Sunday, May 31, 2009

More Foxes

What is a blog if not (at least a bit) self-indulgent?

As long as I recognize that. And part of indulging myself includes sharing the extent to which I've been following the foxes in my back yard. In January I noticed the mates - and a couple days ago Jamie pointed out a single kit who seems to have taken the place of one of its parents in lounging beneath our bedroom window. 

But tonight I got to see THREE (3!) feisty, playful kits running and mock-fighting just off my patio. I've been awaiting their youthful presence ever since I noticed the male and female this winter (I'll try to catch them on "film" soon). One of them even scared the *bleep* out of me by pressing its curious face right up against the glass after it got dark.

I feel so blessed to be a part of their lives, even on the periphery. Yet, I recognize some ambivalence: I'd rather these wild creatures need not live in the suburban build-up where I reside; I wish they still had enough free space to live and hunt where there aren't cars to endanger them nor beloved house cats to tempt their hunger. They bless my days by capturing my imagination and love for all God's creatures - but they also remind me of my complicity with modern comforts to take take take more and more that can't be restored to the balance of creation. 

*Sigh* It's a theological challenge. 

Monday, May 25, 2009

Long Weekend = Play Guitar

Not "long weekend" in the vacation sense, even though it's Memorial Day. Long in the wrote-a-sermon-while-caring-for-a-dear-one-who-is-dying-after-spending-a-week-at-my-parents' sense.

I guess that's longer than a weekend. 

But here I am on an overcast Memorial Day with the self-care gift of a new song-book for my guitar. I've been trying to teach myself to play since September, and, never having been talented in the music department, offering myself the grace to play badly but joyfully. It's taken a while for me to figure out what I can and can't teach myself and give myself over to the simple practice of practice.

In order to make the "joyfully" part more abundant, the 
book I bought is from (of course) the Indigo Girls. And the difference it makes in making my spirit sing... well, it's significant. 

So here's to a long, rainy weekend where I can sit and strum my guitar.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday Five: Vacation, All I Ever Wanted...

(head over to RevGalBlogPals to see more of what Mary Beth wrote) 
1) What did your family do for vacations when you were a child? Or did you have stay-cations at home?
Camping. Tent camping. With a real tent. I wouldn't trade those experiences for anything. We may have hit every campsite from Delaware to New York before I was 12. And camping always featured great food over the fire: the fresh (caught by us, of course) crabs and clams in Maryland were my favorite!

2) Tell us about your favorite vacation ever:
Our honeymoon on St. Croix. It was a little, in-the-middle-of-nowhere, lesbian-owned retreat on the beach. We swam in the clearest waters I've ever seen, ate the best bread pudding of my life, and just existed for a beautiful time together. I could have done without the intense sunburn, however (even through my clothes!).

3) What do you do for a one-day or afternoon there a place nearby that you escape to on a Saturday afternoon/other day off?
I take the hour-drive to Laramie, WY (during the week, when others are working). Why?! Because it's out of town! It's a quiet little place with a coffee shop, a vegetarian restaurant, and a used bookstore. What more could I ask for? Oh, and the drive is gorgeous.

4) What's your best recommendation for a full-on vacation near you...what would you suggest to someone coming to your area? (Near - may be defined any way you wish!)
Morning: Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park - up to Lake Haiyaha. Pack a lunch and eat when you get there. Afternoon: Touring New Belgium Brewery (green, fun, tasty). Evening: as always, just being. It's good to be.

5) What's your DREAM VACATION?
A fully guided, leisurely tour of sacred/mystical sites in the UK (fully guided because it's too stressful trying to find my own transportation, lodging and meals - takes away from the "leisurely" part). Followed by a fully guided, leisurely tour of sacred/mystical sites in Greece. 

BONUS: Any particularly awful (edited to add: or hilarious) vacation stories that you just have to tell? ("We'll laugh about this later..." maybe that time is now!)
Ugh. I'm thinking about one that included a singularly decrepit motel room near a beach - the only one available anywhere. And no, I'm still not laughing about this... still sighing sadly.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Dying One

There is so much beautiful poetry about death. 

Emily Dickinson's multitudes - as most of her work - are some of my favorites. John Donne, James Joyce*, and William Cullen Bryant all tug at my heart strings as I contemplate the death of a dear one of my congregation (Thanatopsis speaks brilliantly to the particular person of which I write). 

But tonight, as I sit in teary wonder at the continual response I feel toward each one's death, I offer this piece by Mary Oliver. Does everyone's death bring thoughts of my own? No. But this one is close. He was young, joyful, fully alive. And he has walked with death and each of his friends/family with so much love and compassion. I want to be able to face my own demise as J is facing his. In Oliver's words, J did not just "visit this world" - he lived: he "was a bride married to amazement / [he] was the bridegroom, taking the world into [his] arms". Even in his dying, he lives. And he will continue to live in each of us whom he touched.

Blessings to you, J, on this journey you have begun. Blessings to us, your earthly "family", as we continue the journey we are on. 

When Death Comes

Mary Oliver

From New and Selected Poems by Mary Oliver (Beacon Press).

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measles-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it is over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

*I know it is considered prose, but Joyce's short story "The Dead" closes in a way that speaks poetically to me: 

"A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead."

Friday, May 1, 2009

Friday Five- celebrating the seasons of life (and my wedding day!)

Friday Five- celebrating the seasons of life by Sally over at RevGalBlogPals

It is the first of May, or as I have been concentrating on dialogue with folk interested in the new spirituality movement this last week, it is Beltane, a time to celebrate the beginning of summer. The BBC web-site tells us that:

Beltane is a Celtic word which means 'fires of Bel' (Bel was a Celtic deity). It is a fire festival that celebrates of the coming of summer and the fertility of the coming year.
Celtic festivals often tied in with the needs of the community. In spring time, at the beginning of the farming calendar, everybody would be hoping for a fruitful year for their families and fields.
Beltane rituals would often include courting: for example, young men and women collecting blossoms in the woods and lighting fires in the evening. These rituals would often lead to matches and marriages, either immediately in the coming summer or autumn.

Another advert for a TV programme that has caught my eye on the UK's Channel 4 this weekend is called Love, Life and leaving; and is a look at the importance of celebrating the seasons of life through ritual and in the public eye, hence marriages, baptisms and funerals.

I believe that we live in a ritually impoverished culture, where we have few reasons for real celebration, and marking the passages of life;


1. Are ritual markings of birth marriage and death important to you?
Without a doubt. Ritual allows so much meaning to be expressed in action and experience. It enters our psyches on such a deep level, beyond the intellectual/rational. It offers joy and healing in ways we don't always comprehend.

2. Share a favourite liturgy/ practice.
To many people it seems odd, but I love the practice of funerals. If they're done well. A well-done funeral offers loved ones space for grief and anger and pain. It provides comfort and hope and healing. It often allows for laughter and memory and celebration. A funeral (and the practices that lead up to the actual service) can reconnect people in ways they'd never imagine possible. And the final liturgy at the graveside seems timeless, to me.

3. If you could invent ( or have invented) a ritual what is it for?
Five years ago today my partner and I were married (in a Congregational church with UCC and Episcopal clergy). Because we had intentionally chosen May Day as our anniversary, we created a special (not in the Christian tradition) ritual for the ceremony: we collected small stones from each person present, each of which represented their blessing/wish for us in our continued life together. 
Today, on this 5th anniversary, we are going to go through each stone as a reconnection with all of our well-wishers and with each of their blessings on us. We won't know who gave which stone or what blessing they offered, but to me that part doesn't matter. (We also have a scrapbook that was passed around at the reception for people to WRITE down their blessings, and we placed a photo of the person/couple at the wedding with each written piece... we'll read through those as a part of our evening as well).

4. What do you think of making connections with neo-pagan / ancient festivals? Have you done this and how? 
I think our wedding expresses my thoughts clearly. Our centerpieces for the tables were living (potted) plants with a Maypole stuck in the middle and a garland stretching to each plate. We were thinking: life, creativity, fertility (not because we wanted children, but for the fruitfulness and creativity of our lives).

5. Celebrating is important, what and where would your ideal celebration be?
Great question...and one I'll have to think about more - out loud - right here: 
Church is so important to me, but so is Creation. Water has deep meaning. I especially love rivers with great huge rocks to jump from one to the next and a grassy bank under far-spreading tree branches. Yup, that's the place. 
What would the celebration be? Love? Life? "Shall we gather at the river?" Baptism? A picnic? ("take, eat"). All of the above! Thanks, Sally!!!