As humans I believe we live in a mosh of inconsistencies, incongruities, incompatibilities. We are born into them. They surround us always. We learn to cope with them. But they are most often manageable, often purely personal annoyances, small on the scale of life.
Today in Central New Jersey, in our small town of Metuchen, we are enveloped in the gentle images of early Spring: hyacinths and hellebores, daffodils and crocuses, redbuds and cherry blossoms dot lawns and gardens everywhere. Bright, exquisite, signs of such hope that uplift our spirits. Beyond that, our small conversations here center on properties being reclaimed for the common good, new large tracts being set aside as wildlife preserves…all so positive and optimistic.
Living today in our wired, media-drenched world, we are faced with words and images of horror, not from another age, not out of history books. But at this same moment that the hellebore stands before me in her delicate beauty, violent nightmares are taking place. Bombs are ripping through neighborhoods, neighborhoods with their own daffodils blooming; millions of ordinary people are fleeing for their lives; a whole civilization is being laid waste…while our crocuses spread color and we speak of preserving our land. This is antithetical on a grand scale.
The writer Kayla Craig, has written: “O God of peace…our brains can barely keep up with the breaking news…we don’t know the words to pray…we know that you are a God of peace and we cannot bomb our way to shalom…”
As humans, we are born to manage inconsistencies. But for me, this stretches my own ability to a breaking point…I, too, “don’t know what words to pray” and so sit in silent pleading to our God of peace.
This is my contemporary version of the Medieval “Canticle of the Creatures”
With joy we greet you Brother Sun and Blue Sky!
You brighten and enliven all.
Ah, Sister Moon, such a comfort,
your soft glow companions us, and with the stars twinkling by your side,
you give us hope when life is darkest.
While the Weathers, fierce creatures that you are,
swirling rain and snow, winds and heat,
swaddle us in your wild caresses.
Ah, Sister Water, so soothing, refreshing, invigorating, playful,
and Brother Fire, cozy, bright, enlightening, ardent,
both of you so useful.
You teach us how to be truly helpful
singing and dancing and making merry even as you serve.
O dear Earth, you are surely our Mother,
nourishing us with every good and delicious thing,
surrounding us with beautiful and engaging things,
providing us with furred and finned and feathered ones,
friends to enrich and enchant us.
But you are also most surely our Sister,
created by the hand of the same Mother/Father God;
we are born of the same with destinies linked.
Having been cared for all this time by you, our older Sister,
we now recognize that to go forward, we must walk hand-in-hand, conscious of each other’s needs.
And most fondly of all, we embrace the humanity of all humanity…the whole of what it means to be a human creature, spirit-embodied, both beautiful and disfigured, both charming and crude, both creatively boundless and yet utterly limited,
And we rejoice most especially when we can clasp the reality of all of that, and become a source of forgiveness and pardon and love to ourselves and others.
Finally, deeply encoded in our humanity, our continuing companion, Death, we call you Sister as well
…even as we name the nurturing creatures of Earth herself and Water and the Moon…
who, in your way, completes each of our bodily lives as we know them and frees our spirit from those confines.
You know the saying, “to do a job well, you need the right tool.”
After searching for a number of years for just that ‘right tool’ for one specific studio process, something unique to my way of hanging my tiles and moveable sculpture, I ordered one that looked very different from the one I have just about worn out. I only had half a hope it would fill the bill. It looked quite different on line from the one I always used.
It came the other day…and Wow! it is not only ‘perfect’ but better than the one I’ve been using for decades. The tip is angled to make the work easier; the handle is thicker to make it more comfortable for my somewhat arthritic hands to hold and manipulate. What a delight!
I didn’t realize how improved my process would be until I had the courage to purchase that rather expensive, new, seemingly different object. But now I rejoice in the way the designer of that tool has improved my life in the studio.
It’s the little things, right?
Getting that tool made me realize how we are all sculpting away at our individual lives, each of us pretty much using tools that may have worked splendidly early on…but may have gotten worn down and are no longer really useful.
COVID has and continues to bring all of us to re-assessing the way much of our lives work, but to actually make the change, that’s what takes the real courage…even in little things.