I am delighted to share another beautiful submission for the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Peggy Meisen's wisdom:
Gray, gray and winter
Monk’s robes, plain and soft from wear
But then, the Great light,
Presence, Humility, Truth
Our lives shimmering
Changing, growing, glistening
A royal banquet
The intimacy of the gaze of God upon us as we choose awareness is incredible. It is like a secret but, a secret open to all. Could there be such a thing? A secret that is both personal and communal.
In the rest and space of a gray and cold New Year’s Day, we regrouped, plugged in the crock pot and went for a drive. Very few cars were on the gray, two laned roads. It was soothing to take our time, have no interruptions and eventually reach our destination. It was a quieter place, the woods and dirt paths. We discovered that the winding, wooded paths were lined with the seashore. We found ourselves tucked in somewhere special and new, in somewhat of a secret, a rare find, this place, yet open to all. It seemed we had the park to ourselves for a while. We walked quietly, taking in nature, happy to be separated from the busyness and chatter of life.
As we walked, two people appeared in the distance, arms extended, hands open and raised. It was a curious sight, these people posed in synchronicity. Others came from somewhere. They stopped and looked on as well. Questions shot up in our minds: Are they practicing Tai chi? Praying? Praising? Everyone was frozen in their posture.
We moved closer to get a better view. As we got closer arms dropped in synchronicity. It seemed that the winter breezes stilled. The people turned to us, “Would you like some?” They asked. Skeptically, we moved in even closer to see what was being offered. Smiling, they held out… birdseed. Cardinals, sparrows, chickadees and tufted titmouse hovered. We accepted and before long there were 6 of us. Twelve hands extended. We were waiting, waiting, waiting. As I would look one way, a little bird would quickly swoop in from the other way and land with both feet on my fingertips. He grabbed a seed and flew off. Again and again we watched as these little beauties watched us from a distance, tested the flight pattern once or twice and then took the plunge to our upturned palms.
What had been dull to me in the past had come alive, richly, quietly and softly. White sky, leafless trees, little red berries on brown branches, gray, tan, black, all shades of earth were speaking life to me in the stillness of winter.
A tufted titmouse with beautiful markings alighted. He landed on my hand, my open, seed filled hand. I felt its weight. We were eye to eye. “What are you saying to me God? There are signs of You, everywhere. You are the amazing artist who has colored winter in magnificence with shades of the ordinary.” All of a sudden winter was shimmering all around me. The ordinary was transformed into the extraordinary. We were on sacred ground.
The park’s literature informed me that this bird’s call sounds like, “Peter, Peter, Peter.” Peter, is the name of our first child. Will 2014 be a revisit of what precious Peter came to teach through his very short life so many years ago? I wondered. The thought was sobering. In a split second, the little bird was back, looking so small, so complete with his jet black eyes sparkling and his coat colors so perfectly blended. He flitted around, making several takeoffs and landings, perching, eating. All of a sudden, I heard that still small voice. This New Year’s Day could seem like an anniversary of some goals met, some not, some losses, some gains, some sorrows, some joys, but it too was being transformed. It had become a celebration of awareness. I was locked into the gaze of God upon me through the experience.
“’I will never leave you, nor forsake you. Fear not.’ You too must use your wings. This year, take a chance. Follow through with your dreams and goals. Enjoy the banquet, come often and enjoy. It is being held out to you with joy for your path, repeatedly. This day is the mark of a new beginning. ‘See I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?’ Isaiah 43:19. Rejoice!”
I realized that I too am little. I carry the burdens of others and aim to help but what I hear is purifying. These little creatures have no worries. They are clothed with distinct, beautiful robes. The same God that feeds the birds, feeds me. Simplicity, truth, reality were spoken to me through the “birds of the air.”
We had been invited to a New Year celebration, to don a new robe. The robe of the monk in the world is both ordinary and royal at the same time. Its colors are about presence to the moment, compassion, and respect for the daily. At a glance they appear routine. Yet when dressed in these hues of truth and humility, somehow there’s transformation and life shimmers. The robe itself, our lives, glistens in the world as bread is broken and shared.
There’s a lightness that returns to me as I remember that I am accepted and loved by the master. “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”(Matthew 6:26) I come back to recognizing that what the Lord wants of me is simply, ”…to act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly with your God.”-Micah 6:8. Something lifts.
As I come around this bend to greater awareness and take a glance back, I notice that what was so visible, what I clung to and carried before, is no longer. The road has taken a turn for sure. I am certain that I will revisit the path that has taken me to here, again. For now, I am content to accept what the 14th century mystic and poet, Julian of Norwich echoes across the path of time. Her writings comfort me. She too had to come to terms with the fact that God’s love is all encompassing, freeing. Love has a way of dissolving blame. The promise is true and sure. God is with us. Julian of Norwich, a companion on the journey as we too struggle with spiritual dilemmas and come to grips with the fact that we may not have an answer for all the mysteries that exist. In the midst of the search, we can be confident that, “All shall be well and all shall be well. And all manner of things shall be well.”
The Holy Bible, New International Version c 1978 New York International Bible Society | Julian of Norwich Quotes: http://www.luminarium.org
Peg is a wife, mother, and grandmother. She enjoys working as a teacher and spiritual director. Peg and her husband have been longtime members of a spirituality couples group. For more than 30 years she and her family have experienced renewal and restoration through their many fall trips to Weston Priory in Vermont. The Priory’s Benedictine experience, in harmony with the beauty of the fall landscape has brought balance and more depth to her everyday life. In her spare time, learning, painting, writing, sharing with family and friends, brings her joy. She hopes to be a part of the Abbey community and is looking forward to the newness everyday’s call to be a monk in the world.