Friday, March 17, 2017

Winter . . . Within and Beyond

Ever since moving to the U.S. from Australia in 1994 I've had a love/hate relationship with winter in Minnesota. I loathe, for instance, the cold and the ice (the snow, it's true, I'm not quite as adverse to). Yet, on the other hand, I appreciate the pronounced seasons of my second home here in the North Star State, something that's quite different from Australia; and I love how winter stirs in me the desire to go deep within, to retreat and take stock of my life in ways that are quiet and mindful. And, of course, I love the festivals of this time of year, the winter solstice and Christmas, with all their rich and interconnected symbolism.

I'm definitely not one who tries to conquer winter. By this I mean I'm okay with allowing winter's adverse attributes to influence my decision-making around where and when I go places. True, such attributes don't totally dictate my movements, but for sure I'm much more inclined to bend like a reed to the season's call to hunker down, rest, be reflective. I really think that when we do this we honor and say yes to winter's invitation to become that bit more attuned to the natural world around us; a world to which, because of all our technological advances and their accompanying expectations, we can easily forget we are connected. I've come to believe that when we establish a resonance with the seasons and connect accordingly with the natural world, we honor Sacred Mystery immanent in all things.

I share all of this as a way of introducing this evening's post which I'm calling "Winter . . . Within and Beyond." Inspired by my previous post, "Autumn . . . Within and Beyond," this evening's post is a compilation of words (excerpted from various writings that have been especially meaningful to me these last few months) and photos, mainly taken this winter – though with a few included from last winter. The images taken outside ("beyond") are predominately from the area around my home in south Minneapolis, located close to Minnehaha Creek and its parkway. It many ways it's like being in the woods!

All of the interior (or "within") images were taken inside my home, mostly in my room with its "meditation nook," as one friend calls it. This "nook" basically serves as a focal point when I pray and meditate, and contains John Giuliani's beautiful portrait of the Compassionate Christ along with an assortment of icons, stones, prayer beads, and other meaningful objects that I've collected over the years.

Also pictured is the surface of the large desk in my room, at which I've spent time this winter coloring mandalas. As Susanne Fincher reminds us, a mandala is a "circular design that grows out of the urge to know oneself and one's place in the cosmos" – a description that could just as readily be applied to this particular collection of words and images . . . and to The Wild Reed in general. After all, all of these creative endeavors grow out of my desire to discern and embody my unique oneness with Sacred Mystery, and to be continually discovering how this embodiment can best serve others and the world.

Something happens in that quiet place, where we’re simply alone and listening to nothing but our hearts. It’s not loneliness, that aloneness. It’s rather the solitude of the soul, where we are grounded more deeply in our own internal depths. Then, having connected more deeply to God, we’re able to connect more deeply with each other. Our connection to the divine unlocks our connection to the universe.

Marianne Williamson
Excerpted from "Christmas for Mystics"
The Huffington Post

Be still and know
that day and night,
dark and light,
are one holy circle.

– Jokhim Meikle

Our individual awareness and personality is like a standing wave in a flowing river. That wave has a unique form, but the form is created by motion. And the substance of consciousness is not unique; it is common to all filaments and currents of the river. . . . If our consciousness is like a standing wave, then Deep Self is the underlying rock that creates the form our awareness takes. Deep Self shapes our fate, lines up the lessons we need to learn, and guides our evolution.

When we are in contact with Deep Self, we feel a sense of rightness in our choices and actions – not self-righteousness or complacency but a visceral sense of knowing we are on the right road. Whatever happens, whatever the consequences of our actions, we know we are doing what we are meant to do.

Excerpted from The Pagan Book of Living and Dying
pp. 72-73

If you can catch a hare
and look into its eye
you will see the whole world.

Anna Crowe
Excerpted from "A Calendar of Hares"

Says Crowe about her poem:

Ideas about transformation, especially the sympathetic magic underlying the process of metaphor, interest me greatly, and the naturally elusive and mythic qualities of the hare readily embody this. Why a ‘calendar’? It offered a handy framework for conveying ideas about transformation through time passing, and also allowed me to focus intensely to produce brief snapshots like fleeting glimpses of the hare. . . . Underpinning the poem there is a childhood memory of the first hare I ever saw, killed when we were driving down to Devon one summer. It was soft, gold, almost unmarked, and I remember its great dark eye and a feeling of loss.

One of the great disservices [our] culture of domination has done to all of us is to confuse the erotic with domination and violence. [The ancient god or archetype Cernunnos] is wild, but his is the wildness of connection, not of domination. Wildness is not the same as violence. Gentleness and tenderness do not translate into wimpiness. When men – and women, for that matter – begin to unleash what is untamed in us, we need to remember that the first images and impulses we encounter will often be the stereotyped paths of power we have learned in a culture of domination. To be truly wild, we must not be sidetracked by the dramas of power-over, the seduction of addictions, or the thrill of control. We must go deeper.

Excerpted from The Spiral Dance
p. 233

One leaf left on a branch
and not a sound of sadness
or despair. One leaf left
on a branch and no unhappiness.
One leaf left all by itself
in the air and it does not speak
of loneliness or death.
One leaf and it spends itself
in swaying mildly in the breeze.

Crows brought the message
to the children of the sun
For the return of the buffalo
and for a better day to come

You can kill my body
You can damn my soul
for not believing in your god
and some world down below

But you don't stand a chance against my prayers
You don't stand a chance against my love
They outlawed the Ghost Dance
But we shall live again, we shall live again

. . . Crazy Horse was a mystic
He knew the secret of the trance
And Sitting Bull the great apostle
of the Ghost Dance

Robbie Robertson
Excerpted from "Ghost Dance"
(from the 1994 album Music for the Native Americans)

Many of the religious cosmologies [or worldviews] of the West have celebrated the winter solstice as a return of the Sun, the birth of the divine at the darkest hour. It is, for each of us, at the darkest hour that we must be able to find our inner light. Christmas is celebrated on December 25, the mythic date of Horus's birth, not because there is any evidence that Jesus was born on that date, but because it makes sense that the divine should come to be present among humanity at the time of our greatest feelings of fear and disconnection. . . . [T]he winter solstice or Christmas is the perfect time to celebrate rebirth because it serves as a moment to unify the paradox of individual and the Universal. It represents both the birth of the Universe itself and the rebirth – a recognition, really – of our own divinity, our divine spark, the fullness of the cosmic wisdom we each possess and express in our own way.

Winter is waiting and promise. Its word is often unspoken. Sometimes, too, it is sorrowful and finds itself alone.

Winter knows that love is coming – and wants it to come. It feels the pull of longing.

. . . In winter love asks us to be open, to be honest, and to trust.

Listen to love in winter.

– Louis M. Savary, S.J.
Excerpted from "Listening to Love in Winter"

Once I saw the summer flowers
turn the fields to sun
Up and down the mountainside
I watched the summer run
Now the fields are muffled in white
and snow is on the down
Morning comes on shivering wings and
Still this love goes on and on
Still this love goes on

Buffy Sainte-Marie
Excerpted from "Still This Love Goes On"
(from the 2008 album Running for the Drum)

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Winter Beauty
Interiors – February 1, 2017
Photo of the Day – December 11, 2016
Winter Light
Winter Storm (2016)
Winter Storm (2012)
A Winter Reflection
Shadows and Light
Winter's Return
A Winter Walk Along Minnehaha Creek
Photo of the Day – December 9, 2012
Prayer of the Week – February 22, 2011
Autumn . . . Within and Beyond

Images: Michael Bayly.

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