Thursday, June 23, 2005

Keeping Time

Last Sunday: Pentecost.
Two days ago: Summer Solstice.

When I saw on my calender that June 21 would be the Summer Solstice, I wanted to write to Rachelle Chapman Mee She is the Abbess of the really cool Monkfish Abbey in Seattle, Washington. I hope to be her friend.

I met Rachelle at the emergent conference. She was teaching a workshop that appealed immensely to me. It was a celebration of sorts-- a crafty, prayerful, holy thing involving markers, collage paper, glue scissors and old magazines, and a new way to lectio. She keeps time artfully.

I sat at the table with Rachelle, and watched her set up a travel altar, marking the space where she dwelled and experienced God as holy. I did not have a travel altar, though I meant to bring one. I forgot to. My altar stayed at home, lonely, acumulating small stacks of nothing important, stuff that doesn't belong on anyone's altar. It still looks like that. My icons seem forlorn, and maybe a little irritated at me.

I'm fat. I was walking down the street today, coming home from my doctor's appointment with eight, count 'em, eight prescriptions in my purse. I forgot to eat breakfast, but if I had, it would have been something pathetic like ice-cream, or a Pepsi, or potato chips with Franks hotsauce.
I would have had this poor excuse for meal quickly, without remembering to pray until I'd taken several bites (or sips) and was nearly through. I would have fumbled through some semblance of saying "grace", and then felt guilty.

At Dormition Monastery, at lunch, while everyone is gathered, at the appropriate time, a bell is rung, and every stands and faces east. We praise. We ask God to bless our food. We thank God. We say the Lord's prayer. We say, "Lord, have mercy" at least three times before we sit and eat. Some monasteries, not particularly Eastern Orthodox, require eating in silence. In silence you can pay attention. You can quite the chatter of your monkey brain long enough to contemplate what you are putting into your body. Time passes, but it is also kept. At the monastery, in the cafeteria, amid the ebb and flow of convesation. A bell rings again. We stand to pray because it is time to stop eating to pray. The bell informs us.

Those people keep time with a bell and a prayer.

Rachelle keeps time. She follows the Church calendar. She brings in Spring Solstice with such mamaearth loving rituals like having a pedicure party honoring the days when we will wear flip-flops again. I don't know what Rachelle did to say, "Hello Summer, welcome!" this year, but I know it was big.

I meant to write to her, but I forgot.

The thing is, I have trouble with time. It slips away from me like it's got grease on it's slick tail. I don't remember until two days later to say "Hello Summer." This irritates me, and for a moment, I wonder if I haven't kept time awaiting Summer because I was so pissed off with her for taking so long to get here.

I told you I am fat. I am fat because I don't keep time. I don't mark the days with the feasts and fasts that have helped my spiritual predecessors to survive and live. I don't eat food in season. I often eat too fast, or too much, both. I rush through meals without sitting down. I pretend I don't miss being together at the table as a family for dinner. I pretend that most of the chairs aren't broken leaving only two surving ones, and one of those is outside in the back yard getting rained on. I tell myself we will eat together soon. My spirit feels fat and slovenly. I feel like the devil can beat me up because I'm so out of shape within.

But I can change. I can go from the Feast of Pentecost welcoming the Holy Spirit, to Solstice and celebrating my own neomonastic rituals. I can take my shoes off and eat with the babies--my two youngest girls, and the two grandaughters here. We can sit outside and eat green apples, and leave our shoes off, and spread or toes on the hot pavement and welcome Summer as the gift that it is, bringing with it watermelon, and cherries, and fields of lavender almost ready to retire until next Spring. I know, with God's help, I can change.

I didn't attack copious amounts of chicken today, even though it is Wednesday. I managed to make it all day, though I admit, it didn't feel like a super spiritual fast. I missed meat, but I didn't let it make me trip out. I walked a few miles, and had fruit. I thought about my new life as Mair, and I wanted to live by those unforced rhythms of grace that ground you in faith; the keeping of the hours. The praying of the psalms. Thinking about the food that goes into my mouth. Thinking about taking care of home better. Walking in Christ, day by day, and knowing what those days are, and who or what we honor or venerate for that day and why.

It's a start.

Jacob met God and kept the moment by building an altar to mark the spot. I think about this, and want to put plastic rosary beads on the landscapes of my own spiritual geography. I want to embrace this church year, even thought it's hard for me. I think God is wanting me to live more alive and aware. More thankful. More rhythmically, not drugging myself with food or busyness, but in moment by moment practise of God in my life. In time.

Happy Summer Solstice, Rachelle.

Better late than never I want to say.

I hear a voice inside my heart respond in turn: But better still to never be late.


Enjoy the sun today.

Mair (off to spend the weekend in Denver at the Ancient Christianity and African Americans conference.


Deborah said...

I love your authenticity, Claudia. Just want to pass along something the now retired bishop of our traditional Anglican communion up here in Canada wrote once about liturgy.

He said that doing a liturgy is like going to a museum to see beautiful art like a group of friends, who will all get different things from it.

He said one does not need to strain, that one sails rather than rows, or floats rather than swims.

I have found those images so helpful when I've found my mind wandering during the prayers and wanted to berate myself for not paying adequate attention.

Float, sail. Enjoy. God will find a way to speak to you as you rest in the beauty of the liturgy. He will bring into focus what you need to hear or see.

Many blessings


Natala said...

sometimes the best moments for me, is when i lose track of the time...
yet i find myself strangely attracted to the idea of time.
much love to you on this day -

jen lemen said...

i'm always forgetting, too, mair!
here's to remembering and to making up the time when we forget.
love to you.

upwords said...

Happy summer to you.:)