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Showing posts from November, 2014

The Blessings of Foreign Gods - By Peter

I am Pagan.  I am Quaker.  Once I was Christian, but that was a long, long time ago. These days I no longer have a Pagan group to practice with.  I attend Quaker meeting regularly, but Quaker worship, while it feeds me in vital ways, still lacks some of the spiritual juiciness that I need if I am to feel fed and nourished by my spiritual practice. So I—already a “both/and” with two spiritual identities—have been dropping in at a once-a-month Wednesday evening TaizĂ© worship at the local Episcopal Church.  It’s been interesting.  The first time I went, almost a year ago, I felt very strongly there the presence of one of the Pagan Gods, the one who is my own patron deity.  I continue to feel His presence at those services, sometimes strongly, sometimes less so.  It can be vivid enough for the Christian elements that pop up in the services to be kind of jarring at times. Photo by Nevit Dilmen, 2012 One Wednesday that I went was, by coincidence, the Christian

An Island in an Ocean of Air

I was twenty-two the first time I made the ascent. Baxter Peak. Dylan, 2011 To those who dwell in the Western United States, Mt. Katahdin is hardly worthy of the name, “mountain.”  At a mere 5,269 feet, it is dwarfed by even foothills in the Rocky Mountains.  It isn’t even the highest in New England. It is, however, a mountain that an athletic climber can manage from base to peak and back in a single summer’s day.  And it is breathtaking: an isolated island in an ocean of air. Geology has made this mountain dramatic: the granite has been nibbled by glaciers, a giant’s cookie with Titanic bites taken out in four places.  Mt. Katahdin has been narrowed by cirques, leaving places like the Knife Edge Trail to pick a way forward delicately, along a yard-wide path edged with a whole lot of nothing, a whole lot of air. Up on the Knife Edge, you actually feel closer to the sun.  The salt on your lips tastes different; the windburn on your cheeks is harsh, and strong, an


A few years back, I accepted a challenge to commit to a “regular spiritual practice.”  The terms of the challenge defined that as a daily spiritual discipline of at least twenty minutes.  Unfortunately, the year that I took this on was an especially hectic one.  Try as I might, I just could not clear any twenty-minute windows of time, other than my daily commute to and from work.  And so, my daily practice of rolling meditations was born. This has worked out better than you might suppose. Five days a week–fewer if the weather is snowy or icy, and I need to pay full attention to the road–I start my engines, ease out into traffic… and, as I turn off the main highway and onto the back road shortcut to my destination, I begin my day with prayer. That prayer, or mediation (my practice varies) takes on one of a number of related forms.  Some days, I center down in as near an approximation of Quaker worship as I can achieve while operating a motor vehicle.  Other times, I

We Do Not Have to Be Broken

The last few weeks have been hard. November is always a place, as a teacher, where I realize how tired I have become.  Somehow, the workload of the teaching year is especially heavy in October, and by November, some mornings it is all I can do to get out of bed.  Then, too, there have been an unusual number of challenges coming my way outside of school: groups where I connect to and love other people who are committed to doing good work in the world have been struggling through conflicts, friends have been living with pain that I cannot do much to ease, and I’ve been subjected to a couple of personal attacks by near-strangers that left me rattled in spite of my sense that they don’t need to be responded to or taken seriously. The cumulative effect, taken with the steady news of injustice, indifference, and anger out in the world has been heavy.  It has been hard to pray.  It has been hard to feel close to the Spirit of Love and Truth, or to any spiritual presence at