Category Archives: quotes

Hope must be schooled by patience.

HOPE WITHOUT PATIENCE results in the illusion of optimism or, more terrifying, the desperation of fanaticism. The hope necessary to initiate us into the adventure must be schooled by patience if the adventure is to be sustained. Through patience, we learn to continue to hope, even though our hope seems to offer little chance of fulfillment. … Yet patience equally requires hope, for without hope, patience too easily accepts the world and the self for what it is, rather than what it can or should be.

-Stanley Hauerwas

Red poppies keep the coolness relative.

It has been years since I visited what I call The Rose House, though it probably takes less than fifteen minutes for me to walk there. What I found when I saw it last week was that the whole rose garden in front has been cleaned up, and all the bushes pruned. On the corner opposite, a man was standing in his vast flower garden; I didn’t see him at first, as I paused to admire a giant cistus in bloom, until he said, “It’s a beauty, isn’t it?” After a brief chat I said I had come that way to check out the roses across the street; he told me that the owner lives there himself, and has for a long time. So the reason for the previous unkemptness remains a mystery.

When I set out on my walk I debated taking my phone with me, because I have joined a Digital Detox group for the month of May; those in the group are taking up the challenge to detach as much as possible from our devices, according to the needs of our unique circumstances. Because my phone is my only camera at the ready, I decided to take it with me, though I have been trying to take fewer pictures as well. Since my destination was a particular beauty-soaked spot, I wanted to be equipped.

On this walk I was restrained with my camera. It seems that after having accumulated six or seven years’ worth of photos by means of my phone, the thrill of accumulating them is wearing off. Since 2020, when various forces began trying to separate me from other embodied humans, I’ve been extra aware of how easy it is to substitute indirect for direct experiences; for example, looking at pictures of roses instead of walking down the street to smell a real rose.

Our women’s book group is reading Heidi currently, and I’ve been reveling in the images of the child running all over the mountain and hugging the goats. It’s easy for me to have comparable experiences, now that spring is here and I can feel myself melting into the landscape under the sun’s rays. It is a holistic experience of beauty, in which all of my senses relay to me the many impressions that add up to a Beauty that is greater than all the parts of the moment; and I am certainly in a heavenly realm, compared to what you would see if I sent you a two-dimensional photo of me bending over the flower beds.

In The Master and His Emissary, another book I am dipping into, Iain McGilchrist discusses the different modes of being in the world that the right and left hemispheres of the brain offer. As it relates to beauty, this basic aspect of the left hemisphere is critical:

“The left-hemisphere view is designed to aid you in grabbing stuff. Its purpose is utility and its evolutionary adaptation lies in the service of grasping and amassing ‘things.’” 

McGilchrist says that on the other hand, our relationship with the beautiful “is more like longing, or love, a betweenness, a reverberative process between the beautiful and our selves, which has no ulterior purpose, no aim in view, and is non-acquisitive.” This is something the right brain intuitively and holistically understands.

We don’t go through our days aware of the interactions between the hemispheres of our brain, but a big point of the author’s thesis is that “as a society, we are becoming more like individuals with right hemisphere deficits.”

Just a few hours before I took my Rose Walk, I had been reading the book, and this passage jumped out at me:

“As Alain Corbin has argued, we have become more cerebral, and retreated more and more from the senses – especially from smell, touch and taste – as if repelled by the body; and sight, the coolest of the senses, and the one most capable of detachment, has come to dominate all.”

Because it is so easy for us to capture and share visual images by means of our digital technologies, we are flooded with them. As I made my way over to the Rose House I kept thinking about how rich was my experience outdoors, full of bird song, the  sound of children’s voices at the creek, the particular feel of the early evening air in May, and the scents — the rose scents most of all. And in my pictures, the only thing I would be able to pass on to you would be a record of what my relatively “detached” sense conveyed to me.

“The coolest of the senses.” That statement about our visual sense startled me, and made me want to push back against the image-focused culture that I have embraced, and against my habit of orienting my explorations toward what my camera can do something with. Since the roses themselves are often so heavy with scent, it was not hard to appreciate them in a multi-sensory way.

But then — on my way back home I passed by a house with an extravagant poppy display. Oh my, but it was hard to think that my sensing of them was cool. They were swaying in the breeze, and laying themselves down as an offering on the sidewalk. Their colors were warm…. no, hot!

Nearby, dozens of carpenter bees were making a racket in their wild excitement over the largest patch of cerinthe I’ve ever seen, and bright orange California poppies mixed in with the giant red and pink and purple ones. Truly, I experienced the longing that C.S. Lewis describes:

“We do not want merely to see beauty… We want something else which can hardly be put into words – to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.”

After living in this neighborhood for more than 30 years, and responding to an incredible amount of beauty that presents itself to me day after day, season by season, concentrated in this tiny part of the world, I think by now I must have received at least a smidgen of it into myself.

At the corner of my cracked driveway, there my own dear flowers greeted me: the Mexican Evening Primroses, and the California poppies that have only recently added themselves to that display. So I snapped one more picture to detach from the whole landscape and atmosphere to put here flat on the screen. I’m glad you all have enough right brain function to appreciate them such as they are; along with them, I send you my love.

Twirling through the cosmos and time.

Today I’ve been tossing out most of my beloved Touchstone and Gilbert magazines, but not before I glance at notes I’d written to myself on their covers ten or more years ago, suggesting to my mind and pen (and keyboard) topics to muse and write about. I have accumulated several boxes of such periodicals, including cooking and gardening magazines as well, every issue containing provocative information and knowledge that I hoped to incorporate into my daily life, both the active and contemplative aspects.

One of them that drew me in was short enough to reread this morning: “It All Depends: on Randomness and the Providence of God,” by Philip Rempel. Rempel compares the Enlightenment view of the cosmos as orderly clockwork to the postmodern concept of it as random and chaotic. Both end up being “dead and dreary,” especially when contrasted with the reality of the world we see in front of us, and described in the language of Christ and the church.

“For the world we observe if we open our eyes is indeed a universe filled with both structure and freedom, but the structure is never a rigid structure and the freedom is never a lawless freedom. As in a dance, or all art for that matter, where rules and creativity must work in tandem to produce something of meaning, so it is with the universe. In some sense we are part of a cosmic dance, but the dance must be structured if it is to have meaning; a universe of arbitrary motion is just as unsatisfying as a universe without motion.

“The existence of every created thing, and thus its role in the dance, is entirely and continually dependent on God, and so our movement through the cosmos and through time, which is our response to his love, must be continually focused on him and directed towards him. Particles and probabilities, and people and planets, are all twirling through the cosmos in response to God’s loving call.”

-Philip Rempel


Her love grew strong as an oak.

Just before I was to attend a recent baby shower, I found an article by Frederica Mathewes-Green, a sort of meditation on the power of a mother’s influence. It’s  primarily about Father George Calciu, who was “one of the great confessors of Christianity in the twentieth century. Having survived the diabolic prison experiments of Communist Romania, Fr. George went on to become an apostle to spiritual seekers in Romania and, eventually, throughout the world.”

Fr. George spent a total of more than 20 years in prison. When later he was a pastor in the United States, he became Frederica’s spiritual father and confessor.

Her thoughts about his relationship to his mother seemed perfect to share at a baby shower, so I read the whole article before gifts were opened. Putting together what she knew personally of Fr. George, and what he told her about his mother, Frederica concluded:

“I think that Fr. George’s mother planted something joyous in him, when he was still a baby in the cradle. Her love and her delight in him took root, and grew as strong as an oak tree.”

I have read many stories about people who, when as adults they found themselves in deep trouble and disorder from whatever source, for whatever reason, were sustained and preserved — and sometimes brought to repentance — by simple childhood memories of what was normal and good. Sometimes it was the thought of one sweet person, or one beautiful day, long ago embedded in their soul, like an ember still glowing. From this one bit of warmth and light they found the strength to pray and the courage to do whatever was necessary.

“We do not know where our children’s lives will lead them; they may have to undergo suffering that we will be unable to prevent. They may be somewhere far beyond our ability to help them. But in the loving care we give each day, we plant something for a lifetime. Each small thing we do can be preparing them to meet challenges that we cannot yet see.” 

Read the whole (short) article: “Father George Calciu, My Spiritual Father.”