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Archive for November, 2008

Amazing Grace

pillar184Last week a friend’s mother died. I was on the list serve when she e-mailed her friends and family and read all the responses of support as they came pouring in. The words in the subject line were “when a mother dies,” and each time that came through I thought about my own mom’s death but didn’t know what to say to my friend.

When your mother first dies and you have been close, you are in too much shock to realize what the loss is going to mean to you. I was thinking about what this is going to mean to her four or five years from now, not what it means now when the death is still so new.

Then a few days later my aunt died. She and my mother were close friends. Her husband was my father’s brother, so my Aunt Jane and my mom had one main thing in common, a mother-in-law named Big Red.

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celtic-cross-round323A brother may be assigned a difficult task or something he cannot do. If this happens, he should, with utter gentleness and obedience, accept the order he is given. Should he see that the weight of the burden is altogether unreasonable, he should look for the proper moment and explain patiently to his superior the reasons he cannot perform the task. This he ought to do without pride…. If after the explanation, the superior is still determined to hold his original order, then the junior must recognize that this is best for him. Trusting in god’s help, he must, in love, obey.” Rule of St. Benedict 68:1-5

Whenever I read this, I think of a situation I found myself in at the Abbey once. One of the sisters suggested I meditate on this passage. At the time I wanted to become an oblate there.

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150px-pasternak1I first became familiar with Boris Pasternak (1890-1960) when I was an undergrad in college. Walking through the library late one night, I was startled by a book falling off a shelf. When I went to see what it was, it was a book of his poetry.

I later found out he is the author of the novel Dr. Zhivago, which was made into a 1965 drama romance with Julie Christie and Omar Sharif. Years later I was visiting a friend on Vancouver island. She and her mother had recently bought a Victorian house. When my friend’s mother found out I was a poet, she said, “Oh, I have something you might like. It was the only thing left in this house when we moved in.” It was a book of poetry by Pasternak.

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Love Poems

300px-gustav_klimt_016

Gustav Klimt, The Kiss, 1907-1908

I once tried to define love with a friend of mine, and she gave me this poem by Maya Angelou (born 1928).

Love is that condition
in the human spirit
so profound
that it allows
one to survive
and, better than that,
to thrive
with passion,
compassion
and style.

What struck me in the poem is the word thrive. We use it most often to refer to plants or newborn babies. The poem reminds me of another by Angelou with the words, “Lying, thinking last night how to find my soul a home, where water is not thirsty and bread loaf is not stone, I came up with one thing and I don’t believe I’m wrong that nobody, but nobody can make it out here alone.”

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These Green-Going-to-Yellow

This year,
I’m raising the emotional ante,
putting my face
in the leaves to be stepped on,
seeing myself among them, that is;
that is, likening
leaf-vein to artery, leaf to flesh,
the passage of a leaf in autumn
to the passage of autumn,
branch-tip and winter spaces
to possibilities, and possibility
to God. (more…)

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Love is patient and kind and is not jealous.
Love does not brag and is not arrogant,
does not act unbecomingly;
it does not seek its own, is not provoked,
does not take into account a wrong suffered,
does not rejoice in unrighteousness,
but rejoices with the truth;
bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails,
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Here are three paintings by Russian Impressionist Leonid Pasternak (1862-1945). His son Boris Pasternak (1890-1960) won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958 and was the author of Doctor Zhivago.

The Golden Autumn

The Golden Autumn

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