Be still and know that I am God Psalm 46:10

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Dear Divine Presence,

The forests of the White Mountains of Arizona have come alive with green. It has rained. In my deepest self, I experience awe and wonder for the gift of life. In my deepest self, I know that my humanness allows me to reflect on beauty. I know that I know. I can express gratitude because I am human.

When my husband showed me the picture he took yesterday down by the Black River, my breath caught up in amazement. I was in love. I was in awe. I was speechless. What more could I ask for?

This entry was posted on July 16, 2014. 3 Comments

Adventurous Joy

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I need not encounter 15 countries in 20 days on my vacations for the time to be adventurous. I have discovered newness in the same place year after year.  I came to recognize this sacred truth in quiet and stillness, returning every summer to my remote, beloved cabin near Alpine, Arizona these past 24 years.

 
I had come across Alpine for the first time when I was 11 on a camping trip organized by my father—and I fell in love with the place right on the spot, 53 years ago.

 

Over time, I have witnessed and been part of the experiences of life here in my Alpine home:  my four year old daughter and her friend playing in the muddy seep in the front of our cabin; young cousins making forts in the nearby woods; a mother bear with two cubs feeding on the side of the ridge; another mother, a hawk this time, scolding me in the hollow as I passed by on my regular walking loop; male coyotes stalking my dog on that same loop years before; I, myself, savoring the best pie crusts ever made at the local cafe; wild iris and other wildflowers blooming—each in their seasonal glory; a herd of elk, at least two hundred strong, grazing not a mile from my sacred space; monsoon rains booming thunder and tree-splitting lightning in July and August; my husband and I evacuating the cabin when the Wallow fire nearly devastated the town in 2011.  

                                                                                                                         

This year I am in awe and in reverence of the current miracle literally on my doorstep. A robin family is nesting in the eaves of the front porch of our cabin. Last year the wind had blown the nest off the eaves and onto the ground. I watched over the Easter weekend this year as the mother and father robins began to build the nest again; this time my husband glued the nest onto the eaves.  And wouldn’t you know? The family has arrived. 

 

Last week I saw two hatchlings. This week I have seen four beaks and necks reaching to the sky for food.  Life abounds right here, right now, and my heart is full of wonder and joy. I am delighted to be alive in human form, as life’s observer and participant.  I know that the cycles of life on Mother Earth will continue long after I have gone.

A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer; it sings because it has a song.~ Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

 

This entry was posted on June 20, 2014.

Weeding and Gathering Medicine

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“There are two things you cannot do in the fast lane. You cannot deepen and you cannot integrate.”  ~ Angeles Arrien (1940-2014)

 

I have been back in Phoenix almost 9 years now.  Our home has a back yard vegetable garden and a beehive that my husband constructed for the bees whose original home had been under a shed floor. Our front yard has a flower bed for roses and annuals and a gravel area for desert plants.  For a few years I planted African daisy seeds in the gravel yard and they came up, re-seeding themselves year after year. I also planted a few California poppies there.  

 

More recently, I have been noticing what flowers the bees love. Last year I planted a seed packet called “Save the Bees” in the vegetable bed and for the first time I realized that bees love sunflowers.  This year I planted a long row of sunflowers along my back yard fence. 

 

I also noticed that the bees gathered nectar and pollen from the poppies and that they avoided the daisies. This year I made a challenging decision to pull out all of the daisies because I wanted the bees to flourish. Once I made the decision to pull the African daisies, I knew that I had to do it before they went to seed. There were thousands and thousands of these plants in my front yard. Slowly and methodically, I pulled out the almost mature plants, admittedly feeling a twinge of sadness because people often had come by and remarked on their beauty when in full bloom. Even the gentlemen across the street brought their lawn chairs out just to sit and gaze at them. I knew, though, that pride would keep me from the task at hand. I just began and kept at it, filling at least three large street side garbage containers with the daisy plants.

Contemplation occurs in many ways.

The bees came regularly to the orange poppy flowers and it made me glad. The poppies came up in patches, dotting the front yard, different from the African daisies, but very beautiful. The time is coming when the hot summer will cause them to wither and die back.

   

Poppy seeds come in long pods. Once the flower blooms and dies, a seed pod forms on the end of the stem.  If left to its own devices, the pod ripens, dries out and falls to the ground. As it falls to the ground, the seed pod splits open and releases the seeds to Mother Earth.   The mourning doves know that a feast awaits them and they are out every morning gobbling the seeds that have fallen on the ground once the pod has split. 

 

My current task is to save many of the seeds for planting for next year. Over the past couple of weeks, I have been gathering the seed pods as they mature and before they fall to the ground.  Slowly and mysteriously, the seed pods are teaching me about life.  I have been gathering thousands of them in containers.  When I get impatient and try to force them to open, the seeds are often not mature.  Some are still green and so small, I know that they will not likely germinate.  The seed pods are teaching me that waiting is often the right decision.  When I wait, the seed pods split and release the seeds into the bottom of my container.

Contemplation occurs in many ways.

 

“A peach only ripens in its own time.” This quote was on the door of my piano teacher’s studio/home when I took lessons from him during my middle years of life.  The words stuck and helped me to remember to relax into my life.  So does the long practice of weeding, waiting, and gathering seeds pods.  It requires me to practice patience and endurance, embracing the medium to slowness of nature’s way.  Once in a while, I’ll hear the seed pod split open in my box with a little popping noise, not unlike a Mexican jumping bean that jumps in my hand when it warms up enough.  The popping sound always surprises and delights. Maybe that is why the plants are called poppies! 

 

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This entry was posted on May 6, 2014. 5 Comments

Entertaining Angels Unaware

Two nights ago, my husband and I went to a Mexican restaurant in Tucson. The place was hopping. It looked like there were many new servers who did not know what they were doing and only one who could manage several parties without missing a beat. I loved to watch him work. He served us efficiently and effectively, refilling our water glasses when they got low and not forgetting a thing.  When all the people were served and it was somewhat quieter, he sat down and played his guitar in the corner. I just couldn’t believe what I saw and heard. “Berto” was an unexpected delight to my soul. I may never see him again—this light in the neighborhood. Yet I will never forget this humble man who spoke in broken English. He is a teacher of my heart.

 

This entry was posted on April 19, 2014. 2 Comments

Water, Life, and Arizona Public Education

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I live in Phoenix, Arizona. Sunny Phoenix. I live here by choice at this time, being beckoned back 8 years ago by Love after surviving a cancer diagnosis and a year long intensive treatment regime. I live in the upper reaches of the Sonoran desert, the only home for the saguaro cactus. I live where some southwest Indians known as the Hohokam, the canal people, once lived. Digging in my garden, I have found a couple of mysterious-looking broken pieces of pottery. I display the brown and beige shards on the old pie-crust table in my living room, pausing regularly to remember the brown-skinned human ancestor spirits who had been on this land before me. I am connected to these canal people. They left—it is said—because of drought.

Arizona as a state is remembered for its economic 5 Cs: cotton, citrus, cattle, copper, and climate. Yet the Phoenix metro area would never be here if it weren’t for water reclamation. Industrial economics has powered Phoenix for the past 100 + years, with water ruling its oasis of a landscape. Now that the Central Arizona Project has claimed water from the Colorado River, the draw to Phoenix is climate, climate, climate, climate, climate. Businesses and retirees come here for the weather and the revenues it generates and supports.

I grew up in Phoenix in the fifties and sixties. I went to such a stellar public school that I placed first on the entrance exam at the local parochial high school in 1965. At the time, no taxes were used to for me to attend that private school. It was a privilege, not a right. Today, skimmed right off the top, individual taxpayers are allowed to give a greater share of their Arizona tax burden to private schools than to public schools—in fact, 5 times as much. In other words, Arizona’s state legislators have diverted most of the water (money) to the private schools while the poorer public schools get the dregs. These are funds that only taxpayers rich enough can afford to donate. Meanwhile, public funds are drying up both for staff and students of public school, seen in cut positions for support services, larger class sizes, stagnant wages, and a reduction in benefits.

I have a husband who is a public school counselor, a step-son who is a public school teacher, a sister who is a special education aide, and many friends who are and have been involved in the public school system. What I know is that living wages are no longer being returned to our real public servants, the teachers, counselors, aides and other support people who work in the public sector, caring about quality education for all the children of Arizona. Staff positions are being cut year after year while wages stagnate.

America’s educational reformers of over a century ago wanted all children to go to a good school. That was to be our sacred contract for our children. Arizona’s legislators need to divert the water back to the general tax revenue fund—for the vulnerable who are our children and who are our future. This means adequate staffing, as well as living wages, for the people who serve them.

The talking point/battle cry seems to be about choice. But choice for whom? Choice is not choice when you are poor or when your parents are clueless about what it means to have a good education. Choice then becomes the luck of the innocents. Where there is no water (money), there is no life.

Let us care about our children, for they have a long way to go.
Let us care about our elders, for they have come a long way.
Let us care about those who are in between, for they are doing the work.

The Stillpoint of Wonder

“Sit still,” I can still hear my mother’s frustrated voice, her hand pulling me down to her side. This morning I am as still as I can be. The red-breasted sparrow—or is it a finch?—is high on a branch of my big cactus pulling pulp out of the red fruit and eating it. Now he has flown away from my view. Where did he go, I wonder? Ah, now I hear Pooky, my cat, eating and crunching away to the left of my desk and the clock, inexorably tick-tocking on the wall to my right.

I sit quietly. I spend time exploring the world in the way a little child does—listening, watching, touching, tasting, smelling. And then my mind forms it into meaning. As a human, I am a meaning-maker. I take delight in making some sense of it all.

During my Catholic high school years, I went on a mandatory yearly retreat. That formative culture acknowledged the value of apartness, of stillness, of Godness. By relaxing into a contemplative moment of safety, contentment, and love, I was able to move on to a place of meaning-making and wonder.

This morning I sit still and ponder what is in my heart. I recognize that I am held in the arms of Life itself, uncumbered by physical symptoms or emotional anxiety. I rest in the arms of the Earth, in my comfortable office chair, drinking my delicious warm cup of coffee, taking in the comfortably warm air, aware that I have become like a child filled with wonder again. Memories of my little girl self singing and reciting nursery rhymes to my mother, coloring pages of landscapes filled with flowers, and spending hours and hours digging my way to China flood my awareness. I access these memories and make meaning out of them.

If Jesus said we need to become like little children, I venture into a quieter place inside myself, observing the worlds of my past and present. I rest in the stillpoint of wonder.

This entry was posted on December 14, 2013. 4 Comments

God’s Time

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Dear Sacred Mystery,

I am sitting in my spot looking at the Christmas cactus in my front yard. I am awake and refreshed. Ah, life in the green cactus with its red fruit, just giving without any expectation of receiving. Ah, the curved-bill thrasher who is sitting, barely moving, just a jerk of the head that helps me to see him more clearly. I am grateful for the thrasher, for the fruit, for the plant, for the water, for the earth, for Life itself. May we all know that we are in communion with all of Life. May we not hate our neighbor or ourselves. May we not spew venom across the airwaves or the ether waves. May we not be stuck in blame or guilt or anxiety or resentment or shame toward others or toward ourselves. May we spend a few minutes this Advent truly waiting like a nesting bird, neither proffering a wish or…? May we just wait and notice what is here now. May we rest in God’s time.

This entry was posted on December 10, 2013. 4 Comments