Wednesday, December 30, 2009

car crash and the apocrypha have me thinking about angels and listening to Sarah McLachlan

Needing to do something this coming Monday at church ... when you say you will lead a group of adults into a discussion... you have to do something... I picked up a book about the named and unnamed women in the Bible and found myself heading to Anna's story. Anna was the wife of Tobit. Much of the book is about their son Tobias.

Tobias is sent on a journey by his father. Anna is not happy because it is a dangerous path to travel, but Tobit has asked God to die and desires Tobias to get some wealth he left in another country. Anna does not know an angel of God is traveling with her son. Tobit does not know that the guide is an angel, or that the angel has been sent to heal two people who have made death wishes.

I did not make a death wish last Monday. All I did was move when the light turned green. If I had accelerated a bit faster I would have been missed. A bit slower and I would have felt a greater force. One friend suggested I had an angel with me that day. I always dismiss thoughts like that, for this reason... some one died in a car accident on that day. Where was God's angel? But Tobit gets my head spinning. Surely there were travelers, who set out on dangerous paths on the same day as Tobias. Did they have angels guiding them... not only to return safely, but also to meet the love of their lives.

I have many blessings in this life that continues to unfold in God's creation. Can I imagine an angel guiding me to peace, hope, and joy?

This is not what I was looking for when I went searching for a tune. I used to listen to Sarah McLachlan all the time and the line...

"You are pulled from the wreckage
Of your silent reverie"



Friday, December 25, 2009

5 thoughts on the color red

  1. out of the red... back in November I imagined a number that may pull Nutmeg Designs out of the red. The sales came through. This means three things... money is available to do more shows and buy more glass, our house is not filled up with unsold items, and the IRS will not consider us hobbyists.
  2. the red light... OK, so I am blessed. I have lived and I am uninjured to tell a boatload of people the story of how a man went through a red light and into my orange car. I am blessed that a boatload of people have cared and that I am able to tell this story.
  3. the red glass... The Wernersville crosses have sold, well all that are to be sold. More will be made. In fact, a pink one is going to be made whenI leave this computer. At the last craft show my parents showed up and expressed interest in a red cross. On Christmas my dad unwrapped a box containing it. The other red cross was never displayed at the shows. It was the second cross I made, and last Sunday I handed it over to the one who goes by...
  4. Red... My friend who goes by Red, announced that 2009 calenders should be placed in a bonfire in my backyard... and yes, there are moments that I could have lived without experiencing... but if that fire eliminated the evening Red and her dude were on my porch as the neighbor child crashed into porch steps across the street (over and over again)... and how about the time we met up to listen to jazz, or the time we ran into Red and her dude on the way to the diner and they walked with us, or the conversation after I voted, or the time Red and her dog met up with us, or ... all the times she held the chalice that cleanses me as I kneel at the high alter. And so the second and first red Wernersville cross is ending 2009 in her home, and I find that very cool.
  5. Flaming Red... so as I woke up on the 24th and this blog post came into being, who among you will be shocked that a tune came to mind. Here is a woman who can compete with Red's hair color. Patty Griffin:

Thursday, December 24, 2009

my life unfolds... like a roller coaster

I went to work on Tuesday and by the time business hours had passed two things remained a big mystery... Mosaic Woman's test results and if the guy who ran the red light had called his insurance company. The day was far from a complete disaster, but even I knew I was an emotional wreck as I entered prayer.

God helped by reminding me that it was only a car and the fact that an SUV moving at 50mph through a red light had not killed me, or even injured me...

But my mind did not go to a soothing place when I imagined Christmas morning after bad test results. It was not a great feeling.

By the time Wednesday lunch had arrived my car had been towed and I was heading to work (a bit late) in a rental vehicle. By the time I left work, Mosaic Woman had called to say the results were negative.

It has been quite a week. My stoic being was pushed to its limits of feeling down and then feeling up. and still my life unfolds...

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Fit Is Not Go

Over the weekend, we put away a few things, well many things. When it was over the chair of contemplation was once again available for my use. So I sat down. At my feet was a red basket. It contains my Bible, journal, and several books. I was looking for one when I found another, a book I had forgotten about.

It is a book of contemplations based on the church year. Joyce Rupp, the author starts with Advent, which starts with thoughts on waiting.

As Mosaic Woman and I wait for her test results, I prayed that my wandering brain could try to remember how hard that is for her.

Last night Joyce Rupp ends the second contemplation with these words...
"you are in my life. I will slow down so I can find you there."

She is speaking of God, but I thought of how it does not have to only apply to heavenly beings.

This morning before work I thought... this is the message I want the world to hear today. so I threw the world those words at Facebook and Twitter. Since then I have gotten a record number of responses at Facebook, but none about those words.

I want to know what Christmas tune was playing as I stopped at the red light. I can't remember. The light did turn green, witnesses agree with me and the other driver admits he didn't see the light... blinded by the rising sun. I remember a horn blaring. I think I remember the jolt and car spinning. A friend commuting to the same school as myself, stopped and took care of me. The first person to whom I spoke, a stranger who said he saw it, told me that he couldn't stick around. I understand.

"you are in my life. I will slow down so I can find you there."

I am getting to know an insurance agent. Maybe that is what this phrase is all about. Being kind to her as she struggled through all the claims that emerged on her desk on the Monday following a weekend snowstorm. She speaks with kindness to me. The process is far behind the pace I want it to be going. But if I slow down...

as for me... I am worried about being sore tomorrow, but as of now I feel fine. However, the Fit is clearly not Go, as the commercials love to say...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

remembering music, remembering my past

Most of the Christmas tunes flowing through my iPod these days have little chance to be highlighted on the radio, but there are exceptions.

On the way to work the other day Bruce Springsteen singing about the need to be good for goodness sake came into my presence. Memory is s strange thing. That song could have taken me to festive meals, favorite presents, traditions

Instead it took me to thinking about growing up listening to Philly rock stations in the 70's. Bruce was king around here and I must have heard him before 1978...

But memory is a funny thing and so who knows what is true. Did I discover Bruce Springsteen in the passenger seat of a 76 Monte Carlo as my dad drove me home from the doctor? maybe.

Monday, December 14, 2009

and then there were none...we knew a day like this was coming

There was a time period before the five shows in five weeks. And back in those days Mosaic Woman had it be known to her that a medical test was needed. The doctor was booked through October. In the midst of the craft shows didn't sound so great. So the Monday when there were no more shows, I took a day off from work. As I showered, I wondered if I could seek joy, on a day like this...
The iPod shuffles along as we drive on wet roads just above freezing as the sun breaks the sky open in amazing shades of pink and orange. Is that a sitar? Not really in the mood for the tribute to Miles Davis featuring musicians from India. Wait up ... did Miles write White Christmas. What the heck is this? A moment later I tell Mosaic Woman that studies have shown that post-op recovery goes much better to those that listen to the amazing banjo playing Bela Fleck playing holiday jazz on the way to surgery. The sample size was small, but the study showed definite benefits, on days like this...
I am waiting with others as ABC plays out.. this morning, local news, Rachel Ray, Regis and somebody though Regis isn't there, and two volunteers bound through the room wearing antlers, they are saying it's the Holidays. I turn to the man next to me and say... That excuse won't last forever, just on days like this...
In my lap is a book on animal intelligence. But I draw a design first. It is all about JOY. I have taken my huge JOY off the market. It is staying in our kitchen. The new one is small, simple. It will be affordable to folk who need a reminder that Joy happens, on days like this...
Then I am reading about the anatomy and behavior of the octopus. Humans argue whether or not they are intelligent, but one thing can be said... no invertebrate has a brain to match, and 60% of their neurons aren't even in their brain. Their tentacles are loaded and some believe they all operate on their own until one finds something interesting. As Mosaic Woman emerges back into this world, I tell her about the octopus, on a day like this...
Before that I am saved by the ranting on The View about Tiger Woods and President Obama, when a doctor calls out her name, and I respond as if it is my own, on a day like this...
After the doctor says all went expected, results in a week, then tells me she will be out for another hour. So I walk the streets of Norristown, eating a Mounds bar and my brain, for the first time in a long time, thinks in terms of a blog post. It happened on a day like this...
and later after I buy her pancakes and get her home, I am running around mailing a package to New York, finding videos from the library, replacing the old oil in the car... and a song by Van Morrison pops into my head, yes... There will be Days Like This

Sunday, December 6, 2009

To fly solo: Stratoz's stained glass at the Pathway School Craft Show

When a good friend at the Pathway School told me they were considering having a craft show. I responded that Nutmeg Designs was booked through the first weekend of December. She scheduled their show on the 12th. I handed her a check.
Weeks later when Nutmeg Designs met at our corporate headquarters, a booth at the West Main Diner in Lansdale, I suggested to Mosaic Woman, that maybe it was time for me to fly solo. It was her courage that got this business going. In fact, I was on a spiritual retreat when she first filled the car with her mosaics and headed out to do our first show.
Since then most of our exhibits have been together. For the first time ever I have a large enough inventory to do a solo show. This is mainly because of the huge burst of studio energy I had following my most recent retreat.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

emerging from Lyme disease...

I wish I always lived in a world that was shades of grays, but I am far from perfect. Thus either I am sick or I am well. Lyme disease or no Lyme disease.

and once it is gone then there are no physical, emotional, spiritual issues. Because I am well.

Well, maybe it isn't quite like that...

so what am I trying to do about a malaise that has set in at work...

I am trying to find joy at work by finding things to be grateful for.

I am trying to push myself more at the gym to get my body back in shape so I am ready to garden come spring time.

I am sharing my story with friends and with Mosaic Woman.

I am trying to emerge and heal the wounds that happened to my being this summer.

while doing five craft shows in five weeks. what a hoot that ride has been...

two to go...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

3 photos, 3 thoughts on craft shows

This is how our booth looked Saturday morning just a few minutes before we opened to the public at the North Penn show. Some of the items found their way out of the show in the hands of admiring new and old fans. People, who we had not know, and people, who I have known for years, ended up buying our fine craft. By the end of the day the vibe was good... Lots of people buying handmade for the holidays.
Our five straight weekends with shows... three remaining. Mosaic Woman has been busy maintaining our upcoming shows at her website (how things change for now she blogs more than I... I have taken on the role of tweet master)
some thoughts...
an amazing young girl at our Lancaster show who wanted everything in the booth, but her mom refused to max the credit card, was disappointed when they returned to our booth for her favorite piece was gone. At one point, she pulled out a sticky note wrote down her first name and handed it to me. "Here is my business card." So many friendly folk enter our lives by letting them enter...
much joking with Mosaic Woman with sports analogies. How does one put ones "game face" on at a craft show? I would imagine smiling helps. As things lagged into the late hours of a show, I remembered my spiritual director tell me to do many moments of breathing to center myself. Be aware of anger rising or boredom emerging. I am imaging myself being mindful and taking a breath to fill myself with the spirit so I can have my game face on all the time.
Often folk tell us of how they have worked with glass or know someone who has worked with glass. Then walk away. How cool was it on Saturday to have a friend tell of his daughter, who works with glass, and then he bought a mosaic to give her for Christmas. It was an off center log cabin design which Mosaic Woman calls asymmetric.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Johnny Cash appears hurt this time...

two blog posts back I ended with a Johnny Cash video. Johnny is a young man with a hit song and adoring fans. His body does not match up with his lyrics.

years later after June Carter Cash died, Johnny looks a bit different. This is one of the saddest videos I have ever seen. Years back I came home from seeing the movie Crash and feeling a need to release the sadness it had instilled in me, I turned to Hurt...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

3 mosaic crosses

Mosaic Woman is off with a friend to see the craft show where we left the crosses last weekend. If they have not sold, they will be in Doylestown, PA till Wednesday. 25% of all sales at the Lydia Guild show will go to some wonderful charities.

If for some reason they are not bought there, then here is where we will be taking our mosaics and stained glass art in the future. can't come to a show, come to ETSY to buy our craft.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

imagining grief, a design for my aunt, and 1958

Wednesday night brought news that an uncle of mine had died of a heart attack. Habit had him in bed earlier than my aunt and she found him in such state when she went to bed.
Thursday morning I step into my car and a jazz tune is all I need to take me into sadness. There is no baseball or Twitter or prepping for Zoology. It is me and solo piano playing of Keith Jarrett. Folk say that dying in one's sleep is peaceful, but my uncle had one foot on the floor.

It may have been easier than a painful bout with a disease, but I don't think the moment was one filled with peace and hope. At least when I imagine trying to get out of bed...

But it is my aunt's experience which strikes at my own heart. I try to imagine the horror of finding a loved one dead. I imagine her. I imagine myself in the same situation. Horror seems to be the right word. I imagine trying to revive...

So after 41 days of teaching between Labor Day and now, I finally had the day off which I had desired. I had imagined a bonus day in my studio. Instead, I went to a viewing and then a funeral. But I could not get myself to the luncheon. My studio was calling. Thursday morning while thinking of my aunt, an image came to mind, so I skipped the luncheon, which a part of me feels was a mistake. A crowded house lost out to a not so lonely studio.

In 1958 my parents got married, so when we celebrated their 50th, I put together music from that year. At the party, my aunt, the youngest of all my parents siblings, was the one who seemed to enjoy the music the most... so I played those songs as I entered my studio. The fourth design was the winner. By the time I went to bed it was complete... designed, cut, ground, foiled, soldered, cleaned, and polished. But most importantly, I held it up to the light and mosaic woman said some kind words about my talent to sit with a person in mind, and emerge with a design.

I imagine my aunt and uncle dancing to those songs that were playing in 1958. They married in January of 1960, so it is a possibility. Nearly 50 years of marriage. I imagine 50 years of marriage and music with Mosaic Woman.

The stained glass is hanging in my studio next to the cross inspired by my silent retreat. Soon it and music from 1958 will be traveling north to my aunt. I don't imagine all the songs will be the easiest things to listen to, but I can't imagine much is easy these days.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

directional praying WS gets me oriented yet again

Recently my parents bought a very special stained glass. It was one in a series of projects that emerged from my friends (and amazing retreat leaders) Wanda Schwandt and Suzanne Halstead who take me into deeper places and then say, "now draw it (or paint it or collage it)" Then I come home and imagine it into glass. The first link shows how they inspired a water color which became the stained glass project in my parent's condo.
Two weekends back while at the Walking With God retreat, I signed up for Wanda's workshop. She taught us a prayer which got our bodies into motion. A series of movements that began facing east, then south, then west and then north. Then she set us free to do it our own pace. Then set us free to play with colors on paper.
When I prayed in silence I found ..
  • the hope for new beginnings to the east
  • the warmth of healing to the south
  • the gift of color to the west
  • the pain of suffering to the north

then I played with colors. We all played with colors as we drew mandalas. then most shared our journey and drawing with each other

  1. East became green
  2. south became yellow
  3. north was blue
  4. west was orange

what happens when a round curvy mandala is transformed into 61 straight edged pieces of glass inside a square. Now use your imagination... if the pieces were foiled, then soldered, then held up to the light... soon you won't have to use your imagination

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hopes of recovery, listening to Pat Martino and making strudel

When the anesthesia wore off, Pat Martino looked up hazily at his parents and his doctors. and tried to piece together any memory of his life.

One of the greatest guitarists in jazz. Martino had suffered a severe brain aneurysm and underwent surgery after being told that his condition could be terminal. After his operations he could remember almost nothing. He barely recognized his parents. and had no memory of his guitar or his career. He remembers feeling as if he had been "dropped cold, empty, neutral, cleansed...naked."

In the following months. Martino made a remarkable recovery. Through intensive study of his own historic recordings, and with the help of computer technology, Pat managed to reverse his memory loss and return to form on his instrument. His past recordings eventually became "an old friend, a spiritual experience which remained beautiful and honest."

Mosaic Woman and I went out to see Pat Martino play guitar on Friday night. I am humbled by this experience. My hands that are connected to a brain, that oh so loves music, have made very little music themselves. And here is a man who learned twice, and both times became one of the best.
The last time my grandmother made me strudel was the first time I was her student. Shortly there after she had a stroke from which she struggled to recover. My grandmother did not lack the desire to heal, but it proved to be beyond her effort. In my mind she gave up her life after failing to recover and I respect her for her fight to recover and her letting go of life. Every time fall comes along and I dedicate a day to making strudel for my family, I marvel at having moved back to Pennsylvania and asking to learn a family tradition in such a timely manner.
I imagine Pat Martino listening to the music he made, but unable to perform it. Where would his life had gone if he failed at relearning how to play guitar.
I try to imagine my grandma seeing me make strudel. I am hoping she is pleased. I am in possession of a card I drew for her. I am not sure why I have it. I am blessed to have hands that can make art and strudel. I try to imagine a situation in which I would have to reemerge into my own life and I hope I have the strength and desire to do it...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I thought you should know that my friend lives in this world too...

I stand in my studio soldering as I fall in love with a Richard Shindell song and thinking of my good friend WC.

Long before I ventured into Jesuit spirituality, WC guided me into the world where hymns appear out of the mystery in which I now walk. Friday night, I waved her over and asked her for an hour of her time. I would not want to retreat in silence with WC, I would miss out on way too many laughs.
But during that hour, I am telling her about my heart. My pains. My joys. My callings. She says, "We need to do something about this." She says wonderfully kind things and I try my best to not close my eyes to the kindness.
At dinner, she is in the midst of some announcements when she asks me to raise my hand. She tells the masses that she has given me permission to add them all to my mailing list unless I hear otherwise. I do not hear otherwise.
WC knows me. She prayed for me when I fall into despair a year ago. She honors me when I speak of calling God into my studio. She praises me to others. Dare I say she loves me. Dare I say that I love her.
I thought that you should know that WC lives in this world...

who should I know who lives in your world? Richard Shindell wanted someone to know about Balloon Man.
Balloon Man by Richard Shindell (sorry could not find the music but here are the lyrics...)
I'm standing outside on the balcony
balloon man is passing below
making his way to the park by the church
he goes where the little ones go
balloon man's a little bit ragged
his glasses are slightly askew
one lens is cracked and shoes never match
he might have a screw loose or two
and you're so far away
on the other side of the world
I thought you might like to know
that balloon man lives in it too
his rig is a marvel of equipoise
Leonardo might've designed
bamboo for the wide horizontal
pine for the vertical rise
he's wearing in a flag-bearers harness
he's holding the whole thing aloft
balloons all arrayed, he's a one man parade
if he ran he'd surely take off
and you're so far away
on the other side of the world
I just thought you should know
that balloon man lives in it too
but it's cold up here on the balcony
and it's time that I went back inside
balloon man waits for the light at the corner
I'll watch til he goes out of sight
but there's a wind that whips round the corner
and he's having a hell of a time
he staggers and it looks like he might just go over
but balloon man he puts up a fight
and you're so far away
on the other side of the world
I just thought you should know
that balloon man lives in it too


Sunday, October 18, 2009

the last 6 weeks led to a walk....

I was home from the retreat that took weeks to blog about and someone said to me, "this place sucks the life energy out of us." I let that seep into my being.

Over the past 6 weeks I have convinced myself that I was toast, and maybe I was. I wrote two IEP's got a physics and a zoology class up and running, and watched the vegetable garden at the school fade away from summer. I entered too much data into a computer. And I was at a loss as to help my ever challenging students. Having fun in my classroom and teaching the subject at hand was not enough. I wanted to see behaviors that held them back vanish into thin air.

At home Mosaic Woman and I took a long drive to see glass sculpture, a shorter drive to see quilts, and moderate drives to hear two jazz concerts. We lived through a major disappointment in her life. I forgot to go to Monday adult classes at my church. I wrote a news letter for Nutmeg Designs and tried to keep up with my friends on-line as my own blogging slowed.

I did not forget that I had come home 6 weeks ago wanting to take God into my glass studio. I cut out pieces for two collaborations. Designed a piece for a school auction. Was commissioned to create a piece that will or has flown to Rome where a design in my head will be transformed into a gift at an ordination. I put a cross in my window and made four more. I made a Dr. Ed Mandala that even impressed me and tomorrow I will hand it to a friend who wants to buy it sight unseen. I have returned to the green vine design as well as a few of my star designs while also designing a 4 pointed star that has 8 pieces. In all 15 pieces have been made, two pieces repaired and a 16th is halfway is cut out.

And the whole time I knew that I had a retreat planned. I forgot what it was about, who was leading it, and when it began and ended. But I knew that on Friday the 16th, I would leave work to go Walking with God, and so I did. and I talked about being called into my studio...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

return to coming by sorrow

not sure why Julie Miller's tune has been in my head this week, but it has.
Maybe it is feeling lost at work when it comes to having any clue as to how to help some "challenging" students.
Maybe it my own past creeping into my subconscious.
Maybe it is reading and listening to stories of friends, who have emerged and/or are emerging from sorrow.
Yesterday driving home from work, I fell asleep behind the wheel for an instant. The car and I were not moving at the time (stopped by a commuter train crossing the road). Last night I so wanted to pass out and sleep but needed some info. Annoyed by no response from an e-mail and no response from a phone message, and by the lack of info given by a friend on the phone... I got dressed and walked a short distance to get the info during which time I cared less about hiding my annoyance. Tonight I will be with these friends and that is the info I had been searching for...

because I did desire to see them, but apparently not last night.
More than ever I am feeling the energy drain from my job. Maybe I needed to remember how I have emerged from sorrow. Some of the photos chosen to go with this song I could live with out, others resonate in my heart. Like Julie Miller and many others, I have come by way of sorrow...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

how it ended

This is how the Jesuits at Wernersville end an 8 day retreat.... a morning mass.

The homily is given over to the silent folk and the Jesuits just ask for us to be short about our reflections. It's been over a month but I said something like this:

Walking into this retreat 8 days ago, I was greeted warmly by Father Jack, but just on the other side of him I saw a huge list. I nearly gave up on drawing cards for all of you but your presence here means so much to me. It is how I say thanks for your willingness to be with me in silence. I have received so much. I am leaving here today with a calling to make art and to greet God as I enter my studio. Your cards and thanks are going into my studio as a physical reminder of what this retreat has meant to me.

In my studio window is the cross that goes deep (see Jim's comment) and on my walls are cards and slips of paper containing words written in silence. I stand in my studio surrounded by reminders of how powerful a gift of God can be, if shared with the world.

Then it was over and the introvert, who is not so good at hearing nice things about himself, braced himself for some positive attention. Don't these people know how hard it is to hug someone.

anyway, choosing to enter into a relationship with God is far from easy, not always comforting, but can be down right amazing.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

a cross emerges from going deeper...

So at the retreat I picked up the erasure and went deeper...

it will hang in my studio as a constant reminder of how blessed I am to have a studio. A studio where I utilize what I see as an amazing gift from God.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

going deeper... back on the boat

My first imaginative prayer involving a boat took me to this deep place. But my spiritual director kept insisting I take what was happening and go deeper. She desired that what was happening on this retreat would be deeply rooted, so she sent me back to a boat, to Jesus.
Luke 5:1-11 Jesus is preaching, "when he caught sight of two boats."
Simon/Peter says, "Leave me Lord I am a sinful man."

Simon is on one of the boats and his response comes when he receives a great gift, by going deep. Throw those nets into the deep water. What will you find? Will your calling be found? Will your name be changed? Will you tell the giver to leave you alone?

The meditation read... "I ask the Lord to show me where he is calling me to put out anew; to go deeper into my calling"
So I ask God, is it this, is it that, is it here, is it there. When I pause, I get an answer... two words: stained glass.

So I say, but I have gone deeper God, I blog, cut, facebook, design, flickr, solder, twitter, foil, grind, newsletter, craft show ... where else can I go?

Peter says, "there are no fish in this sea"
God says, "but what underlies this business, go deeper, throw in the nets, look at the pile of thank you notes piling up on your desk. Go deeper and think about how I have called you to bring joy, peace, and hope into the lives of those you come upon in your life. Go deeper. Where does your love for design, color and glass come from? Go deeper, what are you going to do with this gift? When you go into your studio, do you give thanks for these talents? Do you accept the fact that your art can touch lives? Go deeper."
I say, "Leave me Lord, I am a sinful man."
God says, "Be quite fool. Listen. This is why I told you to bring stained glass to Wernersville. This is why I gave you the strength to make over 60 cards. Make stained glass."
a few hours later, I unwrap a new eraser, which I had bought 4 hours before leaving on the retreat, and pick up a pencil. I imagine a design in my head. After not designing stained glass patterns all week, I will leave the retreat with one...


Friday, September 25, 2009

sometimes one is surprised... absense and light

First surprise... I just noticed I had not blogged since last Saturday. Work has been a bit demanding these first weeks. And my nights have been spent preparing for my physics and zoology class and cutting glass.

so inspired by Kathryn's favorite colors let me show you the last project I did before I left on the retreat. A new design ... abstract log cabin quilt.

This is how it looked as I pieced it together...

Then I let light shine through, and maybe never before was I so pleasantly surprised by a finished project...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Drawing cards at Wernersville--- the aftermath

As the cards flowed out into the hands of the silent folk, things began to flow back...
some of the highlights:
  1. returning from meeting with my spiritual director I see a piece of paper hanging on my door. I assume the first thank you note has floated my way. And it is, but one I would never had imagined. I pluck it off my door and there in my hand is one of my cards. First thought is to run down the hall, knock on the door of the priest and say, "NO, this is for you, it is not for me!" I sit on my bed and breathe. On the back of my/his card he has written a blessing and I am amused that there is no need for him to sign it, because I wrote his name for him. I rip off a piece of tape and put it next to the first card I had drawn, the only one I had decided was for me.

  2. While no one else will return a card, I will leave Wernersville with many many many thank you notes. Some with drawings, some with long notes, some with two words. One is from a woman who writes about looking day after day and how happy she was when a card showed up with her name. On another the woman, who had gotten one last year, writes joyfully about now having a collection of my art.

  3. I finish the last of the cards on Tuesday morning which makes my afternoon massage timed perfectly. After the massage I head to fill my mug with water. Inside the kitchen, a woman breaks silence. She is holding two books. She says, "I was not going to buy any books on this retreat, but your gift inspired me to buy this Joyce Rupp book. It will help me with my work with cancer survivors." I am still in awe of what I heard. To think that my art could help the world in such a way.

I take the rest of the day off from doing art work and spend some time outside looking at the blue sky. Have you listened to my Blue in the title jazz tunes ?



Tuesday, September 15, 2009

finally... I am about to teach

after one travel day in which all my residential students were absent;

after two days of explaining science in general;

after one day of no classes as students learned about a new initiative;

I leap into physics and zoology tomorrow.

inspired by the physics book, I explained things this way to both classes...

Science is the human attempt to understand the order of nature. Religion is the human attempt to understand the purpose of nature. They are not the same. However, they are not polar opposites of which you have to pick one. A scientist who spends much energy trying to disprove the truths of a religion is as wrong in my book as a religious person who fights against what science has taught us.

(then having a plant or two handy)... I can look at this plant and wonder about how it grows and do an experiment to understand it better as a scientist. I can also look at this plant and be inspired by its beauty in a spiritual way. Neither way is wrong. Just two ways to witness the world. This class is about science, it is not about bashing religion.

of course the horticulture classes leaped into the garden instantaneously

... will get back to my retreat posts soon.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Going deeper, imagining myself on the boat

So I am one who would rather be in the shadows of the crowd, not in the spotlight of the boat.

When I returned to Matthew 14: 13-21 in the evening, I followed the meditation I had been given by my spiritual director, so instead of being fed by the disciples, I became a distributor of the food.

A few years back I spent a retreat asking for a some direction in my life. Should I focus on horticulture, teaching, stained glass, spirituality? So for a week of silence I asked and asked and asked. And didn't hear the answer. so I probably asked again.

I once sent out an e-mail at work in which I signed off Hope, Peace, and Joy. A friend wrote back and said that Hope had left town a long time ago.

I can't seem to walk with God and believe my friend is correct. And if my friend is correct and despair runs rampant, then maybe I need to continue to live out what may just be my calling. Except for all those moments when I do not help to bring forth the amazing gifts of the spirit... hope, peace, and joy.... and I see amazing challenges looming at work.

So the answer I did not hear when I kept asking was.... , "Yes, feel free to do all those things."

as I read Matthew these words said by Jesus resonated, "Give them something to eat themselves."

If the desire is there, the hungry can be fed. My students can feel joy inside a classroom. My colleagues can feel a bit more peace at work. My donations can bring hope to those in need.

here is a path I didn't take (fear of ticks) and my favorite from a series trying to photograph fish...

thanks for visiting, you are more than welcomed to comment.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

just plain baffled...

now I am baffled, because... Last Sunday I sang a hymn.

Well, I have a memory of singing a hymn, so I took Red's advice and went to the band and asked them what the closing hymn was the previous week. They showed me. I said, "That's not it. It started with a line about falling to one's knees and at the bottom of the music it said it was based on the third chapter of Ephesians." They pulled out their play list and we went through the whole service. Nothing.

was I dreaming? mystical experience? elaborate conspiracy to drive me loopy. I came home and talked to Mosaic Woman about the experience, and did one more quick google search for the hymn. I walked up stairs to my studio, pulled out a cassette from my past and this was the first song. and yes, this did happen and yes, I will let the mystery be. Mosaic Woman asked if I had chosen this song to play because of my experience at church. I hadn't.

Maybe an answer will arrive to explain what happened last Sunday. maybe it was a way to walk up the stairs at church and have someone in the band ask, "What instrument do you play?" Twelve hours earlier I had been talking to Mosaic Woman about how listening to an old guy play piano had yet again rekindled my desire to create music.
The song also took me back to a movie. A movie in which the song was used much to my delight. The beginning of Little Buddha...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

stained glass, part 2... a sacrificial gift for the Temple????

As I said here, I felt a strong urge, calling, message, desire... to take a stained glass design on my retreat this year. I said, "Sure," to whatever it was. I figured it would be nice to look at while on retreat. so simpleminded am I.
But when I arrived the message grew, "Leave the glass here." It was quite similar in some ways to the message that inspired me to draw 68 cards in five days. (see my answers to Kathryn at the end of the post for some clarification on the drawing of the cards).
Anyway, I woke up this morning transformed back into a human (got home well after the midnight deadline of not turning into a pumpkin) and my mind came back to telling the story of my retreat. I saw my stained glass as a sacrificial offering. Instead of taking a goat or dove or part of my garden bounty to the temple, I took stained glass to Wernersville.

It was one thing to be told not to take something home, it is another to be told directly where to leave it. I pondered leaving it in my room as a gift for all those who seek silence and end up in room 185. I thought about hanging it in a public window at the Jesuit Retreat Center. Then I took the low road, I decided it wasn't my job to decide and figured I could dump it off on someone else to decide.
And that felt right, until I did it. The eyes of my spiritual director told me where it belonged. But I could not get beyond telling her to keep it for 27.25 days (inside joke) and during which time SHE could ponder where it belongs. Back in my room, it didn't feel right. It still does not feel right, so chances are it is not right.

So I begin to reflect on words... did God to tell me that the stained glass was to stay at Wernersville meaning not to come home with me or stay at Wernersville meaning it stays in the retreat center?

Would God lead the glass, which matched my director's home decor and brought light to her eyes, to my director, if it was not meant to go to her house? I doubt it. Take it home. God and I think it belongs there. (the comment button leads you into this discussion)...

best of the not so great photos...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

time consideration... the Wernersville 2009 retreat

Tonight I had my first meeting with a spiritual director. In 80 minutes I managed to talk about the retreat which I began blogging about many days ago when I wrote about the last morning.

more this weekend.

school and jazz rule the day till then, but here is a thought...

Sunday I spent much of worship feeling out of sorts as I was getting used to the Episcopal service after 8 straight days with the Jesuits. Then the opening line of the final hymn had these words... I fell to my knees.

I thought that is familiar and I saw it was from Ephesians, the verse I shared on the first post about the retreat (see link above). Wonderful choice of a closing hymn if you ask me, but I forgot the name. feel free to help me out Holy Trinity folk.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Drawing cards, part 3... distribution

OK, by Sunday I had a nice big pile of cards (over 40). How to distribute?
There is a message board where I tacked them last year, but there didn't seem to be room to put nine or more out at a time. The table underneath the board seemed to be the way to go. I wrote a blessing, which mentioned a few of the following words... Hope, Joy, Peace, Love, and Wisdom. On the backside I placed a name.

I also decided to use my real name this year (last year I did STRATOZ), though I would like to have been in the shadows of the crowd...
One day my director gave me a meditation on Jesus feeding the 5000. I read the passage before the meditation. My imagination took off and I was firmly placed in the crowd rushing to meet Jesus, not in the boat with Jesus. I was willing to show up to be taught and healed, but I didn't want to picture myself as one who actually fed folk for Jesus, which is of course where the meditation wanted me to go. I resisted in the morning, which worked out nicely for about 30 minutes before mass I imagined myself being fed bread by a disciple of Christ. Later in the evening I would go deeper by imagining myself on the boat and helping Jesus.
So I tried to be shadow boy as I walked from my room with a stack of cards hidden in my journal. As the cards disappeared, I placed a few more down. I only once saw someone looking at the table where eventually 61 cards would be placed. The last few days of production I was making a dozen or so a day. Praying, drawing, and listening to jazz in my room. Emerging to eat, to be directed, to worship, and to say hello to the bluebirds.
shadow boy at Wernersville with his floppy hat...

Monday, September 7, 2009

Going Deeper, the fourth day --- Tanner and Mary and the blue Sky

After the first dinner of the retreat, you have a social activity, of sorts. All who are going to be companioned by a director show up at her/his office. I was the last to arrive and I was guided by a gesture to a chair. The chair offered quite a view.
But first this... I have been going to the Jesuit Center in Wernersville for about ten years. During that time you get to recognize the staff, from the maintenance folk, to the chef, to the woman who used to serve food but now cleans my room before and after I leave, to the office staff. One of these good folk would always pop up at mass and I was quite covetous of a job where you not only get a coffee break but you can get a Jesuit homily and the holy Eucharist while you were at it. And there she was guiding me to a chair in her office.I never knew she was also a spiritual director.
The chair had me facing a wall and on that wall was a painting. A highly favored painting by Henry Tanner. I live just north of the museum that own it. Prints and images of it seem to follow me.
By our fourth meeting a routine is set. My director gives me a meditation which I use as morning and evening prayer, I fall into a favored passage for my afternoon prayer. She is off making a copy of a meditation and I am staring at Mary. I decide I will do the Magnificat this afternoon. She walks in with a meditation on Mary's trip to Elizabeth and the Magnificat (Luke 1: 39-56).
She says, "When you speak of your friend, I think of Mary and Elizabeth." An hour later my imagination takes off once again and I am guiding Mary by hand to the Honda Fit and we hit the PA turnpike driving west. Mary changes from a teen to a woman my age mourning a son. I need both for this trip. A trip that takes me to a door step I have never seen and to my childhood. For days I have been wondering what to say when I write my friend. Now the letter takes form and I draw another card to fit inside that envelope.
after listening to those jazz tunes about Blue Skies... oh my, cool crisp Canadian air arrives and there it is...

deeper places, part 2 falling into silence, search for a calling

a friend reading this post, asks...
So this was a completely silent retreat? 8 days?

I arrived in time to unpack before dinner, send out one last facebook status, then went to eat. The dinner does not require silence so you have one opportunity to discern a friend or two before you stop talking. Then the silence begins... for next seven full days the only sustained conversation is a daily meeting with your director. A handful of times a day, I will break silence to say something profound like... Good Morning or Thank You. The daily mass allows for liturgical speech and singing, and you do get to pass the peace out loud.

Like I said, sometimes it ain't no vacation. The 8th morning you can converse at 7:30.
The first two passages given to me for reflection were callings, Isaiah 43: 1-7. and Jeremiah 1: 4-19. A couple years back I asked God if there was a calling in my life and if so I would pursue it with my whole heart. I didn't get an answer.
In Isaiah's passage God says he is honored to know the man. The word honored flew out at me, well not the first, or second, or third time I read it, but when I returned to it in the evening. I have thought of being loved, healed, taught, redeemed... by God. But is God honored to know me? This was something new. How could an all powerful knowing loving God be honored to know a lowly fool human like myself?

The next day I woke up with this thought, "May I live out this day in such a way that you will be honored to know me." I thought... "OK, that is good enough, I can pack my bags and go home." and then I said (silently of course),
"and feel free to tell me what you are calling me to do?"

That day my director gave me Jeremiah, one of my favorite passages. "I will put words into your mouth" and "As you prepare yourself for action..."


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Drawing cards, part 2---- losing spirit, being lifted up

As I reported in cards part 1, there were quite a few cards to draw. So as a warm up I drew one for myself, taped it to my wall, drew another card, sent it to Mosaic Woman, who would also have a card sent on Friday morning and another sent on Saturday.
By Saturday afternoon I was fading. I was closing in on thirty cards. It was feeling forced. Then I went to dinner.

There is something about 21 straight silent meals with the same group of people. For some the meals are an invasion into their solitude, for me it is a glorious reminder that I am far from traveling this path alone. Some folk tell me they wish they could one day go on an 8 days retreat. I wish they all can experience one. It is not always easy and one needs to get lifted up along the way, even when you are feeling connected to God. The days can be long. Way long. It is not a vacation from what you left behind, it is a journey into yourself where all that stuff has been lost and examined while you live your busy life.

That Saturday dinner did the trick. I sat in the dining room making eye contact with as many folk as I could and watching those who were being private with their eyes. I so wanted to thank them for coming to dinner with me. I imagined 21 straight meals in an empty dining hall; then headed back into my room and the callous on my thumb grew larger.

Sunday proved to be a greater challenge, much greater than drawing the cards. Especially the three for Margaret:

deeper places 1- a dream of a diner takes me to staff meetings

Never since my first 8 day retreat have I entered so quickly into feeling connected with God. I give credit to all who sent me off with their prayers, and maybe my desire.

"Use your imagination," spoken early by my director, leads to a week long colloquy... well that's what the priest in the parking lot called it, when I was having my unexpected last experience of the retreat.
I realized how rare it is has become for me to imagine God's voice when I start a conversation in prayer. It can be exhausting. It can lead to awe.
The first morning I woke up hearing a shower and thought, "Wow, Mosaic Woman is up early." I then realized I had started a retreat. The next night I actually experienced a dream, well the strange part was remembering it... We are in a diner. We tire of waiting and go outside. We come back in and discover they thought we had left and have thrown our food out. I hear the distress of the waitress as we leave.
My director asks if this could be related to my work, could you be someone other than yourself in the dream.
Later in prayer I think of two meetings in which a program and reps of that program were being treated in ways that were not filled with hope, peace, joy, and love. I spoke, but not much and not early. Often I don't speak at all. I saw myself as the waitress who wants to bring nourishment but is late. If I want a world filled with hope, joy, peace, and love.... then I guess I am going to have to nourish and defend those who are trying to do the same. The next day I say, "I don't want to be thrown in a cistern like Jeremiah."
two hours later I hear the Gospel... the beheading of John the Baptist. Given the choice I will go with the cistern and find out who my friends are.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

stained glass part 1---- before I left

(side note on temptations... not one moment on the computer after silence began, not one potato chip, infinite rambling thoughts)

Last night as I sat to do my examen, I was grateful for the joy of human conversation. I also wrote about how I was avoiding my glass studio. And when I thought about the next day I wanted to get into the studio. There were things to be taken into the studio. Amazing gifts from the retreat.
Weeks before I left on the retreat I had a thought. I keep talking about thoughts and because I am back in the land of the doubts, I am not saying what so amazed me as the retreat occurred. How many thoughts did I have leading up to that retreat and yet, the thought and the decision to take this...

took me to a deeper place, where I got to know myself and God.

Friday, September 4, 2009

drawing cards, part 1... seeing the list

Before I left for Wernersville (as I was facing the temptations)...

I decided I would once again draw cards for all those who were joining me for a week of silence. When I entered the house, I experienced this...
  1. a warm greeting from the Jesuit who guided me on my 2008 retreat (talk about exuberant folk!)
  2. a glance at an extremely long list.

I walked down to the message board and started counting... 64 folk including myself, plus a few cards for Margaret, a card for a friend, another for a past director, who is always booked by the time I register, but who always guides me to a wonderful director, and something for the director for 2009...

I thought maybe it was not possible.
Then as I unpacked, I thought of the feeding of the 5000. The message was loud and clear...

"Hey Stratoz quit looking for an excuse and listening to the wrong voice. The 5000+ didn't get fed at the same instant. Pace yourself, Be aware, You can do this...
"after all," the message went on, "you brought enough supplies and you have bandages to protect your thumb."


The five best jazz tunes for a silent retreat-- thoughts on music

I am walking down this hallway...
and there is music. I lean against the wall and listen. There is a bit of a struggle going on. The melody is there, but it stops and starts. I think of Thelonious Monk. I think of someone learning a new song. I walk by the door and glance in. My heart leaps.
I am in the dining room looking for an exuberant face to lift me through these days. I thought there were none. I find one. It was hidden behind a body twice as old as mine, hunched over, belonging to a priest who walks so slowly he takes you back to Tim Conway on the Carol Burnett show. His face glows.
It is that face that is peering down at the piano keys. Later you learn that he is teaching himself to play piano. Yes, exuberance.
Yesterday I started visiting blogs and at one I skipped over some links. I went back this morning all intent to watch a scene from a show I have never watched, but instead listened to the song I have heard many times. I hear these words "But you don't really care for music, do you?" and my heart breaks open.
My friend had asked me to think of her on two specific days... truth be told, I did, but not as much as I had the days leading up to those days. The retreat was in wind down time and I passed on my prayers to St Therese of Lisieux. Maybe I needed the line of music and it was not with me.
But I am grateful for what was there...
  1. Blue Skies by Dinah Washington. So lets say you want to go into the dining room with a bounce to your step and a joyful swinging heart (some of lack exuberance). This will do the trick.
  2. Sky Blue by Maria Schneider and her Jazz Orchestra. no link. If one needs 8 minutes to quiet one self to enter prayer, then buy this CD by the same name.
  3. Blue in Green by Miles Davis. Fell in love with this most wonderful color combination while doing art at a retreat a few years back.
  4. Blue Train by John Coltrane. when a friend who knows Wernersivlle suggests Coltrane, listen to her. If you have been there, you know about the trains.
  5. Blue Gardenia by Ahmad Jamal. Ok, yes there was a theme developing, so I went searching for tunes with Blue in the title. not all gifts arrive randomly by clicking on "shuffle"
Though I did have Thelonious on my IPOD, sadly, I did not have Blue Monk .