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I have been feeling tired this week, unwell, my body feels tender and fatigued and so I am taking extra care of myself.  My spirit is also feeling tender, in part because my body is vulnerable, but also because of the tragic events in Haiti, my mother-in-law’s gradual decline with dementia, and some much smaller personal struggles where I am being called to stand in my own strength in ways that are stretching me.

I find myself drawn back again and again to this statue I posted last week (the images below are close-ups).  I am so moved by the angel and beast pondering together. One of the many amazing students in my Way of the Monk, Path of the Artist class reflected in our discussion forum this week on the root of the word “ponder” which comes from the Latin ‘pondus’ for weight.  We had been talking about stones and she offered the image of pondering as holding a stone in your palm and feeling its weight.  It reminded me of this excerpt of a favorite poem by my favorite poet:

Fear not the pain. Let its weight fall back
into the earth;
for heavy are the mountains, heavy the seas.

-Rainer Maria Rilke, from In Praise of Mortality

In the midst of the sadness of these days I am called to be present to the weight of my feelings and not pull back, not run and numb myself or avoid the images which break my heart.  I am called to feel the grief, to embrace the sorrow.  I walk in the mornings and allow each step to be a prayer, pressing myself into the earth and feel the comfort of gravity’s pull, knowing I will not be untethered even in my sadness.  The sky has been clear and I can see the mountains and the sea beyond the beautiful city where I live, and I imagine the ocean as a great bowl of tears shed for all of those who have lost their lives.  I see the mountains bearing witness to the heaviness our human journeys often bring.

Will you ponder alongside of me?  Will you welcome in the terrible sorrow of loss and not run away?

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(Photos were taken in St. Augustine Church in Vienna)

© Christine Valters Paintner at Abbey of the Arts:
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11 Responses

  1. Christine, I’m so glad you posted the images from that statue again. I printed a copy of the photo last week and have it taped to my computer at work. Both the angel and the lion seem so weary with sorrow, something I feel as well, even though I cannot fully name the sorrow. Gazing on the image reminds me that there are many others feeling similarly. Thank you for this post.