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Endings and Beginnings

Yesterday my sweet husband started back to work.  It was faculty meeting day and today he gets to meet all of his students.  I am always a bit sad at the end of summer–we get to spend so much time together and he truly is my best friend so we have a lot of fun, a lot of time to play and be.  This summer felt especially rich with treasures to explore together.  He really enjoys his work, the school where he teaches, his students, his co-workers, but it is hard to transition back to waking at six a.m. while I roll over and go back to sleep with the dog for another hour or two.

But at the same time I absolutely adore autumn and I am head over heels in love with winter, so this time marks the entry into the seasons of harvest, letting go, and stillness that feed my soul in ways that spring and summer simply can’t.  Those seasons have their own gifts of course, but this is the time of year that makes me feel most alive and in touch with sacred presence.

Last week I got my Living in Season email newsletter written by Waverly Fitzgerald.  She offers such wonderful resources for getting in touch with the different seasons of the year and when I received my email and read “The First of Fall” I let out an audible squeal of delight at the reminder of autumn’s descent.  In Celtic tradition, the feast of Lammas on August 1st celebrates the first wheat harvest or “feast of first fruits” and is one of the cross-quarter days between summer solstice and autumnal equinox, so it begins the fall season.

Autumn also means diving back into my work in a more sustained way, thinking more intentionally about my projects for the year and where I want to devote my energy.  Being largely on an academic calendar means that autumn for me is also a new year of sorts, a time of new beginnings.  This coming year I am very excited to be teaching our Awakening the Creative Spirit program again with my wonderful partner Betsey Beckman, in the spring I will be teaching Contemporary Christian Spirituality and Prayer again at Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, and I had the delight of being asked to be an adjunct faculty for Loyola University New Orleans’ Ministry Extension (LIMEX) program.  About ten years ago I trained as a facilitator and worked with one of their learning groups in Sacramento and then another later in Vallejo when I was starting my doctoral studies.  It was a great experience, it is a very strong program that offers students the chance to earn a degree in pastoral ministry or religious education in their community while working full-time.  I really loved my work with them and adored the students, so it was lovely to be asked to connect with them again, this time as one of their faculty who gives feedback on the reflection papers. Plus I’ll get to go on a trip to New Orleans in February for their annual adjunct faculty meeting.

In the visual journaling workshop I took this summer, the teacher had us create an inner sanctuary in our journal by folding pages in a particular way. The middle sections above lift up to reveal more space on the other side.  Then she invited us to consider the opposites in our lives, the things we hold in tension.  I wrote several things, some of which you can see on the edges below. Then we were asked to take the pair of opposites that was connected most directly to our art-making lives, the thing that seems to get most in the way of our creative time and make images to represent that on the outside of the sanctuary and represent the creativity on the inside visually.  I realized that over the last year or so I have been experiencing art and teaching in tension with each other.  But then she had us imagine that what was on the outside, what we experienced in opposition, was perhaps in a different relationship to our art, maybe more of a support than we had realized, maybe a place of protection.  I don’t remember her exact words, but I had a small epiphany there in my art journal about how much I hold this tension within myself between my love of teaching and my love of writing and art-making.  As much as they both bring me joy, I realized that I have been experiencing them on one level as competing with each other for my time.  Hard to explain what stirred in me, but suddenly I knew they didn’t have to be in opposition anymore, I have learned how to make time for my own art and the teaching supports me financially and allows me interaction with many wonderful people. It was a moment of breathing deeply, an experience of great freedom.

What are the endings and beginnings of your own life in this moment?  What have you been holding in opposition that could now be reconciled?

-Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts

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4 Responses

  1. Oh, how I WISH I could love winter the way you do! But it storms into my life and disrupts everything – my sleeping patterns especially. Every year, without fail, they start going haywire when the sun dips low in the sky. Every year, without fail, my body begins going to bed later and later. My standard sleeping times in Winter are something like 2am to 10am. Not very conducive to great productivity.

    Along with the crazed sleeping patterns, I get depressed. I have just come off the most horrible Winter, and while the thought of it is appealing, the reality of it is that it just rips giant wads off me every time. I am SO glad it is now Spring here in Australia :)

  2. Thanks Tess, those small shifts are definitely grace-filled.

    Bette, I have done art journaling off and on, but this class I took (which I both loved and hated– maybe more on that another time) has prompted me to start again. I even spent yesterday evening creatingsome background pages. Look forward to seeing what the process stirs in you!

  3. how wonderful that this epiphany has finally come to you! and it came to you through this art session – which is beautiful, btw.

    i’ve never started an art journal (can you believe it?!) . . . but you have convinced me to take a blank book (that’s been collecting dust) and some colored pencils with me on my trip to iowa. i’ll share any epiphanies that might arise.

  4. Lovely post Christine, and thank you for the glimpse of your workbook. Interesting how a small mental shift can make a big difference.
    I’ll have to think upon your question.