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

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Beginning Without End

My mind is all a twirl, flitting, sparking, wanting not to rest on just one thing. Yet, wanting to delve, wanting to plumb the living depths of all the thoughts, the images, the memories, the dreams that every moment offers. Where is my discipline? I cannot focus anymore on any one thing. A winter robin lands on the oak branch. Where did you fly from? I want to ask. I want the time to ask. What thermals did you ride? How does the cold air hold you? Where will you go? How do you sustain yourself? But the bird is too fast for all these wonders. She has flown off before I've had the time.

Where does the time go? Will there ever be enough of it? There never will be, will there? The suspicion rises now that time might well be in the breath we use to ask the question, but cannot yield an answer that will satisfy. It flows too fast. Every book I've ever devoted myself to writing is a question hoping for an answer. But its ending always seems to be an opening out of its own limited "time" into some further wonderment, new world, new time, new question that seeks answering.

These last few days of the calendar year lines from Psalm 26 have been on my mind:

"Of you my heart has spoken:
'Seek God's face'.
It is your face oh Holy One that I seek;
Hide not your face."

And out from those words comes the realization here is the question without end, the answer that never will be fathomed, the reality behind all appearance, the eternity in every moment, the heart's longing that will not be satisfied, the Face behind all faces, the allure that draws us, the never ending mystery, the Beginning that breaks forth from every Ending.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Remember and Forget

Yesterday was my sister's birthday. She would have been sixty-four. Today I am more in her presence than I was then. Then, yesterday, I kept forgetting. "Oh, it is Liz's Birthday," my mind would say, and then even as I tried to grasp the memory, it was gone, and the apple tree had taken its place,

 or the pile of boards on the burn pile,

or the ruined juniper poignant with just a memory of green.

Why couldn't I hold her? Several times the thought: visit Facebook, see what Krista is saying about her mom on this birthday. It didn't happen, not until darkness when, somehow, under that veil, I could feel something like the brush of a wing of possibility.

In just a few words the daughter held the mother perfectly.

What else could be said? I clicked the "like" and thought, oh, but it is so much more than that.

Afterwards, on my way to sleep, time collided with itself, years and visions interpenetrating. I leaned over her bassinet, seeing my sister for the first time, loving her immediately, touching the wisps of soft reddish hair, baby hair, singing lullabies in my nine-year voice. And in a oneness only experienced in dreams I leaned over her death-bed, whispering "my little Betsy," unable then to sing but only to weep, our tears dissolving into one another's. And right there in that combined vision I felt her holding me. She wrapped her risen spirit around me on her birthday night, and I could feel the joy of her and the loss of her, the life and death of her, the blood of her spirit in the ache inside my heart.

It is almost too tiny and too immense to hold, too far and way too near to touch or see.

In Memory of My Sister, Liz

Friday, August 23, 2013

The FarNear Journals Is Released in Paperback

In Print

What a joy it is to announce the availability of my newest novel, THE FARNEAR JOURNALS. You now can buy it from either as an ebook or paperback.

Not long ago I blogged about the book itself New Novel on the Way. You can check it out there.

And here is the first chapter to whet your appetite:



Is not the whole point of life to live it fully?
To stretch myself from one end of it to the other,
Pulled taut by the tension of love
Tantalized by life’s beauty
Being both star and seed, planted
In ether and in earth?

Sophie Marie Loire
Journal Volume I

MOTHER MADALAINA CAPPED her fountain pen. The last of the three letters would need to wait. She picked up her Book of Hours, turned off her desk lamp then stood a moment, gazing out at the moon. Her sandals flapped against the stones of the empty hallway as she made her way through the cloister towards the chapel. She opened the carved wooden doors and closed them quietly behind her. The six elder nuns, all but ancient Sister Hilda, knelt awaiting their prioress, like so many pillars set against the coming night.

The letters would go out with the morning mail. “Please come.” She had signed them "Laina," the intimate name all of them had called her once. She hoped the intimacy didn't make her sound desperate or as though she were pleading. “And bring your journals—if you still keep journals. Remember how Sister Joseph Marie insisted that we do that?” To be truthful, she was pleading, but she didn’t want the three x-nuns to realize, until the four were standing face to face, how much she needed them. Teresa Moore, “Tess.” Janet Nash. Clara Fox. Hopefully all three of her former sisters would come. True, their lives had taken different turns since they'd left the convent during the massive exodus of the late Sixties and early Seventies, but surely some remnant of their bond remained. The mutual love, they must still feel it, or at the very least, remember it.
            In August Lake Superior can be complex as a woman of many moods. If human bonds couldn’t draw these former nuns to return to this place, perhaps their bonds with nature could. Surely they hadn’t forgotten how the four of them used to stand on the granite rock that jutted into the lake, and cry into the wind. If Sister Joseph Marie had seen them! It made Laina chuckle, just remembering. But she hadn’t. The novice mistress never caught them at it. They joined hands and leaned against the wind, the powerful surf absorbing their voices as though they cried into the open mouth of God. The cry was wordless. A scream, really, a dissonance of tones that couldn’t blend, and yet that cry thrilled her with its raucous insistence, never to be duplicated.
            August fifteenth would mark the thirtieth anniversary of their acceptance as aspirants into the cloister. Laina had invited them to return for nine days, a reunion, a vacation in this spectacular place. They each would be aware of the date’s significance. They would arrive for Vespers on August 6th, the Transfiguration of the Lord, and stay through August 15th, the Assumption of Our Lady. But just in case the religious significance were not sufficient, she had attempted to tantalize them with promises of renewed friendship, of shared memories, of present day revelations, of solitary walks along the beach below the convent and on the rocks above. Each could have her private room. Laina could waive the cloister rules for these women who once had lived here anyway. Many rooms in the cloister were empty. Only seven other nuns remained at Our Lady Star of the Sea, and all but Laina had grown old. Thirty additional years separated her from the youngest of the others. All those in-between had returned to the world.

            After the prayers of Compline, the other nuns retired to their modest rooms. They removed their simple habits, post-Vatican-II habits, inelegant smoke-blue dresses reaching mid-calf, with white polyester detachable collars, and lighter blue veils without flow, like the veils of army nurses during World War I. Most still wore long seersucker nightgowns and all slept on the hard, narrow beds that had been in their rooms, or cells, since the convent was founded at the turn of the century by the American mystic, Sophie Marie Loire. Hopefully, soon to be Blessed Sophie Marie Loire, as the sisters had presented her case for beatification and eventual canonization by the Holy Father in Rome. The old nuns prayed each night for miracles in her name. All of them had known her personally, and each of them testified daily to their founder’s sanctity.
            “And you are her successor!” they fondly reminded Laina during recreation several times a week. “We are depending on you, Mother, to make her known. Once she’s beatified, girls will begin to join us again.”
That would take a miracle of the first degree, and Laina knew it. Few Catholics receive the call to contemplative monasteries in any era, and right now Rome was drifting, attempting to regain a foothold in doctrine. The rock of Peter, green with mysticism such as Sophie Marie's, might feel slippery under the new pope's feet.

Laina didn’t retire to her cell but returned to her office. The moon rode high over the lake, its reflection giving the darkness an eerie iridescent quality. Light without color. Moon shadows, like in the Cat Stevens song. She smiled. The world wouldn’t think she could know about Cat Stevens, cloistered nun as she was and had been all these thirty years. She took off her veil, shook her hair loose and lifted her habit off over her head. From the bottom drawer of her desk, she took the caftan that Stephen had brought from India. It was the green-gold of her hair, and she had wondered, when she lifted it from its wrappings, at the coincidence.        He was Father Stephen Harris, the convent chaplain, devotee of Sri Aurobindo of Pondicherry, and former pastor of St. Rose of Lima in Duluth. He’d spent the summer of 1983 traveling from ashram to ashram, gleaning what he could of the teachings of Aurobindo and Sweet Mother from those who had actually known them and once sat at their feet.
Laina let the caftan float down over her head and stood in the window feeling, herself, like a reflection of the moon.
            The phone rang. She reached for it quickly, before it could ring again.
            “Convent of Our Lady, Star of the Sea. Mother Madalaina speaking.”
            “Laina, it’s Philip.”
            “Bishop! How good to hear your voice.”
            “Do you have time to see me this evening?”
            “Is something wrong?”
            “I'd like to get your perspective on something that's come up. I'll explain when I arrive. Can you make time?”
            A warm breeze entered through the open window of her office and stirred the silk.
            “You know I can, Philip.”
            “Good, I’ll be there in thirty minutes.”
            “It would be best not to disturb the other sisters. Meet me on the promontory above the convent. I’ll wait on the bench there, overlooking the lake.”
            “Good plan. I’ll see you there.”
            Laina set the receiver back on its cradle. Philip. She hadn’t seen him in several weeks. Such a difficult time for him, caught as he was between the Vatican and his instincts concerning the often raw needs of his brother-priests. They also were caught between their consciences and the rigid laws they were sworn to uphold despite the moral agony of so many of their parishioners. Nor were they exempt from sin themselves. Many of them lived ahead of church renewal, fumbling, with little real guidance from Rome, to embody the theological visions of the Second Vatican Council. How much of the renewal was simply doomed to disappear—a mutant experiment in the church's evolution?
            When Philip came to her for advice, or Stephen looked at her with his deep questioning eyes, she wondered about her own destiny. Called to monastic solitude, could she also be destined to love these men? When she was with them she absorbed their anger, their competition, their lust to fulfill their dreams, their despair and the violence of spirit it spawned in them, tearing at their minds and hearts. She held their hands. She allowed them access through eyes that she never turned away. She let them rest their weariness against her. Sometimes they wept.
            Stephen came to her each week just to sit with her in stillness, gazing into her eyes as though they were water and he swam through them, through her, and into God. The Divine Gaze was a practice he'd learned in India from his guru. He left her presence trembling. “You give me hope,” he would whisper, kneeling for her blessing. “Without you I would be lost.” And his words tore at her heart. “I’m not the one you're seeking,” she would tell him over and over, and he would agree but also insist that her ability to sit in silence across from him, purely accepting him--all of this could be found nowhere else in the church, in no one else, and without her he would be bereft of life itself. Bereft of the Holy Spirit of God. She would bless him in the name of the Creator, the Redeemer and the Sanctifier, and he would gasp as the blessing shot straight to his heart.
            The bishop, in contrast, sat beside her, talking, not looking at her, both of them gazing out towards the lake. Often they met at the promontory. He admitted his failings, though she had no power to absolve him. “You make it possible for me to speak the truth, to say to God the words that must be said."
            No one is perfect, she thought as he confessed in her presence to his God.
            She changed back into her habit. It wouldn’t do to meet the bishop in a silk caftan. She slipped her bare feet into her sandals and lifted her profession cross from the desk where she had laid it moments before, letting it fall over her head where it rested, simple and wooden, above her breasts. Then she left the convent by way of a back door through the sun porch. She walked slowly up the path to the promontory. She went all the way to the end, to stand on the white tip the novices once named "Aphrodite’s Arm." From there it seemed that she stood upon the moon’s path and she began to wonder, watching the moon’s slow progression, where that path might lead. Her lightweight veil drifted on the currents of night. She prayed in her silent way, imagining herself as love itself, flowing in moonlight through the world of suffering humanity. She went out of herself as water to the thirsty, as food to the hungry, as comfort to the sorrowing, as mercy to the afflicted. “As You will,” she whispered to whatever God might be.

            She heard behind her the crisp footfalls of the bishop. She turned around. “Bless you, Mother Madalaina,” she heard him say as he offered her his hand, and she went down on one knee to kiss his ring.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Casa Chiara Hermitage: SMOKE

Casa Chiara Hermitage: SMOKE: MORNING TO THE SOUTHEAST It's hard to breathe. Northwest winds carry the smoke from Big Windy and Brimstone across our hill and dow...

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

New Novel on the Way

I'm enormously excited! After years of tinkering and re-writing and just waiting around to see if my mind might change, I've almost completed the publishing process for my novel, The FarNear Journals. In twenty-four hours I will receive an email from the publisher I now use (CreateSpace of informing me whether or not my formatting qualifies. Then they will send me a proof. And if it is acceptable to me, it will be ready for sale as both a paperback and ebook.

This project began when I still lived on Discovery Bay in Washington State. I bought a book titled, Women in Praise of the Sacred." In it was a prayer written by a French woman martyr, Marguerite Porete. She was burned in the center of Paris in 1310 for her words, considered heretical by the Inquisition. Interestingly, copies of her book, Mirror of Simple Souls, survived, and for many years was circulated in France and Europe as the work of an anonymous author--and as such it was acceptable. How ironic!

About this time Paulist Press came out with Ellen Babinsky's translation of Porete's work. By now I've read it again and again. I was entranced especially by her reference to the experience of God in our lives as "The Farnear." The word perfectly articulated my own paradoxical/panentheistic spiritual leanings. It also felt like an iconic word for my mysterious lifelong connection with monastic life. In short: I yearned for it, gave my life within it, felt suffocated by it, left it, dreamed about it almost every night, and continue to yearn for it but not to find it in reality. If that doesn't make a whole lot of sense to you, don't worry, it doesn't make sense to me either. So I wrote a novel.

Here's what I say on the back cover:

On the wild north shore of Lake Superior stands the beautiful Star of the Sea convent, home to a dwindling community of mostly old nuns, founded by the saintly but mildly heretical Sophie Marie Loire. Now their continued existence rests in the hands of the youngest among them, Mother Madalaina, darling of her elders, and confident of the local bishop. In hopes of gleaning ideas and assistance for the community’s survival, Madalaina invites three friends and former nuns to return for a visit during the time between the August feasts of the Transfiguration of Jesus and the Assumption of Mary into heaven. During this time secrets are revealed, souls are shaken, and choices must be made. 

In many ways a mythic tale, a fantasy of the mystic life of contemplative nuns, The FarNear Journals also reaches into the turbulent times of contemporary Catholicism. At the core of its characters, both women and men, is found the tension of balancing on the edge of faith’s precipice. They live out a paradox that can break their hearts, in which keeping faith could mean to let it go.

Christin Lore Weber, returns here to her most compelling subject: the heartache of Catholic women within their church, and their perennially renewed hopes for full inclusion.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Shine As You Soar

My dear sister, Liz, and me in 1972

Today it is one year since Liz crossed into eternity, and my heart is full of her. From the day of her birth she shone upon my life and moved my heart like pure grace. Not that she wasn't a scallywag sometimes--because she possessed intense spirit. She could stop my mind in its tracks, make me catch my breath, hold my feet to the fire. Her voice will never leave my heart. We complemented each other, and in so many ways she became my wisdom. I'd call her from the edge and she'd take my hand and lead me back to the center.

Be Well, my Sister. Shine as you soar.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Andrew Harvey's New Book

Andrew Harvey's new book, RADICAL PASSION, moves me deeply. Yesterday afternoon I'd stretched out on the couch and clicked on my Kindle to let myself dissolve into his words. He was writing about the Black Madonna and her connections with the earth, with the soul's dark night, with the cloud of unknowing, with the writings of Denys the Areopagyte on the apophatic way, with the manifestation of Kali-Ma in our world and our lives---the weaving and overlapping set my heart racing. Finally he made the connection between personal, individual passion/suffering in the tearing apart of our hearts and souls and the suffering of earth herself--the tearing apart of nature and culture. He was saying that both are one. And my suffering is not only my own suffering. The tearing of my own heart and soul are not only that. Each of us in these chaotic times suffers the pain of the earth that we have tortured and raped, the pain of the economies we have ravaged through greed, the pain of the political system we have corrupted with false power.

Here: listen to him talk about the "Black Madonna" or La Donna Bruciata and our connection with her:

"...what you connect with in the depths of yourself are those 'rays of sublime heartbreak.' What She gives to you is the ability to participate in Her own life of final fiery compassion beyond hope, beyond agenda, beyond all plans, beyond any kind of transcendental justification. This aspect of the Black Madonna is an initiation into the burning furnace of charity, that is, the broken and burned heart of the Mother. You are taken into the depths of the mystery of the Mother because the Mother is not simply the great, dark cloud of final mystery that is uplifting everything from revelation to revelation. She is not simply the Queen of Nature and the Queen of Tantra, the Queen of all the fertile processes that transform life itself into a mirror of the Divine. She is also Herself living as every dying animal, as every dying plant, as every raped child, as every brokenhearted gay man and woman, as every abused person, as every killer, as every being of every kind on the planet suffering all the different forms of torment, ignorance, and grief.

"Knowing a mind-heart, and soul-shattering experience, because if you only know Her in the transcendent aspect, then you can leave this world and reality behind. However, your realization is going to be incomplete. . .However, if you only know Her as final suffering and final compassion, you will not be able to bear such knowledge, because you will not know her also as the Queen of the Processes and the Queen of the Mysteries. You really have to come to a knowledge of Her in all...her aspects and link them all in the inmost part of yourself beyond thought and paradox...."

Well, I can't quote the entire book. But I sort of wish I'd written it.

Thank you Andrew Harvey.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Beryl's Next Big Thing

Do visit Beryl Bissell's blog, and her Next Big Thing interview. I tagged her for this blog-hopping. She's a fabulous writer and her books are well worth the time you spend in your favorite reading corner -- curled on the couch, perhaps? I like lying in the hammock under the big oak. Oh, Summer!!

You won't want to miss hearing about Beryl's Next Big Thing -- the story of her daughter, Francesca, will expand your heart. Just look at her!

I've read Beryl's manuscript, and I promise you, once this story is out in the world, you will have many quiet moments of reflection over the  courage of the woman who was willing and skilled enough to write it.

Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen. --Robert Bresson
Beryl is the author of the nationally acclaimed memoir The Scent of God (Counterpoint 2006 hardcover, 2007 soft cover) and A View of the Lake (Lake Superior Port Cities Inc., June 2011). She was named a Best of Minnesota 2006 Authors by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and The Scent of God was a Book Sense notable in April 2006. A View of the Lake was selected as one of the best regional books of 2011 by the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Next Big Thing

Thoughts just coming through -- see Alison's art

For the first time I’ve been tagged in a blogging project. Writers are lifting up their Next Big Thing for all the world to see. . . most often right in the midst of writing it! Thanks to my dear friend and stunning poet, Kathleen Jesme, for tagging me. Please do yourself a big favor and visit Kath’s blog

I’ll be inviting a few other writers to participate and you will be able to find links to their blogs right here in the next couple of days.

Here’s the interview:

What is your working title of your book?
Right now I’m calling it The Yearning. That could change before I’m through. Not only do I tend to change titles as the writing becomes more focused, but publishers also change titles for marketing purposes.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
Everywhere? I’m being only slightly facetious. My consciousness of the world and my part in it has fascinated and terrified me. Never have I been able to get my mind around it—not even the most imaginative part of my mind. I never could settle on one life, on my life. Having a more interior than exterior sort of personality, I explored the inner regions. I dreamed, contemplated, prayed, and studied the mystical, poetic, musical, artistic traditions. I’ve tried to capture the energy of the inner regions in novels and books of spirituality. But friends urged me: “Write your story.

What genre does your book fall under?
One author called a similar book his spiritual autobiography. As a genre, it probably comes closest. Memoir is too compact for what I have in mind. Mystic Journey is tempting, but probably is not a genre. Maybe I ought to turn it into another novel where I might be able to get closer to the truth.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I wouldn’t choose to have a movie rendition. But that isn’t really the question, is it? Unfortunately I pay little attention to actors so if I did need to choose I’d get people off the street of a small Midwestern town.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
This question reminds me of a soap opera that was on the radio when I was a child back in the 1940s. “Can a girl from a little mining town in the West find happiness as the wife of a wealthy, entitled Englishman?” It stayed with me over sixty years, so I guess one-sentence synopses do stand the test of time.  I suppose mine might be “Can a dreamy little girl from the Minnesota lakes and boggy wilds overcome her fear and find ground steady enough on which to build her one wild and unrepeatable life?”

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? 
Most likely I’ll send it to my agent first, just to test the waters. But to be bluntly truthful, turning a manuscript over to a publisher seems rarely a good idea anymore, especially if they have the electronic rights. That way the writer can never get the publishing rights back because the book is legally never out of publication. During the past few years I’ve been experimenting with e-publishing on Kindle, and print on demand with Amazon’s CreateSpace. Most writers have weighed the pros and cons. Sometimes it is the nature of the book itself that determines the form of publication. Sometimes it is the reader for whom the book searches.
There still exists, however, that glow, that rush, that pride of being published by a house that only takes the best authors, the finest works.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I’ve been writing bits and pieces of it for thirty years – but the real work started in June, 2012. The first draft is about one-third complete.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Karen Armstrong’s The Spiral Staircase
Annie Dillard’s Holy the Firm
Justin O’Brien’s Walking with a Himalayan Master
Irina Tweedie’s Daughter of Fire
Petru Dumitriu, To The Unknown God
John of the Cross, Fire of Divine Love

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My husband, author John R. Sack was already in the process of researching his own book on the mystic way of the second half of life. We sat together reading the works of St. John of the Cross. It came to John to use the saint’s thoughts. It came to me to employ the saint’s structure…that of poetry giving way to the mystical experience of  oneness in love.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Work in Progress

Again I haven't written here for a while. John and I have been posting to the Casa Chiara site more often. Over the last two months I've been trying to bring more focus to each of these blogs and have realized that the blog from Sunshine Hill has more to do with the writing life, while Casa Chiara has more to do with our contemplation, reading, spiritual practices, and insights concerning the Sacred.They will overlap, I expect, but hopefully also move towards more refinement.

Since last summer I've been writing a memoir. It might be the most difficult project I've undertaken because of life's many sounds or calls here or there, to this or that, and finally into the non-dualistic All Present Now. I seem to myself to have lived at least five lives: Child, Nun, Spouse to Three Very Different Men. The writing, by its nature, separates out what really is only one sound connecting them all--that of a divine pulse pervading everything. The task is paradoxical. Life finally is recognized as a mystic journey. It is a dance to an eternal song. So the sound connecting everything must be the tonic note in the song of our lives.

This morning I revised the beginning of the memoir a bit to place it firmly in key:

The journey began on a chill night in November, under the sign of Scorpio just as Venus crested the  horizon. Snow, soon to develop into the great Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940, already was beginning to fall, covering the streets and sidewalks around St. Joseph's Hospital in Souix City, Iowa. This was not home.
               Home would be a lake spanning the border between Minnesota and Ontario, and before November passed I would have been taken there to be baptized in the small Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart in Baudette, Minnesota. It was summer before I awakened to Lake of the Woods. Years later I would write about this lake, calling it by a different name.
               Sound moved over the water of Black Sturgeon Lake. Gulls heard. Sound lifted under their wings as air, passed through their hearts and lungs, issued in a cry. Sound moaned in the rocks. Fallen needles of tamarack and fir blanketed the ground, and sound filled them, too. Wind, bees, and the delicate feet of mice scattered the needles. A spider’s web became a harp and it sang.
               Wild, sound luged through a granite pass the Eagle River carved a thousand thousand years ago and surrounded the bones of deer licked clean by wolves.
               Earth opened to sound like a love. Sound entered every cell, vibrating, setting in motion the circle of the world.[1]
               The sound, I now know, was “Ahhhh,” the beginning of all sound, the first sound in the Aramaic name Abwoon, now translated as “Father” in the prayer of Jesus. “A”=The Absolute, Only Being, pure Oneness and Unity.[2] It is the first movement of creation, the pre-existing, the no-time-or-space emanation before the Big Bang, the moment before moments before time, that deep vibration that continues to keep in being all that is.
               In my novel, this sound became the “perfect A,” that Elise recognized as the core of her own life, the origin of all her music, and the connection between her and the animating power of the universe: God.

               Within and around the lake I found wilderness. And these two images—water and wilderness—became the first lenses through which I saw the world and my own individual life.

copyright, 2013, Christin Lore Weber

[1] Weber, Christin Lore, ALTAR MUSIC. Scribner, 2000. New York. p. 10
[2] Klotz, Neil Douglas. PRAYERS OF THE COSMOS. Harper/Collins, 1994. p. 13