Monthly Archives: May 2013

Beads and Leads

I have been doing repairs on jewellery recently.  Fixing a clasp, threading a lost bead, adding a link. The bits missing, being replaced or recycled are echoed in the acts of connecting I’ve been doing lately too.

I am a networker. I connect ideas, people and people to ideas and ideas to people. I connect systems and strategies and blend them together. I find the lost bead or add a new catch that brings the piece to completion for us all to enjoy.

I was asked, during the week, if I would run an in-house training session on networking as I seem to know how to do and other people didn’t.  This observation had been gleaned by watching new linkages emerge, old ones reappear – healed from being broken – and a few extra people in a room that seemed to make the room complete.

There are so many lessons for me from my jewellery repairs that can be applied to networking:

– when the bead rolls away and you have to grab it quickly before it is camouflaged by the carpet

– adding the catch so the necklace can form a circle

– finding the right size of a bead or link to fit the missing space

– clenching the link together forcefully to fix

– having a steady hand and eye to do the threading

– visioning the whole before it is complete and knowing what is needed to make it so

It got me thinking … maybe I will run a bead workshop instead and we can talk about the metaphors!

The central insight for me is that each person is a jewel and needs to be valued and recognised for the individual contribution it brings to the whole and without that single sparkle the whole piece is incomplete. What if everyone understood that about themselves?

I don’t think my networking is legendary (although – and I say this with a tongue in cheek and some sound evidence – I know it is)  what I do think is that I try to see each person sincerely as the jewel in creation that they are and their unique place that becomes complete when they join, connect, blend with others.

I went on a retreat for my 30th birthday and composed a chant based on a verse from Isaiah:

You are a sparkling jewel

In the crown of God

Arise shine out

Your light is come

The glory of the love Is with you.

I introduced the chant to my fellow retreatants during one of our rituals and each of them said their name and presented a result of their creativity for the day. In this reflective harvest, as I remember were a poem, a painting, a collection of stones and leaves, a bunch of flowers and a pot of soup! Each person presented the fruits of their reflection (in silence) and then we all sang the chant to them as a group.  I haven’t thought about that day for many years but it is a memory that has flooded back in writing today.  I  sing the chant to myself when I want to be reminded of my own inner beauty and value, a rare and precious jewel that is endowed with light and love.

Hildegard when I next hear your music, I will consider each note, like a bead, threaded on a band of light and love, making an exquisite piece of jewellery for adornment and adoration! What a cosmic network!  One thing does lead to another and my lesson is to remain open to that possibility and in the process of doing so, threading some beads and repairing broken links and finishing with a recycled or new clasp to bind it together.

PS And in my networking this week I just happened to connect a friend in San Francisco with a jewellery maker there whose work I had been lead to by the poet David Whyte‘s work while I preparing for my trip to Ireland.  She is now considering, in her words, dropping hints to her partner to purchase the Walt Whitman ring.  I love networking and I bet you did too Hildegard! Needless to say my connection to my friend in San Francisco is through a facilitators network.

Walt Whitman Ring The strongest and sweetest songs yet remain to be sung  -Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman Ring
The strongest and sweetest songs yet remain to be sung
-Walt Whitman

Bun in the Oven

Mothering never seems to be far away.  The desire to be mothered, the act of being a mother, let alone the sensation of realising you are being held by Mother Earth.

I once worked in an office that had a fully equipped kitchen and was leading a team that worked incredibly hard in a very challenging environment. I regularly got to work early and baked muffins and had the coffee going for when the rest of the team arrived. They reported to me that coming to work on those days with the waft of fresh baking and the warmth of the oven helped them anticipate a ‘good day at the office”. It often wore off quickly as we faced crisis after crisis – but we faced it together – fed and watered.  The other side of the wall to our office was the team that were often the source of the crisis or had the knowledge to help us address the crisis.  The day we all came to leave their leader told me how much his team envied us with our home-made muffins and that my nickname was “earth mother’.  I was shocked – almost appalled – here I was thinking my actions were a sign of being a wise General feeding my troops, making sure they had enough fuel to get them through the next battle.  They other side of the wall, saw me as Earth Mother nurturing and caring!

So for those who know the enneagram, you won’t be surprised when you learn that I am an 8.

When I came home one night last week, the house was full of smells of pasta, tomato, garlic, chilli and herbs. One of the children had arrived and was cooking dinner. His first cooking adventure was lentil soup when he was 4. It was delicious and I felt very nurtured and loved. In the home the children grew up in I had a Hollie Hobbie picture that my mother had given me from a women’s magazine. It said: When its someone you love your food will be greeting, the joy is in the cooking as well as in the eating.  I was glad he had learnt this lesson in our kitchen all those years ago.

This past week I was worried about a woman heading into her final stage of pregnancy.  For weeks now I have watched her huff, puff and find ways to move that will keep her comfortable.  I instinctively knew her baby wanted her to slow down or even better still stop so it too could catch its breath and do the last bit of growing in a  more still and staid state. Eventually the baby took his mother into his own hands, and demanded attention, insisting that stopping was essential.  She listened and stopped and I was relieved.  My maternal instinct was riding high. The passenger in her body spoke clearly and loudly.  When a child acts in ways to demand your attention to ensure you can’t miss the meaning, it has been a very humbling, in my experience.

Over the years, I have had that moment more than once, when I have had to be still to fully focus on what was happening to me as a result of a child demanding my full attention.  The 4 year old lentil soup cook, was also the impossible teenager and broken young man and now the 30 something pasta perfectionist, happily making steps to create his own family.

This is a gift of motherhood to know the child within you – even when the child has long left the womb – connects in such a way to you that causes you to stop so the shape shifting can occur for you both to be one again. There have certainly been times in my mothering when I wanted to completely disconnect, but that invisible umbilical cord, is never fully severed.

I am reminded in these reflections Hildegard of your mothering in the Abbey – the young ones you yearned to come to live with you, your heart break at the ones who left you and your delight in the harvest of their lives as they found their home in you, the Abbey and your God.  Your deep appreciation of the Motherhood of God. You weren’t afraid to embrace the idea of God as Mother and the earth as mother.

These days I am settled with how others might notice and define my motherhood and mothering – whether that be as a General or some incarnation of mother earth in the  kitchen or staff room.

Being motherly and a mother has come very naturally to me, and I find that my mothering is not dependent on biology, but it is dependent on my sense of feeling  grounded in both heaven and earth – a cosmic and practical phenomena that puts my humanity in the middle of these two realms.

We are all seeds miraculously coming to birth, through love and genius. And as you have written Hildegard:

The earth is at the same time mother, 

She is mother of all that is natural, 

mother of all that is human. 

She is the mother of all, 

for contained in her 

are the seeds of all.

Holly Hobbie7-1

The Most Delicious Garden

Cecllia and Sarah's Wedding

Cecllia and Sarah’s Wedding

Dear Hildegard,

What a joy to welcome you to St Joseph‘s Willunga on Sunday! You had travelled such a long way over land and sea, time and tide. Yet you arrived fresh, alert and ready to engage with us all.  To hear your voice in word and song and story brought us, brought me, closer to you again. I loved hearing about your anxiety, your annoyance with the leadership, your passion and care of your vocation and visions.  When your music sprung to life in three dimensions I think I there was a wisp of what heaven might sound like.

I took myself back to the Rhineland and to Rudesheim to those rolling hills, and the music I heard told me of that landscape.  Both the eye and the ear could see and hear the beauty of the sound of your song. I was struck by the love and relationship between yourself and the women in your life in a new way. The sisterhood seemed to complete you, and the convent, and indeed your vocation, a vessel to express that solidarity with women was intense and  tireless.

Being the celebrity you were, women were drawn to you and leaving their homes and fortunes to you must have been quite a challenge to their fathers and brothers – to say nothing of potential suitors!

De Virginibus

O beautiful faces

You who behold God and build in the dawn,

O blessed virgins, how noble you are,

The King has contemplated himself in you,

has foreshadowed all heavenly beauty in you,

and because of this, you are in yourselves the most delicious garden,

sweet-scented in all your beauty.

The garden bequeathed to us from the dawn of time does not appear to be separated from our human form in this stanza, with human flesh and nature melting into one.  These days our planet is struggling and that separation, almost an apartheid at times, is finding so many of us outside of the garden and being banished from its beauty.  I think you and Rachel Carson would have some wonderful conversations and all the women of my time like Karen Silkwood, Dorothy Stang, and closer to home the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council would be your sisters in a new way.  Those conversations would be about the most delicious garden, a feast for the senses and how we need to be there more often, and restore ourselves and our planet to that garden and women throughout the ages tending to that garden and bringing forth fruit and raising up a generation to care for it.

It has brought me to a new understanding of your favourite phrase and metaphor for yourself as being a ‘feather on the breath of God’. In hearing the haunting lilt in Emma Horwood‘s beautiful rendition of your song; I could imagine you as a feather floating in the air.  You allow the spirit, the ruah, the breath of God to send you to new horizons, gently allowing you to be in the slipstream, the gale or the sea breeze taking you to a new place. I was also touched by considering the breath of God is the place of voice – it has a capacity to hold sound and yet the feather is so light the sound of silence is once again understood as God’s language as John of the Cross said.  I have come to know this is true through my own meditation.

What a delight to have a taste of the most delicious garden you knew in your time, revealed to me in mine, through your letters, story and music carefully crafted and packaged so that I could enjoy it in the little church in my village.  Thank you to Emily Sutherland, Emma Horwood and Shona Benson for bringing you to us all.