Kathleen Hirsch | Writing
Writing and musings by author Kathleen Hirsch.
kathleen hirsch, writer, spiritual director, boston, ma, spiritual writing
77
archive,paged,category,category-writing,category-77,paged-9,category-paged-9,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,select-child-theme-ver-1.0.0,select-theme-ver-2.6,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-4.9.2,vc_responsive

Writing

Guides for a Dark Time

Guides are good.  I learned this when I was nine, lost in a downpour in the southern hills of New York State.  Were it not for one counselor, and her confidence in the few   green blazes barely visible through the drenched woods, I would be tramping still.

I am rereading May Sarton’s journal, At Seventy.  Her almost religious devotion to her annuals garden and the daily reinforcements that arrived in spring for her to plant, would make a green thumb out of an armadillo.  Her labors, punctuated by asides from Emerson, Virginia Woolf, or Camus, is seductive.  Reading it, I want her life, with its stream of visitors, its letters, its amplitudes.

One entry has lingered with me.  Sarton describes a friend just turned fifty as “imaginatively kind.”

The phrase throws a gauntlet to the reader.   Imaginative kindness.  It has an entirely different quality than the ordinary, dutiful, run-of-the-mill.  It is kindness that anticipates.  It strives to go deep towards the well-being of another – looking for occasions for surprise, delight, for hitting the mark, instead of just glancing the periphery.

We know it when we see it.  The considered gift, the innovative reading program, the art class where last year there wasn’t one, using recycled materials.

In these days of disastrously crude public discourse, and the waves of almost equally bad reactions with their rhetoric of accusation, victimhood, and anger, kindness can easily seem too frail and meager a thing to matter.  Care lives in the small details of attention – and who has time for that when the country is imploding?

We do.  And we must.

I cherish the memory of a neighbor’s “imaginative kindness” on a day long ago when, like a scorched-earth patch of earth, I was sorely in need of tending to.   Recently retired, she spent many hours of every day in her extensive gardens, replanting, raking, weeding.  They were so lovely that cars would slow to admire her handiwork.

It was a time in life when I was overwhelmed with child-rearing, more work than I could reasonably manage, and a busy husband.  I had neither the time nor money to do anything about my weed-ridden, depleted yard.  One summer day, without a word, she disappeared into the jungle behind my house with her tools — a rake, an edger, and a hoe — and set to work.  She edged the beds, raked away moss and leaves, pulled out weeds.

I hadn’t realized how low I’d been until I felt the lift of her amazing transformations.  It was as if someone had changed my sheets, opened the windows, and let in a whole new season.  It was a gift, imaginative and incredibly kind.  Easy to say that it didn’t change history, but I disagree.  It changed my day, my month, and probably my year, with its ripples.  It is changing things, even now; like all acts of kindness, it is a gift that keeps on giving.

For her 50-year-old friend, Sarton composed a poem, because her friend’s journey was, she writes, “partly about coming to a place where life has grown more important than ambition…”

I suspect that this is precisely the change required of us if we are to be “imaginatively kind.”  And it is perhaps why such kindness is in such short supply.   Ambition blinds.  It is a distraction that, for years, we mistake for the main event.  Kindness sees.

And seers are the guides we need now.  They aren’t household names, most of them, or people we recognize from the news.  Most of them are poets and gardeners of one ilk or another, pottering away in classrooms or clinics or in forlorn places somewhere very near us, shaping life in a vision of hope for those too burned out or too far underwater to be able to do so for themselves.

It is a good exercise in awareness to think about who these guides have been, or who they may be, in our lives today.  Then to learn from them to slow down and pick up our own rakes or paint brushes, write our own poems, paint our own canvasses, practice a kindness that stretches the frame of us.

 

 

0

Prayer for Fall, 2016

Friends,

I was asked to write a prayer to introduce an hour-long radio conversation on the subject of “Sabbath,” yesterday.  I reprint it here, in hopes that it offers a moment of mindfulness in your Friday.

The way I see it, we can use all the help we can get!

Spirit of goodness in all that is….

In this month of changes, in this magical time between summer to fall…

       Teach us daily that too much hurry annuls our sense of presence – to our own lives, to the hearts of others, and especially to the deep wisdom of the universe.

In a time of transitions, aging friendships and adjustments to gently loosening joints….

     Teach us daily to have the courage of Sabbath hearts, to know when to be silent, to listen to the music beneath the noise, to see through the masquerades we are too prone to joining.

In a time of confusion, conflict and worry…

     Teach us to remember that an attitude of receptivity is far more healing than one of reaction, that preserving our times of quiet reflection, the experience of beauty and the integrity of our hearts is the most important gift we can bring to our hurting world.

We know that there is a time for everything. Help us to not forget the beautiful truth of our personal seasons.

As we honor the Nativity of Mary, mother of God, our Sophia figure, and icon of healing wisdom, let us remember that the health of our bodies resides in our capacity for love, of our intellects in our steady calm and focus, and of our souls in our faithfulness to living a Sabbath life.

 

 

0

Making New Friends — A September Letter

Dear Friends,

As a Girl Scout many years ago, we sang a song many of you no doubt know:  “Make New Friends, but Keep the Old.”

A year ago, I reached out to a woman whose work I had long admired, the career coach and author, Gail McMeekin.  Her books, “The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women,” and “The 12 Secrets of Highly Successful Women,” had both been real inspirations to me at various times in my life, and I have given them as gifts to others.

You know that there are hidden webs of belonging all around you when the following happens.

Gail, it turns out, had read my book, “A Sabbath Life: One Woman’s Search for Wholeness,” and had done the same thing with it that I’d done with hers — passed it along, shared it around.

In the course of things, I discovered that one of those friends to whom she’d passed it is Janet Connor, whose extraordinary book, “Writing Down the Soul” has had a place of honor on my bookshelf for years!

I felt that, in the middle of the road, so to speak, I’d discovered long-lost sisters.  A conversation was begun.

And it hasn’t ended.

Janet is a go-getter, who writes books faster than I can fold my laundry, and who keeps a dozen other projects in the air, including her own on-line radio program, “The Soul-Directed Life,” an interview show that has a theme a month and features thinkers and writers and ordinary folks who’ve walked a journey she feels it worth sharing with her audience.

Today at 2 p.m. I will patch into her show as the “guest speaker” of the week, on the theme of — you guessed it — Sabbath life.

I will attach the url here, should you be interested in joining.  (The program plays again in the coming days, on a schedule available on the site.)

http://www.unity.fm/program/TheSoulDirectedLife

I am grateful to Gail and to Janet for this chance to refocus my own scattered September energies on the theme that means most to me — contemplation in a world of action, mindfulness in the midst of our hectic days.

Peace to all of you,

Kathleen

 

 

 

 

0

The Great Continuum

This week I will make my way to college, my satchel a deadlift of course texts, to teach another year.

Four hundred miles away, my niece has just taken up residence in her freshman dorm at a large state university.  She and her parents have completed the ritual acts of transition: outfitting her new room (bean bag chairs, bright pink and yellow rugs, towels and throws, a fridg and the other usual appurtenances).   She is exuberant.  She loves her new friends and her pre-med classes.  No slouch, she is getting up at 6 each morning  to practice for varsity crew try-outs.

We are traveling in parallel, my niece and I.  I find myself looking at her as from the wrong end of a telescope, one in which she grows smaller and further away, and ask myself:  Was I ever as confident and idealistic, as full of risk-taking zeal, as she is?

READ MORE

0

Italian Fashion — Recycled Bags for Fall

Friends,

I don’t ordinarily put merchandise up on this site.  But every once in a blue moon something crosses my path that is worth sharing.  Johnny’s bags fit the bill.

My friend Johnny lives in paradise in Chianti country with his wife, the gifted cookbook author Pamela Sheldon Johns.  Together, they offer unforgettable hospitality, cooking classes, and guidance to the region’s culinary and archeological treasure trove.

Johnny is an artist.  Thees bags — composed of recycled Italian movie posters — are his.  They are waterproof, durable, capacious, and best of all, gorgeous.  No — best of all — they are lined with recycled khaki pants, so you get lots of cool pockets.

You won’t find these in any catalog or Etsy or online store.  If you are interested, you can contact him directly:  courtneyjohns@aol.com.

Also available in white (flip side of posters).

Tell him I sent you!

Ciao bella

0

Stringing Up Lights in August

Fog greets me these mid-August mornings, the first birch leaves shiver into weary lavender.  Long after the torrid nights of summer’s barbecues, I am stringing strands of lights from the garage to my deck.

Anyone looking in would conclude that I’ve lost the almanac, so terribly out of sync as the good times are about to end.  But I have my reasons.

READ MORE

0