John and I left supper simmering and took a quick walk this evening, enjoying evening sunshine after a cloudy day. I hoped to catch the evening sun on the fountains by the music center, but the college seems to have turned all the fountains off. We’re getting frosty nights; winter’s coming. I’d better go out and cover my rosebud again.
But for now it is still autumn, and we found the sun highlighting some of autumn’s warm colors.
And there was afternoon light dancing in the fountains a few days ago. Not as flamboyant as the leaves, but lovely in its own way.
Ten days ago there were two rosebuds on the bush in my herb bed.
Frost was predicted. I wondered if I should pick them and bring them inside. But each had only a tiny bit of color showing, so I worried that I'd be picking them too soon and they would never open.
I settled on bringing one in and leaving one outside, and watching to see what happened.
The indoor one began to unfurl slowly, and now looks like this.
The outdoor one also began to open, and having survived another night of frost thanks to a pillowslip cover, looks like this.
Perhaps in a few more days they will both be open. And here’s the unexpected spark of light – barely a foot away from the rosebush I've been photgraphing, on the miniature rosebush between the lavender and the mint, without my ever noticing any rosebuds, I discovered this tiny rose, fully open, untroubled by frost or hail.
And just a few more photos from the retreat, for friends that would have liked to be there. The theme was Driven or Drawn: Tending Spirit Movement, with presentations by Father Bill Sneck, SJ.
Mary Lou Weaver Houser created the visuals for our time together, and slowly added to this center visual as the retreat proceeded. If you’re wondering about the cobwebby look – yes, it’s floss, picking up on Father Bill’s description of doing a daily examen of consciousness as a good and necessary habit, similar to regular flossing.
The collage in the background of a waiter is also thanks to Father Bill, who likes to use the waiter as an image for his work of spiritual direction. He sees the Holy Spirit as a gourmet cook serving up a rich banquet, while Father Bill is the waiter who knows the menu of many possible prayer exercises, readings and activities; he listens to his directee’s hungers and offers menu “specials;” he is subordinate to the relationship between the diner and the chef, only one part of a good dining experience.
This unplanned still life caught my eye as I was journaling the first night. It captures many features of the retreat – flame-colored leaves gathered out in a beautiful natural setting; helpful presentations and the encouragement to put what we were learning into practice (doing the consciousness examen, formulating a proposition to test with Ignatian style pros and cons); quiet times for reflection and journaling; good food; good worship times. The sheet of music came from an evening worship session and brought its own spark of light for me. It’s the yearningly beautiful melody for a version of Psalm 139 (#556 in the Hymnal Worship Book, a tune by Ananias Davisson called Tender Thought). And the words of the last line are very fitting for thoughts on light and darkness.
If deepest darkness cover me,
The darkness hideth not from Thee;
To Thee both night and day are bright,
The darkness shineth as the light.
And one last photo, taken just as I was leaving. You can see the front view of this statue in the previous post. Here he is more anonymous, a pilgrim setting out. It makes me think of the angel’s message to the women at the tomb in Matthew’s telling of Easter morning. “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here…he has been raised, and indeed, he is going ahead of you to Galilee…” It’s a good reminder, as I return to the routines of daily life, that Jesus goes ahead of me. And that there’s always that pilgrim’s staff, ready to be picked up and used on the Way. (See it waiting there, in the corner? I didn't notice it until after I'd taken the picture.)
The presenter at our retreat this past week was Father Bill Sneck, SJ, who took us through the Rules for the first two Weeks of the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius, helping us better understand the Ignatian approach to the discernment of spirits.
Ignatius is a 15th century Basque nobleman and military commander whose life changes abruptly when his knee is shattered by a canon ball. During a long, difficult convalescence he begins to ponder the difference between daydreams which leave him discontented and restless and those which fill him with energy and purpose. The latter come as he places himself imaginatively in the stories of the life and death of Jesus, and of saints like Francis and Dominic.
Ignatius experiences a radical conversion and as he begins to live this out, pays attention to the interior movements of thoughts, feelings and behavior that draw him closer to God or that pull him away. He puts his experience into guidelines – the Spiritual Exercises -- so that he can share this with his friends. One thing leads to another and by 1534, he and six others make solemn vows that they will serve God together, forming the religious order that we know as the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits.
We covered a lot of good material in our sessions, but the one I want to lift out here is the concept of consolations. Ignatius pondered his experience, and named the movements that draw us toward God consolations and the movements that pull us away from God desolations.
Consolations are the events and the interior movements that cause us to catch our breath in awe and delight, that inflame us with love for our Creator, that move us to tears, that increase faith, hope, love, joy and peace . . .these are consolations. We respond to something we glimpse in creation, in Scripture, in relationships, or in the world around us. “Aha!” I thought, hearing this description. “In watching for moments of light each day, I’m watching for consolations.”
Ignatius recommends that when we are enjoying consolation, we should take note, and store up the memory as strength to face the times of desolation. “Aha!” I thought, hearing this. “That’s what Leo Lionni’s Frederick does, gathering sun rays, colors, and words in preparation for winter. And it’s what I’m doing, in a small way, by keeping this blog.”
A good insight for the blog, I thought, and I tucked it away to write up later. But there’s another piece to add. I picked up a little book by Margaret Silf, Ignatian Spirituality for Everyday Living, and here’s what she had to say about consolations and desolations. “These terms come from the Spanish, and ultimately the Latin root, meaning ‘with the sun’ (‘con-solation’) and ‘away from the sun’ (‘de-solation’)" p 57.
With the sun, towards the Light….moments of light!
All the traveling took me to and from the Mennonite Spiritual Directors Retreat, held at the Jesuit Center in Wernersville, Pennsylvania. This building used to serve as a training center for 200 – 300 Jesuit novices. Now it is a retreat center, with a small resident Jesuit community.
A full day of sunshine on Tuesday, combined with ample quiet reflection time, allowed me to roam the grounds, discovering many moments of light out in their rolling hills.
My third floor window.
I spent four days on the road this week, traveling anywhere from four to eight hours each day. There were many moments of light, but I collected those images in my memory banks, rather than with the camera -- interactions of clouds and light, and of light and shadow on rolling hills and fall scenes, as well as many good conversations with my traveling companions.
One day we traveled during the “golden hour,” that hour loved by photographers when the sun’s rays are low across the landscape. Our golden hour lit the golden leaves still on many trees.
Other days were cloudier, with the sun’s rays breaking through open patches in the clouds, rimming the edges with light, and sending shafts down to earth. When the cloud bank thickened, we were left with rolling Pennsylvania hills, covered with a gray-brown afghan of bare trees, interspersed with an occasional bright yellow or red tree, still proudly displaying its leaves.
Yesterday it rained all morning as I traveled between Columbus and Fort Wayne. The clouds were soggy and leaking, but there was a golden undertone – russet fields of drying soybeans, tawny cornfields, thickets of trees with wet black trunks vivid against a backdrop of yellow leaves.
After Fort Wayne, the cloud cover began breaking up, so there were dramatic cloud configurations mixed with sun highlighting fields and woods. It reminded me of travels in Big Sky country in Alberta, with majestic clouds rather than our more usual gray blanket.
I tried to capture a bit of the drama at a stoplight, and by pulling off a time or two – this only hints at the beauty, because it proved quite challenging to find a good combination of dramatic clouds, shafts of sunshine hitting fall colors and a safe place to pull off the road. Perhaps it can remind you of your own dramatic memories of cloud and light.
A moment of light from worship at Assembly Mennonite today…
The following paragraph appeared in our newsletter, and was also read to the congregation this morning, before we sang Adam’s beautiful song together.
Will You Hold Me in the Light. Adam M. L. Tice, associate pastor at Hyattsville (Md.) Mennonite Church, sent us this note about "Will You Hold Me in the Light." He writes, "I don't know Heidi well but we are facebook friends. I do, however, have numerous friends at Assembly and feel a strong connection to the congregation. I watched the online display of candles holding Heidi 'in the light' and wanted to offer a song of comfort and healing to the congregation as a whole. I had passed the text to my composer friend, Sally Morris, who always does amazing things for me. Then last week, on Sunday morning, James Miller's death was announced during the sharing time. My wife and I immediately began crying for our good friend Lisa Rose. That afternoon I called Sally again to tell her that Assembly was in the midst of a second tragedy. She hummed what she had developed already for the melody, including some material still in need of text. By the next evening we had a completed hymn. I passed it on to several musicians at Assembly. Sally and I dedicate it to your congregation (hence the tune name) in the hopes that it can be a means of holding one another in the light during these dark times."
“Will you hold me in the light with prayer and song? Hold me in the light of God….”
As copastor Karl Shelly said, we are being held in the Light by people and congregations in many different locations, as he’s realized through messages and emails he has received this past two weeks.
A note to those who are visiting regularly….for the next five days I will be traveling and attending a Mennonite spiritual directors’ retreat in eastern Pennsylvania. I will continue looking for moments of light, taking photos and writing, and lifting Heidi, Lisa Rose and others to the Light. But I will be observing a technology retreat and will not post until I’m back in Goshen – come back and visit next weekend!
A hard frost last night, and sunshine this morning. I went back to the prairie plantings on campus and was able to catch a few sparks of light before the warmth dispersed the frost.
And here's a before and after shot -- yesterday's coneflower above, and today's below.
And to close with, maple leaves in the sun.
I wandered campus this afternoon, searching for sparks of light. At first I thought I wasn’t going to find anything – a dry, overcast day doesn’t tend towards the same interplay of light and shadow, or of light on water, as a sunshiny day or a wet day. As I looked more closely, I enjoyed the interplay of two different sorts of moments of light: interactions with people, and the light in the plants.
Usually when I walk on campus it is early morning, or early evening, and there aren’t many people around. Today students and profs were scurrying between classes, and I exchanged greetings with six or seven people I knew. One, seeing that I was prowling with my camera, directed me to this tree on the southeast corner of the Ad building which she described as “practically iridescent, even in this light.”
Another was checking the progress of the prairie plantings on campus. We stopped to chat about how well they are doing – even the section by the tracks that the train company had sprayed just after the college seeded that area. The black eyed susans, mulleins, cone flowers and grasses had already been catching my eye. Here’s a medley, along with a tree branch or two. The sun even came out towards the end of my stroll, bringing out the light of the plants.
Another rainy day – I have to look more carefully to find those moments of light. One came with the news that the biopsy on a friend’s mole had come back with the happy word, “Benign.”
Then there was the quiet light reflected in this bird bath.
And one more photo of rosebuds in the rain.
You'll notice that there are two rosebuds in the previous photo. With predictions that temperatures will drop into the 30’s tonight, and in the spirit of “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,” I brought one inside. It has a teensy bit of color showing. We’ll see if it opens, and whether the bud outside is able to keep developing.
"Instructions for living a life:
Tell about it."
Mary Oliver in "Sometimes"
I've taken on a prayer practice of looking for the moments of light in each day, whether actual or metaphorical, and then writing or posting photos of what I find.