Tag Archives: thinking

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.”

Do the spooky thing.

My late husband many times told me that I thought too much. He would like to have read this recent article by Fr. Stephen who tells me the same thing, and I commend it to your reading, even though, as Fr. Stephen admits, “…our thinking about thought is decidedly spooky.” We do need to think in order to learn the proper place of thinking, and the difference between thinking about God and being with God.

It is the latest in a series in which the author tries to get through our modern noggins the reality that we are more than our thoughts and feelings, and that the Christian faith is not essentially an idea. How could it be, when God is not an idea?

I think I get this, and I have written about it and quoted others about it for my own edification many times. It remains that I was born in this modern era and I’ve soaked up its ways as regularly as I’ve eaten my breakfast. It’s hard to live in the truth that I am learning, but each point that Fr. Stephen makes in each successive article helps a little more. This last one is full of concrete illustrations, such as:

1) eating your saIMG_1452 chunkndwich
2) burying your dead
3) being bored in church
4) the mythology of Star Trek
5) what Christ’s blood is
6) taking antidepressants

To contrast the secular mind with the spiritual or the Christian mind would be to perpetuate the misconception of our selves, and the article is fittingly titled “The Secular Mind Versus the Whole Heart.” In the comments section the author often elaborates on and clarifies statements in response to commenters, so don’t miss that part. Read it here.

Are there any flowers here?

[From St. Paisios] Some people tell me that they are scandalized because they see many things wrong in the Church. I tell them that if you ask a fly, “Are there any flowers in this area?” it will say, “I don’t know about flowers, but over there in that heap of rubbish you can find all the filth you want.” And it will go on to list all the unclean things it has been to.

Now, if you ask a honeybee, “Have you seen any unclean things in this area?” it will reply, “Unclean things? No, I have not seen any; the place here is full of the most fragrant flowers.” And it will go on to name all the flowers of the garden or the meadow.

You see, the fly only knows where the unclean things are, while the honeybee knows where the beautiful iris or hyacinth is.paisios of mt athos sitting

As I have come to understand, some people resemble the honeybee and some resemble the fly. Those who resemble the fly seek to find evil in every circumstance and are preoccupied with it; they see no good anywhere. But those who resemble the honeybee only see the good in everything they see. The stupid person thinks stupidly and takes everything in the wrong way, whereas the person who has good thoughts, no matter what he sees, no matter what you tell him, maintains a positive and good thought.

+ St. Paisios of Mt. Athos, “Good and Evil Thoughts,” Spiritual Counsels III: Spiritual Struggle

(Elder Paisios was canonized on January 13 last year but he is commemorated on June 29/July 12. )

Collis thinks on the land.

The author of The Worm Forgives the Plough finds that hoeing is a fairly pleasurable sort of farm work, writing of it, “I have never since had a combination of similar qualities for softening the blows of monotony.” And yet…

This job, and the previous ones, brought me up against one of the fallacies concerning agricultural work held by the citizen of our mean cities. It is supposed that ‘on the land’ you have ‘time to think’, and that conditions are such that the mind can indulge quietly in wise expansive meditations in the open air. Certainly the place to think is the open air. But not during work.

To be able to think consecutively about anything you must concentrate, and there are few jobs on the land that you can do so automatically as to be free to really think. Perhaps hoeing should be one of these. For a short time it is. Then the body interferes with the mind. The back begins to ache. You become physically preoccupied. You become tired. And then the mind, instead of being able to concentrate upon something consecutively, indulges either in fatuous daydreams or nurses petty grievances or dwells upon the worst traits of one’s least pleasant friends.

At such times I have often been appalled at my mind and wondered if others could have such rotten ones. And if a Great Idea does descend, well, I stop working to take it in, and rest on my hoe, and look across the land (as a matter of fact, I don’t: I carefully gaze on the ground in case anyone is looking — for he who gazes towards the earth presents a less agriculturally reprehensible spectacle than he who looks toward heaven).

–John Stewart Collis in The Worm Forgives the Plough

Man-witha-hoe Millet

painting by Jean-François Millet