Thursday, May 31, 2007

Response from Amy Baione


The following is one of the most potent, powerful, prayerful responses I've ever received to one of my reflections. I feel so fortunate to receive thoughtful responses from all of you. This one I just had to ask permission of the author to share on the "Queen Mab Contemplates" blog site.

Read Amy's words, and then ask yourself, "What would the world look like if we really had this sort of attitude or perspective toward our partners, spouses, lovers? What would the nature of our homes be? How would our children benefit?"

I don't think there would be war. Honestly. The Middle East, and our Urban Centers, North Korea and Darfur: they would all be experiencing a revolution of LOVE! Yes! My dear Boston friend is communicating something that reeks of the secret to love and lasting, transformative happiness.

From: "Amy Baione"
Date: May 31, 2007 1:04:29 PM CDT
To: "Melissa Borgmann"
Subject: Re: Post-Mo Contemplation: Encountering Poetry Alone vs. in Partnership

Melissa Borgmann writes:
And this makes me sort of wonder, "What happens when I get married? Will this part of myself that I so love - and so loves God - and that I believe makes my life sort of mean something and worthwhile, will she disappear when I become a wife and full-time partner?"

And your writing, thinking, questioning this makes me sort of wonder, "Why have I felt so alone in feeling sadness over the loss or atrophy of the me-ness I remember from my single days?" It was the me that loved the questions and had the opportunity--actually maybe it's just more time-- to work through their mystery in a sweet, silent dialogue between one me and another me--maybe the earthly me and the transcendent me, I'm not sure.

But before I start passing by reality on the grief train I so love to ride sometimes, I meditate, Melissa, on the reality that the best moments in my life so far as a nearly 33-year-old woman have come within the last 3 years, the years of my marriage, my awesome, scary, strong, rickety, unique and universal marriage to a friend-lover-stranger-father-son-brother-flawed-perfect man. These moments can be few and far between, but when they happen they are truly divine. They happen when (after having carved out some retreat within the constant-exchange-that-is-marriage for tuning into me and the evolution of my thoughts) I savor him and look on him with kind eyes and we talk as though we really love and cherish one another--I mean soul exchange...which in the best, best moments leads to no talking at all. ; )

I mean every last bit of what I just said, and you're going to be okay no matter what.


Post-Mo Contemplation: Encountering Poetry Alone vs. in Partnership

I've not been in this world of poetry reflection. I'm aware of it. Living as presently as possible with God and my good friend Mo the past month has felt enough of a kind of prayerful stance observing and taking in the poetic. (In scripture, in nature, in humanity, in daily encounters with dirt and water and sun.)

But living with this woman for 27 days is different than living by myself. There has been a shift in my interior life. I know this, as I fumble with words and expression, and approach my computer shyly, just four days the other side of her departure. It takes a fair amount of courage to wake and walk toward my laptop and write. Write for myself. As myself, as the Divine within me wanting to break out.

While I've not strayed from a prayerful life this past month, (my goodness, NO! Mo and I were keen to meet and pray daily - in the morning, before all meals, after meals, getting in the car, leaving people and new places, before resting our heads at night.)

No, I wouldn't say that my spiritual life departed during my guest's tenure in my home.

But: I would say that perhaps a part of me did fade. The self-that-loves-solitude sort of wormed its way into the plaster cracks in my home, and took a rest. And encountering todays' poem, I'm aware of wanting that soulful, resting-in-the-recesses-Melissa spirit BACK. I want her here, with me, behind my eyes, still, but taking notes. I want her near to my lips, silent, but pressing into my tongue to form words. I want her dusted off, to emerge clean, shiny, and confident as she encounters today's Writer's Almanac and sits to write from it, about it, for it.


It's a different stance, this living alone and being a contemplative. I'm not so sure that it's possible in full-time, live-in partnership.

And this makes me sort of wonder, "What happens when I get married? Will this part of myself that I so love - and so loves God - and that I believe makes my life sort of mean something and worthwhile, will she disappear when I become a wife and full-time partner?"

Ohlala! Something to simply hold and consider, eh? Perhaps pray more about....


To today's poem: Kumin's "In the Park" reveals to me this kind of encounter with death -- a death of our poetic, solitude-selves, as they await rebirth. ?!*&%$!?

I love her play with this Buddhist notion of reincarnation/ (resurrection) alongside the grizzly bear attack, and woven into this Old Testament God and Nature, Heaven and Hell speak. Oh! And let's not forget grammar! This poem has so much going on it. It's so rich, rich, rich!

And it makes me happy, oh so happy, as I feel it all call to that spirit that's working to dislodge itself from the plaster and lathe of my being.



Poem: "In the Park" by Maxine Kumin, from Nurture. © Viking Penguin, 1989. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

In the Park

You have forty-nine days between
death and rebirth if you're a Buddhist.
Even the smallest soul could swim
the English Channel in that time
or climb, like a ten-month-old child,
every step of the Washington Monument
to travel across, up, down, over or through
–you won't know till you get there which to do.

He laid on me for a few seconds
said Roscoe Black, who lived to tell
about his skirmish with a grizzly bear
in Glacier Park. He laid on me not doing anything. I could feel his heart
beating against my heart.
Never mind lie and lay, the whole world
confuses them. For Roscoe Black you might say
all forty-nine days flew by.

I was raised on the Old Testament.
In it God talks to Moses, Noah,
Samuel, and they answer.
People confer with angels. Certain
animals converse with humans.
It's a simple world, full of crossovers.
Heaven's an airy Somewhere, and God
has a nasty temper when provoked,
but if there is a Hell, little is made of it.
No longtailed Devil, no eternal fire,

and no choosing what to come back as.
When the grizzly bear appears, he lies/lays down
on atheist and zealot. In the pitch-dark
each of us waits for him in Glacier Park.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Meditation/ Retreat Assignment: from the Contemplative Spirit of Fr. Thomas Merton

As I write and pray and read here at my family's cabin, overlooking the Lewis and Clark Reservoir at Hideaway Acres, Crofton, Nebraska - these Thomas Merton passages keep kicking my heart and ass and spirit.

These excerpts are more potent, in my estimation, than even the beloved Henri Nouwen.

An assignment, should you choose to desire one in this spirit of your own living and loving discernment space:

Take yourself to a quiet and safe space of solitude.
Light a candle.
Open your palms.
Breathe deeply.
(In with pain, out with love and compassion.)
Read the following.
Listen, without judgement, to your heart, to your mind, your spirit, God.

"But to love another as a person we must begin by granting him his own autonomy and identity as a person. We have to love him for what he is in himself, and not for what he is to us. We have to love him for his own good, not for the good we get out of him. And this is impossible unless we are capable of a love which 'transforms' us, so to speak, into the other person, making us able to see things a he sees them, love what he loves, experience the deeper realities of his own life as if they were our own. Without sacrifice, such a transformation is utterly impossible. But unless we are capable of this kind of transformation 'into the other' while remaining ourselves, we are not yet capable of a fully human existence. " - from Disputed Questions


"Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another. We do not discover the secret of our lives merely by study and calculation in our own isolated meditations. The meaning of our life is a secret that has to be revealed to us in love, by the one we love. And if this love is unreal, the secret will not be found, the meaning will never reveal itself, the message will never be decoded. At best, we will receive a scrambled and partial message, one that will deceive and confuse us. We will never be fully real until we let ourselves fall in love – either with another human person or with God." - From Love and Living

"Our vocation is not simply to be, but to work together with God in the creation of our own life, our own identity, our own destiny… This means to say that we should not passively exist, but actively participate in His creative freedom, in our own lives, and in the lives of others, by choosing the truth. To put it better, we are even called to share with God the work of creating the truth of our identity. We can evade this responsibility by playing with masks, and this pleases us because it can appear at times to be a free and creative way of living. It is quite easy, it seems, to please everyone. But in the long run the cost and the sorrow come very high. To work out our own identity in God, which the Bible calls "working out our salvation," is a labor that requires sacrifice and anguish, risk and many tears. It demands close attention to reality at every moment, and great fidelity to God as He reveals Himself, obscurely, in the mystery of each new situation. " - From Seeds

"There is another self, a true self, who comes to full maturity in emptiness and solitude – and who can of course, begin to appear and grow in the valid, sacrificial and creative self-dedication that belong to a genuine social existence. But note that even this social maturing of love implies at the same time the growth of a certain inner solitude.

Without solitude of some sort there is and can be no maturity. Unless one becomes empty and alone, he cannot give himself in love because he does not possess the deep self which is the only gift worthy of love. And this deep self, we immediately add, cannot be possessed. My deep self in not 'something' which I acquire, or to which I 'attain' after a long struggle. It is not mine, and cannot become mine. It is no 'thing' – no object. It is 'I'. " - from "Disputed Questions"

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. - from "Thoughts in Solitude"

Peace, Love,

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Week in Review: Maureen Dabula in Minnesota

We've been praying a lot. Eating, meeting, praying, napping. Connecting, connecting, connecting. Driving, napping, Praying more.
And it's not such a bad life, you know?

I am overwhelmingly, abundantly blessed by Maureen Dabula's presence in my life, house, world this month. I feel as if I have my own personal spiritual director and tour guide for life. All wrapped up in this compact package of Brown skin, Beaming smile, Outrageous Love, and Divine Spirt. Hmm, hmm, hmmm...

I am one lucky woman.

What follows are snapshots from our week's travels to:
the Perpich Center for Arts Education,
Rochester's Assisi Heights and Mayo Clinic comrades
Bemidji's Paul Bunyan and Courthouse
North Minneapolis' Visitation Sisters and Retreat Space...

Peace, Love, Joy, Abundance to each and everyone!

First Stop: Perpich Center for Arts Education - Golden Valley

Meeting the delightful Barbara Cox

To the convent in Rochester: Assisi Heights

The view from my bedroom window....

Sr. Rafael: our guide of all things literary, spiritual, sacred.
My newest heroes: Charlie and Will Mayo - (I highly recommend the tale of these brothers collaborating with the Fransiscan Sisters to lay the foundation for the Mayo Clinic legacy.)

Time to Connect: A fancy dinner out with delightful friends in the health, leadership and public/ social policy sectors of this work.

From Rochester's Sisters and Mayo Clinic, to Bemidji and the Bunyon/ Blue Ox phenomenon...

Mo reclines in our posh quarters overlooking Lake Bemiji...

Bridge over the Mississippi and Auntie Mo

The Visitation Spirit....

Entering the Visitation Convent in North Minneapolis...

Sr. Katherine Mullin greeting Mo

To be so lucky as to have our morning lead by Brother Mickey, the inspired artist...

The Black Christ

Do you see the theme? Visiting Sisters...Here, Sr. Karen sends us on our way with amazing warmth...

Holing up at B'Mo's: Here giggling with my former student, "Foogie" or as Mo refers to him: "Goofy."


Friday, May 04, 2007

Pine Cones, Paths, Lighting Fires...


I'm perched inside the Hampton Inn, sitting comfortably in an overstuffed chair, looking out these picture windows at Lake Bemidji, and know this overwhelming truth: God is good.
This week has included several small moments of grace; and a few bats-to-the-head-mind-blowing occurrences that I can only attribute to the Divine. My charge this Friday afternoon, overcast and chilly, sitting here -- relaxing before a road trip home to St. Paul -- is to simply note some of these little things that have struck me in the past week...
I'm not sure HOW they add up, but that my job is to describe things that have stuck out to me.
Perhaps something here will tickle something inside of you....and YOU can TELL ME what I'm to make of any of these things....?!


1. Tuesday morning, before I was heading out with my beloved South African Visitor, "Auntie Mo" I took note of a strange occurrence with my gas stove...
The evening before I had taught Mo how to light the fire to make her boiling water for breakfast.
Turn the black knob to the left and hold it, until the clicking spark catches the gas, and a flame appears.
She was a quick study, and practiced several times before we went to bed that first evening.
In the morning then, she went about handling her business preparing her water, when I ran into her in the hallway of my house and heard this click, click, click, click - over and over.
I recognized it as the stove igniting sound, but here was Maureen, standing next to me near the bathroom.
It made no sense. When I went to investigate, I saw that the knob was turned correctly, but that it was trying to light itself again, despite the fact that it was already lit, fire burning brightly below the pot, and water heating.

2. I've lived in my house at 1188 Juno since July of 1994, when I moved back to Minnesota after a 2 year hiatus in my home state of Nebraska. During this past 13 years, I've developed a pretty comfortable routine of getting exercise in my neighborhood, walking Edgcumbe down to the Highland Golf Course, to Hamline and then back.
Yesterday morning, on this familiar route, I decided to cross a short bridge on the opposite side of the road. When I did, I realized that there was a path to my left, down into a ravine where I had assumed a little creek existed, and that wasn't traversable.
It is strange to notice new things that ARE, after you've gotten so comfortable with what you believed them to be....

3. The planning for Auntie Mo's month long stay has given rise to a fair amount of anxiety in this 38 year old body and being of mine. No matter how much I seem to pray, I still get nervous that somehow I'm going to screw something up, or that she and I will drive one another nuts, and possibly want to strangle each other.
The incorporation of introductions to friends, colleagues, collaborators, faith friends, family, does little to ease these anxieties. Though I relish this kind of activity, I'm mindful of my own kind of severe independence and life-pace, and not sure a month of creating and facilitating itineraries is something I'll be able to do successfully without again wanting to slit someone's wrists....

What my faith does tell me, though: over and over and over again: is that I'm NOT in CHARGE. That this trip (and LIFE) is all unfolding in God's time and according to a Divine Will and Purpose. So, with that, I work to rest easy, (that's a funny saying, "I WORK to REST ?!)
The mantra I've been incorporating into life is "to hold things loosely" and trust that if they are meant to be, they'll have some way of working themselves out....
And so: my latest prayer and meditation activity is to practice this LITERALLY. I"ve been walking with pine cones in my hands. Precious tiny pine cones, that are so delicate and conceivably crushable. But I hold them loosely in my palms, and walk, taking notes. Being aware that I've got this life of some sort in my hands, and that to squeeze to tightly is to crush the next possible life of this thing in nature...

What do pine cones actually do in nature? That's a question I have...

I remember them as necessary objects for home-made bird feeders when I was in 2nd and 3rd grade. We'd smear peanut butter on them and hang them out for the birds to eat off of them...

But what else do they do? Is their job?

I'm not certain where I'm going in this. But, I know something wild is burning and alive, and working to light it is silly. It's already on fire. It exists. As that pathway does. Yes. The trail or route to another side of life has always been present, it's just now being revealed I think, for whatever reason. I'm ready to walk on another side of this road, cross the bridge differently....
And I cannot force any of this -- or hold it too tightly. Just let it rest, like these pine cones, so lovely and sacred, in my loose hands, as I move forward in this journey...

Reflecting from Lake Bemidji,
Peace to you this Day!

P.S. Bemidji is an Ojibwe word which means lake with cross waters or a lake lying cross-wise to the general route of travel.