Thank You, God, for most this amazing day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes.
Where I live, winter is a raw and bitter, wind-swept and white, unpredictable and uncompromising time of year. We go from dry, cold, grey days to deep, wet frozen days. The pavement turns from white snow to black ice from one moment to the other. The wind howls around the house, whipping wet leaves and soft snowflakes with it. One black night everything in sight is fogged in dark; the next morning even the inner city is clear and clean and deep, deep white. Then we stay inside, make popcorn, light the fire, curl up in blankets and play games.
Indeed, winter, for us, is an experience in the struggles of life, in its twists and turns, in its great challenges and small triumphs. We watch where we walk now, we cling to hand rails from place to place, we drive slowly, deliberately, cautiously from corner to corner. We go through life more thoughtfully, more quietly, more prudently—with an eye to what might happen as well as for what is happening. We manage it all quite well, of course, but not cavalierly. Every step in life demands attention then.
Finally, in the north, finally, one day, almost without warning, Spring comes. You smell it. You taste it in the air. You watch pregnant trees explode with new bloom. Suddenly. And you know. You know that life has changed, that life is new again.
Around the neighborhood, the windows begin to open, one at a time, tentatively at first, one here, then another one there. Then all at once, it seems, the street is open and bold with life.
Children appear in the middle of the road, bouncing balls, laughing loudly. The corner ice-cream stand, weeks early, opens and calls the children out of their small, old houses like the Pied Piper of play. And all us older people feel our limbs loosen a bit and our hearts begin to smile.
It is an exercise in “yes,” this slip-slide from winter to spring. Yes to today; yes to tomorrow; yes to life again. We all come out of the tomb of winter, new and bright with promise. It is “yes” to life time now, however old, however jaded we may be. It is the rediscovery of possibility again.
The turn of the seasons in the north is a kaleidoscope of the seasons of life, of the face of God in time, of the very process of what it means to be alive.
In the seasons we see the story of ourselves played out: early on, life without shape; later, life in pursuit of direction; finally, life on the way to its horizon; at the end, life, mellowed, going down into the sea of eternity. Through all of them, like warp and woof, lies the essential pattern, the obligation to say “yes.”
Yes, yes, yes, life teaches us to say. Yes, yes, yes, we must learn to say back. Otherwise, we will surely die long before we have ever learned to live.
Wednesday, June 1: Ignoring the problems of life is not a solution to them. It is not “yes” to the challenge of the day. It is, at best, only a charade, a game of pretend. As G.K. Chesterton said, “It isn’t that they can’t see the solution. It is that they can’t see the problem.”
Thursday, June 2: Remember that life is to be lived––all of it, in all of its layers and longings. Only then will we ever know our own strength and depth of soul.
Friday, June 3: When we learn to see every flower, hear every bird, we will be closer than we have ever been to being fully alive.
Saturday, June 4: There are those who keep the same look on their face for every event in life––birth, death, quiet, noise, crowds and individuals. Pity them. They are cardboard cutouts of a person.
Sunday, June 5: For the person who has really said “yes” to life, it is all equally exciting––as much in the ghetto as in the gated estate.
Monday, June 6: Those have not said “yes” to life are those who accept it only on their own terms.
Tuesday, June 7: Life is not to be rationed, parceled out, allotted in sensible pieces––a bit of fun, a touch of joy, a glance at love, as little as possible of sorrow. It is to be lived to the hilt, experienced, accepted. “The only thing better than singing,” Ella Fitzgerald said, “is more singing.”
Let’s Share Our Thoughts
The following discussion questions, Scripture echoes, Journal prompts, and prayer are meant to help you reflect more deeply on The Monastic Way. Choose at least two suggestions and respond to them. You may do it as a personal practice or gather a group interested in sharing the spiritual journey. Once a month The Monastic Way staff will convene a Zoom conference where you can share your insights. Three times a year Sister Joan Chittister will join that Zoom conference to give more input and respond to your questions and ideas regarding one issue of The Monastic Way.
1. Re-read the reflection for June 14th. Then share a time when you altered your life by changing your attitude.
2. Which daily quote in The Monastic Way is most meaningful to you? Why? Do you agree with it? Disagree? Did it inspire you? Challenge you? Raise questions for you?
3. After reading The Monastic Way write one question that you would like to ask the author about this month’s topic.
4. Joan Chittister uses other literature to reinforce and expand her writing. Find another quote, poem, story, song, art piece, novel that echoes the theme of this month’s Monastic Way.
5. This month say “yes” to one specific event each day—a flower in bloom, a kind word, a taste of sun, an insult, a news story. Write each “yes” on paper. Once a week share your list with a friend.
And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of God; let it be done to me according to your word.”
Think back on a time when you said “yes” to a difficult or unknown situation in life. Share your experience.
Prompt 1. Here are a few statements from this month’s Monastic Way. Choose one that is most helpful to you and journal with it.
•We live life well only by throwing ourselves into it.
•I thank God for this most amazing day…
•Yes to today; yes to tomorrow; yes to life again.
Prompt 2: Spend a few minutes with this photograph and journal about its relationship to this month’s Monastic Way. You can do that with prose or a poem or a song or….
Transfigure us O God
Transfigure us O God
Break the chains that bind us.
Speak your healing Word.
And where you lead we’ll follow.
Transfigure us O God.
JOAN CHITTISTER is an internationally known author and lecturer and a clear visionary voice across all religions. She has written more than 60 books and received numerous awards for her writings and work on behalf of peace and women in the church and in society.
KAREN BUKOWSKI, an Erie native, is a nature photographer and former LPGA and PGA Golf Professional who holds a master’s degree in public administration. Visit karenbukowskiphotography.com to find many nature and landscape photographs.