Archive for October, 2012

Waiting in the Midst of the Storm

October 29th, 2012 (4 Comments)

Hurricane Sandy is on her way today, she is forecast to come ashore as a Category 1 near Atlantic City – 80 miles away. I just came back from an hour of prayerful wandering in the four directions all around the property clad in full rain gear, as it is already pelting down. I just couldn’t stay indoors for my meditation this morning! (ha – dear old dog Zeti came back in 2 minutes ..)

The creeks are flooding already, it was stunning to watch and listen to the roaring as new courses were being made through the colorful leaves and summer detritus. Dozens of fresh rivulets are already branching in all directions in the lower end of the property. It was mesmerizing to see the brilliance of summer wash downstream to the southeast where the vortex of Sandy swirls in the ocean. Wildness already roared around me in the wind and falling leaves in the driving rain. I held close to tree trunks and felt the clacking branches high above me. I offered them my prayers to stand tall and hold fast; they whispered the same to me.

I joyfully picked a huge pot of leeks and kale and tatsoi to make a hearty soup and brought in the last of the stunningly beautiful peach dahlias. The yellow Angel trumpets are still blooming – bright heralds of light in the shadowy garden. I even found a few ripe figs that were simple deliciousness itself.

What a good time to remember the gift of letting go of all my plans, all the organizing and cleaning of our stuff, and especially to offer back all my fears, and find a way of rejoicing in the gift of how Mother Nature’s most powerful storms have a way of recycling all that is. It is a time to strip bare and realize my essential powerlessness while still holding the swirling vortex of creative passion within that waits to be released. So today I will write, cook tasty comfort food and watch the storm gather force. I think we’ll refrain from watching the hype of the TV newscasters and remember in loving sympathy all those who truly suffer in the world, here and elsewhere. This is a time to be grateful above all for Love, for Earth and for all the Mystery that swirls around us.

As Howard Thurman has said in his ‘Meditations from the Heart’:

How good it is to center down!
To sit quietly and see one’s self pass by!

The streets of our minds seethe with endless traffic;
Our spirits resound with clashings, with noisy silences,
While something deep within hungers and thirsts for the still moment and the resting lull.

With full intensity we seek, ere the quiet passes,
a fresh sense of order in our living;
A direction, a strong pure purpose that will structure our confusion and bring meaning in our chaos.

We look at ourselves in this waiting moment — the kinds of people we are.  The questions persist: what are we doing with our lives? -
What are the motives that order our day?
What is the end in our doings?
Where are we trying to go?
Where do we put the emphasis and where are our values focused?
For what end do we make sacrifices?
Where is my treasure and what do I love most in life?
What do I hate most in life and to what am I true?
Over and over the questions beat in the waiting moment.

As we listen, floating up through all the jangling echoes of our turbulence, there is a sound of another kind — A deeper note which only the stillness of the heart makes clear.

It moves directly to the core of our being.
Our questions are answered,
Our spirits refreshed,
and we move back into the traffic of our daily round.

With the peace of the Eternal in our step.

How good it is to center down!


AUTUMN – learning to work from the inside

October 22nd, 2012 (No Comments)

Living in Pennsylvania offers me the precious gift of four clearly defined seasons, as well as countless days of shoulder season moments like today. Brilliantly colored leaves twirl, then float to the variegated carpet below. Summer abundance still dances in the balmy 70 degree weather, even though frost already nipped the elephant ears and banana fronds, and weeks ago we hauled all the tender containers indoors.

Fall is a curious time for gardeners. Yesterday an observant friend asked me how I felt while chopping back the unruly growth. I replied that it feels good to clean it all up, but it is an exhausting and emotionally unnerving time. This is an overloaded season of activity, when making lists only exacerbates the reality of all there is to do. Traffic increases on the highways of our neighborhoods and the highways of our minds. The summer hammock hangs empty beneath the Kentucky coffee-bean tree; it is on my mental list to bring inside.

How do you deal with the ever-increasing tasks of autumn that have been coming your way?

How are you managing our stressful cultural pattern that ramps up the pace of work and social life? How are you feeling about those dates you are already putting on your 2013 calendar?

Have you stopped and relished those aspen or maple trees in full bloom?

I find it particularly paradoxical that – after writing and publishing my novelThe Retreat,” (which tells the story of a group of ordinary people who slow down and pay attention to their lives for a weekend) – my life has suddenly been turned on its head.  I am flying here and there for conferences, retreats, for book promotions to Toronto and Kitchener, planning trips to the West Coast, and deep in discernment for a new retreat series starting in Pendle Hill in a few weeks. Then there are holiday plans and next year’s work plans – phew! It sure was much less complicated to sit and write quietly for all those months.

Maybe you too have recognized that if you pour your heart and life into good work, it eventually produces even more good work? This is the harvest principle we all love to talk about, but in reality can also become the very thing that plugs up our creative soul and turns us into free-wheeling monster machines that need bigger and better barns to store all of our life’s produce.  How do we turn toward peaceful simplicity in the time of harvest? Is the only answer to get on board, and “just do it?”

This morning I am reminded that this season, more than any other, both calls me to more work and to the necessity to slow down and pay attention more acutely. My human nature finds this conscious awareness difficult. Today I see the leaves letting go of their need to expand and shine, I hear the mice running inside the walls of this old house; they know when and how to come indoors and prepare for hibernation. Our dear canine is growing her winter coat, fattening up as if she still has wild-dog genes.

Maybe those of us growing older recognize more clearly the pull to come inside when we feel the chill of cold winds outside, but still this seems to be the counter-cultural decision that is the road less traveled by our society. We value our productivity instead of our deep pleasure. We run harder on the earth instead of rooting ourselves profoundly in our sense of place. We plow ahead roughshod over relationships, rather than carefully collecting the seeds and shoots that call to be protected as nourishing wisdom for the leaner months ahead.

This October Monday morning, after walking the fire-pit circle outdoors while sipping hot coffee and enjoying toast and home preserves from dear daughter-in-law Christine, I knew it was time to honor my soul and remind myself of what really does make meaning. I know that these minutes of reflective writing – even while my email list piles up – have offered a new depth, a strength of purpose and a clearer direction to my day. It would make me happy to know if this has offered you a few moments of reflection too -blog writing is such a curious kind of experience!

Fall surely is the time to burrow inside, while still attending to all the busyness outside. Our bodies urge us forward to the heavy lifting work of these days, while our souls keep silently fattening up for the long winter days ahead. What deep gladness autumn brings.

“The Retreat” BOOK LAUNCH

October 1st, 2012 (No Comments)


Come for dessert, celebration, readings and book signing

Thursday evening  Oct 4, 7:00 to 9:00pm

click here to send email RSVP

“The Retreat” Book Description

Publication Date from Prose Press : September 21, 2012

Carol Kortsch weaves the complex story of the weekend retreat journey of Mei, Sam, Raquel, and a cast of characters from diverse backgrounds who join together with the purpose to reconnect who they are with the work they do in the world. The story is evocatively set in a former Benedictine monastery, and is narrated by the mysterious plural voice of the ancient wisdom of a garden sanctuary. Charles the cook, a former novice who left the church, stirs up an archetypal witnessing presence from the abundance of his kitchen. The reader is drawn to become an engaged participant in an inner journey, finding a seat amidst a circle of rather ordinary people, and like them to search for that “hidden wholeness” in surprisingly creative ways. The novel crafts an honest tale of the dedicated yet vulnerable leadership of Thena and Dylan, of their struggle to be authentic while also offering a safe communal place for others to be the same. Everyone eventually decides if this is “The Retreat” worth taking.

OR     …   if you can’t come place a MAIL ORDER here