f Morning Rose Prayer Gardens: 09/01/2012 - 10/01/2012

Friday, September 28, 2012

Autumn 2012 A Walk with Pat Gohn

Sacred Walk 
      A beloved friend, Pat Gohn, the voice of Among Women, is in Colorado. She recently sent pictures back of a morning walk praying the rosary. One of the pictures is of a very old log across a stream, and it evokes for me the Holy in nature. The power of God in mountains, his flow in our lives like the stream, the death and life present in the frame of the photo leads me to ask myself, “Where is my sacred place on this earth?”
One would assume the answer to be at the retreat center where I have spent the better part of ten years working the gardens, but that is not so. Though the gardens are serene spaces of prayer, intentionally numinous, they do not often move me to awe.
Where I have come closest to the God of Earth and Sky is on the Canada side of Lake Superior. This is the deepest of the Great Lakes and legend has it that it never gives up its dead.
I am filled with amazement at the startling power of the wind sweeping cold dark waves off the lake onto stone-pebbled beaches of granite and gneiss. It is a glaciated wilderness millions of years old that still groans with God’s mystery. The jagged vertical cliffs, the strong winds, the scented mist of fertile waters, the drumming of the waves, are all thrilling to the soul. It is the gentler side of the ferocity that is God, and a confirmation of my smallness.

Photo from emily.net
                When I am walking along the coast of Lake Superior, God’s presence feels as near as when in Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. Standing near the water I can close my eyes and feel His swirling Presence inside my being, and wander about the beaches reflecting with Him for hours. Sometimes I’ve wished for days on the shores alone with Him, in Him, and through Him…in the unity of the Spirit.
There is a hunger in all of us to know that connecting place of prayer, to find a space, indoors or out, that draws us to the Holy. My friend’s finding a lovely walking trail in Colorado opened an avenue for holy conversation through the rosary. For me, remembering those walks within that sacred space along the shores of Lake Superior, induces a hunger to return there and feel His majesty, and a hunger to return home…unto dust and spirit.
Maybe next year I will retreat to a cottage along the shores of Lake Superior. This week I will find a woodland path, and before setting out make sure a rosary is in the pocket of my jeans. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Autumn 2012 Nearly Feral

Nearly Feral 

                         The three year old tabby is small for her age at only five pounds. Her dark-gray fur is striped in black with a lovely undercoat of coppery-gold and is surprisingly soft and thick, more like rabbit fur in winter.
                Her round little head seems too small for her expressive and large oval eyes, especially when the pupils dilate—anxious at my approach. She is nearly feral and only partially tamed by the priest who cared for her. She needed food and protection from her own kind so he set up a covered cage on his deck where she could eat and sleep in safety. When I adopted her she had two sizeable infected wounds from being attacked by other stray cats and the trip to the vet was traumatic.
                When I look at her tiny paws and miniature prick ears, somewhere deep inside a warm gentleness overtakes me. I want so much to cuddle this diminutive kitty and feel her warm purring body against my own. But she is small and frightened, so my patience is required. I have had her long enough that she no longer bolts from the room when I come with her food.
                In order to move close to her as she shrinks into the corner I lay on my belly and scooch slowly across the floor, softly repeating her name “Georgia.” Extending my arm and petting her with two fingers, I must be very delicate with my touch. Too much pressure or too near and she’ll dart into hiding. When this happens I wait for her to regain her trust and return to me, that non-priest person.
                What I have found works best is to sit on the floor near her with my open hand facing up and resting by my side, but where she is just beyond my reach. This one knows arithmetic well and can calculate exactly how far a human’s arm can reach! If I am patient she will often inch toward me, leaning into my open palm and choosing to feel my touch. She has then decided to be more accepting of my enormity in her little life.
                I think of how God is just so with me, waiting patiently just beyond my reach for me to draw near. He waits, knowing I may bolt if I become sensitive to his approaching greatness compared to my littleness. His quietness draws me in as I trust the closeness of the hand that nourishes and protects. And I too, with desire overriding my fears, inch towards that loving touch.
                Georgia only comes to me at night after I have settled in for sleep. She softly mews at the foot of the bed until I pull my hand out from under the blankets—palm up and fingers slightly curled. She then comes eagerly when I whisper her name. Curling up next to my hip, she rubs against my fingers a few times, places her round little head in the palm of my hand, and settles down. We both fall asleep in peace.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Autumn 2012 Cirrocumulus

                It’s that time of year when autumn clouds fill the sky for most of a day. Thick and dense, they are a brilliant white with melding shades of gray.
                I love how clouds reflect all the spectrum of light from the sun. Light is made up of the colors of the rainbow and when all the colors are present in equal amounts you get white.
I wrote in my first book, A Garden of Visible Prayer, “White is the color of the Holy Spirit, of truth and sanctity. It represents purity, innocence and kindness. I read somewhere that white teaches us about relationships because, in our perceptions of colors, it tints how we see. White is in itself not a color but the complete revealed energy (manifestation) of all the colors. A very nice explanation of the completeness of the Holy Spirit.” And like the presence of the Holy Spirit that brings light and lightness to my soul, clouds also give me a sense of being free of weightiness.
It is not unusual to see clouds formed at different heights in the stratosphere. When this happens the clouds will appear to move at different speeds relative to their distance from earth. Watching the clouds late one afternoon I see that this layering has taken place; there are higher Cirrocumulus clouds over heavier Stratus.
What was unusual is that these clouds are running in different directions, clearly moving perpendicular to each other! The higher whiter clouds were moving due north and the rain filled Stratus clouds, seeming so low one could almost touch them, speedily moving east and slightly south.
I had never seen this before and stood in the field turning in circles to view all of the sky, eventually sitting against a fence post in awe. My love and learning of natural sciences from undergraduate years began formulating the why of stratospheric wind directions and the collective weight of water vapors. Still, the wonder of the event kept me spellbound for nearly half an hour.
Later as I reflected upon the event, I came to understand more fully how the currents in our own lives can often run contrary, or perpendicular to one another. We can seem to be floating along bright and white and above all earthly things, and then lower dark clouds move in and draw our attention down and on a completely different course.
We may need to be attentive to the potential of storms from these lower obscuring clouds. But let us remain focused on the higher clouds in our lives, those that capture the whiteness of The Light and reveal the currents of the Holy Spirit manifest and moving within our souls.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Autumn 2012 Failure

Failing at what is Familiar

I see myself as a gardener, one whose core identity is tied to soil and seeds, and happiest when bare feet are touching earth and sod. I am a doer, a digger, someone with calloused hands, broken nails and dirty knees. I know what to do and what to say and how to interact within the framework of gardens.
But now I am increasingly unsure of myself as I am uprooted from what is familiar. The increased discomfort of an arthritic spine, the results of an auto accident decades ago, has forced me to leave the work I have always loved. I can no longer do the work needed to maintain gardens and landscapes, or operate a greenhouse. In my own yard the daily four to six hours of toiling, weeding and transplanting is now reduced. I can only work two or three twenty minute sessions a couple times a week, with nothing strenuous being done like digging holes or pruning overhead branches with loppers.  I abandoned greenhousing a couple years ago.
I have found it particularly challenging this summer to accept my new limitations. My gardens are so neglected that it looks as if no one lives at my house. Tall and rampant Lambsquarters and Marestail weeds are choking out perennials and shrubs. I am embarrassed by the slovenly appearance of my once pristine yard, and am too proud to ask for help. Resignation is setting in and I contemplate calling friends to salvage my beloved plants, removing them to their gardens.
With a mind busy and wanting to do, and a body indicating otherwise, it is a challenge to find the balance between being productive while quieting my physical discomfort. Like the story of Simon from Luke’s Gospel, I keep going out into deep waters looking for a means of livelihood and pull in nothing but empty nets.
There is a certain amount of doubt, or hopelessness that creeps in when we repeatedly fail at trying to adapt what is familiar to an unknown situation. Just like Simon, we moved confidently out on to waters that had always provided for our needs only to find that there is nothing to be had.
It is within this self-doubt that Our Lord comes to us. Even though our failure to succeed was not due to lack of trying, He asks us to try again and leaves it up to us to choose to do as asked. Am I as willing as Simon, overworked and exhausted, to go once again into deep waters? Am I ready to ask those who have gone with me before to this place of empty nets, to come and help again? Am I open to saying “…we have worked hard…and caught nothing…but at your command I will lower the nets” and trust Jesus to provide?
And I wonder what will become of my “Yes, Lord” as I trudge back to that place of non-fulfillment, back to gardens and soils and sod.  How will my life change if I too am filled to overflowing with multiple gifts from God? Whose hands will help bring an unexpected bounty to shore?
Maybe my greatest fear isn’t the empty net at all, but the full one of success; the full net that redefines who I am as a gardener and the purpose of His gifts. Maybe it isn’t my back that He needs at all.