Tag Archives: meditation

Two Illustrations from Nature…

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It is the weekend my Dad died nine years ago. It is the week a dear friend died one year ago. A coworker just had a miscarriage. A close friend is going through a divorce.

Illustration number one: This week I was at a work retreat up the coast. There was pine, dry grass, and dirt that acts like chalk on your shoes. The sunrise was obscured by a heavy fog being blown over the hill. As I climbed the hill I stepped into a copse of pine. I turned my head into the breeze to catch the wind in my ears and I caught another sound. It was so loud I looked around for what could cause this “pat pat pat”. Droplets had formed on the tip of every needle of every pine. I thought of the fog, how like grief, heavy, pervasive, and obscuring the view at three feet. And I thought of the trees, every day reaching out and into; by will and persistence making tangible something good and life-giving, watering themselves.

Illustration number two: Today we drove down the coast. We stopped just south of Linda Mar at a battery held aloft still by a truculent chunk of granite. High above the water and rocks, the walkway around seemed to drop out of sight with a certainty that made me hold my three-year-old’s hand tighter. Surely it would mean death to ever step past that edge. And yet, as we walked closer, we were surprised to find slopes, not gentle, but like many things in life, surprisingly survivable.

 

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Land’s End Landscape…

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I have been coming to Land’s End Trail of mornings. I sit on a bench in the chill and mist and watch the grey ocean spread beneath me like the dull side of a piece of aluminum foil crumpled and pressed smooth. It rolls out to the wide Pacific on my left, and on my right under the bridge and between the fingertips of reclining landmasses. My nose threatens to run and my shoe grinds a bit of sandy dirt as I settle.

The fog is thick and heavy just above the water, a single stanchion of the Golden Gate Bridge visible as if I am under Lady San Francisco’s skirts catching a glimpse of a sacred ankle. The shoulders of Marin are a curve more sensual today, the tops and less modest tips hugged by the lacy undergarment of fog.

Two lights, one standing on the last rock before the ocean, the other midway between that and the bridge blink on and off slowly, conserving energy for their eternal task. A fog horn sounds from somewhere, its own little joke, since visibility is perfect on the water. Small dots of light scratch white lines into the grey past the point. If the law would have these craft leave their lights on until an hour or two past sunrise it would be hard to know by the filtered light exactly when that was. A single fishing boat is in front of me, a red light at the top of its mast, deciding to rest inside the arms of the bay, comfortable to sit here with me.

To my right I can see where the ocean is making the shore, the never-ending group project of seven seas. Black rocks and blurs of darker textures spill across the sand here and there as it curves to meet the red bridge. The bridge swallows it all into its width or expectorates it, possibly the initial seed of fruit from which the earth springs forth. The road to the top is a perfect Bob Ross zig of paint scraped between the darker green of Presidio trees and descending speckle of beach shrubs. The road looks from this angle to curve straight down to the bridge, but I know it disappears over the hill, taking a turn and under a damp stone underpass before drawing its line of red light to join the others who for some reason are leaving the city at this hour.

Behind me to my left the grit trail runs straight disappearing abruptly into the cypress forests, standing on long stems, all looking like they have been treacherously betrayed by their hair product and a sudden gust of wind. Small dark birds bounce or zip, its hard to tell, across the path. And I can hear the incessant hiccough of a sprinkler on the golf course. I cannot tell if the smell of humidity is coming from there or from above. Occasional strings of birds indistinguishable from each other at this height fly low across the water until they complete a picture of a zipper with their reflection, unzipping and zipping as they ever alter altitude. The much larger pelicans fly closer so that I can make out colors and single indignant feathers.

I dab at my nose and shift my weight on the wooden bench to the other buttock. I wonder how long I’ve been sitting here. It’s grown warmer maybe; but I’ve gotten colder as my blood has cooled down from walking.

The lights are going out on the cars driving over the hill. My fishing boat has turned off its red light and is pulling out into open water. Lady San francisco has hiked up her skirts past her knees, and the view is a bowl in front of me, so much, with rivulets spilling out to the west and east and into my lap.

From Ashes to Ashes…

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With one thumb they draw the dark line of ash down and say, “Remember from ashes you have come.”

And with the same thumb they draw a dark line of ash across and say, “And to ashes you shall return.”

Because really, any way you look at it, up, down, left, right, horizontal or vertical, I was nothing and will be nothing.

But then all that ash that’s condemning me to miserable remembrance ends up being a cross on my forehead. Because there is one place where I am something, at the cross.

I came from nothing, receive eternal life, and return to nothing.

Jesus came from heaven and the beginning of creation, found condemnation and death, and returned to heaven at God’s right hand.

What a beautiful mystery is the interchanged middles of those two stories.

And what could be simpler than one line across another, touching each other at one point?

But some of the most beautiful things are simple.

Tenebrae…

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We were a half-an-hour late to an hour-long Tenebrae service this morning.

I went to the service because I needed to go meet with God. And I went because they had childcare. I went to meditate. And I went so I could sit in silence for an hour without hearing my name.

Jesus was obedient to death on a cross, whereas, I spent all morning in my cozy pajamas turning up the heat, sipping my coffee, and grudgingly playing mother to three beautiful children. In one moment I can be the worst and best mother, the worst and best friend, the worst and best apostle. I am all these things, often at the same time, being made holy bit by bit even as God sees me as his perfect son Jesus.

And in the crowded hall, dimly lit and still, I find myself peeking out in facets from behind the eyes and hidden hearts of every character in the crucifixion story.

I lay palms with the crowds shouting “hosanna” for the king I thought was coming on my terms.

I refuse with Peter to be washed, not understanding, and owing enough already.

I sit with Judas at the table, betraying Jesus for any shiny piece of distraction.

I raise my sword with Peter, ready to fight, ready to bleed, more ready to do anything than submit.

I wash my hands with Pilate refusing to take responsibility for my part in all this.

I shout with the crowds in condemnation for not saving me the way I wanted to be saved.

I mourn with the daughters of Jerusalem, wailing for justice and comfort.

I walk with Simon, taking willingly my share of the cross.

I lie like Peter, moved to denial at the first moment of fear.

I stand with Mary in a corner recounting all the treasures in her heart trying to make sense of it all, because I, too, remember the story from the beginning.

I am the thief on one side demanding proof even as I die.

I am the thief on the other side begging mercy with my final breath.

I am the centurion who believes what he sees.

I am the Pharisees who don’t.

I stand with the mother now without a son.

I stand with the son now given a new mother.

I scatter with the apostles in fear.

I step up with Joseph and Nicodemus to claim his body.

I am the one who believed first, came to belief, and believed at last.

I have felt the earthquake, experienced the darkness, and stepped beyond the torn curtain.

I and the rocks have the very same thing inside us that cries out.

I am heir together with Jesus, perfect, even as I am being made holy.

And I grieve with the witnesses at his death, but it is too late. I have already taken his spilled blood and eaten his broken body. I have already ingested my need to have him up there, my need as deep as the grave. What choice do I have but to murmur with the crowd, “crucify him, crucify him”?