Spiritual Word Journey

As the calendar turned from 2020 to 2021, I thought about words.

Particularly the word “weary.” It had seeped into my bones.

And I wondered if maybe, maybe…as much as I love them…I was tired of words.

Tired of the way they are wielded to wound.

Tired of the clamor.

One word with appeal: hibernation. Yes. Give me that word. It is, after all, winter.

I’ve just begun reading the book Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May. Early in the book, May speaks of how plants and animals don’t fight winter. They don’t pretend it’s not happening or carry on living the same as they would in summer: They prepare. They adapt. They perform extraordinary acts of metamorphosis to get them through. Winter is a time of withdawing from the world, maximizing scant resources, carrying out acts of brutal efficiency and vanishing from sight, but that’s where the transformation occurs. Winter is not the death of the life cycle, but its crucible.

It is winter. My country is in a metaphorical winter. A bitter one. Certainly a crucible. What is being forged, I cannot say; the combination of a pandemic, many types of loss, from jobs to loved ones, to food insecurity, to strife and political unrest, seems almost more crucible than can be withstood. It takes its toll. Mentally, physically, emotionally. Withdrawing, at least from social media where vitriol is most rampant and draining, has great appeal. In the name of preservation, if not of one’s sanity, then certainly of one’s spirit.

Vanishing from sight. Alluring.

Makes me think of little bats I read about recently, how they survive the winter by making tiny dens in the snow. Took scientists years to figure out how they survived—only polar bears were known to make snow caves.

Ussurian tube-nosed bat, hibernating in Japan. Photo: Hirofumi Hirakawa. Science Magazine.

I am not a fan of bats, long before COVID-19. But that this tiny creature weighing less than a quarter ounce can endure, knows to endure, such harsh conditions in this way fills me with awe.

And that is the word I am clinging to in 2021.

Not hibernation. Awe.

I didn’t feel like choosing a word as a focus for the year. Remember, I was weary beyond words. Yet when I flipped my planner to January 1, I found this quote: Experiencing awe, the feeling of being in the presence of something bigger than you, can improve your physical health and make you feel more altruistic. Intentionally create awe this month by spending time in nature, meditating, volunteering, etc.

So that is how awe chose me as a guiding word for the year, extracting an unwritten promise from me that I would look for it each day. I started capturing an “awe of the day” in a notebook…for three whole days. Then I started back to remote teaching with sketchy Internet and a plethora of other school-related issues that weighed heavy enough to bring tears, a rare thing for me. All which were obscured today by the long shadow of the U.S. Capitol. Tonight another word from my planner’s awe-quote, altruistic, rises to the surface: having a genuine and selfless concern for others.

Where is it?

Like awe from which it is born, it must be looked for.

When I see it happening, I take heart. I am awed by others who, in the darkest of times, are the light-bearers. The healing-bringers. In these moments I know I am in the presence of something greater than myself.

I also happened to read this quote from Albert S. Rossi in Becoming a Healing Presence:

We need to push “pause” often and avoid reacting to the latest and loudest…The Lord expects us to live a life of love for Him and for others.

We have all the time we need to do all the things God has us here to do, in a peaceful way…We revere time as a way to remain peaceful, no matter what, to please God who gave us time. We have time to be come more of a healing presence during our remaining time on Earth.

We don’t live life. Life lives us.

Those words and that wisdom fill me with awe, like the little bats which know to burrow in the snow. Like the stars, like the ocean that I haven’t seen in eighteen months and am longing to see again, for the healing it offers my soul, for the taste of salt and infinity on its breeze. Like the children at school (on the screen) who are so buoyant. Like my son’s music—I can hear the keyboard upstairs, as I write—and his beautiful voice when he sings. Like his older brother’s way with words and his deepening altruistic nature. Like my daughter-in-law, a gift straight from God to our family, and her artwork in both painting and baking. Awe. Like my granddaughter’s face, lit with joy, every time she comes to see us. She has changed our world.

Just one more reminder that I’m in the presence of something far, far greater than me.

What the world needs now might not be as much love, sweet love, as awe, healing awe.

Did you see the two widowed penguins with their wings around each other in an award-winning photo, touted one of the best of 2020? Animals know. Let us humans likewise be a healing presence to one another, moving forward.

Two penguins look into the distance in Melbourne

Tobias Baumgaertner. Ocean Photography Awards. BBC News

Here’s to claiming your awe. Or letting it claim you.

Just little more of mine:

Unicorn cake my daughter-in-law made for my granddaughter’s birthday…
unicorns, by the way, are a symbol of healing.

My granddaughter’s portrait, painted by her mom, as a Christmas gift to my husband and me.

*******

With much gratitude to my Spiritual Journey Thursday group. You all are another source of awe. Special thanks to Carol Varsalona for hosting at Beyond Literacy Link. Per Carol’s suggestion, I am including a link to a prayer-poem here that I wrote earlier, tying “awe” (note the beginning letters in the title) to being a vessel of the Spirit: Alight with Expectancy.

14 thoughts on “Spiritual Word Journey

  1. Fran, your words are truly beautiful. Thank you for sharing your process that led you to awe. I feel like I understand weary, hibernation. It’s a bit of work and effort for me to find awe. But, that’s the thing…isn’t it? We find it. I love that unicorn cake and the drawing of your daughter. I too am back into the overwhelming life of teaching and it feels like marching through mud a bit — well, yesterday did. Today, I’ll spend my whole day with sixth graders and have fun with them as they enter research units. Wishing you awe and looking forward to the wonderful ways you’ll share it.

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    • We do find the awe, Linda… it is work, even just in making a way for it to permeate the layers of fog and exhaustion, and sometimes pain, that enshroud us. Sometimes awe shows up in a big way. Sometimes it must be invited. Even eked out. Thank you for this warm, uplifting response – I can just see you with those sixth graders and I believe there’s awe awaiting in those moments!

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  2. You certainly awe-inspire me! Our words are connected and that makes me happy. You are surrounded by creative talent. That cake and portrait are amazing! I love how you collected quotes of support for your word. I encouraged my students to do that as well. Quotes, like poems, can nourish our writing. I, too, included your “awesome” poem in my post today. Hugs!

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    • If I’ve not said it before, Margaret – you’re a blessing. A gift. As are your words. Love this work you’re doing with the students. Can’t wait to hear where it takes them. Inspiration is a mighty force! So grateful for your sharing my poem; my prayer is that it will uplift others. Here’s to an awe-filled, inspirational day.

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  3. Fran: When I saw the lovely image of your granddaughter and the cake, I thought “Awww.” Lovely. Thank you for awe on a day when I most need it. Thank you for sharing your journey, and especially for pointing to the One who is greater, the One who always loves us, always reaches out to us. When I am in a dark place, there is only One place to find light. Awe.

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    • The One who is greater, who always loves us and reaches for us, planted that desire for awe in us – perhaps it is His very fingerprint, and how we recognize Him… lots of thoughts and imagery stirring now! Thank you, Karen. I am happy to know there were awe-sparks here for you when needed.

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  4. Fran, with gratitude to you, I embrace your word awe and see it through your eyes. This adds to my appreciation for words that can heal and harm. Certainly, we can see the harmful effect of words that have disrupted our nation but there is a healing aspect attached to the word that warms my heart. I paused after reading your statement: Winter is a time of withdawing from the world…but that’s where the transformation occurs. Nature nurtures my soul and your words provide me with a more gentler look at the winter season. I am so glad that I called my upcoming gallery, Winter’s Embrace.It holds us close, allows us to find inner peace during trying times, and lets us begin a path to reenergize our spirit. Your presentation of words to heal and enliven life is full of awe-inspiring thoughts, including the photos offered: a child’s glow, two penguins sharing an endearing moment, and a cake filled with joy. May your word lead you to further explore the universe in a deeper way for us to appreciate.

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    • “Winter’s Embrace” is the perfect name for your gallery, Carol. Thank you for embracing “awe” as you did with your nature walks last year. I am not as confident about “making awe happen” but do believe in inviting it, looking for it, expecting it. Nature is a great place to start, even in winter. Thank you for your words.

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  5. Where to even start.

    First of all, you are so right. Words, art, poetry, story…seldom do WE choose any of it. It comes to find us, even if we’re trying to turn away. Yes, awe found you. It chased you down, took you by the shoulders and held your gaze until you acknowledged it for what it was – an openness to wonder, to joy, to inspiration and healing.

    Let us bring one another all of that – and more – in the days ahead.

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    • So beautifully, succinctly worded, Lainie. I always find wonder, joy, inspiration, healing in the flow of your thoughts and words… yes, do let us keep bringing one another that in the days ahead, in celebration of life and the gifts we’ve been given. You are a treasure.

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  6. The cake (who knew unicorns were a symbol of healing?), the portrait, your words – all bring beauty to this gray day. I was just thinking as I walked, almost ran to keep up with grandson Robby, how hard it is to be sad around children. I’m so grateful for them. They fill me with awe every time I’m with them. Love how awe found you, even when you felt so weary. And I hadn’t seen the penguin pic. Thanks for sharing.

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    • You’re right, Ramona – it’s hard to be sad around children (especially grandchildren!). They are full of awe and exude it. Our granddaughter keeps us laughing. I can just see you running after dear Robby! Thank you for your words.

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