Today I couldn’t find my classroom keys. I never lose my keys. The reason is simply because I used to always lose my keys, so I found particular ways to cope. My system failed today. Sandra was here, and she said a prayer to Saint Anthony, Finder of Lost Things. I didn’t find my classroom keys right away, but I did find that macaw feather. Maybe the good saint gives you what you most need.
That feather means more than it means.
Earlier this week, I spent three days at a local Jesuit Monastery. Here are some excerpts from my Monastery writings:
6-15-15: Wernersville, Jesuit Center
I am here. Slipping deliberately sideways into a pocket of moment–three days of time sustained. I have not come for silence, exactly, but for solitude. My chamber or cell is room 266, on the corner, so I have two windows for a slightly angled cross breeze. One window looks toward the Mary grotto, and the other faces a courtyard where a female saint stands. I need to look up the symbols so I can learn her name. When I first arrived, I sat in the chair and listened to a lengthy catbird concert from the pine outside my window. Later, I looked down into the front garden from a second floor alcove, as the singer bathed himself energetically in the courtyard fountain. I felt like a voyeur.
The experience of eating alone is a different kind of communion, communing with myself and with those who produced and prepared the food. Eating slowly and deliberately.
In the short hours I have been here, I have found myself returning repeatedly to that word: deliberately. I have had to deliberately restrain myself from dashing excitedly from alcove to alcove and from courtyard to courtyard like a child exploring. So today will be for exploring–at a much less frantic pace–settling my spirit into this place.
Excitement is a jarring word–a somewhat jarring emotion, too–in the context of this serenity. Still, this has been such a long time coming, and I am so filled with delight to be finally here that I am excited. So excited that my hands shook as I set out my little altar space on the desk in my chamber. I am learning to balance the thrill of having made it to this time and this space with the peace that I am building within.
Silence. Filled with birdsong.
There will be at least one nap in these days, a “task” recommended to me by my father, and he is a spiritual director, so I shall not argue with that one.
This place is grand and wing-y enough to get satisfyingly lost in. When I lose direction, I find my way to stairs, which are anchors that always seem to bring me back to familiar places.
On the lawn across the drive from the statue of Saint Ignatius the Pilgrim is a massive Weeping Beech tree. Is she forty feet high? Perhaps. And her branches sweep the ground, some of them curving back upward again into light. The space beneath her is a secret cathedral. A photograph could hardly hope to hint at her sun-dappled mystery, her holy sense of sanctuary. I removed my shoes. I found feather there, from a hawk-kill. The fierce ones must eat, too. In her tangled roots are small pools of water. Her pools contain visions for those who will see. I thought I heard a voice which said, “Do not be afraid to live into your power. Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid.” Afterward, I climbed up into her branches and rested there.
Later in the day, as I was reading, I came upon this quotation of Audre Lorde’s: “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”
And then this one, from Toko-pa: “In the Quechua tradition, when you feel grateful, you say, ‘There is a small bird in my heart.'”
So many, many little birds in my heart.
May we walk in Beauty!