Linda DeGraf

October 2015 (Vol. XXVIII, No. 9)

Greetings friends, As crisp night air creeps in, leaves begin to blush and pale, and flowers in the garden dry into a brittle brown, it's becoming clear that autumn is seeping into the landscape. I know all living beings die. I know everything that is lost in winter will contribute in some transformed way to the new life that will emerge in spring. And yet...and yet as Edna St. Vincent Millay says, "I am not resigned." Doesn't stepping forth into the eternal light, melting back into the universal whole mean losing one's individual physical, sensual experience of self and others and the world? Watching someone else die means the achingly endless severing of connection to their presence in the only embodiment we know. But embracing our humanity means also grappling with mortality. How do we face into death with something more than resignation or terror? Is there a way that coaxes us instead to begin to understand the meaning of one's soul?

September 2015 (Vol. XXVIII, No. 8)

Greetings dear friends! Having been a teacher for many years, September puts me in mind of reflections on work and the convergence or divergence of making a living and composing a life—a distinctly middle-class conundrum that for so many people is subsumed under the pressing need to find any work at all much less with dignity and purpose. The questions change over one's lifetime. Trying to discover one's call flows into striving to accomplish great things, fulfill responsibilities, and perhaps transform the world. Immersing ourselves in work leads to the struggle to gracefully balance meeting the needs of daily life with the demands of a job. Along the way one wonders whether the work has meaning and how inner life flows into and sustains it. When one no longer has a job, is he or she still making a difference in the world?

July-August 2015 (Vol. XXVIII, No. 7)

Dear Friends ~ In a world filled with such ugliness and hatred, violence and sorrow, is beauty a luxury we really cannot afford? A distraction or false covering like the "sheep's clothing" thrown hurriedly over the wolf's crouching back? Or is beauty as necessary to our souls as the air we breathe is to our bodies? Nurturing beauty is a way to see beyond and within, to envision other possibilities, to dare to give care and attention to wholeness. In Matthew Fox's ORIGINAL BLESSING, he quotes Adrienne Rich as she names the world's desperate need for the unleashing of our creative power:

the passion to make and make again
where such unmaking reigns
the refusal to be a victim
we have lived with violence so long

Let us, therefore, choose making and remaking. Let us seek out beauty, pay attention to it, cultivate it, and create it in our work, in our homes, in our relationships, and our land.

June 2015 (Vol. XXVII, No. 6)

Greetings, dear friends ~ What is grace? It seems to linger just beyond our awareness until it seeps in unbidden and undeserved—the unexpected fragrance caught on the breeze, the cool refreshing stream with its melodic soothing of the heart, the warmth of the sun on an upturned face. It triggers the moments that against all odds soften our hearts. Perhaps it arrives on the fingertips of human touch or in the space between the notes of our allegro movements. Perhaps it is a gentle tap on the shoulder from beyond the edges of the visible world that causes us to turn our heads to listen and to look and to feel the blessings all around us. Whatever it is and wherever the source, it asks nothing more of us than gratitude.

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May 2015 (Vol. XXVIII, No. 5)

Dear Friends, In the frenzy of life how do we learn to calm our minds and hearts long enough to embrace silence and open ourselves to encounters of the Spirit? We may think of meditation in relation to a particular religion or spiritual path. But it seems to me that we have much to learn when we embark on a practice of meditation regardless of the nature of our beliefs. We are all seekers of wisdom who long for the touch of the Sacred in our lives. Whether meditation is a gateway into centering prayer or a balm for healing or a threshold into Mystery, it is perhaps worth exploring as part of our unfolding spirituality.

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April 2015 (Vol. XXVIII, No. 4)

Happy spring, Friends! Wood frogs have returned with their raucous declarations of fecundity. Peeling back layers of brittle, brown oak leaves, I am overjoyed to find beneath the debris of winter tender shoots of green pushing up toward the light. We need to re-imagine our understanding of our relationship with nature — not above or apart but within and among. Can we peel back dead layers of hubris and abuse to rediscover living ways of reciprocity and gratitude? Move beyond using nature, whether as mere metaphor or possession for plunder, toward a relationship cradled in communion and covenant? How can we fuse science and ecology with creative arts and spirituality so that all our learning and teaching and dancing and walking might plant seeds of renewal and resilience and healing? So that we all—together—might raise our raucous voices, might grow upward toward the light.

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March 2015 (Vol. XXVIII, No. 3)

Greetings dear friends! Recently I listened to a man recounting an incident that had led to a falling out with a friend he had known for thirty years. His sorrow and regret were palpable as he agonized over how to mend the wound that had opened up between them. "He won't even talk to me. How can I say I'm sorry?" If even this relatively benign infraction was so difficult to overcome, how much harder is it to forgive the unspeakable cruelties we humans inflict on each other and on the world around us? Yet how can we heal wounds without the grace of forgiveness?

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February 2015 (Vol. XXVIII, No. 2)

Greetings dear friends. Yesterday as I sat listening to reflections at a memorial service for a woman with an incredibly generous and loving heart, it seemed to me that the value of a life well lived is not measured so much in accomplishments as in the way we treat each encounter with another person as an opportunity for welcoming hospitality. An invitation to know and be known, taking time for listening and being fully present lets the other person know that he or she is essentially good and whole and loveable. We need others to help us see who we really are, to walk with us on this journey, to know we are not alone. And the world needs our open hearts and warm hospitality to transform strangers into fellow human beings and friends.

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January 2015 (Vol. XXVIII, No. 1)

Greetings and happy new year! While the universe may exist within timeless cycles in an eternal now, we experience our individual lives as a linear journey with a beginning and an end...or perhaps a transition to another beginning. To awaken our spirits enough to be mindful of the longing for something we cannot always name but yearn for nevertheless is to set forth on an inner journey no less complex or real than the outer one. Shall we set forth anew on this path together?

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December 2014 (Vol. XXVII, No. 11)

Greetings, dear friends! Long ago when I taught kindergarten, at this time of year rich with ceremony and meaning, we learned together about traditions around the world. We traced the common threads of our humanity that are woven into these diverse tapestries of story and ritual. Traditions help us to remember who we are, how we understand the world both visible and invisible, and what we cherish. Waiting, giving, rejoicing, hoping, thanking, being present to one another, sharing, feasting, lighting candles and fires, and gathering together resonate throughout the world regardless of particular beliefs. Our hearts and minds turn to thoughts on gratitude, generosity, and love as we seek to become a kinder, gentler world. Wishing you Peace, Joy, and Light!

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