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Sacred Stories

“All the great voyagers return
Homeward as on an arc of thought;
Home like a ruby beacon burns
As they crest wind, scale wave, soar air;
All the great voyagers return…”

– from “The Homecoming,” by Barbara Howes

Thank you dear readers for the many warm comments and emails I have received as a welcome home.  I am truly blessed to have such a supportive virtual community.  A special thank you to Laure who shared the above quote in her comment on my previous post.  She wrote that she imagined me on the other side of an arc of thought.  These words provided a lovely counterpoint to the quote I left you with before my journey from Meister Eckhart: “I need to be silent for a while, worlds are forming in my heart.”  New worlds have formed, I have ridden the longings which drew me on my travels to the other side, the arc of thought which initiated my journey is now descending.

I am not sure I would call myself a “great voyager”, but I do feel as though I have been on a great voyage across ancestral landscapes.  It is hard for me to know where to even begin sharing all that stirs within me. But begin I must, for my own sake, grasping onto each thread and seeing where they take me.

I am grateful to have this place to have my stories witnessed — witnessing is a mutual act of speaking aloud the truth of what you have discovered and having the community in return affirm the meaning of those stories.

(Image taken at Melk Abbey in Austria)

The image of the spiraling staircase symbolizes what this journey was about for me.  I have gone on an interior descent of sorts, part of the pilgrim’s path.

The spiral also has another meaning for me in connection with my travels.  I have been contemplating a great deal the meaning of stories.  My pilgrimage was in part a way of entering into the stories of the people who came before me and listening for the stories of the landscape.  In the last few months an image has been developing within me, an image of the layers of sacred story in which we participate.  I see my own sacred story as the core of my identity, but wrapped around my individual story are my ancestral stories — the stories of the people who have walked before me, their struggles and joys.  I believe I carry these in my very DNA and I must speak their stories to understand my own.  In telling their stories, I affirm the meaning of their lives and thus the meaning of my own life.

Wrapped around these ancestral stories are the cultural stories, the ways of thinking and being that formed my family members — the wars that traumatized them, the religious beliefs that shaped them, the languages they spoke, the external limits on their possibilities.  Wrapped around these cultural stories is a global story, the story of humankind, of who we are as a species.  And this is wrapped within the earth story, the story of all creation, we are woven together with the trees and the creatures, the stones and the oceans.  Their stories help us to understand ourselves as well.  These stories are wrapped within the story of the cosmos, the great pulsing of life through the universe.

I held this image as I left on my journey and my travels have only deepened my sense of connection to these layers spiraling around me. And while I have traveled up an arc of thought and am now traveling down the other side, paradoxically I have made a descent and am now climbing my way back up.

Please excuse me if these words sound abstract.  I will try to make them more concrete in the coming days with words and images.

In the meantime, what are the layers of sacred story in which you participate? What are the unnamed longings of your ancestors that still pulse within your heart?

(c) Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts

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10 Responses

  1. Christine, I add my “welcome home” to the chorus of readers and friends from near and far. I think your words and image complement each other beautifully! Any abstractness simply offers room to enter the story/spiral with our own journeys, hopes, fears, and longings. I too look forward to your future offerings!

    Blessings as you continue returning home, snuggle with Tune, and claim your story!

  2. Such wonderful responses, thank you friends. Some of these thoughts will be woven into my future posts as you have offered some beautiful reflections here in response to my words.

  3. Your words – for me – always moving and provocative. “Your spiral journey” has challenged me to ponder being “strong enough” to ascend and descend time and again. If I am not strong enough for the climb myself will I recognize others and allow them to aid me in that climb? While they come to my side, sometimes without me even recognizing their presence, will I have the courage and strength to condition myself in order to visit that spiral and survive over and again throughout my life…. thank you for your presence in my own spiral journey.

  4. In one of those serendipitous moments, I was this morning reading about spirals and how to make a small spiral shape in the garden, for visual contemplation.
    And trees are all about layers. And we build up layers – and sometimes have to tear them down or at least poke holes in them.
    The unnamed longings of my ancestors that pulse in my heart – I cannot name them, but sometimes I can begin to hear them.

  5. Christine,

    Wow – wow- wow. I could look at today’s pictures and yesterdays over and over and over again. The spiral staircase certainly has the feel of the trip to the inner depths, to the soul. What struck me most is the light at the center. The trip down may feel into darkness, but there is that light at the center beckoning. It reminds me of a poem I wrote (of course) where I was pulling poems out of a mine – rubies and gold out of the dark to shine in the light. Yes, we are all very glad to have you back and to hear your stories and reflections. I loved the written image from yesterday of being baby birds with our mouths wide open, waiting for your worms!


  6. Thank you for this preface to what is to come in your many stories and adventure of Soul. This spiral staircase photo is exquisite. The image wraps around me with anticipation of what is waiting at the top!

  7. Thanks Christine, for your magically beautiful photography today — and for sharing your sacred journey as it unfolds at ABBEY OF THE ARTS — thanks for the probing questions on how we might understand the myriad layers of our own sacred ancestry?

    In response, according to Scientific American, there really was an Eve — not the first woman, but among today’s surviving lineages, there was one “mother of us all,” OUR mother, so to speak:

    “In 1987, Rebecca L. Cann and Allan C. Wilson of the University of California, Berkeley, published a groundbreaking paper based on analyzing the DNA of mitochondria, the cell’s energy-producing organelles, which are passed down through the maternal line. They reported that humans from different populations all descended from a single female in Africa who lived about 200,000 years ago.”

    But beyond the scientific data, in terms of walking with spiritual ancestry, the ancient world, with its odes to nature, its pottery, figurines and other art forms, the mystic wisdom of its sages, shamans and poets, especially in ancient Greece, China and Old Japan — that’s where the stories and the dreams of my sense of family roots lead, and where I am, currently, encouraged by my heart to remember, to learn and to dwell. ~ kigen

  8. christine–i love this post and really want to linger here awhile longer. the spiral is absolutely fabulous and reminds me of the klimt spirals in a card i recently received :-) hmmmmmm? your words about the connection to self, family, universe remind me of this recent line i read: “Being everything, (s)he could never die.” i feel the touch of the eternal as i travel down this road with you.

    so looking forward to more words and images. again, welcome home! xoxooxoxox

  9. Christine, you may not name yourself as a great voyager, but thank you for allowing me to. in the relatively short time that i’ve known you (virtually) it is the great voyages of your internal latitudes and longitudes that i’ve been a witness to over and over.

    One thing that i’ve come to understand about myself is that i am exceedingly visual. i process a good deal from what i see and how. the spiral you’ve left us with is a superb picture of your process. i will come back, perhaps, later to answer your questions after i’ve reflected on them. but i do want to say that the spiral speaks to me of movement … ascending and descending, going away and returning, turning to face one direction, and then another. this spiral movement allows for different perspectives of a journey and it supports the sojourner in a beautiful way. i think this may be an image i want to stay with today.

    I look forward to the pairing of more words and pictures as you chose to present them here. it is my intention to receive even your most abstract with thanksgiving.