Photos, sometimes with Commentary, from a lay Catholic.
Friday, October 10, 2014
Good light transforms the ordinary. It reveals inherent qualities, and highlights unseen potentials. We all see so imperfectly, but we know when we have those blessed moments of clarity that something truer and better than ordinary is afoot. Strive for those visions.
This morning I walked through poison ivy to get closer to something beautiful. It was a small risk, and worth any potential harm, to be able to see the light better.
The milkweed is spreading its wings in the fields.
It seems I am often drawn to dark and moody images: the low light, and whispered insights appeal to me. I laugh at the obvious ones with everyone else, but these introverted photos cause me to linger. Not that it matters.
These are among my rescued geraniums, saved from a marked down cart at Lowe's in 2012. They've been growing where all the plants that need some special attention go in my house-- to the "parlor", where the western sun exposure agrees with them.
I guess this geranium is a houseplant now. They don't usually last much more than a year or two. I've taken several in over the years. They get spindly and woody. But when they bloom indoors, it makes me smile. I guess it is worth watching over it to see that flower, or two, or three...
We are all investing in small or great ways, in small or great things. What do we tend and nurture? What things make us smile?
Sulfur cinquefoil (potentilla recta). A wildflower or weed, depending on your view. This pretty flower just started blooming the week of July 4, along with the field clover. In fact, there are several newcomers in the field, and many whose names I don't know.
Thinking about how much effort goes into growing and maintaining a garden, and how effortlessly the fields put on their show. I'm happy to be upstaged by so much perfection.
It was foggy again this past Thursday morning so I tossed my camera into my bag as I left to drive to work. There weren't many others on the road at the time, which is one of the reasons I love mornings best. I passed this one favorite barn and it stood gracefully, dressed in all that misty beauty, but I kept driving. That wasn't the photo. I wasn't sure what *was*, but that wasn't it. Further along, as I rounded a curve I remembered a particular spot, and so I planned to take a photo there to see how the fog played with the clearing between some trees. As I approached the place and stopped (safely), I looked up and saw this.
One of the reasons I love fog is that it is such a great metaphor for faith. The fog limits my view and shrouds many of the very real and tangible elements in a space, but they are, nonetheless, truly there. I just can't perceive them well with my eyes. I suppose if I'd never seen those hidden objects or creatures before, I might assume they didn't exist at all. But they would be no less real either way.
Thursday morning, much of the scene was obscured, but standing in the center of my clearing was this deer, and a perfect metaphor himself.
Faith is not blind. Faith is informed, and acknowledges the limitations of our vision on any given day. I know there are things I can't see. This doesn't trouble me, but it makes me look harder, and listen better.
Insight works like this for me, too. When I have those sudden moments of clarity, I "see" something and understand. It was always knowable, always there, but I did not always perceive or understand it well. We, all of us, see only imperfectly, but we pray that one day, we will see more clearly, and understand more fully.
I needed a detour the other day. I needed one of my own choosing. Not the ones being imposed on us everywhere throughout Ann Arbor and the whole Midwest as our roads are being torn up and reconfigured, but a legitimate detour of heart and mind. So I took the road less travelled. At least, I took a road less travelled by me.
I discovered some pretty neat places, including the one here in this picture. And I gave my mind a chance to stretch its legs and walk about freely. However, the path here, I didn't take. I was certainly curious about it, but a sign informed me that I should not. At least I think the sign was meant for me. And it mentioned electronic surveillance. Well, gee, you don't have to get all "French Connection" on me. Some signs are worth heeding, and so I kept my distance. Mostly. But the path sure got me thinking.
So many paths. So many detours. So many choices. And so many signs.
May all our paths lead us to good places today. May all our detours bring us safely to our destination. May all the important signs be noticed and heeded.
Beautiful churches are found in many places. Different styles and materials may be brought together in different ways. Their outward appearance is often inspiring, but we know that the real treasure is the God that inhabits our worship, and the individuals the churches are designed to inspire. The architecture and the artwork contained within them are meant to teach, to convey spiritual truths, to promote meaningful reflection, and to elevate our minds to higher thoughts.
We visited San Antonio eight years ago, and Mission San José, which is nearby. It is one of the old Catholic Missions in the area. These photos are of the door to the church. I liked its detailed wood carving, and the rose in the center.
There may be things that separate us, but our Faith should always bring us together, no matter who we are. We are not enemies of one another, but rather pilgrims together, all on a journey. We ought to help one another in kindness and truth.
"We are commanded to have only one enemy, the devil. With him never be reconciled! But with a brother, never be at enmity in thy heart." -St. John Chrysostom.
The new snowfall Thursday night and related drifting are the reason Seamus and I were out early Friday morning shoveling the driveway. I wanted to return, in a small way, the favor to my husband, who had shoveled the driveway two and three times a day the week before so I could come and go to work.
I didn't mind. Simple, mundane tasks like shoveling can be nice sometimes and give space for thought.
I've spent the middle three days of this week looking into the past, and researching, studying, puzzling over, and sleuthing out details about my ancestors. The focus of my research was on my grandmother, Edith, and her parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, and their lives.
I can't look back without the sense that I am reading an old and hidden story, most of it lost, that leads to me, and beyond. This story is full of drama, pitfalls, tragedy, human mistakes, compassion, community, faith in God, and hope in the future. It is replete with sacrifice and loss, heartache and courage, and except for its place in history, is not so different from ours. My mind is full of images of many hardworking people, dirt on their hands, with little time for frivolous pursuits, and those people's children, encouraged to study, and to learn to read, write, and master a skill or trade. Some of those who came coursed oceans as young children. Others were from older generations and included grandparents, sometimes widowed. Many traveled steerage class to come to America with the hope that they could do better for their children and families. Some who came couldn't read or write themselves, but their children would learn. They lived in neighborhoods with others of similar background to soften the strangeness they must have felt as foreigners in a new world. They learned skills, labored into their later years, suffered injuries at work, buried many children, and likely struggled to accept the circumstances they couldn't change. They nursed family members in their homes, dealt with the infirm and needy, lived as extended families, prepared meals, and worked hard to make a living.
I stand on their shoulders.
As I shoveled snow from the driveway, I imagined this simple task they they, too, would have done often in their cold climate, to clear steps and pathways.
I leaned into that very small connection. And the sun rose again in the eastern sky, casting a pink light on my work.
These ancestors invested in their children and in a future that is mine today. Their DNA is my DNA, their physical features are mingled to give me my physical features. All of us connected, and separated only by our time in history. I reached back to them, and they reached forward to me, our hands not quite touching.
As the sun rises again today, I wonder what it means, --this history of known and unknown ancestors who are me today. When I study, I am not hoping to find rich or famous people. I'm hoping to find the meanings, and identity that makes us who we are, that make me who I am. These people, only a few generations ago, are they already forgotten?
There is a place outside of time, outside of pain, outside of imperfection, where we are known, we are whole, and we are one. History is only a clue about our origins.
We should hold hands, because deep within us we know that we are all brothers.
I'm a wife, a mother of grown children, and work full time as a nurse practitioner with cancer patients. My work is gratifying often, and difficult and sad sometimes, too.
I'm average and extraordinary, just as you are. I've experienced profound failures, significant disappointments, had a few successes, and been the recipient of a lot of mercy. I try to keep perspective on what's important in life, and not get too upset about the rest.
My Catholic faith is important to me, and while I'm no theologian, it's my intention that my faith inform my outlook and values, and inspire personal virtue. I love that God desires to reveal himself to us. I love the small hints, the little bread crumbs, the multiple clues, and the pieces of the puzzle that dot the created world and point to the hand of the Creator. I love that He uses beauty, art, science, all his creatures and the invisible realm of our heart and emotions to communicate His goodness to us. And I love that the fullness of his love can be seen in the sacrifice of his son, Jesus, which makes me free.