We Pray with All of Our Senses

I was driving through the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania — an unplanned five-hour trek home due to my friend’s canceled flight — feeling annoyed and disappointed. Suddenly, my busted-plan weekend shape-shifted into a sweet gift.

The beauty of the terrain lifted my spirits: clear morning sunbeams lit up the ice-covered craggy mountain walls, like white icing on molasses cookies. A few glittery flakes were falling gently through glazed tree branches — white, dark, white, dark — creating a pleasing rhythm. As I drove, I clicked through the many soft rock and Christian radio stations till I heard this snippet:

We pray with all of our senses.

Cut to…

At home the next day — a 75-degree sunny Sunday with nothing to do but take a hike in the woods. Afterwards, I was sitting in my backyard garden feeling that satisfying kind of tired from moving my body around out in nature.

Suddenly two people appeared. They were dressed in heavy layers of black clothing, him in a suit and tie with an overcoat, and her in a dress with black stockings and a hat.

I’m sorry, it’s a confusing neighborhood,” he said. I thought they were going to ask me for directions so I smiled and perked up. (For some reason I love giving people directions.) He continued: “Can I offer you this… it’s about a talk on Tuesday night.”

I looked at the glossy pamphlet with a picture Jesus on it but didn’t extend my hand to receive it. The rest of what the man said was a blur because I was transfixed by his face: smooth skin was pulled taut over pronounced cheekbones, like a wax figure at Madame Tussauds.

“I’m good with everything,” I said, still smiling. The man thanked me for listening and they went on their way.

I didn’t mind that they had walked up my driveway and into my backyard to try to share what’s clearly so important to them. It doesn’t matter to me what people believe as long as they’re kind and respectful, as these folks were.

But here’s what I really wanted to say to them:

ambrosia 1000

Lovely people, come sit with me for a while. Take off your heavy wool coat and enjoy the warmth of spring. Do you smell the honeysuckle? Let me serve you some ambrosia I made this morning. Taste the sweet, tangy, creamy, crunchy… Savor.

Kick off your shoes and rip off those black stockings… walk around… feel the crisp green grass beneath your feet. Connect to the power of the earth itself. Raise your hands up and stretch your body. 

Turn your face to the sun and bathe in the rejuvenating light. Do you hear the birds songs? Sit with your eyes closed and focus only on that — they all sing a different tune but together they make sweet music. They’re singing for themselves… for each other… for you.

This, my lovely friends, this is the most powerful prayer you could ever offer. Appreciating this excruciatingly beautiful life you’ve been given by reveling in it with all of your senses — that’s what your soul wants for you. 

0413171545a~2You don’t need to study or repent or work to prove your worth to God, Christ or me. We know you are divine. We know how elegantly your five senses line up with the pleasures of this world — that’s not a tease or a reward, it’s a huge hint. 

Now go… go walk through this beautiful neighborhood if you enjoy doing that. I certainly do. But be sure to look up at the squirrel’s nest perched in the highest branch. Peer down at the tiny, brave crocus that has arisen yet again. 

And if you ever drive through the Laurel Highlands, take note of how the white icing glistens against the dark, ragged rocks… Say a prayer with all of your senses.

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Amy's Ambrosia recipe

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The Magic of Cherry Blossoms

While I was visiting my 92 year old mom last week, the cherry tree along her front walk started to bloom – a happy sign of spring bursting forth, right on schedule. My mom walks slowly with a cane, usually looking down to make sure she doesn’t trip on anything. One day we were leaving the house and she stopped and stood under the tree then looked up to see the puffy pinkish white offerings set off by the clear blue sky.

“Thank you tree!” she said. “You’re so beautiful and you make me so happy.”

Two years ago, my mom broke a vertebrae in her back and had to spend the better part of spring in bed. We didn’t know if she would ever recuperate, and there were many moments when we questioned whether she would even survive (on many occasions she told us she was ready to go so we set up hospice). Hopped up on pain killers, she stared out her bedroom window at that cherry tree for hours and hours, watching the buds open into delicate flowers grouped like families on the limbs.

We had many conversations during those two months, and she often commented on how appreciative she was of that blossoming tree. This didn’t seem too unusual to me since my mom has always been a nature lover. But her praise of this tree was different – it’s beauty transfixed her. She never seemed upset by her accident or annoyed that she was bedridden (again, probably the oxy), but I think deep down that tree kept her in this world, grounded and blooming.

Amazingly, she has healed nearly 100% physically, but the trauma (and maybe the painkillers) turned her forgetfulness into full-on dementia. A layer – the one that caused her to worry, made her feel like she had to constantly be productive and direct the whole show – dissolved. Now she’s content to watch the birds and squirrels on her back patio instead of feeling the drive to clean, volunteer or strive. Life is easy and pleasant for her now; she lives in the moment because that’s all she has.

I wonder what her life would’ve been like if that layer had dissolved while her memory was still intact. Don’t get me wrong, she was always good-natured and positive, but like all of us she’d get swept up in the doing instead of the being. Deep down I think this happy-go-lucky mom was always there, hoping to pop out but waiting patiently till all the chores were done.

When I visit my mom these days, I like to watch her watch the world. Her delight is a reminder to me to bask in what’s truly important while I still can. Also, now I know where I get my proclivity for talking to nature and thanking it for its beauty; my marveling at simple pleasures makes more sense. I guess the cherry doesn’t fall far from the tree.

butterfly on cherry blossom PIC_YES

It’s not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanates from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.
– Robert Louis Stevenson

I Do This Daily = High Vibe

Last night’s dream: someone was changing the batteries in the smoke detectors. I said, You don’t need to do that, they were changed on June 18 (2016).

When I woke up, I looked in my journal to see what was going on back then. I was amazed: It was the exact time I’d had some big a-ha moments and made significant changes to my mindset and also my daily life.

Now, 7 months later, I see how those things have manifested. These days, I’m always either in a high vibe state or I can get there really quickly. I now live much more in the moment and follow my impulses (hello divine guidance). My life flows along and I make better decisions easily, without a bunch of angst. I feel in sync with my authentic self and everything else springs from there.

So what’s the daily habit that really transformed my life? Every morning while enjoying my coffee, I write at the top of my journal page:

Source, God, Universal Energy* – thank you for focusing your positive attention on me. It feels so good…

And then I take a moment to really feel how source energy is beaming love to me, in this moment and always. Usually I write more, sometimes a couple sentences other times pages, while I’m in that state. It’s been amazing the insights and ideas that have come through.

This phrase works for me because I actually feel a wave of unconditional love and wellbeing wash over me. I hook into that feeling and it instantly raises my vibration. It also gives me a sense of responsibility, in a really good way. Like, what I’m doing today matters because source energy is taking the time to focus on me (as it’s doing with everyone always, but hey, I’ll take it!).

This pleasurable little activity sets a positive and high vibe tone for the day. Later, if stuff starts happening that isn’t so great, I take a moment and look up and say again: thanks for focusing your positive attention on me. I make a point to really feel it. Instantly I calm down and regain my high vibe perspective.

If you’re looking for a reliable way to recharge, give it a try!

*Source, God and Universal Energy are all really the same thing. And they are all Love – capital L unconditional Love. I write them all just because it feels nice. You can use whatever you like as long as it represents that unconditional Love energy that everyone is connected to.
love flower

I Voted for Love

11/8 – morning

My polling place is the historic Church of St. Martin in the Fields. After voting in the parish hall, I like to slip into the sanctuary. Four years ago, the organist was practicing, filling the soaring space with sounds of sunlit joy, velvety depth and pure comfort. As I listened, I felt all of the love that had been conjured over time within those architecturally stunning walls – baptisms, weddings, stories, choir voices calling in blessings for all.

I’m excited to vote for love.

11/8 – afternoon

Today, after voting in the parish hall, I slipped into the sanctuary per usual. I was greeted with a large standing frame containing the outline of a red heart. Parishioners had tied pieces of fabric into a metal grid to fill in the shape. I was completely alone in the quiet space, but I could still see the love, hear the echoes of love and feel the love that has been called forth and shared over decades.

We are creatures of love – that’s our natural state – and today love is breaking out of these sacred walls and spreading far and wide. Today I voted for love.

As I was walking home I dropped my phone and broke the screen into a perfect spider web. The pictures of the fabric heart were trapped inside, inaccessible no matter how hard I swiped.

11/9

The sunlit skies of yesterday are gray today. My new phone arrived and the big red heart re-emerged, unfazed by the sudden shatter. Love doesn’t disappear, it’s always there waiting for us to find a new way to see it.

I’ll always vote for love.
fabric-heart-vote

Your Story is Yours

For a writing assignment in a freshman writing class, I interviewed an elderly, blind Seer my sister knew of in Colorado. I walked about five miles from her apartment to his house out in the middle of nowhere. He spoke to me of mystical things and I was so young I barely knew what questions to ask, but I felt reverence for the experience. Back in class, the professor read my paper aloud, adding inflections and facial expressions that made the content sound absurd and farcical, which was the opposite of my intention.

The following year, my poetry teacher maligned a poem I had written about cleaning my dorm room, saying a poem had to be about more than that. He was right; however, mine did have a deeper meaning – it was about how I can’t function with visual chaos around me and how I’d come to know a feeling of peace in my soul. Obviously the piece needed more revision, but the teacher had failed to see that there was a more universal theme underneath my naive words.

These instances made me back off my interest in writing, and I switched my major from communications to art history. I don’t blame those instructors for discouraging me or even for disrespecting my work. Over the years, I’ve made similar critiques and edits of others’ work. Instead of trying to understand where the writer was coming from or how I could be helpful in a way that would encourage their creativity, I saw it only from my own perspective.

If you’re writing about something, it probably has meaning to you. Stick with that, dig down and roust it out. Play with it and help others understand it too. If someone tells you it’s silly or not enough, don’t get discouraged, just keep digging and playing.

I still work with the themes I wrestled with in college: spirituality, intuition, soul-peace.  And I’d love to interview that elderly man again, because now I’d know what questions to ask.

god in sky

“Beasts” Chewed My Senses, Spit Out My Soul

The movie, Beasts of the Southern Wild, kidnapped and torqued my senses. My gut swirled as the briny, slimy crab innards slid down; diamond-shard sparklers flicked at my squirming spirit. As I tried to take a clean breath of sticky air, damp mold and the tart sting of charred rot clogged my lungs. Too many shots of rotgut on a chicken-grease stomach churned as my scarred feet pounded across prickly grass. And so much salt – sweat, brackish stains – my lips rippled, longing for a kiss of something creamy and sweet.  But there was no relief, only the sharp cracking of wind and water and words slapping at my gasping skin.

Oblivion, until soft scarlet lights wrapped me in alligator love. Maybe I’d rest for a brief moment. But I couldn’t, distrustful of the steamy motivations caressing my sun-burned shoulder and the lurking reverie of a clammy future. My soul flew overboard, crashing into the slate shard waves.

Skin chills on the balmiest gray day, an angel in a tutu splatters through bird-shit mud, thick like rancid bacon grease. I can’t follow her anymore but I can’t abandon her either. I’m nauseous and exhilarated, wondering if I can ever climb out of the dank and delicious hole to wash my eyes and throat. I need to cleanse my senses so I can fully absorb the splendor. But it’s too late, the beauty has already lodged like a spur into my black-and-blue heart.

magic gardens bottles

wavy tree

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We Are All Holy Creatures

My neighbor’s feisty young cat attacked my old girl numerous times over several years.  I have scars on my arm from where the offender jumped up and clawed at me as I threw water on the battle to break up a fight.  Our time outside was guarded and tense, never knowing when an attack might come.  Vet bills racked up.

Christmas Eve 2012.  I pulled into the driveway at 11:30 pm after attending a candlelight service.  The bad girl was sitting in the slushy snow at the end of the driveway; she stared at me solemnly.  In the spirit, I wished her a Merry Christmas and told her to go home where it was warm.

She disappeared two days later and hasn’t been seen since.

The weather is warm now and my girl and I frequently perch in the sun on a lounge chair.  But I can’t totally relax, my nerves on habitual alert.  I feel angry that our lives were so disrupted, and I feel sad that my 21-year-old girl had to endure pain and fear.  Still, I pray for the terror-inducing feline – may she be warm in someone else’s home, not torn and bloody from being ravaged by a fox.  She’s a holy creature, just like we all are.

Be sad.  Be mad.  But please don’t let hate and fear settle into your heart.

Detail of Assemblage with Painted Frame by Simon Sparrow

Detail of Assemblage with Painted Frame by Simon Sparrow

(This piece is included in Great & Mighty Things: Outsider Art
at the Philadelphia Museum of Art through 6.9.13)

Cerise and Chartreuse

pink close up, Magic Gardens, Philadelphia, PA, 2011

If her life could be story-boarded out like they do in the movies, Ginger’s would be hand-colored in burnished bronze, chartreuse and lilac. Exotic jelly beans, not snow-cone blue and apple red. Acutely aware of shades and values, she hated when she had to pick a favorite color. Green. What’s that? Acid, forest, olive, mint, lime, seafoam, seamist, blue-green, green-blue, algae, ocean, and on what day the ocean? For god’s sake, she needed subtlety, nuance. She couldn’t even completely buy into Feng Shui because it wasn’t color-specific enough. Beige? What is that? Mocha she could understand. But f***ing beige? Carmel, sand, café au lait. Come on. Add some texture at least: warm oatmeal. Is there a prettier word than Cerise by the way? Cherry-dark, sweet, goes with chocolate, pinot noir, scuffed brown leather boots and the tingling scrape of a man’s scruff against your flushed cheek. His earthy smell of bonfires and cloves. Ruddy. Randy. In from the fields, carrying cherries, ready to take off his soft suede jacket and nuzzle your neck. See how great Cerise is? Ginger will name her children Cerise and Chartreuse. They will have layers, smells, tastes. Her girls will be like little decadent Black Forrest cakes, standing out from the vanilla masses.

self-portrait, Magic Gardens, Philadelphia, PA, 2011

Rock Slide

While walking in the woods today, I stopped along the creek bank to say hello to a frog I had grown accustomed to seeing these past few weeks. His coloring caught my eye one day, and since then I’ve looked for him in the same spot and he’s always there. Bronzy brown from the shoulders down, his neck and head are iridescent green. He sits contently on a rock in a crevice that goes from the main path down to the creek. I guess it’s a good fly-catchin’ spot.

Today, my froggie friend wasn’t there. It looked like there had been a rock slide, maybe things shook loose during a storm. I wondered if the frog decided to perch elsewhere today or if his grotto home had gotten damaged so he moved on. Then some darker thoughts crept in: What if he got crushed by the rocks? I looked in the rubble for a sliver of bright green but saw nothing. And then I remembered a post I did in my old blog.  It was about when walking in these same woods, on a path not far from where I saw this frog, I had come upon a snake with its head reared up. When I looked more closely, I saw he was eating a frog whole. I wondered if maybe the bi-colored frog met the same fate.

That got me to thinking about those old blog posts. It’s been nine months to the day since the last entry. I thought maybe I should revisit it to see if I could make anything into a current post and story. But since that time, my own internal rocks have shifted; they’ve slid into different formations, stronger and more stable ones. And I know that those rocks can never go back to the way they were before. Those stories are good, but they’re from another time. That was another frog.