Bodies of Water

The trees are so stable,

their moods have such endurance.

They hold on for months

to the bare bitterness of winter,

the silence,

the absence of even a rustling leaf.

Then the trees embrace the sweet joyfulness of spring

in a long coquettish smile,

a blossom-blush lasting months.

Afterwards, the trees sail into the smooth serenity of summer,

wearing their regal wreaths with proud satisfaction.

Even the flaming, flickering colours of fall flash across their faces for months,

the trees, with their moods more stable than mine,

for I am but a tiny body of water

wrapped in skin.

My thinly guarded surface subject to tremors of wind,

the harassment of a sudden hailstorm

or the steady pounding of rain.

I’ve been know to get icicles in my eyelashes

tears of pain frozen before fully released.

Some things are better to let go of quickly.

In all this variable moodiness,

this passionate intensity and depth of feeling,

I am not alone,

for are we not all but small bodies of water

(97% H2O)

wrapped in skin,

the tides in our hearts tugged about by not just the moon,

but by the moods of all the other bodies of water

bumping around us

in this space

that is earth.

Lent: on taking it one step at a time

Lent is here. It’s a time when many people choose to spend more time in reflection and prayer. It’s a time to come to grow on the inside. Like a bulb planted underground in the winter struggling through the cold dirt, we can struggle through the reality of our mistakes and imperfections, without losing hope. We can persevere like that little green shoot peeking out through the snow into the frosty air to find the sun. But all this requires patience, something our immediate-gratification-loving world is sorely lacking.

I got to thinking about patience this evening when I was trying to teach my daughter to draw a cube. She was trying again and again to make it look right, but it kept looking lopsided, like a tent.

“It’s all about getting the lines parallel,” I said. “You can’t draw it too fast, you have to go one line at a time focussing only on making it parallel to the one across from it. Then it looks straight.”

So she kept trying and filled pages with these 3-D boxes.

“Why can’t I get it right?” she asked. “I’ve done so many and they’re still not perfect!”

“It’s not about getting it perfect; it’s about practicing–building your drawing muscles so you can get better and better. And that’s why we do it with a pencil, so we can erase our mistakes, and readjust things to make it better.”

Isn’t it the same with our spiritual lives? We get easily frustrated with the time it takes to get things looking straight. We don’t want to be lopsided boxes, we just want to be that perfect cube right now! But that’s not how it works. We need to have the patience to make little strokes with our pencils, realizing we can erase our mistakes and readjust things every day. We can say sorry and begin again with new hope, that’s what Lent is all about.

Our lives are not written in stone, or even permanent ink, so we only need to humbly keep trying, while paying attention to the little things. Ultimately our lives are a picture made up of many tiny images. Every little line adds to this picture. So the only way to improve ourselves is by paying attention to the little things, readjusting day by day to try to make the picture that we want. Shaping our lives a little bit at a time, and trying to do so with patience, humour and love.

Of course, it helps if we know ahead of time what we want that picture to look like. This is where life goals come in, and knowing what kind of person we want to be helps us to take steps to get there. So having an ideal image to strive for—that perfect box, that amazing hero, that inspiring saint—can help us to break down that image into concrete pieces, and discover little positive habits that we can acquire to become not them, but the best version of ourselves.

Selfishness, Responsibilty and a Blue Couch 


Selfishness is so easy. It’s so easy to focus on yourself and blame all your troubles on others. Doing so allows us to stay in a state of inaction: there is “nothing” we can do about our problems because they are “not our fault.” Someone else is to blame. But this attitude dooms us to shadow-boxing all our lives–flailing out our arms uselessly to hit the imaginary causers of our own difficulties. 

If we are honest with ourselves, we discover that the source of our brokenness is within. Even if we were isolated from all others in a tiny hermitage, we would still struggle. This is a sobering thought. It means we have to rise from our stupor and take responsibility for our lives. Only we can change them for the better. 

But while we can take positive steps towards small changes for the better, healing our brokenness is not something we can do alone. We can’t make ourselves never grumpy, annoyed, snappy, imprudent, lazy or selfish etc by our willpower alone. We are like broken light bulbs whose wires are not connected, so the electricity can’t flow through them. We need to reconnect those wires by joining our hands in prayer, so the grace of God can flow through us and help us to shine. 

In the bustle of daily life, it can be easy to forget this. We get wrapped up in our troubles and forget to ask for help. We forget to pray for our needs, and for the grace to bear hardships cheerfully. But God is just waiting to show us signs of His affection, if we open our hearts to receive it. Sometimes His generosity is very concrete. Recently my Dad and I went on a wild goose chase search for a second-hand dresser for my eldest daughter. We drove all over, even out of town, and checked three stores with no luck.  We saw a couch I liked which could replace our old beat-up red one, but I couldn’t get a-hold of my husband at work to ask his opinion. It was a hot, tiring day and nothing seemed to be quite working. 

But the next day, the reason for our fruitless search was made clear: there was something  better waiting for us. A block from our house, my Dad spotted an estate sale with gorgeous furniture. There was a beautiful maple dressed in perfect condition for $45. And even more lovely, an antique Coombs couch and matching armchair, with wooden finish and lovely blue upholstery for $250 together. I don’t know what their original price would have been, but the reupholstering alone would have cost $2000 in the ’80’s! Talk about score. Furthermore, they were willing to deliver the furniture to our house, which was another godsend, because some things are just too darn big for my double stroller (we don’t have a car). 


So this is just a little reminder, to myself as much as to anyone else, to take time to join my hands in prayer, reconnect with God and let His love flow through me. If we could all shine our little lights, instead of staying in the darkness of anger and blame, how gorgeous the world would be. Like a glowing Christmas tree, every little light sharing its warmth with the others. In a time of uncertainty and violence, I think the peacefulness of this image is one worth focusing on, hoping and praying for. God bless you all. 

Ode to Gentle Hands

Gentle hands that touch

with a love strong and deep

know the body is no mere shell

for the soul,

but an outward expression of its being.

And when these hands soothe

calm and comfort,

when they restore dignity 

to the broken frailty of an aging body

by the gentleness of their touch,

they affirm with silent symphony 

that each person is precious,

body and soul.

For when the vessel is bent and broken,

light shines through the cracks

and love bursts forth in beauty.

  

merciful covering of cuteness

As we do our prayer tonight,

the baby stands up in my arms

quivering with curiosity

as he stares at his elephant blankie.

His little sweet self—

neath those pudgy cheeks and bright eyes—

filled with the radiance of eternity…

How is it that we are not blinded 

by its brightness?

Merciful covering of cuteness!

Of course as I pray and write this poem,

baby works very hard to fill his diaper

and sends a mustard streak up his back.

Oh, the comedy of being children of God

and also, oh, so very human!

  

Love Incarnate

  

I love this image of Mother and Child…the beautiful peace and serenity that emanates from their contented faces. It speaks to my own experience in these early days of snuggles and nursing after birth. The simple bliss of needing nothing else in the world but the closeness of the other…

Through this image, as through the love between every mother and child, radiates the golden warmth of God’s love…affirming the goodness of the most ordinary and intimate relationships of our human lives. Confirming, in tiny bundles of love incarnate, that the essence of being human is indeed to love.
  

Paradox

  

If you want to know true joy,

look to the one who has experienced deep sadness.

If you want to find strength,

look to the one who has been broken. 

If you want to know peace,

look to the one who has wrestled with despair. 

If you want to know laughter, 

look to the one who has wept. 

If you want to know loyalty,

look to the one who has been abandoned.

If you want to be truly human,

look to God.

Contemplation by Moonlight

Outside the moon smiles lopsided

ever laughing, ever the same

despite my foibles, my losses

my little tragedies and defeats,

the moon continues in it’s ever changing sameness,

shining down like a flashlight 

from eternity,

each difference but a dance with shadows.

And while sirens blare 

and strange cars drive by 

on late night voyages,

the cool air caresses me with the same

light breath and the stars quietly proclaim 

“We are forever.”

Can it be that I, too,

despite my little daily battles—

the exorbitant dishes, the laundry piles that heave and grow

like monsters animated by dust and finger-paint, 

the millionth cup of spilled juice,

the sweet stickiness of the table after pancakes—

am somehow part of this cycle of sameness

which is a gateway to eternity?

that through these daily things

and my yes to the “now”

to the goodness of each day

I am also saying yes

to eternity?

An amen which fills the heart

with joy unquenchable..

The moon looks down 

through the cool night air

upon my littleness 

and laughs, “Yes!”

Eternal Echo

Look up into the sky

with its whispy clouds

caught in still life ballet

Let the vast expanse of its azure stage

enter your soul through your eyes

Don’t you find

an inexpressible longing within

an echo of the eternal?

Can you tell me

with conviction

that you weren’t meant for Heaven?

If you do, my brother, my sister

I won’t believe you,

because I see mirrored in your eyes

pieces of my own heart.