Meditations: Locked rooms, open doors

I wish in the city of your heart
you would let me be the street
where you walk when you are most
yourself. I imagine the houses:
It has been raining, but the rain
is done and the children kept home
have begun opening their doors.
― Robley Wilson

Be an opener of doors. ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Look on every exit as being an entrance somewhere else.
― Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out; and I thought how it is worse, perhaps, to be locked in. — Virginia Woolf

A very little key will open a very heavy door. ― Charles Dickens, Hunted Down

If you feel you have to open a particular door, open it, otherwise all your life that door will haunt your mind! … All the doors you ignored or refused to enter represents your uncreated fates!  ― Mehmet Murat ildan

That door had a lot to say, people entered and people left but never the same! ― Jasleen Kaur Gumber

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meaness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whomever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
— Jalal ad-Din Rumi

The same way one tells a recipe, one tells a family story. Each one of us has our past locked inside. — Laura Esquivel

The man who comes back through the Door in the Wall will never be quite the same as the man who went out. He will be wiser but less sure, happier but less self-satisfied, humbler in acknowledging his ignorance yet better equipped to understand the relationship of words to things, of systematic reasoning to the unfathomable mystery which it tries, forever vainly, to comprehend …  ― Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception

For the Yupik, all life was continuous, animal with human with ‘spirit’ and recognizing that continuum allowed them to undergo transformations that we, locked into our disappointingly Cartesian skins, find impossible even to imagine. — John Burnside

… a face is studied like a key
for the mystery of what it once opened …
— C.D. Wright (excerpt) from Floating Trees

It’s human nature that we come in our own flavours, and it doesn’t make sense to write a monochromatic or monocultural story unless you’re doing something extremely small—a locked room-style story. — N.K. Jemisin

I have to live within my memories, within my private universe, and continually return to China, the land where my thoughts are locked. This is a very painful kind of existence, this feeling of nowhereness. — Ma Jian

We are tired of being beaten by policemen. We are tired of seeing our people locked up in jails over and over again. And then you holler, ‘Be patient.’ How long can we be patient? — John Lewis

Abrir una puerta nueva sin cerrar la anterior no lleva a ninguna parte. ― Flavia Company, Haru: Un día es una vida

There’s a lot of conflict and darkness inside everybody’s family. We all pretend to outsiders that it’s not so, but behind locked doors, there are usually high emotions running. — Salman Rushdie

People —running from unhappiness, hiding in power — are locked within their reputations, ambitions, beliefs. — Richard Avedon

I was in a form of prison; not necessarily with bars, but I was locked to that machine three days a week, and I couldn’t plan work, I couldn’t plan vacations, I couldn’t plan dinner, I couldn’t plan homework, I couldn’t plan nothing because at the end of the day, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I had to be at dialysis. — Grizz Chapman

Custom is a prison, locked and a barred by those who long ago were dust, the keys of which are in the keeping of the dead. — Robert Green Ingersoll

Pass It On, III — Rachel Hades
… Death makes life shine:
a tiredness, a flickering between
ages, which is each age;
a piling up to tottering
and falling back to sand.
So much for cycle. The front door lock
sticks each fall when we’re first back.
We are advised to oil it.
Olive oil in the keyhole:
again the old key turns.
Once again to meander
… Ideas of the eternal,
once molten, harden; cool.
Oil, oil in the lock.
The old key turns.

The ultimate wisdom which deals with beginnings, remains locked in a seed. There it lies, the simplest fact of the universe and at the same time the one which calls faith rather than reason. — Hal Borland

The living cell almost always contains, locked in its interior, the visible or invisible products of its physiological activity or its nourishment. — Albrecht Kossel

The universe is like a safe to which there is a combination. But the combination is locked up in the safe. — Peter De Vries

Meditations: Risks, Rising & Renewal (Holy Week)

Bread by Helena Minton
The dough rises in the sun,
History of the human race inside it
Orgies, famines, Christianity,
Eras when a man could have his arm
Chopped off for stealing  half a loaf.
I punch it down, knead the dark
Flour unto the light, let it bake,
Then set it on the table beside the knife,
Learning the power,
Cooks have over others, the please
Of saying eat.

The Exodus from Egypt occurs in every human being, in every era, in every year, and in every day. — Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

The Seder nights… tie me with the centuries before me. — Ludwig Fran

from A Short History of Israel, Notes and Glosses By Charles Reznikoff
XI
A hundred generations, yes, a hundred and twenty-five,
had the strength each day
not to eat this and that (unclean!)
not to say this and that,
not to do this and that (unjust!),
and with all this and all that
to go about
as men and Jews
among their enemies
(these are the Pharisees you mocked at, Jesus).
Whatever my grandfathers did or said
for all of their brief lives
still was theirs,
as all of it drops at a moment make the fountain
and all of its leaves a palm.
Each word they spoke and every thought
was heard, each step and every gesture seen,
by God;
their past was still the present and the present
a dread future’s.
But I am private as an animal.

I have eaten whatever I liked,
I have slept as long as I wished,
I have left the highway like a dog
to run into every alley;
now I must learn to fast and to watch.
I shall walk better in these heavy boots
than barefoot.
I will fast for you, Judah,
and be silent for you
and wake in the night because of you;
I will speak for you
in psalms,
and feast because of you
on unleavened bread and herbs.
Bread By Richard Levine
Each night, in a space he’d make
between waking and purpose,
my grandfather donned his one
suit, in our still dark house, and drove
through Brooklyn’s deserted streets
following trolley tracks to the bakery.

There he’d change into white
linen work clothes and cap,
and in the absence of women,
his hands were both loving, well
into dawn and throughout the day—
kneading, rolling out, shaping

each astonishing moment
of yeasty predictability
in that windowless world lit
by slightly swaying naked bulbs,
where the shadows staggered, woozy
with the aromatic warmth of the work.

Then, the suit and drive, again.
At our table, graced by a loaf
that steamed when we sliced it,
softened the butter and leavened
the very air we’d breathe,
he’d count us blessed.

The piece of bread is an ambassador of the cosmos offering nourishment and support … In the Christian tradition … The bread is Jesus. Jesus is not someone, something, that is outside the bread, Jesus is the bread. And with mindfulness, and concentration, you get in touch with Jesus. In Buddhism, we don’t say that, but we say the piece of bread in your hand is the body of the Cosmos. And when you see the sunshine, the cloud, the rain, the earth, everything in the piece of bread, you have seen the bread … A few seconds of mindfulness help you to see the bread as it is, as it is, the body of the Cosmos. Everything is in there. And with that, you put it into your mouth, and you get in touch with the whole Cosmos. You don’t have to think … there’s awareness … there’s getting in touch … there’s a feeling that’s inside. But there is no thinking. — Thich Nhat Hanh

The spiritual task of life is to feed hope. Hope is not something to be found outside of us. It lies in the spiritual life we cultivate within. The whole purpose of wrestling with life is to be transformed into the self we are meant to become, to step out of the confines of our false securities and allow our creating God to go on creating. In us. — Sr. Joan Chittister

Easter By Jill Alexander Essbaum

is my season
of defeat.

Though all
is green

and death
is done,

I feel alone.
As if the stone

rolled off
from the head

of the tomb
is lodged

in the doorframe
of my room,

and everyone
I’ve ever loved

lives happily
just past

my able reach.
And each time

Jesus rises
I’m reminded

of this marble
fact:

they are not
coming back.

Two Lives to Remember

MOURNING JAN TATKHIN

Our longtime Jan Tatkhin died in his home a few days ago. Some of his friends in the congregation were notified by Conway police on Monday; one of their officers is making contact with his family and community.

Jan was a steadfast presence among us, quietly lending his gentle and compassionate support to the life of the community. He had lived in many parts of the world, but settled for the last several years in the Mt Washington Valley, which reminded him of the mountainous landscape of his childhood home. He has many friends in Jackson and the larger community, and he will be missed.

As more information becomes available, we will share details about arrangements to honor Jan’s time among us.

REMEMBERING RALPH

Catherine Kyle simply shares, “My 94 year old dad passed away peacefully at home on April 10.” Ralph lived in Massachusetts. His daughter and son-in-law, Catherine and Chuck, are committed members of our faith community.

For the families of these two men who have died, and others who also love them, we offer prayers and remembrance. Let us give thanks for their lives, and the impact they had on the world. Let us invite and share stories, and create opportunities to say Ralph’s name and Jan’s name out loud.

Meditations: Sweetness at a cost: syrup from sap, dates from palms, peace from spiritual & political leaders

Date Palm Trinity (excerpt)
— Khaled Mattawa
… Those were my brothers who cowered beneath
the date palm to gather handfuls of fruit,
rubbing each date clean on their sleeves,
chewing softly to savor the taste
as though it were a good omen, and rising
to resume their lives, on their faces
the smiles of those who once were blessed.

 “Anniversaries of War” (excerpt)
— Yehuda Amichai (Translation by Barbara and Benjamin Harshav)

Remember: even the departure to terrible battles
passes by gardens and windows
and children playing, a dog barking.

Remind the fallen fruit
of its leaves and branches,
remind the sharp thorns
how soft and green they were in springtime,
and do not forget,
even a fist
was once an open palm and fingers.

Revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall. — Che Guevara

A nonviolent revolution is not a program of seizure of power. It is a program of transformation of relationships, ending in a peaceful transfer of power. — Mahatma Gandhi

They asked Gluskabe “where has our sweet drink gone?” … Gluskabe told them that if they wanted the syrup again that they would have to work hard to get it. — Excerpted from www.firstpeople.us

We must keep these waters for wild rice, these trees for maple syrup, our lakes for fish, and our land and aquifers for all of our relatives – whether they have fins, roots, wings, or paws. — Winona LaDuke

As preacher and teacher, he inverted the quotidian cross, always extolling the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers, and the poor. He pointed out how the everyday was holy. Jesus wore the regular fabric of humanity and by wearing it, he redeemed it. — Diana Butler Bass

You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership. – Nelson Mandela

Hope wasn’t a cottage industry; it was neither a product that she could manufacture like needlepoint samplers nor a substance she could secrete, in her cautious solitude, like a maple tree producing the essence of syrup. It had to be found in other people, by reaching out, by opening her fortress heart. — Dean Koontz

All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope. — Winston Churchill

My call for a spiritual revolution is thus not a call for a religious revolution. Nor is it a reference to a way of life that is somehow other-worldly, still less to something magical or mysterious. Rather, it is a call for a radical re-orientation away from our habitual preoccupation with self towards concern for the wider community of beings with whom we are connected, and for conduct which recognizes others’ interests alongside our own. — Dalai Lama

Today, Passover is used as an opportunity to reflect on the things that plague our world, to seek justice for the still-oppressed and even to bring together multi-faiths family and friends under the common banner of universal freedom. — “Passover 2011: The Unleavened Basics,” Huffington Post

The demoralisation born of their servitude was at an end; the ransomed people went forth to a sane and wholesome life, to a life of brave and large ideals. — Morris Joseph, “Passover,” Judaism as Creed and Life

A candle in a glass (excerpt)
— Marge Piercy from Available Light
Grandmother Hannah comes to me at Pesach
and when I am lighting the sabbath candles.
The sweet wine in the cup has her breath….
a little winter no spring can melt.

Abruptly All the Palm Trees
— William Jay Smith
Abruptly all the palm trees rose like parasols,
And sunlight danced, and green to greenness gave.
Birds flew forth and cast like waterfalls
Shadow upon shade.

… We stood, our blood as bright and fringed as shawls
Before the beautiful, progressing leaf.

Abruptly all the palm trees rose like parasols,
And green was the green which green to greenness gave.
Dimension crumbled, Time lay down its walls.
And all the world went wading towards the wave.

Meditations: Vigiling, lessons from those who love Lazarus

In being with dying, we arrive at a natural crucible of what it means to love and be loved. And we can ask ourselves this: Knowing that death is inevitable, what is most precious today? — Roshi Joan Halifax, from Being with Dying

When someone we love is hurting or dying … These are often the times that call us to a higher response — to simply bear witness to another person’s life journey — not to engage in it, but to stand beside them in loving support. The focus is not to make the pain go away, but rather to let that person know that they are not alone and that we trust them to do whatever it is they need to do to go through that particular experience. … Sometimes we forget that our job is not to fix the situation at hand, but rather to help lift the burden of the other person by letting them know we care enough to show up.  — Judith Johnson from ‘The Power of Bearing Witness’ on HuffingtonPost.com

Parkinson’s Disease — Galway Kinnell

While spoon-feeding him with one hand
she holds his hand with her other hand,
or rather lets it rest on top of his,
which is permanently clenched shut.
When he turns his head away, she reaches
around and puts in the spoonful blind.
He will not accept the next morsel
until he has completely chewed this one.
His bright squint tells her he finds
the shrimp she has just put in delicious.
Next to the voice and touch of those we love,
food may be our last pleasure on earth—
a man on death row takes his T-bone
in small bites and swishes each sip
of the jug wine around in his mouth,
tomorrow will be too late for them to jolt
this supper out of him. She strokes
his head very slowly, as if to cheer up
each separate discomfited hair sticking up
from its root in his stricken brain.
Standing behind him, she presses
her cheek to his, kisses his jowl,
and his eyes seem to stop seeing
and do nothing but emit light.
Could heaven be a time, after we are dead,
of remembering the knowledge
flesh had from flesh? The flesh
of his face is hard, perhaps
from years spent facing down others
until they fell back, and harder
from years of being himself faced down
and falling back in his turn, and harder still
from all the while frowning
and beaming and worrying and shouting
and probably letting go in rages.
His face softens into a kind
of quizzical wince, as if one
of the other animals were working at
getting the knack of the human smile.
When picking up a cookie he uses
both thumbtips to grip it
and push it against an index finger
to secure it so that he can lift it.
She takes him then to the bathroom,
where she lowers his pants and removes
the wet diaper and holds the spout of the bottle
to his old penis until he pisses all he can,
then puts on the fresh diaper and pulls up his pants.
When they come out, she is facing him,
walking backwards in front of him
and holding his hands, pulling him
when he stops, reminding him to step
when he forgets and starts to pitch forward.
She is leading her old father into the future
as far as they can go, and she is walking
him back into her childhood, where she stood
in bare feet on the toes of his shoes
and they foxtrotted on this same rug.
I watch them closely: she could be teaching him
the last steps that one day she may teach me.
At this moment, he glints and shines,
as if it will be only a small dislocation
for him to pass from this paradise into the next.

Life is glorious, but life is also wretched. It is both. Appreciating the gloriousness inspires us, encourages us, cheers us up, gives us a bigger perspective, energizes us. We feel connected. … On the other hand, wretchedness–life’s painful aspect–softens us up considerably. … When you are feeling a lot of grief, you can look right into somebody’s eyes because you feel you haven’t got anything to lose–you’re just there. The wretchedness humbles us and softens us, but if we were only wretched, we would all just go down the tubes. We’d be so depressed, discouraged, and hopeless that we wouldn’t have enough energy to eat an apple. Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other. One inspires us, the other softens us. They go together. ― Pema Chödrön from Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living.

Blessing for the Dailiness of Grief
by Jan Richardson from The Cure for Sorrow
~
Sorry I am
to say it,
but it is here,
most likely,
you will know the rending
most deeply.
~
It will take your breath away,
how the grieving waits for you
in the most ordinary moments.
~
It will wake
with your waking.
~
It will
sit itself down
with you at the table,
inhabiting the precise shape
of the emptiness
across from you.
~
It will walk down the street
with you
in the form of
no hand reaching out
to take yours.
~
It will stand alongside you
in every conversation,
nearly unbearable
in its silence
that fairly screams.
~
It will
brush its teeth
with you at night
and climb into bed
with you
when finally
you let go
of this day.
~
Even as it goes
always with you,
it will still manage
to startle you with
its presence,
causing you to weep
when you enter
the empty kitchen
in the morning,
when you spread fresh sheets
on the bed you shared,
when you walk out
through the door
alone
and pass back through it
likewise.
~
It is here
you will know it best—
in the moments
that made up the rhythm
of your days,
that fashioned the litany
of your life,
the togethering
you will never know
in the same way again.
~
But I will tell you
it is here, too,
that your solace lies.
It will wait for you
in those same moments
that stun you
with their sorrow.
~
I cannot tell you how,
but it will not cease
to carry you
in the cadence that has
forever altered
but whose echo will persist
with a stubbornness
that will surprise you,
bearing you along,
breathing with you still
through the terrible
and exquisite
ordinary days.

Grief does not change you … It reveals you. ― John Green from The Fault in our Stars

“Isn’t it weird … the way you remember things, when someone’s gone? …  all I could think about was that day … It’s even worse when someone’s sick for a long time … You forget they were ever healthy, ever okay. It’s like there was never a time when you weren’t waiting for something awful to happen. … it’s only been in the last few months that I’ve started remembering all this good stuff, funny stuff … I can’t believe I ever forgot it in the first place.”
“You didn’t forget … You just couldn’t remember right then. But now you’re ready to, so you can.”
― Sarah Dessen from The Truth About Forever

You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to. ― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate … We misconstrue … We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect the shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind. … In the version of grief we imagine, the model will be “healing.” A certain forward movement will prevail … after which this hypothetical healing will take place … Nor can we know ahead of the fact (and here lies the heart of the difference between grief as we imagine it and grief as it is) the unending absence that follows, the void, the very opposite of meaning, the relentless succession of moments during which we will confront the experience of meaninglessness itself. — Joan Didion, from The Year of Magical Thinking

You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp. ― Anne Lamott

Deep grief sometimes is almost like a specific location, a coordinate on a map of time. When you are standing in that forest of sorrow, you cannot imagine that you could ever find your way to a better place. But if someone can assure you that they themselves have stood in that same place, and now have moved on, sometimes this will bring hope. ― Elizabeth Gilbert from Eat, Pray, Love

Meditation: Seeing & Not-Seeing

Those things that nature denied to human sight, she revealed to the eyes of the soul. — Ovid

The few wonders of the world only exist while there are those with the sight to see them. — Charles de Lint

The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision. — Helen Keller

Blindness
In the fullness of the years, like it or not,
A luminous mist surrounds me, unvarying,
That breaks things down into a single thing,
Colorless, formless. Almost into a thought.
The elemental, vast night and the day
Teeming with people have become that fog
Of constant, tentative light that does not flag,
And lies in wait at dawn. I longed to see
Just once a human face. Unknown to me
The closed encyclopedia, the sweet play
In volumes I can do not more than hold,
The tiny soaring birds, the moons of gold.
Others have the world, for better or worse,
I have this half-dark. and the toil of verse.
― Jorge Luis Borges

A single candle can light a thousand more without diminishing itself. — Hillel the Elder

Our very eyes are sometimes, like our judgments, blind. ―William Shakespeare

No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him. By his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential in him … By making him aware of what he can be and of what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true. ― Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

That though the radiance which was once so bright be now forever taken from my sight. Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass, glory in the flower. We will grieve not, rather find strength in what remains behind. — William Wordsworth

Doing as others told me, I was blind.
Coming when others called me, I was lost.
Then I left everyone, myself as well.
Then I found everyone, myself as well.
― Jalaluddin Rumi

To be blind is not miserable; not to be able to bear blindness, that is miserable. — John Milton

What you lose in blindness is the space around you, the place where you are, and without that you might not exist. You could be nowhere at all. — Barbara Kingsolver

Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore. — Andre Gide

A blind man was riding an unheated train
— Arseny Tarkovsky, translated from the Russian by Philip Metres & Dimitri Psurtsev

A blind man was riding an unheated train,
From Bryansk he was traveling home with his fate.
~
Fate whispered to him so the whole car could hear:
And why should you care about blindness and war?
~
It’s good, she was saying, you’re sightless and poor.
If you were not blind, you’d never survive.
~
The Germans won’t kill you, you’re nothing to them.
Allow me to lift that bag on your shoulder—
~
The one with the holes, the empty torn one.
Let me just raise your eyelids wide open.
~
The blind man was traveling home with his fate,
Now thankful for blindness. Happy about it.