The morning light hit the daffodils at the dining room table. Flowers that my mother-in-law planted decades ago, Years before her grandchildren – my now adult children – were born. What do you plant? What is the gift of beauty for descendants or daughters-in-law whom you have yet to meet? Plant kindness. Treasure hope. Look for signs of spring.
Good afternoon from beautiful and sunny Westport, NY. On my morning walk with Charlie, I had a good (and brief) cry because I miss my NYC life. But I am not alone. We’re all missing some semblance of familiarity and normalcy in our current landscape. There are major and minor losses and shifts in our ways of relating to home — with each other and with the world. Knowing that I am not alone comforts me. I am full of gratitude for health and family.
I joined my beloved #spiritchat on Sunday morning. Sign in on twitter at 9 am (eastern time), type the hashtag #spiritchat and witness and join some amazing conversations for an hour. What follows are some of my remarks, observations, and tweets from yesterday morning’s session on ‘Spiritual Liberation.’ Every week, there’s a new theme.
Spiritual liberation sounds like women’s liberation and I am all for that. I love so many things about liberation. Been thinking about the theatre of the oppressed. I have a fleeting memory of meeting some adherents to this improv group in Rio de Janeiro back in ’93, I think. I was leading a small contingent of United Methodist Women leaders to an international conference. And the improvisation group whom I met in my hotel lobby was performing in the City Hall Center the next day. They invited me out for drinks that night. And as an improv performer and theater lover, Oh, I wanted to go. But I hesitated. I did not want to leave my colleagues and that day my camera had been stolen off of my person. I felt fearful. I didn’t leave the hotel that night. I have always regretted my inclination to play it safe.
What are your constraints to liberation? The spatial distancing is getting old. I am trying to see it as an enforced sanctuary. Like Jesus’s 40 days in the Judaean wilderness. What lessons can we take from monks? sequestered nuns? folks on house arrest? How do we fricken’ do this much longer? Like many people, I am an extrovert; I miss the verbal jostling, joking with my colleagues and neighbors.
What is required for spiritual liberation? What is required for this moment in time? Stillness seems a prerequisite and pregnant waiting. Yes and I’m committed to listening to and following the health directives of people way smarter than me.
As for needing to ‘make do,’ yesterday we went on our weekly store run. We were so excited to be out and about — we bought the fixings for a cake but forgot the toilet paper. Note to self: Remember the essentials. Let them eat cake — for reals.
Someone mentioned ‘synchronicity’ on my twitter stream. I remembered being in college, in this course ‘Body, Mind, Soul,’ and I loved discovering Jung’s words about meaningful coincidences. Signs, symbols, myths.
And how does spiritual liberation relate to the community?
‘“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together,” Lilla Watson said. I find liberation in the mutuality of helping and working together.
And I’m keen to find the humor in our present moment. Where is the silliness in life? The other day we ordered from Ledge Hill, a local microbrewery, a beer called Compassion. The kids tried a sip. One wrinkled her nose. “Compassion is bitter,” I said. We laughed.
Feeling rooted in a particular place, I find comfort. A local artist here in the Adirondacks left seashells around town. I’m always seeing them as I walk the dog. It feels like such a gift — to come upon a seashell in the countryside. Like life is one big Easter Egg hunt.
In high school, I had a friend Sue P., who always stepped into her home on her right foot — through the threshold on the same foot. And I was jealous of her ritual. Her magical thinking seemed exceedingly sophisticated. I admired her commitment to it.
What are my quirky rituals? Do I even have any? Of course, I do. We all do. Commuting via citibike to work? Or earlier in the morning, coffee with my journal, alone at the kitchen table. Yes, I have that comforting ritual.
I’ve been thinking about rituals and the purpose they serve. I believe they somehow connect us to the divine.
And these rituals, like bedtime prayers and journaling and making art and maybe even chatting on the phone with my mother every day now, keep us sane and connected.
I’ve been reading Eric Booth’s Tending the Perennials, lent to me by Lindsay. And we talk about the book as we walk the dogs — a ritual.
Booth writes about his pilgrimage into the woods for a week. Alone. Naked. He sets himself the task of writing or thinking of one thousand things for which he is grateful.
And today, when I started my day with journaling, I wrote about the things for which I’m grateful: It started like this: my nose the sun peeking through the clouds my parents, my darlings the New York Times homes full of light travel to Italy, esp. that memory of riding through the wet streets on the back of a Vespa jigsaw puzzle pieces homemade quiche social media for good Deb’s generosity hearing aids home
And there is more. There is always more. At least one thousand good things more. It is a comfort to simply keep a ritual for which to remember gratitude.
If I visit the small lost and found department of my life, I wonder what I would find there. The things that I don’t even recall losing. That high-collared Lanz of Salzburg flannel nightgown, I wish I had it now for this spring dressed as winter in the North Country. During this pause, this enforced sanctuary, I’m aware of the recent big and small trips I’ve missed. To commemorate my dad’s life in Sarasota; to volunteer at McCurdy School in Espanola. I grieve. Take time to grieve so many losses. And the loss of certainty. Of course, we’ve found things too. Vast swaths of uninterrupted time with darlings. Sometimes bickering. Sometimes laughing. Sometimes walking the dog. Sometimes (okay, a lot of time) watching Netflix. I’ve found that frisson of joy when I hear a friend’s voice on the phone. Definitely, I feel loved. There is – yes – a sense of finding and losing. And we’ve experienced loss. One recent twist, I’ve found a forgiving heart for any and all who live with fear, the shadow self.
And a desire to turn to visual art — as ‘not the thing I do, but the place I visit.’ Imperfectly, yes. For we are only human.
People will tell you where they’ve gone They’ll tell you where to go But till you get there yourself you never really know Where some have found their paradise Others just come to harm Oh, Amelia it was just a false alarm
Amelia Earhart. Flew alone. Flew and disappeared. I’m thinking about Amelia as I wait and watch.
The view from the office window, I call command central.
The snow falls in slow motion; that sideways snow, white falling from the sky.
Watching from the window as if I had nowhere to go.
(I have nowhere to go.) Nature puts on a last gasp of a winter show.
Like this little pup, we care for
for a few months, we nap.
Unused to flying like Amelia, unused to stillness, to silence, to slowing down.
To stop, stop, stop,
when I want to go, go, go.
Like the snow,
Embrace the view from and of and in the sky.
Become like the snow in a slow motion life,
turned upside down, a snow globe.
Flying in the crystal sunshine.
Landing safely, slowly.
Amelia Earhart “passed the time by reading poetry, learning to play the banjo and studying mechanics,” while convalescing from the Spanish Flu one hundred years ago.