Tag Archives: Sor Juana de la Cruz

Made by Disappointment

Dear Sor Juana,

Managing our disappointments is an invitation to take up a new challenge to move from the broken to make something new and perhaps more beautiful, like in the Japanese tradition of kintsukuroi (which I have written about before to another). It is a signifier that has been broken – trust, hope, confidence – was worthy of being kept whole yet that wholeness was no longer its truth.   Moving through the disappointment is transformational, a liberation. This is a letting go, and an enabling. What was held in the container, now broken, is released. What ever the container is, be it the heart or the head, that container has served as a charging station and now this new thought or emotion is released and while not fully formed, is applied, to make a new way.

Disappointment is in many people’s lives, the rug being pulled out from under one’s feet, is an everyday experience.

Disappointment arrives after …

Hours of labour to be reduced to a single syllable response – no.

A generation of dreams to be washed away by the flick of a pen.

An agreed commitment is betrayed.

Unfavourable results presented as non-negotiable and intractable.

As disappointment wriggles its way out of the body, into the ether and into conversations it starts to transmute, empower and eventually transform. Disappointments inevitably are a call to action with redemption sewn into the seams.

I have been witness to many disappointments in people’s lives recently, and in some cases midwife to releasing those disappointments. There is the recognition that letting the disappointments linger is part of the grief, and then letting those same disappointments serve as the bedrock for a new way. As the awareness comes, it is like the gold of kintsukuroi making something more beautiful because it is broken.

Instead of By Appointment to some regal authority, how about we consider the idea of beautiful people being made By Disappointment?

Disappointment is just the initial meeting with the frontier of an evolving life, an invitation to reality, which we expected to be one particular way and turns out to be another, often something more difficult, more overwhelming and strangely, more rewarding.
David Whyte, 2003



Lessons from Lizards

Dear Sor Juana,

Sitting on a rock by the back door of where I live this week were two lizards – a parent and a child. Taking in the rays of the sun, warming up to stock up on food and mingling with more species than the protection the dark and cold offered them for the past few months. They had grown since I saw them last and retreated silently and with haste (for a blue tongue lizard) as soon as I was detected. What do we retreat from even when we are enjoying basking? A potential of threat, however unlikely, can have us scuttling away from what our heart desires or body needs.   Sometimes these lizards call the bluff of potential predator by opening wide their mouth and showoff their tongue with their best impression of being bigger and stronger than what might be attacking them.

The fight or flight response deeply embedded in the DNA of all creatures finds its genome path from the reptiles to us humans in still recognizable ways. Yet with gentle and careful movements these prehistoric creatures can be handled, although there are clearly uncomfortable with leaving solid ground under foot.

Coming into the light, forecasts the next invitation: to recoil into darkness. The nooks and crannies in the rocks at my back door, are a glimpse of the tiniest distance between those two offerings: the distance of a lizard’s breath. Or perhaps as the Celts would have it – thin places – where distance between heaven and Earth collapses. The lizards know this thin place, where in a singular world their bodies unite in the moment of blissful basking. In a moment perhaps easily broken silently by a shadow or unveiled by a raider coming to steal or threaten to break that moment. The lizards are in  conversation with the rock and commune as they meld together.

The giant lizards of pre-history, those dinosaurs pursing us into the dark places of our imagination, maybe no more than the blue tongue lizard quietly basking in the sun offering us a thin place to reflect on being between heaven and earth. There is light and dark in all our lives bringing us shade and cover, exposures us to the elements and everything in between. The invitations to stay in the sun or find the crack in the rocks to slither away, are every present, often in equal measure, pulling, pushing.


Spring Cleaning

Dear Sor Juana,

Young office workers catching the first rays of real sunshine in a while this week basked on the soon to be yellowing grass surrounding the Square. Catching news in real time over tacos, yiros, baguettes and even an old fashioned tomato sandwich, the city was coming to life after a cold winter. Bursts of direct light beamed into conversations bringing delight with it as friendships were warmed, secrets traded and plans made.

At this time of year the notion of spring cleaning comes into its own, after all sunshine is the best disinfectant. The nesting is over, the vines are beginning to sprout and signs of new life are everywhere. But with every beginning the underside is usually an ending or a fading away, where metaphoric palliative care workers make way for midwives. Both of these roles are about being ‘with’ and this seems to be part of the call for the pilgrim – to be with. I am reminded of Emmanuel (God with us) that ancient for the Divine who stands with you against the enemy. In this time of light you know of its presence because of the dark. Sor Juana, how did you greet the new season, leave the dark and come with your God into the light?

Expressing your call to be with lead you to be with those infected by the plague and no amount of sunshine could blast through and take that disease off the streets. Our times have plagues too, with names like Fear, Complicity, Polarity, Scarcity. Getting down to wash those infected by these plagues also risks you catching the disease and requires (for me, anyhow) regular inoculations of good medicine in the company of good people. These are the conversations where we hold and are held, midwifed into warmer days and palliation is dispensed. These are the days to have those conversations to do some spring cleaning, and cleansing, inside and out as we prepare ourselves for the summer ahead – a time of harvest followed by ferment, more true than form following function.


Born under the Star of Bethlehem

Dear Sor Juana,

It is so much better sharing good news rather than bad news! There is some kind of multiplier effect at work; the sun is shinier and the roses are more perfumed – love is in the air.

The waiting is over and now we get to bask and take pleasure in the reflected adoration of a child. Like the universe expanding, each smile radiates and each coo is a song of the angels.

Our grandson was born on July 4 , and as my friend Michelle has said he is bound to be an independent and brave boy. His first name (Archie) means bold and true and his middle name (Roy) means king, and I hope that means he will grow into someone who will be able to fight only battles that are worthy of him and will live generously and courageously with all those he meets in his journey.

On the day of his birth Venus and Jupiter appeared like two stars and were juxtaposed with almost full moon. This planetary alignment is called by some astronomers a Bethlehem moment. As a student of the skies I wonder if you ever saw this phenomenon through your telescope or naked eye? I have no doubt that with the arrival of every child someone is celebrating a Bethlehem moment of their own as all of creation sings and dances for joy.

Blessing for one born under the Star of Bethlehem

Blessed be the child who is born under the star of Bethlehem.

May he be at one with the Universe

Skipping his way through life

On the energy of the Sun

And in the light of the moon.

May he be at one with his species

Understanding all the while he is the only one of his kind.

May he grow in the knowledge he is loved;

And with all that love comes responsibility to love others.

May he be like Micah:

And live justly, love tenderly and walk humbly.



Dear Sor Juana,

I am being given a test in patience while waiting for my status to change from grandmother-in-waiting to grandmother. It is my patience that is on trial and my ability to not let my own anxieties spill over and infect the mother and father to be – or indeed the aunt and uncles and grandfather to be. I have not been entirely successful and there is definitely fraying at the edges with loose threads moving from invisible to visible. Containment is getting harder as the anticipated arrival of the next generation seems to take two steps forward and then one step back. So much of life is this dance of expectation, false alarms, failure to deliver while the invisible grows into visibility. Pregnancy is a great metaphor and I am learning that witness to arrival also has its lessons.

Waiting is vigilance with purpose.   Being ready to greet what you are waiting for is never passive. You look for the cues, any little sign that the waiting is coming to an end. You prepare yourself for what is coming next, you have a heightened awareness and level of staying awake as so not to miss the moment when the waiting is over. Did you ever feel the anxiety of waiting for a party to start and wondering if anyone will come and then the relief when guests start to arrive and when it is all over you wonder why you didn’t trust your friends to turn up?

You were a lady-in-waiting Sor Juana before you entered the convent so you must of known something of what it means to anticipate what your mistress and the court wanted. Paying attention and having an ability to predict what is needed would have made you a valued member of the court. Your intellect and charm also endeared you and many enjoyed being able to put you to the test with a quiz to show off your intellectual capabilities – something it seems you relished. I am not relishing this test however, and I can’t wait for it to be over and being a lady-in-waiting of any kind, I am discovering is not a vocation coming easily.


Each Step

Dear Sor Juana

The year is unfolding and this time next week I will be far from my homeland close the heart of common origins we share as daughters in the Roman tradition. Preparations for this journey have been slower than most and the whole picture is yet to be fully developed although the colours are beginning to come to life.

Preparation is also the journey – a readiness to hold ambiguity, being open to surprises, awe and wonder – along the way is the task of any pilgrim. Each day is part of the journey and fidelity to each walk each day as a pilgrim means I have to take those steps on foot. Being in the open air, under the sky, with the sounds of the cities, towns, and the quiet spaces along the way all around me. Allowing myself to be infused by the aromas of coffee shops, bakeries, blossoms alongside of nicotine, exhaust fumes and smoke from fires. Remaining open is my daily quest.

You struggled Juana with arrogance and ahh I know that feeling well (especially in moments where I am sure I am surrounded by feeble minded, lily-livered, fearful creatures who don’t know what courage is!) So to remain open and humble is my prayer this week as I take steps to keep grounded and remind myself that preparing slowly is also a journey.

As Robert Frost said the road less travelled by makes a difference every day, so my road less travelled is inviting me to humility and to slow down. Finding a different way to walk has been very real for me this past week or more as I injured my left foot in play and it is now in constant conversation with the rest of my body at one point reminding time to put my feet up and at other times to walk on through the pain, and in doing both finding new ways to tread at all times carrying the consequences of play that brings pain.  Keep walking and keep playing as the path once walked is behind me and the one ahead calls me to tread differently.



The road in the end taking the path the sun had taken,
into the western sea, and the moon rising behind you
as you stood where ground turned to ocean: no way
to your future now but the way your shadow could take,
walking before you across water, going where shadows go,
no way to make sense of a world that wouldn’t let you pass
except to call an end to the way you had come,
to take out each frayed letter you brought
and light their illumined corners, and to read
them as they drifted through the western light;
to empty your bags; to sort this and to leave that;
to promise what you needed to promise all along,
and to abandon the shoes that had brought you here
right at the water’s edge, not because you had given up
but because now, you would find a different way to tread,
and because, through it all, part of you could still walk on,
no matter how, over the waves.

– David Whyte


Shoe Tree Wanilla


Pens, Kalashnikovs and Bridges

Dear Sor Juana,

The sound of ideologies clashing continues to be a hail of bullets resulting in more radicalisation and creation of martyrs. This week the martyrs from one set of ideas are cartoonists, satirists, writers and from another, violent extremists – each to their own kind of weapons – one pens, the other, Kalashnikovs.

The everyday little wars we have where no blood is split, where egos might be bruised or voices raised are transparent. We can see into each other’s eyes. There is something that happens when we know a person’s name, who they are and where they come from. The pursuit of these truths comes with immediacy when crimes are perpetrated, we want to know who would do such things.

With the mass media of our time Sor Juana, being a bystander is not really an option, the news is all around us and nearly all of us have the capacity to document with words and pictures on multiple platforms. Severed heads are tweeted to a sporting audience just as easily as a meme about cats (I know you were a cat lady so you might well have had a giggle about some of those).

The age of fear is every age. I began my life in the shadow of the fear of nuclear annihilation and that fear cloud still hangs over civilisation. Martin Luther King gave a sermon once, as did hundreds before and after him, searching for an antidote to the fear of integration and said only love was the remedy. He had a four step plan: Face our fears; be courageous; master perfect love and be filled with faith. This kind of love hurts, takes prisoners and may well end badly. King prescribed people getting to know one another too and invoked the scriptures of his faith:

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love ” I John 4.18

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind ” II Timothy 1 7

My home-grown experience of terrorism began because of some words I had written in a church newspaper. My words against racism inspired a right wing Christian group from my own denomination to track me down to my street, throw bricks through my windows and decorate it with graffiti hated filled slogans. In the wake of this week’s terrorism in Paris, as with all the times terrorism soaks into my world, I remember those moments. The first victim of this week’s massacre was a Muslim.

Thoughts can bring terror, as you discovered Sor Juana. Your thoughts, words and actions inspired some and terrorised others – just as feminism has done for centuries. I think dualism is the enemy and diversity and capacity to embrace a range of views essential for love and hope to prosper. Ways for all the voices to be heard is a practice and the thirst to hear more of the voices, is one quenched by respect.   It is not easy to hold the pen still when outrage roars and fear stock rises and possibly even harder for those who hold the gun. Sometimes actions speak louder than words.

My friend Gill Hicks is setting out to climb bridges. This is her response to terrorism, her plan to face her fears, her way to be courageous, her journey to master love and her way to be filled with faith in humanity.  She is in conversation with terrorism every day, losing both her legs in the London bombings ten years ago. She is training hard every day – it is a practice and a discipline to climb a bridge. She is saying Be the Bridge.  I am another Pollyanna. (For those who don’t know the story of Pollyanna, after being a champion of finding the glad in every story, she fell off the top of her aunt’s roof and lost the use of her legs.  The local townsfolk rallied around to remind her of her insatiable optimism cheering them all up in their dark moment. Pollyanna was changed forever.)

Je Suis Pollyanna

My bridge building materials

My bridge building materials