Big Nor’ Easter this weekend! We lost power like so many others, and in the midst of it all we had a visit from Parabola’s West Coast editor Richard Whittaker and his wife Rue. When we first lost power on Saturday, we met them in a restaurant which had a festive inn or mead hall atmosphere–lots of people taking refuge from the dark and the cold together. The next day, it took me hours to make a normally short drive to pick up Rue and Richard in Larchmont, which was/is without power. So many huge trees were down, I would never have found a way if a kindly local Samaritan hadn’t guided me along the old Post road. These kinds of things do draw us together, don’t they? They cause us to remember how dependent we really are–on each other and myriad forces.
When we finally made it home, we stayed home except for a brief walk down to the lake with my dog when there was a break in the rain–just to let these folk from La La land experience how bracing and gray and wild it is here in the Nor’ East. We passed many ruined stone walls, remnants from the hardy farmers who somehow scratched out a living in this harsh climate. The rest of the day and night, we talked and feasted (our friend Liz, our “Educational Outreach Editor” joined us for a while, too). We spoke of how to keep going in uncertain times, when the way ahead isn’t clear. In the midst of it all, I realized once again how thing sthat can seem so flimsy and insubstantial–friendship, good will–can turn out to be more enduring that seemingly solid things like huge trees.
The next morning before dawn, Alex and I drove through more rain and dark to take Rue and Richard to JFK. Afterwards, we made our way to Brooklyn Heights, Alex’s Holy Land, the home of her first ten years and her true happiness. We walked on the Promenade and other dear familiar streets, and stocked up on food at Sahadi’s (the man who scooped up our dates doesn’t have power yet either) No doubt the earliness and emptiness of the streets had something to do with it, but I was filled with a surprisingly deep and wrenching ache of nostalgia. I recently read that the Latin root of the word nostalgia means longing for one’s true home. What I felt had to do with an awareness of the way lives pass. I had rolled Alex up these streets in a stroller and now here she was talking about going to Oxford next year. How did that happen? I longed to find my true home…the way people seek solid ground to build on. Ground that won’t give way in even the strongest storm.
15 thoughts on “Who’ll Stop the Rain?”
Tracy: “Ground that won’t give way in even the strongest storm.”
Last weekend was a ‘work weekend’ at the Foundation where thirty three of us spent Friday nite – Sunday afternoon together engaging in several forms of ‘the work’. A question which is often asked during an exchange after Friday dinner is, “Why are you here?” Different people say what brings them to yet another work weekend. It is always something different for me. This weekend I, myself, was surprised, when I allowed this question to sink in, that the reason was that this is my way, my path; the path which I have chosen. I wished to be nowhere else.
In that moment of quiet and of understanding, and here now keying this comment, there is Presence. The theme for inner work for the weekend, amidst cleaning the yard, sewing, cooking, Movements, cleaning closets, sweeping floors and just talking was Presence and Resistance.
Both these words, not understood very well by any of us, evoke in me a wish to search for their meaning. That to which they refer are mysteries waiting to reveal themselves to me.
Over the weekend, and this morning when I am at home again alone again and sitting, I am reminded again to come back to awareness of myself, because only there can Presence be found. And it is my cat Yoda who reminds me. I am sitting, a morning practice, with eyes closed and quickly there comes a very perceptible silence. I am aware of this strong silence and am curious. Opening my eyes I see Yoda sitting immediately in front of me, staring at me. It is he who is still and silent and it has influenced me. Cats have a very strange way sometimes of communicating what they want. I got up and let him out into the porch, which is what he was asking in silence.
Tracy’s very touching words about returning to Brooklyn Heights reminded me of Presence. I have experienced it many, many times but I could not say what it is. For certain it is what Tracy refers to as “Ground that doesn’t give way…” I experience it in different situations and have been told that it is always there, perhaps forever. But since I have not verified this for myself I have to say, I do not know. I only know when I am aware of it. When I am not where is it? In experiencing Presence I feel at home and at the same time feel that I am new, unknown.
How does Presence come? Is it me, partly me, partly something else? Is it the same as Attention? And why does it disappear? What is resistance? Not the forms of me, certainly. They are needed, they are lawful. But what keeps me from being Present to myself and thereby to the Universe? Without Resistance and Presence would we have any chance at all of going through a process that Lord Pentland once described as similar to that of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly?
Is our home Within?
I would agree that our home is within. My other comment notes how much of a nomad I have been of late, having no sense of a traditional home. But, my home HAS become the silence, the stillness…sometimes it is just being in the silence…sometimes it is a yearning to be connected, for me, to God. And sometimes, not often but like rare pearls, God breaks through and gives me a glimpse of union with him.
I don’t know that I always feel presence in the stillness but sometimes it is so striking that I cannot deny it. The G7 met in Pittsburgh last September and President Obama came to speak to the Finance Ministers. It seemed that the entire city was in prayers of protection for all those gathered, church prayer vigils all over the city. I was driving across the Highland Park Bridge and I could feel God laying over the city like a protective blanket, so thick you could cut it.
Any physical home pales in comparison to feelings of union such as this. Was my home the bridge that day…methinks my home is wherever I am for there God is present within and without…or to paraphrase St. Patrick on the day after St. Patty’s day…
Christ before me
Christ behind me
Christ above me
Christ below me
Christ within me
Christ on my right
Christ on my left
Christ in the ears of all that hear me
Christ in the eyes of all that see me
It’s interesting that both Jesus and Buddha required that their followers be homeless in an outer sense. I have seen that times, even moments, of psychological homelessness, of having all my certainties overturned, can actually allow the Presence that you speak of to appear. I’ve felt it in the silence that follows loss. On a larger scale, Scott spoke of sensing God’s presence on a bridge in Pittsburgh. I felt an undeniable watchful presence in New York, at Ground Zero, in the days just after 9/11. Was it collective prayers or something greater from above? I think both!
Tracy, you have known divine light at a moment of great danger in your life…I also have known of a nearly physical presence, almost like a single facet of a multi-dimensional being, breaking into my reality at a time of great despair in my life. I raised my hands and voice to God in absolute capitulation and despair and there sat a figure…watchful, silent, only perceptible in my peripheral vision…seemingly letting me know that I was not alone, that He was with me…
It changes everything, that impression that there really is a watchful and loving Presence, that it isn’t just wishful thinking or a hallucination or something. Yet, I do manage to forget all the time. Life get stressful and I get consumed….
We have to hold those memories like treasures in our hearts…then we can pull them out in dark times to help us through…and we can tell those stories to others so they too may believe…
Shalom Old Friend,
Hey y’all. I am back from the Holy Land. I can’t put into words how incredible the experience was. Anyways, Tracy, I appreciate your sense of nostalgia (nice turn on Latin definition) that you shared with your daughter. Place is important but especially so when shared with someone who is close to your heart.
It’s weird, I have lived in 5 places in three years as I have gone through my post-marriage transition. A friend asked me awhile back where home was for me and I couldn’t answer. I am in a spell in my life where I have no home. No wonder I find myself working in homeless ministry. Home has been replaced by a search and yearning for intimacy in my relationships with people. Perhaps that is because I no longer have a spouse so I find what I need in a whole web of relationships. For a time this saddened me but now it fills me with excitement and joy.
Loss of home was coincident with loss of identity. Interestingly enough, seminary has enabled me to establish a new identity and allowed me to flourish in ways that I never could have at HOME with my ex-wife. So, loss of home brought great suffering but I think I have finally landed on the other side where joy can be found.
Home, home is where I am with those I love and those I am excited to be with. To quote an old and hackneyed phrase, home is where the heart is. Sorry about that but it dost say it all.
Welcome home from the Holy Land, Scott. I think home is where the heart is. I also think that nostalgia can be a longing for being, if that makes sense. How fast everything changes! Yet I still feel the same inside. Anyway, I’m very happy to connect with a friend from my original home! Peace!
Welcome “home”, Scott! Pardon the pun, but as I see it one of the definitions of home is where the heart resides.
I love what everyone has written, and it reminds me of the time recently when I was on facebook. I think I wrote about it on another post. It was on the anniversary of my mother’s death some 30 years ago. I went to post something, and instead I got a message:”Error, go home.”
So, as the question has been asked, where is home??? I
really think home is where The Presence is. It always dwells within, but the “error” is the thinking (Chattering of the mind) that keeps me from being aware. When I can sit silently in meditation I sense the Presence ,but certainly it is a gift, or grace….Ground that doesn’t give way ~as has been said by both Tracy and Arxtulan. I do think that’s another definition for the Ground of Being.
So, ‘Home”is w(here) the heart is, and if my “heart” is in the right “place”, then I am truly at “Home”.
Scott, tell us what was your most profound experience in the Holy Land?
If you send me a friend request you can see my pictures and some of my comments. Most profound experiences:
First, the quality of the land. How rocky and sparse it is from the Judean Hill Country to the dramatic descent down to the Dead Sea or Jordan River Rift. That the wilderness was desert comprised of rolling hills/mountains covered with nothing but stone.
Second, standing on the Mount of Olives and looking over the Kidron Valley to Jersusalem and noticing that where I stood was covered by thousands of thousands of graves, each covered with a stone slab, all waiting for the Jewish Messiah so they can be raised from the dead. It brings new meaning to the words of Jesus “…and even the stones will cry out.”
Third, everything is sandstone colored, the rock, the limestone buildings…everything.
Fourth, when you hear on the news about a new Israeli settlement, think not of a small kibbutz but a modern day city of 30,000 to 50,000 that has been dropped into the occupied territories.
Fifth, sitting in silence atop the Mount of Beatitudes with birds singing, trees sighing, flowers blooming, the Sea of Galilee at our feet and the Golan Heights across the water. Profound peace…
Sixth, walking from the business of the Wailing Wall through the wall to the Old City into the Temple Mount. Silence…peace…trees…birds…a fountain surrounded by benches and water spigots for Muslim cleansing rituals..open space only filled by the Dome of the Rock and an ancient mosque…and finally, a small Muslim memorial to the Spirits which now is known to sit over the ruins of the Second Temple, destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E.
Seventh, sitting on a pile of rocks at Qumran, the Essene community where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found 50 years ago. Behind me lay red stone mountains riddled with caves where hermits have lived. Underneath me lay the red rocks where the Essenes carved out a community of the faithful. In front of me lay the Dead Sea with the Mountains of Moab just beyond. Finally, a steady breeze rose out of the Jordan River Valley and brushed against my skin. I could have sat there for days….
Eighth, the profound joy I felt as I visited an elementary school run by the Roman Catholic Church in Bethlehem. Intentionally mixed at 70% Christian and 30% Muslim with cross-religious training for all the children. So much joy as we ran around the playground together.
Ninth, smoking a hooka with my host family…
Tenth, how my laughter arose out of a very deep place telling me that I was filled with a very rare joy and peace…
Eleventh, the love that members of my group had and have for each other.
Twelfth, the profound irony of the Israeli policy to the Palestinian people, especially the Separation Wall. The Jews were ghettoized for centuries by the Mohammedans in Constantinople, in the Warsaw Ghetto and in the concentration camps. Now they are building a wall around the Palestinians. It is covered with graffiti and bears a striking resemblance to the Berlin Wall.
The clarity and committment of people like Elias Chacour and Mitri Raheb who cut through the centuries of feuding and seek to build a better world, one child at a time…
In short, it was more than I could ever have imagined…
Wow! Many thanks for this, Scott, and I will send you an “add as a friend” on facebook too, so that I may see your pictures of your trip.
It sounds like you are filled with peace and wonder, tinged with a little sadness???
We humans are so contradictory, but mostly I see hope, wonder, and love in your response!
I need to look up the names in your response, as I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m not familiar with them. :~(
The sadness I feel is for the ongoing conflict of wills in the Holy Land. The joy is that there are people that are looking to move beyond irreconcilable differences to new life. These places are clearly where God is working as can be seen by their abundant fruit. This is the work that Fr. Mitri Raheb is doing at the International Center for Palestine in Bethlehem and that Abuna Elias Chacour is doing in Ibilene, a small city between Mt. Carmel and Nazareth.
Please read Elias Chacour’s Blood Brothers and pass it along to a friend. It brings new perspective both to what happened in 1948 and a path to peace through living out Christ’s Beatitudes.
May you have the fullness of God’s Peace and Steadfast Love,
I don’t know where you are on facebook. Is that where you meant?
Yes, send me a request on Facebook. Just do a search on my name. My nephew and I share the same name…I’m the old guy holding a iPhone at a coffee shop and my network is Pittsburgh.
Yes, faith is our stronghold, and it changes everything, and gives meaning to everything….even though we may not see it at the time.
Today’s gospel is about faith…people not believing or having faith in Jesus because “He was one of theirs” so, no healing took place.
Our times of realization are to be cherished, and held in our hearts until another time, and another time……
I feel the same way as Tracy about the busyness and stress of the day, but then, I also say to myself, how much worse it would be for me and my responses if I didn’t pray and meditate in the morning. Hopefully I do this sometimes during the day too, but that seems to be a real gift when I remember!
Scott, thanks for adding me as a friend ,and for the book recommendation. I am still in FL, and will have to wait until I arrive back in town!
the same goes for getting on line…I do have access at the condo that we’re staying in.
So many days I’m at one of my favorite places…the library!