Starlings in Winter

Starling image from wired.com

Starling image from wired.com

This past Sunday I had the opportunity to be a guest minister at the Peterborough Unitarian Fellowship.   My reflection was based in part on Starlings in Winter; Mary Oliver’s beautiful and astute observations on that marvellous “wheel of many parts” that is starlings in flight.  Watching that dance renews my spirit as Oliver captures so well.

 
Chunky and noisy,
but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire
and instantly

they are acrobats
in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air,
they swing over buildings,

dipping and rising;
they float like one stippled star
that opens,
becomes for a moment fragmented,

then closes again;
and you watch
and you try
but you simply can’t imagine

how they do it
with no articulated instruction, no pause,
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing,

this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin
over and over again,
full of gorgeous life.

Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,
even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;

I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard.  I want

to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.

 

Advertisements

Fire and Dreams

fire
fire (Photo credit: matthewvenn)

Light.  Paper sparking into flame.  Every year at this time many Unitarian Universalist congregations hold a Fire Communion service.  Using the neo-pagan ritual of writing on paper, then burning the paper to release the words, UUs use the light of our chalice to help us move into the new year.  It’s a beautiful ceremony – using flash paper (available at magic stores) which bursts into flame and leaves no ash – the room is filled with brief explosions of light as each person steps forward to cast their paper into the flame. This service is typically held close to the new year and often focuses on letting go of past regrets and sorrows;  I prefer to look forward, to focus on hopes and dreams for the upcoming year. I see the fire service as marking the transition into the upcoming season of creativity and beginnings.

The following is an excerpt from a fire communion service I led a few years ago which focused on dreams. Continue reading

summer stillness

We need to have time to just breathe and relax.  We need to be leisurely: to go slow, take time, to notice, to appreciate. This is easy to say, but not really that easy to do.

I read an essay once that suggested we should learn to sit and do nothing for half an hour while sitting in a park or a garden. Really do nothing, don’t focus on your breath, don’t think, don’t plan, just sit and be. I tried, I didn’t make five minutes before getting up to water the tomato plants.

To simply be takes some practice.  Being in this way is the state of being yourself at ease within the whole. It is not about forgetting yourself, or transforming yourself,  but simply being comfortable with all that you are. Not just the thinking you, or the physical you, or the emotional you, but the whole integrated deal.

And in just being you, at ease, you become open to the world,to all the other beings with you. Being part of the aliveness of summer

Continue reading