Giving thanks

Giving thanks II

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“In trailing the jumble of threads that are created from our choices we weave our identity. These same labyrinths become the keys to our advancement, and the locked doors that keep us from it.” (from Raised by Wolves, a Circus Automatic, 2012 )

Needing some inspiration before I meditated this morning I opened one of my favorite books, Fingerpainting on the Moon, by Peter Levitt.  He finds that reading poetry, literature and spiritual teaching awakens his intuition. “Working in this way was a bit like weaving a tapestry where the next thread just appears in your hand, which is what happens when your intuition and imagination become fully alive. You don’t know how the new thread is going to fit into the design …. but more often than not it does.”

Pausing for a moment I looked up and saw the old, outdated World map hanging in my living room. This old map has red lines stretching from continent to continent relating the miles from one major city to another across the world.

I saw a succession of peoples continually moving across these miles however they could – poets, artists, writers, bakers, peace makers, iron workers, craftsmen – men and women carrying their children and a few meager possessions to places they’d heard provided safety and or a living wage.

I imagined my ancestors planning to leave Prussia on a journey to Canada to save their sons from fighting in the Franco Prussian war, or my ex- husband’s Jewish family escaping Stalin and then Hitler, or my daughters-in-love families leaving Scotland or Italy just one generation ago for better lives for their families. Looking at the map I see a constantly moving trail of people believing that on the other side of fear lies freedom.

I’ve just returned from the weekend retreat with Matthew Wright about interspirituality. As we were ending he read the following email from Kabir Helminski, founder of the Threshold Society.*

1. Stand with those free of bias, superstition; the mystics and Gnostics.
2. Keep your spirits up – the light is growing. Keep a sense of humor and keep your heart open.
3. Be humble in your belief. Our own understanding is limited.
4. There is only us. If we blame them, we weep for us.

One of our participants told us about a Youtube Ted Talk titled How to Occupy the Noosphere: Ian MacKenzie at TEDxVictoria 2013, well worth listening to.

We are interdependent. Sending love bombs and mind bombs.  M


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giving thanks

Giving Thanks

Three friends and I are preparing to travel to Canada this weekend for a retreat with Matthew Wright, theologian, The price was right; the presenter is young, and brilliantly energetic. The topic is relevant to our retreat center, where we teach and support contemplative prayer practices, spiritual direction/companionship and mentoring.

When the announcement arrived for the retreat there was a small map showing a lake and the camp where the retreat will be held. We live in Bellingham, Washington a few miles as the crow flies to the U.S. Canadian border, so think nothing of driving back and forth. No problem. We’ll figure it out.

The directions arrived via email with a long list of things to bring like sleeping bags, pillows, warm clothes and water bottle, ear plugs and flash lights. We laughed about getting a bit old for bunk beds, but gamely assigned Linda as driver and me to figure out the route. I read directions to the site – the first from the Victoria B.C. airport, and then directions from three ferry docks to the site. Hmm. Interesting. No directions from the border. But we’ll figure it out.

Those of us who live in Salish Sea territory are familiar with taking “the ferry” to the many island cities along the Washington and British Columbia coast. Still it took another minute to dawn on me that we were signed up to travel to Victoria, the large island off the coast of B.C.! I sent an email to Linda saying this isn’t a quick trip across the border, and, “save your pennies, it’s getting expensive.”

Even though Stillpoint has a small budget, $5,000 this year, personally many of us live on the edge. Another $100 for the ferry, plus gas for the car was really pushing our individual pocket limits. We wouldn’t have committed to the retreat had we known this extra cost was involved.

I wrote to one of my guardian angels and asked “for a donation of $100 for ferry travel.” He responded immediately, “sure, but it’s going to cost more than $100 for 2 people.” Yes. He was right. It was $103 each way for 2 people and the car. Our angel paid for our reservation.

A third friend recently signed up to join us for the retreat so we’re sharing the “another person in the car,” cost. We agreed to use “the truck crossing” closer to her home. I’m urging us to leave a little earlier because sometimes in early morning there are longer waits at the border…

Which brings me to the point of this Thanksgiving story…



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This time I want to find my way, explore my way, take my time. I want more than I have ever asked of myself before. Maybe it requires a silence and a centering that I have not yet – in my whole life really – given myself. ~ Pat Schneider

Sunday my ex-husband who is also my landlord, and I had the following interaction as we left a family supper: Me. “Oh, the gate was ripped off by the wind.” He replied, “Yes, it is on the ground.” I said, “No, I picked it up.” He questioned “Why?” “Because, “I didn’t want it in the way.” I shrugged and we said goodnight and left.

That night as I drifted off to sleep I started to laugh. We were talking about two different gates! He’d taken the back fence down to pull out the trailer stored in my back yard. Because the winds were heavy he realized that taking the mast off the large boat was a fool’s errand, so left the “gate” on the ground hoping for better weather. I was talking about the much smaller gate into the back yard. I’d left it open. The wind caught it and tore the old rusty screws from the post, dumping the gate cross-ways across the entry to the back yard.

How often do we believe we’re in conversation, from Latin conversationem nominative conversatio, “act of living with” and we’re just jabbering?

On Monday in an early morning meeting with two co-facilitators, L. said she was tired. She’d spent the night in ER with her husband who needed stitches in his arm. I interrupted to show-off a huge, ugly bruise on my arm. After we oohed and ahhed and talked about how we need to be aware of where our bodies are, my friend returned to her story. When I got­­ home I felt bad for jumping on her story and emailed an apology. I felt especially silly because in the conversation about assigning participants to small groups  we were wondering about those whose needs are so great they can derail a group. There I sat, exhibit A!

In the famous dream of King Solomon, he was asked what he would like to receive from God. Above all the material blessings of this world, he requested, a hearing heart … that I may discern between good and evil” (I Kings 3:9). The word for a hearing or listening or obedient heart is lev shomea, from the same root as shema, hear.*

The path for this 8 month journey we’re facilitating, begins with Thomas Merton’s book New Seeds of Contemplation. Our motto is “awareness, awareness, awareness!” We’re encouraging practices based in body, mind, heart and soul that invite us into awareness of our relationship with what/who some call the mystery with capital M. Along with meditation, spending time outside and contemplative reading, (Lectio Divina*), we’re inviting participants to write a spiritual autobiography as a way of deepening awareness of multiple dimensions of spirituality in our lives.

…my own writing that matters most to me are those pieces that have taken me out to the very edge of what I know and do not know I know. ~ Schneider

A year ago I began a quilt for my oldest grandson with a pattern he choose. Sewing the pieces together went terribly wrong. Clearly I’d cut once before measuring twice. Last Friday I tore it apart one more time and cut triangles into squares and sewed them together in a totally different configuration. This will form the centerpiece for a new pattern I’m creating based on his love of kayaking.

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Sometimes, like the missed conversations and this quilt, pieces of my life are jagged triangles that twist and pull around me. I trust that by peering into the truths I “keep company with;” that by measuring my story twice the pieces “turn about” and provide a bigger picture of my own relationship with the Mystery.

*Pat Schneider, How the Light Gets In, writing as a spiritual practice, 2013.

*Conversation definition from the Online Etymology Dictionary, (



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Mending: To make (something broken or damaged) usable again: to repair (something broken or damaged). To heal or cure (a broken bone, a sad feeling, etc.) ~Merriam‑Webster


Two months ago while mending a small hole in the shoulder of a favorite linen knit cardigan, I thought “mending – good topic for a blog.”

The idea has been workin’ me every day; not the writing but the daily opportunity for mending.

Recently I promised I’d print 15 copies of a rubber stamp I’d carved over a year ago. When I opened my box of stamps, the one I wanted was broken. I mended it together but the crack showed when inked and stamped. I made a new stamp but I liked the cracked image better. I tore pages out of an old gardening book and printed the stamp with the crack; fitting for the topic eco-spirituality. Everyone commented they loved their picture on a page that seemed perfect for them.

A few weeks ago when I picked my grandson up after school he breathlessly told me he needed to complete a computer game on his dad’s old I-Phone. He played while eating a snack, while I tugged his soccer socks over his shin guards and in the car on the way to his practice. Climbing out of the car he pleaded, “Please leave the phone on my desk so I can finish before we come to your house for supper.”

As I walked from the car to his house I dropped the phone on the sidewalk. The glass back shattered.

Close to tears, I left it on the dining room table with a note saying how sorry I was, and that it still worked and could be fixed with duct tape.

Later when Zeb and his family arrived for dinner he climbed onto the stool in my kitchen. I put my arms around him and apologized for breaking his phone.

He was surprised and began to cry. Then his mommy told him that she saw it on the table and mended it with duct tape and that it was “good as new.” After fussing a bit he hugged me and said he was happy it still worked – and “Gran, I don’t like what we’re having for supper.” Kiss it and make it better and cook something just for him. All mended.

It’s not always that easy. Years ago a wonder-full friend who listened carefully as I read out loud each of the papers written for my doctorate, died suddenly.   During an intensive week-long class I held my grief close. At the final gathering I mentioned how sad I was and burst into tears. A lovely colleague gathered me into his arms and held me while I sobbed my sorrow. He died suddenly a month ago.

This week we cannot escape the news full of deep sorrow and celebrations of mending – stitches only we can keep from unraveling.

This morning I sat outside with Mark Nepo’s book The Endless Practice, meditating on the words of all deeply spiritual advisers, “Stay Awake.”

In the middle of his book Nepo quotes the medieval Sufi master Muhammad b. Fadl Balkhi (854-932); “He spoke directly about what puts us to sleep: ‘One may lose faith in four ways: not acting on what one knows, acting on what one does not know not seeking to learn what one does not know, and keeping others from learning.’ Nepo continues, “Often, in clinging too hard to what is familiar, we lose our wakefulness. …consider your relationship with what you know and what you don’t know. Consider the condition of your ultimate concern.” (pg. 191)

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How To Yield

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How to Yield

Maybe I want it
Even long for it
Whatever it is

Let it stay where it is

Give it up
Even for a moment, a second, an
Eon of time – one atom
at a time

Give it over
To where it grows,
where it resides.
Let the roots plow deep
into the Earth.

It is not mine to take
Only to love and observe,
maybe water with my tears
or my dishwater

No matter
Let it stay where it is
a feast for my eyes.
~ Marian Methner, 2015

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Spring Musings

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“sometimes money is as much use as rocks in the desert, when what you need is a cold glass of water.” ~Alex Shearer*

Spring Musings

Spitting rain this morning with intermittent sunshine…

Garden season began sunny and warm during February in Bellingham. One day last week I put lettuce and mache seeds into a half barrel of soil. Yesterday I planted a tree. It’s unusually dry for early March. I hoped for rain.

Last Thursday I finished Telling The Bees by Peggy Hesketh. The descriptive blurb on the back of the book includes this description; “…the inadvertent examination of a life unlived, told by the octogenarian beekeeper who didn’t live it.”

This is a theme I revisit each morning –  how will I live my today?  Today I must remember to be grateful while I finish filling out forms, again, to continue my medical insurance under Medicare, then water the seeds and the tree. I have a date with two grandkids tonight.

This morning my reading included the essay Fields of Force, by Martha Heyneman written in 1983 for Parabola. Heyneman writes, “Saint Francis saw a person in the sun – and in almost everything else… If I told you now that I saw a person in the sun, you might question my judgment. Don’t worry. I am unable. Standing up to go down and make dinner, I forget all about the sun. But his power is among us.”

She, as did I, “awoke with the sun, sat up, sang no hymn…” I put the (clean) water from a tap onto boil, ground coffee beans grown somewhere (organically of course in the shade and hand-picked), and sat with my coffee not paying attention to the miracles around me, only thinking as sunlight streamed in, I must wash the windows!

I noticed that my April calendar includes a foot washing which is practiced in many churches on Maundy Thursday, three days before Easter. The practice is based on the story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples during the Passover meal before he was killed.

     “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one  another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” John 13:14-17

I’m reminded of  two photos from Christmas. Phoebe, one of my almost 12 year old granddaughters whose brightly painted toes are in the first picture after we were treated to a pedicure, saw the picture I’d saved from Harper’s Magazine, and said, “cute.” After I told her the story about those shoes she asked if she could have a copy of the picture.

toe nail polish    shoes  Harper’s Magazine photo by Shannon Jensen from her series A Long walk. The photos are of the shoes of refugees,children and adults, along the Sudanese border, some who walked as many as 40 days. (Harper’s Magazine/December 2014, pg. 75.)

Oh, how good it wold have felt to have your feet washed after that walk!

I am still reminded that I didn’t ask her name; the woman who washed my feet and painted my toenails,and told me in broken English about coming to Bellingham  for her children. She was going home late to cook their rice and give them baths.  I didn’t ask her name.

foot washingOrthodox icon of Christ washing the feet of the Apostles (16th century, Pskov school of iconography).  

** Alex Shearer, author of This is the Life, Washington Square Press, 2014

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Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
– Leo Buscaglia

A few weeks ago I was twisting a bag of fabric scraps into long chains. Phoebe, one of my 11 year old granddaughters came in and said, “Oh, you are making rope! We learned to do that on a field trip in 4th grade. Can I try?” Lucky me – for awhile we sat and chatted  twisting the fabric of that day into a strong rope.

Since then I have twisted what seems miles of  scraps into long thin colorful “rope.”  This morning picking out long scraps and twisting them together became a contemplative prayer practice similar to praying with beads.

As I prayed I became aware of how many people I’ve spent time with and how many stories I’ve been privileged to hear since I posted in early October.

Each of these stories includes some of the teller’s pretty raggedy times; times when we pull the scraps of our lives together hoping the places where we join the old with the new can hold. This morning I thought about those times in my own life as I added a few stitches to a joint that wasn’t going to hold without support.

Two friends and I are planning a 4 week 2-hour study for, using Fr. Thomas Keating’s work about going deeper into centering prayer. We talked about how our relationship has grown by telling stories during our planning meetings. We’re thinking about asking participants to break into groups of two or three because we know as Fr. Keating says, “When we go deeper into silence stuff comes up.”  When stuff comes up, those scraps of our life we haven’t quite known what to do with, it’s helpful to have someone nearby listening with her heart, twisting those pieces into a strong raggedy rope.


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