duty-free

Posts have been a bit slow from Jill and I recently because…

Kerry Cliffs

…we were both on vacation in Ireland and the UK!

It was great to get away for a few weeks and have a proper vacation.  Chatting with a friend, I realized that the gift of this particular trip was the chance to live “duty-free” for a few weeks.  I still had to answer emails every other day and I made sure to write postcards to my family, but otherwise I was able to shed all obligations and simply live out each day’s demands as they occurred.  And if I made it to all the sites, great; if not, there wasn’t the sense that I hadn’t completed the day.

Of course, since returning from vacation I have been bombarded with my no-longer-suspended obligations: find a place to live, start a new work project and prepare for the two workshops I’m teaching next week.  And in some ways, that’s as it should be.  Life accumulates meaning and purpose through the commitments we make, and the duties that we choose (or that choose us!).

What my vacation taught me, however, is that I can’t let my obligations consume me until I see nothing else.  It taught me to see my commitments in the proper perspective; as promises made by a single, small person who can’t do everything at once.  My vacation taught me, in an experiential way, the truth of the words “…do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

 

Family History

Over the last few weeks, I have been thinking about family history. I just finished reading a book about my great-great grandparents, “Homestead Memories on the Buffalo Paunch Creek”, by Yvonne Lorentzen McGuire. I found it interesting to read stories about my ancestors who lived, and some of whom died over a hundred years ago. I was fascinated by the their log cabin being made in the stockade fashion instead of horizontal logs like I am used to. Reading my Grandfather’s cousin’s account of helping not homestead in the mid-fifties, still cooking on a coal stove. Although I still prefer the story I had heard of great-great-great grandpa Emmanuel’s ghost ship floating in the Atlantic, it was fascinating to hear the more reasonable a ship lost at sea.

Reading this, made me curious about my other sets of great-great grandparents. What were Great Grandpa and Grandma Knight’s parents like? What was it like raising children in poverty during the reign of Queen Victoria? Who were Great-Great Grandpa and Grandma Barlow? How come they moved so much? So many questions and so few people who might know the answers.

Thinking about how quickly family stories can be lost, has made me treasure my own memories of my grandparents & great grandparents. My tiny Great Grandma Blanche whose hands were as strong as a vice. My equally short and less well know Great Grandma Morey. Gruff Great Grandpa Morey. My Grandma’s dad and his wife, who I only met a few times, but who welcomed a whole gaggle of us to their home. Grandpa Morey who loved and emulated Eeyore and looked like Spenser Tracy. Grandma Mom who I spent many summers with and most weekends my first year of university. Grandpa Lorentz and Grandma Lou who are still alive and when they are home live right across the alley.

So many memories, and thankfully there is still time to make more. I’m glad that cousin Yvonne took the time and effort to not only write down her memories, but research the facts that were missing and give some of the history of Washburn, ND.

Always We Begin Again

Over a year ago, I was given Always We Begin Again: The Benedict Way of Living by John McQuiston II. It is a tiny book full of tidbits of knowledge from The Rules of Saint Benedict. It is quite interesting, although I haven’t finished it. Yesterday I was reminded of the title. I was reminded by Christina’s blog from last week, where she quotes Pope Francis as saying Christianity “points to a horizon of beauty.” I take this to mean that Christianity is something beautiful and alluring, which cannot be fully attained at this time. It is always there, and always the same, but new every day. At sunrise, and sunset it is a myriad of colours. During the day, it is green and blue, separated or blurred together. At times, it is white snow and white clouds, or mountains that appear to float in a netherworld between earth and sky.

The horizon is always beautiful, but you cannot always see it, nor do we always observe it. In the same way, God is always there and always beautiful, but we have to make note of him in order to experience his brilliance.

This constant relearning to observe the divine has been practically illustrated for me in the last month. I am making an afghan from an idea in my head. I found a basic pattern for the middle, and have been slowly working my way out from the core. I have the basic skills and a vision of what it should look like, but I have to invent the individual steps. When I am working on it, I can see bits and pieces. In order to see the whole, I have to lay it on the floor. There have been many times where I laid it on the floor and thought it is not quite right. I usually try to fudge it, and do another couple rounds, but I always get to the point where I just take it out to the last place that it worked. It is not efficient and very frustrating, but the final product will be beautiful.

As frustrating as this is, I think that it is an important skill to learn. If you don’t take risks, in life, art or your spiritual walk you will live in fear and not grow. At the same, time we need those times when we begin again, or at least check to see we are on the right path or we will end up making daring and miraculously disastrous decisions.DSCN5123 DSCN5125

welcome

I love this quote, found in Pope Francis’s first apostolic exhortationEvangelii Gaudium.

“Christians have the duty to proclaim the Gospel without excluding anyone.  Instead of seeming to impose new obligations, they should appear as people who wish to share their job, who point to a horizon of beauty and who invite others to a delicious banquet.”

Wise words for living a life of faith, of creativity, of love.

sunset

Location, Location, Location

Image

Doesn’t this look like a creative space. It was for me and I’m sure it is for other people.

There have been times when I thought that to be creative I needed the perfect space. In the same, I found myself making excuses for spiritual stagnation because of my surroundings. However, having spent time in places like this, I have learned that it is just as easy to be uncreative and spiritually shallow in a beautiful and quiet place as it is in the hustle and bustle of the city.

The more intentional I am about creative and spiritual growth, the more I have realized that the internal space that you bring is more important than your physical surroundings. There are days, like today, where the most important part of making art or blogging about art is making yourself get started. The second most important part, is not letting technology get in your way. When the computer won’t put the picture into your blog, turn it off and start over. Remember to pray for forgiveness, for your unclean thoughts. Not that just happened to me, but it did remind me of how easy it is to fall out of a creative or meditative state, and how hard it is to get back in.

However, if you make yourself try, you might just create a thing of beauty, or at least a half way intelligent thought.

Like most of life, tenacity key to making art and knowing God. 

dependent on each other

Last night was a first for me…

Christina Perri at the Vogue!

It was my first “real concert” – in a theatre, with tickets, listening to a singer instead of orchestra or band!

I didn’t know the singer (Christina Perri), but went to celebrate with my housemate who just graduated from grad school.  I was so glad I did, because the concert was great and I was reminded, yet again, of how wonderful it is to share music.

It was a mixed crowd – younger girls, their parents, some moms and dads out on a date, young couples.  My housemate and I reminisced about being the age of some of the younger girls, where musicians are real heroes and their existence is somehow vitally important to being alive.  And yet, as the concert progressed, it felt like that difference in age and perspective slowly disappeared as we all enjoyed the music together, and cheered together, and sang along together.  It was a moment for all of us to become young and caught up in experiencing something beautiful together.

It was, in some ways, an act of worship.

 

Can you have art without worship and worship without art?

 

Somehow…I’m starting to think not.