Sunday, December 30, 2012

Living on the Edge...

The tower at the Abbey
   Today I leave for a 3 day retreat to Glastonbury Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in Massachusetts.  I've never been one to party the night away on New Year's Eve so this retreat offers me a more contemplative way to ring in the new year.  I've always seen this time of year as a threshold. In my post, "In Their Own Words - John O'Donohue" on December 26th you can hear John speak about thresholds and their meaning in our lives.  I think of the individual years of my life like rooms in a huge, rambling house.  I spend a year in a lovely room, getting use to the view out the window, comfortably curled up on the couch and secure in my surroundings.  On new years day I have to open the door and pass into a whole new room and I'm not sure what I'll find but go I must.  When I open that door and cross the threshold, I also open myself up to all sorts of new possible ways of becoming. All  new books will be on the shelves and I'll see  a completely different view from the windows.  Who I was in the old room will not fit this new space. It is up to me to make the best use of my year in this new room of experience.

   The Abbey offers a setting of quiet reflection and no obligations except to make of the time what I can.  I will bring my camera of course but it is not the focus of my stay at the monastery.  There is a labyrinth I can walk (if it's not buried in snow!) and that is a wonderful thing to do at year's end.  The slow journey to the center is the perfect metaphor for the passing of the year.  When we get to the center we must turn around and wind our way out again.  I loved the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral that I walked this summer.  It is a meditative practice I plan to practice on a regular basis now.

    This is a photograph of me in County Clare, Ireland in 2009 that a friend made while we were exploring the Burren.  I include it because on January 4 it will be the 5th anniversary of my friend John O'Donohue's death as I mentioned in my post of December 26th.  He was born in County Clare and his writings on Celtic spirituality are world renown and a constant source of inspiration for me.  He would bring his retreat participants to the cliffs on Inis Mor, which look very much like this only much higher, and make them crawl on their bellies to look over the edge.  He always said, "You never know how close to the edge you are. You live your life like you will never fall off, but you will...someday."   So, at this time of year, I like to remind myself that we are all living near the edge and we must make time for what is important in our, friends, and contemplative photography!   You can visit "A Sense of Place - The Burren" to see a trailer of John's video, "A Celtic Pilgrimage",  completed just weeks before his death.  I strongly recommend it.  It is a beautiful experience.

"I want to stand as close to the edge
as I can without going over.
Out on the edge you see all the
kinds of things you can't see
from the center."

~ Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

   I wish all my blog readers a healthy, happy and contemplative New Year!

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