Tag Archives: attentiveness

Does a child see herself grow?

Father Michael Gillis describes himself as a grumpy old man who struggles to stay near to God; he evidently succeeds enough to be able to report, in his latest blog post, “…I think God loves so much those who reach out to Him that he tricks me into saying something to help them.”

He shares portions of an email exchange with a young woman who is discouraged at always having to confess the same sins. Why isn’t God changing her? I found it encouraging: “Just” Waiting on God.

From a rock, with my feet in wet sand.

Looking upstream from mouth of creek.

On my drive to the coast today, I listened to “How Satan Deceives People” by Elder Cleopa of Romania. That story certainly set the tone for my visit, to make it even more contemplative than usual.

I had missed my Alone Time on the beach for exactly three weeks. Because wind seemed to be in the forecast a lot, I had been wondering if I would be able to get out there very much this spring, but when the wind died down here, it did there, too. I think the air temperature was about 60 degrees, but the water felt colder than ever; it was the first time I felt it to be somewhat uncomfortable right away.

The water temperature on the beaches I frequent ranges from about 50-55 degrees over the year, with the coldest months being April and May, and the warmest, September. By the time you get as far south as San Francisco the water is five degrees warmer on average. Anyway, that’s not much variation, and I’m wondering if the water felt colder because I am older (not to say old). What I like about that reductive explanation for certain perplexing changes is that it can quickly free up time and mental energy for other more interesting inquiries.

Today I was thinking about too many things to let the water temperature take over my mind, though I walked in the surf as much as ever. Tears came to my eyes, for joy at being there in the elements, my senses refreshed and my mind having encouraging things from Elder Cleopa to rest on. It was convenient that the elements were fairly gentle, and that the tide had gone out just enough to reveal comfortable sitting rocks at the north end of the beach where no other people were. I sat.

The tide had peaked high about two hours before I arrived, and as each wave fell away from the shore, it looked as though it were pulling back on itself; I wonder if that was an optical illusion from me seeing the steep slope of the beach as the wave retracted. The way tides work is pretty complex! I just read this online, when I was looking for the opposite of ebb:

“The incoming tide along the coast and into the bays and estuaries is called a flood current; the outgoing tide is called an ebb current. The strongest flood and ebb currents usually occur before or near the time of the high and low tides. The weakest currents occur between the flood and ebb currents and are called slack tides.”

I learned three things in that short paragraph. If I could find the time to study it, I would like to learn much more, from this book, Tides and the Ocean, that I borrowed from the library. I may have to take it to the beach and sit on a rock to read it, where I have no other books, and few other “tasks” to distract me. Pippin read a bit from it when she was here (away from her own books and usual tasks) and explained to me about some other things that affect the tides, like the sun, and local weather. There are many great diagrams and pictures to help explain everything.

The view from my sitting rock.

One idea from Elder Cleopa’s story that impressed me was that the only thing demons can do to us is suggest thoughts. We think they are our own and we build habits out of them, and follow a path away from repentance leading to salvation.

But God, through our conscience or our Guardian Angel or maybe many means, also gives us promptings, which it’s best to follow hard on. Otherwise the demons will come right along and suggest that we procrastinate. Merely procrastinating doesn’t seem too bad… But watch out!

The kindness of God quite overwhelmed me this afternoon. I got home a little late, with not enough time left to tell you all I had planned, about my outing — especially what I saw on the way home. If I am here tomorrow maybe I will work on that part. It’s easy to get behind in recounting the gifts of our Creator and Lover and Friend.

There was a lesson to be taught.

Some time before he died in 2019, I became slightly acquainted with the work of Clive James, and even bought two of his books, one of which includes the poem below. After becoming sick unto death in 2010, he said he had felt somewhat embarrassed that he kept on living; he wrote what he called a “farewell poem” in 2014, and he continued writing his newspaper column “Reports of My Death” for a few years. I read many of those columns, and find his prose and poetry satisfying even when I don’t know what he is talking about.

Now as I revisit James’s work, I am very interested to read about this: “Clive James spent the spring and summer of 2019 writing and editing an autobiographical anthology called The Fire Of Joy, a raid on ‘the treasure-house of his mind’: a collection of the poems that first awoke in him his love of poetry and that were lodged forever in his memory.” I was disappointed to find that the book is not in any library I can access, and it’s expensive to buy, for someone like me whose appreciation of poetry is not at a level that would justify the expense.

In any case, it was his own poem that most grabbed at my heart back then, and prompted me to pray for him, that the interior “work” he had been given to do in those last years might be fully healing, unto ages of ages.

SENTENCED TO LIFE

Sentenced to life, I sleep face-up as though
Ice-bound, lest I should cough the night away,
And when I walk the mile to town, I show
The right technique for wading through deep clay.
A sad man, sorrier than he can say.

But surely not so guilty he should die
Each day from knowing that his race is run:
My sin was to be faithless. I would lie
As if I could be true to everyone
At once, and all the damage that was done

Was in the name of love, or so I thought.
I might have met my death believing this,
But no, there was a lesson to be taught.
Now, not just old, but ill, with much amiss,
I see things with a whole new emphasis.

My daughter’s garden has a goldfish pool
With six fish, each a little finger long.
I stand and watch them following their rule
Of never touching, never going wrong:
Trajectories as perfect as plain song.

Once, I would not have noticed; nor have known
The name for Japanese anemones,
So pale, so frail. But now I catch the tone
Of leaves. No birds can touch down in the trees
Without my seeing them. I count the bees.

Even my memories are clearly seen:
Whence comes the answer if I’m told I must
Be aching for my homeland. Had I been
Dulled in the brain to match my lungs of dust
There’d be no recollection I could trust.

Yet I, despite my guilt, despite my grief,
Watch the Pacific sunset, heaven sent,
In glowing colours and in sharp relief,
Painting the white clouds when the day is spent,
As if it were my will and testament –

As if my first impressions were my last,
And time had only made them more defined,
Now I am weak. The sky is overcast
Here in the English autumn, but my mind
Basks in the light I never left behind.

– Clive James, 2014

St. Michael the Chief Commander

 

Today we commemorate St. Michael and all the Bodiless Powers. This feast day was established at the beginning of the fourth century, even before the First Ecumenical Council. This page on the Orthodox Church in America website explains the nine ranks of angels and much about St. Michael, the Chief Commander of angels.

 

 

 

When I arrived at church I saw a rose gracing the damp and grey day,
so I memorialized it, too.

Father Stephen reminded us of a prayer that came from his son at about four years old:

Dear St. Michael,
Guard my room.

Don’t let anything
eat me or kill me.

Kill it with your sword.
Kill it with your sword.
Amen.

He shared other stories on his blog about children especially, who have seen their guardian angels. Our rector in his homily noted that many of us have our physical senses finely tuned so that we can know, when we taste wine, where the grapes were grown; and when we hear music we often know if it’s off-key, or even who composed it. But our spiritual senses are usually so dull that we not only can’t see our angels, but we mostly ignore them. In any case, they are there, guiding and protecting us! Let’s try to pay more attention.