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Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.

I would love to kiss you.
The price of kissing is your life.
Now my loving is running toward my life shouting,
What a bargain, let’s buy it.

Daylight, full of small dancing particles
and the one great turning, our souls
are dancing with you, without feet, they dance.
Can you see them when I whisper in your ear?

All day and night, music,
a quiet, bright
reedsong. If it
fades, we fade.

— Jalaluddin Rumi

“Waking on a Summer Morning”
Theodor Fontane (1819-1898)

Break out from your slumber, throw off your sorrow.
Ah, what you suffered, it was only a dream.
Climb the hill, and see how morning
Borders the night sky with purple.
The stars grow pale; full of joy and reverence
The singing lark articulates the morning prayer,
The shadows free from the face of the sun,
Who begins her restless march of triumph.

I’m in St. Stephen on my weekend away, and it has been very short but intensely wonderful.  There is a sense of familiarity in coming home to St. Stephen, to the streets and the air, the houses and of course the people, a sense of ease that I have missed – and the welcomed embrace of dear friends.  There is a comfortability in being around people who have read similar books, shared similar experiences, thought about similar things and who have known me in all my strengths and weaknesses.

I recently heard someone mention a book called Exclusion and Embrace which talks about what the author calls “the drama of embrace.”  It was only mentioned briefly and I haven’t had a chance to look into it more fully, but the drama was described as having four stages: invitation, waiting, embrace, and release.   The first and last particularly stand out to me.  The first part of a hug, extending open arms to someone, is an invitation to be present to the relationship, something that is not forced, but offered.  The fourth part, the release of the hug, is a letting go of the other to be the other, distinct from oneself, not as you would wish them to be but as they truly are.

Hugs are an experience I treasure at L’arche, because it is a sign of the slow and patient trust that has been built between two people, myself and another, who have both experienced pain in life, but still choose to trust one another.  Hugs are a particularly beautiful way to end a day of ‘buddying’ with a core member.  I spent Thursday filling in at another house with a core member who I was only just beginning to get to know.  I had shadowed her routine and taken notes on the things that are easily forgotten and was as prepared as I could be for the day, but I still began it with anxiousness.  This particular core member reacts strongly to anxious situations or moments where she feels her buddy is not actually present to her.  I feared the difficult moments, but what I missed was that the good moments, the great moments, make going through the difficult ones entirely worth it.  To end that day with a good night hug helped me to recognize that the experiences we shared unites us in a small yet significant way I had not known was possible.

 

I am encountering things I am not used to.  I am being asked to live a life that is much less me-centered than I am used to.  I have had many sleepless nights in the past, being a university student, but they were almost always followed by very sleepful days.  Here I am not given the option.   I mean, yes today I have time to rest, but I still had to be up at 6:30 to help a core member get ready for work.  I feel like I do not get to choose my schedule – when I sleep, when I work, when I clean or cook or play or rest.   I am less in control of my daily life than I am used to.

And yet, I am here by choice.  I’ve been thinking about agency (or free will)… and the accountability that comes along with that.  Agency (or the ability/power to choose) is something we want to cultivate in the lives of people who must depend on others for their daily routine.  We want to give everyone as much choice as possible.   And I am given choice too.  I was washing pots at midnight last night because I didn’t feel like doing them at 9:00 when we got home from community night.  That was my choice.  But it was also my choice to wash the pots at all.  I could choose to do the minimum amount (or less than), to not do my fair share of the house work and to rely on the other assistants in the house to cover my slack.  But I chose to be here.  And I am happier when we are all contributing and working as a team.

I want to choose to try to be more selfless.  To see the privilege in being able to care for someone through the night.  And I have choice about my attitude too.  I can choose to wash the pots because it’s the right thing to do, but that doesn’t mean I will necessarily be happy about my choice.  So I should stop and consider why I am making this choice – do I feel obligated or do I truly want to contribute to the house by washing the pots rather than leaving them for some else in the morning.

I guess through my rambling all I’m trying to say is that in every moment I am fully in control of my response to a situation, both in action and in attitude.  I am fully responsible for the choices I make in those moments.  This is freeing.

I finally took the opportunity to get out on the lake yesterday.  I borrowed a canoe from a neighbour and headed east, hoping to find my way to Ireland but it got windy and wavy and I forgot to bring a lunch, so I turned around and came back home.  Paddling never felt as good though.  Hopefully more sunny days will soon be on our horizon.

We’ve recently reinstated quiet time in the house a couple of evenings a week.  It used to be something that was done quite often here at the initiation of a core member who passed away last summer.  The chaos and pace of life here demands rest though, and we’ve all been struggling to find that time on our own.  So sometimes after dishes are done, we light some candles, turn off the lights and listen to quiet music.  For the most part we are fairly quiet, but often this time gives a chance for conversations that don’t get to happen when we’re all heading in different directions and we’re rocking out to the ever-louder music.  (It just doesn’t matter how often you turn down the radio, it will always end up at full blast.)  We’re not silent together very often or very well, but the noises you hear are the sounds of something like a family learning to live together.

Peace.

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