Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Easter Bells, A Blessing of Crows

How mysterious that the Lent in which I did not attend church or immerse myself in Christian reading, ritual, or prayer was my most powerful one ever. I didn't read about Jesus, or even think about him much, but I have been going through a death/rebirth process that I think is what he was trying to teach about in the first place. Actually, it's not so much an ongoing "process" as it is a momentary, repeating occurrence: I find myself upset about something, and instead of trying to fight myself, I surrender, let the feeling die, and am reborn back into myself. It may happen many times a day.

I didn't know what I would do on Easter, and I deliberately made no plans. Since I had already been experiencing these rebirth-moments, Easter didn't strike me as terribly significant. When I arose Easter morning, I considered going to church, but found myself uninspired to do so.

I felt a certain sense of loss, of regret, that I was missing out. It was just a little nagging thing in the background of my attention, but it was enough to keep me feeling slightly off-center. I was sitting in my backyard feeling this offness when the church bells at San Francisco de Asis began to ring out. At first, hearing them intensified that uneasy feeling, but then the bells became church for me. They only rang for a minute or so, but as I surrendered my full attention to them, to enjoying them, I entered into those moments fully, and the Easter bells put me in the resurrection mood, brought me back to myself. Out of the tomb and into the day.

And I thought, as I often have, of a quote that Barbara at barefoot toward the Light posted a while back:
Just as the gong in a center for meditation reminds us from time to time to return to ourselves in the here and now, we all may become "bells of attentiveness."  ~Dorothee Soelle in The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance.
I love this analogy, the poetic beauty of it and the immediate effect it has on me. Just by thinking bell of attentiveness, just by entertaining the image in my imagination, it becomes my experience, now. It's a little icon.

This rumination also led me to remember other "being a bell" quotes from two of my favorite writers:
“The day's blow rang out, metallic -- or it was I, a bell awakened, and what I heard was my whole self saying and singing what it knew: I can” ~Denise Levertov
"I had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck." ~Annie Dillard
The thing that occurs to me is that in the sound that rings out, bell and what strikes it are one. Which leads me to another quote I discovered recently:
Take time to stop and smell the flowers," says an old homily. Albert Hoffman, the Swiss scientist who discovered LSD and lived to age 102, had a different approach. "Take the time to stop and be the flowers," he said.

That's my advice to you. Don't just set aside a few stolen moments to sniff the snapdragons, taste the rain, chase the wind, watch the hummingbirds, and listen to a friend. Use your imagination to actually be the snapdragons and rain and wind and hummingbirds and friend. Don't just behold the Other; become the Other.   ~Rob Brezsny, Freewill Astrology
Easter afternoon, I walked over to the church, something I've not done much recently. It was sunny, warm, and breezy, and no one was around. I lay on a wooden bench in the courtyard for quite a while, gazing up through the branches of a pine tree.

On my way back home through the grove, I noticed a lovely little patch of green green grass, something we don't have a lot of here in dry New Mexico, especially in early spring. I sat down in its softness, letting the play of light and tree branch shadows dance over me. I became very still, and watched two large crows fly back and forth among the trees, until they both came to perch in the one nearest me. Out of intense stillness and silence, their occasional lazy caws resonated through me, and the three of us just rested together. As I gazed at one of them, he or she looked back at me with tilted head. I felt an unmistakable connection, a message, the warm thrill of a caress. To be noticed by such a glorious creature! I was lifted and struck.

I may have missed church, but I didn't miss communion.


  1. You move me to tears, once more. This time they are sweet, not morose. I am so glad I found you here, in this vast blogosphere. (Postman, if you're reading, thanks so much for hooking us up!)

    Your writing is evocative, honesty and truth resound in every word. Your quotes are thought-provoking and perfectly woven in with your own.

    You teach, as well as touch, and your peal is as clear and bright as the bells of San Francisco de Asis.

  2. When I saw the post...I was ecstatic. Now...there is a sense of beauty & warmth within me. As always, I will come back to it. This was such a sweet infiltration. Liberation & harmony. Peace!

    "I may have missed church, but I didn't miss communion." TEARS...that is all I can say.

    There are church bells that ring at various times of the day here in my neighborhood. They always bring me to "center". They are a luminary in my soul. This is a reminder of their solid position in my personal experience.

    Thank you dear friend.

  3. This is so beautiful, Polly. Every word rings with truth (yes I used ring on purpose, referring back to your thoughts about the church bells becoming church).

    The God I worship is not so concerned with whether or not I attend an official service. It's about my relationship with God - that's what matters. You have definitely described a beautiful Easter of connection. Wow.

    My guess is that whether or not you return to church, your relationship with God has become more intimate than ever. It has deepened in a way that will stick with you.

    I salute you! Bravo!!

  4. Wonderful writing! Sometimes, to get closer to something like the Church, you must first move away for a while, stand back, contemplate. With time the relationship with it will deepen and strengthen and be more real and complicated. It was a productive Lent, that's clear.

  5. Beautiful, truthful and inspiring post, Polli :-)

    Your image of the bell reminds me of a dream I had in Dharamsalah years ago when I went to listen to the Dalai Lama. He gave us all some long grass to put under our pillow to receive a dream that would relate to his teachings.
    I did not follow the rest of his teachings, but I had a dream. I saw the mountains of Tibet, where I have never been (in this life at least) and a desk with three beautiful bells on it. As they did not hang, they were mute.
    A bell needs to be hanging to be heard. Like the chimes on the patio right now.

    Blessings on your journey in the moment.

  6. PS: By the way I really like the new look of your blog. Truly beautiful.

  7. (sigh) lovely...
    Each breath can be a birth and a death.
    Constantly dying unto each breath...

  8. i intentionally went to check my blogger feed to make sure you hadn't dropped off. i was delighted to see this and upon reading, my first reponse is "amen." so very lovely. thank you for sharing this truly beautiful experience - we are one.

  9. Don't just behold the other, become the other. Fantastic! You are sounding so whole, Polli, it's breathtaking, X

  10. Really lovely, I echo what everyone else has said.

  11. Rebel, thank you for your very poetic and touching comment!

    Jennifer - "a luminary in my soul" - I love this.

    Thank you, Reya. Yes, a deepening relationship. With everything.

    Dan - Thank you. You're right - new angles and perspective are definitely a good thing.

    Wow, Claire, the Dalai Lama gave you grass? What a blessing! You've had a very interesting life; I just never know what I'm going to find out about you next.

    I love that dream image. Rich for contemplation.

    I'm glad you like the new look - my blog has undergone transformation too!

  12. Jenny - Yes. Why did it take me so long to realize this, how simple and accessible transformation really is?

    lucy - I did fall out of the blogging world for a bit there, but am glad to be back. Thanks for coming to find me!

    Eryl - Whole is a good word for how I've been feeling. I'm glad it comes across in my writing.

    Tess - Thank you. You mentioned the Annie Dillard quote on your blog - are you a fan of hers? Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is one of my very favorite books.

  13. Your post fit so well with a program on PBS last night that touched me deeply... The Buddha


  14. I am so happy that quote about "bells of attentiveness" found great resonance in you. Your take on the phrase has enriched it for me. Dorothee Soelle's hometown of Hamburg (where I lived for two years a long time ago) has its share of lovely church bells. They call us to attentiveness, but it is a calling of existential proportions to be a bell of attentiveness for others. You seem to be hearing that calling.

    I do agree with what Dan said above. I was away from the church for a number of years. Eventually, I felt a tug in my gut to explore a return. A wiser me returned and that makes a great difference.

    Also a fan of Annie Dillard and her Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.

  15. Daisy and Barbara - Thanks to you both for stopping by!

    Daisy - Thanks for sharing that link. I haven't had TV for a long time, and the only channel I miss is PBS. It's nice to know they're covering such wonderful things these days.

    Barbara - I meant to let you know I'd referenced your blog - I'm glad you found out anyway.

    This is my second time "away from the church," but the first time I was away from Christianity altogether. This time is vastly different, and I'm excited to see where it leads.

  16. See that there, Polly? You inspired somebody. In the truest sense of the word: you breathed out, and they breathed in. And they were moved, energized.

    (Don't thank me, Rebel. I'm just glad you're over here now.)

    Man, Polly. You know what I like about this blog? You not only think outside the box. You think outside the freakin' UNIVERSE. "Stop and BE the flowers." Now there's a perspective that seems so simple, yet represents such a gigantic leap toward heightened awareness, greater understanding, wider perspective, contentment. What a breath of fresh air your writing is.

    Your description of your meeting with the crows is poetic enough to squeeze tears from a stone. And true, as well. I think everybody's gone out and sat under a tree and communed with the neighborhood before. Not all of us have had the experience wired to our very nerve center by mere words, though, like you've done here.

    Thanks. And it's great to have you back.

  17. Well, I can't take credit for the "stop and be the flowers" quote - that was Albert Hoffman, but I'm learning to practice it, and I do enjoy sharing that learning. Inspiring people with that, being "a breath of fresh air" is a great reward for this sharing.

    It is especially meaningful to hear that from you, since not you're not a religious person. It lets me know that as mystical and out-there as I sometimes can be, the practical side of spirituality is coming across too. And something is "ringing true," so to speak. That's very very good to know.

    I like what you say about the crow incident. (You're so articulate! It blows me away.) It helps me to realize that what I'm doing is actually just becoming more and more aware IN the ordinary, and by doing so, it becomes extraordinary.

  18. Oh, I also forgot to tell you that I find your post Awesome!

  19. Hello my friend Polly

    I love the new pink background, it is very mellow, and the header - why the whole blooming world has got so big it encompasses us all...

    I loved the feeling behind your post and its honesty and authentic tone.
    I also loved the path that you are on, the questioning and the non questioning, the allowing... and the revealing that is occurring ...

    I think that this is a very healthy and productive path you are on...

    I to am in awe of crows even tho they receive a bit of bad press here, scavengers that they are... but they always seen highly intelligent to me... now I wonder about that saying "stone the crows" I guess they have always been something of a pest but it is interesting that the expression now is used as an indication of surprise ...

    As to bells...I love your meandering there through the quotes and your own ideas and think of how attracted I was to the giant bells in the shrines in Japan and how the reverberations reached far and wide and within...perhaps the vibrations trigger something deep within like the ommmmmmmm vibration.

    thanks Polly for this delightfully interesting and enjoyable post

    Happy days

    or my newly acquired signoff...

    Level road, peaceful journey...

  20. Claire - Thank you!

    Delwyn - Thanks for all your thoughtful comments. I'm glad you like the new background. I had fun playing around in the new Blogger template designer.

    I am very fond of crows myself, and my son believes the crow is his spirit animal. He's perfected his imitation of their caws. I still don't really know the difference between a crow and a raven though.

    "Level road, peaceful journey" has a nice "ring" to it, a good "vibration." I have to admit I prefer the unlevel roads though, at least literally if not metaphorically. Having lived in flat places all my life, I was and still am delighted to live in the mountains. I really enjoy the variations in elevation.



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