The Feast of St. Patrick and the Spring Equinox ~ A Love Note from Your Online Abbess

Holy Mountain*

I want to climb the holy mountain
ascend over weight of stone
and force of gravity, follow the
rise of a wide and cracked earth
toward eternal sky,
measured steps across the sharp path,
rest often to catch my heavy breath.

I want to hear the silence of stone and stars,
lie back on granite’s steep rise
face to silver sky’s glittering points
where I can taste the galaxies
on my tongue, communion of fire,
then stand on the summit and
look out at the laboring world.

I want to witness earth’s slow turning
with early light brushing over me,
a hundred hues
of grey, pink, gold,
speckles of Jackson Pollock light,
then ribbons of mist floating
like white streamers of surrender.

I want to look back down the trail
as if over my past, forgive a thousand tiny
and tremendous transgressions
because now all that matters
is how small I feel under the sky,
even the sparrowhawk takes no notice of me,
how enlarged I feel by knowing this smallness.

I want to be like St. Patrick,
climb the holy mountain full of
promise and direction and knowing,
forty days of fasting aloft among clouds

until my body no longer hungers
and something inside is satisfied
and my restless heart says here,
no longer dreaming of other peaks.

—Christine Valters Paintner

*This poem first appeared in The Galway Review

Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing.

—Isaiah 35:1-2

I believe deeply that the seasons have a great deal of spiritual wisdom to offer us if we make space to listen. They teach us of the cycles and seasons of the earth and of our own lives. We are invited into the movements of blossoming, fullness, letting go, and rest, over and over again. Just like the lunar cycles of the moon’s waxing and waning, so too does the body of the earth call us into this healing rhythm.

The spring equinox is on March 20th when the sun hovers above the equator, and day and night are equal length. This is considered the New Year in Persian tradition as well as the astrological calendar. Spring is a time of balance, renewal, and welcoming new life into the world.

As the northern hemisphere enters the season of blossoming we are called to tend the places of our lives that still long for winter’s stillness as well as those places ready to burst forth into the world in a profusion of color. It takes time to see and listen. Around us the world is exploding in a celebration of new life, and we may miss much of it in our seriousness to get the important things of life done.

Poet Lynn Ungar has a wonderful poem titled “Camas Lilies” in which she writes: “And you — what of your rushed and / useful life? Imagine setting it all down — / papers, plans, appointments, everything, / leaving only a note: “Gone to the fields / to be lovely. Be back when I’m through / with blooming.” Spring is a time to set aside some of the plans and open ourselves to our own blooming.

There is a playfulness and spontaneity to the season of spring that invites us to join this joyful abandon. As the poet Hafiz writes, spring is a time for singing forth and celebration. We are called to both listen deeply to the blossoming within ourselves as well as to forget ourselves — setting aside all of our seriousness about what we are called to do and simply enter the space of being. In this field of possibility we discover new gifts.

On my daily walks I have seen clusters of crocuses thrusting themselves out from the ground into the brilliant sunlight. The branches of cherry trees begin to hum, preparing to burst forth. Small shoots are pressing outward, anticipating their explosion into a pink spectacle of petals. And in my presence to this dynamic energy I discover places within me humming and bursting forth. I notice my own deep longings wanting to emerge in vibrant ways.

The fertility and flowering of spring speaks of an abundantly creative God who is at the source of the potent life force beating at the heart of the world. Created in God’s image, we are called to participate in this generous creativity ourselves. Our own flowering leads us to share our gifts in service to others.

In the Hebrew Scriptures the promise of God’s abundance is often conceived of as blossoming in the desert. In that harsh landscape, a flower bursting forth from the dry land is a symbol of divine generosity, fruitfulness, and hope. Hope is a stance of radical openness to the God of newness and possibility. When we hope, we acknowledge that God has an imagination far more expansive than ours.

Six weeks ago we were tending the very early signs of earth’s belly rumbling with this activity beneath the ground. Depending on where you live, you may have felt and seen it, or it may have still been a distant dream.

What are you seeing around you? What are you feeling within?

(This reflection was excerpted from our Sacred Seasons online self-study retreat)

With great and growing love,

Christine

Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE

P.S. Our southern hemisphere dancing monks can find a reflection on the autumn equinox at this link>>

Photo © Marcy Hall at Rabbit Room Arts (prints are available in her Etsy shop)

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