These past few weeks have reminded me of the need to stay resilient, to find the things that restore my spirit so that I can handle the anxiety of this current crisis without being overwhelmed. This has been challenging, as OVID-19 continues to escalate here in Ontario, and as I am an avid news reader and have been inundating myself with information. I am learning to control checking The Guardian and the CBC and CNN for updates, and re-focus on the things I can and need to do to maintain myself, my family, my home and my work. The small daily chores of living take on a greater importance – taking more care with cooking and longer walks with a grateful dog – and I am appreciating increasing contact with close friends.
Although I am not an especially musical person – I will always choose a book or film over a concert – I am finding that certain songs are helping pull me back into shape when I feel stretched out and stressed. This particular song, by American global roots duo Rising Appalachia, has been on regular rotation for me, the words “I’ve got my roots down, down, down, down deep” have become a mantra of sorts. The earth is resilient, and finds so many ways to come back to life, especially now during spring. Keeping my roots in the earth helps me find my way back.
Enjoy the beautiful music and beautiful dancers of “Resilience”.
In the shadowed quiet of winter’s light
earth mourns softly…
Kneel down here
on the frosty grass,
and seek the hope buried in the ground.
Bend your ear to the beating heart of the planet
and listen hard.
A whisper: love this world.
Distill peace from the snow
and water the cities
Weave wonder from the forest
and clothe grief
Rest in the rhythm of the turning year,
trace the golden threads
connecting all beings,
and vow anew to do no harm.
The winter trees stand watch
haloed in the last gleams of the slanting sun.
Make your life an answer:
Live in Awe.
adapted from Rebecca Parker’s A Winter Blessing
Water is life. We are water. If we accept the ecological connections between ourselves and water, what does that mean for how we experience and use water in our daily lives? Here in North America, we don’t treat water particularly well, offering gifts of plastic which create a giant ocean garbage patch to gifts of polluting chemicals, as well as the careless and wasteful use of fresh water. Hope lies in communities which are working to re-imagine our inter-actions with water.
Environmental magazine Orion has an extensive article exploring new approaches to city water infrastructure, including more details about the project explored in the video. Writer Cynthia Barnett also narrates the slideshow highlighting a Seattle neighbourhood’s water project which is also an ecological art piece.
I’m thinking about death and dying this week as I plan for our Unitarian Universalist remembrance ritual this Sunday. Like many religions and cultures at this time of year, many UU congregations take a moment of shared community to honour our dead. We bring photos to our common altar, tell a story or two, and light a candle in memory of those we have lost. There are many tears, but we are together, connected and caring for each other. For me it is one of the most meaningful services of the year, allowing people to name their losses in community, to speak of death freely.
So when legendary musician Lou Reed died this past week and his wife, brilliant multi-media artist Laurie Anderson wrote a wonderful tribute to him for their local newspaper East Hampton Star, which is making the internet rounds today, I was particularly struck by her words. Light and love are evident in Anderson’s note as she paints a picture of a good dying – leaving this world “happy and dazzled” by nature. There will always be pain in this world, but it is made bearable by the beauty.
To our neighbors:
What a beautiful fall! Everything shimmering and golden and all that incredible soft light. Water surrounding us.
Lou and I have spent a lot of time here in the past few years, and even though we’re city people this is our spiritual home.
Last week I promised Lou to get him out of the hospital and come home to Springs. And we made it!
Lou was a tai chi master and spent his last days here being happy and dazzled by the beauty and power and softness of nature. He died on Sunday morning looking at the trees and doing the famous 21 form of tai chi with just his musician hands moving through the air.
Lou was a prince and a fighter and I know his songs of the pain and beauty in the world will fill many people with the incredible joy he felt for life. Long live the beauty that comes down and through and onto all of us.
— Laurie Anderson
his loving wife and eternal friend
I wrote this poem many years ago when, after having a rough few months, I found a good place for myself. The house where I was living was down a hill from the centre of town; biking home I knew when I was almost there as I could stop pedalling and glide easily down the hill. Walking, it doesn’t feel the same, but on a bike it is a lovely way to arrive home. The same is true of where I live now – at the convergence of two gentle downward slopes – and there is something about that easy, invitational last move towards home that is a true gift.
the way home is all downhill
your neighbour’s gift
of cheerful bulging cucumbers
mail in the mailbox
with your name on it
the stray cat
swirled around your legs
these make you stand in the living room and
lose your mind
in ordinary delights
i am here you think
and everybody knows
your laughter causes dust to rise up off the ficus
in the encircling sun
Spring has receded as winter returns in the form of freezing rain and icy snow. Trees, cars, mailboxes – every surface slicked over with ice. Even the crocuses, which were merrily blooming yesterday, are closed up against the ice. I have been thinking of poet Langston Hughes’ poem In Time of Silver Rain, which has been adapted into a Unitarian Universalist hymn. I love this gentle song, and while Hughes was writing about a much warmer spring, the silver rain has been in abundance here in South-western Ontario. But even with the freezing rain, spring is lurking, waiting to return. Robins, cardinals, finches, sparrows, and blue jays are busy in the gardens, and the first pale mist of green is emerging from grass and shrubs. Life, life, life, indeed.
In time of silver rain the earth puts forth new life again,
green grasses grow and flowers lift their heads,
and over all the plain the wonder spreads of life, of life, of life!
In time of silver rain the butterflies lift silken wings,
and trees put forth new leaves to sing in joy
beneath the sky in time of silver rain,
when spring and life are new.
from the hymnal Singing in the Living Tradition
adapted from the Langston Hughes poem.
I became a Unitarian Universalist minister in part because I wanted to learn how to live everyday with a sense of wonder. It is so easy to be cynical, or earnest, or busy or bored in our consumer capitalist techno society, but not so easy to be struck by wonder at the magnificence of planet earth. This video (which is really an ad for BBC1) has been making the rounds of the internet for awhile, but I present it here as the Monday Meditation because it speaks to my hopes for the new year.
David Attenborough’s aged voice speaking the song over all of the gorgeous creatures reminds me to pay attention to all that is. May we find time in this season to appreciate the wonder of life on earth.
This is a bright little song from American singer-songwriter Josh Ritter about love making its “cold and weary way back home”. Besides its message of hope, the cut out paper animation is simply astonishing.
May all of those grieving in these dark nights find love returning.
For those living through the Hurricane Sandy …
image from scrapetv.com
Hope is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all.
And sweetest – in the gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm.
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
Each Monday for the rest of the summer I will be posting a “Monday Meditation”, a quote, a poem, a video, an image to start the week with a moment of calm. Enjoy!
“Summer is the time when one sheds one’s tensions with one’s clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit. A few of those days and you can become drunk with the belief that all’s right with the world.”
Ada Louise Huxtable
Lake of Two Rivers, Algonquin Provincial Park, July 2011