Welcoming Waters: Spirit of the Great Blue Heron

GRB cover photo for web page




Welcoming Waters is a gathering of people who seek to hear the message the spirit is speaking through one another. Many of us were asked to leave religious institutions because we revealed our authentic selves. Some of us told our worshiping community that we were members of the GLBT community, others of us expressed our doubts, and some of us expressed an understanding of faith that was outside the borders of the church we were attending. When we were all ushered to the door, formally, or subtlety of those communities, we found that the Spirit of love, the Spirit of God, the insights of our faiths did not stop working in our lives or teaching us profound truths. We simply lost a place to talk about them.

Recently, we decided to gather and begin to build for ourselves a place where we can talk about the Spirit’s work in our lives.

We are so blessed to be able to gather at the beautiful Lake Ballinger Community Center five miles north of Seattle on the third Sunday of the month at 10:30 and like the great blue heron who finds herself on the shores of Lake Ballinger, we wait and wade in the waters of the Spirit together.

If you sense the spirit has something to say but you have not found a safe place to express those words, or if you are seeking a faith gathering that will accept all of you, we invite you to come to our gathering.

We will gather again on March 15 at Lake Ballinger Community Center 1030am.
All are welcome.

If you would like to talk to someone before attending please email
Linda Roddis linda.heronspirit@gmail.com
Rita Kowats rkowats.heronspirit@gmail.com

Mountlake Community Center
23000 Lakeview Drive
Mountlake Terrace WA 98043


Fire in the Belly: A Lenten Practice

 framed fire in the belly soulcard



Fire in the Belly


Photo Credit:  Deborah Koff-Chapin has created  a technique she calls “touch drawing.”  She calls them “SOULCARDS.” They  come in two decks of 60 images and can be used alone or with others as reflection tools.  They have enriched my meditation for years and have helped those I companion with.  You can learn more at Deborah’s webpage www.soulcards.com

Cio Cio San



lives in human beings like a note that vibrates from the belly of a cello.  When we listen to one another’s stories we often mistake the longing for its errant manifestations in behaviors which mask it.  If I listen to Un Bel Di Vedremo without the translation- without my mind- I am transported to the depths of soul where we long for connection.  In this place Cio Cio San is the unpinned butterfly waiting to fly, and I am overcome with compassion.

Words get in my way.  When this feminist pacifist hears Cio Cio San plan her vigil for Pinkerton’s return she hears a fifteen-year-old victim surrendering to a racist, jingoistic misogynist who has used her then cast her aside.  I get lost in those behaviors, missing the genuine longing for more than Pinkerton.

This is what I am learning:

When listening to another’s story, listen for the longing.  Let go of judging, let go of the need to fix the behavior first.  Only when we go straight to the longing and hold vigil there on that cliff with the other, is there a chance of changing behavior.  The butterfly lives in the longing.


Feast on Un Bel Di Vedremo from Madama Butterfly sung by Renata Tebaldi, Italian lirico-spinto soprano

photo credit: N00/772515063″>white moth crop via photopin (license)


“It’s A Sin To Kill A Mockingbird”

Nine Mile Falls Nora Egger

Nine Mile Falls Spokane WA
Nora Egger Artist

 It’s a Sin to Kill a Mockingbird
(For Martina, sister of my flock)

Fractured light beckoning
through unhallowed glass windows
sends her fleeing to the river,
singing wheels a metronome for her soul,
marking mile after mile, hurt upon hurt.
Don’t they know it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird?
They can’t hear her song.

Muscles spent spirit spent
she collapses onto her meditation boulder
midway around the rushing snake and takes in hand
her most sacred scripture.
River rapids keep time
with sound-words tripping over sound-words
“Dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air…”
She lifts her eyes to the river and sees the falcon
wrestling with the wind and winning.
In that sacred, synchronous moment her song
reverberates through the canyon
and she knows that no matter what,
the mockingbird lives.

© rita h kowats 2015

I am indebted to Nora Egger for her gifted painting and her permission to use it here.  Those of a “certain age” will be taken back to Macolm GA of the 1930’s in Haper Lee’s magnificent classic, To Kill a Mockingbird.  It is a sin, says Atticus, because  “mockingbirds do not harm people, but sing their hearts out for us.”

My Scripture

The Windhover

To Christ our Lord

I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-
    dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
    Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
    As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
    Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!
Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
    Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!
   No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
    Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.
♠Gerard Manley Hopkins



Great Blue Heron on beach  no poem cropped for bus cards



Last evening my friend and I met over dinner at a restaurant at the Edmonds Marina, in the Seattle area, USA.  We were surrounded by the sea and by another sea of blue and green and 12’s.  This town is electric with football right now.  But the seahawk is not the only seabird which graces our shores.

The Great Blue Heron is an ever-present witness of vigilance and solitary self-reliance.  We had come together to plan the first gathering of the Spirit of the Great Blue Heron, an intentional liturgical gathering of persons who have experienced rejection by and alienation from institutional religions.  They seek healing and renewed spirituality.  Our hope is to create a safe environment where the Spirit can free each one to connect with sacred presence, however they experience it.  As we begin, most but not all participants are from the LGBTQ community.  Half of all donations will go to causes which aide LGBTQ teenagers.

Here’s the extraordinary synchronicity:  While we ate and discerned, seven large Great Blue Herons perched atop the marina roof below us, as if holding vigil and blessing the gathering in their name.  Honestly.  It happened.

Stirring the Waters

Pieces of my soul have been banished
To distant islands in the water of my life
Where no shark can catch the scent of blood-letting.
Torpid remnants of miscarried experiences
Are cast away, not cleanly cut
As Tibetan Buddhists
Dismember their dead to honor life.
These are rejected out of fear of life.

The Spirit of the Great Blue Heron
Weeps for the missing pieces and waits
For the time to stir the healing waters.
No meek dove, this Spirit.
She lifts her mighty frame forward
On thunderous wings
And with keen eyes fixed on the fractured pieces
She clasps them in her powerful beak
And brings them home.

What was separated is seamed
Pieces to Peace.

© rita h kowats 2015

my fish


It’s amazing what a simple sculpture gracing the edge of a beach will evoke.  I had a viseral response to these fish poles when I first started working with the photo.  That response was trumped by the creation that later emerged from the original photo.  I had no idea how to approach this writing until I saw the flying fish.  Here it is:

Resurrection when fish fly

Sacred Listening

gold leaf spines photopinphoto credit a href=httpswww.flickr.comphotoszen13555854zena via a href=httpphotopin.comphotopina a href=httpcreativecommons.orglicensesby-nc-sa2.0cca.png 2

I take pen in hand today with a bit of trepidation, because this piece feels important, beyond me. For reassurance I invoke Meister Eckhart’s wisdom, “The preacher must beg the word of God from the people,”  and I ask for guidance to see and speak truth with inner eyes.

The seed was planted as I read from the memoir of Jacques Lusseyran, And There Was Light:  The Extraordinary Memoir of a Blind Hero of the French Resistance in World War II.  Lusseyran tells the story of the accident which blinded him as a boy and how he adjusted to the disability and thrived because of it.  He formed a resistance group in World War II and survived imprisonment in the Buchenwald concentration Camp.  In the following quote Jacques Lusseyran describes how he used his sense of touch:

“Touching the tomatoes in the garden….is more than seeing them, it is tuning in on them and allowing the current they hold to connect with one’s own, like electricity. To put it differently, this means an end of living in front of things and a beginning of living with them. Never mind if the word sounds shocking, for this is love. You cannot keep your hands from loving what they have really felt”

And There Was Light: The Extraordinary Memoir of a Blind Hero of the French Resistance in World War II by Lusseyran, Jacques

This “more than seeing,” the “turning in on” and “connecting” moved me deeply.  I immediately recognized it as the most profound description of contemplation I have ever read.  If we can touch one another this way we will have re-discovered fire (paraphrase of Teilhard de Chardin).

It’s all about listening.  Really listening, as if we cannot hear with our ears, so we must hear with our souls. Contemplative listening touches the soul of the other with our presence.  We enter that place of sacred presence in ourselves by recognizing the difference between our ego needs and desires and the true self divested of ego.   Abiding in that place, even if for just a moment, we are free to connect with the other in his or her place of sacred presence, and sparks of spiritual energy ignite and transform.

Contemplation does not only happen between our ears as we sit alone in meditation.  Cultivate sacred listening.

photo credit a href=httpswww.flickr.comphotoszen13555854zena via a href=httpphotopin.comphotopina a href=httpcreativecommons.orglicensesby-nc-sa2.0cca edited

Product DetailsAs I look closely at the featured photo of the green and golden leaf I can actually feel the raised veins.  Try it.  I highly recommend this book.

2015 struggling to be born

Radical Hope

2015 struggling to be born

Rather than focus on what’s threatening to strangle you, why not focus on what’s struggling to be born?

I ponder the close of 2014 feeling downtrodden in Biblical proportions.  Hate, greed and ego-centered behavior have shoved us to the brink of Armageddon.  I’ll refrain from reciting the litany since you’ve heard it recapped on every broadcast this week.  I’ve been searching hard in my meditations for any glint of hope that still lingers for humanity.

I found RADICAL HOPE  in  a flower bloom.  If we study and celebrate nature we will learn how to be human.  This clip from the BBC production of David Attenborough’s “It’s a Wonderful World” is a beginning.  Happy New Year!

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/58969511″>David Attenborough – Wonderful World – BBC – Full HD 1080p</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/portaldoleblon”>Portal do Leblon</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

“The Work of Christmas” Rev. Howard Thurman

The Work of Christmas


When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.


“The Work of Christmas” in The Mood of Christmas & Other Celebrations (1985)

Christmas SoulSeam

Christmas SoulSeam

Christmas SoulSeam

Photo Credit:   

A “SoulCard” by Deborah Koff-Chapin.  The technique Deborah has created is called “touch drawing.”  The  cards come in two decks of 60 images and can be used alone or with others as reflection tools.  They have enriched my meditation for years and have helped those I companion with.  www.soulcards.com

Used with permission from the artist