Margy and I collected ten buckets of seaweed, took our first swim of the season in the bay at Winslow Park, and floated on the water, and even saw horseshoe crabs mating in the shallows. What a lovely way to celebrate Summer Solstice evening! May your summer solstice be full of magic, too.
I am beginning to wonder if the book I have been writing (whether I publish it or not) is creating a kind of unexpected magic to manifest the visions within its pages. Yesterday, for the new moon, I read my journal from the last new moon until this one–a practice I do every new moon day. This particular month has been a time for spiritual restoration. But I noticed something rather curious as I read. Old rituals and practices are finding their way back into my life after a time of absence. And it seems related to the writing of the book, Finding Our Way Home.
In one chapter, I write about the practice of diving into water every day, which came into my life when I lived on Cape Cod. But for 11 years, there was no body of water close enough to where we lived for me to do that anymore. And I didn’t imagine there would be in our new house, but then we learned about access to the Presumpscot River just ten minutes away. So now it is a possibility again.
In another chapter, I write about dance as a form of prayer–physical, emotional, a way to experience the energy of the divine in my body, and find joy in the midst of struggle. When I lived in Boston, I was part of a women’s spirituality circle that danced as a part of our rituals. But I haven’t had an easy or collective way to do that for a while. Then, this month I found a community group that meets for free-form expressive dance every Sunday morning–not always so great during the church year when I am occupied most Sunday mornings–but for the summer it is accessible to me, and once a month on my Sunday’s off during the year. So now that is a possibility again.
And then I started thinking about how I had written about wanting to use less oil, to have a house that was zero-carbon–I wrote about it before I could imagine any way that we might really find a way to live in greener housing. But this past year we started an intentional search for greener housing. Our new home is not all the way to zero-carbon, but with our solar panels and in-town location we are using so much less oil than before.
I also write about the spiritual practice of writing–and the book as a ceremony of reconnection to the earth, to each other, to the spirit within all. But the magic I have been noticing this month was completely unexpected, beyond my wildest dreams, and uncanny in its particularity. I wonder if when we write our hopes and visions, when we express our gratitude, when we imagine and tell the stories, there might be an energy that starts to percolate. What has lain dormant wakes up and tries to find a way to express itself. All I can say is wow, and thank you.
Today I woke early, it was raining, and I was drawn out to the screen tent in the yard to journal and pray and connect with our land. I was writing about a dream when suddenly I was startled by a loud huffing sound, and looked up to see a deer jumping into the brush and trees at the back of our yard. I didn’t see where she had come from, but wondered if she had ventured into the yard, and then suddenly was startled by noticing me in the screen tent.
I kept peering into the bushes all around the back of our yard looking for her, but all was quiet. And then I saw her head peering over the bushes at the west corner of our space, perfectly still, almost invisible. I would never have seen her if I hadn’t been looking so intently. She was peering back at me. I silently sent her a message–I honor you, I won’t hurt you, I am sorry I scared you. Thank you for being here. And then she moved away into the little woods of undeveloped land behind the houses on our street.
I sat for quite a while longer, astonished and moved, and pondering how the wild creatures might be passing through at any time, or watching us when we least expect it. Even right here in Portland. I thought about the future of this space, how this year we are observing everything we can about the land, and also asking the land, what do you want for our partnership? Margy and I had been talking about maybe a little orchard in the sunny space just behind the house, and maybe vegetable beds in the side yard which was also sunny. Maybe further back a pond for frogs and other creatures to drink from, and maybe a fire circle.
This morning I felt how sacred this space really is, already. How lucky I feel that we were able to find this place and move here. And how wonderful to be imagining the ways we can bless this land and be blessed by it. I had a new thought, too–perhaps we can invite folks into this shady space at the back for learning together about how we journey into earth community.
Then I came into the house, intent to blog about all this. I was looking on my laptop for possible photos to use with this posting. Suddenly our cat Billie jumped up to the window behind me and was looking into the back yard, and so I looked too. And there was the deer, standing in plain view at the back of the yard, looking toward the house. I went around to our back door, and even opened the door and looked back at the deer. She watched for the longest time. And let me take this photo.
Oh earth, you never cease to amaze me!
If my search for greener housing is a worthy intention, then there is no particular outcome that must happen right now. The energy carries its magic and I will learn from whatever I experience on this path, and it will lead me in the direction of that intention.
Similarly, if my work on the book, Finding Our Way Home, is, at root, a journey into Earth Community, then there is no necessary outcome. Whether it is published or not, whether it is read or not, on some level it doesn’t matter at all. The intention creates its own magic and the journey will unfold in its own way and time in the direction of Earth Community.
Last week I was reading architect Sarah Susanka’s book, The Not So Big Life, and found these words:
“Every moment brings forth an untold number of alternative possibilities each of which has the potential to give birth to a multitude of life experiences. There is no one way in which things need to unfold… How perfectly the universe provides when we don’t intervene by trying to manage and control the process.”
At that time, we were waiting for news about cost estimates for renovations and building work that would need to happen on a house we’ve been exploring for the last four weeks. Her words helped to calm my heart, and then give me some equanimity when we learned that the work would be more than we could afford. We had to let go of that particular set of outcomes. Not without some sadness. It was one of the homes that made our hearts sing. But I remembered that there is no one way that things need to unfold.
There are many moments on both of these journeys when I feel stuck or impatient, worried or disappointed, aching for things to turn out in a particular fashion. But today, I asked myself the question–Do I trust these intentions? Do I trust the flow of the River of Life? I remember the old adage–Don’t try to push the river. Let it carry you. I asked myself, Am I in the River?
And yes, I trust these intentions. Yes, I trust in the flow of the River of Life. And yes, I know, deep in my being, that I am in the River.
My heart keeps getting pulled back to the beautiful window house, and finally one morning, I was able to articulate why. We didn’t put this into our wish list, but seeing that beautiful window awakened in me a deep yearning for beauty itself, for something unique and creative in a home.
Perhaps it keeps calling back to me because our search for greener housing is moving at less than a snail’s pace. We looked at two more houses, but were unimpressed. There is nothing out there right now that is anywhere near adequate.
Or perhaps watching “renovation” shows on television are making it seem simpler than it actually would be to make changes in a house to fix its problems. But I notice I am not attracted to all the high-end fashionable features that the contractors put into these houses on television. Rather, I like the quirky and unique, like a wall made of cedar planks, or a screen door with a metal bird design. I think there was a time when beauty was an important part of the craft of creating houses. We see it in old geometric designs in wood floors, and stained glass windows tucked into the turn of a stairway.
So I ask myself, can we add that to our wish list? Might it be possible to find a house that has an art to it, as well as the practical features that would make it work for us and for the environment? Might it be possible, even in a small and inexpensive house, to find something that makes our hearts light up?
At first this yearning feels almost painful, like grief or a hopeless obsession. But at some point I realize how ancient is this human desire for beauty, how utterly vital to our spirit and survival. I am able to embrace it, and let it reach out into the morning light.
After going back to the beautiful window house, we are feeling more confused than ever. We are hoping to simplify our lives, yet this house would need so much work before we could move in. And would it really get simpler after all that? I made a rough to-scale sketch of the floor plan, so we could try to imagine ourselves and our basic furniture fitting into the spaces, but there were complications there too.
As I fell asleep, I called to mind the face of my ancient grandmother who guides me, and it seemed she was shaking her head “no.” This morning I am also remembering that feeling confusion is itself sometimes a signal that the answer is no. If it were yes, there would be a sense of joy and clarity.
But letting go means leaping into the void–there is nothing on the market right now that fits the dream we created in our search for greener living. Still, that is the ultimate work of magic and mystery–to let our longings go out into that emptiness, and trust that the emptiness is like a dark womb in which beauty is born. And so I leap into that void and wait. And the sun shines warm upon my face.
Later this morning, through the window I hear a ruckus and a loud chirping, and look to see a cardinal feeding her child. I am like that baby bird calling out and being fed by all that lives around me. I am like that mother bird, giving to the next generation in the ways I can. I am like the person who fills the bird feeder, making an offering to the cardinals who are beauty and hope in the flesh.
I love that there is a word for the sacredness of being in between one time and another, one place and another. It is called Liminal Time, or Liminal Space. It is the moment when magic can happen, when anything can happen.
I am now in the last week of my four-month sabbatical, and I am noticing that I haven’t finished any of the big goals I set for myself at its beginning. But that is okay–I am in a liminal space with each of those goals. One goal is to publish my book, Finding Our Way Home. I have completed another full edit, and sent out queries to some publishers and sent out the manuscript. Now I am in the time of waiting to hear back.
Another goal is to find greener housing. Again, Margy and I have started on that process–we talked about what we want in a new home, we engaged a green realtor, we looked at some houses that didn’t fit, we sorted out some financing options. I’ve begun the process of simplifying and letting go of things I no longer need. That process will take a lot more time, and we are waiting for the right house to show up on the market.
A goal that emerged during these months is to do more with the Work that Reconnects. I want to devote myself to making changes that will move human beings into a more beneficial relationship with all life on earth. That in itself is not a new goal, but rediscovering the tools that Joanna Macy has created for this work has been a true gift of these months. I am imagining how I can bring those tools to my ministry in the congregation, and beyond. I’ve had a chat with a local colleague who is also interested, and I look forward to plotting together.
I feel like I have been planting seeds and tending the soil, but the harvest time is still up ahead somewhere, unknown and unknowable. And for now, it is important to let it be unknowable. If I want to experience the sacredness of this time, I must open to its mystery and uncertainty, I must celebrate its possibility, I must wait for its unfolding. The Holy is right here.