Lakeside Reflection

I like to walk on a summer eve along the shore

and listen to the chord of life

that swells with the lapping of lake water.

It centres and grounds me,

connecting me to the heartbeat of this great land,

to the joy of the now which shimmers

like the evening light upon the lake,

moving from moment to moment with the swell

before vanishing suddenly,

into descending dusk.

But the heart remembers the light,

the Transcendent indwelling

in the muddiness of our lives,

glimpsed only in silence and

veiled from those wedded to

the noise and competitive grind

of an unforgiving world.

Hello and Goodbye

My life journey has taken me to many places where I have been challenged to bloom and grow where I was planted, before being dug up and replanted after the seeds have fallen and sprouted anew. However the price I paid was the continual need to say “goodbye” and “hello” to another new life experience. I have recently returned from a trip to the U.K. where I experienced again this rich pattern of hello and goodbye. It was very much a trip into my past where I re-connected with friends whom I have not met for over thirty years. It was a wonderful rich experience of re-connection and completion. My time was enhanced further by family ties and all the love and joy that goes with that.  Once again I had to say goodbye and return to my chosen home and adopted country. Gratitude overlaid any feeling of loss or lingering sorrow when I realised that the ties that bind can never really be broken and that there is really no separation. We are all connected whether we are conscious of it or not. It doesn’t matter whether we are at a distance or close by, for the people who have touched our lives are part of us forever.

Goodbyes get harder and easier as one gets older. Harder I believe because at some deep unconscious level, we are reminded of the final goodbye. Each goodbye is a rehearsal for that. A little dying with each separation. Paradoxically, goodbyes can also become easier as we age because the knowledge grows that all life is connected and love and friendship are not limited by distance and physical boundaries. Love can connect across deserts and oceans. Separation is therefore an illusion and again the paradox is that one only learns this by developing the essential ability to let go.

Letting go is the key to living life to the full; accepting what we cannot change, accepting the inevitability of death and separation on the physical plane and transforming loneliness into solitude. I have gathered many different families and communities around me as I travel my path; my biological family, my former religious community, my work colleagues, my choral community, my neighbours and the many friends of like mind who have traveled the path of life with me and lent mutual wisdom and support along the way. But none of these communities can save me from the inevitable separations of life but “When the heart weeps for what it has lost, the spirit laughs for what it has found.” (A Moslem proverb) Nothing is truly lost.

Opening to the Sacred

The dictionary definition of the word sacred is “pertaining to or connected to religion.” In my opinion, this is too narrow a definition. One can attune to the sacred without the help or hindrance of formal religion because the sacred or divine is the ground of our being as humans. It is that part of us that connects to the beyond, the part of us that experiences mystery and a sense of “greater than” within our everyday reality.

The Irish Dominican writer and artist, Donagh O’Shea emphasizes this when he says that spirituality (the opening to the Sacred) is like poetry in that it needs a context. The context is the life experience of every man and woman. Without this grounded context of life experience, spirituality becomes clerical property once again. O’Shea describes the Sacred as the gap through which we suddenly glimpse the Divine. It is the momentary flash of transcendence indwelling in the very stuff of our lives and glimpsed suddenly before it quickly vanishes. But the memory remains and remembering we learn to endure and find meaning.

We have all had these brief experiences but sometimes the toils and troubles of life pull us into darkness and lack of hope. We forget the magic of the gap, the wonder of small epiphanies. The more we pay attention to these opening moments, the the bigger the gap becomes until finally there is no longer any separation between what we regard as  sacred or secular for all life is one.

There’s a place I love

We all celebrate Earth Day in our own way, appropriate to our convictions and personalities. My upcoming trip to the land of my birth has set me on a train of thought about the deep influence of nature on my spirituality, intuition and creativity. I lived on the edge of a wetland and within twenty minutes of open countryside. The wetland was continually drained in the interests of “progress” and began to shrink drastically over the years. Concerned that this precious place was rapidly disappearing, a group of locals bought the remaining land and created a beautiful nature reserve. I intend to visit this beautiful place when I return to Belfast. So to give my readers a sense of the gift of having been brought up beside this marshland, I’ll take you on a trip into my childhood past.

So take my hand and come back with me to the place I loved. Walk down the little path from the house to the grassy patch behind my Dad’s shed. Look to right and left and when you are sure you are alone, remove your adult spectacles and look with the eyes of imagination and wonder. What do you see…?

The morning sun slants across the fields, casting a deep shadow over the line of terraced houses bordering the perimeter of the marsh. Two worlds collide here. The world of poverty and struggle and the world of magic, adventure and golden sunshine. I can step from one to the other by going down behind the shed and squeezing through the spindly hedge into the magic world of the Bog Meadows. The fields and meadows stretch as far as the eye can see, sweeping away from the city into the countryside.

Spring has recently come skipping through the marshland. Grasses spring up, long and lush, translucent green in the sunshine. Gold and purple irises splash colour suddenly as the grasses bend and lean into the wind.Yellow primroses and sky blue harebells cluster and spill over hidden banks. Brown velvet bulrushes stand ramrod stiff among the reeds. They are my sentinels, guarding my place of magic. I sit for a while and lose myself in the perfume of meadow sweet and the concert of birdsong. There are sparrows, blackbirds, thrushes, even a couple of black cranes standing erect on one leg in alert stillness.  Suddenly there is a flurry and whirring of wings . Four swans glide into the air, v-shaped arrow heading into the blue. If you listening carefully you can hear the illusive corncrake call, her voice like an old creaking gate swinging in the wind. No-one has ever been able to spot the corncrake so her infrequent call is an invitation to go deeper into the magic.

I laugh as a sudden unexpected shower of rain sends me scurrying back to my own garden. If I wait patiently, the warm spring rain will bring hordes of little frogs, leaping from the marsh water and spilling into the garden and the adjoining street. Frogs are as much part of my childhood as the chattering sparrows. Nature sits upon my  doorstep and continually calls me to her world away from the shadows of an adult world I do not understand.

The light begins to fade and the lonely cry of the curlew breaks across the marsh. It seems he wants so much to be heard that he waits until a deep quiet settles over the land and the light is low. Why does he cry so plaintively? Some say it is a lost spirit calling from Milltown cemetery which borders the far reaches of the marsh fields. No-one ventures into the marshland when the light is gone and only the burp-burp of the frogs breaks the silence.

The door of my home is fastened against the night and it is time for supper and bed.The distant whistle of the Belfast – Dublin train heard on the edge of sleep passes into my dreams as an invitation to journey to places afar , a dream that would come to fruition at last in my adult years.

But though I have traveled far and wide, my Celtic heart finds no peace if not within sight or sound of nature in its various forms. I am so privileged to have made my permanent home in British Columbia and Earth Day is a good day to allow my gratitude to overflow.

Easter Poetry

HOLY SATURDAY

It is accomplished…Now the waiting.

Germination of seed. Transformative pain

reaching into the world’s darkness.

Quiet silence.

Muted voice in a closed tomb

and women’s hearts lamenting on the hill,

the song of grief carried down the centuries

and woven into the fabric of our time.

Women, why do you weep?

For unforgiven scars and bruises

carried down the passage of the years.

Come, rise from your sorrow! Meet me in Galiee

for the stream must flow to the sea, the part become the whole.

Rise! Meet me in Galilee and know the story’s end.

 

RESURREXIT

Winter seed drops grieving and weeping dies alone

Golgotha is shaping Christ in the heart of stone.

Dark and silent waiting, enwombed within the tomb

In naked pain heart seeking eternal stars wove in.

In death’s dark heart dawn’s calling

Flame and stream are one

Light on the earth bends dancing

And the pain is done.

Springtime leaps pulsating

Green sword from buried grain

Love upsurges laughing

Like birdsong in the rain.

 

EASTER DAY

April has come

And winter has been pushed

rudely aside by impatient spring.

Daffodils spread like yellow butter

across the land,

their dance curtailed by the pattern

of cool shadowed fields of green.

The sun has spilled across my floor.

And spring leaps over the threshold

setting my heart singing

as I sit in quiet joy.

Easter day has come!

Laughter and Life

Today is April Fool’s Day. It is a good day to celebrate for it reminds us of the necessity of humour in life. Without humour, life becomes a monotonous drag. An immediate response might be “Just what is there to laugh about? Look around you!  We live in a world of corruption, disease, wars, intolerance. Nothing much to laugh about!” Well, yes but humour lies in seeing beneath the skin of things to what lies beneath and recognizing that these things are a segment of life, not its totality.

Humour and joy have to do more with recognizing the absurd in life which is what we celebrate today. It means letting go and knowing that despite all appearances, at a very deep level, we are safe and nurtured by the Universe. It means weeping long and deep and knowing we have survived. It means laughing in the teeth of life’s storms with the knowledge  that this too will pass.

It is no accident that April Fool’s day is celebrated when the land is reawakening and life is being renewed. Spring reappears without effort and the long cold, dreary days of winter are forgotten. Another season has passed and a new one has begun. This is the pattern of life. We laugh in winter because we know spring will come and cannot be stayed. It is a paradox that those who have suffered deeply often have the ability to laugh more readily.

So find something ridiculous today and have a good belly laugh about it for …”When the heart weeps for what it has lost, the spirit laughs for what it has found.”  Muslim Proverb

 

The Shifting Sands of Change

What is change except a kaleidoscope of fluctuating energies. It is the nature of energy to flow and the inhibiting or blocking of this flow can result in a feeling of being stuck in the same old patterns day after day. This “stuckness” can manifest in illness or excessive fatigue. That is why most illnesses are more spiritual than physical and need to include this aspect if healing is to take place. This does not mean that all illnesses lead to cure because healing is not always physical. The illness itself is the change or trigger that alerts us to the inner workings of emotions and thoughts which in turn, influence the healthy functioning of the body. Since all life is connected, we see the same dynamic at play in the world about us.

Change of any kind – the unexpected job loss, the betrayal of a spouse, the death of a loved one, a diagnosis of life threatening illness, even moving to a new house – anything that disrupts the fixed pattern of our lives, pushes us to evolve and grow. Old energy patterns are shattered so that new growth, life , perspectives, wisdom can take root. If we learn to cooperate with inevitable change and embrace the transition process, we find we are moved into a deeper level of living. Change is the unrecognized gift of the universe. So much of life in a post Trump, post Brexit world is obsessed with trying to keep the status quo in place, to lock us into the perceived safe and familiar. But inevitably life will challenge us to move beyond our comfort zones because that is the nature of life. The creative energy of the universe is not static but constantly in motion so change of one kind or another will come on us often unexpectedly but it is not the enemy but a bringer of life.

Some will be asked to embrace more change than others but it cannot be avoided. Major change is often preceded by a period of chaos. For the past few decades the world has been witness to super storms, earthquakes, nuclear leaks, oil spills, terrorism, economic collapse etc. This is not, however, a time to be sucked into paralytic fear but to understand that great changes are taking place and we are not privy to the whole picture. These shocks, like the earthquakes that restructure the physical shape of the land or the sharp slap on the newborn’s bottom which starts its breathing, shatters the old patterns, creating a paradigm shift that allows the new to enter. The old way of being must die before the new can establish itself.

If we are willing to change our perceptions of how life should be and if we are willing to take risks to grow and discover our own power, then a new and different world will be possible. This twenty-first century is Kairos time, a time of opportunity and hope, a time to dance with the energies of the shifting sands of change and transcend the siren call of fear and helplessness. Human kind has an infinite capacity for change and evolution and we can always change the ending of the story.

Faith is the bird/ that feels the light/and sings when the dawn is dark.”   Tagore