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The Greening Path (a love note from your online Abbess)

Given, VI
We travelers, walking to the sun, can’t see
Ahead, but looking back the very light
That blinded us shows us the way we came,
Along which blessings now appear, risen
As if from sightlessness to sight, and we,
By blessing brightly lit, keep going toward
That blessed light that yet to us is dark.

–Wendell Berry

Dearest monks and artists,

I am slowly finding my feet under me in this new city of Galway.  Every morning when the skies aren’t clouded over, a vision like the one above greets me from my apartment window.  The Hour of Awakening arrives over the mouth of the River Corrib meeting the great Atlantic, and I can feel the power of unknown things awakening within me.

Galway is known as the City of Tribes, and I find myself longing keenly for a tribe here.  From my window I can see the square with the marker which honors Seattle as Galway’s sister city and points in her direction, 7178 km away.  There is a similar marker on the waterfront of Seattle which I have visited, pointing the 4464 miles back to this place I find myself now.  I find comfort in this kinship.  There is kinship in weather as well, although the rain and wind here is much fiercer than anything I encountered living in the beautiful Northwest.  I am eager to discover how this fierceness will shape me in the coming months.

I feel myself on the threshold again, longing for all the beauty of Vienna and all the places I came to love.  I long for the familiarity of Seattle and my friends there.

Yet the path of pilgrimage demands that I stay right here, in the midst of the unknowing, the fertile darkness, the sightlessness of which Berry writes.  The call of the monk in the world is to stability, even in the midst of so much transition, to stay present and awake to everything.  I trust the call that brought me here, even when at times I am broken open by it, made raw and vulnerable.  Even when in the midst of so much strangeness and newness I long for what is old and familiar.

And in the midst of the tenderness of threshold living, there is so much grace.  From my window I can see a statue of Mary in her grotto at the Dominican church down the street reminding me of Mary’s presence to me all last autumn on this journey. Each day I can see the gathering of swans on the canal, those symbols of grace and beauty.

I had a dream the other night that I was given a white dress to wear. It was crocheted by my dear friend and wearing it I felt beautiful, as though I had been baptized anew. I awoke to this sense of the baptismal call to become priest, prophet, and king.  In my lectio divina later that morning, I prayed with the psalm for the day, psalm 110, and the line shimmered before me: “you are a priest forever.”  And I knew this was a reminder I was called to share with all of you, to embrace your own priestly nature, to know the world as sacramental.  This is also the call of the monk in the world.

Last weekend I participated in a dance workshop.  We were invited to give our inner witness a name – that compassionate and calm core of ourselves able to behold the fullness of our inner lives – and I did not hesitate to write down “Sophia.”  Then we had many opportunities to dance as the witness, to feel his or her energy alive in us, the way they move through space and see the world.  Through Sophia I saw dance as a path of greening.

When I sit quietly in the early mornings, witnessing the unfolding of the dawn before me, I hear this invitation to embrace viriditas – the greening power of God which Hildegard of Bingen calls us to immerse ourselves in – as the path to walk (and dance) now.  All through last fall, the world around me was reminding me that I am enough in this moment, and I do not need to strive for anything.  No reaching is necessary.  This greening power meets us right where we are, we must simply remove the obstacles.  And of course, that can be so hard to do, to recognize the way I fight against what is most life-giving in each moment.

Mary, Sophia, and Hildegard all dance with me in this place.  They all know the tremendous and sometimes terrible gift of thresholds, of wandering and feeling desire well up and overcome you.  They each know the overflowing gift of viriditas in the world and what happens when we open ourselves to this greening path.

If you want to immerse yourself in the call to greening this Lenten season, please join me online for Creative Flourishing in the Heart of the Desert with Hildegard of Bingen (registration closes Friday!).  If you are a soul care practitioner (spiritual director, pastor, chaplain, or other field of soul care) and are longing for a more intimate online journey with peers during Lent, consider A Midwinter God: Making a Conscious Underworld Journey (just one space left).

And if the promise of springtime is calling to your heart and you are longing for a great adventure, please join Kayce Hughlett and myself for Springtime in Vienna: A Writing and Photography Retreat (April 6-13, 2013) in the gorgeous city of Vienna, Austria.  This is not your ordinary tour, but an urban pilgrimage and feast for all the senses.  Fall in love with Vienna and with your own beautiful heart once again.  No art experience is necessary.

May you dance at the threshold,

With great and growing love. . .


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