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, January 30, 2012

Living Promise

Some promises must be kept despite the suffering...because of the suffering, because suffering can open the human heart. Something beyond our human mind or heart led us to these promises that from the beginning were intended to transform our lives. "God did not bring you to this marriage to make each other happy," the priest told my nephew and his bride. "God brought you together to save one-another's souls." Eventually they will (and probably already have) "suffered" love. We do suffer love. If we manage to keep that promise, if we manage through some indescribable grace to BE there, IN love, even while the love itself is breaking our hearts, the promise will shine forth through our tenacity as a living thing. The promise will transform us and transform itself in the process. This is the promise we keep. We hold to this promise as life catches us up into its whirlwind. Though you kill me, said someone--probably the psalmist, I will not let you go. Even while it seems to kill us, this promise is the very thing that brings us through.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

When Promises are Broken

My friend, Bill, reflects that some promises must be broken; it would be blasphemy to keep them. And I'm reminded of a book written by Anthony Padavano back in the late 1960's. It came as such a revelation to me at the time, and yet its message is quite obvious. Our essential promise is to life itself--to live fully. Or as a very early Christian wrote: The glory of God is a human being fully alive. (was that Clement?) So, if in our ignorance or even in our arrogance we promise to set out on a course that turns out to be self-destructive, or destructive to another, or to the community or the earth, that promise must be broken.

As life progresses we have the opportunity to see more and to see more clearly and simply. Watch how our wise elders clear out the spaces of their lives. Even good things are given away, even things that hold the memory of beloved people or events. The more cluttered my house, my mind, my heart, my soul, the less I can see God. Blessed are the pure/simple of heart. Some promises are part of that clutter.

I've spent most of my life believing that promises are the glue that holds everything together. And for a long time this is probably true. But there is, perhaps, a moment at which some promise has us stuck in place, gluing our eyes, gluing our hearts, gluing our senses our souls our spirits, closing us down. It's time for cleansing.

It's frightening, terrifying even, to break a promise. There have been times I wanted to do anything but. Some people would rather go crazy or even die. Terrible mourning can set in after breaking/cleansing a promise that is no long creative, especially if we've set our lives and identity upon keeping it. We don't know everything; in fact we only know the slightest bit; sometimes I think I know nothing at all. We make mistakes. We've promised, sometimes, to continue in our mistakes. That promise is deadly.

Do you think it is possible that the only promise God asks of us is to BE? and that all the other promises are offshoots of that one? 

Saturday, January 28, 2012


Broken House
The song says, "I've never made promises lightly; there are some that I have broken." I'm taken by that line. I'm taken by the entire song, so you'd think I'd be more careful about the promises I make. But no. Where it gets problematic is with the promises I cannot possibly keep. "How can I possibly do this?" I wonder even as I'm saying the words of commitment. I will never leave you. I will hold your hand when you die. Simpler promises, too, such as I will exercise at least a half hour a day. Maybe you are saying, "Now, Christin, there is certainly another way to look at this..." And you might be right. But, no matter the way I look at this, there are some promises I have broken. You've GOT to stop this promising all over the place, I said to myself some years ago. But I'm incorrigible.

Then, the other day as I was working on my new book project--a sort of memoir/spiritual apologia vita sua--it came to me that some of my biggest broken promises, namely the vows I made in the convent, are being fulfilled despite the way I dropped them and they shattered all over the cloister floor. Here I am, married to a former Trappist, living a profoundly monastic sort of life, praying each day during the Divine Office for my Sisters of St. Joseph, fulfilling those vows in a surprising way I could never have imagined.

So how does one understand this sort of thing? Augustine says that for those who love God all things work together for the good. Maybe that also applies to promises we make in the sincerity of our hearts, even if they don't get fulfilled in the manner we anticipate. A sincere promise gets fulfilled in ways beyond imagining.
I think it is Chesterton I'm paraphrasing when I say "Life is a promise that cannot be kept." But today I offer the thought that our lives are a promise that will be kept in surprising, even miraculous ways. And watching that miracle unfold has me smiling with wonder and gratitude.

Broken House with Spring Blossoms


Friday, January 20, 2012


Rain and clouds outside my window to the southwest
Rain has been falling for three days. North, west and east of Sunshine Hill rivers and creeks crest. I just looked at the Trip-Check camera for Siskiyou Summit. Can't see much, though it seems to be rain, not snow, even 2,000 feet higher than John and I live. I'm glad not to be in my car up there; glad to be in my writing room looking out at these lower mountains just west of me. Out the other window I see fog rolling in along Sterling Creek Road between us and Sam and Ken. Soon the world will seem to end just past the yard.
               It's been a contemplative time since I last blogged, and the weather suits my mood. It's been a time of significant nightly dreams, long ponderings over what they might mean, intense periods of writing poetry and reflections that begin to resemble the beginnings of a new manuscript--a kind of memoir. John showed me an apt poem by Brenda Hillman -- "Little Furnace." Let me share it --

--Once more the poem woke me up,
the dark poem. I was ready for it;
he was sleeping,

and across the cabin, the small furnace
lit and re-lit itself--the flame a yellow
               "tongue" again, the metal benignly
hard again;

and a thousand insects outside called
               and made me nothing;
moonlight streamed inside me as if it had been . . .

I looked around, I thought of the lower wisdom,
spirit held by matter:
               Mary, white as a sand dollar,

and Christ, his sticky halo tilted--
               oh, to get behind it!
The world had been created to comprehend itself

as matter: table, the torn
veils of spiders. . . Even consciousness--
missing my love--

was matter, the metal box of a furnace.
As the obligated flame, so burned my life . . .

What is the meaning of this suffering I asked
and the voice -- not Christ but between us -- said
you are the meaning.

No, no, I replied, That
is the shape, what is the meaning.
You are the meaning, it said--

(From BRIGHT EXISTENCE, by Brenda Hillman.

Thank you, Brenda.