Reflections on water & respite in hard times and places

As one commentator says, “there are many kinds of thirst.” Where do we find respite and rescue in the midst of dry, hard, troubled times? What are the wastelands of our lives? Where do signs of life surprise us in our personal and communal “desert places”?

You should not see the desert simply as some faraway place of little rain. There are many forms of thirst. — William Langewiesche
Water Water Water Wind Water Juan Felipe Herrera
water water water wind water
across the land shape of a torn heart
… again and again a new land edge emerges
a new people emerges where race and class and death
and life and water and tears and loss
and life and death destruction and life and tears
compassion and loss and a fire …
rumbles toward you all directions wherever
you are alive still

If you don’t die of thirst, there are blessings in the desert. You can be pulled into limitlessness, which we all yearn for, or you can do the beauty of minutiae, the scrimshaw of tiny and precise. The sky is your ocean, and the crystal silence will uplift you like great gospel music, or Neil Young. — Anne Lamott

What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well. —Antoine de Saint-Exupery

This is the sense of the desert hills, and there is room enough and time enough. — Mary Hunter Austin

Water is life’s mater and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water. — Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

To be commanded to love God at all, let alone in the wilderness, is like being commanded to be well when we are sick, to sing for joy when we are dying of thirst, to run when our legs are broken. But this is the first and great commandment nonetheless. Even in the wilderness–especially in the wilderness–you shall love [God]. — Frederick Buechner, A Room Called Remember: Uncollected Pieces

Be praised, My Lord, through Sister Water; she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure. — Francis of Assisi

I alternate between thinking of the planet as home–dear and familiar stone hearth and garden–and as a hard land of exile in which we are all sojourners. — Annie Dillard

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. Knowing pain is a very important ingredient of being there for another person. 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 … Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other. One inspires us, the other softens us. They go together. ― Pema Chödrön, Start Where You Are

… there are no crows in the desert. What appear to be crows are ravens. You must examine the crow, however, before you can understand the raven. To forget the crow completely, as some have tried to do, would be like trying to understand the one who stayed without talking to the one who left. It is important to make note of who has left the desert. — Barry López, Desert Notes: Reflections in the Eye of a Raven

New Water
— Sharon Chmielarz
All those years—almost a hundred—
the farm had hard water.
Hard orange. Buckets lined in orange.
Sink and tub and toilet, too,
once they got running water.
And now, in less than a lifetime,
just by changing the well’s location,
in the same yard, mind you,
the water’s soft, clear, delicious to drink.
All those years to shake your head over.
Look how sweet life has become;
you can see it in the couple who live here,
their calmness as they sit at their table,

the beauty as they offer you new water to drink.

DesertJosephine Miles

When with the skin you do acknowledge drought,
The dry in the voice, the lightness of feet, the fine
Flake of the heat at every level line;

When with the hand you learn to touch without
Surprise the spine for the leaf, the prickled petal,
The stone scorched in the shine, and the wood brittle;

Then where the pipe drips and the fronds sprout
And the foot-square forest of clover blooms in sand,
You will lean and watch, but never touch with your hand.


Meditation on manna from heaven and the last shall be first

Meditation from this week’s texts: grace in unexpected times and places — manna in the desert and overturning the social order when ‘the last shall be first’


The Last Shall Be First

Love someone who doesn’t deserve it. — Wendell Berry

Maybe God (or Goodness or Good Orderly Direction or Gift of Desperation) is in whom we move, live and have our being, but the world is a also a chaotic place and humanity is a chaotic place, and I am a chaotic place some days, too. So I take the right action: I get my own emotional acre in order, through radical self-care, serving the poor, sharing my M&M’s, flirting with the very old. Then the insight follows, the one I share … that, all evidence to the contrary, we are loved and chosen and safe.— Anne Lamott

The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth. — Niels Bohr

To see the universal and all-pervading Spirit of Truth face to face one must be able to love the meanest of creation as oneself. — Gandhi, Farewell

Tonight, darling, we are going to right a lot of wrongs. And we are going to wrong some rights. The first shall be last; the last shall be first; the meek shall do some earth-inheriting. ― John Green, Paper Towns


Manna

This bread is the body of the cosmos. — Thich Nhat Hanh

If it is bread that you seek, you will have bread. If it is the soul you seek, you will find the soul. If you understand this secret, you know you are that which you seek. — Jalaluddin Rumi

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty; power is ever stealing from the many to the few. The manna of popular liberty must be gathered each day or it is rotten … Only by continued oversight … by unintermitted agitation can a people be sufficiently awake to principle not to let liberty be smothered in material prosperity. — Wendell Phillips

According to legend, the Israelites were doomed to starvation but were saved by food called ‘manna’ in the form of coriander seed that came from the heavens. The manna fell during the night on dew, which encased and protected the seeds until morning when they could be gathered and ground into flour, which was used to bake a sweet bread. A double portion fell on Friday so that there was enough to bake bread for that day as well as for Saturday, the Sabbath, when no manna fell. ― Martin K. Gay, Encyclopedia of North American Eating & Drinking Traditions, Customs, and Rituals

… manna. It is a honey-like excretion from certain insects which infest tamarisk trees in this area. When it drops from the leaves it becomes almost solid, but in the heat of the day it melts, so it must be collected in the morning. That sufficient was available to feed all is a miracle, a special intervention by God. … the name manna comes from “‘What is it?’”, man hu in Hebrew: the Israelites ask what do you call it. — Chris Haslam, Anglican Diocese of Montreal (blog)

God takes things away from us, and then forms a new identity in us. It is hard. It can be painful. But it is an act of freedom. It is a liberating act of God, and there will be times where we will yearn for the ways of old …  God takes all sort of things away from us. God takes death from us. God takes shame from us. God takes oppression and bondage from us. And then God gives us manna. God gives us God’s own identity. God nourishes. God feeds. — Rev Michael Isaacs

Paradise Regain’d: Book 1 (1671 version)
— John Milton  (Excerpt)

He ended, and the Son of God reply’d.
Think’st thou such force in Bread? is it not written
(For I discern thee other then thou seem’st)
Man lives not by Bread only, but each Word
Proceeding from the mouth of God; who fed
Our Fathers here with Manna; in the Mount
Moses was forty days, nor eat nor drank,
And forty days Eliah without food
Wandred this barren waste, the same I now.
Why dost thou then suggest to me distrust,
Knowing who I am, as I know who thou art?

where our protest sound
Lenelle Moïse

… haiti’s first cousin
forcibly kissed
by a hurricane
… hot winds
come one fat
tuesday.
old levee leak
explodes. fixing funds gone
to homeland
security. soldiers
stationed in iraq. said,

jazz is underwater
days like laissez-faire
manna does not fall
saviors do not save

hunger prays to rage for
resilience, improvisational genius
implodes, anarchy duets
with despair …

MannaKing Woman
(excerpt from song lyrics)

Am I created in the image of my “Father God”?
Am I created in an image? What I had I lost
Am I created in an image what I want to see?
I am created in the image of suffering
I’m suffering
Calling all your heavy laden
Graceless
All suffering

Calling all you heavy laden
Faceless

Manna machine …

Meditation: drink from the well — wonder & curiosity

I think us here to wonder, myself. To wonder. To ask. And that in wondering bout the big things and asking bout the big things, you learn about the little ones, almost by accident. But you never know nothing more about the big things than you start out with. The more I wonder, the more I love. ― Alice Walker, The Color Purple

Wonder by Deakin Dixon
I who flounder in the things of the spirit,
Deep in the things of the flesh, and deep in song.
Burn this self till I can no longer bear it,
Life frenzying my ears like a deep gong –
I, who have not learned to walk as yet
High above men, with dark peace in my eyes,
To walk wisely, knowing only to let
My wise hands covet the trees, desire the skies:
I, abandoned to things bright or ugly,
To all things living, asking bowed or bold,
Marvel at you, wrapped securely, snugly,
In beauty and bearing. You seem strangely old –
Until I suddenly know that you have gone
Through places I have feared to tread upon.

Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious.  –  Stephen Hawking

The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.  ― Rachel Carson

Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory. ― Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Wonder is the beginning of wisdom. ― Socrates

Kids think with their brains cracked wide open; becoming an adult, I’ve decided, is only a slow sewing shut.  ― Jodi Picoult, My Sister’s Keeper

The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.  ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child – our own two eyes. All is a miracle. ― Thich Nhat Hahn

Meditations: immersing ourselves in wild creative energy of life & Spirit

As Kingfishers Catch Fire — Gerard Manley Hopkins
~~
As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came.

~~
I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is —
Christ — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that its center is really everywhere, it is within each of us. ― Black Elk

The Spirit breathes order into creation, but also energizes possibility amid the united, and often chaotic, processes of evolutionary becoming. Dabhar and ruach seem to arise from, and cocreate within, the same foundational energy that has intrigued mystics and scientists over several eons. Energy is a richly endowed concept in many of the great Eastern philosophies. The Chinese Chi, the Japanese Ki, and the Sanskrit Prana are understood to arise from a cosmic energy flow, a vital force hat courses throughout the entire universe … “Chi is a vital, dynamic, and original power that permeates the entire universe and leads to an ultimate unity,” writes theologian Grace ji-Sun Kim. It envelops the personal, social and cosmic realms. At one and the same time it is physical, psychological, and spiritual. —  Diarmuid O’Murchu from In the Beginning was the Spirit: Science, Religion, and Indigenous Spirituality

On life’s journey
plowing a small field
going and returning
— Basho

For ‘the Spirit breathes where He wills, and thou hearest His voice, but canst not tell whence He cometh or whither He goeth.’ He blesses the body that is baptized, and the water that baptizes. Despise not, therefore, the Divine laver, nor think lightly of it, as a common thing, on account of the use of water. For the power that operates is mighty, and wonderful are the things that are wrought thereby. — Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa

But then our solitude is overcome, we are no longer alone, for we find that our innermost self is the spirit, that it is God, the indivisible. And suddenly we find ourselves in the midst of the world, yet undisturbed by its multiplicity, for our innermost soul we know ourselves to be one with all being. ― Hermann Hesse

Fire —  Eunice Tietjiens
~~
Love, let us light
A fire tonight,
A wood fire on the hearth
~~
With torn and living tongues the flames leap.
Hungrily
They catch and lift, to beat their sudden wings
Toward freedom and the sky.
The hot wood sings
And crackles in a pungent ecstasy
That seems half pain of death, and half a vast
Triumphant exultation of release
That its slow life-time of lethargic peace
Should come to this wild rapture at the last.
~~
We watch it idly, and our casual speech
Drops slowly into silence.
Something stirs and struggles in me,
Something out of reach
Of surface thoughts, a a slow and formless thing –
Not I, but dim memory
Born of the dead behind me. In my blood
The blind race turns, groping and faltering.
~~
Desires
Only half glimpsed, not understood,
Stir me and shake me. Fires

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