A Prism

Please enjoy reading and relishing this lovely poem by my friend Kay:

Kay Mullen’s poetry has appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies.  She is the author of three full length poetry books, Let Morning Begin, 2001, A Long Remembering: Return to Vietnam, 2006, and more recent, Even the Stone, 2012.  She earned an MFA from Pacific Lutheran University in 2007.  Kay lives and teaches in Tacoma WA, USA.

A Prism

hangs from a kitchen window.
Shapes of refracted light sprinkle
through the room, illumine
the space with the glory of gold.

On the way into town,
a prism dangles from a cord
in the car ahead, rainbow colors
sparkle as the crystal shifts.

These shimmering seconds, these
pinpoints of jewels and unspoken
gems fill reserves of the day
the way perceptions
pass through a painting or a poem.

When darkness appears, moon bows
fill the night and in the blend of a life,
sun softly mirrors itself
in sleep.

In morning, these beams of light
disperse in the seconds and hours
of another day.
The awakened know
this candescence cannot be owned

but flows from reflections
content that even the night holds all
that is needed,
know the light passing through
makes itself more visibly present.

Kay Mullen

photo credit:  www.artexpertswebsite.com  Sonja Delanney

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Elevator Interludes

Life in 55+ housing has no dull moments.  I’ve lived on the sixth floor of such a building for two years, and the adjustment has run the gamut from the sublime to the ridiculous, sometimes all on the same day!  The elevator provides a rich assortment of spiritual practices around patience and compassion with others and oneself.  For example, I’m learning to laugh at myself after I have walked halfway around a hallway in search of my apartment which is on another floor.  Hey.  If I’m having a lively chat with a neighbor who gets off on floor five, why not continue the conversation?  You would think that by now I would have memorized the paintings in front of the elevator on each floor, or at least, look at the floor number before I get off.  Then there’s moving days, when through no fault of their own, departing tenants hold up the elevator on their floor.  Patience.  Tenants on wheels slow things down.  Tenants standing in the open door talking or holding it for someone down the hall slow me down.  Several times a day I have to let go.  It’s ever so good for me;  however, my internal dialogue can become quite colorful at times.

We have a custom of putting out unwanted items by the elevator for anyone to pick up.  When my cat died I put out her little pink carrier and it was gone within ten minutes.  So, on Saturday someone on my floor put out an antique end table with three drawers which I thought could nicely replace the inadequate one I had.  I carried it to my apartment and rearranged everything.  Excited to re-gift the end table I replaced, I put it out by the elevator.  Finally, I settled down to read with all my accoutrements neatly organized nearby.  Alas, within the hour I had an allergic reaction.  The end table had mold in it.  Upon examination, I also discovered a dangling leg.  Another opportunity to learn patience.  I decided to try taking the high road.  I’ll retrieve my inadequate end table and take this one down to the recycling, I thought.  I went in search, and you guessed it, the table had already been snatched up.  My disappointment was eased by the knowledge that I helped out someone else, just as I thought I was being helped out.  The office opening at day’s start yesterday, found me there checking out a cart to take the broken and moldy table downstairs.  Outside my apartment, where the table sat, I met Mandy, the house cleaner.  She asked what I planned to do with the table.  I told her.  “Oh, she said, I’ll take it for my daughter’s room.  I’m a cabinet maker.  I can fix this easily.”  And she already had decorating plans for it.

There are days that I long for my spacious condo, sans elevator, but I wouldn’t miss these little opportunities to let go, for the world.  I’m convinced that we grow old the way we live.  Life in a 55+ is the playground of the sublime and the ridiculous.

Exposed

railroad tracks 2

This poem comes as gift at midnight when it would not leave me alone until it was born.

In winter
Leafless trees
Permit the sound of
A train at sea level
To escape through spaces between branches
And traverse hills to settle in my ears,
Where the clickclickclick blends
With the swishswishswish on I-5.

trees

In winter
Unadorned Essence
Permits the pristine sound of
Virgin truth to
Break through superficial debris,
And unlock the ears of consciousness
Where it couples with compassion
To awaken and prod the unsuspecting Soul.

© rita h kowats  2014

tree drawing by buchi-nei-calzini.blogspot.com – tumblr

What Color Is Your Soul?

IMG_0571

Saffron threads of thoughts
Dangle in wispy plaits,
Jangling as they swing to a
Sunshine-saturated rhythm
Not yet heard.

Royle blue peacock- prone,
She struts her stuff with a
Trip over duff and dale,
Hale and hearty in
All things veiled.

Pained purple lives in the
Obituaries of his lost dreams,
Holding vigil while blind to
Today’s possibilities.

Cat’s Eye green,
Wide open surroundview.
No slinking in on “little cat feet,” then
“Moving on,” for you.
Electrifying,
Awe-inspiring green for you-
Bring it on!

Splashes of vermillion
Dashes of dark brown
Blue violet
Magenta
Maroon…
What color is your soul today?

© rita h kowats 2014

Thanks to Carl Sandburg for his priceless image:

Fog

The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

Out-Waiting Tick Tock

This post is inspired by Sue Llewellyn’s Word A Week Challenge on A Word in Your Ear at http://suellewellyn2011.wordpress.com/2014/01/15/a-word-a-week-photograph-challenge-waiting/.  We are asked to respond to the word, WAITING.  Once in a while lately I feel like Alice following the white rabbit down the hole, so my poem emerged from these ideas of waiting and being a good steward of TIME.

My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place.  And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.”

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Time trips over its hands,
Running, running, late, late,
For a very important date,
Its slaves shackled to tick tock,
Tumbling, tumbling, into the
Hole they’ve loosened with the
Pick axe of avoidance, and
Shoveled out with the spade of fear.
iaxxzedmngildtfn

Waiting
For shackles to fall,
And slaves to see the
Light of Day.
Waiting to become
Time itself,
Stretching minutes into long, leisurely
Hours- hours easing into
Eternity,
Waiting,

Tick Tock,

Tick Tock,

Tick tock,
Stop.

 

SHOWINGS

hummingbird

Here in the Pacific Northwest of the United States we are usually blessed with mild winters.  My apologies to the frozen regions!  Hummingbirds linger through our winters if their human friends faithfully feed them.  These creatures astound me.  They can stop dead while moving at full throttle; they go forward and backward, up and down, and hover to assess their surroundings.  They flap their wings fifty times a second, and because of their breathing, heart rate, and high body temperature, they have to feed every ten minutes.  Ruby-throated hummingbirds travel two thousand miles from Panama to Canada, five hundred miles of that journey non-stop over the Gulf of Mexico.  In the Americas, indigenous people have long deemed hummingbirds messengers between the worlds.

Within a period of four months I encountered the spiritual power of this symbolic creature.  She showed herself in a trilogy of experiences, first on a November night, flapping her wings (fifty times a second!) in my left ear, grazing my nose as she flew by, and rested at my right ear to sing a sacred song from beyond.  Then on a cold and snowy December day she came to my artificial Christmas tree out on the deck and drank from the bright red ornament.  One Wednesday in February a group of teachers gathered outside at the Stations of the Cross to pray for a family whose baby had been stillborn.  As we prayed the messenger appeared next to me, drinking from the winter-deadened blossom of a rose bush.

She has continued to be a constant, enduring companion.

i
First met you
“Midway upon the journey
Of [my] life.”

You with hummingbird

Were always here
While I was always there.
At last I hovered
Long enough to catch the
Shimmering glint of wings
And hear the melody
From beyond,
A double-edged, enigmatic message,
Compassion and justice,
Safely sheathed in Love.

More than midway upon
My journey now,
Melody morphs into
Concerto,
Foreground becomes background-
The Ground of my Being
Where I encounter
The Messenger.
Enduring, faithful companion,
We.

© rita h kowats 2014

“Midway upon the journey
Of [my] life.”  from Dante’s Divine Comedy

photo from royalty free vector source, http://www.polyvore.com/hummingbird_image_vector_clip_art/thing?id=22216447

SHOWING:  Dame Julian of Norwich, a medieval English anchoress and mystic used this word to mean revelations to her from God.

The Most Human Thing: Passing Judgment

Observing my behavior lately, I recognize the need to write about the quintessential human activity of passing judgment on others.  2014 is the year of my seventh decade, and you would think that by now a person would have eschewed judgment.  Wrong.  My humanity stumbles along with the rest of the world.

I’ve been in search of understanding and spiritual practices to help me with this limitation, and will share a few findings with you.  I am grateful if you would add your own ideas in the comment section so that together we can grapple with this primordial peccability.  Go ahead.  Laugh.  The alternative is to cry, and I for one, prefer to laugh at myself.

Spirituality and spiritual practice have been deeply enriched in the last two decades by pairing with physics and theology.  In her article, “The Divine Dynamism:  Being and Becoming,” ( in A Matter of Spirit, Winter 2014, available at http://www.ipjc.org/journal/index.htm) Gail Worcelo, SGM, says, “As we begin to meet each other beyond the boundaries of the separate sense of self, a new, enlightened space opens up between us, bringing with it the capacity for deeper relationality and depth.” I see the open space as Oneness, a space devoid of duality.  When I judge the other based on her/his personality traits alone, I reduce myself and the other to cartoon characters communicating with the bubbles above their heads.  Two egos talking at one another.

140114_154129.png

In her blog, Tiny Buddha (http://tinybuddha.com/blog/why-judging-people-makes-us-unhappy/), Toni Bernhard posted an article entitled, “Why Judging People Makes Us Unhappy.”  It is the best and most practical description of judging that I have encountered so far.  She makes the distinction between discernment and judging: Discernment is simply perceiving the way things are.  In making judgments about others there is an element of unrest in us about the way things are, and a desire to re- create the  canvas of the other.  The annoying behavior we want to change is just a manifestation of the ego’s avoidance of the true self.  Judging the behavior sets up a duality which makes authentic communion impossible.  When I choose instead to discern behavior for what it is, and shift my focus away from it, the opportunity to meet the other in the place of Oneness unfolds.  I also avoid the inevitable suffering which judging brings. The annoyance and unrest create such a furor in me that I lose whatever inner peace I had.  Is it really worth that loss?  Just guessing, here, that this may sound familiar to you as well!

Communcating in Oneness

Here’s a mantra I am using to help me through the judging:

Breathing in I welcome the other.

Breathing out I release judgment.

Breathing in I am at one with the other

Breathing out I release duality.

Good luck with this.  I’ll meet you in the rough places of our shared humanity!

Bless the Darkness

winters cloak pic

This poem comes to us from Joyce Rupp, a sister of the Servite order who clearly does her own spiritual work.  I post it here because we are in January, heading into February, the doldrums of winter.  As I create this post the Pacific Northwest of America is locked in a fierce storm, with 60 mph wind gusts and driving rain.  Instead of cursing the dark, Joyce encourages us to embrace it.  It is what it is, and out of it light can emerge.  You can find a list of her books and tapes at http://www.joycerupp.com/

Winter’s Cloak

This year I do not want
the dark to leave me.
I need its wrap
of silent stillness,
its cloak
of long lasting embrace.
Too much light
has pulled away
from the chamber of gestation.

Let the dawns
come late, let the sunsets
arrive early,
let the evenings
extend themselves
while I lean into
the abyss of my being.

Let me lie in the cave
of my soul,
for too much light
blinds me,
steals the source of revelation.

Let me seek solace
in the empty places
of winter’s passage,
those vast dark nights
that never fail to shelter me.

by Joyce Rupp from The Circle of Life

The Spiritual Practice of Being Poor

Homeless-snow

photo from obrab.org

Story Recording:  “The Miser’s Slippers” by Shoshannah Brombacher

My Mennonite faith community is situated in the heart of a neighborhood rife with homelessness, and our mission is one of radical hospitality.  Praying for the community is a rich sacramental experience for me.  Intentions are heartfelt.  People listen deeply and check up on one another during the fellowship time that follows the service.  Last Sunday desperate, choking sobs emitted from the side of the sanctuary, from “Rita’s” usual place.  “I pray, I just beg God, to have my children call me today. Please, God, just today, please.”  We talked for a long time outside afterwards.  “Rita” has been homeless for fifteen years. She suffers from mental illness, and her children have been unresponsive.  She’s been clean for many years, and her shaking hand lighting the cigarette tells that story.

This week we remembered the day Lyndon Johnson declared “War on Poverty” fifty years ago.  John Goodman notes that taxpayers have spent $1.5 trillion since 1975 “fighting” poverty.  Experts suggest that we now spend $1 trillion a year. (Josh Archambault Jan. 8, 2014 at an NRO Symposium).  “Rita” would be grateful just to be SEEN.

Shoshannah Brombacher’s story, “The Miser’s Slippers,” prompted me to name my homeless friend after myself, because if I don’t put myself in her place, there is no room for her in my soul.  Shoshannah stresses that the man is a miser. That he is rich seems secondary.  When we live miserly lives of attachment to material goods, we don’t see the poor.  As human beings, our call is to cultivate a practice of spiritual poverty, by holding our possessions and our status like feathers in our hand. This practice, over time, removes the scales over our eyes and allows us to understand and empathize, and ultimately share.  I call the world to this spiritual practice of being poor, to honor what President Johnson began and end the need for the “War on Poverty.”

Intersect: Marge Piercy and Meister Eckhart

intersect

Unclench yourself

Open, love, open.
I tell you we are able
I tell you we are able
now and then gently
with hands and feet
cold even as fish
to curl into a tangle
and grow a single hide,
slowly to unknit all other skin
and rest in flesh
and rest in flesh entire
Come all the way in, love,
it is a river
with a strong current
but its brown waters
will not drown you.
Let go.
Do not hold out
your head.
The current knows the bottom
better than your feet can.
You will find
that in this river
we can breathe
we can breathe
and under water see
small gardens and bright fish
too tender
too tender
for the air.

Marge Piercy 

intersect opposites

A human being has so many skins inside, covering the depths of the heart.
We know so many things, but we don’t know ourselves!  Why thirty or forty
skins or hides, as thick and hard as an ox’s or bear’s, cover the soul.  Go into your
own ground and learn to know yourself there.   Meister Eckhart