Tag Archives: Hildegard

2014: Letters to Biddy Early

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Thank you to readers who are reading all the 2013 Letters to Hildegard for me and selecting their top 10 or 12.  If you have been a regular reader and want to let me know your favourite entries as well, I will be delighted to hear from you.

2014 my letters will be to Biddy Early and you can follow here.

Thank you for all your support and interest in 2013 and I hope you will come follow again in 2014.

 

My blue suede shoes

My blue suede shoes

Thank You and 2014

Dear Hildegard,

Thank you for your companionship in 2013.

Yesterday I put out an invitation to friends on Facebook to see if I there were a group of people from a range of ages and backgrounds who would volunteer to read by letters to you over this past year.  Their mission is to choose 10 -12 posts that they find inspiring, helpful, worthy of being read by others and to let me know why they have made those choices.  I was delighted at the range of people who accepted the invitation.  People from Australia, Canada, Indonesia, from a wide range of faith traditions and personal journeys – all pilgrims in their own way.

Once I have their feedback I am going to make a final choice of posts and re-work them a little and see if there is a publisher out there interested! Why not?  It will be a kind of epistolary.

It has been a wonderful journey with you in 2013.  I am deeply grateful for your friendship, inspiration and challenges I have encountered in writing to you each week.  Your songs have often floated past as I have written to you, your images have evoked memories and led me to new thoughts.  Thank you.

As 2013 draws to a close I want to maintain the discipline of a weekly reflection and begin with a new woman to write to.

I have been ‘shortlisting” who I will write to in 2014 and on that list are some amazing women:

Biddy Early who I met in County Clare in Ireland this year – an early 19th Century woman who was also known for her healing powers like you Hildegard, and who was not afraid of relationships and love – she had three husbands in her life.

Juana Ines de la Cruz a 17th Century Mexican, a nun like you Hildegard. I was introduced to this year by one of my children – a musician, poet and scholar.

Mirabai a 16th Century Hindu mystic whose spirituality became famous around all the lands just as you too Hildegard was famous in your region.

I have been finding it hard to make a decision, each would give me wonderful companionship, challenge my thinking and take me to a new place in my reflective pilgrimage.  I have seen the land of Biddy Early, as I had seen your homeland Hildegard, and so that element has helped me make a final decision. In 2014 my letters will be to Biddy.  And a thank you to Jane O’Brien for introducing me to Biddy this year while I was walking the streets of Ennis.

I hope you will follow Biddy and I in 2014.

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Lingering

Sitting in front of a beautiful painting, or adoring a sunset or holding a new born babe as they fall asleep in your arms – all wonderful moments that urge you to linger.  Not wanting to leave is a fundamental ingredient to lingering, a savouring of the moment. Procrastination or putting off the inevitable to take the next step in a journey or a decision may show reluctance to face the inevitable, but maybe lingering is more like being a sponge to squeeze everything out of the moment that is possible.

In a conversation this past week, a friend told me her mother was lingering, in no hurry to leave this life and her palliative carers. Palliative care is all about relieving but not curing and so lingering is similar; knowing that there is an inevitable next step after relishing and drinking in the moment that you don’t want to leave.

I have been noticing when I linger and when I leave prematurely, and the differences between the two. Leaving early and staying later maybe two sides of the one coin – finding the right balance is a Goldilocks ‘just right’ experience. When we linger it is often others who notice we aren’t leaving, and a mid-wife appears to birth a next step or guide us on our way out of a comfort zone we may not want to leave (or ushers us gently). I  have often held the view that midwives and palliative care nurses have a lot in common but my own preference is to be more like a midwife coaching new ideas into life, than a palliative care nurse who might be smoothing the pillow to make death easier.  (Certainly in my relationship with the church Hildegard, I have made it clear that I am in the midwifery business, actively and consciously paying attention to foster new models and new life and not to hold a dying institution’s hand as it decays.)

As the calendar year comes to an end, I am savouring all the gifts received during the year and the invitations I received.  I have been faithful to writing to you and poetry. I have had many wonderful opportunities to extend my reach on line (curating a couple of #rocur accounts, initiating and advancing social media for community based organisations in particular), presenting a TEDx talk, having a little essay published on my favourite website, building new friendships and watching those I love take big leaps in their personal and professional lives, spending hours holding hands on a red couch with my one true love, watching the honey eaters on the grevilleas in the garden as well a precious trip to Italy and Ireland … and the list goes on … I am blessed and grateful for the gifts of 2013 and I will linger in it a little longer before 2014 begins.

There are many ‘just right’ moments I could linger on this year and here is one that brought a little of heaven to earth when love was in the air!

Transit of Venus

Forecasted by astronomers and prophets
(those faithful custodians of the future).
Arranged by the UniVerse,
Guided by planets and stars,
The promise of arrival is fulfilled.

She arrives.

Arrayed in crystals and petals,
Radiant.
Casting a shadow long and slender
Onto the gasping assembly.
Her beauty takes their breath away.
She moves us
Through all the elements;
Air,
Fire,
Water.

The leaves shake in counterpoint timing.
Warbling magpies gather in communion.
All of creation consents.

The salted beads slide down our faces.
The candle, encased by ancestral love
Flickers;
Lovingly reminding us,
Angels too witness this celestial sight.

She glides into place.
The jigsaw now complete.

A new day dawns.
And Venus transits into her next orbit.

(c) Moira Deslandes, November 2013

Clare's Wedding Day

Clare’s Wedding Day

Heralds

The forecaster predicted rain and so it came to pass that the memorial service for Mandela drenched dignitaries and Soweto citizens alike. I watched from the comfort of my red couch. Boos for Zuma and a speech from Obama that will go down in history as one of the great speeches of the 21st Century.  Hildegard I listened to the words and songs and dabbed at my eyes along the way and prayed his death will herald a future of reconciliation and restorative justice in other parts of the world – Cuba, Palestine, Tibet came to mind. The US and Cuban leaders shook hands, Mandela’s words about Palestine filled twitter and the Dalai Lama was refused an entry visa to South Africa to appease China – so there is plenty for Mandela’s spirit to herald.

Reflecting on being a herald in this season of Advent, when there are so many heralds in the nativity story is capturing my imagination.  Those who brought the message of hope, the one who carried the child, the shepherds, the innkeeper, the astrologers, the animals too – all heralds to the news of child like no other come to greet us to in turn announce and proclaim a message of peace and justice.

The herald announces something is about to happen. The stars twinkle and turn each evening making their way through the night sky, like a town crier, each flicker a message, inviting me to join in the great cosmic event about to unfold when the day breaks.  Br David Steindl-Rast reminds us that each new day is a good day, an irreplaceable gift, one that arrives freshly delivered each and every morning.  I wake to the sounds of the birds who sing a chorus of welcome in my garden and urge me to join in the song.  As their song makes its way to my ear I wake up to the new day. A battalion of carollers arrive every morning to announce to me that the new day has arrived.

Not all heralds bring good news. My email in box delivered some news I didn’t want to read this week. News that I knew would come one day from a dear friend of an illness that has taken its next step in her body.  But in bringing that news to me I responded and was able to share an embrace in real time face to face. We were in the trenches together once and the spirit of the ANZACS somehow got us through. Her spirit is holding her too now as she lives in these precious moments of each new day.

When I look over my year I see heralds everywhere! Musicians, story-tellers, poets, dogs, children, flowers, trees – all of creation – animate and inanimate – announcing and denouncing – laying out a path before me and inviting me to go deeper.  There is no doubt that David Whyte’s work has been one a very significant herald trumpeting a way to look at the world through the lens of a poet.  This has heralded for me a new way of seeing the world. He writes:

The poet lives and writes at the frontier between deep internal experience and the revelations of the outer world. There is no going back for the poet once this frontier has been reached; a new territory is visible and what has been said cannot be unsaid. The discipline of poetry is in overhearing yourself say difficult truths from which it is impossible to retreat. Poetry is a break for freedom. In a sense all poems are good; all poems are an emblem of courage and the attempt to say the unsayable; but only a few are able to speak to something universal yet personal and distinct at the same time; to create a door through which others can walk into what previously seemed unobtainable realms, in the passage of a few short lines.

Hildegard the Herald – you too have opened up a way for me to share thoughts and stories this yearl and as the year comes to a close I am grateful that a path was made by writing each week. A path that has lead me to new friends, new ideas, new challenges.  A path that has encouraged me to reflect and review my life in a way I had not done before.  A path that is now clearer for me to do more writing, more reflecting, more poetry … and who knows where that path is leading me … the door is open and I will keep walking through it each and every day because I aspire to be like Mandela and each day listen to W.E. Henley who wrote Invictus, herald the message: I am the captain of my soul.

NT Sunrise

NT Sunrise

Mind the Gap

The space between the platform and the train has an attribution all of its own. The London Underground station address system reminds us with a regularity (that has the danger of becoming too familiar) to mind the gap.

What happens in that moment when we do mind the gap? When we contemplate what the gap is all about between being stationary to being on the move?  Or from being on the move to being stationary?  What is there to mind?

 Mind – a place of contemplation, thought, attention

The – definitive article

Gap – a space where we can fall, be injured, disappear, tear apart.

Can I thoughtfully pay attention to a definitive identified space so that I won’t be seduced or captured by it? By definition if I do mind the gap, then, my mindfulness will lead me safely to my next destination.

Like many a pilgrim I haven’t always obeyed the instruction to mind the gap. I have sometime been seduced and fallen into the space, or danced dangerously close to the edge teetering on the immoveable platform playfully testing both the gap and the platform to see where I might fall.  I have also landed heavily in the gap while jumping off a train, scurrying to get a steady foothold so the gap would not claim me.

The gap holds its own secrets of darkness. The automated digital voice brings a comfort all of its own and when I hear it when I am London I often treat it like the bell for mediation calling us to stillness and back to mindfulness.

Thich Nhat Hanh first encouraged me to look for the signs in everyday life to bring me to mindfulness. One recording of his on driving in traffic is still a practice, and that is to treat the stop sign as an invitation to breathe and the sound of a bell on a train or a tram as the bell to call us back to mindfulness. So too is the message and the announcement to mind the gap.  Be mindful of falling into the abyss between being still and moving – alight the train to the next station in life with care and definition. Stand attentive to make the move and not be distracted by the gap in time and space that one might have to traverse to get to the station or back on the train.  Mind the gap could well be a mantra all of its own for the modern city pilgrim commuter!

The break in the continuity of the journey is what the gap announces – there will be a break in transmission is what happens when you are in the gap. The pause gives a moment of respite and has its own value and with it perhaps a practice.  A practice to honour the gap that we cross over from stillness to motion and back again – a continuous call and response of its own.

I reflect on the gaps I cross and the bridges I make when I step over gaps uniting in a single step two sides of a single journey. The generation gap is one that I find myself trying to bridge on a daily basis. The gap between the rich and poor, housed and homeless, fed and hungry, settled and seeking refuge – there are so many gaps that I feel called to be attentive too, even if I don’t have the capacity to bridge them, I hope I will be able to mind the gap and bring them to my attention.

I do want to mind the gap and to be mindful of the gaps I just jump over each day with ease; often with scant attention, just jumping on the next train, to the next station barely taking time to be still on the platform.

What if we had no gaps to mind ?   Hildegard I think the most ancient of baptismal rites provides some instruction here – in Christ there is no Jew or Gentile, slave or free, woman or man no more.  In this scenario there is a world of equality and unity, where there is no gap to mind because the void has been filled.  A reflection on that conundrum might be something for another time!

For now,  I  invoke the  mind the gap mantra and in doing so, reflect on the relationship between action and contemplation.

Mind the Gap

Mind the Gap

 

Call and Response

The basic form of any interaction is call and response.  It takes centre stage in performances that begin in the cradle where the child smiles and we goo and gah back … or is it the other way around. Over the years the call and response might get a bit more sophisticated and spicy when you add in gender, sexuality and music.

There is an eternal question of whether we find our own vocation or it finds us – the master arriving for the student when the student can receive the master … and so the same call/ response pattern continues. So it is with our spirituality – does your practice find you? or  do you find your practice? Who has the call? Who is the respondent?

I sense Hildegard that the more I am open the more it is likely that I can receive and hear the call rather than make the call and have a response back from the UniVerse. One voice and a chorus response reminds me of what happens on twitter one message being re-tweeted to hundreds and sometimes thousands of others. Such a wild way of thinking about call and response in my time.

Hawken’s Blessed Unrest names and claims what so many of us are a part of, invisible and indivisible threads woven together by a common vision of a world that comes into being because of our collective, if sometimes dis-organised arrangements.

We gather in time and space, on line and off line, in the crevices and crannies of cyber space portals, making our mark and making a difference.  Unfettered by sovereign boundaries we say yes to our common values and there is what Hawken names as a collective genius at work birthing an alternative narrative to a doom and gloom future.

When I was CEO of Volunteering South Australia and Northern Territory one of the key points I regularly made in the public domain, was that when we vote we have a say for the type of government we want every three or four years, but every time we volunteer, we are voting with our hands and hearts on the kind of community and environment we want to live in and create.  I am limited in the number of hours I can volunteer in a face-to-face way these days, and after serving on community boards and committees for more than three decades, I am looking for ways to mentor the next generation. I am looking for ways to volunteer, where I can make use of the time I have, and the platforms I have to bring about the future that I envision.

In song, the call and response is a pattern of successive phrases taken in turns and where the first singer or musician makes the call and it is echoed by the second and so the conversation continues in lyric and tune.  The sophistication of verse and chorus is just another example of this pattern.  I send out a tweet and then there is a response from the twittersphere. Sometimes I respond to other tweets and I became the respondent to the call – the power of the re-tweet – a loud echo to the single 140 characters or less call.

This past two weeks I gave myself a virtual volunteering quest. I didn’t subject myself to any screening procedures, sign on with a not for profit, undertake training to do the voluntary task or be invited. I gate crashed my way into a virtual volunteering role.  I have always supported anything I can to bring recognition of Aboriginal people and to right the wrongs of colonialisation.  I haven’t done a lot, but I have contributed to actions and discourse over the years and maybe that account is for another blog.  You may recall my recent entry about identity, well I thought the best thing I could do is see if there was anything in the Recognise campaign I could help with.  On investigation and my usual online trawling exercise I saw that a film Vote Yes was being finalised and seeking crowdfunding for the last $20,000.  So I hopped on line and on board to see what I could do essentially through my twitter account (although I did use facebook, email and LinkedIn as well).

Each day for a couple weeks I have been tweeting about the film, shamelessly asking people to chip in and lend a hand with a donation, not out of charity, but as an act of solidarity and to inform the twitter sphere of the issue of constitutional reform to see Aboriginal peoples recognised in the Australian Constitution.

(I was nearly 9 years old when Aboriginal people got the vote in 1967. I celebrated when the Australian government said Sorry to the stolen generations in 2008 and was in the company of some very fine Aboriginal leaders that day.  I have been fortunate to have had instruction and patience from many Aboriginal people in my personal and working life. I am deeply grateful to their grace and what they have shared with me. I have a lot to learn.)

I have sent tweets to people as diverse as Lady Gaga, Fr Bob, Margaret Attwood, Malcolm Fraser and David Suzuki. I was amazed at who retweeted and who didn’t (for the record only Lady Gaga of the group above didn’t retweet).  I added to my knowledge of Aboriginal leaders and groups. I wasn’t afraid to be bold and ask for help and surprisingly celebrity /well known strangers did help out (please note Magda Subanzski and Rob Oakshott).

It has taught me a lesson once again that an invitation to help out is often valued and accepted – people respond to the call – but the call (the ask, the invite) – needs to be made.

So was I called and then made a response? Or did I make the call for others to respond too? Was it a mix of both? Was my gatecrashing welcome or just another sign of colonisation, this time of air space.  I was kindly welcomed and thanked and generously entertained by the custodians of the project who appreciated my enthusiasm for the greater good. Its the least I could do and the most I could do – to call and respond and respond to the call.

In my heart I know there is a dance going on – one where the caller and the responder share the lead and where the dance is on a wonderful tapestry where threads are woven together and sometimes the carpet itself takes flight and leads us to new horizons.

I was once told off at the Broken Spoke Dance Hall in Austin, Texas for not responding to the music a Texan Two-Step properly and dancing in an appropriate way. I may know the tunes dear Hildegard, but there are new dances to be danced and songs to be sung.  I will always strain to hear the call and prepare to be able to respond. I will also try and remain open to the call and when I need to be the call for others to respond remind myself that like you, I am trying to live like a feather that is blown about by the UniVersal breath.  Call and response is the foundation of reflection and action and reflection comes first in that binary equation.

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Blessings between Saturdays

In between the Saturdays of the wedding rehearsal and the wedding, I went down to the place, between the trees, where we walked to mark the path to enter the sacred space. I sat at the picnic table and ate a pie from the local bakery. I was joined by three magpies. Two were fairly young and the third was standing at a distance from the younger ones. One of the younger ones was full of courage, bounded up and literally stood a few centimetres from my hand on top of the table, the other sang sweetly at my feet, while the third one looked on. I couldn’t shoo them away, they refused to budge. So I asked them what they were doing there … And they asked me the same.

I had gone there, to be in the space, alone, to prepare for the next Saturday.  On that day I won’t be there alone.  I will be in the company of family and friends  – all witnesses to the marriage of our youngest daughter. I wanted to see what was on the horizon, in the foreground, what the backdrop looked like and to ask the landscape to talk to me. The stringy bark gums shedding layers, the gentle sound of the brook rippling, the wind fondling the leaves of the old redgum were supported by a lively orchestra of parrots, honey eaters and … magpies.

My Dad was a maggie through and through (a Port Adelaide supporter) so I mused that the older bird watching on was his totem come to let me know he was witness too. The three magpies – a feathered trinity. It was emotional.

This place is a sacred meeting place for generations for the Kaurna people and I wonder what the elders would tell me about the magpies visiting the  mother of the bride on a day between the Saturdays? Perhaps they were affirming my action to take the moment, and holding me there so I would enter into it? Perhaps they were heralding me onwards and reminding me that between Saturdays it is right to stop and soak it in? One thing I was confident of, I was being blessed and loved and honoured and the Universe had sung my Dad to me and is with us, with me.

When I think back to the “between the Saturdays” of my wedding, I remember being by the water tank at the back of my family home learning the lines of my vows so that I could confidently recite them and not repeat the words from the priest. I remember wanting to be able to know them “off by heart” because they were going to last me a lifetime. I did learn them and I do recite them to myself from time to time when I need of remind myself. I have found that at different times in my life one line has been more salient than another – for richer or for poorer ; in sickness and in health. I was always a bit confused that richer comes before poorer and sickness before health. I am definitely richer than ever and sickness is more at our door than ever but they now come together in a way that makes perfect sense to me now.  My father walked me down the aisle of John XXIII as the sun set on a hot Saturday evening in February. Our daughter will walk between her Mum and Dad, along a path strewn with leaves as the afternoon sun reaches its height in a park at the back of a colonial courthouse where for thousands of years people have gathered as families to share stories and food and delight in the spring that never dries up. it was in this place she joined a croning ritual for my 50th birthday. It is a place I go to for making decisions, for respite and just to be. This place will bless those who gather and in turn we will bless the space between us as John O’Donohue has described ” in the parched deserts of post modernity a blessing can be like the discovery of a fresh well … When a blessing is invoked, it changes the atmosphere. .. It is ironic that so often we live me paupers though our inheritance of spirit is so vast” (xv To Bless the Space Between  Us).

This same week, between the Saturdays, a young friend bought back from his travels Br David Steindl-Rast’s new book 99 Blessings. My young friend had met Br David in Edinburgh at TED Global. They connected and his book travelled half the world with an inscription and blessing to us. The lightness of the book seemed to be a feather in the breath of God itself, being blown to me on the wings of airlines and in the care of the next generation … I am so blessed and so grateful! What a delicious filling in between these Saturdays!

I am being drenched by love. I come to Saturday confident that a community of creatures, indeed the whole universe, is intent on bestowing blessings that bring union to time and space, the visible and invisible, past and future.

On Saturday, at the wedding, I am going to read  John’s blessing for a marriage, and having sat on his land in Ireland earlier in the year, adding my voice to singing the Beatitudes as a storm began to roll in, truly I know the maggies are with me.  Never before has “when two or three gather in My name” rung as true as it does for me this week, between the Saturdays.

I come to this Saturday knowing that it is in the in-between spaces that revelations unfold and blessings abound.

Courthouse Gardens, Willunga