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Winter Nights

Despite the title, this is a Christmas poem. I wrote it several years ago about the joy and anticipation I felt, as a child, at this time of year. This was embedded in family and community rituals I experienced growing up. In a consumptive and materialistic world, some of this has been lost. What I do is hold onto the memories.

We lived in an old house and it was often very cold. In the evenings, my mother and three older brothers went across the street to the church for evening mass. This was part of the rite of passage for me. In junior high, I joined them.

Many evenings, I sat by the heavily frosted window to watch my mother and brothers return. Some of those evenings were clear, the sky filled with stars, and sometimes the Northern Lights were part of Nature’s light show.

Breathlessly awaiting,

Through frosted window peering

Small children–

Soaking it in.

Heavens rippling–

Lights undulating;

A celebratory fury

An indisputable guide.

An old house speaking;

Nature answering–

The heavens crackling

Sweet symphonic music.

Earth’s floor–

Blanketed in white

Celestial colours shimmering

Capturing young eyes.

A vivid winter scene,

A sensual, sensory palette,

Reminding–

Christ’s Mass draws near.

I took this picture at the farm this past weekend. The sun goes down early here at this time of the year. They had just had fresh snow, with about 8-10 inches falling in one day, so the scene was still quite untouched.

The Other Kingdoms

In my recent reading, I came across this poem by Mary Oliver. I had not read it before, but found it spoke to me in deep ways.

The other day, on Facebook, I came across a Welsh saying: “Dwi wedi dod yn ôl at fy nghoed.” It means returning to my senses/regaining mental equilibrium or more literally I returnto my trees. I understand this as coming back to my roots and being mindful and present for each sentient and non-sentient being I encounter. The word Druid means oak-knower and the Druids lived in harmony and oneness in nature.

Where do I feel most comfortable? The word comfort comes from com meaning surround and fort meaning strength. In other words, living mindfully in the world has ethical implications. In Greek, ethos means character and also how music influences morals, emotions, and behavior.

As I listen to each of the other kingdoms, what music do I hear? How does the music influence and inform who I am, what I say, and what I do? How am I aware of the music and sounds I hear in these kingdoms?

Consider the other kingdoms.  The
trees, for example, with their mellow-sounding
titles: oak, aspen, willow.
Or the snow, for which the peoples of the north
have dozens of words to describe its
different arrivals.  Or the creatures, with their
thick fur, their shy and wordless gaze.  Their
infallible sense of what their lives
are meant to be.  Thus the world
grows rich, grows wild, and you too,
grow rich, grow sweetly wild, as you too
were born to be.

I took this picture several years in Jasper National Park. Kathy and I had gone for an early drive and hike. We parked and took pictures. As I turned, I thought I saw something move and walked towards the movement. The cow elk sat and chewed her cud. She was aware of us and, as I approached, I heard the soft sounds she made in completing the digestive process.

We pointed her out to others and cautioned them to be careful and quiet as they approached her.  After all, we are strangers in those other kingdoms.

 

Welcoming Arms

via Welcoming Arms

Eddie provides a quote from Khalil Gibran reminding me how Nature welcomes me with beauty and silence, adding to a post from the other day. Where do we each find peace?

There is an echo from Thomas Merton who warned us about the busyness of the modern world, writing in the middle of the 20th Century. With a little effort, we find nature and silence in urban settings, renewing the spirit and the body.

In nature, we have opportunities to hold the wolf of busyness at bay as we experience solitude and peace, which provide moments for deep reflection and introspection.

Path 1

I took this picture of a path that climbs out of the river valley and back into the edge of downtown Edmonton. For me, it is easy to walk these paths and find moments of peace and solitude in the shadow of a large urban setting

Look, the trees…..

via Look, the trees…..

I have been offline for the past week, as we moved into our new house, which is located on the same lot we lived on before. We still do not have Internet, so I go to a local coffee shop once a day and sometimes every other day to catch up. Purple Rays provided a wonderful post to get back in the groove.

When we bought our house 40 years ago, it came with two relatively large spruce trees in the front. Those remain in place as proud sentinels and, as Mary Oliver describes trees in to the new houses we build on the same lot, one for Kathy and I and the other our youngest son built.

We chose to stay and build for several reasons. First and foremost, it gave our son a chance to have his own house. Second, we enjoy the community we live in and have been part of the fabric of it for 40 plus years. It is an area of Edmonton that has tremendous stablity despite the rapid growth of the metro area. We have neighbours who have lived in this community longer than we have.

The house on the left is our house and the one on the right is our son’s house as the trees stand guard.

 

Thanksgiving

Today is Canadian Thanksgiving. We celebrated yesterday with two sons and a partner due to work schedules. We will celebrate again for American Thanksgiving. This is in part due to my time in the US completing my PhD and we have extended family who are from the US.

The idea of two Thanksgivings led me to reflect. What am I grateful for each day? I am thankful for family, friends, good neighbours, good health, a house that will feel like home as it is built on our original property, and many other people and things.

What if we thought of each day as a day to give thanks, a thanksgiving?

I wrote this poem called Thanksgiving several years ago.

Gratitude and thankfulness

Share each sacred moment–

Turn to beloved others,

Hold tight,

Acknowledge worth,

(Extra)ordinary emerges from ordinary

Moment by moment–

The taken-for-granted

Reveals itself.

Sharing bounty,

Feeling blessed,

Expressing gratitude,

Saying daily prayers of thankfulness.

I took this in Jasper National Park with the Athabasca Falls behind Kathy.

The video above is by Mary Chapin Carpenter. I have several of her CD’s. Enjoy and be thankful.

Autumn Promises

In preparing a short presentation on mindfulness in daily life and autumn, I ended up writing a poem about autumn. More than writing, I reflected on how I understand seasonal cycles, including the equinox we experienced on the weekend.

I considered how I define phenomena. For example, autumn or fall was defined by my teaching with phrases such as “see you in the fall, school begins in the fall, and have a good summer, see you in the fall for school.” Nature does not define autumn quite so neatly.

Yes, there is a moment where the time from the longest and shortest days of sunlight is exactly balanced, but Nature and her other living beings are responding according to instinct and invisiable cues, not on artificial times. Trees are slow to change colour and shed their leaves this year, the rabbits in the yard are still brown/grey, and the geese are still gathering to feast on the grain left in farmers’ fields.

For me, autumn is a beautiful mix of the other seasons. On my walks, I experience the cool wind hinting of winter, the warmth of the sun suggesting summer is not gone, and the smell of decay to prepare the way for spring renewal and rejuvenation.

As well, there many metaphors and carry in our daily lives. Understood as a time of harvest, gathering, and bounty, autumn reminds me to be mindful of those moments when we gather, the memories and stories we gather to share with one another, and the readying for dormant times in life vital to our rejuvenation. This happens at all times of the year.

Another aspect of reflecting, preparing, and presenting was I felt rejuvenated. I am not teaching this fall and have been a bit down. Yesterday, I felt presenting and the writing that went with it put some “spring” in my step to be a little punny. I recording the presentation as a series of videos to upload and to put some of my poems into a book to publish.

Autumn arrives unannounced,

Alluding to other seasons

Touching body and soul as I walk.

Cool breeze;

Winter’s promise of dormant moments,

Readying for rebirth.

Afternoon sun chasing chill,

Warming body and soul,

Hinting summer remains.

Vibrant aesthetics;

 Artist colouring leave from Her palette,

Hanging above; fallen mates carpet ground.

Secluded, shaded, dampness,

Rich aroma of decay,

Spring depends on fall’s work.

Is there a typical autumn day?

Is there a typical autumn moment?

Nature whispers, “Maybe; Maybe not.”

This was a picture I took several years ago in the river valley. I remember the aroma of decay as it had been a cool and wet fall followed by some warmth.

CHANGE OF A WORLDVIEW

via CHANGE OF A WORLDVIEW

Worldview is interesting. I find words, like worldview and mindset, take on meanings based on my most immediate needs as opposed to different, more complex view.

Bruce offered me something to ponder based on the concept of Universal Christ, sometimes referred to as Cosmic Christ. In this, I consider God not as a finite, fixed entity easily imagined and as a complex entity existing beyond my thinking and imagining.

Richard Rohr calls me to understand God and universe as more complex than I am able to imagine. It is OK to try imagine who and what they might be, but they are so complex my mind cannot grasp them. There is always a considerable amount beyond my reach, calling me to resist temptation of neo-Platonic and neo-Thomistic views locking me into finite, fixed ways reflecting my own limits rather than those of God and universe. There is always something “uncanny” and hidden from my view.

Reading Father Rohr, I find echoes of Thomas Merton. Both authors remind me there is far more I do not know than I do and can know. Through nature, God is always revealing and telling me something new, humbling me in the face of my ignorance.

100_4747

Kathy took this picture several years ago driving through Glacier National Park. Although the picture is fixed, the landscape itself never can be. It is always changing with snow melting and falling; trees growing, the stream eroding the landscape, etc.

It reminds me of the Herclitus quote: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

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