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April 22nd, 2009

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Return I

by Elisabeth Stevens

When I am traveling,
hurrying hundreds of miles
in trains or by car,
I pass houses
where we once lived.

All those places
once seemed permanent, immutable,
part of our marriage, home.
Now they are abandoned stage sets,
insubstantial cardboard and canvas.

Like clothes sent to the thrift shop,
there were lives that we left behind—
just like taking out the garbage,
dropping it in the can,
slamming the lid.

I return as a tourist to
our old lives. Speeding by,
I see our first roof top through
a soot-marked window. I could walk there
from the station. I do not get off the train.

When I have the car,
I park down the block from
another place and keep the motor running.
I see tulips whose bulbs I held,
brown and flaky in my palm.

Without moving,
I cross the lawn like a specter,
ring the bell like a prankster, run away.
The house has been painted
a different color. The swing set is gone.

At the country place, our last,
I stop behind the privet hedge you planted
to see your tree. Set out in September when
you'd measured your last summer's sun,
it now shades the terrace, just as you'd planned.

When you died, I thought of
putting your ashes under your tree.
Instead, the summer after,
I sat out alone in the evenings,
waiting, listening to the leaves.

I still have your car, our child,
the dog, and some of the money.
The cat, the rabbits and the goldfish
are gone. I release the brake.
Driving quickly, I take a familiar road.

I do not see anyone we knew.

"Return I" by Elisabeth Stevens, from Household Words. © Three Conditions Press, 2000. Reprinted with permission.

April 7th, 2009

Charis

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T

What I love about this container.

It started with a spark of an idea:
Gather beauty from this place to feed these people.
...feed me.

Slowly, it all came into view:
ceramic
satin
wood
glass
marble
cotton

...all gathered and held
by people.

Time came to contain it: 
relationship
release of gifts
inspired assembly
purpose
practice
prayer

...gathered and held
by people.

An object of and for prayer emerged.
Through prayer it became complete.
Carrying grace forward
for all.

...gathered and held
by people.

Amazing.
We keep watch as it unfolds
beyond any one's imagination.
It happens all around us,
for all.

Grace...gathered and held
by people.

Way cool,
like your canoe....Charis.
Something from nothing.
Carrying grace forward
for all.

That's what I love about that container.

m
...
..
.

January 22nd, 2009

A blues song, written by Big Bill Broonzy in 1947. In the 1940s, Broonzy began to become increasingly dissatisfied with the slow pace of social change, especially with regard to race relations. Broonzy had been especially hopeful that black participation in World War II would lead to greater social equality back home. "Black, Brown, and White" reflected his growing fear that the wartime experience had led to little substantive change.

After every American record company Broonzy approached refused to record "Black, Brown, and White," Broonzy recorded it several times in Europe. Although it led to his estrangement from the American recording industry, and was never well known during his life, the song Broonzy called "the best, most important song I ever wrote" is now one of his best known.


This little song that I'm singin' about,
People you know it's true.
If you is black and gotta work for a livin'
Now, this is what they will say to you -

They says, if you was white, you'd be alright,
If you was brown, stick around,
But as you is black, oh brother,
Get back, get back, get back.

I was in a place one night,
They was all havin' fun,
They was all buyin' beer and wine,
But they would not sell me none.

They says, if you was white, you'd be alright,
If you was brown, stick around,
But as you is black, oh brother,
Get back, get back, get back.

I went to the employment office,
Got a number and I got in line.
They called everybody's number,
But they never did call mine.

They said, if you was white, you'd be alright,
If you was brown, stick around,
But as you is black, oh brother,
Get back, get back, get back.

Me and a man was workin' side by side,
This is what it meant -
They was payin' him a dollar an hour,
They was payin' me 50 cents.

They said, if you was white, you'd be alright,
If you was brown, stick around,
But as you black, oh brother,
Get back, get back, get back.

I helped build this country,
And I fought for it too.
Now I guess that you can see
What a black man have to do.

They says, if he was white, he'd be alright,
If he was brown, stick around,
But as he was black, oh brother,
Get back, get back, get back.

I helped win sweet victory,
With my little plow and hoe.
Now I want you to tell me brother,
What you gonna do 'bout the old Jim Crow.

Now, if you was white, you is alright,
If you was brown, stick around,
But if you is black, oh brother,
Get back, get back, get back.

January 21st, 2009

 
 
For the people of St. Philip’s
Jan. 22, 2006
3 Epiphany, Year B
Mark 1: 14-20
 
I have a fish story from Sewanee.
 
As many of you know, I spent the past several days in Sewanee at a centering prayer retreat. St. Mary's retreat center is
located on the Cumberland Plateau near Sewanee, TN. For those of you who aren't familiar with 
centering prayer, my time was spent in community with 27 people for eight days of silence and prayer.
 
We moved through the days together- praying, eating, and sitting together-- but we were freed to be in an inner solitude
by not making eye contact nor speaking to each other during most of those days. Some of my dearest 
friends were also on that retreat. These dear folks I haven't been with much since we moved from Sewanee days after
Rick's funeral there in August.
 
This space of time and place with quiet friends freed me to grieve openly and know that no one around me would feel
compelled to soften the pain I was in, for I needed space to feel it. Their quiet presence was balm because they knew me
and they knew Rick, and they deeply knew why I was crying. I thank all of you here for granting me that space of time
and place to rest with them and with God.
 
Part of my routine after breakfast was to go on a long walk each day to a library on the edge of the bluff. I was having a
hard time that particular morning. Part of my purpose in being at the retreat was to deeply 
contemplate my upcoming ordination to the priesthood (Feb 2006), as it's been a long process of formation. I have enjoyed my
ministry as a lay person, and I was trying to sort out what ordination means as we are all ministers in Christ 
by virtue of our baptism.
 
I found myself at the edge of a reflecting pond near the entrance to the library. As I stood there, weeping, I began to notice
that over the course of about five minutes all the fish in the pond were slowly swimming toward 
me. There were hundreds of them, all different sizes, all looking at me with these big ol' fish eyes, all waiting expectantly.
Slowly I realized that they were wanting something from me. They wanted me to feed them. 
They wanted bread.
 
I didn't have any bread.
 
They were nearly motionless, suspended at all levels in the pond, all facing me, all waiting for something. I stood there,
empty handed, wondering where that bread might come from. Then it all came to me. John the Baptist in the recent
lectionary readings saying of his friend Jesus, " I must decrease so that He might increase." Me, the future priest feeling
rather small, with no bread. I look at the fish assembled, and I say to them, 
" I have no bread! Jesus, Jesus is the bread. It all has to come through him."
 
With that realization I was freed. Jesus is the Bread, the Body of Christ, the Bread of Heaven. All I have to do is open my
hands, open my heart, and the Bread will come for the hungry fish.
" I will make you fishers of people, " Jesus says.
"Show me the way" says I.
" Come follow me." says Jesus.
 
I am a shy and reluctant fisher of people. Following Jesus is not an easy road. Thomas Merton struggled with many of the
same questions and uncertainty that we all face. I spent a good deal of time contemplating his 
words on my retreat, and I have printed one of his prayers in my ordination bulletin. I'd like to read his prayer to you
today.         

+peace,  Maria

In Thoughts in Solitude, Part Two, Chapter II consists of fifteen lines that have become known as "the Merton Prayer."

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

- Thomas Merton, "Thoughts in Solitude"
© Abbey of Gethsemani

January 20th, 2009

~ The Gift Outright ~

The land was ours before we were the land's.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia.
But we were England's, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak.
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.

~ Robert Frost; 1874-1963 ~

January 15th, 2009

some day I'll learn.....

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Having Confessed

by Patrick Kavanagh

Having confessed he feels
That he should go down on his knees and pray
For forgiveness for his pride, for having
Dared to view his soul from the outside.
Lie at the heart of the emotion, time
Has its own work to do. We must not anticipate
Or awaken for a moment. God cannot catch us
Unless we stay in the unconscious room
Of our hearts. We must be nothing,
Nothing that God may make us something.
We must not touch the immortal material
We must not daydream to-morrow's judgment—
God must be allowed to surprise us.
We have sinned, sinned like Lucifer
By this anticipation. Let us lie down again
Deep in anonymous humility and God
May find us worthy material for His hand.

"Having Confessed" by Patrick Kavanagh, from Collected Poems. © W.W. Norton & Company, 2004. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

January 10th, 2009

a fine line...

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Widow's Scarf
- Diana Cole (Christian Century, May 20, 2008, p. 30)

My mother's elegy was long and red.
Off the needles, stitch by stitch it slipped,
when tears failed her and words knotted in her throat.

It kept her from going crazy,
this long, thin thing
falling off ... 
Read Moreher lap,
curling into itself,
with each row making it through one minute,
her mind occupied in her hands.

How else to spend those first nights
with a husband dead
and never before alone in a house more than a day?

Over time the scarf lengthened less,
until one afternoon, needles crossed mid-stitch,
its keening accomplished,
it was laid aside.

January 8th, 2009

yup.

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I would not have been a poet
except that I have been in love
alive in this mortal world,
or an essayist except that I
have been bewildered and afraid,
or a storyteller had I not heard
stories passing to me through the air,
or a writer at all except
I have been wakeful at night
and words have come to me
out of their deep caves
needing to be remembered.
But on the days I am lucky
or blessed, I am silent.
I go into the one body
that two make in making marriage
that for all our trying, all
our deaf-and-dumb of speech,
has no tongue. Or I give myself
to gravity, light, and air
and am carried back
to solitary work in fields
and woods, where my hands
rest upon a world unnamed,
complete, unanswerable, and final
as our daily bread and meat.
The way of love leads all ways
to life beyond words, silent
and secret. To serve that triumph
I have done all the rest.

"VII" from the poem "1994" by Wendell Berry, from A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979–1997. © Counterpoint, 1998. Reprinted with permission.

January 1st, 2009

transforming

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In the Produce Aisle

by Kirsten Dierking

In the vivid red
of the fresh berries,
in the pebbled skin
of an emerald lime,
in the bright colors
of things made
to be transitory,

you see the same
loveliness
you find in your own
delicate flesh,
the lines fanned
around your eyes
charming like
the burnish
of plums,

your life like
all the other
fragile organics,
your soft hand
hovering over
the succulent apple,
you reach for it,
already transforming.

December 25th, 2008

at the still point

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At the still point of the turning world.
Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards;
at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement.
And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered.
Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline.
Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance,
and there is only the dance.
I can only say, there we have been:
but I cannot say where.
And I cannot say, how long,
for that is to place it in time.




(Burnt Norton, -part of Part II,  Four Quartets.  T.S. Eliot)
http://www.artofeurope.com/eliot/eli5.htm
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