It is Ascension Day here in Chartres. It is a perfect archetype for the journey here. After many years of visits with Veriditas and a 21/2 month sabbatical in 2004, I know that this is my spiritual home. This week has been heavenly. The bells are ringing, swallows swooping,the peace of Mary’s chapel is illuminated by hundreds of candles. I have had the privilege of introducing Mary to a loving,accepting group of men and women, walked the candlelit labyrinth with beloved old friends from all over the world and new friends made in the intimacy of pilgrimage. Last night, after the walk I watched the new spectacle projected with the most amazing laser technology. The magnificent western facade is painted by light. The construction of the cathedral is depicted by blue beings dancing around the sacred geometry of the rose window and the labyrinth. The artist has really seen the inner life of the cathedral. And that life is manifesting with ever greater beauty and intensity. The dark and mysterious cathedral that I have known through the 15 years of my pilgrimages has been transformed into a vision of light and beauty with cleaning and painting. The once stained and misplaced statue of Mary being received into Heaven, now marks the apse of the cathedral and adds to the blessings of the black Madonnas in the crypt and nave. I think that Chartres is eing used for the purpose she was created…the ascension of us all.
by John O’Donohue
May you recognize in your life the presence,
power, and light of your soul.
May you realize that you are never alone,
that your soul in its brightness and belonging
connects you intimately with the rhythm of the
May you have respect for your individuality and
May you realize that the shape of your soul is
that you have a special destiny here,
that behind the facade of your life
there is something beautiful and eternal happening.
May you learn to see your self
with the same delight,
pride, and expectation
with which God sees you in every moment.
I live in rural West Marin and have the experience of entering the “civilized” world each time I drive over White’s Hill. I have come to regard driving back into my San Geronimo Valley as returning to my solitude. Away from the concerns of my practice and the pull of the city, I encounter myself in a way that gives me frequent glimpses of what John calls something beautiful and eternal.
I don’t think that I would have understood the gifts of solitude in any other period of my life. I’ve been single for two years and long out of my daily role as mother. It is just me and the now green hills and the spring returning birds and the quiet of a life in the woods. Sometimes I feel lonely, but most often I appreciate the rhythm of the days. When I have a stretch when I am driving over White’s hill daily, providing therapy, singing in the choir, giving workshops, I begin to long for a day like today that brought me back to this writing, morning walking and a good amount of time to listen and be.
I have been reflecting on an experience that I had at the Charlottesville Quest and what it means in the unfolding of this work. How many women can this work touch? Can we really meet, as Rumi says in that field beyond ideology?
Usually the women who find themselves at a Quest share a certain set of values- more blue than red, They are usually adventurous and unconventional in their spirituality. I notice a common smile at the end of every Quest from women in San Francisco , Memphis, Spokane.
In Charlottesville, a woman came to the Quest with a very different set of values. She was high school friends with one of the women in the planning circle and decided to brave something outside her normal routine. She was carrying a lot of suffering from her marriage and life circumstances and burst into tears when we introduced ourselves via our maternal lineage ( I am Judith, daughter of Miriam, daughter of Rose, daughter of Catherine). Women on either side of her reached out to hold her hands and then embraced her. She calmed down and had a couple of conversations with me as the evening progressed. The mother lineage had hit a nerve of suffering in her impossible relationship with her mother.
As it turned out this woman was a committed evangelical. She tenderly told me about the moment that she was saved and the 40 days of bliss that followed. She attended church, listened intently to Fox News and espoused political opinions that I have never heard here in the bubble of Northern California. I listened, I quieted the internal judge that rose up in me and marveled that I was sitting in front of a woman who was as “other” than me as I could imagine. And yet, here we were, huddled on the altar steps in an event called Dreaming Transformation. She was open in recounting her suffering and equally open about her fear about being among “sorceresses” Still she stayed, participated eagerly in the alligator group, made art and partook of the energy that the circle created.
As she was leaving the next morning, I was sitting with a woman who attended the Charlottesville Unitarian Church. She had a wallet with a giant rhinestone cross, given to her by her evangelical daughter. She laughed and said that her daughter was praying for her salvation but always liked the feeling of love she experienced when she came to this church. “Yes” said the evangelical woman, “there is far more love here than in my church.” “Go gently,” I said to her, “And thank you so much for being with us. Thank you for your courage”.