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 20, 2019

My First Book of Poetry




In this life I’ve not travelled much outside North America. Go deep, an inner voice instructed, and so I let that happen first on the boundary waters of Minnesota and Ontario, and then in a convent beside the Red River of the North. In the middle of life I uprooted myself and came to be transplanted on the Pacific Coast. Later I would make a few short trips to England and Ireland. I never travelled far from the waters of earth, and water became a mirror from which soul might reflect.
“Our years are seventy, and eighty if we are strong,” the Hebrew Scriptures say. And I was in my seventh decade before I traveled with my new husband, author John R. Sack, to Italy to celebrate our marriage with a pilgrimage to the holy places of St. Francis and St. Clare. He had written an historical novel set in the era just after the death of Francis, a book which had brought the two of us together in what he calls our wisdom years. And in 2011 we wanted to walk the paths that Francis walked and to visit the convent of San Damiano in Assisi where Clare had lived.
Although I had connections with women in Minnesota who followed the Rule of St. Clare and lived lives of enclosure, I hadn’t entered a Franciscan convent myself. I had, however, considered it as early as my twelfth birthday. I received a book from the Franciscans of Little Falls, Minnesota, explaining the Franciscan way of life, but the Sisters in the town where I lived were not Franciscan, and they were the Sisters I knew, loved, and joined. Consequently, I was not prepared for what happened to me in Assisi.
In Assisi I met Chiara—Clare’s name engraved in Italian on the statue honoring her in the cathedral there. I truly have no way to describe how this happened. I can describe the places John and I visited, the stories we were told, the landscapes, caves, and churches—the worn stones on which these people once walked. Something of them, Francis and (in her Italian language) Chiara, remains alive there, and it shook me to my core. It burned in my heart. I entered a cave, touched a stone, knelt in a small chapel, stood on the stone stairs in San Damiano and something so powerful took hold of me, over and over it took hold, making even simple breath a whirlwind. “What am I going to do?” I fell into John’s arms and wept. This thirteenth century woman had grasped my soul with an intensity too great for me, but she wouldn’t let me go.
Back in Oregon we dedicated our home to her.
And now, these poems.
Sometimes I watch her; sometimes she speaks in her own voice to me. The poems came through me in both third and first person, but all of them are reflections of Chiara as I bent back towards her, as I gazed. Her spiritual teacher from childhood was a man from her own town of Assisi, Francis Bernardone whose imprint on his town, his country, his church, and the entire world’s history remains. Francis and Chiara of Assisi have been relevant in every era up to our own. And back in the thirteenth century the young woman named Chiara left her home to join Francis and his dream of living exactly as Jesus of Nazareth had lived—an authentic Christianity. And Chiara loved him, loved both of them—Jesus the Christ and the poor man, Francis of her own home town.
Both Francis and Chiara lived extraordinary lives. Both were mystics burning with divine love. This love united them and it was in this love that they recognized each other. Despite stories and movies to the contrary, I don’t believe they ever had a sexual relationship nor desired one. All love of that sort was burned in a divine and universal fire and transformed into the very love of God, so profoundly that their love for one another became identical with their love in and for God.
In my journal I wrote: Here's what I know about Clare's yearning. In the museum below Santa Chiara Cathedral in Assisi is an alb made of lace which she made for Francis. I can't remember how many years she worked on it. It's like spider webs, fine, almost falling apart now even behind the glass. Something about that lace holds a fierce yearning, one she believed she shared with Francis. Was the union in the simple understanding that someone in this world experienced a yearning as intensely as did she? Such yearning cannot be mingled, I think. It is solitary. But just knowing that someone else experiences such infinity of longing causes love. As though the lace were a language of the soul to say, “I want to veil the profound darkness in you with these webs of white lace, something of light, so that you do not succumb to your desperate aloneness, so that you do not give way to a belief that darkness is all there is, but that having finally touched the deepest fields of night, even there you will realize that there is yet More, there is a fullness opening to you, an endlessness that not only fills you completely, but is what you are. And it is Light. It is Love.”
Maria Popova writes, “Even the farthest seers can’t bend their gaze beyond their era’s horizon of possibility, but the horizon shifts with each incremental revolution as the human mind peers outward to take in nature, then turns inward to question its own givens. We sieve the world through the mesh of these certitudes, tautened by nature and culture, but every once in a while—whether by accident or conscious effort—the wire loosens and the kernel of a revolution slips through.”
From time to time I wonder if these mystics, Chiara and Francis, found their way through the mesh of certitude to glimpse truths beyond their era’s horizon, truths that science only recently would discover, or that a psychology of self-integration would realize.  Chiara, herself proclaimed a saint by the church she both loved and challenged during her life, was a woman who claimed her womanhood and the freedom it accorded her. She was the first woman to establish a religious community of women living according to a structure and rule she herself designed. Up to then nuns lived according to rules written by men such as St. Benedict and St. Augustine. The Poor Ladies of San Damiano lived according to the Rule of Chiara. She petitioned Rome again and again to approve her plan. And she didn’t die until the Pope finally agreed. Already, though, groups of “Poor Clares” had come together across Europe. In Bohemia the woman, Agnes of Prague, a royal woman betrothed to the Emperor Frederick II, chose instead to follow Chiara and establish a group of Poor Clares in her own country. The letters between Chiara and Agnes along with the unique Rule and Testament have formed the basis of study, spiritual enlightenment and women’s rights even to this present day.
We humans rarely if ever know what we set in motion simply by living our lives and making what choices we can.
These poems are the product of prayer and contemplation. They are historical only in the broadest sense. I hope, however, they remain true to the spirit of Chiara even while their details are mostly images derived from my own imagination. (from the Introduction)


You can purchase this book by ordering it from your local bookstore or by going directly to Chiara Reflections

Sunday, February 24, 2019

EVIDENCE





Work begins in the intersection of night and day; in darkness. Material life tumbles out onto me. Heavy life. How can I carry it? How bear it, aching? “I am overwhelmed,” I complain to John as he plans his garden, soon to be added to our care. I imagine vegetables tumbling into sinks, soil everywhere, choking the spaces, taking the time, burying us in tangles of vines, clumps of rot, bubbling pots of produce, the heat of summer kitchen when already we have too much. I have too much. I’m bent under the too much. Dust collects on books, on trinkets, keepsakes. I can’t breathe due to the weight of it. It is a grave.

Tucked into crannies wait the refuse of past years. 1985. I find an expanding file of letters, cards, clippings, while searching for fragments of time with Marieher poems, snatches of words collected before we had e-mail and the pulse of life in my mind flowed through a pen onto paper. The press of pencil or pen onto the page carried the life of the person’s hand. The length of a line carried across the page before the hand released and lifted. Death has taken the bodies of the people who held the pen, but their lives remain in the lines.

How can I rid myself of such evidence? How can I live underneath it? Here is a letter from someone named Michele. Lines bend beneath her feelings. My eyes touch the lines like fingers touching her skin, tracing a path of tears down her face. She left my life almost fifty years ago, but the letter remains. It is a relic. It has power. One only letter such as this could be framed and worshipped as a fragment left behind of God.

Creation requires space. Even burial under beauty, under love, under food will choke out life, will suffocate. But each fragment pleads to remain, to be.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

The Word is Life





If I could bring to you through words
Everything that can be seen,
Felt, held, imagined, envisioned, danced, sung,
 And all the other ways we know the world
The Mystery that holds that world and worlds infinite,
I would.
If I could find a word,
But that word would need to reach into the unending depths
Of the multiverse.
 It would need to echo into the unknown and unnamed.
So all my life, the form of it,
Became a search for words,
The contemplation of each one,
The stringing them upon the thread of intuition,
The hope that together they will ring like bells.
These are my books.
These are what I give
In hopes that the frequency of their sound will reach you
Wherever you might be in time and space
And where you might be beyond.
These are my books,
That no matter the topic or the genre of each one,
I hope will open you and move you
Into vastness of the ordinary,
Eternity of the moment,
Fullness of life
That also can be found in your each breath,
In your every word spoken, written, and received.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Leave A Message

Dawn at Sunshine Hill

It is January of a new year I hope to keep from breaking my heart. What choices can I make in this ambiguous world? Early in the month the nightmares came, the quaking in the deep reaches of the soul, the cries of something caught—imprisoned there. Of wings breaking against bars. It was the world struggling in the dark. It was the song of freedom caught in a paralyzed throat. From deep in the world’s soul I have sensed the unending yearning to sing, to fly, and I have felt the quaking behind closed doors, impenetrable walls, the paralyzed will.

I hesitate to put this into words.

We of this world have now been taught the stranglehold on life itself, on truth, on goodness, beauty and the unity of being that once we knew to be our destiny. We recognized it from the way it mirrored the depth in us. Each morning now I wake wondering. How can I meet this thing that slouches towards us? Resisting it seems not to work. Is there a possibility of calling forth from it that bird with broken wings? And if so, what is the charm that must be worked, the song that must be sung?

If anyone knows the answer, leave a message underneath a stone or in the knothole of your favorite tree. If you still can sing, let your voice be heard humming in the grocery line. If you are even now blessed with flight, soar, and let fall upon the cities, on mountains and deserts where the hermits live, and let drift across the yards of people in small towns pearly scraps of hope, green faith, and the translucent rain of love.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Trimming

 Today I spent a bit of time trimming the lavender way down. Tomorrow I'll get to the grasses. The pink lost its color with the snows of January, and new shoots already are appearing at the base. It felt like springtime down below the porch.

When I came in I began rummaging around in my Word files which are about as messy as files can get with partially done manuscripts, titled first one thing, then another. I opened one called "A Delicate Balance," which I thought would be the unfinished novel once called "Small Hands," but it was just a snippet. I found it intriguing. Maybe I need to go back and work on this, I thought, as I changed a word here and there and eliminated a sentence that made the entire paragraph sentimental. Just another kind of trimming. Spring cleaning. (I don't do that so well either ;)

Here's the snippet. Are you at all intrigued?
--- 

Eva called Lewis late while the rates were low. His voice saying hello made a warm spot for burrowing. Where are you right now? She wanted to know, to be there with him, to sit on his old bean bag chair, to hold a glass of wine, to talk by candlelight. There was no phone in the attic at Mama’s, so she had to talk low. No one should hear the things she wanted to say to Lewis. He was her confessor. She sat in her mother’s kitchen where the phone hung on the wall.
Are you sitting on the sofa? She asked Lewis. Do you have candles lit?
Lewis’s light would flicker, casting first this plane then that one into shadow. She sought the plane of kindness.
“What can I do?” She asked him, not knowing if she meant her mother’s one lie or the extension of that lie through all the years. One adjustment in the tone-poem of being and the whole composition could be lost—or could become a masterpiece.
“I’ll send you some new reeds for your oboe d’amore,” he said. “You can practice while your mother is painting. It will do you good.”
“Lewis?”
“I’m here.”
“Lewis,” the words choked her. “When she dies…” She stopped. She had said it, but didn’t know if she could go on or if her voice simply would fade into the kind of silence she’d experienced as a child.
“Imagine the music, the progression of tones in your mind, Eva.” Lewis said in a steady voice.
She did as he said and imagined the music, the interval of yearning that had found its home.
     “When she dies,” she asked again, “how will I survive it if all my life we’ve both been someone other than what I thought?
     What if we both disappear, she was thinking but didn’t say aloud, and the world goes on as though we’d never been?
     “You’ll always be Eva.” Lewis said in that low, calm voice. “And if you forget, I’ll be here to help you remember what that means.”


Thursday, January 5, 2017

Saturday, July 23, 2016

A Summertime of Politics and Paradox

I woke this morning to sunlight and this glorious natural world of which I am part. From nature all around and within me I can learn. It is summer and the plants and animals are experiencing the paradox of maturitythat withering and death cannot be separated from the still emerging new life. The deer are eating some wildflowers down to their roots.  The oak tree by the deck will not make it into the next season. I ponder how it is essential to hold all of it together in both mind and heart, and this thought immediately spins me a degree further around to the present condition of the human world, the consciousness of which is also caught in paradox.

The world is caught up this summer in the sometimes creative, often insane dialectic of a USA National Election, with its always carnival-like conventions that showcase with thick irony issues of global mass creation or destruction. I’m not a political person, so I can barely suffer these days, and yet I watch them, ponder them, participate in them, because I want to understand as best as is possible for me, what we are in for. I know it is a world event because what we do as a nation affects the entire world. One World is now a fact. Isolation is no longer an option where information travels at the speed of thought.

I’m not a political person, so I’m no expert in political science, nor economic theory, environmental science, civil and legal rights, and the rest. It seems to me that each of us has the opportunity and responsibility to approach our electoral choice from the base of experience, education, and frame of reference we know best. That is our gift to the world. For me that means from the focus of the human soul and mystical spirit. What effect does a candidate’s world view and political platform have on what I know about the human soul, both individually and as a world?

When all of us are combined we should be able to present to the electoral process a wholeness of perspective. If you are a mom, be the nation and world’s mom; if you own a business, vote what’s best for the business of the world; If a farmer, see that the land is cared for so that the peoples might be fed; if a teacher, seek and spread and support the truth; and so forth…you get my meaning.

From my own perspective I would need to choose people and policies that
-Integrate rather that separate, divide, exclude
-See morality as complex rather than simplistic
-Are able to distinguish legality from morality
-Embrace opposites and opposition rather than attempting to eliminate them
-Promote rational thinking and heartfelt compassion rather than fear and rejection at all levels of individual, communal, national and international discourse and interaction
-Honor mistakes as essential to the creative process, and as openings to new ways of thinking.
-Encourage new forms of thought, imagination, and life style
-Revive the arts as essential to human growth and development
-Reflect citizenship not only of the USA, but of the world.