Happy Thanksgiving

Living in grace

Tilly & the old oak

"The shape of my life today starts with a family. I have a husband, five children and a home just beyond the suburbs of New York. I have also a craft, writing, and therefore work I want to pursue. The shape of my life is, of course, determined by many other things; my background and childhood, my mind and its education, my conscience and its pressures, my heart and its desires. I want to give and take from my children and husband, to share with friends and community, to carry out my obligations to man and to the world, as a woman, as an artist, as a citizen. But I want first of all -- in fact, as an end to these other desires -- to be at peace with myself.

"I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry out these obligations and activities as well as I can. I want, in fact -- to borrow from the languages of the saints -- to live 'in grace' as much of the time as possible. I am not using this term in a strictly theological sense. By grace I mean an inner harmony, essentially spiritual, which can be translated into outward harmony. I am seeking perhaps what Socrates asked for in the prayer from Phaedrus when he said, 'May the outward and the inward man be at one.' " 

- Anne Morrow Lindbergh (Gift from the Sea)

Oak leaves after rain

"The things we want are transformative, and we don’t know or only think we know what is on the other side of that transformation. Love, wisdom, grace, inspiration -- how do you go about finding these things that are in some ways about extending the boundaries of the self into unknown territory, about becoming someone else?"  - Rebecca Solnit (A Field Guide to Getting Lost)

"[The Navjo concept of] hózhó means ‘beauty’ or ‘beautiful conditions,’ but this term also expresses the intellectual notion of order, the emotional state of happiness, the physical state of health, the moral condition of good, and the aesthetic dimension of harmony. The Navajo do not look for beauty; they…find themselves engulfed in it. When it is disrupted, they restore it; when it is lost or diminished, they renew it; when it is present, they celebrate it."  - Gary Witherspoon ("Dynamic Symmetry & Holistic Asymmetry in Navajo Art & Cosmology)

Reading on an autumn morning

"Theologians talk about a prevenient grace that precedes grace itself and allows us to accept it. I think there must also be a prevenient courage that allows us to be brave -- that is, to acknowledge that there is more beauty than our eyes can bear, that precious things have been put into our hands and to do nothing to honor them is to do great harm. And therefore, this courage allows us, as the old men said, to make ourselves useful. It allows us to be generous, which is another way of saying exactly the same thing." - Marilynne Robinson (Gilead)

"We should never be at the mercy of Providence if only we understood that we ourselves are Providence."  - Vera Brittain (The Testament of Youth)

Oak in autumn

Autumn fairies by Arthur RackhamAutumn leaf fairies by Arthur Rackham (1867-1939)


The Anne Morrow Lindbergh quote brought me up short this morning - i've been off work for a couple of days, reeling and overwhelmed by workload and wondering where (or what) I need to be making my way towards. Grace. The answer, so seemingly simple, is the perfect contradiction and therefore perhaps the perfect antidote to what is going on right now!
Thank you

Difficult concept, grace. I'm sure I don't have it, otherwise I wouldn't rant at the radio when I hear how gloriously our politicians are conducting themselves, as usual; I wouldn't get so bloody annoyed with the world in general either. In fact, if I was asked to define exactly what grace is I'm sure I couldn't do it. For me it's a bit like trying to see the Milky Way on a cloudless night; you can only actually see it when you don't look directly at it (something to do with rods and cones apparently). But I'm sure I'll know grace if ever it decides to visit my life, purely because it'll be so strange and out of step with the rest of my world!

This Is the Moment of Grace

Not given, but found,
in the curl of a new fern,
or a sleeping baby's hand.

Not found but stumbled across,
the river of rocks,
or the trembling fawn.

Not stumbled across but fallen into,
the puddle of polliwogs,
a new lover's eyes.

Not fallen into but out of,
a difficult relationship,
a bad habit, a lie.

Not fallen out of but given
in a moment of meditation,
looking at earth, sea, sky.

©2014 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

And unexpectedly received from a poet's vision.

Grace is one of those religious words I took with me out of religion. Grace, gracious, gratis, something other than quid pro quo. Grace seems to happily harmonize with the Navajo idea of beauty.

Grace, like hozho, is one of those you have to be there.

I dream of one day allowing the mantle of maturity settle gracefully on these nearly 60 year old shoulders, of being a wise & gentle even gracious crone but Oh Ha! I am still just a wild "shiver looking for a spine to run up" as our ex prime minister Paul Keating once said in paliament late last century!

This is *exactly* it for me. You've nailed it.

Very true.

Yet like hozho, or that state of imaginative grace we call "inspiration" or "the muse," there are ways we can live, practices we can have, and paths we can walk that will make its appearance more likely. (Or, conversely, less likely.)

But can one be both wild and graceful? I think the elusive point where those two meet is the place I want to be!

You sound like my husband -- the ranting at the radio, I mean. But I would argue that a passion for justice (which is what that is at its core, once you scratch past the surface gloss of cantankerousness) is not incompatible with grace. The moment the Berlin Wall came down, for example, was for me a moment of political grace on a vast human scale.

a beautiful wild deer comes to mind Terri and you embody the deer totem

Yes, Angela, I agree, they harmonize very well.

I think the idea of grace is sometimes misunderstood as something that must be exalted and extreme: a visionary or mystical experience -- whereas grace, to me, like the Navajo concept of Walking in Beauty, is a more humble thing, accessible in all our lives, appearing in those moments when we feel a sense of alignment with our deepest selves, and well as with something larger than ourselves.

To Walk in Beauty, as I understand it, isn't to literally walk through a life where everything is perfect and (conventionally) beautiful around us but to strive for harmony in whatever lives we have -- avoiding extremes of action and emotion (our popular culture in a nut shell) in favor of a moderate, modest, and considerate balance, whilst maintaining respectful relations to all living things. It's a "sacred" state, but not an exalted one.

While exalted moments (fostered by a sacred ceremony, for example) might be helpful to restore a broken pathway to "hohzo" or "grace," once that pathway is open, it can occur at any time: washing the dishes, walking in the woods, preparing paints or the desktop before beginning to work... I suspect we fall in and out of moments of ''grace'' or ''hohzo'' more often than we realize, just as we fall in and out of moments of inspiration...and the task for each of us then is to find a way that makes their appearance most likely, and to recognize those moments when they come.

Wonderful, Jane.

Awww. And, umm, how did you know that deer is an important totem for me...?

As I'm sure I've mentioned before, my mornings always begin with a rant at the radio news that always has at least one choice example of the iniquity of politicians, during which I make a cup of tea for Clare and take it up to her while she slowly wakes up. I then rant to her about the doings of the government (just to help her to start her day you understand) and then I go back downstairs and rant at the cats who are always doing something that merits the said rant.

If grace does manage to survive amidst all this vitriol she (I always imagine grace as female) must be very robust indeed. In fact unlike the 'Three Graces' in their elegant nudity, any grace that exists in our household would probably wear stout boots, sensible and very hard-wearing tweeds and carry one of those walking sticks with an antler handle with which she could knock a bit of sense into people.

your writing & artwork reveal your heart and soul De(a)r Lady

Among Native Peoples (and those close to the earth everywhere) there is an idea known as 'Indian Time'. Too often today it's used as an excuse for being late on an agenda, but the idea does away with clock time altogether and relates to a natural flow of life. It takes a certain time for a baby to be born, a certain time for a star to consume all of its hydrogen and become a supernova, a certain time for a flower to open, a fruit to ripen, an act of lovemaking, the moment a seed splits its coat and begins its journey to the sun... all of these and more are acts of grace. We often see patience as waiting for something to happen, but that's not it. Patience, like grace, recognizes the importance of timing; there is a moment to sit and a moment to act. Living in Grace, to me, simply means recognizing and moving within this pattern.

"But can one be both wild and graceful? I think the elusive point where those two meet is the place I want to be!" Certainly. This is called Dance.


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