Friday, August 03, 2012

Learning from the Humming Birds: A Photo Essay

It's been a wild ride the past few weeks - a major writing project to complete, followed by two weeks living in community with the charismatic Benedictines, wonderful friends who think deeply 
about life and spirituality and who teach me so much - with their words and with their wisdom. 
Our last evening together (in each of the two 2-week school sessions over the last two summers) is spent sharing stories, skits, reflections and laughter. This year, I put together a slide show with a narration. 
And I promised my friends there that I would post it in this space. 
It will not show up as a slide show here, but what I can do in this space is interweave the narration a bit better than I could with the time constraints of a 4 minute Chris Rice piano version of "Come Thou, Fount."

Fourteen days ago, I drove myself into the parking lot
of this beautiful retreat center, 
exhausted from too many deadlines and too few hours. 
I was not exactly ‘conscious.’*

Fumbling for words, dropping things, overwhelmed by the kindness of friends, 
I took a deep breath,
looked around at the curving architecture,
the quadrangled green space,

and thanked God that I had made it.
My room welcomed me to smallness and quietude, 
and I began to feel the almost imperceptible movement 
of muscles unclenching, stomach settling 
and spirit stretching.
The foggy mornings helped to slow the pace, 
gently covering all the sharp edges of the landscape - 
the one around me and the one inside me, too.
Morning walks helped point me to beauty -

light and shadow;
color and texture and shape;
pinks and yellows and purples and reds.
circles and oblongs and heart-shaped buds;
Afternoons found me tucked away in a small side garden, where leaves,
 backlit by the western sun, 
shimmered and shook with glory.
Water soothed and stilled me, running off the edge of a nearby fountain, 
abundant and nourishing. 
A deep-seated thirst found quenching.
Surrounding the gentle circles of water was a sea of deep blue lilies, 
held aloft by long stems moving in the afternoon breeze.
As I sat and soaked it in, those blue spires began to dance without the help of wind, stirred instead by fragile wings, wings that beat 2 to 3 thousand times a minute.
Tiny feathered flyers ducked and swiveled, 
hovered and darted,

long, thin beaks dipping deep for nectar in each periwinkle bloom.
To my right was one bright red feeder, and hanging far above my head, another. 
Sometimes one feisty bird at a time, they sipped and rested - gathering nourishment for the next few minutes of fevered flight.
And sometimes, they came in gangs, dive-bombing one another to find a seat at the table. 
One small trio shared well and drank deeply.

And so did we.

I will remember these two weeks for many reasons - for good conversations, for stellar teaching, for the nourishment of worship and eucharist. 
But I will remember the hummingbirds, too. Tiny carriers of creation goodness, reminders of the need to inhabit my own smallness.
For to see these glimpses of glory, I, too, must become small - small enough to sit still,
    to be quiet,
        to listen well,

            and to trust the goodness of God.

*The word 'conscious' in this context was an inside 'joke' (very feeble!) based upon much of what we learned together about becoming persons who can be more fully present to others and to God. Learning to be increasingly aware of ourselves and our own struggles/issues/shadows is often called 'coming to consciousness.' It is hard work to become more consciously aware of all the stuff that churns inside of us, often causing reactivity, defensiveness, projection-of-our-own-crap-onto-others. But the kind of work we strive to do with others in spiritual direction requires us to do our own work first. Much of what we learned together over these two years was directed at helping us become increasingly aware of when, where and how (and how frighteningly often!) we are not aware, not in tune with our own spirit or with God's. I feel like I am just beginning some days! 

I will join this with a few friends over the next day or so - most likely Ann Voskamp, Laura Boggess, L.L. Barkat, Michelle DeRusha, Jennifer Dukes Lee and Jen Ferguson.

On In Around button

And with Cheryl Smith, too - if this linky works -