A Single Pebble

At the river, there is a pool both deep and wide.  It is ringed on three sides by boulders, willows, and alders, and on the fourth side by a sandy beach.  Dragonflies zip back and forth over the shining water; swallows and dippers busily hunt for insects; and green fish with gold sparkles on their backs investigate every new movement.  Humans shed all clothing and immerse themselves naked in the sacred waters.

The water here has dropped down from a smaller pool above, in a cascade through boulders as big as cars.  Each season the pool starts high and full, and the water is cold and fast as it emerges from the boulders.  It rushes toward the far side of the pool and bounces upstream, causing an eddy that catches debris and foam. As the season goes on, and the water gets lower and warmer, algae begins to grow on the bottom of the eddy side.  If left alone, the pool would shrink into a smelly green pond.

But the people who love this river do not leave it alone.  At the downstream edge of the pool, at its lowest point, they make a beautiful ridge of rocks that extends part way across the stream.  Water flows over it in a clear smooth silken curve.  The rate of flow is the same as before, but the pool is preserved.

Each rock is placed with love and care, precisely where it is needed. The people who love this river want not to divert it, but rather to preserve its beauty.  They pay close attention, because they know that you can change the course of an entire river by placing a single pebble in the right location.

You can change the course of an entire river by placing a single pebble in the right location.

 

 

Summer Moves

Beloveds:

Since I began this venture more than two years ago, I have had a new writing for you nearly every week.  Occasionally I miss a week because of unforeseen circumstances, and occasionally I re-publish something because it fits the season so well, but I have written over a hundred poems, prayers, and meditations just for you.  A few of you have told me that these writings are very meaningful to you, and I am glad.

I am now making an enormous transition:  from full-time community ministry working from home in Grass Valley, CA, to 3/4 time parish ministry in Napa, CA, two hours away.  I will be renting an apartment (at the top of a little barn in the middle of a meadow) in Napa, and commuting back to Grass Valley every fourth week.

While I make this transition, I will need to take some time away from writing.  For the next two months, I will re-publish older poems, prayers, and meditations–so you will still receive something in your inbox each week.  I will return to writing new material in September, unless something even more terrible or beautiful happens than has happened before, in which case I will respond with a new prayer.

In the meantime, please make a donation to help me keep the website up and running.  It costs several hundred dollars each year to maintain.  This has been my gift to the world–to you in particular–but I need your help to keep it going.

Please know that wherever I am and whatever I am doing, I am holding you in my heart.  Whatever happens in the world this summer–and who knows what that might be, given all that has happened in the last couple of years–I am thinking of you and processing it all right along with you.

Let us not let world events crush us.  Let us love the summer fruit and the long hot days and the cold rivers and the cricket song and the happy shouts of children as much as ever, even as we do everything we humanly can to get the concentration camps closed and the children reunited with their parents.  Our joy in life is what feeds our work for justice.

May your summer be filled with blessings.

Love,
Rev. Leisa

 

 

Light the Fuse

Great Spirit of Life, Infinite Love,

You wanted all to shine:
every being with their own light
weaving together in a tapestry
luminescent with love;
but some stamped out the light of others
or took it for their own
and a roiling darkness
has come over our land.

Light us up now.

Light the fuse in our souls
so we can rise like fireworks through the sky
and burst into stars of love
that illuminate this dark, dark night.

We will blaze
We’ll be incandescent
We will flare and glow and glisten

We will erupt into song in the streets
We will explode into word and dance
We will liberate all who are captive
We will not take no for an answer

All will be radiant
All will be glorious
All will glitter and sparkle and shine

Light us up now.
Light the fuse.
It is time.
It is time.
It is time.

Blessed be.

What is good and real and beautiful

A cellist in Sarajevo
once played for 22 days in a row
to honor 22 people who were killed by a mortar
as they waited in line for bread.

When asked “How can you play music
when bombs are being dropped all around?”

He replied, “No, the question is,
how can people drop bombs
when there is such beautiful music?”

Today we paddled our kayaks
across a lake
and into a creek
between canyon walls lush with
willow, alder, cottonwood,
maple, fir, pine,
madrone, oak, cedar
Green upon green upon green
in so many different hues

Bald Eagle greeted us
by swooping over our heads
and hundreds of dragonflies
darted above the water.
Little fish swam just below
and the loudest sound
was the fluting call
of a hermit thrush.

This time on quiet water
among green trees and with
our other-than-human relatives
is necessary

Because for some unfathomable reason
people do drop bombs
and hurt children
and pretend there is no climate change

and we need to remind ourselves of
what is good and real and beautiful.

There is music.
There is the fragrance of the pines
on a warm summer day.
There is the kiss of our beloved.
There is the laughter of a happy child
as she bounces on our lap
and sings her little song.
There is the fluting call
of the hermit thrush.

If we can keep these in our hearts
we will be strong enough
to go into the belly of the beast
and put out its fire
with the sweet, sweet waters
of love.

 

 

 

The Call of Life

We all knew it was coming;
we knew that if the man was caught
at something explicitly illegal
and it looked like he was really in trouble
he would start a new war.

But the thing is

The thing is
that the baby titmice fledged
and everyone exited the nest.
The internet says titmice
have only one brood per season
so we took the nest down,
wanting to clean the porch.

Apparently that was a mistake
because the parents are now
building a new nest,
flying to and fro
carrying grass and twigs
to the new location,
also on the porch.

This has happened to us before.
Once we watched mourning doves
raise five broods in a row
on top of a kayak
hanging under a portico.

So the thing is
the titmice
just keep nesting.
Despite all setbacks,
they do the work
that is theirs to do
in response to the call of Life.

Let us go and do likewise.

 

 

 

 

 

Strawberries

strawberry-1453283_640

A perfect strawberry, Farmer Robert says,
is red all over.
No green,
no white anywhere,
not even on the point.
It is a full,
bright
RED.
Shape and size do not matter.

The perfect strawberry
is picked,
fully ripe,
from its parent plant.
To find it
you must crawl through the dirt on your knees
seeking for bright red fruit
in nests of green leaves.

Some strawberries are tricky
tantalizing you with a bright shiny top
but when you turn them over
you find blotchy orange underneath,
or white or even a green hard place
at the tip of the fruit.
On these you must pass.
They will come into their own in time.

I would hold communion
out here in the strawberry patch.
All of us kneeling in the warm soil,
bright sun overhead.

Gently placing a strawberry
in each pair of cupped hands,
I would say,
“The Body of God.
The Body of God.
The Body of God.”
And we would all take, and eat.

 

Beloveds:  By popular demand, this poem comes out every spring,  with the strawberries.  In my garden they are just now perfectly ripe.  May you too taste the Body of God in the fruit of your choice, and may the juice run down your chin.

A Small Thing

After a long trip away I did the laundry
and went outside to hang the clothes up to dry,
only to find that a pair of oak titmice
had made a nest next to the clothesline,
which is on the side part of the porch,
around the corner from the front door.

Anytime someone goes out that way
Papa or Mama Titmouse stands bravely
on the back of a patio chair
ready to defend the nest
against all comers.
I could not find it in me to hang the clothes.

This morning I came out to meditate
in my usual place on the porch
and Papa Bird flew around
in tight complicated circles
on the ground at my feet
indicating I suppose
that I was too close for comfort
and should slowly back away.

So I can’t use the clothesline
or sit in my usual chair
or even go out the front door
until the baby titmice
have fledged.

When you think about the vastness
of what needs to be done
about climate change
and mass extinction of species
and how badly human beings
treat other human beings
it seems perhaps ridiculous
that I have organized
my whole domestic routine
around a family of little birds.

And yet my heart will not permit me
to do any differently.

It is a small thing
but it is something
I can do.

Memorial Day Prayer

Spirit of Life,
Source and Sustainer of All:

Now is the growing time.
Life burgeons in a riot of color everywhere we look.

Help us know you
as that force that arranges stardust
into patterns and shapes more astounding
than anything we could ever dream:
green maple leaves, purple lilacs, singing wrens,
clear waters, laughing babies of every color.

Help us remember how holy is your work,
how precious each life.

Help us remember:
it is on behalf of these lives
that we must resist hatred and greed and cruelty
for we are all interconnected
in one vast and living whole.

May we know that
it is possible to resist without violence.

And at the same time,
may we be thankful
that when violence and cruelty do come,
there are those who are willing
to give their lives
to try and stop it.

May we never take their sacrifices lightly.
May we always remember them.

Blessed be.

The Heart Outside Your Body

At the grocery store
I saw a baby in the seat
of a cart and he smiled at me
with such delight
that he reminded me of my own baby
and I was instantly transported
back to those days
such a long time ago

when I was his favorite person in the world
and he would raise his little arms
with fingers pointing up
and a winning smile
knowing that I would lift him high
and swing him through the air
before settling him on my hip
and taking him to the next big thing.

He too would sit in the cart
and smile at people who walked by
always so friendly
and slightly mischievous

no words yet
but you always knew
just what he meant.

Now he is a grown man
overtopping me by a foot
with a man’s beard and muscles
and his expression is often hard to read.

He is one of the good ones
and as much as I would like
to claim credit for that
I must admit
he was born that way.

Elizabeth Stone said that to have a child is
“forever to have your heart
go walking outside your body.”

Even long after they are grown
This is true.
I miss my sweet baby boy
but I love the man he has become
and I wish his heart didn’t walk
quite so far away
so much of the time

because even though
I am no longer his favorite person
he and his sister
(also grown)
are still mine.

 

 

 

Our Ordinary Natures

That there is such a being as a porcupine.

That there are creatures like iguanas
and sea jellies and parrotfish
and flamingos and ibises
and newts and toads and naked mole rats.

That there are creatures so beautiful
they make us weep
and creatures so ugly
they make us laugh.

That a certain bird in the tropical jungle
collects only shiny blue things
with which to impress
prospective mates.

That when one human toddler
sees another drop its binky
and begin to cry
the first comes over
and picks up the binky
and offers comfort.

I want to sing Gloria! in every moment
because the world is so full of wonders
but really
this is just the way things are
on the most ordinary day.

It takes effort to cause harm.
Let’s not make so much effort.
Let’s just fall back on our ordinary natures
and offer love when someone is sad.

Let’s just be amazed
and grateful
and joyful.