The Cosmic Art and Meditation of Blackberry Pie-making

Yeah. I know. Weird title, right?  I was going to use the word “zen” in there – Zen and the Art of Pie-Making – and then it occurred to me I don’t actually know what “zen” means – so I thought I better just go with “cosmic.” For me, there is some spiritual “cosmic” something that I feel when I’m making a blackberry pie. Making pies connects me to wonderful memories…

When I was in grade school I was huge into Laura Wilder’s Little House books. I had great fun pretending I was a pioneer girl, living with my family in the big woods or on the prairie. I imagined living in a little house with a loft, collecting eggs from our chickens every morning, fishing in the stream, and picking berries for home-made pies. (I also imagined we had pet chipmunks – but that has pretty much nothing to do with this blog post.)

Some years later – the sun is warming my shoulders, the sweet smell of blackberries filling my nose, my hands carefully moving among the thorns as I gather the filling for next winter’s pies – Mom calls to me from the house to let me know a birthday gift for me has arrived in the mail from my boyfriend.  I smile, thinking of him, and carry the berries back to the house.  The memory of the sunshine of that day and the feel of the warmth on my shoulders and the happy feeling of knowing someone was thinking of me will all become a part of the pie filling, too.

Later still – when I was in my twenties – I lived next door to a woman who was studying to be a radio disc jockey. She also made amazing pies, and gave me her recipe for uber pie crust: 2 cups flour, 2/3 and 2 tbsp butter, 6 tablespoons water, and a dash of salt.  I don’t remember my neighbor’s name anymore – but when I use her recipe for pie crust, I remember her – remember her friendly smile and her wonderfully raspy disc jockey voice – and I smile.

A few Christmases ago my Nova Scotian friend, Kathi, sent me an apron with the word “eh?” written on it. I always wear this apron now, when I make pies.

Today – the rain is lashing against the house, a fire burns cozily in the woodstove, and Louis Armstrong sings What a Wonderful World on my stereo as I create Blackberry Pie.  I’ve got Kathi’s apron on, and I’m feeling like a self-sufficient pioneer woman as I roll out the pie crust – made from the recipe given me by my d-jay neighbor – and fill it with the berries I picked in last summer’s sunshine.  I am in my pie-making zone – focused on the things of the moment – rolling the crust, mixing the berries with sugar and flour for the filling, poking holes in the top of the pie and sprinkling sugar on the crust.  I am creating. And there is peace.

It’s all very cosmic.

 

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Letting Go

Human affection is not poured forth vainly, even though it meet no return. Love enriches the nature, enlarging, purifying, and elevating it. The wintry blasts of earth may uproot the flowers of affection, and scatter them to the winds; but this severance of fleshly ties serves to unite thought more closely to God, for Love supports the struggling heart until it ceases to sigh over the world and begins to unfold its wings for heaven. – Mary Baker Eddy

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you… – Philippians 1:3

There ain’t no way you can hold onto something that wants to go, you understand? You can only love what you got while you got it. – Kate DiCamillo, Because of Winn-Dixie

Okay. So this is the part of motherhood I never thought about when I was holding my babies in my arms – the part where they are all grown-up and need to leave to start their own lives, and you know they have to do this, and you know it’s right and you know it will be a good thing for them, but it just hurts so awfully much.

As I’ve gotten older, and my children have grown-up, my perspective on courage has changed a lot. I used to hugely admire those individuals who launched themselves into the unknown – who had the courage to sail away from home and family to explore new lands and perspectives – and I still have admiration for those people, for sure. But I’ve come to have an even greater admiration for their mothers and fathers who, knowing they might never see their children again, yet let go of them – standing on the dock, waving good-bye and smiling, as the ship headed out to open seas.

Yesterday I asked myself: If I’d known about the pain of this part, would I still have had children? Would I have willingly put myself in a position where I would love another human being so much that my heart would feel it was breaking when it came time for him to leave and start his own life – move away across the country and maybe never return but to visit one week a year?

And, in answer, a flashback came to me. My youngest son was maybe five years-old and somehow we had contrived to have an outing together, just the two of us. We were nestled in some boulders by the Puget Sound, watching the waves roll into the beach and the seagulls flying overhead, the sun shining down on us and wrapping us up in its warmth. “Isn’t this great, Mommy?” he asked. I turned to him and smiled, and asked him what was great. “Just sitting here in the sunshine with you,” he said, smiling back at me.

And it occurred to me that, yeah, for that one moment alone, it’s all been worth it.

When I woke up this morning my eyes went to the photo of Mom and me I have on my dresser. And I had a kind of epiphany. I don’t see my mom much, really, or even talk to her on the phone but maybe once a week. But I carry her around inside me all the time – in the same way that I carry around a good book I’ve read, or an amazing song I’ve heard. I’m never really separated from my mom. She’s a part of me. And I realized the same is true of my sons. No matter where they are, I’m never really separated from them – they live in me. Even though I might not always be able to keep up with the changes in their lives or their physical appearance – the essence of who they are doesn’t change, and I know that essence, and it’s in me forever and ever. I am never separated for a moment from them.

And when the grown son made a point of coming back into the room, and saying “I love you,” before heading out the door… I realized, yeah. It’s been worth it. 🙂

…if a friend be with us, why need we memorials of that friend? – Mary Baker Eddy

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 8: 38-39

The Great Heart of Love

Come when the shadows fall, 
And night grows deeply dark;
The barren brood , O call
With song of morning lark;
And from above,
Dear heart of Love,
Send us thy white-winged dove.

–Mary Baker Eddy

How wonderfully bolstering it is to recognize ourselves surrounded by the playful, joyful, comforting, cozy, warming, light-filled, splendid, unconditional and unchanging presence of Love. Our hearts are thirsty for it. To know we are loved, to know we are valued, needed, and precious gives us hope, bolsters our courage, and supports and inspires us to reach beyond our human sense of limitation and lack. Love gives us a mission, and gives us the resolve, courage, and wisdom to accomplish that mission.

We’ve probably all had times in our life when we’ve felt unloved, unlovable, and unloving. And maybe most of us have at times felt alone, or wondered if we’d ever find someone to share the joys and challenges of life with. I know I’ve experienced those times in my life. But what I’ve found as I’ve grown in my understanding of Love is that if I‘m not so concerned with whether or not people are showing love to me, but instead am focusing my energies on trying to show love to others, I find myself just naturally immersed in love – in a joyous universal celebration of Life.

Love is not dependent on other people, you know? We don’t have to wait for other people to love us, to express love to them. And we don’t have to wait for other people to be somehow “deserving” of our love. Every single one of God’s creations is deserving of love. No exceptions. And no matter what label people have stamped on themselves, or had stamped on them by others, everyone – young, old, monied, homeless, jobless, corporate executive, conservative, liberal, Christian, atheist, Buddhist, pagan, Muslim, Jew – was born deserving of love.

In his wonderful book, The Greatest Thing in the World, Henry Drummond writes: “God is love. Therefore love. Without distinction, without calculation, without procrastination, love. Lavish it upon the poor, where it is very easy; especially upon the rich, who often need it most; most of all upon your equals, where it is very difficult, and for whom perhaps we each do least of all. There is a difference between trying to please and giving pleasure. Give pleasure. Lose no chance of giving pleasure.”

And in the book of Matthew, Jesus admonishes us to love our enemies, to bless those who curse us, and to do good to those who hate us, “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matt 6: 45)

Now I’m not saying it’s always easy to love without discrimination.

I remember, for instance, that the first time I saw the movie Gandhi I was so inspired by the love Gandhi expressed to everyone around him that I decided to be just like him – I was determined that I’d go through the whole next day without feeling animosity or ill will towards anyone else – in the same way that Gandhi did. This lasted about twenty minutes. As soon as the guy in the blue truck cut right in front of me and then proceeded to go under the speed limit, I completely forgot about the pact I’d made with myself. Afterwards, I felt terribly remorseful and discouraged with myself.

But here’s a cool thing: If sometimes we mess up, worry not – Life provides us with limitless opportunities to love. Every moment we have a new opportunity to discover and feel and prove the power of love. Isn’t that awesome?!!!

Drummond writes: “The test of religion, the final test of religion, is not religiousness, but Love… For the withholding of love is the negation of the spirit of Christ, the proof that we never knew Him, that for us He lived in vain. It means that He suggested nothing in all our thoughts, that He inspired nothing in all our lives, that we were once near enough to Him to be seized with the spell of His compassion for the world.”

***

You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments that stand out, the moments when you have really lived, are the moments when you have done things in a spirit of love. – Henry Drummond

The vital part, the heart and soul of Christian Science, is Love. – Mary Baker Eddy

(This was originally published on my blog in February, 2012 – but it felt like it was the right time to bring it up again.) ❤

“How hard could it be?”

Do one thing every day that scares you. – Eleanor Roosevelt

“How hard could it be?” is the question that has often preceded my finest adventures.

Thirty years ago, when a woman who was scheduled to sing at a wedding came down with laryngitis and asked me to fill in for her, I remember asking myself, “How hard could it be?”  and said yes.  I’d never sung at a wedding  before, but really… how hard could it be? I mean… what’s the worst that could happen, right? I could stumble over the words maybe, or hit the wrong note, or I could come into a verse too early or too late, or my voice could disappear, or I could end up completely humiliating myself in some way. But how hard could it be? And so when the time came, there I was, singing a Beatles song at Peggy’s wedding, and there, also, was Scott Terrell, serving as the wedding photographer. And we were drawn to each other after the ceremony, and talked and laughed, and this is how I met the man who would be my husband.

How hard could it be? I asked myself as I strapped the crampons onto my boots, and looked up the mountain slope to the summit. And so I found myself on the tops of Mounts Rainier, Baker, Hood, and Adams. How hard could it be? I asked myself as I considered motherhood, and, before long became mother to one of my favorite people in the world, and, a few years later, to another one of my favorite people in the world. And, how hard could it be? I asked myself as I interviewed for the teaching job that would bring me into a twenty-year teaching career, and, later, met with the director of another school who offered me my current position.

And when the young Americorps volunteer in my current school asked me to join him and eight high schoolers for an overnight snowshoe trip, I gulped discreetly, and asked myself, “How hard could it be?”

I had concerns. Firstly, I do not seem to have the same body I had ten years ago. I know. Weird, right?  I’m not sure, exactly, when things began to go south – but, let’s just say, that the body that had gotten me to the summits of Rainier, Baker, Hood, and Adams is no more.  Would I be the weak link on this epic adventure? The person who held everyone else up? And  I hadn’t been snow-shoeing in, like, twenty years, and wasn’t sure I remembered how to go about it. Also, I didn’t know the students who were coming on the trip, and nor did they know me.  I felt a nervous weight of responsibility towards them.  And then there was the issue of the “facilities.” The cabins we would be staying in had no bathrooms in them –  an outhouse about fifty yards down a sloping hill would be serving as our toilet. And… umm… did I mention that my body is not what it was ten years ago?

Yeah. “How hard could it be?” became my daily mantra in the week before the snowshoe trip…

But ohmygosh! I had such a fantastic time! The students ended up taking care of ME – they helped me put on my snowshoes,  showed me how to dig my toes in so I could make it up that really steep slope,  and introduced me to our local radio station 92.5 FM – which has some way cool music I’d never heard before.

It was a wonderful trip – a great escape from classrooms and traffic and everyday life – and into the peace and beauty of the mountains in winter.  I’m so glad I asked myself “How hard could it be?” and accepted the Americorps volunteer’s invitation to a mid-week adventure.

And did I mention I actually got paid for this?!

Yeah. Life is good. 🙂

Fear never stopped being and its action. – Mary Baker Eddy

Photos from our epic adventure (by Karen Molenaar Terrell) –

Beliefs and Actions

‎”I care not what you believe; not one atom do I care; the one important thing for me to know is this – that you are entitled to my compassionate consideration; you are entitled to my respect; you are entitled to my applause for all that you do that is in the right direction. You are entitled to my kindest wishes, to my deepest encouragement; and you are entitled to nothing from me but that which means love and charity and loving kindness, and you must not get anything else from me.” – Edward A. Kimball

I came upon the above quote  this morning as I was looking through Kimball’s book, Lectures and Articles on Christian Science, and felt it immediately resonate with me. Kimball’s words ring true, for me, on so many levels.

How many times have discussions about our beliefs led to a place that is the exact opposite of what we espouse to believe?  “I believe that God is love,” we might say, and then find ourselves getting all worked up and angry and unloving when someone disagrees with us about our concepts of “God” and “love.”

I don’t think our beliefs and opinions about stuff are important. I think it’s what we DO with those beliefs and opinions that’s important. If our beliefs – whatever they are – lead us to be kinder, gentler and more loving – if our beliefs lead us to express integrity and wisdom in our lives – then they’re cool. If we allow our beliefs to lead us the opposite direction – towards anger, hate, bigotry, and condemnation – that is not so cool.

In Prose Works, Mary Baker Eddy writes:  “We should remember that the world is wide; that there are a thousand million different human wills, opinions, ambitions, tastes, and loves; that each person has a different history, constitution, culture, character, from all the rest; that human life is the work, the play, the ceaseless action and reaction upon each other of these different atoms. Then, we should go forth into life with the smallest expectations, but with the largest patience; with a keen relish for and appreciation of everything beautiful, great, and good, but with a temper so genial that the friction of the world shall not wear upon our sensibilities; with an equanimity so settled that no passing breath nor accidental disturbance shall agitate or ruffle it; with a charity broad enough to cover the whole world’s evil, and sweet enough to neutralize what is bitter in it, – determined not be offended when no wrong is meant, nor even when it is…”

And to this, I say “Amen.”

There are hundreds of paths up the mountain, all leading to the same place, so it doesn’t matter which path you take. The only person wasting time is the one who runs around the mountain, telling everyone that his or her path is wrong. –  Hindu proverb

 

Sinner or God’s Image and Likeness?

It won’t do you a particle of good to enter upon a career of self-condemnation. Remorse never got anybody into heaven. A sense of regret and all that sort of thing is not the process. The process is reform; it is change; it is correction…There is no merit in suffering. The only merit there is is in transformation. I have found people carrying along their agony because they thought it was entirely proper to be everlastingly berating and condemning themselves. You will never get to heaven that way…There is nothing rational in self-condemnation. One may condemn the error, but not himself – never himself.” – Edward A. Kimball, Lectures and Articles on Christian Science 

I have come to believe that self-condemnation is one of the most self-indulgent of things.  It doesn’t really fix anything, you know? We sit in it, ruminate on it, live and relive scenes from our lives over and over again, full of regrets and guilt – and how, I ask you, does that make us, or the world we live in, any better?

You know, I wonder if a lot of the world thought about guilt and self-condemnation can be traced back to the allegory in the third chapter of Genesis –  the chapter with talking reptiles and forbidden fruit, and Jehovah booting his own creation out of Paradise because they’re unworthy to experience it.  I can see how, if someone interpreted that chapter literally, one’s future might look pretty bleak.

I myself have always preferred the first chapter of Genesis.  In this first chapter of Genesis we don’t see a sinful man and woman – we see man and woman made in the “image and likeness” of God – of Love. (And if man is made in the image and likeness of God, It would actually be kind of insulting to God to say that we’re all sinners, right?)

In his beautiful sermon on love, The Greatest Thing in the World, Henry Drummond has this to say about “sin”: “Many things that men denounce as sins are not sins; but they are temporary… John says of the world, not that it is wrong, but simply that it ‘passeth away.’ There is a great deal in the world that is delightful and beautiful, there is a great deal that is great and engrossing, but it will not last. All that is in the world, the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, are but for a little while. Love not the world therefore. Nothing that it contains is worth the life and consecration of an immortal soul…You will give yourself to many things; give yourself first to love. Hold things in their proportion.” – Henry Drummond

Holding “things in their proportion” is one of the keys to sanity, I think. I believe we sometimes make too much of “sin” – focus our energies on fearing it and fighting it and giving it up, rather than focusing our time on what will really help and heal us – on filling our lives up with the good stuff – love, joy, kindness, hope. In Lectures and Articles on Christian Science, Edward A. Kimball writes: “ a purely giving up endeavor does not give up, but does involve the scientist in a greater sense of fear. Evil is never disposed of as though it were something. It cannot be given up as though it were something… Try to realize that through Christian Science, you are constantly gaining that which will do everything for you, and that you will succeed according to the gaining process.”

We are Love’s creation, created in the image and likeness of Good.  I believe that about you and I believe that about me, too. We are way cool.

“Behold, now are we the sons of God.” – I John 3:2

A Sermon on Sermonizing

I had a kind of epiphany last week.

I was musing about why it is that we sometimes feel the need to step in and “take over” for someone else who has been given responsibilities and duties that we think are important. What makes us think that we can do better than the other individual? Why can’t we trust them to do the job they’ve been given?

It occurred to me that by not trusting others to do their job, we aren’t trusting God, either.

If I think that I, as an individual, need to push someone else out of the way and do his job, then I am limiting God, the power of Good; personalizing the concept of competence; and taking on a false sense of responsibility.  If I think the world is dependent on me to keep it going, then it’s possible that – just maybe – I have a kind of an inflated sense of my own place in it. 🙂

There was a day last week when I got this close l—l to sermonizing on someone. It was obvious to me that this other person needed the enlightenment of my great wisdom. But as I drew breath to launch into my pontification, a voice said, “Wait. Trust. Respect.”  And in that moment I realized all at once that we ALL have access to Truth and Love – that no one is somehow shut off from it – and that no one else needs me “to set him straight.”

And how freeing that was for me!

Okay, I have to include this little clip from My Fair Lady. I just hafta…  🙂

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3mC4485Ue0

“No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you. But I have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you… What ye know, the same do I know also: I am not inferior unto you.  Surely I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to reason with God.” – Job 12 and Job 13