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Loving everything that increases me. . .

I’ll take all the time I please this afternoon
before leaving my place alongside this river.
It pleases me, loving rivers.
Loving them all the way back to their source.
Loving everything that increases me.

-Raymond Carver from a poem titled “Where Water Comes Together With Other Water” in a book by the same name.

A student included this poem in her last reflection paper and it was one of those wonderful unbidden gifts of the day. I am in love again (how easily I fall in love with poetry!) I want to love “everything that increases me.”  I want to love the world in its beauty and terror, its strength and tenderness.  How easy it is to allow myself to narrow rather than expand, to fall back on old patterns, to see only one way, to become cynical or discouraged.   It takes daily practice to spread open, to keep from collapsing in on ourselves.

I am in the midst of finishing up some things for deadlines including the lectio divina book. While they are exciting things, my restless heart wants to be done and move onto new things.  I tend to live in the future, imagining what possibility is next.  I am trying to be present to the discomfort present in this part of the creative process, the hard work of bringing the last pieces together.  I imagine this must be in small part what labor feels like.

Then I went on another walk this morning to move myself back into my body for a while and I discover the world on fire and I am broken wide open again:

I stopped in a church on my way back from the park, eager to gaze for a while at the Saints frozen in time in the stained glass windows, a few moments to ready myself for Wednesday’s feast day.  I discover that the fire of the world has broken through even to this enclosed space: the Saints have become luminous with morning light and scattered their brilliance across the walls like children throwing gobs of paint in playful glee.  The prayer that rises in me is to give of myself that freely, to love what increases me, and in that expansion of myself may I cultivate a generosity that grows wider as well.

What has been increasing you in these days of autumn? 

-Christine Valters Paintner

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6 Responses

  1. thankyou for this beautifu post- and the beautiful pictures that go with it… I will look with new eyes for things that increase me!

  2. Hi Bette, I love it when serendipity happens like that, I have been noticing lots of water images myself lately and am trying to listen to what that is about. Being a water sign (both sun and moon) I thrive near the water, but I am sensing a deeper invitation here. I tend to focus so much on the joys of creativity, I think one invitation for me is to reflect more on the hard work part of bringing something to fruition!

    Thanks Britt and Becca! Yes, we probably can identify those things that decrease our existence quickly. Where are the invitations to spread yourself wide? Blessings! Christine

  3. an inspiring post and a particularly memorable phrase … whatever increases me. It’s easier to know what completely deflates me such as a completely packed and overcrowded schedule day in and day out … do we really live? We certainly miss the best.

  4. Good morning, Christine! How neat that right before I came to your blog, I ordered a book about the Ohio River and was looking at a list of river books …..and your blog opens up, talking about rivers! wow. I love the metaphor of rivers increasing our minds and souls. It really is true. Thanks for the link to Raymond Carver’s book. I’ll enjoy checking it out. Beautiful photos of this tree on fire and of the saints frozen in time! I too suffer through the laborious part of a creative project. You are not alone, my friend ;)
    Peace and hugs,