Snow and Falling

Sitting in my oratory, I finished the Salve Regina prayer. I then looked from the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe out the window at a gray winter’s morning. I felt heavy that morning, down, and I didn’t know why. Kissing the blue millefiori rosary in my hand, I returned it to the porcelain dish, and the beads chimed against its sides. I picked up the Liturgy of the Hours from the table and rested the book unopened on my lap next to the long-haired silver cat purring in her sleep.

Thoughts drifted, memories came and went, prayers and praise rose and fell. Somehow, conflicted in the solitude, I felt grateful and sad.

Again I looked out the window. The morning’s light had increased and I saw it was snowing. A delightful memory filled my heart…

I was seven again, lying on my back on the Flexible Flyer sled and wearing a one piece red-quilted snowsuit. It was early morning, very early. Snow had fallen through the night and when I woke the flakes were still coming down. In my excitement I’d hastily bundled-up, pajamas underneath, and in the pre-dawn light left the house without breakfast. No one would be at the hill and I could play freely.

Two blocks away was Martin Road Park and a sizeable hill for sledding. Up and down I went a dozen times or more, until I lay panting and happily spent beyond its skirt. Rolling over on the sled I faced the clouds and giggled as snowflakes landed on eyelashes, and cried with a love so deep there were no words. The only thing I could hear that morning was my heartbeat and breathing. Snow is quiet and it quieted a world that was, for me, hard and loud. At the age of seven I had experienced, for the first time, the sensation of peace.

Since that moment, snow has carried for me that memory of peacefulness. It quiets the world. It slows people down.

My focus returned to the oratory and fell upon my grandmother’s gold-tone crucifix. The snow outside continued and I wondered if manna had fallen the same way in the desert—if it lightly built up on stems and leaves and covered the ground. I wondered, too, at the conflicted People of God who praised and soon griped at that perfect gift grown tiresome.

And I see in myself how often I gripe about something that is ultimately for my good—forgiveness for example. Forgiveness, much like gathering up manna can be a chore, and tiresome in its repetition. But ultimately it brings what we need, and I know how grateful I am that forgiveness exists.

I stood and walked to the window and watched the snow coming down and make white all that seemed dead and dark. I felt again the peace the seven-year-old me knew, of gently falling grace.

A Walk through the Garden

Image by Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB. All rights reserved.

This is one of my favorite pictures of a woodland statue, at the foot of Mary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image by Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB. All rights reserved.

There was a heavy frost last night… a cardinal fluffed-up in the pine.

 

Image by Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB. All rights reserved.

And its November, queue white Schlumbergera (Christmas Cactus).

The Fruit of Celibate Love

I’m still praying with the question from Lisa Hendy, of Catholicmom.com, about Conscious Celibacy and “saying yes to love.”  In a previous post I addressed being single and how celibacy is neither the object nor theme of my singleness—though love is. This question from Lisa about love’s expression and, I realized, inherent reception, stirred up a lot of emotions—all good and begging for release.

I recalled a conversation I’d had several years ago with Pat Gohn, the voice of Among Women, who had asked—challenged—me about happiness. At the time I was in the process of therapy, healing from extended depression. When asked if I was happy I responded “Not yet.” It was the “yet” that was the kernel of hope spoken for the first time in years. And for which I am still grateful to Pat for having teased out of a tangled mess. A Bible verse she had shared was about being a temple of the Holy Spirit…about the indwelling of love (1 Cor 3:16). It took a while, and work with a Catholic therapist, but eventually I understood this spiritually and the ability to love, freely, openly, and physically took root.

Growing in love that is spiritually and physically expressed, and not sexually defined, is the journey I have chosen. This was an obvious path for me, but often too narrow for other singles.

Expressing love that is non-sexual is the same for married or single people. Showing delight in seeing someone, sharing hugs, holding or shaking hands, touching shoulders, all fulfill the need we have as physical beings. Listening and sharing conversations, laughing at bad jokes, crying with someone over sad news are also fulfilling a need for validation. These friendships, in part, fulfill God’s word that “it is not good that the man should be alone.” (Gen 2:18)

I seek these kinds of relational love, wanting to share what the Holy Spirit placed in the temple of my heart. What Lisa said about “a life brimming with love” is more accurate than I previously thought. It feels impossible to not feel joy, even in difficult times, knowing that the love of God is within. This holy, internal love gives rise to a desire for making the world a better place…though my world may be very small, and my service to others limited.

Denying the need for intimacy is foolish, but intimacy is psychological before it is sexual. And here is where solid friendships develop, possibly into solid marriages. Being open to this kind of emotional closeness is precarious. It has the potential of inviting confusion in the person with whom the sharing is taking place. This may be why so many of us have friends, but few intimate friendships.

The uniqueness of my being “orphaned” in the world allows for situations that lack the usual validation from parents, siblings, spouses, children, close friends, or religious community. I turn toward the Holy for affirmation, and it is in this intimacy with the Divine that I find purposefulness and rejuvenating love. As a childless single woman—a distinction necessary for single parents whose time is limited and demands great—I have availability to others. Simple things like sharing homemade soup, offering prayers, letting go of my schedule and listening are all expressions of love found through openness to the promptings of God to love.

Love grows paradoxically to things of earth which when given away decrease. Love is a thing of the Holy that by giving more increase all the more. We all want to share love. Expressing it beyond sexual encumbrances is significant for us who live a celibate life.

The prayer I offer is that Our Lord keeps me from a shallow love that does not cry in joy or sorrow. The depth of my love is proportional to my willingness to receive it. The object of my celibacy is intimacy with the Divine…and this is what I consciously choose.

Thank you Lisa for asking.

 

Blooms of Mary’s Sword

Artist, Cindy Evans, “Power and Strength,” 2013

I remember as a child the sweet fragrance and stunning colors of the species Iris germanica, commonly known as bearded iris or Mary’s Sword. I can still recall my first encounter with them. Walking home from kindergarten, I stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, inhaled a wave of fragrance, and, sniffing the air, followed my nose.

Just a few houses up grew a garden filled with fans of blue-green leaves topped with a rainbow of sturdy flowering stalks. The surprised woman, whose garden I’d just invaded, told me they were bearded iris and showed me the fluffy beard on the petals. She then gave me a stalk—almost as long as I was tall—of deep purple blooms that smelled like grape bubblegum. I was hooked!

The hook was not only for irises, but gardens as well. Our family’s business was greenhousing, having an acre under glass. Not until that day did it occur to me that the plants that grew on the benches made their way into gardens. The seed of realization took root and I grew up with a love of plants.

For over 50 years the things of life were experienced in a garden. Joys and sorrows, growth and decline, prosperity or lean were all worked through with pant legs wet and hands muddied. The years included creating gardens for others, and since 2003 I’d worked the grounds at St. Francis Retreat Center.

This week my efforts as a gardener there drew to a close and I retired as the Garden Society Coordinator. I was drawn to this facility in response to God’s call to build gardens of visible prayer—not something one does alone. I had to come out of my private world, and once out, lead others to follow the vision. I told God I would do my part if he did his, and of course he did.

With the hands of those friends, thirteen gardens of prayer and memorial were built. Eventually the society moved from creating gardens into the phase of maintenance. And I had moved into decline—becoming more disabled by trauma-induced spinal arthritis. The effort to heft a thirty-five pound bag of fertilizer was now matched to a gallon of milk.

Resignation is never easy when giving up something you love. It was hard to walk away, but it was time to let it go into the competent hands of another gardener following God’s call, Anne Davich.

The other night at dinner—surrounded in prayers that I remain at peace and not get all weepy—I said good-bye. At table I sat near the groundskeeper, Tim Simon, who had shared the vision of gardens and beside whom I had worked for eleven years. He didn’t seem to mind that throughout the dinner I would pat his arm—it kept me calm and affirmed what we had accomplished.

After Fr.Larry Delaney thanked me, I stood and thanked the volunteers for helping to bring souls to God through our gardens. I had not seen the artist of our society, Cindy Evans, leave the table, but I did see her return with a large framed painting. I knew immediately what they all had gifted—her iris painting!

It was one of her cruci-florals paintings (in which a cross is incorporated in the image of the flowers).  I’d seen its beginning in the basement studio at the retreat center. It was from a tied and tea-stained canvas that Cindy saw irises emerging: three flowers reminiscent of the Trinity, lance shaped leaves representing the swords of sorrow that pierced Mary’s heart, and the purple stalks of blooms representing power and strength—and title of her watercolor. I gasped in delight when I first saw the tan mottled canvas with pencil traced outlines of the blooms. We agreed that I would be the first one offered to buy it once completed. There at the party was her finished work, a gift from all.

The painting Power and Strength is hung in my oratory to the right of the altar and Divine Mercy image. I don’t know what God’s plans are for me as his gardener, but in the words of St. Faustina, “Jesus, I trust in you.”

It was the Iris that ignited gardening in my heart, and here they were again, at the end of my journey. What a perfect gift to conclude a gardening life spent on knees, touching earth.

 

 

 

 

(Pssst…go to my earlier post, if you want to know how to grow them!)

Image by Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB. All rights reserved.

A Walk through the Garden

The walk this week was at the retreat center. We had a dusting of snow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Garden Society’s Christmas gathering and pot luck on Tuesday was also my retiring as their coordinator. It was a lovely gathering–more on that come Friday. These are the flowers that one of the volunteers gave me. Aren’t they lovely?

(Image by Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB. All rights reserved.)