Oct 20 2009


Birch by Susan Forshey

Birch by Susan Forshey

If spring is hello, autumn is thank you.

After a particularly long four weeks, walking sometimes gently and  sometimes stubbornly with  personal and academic fears, I sensed this morning a still small nudge to the Tuesday morning Eucharist at my church.  My keys seemed to place themselves into my hand and I was out the door without much thought.   I went closed and distant, but during the prayers, we were asked to speak out something for which we were thankful.  The stunning leaves of gold, orange, and red, came to mind and speaking the words aloud shifted my attitude, widening my heart just a little.   The message of thankfulness then went much deeper as we remembered in prayer a marriage of six decades.  After Eucharist, a lovely woman spoke about her husband, her gratitude hugging every word and every detail of memory in the midst of the pain of her loss.

Leaving the church, I saw again the autumn colors, and the crunchy leaves at my feet.  Winter is close, and soon the colors will dim and disappear to browns and frost. The leaves which had greeted the first touches of  spring warmth with nuanced greens and yellows, are now flaming in the crisp chill with thankful beauty.  They seem to say, Thank you, sun, soil, rain, wind.  Good-bye for now.

Winter Song / Emily Smith

The leaves are falling from the trees
Farewell for now warm summer breeze
Weather has been good this year
Now the winter will soon be here
The nights are drawing into shorter days
I hear the old folk and the country people say
Don’t fear the dark, nature has it all in hand
Time to reflect and renew the tired land

So we’ll stoke the fire and light the lamp
Turn our backs in from the damp
Settle down beneath the starry sky
Endure the winter passing by

I see the frost etched upon the glass
In the morning sun he soon moves fast
But he’ll be back to claim the frozen ground
With each clear day he surely will be found
The geese fly south to find a warmer home
While the weary bull he soldiers on alone
Children’s laughter it crackles in the air
Sparks fly high and they catch them if they dare

So we’ll stoke the fire and light the lamp
Turn our backs in from the damp
Settle down beneath the starry sky
Endure the winter passing by

With carols sung, the trees been taken down
We’ve passed a dram and the bells no longer sound
Snowdrops rise with promise of the spring
There’s talk and wonder
At what the year might bring
The blackbird starts to thicken up her nest
While the early lamb, he takes a snowy step
But the north wind’s grip it tightens with his chill
And holds the buds closed against their will

So we’ll stoke the fire and light the lamp
Turn our backs in from the damp
Settle down beneath the starry sky
Endure the winter passing by

Oct 19 2009

Begin Today


Vermont Autumn by Susan Forshey

“How you spend your days is how you spend your life.”

Last December,  I began this blog as an exploration of contemplative living, but over time, writing entries fell by the wayside. Humbly, I realized I did not have a clear understanding of what I meant by the contemplative life, nor what living it entailed.  My interest in contemplative spirituality is decades old and my fact-based knowledge was just enough to get me into trouble!

This summer I spent time pondering what daily ingredients make up a contemplative life.  Rather than formulas, techniques, or check-lists of practices (meditate for 15 minutes, read scripture, lectio divina, etc.), vivid and emotion-filled images came to mind: relationships of intimacy; committed community; a life marked by a spacious daily rhythm;  life partnership; restful sleep; meals that are a celebration of life, rather than a means of injury to my body or the bodies of other creatures; times of silence; work in balance with the rest of life; noticing beauty; attention to the earth; meaningful conversation; and lots of grace.  I found Maria Lichtmann’s understanding of  contemplative living helpful: a “non-consumptive” way of life.  Rather than driven by an insatiable appetite to consume life experiences and people, contemplation is a  patient and loving attention to whatever and whoever is in the present moment.

For me, attending to the present moment often takes courage.  I shy away anxiously, procrastinate, and distract myself through the vast array of technological or media options.  Practiced daily, this shying away can become a habit.  Living is full of small practices, day in and day out, like piano scales.  These embodied life scales are challenging in the beginning and then become more and more effortless, more habitual.   Not all scales are life-giving.  As I enter the next decade, I am asking : what small practices, what scales, will form in me the life I desire to look back on at 70?  What practices will craft a life of intimacy, courage, follow-through, rhythm, attentiveness, love, and grace?  As I live this day, how am I living my life?

Practice for today:   Attend deeply to the task that is causing anxiety.  Simone Weil writes that sustained attention to a difficult geometry problem also cultivates the practice of attention necessary for both prayer and relationship.  As I consider my prospectus, attending to its completion is a life-giving practice that will spill into other areas of my life.

Oct 4 2009


Ferry Flyer by Susan Forshey

Ferry Flyer by Susan Forshey

As swimmers dare to lie face to the sky and water bears them,
as hawks rest upon air and air sustains them,
so would I learn to attain freefall,
and float into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace,
knowing no effort earns that all-surrounding grace.
–Denise Levertov

Oct 3 2009

Night Prayer

Shimmer by Susan Forshey

Shimmer by Susan Forshey

Lord, dear lover of my heart,
I see you in the dance of Light
The play of leaves
The healing lines of heart sacrifice
Be to me my all
Be to me my hope
In this called distance
Hold me for your life alone
Proclaim your favor
Nothing can I offer but the fears, the shadows,
The spaces aching.
Be to me the morning silence
Be to me the hugging comfort
Of the sliding sun.
And in these dark-lit days,
My path lost to mortal sight,
Mother my late-night tears
Quench my sleepy thirst.
Love me to your side,
Redemption crowned,
Song-full–my cup, laughter-brimmed–
A dancing child before you.

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