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

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I woke this morning to a dream of grace. All night it had rained. Mo and I took our morning walk through the mists, circling the yard, seeing how fine John's king maple tree looks with its clusters of yellow and crimson flowers that bloom now where leaves soon will be. Mo pays more attention to the bigger trees that aren't surrounded by fencing to keep the deer away. In a mood for running, Mo strained against his leash and I tried to keep up without tripping over my nightgown.

For years rain has signaled the presence of grace. Dreams visit me. Veils of rain through which women dance. Rain that accompanies birth. Rain that accompanies death. The other day I walked in it, not covering my head, lifting my face, feeling it in my hair and on my eyelashes—like children do, like I did as a child. Now I am almost old and the rain still falls. Greening.

Before the beauty of the rain I'm helpless. Soak me!

All day I meditated upon grace. There is a talk I agreed to give, and to prepare I've done my research and now am letting what I've learned, what I've experienced through the years, and what I see along the pathways here at Sunshine Hill flow into one another and combine. You have to be wet for such a miracle. Music is important. I listened to "Pie Jesu" from REQUIEM, to "Clohine Winds," and to the aching "Helpless." That's it, I think. Everything has its rain—everything is wet inside. All is grace. Can I see? Can I feel? Can I hear? Do I have the eyes, the ears, the skin for it? The heart? Am I willing each moment to release myself to the reality in front of me, can I melt?

At the end of the novel by Georg Bernanos, DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST, the priest has lost everything. He's walking away from his parish down a country road, and someone calls out to him, "Where will you go?" The priest turns and says, "It doesn't matter. Everything is grace." A nun-friend of mine once told me we have to look through our eyelashes to see it—grace. I think she meant we need to let go of our certainties about what we know, about what we see. It would be like looking at everyone and everything through rain.

We see the world soft. We maybe, even, see God, and the rain of that Grace can leave us helpless for anything but yes.

Thanks again to Krista Karels for the photo.

Monday, April 19, 2010


When I was a kid, Bonnie Smith could play "April Showers" on the piano. I liked to sing it in a falsetto, mimicking Al Jolson. I swallowed a button once in my foolhardy attempt to achieve his vocal effect of sound tumbling over river stones. Then along came ee cummings who brought April up a lot. She seemed to be a girl about my age who brought springtime "into the ragged meadows of (his) soul." A few years later T.S. Eliot informed me that April is cruel. There I sat, caught in paradox. But Pat Kelly came along and quoted a few lines from Rawlings: "All my life, when April is a thin green, and the flavor of rain is on my tongue, a wound will throb, and nostalgia will fill me for something I cannot quite remember." (The Yearling) He and I married in April, on a rainy day in Minnesota. Ten years later, in April, he was dying and told me I should marry again. When I protested that I didn't know anyone to marry, Pat said, "Someone will come." And John came.

Today, on this April afternoon, it will have been two years since John died. It snowed that afternoon just after he breathed his last breath, just to show how intense a paradox can get. Thin green grasses poked their spears above the freezing white. The cruelist month? Ah, Yes. Nostalgia? Yes, to that as well. Of Grace, John was the most complete manifestation I've been given. The wound throbs, the rains fall, but something truly rising is planted in the ragged meadows of my soul.

Now I intend to quote a whole poem from cummings. You may stop reading here if cummings has a tendency to set your mind spinning with his strange punctuation, his lower case, his unfinished and circular syntax. But I'd never read this one before today, and what a surprise to find that it includes the whole story:

Now i lay (with everywhere around

me(the great dim deep sound

of rain ;and of always and of nowhere)and

what a gently welcoming darkestness--

now i lay me down(in a most steep

more than music)feeling that sunlight is

(life and day are)only loaned:whereas

night is given(night and death and the rain

are given;and given is how beautifully snow)

now i lay me down to dream of(nothing

i or any somebody or you

can begin to begin to imagine)

something which nobody may keep.

now i lay me down to dream of Spring
(Thanks to Krista Karels for the thin green photo)

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Here I am at the Portland airport thinking of Julian of Norwich. It turned out that both Liz and I were reading books about her while I was in Burnsville over Easter. Julian and prayer shawls. That is: both reading Julian, both making prayer shawls. Something happens in the spaces between thinking. Solitude and knitting in the presence of a beloved person both create that atmosphere. When I left her today she said, "who will I talk to?" Steve chimed in immediately saying she could talk to him. "You play solitaire," she chimed right back. "YOU knit," he teased.

We did knit almost more than we talked while Krista knit, too, and baby David Keegan played on the floor or in one of those contraptions with bells and whistles in which mommas put babies these days. Krista made hand knit bunnies, mittens for her sister-in-law, an intricate cabled scarf--and Liz and I prayed away at shawls. The larger the space between stitches, the more lacy the shawl. And right now I'm thinking--also the more space to be idle, to let the feelings through, to feel the solitude, to be quiet and hear the word of life which is after all divine.

And so we heard each other through the spaces we knit of silences, and they were lacy spaces, and we marveled at how close we found outselves to be. So I suppose this is why she said "But who will I talk to?" when we hardly talked at all.

This is what is so well about all that is well. Those spaces through which we reach out to one another with a silence that transcends any word we can hear with minds or ears, a stillness of spaciousness that tells us all we need to know about how we all shall be well.