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In the Bleak Midwinter
We are rapidly approaching the Solstice;
so, darkness is deepening and lengthening for a few more days.
Yesterday, gathered in my spiritual community,
I listened with concern, and wiped away tears
as people spoke of their dread of the coming year,
their fear for themselves and for Muslim, Jewish, LGBTQ,
immigrant and Native American neighbors.
I had no answers then and have none now.
I can only say that I feel the same dread,
and I know that I have a choice:
I can give in or I can go on.
So I offer this prayer for courage for us all.
For days of trial,
for days of fear,
for days of violence,
I gird myself
in the nine acts of courage:
standing in community,
loving the stranger,
These nine are holy;
these nine weave wholeness;
these nine reveal G-d within and between.
Yesterday, in the bustle of finishing
a mixed media art piece and thinking ahead (frantically)
to getting the room clean
for my daughter and son-in-law to use as a bedroom,
I heard the voice of a spiritual director telling me,
‘Stay in the moment. Stay now. Breathe.
What are you feeling right this instant?
What is happening right this instant?’
In fact, at that very instant, I was feeling amazed and giddy
that the piece had come together in the most spectacular way.
‘Frantic’ was a future fear.
I was ignoring the real feeling of the moment to worry about ‘then.’
So, I went looking for the words of Albert Camus
that I had copied many years ago, during a difficult time:
In the midst of winter I found that there was,
an invincible summer.
So, this minute as you are reading, right now, today,
I wish for you that feeling of invincible summer
even as you draw on the riches and lessons of winter.
In this instant, right now, I wish you peace.
In this very moment, I wish you a deep breath of joy.
May it be so.
The Tipping Point
At 3:44 AM (RMT), we crossed the threshold
of the winter solstice and started back
toward mid-summer and longest day.
All the holiday lights, blinking multi-colors,
are our modern-day equivalent of the Solstice bonfire,
our own visceral acknowledgment that
we fear that the sun will one day vanish for good.
It will be awhile yet before we truly notice a shift,
so, I invite you to take the same deep breaths as yesterday
and perhaps lean into this prayer today and in the days to come
before February 1 and the start of the spring quarter:
Enfold me gently
in the nine blessings of darkness:
the regeneration of tranquility,
the silence of sleep,
the renewal of stillness,
the depth of vision,
the wisdom of dreams,
the reweaving of hope,
the potential of re-creation,
the generosity of surrender,
the joy of peace.
Nine gifts to open my heart
and empower my spirit
on the solstice fulcrum.
Joy, Joy, Joy
Today my beloved daughter and son-in-law
arrive for the holidays.
A whole week together is beyond precious when
there are 900+ miles between our homes.
I think of previous generations when
folk moved across the ocean (or across this vast country)
and it was more than even odds that
you would never see them again.
Our world is both smaller and larger;
planes, or cars on super highways can bring us
together in hours (smaller)
from the far-flung places we have transplanted ourselves (larger).
As I look ahead to 2017,
I know that some of us in this country want to be more insular,
to feel ‘safer’, to shut out the ‘others’ outside our borders
(and deport the ‘others’ inside them).
I think it is a lost cause.
Such boundaries can no longer exist.
And, personally, I am grateful
for the larger-smaller world in which we live.
I am grateful that I was born into this tumultuous time.
I don’t think everything we have given up has been wise
(nor has everything we embraced been healthy),
but I would not want to unknow all the miracles and the beauty
that lie between the place I was born and the place I now live.
Maybe today is a good day to think about the physical,
emotional, spiritual, psychological geography you have explored
in your 25, 38, 47, 51, 65, 72, 84 years of life.
I went to the airport today and
people were driving like they were afraid
they might live through Christmas.
Now, clergy are not exactly poster children
for being laid back in December,
but I am wondering what might happen
if we remembered what Gandhi said,
‘There is more to life than increasing its speed.’
and all slowed down (even 10%).
What is the life we would choose to live
in that spacious extra time?
I confess that I managed to miss this story
when it first came out back in the spring…
which may be good because it is the most perfect
Advent illustration ever.
Carmen Herrera became a professional painter
in the 1940s in Paris (in her late 20s).
She sold her first painting at age 89.
This past summer, New York’s Whitney Museum
hung her first solo exhibition – 50 of her paintings –
as she turned 101.
Her advice to younger artists?
“Patience, dear, patience.”
There is absolutely no better example of active waiting
than this woman who continues to paint every day.
[Note to Self: The next four years will give you ample opportunity
to practice patient and active waiting.
How lucky you have a sublime mentor.]
May the Light-Creator, the Light-Bearer,
set you aflame with the light of truth,
the light of reconciliation,
the light of hope,
the light of peace.
May your thoughts be light.
May your words be light.
May your deeds be light.
Let enlightenment enfold you here and now.
Text © 2016, Andrea La Sonde Anastos
Photos © 2011, 2015, 2016 Immram Chara, LLC