March 21, 2012
God shall feed his flock like a shepherd, promised Isaiah. He shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.
For so long my daughter and I have loved what sheep and shepherding suggest—over the years sharing lamb and sheep cards, ornaments. And when she was little, I often called her lambie.
Once, when living far apart, she put together a collage of snapshots. Precious pictures of us and her brothers. A cutout up-front and center heralding: In the company of Lambs.
This, her poem, gracefully written round the mat:
my mama and me have fleece between us . . .
at night wool grows arms around our chilled bodies
and we hear the voices of sheep bleating out lullabies.
together we huddle lamblike.
we dream of clouds, breathing from inside
Wherever I’ve lived since, that framed art-piece claims a prominent spot, always accessible to my watch.
Yet it’s the idea of God as Shepherd that ties us—foundations that love for sheep, for each other. No doubt we’ve both stretched like little lambs to relish and delight in that supreme Shepherd’s promise—for ourselves and for the realization that the other is always under divine Love’s care.
That all we love are.
That the Lord is our Shepherd, we can want for nothing.
That this Shepherd will show us how to go “o’er the hillside steep.”
And in my household of kitties, Mochi and Syd, the hymn “the King of Love [our] Shepherd is” resonates and calms.
So when a little over a year ago my daughter and I took a road trip to North Carolina to explore a town that ultimately became mine—no surprise we both fell in love with a mirror framed with a picture of sheep above it.
We’d been looking at houses that day, and it appeared I’d found the one of my dreams. A sweet plan shared falling into place. It all felt so simple and natural, flowing over with love.
Then in the town square, in a shop that’s become a favorite, we saw that mirror and both lit up. No question, foolish for either of us to buy—she’d be flying home once we got back to my place in Massachusetts, which by the way had to sell before an offer would be accepted in NC.
Still, a precious day with the reminder once again of holy shepherding.
Then February, March, April, May, June went by. . . full fun but no Massachusetts’ sale. July and August began to stretch my endurance. September and finally an offer. The Shepherd very much along the journey buoying, demanding my faith grow deeper.
And yes I thought of the peace and artistry and precious sharing that mirror represented.
Finally in November—near a year later—arrived. New home. New neighborhood. New city. New state. Same street I first fell in love with here, yet a more perfect house and yard of flowers abounding.
As weeks passed, feeling totally at home, I began to wonder if I could dare the extravagance of the mirror. Shopkeeper said available. Yesterday it arrived. And just as near every piece, furniture or lamp or table, gathered over the years fits in color and design, so the mirror.
Somehow the mirror feels most fitting of all, for each morning I`ll wake to see the sheep and their lamb watching over me. Reminding me that the Shepherd, divine Love, has watched beside me all night
the voices of sheep bleating out their lullabies.
February 4, 2012
is a child
’s hand)very carefully
to you and to
me(and quite with
the papery weightless diminutive
world . . .”
that is our home
a November Sunday 2011:
three days before the much anticipated will-it-really-happen move.
woke up wild-hearted. hopeful. thrilled. anxious.
boxes—around above beneath. packed. unpacked.
details claiming attention. unexpected costs and not yet scheduled closing dates, here there, pushing aside the glories already in place.
~~~family traveling far to me for the finish, truck load, and day plus drive to follow
~~~peaceful yet totally aware kitties
~~~amazing respectful friends who may wonder why move there, why move at all?
still anxiety overwhelming, taking me over . . .
then ‘how typical of human nature,’ I thought; ‘much rather be visited by the Divine.’ and with that came this: the seamless garment that is my home is where I am. where I move about, my very own world. each moment. everywhere. always. forever.
and then so quietly repeated, as if to say don’t forget it: your home is a seamless garment you move about in wherever you are . . .
Grasp it! home the spiritual place you can never leave.
home, my home, inescapably good and light, joy and warmth. my home, intelligently colored with spiritual healing in stillness and peace.
as I see it, ee cummings’ poem above declares that God as “a child’s hand)very carefully” brings “to you and to me(and quite without crushing)” our very own home
having no awkward transitions, interruptions, or indications of disparity, without fundamentally different or incongruous elements; perfect flawless
January 28, 2012
It flooded the crimson twilight
Like the close of an angel’s psalm,
And it lay on my fevered spirit
With a touch of infinite calm.
from “The lost chord”
Adelaide A. Proctor
I came across those lines in Mary Baker Eddy’s work, written in 1900.
Eddy, a New Englander, lived from 1821 to 1910. Perhaps not surprising to find she’d quoted Proctor, but suddenly felt like a beautiful thing: that a 19th Century NE woman — particularly one I love and respect, whose life provides a deep and thrilling measure to my every day — would be quoting her English contemporary. Further digging revealed that Proctor’s short book of verse, first published in 1858, went through eight printings; including one in Boston, which suggests the not so surprising connect.
Sitting at the organ, “weary and ill at ease,” Adelaide Anne Proctor had struck a chord “like the sound of a great Amen.” Washed over by an infinite calm she wrote that “it quieted pain and sorrow, Like love overcoming strife.”
An infinite calm. Too much to ask? Maybe.
Still the more I thought about calm as infinite — everywhere, without limit — the more it felt accessible. Simply present. To have. To share. To feel. To be.
The word calm has been described as a period of freedom from storms, high winds, or rough activity of water; a state of tranquillity.
Wow. Think of it. To be free, entirely free of storm or rough activity. To be perpetually tranquil.
Kipling’s “If,” much quoted, suggests that if you’re calm while all around you lose theirs, you’ve done much — I love that, yet find nothing in his long poem about how to . . .
But Eddy does answer it for me. “… in speechless prayer, ask God,” she wrote, “to enable you to reflect God, to become His own image and likeness, even the calm, clear, radiant reflection…”
And this, “O glorious hope! there remaineth … peace in Love. The thought of it stills complaint; the heaving surf of life’s troubled sea foams itself away, and underneath is a deep-settled calm.”
Imagine. The mere thought of Love divine stilling those deep-seated heavings.
Lacing each moment with grace in deep-settled infinite calm.
And why not.
In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait in expectation.
October 20, 2011
The letter fails, the systems fall,
And every symbol wanes:
The Spirit overbrooding all,
Eternal Love, remains.
. . .
The rule of Love beyond all law.
John Greenleaf Whittier
A display—Celebrating the Rule of Law—honored 150 years of jury law in Massachusetts. There it sat, front and center of the jury pool room brimming with people like me, called to serve. Perhaps awed, reluctant, apprehensive.
So focused on ‘will I be called? how long will this take?’ that initially the display didn’t catch my attention.
When it did, it really did! Celebrate the rule of Law. How provocative. Fitting of course right there in the Suffolk County Court House, near where John Adams first asserted a jury of peers as fundamental. But it was the thought of God’s law, the law of Love and profound goodness that slid in, soothing my soul. My soul reveled in the soothing.
So, beginning with Moses, I thought how basic and foundationing to governments, lives, my life, his Ten Commandments had become. That’s where awe took over, considering how for centuries Moses’ Decalogue has guided just behavior, gracious communities, balanced families. And yes, judicial systems that include a jury of peers. Think of the healthy standards that spring up when theft, murder are not condoned; respect for parents, neighbors encouraged. All foundationed on having no other mission but to serve God, good, and each other.
Celebrating the rule of law at that moment became about putting God’s law first; releasing me from even wondering how long I’d be in that jury pool. Favorite scripture came to mind, including Jesus’ admonitions filled with promise, laced with love for God, for everyone. Sweet rules with promise. And that’s where the soul soothing took hold. Reinforcing the wonder, and need, of celebrating God’s law—which delights in integrity and happy resolves. Divine love exercising the details; proving the powerlessness of evil, doubt, confusion, greed when faced down with pure Love. I believe that. I’ve seen it. Which affirmed for me that Love’s law was all that mattered that moment, any moment. Everywhere. Definitely there in the Suffolk County Courthouse.
Always about right prevailing. A law for each of us to celebrate.
What did this have to do with jury duty that day? Well, it felt to me to be the only law operating: With God’s law of love as authority, what could go awry for me or anyone that day—justice for victims, lawyers, accused. And jurors.
The feeling filled me and stayed.
At two p.m. we learned that each of the five potential trials, including three criminal cases, had been settled out of court.
A sweet resolve, yet my day and the details surrounding it had already been settled.
. . . let the divine will and the nobility of human meekness rule this business transaction, in obedience to the law of Love and the laws of our land. Mary Baker Eddy
Love is more important than anything else. It is what ties everything completely together.
September 15, 2011
This one felt hard to put into words, so sacred is the golden rule; so dear its promise—its challenge and right to follow . . .
Sometimes like a wagging finger it reminds of shortcomings. Of missing the mark. Or my just not quite getting that this most beautiful of all rules can bring peace.
As a child its seed was sown in my heart. The rule felt wonderful. Being nice pleasant. Yet at the same time a burden not easy—or clear how—to carry. Particularly when my kindness made no difference. Gradually, I realize now, obeying became fixated on me. Rather than letting Love itself carry the grace, the weight of proof became mine, for me.
Yet the majesty and promise of this rule is bigger than language, nationality, individual. Otherwise would near every culture state its essence in some form? The King James Bible, my first introduction, has Jesus saying, “all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” Also to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
Understanding comes, it seems to me, in bits and layers when we’re not watching. Happily, life’s ups and downs grow into findings and forgivings. So with this golden rule. I began to grasp that it never quite works unless I do feel golden myself—love your neighbor as yourself. As I’d like to be loved.
One day not long ago, each page I turned in Mary Baker Eddy’s writings referenced the rule and underlined its promise. Peace felt real, something to hold onto. “Let no root of bitterness spring up among you,” she wrote, “but hold in your full hearts fervently the charity that seeketh not only her own, but another’s good.”* And I felt rooted in Love divine.
Or so I thought.
Suddenly loud workmen began re-roofing next door. Hammering on my building!? Disturbed, and concerned about our shingles, I scurried out.
The men, gracious and polite, explained they’d nailed tarps on our building to protect the shingles; in a couple days all would be done, cleaned up. Yet the loudness continued to annoy. As did my concern for our shingles.
How can you not laugh? So much for a fervent full-heart seeking another’s good.
Ok, tell me again, how? My plea was to God; impossible without God. Then this: ‘how would you like those men to view you?’ ‘well, with respect.’
The edges round my thinking softened: indignation, distrust melted off. A deeper meaning of those seedlings sown long ago blossoming. Next I deliberately acknowledged God’s gifts of intelligence, thoroughness, respect, and honest work-ethic in those men.
Tangible trust and compassion took hold. I felt golden.
Their work continued without disturbing. And when they’d finished I saw sweetness in the way they nodded their goodbyes my way.
Weeks later, I saw a nearby neighbor spending hours sorting ruined items after Hurricane Irene; a neighbor I don’t know by the way. And even with the memory of her recent annoyingly loud backyard parties still hanging in thought, the compulsion to bake her brownies moved me to go buy the ingredients and do just that.
Was it the power behind the rule taking my hand, forcing my learning to take deeper root, reach higher? To remember that this is for life. Not a one time thing. Gentling me into an active hope that we each can forward peace—universal peace—beginning with and in our own golden selves.
Heart and hand giving. Budding in the heart.
Learning to live goldenly, by the rule, for another’s good.
Little bird Brush your gray wings on my head Say what you said Say it again . . . you told me I’m golden I’m golden From the weepies’ “little bird”
*Message to The Mother Church, 1900, p. 14
September 9, 2011
Near half the fun in the Arboretum is doggies. Granted there’s often hope for a treat in my pocket (never is) but more often, from my way of thinking, they just want a hello and a pat.
And well, for some—it’s all about the ball. Others, about each other . . .
It’s early morning. I’ve just arrived, feeling the Arb’s embrace of green freshness and peace. Dogs. People. The air is quiet, gentle.
I start up the first hill off Fairview Street. Right there a black curly-coated dog I’d never seen—with ball. As soon as it was thrown, he’d dash, grab and bring it back; only to have the game start over again, and again.
Sure not unusual. Yet this curly-one’s focus and enthusiasm proved unexpected.
When I got close he dropped the ball at my feet.
There was no mistaking his intent. So I obliged and kicked the ball into the woods. He tore after, then again dropping it at my feet. I kicked again and off he went, only to return for a repeat performance. All this time his walker watched, fascinated.
However, the third time my foot missed and the ball rolled down the hill. Curly stood; looking intently into my eyes—message clear: I’d let it roll away, so I needed to fetch it . . . (I didn’t by the way)
Another time I’d finished my walk, exiting on the house-lined street where I usually do. The trails had been wet, so I sat on a step to rid my sandals of leaves and twigs.
A small white poodle raced out of the Arb right up to the door across the street from where I sat. Looking at the door, she yapped excitedly, pawing it as she barked. Then looked at me as if for encouragement. Or help?
Soon her owner came out of the Arb, “oh there you are.”
She and I had sometimes said hello and so we did this time. My curiosity peaked, since I didn’t think that was her house; I heard her apologize as a woman opened the door. Was that a bark I heard from inside? Poodle ran in. The women exchanged greetings and both went in.
Poodle had come to visit. To play with the doggie who lived in that house. She wasn’t even from the neighborhood!
Simply two dogs who’d become pals in the Arb . . .
a post script—weeks ago in “double rainbows” I spoke of a sagely bassett; she’d been attacked by another dog but what I’d remembered were her eyes looking deep into mine, loving me. So the fact that she now recognizes me is touching for sure. And the other day, she interrupted her lazy lope and ran right over to wiggle her hello, leaning on my leg. And grinning?
I think this by Mary Baker Eddy says it perfectly: “All of God’s creatures, moving in the harmony of Science, are harmless, useful, indestructible.”
So doggies, harmless, useful, indestructible; warm and loving and plenty smart.
Fun and funny!
Epigram Engraved on the Collar of a Dog Which I Gave to His Royal Highness
by Alexander Pope
I am his Highness’ dog at Kew;
Pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?
The truth I do not stretch or shove
When I state that the dog is full of love.
I’ve also found, by actual test,
A wet dog is the lovingest.
by Ogden Nash
“God is the Life, or intelligence, which forms and preserves the individuality and identity of animals as well as of men.” Mary Baker Eddy Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures
August 30, 2011
Faith. Really how do you articulate such a fundamental quality of life.
Seems to me it’s more than trust, certainly more than believing . . . yet hasn’t attained realization or understanding. Still who would want to be without it? We might all stay indoors.
That’s the test isn’t it: to step out or not. To adventure or not. Live or not.
Emily Dickinson helps, with the grace of Soul, bring color and promise to my questioning:
Faith, she wrote,
—is the Pierless Bridge
Supporting what We see
Unto the Scene that We do not—
Too slender for the eye.
Then Anne Sexton makes it somehow tangible; elevating faith to action; promise to achievement:
You will jump to it someday.
Then you’ll fly.
You’ll really fly.
After that you’ll quite simply, quite calmly
make your own stones,
your own floor plan, your own sound.
Why this musing? Am feeling so ready to step out to whatever is next. But here’s the rub, months have gone by without a hoped for sale of my condo!
Feels like I’ve been gathering boxes, purging books and clothes, packing boxes and gathering more forever. . . all because I trust—yes have faith—in an intuition that it’s time to move. Just today I again covered the living room floor with empty boxes (which the kitties took to as their own floor plan, like kids on a new jungle gym! Flying right here in my midst, despite delayed expectations).
Overall I’ve loved the journey. But some days I do wonder if Abraham, after his initial willingness to follow God’s command to leave country, family, and home “for a land that I will show you” ever said, “what am I doing?”
Still on he went.
Seems to me Abraham’s story is there to teach us (as is Noah’s of building an ark when water couldn’t be seen for miles) to have faith; to take action and to trust along the way. Decades passed before Abraham realized the full promise.
Yet on he went.
The idea that Abraham, defined by Mary Baker Eddy in part, as illustrating “the purpose of Love to create trust in good . . .” encourages me to a more determined love for the moment. To let the moment be full, generous, orderly, delightful. To let each moment honor good, integrity of purpose and motive. And to realize there’s always more—the “pierless bridge supporting what we see unto the scene we do not.”
I’ve felt my compulsion to move came from prayer. OK, then I say, step out with faith, let Love divine take you in Love’s own way to the scene you do not see.
So I muse more and think of the richness spring and summer brought—people, ideas, circumstance that wouldn’t have been if my plan had been fulfilled.
Funny isn’t it.
Living the stated definition of this blog, in spite of myself:
To search the deep possibilities, exultance of each moment.
My base when getting right down to it,
is the Divine seeping into moments
—when I’m not looking—
urging the delight and joy of being.
More and more feels that that only comes
from giving; remaining
amazed by those
in and on the edges of my every day.
Being faith-filled . . .
“Infinite Love all our own, tireless Love watching our waiting, pointing the path, guiding our footsteps and turning them hither and thither as wisdom directs—then when the lesson is learned supplying the need and ending the warfare.” Mary Baker Eddy
August 21, 2011
Just back from my walk in Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum.
Sinking into its gentle sweet-smelling spaces, it can be easy to forget that the Arb wasn’t actually created on my account.
Still it always feels gifted to me alone.
Regulars (for yes others do revel and delight here as well) agree that once you enter, sheltered by leaves and branches, other worlds slip away. Passing each other, often the words “heaven” or “what a gift” are all we share, if anything at all.
Yet remembering that this 265 acre plot exists because of and for the trees does feel awesome to me. Whole. Purposeful.
And that wholeness always puts me in mind of this by singer song-writer Peter Mayer:
When I was a boy, each week
On Sunday, we would go to church
And pay attention to the priest
He would read the holy word
And consecrate the holy bread
And everyone would kneel and bow
Today the only difference is
Everything is holy now
Everything is holy now
When I was in Sunday school
We would learn about the time
Moses split the sea in two
Jesus made the water wine
And I remember feeling sad
That miracles don’t happen still
But now I can’t keep track
‘Cause everything’s a miracle
Everything’s a miracle
Wine from water is not so small
But an even better magic trick
Is that anything is here at all
So the challenging thing becomes
Not to look for miracles
But finding where there isn’t one
When holy water was rare at best
It barely wet my fingertips
But now I have to hold my breath
Like I’m swimming in a sea of it
It used to be a world half there
Heaven’s second rate hand-me-down
But I walk it with a reverent air
‘Cause everything is holy now
Everything is holy now
Read a questioning child’s face
And say it’s not a testament
That’d be very hard to say
See another new morning come
And say it’s not a sacrament
I tell you that it can’t be done
This morning, outside I stood
And saw a little red-winged bird
Shining like a burning bush
Singing like a scripture verse
It made me want to bow my head
I remember when church let out
How things have changed since then
Everything is holy now
It used to be a world half-there
Heaven’s second rate hand-me-down
But I walk it with a reverent air
‘Cause everything is holy now.
I’ve heard Peter Mayer perform this in concert . . . funny, when he sings, you just don’t want that holiness to end.
Kinda like being in the Arb.
Angels thrive Between the lines of our living . . . Understood Through the subtitles Of coincidence And longing. -Shelley Nickerson
Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom -Marcel Proust
August 16, 2011
Watching it rain. Cats and dogs. Some kind of powerful awesome faucet action going on . . . I love it.
Actually faucets and raining “cats and dogs” remind me of my first grasp of intelligence; initially in relation to my needing it. Desperately.
But later as an idea in and of itself.
Once during college panic had again played me over a make-or-break-my-grade thesis. Not the first for such—panic or paper.
Yet that year I’d begun looking more to the Divine. Perhaps because the summer before, when my mom had passed on, God’s tangible presence got me through. So as I’d done then, I opened a book that had opened my thinking; again its ideas took me out of despair and the feeling of being so alone.
The book? Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by 19th Century woman Mary Baker Eddy.
Here’s what I read, “Intelligence is . . . the primal and eternal quality of infinite Mind, of the triune Principle,—Life, Truth, and Love,—named God.”
The words “primal and eternal” leaped out. I remember reasoning, ‘If God creates and hovers over His creation,’ as I’d been taught and scripture assures,— ‘first off the press of God’s gifts to me would be intelligence.’
I felt suspended. Quieted in that idea. Peaceful.
Then out of the blue I pictured a water faucet.
Simple, you just open a faucet. The faucet doesn’t make the water . . . it releases what’s already there.
Nor could I make intelligence. Still, shouldn’t I think of intelligence as being everywhere, just like the water? Turn on the faucet, let intelligence companion me, everyone, in its everywhere essence. Feel it buoying each moment; let it mix in creative grace—for intelligence gives license to unique expression. To creativity. And Soul’s unlimitedness.
Not the end but my journey begun. Stop. Listen. The ideas are here. Colorful, purposeful ideas. Somewhat like a childhood rush and daring telling you anything is possible.
Years ago. Yet vivid. Encouraging.
Reminds me of the last school class I taught—a 5th-6th grade. Eager, fun, bright; an exhilarating, often unexpected, blend of intelligent creativity. Expressions of that delightful contagious rush of childhood daring.
Recently I came across photos of their Final Project presentations: Research a country or culture, write a report, wear an outfit you feel represents it, and bring a dish to share.
Presentation day? The faucet couldn’t have been turned off if we’d tried.
Yeh, like raining cats and dogs outlined in color and laughter, intelligence, creativity. Delight.
My senior thesis? It turned out just fine . . .
God said to Solomon, Because you have not asked for long life, nor riches, nor the life of your enemies, but have asked for discernment to understand justice, I have done according to your words.
I have given you a wise and discerning heart, so that there has been no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you. I Kings 3 (adaptation)
“All substance, intelligence, wisdom, being, immortality, cause, and effect belong to God.”
“Mind, joyous in strength, dwells in the realm of Mind. Mind’s infinite ideas run and disport themselves. In humility they climb the heights of holiness.” Mary Baker Eddy
Did you know the expression “cats and dogs” was first used in 1753?
August 9, 2011
It’s my secret.
Well, an open one really. Too good to keep. Kinda like a double rainbow feeling.
When I’m down, discouraged, depressed;
don’t know how to break through the world’s terror,
have made it my own and want out!
Just a glimpse of light will do . . .
“Please my dear Father-Mother of all show me how to be generous today, give me someone who needs a smile. A dog to pat, a stranger to delight in. Present a way to respect another, specially one who doesn’t feel respected.
Let me just be love. See Love.”
Next? I do get out of bed, I do go out to meet the world in my little world and breathe moment by moment. First I put on my many-color-button-necklace—to acknowledge God’s delight.
Then Love feels all round. A single rainbow.
The depression, and obsession with me, forgotten. Vanished. Lifted like a mist in sunshine. Yet along the way, always the opportunities I’ve asked for: the little child needing an extra listener; a woman despairing because not just she has cancer but her dear black Scottie does too; another stopping to be heard, while we listen to each other, a large dog attacks her sagely Bassett—yet Love is right there protecting (and I still see Bassett’s eyes looking deep into mine, loving me).
Then yesterday, at the window counter of my favorite café, a young couple I’d never seen before spontaneously offer, “We’re going to California today; she’s been accepted at Berkeley; so proud, so excited,” bathing me in rainbows. We share the joy of road trips and new adventures. As they leave he says, “I really like your necklace.” She adds, “so do I.”
Suddenly I see us all bathed in double rainbows breath by breath, moment to moment.
And next time the breaking through will be easier.
Til sometime there will be no next time, only double rainbows.
“Happiness is spiritual, born of Truth and Love. It is unselfish; therefore is cannot exist alone, but requires all mankind to share it.”
“When angels visit us, we do not hear the rustle of wings, nor feel the feathery touch of the breast of a dove; but we know their presence by the love they create in our hearts. Oh may you feel this touch,—it is not the clasping of hands, nor a loved person present; it is more than this: it is a spiritual idea that lights your path! The Psalmist saith, ‘He shall give His angels charge over thee.’ God gives you His spiritual ideas, and in turn, they give you daily supplies. Never ask for tomorrow: it is enough that divine Love is an ever-present help; and if you wait, never doubting, you will have all you need every moment. What a glorious inheritance is given to us through the understanding of omnipresent Love! More we cannot ask: more we do not want: more we cannot have. This sweet assurance is the ’Peace, be still’ to all human fears, to suffering of every sort.”
Mary Baker Eddy