Unbridled Passion

 

We all have fantasies…come on, admit it!raindrop liberty

Most people see me as a realistic, pragmatic, even-tempered, patient person who presents a face of contentment with my life and an abundance of compassion for others. A few close friends and colleagues, however, know the real, volatile, driven passionate person who dwells beneath by mundane exterior. The real “Me” is a dreamer, a romantic, a passionate lover who jumps in with both feet; I still live a somewhat enchanted life, filled with bubbling fantasies and whimsical notions that carry me through the quotidian existence-and have been my salvation throughout my life.

The same vibrant fantasy has filled my sleeping and waking dreams for almost fifty years. With Aaron Copland’s Hoedown ringing out like the music of the spheres, I vault effortlessly onto the back of my fearless Arabian mare, bareback and bridleless, and gallop off gracefully, like Alec Ramsay atop his legendary Black Stallion. My hair is still long and blond, trailing behind me like my horse’s whipping mane and flagging, crimson tail. Usually the horse is my little Raindrop, my first horse, gone too soon due to a tragic accident. We are soulmates, sisters under the skin, slaves to one another, yet equals, driving in that passionate embrace of horse and rider who become one.

Cami-Gentleness

When I look out into my yard and see the horses who share my life today, I sigh a bit. I still love them with a fiery passion, but our relationships are more gentle now. with Key and Cami, I have two older girlfriends who accompany me into seniorhood, gently, without a lot of fuss and bother; they’ve been there and done that and we’ve done a lot of it together. Their children, Juby and Shallah, “the kids”, still wonder at everything and seek human companionship with the exuberance that the older girls have left behind; they bump, nuzzle, follow and insist on attention. They are young and the world is theirs.  My other gelding,  Busted Halo, has been bounced around with other owners, but has come home; he is aloof, tentative, unwilling to give his heart…he does not trust as the others do. He will take time, I will have to make time, he deserves time…and love and affection. unlike the other younglings who have never left home, he’s been around and it may not have been so pleasant, but he will come around and be a leading player in a new fantasy…my steady, laid-back trail horse, my steady boy who draws oohs and aahs for his gleaming dappled grey coat and silver plume of a tail.                                              He’s the looker…he just doesn’t know it yet.    speedo windface

These real creatures are my living fantasy; they spark my dreams and warm my heart…they are where my passions streak unbridled and sing a song of freedom.

flamehorse

 

ONE VOICE

A Close Moment

What Life Experience Strips Away

We all fear loss…we fear the loss of loved ones, pets, material goods, jobs, security, living arrangements, situations, friendships…and our own personal gifts. Where does it end? Does it end?

From the first chapter of the Book of Genesis (First book of the Bible), the certainty of change is the only thing we can count on to be unchanging. In the last fifteen years, I have weathered many changes and emerged not unscathed, but still intact. I buried my parents and the three aunts who were part of my everyday life for 35+ years in a span of eight years; I have prayed through tearful goodbyes to beloved horses and pets; I have watched my marriage disintegrate and suffered the loss of my dear mother-in-law; I have suffered through constant financial insecurity due to the actions and lack of responsibility of others. Throughout it all, the support of friends, my parish community and unceasing (well, almost) prayer has carried me through and helped me move on.

Most recently, however, the loss of personal gifts and abilities has left me with feelings of longing and even anger. In December, I was fortunate to be able to undergo spinal disc surgery that alleviated a multitude of neurological symptoms that were slowing me down and causing me endless pain; the anterior entry-an incision at the throat-made the surgery safer and greatly reduced the chance of spinal cord damage. The downside (of which I was aware before surgery) is the trauma to the trachea, esophagus, vocal cords and recurrent laryngeal nerve. For about six weeks after surgery-as anyone who spoke with me will attest-my speaking voice was a cross between Mickey Mouse and Michigan J. Frog, so I determined to offer the world a public service and just shut up until I was sufficiently healed… Three months later, I am speaking normally most of the time, but still cannot project my voice very loudly or very far; for the first time in my life, I actually need a microphone to address a group. Well, it gets better every day and I can be patient-besides, it gives me an excuse to bang on the able to get attention.

seegerHow Can I Keep From Singing?

What is really eating at me is the inability to sing!  For forty years, singing has been at the center of my prayer life, one of my self-expressions of joy and an improver of physical and mental health. Even when playing the guitar gradually and almost completely slipped out of my life-as a gift my parish community no longer needed of me- I continued singing at every possible opportunity and especially in church. And I must admit that, even though it can be embarrassing to be singled out at the moment, I enjoyed people’s compliments on my voice and how it enriched their prayer experience. Now I ask myself how much battering my oversized ego can take before it crumbles completely-and is that a good thing or a bad thing? Humility is a good thing and I try to embrace a healthy serving of it every day, but feeling beaten and demoralized is not. I think back to the day before my surgery, as I sang my heart out at mass, knowing I wouldn’t be able to do it for a while,when I actually heard my own voice as if for the first time, thinking “is that really me?” and immediately wondering if that was a fluke and perhaps my swan song. What if my voice never came back?

For the last two months, I’ve been singing my heart out, silently, to be sure. There’s no point trying to sing aloud because not much issues forth except a little pathetic croaking, but my own silence is lost in the beauty of the whole assembly singing with one voice; I hear Everyone coming out of my mouth and my heart. There is no soloist, no orchestra, no choir that trumps the ONE VOICE of God’s people raising their hearts in prayer and song, yes, one voice…and isn’t that what we’ve all been working toward all these years?

one

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mother Earth and Her Creatures: A Musing for International Women’s Day of Prayer

Then God said: Let the water teem with an abundance of living creatures, and on the earth let birds fly beneath the dome of the sky. God created the great sea monsters and all kinds of crawling living creatures with which the water teems, and all kinds of winged birds. God saw that it was good, and God blessed them, saying: Be fertile, multiply, and fill the water of the seas; and let the birds multiply on the earth.Evening came, and morning followed—the fifth day.

 Then God said: Let the earth bring forth every kind of living creature: tame animals, crawling things, and every kind of wild animal. And so it happened: God made every kind of wild animal, every kind of tame animal, and every kind of thing that crawls on the ground. God saw that it was good. Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the tame animals, all the wild animals, and all the creatures that crawl on the earth.

God created mankind in his image;

in the image of God he created them;

male and female he created them.

God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earth.   God also said: See, I give you every seed-bearing plant on all the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; 30and to all the wild animals, all the birds of the air, and all the living creatures that crawl on the earth, I give all the green plants for food. And so it happened. God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good. Evening came, and morning followed—the sixth day.

Reflection

God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good.”

dump kids

Everything that is of God and from God is good…thus, humanity, by God’s gift and intent, is good. We humans, created out of love, by love and for love, are divinely designed for good and blessed to be people of light. But, often, the darker side of human nature steps forward, the good is often shadowed, giving way to greed, wastefulness, pollution and destruction. Look at the photo of the children playing at the garbage dump. Why are these children not in school or on a playground?  Is this the legacy we choose to leave for present and future generations of humans? Instead of rolling hills, teeming oceans and soft dry sands, will we leave mountains of filth, polluted seas that bring forth no life and miles of oil-soaked beaches?

God commanded: “Be fertile and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth.”

What does it mean to have dominion over someone? When we subdue something or someone, do we nurture and soothe, or do we brutalize, intimidate and destroy? And what really is “dominion”, anyway? Consider bullying, date rape or raised voices at political debates to shout down a speaker.

If we take the example of our dominus, that is, our Lord Jesus Christ, dominion is not a crushing, micromanaging control, but a gentle stewardship and infinitely loving benevolence.

Is this kind of dominion reflected in our care of nature and creation? or is it an example of humanity’s uncontrolled domination of the earth and its creatures?

Dominion carries with it a mandate for respect and stewardship, not a license for exploitation and control. I remember my Italian great-aunts speaking about i criaturi, meaning children, “the created ones”.  The children in the picture are “created ones” What kind of world, worldview, values and habits are we giving to the children of the earth? Will our children play in green fields or in garbage dumps? Will they live and learn to leave something better for their children?

(From USCCB)

In his worldwide letter, Caritas in Veritate, “Love in Truth”,  Pope Benedict XVI writes, “We show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation. Care for the earth …is a requirement of our faith. We are called to protect people (like the children at the garbage dump) and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of God’s creation. This environmental challenge has fundamental moral and ethical dimensions that cannot be ignored.

The environment is God’s gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole. . . (Caritas in Veritate. #48, 51),

Here in North America, the Duwamish Chief Seattle articulated the plight of our home in his legendary letter:

Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? What befalls the earth befalls all the sons and daughters of the earth.

This we know: All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. We did not weave the web of life, we are merely a strand in it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.

What will we leave behind for the children of the earth, i criaturi, the created ones, who are our brothers and sisters, who at least, for now, play in garbage dumps?

5. children of Ebeye and garbage

The Sun-Drenched Cathedral

ola campaneria

www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KPxdOs6LSw

I’ve never been a big “cathedral person.” While I could spend countless hours exploring Notre Dame de Paris or Le Saint Chapelle, American cathedrals have always seemed like cavernous imitations of the grand European episcopal seats. I do have a special affection for St. James Cathedral Basilica in Brooklyn and Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Albany, NY, mostly because they are smaller and more familiar, and probably because they have been the sites of many wonderful experiences in my liturgical life and career. All of this notwithstanding, I had wanted to visit the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, CA, since it was built. Hearing that my Art, Architecture and Environment guru, Richard Vosko, was involved in its planning only heightened my excitement at the prospect of seeing it.

I finally reached the downtown cathedral on October 11-how fitting!-the anniversary of the convening of the Second Vatican Council. After a completely stress-free parking experience, I proceeded out the Hill Street exit to find myself on a stunning, sun-drenched plaza bustling with activity, but filled with a reverent, peaceful feeling. I just didn’t know where to look first. The views, gardens, cafe, benches and tables, fountains and campaneria exuded a tranquil feeling of hospitality; it was exciting, yet inexplicably peaceful. People of all cultures, leaving English mass, heading to Spanish mass or just passing through on a glorious Sunday, nodded, embraced and greeted one another warmly. It was a community. I was enfolded in the sound of the music coming out from the liturgy inside, drawing all subtly into the mood. My heart said, “It is good to be here.”

While I had arrived expecting to have time to “kill” before mass, I soon realized that I had better hurry to find a restroom before mass began. As I entered the chambered nautilus of corridors that embraced the worship space, I knew that I would be there exploring long after the liturgy concluded.

My elation exploded as mass began with a Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens, perfect for an old RCIA war horse like me! It was beautifully celebrated, enhanced with appropriate music, and drew everyone into sincere and enthusiastic participation. I could have died happy right at that moment! The liturgy continued without abandoning any of the promise of its opening rite, with a full choir, robed in emerald and white, booming pipe organ, graceful ministers and transparent and engaging presider.

I spent an extended amount of time in the worship space after mass, observing the Church and how the used and enjoyed the space. I’m not sure if there is a formal name for the basically-rectangular-but -widening -at-the-front shape of the church; it struck me as almost coffin-shaped (how appropriate for a people that plunges itself into the death of Christ!), but I’m sure that was just a fancy of mine.  However, the design allowed for smooth movement of people for a variety of liturgical and devotional activities and is very effective. A large number of people moved around the cruciform baptismal font, experiencing the velvety coolness of the water, blessing themselves and each other and collecting baptismal water to bring home for private devotions. Others waited in an orderly line to touch, embrace and experience the large crucifix on the sanctuary floor, all as the organist played on.  One little girl contemplatively gazed at the light that filtered gently through the alabaster windows.I was surrounded by the People of God in the community that spans the globe.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vw7FOC5uYO8

perp feltapestry

After a few deep breaths, the liturgist part of my brain took over and I began taking pictures, but images of this sacred place will stay in my brain forever. I had had a compulsion to see the Communion of Saints tapestries and was not disappointed; they enfold the assembly with their multi-cultural, timeless faces and costumes, inviting those in the cathedral to join together with the whole Body of Christ, where there is a place for everyone. For some reason, I was especially taken with the faces of Saints Felicity and Perpetua…who were the models? Having heard that many of the faces were workers who constructed the cathedral, where did these two beautiful young girls fit in? Theirs are the faces of the Church today. At first, I was afraid the tapestries would draw attention away from the liturgical action, but the design of the sanctuary, commanding altar suitable for episcopal liturgies, Bishop’s cathedra and crucifix easily keep one’s attention fixed on worship. Were the alabaster windows ostentatious and excessive? No, I think not; the filtered light that they draw into the worship space illuminates without creating heat, which must certainly save energy in the long run. Does the contemporary style detract from the “Catholic Identity” of the place? Not at all; the pieces preserved from Saint Vibiana and historical artifacts and murals clearly insert the new place of worship into the traditional fabric of California’s long Catholic history and the desert tan blends into the southwestern landscape.. Further thought also helped me to realize that this is a cathedral designed to move the Church into the future; should it be necessary to close any nearby churches, the cathedral has enough seating and parking to accommodate more worshipers without losing its sense of hospitality and vitality. The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels is a house for God’s People that will serve the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for generations to come and I know that the warm, exhilarated feeling that I got visiting there will not fade for a long time. If you get to LA, make a visit and share in the excitement that is OLA Cathedral community.

mural

Why Are There So Many Songs About Rainbows?

rainbow-2-537x402

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNM6R6QV9vo

“Why are there so many songs about rainbows?”  Kermit the Frog asked us that many years ago in The Rainbow Connection, but why are there so many songs about rainbows?  I noticed long ago that even the most sober and task-oriented persons will stop to gaze at the wonder of a rainbow. I don’t ever remember anyone telling me they disliked rainbows. How can anyone not like a rainbow? The glory of Creation glows with colorful intensity out of a rainbow and reminds us of the beauty of diversity.Rainbows reveal the full spectrum of colors, hang unanchored in the sky and seem to awake endless possibilities…ALL the colors…somehow, we are all caught up in the rainbow. Of course, anyone familiar with the Genesis story of Noah and the flood recognizes the rainbow as a sign of God’s Covenant with Creation…or do they?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2DTLbTQj0I

I’ve never in my life seen as many rainbow images, pennants, Facebook profile pictures, tattoos and buttons as I have this week. With what are people identifying in all these rainbow images?  Of course, people are making their statements for or against Marriage Equality, also known as “same-Sex Marriage” or “Gay Marriage.” There has been rejoicing in the streets and online, discussions on every street corner, name-calling, unfriending, crepe-hanging and pulpit-pounding. Unfortunately, this milestone in Civil Rights is being twisted into every possible kind of issue, but let’s be realistic. Violence against people of same-sex orientation is not going to stop because of this legislation. Marriage and Family are not going to be destroyed (We “straight” people have messed that up on our own, as one of my friends has frequently pointed out.) Religious institutions are not going to be forced to celebrate same-sex marriages (the Constitution guarantees that, remember?). Individuals are not going to be forced to abandon their personal values, although I hope we all confront our core values critically once in a while to make sure they are not disvalues.  EQUAL DIGNITY is a God-given right to all of humanity, but that has not been expressed in most civil systems. Civil Marriage in the United States has nothing to do with religious affiliations or moral mandates; it is a legal contract that determines to a great extent distribution of goods and the right of one partner to make decisions with and for another, and until now, those rights have frequently been denied to same-sex couples, no matter what their wishes. For the people affected by this Supreme Court Decision (and let’s be honest, we heterosexuals are not being directly affected in any legal or civil way), this is a landmark decision that will grant them the same status and benefits of heterosexual couples under the law.  Few of us would argue that equal dignity under the law for women and people of color is evil, or even a moral disvalue, so why are people up in arms over a statement of civil rights? Why would we not want every person to have have equal protection, equal status, under the civil law, unless we had personal plans to alienate or undermine them?

Have we forgotten the Rainbow Covenant? If the God of our fathers and mothers promises never again to destroy humanity, despite our imperfections and repeated ingratitude for our blessings, why do we think that we have the right to destroy any part of it or keep those blessings from others? Are we still trying to be our own God?

rainbows

A colleague whom I greatly admire addresses some of this in his blog this week (https://richardsvosko.wordpress.com/2015/06/28/homily-28-june-2015-renewing-the-face-of-the-church/), and far greater minds than my own have been addressing this issue for a long time, so I need not restate their positions. I do wish to pose a question, however: does opposition to the dignity of all individuals make some of us feel threatened? Is it because we have an essential insecurity that we wish to keep hidden? As Kermit said, “Rainbows have nothing to hide”.  At the risk of offending my friends of all orientations, isn’t it time that we became ONE PEOPLE (maybe “God’s People”?), instead of separate  sub-cultures and ideologies? If we fear diversity so much, why are there so many songs about rainbows?

warped_double_rainbow_by_captain_halfbeard-d5ikcd9