In the Rockies

In the Rockies
Butler Gulch

Thursday, April 28, 2011

I'm thinking of all those who have lost loved ones and homes in the storms in the southeast this morning and have been checking in with friends in Alabama and Tennessee--all are okay so far. Thankfully, I have no personal photos of storm damage to share.

Here in Colorado, we have a bright, sunny day. However, in the mountains record snowfall has residents worried about flooding if the snow melts quickly. It reminds me that nature's beauty can also bring about destruction and that we have no (or little with floods) control over weather-born tragedy.

Last night our centering prayer group listened to Dr. James Finley discuss the first Noble Truth of Buddhism--suffering. He pointed out that suffering is in and all around us all of the time. For personal suffering, he emphasized that to let go of or transform our suffering, we must first recognize it. He reminded us that both Jesus and the Buddha recognized early in life that suffering could not be avoided. In our culture, we emphasize happiness and want to ignore suffering, especially the suffering right around us.

That brings me to a realization that came to me as I was discussing my childhood at lunch on Tuesday. My companion kept asking about the minister in the church where I grew up. Didn't he know what was happening in the clandestine meetings that took place in the church basement on occasion? Did he participate, she asked? As we talked, I had to acknowledge that this calm, quiet pastor, who lived with his family in a house at far end of the parking lot, had to have known that something bad was happening. He simply turned a blind eye. In that way, he, too, was a participant in the abuse of small children. It was a difficult realization, one I had chosen not to see.

I have to ask myself what else I haven't wanted to see from those childhood traumas, how much I haven't wanted to own of the damage done to me, and how much damage I have done as a result of what I haven't been willing to see. Looking at our own deep suffering takes courage. Being one with the world means we are part of all suffering--more than I can wrap my arms around. I can extend my heartfelt prayers to the suffering children of this world--whatever may cause their suffering. Our St. John's priests have come to expect that when I read the prayers of the people, I will have inserted a prayer for those suffering children. I hope it reminds others to extend their hearts and prayers too.

Last evening a prayer group member told me of a woman who seemed to be mentally ill coming up to a table of women having coffee and speaking to them in a disjointed way. The prayer group member interacted with this woman in a kind, humane way. When the woman wandered on, the other women in the coffee group commented on how kind she had been to the disturbed woman, as if that was a strange thing to do. Kindness to the suffering stranger--remarkable. What does that say about our community? Would we have taken the time to pay attention and be kind to the disturbed woman? Who is our neighbor--the one we should love as ourselves?

Prayers today for our suffering world--and for those around us whose suffering we do not see.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Downtown Boulder in Blossom

Yes, this is the Monday in Holy Week and tonight begins Passover. There will be time this week to ponder deep suffering, death, deliverance--darkness before the dawn.

Today I'm going to digress from these long-held spiritual traditions and share the beauty of the annual blossoming of tulips on Boulder's downtown Mall. They don't all open at the same time, but this weekend many of them were waving in full glory, though by the end of yesterday, the winds would have claimed pedals that were loosing their holds on the stems.

Several photographers with long lenses were out, some with tripods, as I wandered through choosing colors I most love and masses of blooms opening to the sun and clicking my point and shoot to capture the beauty. I noticed a scowl from one such photographer. I may have been in his way as I leaned over the tulips to get the shot I wanted.

Mothers, aunts and grandmothers photographed children in front of the blossoms while others watched the man perched on his high ladder perform tricks for the audience that gathered as he balanced and joggled. In the high sixties, sun brightly shining, it was a lovely Saturday on Pearl Street. Outdoor dining was popular too. I suppose some wandered into the stores, but the out of doors was the big attraction.

The beggars, some sitting on blankets near the Courthouse, a couple playing musical instruments with buckets nearby for donations, those who wanted petitions signed--they were there too. I don't photograph those begging though there was an older man torquing his body into Yoga positions mine would never make who tempted me.

Yesterday's paper featured an article about CU law students and legal aid attorneys taking on the cause of those homeless who sleep on public property (or private without permission) being ticketed for breaking Boulder's law against this. It seems that covered only by ones clothes, sleeping on public grounds is okay. Were this law repealed, there is no doubt that sleeping blankets, perhaps small tents would mushroom on the Courthouse lawn that borders a block of Pearl Street Mall. City Council members quoted said that were that allowed, it would deter Boulder's many visitors and hurt the local economy. Who wants to stroll down a delightful public mall, maybe venturing into stores and restaurants to purchase overpriced merchandise or to eat tasty food and be reminded that many are not so fortunate? It might cause a rush of gratitude.

I walked back to my parked car through trees covered with blossoms, snapping photographs and smiling all the way. Spring is busting out all over Boulder, weeks earlier than usual. It is lovely, and I am grateful.

Monday, April 11, 2011

New Growth in the Midst of Decay

The pasqueflower pictured here is one of the first of the mountain wildflowers to blossom. These photos were taken April 8th, the flowers opening more than a month earlier than last season.

They remind me of new birth and renewal. I think of new birth as new eyes opening, new insights, new ways of seeing both ourselves and others. Renewal--maybe that too is seeing old things in new ways.

The thing that struck me most while photographing the flowers and later budding trees and bushes at nearby Walden Ponds was the new beauty coming in the midst of decay from previous seasons. That is hopeful. Past mistakes, rotten attitudes, or plain old years past don't portend today's ways or preclude today's blossoming.

Reading the Psalm for today (51), I was struck by two lines that weren't as familiar as most of this Psalm--"You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart." That speaks to me of practice of silence in God, giving Divine Wisdom an opportunity to speak to our inner selves. For me it is the practice of centering prayer. For others, it is a quiet walk or another meditation practice, perhaps the prayerful preparation of a meal or caretaking for one whose gift is presence.

I will borrow a story told in a children's homily by our interim rector. A blind woman friend told her that she and her husband had gone to a place where people gathered to watch sunrises. A woman, seeing her cane, came over after the sunrise to commiserate. "I'm sorry you couldn't see the beautiful sunrise," she said. The blind woman replied, "I felt the warmth of the sun's rays shining on my head. Then I felt it move down my body, and finally to envelop me in its warmth. I'll be you didn't see that."

We see in different ways. The small pasqueflowers, strewn among the decay of last season, would have escaped us, had we not been looking for them. Those pictured here were at the very beginning of the trail. We saw other pasqueflowers along the trail, but missed these on our way in and out. I found them only because I was looking for a photograph after my friend had gone. Beauty among the decay. How often can we see? Do we even look?