Christin's Words from Sunshine Hill

If it is to be music
you must be present to it, must offer to it
a profound self-remembering.
-from Altar Music

Monday, May 31, 2010


It's a soft day here on Sunshine Hill, one with a lavender haze, cool air, and the background sound of birds. The little bushtit re-visited my window, still fluttering to enter, several times this morning, and last night a hawk rode the air currents so close I could distinguish individual feathers in his wings. Afterwards, sleeping, I dreamed I flew just like that, my first flying dream since my thirties when I experienced that exhilaration often. In the same dream, however, my legs had collapsed leaving me helpless on the ground. Joyce, the ministry coordinator at the parish, tried to help me but failed. Then I just rose up, slowly, slowly, and I thought, "I think I'm about to fly," and with that thought I went higher and higher until I spread my arms and floated like the hawk.

Lately I experience connections becoming interpenetrations. The membrane between the individual and the wholeness is a veil so fine and permeable it's barely there at all. Breath passes right through. Prayer passes through. In the mornings I whisper your names, one by one, and there is no distance between us. It must be God, I think – the Breath within and beyond the breath, the Word within the whisper, the Divine Current lifting us up when we are helpless, lying on the ground. Hildegard calls us feathers on the Breath of God.

It's Memorial Day and so I watch with love each feather that floats in memory on this Divine Breath. The metaphor is stretching now almost to the breaking point. But I do have feathers, actual ones, some of which go way back to a gull on the shore of Lake of the Woods. Feather-down that filled a bird's nest in a Christmas tree Pat and I once had in the house in St. Paul. Tiny blue feathers from a trip to Ireland. Brown feathers edged with gold on the Indian flute John found for me at the Grand Canyon. Tiny feathers P.J. tied in the ribbon around a gift.

Words come to memory, "i turn my face,and hear one bird/sing terribly afar in the lost lands."

ee cummings, visiting my mind again, saying it all perfectly, when I cannot. I pick up his book to look for that poem and find this one instead, placing it here for memory's sake.

in time of daffodils (who know

the goal of living is to grow)

forgetting why,remember how

in time of lilacs who proclaim

the aim of waking is to dream,

remember so(forgetting seem)

in time of roses(who amaze

our now and here with paradise)

forgetting if,remember yes

in time of all sweet things beyond

whatever mind may comprehend,

remember seek(forgetting find)

and in a mystery to be

(when time from time shall set us free)

forgetting me,remember me

Thursday, May 20, 2010

wind has blown the rain away

………a wind has blown the rain

away and the leaves and the sky and the

trees stand:

the trees stand. the trees,

suddenly wait against the moon's face.

It's ee cummings again whom I brought in to tell about yesterday's new oak leaves hitting these windows in clumps, and branches falling into the yard, and ponderosa pines waving back and forth like long grasses in the field while I sat watching, laughing, and shaking my head because I'd set aside the day to prepare for a talk on the Holy Spirit. "…suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming: and it filled the whole house where they were sitting…and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit." (Acts2: 2,4)

Last night I gave the talk, driving to the parish late in the afternoon after the wind calmed and the trees stood tall again. Did wind blow last night through the group of believers in the small room where we met? I thought I felt the wind, not mighty now but swirling, bringing wisdom from their hearts, bringing tears into our eyes.

I don't remember whether, on my way home afterwards, the treetops touched the moon's face. But I do remember now how much I love to teach and how long it's been since I've allowed myself to give and receive that gift. John always used to tell me I could reach so many more people with my writing. But that's not really the point, now, is it? The point is in the meeting, in the dialogue, in the creative wind we feel as ideas are shared and questions asked and widened into horizons of wonders never before imagined.

What will I do with the leaves that now litter my yard at the wrong time of year for such detachments? Maybe I could pick them up, lay their beauty out upon the pages of a book, learn from them some truth about myself, about creation, maybe even about God that I have yet to see.

Monday, May 17, 2010


The candles flicker and incense curls up around the icon of Christ Pantocrator. The teacher. The Word. Air currents I am too dense to feel carry the lavender scent past the icon out the open window to the tiny gray bushtit who for two days now has flitted against the reflection of the sea-glass tree, trying to get in. I watch her as though she is my soul attempting to penetrate the membrane between worlds. "Fly the other way," I tell her, frightened she will break herself with the effort to realize her illusion, "turn towards the tree itself, towards the open sky."

"Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood," prays the poet, and I with him every day or so. But how does one distinguish falsehood from a paradox? Look back upon your life: do you know? Do you see how desire twines with vision? And what is it anyway that we call a breakthrough? "It's a reflection," I tell the bushtit; "you can't break through; it's glass; it's a mirror; you will kill yourself. Turn the other way."
There's something here I can't find words for. Is the breakthrough in the turning?

But even as I wonder that, along comes another poet, Anne Carson, who tells me, "The outer walls of God are glass."

And I am left with metaphor and paradox again.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


It's Morning. The jet stream is passing right over my house—I can see it in the clouds. John taught me to recognize it. Horsetail clouds, he called them, and they do look like the tail of a celestial horse galloping from horizon to horizon. But to me they look even more like Bridal Veil Falls on a windy day. Down here in my yard, though, it's still. Birds call. The grass is long and wet with dew, so beautiful I'm tempted not to mow it this afternoon.

Alla sent a YouTube meditation on "Morning Has Broken," by the Angels. I listened and watched it three times, each time falling deeper into my own morning here on Sunshine Hill. Maybe I'll start each morning with a viewing of this video, at least for a while. It's Alla's birthday today; this song is her birthday party.

Today is also the fifty-first anniversary of the day I "took the veil" in the Community of Sisters of St. Joseph. The memory of gazing out the dormitory window that morning remains keen. Prairie and woods met my eyes then, and the song was that of meadowlarks. A psalm came to mind, "Awake, lyre and harp; I will awake the dawn." That day I couldn't have imagined I would ever go anywhere else, be anyone else, live any way else, hope for anything more.

We always are everything we were, and paradoxically we become new each day. Every morning is the first. T.S. Eliot always says everything so well, writing about being "still and still moving," envisioning a "further union," a "deeper communion." Maybe our lives are instant—one moment that contains all of it, and we just experience it as spread out in time. All the choices we ever made, all the joys, all the sorrows, everything given and taken, all a gleam of sunlight through a drop of dew. It's too big a thought for my poor head—but my heart is fascinated with it.

(Thanks for the photo, Krista!)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

RAPTURED (almost fiction)

One rope dangles from the old oak tree where Will once hung a swing for Julia. The other rope has been gone so long she's no longer sure if it broke or just came undone. He never could understand why she wanted a swing; she was past forty. It always hung crooked, just a little, so that if she pumped herself high enough the ropes buckled and twisted. He didn't do it on purpose. He thought he had the best of ropes already in the garage. They were skinny, she thought, but he said they were actually stronger than the large hemp ropes that filled your fist when you held them. The seat looked dangerously thin, but he said it was made from an old skateboard and there was nothing stronger. So she had her swing.

It made him smile to watch her when she didn't know. She pumped like a child and flung her head back so that her hair trailed in the breeze she made. Sometimes she would sing. "Summertime" was her favorite and he felt a thrill every time she hit that very first note, so high, right out of the blue.

She, for her part, let him disappear the moment the swing took her up. The tree, almost at the top of the hill, gave her the impression that the land beneath her fell away as she floated over it. She could see the whole valley below her. She could see the gigantic ponderosa pine down the hill and felt herself equal to it in altitude. Often it was height that made her start to sing.

That was before he went back. Years ago, in fact. Today, coming up the hill from the mailbox she stands looking at that one rope. The seat dangled from the end of that rope for a few years. He was going to fix it, but then his eyes stopped seeing it. That happens. It's how a house gets run down, or a life. Then she noticed that the seat had disappeared. It turned out that he'd bumped into it one day coming up from the shed, had hacked it off the rope and put it in the burn pile.

Sometimes the rope sways in the afternoon winds that come through the coastal mountain passes. She gets nostalgic then and could swear she smells the ocean. Maybe she should go back, too, but she feels unworthy. Right now she is too torn to consider going back because Will just left that morning. She sat cross-legged on the bed listening to the garage door opening, listening to the tires on the gravel, hearing the sound disappear down the hill, hearing the great horned owl's cry against the dawn of this November day.

He's been raptured, she thought, even though she'd found that notion exceedingly strange and way too literal-minded. But maybe, after all, this is what it meant. God had plucked him out of her life. All his clothes still hung in the closet. His pajamas were folded and lying on the chest of drawers. His wedding ring lay on top of the rosewood box she'd given him when they were married. He'd chosen rapture over love. He was on his way back to the life he'd left almost thirty years before.

And Julia had been left behind.