Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


4 Comments

Kindness, the very effective servant of Love

New Hampshire author and librarian Linda Tiernan Kepner shared words about my novel, The Munich Girl, that strike a grateful chord in me.

She calls it “well-researched and, in its own way, kind.

It brought to mind something another reader once said about my novel, Snow Fence Road:

“One of the things I also enjoyed was that this story took place in a kind world, with supportive and loving folks, despite their past difficulties, even with each other.”

That is the reason that I write, from the stubborn belief that this is the sort of world that all of our hearts want, and that those hearts long, innately, to help bring it into being.

Because that is what they are created for.

15338851_1492828510767849_7853887363639341138_nKindness is a very effective servant of Love. Maybe that’s why the two are paired in the soul-comforting phrase “loving-kindness.”

“All of the particles of the world are in love and looking for lovers,” Rumi wrote.

Mother Teresa captured this kind essence of love quite touchingly: “I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.”

I read recently that much of what is expressed out into our world aims at a lowest common denominator.

But have we not a highest common one? A kind and willing servant of Love?

What sort of love letter to the world can be written for — and from — this treasure?

How can each and every one of us value, protect, and manifest it, like infinite candles, brighter than any darkness, whether imagined or real?

Advertisements


4 Comments

Biding at the center of the circle

41954803_268368097338950_1952111091853033472_n

Photo: Nelson Ashberger

A friend described the rapid, often overnight changes appearing in the garden he and his wife have tended so carefully. Just days ago, there was limitless, burgeoning life in summer’s relentless sun and heat and rainfall.

Then, like a puff of breath on a dandelion gone to seed, it is spent and gone; fading away, or into decay.

In New England especially, these changes arrive as abruptly as the night chill that turns the leaves from green to scarlet.

“Stay at the center of the circle, and let all things take their course,” urges the Tao Te Ching.

Out at the sharp edges of the periphery, our very human selves can feel small and overcome, overwhelmed, in the inevitable enormity of change. The mind, confounded, struggles for purchase it can’t find.

37733340_688843094781431_4231203623113064448_n

Photo: Nancy Vincent Zinke

It’s then that a way is opened through which feelings, those unexpected guests left waiting so long in a side room, can emerge.

Autumn, in particular, with its cycles of death and harvest, seems well-suited for inviting forth the grief and pain that so much effort has tried so long to avoid, or contain.

Those seeds of unclaimed treasure found only in a heart broken open.

The center of the circle, that trustworthy core, can hold these, and us, as it holds all, and remind of what Rumi saw with such kind wisdom:

35522787_656520498013691_2584923167994675200_n

Photo: Nancy Vincent Zinke

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and scared.

Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.

Let the beauty we love be what we do. 
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the earth.

What is the beauty we love?

What are those hundreds of ways?


5 Comments

The country they call life

 

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.

Just keep going. No feeling is final.

 

Treasured words from Rainer Maria Rilke:

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear: 10854827_878021268895335_1204551440909094264_o

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke


3 Comments

In the soul’s secret symmetry

Gleanings found here and there:

Love gives life to the lifeless. Love lights a flame in the heart that is cold. Love brings hope to the hopeless and gladdens the hearts of the sorrowful. In the world of existence there is indeed no greater power than the power of love.

   ~ ’Abdu’l-Bahá

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and scared. Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the earth.

~ Rumi

O God! Prepare for us all those things which are the cause of unity and accord! O God! Descend upon us Heavenly Fragrance and change this gathering into a gathering of Heaven! Grant to us every benefit and every food. Prepare for us the Food of Love! Give us the Food of Knowledge! Bestow on us the Food of Heavenly Illumination!

~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

Take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.

Be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul. May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder.

~ John O’Donohue


5 Comments

The brave journey of becoming

Gleanings about art and life, found here and there:

Wassily-Kandinsky-Painting-022A book, once it is printed and published, becomes individual. It is by its publication as decisively severed from its author as in parturition a child is cut off from its parent. The book ‘means’ thereafter, perforce — both grammatically and actually — whatever meaning this or that reader gets out of it.

~ James Branch Cabell

Make beauty and vulnerability your allies in your brave journey of becoming.

~ Craig Paterson Wassily-Kandinsky-Painting-029

Though I cannot predict what I shall be able to do, I hope to make a few sketches with perhaps something human in them …

 ~ The Letters of Vincent van Gogh – 4 September 1880

… art is a power that should be aimed at developing the soul. If art does not do this job, the abyss that separates us from God is left without a bridge. …

The artist must be blind to distinctions between ‘recognized’ and ‘unrecognized’ conventions of form, deaf to the transitory teaching and demands of his particular age. He must watch only the trend of the inner need, and hearken to its words alone.       ~ Wassily Kandinsky

Artwork by Wassily Kandinsky


4 Comments

Feeding the Holy, crafting a spirit

IMG_3667 Medium

Photo: Thad Ring

So many thoughtful souls keep us company when we’re on a path of creating.

“Creativity arises out of the tension between spontaneity and limitations, the latter (like the river banks) forcing the spontaneity into the various forms which are essential to the work of art or poem,” said Rollo May.

Kurt Vonnegut said, “The practice of art isn’t to make a living. It’s to make your soul grow.”

“People don’t talk about the soul very much anymore,” Anna Quindlen has noted. “It’s so much easier to write a résumé than to craft a spirit.”

lkpoppy10415589_10154179886320181_4114162474730864319_n

Photo: Lara Kearns

“Weaving, writing and painting our stories into the things we create is a way of feeding the Holy in Nature, which has kept us fed and alive,” says Toko-pa. “And as we put all of our lostness and longing into the beauty we make, we do so knowing that we may never hope for more than to pass on these heirlooms to the young ones so they may find their way home across the songlines, as we have been found by those who made beautiful things before us. If even one generation is denied their inheritance, the story and the way home may be lost.”

As it is said in West Africa, ‘When an elder dies, a library burns to the ground’.”

And finally, this beautiful encouragement from Craig Paterson: “Whatever difficulty you may be working through today, find a point of solace in art. Let it be both comfort and crucible, to rest your weary heart and to transform the dense dark matter of your troubles into something new and clear. Make beauty and vulnerability your allies in your brave journey of becoming.”


2 Comments

The whole sky to fly in

Spring flowers remind us to be happy. It’s as though God treasured this invitation in each one,

then spread them abundantly about the landscape to ensure we wouldn’t miss it.

IMG_0597

Photo: Saffron Moser

Spring and flowers and happiness all dwell together in a snapshot scene from a long-ago Equinox.

As I packed up our Toyota for the Naw-Rúz (New Year, for Baha’is) party that night, I opened the car door to find our small son sitting in the backseat so surrounded by a mass of daffodils that I could barely see him. To ensure that the flowers traveled safely, my husband gave him the task of holding them and it was the first time he’d seen these harbingers of spring.

It’s hard to remember which was bigger, or brighter — that explosion of golden blooms, or his huge grin as he clutched his precious cargo. That smile was about the only part of him I could see.

IMG_0595

Photo: Saffron Moser

This scene had prophecy in it. Today, our son grows hundreds of thousands of plants and sends them out into the wide world.

As I remember that day on this spring morning nearly 30 years later, with the sounds of wild geese flying over the house, I feel a soft sadness brush against me, rather the way a dog or cat might.

Such feelings seem the inevitable outcome of simply living through the decades, a necessary component of the blessing of life, the contrast between happy memories and wistful ones, wintry days and brilliant spring sunshine, dark and light.

Which Way is Up 411

Photo: Kathy Gilman

When we pause to reflect, it’s so often the contrast we come to see and recall. As one character in my recent work says, when confronted with the passage — and wages — of  time:

Didn’t it all turn out differently than we expected?

Didn’t it once seem there would be the whole sky to fly in?”

It did, no doubt for all of us. It’s not what we thought, or perhaps planned or expected.

And yet, like the flowers and other plants that bloom and reappear so faithfully around us each year, there is fresh beauty and possibility in each new day. Even in the cells of the moments that make them up.

IMG_0599

Photo: Saffron Moser

No, it’s never what we thought, because it’s so very much bigger. When we look. And see. It really is the whole sky, and it will come to meet us when we stop hurling ourselves against it.

In their essence, daffodils, like so many spring flowers, remind us to be happy. It’s as though God treasured this special invitation in each one and then spread them abundantly about the landscape to make sure we wouldn’t miss it.

May each new springtime remind us we are truly unlimited  beings, however earthly our journey often seems.