I watched a documentary this morning just before I took this photo of one of two Ash trees that will be removed from my home this spring. Both trees were damaged by borers and have been dropping small branches, a danger to the house and so they will be replaced with new trees. Once the tree growing through the opening of the deck we will be able to paint the deck without the fear of falling branches. I am in the process of researching what will grow well and protect the river bank. Meanwhile I will continue to enjoy the antics of the squirrels racing up and down the trees, the many birds, small and very large including hawks, owls, eagles that perch on the branches as they watch the river valley below.

The documentary below is well worth watching. If you are not yet a tree lover, you will be by the time you finish watching the film.

Grateful for all the Ash trees have provided

On this

If you remembered to express your love and appreciation for someone this weekend, I applaud you.   

If you remembered to express your love and appreciation for someone last week, last month, throughout the year,  just because… you thought of them,  I am giving you a standing ovation. 

Personally I don’t get too excited about Holidays marked on a calendar.   Sure I enjoy the gifts (for those who need to know I love dark chocolate) just like everyone else.  But, the yellow roses picked out by a friend last week brought me joy all week as the color reminded me of my mother and  the scent reminded me of the promise of milder days ahead.  And those who called to check on me or who sent me jokes or shared ideas or just chatted, all better than any chocolate given once a year.  

So please,  especially now,  give a loving nudge to those who may be isolated,  or suffering an illness or a loss, those who may feel left out of the gift giving, meal sharing, those you care about, be they family, friend, neighbor, anyone, everyone.  Do it not just today, but any day… 

Today Terry Hershey wrote in Sabbath Moment, about the beauty of imperfection and the art and practice of Kintsugori, the Japanese art of using gold to repair broken pottery. The repaired piece is more beautiful than before it was broken, what I like to refer to as being ‘perfectly imperfect’. Terry’s writing reminded me of the last yearly Keys retreat at Mount Saviour Monastery, in which I led a workshop I titled ‘Broken Open’. As part of our discussion and exploration, the participants repaired broken pieces of pottery using gold as one of the materials.

This is the piece I repaired, choosing not to close it completely. It now holds paintbrushes and sits where I see it daily, a reminder of the meaning.

Perfectly Imperfect or Imperfectly perfect?

And today would have been my father’s birthday. In his last years he suffered from serious illness and it was in his brokenness that I came to know him differently, a blessing out of all the pain. And in a way, the pain caused a crack in my hard shell of protection and anger. It helped me offer forgiveness and caring in a way that brought healing to our relationship.

If you’d like to read Terry’s reflection on the topic of Kintsugori, you can do so here….

https://www.terryhershey.com/imperfection/

Snow, we are getting our share of it today in my corner of NY state.   While many people grumble about the cold, and snow, I don’t mind it that much.  Icy roads and blizzards I can do without.  The postcard worthy snowfall that we are getting today is something I enjoy.   I was out for some fresh air and took some photos of my back yard.   In the summer, the garden shed is partially hidden by the climbing hydrangea that I transplanted from a previous home.  For 8 years it was little more than a few branches, and then it went wild.  The birdhouses are almost entirely hidden by the leaves in summer.    

The same bareness that let me see the structure of the garden shed also lets me see all the way down to the bridge from the deck.  When the trees are leafed out the bridge is hidden from view….   

Life is that way too, don’t you think?  Like the trees and vines in winter, it’s when things get stripped down that we can see them best.  

I noticed yesterday that food put out for the squirrels, and birds in our river valley had not been touched.  Normally food put out triggers a series of calls and commotion alerting all that a meal has been served.  If the daily meal is late or missing,  a sort of discussion is heard, with delegates, usually squirrels will come to the door, peek in to see what the delay is.  

Is it food yet?

When It occurred to me I’d not seen a squirrel or other creature all day, not even the geese which are present even when the river freezes over, I went out on the deck, looked down to the river and saw.. nothing but water.  There was something discomforting about the silence and absence of my daily companions. 

Today,  yesterday’s food has been snapped up, critters are busy and noisy, geese and commorrants  are busy fishing.  It’s as if they’d taken a day off, a Sabbath day or Holiday and now back to the business of survival.  Where were they all for one day?  Were they frightened off by the eagles or people who mean to cause them harm?  Or were they some place where it was just less noisy?  I can only guess since they aren’t saying.. I’m enjoying and taking in their company, we are exchanging the gift of Hospitality. 

Geese skating, sliding, swimming on a partially frozen river…

Today on this day dedicated to remembering Reverend King and what he and others have taught us about Peace and kindness, we are reminded to practice Hospitality, in the form of kindness, service and equality.  While I take in and then share these messages, I am hoping that these messages will be in the forefront of our minds and work, not just today,  not just holidays or special days. 

May we offer each hospitality in the way of kindness and caring, every day.       

I’ve been struggling to find a word to describe 2020.

I thought of the word ‘trauma’ because of the fear and loss and helplessness experienced by so many …  

I thought of the word ‘hope’ because I have heard that word … a lot …  I hope I can go back to work…  or… I hope I can be with my family again … I hope I can pray in community again … I hope I don’t have to wear a mask forever …  Often this is said as a prayer…  

And then there was ‘despair’ and ‘anger’ resulting from political and social injustice.   I heard the questions..  “why do we keep doing the same things over and over again?” … or … “ will it ever end?”…

I thought of the word ‘freedom’, because I’ve heard from many in my art and writing communities that they welcomed more time for creativity, for catching up on half finished projects or those not yet started.  

Another word I’ve heard a lot is ‘home’ ..  meaning a physical structure or spending more time with people living in the same space or doing more at home… cooking from scratch,  making repairs, cleaning, and clearing out spaces, time for helping with school work, projects, meals together… 

Recently someone told me it was just ‘different’.  Some things are just different than how they have been in the past and some see it as a challenge.  

Like many others I’ve experienced changes that I didn’t see coming, an illness just as news of a possible pandemic made the headlines.  Then leaving a position sooner than I’d planned.  Vacations cancelled. Family gatherings cancelled.   

I had a trip to Puerto Rico planned, wanting to see some of the familiar places.  I wanted to see the rain forests, some that had been stripped bare by the hurricane a few years ago, but that I’m told and have seen in images are becoming lush again.  I wanted to see the new growth, the parrots that somehow survived as their home was stripped bare.   

Thinking of the parrots, I wondered how any, already so few in numbers, had survived the devastating storms of recent years.  I searched online and found a university report that mentioned the use of bunkers and apiaries.  These structures were already being used to help increase the population of the wild parrots.  They ended up being some of the places where the birds were protected, sheltered from the storms.  

Sheltered …  

I believe much good can come from sheltering, physically and emotionally.  We can complain about not being able to gather in groups or not being able to go on vacation or do the many things we are accustomed to doing.    Or …  we can embrace doing what we can to care for ourselves and others.  We can embrace trying new things, new ways or returning to old ways of doing things that help us to be healthier and more self sufficient.   

Who can know all that 2021 will bring?  Will it bring the changes we are hoping for?  Like so many others I hope for the end of the pandemic and injustice and so much more.   At the same time I don’t believe we can just leave the past year behind.  We will carry some of it with us.  And some of that is in the way of seeds, seeds of understanding, seeds of caring, seeds of exploration, seeds of old and good ways of doing things, seeds of faith.   And regardless of what 2021 looks like, we can plant seeds from the past year, sorting out the seeds of fear, and choose the seeds of awareness, the seeds that will help us to grow, thrive and flourish, so that we may experience perennial grace.  

  What word or words would you use to describe 2020 and why?  What good seeds from the past year might you/we plant in 2021?  

I said: What about my eyes?

God said: Keep them on the road.

I said: What about my passion?

God said: Keep it burning.

I said: What about my heart?

God said: Tell me what you hold inside it

I said: Pain and sorrow.

God said … Stay with it. The wound is the place where the Light enters you.

~ Rumi

The image is of a broken vessel I repaired during a retreat I host annually at Mount Saviour Monastery.  Last weekend twelve women gathered for this year’s Keys (unlocking your creative spirit) retreat. Our theme for this year was ‘Women as Vessels’. We explored being perfectly imperfect … perfectly unique … and more….

A reminder to all….

Kintusgi

On the days when you feel ashamed of your scars, your mind only registering how ugly they are rather that the beauty they prove of you having survived, remember that there is an entire art form dedicated to filling the cracks of broken things with lacquered gold.

And entire art form that proves that even the broken and damaged history of an object is beautiful and should be treasured.

Remember how much more you are than an object.
Remember your survival, your journey, your scars deserve to be treasured too.
~ Nikita Gill

Somewhere I read that …. A friend is someone who knows your song and sings it back to you when you have forgotten the words.

That is what Br. Justin was for many people. He was often the first person one would encounter when visiting Mount Saviour Monastery. He embodied Benedictine hospitality. He was a friend to all and a prayer warrior unlike any I’ve known.

Sadly, my Benedictine brother, the one who gave me my oblate name of Sr. Hildegard, who loved my extended family as if it was his own, and who never hesitated to take me to task when he thought I was not being the best version of myself that I could be, died suddenly on April 4th.

I realized later that his death coincided with the anniversary of the death of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., someone he admired greatly.

I miss his smile and greeting every morning, how he would often bow to me or ask for a blessing. And how the sound of his laughter could be heard through the monastery.

Yet, while I miss his physical presence, I have no doubt he is still laughing loudly, full of joy and bowing in peace and love.

Rest in Peace dear brother. You are much loved.

As I look forward to Spring after what seems to have been an endless Winter, my prayer is that I embrace all that Earth teaches me …

Earth teach me to let go of the old so that new things may grow

as the fallen leaves decay and become fertilizer nourishing what is new

 

Earth teach me to reach for the sky while remaining rooted

as the sycamore tree living courageously by the river’s edge.

 

Earth teach me to look for the path through difficult situations

as the water flowing downhill under the ice on the hill

 

Earth teach me that movement and doing is sometimes louder than words

as the air that is heard on windy days

 

Earth teach me to be a sanctuary for those who need nurturing

as the pool of water left from the flood provides for the tadpoles

 

 

Image from a walk along the Chemung River

Brother Stephen

For those who are friends and visitors of Mount Saviour Monastery ….

Brother Stephen Galban, slept peacefully into eternity early in the morning of January 20, 2018.

For more information visit the monastery website ….  Mount Saviour Monastery

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