The Light Shines in the Darkness

As the country lurched towards the new year, we free fell into the darkness together. In this hemisphere, Winter Solstice arrived right on time. Wednesday 4:44am exactly, Central Time, December 21. Light and dark tarried together, side by side. The long night seemed to swallow the light..at least for 24 hours. Now the balance is shifting.

I’ve seen my own life change on a dime, swinging from one wildly dismal day to rejoicing the next. “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it”. And still, we need the darkness. The restful, desperate, incalculable night. Author, Professor and Episcopal priest, Barbara Brown Taylor knew this well. She wrote a whole book entitled, Learning to Walk in the Darkness. 


So, even as we wound down the old year in increasing political insanity, our spiritual power grew brighter as we the people began to rise up. I’ve heard it said that the darkest hour is right before dawn. Until now, many have mostly put their eggs in one basket. Power through the government politic. It must be for the people, isn’t it?  It was created for we, the people. Surely. But with the seismic shift of our political landscape this past election, we can no longer rest in denial. It has been spinning out of control for a very long time.

But now, something bigger than all of us is taking ahold. We’re all in the whirlwind together.

As Nicholas von Hoffman said to his boss, Saul Alinsky, community organizer, after a massive overflow crowd showed up in Chicago to hear the Civil Rights Freedom Riders talk about what they’d been experiencing in Mississippi…

“I think we should toss out everything we are doing organizationally and work on the premise that this is the moment of the whirlwind, that we are no longer organizing but guiding a social movement”

(Civicist, “In a Whirlwind Moment, Glimmers of Big Organizing”, by Micah L. Sifry, Dec. 5, 2016)

So, hold onto your hat and come out and stand with the people. The Spirit is moving. True wisdom ways will be revealed among those silenced and vulnerable too long—Indigenous voices,  young people, the brown skinned, women, the poor,  soil, air, water, and creaturely communities. Our generation must be schooled in nonviolent, peaceful power. Again. Gandhi taught satyagraha. Translated as “soul force”. This is the unitive force of love paired with power. He used this massive engine to bring down an empire.

David and Goliath stories come from a specific legend and lore. The seemingly puny stand in the face of the huge forces arrayed against them. And with a small, but strategically placed act, down comes the giant.

Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Christmas all celebrate the humble, the small, the marginalized during this season. Their narratives teach us that a fierce love and loyalty can prevail against empires. Those who’ve been enslaved can reaffirm the dignity and beauty of their culture. Love wins through Holy Imagination as small as a child in a manager.

And so, even in the perpetual night of their winterhives, Bees glow with heat. I’ve heard that bee bodies, clinging together for warmth, really aren’t dormant at all. Infrared light shows that though the air around them might be frigid, yet, the vibrating and rotating bees will heat just the globe sized ball of their congregated bodies up to 97 F. They must. It’s the only way their babies will survive til Spring.

It will take a whole hive to keep each other warm in the winter of our discontent. And it takes all of us staying awake to keep our children safe until Spring.

Honor it

The coming of the dark, that is.

I am trying to stay with the Solstice dark. It seems so profound some days. Here in Central Minnesota, I awaken to the dark at 7am. I come home to the dark at 7pm. The temperatures hover in single digits, the snow falls, the trees look like scarecrows. We live in a monochromatic world. Yet, even in the dark a blue sparkle dazzles me as I walk across the snow at night. It is la luna, her bone white, eerie face spilling over the landscape.

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And the darkness in our culture these days? Maybe it’s necessary. A friend sends an article. It is a footnote to the darkness in which I feel encaved. Kali, the Hindu Goddess of death, destruction and resurrection is afoot.

                    Kali has brought down our house in a shocking blow; all the illusions of America, stripped in a single night. We are not who we thought we were. Now we must get ready to stand in her fires of transmutation. We need them…we are collectively getting so sick and tired of lies, of the superficial, of the shiny neon lights of pop culture, pop spirituality and politics as usual. We thirst for the Real… As our heart breaks, as our veneer cracks, we open to more integrity, more truth, more tenderness. We stop trying to be all things for all people. We become this one small thing, feigning nothing.

Before we rush in to reanimate the discourse of hope prematurely, we must yield to what is present. Receptivity is the great quality of darkness; darkness hosts everything without exception….Darkness heals us without a spoonful of sugar; the wound is the gift, and this election is a good dose.

This article, reminiscent of Christianity’s Dark Night of the Soul and the eternal Christ story of death and resurrection, nails what I wish public servants, spiritual leaders and politicians would say.We must grieve this hour that we live in. It is a time of confession, lament and sacrifice. We are sickening and killing our earth and each other. The powers and principalities among us are running rampant and unbridled with excess of money, greed, narcissism, vile hatred and superiority. It is an old narrative of domination, destruction and death.

I’m ready for a new narrative. Is it in the ashes?

Perhaps darkness is the medicine we need right now to wake us up. Some days I cannot bear so much darkness. Within the last week I have seen multiple postings of the same horror. Migrating snow geese, encountering a snow storm over Montanta take refuge in the acidic, metal-laden waters of an old open pit mine. Once animated and alive, now there is a 700 acre boneyard of white birds. As another friend said, “The perfect storm of our ignorance”.

I think of my bees. Dying. Everywhere bees dying. Industrial agriculture, chemicals, GMO’s. We are poisoning ourselves.

I lament the loss of so much life.

I read the book  All the Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr, Thorndike Press, 2014). I am learning that all the light we cannot see is often hidden in greys and shadow. It is covert and subtle. Light comes as a messenger in night dreams, small kindnesses, a childhood memory, a song, Providentially placed people, a wise word spoken at the right time, healing of an old wound, small victories that come from great love and sacrifice. Honor the dark, for the light is illuminated more.

And the darkness has cracks in it.

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Holding the Light and Dark

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As we toil towards Winter Solstice in this hemisphere, I will continue to ruminate on the darkness. Despite the Standing Rock triumph of an easement denied to Dakota Access Pipeline yesterday, the pipeline projects are not dead.  They are proliferating everywhere. It is the last gasp of the fossil fuel industry’s greed, intent on squeezing out every last drop of profit before we turn to a new age of clean energy. It is a many headed monster.

Today I gave a presentation at St. John’s University and Abbey in Central Minnesota about the Doctrine of Discovery. It was well attended by my colleagues, students, professors and monks.

These 15th c. Theologies of Entitlement and Doctrines of Discovery were blessed by the Christian Church, sending out explorers to go and conquer the “new world”. Today our whole Western notion of civilization is based upon these pillars of colonization. It honors profit at the expense of life, earth as utilitarian, industry over indigenous worldviews and land based peoples as disposable and dispossessable.The new colonizers are not just governments, settlers and the military, they are legal systems, multinational corporations, international banking and development structures and World Trade organizations.

Whether bees, soil, seeds or humans, as we lose (if not already lost) our community sovereignty, we lose the basic human rights for healthy land, air and water for future generations.

Tonight I feel lost in the dark, despite the flicker of light at Standing Rock. I write this after a very long day. I am tired.

I remember my bees huddled in a ball in the dark. Keeping each other warm. Keeping each other alive. Waiting out the dark…

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And so I sit with the darkness tonight as the weather temperatures plummet to single digits. I sit with the cold, ungainly fearful dark of these days—what is and what may yet come. The powers arrayed against common ordinary life and most of humanity who just want a peaceful, modest life with goodness, love, friendship. Who just ask for enough, not the sickness of too much.

There was a quote from the daily meditation website of Fr. Richard Rohr this day (12/5/16)….

It takes uncommon humility to carry both the dark and the light side of things…

And I pray that we all have the courage to carry both.

As the bees somehow do.

All the Light We Cannot See

The title of the acclaimed novel by Anthony Doerr (Simon & Schuster, 2014) begins in the dark, 1944 Germany, a blind girl in a small town on the Coast of Brittany, France, 1944, waiting alone in a house for the bombs to fall.

My brother highly recommended this book to me. In this tightly woven story of suspense and relationship, I am waiting for the light we cannot see. How will it be revealed?  The title is curious to me.

In this hemisphere we are moving quickly towards December 21, Winter Solstice. The long shadows of the darkness now subsume the light.  Each day grows shorter. We need light to live. But we also need the balance of darkness to heal, to rest, to cease all our insane activity and grow silent for a time. The earth renews. Light and new life grows in the darkness, often unobserved and unseen. Hidden for a season.

My bees, little light beings who orient themselves to the the sun god, have filled their homes with the stored light of flower’s nectar. They have grown sluggish and slow. Dormancy sets in. They need the slow dark. Their light becomes the pulse of their bodies generating heat in a glowing orb inside the hive.

It is a life metaphor I often forget. A cycle of darkness is a part of a healthy season of light. It is a balance. It allows new life to incubate and ferment. Under the cover of darkness, the light from a season past is captured and unimaginably reseeded.

And one day, like the bees, all the light we cannot see will burst forth and the miracle of photosynthesis will again rise.

And so we live on our own collected light for a season. Memories, images, words, loves that feed our light in this time of darkness.

And we watch for the light to return…

Small Minds and Great Hearts

So now that we have our clarion call as humanity to wake up!, we can no longer rest on our laurels, take more than we need, forget the vulnerable, and isolate from one another. There are powers and principalities of hatred increasingly arrayed against the forces of love and healing. We will see the mainstream media gathering around a new administration, normalizing it, feeding off the ratings. There will be an increasing lack of transparency and truth.

Petty dictators, tyrants and and empires have been a part of the human landscape forever. They will always be with us. Many suffer greatly under small minds. Fear pervades. Absolute Power creates a drunkenness.Today we see a political landscape of white men consolidating power. We are seeing the militarization of our society. For some it seems safe and secure. A throw back to the Cold wars and post WWII, when the world was “unsafe”. Then as now, people are hungry for security in the face of terrorism and the changing times.  But trying to secure the fortunes of the future is an illusion. Especially in the halls of power. It will only corrupt and destroy. It is time to go to the heart of the hive, a biblical metaphor for that which is precious, healing, nourishing, and sweet. We must get to work.

The beehive is not about consolidating power, it is about sharing power. Everyone has a job. Everyone has a place. Every being is valued. Every gift from the hive is medicine for the body and soothing to the soul.rlind_anitaamstutzbees_061215157

One of the biggest indicators of a healthy hive is their inter-communication. They talk all the time. Buzzing, rubbing up against one another, sensing with their antennae, sniffing the pheromones in the air. They are vigilant, awake to outside forces that might dismantle the commonwealth. They adapt. They are resilient. They work together to create healthy communities that can withstand any onslaught or insidious forces, unless the external forces arrayed against them overwhelm their immune system.

The thing is, a hive would be destroyed if they began to work only for themselves. It’s not possible. The mind of the hive is every single bee.They quickly die if taken from their community. You see such poor souls buzzing around aimlessly, lost and forlorn.

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Recently I saw a TED -like talk by Theoretical Physicist Michio Kaku. He said the jobs for the future that are already on the wane because of the machination and rise of robots are repetitive, assembly line jobs.What will be needed as we transition is jobs that require us to grow our capacity for change, common sense, imagination, leadership, analysis, telling a joke, writing a script, a book, doing science, meeting the public, interacting with people. the service economy. Robots simply do not have the adaptability or emotional intelligence of the human brain and heart.

During these times we will also see the rise of great hearts. People whose courageous and luminous leadership will call us to back to our moral compass. But ultimately, our true power lies in the commonwealth, the Beloved community—acting on behalf of the good for all.

This gives me hope.

Post Election Notes on a Bee Republic

The tectonic plates in our shared polis shifted this past week. Some might say there were winners and losers. I’m of the mind that we all lost. Forgive me if I’m stating the obvious, but couldn’t all the money raised, spent and squandered by all parties in this 2 year political slog have shifted a whole impoverished underclass by now?

 We are all waking up to a new normal. Like post-911, our illusions about one another and our society have been ruptured. Our moral compass as a nation is spinning. The real issues are lost in a morass of our country’s shadow. Racism, elitism, misogyny, classism, violence and the cultural wars have become uncorked. The media has capitalized on the sensational and spectacle. The thin veneer of this country’s civility is now scratched open and the chasm of our discontent yawns wider. Our republic is broken.

Friends, there is no time like the present to visit the wisdom of the bee republic. Everyday, bees collectively roll up their sleeves and work for the commonwealth. Oddly, all the leaders are female. There is no celebrity. It is a gift rather than a cash economy. All the goods of the hive are shared by all. They even share with non-bees. We rarely say thank you.

The queen, contrary to popular opinion, is not the superstar. She has only one role:  working for the republic of bees, ensuring a healthy genetic survival for each successive generation. She will never see the light of day once anointed as queen (yes, it is quite drab). She will lay eggs tirelessly on behalf of her colony.

The Bee Republic is a commonwealth. Jacqueline Freeman, bee whisperer and author of “Song of Increase(Battle Ground, WA: Friendly Haven Rise Press, 2014)spoke about listening to bees. After years, she understands the life of bees and the hive with a new level of competence and reverence. She points out how our small understanding of bees as only for our purposes of pollinating food leaves us viewing them as “chattel…indentured servants whose mission is to serve our needs.” (Forward to book)

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This narrow thinking has led us to create ways of employing honeybees that keep us blind to the tremendous depth of knowledge they embody and the generosity with which they carry forth each day to serve the highest needs of our spiritual development and the evolution of the world.

I’m sure you know about the problems bees are having right now. Man could hardly come up with a better way to stomp on them than our current attitudes and beekeeping methods. These methods may serve man’s purposes but they certainly aren’t bee friendly. Treating bees this way is tremendously disrespectful.

Here I speak about treating bees with respect and gratitude, which is what bees are all about… Their respectful industry and fellowship are living examples of love, interdependent communities, and an ever outflowing story of creation. (Forward to book)

We can no longer rest on our laurels. It will take all of us who are awake to build a new world of dignity, respect and basic rights for healthy human and non-human communities.

Words are cheap. Actions mean everything. Walking the walk will mean more than talking the talk. More than ever we must examine those whom we give power to. Money, our pet issues and celebrity are low bars. Now we realize we must have leaders with integrity as well as a deep commitment, a listening heart and sensitivity to the zeitgeist of our time.  Candles of dedicated wisdom shine throughout our shared story. Abraham Lincoln.Dorothy Day. Nelson Mandela. Jimmy Carter. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Leymah Gbowee. Aung San Suu Kyi. Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks and MLK, Jr….to name a few. Their leadership spiraled out from a soul intact, a heart burdened with respect and love for humanity and a spiritual foundation that embraced a vision large enough for a nation, a whole earth. They enriched us through their lives of selfless service.

So, it is up to us, intrepid bee friends.

Let us go out now into the world that we must create together…with bees, butterflies, bats and more.

 

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We Stand at a Crossroads

Yesterday I could feel the tide of collective societal anxiety rising as we inch closer to November 8. I became lonely for bees. The bee hive has been a place of solace for me, contemplative peace and that which is life affirming. So I went looking on a 70 degree F day in Minnesota. I heard that the monks kept bees near their graveyard. On my way,  I roamed first through their hoop house and garden spot full of squashes and pumpkins.

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Hoophouse at St. Johns Abbey, MN

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Then through their cemetery overlooking Lake Sagatan

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Graveyard for the monks at St. Johns Abbey, MN

I finally came to the now leafless orchard.

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Fruit trees by the monk’s cemetary

And there I sat with the bees for a time. They were sluggish. But they were still flying.

 

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The girls

One bee in particular caught my eye. It was one persistent little girl who was intent on kicking out a drone, the male bee. First she threw him out. Then when he, in all his bug eyed, swaggering girth, pushed past her, she followed him inside. Soon he came back out. She was riding him this time. Attached to his back, she refused to let go. He had to walk around dragging her tiny body.

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It is not unlike the epic struggle we face on so many levels in our culture, our world, this very moment.

The one that most catches my heart and my eyes and ears these days is Standing Rock, North Dakota. Maybe it’s because I’ve been there, seen what is happening, continue to keep my ear to the ground…

In a vast windswept, seemingly empty land, with rivers running through it, thousands of people are fastened and embedded on Mother Earth, with tents, their two feet and love of the sacred waters.

It is not so different from that one little bee. These at Standing Rock are attached to the backs of the profit makers and greed mongers, judicial  injustice and militarized state who are desperate to clear them. They are desperate for DAPL to finish on time for the  magnificent billions to pour into their investor’s coffers.

The people are hanging on for dear life. Determined. Dignified. Peaceful.

The following is from an article in YES! Magazine, Nov. 5, 2016. If you are weary of the destruction of all that we know is life affirming, keep your prayer lights burning. It makes a difference.

Here, on a highway stretching across trampled prairie grass, the fundamental contest of our time is playing out.

It’s a confrontation not only between two groups of people, but between two world views. The space between the lines vibrates with tensions of race, historical trauma, broken treaties, money and politics, love and fear. But the underlying issue that charges the air, mixing with the smells of tear gas and sage, is the global contest between two deeply different ideas about the true meaning of land.

On one side is the unquestioned assumption that land is merely a warehouse of lifeless materials that have been given to (some of) us by God or conquest, to use without constraint. On this view, human happiness is best served by whatever economy most efficiently transforms water, soils, minerals, wild lives, and human yearning into corporate wealth. And so it is possible to love the bottom line on a quarterly report so fiercely that you will call out the National Guard to protect it.

On the other side of the concrete barriers is a story that is so ancient it seems revolutionary.  On this view, the land is a great and nourishing gift to all beings. The fertile soil, the fresh water, the clear air, the creatures, swift or rooted: they require gratitude and veneration. These gifts are not commodities, like scrap iron and sneakers. The land is sacred, a living breathing entity, for whom we must care, as she cares for us. And so it is possible to love land and water so fiercely you will live in a tent in a North Dakota winter to protect them.

So be it.

BIGHORN SHEEP and BEES

 

My sojourn in Minnesota has been a time to live a more contemplative life. I awaken as the dawn barely lifts the morning sky. I read or do some morning stretching and meditation. On my “busy” days, I go to the gym and lift weights and run on the elliptical for 1/2 hour.

The lion’s share of each day is spent sequestered in an overheated office, looking over a colorful courtyard of brick with orange and red ivy crawling up it’s girth. My best friends have become books. I examine the inside of my own brainpan.

I edit my Sabbath Keeping book, due in 2 months to the publisher. I read about the colonization of New Mexico, it’s Land and Land based people—my other project. It is part of my book on beekeeping and a friendship with Lorenzo. He is a “manito”, whose ancestral family arrived here in the 1700’s as settlers granted land from the Crown of Spain.He has a small organic farm in the South Valley where I put beehives this past year. His family intermingled with the Indigenous peoples early on. They became pastoral, land based people. After the Anglo’s came in the 1800’s, riding a wave of colonization that exploited the natural resources, cut down the forests, depleted the land with grazing, and trapped the rivers dry of beaver, the fragile desert watershed collapsed. Land based people suffered loss of land and dignity. Most of this is recorded in William deBuys, Enchantment and Exploitation: The Life and Hard Times of a New Mexico Mountain Range (New Mexico University Press, 2015)

You might wonder about the title. What do Bighorn Sheep have to do with bees? Spoiler alert. Wild sheep and bees are exquisitely locally based. They cannot be anything else by nature. They can teach us what it means to become more indigenous to the land we inhabit.

My recent favorite book by the late Ellen Meloy, Eating Stone: Imagination and the Loss of the Wild, explores the last wild roaming Bighorn Sheep colonies of the West which have collapsed numerous times from the colonization of their land. First it was the domestic sheep, grazing around the tiny strips of stone they have come to inhabit, infecting them with viruses that evolution had not equipped them for yet. Then it was the uranium mining, destroying the land and fouling the water. Today it is all of these plus human populations pushing in against their last stands of high country, feverish with drought. Their survival is carefully followed by wildlife biologists now, they roam with huge radio collars and big orange tags in their ears. Another kind of colonization.

At one point Meloy queries us, Why are we so immune to noticing or understanding the beauty of other life forms?  We have a hard time sharing our space, our land with creatures. We trap them, hunt them, destroy their habitat.

Unlike humans, who have a love affair with mobility and are able to constantly move from one landscape to another, there are life forms that will die if they are not allowed to be place based. They have evolved local. She writes that Bighorn sheep are “place faithful to the core…an unshakeable fidelity to the stone [they inhabit].” (138-140)

Bees are local too. Which is perhaps why they are crashing. Their habitat poisoned or stripped from them around the country. They cannot fly off to different landscapes to ply their trade(unless of course you count the migrating hives on semi-flatbeds, a form of forced labor). Like the Bighorn sheep, their fidelity is to their locality.

Meloy writes, ‘The truth is that we are starved “(138). For this kind of Indigenous way of being, our hearts and bodies long, but we do not know it. Today, as we see a wave of Indigenous people protesting the destruction of their homeland, water and soil, they are showing us the way back to this fidelity to place.

My chance to read about the layers of colonization of my chosen landscape of New Mexico have been eye opening, to say the least. It is a small act, but the first step in becoming more Indigenous to this landscape I call home.

The day of my spiritual awakening
was the day I saw and knew I saw
all things in God and God in all things.

—Mechtild of Magdeburg (c. 1212—c. 1282)

 

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Politics, Brawlings and Benedictine Bees

Our country has slogged through a two year political season. Mercifully, the election at least, will soon be over.  I’m still trying to figure out how to think about this time. It’s felt like a great big public brawl. The kind where we are down in the mud with each other. It’s plowed up things we’d rather not talk about in polite society. Racism. Sexism. Classism. Corporate elitism. I have to say, it feels like a national enema. As stuff is getting cleaned out of the system, I hope and pray for social transformation on all levels. The Benedictines can teach us how to navigate these dark times in our national conscience, when, as I’ve heard it said, “It is darkest just before dawn”.

During the Medieval period, the Benedictine communities scattered throughout Europe helped humanize a time when all manner of wars, religious superstitions, economic disparity, inquisitions, and diseases were unleashed upon humanity. They became oases of peace and civility.

According to a monk I spoke with, villagers would literally build their homes around the monastery as a place of safety amidst the turbulence and social disruption.

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Honeycomb insignia etched in the chapel doors

The Rule of St. Benedict was a tool of gracious living and spiritual enlightenment. I first met the Benedictine monks in the high desert of New Mexico. They were beer makers, soap and candle artisans and hospitality keepers.  But here in Minnesota, on both the sisters and the monk’s campuses, I see beehive themed windows, doors, art and buildings. Everywhere I go there are the bee themed hexagon shapes of the honeycomb.  The fact that I have landed here, writing about bees suddenly hits me as Providence. Yes, there is a bee angel.

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Chapel of St. John’s Abby, architecture by Marcel Breuer (1902-1981)

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Chapel at St. John’s Monastery

When I asked Abbot John whether the honey comb/ beehive theme was part of the whole Benedictine order or particular to St. John’s, he looked at me with a smile, his eyes lighting up when he found out I was a beekeeper. “It’s particular to us”, he said. There were interesting politics about how the bee themed architecture came into being,which I won’t go into. But based upon my observation, the monastery is an important symbol of a healthy community. Everyone has a valued place, diverse interests, specialized labor and creativity flowing, (Gardening, teaching, healthcare, beekeeping, candle and jam making, pastoring, to name a few). All are ultimately striving for the common good.

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Rule of St. Benedict

We are a people living in the Pleistocene Age, and the last gasp of the fossil fuel age. We have reached the limit to our destructive human lifestyles on this planet. The returns of our activity is no longer serving the good of all living beings. We have only a climate and economic debt to hand our children. We are all living on borrowed time.

News from my beekeeper friends in Albuquerque remind me that creatures are also living  on the edge of collapse. Nectar has been scarce. They will eat up everything they bring in immediately (pollen, nectar) and feed it to their brood, just to survive the day. They will put up nothing for a rainy day. That means an empty bank account come winter.

Humans aren’t much different. Many individuals and countries (including the U.S.) are living on borrowed credit—maximizing debt to live in the present. The rich are getting richer off the backs of the poor becoming poorer. Many around the world are living in war zones, hoping that the world will see their suffering and stand up to speak out or reach a steadying hand so more don’t perish.

These are desperate times. These are transformative times. Dickensonian in many ways. The best and the worst…

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Meanwhile, there is a light on the horizon. Daily newsfeeds of water protectors popping up everywhere, shutting down fossil fuel pipelines—from Indigenous nations at Standing Rock to regular everyday people in Washington State, Minnesota to Canada, southward and around the globe. They are getting in the way of earth and people exploiting corporations and their massive profit driven projects that are destroying our very lifeline. We see Black Lives Matter rolling forwards. We see women standing up and speaking their truth.

This Rule could help us in this time of political and social upheaval, with the great cleansing we seem to be undergoing. It is a time of suffering. It is a time of healing.

The Benedictines chose to become oases of peace, hospitality and love.

May our time also choose this.

What makes your heart sing?

I am currently in a place that makes my heart sing everyday. I live beside a lake in Minnesota. Some days when I’m walking the wooded trails, not another human being in sight, I pinch myself (in my mind) to make sure this is happening. I am blessed in this moment. I give thanks. Every day is dedicated to writing. There are ongoing spiritual conversations with my colleagues, with monks and sisters and students and and professors and devotees of all faiths—Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist.

I will eventually end this chapter in December and move on…As we know, all good things eventually come to an end. Mercifully, so do hard and difficult things. Life is a continuing river that we swim in, sometimes floating, sometimes thrashing around for our lives.

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Life is so short and the political season is so long, that more and more, my motto is “joy”. If possible, amidst the crappy potholes of life, the media on steroids and all the things humans do to make life impossibly depressing,find something or someone that brings you joy. Everyday. And gratitude for the good stuff. Did I mention that?

Recently I came across a beautiful conversation about deep listening to the land. It is from the spiritual wisdom of the Aboriginal people of Australia. Our heart’s song is so often connected to the spiritual art of listening.

The following is from my upcoming book, to be published in Spring 2017…the title is the same as this week’s essay. It is my musings on two non-human loves in my life. Bees and Music.

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”
Aldous Huxley, Music at Night and Other Essays

The tiny honeybee makes my heart sing. Even as I write this, I am surrounded in my backyard by the busy buzz of hundreds of thousands of bees flying in and out of their hives. It is music. Bees are life. Their return is marked by the advent of flowers. They are the sacred guardians of our land, air, and water, pollinating our food to the tune of one in three bites. When the habitat around them becomes toxic, they imbibe this and die. Our existence is intertwined with these enchanted creatures. They are the canaries in the mine for our future, as well as theirs.

Because of my particular fascination with bees, I am happy as a clam when I can work on behalf of bees. Educating, advocating, talking about the wonder of bees to schoolchildren or adults. The time spent working in the hive is also soul time. It’s like that when you love something or someone. Your heartstrings thrum with joy when you are in the presence of this thing, this being that makes your heart sing.

Precious little time is made in our lives to consider what makes our heart sing, and then going about and doing it. Nurturing our soul’s song in alignment with our Divine purpose is not something we necessarily learn, side by side with potty training. The voices that have shaped us, by and large have been about economic practicality and efficiency of time. We stay in the salt mines, our faces pointed toward our retirement packages or our failing health, holding our breath til we are released. Thank God Almighty, free at last.

This is not inherently a bad thing. This lifetime does require prudence, after all. But don’t miss out on your soul’s song, or silence it too early.

For then, it may be too late.

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Next Week, The Benedictine connection with the Hive Mind and honeycomb