More Words

A Thousand Serious Moves

(Hafez)

What is the difference

Between your Existence

And that of a Saint?

The Saint knows

That the spiritual path

Is a sublime chess game with God

And that the Beloved

Has just made such a Fantastic Move

That the Saint is now continually

Tripping over joy

And Bursting out in Laughter

And saying, “I Surrender!”

Whereas, my dear,

I am afraid you still think

You have a thousand serious moves

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After yesterday’s post, I thought I would share one of my favourite poems. So here it is. I hope you enjoy it.

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Words

And I have felt

A presence that disturbs me with the joy

Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime

Of something far more deeply interfused,

Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,

And the round ocean and the living air,

And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:

A motion and a spirit, that impels

All thinking things, all objects of all thought,

And rolls through all things.

William Wordsworth

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Last year I visited two of Wordsworth’s homes: Dove Cottage, where he spent the first few years of his marriage, and Rydal Mount, where he lived for most of his adult life. I had looked forward to the visits, but I did not know they would move me as they did. As I walked the terraces of the gardens at Rydal Mount, the tears flowed. I thought of Wordsworth walking those same terraces, saying out loud the words and phrases he had written, shaping them into the verses printed in my Norton Anthology of Poetry. I was reminded again of what some of those words have meant to me, the difference they have made. His words are an invisible thread, connecting us through time. Standing in that garden, it felt like past and present collapsed into one moment filled with the essence of shared experience.

In last week’s post I spoke about the power and beauty of community. It struck me later that community and relationship extend beyond the people we know; the circle is wider than that. It stretches further than the many connections we have through social media, Skype and email. We are part of communities that transcend time and space. I remember reading C.S Lewis for the first time, and feeling overwhelmed. His words gave expression to so much that was locked in my heart. It was like I’d been looking through a telescope and someone had come and adjusted the focus. His thoughts brought a sense of clarity and coherence to my fragmented heart. Words written with love and skill have changed my mind, shifted my thinking, and brought healing and promise. When I lose heart, it is often the lines of a poem or the words of a beautifully written novel that lift me and restore hope. The voices of writers long dead speak into my life here and now, and I am made mindful of the fact that I am not alone. I am held and steadied by the weight of all those words.

Gathering

We are called to be strong companions and clear mirrors to one another, to seek those who reflect with compassion and a keen eye how we are doing, whether we seem centered or off course … we need the nourishing company of others to create the circle needed for growth, freedom and healing.

Wayne Muller

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I have been reflecting lately on community. Over the years I have found myself struggling with the complexity of relational circles. I am not naturally gregarious, and my profound introversion (combined with a high sensitivity to sensory input) often made social gatherings and interactions challenging. It was sometimes like walking into a room full of people who were all playing a game, and who invited me to join in. Only I didn’t know the rules, or how the game worked, or even sometimes what the point was. I spent most of the time trying to figure out what to say and how to say it right, all the while hoping that no-one could see how scared I was. As much as I valued people and cherished family and friends, I was frequently anxious and fearful both around those I knew and those I was meeting for the first time. Solitude has always come naturally to me. It is like surfacing and taking a breath after being underwater for a long time. I love being alone; in truth it is the only time I feel completely relaxed and at home in the world.

Much of my adult life has involved trying to understand why relationship and community has been so difficult for me. Years of reading, praying, thinking and digging beneath the surface of my thoughts and emotions have yielded some interesting answers. All of this work has been of immense value in moving me towards an enjoyment of people that I couldn’t have imagined not so long ago. I’m glad I persevered. Looking back I see that I had to keep going, moving into community and relationship even when I didn’t feel like it, pushing myself through the boundaries of my fear and confusion. I still have difficult days, when being social feels heavy and anxiety takes hold. And I am learning too that it’s alright to move away sometimes, to create the space I need to rest. Without this I reach a point of inner exhaustion that usually results in a kind of mental and emotional shutdown. That’s when I know I’ve overdone it, and failed to set the necessary boundaries.

Just a word to all the extroverts out there. Please don’t make assumptions about us more introverted types. We love people; we value deeply our relationships and friendship circles. We are no less committed to the communities of which we’re a part. Allow us the time and space to connect in ways that have integrity for us. We have gifts to bring and perspectives to share. And just because we’re sometimes less outwardly expressive of our emotions, does not mean that we feel things any less powerfully.

We clasp the hands of those that go before us,

And the hands of those who come after us.

We enter the little circle of each other’s arms

And the larger circle of lovers,

Whose hands are joined in a dance,

And the larger circle of all creatures,

Passing in and out of life,

Who move also in a dance,

To a music so subtle and vast that no ear hears it

Except in fragments

Wendell berry

Remember to Have Fun

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This is a picture of Polar Bear and I celebrating my fortieth birthday. A few friends and I had arranged to go riding to commemorate this milestone and when I arrived at the paddock, I found a couple of them writing all sorts of happy words and pictures on my horse. They tied ribbons in his mane and drew a bow above his tail. After the ride we took off our shoes, untacked our mounts and went for a swim in the dam. Tired and happy, we then enjoyed a delicious three course breakfast lovingly prepared by my friend, Tas. I cherish this picture; it reminds me that I am loved and appreciated by my friends (anyone who owns a horse can testify to the special magic of friendships formed around a shared love of these four legged companions). It also reminds me of how I felt that day: full of joy and laughter, and a sense of being deeply blessed. Those who know me are aware of all the challenges I have faced with this horse, from physical problems to injuries and behavioural issues. It has not been an easy journey and the discouragement has often felt overwhelming. Had I known all we would face together, I’m not sure I would have taken him on. But I know that he is the horse I was meant to have. Every struggle and challenge has pushed me into new areas of growth and capacity I may otherwise never have dared to attempt. I have experienced friendship and support in profound ways. Polar Bear has been my teacher, and one of the things he has taught me is that I need to let go. It’s so easy for me to get caught up in trying to be the diligent student of life, pouring myself into being the best I can be, focused on reaching the goal. This is true in all areas of my life. I want to be a dedicated mother, a brilliant homemaker, the perfect daughter/sister/friend/Christian. I long to be an accomplished horsewoman, a really good writer. And no matter what I achieve, there’s always another goal in sight, a reminder that what I’ve done is good, but not quite good enough.

I need to play more. Last week, as I was getting their breakfast ready, I heard hooves thundering in the paddock. I opened the shed door and went out to watch the horses careening around, bucking and tossing their heads, running from one end of the field to the other, then in circles around the trees. Their joy and presence to the moment was infectious. I found myself laughing and whooping, caught up in the energy they were creating. So, lately I have been more patient with myself and with my horse. I have let myself remember that this journey is not about getting it right as much as it’s about learning and experiencing joy along the way. And most importantly, about savouring the connection I have with my beloved equine friend.

A few weeks ago, I did an online creative writing course. It was five days of prompts, delivered daily to my inbox. Much of it was designed to access the creativity often hidden and suppressed by the inner critic. The course encouraged me to be free to enter the realm of imagination and possibility, to let go of reason and play with words. It was good to be reminded of all that I love most about writing, and for those few moments each day, I slipped outside of the demands and responsibilities of life. I end this post with a poem I wrote as part of that course. It’s made of fragments taken from a longer piece.

Windlewild:

the smell of the sea

cloudlight in the garden

trees after rain

full of memory

swirling up and surfacing

withywind sighing through the windows

bringing its song