Category Archives: quotes

Thoughts in my heart and in a box.

A few months ago as I was following my usual route along the paved bike path, I heard hammering nearby, and peering through the trees across the creek I saw a man on the opposite bank working on some kind of cabinet. I stopped and called over to him and his wife who was nearby, “What are you working on?” and though we couldn’t see each other very well we raised our voices and they told me about their project and invited me to take part. Though the object of their carpentry had been in that place for many years, I’d never noticed it before, and from that day until now I never took the trouble to respond to their invitation.

This morning felt very leisurely to me, a day with no appointments or commitments, no one to care how long it took me to get home from my walk. I admired the field along one leg of my excursion…

… and when I started back toward the creek I thought again about that spot across the stream. The reason I hadn’t visited it in all these months is that it’s not easily accessible unless you live in the mobile home park on that side. By the time I find myself across from its approximate location and it comes to mind, I am usually far from a way to it. The people I met had built it with the residents of that community in mind: it’s a place for sitting and thinking and for writing down one’s thoughts, to add to the collection in the “thought box” they had built for their parents and other residents.

Steps lead down from that neighborhood, but the more obvious and public way to that destination is blocked by a chain link fence. Today I slowed down and kept my eye out for a way across the water to that side — in late summer there isn’t much flow — and I found a vague path through the foxtails and over the little stream across rocks that seemed to have been brought and piled in one area.

I climbed up to the unpaved path closer to the stream and soon reached the little meditation spot. The chair is upturned so it won’t collect dirt or rainwater.

The box has been fitted with a heavy lid, roofed with composition shingles ! and inside, bright velvet banners hang down from the underside of the lid. A ziploc bag holds 3×5 cards, some of which have been written on. I didn’t take the time to read on this visit. Maybe next time I will sit and ponder and write something myself.

As I went on my way and the yellowing leaves drifted down over my path, I remembered the first time I self-consciously felt the season changing and noticed the effect of the beauty of creation on my soul. I was eleven years old and maybe it was the first time I’d walked by myself down to the river that was about a mile from our house through the orange groves.

It was at this time of year, and some trees that may have been cottonwoods were blowing in the breeze. The water was low in the river, and the plants among the river stones were drying up. I walked very solitary along a dirt road that ran there, and I was glad.

I took no notes on that experience when I got home, I took no pictures. I just was, in the day. And the gifts of that holy afternoon became a part of my self and of my memory, so that I could receive them again this morning. God is so good to me! Maybe when I go back and put my thoughts in that box, they will be these thoughts.

When I got to the end of this path that I’d never walked on before, I was below the bridge that I normally would be walking on, in the spot where I one time looked down on women collecting watercress. And there was some watercress still, and a stretch of concrete by way of a ford over a second creek, leading up to the main path again.

In the jungle of plants down there I saw some bedraggled pennyroyal, one more surprise of the day.

 

“For the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the skies,
For the love which from our birth, over and around us lies;
Lord, our God, to Thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.”

The mirror before which we pose.

“The opinion of others about us – this is the mirror before which we all, almost without exception, pose. A man moulds himself in order to be such as he wishes to appear to others. But the real man, as he actually is, remains unknown to all, often himself included, while what acts and lives is a figure invented and dressed up by his own imagination. This tendency to deceive is so great that, distorting his very nature, man will sacrifice his own self – the unique and inimitable element present in every human personality.

“But how great is the attraction we feel whenever we meet a person free of this cancer, and how much we love the complete simplicity and directness of children, who have not as yet entered the realm of self consciousness! Yet we have the alternative of struggling consciously to return from this evil complexity to simplicity. In any case, when we become aware of the presence of this evil in us, the task is already half accomplished.”

-Father Alexander Elchaninov, Diary of a Russian Priest

A beginning in June and forever.

From St. Nikolai’s Prologue for today:

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 1:7).

If someone knew the number of stars in the heavens and the names of the fish in the sea and the amount of the grass in the field and the habits of the beasts in the forest, but did not have the fear of God, his knowledge would be as water in a sieve. And his knowledge would make him a greater coward in the face of death than the completely ignorant.

If someone could guess all the thoughts of mankind and foretell the fate of mankind and reveal every mystery that the earth conceals in its depths, but did not have the fear of God, his knowledge would be as milk poured into an unclean container, by which all the milk would be spoiled. And, in the hour of his death, his wisdom would not shine even as much as a piece of charcoal without a flame, but would make the night of his death even darker.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom….

….The fear of God is the salt of all piety. If there is no such salt then all of our piety is insipid and lax. The fear of God girds the loins, girdles the stomach, makes the heart sober, restrains the mind, and flogs self-will. Where is repentance without the fear of God? Where is humility? Where is restraint? Where is chastity? Where is patience? Where is service and obedience?

O my brethren, let us embrace this word as the holy truth: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. O Lord Almighty, implant Your fear in our hearts.

–St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Homily for June 1 from The Prologue of Ohrid

Beyond the grave and beyond time.

cemetery-markers-dont-know-where

“Saint John Chrysostom says in one of his writings that the terrible thing is, when someone dies, that we look at the person whom we loved and say, ‘And yet, I have been unable to love him, love her to perfection.’ But then we must remember that life does not cease with death, that life continues, that for God all are alive, and that our mutual love and our mutual power to forgive go beyond the grave and beyond time. This is what Father Lev Gillet called a certainty of hope.”

-Metropolitan Anthony Bloom