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Monk in the World Guest Post: Sharon Dawn Johnson

I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Sharon Dawn Johnson’s reflection Yearning For Second Spring.

Seasonal Thresholds

Aroused at first light, the sun peeps over nearby urban rooftops as I open the curtain – rejoicing to greet the Spring Equinox, a thin place for threshold crossings. Greeting the liturgical Hour of Dawn is unusual for me – despite my middle name. What awaits me today? My mind scurries ahead to my fibre arts group meeting. My current artwork-in-process, Yearning For Second Spring, is mostly complete now, I estimate. Following a submission to a mini art show last autumn, I’ve added more beaded flowers and leaves in readiness for our upcoming April show.

Given today’s roofline-limited horizon, I imagine the cottage’s skyscape of pre-dawn star paths and the Milky Way’s touchdown points. The green-flushed trees on light-contoured hills across the lake provide natural horizon markers that show up the city’s artificial counterpoints. Still, I ponder heaven and earth in a seasonal embrace. Thin places offer thick meanings, ones already layered in the pre-dawn pulse that stirs and awakens me today.

The previous winter solstice heralded a very dark season of enforced hibernation and rest to ease my body’s long-accumulating fatigue. Slow down, maybe, but I did not want to hibernate; yet my body’s innate wisdom proved irresistible. A scarry lesson in loss and defeat, and utterly insistent.  

Today’s dawn breathes cautious hope into me, the fresh light flowing into my dark, deep-down yearnings. Thankfully, learning to read my body as a sacred lectio divina text – shimmering, savouring, summoning, stilling – teaches me to heed its story. Is a new Dawn’s spring blossoming truly possible?

Always, We Begin Again (St. Benedict)

Cutting out the tricky-to-handle purple velveteen, I’m conscious of Springtime’s hand on my shoulder. “Trust me”, she whispers, stroking my aching back, “You have time enough…” 

Are you kidding? Do you know how many clockwise steps unfold before me? I don’t want to sass her openly – her loving tone defangs the procrastination-poison of my should critic. But given the list of steps and my fragile body’s need for regular afternoon rest, I pause… 

At my fibre arts meeting, one friend lays Yearning For Second Spring against the purple sleeve of her T-shirt. The work comes fully alive! Yes! The long-awaited answer. I embrace a solution utterly different from the tweaking I’d envisioned. 

The new, purple velveteen sleeve I’m creating transforms temperamental fabric salvaged from a thrift store dress into the support structure repurposed to complete the piece – the exact colour, texture, and weight needed to back and border the beaded fabric. 

The next morning, another member delivers the promised scrap of fuschia silk to be fringed, completing the beaded fabric’s lower edge. In due course, I prepare and paint a new hanging rod. 

To meet October’s mini show deadline, I aimed for good enough. Yet my cramp-knotted fingers recall the many vine sections unstitched in the present moment, then restarted to reposition organically-curving lines. The restitching is motivated by the deep desire to honour the principles and elements of design, not perfection. 

Each restart establishes an enoughness proportionate to the immediate ease of correcting a stitching line. How many times did I unthread and rethread that blessed needle?!

Compare that with April’s demand to unpick Second Spring’s hanging straps, level and reposition them over the new rod – without disturbing the straps’ existing vine and flowers! I should have corrected the artwork’s slant last October when I first detected its out-of-true angle.

My January hibernation project notes return to explore – and accept – the wisdom of enoughness. Yet my work consistently whispers, “I’m not yet complete.” I listen to her yearning but have no idea what is needed – until dusk on the Spring Equinox. 

Slow Ripening

Thirteen seasons and thirty-nine moons mark the waxing and waning processes of Second Spring’s creation. At first, all I feel is the fizz in my fingertips as I adapt and bead a stitch-starter device to make some dramatic 3-D beaded flowers. 

Hooray! It works! This little support structure looks like a mini moon lander and makes the start process so easy. Releasing the flower from its temporary support without damaging either of them is easy too – so long as I cut the right thread!

Bead-by-bead, stitch-by-stitch, green sprouts surface: the realization of my heart’s deep-rooted yearning to flourish anew during the saging seasons that remain to me.

Gerald May’s Dark Night of the Soul amplifies the significance of my yearnings while expanding their larger-storied horizons. The seed of love and desire for the Divine planted within us fuels a “profound motivation”. The yearning that sprouts is due to “the ‘radical incompleteness’ that determines the basic direction in which our life energy moves.” Ah! Is this motivating seed at the core of my spirit’s embodied yearnings?

While lavishing time and attention on Second Spring, I realize that I, too, am an artwork-in-progress, with repurposed life materials being shaped co-creatively in the Master Artist’s skilled hands (Ephesians 2:10). As May observes, intimacy with God “is neither acquired nor received; it is realized… something that can be yearned for, sought after – and with God’s grace – found.”

Psalm 92’s ancient naming of my second spring yearning is sweetness itself: to flourish and fruit in old age, ever full of St. Hildegard’s green viriditas sap. The completion of Yearning For Second Spring bodies forth Dawn’s new blossoming.

Sharon Johnson, a writer and a bead/ fibre artist living in Ottawa, Canada, delights in the interplays between her contemplative and art-making practices. The reciprocal nature of these practices deepens the ways she serves her work so that, in turn, the work can serve the world. 

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