We are beloved companions on a mystic journey, sharing our solitude and holding the world in the divine prayer of love.

"Place your mind before the mirror of eternity! Place your soul in the brilliance of glory. Place your heart in the figure of the divine substance. And transform your whole being into the image of the Godhead Itself through contemplation."
- from St. Clare's third letter to Blessed Agnes of Prague.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Ocean Calling

Humans have deserted the beach, but the gulls seek out the sands for protection from the storm that has the surf crashing high, layer after layer. All I wanted was to stand there. It was my birthday. All I wanted was to dissolve into it...each water drop whether rain or mist from the waves. All I wanted was immensity to echo through my own waters of blood and tears, the fluids of spine and brain, of lymph -- Mostly we are water and air. Ocean flows through us all.
I take a deep breath and listen. "Be still and wait," my dear, dear sister told us all in the weeks before she passed from this world. She's been so close these past few weeks, and today she seemed to be walking the beach with me seeking out the smallest, most worn-to-a-circle stones.What did she hear in her stillness? Can you hear "round" as you pick up the stone? Can you touch sound? Is what we call God or Heaven simply a dissolving into everything? One could hardly do better than the swell and ebb of the ocean which I sometimes believe could be the nature of that Divine Silence that draws us, that Word out of the Infinite Silence of which the author of the Cloud of Unknowing speaks: "The drawing of that Love and the Voice of that Calling..."

Ebb and Flow

Liz's stones and seaweed


Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Great Sorrow

A dream from the other night defies description, but it also haunts me, so I have no real option. This is the best that, without poetic genius, I can do: It was a dream about love of life--the marriage of the soul to cosmic being--and it was shown to me as light. Every possible moment of a person's earthly life was, in the dream, a wave or particle of light's full spectrum, a minuscule beam of pure color and transparency. It was perfect in itself. It was also drawn into every other particle, and with each penetration the color of every other particle was transformed. These were an infinite flow of light particles that were, in their individual perfection, penetrated over and over by infinite others in flows of light that while already perfect, continually changed. There could be no end to this. But also no soul could hold such beauty as it entered, transformed and passed, only to be entered yet again.

And I was filled with a Great Sorrow which I think arises from the inadequacy of the human soul standing in the presence of the Ineffable that can only be glimpsed before it reaches the seer's point of blindness and gives way to invisibility. I'm reminded as I write this of the lament of Jessica Powers in her poem about homelessness. I believe I've quoted her here before:

...It is the pain of the mystic suddenly thrown
back from the noon of God to the night of his own humanity.
It is his grief; it is the grief of all those praying
in finite words to an Infinity
Whom, if they saw, they could not comprehend;
   Whom they cannot see.

I did wonder, though, as I awoke to the darkness of my bedroom whether the dream might someday be reversed, and I might awaken from the darkness into that unending Light.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Clare in Smoke and Lavender

Sometimes things happen, visions arrive, even years before you have the capacity to take them in. This year on the feast commemorating Clare of Assisi—Chiara, to whom this house is dedicated—smoke hung in the sky like old lace. It was August 11th. Lightning tore through lace and let loose rolling thunder. At my feet the transplanted lavender had turned a ghostly white. Well, I thought, you can’t just pull such fragility up from the darkness of its chosen ground, even if the roots remain intact, and expect it to survive. Something torn like that ...

In the crypt below the cathedral in Assisi that honors her, Clare’s body lies entombed. Four years ago I walked slowly in a line of other pilgrims past the waxed effigy and reached with my soul towards whatever remained of her actual beauty and her loveliness. She had expanded far beyond this small space, this gated garden, this darkness under wax. Despite knowing that, my heart shook, torn loose by a something larger than the mind that tries to make meaning of things too fragile, that tries to find images in smoke.

At the back of the crypt, behind glass, hangs a garment made of lace. Its length is out of proportion to the rest of it, like the train of a wedding gown. The threads are barely thicker than spider webs. With what tool did Clare weave this lace? What desire drew her on? What yearning kept her alive, planted as she was in a space so small with only a cloister yard for her feet to feel the earth and a bird or two to bring down the sky? Lace like smoke, became my answer this year to the yearning. She wove an alb for her beloved Francis, who for her embodied all the contradictions of Divinity in human form. She must have woven like the sister of those seven brothers in the fairy tale who had been turned into birds, frantic to restore them to humanity before they flew forever away. Because she hadn’t the alacrity to finish his shirt in time, one brother was left with a wing for an arm

We are flawed.

We can’t quite get the garment finished enough to hold us. Her alb hangs behind Italian glass. Francis flew into eternity a bird made of smoke. She is planted like lavender. The lace alb tells the story of her yearning for something beloved and forever out of reach.

Another woman enclosed by cloister walls found better words for it than I:

 It is the homelessness of the soul in the body sown;
It is the loneliness of Mystery;
of seeing oneself a leaf,  inexplicable and unknown,
cast from an unimaginable tree;
of knowing one’s life to be a brief wind blown
 down a fissure of time in the rock of eternity.
The artist weeps to wrench this grief from stone;
he pushes his hands through the tangled vines of music,
but he cannot set it free.

It is the pain of the mystic suddenly thrown
back from the noon of God to the night of his own humanity.
It is his grief; it is the grief of all those praying
in finite words to an Infinity
Whom, if they saw, they could not comprehend;
                Whom they cannot see.

                                -Jessica Powers

I’d intended to blog on Clare’s feast, but smoke and lavender prevented me for reasons I couldn’t name. I still can’t quite write it as I want to write. The metaphors won’t come together. The metaphors are threads still unwoven. Unable to write or honor her in any other way, John and I resorted to a cultural tradition: mid-afternoon we went out to eat. We’d just sat down when a woman at the bar who had her smart phone in hand said in a loud voice. “Robin Williams is dead of a suspected suicide.”

What?! I pushed back my chair and went to her. It was the contradiction, the irony of laughter meeting death that moved me. A homelessness linked Clare and Robin to an incomprehensible Mystery.  It was thunder. It was lightning rending the dry ground. It was smoke--torn lace.  It was laughter as prayer flung almost recklessly into the Unknown. It was humanity’s face in wax that melts and changes, melts and changes, trying to take the form of what is beyond all form. It was the torn lace. It was lavender turned white.

It was Clare, barefoot in lavender, letting loose a one-winged robin into a smoky sky.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Nature Rhythms Are Good For Dancing

Our wedding anniversary arrived perfectly timed for a week of sunshine and full moon on the Pacific Ocean. Flowers bloom among the stones and in clusters that cling to the gigantic bluffs. This morning it came to me that all my efforts (in younger years) to "overcome" nature were just so many steps in the wrong direction. Nature has wisdom far deeper and more whole than any human efforts to improve. Nature has rhythms I want never again to resist -- I want to dance to them.

I woke in the middle of the night -- a brilliant night. From the little balcony I watched the full moon dance.
A dance up such a cliff requires wings or else good sturdy roots.
Dance like Mama Cass--feet firmly planted in mid-air

Dance where emptiness makes a meeting place for darkness and light

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Dream of the Beloved Companion

Blue tones
An accident of light
Penetrating the sepulchral bronze
Just before dawn
On a night that seemed unending.
I thought the light had broken through
But it was Sabbath still
Unbroken by angels
Rolling back the stone.
Be still and wait
Whispered my too eager heart
As I put down the perfume and the herbs
As I leaned against an olive tree

And slept.

Friday, April 18, 2014

2:30 PM on Good Friday

On Good Friday afternoon I crocheted a shawl
During the dying, and listened
To the rasping breaths
Of a labor duplicated around the world
Everywhere. But here
At the epicenter of all being
Echoed every death from time’s beginning
To the end, the expansion
And contraction of these lungs,
Alpha and Omega of the pulsing
I twisted the yarn around the hook
And pulled the long strand through the loop
Hoping through all of this, at least
To end up with a shawl
That might provide some bit
Of comfort in the chill
Of that death which would
(Who could doubt it now?)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Wild Rosemary

The rosemary at the corner of the house is in bloom. It's wild where the rosemary blooms. The bee hides there. See her? Almost dead center--a black spot just left of a cluster of flowers that nature decorated with moss blown from the oak tree by the wind. I thought I had her when she hid in time between the opening of the shutter and its closing. She has her right to privacy, I suppose.

The rosemary, like all memory, is wild and full of bees. I'd say this is true especially where it grows thickest. Notice that here, around the corner, in such a graceful sweep towards the future nothing hides, and one wouldn't believe I'm such a careless gardener. I'm actually not a gardener at all. Even without intention I turn out to let the wild things be. And despite that, or because of it: a classic sweep of grace.


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Wretched and Amazed (1st In A Series)

I said to my soul, Be still,
and let the dark come upon you
And it shall be the darkness of God.
T. S. Eliot
"East Coker"

You rose calm as the moon against the absolute dark. I watched from the corner of darkness, from the wall of nothingness. Safe there against what You might be.

Your face white as Buddha's smile. Innocence. Beauty. The Beloved.

You snaked towards me in a betrayal of all thought
In the contradiction of all love
In desiccation of the beautiful
Eyes closed, Smile undefiled,
Your intention: to invade.


I scratched out at Your impassive face
To draw blood
To tear at the holy flesh
To stop with pain the divine rape
But I released Fire
The intolerable Gold.

Saturday, March 29, 2014


This is what it means to seek God perfectly: To have a will that is always ready to fold back within itself and draw all the powers of the soul down from its deepest center to rest in silent expectancy for the coming of God.

Poised in tranquil and effortless concentration upon the point of my dependence on Him, to gather all that I am, and have all that I can possibly suffer or do or be, and abandon them all to God in the resignation of a perfect love and blind faith and pure trust in God, to do His will.

--Thomas Merton in A Book of Hours. "Saturday: Day"

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Sacred Place

Where we live is sacred. This range of mountains. The valley. This particular hill we call Sunshine. At the beginning of the year 2000 I first saw it rising above Huckel Hollow--its moss covered oaks, its towering pines and fir, and the simple yellow house--and my heart quickened, knowing this place. How does that happen? With people we call it 'love at first sight.' Something calls, heart to heart. Earth has a heart; of course it does. Earth's heart calls, and if we respond a commitment is made, belonging occurs. That place is a threshold into wholeness: self within earth within cosmos within the Holy Ground of all Being--the Limitless, the Nameless the One.

This morning I looked out the the large windows up towards the ridge from which the deer come to graze and in summer to eat the roses. How many places in my life sustain this commitment for me? Where did I connect to nature so intensely that it became a commitment and a contemplation of myself in it and it in me, then the flowing of the wholeness into the Limitless?

The first (and it remains with me, as all the sacred places do) was the lake in Minnesota (Lake of the Woods) where awareness opened my eyes. I can still feel the hillock of sand on which it seems now I sat for hours at a time contemplating the moods of the water and the mysteries of its depth. I am made of that.
 The next is the prairie of far western Minnesota where I spent my early convent years with the wind, the wide sky, the wheat and barley fields, the river, the driving snow and wild flowers in spring.
The next truly sacred place came to be Brione's Wilderness Park in the East Bay of California. From my contemplative commitment within this place most of my books of spirituality came forth.
I dreamed of the house above Discovery Bay in Washington State before I ever saw it. I dreamed of the whales that swam up the bay one summer. It was a place I never wanted to leave. Today my heart aches and opens even to remember sitting on the driftwood at low tide and calling to the seal that rose and fell on the quiet waters.
But from there I came here and perhaps this ground will be my final ground--this place my most sacred threshold.