I wake to a rising of robin voices,
their tiny chests puffed like ripe persimmons.
Acres of clouds strum across the day-blue sky,
wind breathes its endless score over heathered hills
and the sea beyond my window churns.
Somewhere a hazelnut drops rustling to the ground.
Peony peels herself open in a slow yawn
to reveal a multitude of pleasures.
Fox darts between hedgerows, breaking her silent reverie,
orange fur brushing against golden gorse profusion.
Beneath sirens and the perpetual groan of cars,
the march of trains and planes propelled by timetables,
beneath the endless clatter of your own mind, you can,
for a moment, hear the asparagus heaving headlong into spring.
My labor is to love this secret symphony.
You curl yourself around me at night,
song of your breath stuns me into the sweetest sleep.
And the blue glass vase sits on the table beside me,
holding roses you bought because they smelled like an aria.
When this is over, all I want to say is that I heard the music
of the very last petal
— Christine Valters Paintner, Dreaming of Stones
Dearest monks and artists,
This weekend we are hosting our last online community retreat until the late August. We always try to take time in the summer to step back from schedules and regular commitments to allow space to be and breathe.
I’ve been longing for more quiet space to listen. This past year or more has been remarkable in so many ways for all of us. There has been a tremendous amount of grief and loss – loss of health, loss of loved ones, loss of our sense of security, loss of jobs or dreams. And there has also been much grace erupting alongside these – the grace of finding new ways to connect to one another across the globe, I have felt Abbey of the Arts as a community more than ever before. That is a tremendous gift.
As the pandemic forced us to move everything online we experimented with all kinds of formats and possibilities – mini-retreats and weekend retreats in addition to our usual multi-week retreats, online small group experiences, our Novenas, and of course our Prayer Cycles as well. I’ve also received many invitations from various groups to teach or present now that everything seems more accessible. I have said yes to a lot of these, this year has been a grand year of experimentation, of seeing what worked well to serve this wonderful community.
I am thrilled to be moving into time when I have a clear no to outside invitations or demands on my time. I love the spaciousness of summers when there is nothing scheduled except time to write (I do always have another book project to work on!) and time to dream into how things might continue to unfold.
Mostly I want time to listen, to hear the music of life in new ways all around me.
I invite you to read the poem above and then watch the poem video as a way of entering into the images through another medium. See what calls to you out of this invitation to really hear how the world offers itself up to us when we clear the space for it to sing more clearly.
A few other places my work is appearing on the web this week:
Read my article about Life Stages and Discernment at U.S. Catholic Magazine online. This is an adaptation from one of the chapters of my newest book Sacred Time: Embracing an Intentional Way of Life.
I was interviewed on Desert Voices podcast by two lovely young women with a passion for desert spirituality. Listen in as we discuss the revolutionary power of stillness and how beauty will save the world.
One of the voices I have been listening closely to these days is Mary and the sacred feminine as I finish up writing my book about 30 of her names and titles (will be published in spring 2022). I have been incredibly blessed to work with block print artist Kreg Yingst who has created beautiful art pieces to companion each name (see them all below). If you’d like a print of any of these he is having a sale with free shipping in the U.S. until June 12th. See them all here.
If you are looking for some online retreats this summer we are having a sale of 25% off on all 18 of our self-study retreats! Click here to see the promotional code and details. Your registration helps to support our many free program offerings.
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Poetry video above created by Morgan Creative
Mary images below created by Kreg Yingst