Inked | A Forty Day Journey

March 5, 2014, Ash Wednesday

Beach walk

I did not go to Mass today. I wanted too–it’s been awhile.

Recalling decades back, 1987 perhaps.  That’s 27 years ago. That Lent I returned to communion. Faced myself full-on in the mirror. Maybe it was a year before, or later, God knows. Time is irrelevant. Intent and action matters.

Thomas Merton, “My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you and I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing.  …”

I wish I could say I know God’s will for me. I do not.

Constructs and beliefs about God, both beautiful and burdensome, fall away.

I do know this: the world was made to be free. My heart seeks wholeness and even holiness, although I no longer have a definition.

A journey of decades, and I am here. Now. Tonight U2 plays on my iPod mix: ” “And when I go there, I go there with you…where the streets have no name. …” Two dogs at my side in Alaska. A light snow falls. Peace.

Lenten journeys are significant. Today I’ve seen Facebook posts, “I’m fasting for 40 days from Facebook…” These, mostly from former student friends I want to connect with, recall, touch. I recall significance of years past, personally and collectively. Decades of leadership in the Catholic church. Soul memories surface today, and I smile.

Ash Wednesday in the 1980s
Newly discovering Catholicity in me (I’d abandoned anything churchy ten years earlier at age 13 after being raped) with ashes traced on my forehead, hair bangs a strategic shield for the embarrassment of a public tattoo, I was out to dinner at Olamendi’s in Capistrano Beach, California, with my lover. Seated, order placed, I tuned in: all the local Mexicans in the restaurant proudly shone their ashes. I was the one in hiding, embarrassed. That was decades ago, a threshold night on my journey. Could I claim, proclaim who I am?

Walk On is playing now. I’ll post another day why this is the most significant song of my life. U2 is brilliant. Music accompanies my journey. So too, authors, and the printed page.

This Lent (do you know Lent means spring?) evokes muscle and soul memories from fifteen years of creating reflections for students and community members to deepen significance in our life journey through structured daily life retreats, emails, inspiration, spiritual accompaniment. It’s been a while since this was part of my work-life, yet a part of me will not forget. I think–no matter who we are–we do desire a sense of silence, solitude, community, meaning. Times of pause and guidance. And, I’m out of practice to offer this. Yet.

I will begin a 40 day journey through significant authors. Thousands of books read, and with hundreds in my home, I’ve picked 45 authors to write about, reflect upon their opportune timing in my life, and will daily share a provocative quote as I revisit these trusted friends throughout Lent, 2014.

I’m not sure where this will lead. I do know a “yes” in me responds to an urge. *Grinning* Isn’t this the way of Spirit?

Share the light, life. Evoke. Each day I will post a quote or story from someone significant in my journey whose guidance was revealed and uncorked on the printed page. All these books are underlined, faded, penciled, highlighted, old friends.

Will you make a journey with me? …into your history and emergence, your sacred story with its squalor and beauty, joys, sufferings and delights? What sustains you? Where are your grit and grace foundations? Perhaps your passion is music or mentors, sports or time in the field, books, film, friendships …? What threads through your life?

Please join me.
A friend texted last week, “I do appreciate your resilient big smile … it’s that determination that gets us through.” I don’t think he knew the guidance and confidence he offered me, nor do I know how my words may touch you. What I do promise you is this: I will risk. Unedited realism, unknown destination, exploration. Allowing an emergence–an opening, permission to greater connection–love, undefined.

Ash Wednesday author: Thomas Merton.
Books beyond measure, an untimely death, a transparent life that guides me. If I could have dinner with someone no longer living, Merton would be top five on my list. I wonder if he had lived where his inquiry would have journeyed. Stranger is a favored poem I first read waiting for an OCTD bus on Pacific Coast Highway, near Dana Point, California. I shared it in my University of California, Irvine, poetry class. Only my professor, visiting poet Michael Ryan, knew who Merton was. (Ha! I just Google’d him–I’d forgotten–his book I bought as his student was titled God Hunger. God–that God I no longer know–does have a sense of humor.) I reread Merton’s poem tonight. Still, it resonates.

When no one listens
To the quiet trees
When no one notices
The sun in the pool

Where no one feels
The first drop of rain
Or sees the last star

Or hails the first morning
Of a giant world
Where peace begins
And rages end:

One bird sits still
Watching the work of God:
One turning leaf,
Two falling blossoms,
Ten circles upon the pond.

One cloud upon the hillside,
Two shadows in the valley
And the light strikes home.
Now dawn commands the capture
Of the tallest fortune,
The surrender
Of no less marvelous prize!

Closer and clearer
Than any wordy master,
Thou inward Stranger
Whom I have never seen,

Deeper and cleaner
Than the clamorous ocean,
Seize up my silence
Hold me in Thy Hand!

Now act is waste
And suffering undone
Laws become prodigals
Limits are torn down
For envy has no property
And passion is none.

Look, the vast Light stands still
Our cleanest Light is One!

–Thomas Merton, The Strange Islands and A Thomas Merton Reader

This poem is a foundation to me. Where are your foundations? Who are your treasured authors? Songs? Guides?


Link: 2013 daily reflections: Savor Lent, Savor Life


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