[October 2007] [November 2007] [December 2007]
[January 2008] [February 2008] [March 2008] [April 2008] [May 2008] [June 2008]
[July 2008] [August 2008] [September 2008] [October 2008] [November 2008] [December 2008]
[January 2009] [February 2009] [March 2009] [April 2009] [May 2009] [June 2009]
[July 2009] [August 2009] [September 2009] [October 2009] [November 2009] [December 2009]
A WGREN Meditation for the Week of April 26, 2009
Daddy Long Legs
I walk the Green Monster most mornings at 8-ish. I walk with my head down--not because I'm sad or depressed but because I'm fascinated with what unfolds on the trail in front of me. It's an old habit--one from childhood-going arrowhead hunting with my family in Wyoming. And, as any artifact hunter knows, one only discovers the good stuff by looking down.
I head east and about 1,000 steps into my walk I come to the campus woods. There, on the south side, for about 200 yards, is a place where the Daddy Long Legs love to sun. They're not found on the north or west sides, just those 200 some yards on the south side. Sometimes I think I should wear a sign on my back that reads: Warning--I brake for Daddy Long Legs.
And, I do. Carefully I pick my way down the Green Monster, trying to avoid stepping on them.
They are remarkably unconcerned about the dangers of being stomped on by joggers and fellow walkers and smooshed by rollerbladers. Blithely, they simply enjoy being spiders on a warm stretch of asphalt.
Last spring, during one of my morning walks, I saw a neighbor ahead of me on the trail. She kept pausing in her walk to look to the left and later to the right and sometimes stopping to pluck something from the grass. It was a great curiosity. What could she be looking for?
I managed to catch up with her and asked if she had lost something.
"Oh, no," she laughed, a little embarrassed. "I'm looking for 4-leaf clovers."
"You can spot a 4-leaf clover as you walk by?" I asked incredulously.
She explained that she really looks for the anomaly in a clover patch as she walks and that's how 4-leaf clovers stand out in a patch of 3-leaf clovers.
I looked at her in amazement. I should probably point out that she's a mathematician, so maybe spotting anomalies as one walks by is normal, but it has certainly changed my perspective of what I see as green clumps of clover. Still, if she wore a sign, it would likely read: I brake for 4-leaf anomalies.
Once I worked for a man named Karl, who taught me so much about what I didn't want to be when I grew up. I always had a feeling that he was hired and retired on the same day. I would describe him as "adequate"--performing at the same level year after year. There was no spark, no passion, no excitement, no new ideas. I suspect he's actually retired now and I wonder if he's noticed.
A couple of springs ago Ken and I went to a funeral in Bellefontaine for Merle Insley, a former trustee of this university and an outstanding community citizen. I always thought of him as a very young man trapped in an aging body. He was 91 and died on his birthday. At his service, of course there was a sense of loss, but most surprising to me was the spirit of joyfulness all of us attending shared for the pleasure of having known such a man. His daughter, Susan, in her loving tribute to her father, described him as one who had experienced a "life well-lived."
Once I read an editorial that reminded one to never take lilac season for granted. The author's premise was that everyone was granted a certain number of lilac seasons in his or her lifetime and how sad it was when lives were so crowded for time that there was never enough time to stop and breathe in the perfume of a lilac in full bloom. A missed season could not be replaced. I think of that each spring when I brake for a blooming lilac tree. I think of that tonight in relation to Merle Insley's 91 lilac seasons or Ed Williams' 58 or Derek Falk's 21.
One of my favorite Benedictine prayers includes a passage that goes something like this:Therefore we should not fear life, nor anything in life,
We should not fear death, nor anything in death,
We should live our lives in love with life.
Be gentle with this life--be the person friends are glad they know, be the anomaly--the 4-leaf clover in a patch of green, and dance, like the Daddy Long Legs on spindley legs, in the light of life.
Ohio Northern University
A WGREN Meditation for the Week of April 19, 2009
In this part of the midwest, mud season runs from February to late April. It's often considered a testing time. The skies are low, blanketed with clouds spanning the gray scales of the spectrum. I try to view them as a coverlet and remember the old feather bed given to us as a housewarming gift by my mother and father in law. After awhile though, it's easy to feel smothered. An overwhelming desire emerges to push off these heavy skies and relish a strong and warm sun.
Mud season was foremost in my mind today as I moved through the meadow. Heavy clumps of wet and sandy soil stuck to my boots. For awhile, it was hard to remember my commitment to walk with gratitude on the earth, recognizing it as the only home I will ever know. Each step seemed to mire me further and my legs became heavier and heavier. I felt the approach of frustration as I noted the seeming great distance between my present location and my ending point. This in turn put me in mind of the weight I carry. I'm not speaking of the additional pounds of a late mid life body. The sticky and heavy mud that encumbers me is instead of my own manufacture. I'm speaking of the weight of my attachments.
There was a long period in my life when what caught and weighted me most was grief. When the suffering is fresh and one's heart and spirit have been scraped raw, it's difficult to see this as an attachment. As one of my colleagues elegantly observed, grief is the price we pay for loving. My own experiences left me sitting amidst the shards of shattered lives, identities, and worlds. Of course the suffering is immense. Allow me to give it voice. Isn't this just the way it is? What's the problem with this account?
However, the teaching I have received in the dharma encourages me to think of the weight and pull of grief--its lethargy, indifference, and loss of hope--as manifestations of my unwillingness to love with open hands. Having been showered with riches of attention, affection, and respect; I feared and rejected their loss. Thus, I wrapped my hands tighter and tighter around the cutting edges that marked the absence of those I loved. It is easier to see this now. Desire is truly boundless.
These days I'm more likely to be caught in the mire of aversion, desire's twin. I often find myself in a state of war with my body, rejecting its weakness and limitations. This ailing flesh encumbers me. Pain, disability, and disease restrict me. Death, no stranger to me, does not seem as terrible as the slow and insidious loss of what is valued most. I'm sure for some this illness- experience is an erosion: parts of a carefully crafted self cracking off and slipping away. However, in mud season, I feel instead the accretion of troubles in the body. Layers of limitation and pain combine to form a muck of suffering. Were there reasonable alternatives, I would gladly cast off this body as I shed my caked boots when returning from a long walk.
With a deep, if somewhat ragged breath, I gather myself up again and move forward through the meadow. To reject this body is to scorn the world. For I'm no mystic. This body is the only means I have for experiencing the world, whether in its glories or its trials. Perhaps the hope for the naturalist-physic is to look at the encumbered body of illness with the grace and charity I typically bring to these woods and meadows. For they too are flawed. Plants and animals that contributed to a vibrant and varied community have been lost. Some are gone forever. Damaged in the past by agriculture, currently threatened by encroachments from suburban development, this space too breathes uneasily. Its soils have been deprived of teeming life by pesticides and erosion. Limited groups of animals retreat here, making a stand on terrain that can't meet all their needs. I know how it feels.
But while I am mindful of these very real losses and threats and take action to ameliorate or prevent them; they are not foremost in my mind as I move through these woods and meadows. What I perceive first are its beauties. A white oak catches my attention and draws me close with the pattern its boughs make against the low, gray clouds of the sky. I see the lacework of the tiny tips of its branches, their delicate patterns finished with buds just beginning to form. Even in such a challenged place, it is possible to walk in beauty.
The tenacity of this tiny and fragile place also transfixes me. How is it that the red fox manages to eek out an existence here? Why have the wood ducks returned for each of the last few springs to a capricious pool far smaller than any water hazard offered by an indifferent golf course? What will become of the hind and her young: the two doe and the buck who only last year came into velvet for the first time?
Perhaps the message of mud season is that while we are beset by serious troubles, we're also still standing. And each of us moves forward as we are able. I bow to the precious life that exists within and around me. I offer a reverent and thankful bow to its tenacity. We share a remarkable world.
Kathleen M. Dixon
A WGREN Meditation for the Week of April 12, 2009
A Restoration Blessing
May the Earth bless you with life;
may your life be a blessing for the earth.
May the Waters cleanse you and bless you with their grace;
may grace bring you to regenerate and purify the Waters.
May Fire, sacred and pure, bless you with inner light;
may your light renew the face of the world.
May the Winds bless you with strength;
may you be strong enough to heal Nature's wounds.
May the Plants bless you with energy from sun and ground;
may you be empowered to nurture and preserve all plants.
May the Trees bless you with ever-restoring hope;
may you work to restore the forests of the land.
May the Herbs bless you with health when you are ill;
may you tend and make whole Nature's wilderness gardens.
May the Animals bless the instincts of your heart;
may you provide safe havens for all animals.
May the Birds bless your soul with powers of flight;
may you imagine new ways to protect all birds.
May the Fish bless you with sacred knowledge;
may you learn to maintain all fish in their fragile homes.
How abundantly have you been blessed in all things!
May you return blessing for blessing
so that your children may be blessed
for generation upon generation!
Department of Mathematics
Ohio Northern University
A WGREN Meditation for the Week of April 5, 2009
The woods and meadows are my constant teachers. Their lessons are rigorous and unlike my human mentors, these trainers never tire. In early spring the contrasting moods of the fields, streams, and forests require me to study the scope of my attachments and aversions.
Harsh winds scour me as I quicken my steps across the open spaces. I want to scurry for the protection of the trees, sparing vulnerable skin. But the woods are dark and somber, stripped by the March winds of the last of the brown and curled oak leaves. I stand on the fulcrum between desire and aversion. The sheer mass of the forest's dead fall stuns me. Roots ripped violently from the earth reach clawed fingers towards the sky. Burrows gnawed into trunks resemble mouths contorted in pain. My breath and pulse quicken uncomfortably. Pain behind me, death before: I want to quit this place!
Instead I stand as quietly as I am able for this private examination before my masters, bowing in recognition. I consent, opening to the probing of this cold wind which pushes me towards my fears. For many years, I have believed that it is possible for us all to flourish, given the right conditions. While this is true, today my teachers want to know whether I can abandon the hunt for optimal conditions and walk gracefully with what I find most difficult and frightening.
I don't feel up to the task. My mind retreats to gentler times. I want to run my hands lightly across the soft fibers that sumac sometimes produces, reveling in the sensation. It's like caressing a buck in velvet. Or dip my fingers into the moist recesses of moss. But the stands of sumac are smooth and hard. The dusty moss damaged by the winds offers no relief. It too is parched.
On this day of dark grey skies and low lying clouds a frigid gust slaps my face sharply: wake up! This moment, this place with all its creatures and even this body require recognition not in their idealized forms but in their lived complexities. This is life: shadow and light, pain and pleasure, beginning and ending, desire and loss. The time is always right for spiritual growth. My teachers call me forward. I bow again and resolve to dance with the shadows.Kathleen M. Dixon