Sunday Morning

And the boy went into the elves’ church. He had never seen such people before, so noble and happy. Such is life when it is lived in peace and in song. When the hymn was over, the priest mounted the pulpit and preached a sermon. Never had the boy heard a sermon so beautiful or so touching. And never afterwards did he hear a sermon like it. All his life through he remembered it, meditating upon it in secret and trying always to live up to it; but the theme of the sermon he told to no one. Some people think that it must have been about how in the end good will be triumphant in the life of man. Then the priest went to the altar and intoned in a warm, gentle voice; quite differently from our priests here on earth. It was as if a good hand was laid over his heart Then when the last hymn had been sung, all the people stood up and went out… He kept the memory of this Sunday ever afterwards in his mind and it consoled him when he had to do without the happiness that others enjoy in life; and he grew up into a man pleased with what he had and contented with his lot.

Halldór Laxness, “Independent People


Photo: Photo by Tabitha Mort, Portland, Oregon

The faith that gives us wings. Or at least a soft place to land.


Notes:

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

your fellow sun-worshippers
run
the world. Watch as they kneel to the sun.

~ Frank Bidart, from “The Fifth Hour of the Night” in Paris Review (Issue 229, Summer 2019)


Photo: PDX Daybreak by Jake Egbert (Mt. Hood, Portland, OR)

Sunday Morning

Yesterday, my late Brother’s Memorial in Canada with family and friends, which followed his Phoenix “Celebration of Life” in January.

I couldn’t go.

I couldn’t get myself to watch the service on Zoom.

I couldn’t pull myself together to read the few words I had written about my younger brother, sending an email to a Cousin, letting her carry the weight.

Memorials rip open still raw grief. Suffering is best done in silence, alone. For Some.

As I was preparing my thoughts on my Brother, I found him fading.

I can’t make out his face, but can see the dark, sunken hollows of his eyes.

I can’t recall his last words, but can recall his raspy voice, his vocal cords damaged from tubes winding down his throat.

I can’t make out his body, a silhouette now, fading, withered from being bedridden for months – but can feel his hands, soft, his grip, firm, from that last handshake.

I rub my index finger and thumb together, and I’m drawn back…

He steps up to the tee box. He’s standing calmly over the ball. Click. He re-grips the club once, and then again, softly. Click. His body now still, his hands quiet.  Click. He takes the club back, in a slow, smooth arc. Click. He pauses at the top.  Click. He pivots his legs and then his hips in a full, graceful follow through. Click. The ball explodes off the tee.  Click. The Titleist, a white speck, streaks the ever so blue, sky.  Click. The ball lands softly in the center of the fairway 275 yards from the T-box. Click. Art, Bro. Fine Art.

But all of this is fading, I’m losing him, as Wallace Stevens loses those that he has loved:

The figures of the past go cloaked.
They walk in mist and rain and snow
And go, go slowly, but they go.

 


Prior background posts on Lorne. Photo: Mist by Risto Ranta

Sunday Morning

I don’t believe in religion, but the aesthetics of Catholicism have stuck with me. I love the way church incense coats my hair and skin. It is a safe smell, like a blanket… I envy the faithful. There are shrines dotted around the hillsides here in Ireland, places where saints have supposedly appeared and healed the sick. There are wells of holy water and statues in the rocks, huts filled with prayer cards and gardens filled with painted stones in memory of loved ones who have passed away. I like to visit them occasionally. I sit in the stillness and observe people crying and praying and I close my eyes and try to let some of their hope get carried on the air and through my pores. I would like to believe that everything is accounted for, that there is life after this one, and that all of our decisions hold some kind of significance or moral worth. There is weight in religion. It is an anchor of sorts.

~ Jessica Andrews, Saltwater: A Novel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, January 14, 2020)


Notes: Photo: Patryk Sadowski with Church of Ireland

Sunday Morning

I want to be a monk because I think that would be a very good use of me, he continued. Does that sound strange? It sounds a bit arrogant, I suppose. I don’t mean to be arrogant. I want to be an implement. Something like a shovel with a beard. If I live with humility and intent, if I do what I do well and gracefully, that is good. Beyond that I cannot go. When I speak to children they will ask me things like, if I do enough good, and other people do good, then the good stacks up, right? and the good eventually beats the bad, right? and I cannot say this is so. I am not very interested in speculation about such things. I was never interested in theology. I think theology is an attempt to make sense of that to which sense does not apply. I cannot explain why I hope that what I do matters; all I can do is do what I do, either well or ill, patiently or not, gracefully or not. And I do find that doing things mindfully, patiently, easefully, makes the task far more interesting. I love to cut the grass here, for I sometimes come to a sort of understanding with the grass, and the hill, and the creatures in the grass, and with my legs and arms and back, a sort of silent conversation in which we all communicate easily and thoroughly. Do you have any idea of what I mean with all this?

~ Brian Doyle, from “Because It’s Hard” in “One Long River of Song: Notes on Wonder” (Little, Brown and Company, December 3, 2019)


Notes:

Walking Cross Town. Small gestures with big tailwinds.

Late to bed Tuesday night, following long return flight from Phoenix.

Late jump Wednesday morning.

4th morning train to NYC.

Light misty rain.

And, Terry Tempest Williams continues to lay tracks.

In the end, it’s rarely the large gestures that count, it’s the small ones.

My antenna is up.

On train, a middle aged man gives up his seat for a lady. She’s not young. Not old. Not pregnant. He just does it. And stands for the entire 55 minute ride.

At Grand Central Station, Construction worker, hard hat under his arm, looks behind as he crosses the threshold of the exit, sees me coming, holds door open. I was several yards back. Let’s say 10 yards back. Rare occurrence. It was a conscious act.  Everyone is exhausted with political attacks, the lack of civility. How about some decency today?

And the gestures, small, keep coming.

Flight to Phoenix. Elderly lady sits in aisle seat. Not her seat. “Would you mind taking the window seat.” She gestures asking him to lean closer: “I have a bladder problem.” He slides across and takes the window seat. “No problem.” She exhales.

Susan out for a morning walk in Phoenix. She returns to tell me “the most unbelievable story.” I roll my eyes. Can’t wait to hear this.  She comes across a lady walking “Sunny”, a Golden Doodle.  Lady asks where we’re from. Susan explains. “Here to visit my husband’s younger brother. He’s hospitalized and breathing with the aid of a ventilator.” Lady pauses to assess the receptiveness of her planned gesture.  “I’m sorry to be so forward, but would you mind if I said a Prayer for him and for you.” And then proceeds to reach for Susan’s hands, and Prays.

I walk across Fifth Avenue. It’s 7 a.m. E.S.T. and 4 a.m. in Phoenix.

He’s sleeping now, machine pumps oxygen into his lungs.

I stand waiting for the cross walk sign to turn.

I look up, light drizzle brushes my face, three flags flap over a major hotel entrance.

I inhale deeply, and then exhale, and this Agnostic fires up his own Prayer.

Breathe Bro. Breathe.


Photo: Mine with smartphone. At Times Square yesterday morning, at the end of my cross-town walk. NYC awakening.

 

Flying AA1330 on A321S. Need Another Day.

First flight out of Dallas. 6:36 a.m. on-time departure.

Foot traffic unusually light at DFW, as are the lines at Security and at the Gate.

Ah yes, September 11. And, the morning of September 11th.

Pilot gets on the intercom, and announces that we’re flying on an Airbus A321S. 168,000 pounds, 450 mph at cruising altitude.

Plane unusually quiet. More seats empty than usual for this flight.

Pilot dims the lights in the cabin.

Cabin is silent as the plane taxis up to the runway.

It’s dark in the cabin, my seat mate snoozes. Me? Restless. Churning.

[Read more…]

On Swimming…


…hold a fabric of silence so fine
and old that even a breath
could tear it.
I love to swim in the sea, which keeps
talking to itself
in the monotone of a vagabond
who no longer recalls
exactly how long he’s been on the road.
Swimming is like a prayer:
palms join and part,
join and part, almost without end.

~ Adam Zagajewski, from “On Swimming” from Without End: New and Selected Poems.


Notes: Poem via 3 Quarks Daily.  Art by Samantha French

Sunday Morning

The wind stills for a moment
and
the whole world is silent as a prayer.

Pam HoustonDeep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country


Photo: Alex William Helin with Still at Lake Buttermere in North West England

Sunday Morning

The voice, the tale, the image, the parable that gets through to you – that wins your heart – religiously is the one that makes it past your defenses. You’ve been won over, and you probably didn’t see it coming. You’ve been enlisted into a drama, whether positively or negatively, and it shouldn’t be controversial to note that it happens all the time. When you really think about it, there’s one waiting around every corner. It’s as near as the story, song or image you can’t get out of your head. Religion happens when we get pulled in, moved, called out or compelled by something outside ourselves. It could be a car commercial, a lyric, a painting, a theatrical performance or the magnetic pull of an Apple store. The calls to worship are everywhere.

David DarkLife’s Too Short to Pretend You’re Not Religious

 


Notes: Quote Source – Thank you Whiskey River. Photo: Manuel Cosentino with Behind a Little House

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that

The image, taken in 1965, shows the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. leading a prayer after a group of protesters were arrested during a march to the Dallas County Alabama courthouse. Around 250 people were arrested during the demonstration, which was part of a push to get African Americans in Selma registered to vote.  (Time Magazine, Sept, 25, 2017)

Stir the Soul


Notes:

  1. Attendees at Christmas Eve Mass in Surabaya, Indonesia. (Juni Kristwanto, wsj.com December 25, 2018)
  2. A man stands inside a damaged church in the village of Tel Nasri, Syria. (Rodi Said, Reuters, wsj.com December 25, 2018)
  3. An elephant wearing a Santa Claus costume performs for Thai students during Christmas celebrations at Jirasart school in Ayutthaya province north of Bangkok. (Chaiwat Subrasom, wsj.com December 24, 2018)

Sunday Morning

HELP ME I murmur
as if I knew
to whom I speak
or what I’m asking for…

M.C. Richards, from “Morning Prayer” in Opening our Moral Eye

 


Photo: paramore.livejournal (via Nini Poppins)

Lightly Child, Lightly.

Let me seek then,
the gift of silence and solitude,
where everything I touch is turned into a prayer:
where the sky is my prayer,
the birds are my prayer,if
the wind in the trees is my prayer…

Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude


Notes:

  • Quote: Thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels. Photograph Gif: via Nini Poppins
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Sunday Morning


There are many kinds of prayer. There is a kind of prayer that’s like breathing. There is a kind of prayer that’s like talking to your best friend all day long. There is a kind of prayer in the face of beauty that lifts your hands up because it would be harder to keep them down. There is a kind of prayer for meaning that is ­answered by the one who wrote the book of the whole world and your life, so that the prayer is like waking up and finding yourself a character in the most elaborate of novels, as you’ve always ­suspected: authored, written into a world of meaning, a world meaningful because it was created by someone. There is a kind of prayer that is only a listening, the soft voice of God saying your name, saying “come to me, come to me.”

~ Kristin Dombek, from “Letter from Williamsburg”


Sources: Quote – Thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels. Photo: Philip Johnson, Library/Study, New Canaan, CT (1980) via Archive of Affinities

Merry Christmas

“Artist Dan May’s interpretation of Charles M. Schulz’s 1965 classic, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” is quiet and powerful, a piece subtly addressing troubled times with Charlie Brown removed and elevated from the noise of the world and blur the holidays can become by masking that which is most important.  Dan’s composition instantly struck us in finding Charlie Brown, accompanied by a quietly, emotional Snoopy, not merely reflective but openly longing and prayerful for that which matters most, a loving reminder for us all, particularly during the holidays.” Source: Blurppy.

Sunday Morning

The important thing is not the finding, it is the seeking, it is the devotion with which one spins the wheel of prayer and scripture, discovering the truth little by little. If this machine gave you the truth immediately, you would not recognize it. If this machine gave you the truth immediately, you would not recognize it, because your heart would not have been purified by the long quest…No, the Book must be murmured day after day in a little ghetto hovel where you learn to lean forward and keep your arms tight against your hips so there will be as little space as possible between the hand that holds the Book and the hand that turns the pages. And if you moisten your fingers, you must raise them vertically to your lips, as if nibbling unleavened bread, and drop no crumb. The word must be eaten very slowly. It must melt on the tongue before you can dissolve it and reorder it. And take care not to slobber it onto your caftan. If even a single letter is lost, the thread that is about to link you with the higher sefirot is broken.

~ Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Mar 5, 2007)


Notes: Post inspiration from Beth @ Alive on All Channels. Photo: Patty Maher, The Storm.

Sunday Morning

I don’t know where prayers go,
or what they do.
Do cats pray, while they sleep
half-asleep in the sun?
Does the opossum pray as it
crosses the street?
The sunflowers? The old black oak
growing older every year?
I know I can walk through the world,
along the shore or under the trees,
with my mind filled with things
of little importance, in full
self-attendance.  A condition I can’t really
call being alive.
Is a prayer a gift, or a petition,
or does it matter?
The sunflowers blaze, maybe that’s their way.
Maybe the cats are sound asleep.  Maybe not.

While I was thinking this I happened to be standing
just outside my door, with my notebook open,
which is the way I begin every morning.
Then a wren in the privet began to sing.
He was positively drenched in enthusiasm,
I don’t know why.  And yet, why not.
I wouldn’t persuade you from whatever you believe
or whatever you don’t.  That’s your business.
But I thought, of the wren’s singing, what could this be
if it isn’t a prayer?

~Mary Oliver, “I Happened to Be Standing” from A Thousand Mornings 


Notes: Poem Source: Thank you Make Believe Boutique. Photo: Seb Rogo

Sunday Morning

A few days ago I spent a couple of minutes in St. Mary’s Basilica—it was a weekday—where perhaps a dozen people were kneeling in prayer.

Every now and then someone’s cell phone rang.

Horizontal communication refused to surrender, it kept on battling its vertical counterpart.

~ Adam Zagajewski, Slight Exaggeration: An Essay


Notes:

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