almost all its body parts were harvested and usable.

Proud people’s icon

Plains symbol of abundance

Today’s sad sideshow.

We have attended a number of concerts with John Wort Hannam performing. He is from the part of Alberta I highlighted and has a beautiful song about the hills around the area. Enjoy.

Paradise

Here is another post with photos and poems based on travels through of the natural beauty of Waterton Lakes National Park and Glacier National Park. Parks Canada describes the former as where the prairies and mountains meet. The latter is known as the crown of the continent.

As we drive along Highway 22, we get this view of the mountains in Waterton. The sign says, “Where prairie meets the mountains” and they do. We saw this view later in the day.

This is what a few minutes does in this part of the world.

Embracing mountains

Emerging peaceful fury

Signaling day’s end.

Can you imagine waking up to the view below each day? It is intense. The Canadian census indicates 88 permanent residents of Waterton town site experience this. This is Mount Vimy viewed from the townsite across the big lake.

We traveled down the big lake crossing the Alberta-Montana border about half-way down. We cleared customs with our passports and hiked on the Montana side. At the end of our hike we arrived at to Kootenai. The scenery is spectacular.

Soaring ramparts,

Sheltering nature’s bounty.

In their shadows, safe.

At the end of a dayn hiking we saw this across the lake looking at Mount Vimy again.

Fair maiden rising,

Watchful eye surveys Nature,

Keeping safe til morn.

I know I shared this video a couple of weeks ago. It is my favourite John Prine song and reminds us Paradise is within reach. The challenge is to protect what we have.

Refreshing Pauses

I need to recharge my emotional, spiritual, cognitive, and physical batteries. In a conversation with a colleague in Spokane, we talked about how we were on the go constantly, busy and, when we got to Spokane we slowed down. I fall into a trap of busyness, which brings about a sense of dis-ease. Regardless of how much time I spent in Spokane, I soon realized I fell into a different rhythm of life, one of ease.

Thomas Merton and Thich Nhat Hanh wrote about an active life, one full of busyness, leaving humans depleted. The result is I need times where stress and busyness is reduced to be more present and aware of the life I live. For me, time used to read and write provide necessary breaks.

“Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another.” (Thomas Merton)

“We have to learn to live our life as a human being deeply. We need to live each breath deeply so that we have peace, joy and freedom as we breathe.” (Thich Nhat Hanh)

I wrote this poem about a need to recharge batteries, about being present for others, returning hopefully a better person. It is also about finding deeper meaning in my life not always readily visible as I rush around. Black Elk‘s (Heȟáka Sápa) quote inspired the poem, reminding me much of living is recurring in a circle.

Heart opens quietly,

Listen deeply,

Worth waiting.

Lingering in solitude’s support,

Sheltering in its comfort,

Inviting me in.

Not escaping,

Circling back renewed,

Wholeness restored.

Community beckoning

Refreshing pause,

Recurring alchemy of both revitaling.

Neighbours

Here is a wonderful quote from Abraham Joshua Heschel on how we should live life and, I think, view our neighbours in all their forms:

“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazemement [to] get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.”

I dip into my photographic archives and poems I wrote around them. Again, this is a trip to Waterton Lakes National Park. It is closed right now. It is interesting to revisit the images and remembrances they stir. It is a reminder of living life in radical amazement, taking nothing for granted.

During the trip, we hiked in an area where there were signs about the possible presence of grizzly bear. Its Latin name is Ursus arctos horribilis. The horrible is an apt description if you end up on the wrong side of one.

When I hike, I wonder what hides from my sight and is quiet as I pass. The dense underbrush path hides things from me, giving them a sense of security. The signs reminded me I am not alone, and our neighbours are not always human.

As luck had it, we saw bear that day. At first glance, this one had the right colouring for grizzly. A closer examination indicated it was missing the tell-tale hump on its back and the wider forehead of a grizzly and was a brown coloured black bear. Behaviour wise it was too close to humans, as it was right next to the road and a hotel. Grizzly are pretty reclusive neighbours.

This one was a black bear for sure. Its colour did not make identifying it a problem. As well, it was smaller. That suggests it was younger, probably born a year before we were there.

Even black bear are dangerous. I tell hockey players I coach about the bear rule to decide on what is appropriate language. I tell them, even with our friends, we don’t know what might trigger a negative (horrible) response. Bear attack about 1 out of 10 times they make contact with humans. We just don’t know which of the 10 times.

Hiking someone’s home

Treading warily, softly

Horribilis‘ habitat.

Not all our neighbours are fearsome. This mountain sheep posed for his picture.

I leave you with this poem about neighbours of various forms.

Neighbours near,

Some visible;

Ducks laugh and swim

Distract us, grouse–

Protect family and spouse

Woodpecker’s hunting lunch–

Delectable larvae, I’m sure.

Others less in evidence;

A fish plays–

Loon here and gone

Games of hide and seek.

A moose–

Signs they have been,

Tracks and droppings.

Insects whirring in the stillness’

Butterflies flitting and feeding

Moving seeds from place to place.

Phantom breeze brushing the floor,

Up high, solitary leaf responding

Waving

Trees sighing.

What watches me?

Neighbours present,

Unseen community–

Nature piecing its puzzles,

Seamless, yet not form fitting.

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