by Sister Geraldine Lancaster, Nova Scotia
During the long days of the COVID-19 lockdown, it is a saving grace to have a room with a view. From its window, the sunrise is welcomed and daylight announces another new beginning. The near-by community is opened up for observation and being in touch with what is happening to the lives of others. Concern rather than curiosity brings me to the window. There is a strong sense of well-being in this community. Houses, manicured lawns and tended gardens speak to an ease in living.
My concern moves me on to other neighbourhoods, local and global. I can’t view them but I am able to learn about them. The virus and imposed restrictions have closed Main Streets everywhere. Unemployment soars while economies tumble. Rents and mortgages go unpaid. Housing is a mounting problem for struggling families. The list of needs and people feeling a sense of despair is endless. The view from my window does not show me the light at the end of the tunnel. Who and what will make it shine?
Others will share their observations from their “room with a view”. These reflections may come from what the eye sees and some may arise from what the heart feels. May these insights deepen our compassion and understanding, leading us to be inspired to support groups working world-wide, for what is known as the JUST RECOVERY. That longed-for-light will then shine!
Room With a View
by Sister Kathleen Carven, Massachusetts
…What has brought me most intimately into creation as a profound source of belonging is my humble but easy to transport mobile room, my tent. This five feet high, bubble shaped structure with its capabilities to protect from sun, wind and water has allowed me to experience the lush grasslands and vistas of Shenandoah, the canyon and back trails of Malibu Creek, California and the craggy coastlines of Kennebunkport, ME. As a camper one is personally accountable for each moment.
My Golden Jubilee venture in August 2010 stands out as the greatest view from my mobile room: Yosemite, “The Great Cathedral,” as it is known, set near the Sierra Nevada Mountains. As I drove into the park I met gorgeous vistas, cathedral-like spires all along the way. John Muir was responsible for its becoming a national park with President Lincoln. Its two peaks, Half Dome and El Capitan, are known worldwide. When I reached the campsite Hodgdon Meadows after my thrilling drive, I received with not a little apprehension the campsite protocol which included the warning of a $1,000 fine if a camper caused a bear to be killed.
Upon finding my site I encountered another problem; my lamp was jostled in the duffle bag so I was operating almost in the dark to set up my tent. All food and scented stuff from the car had to go in the “bear box”, a large rectangular solid container located in each camp site. A neighbour camper came to my rescue with a flashlight and assembled my lantern. I had light to carefully and slowly erect my bubble-like tent. Also within view was the shower and bathroom building with all its conveniences. I crawled into my cozy room with my sleeping bag, lantern and clothes.
I slept until 6:00 am, and then while enjoying breakfast and my first cup of hot coffee from my propane stove I was drawn into a remarkably beautiful morning light. It was daylight but the sun gradually emerged in its radiance from behind the peaks of Sierra Nevada Mountains, a welcoming gesture promising a memorable week. I was also encouraged by seeing I was in company with active campers quietly beginning their day.
The week’s discoveries unfolded with the hike to Mirror Lake where Half Dome is reflected in the lake. A second very arduous climb, because it was totally uphill, was along a beautiful footpath to Vernal Falls. We reached a small bridge at which the cascading falls was visible, a glorious sight. A journey through Lower Yosemite Fall Trail through groves of stately pines led me to view close at hand lower Yosemite Falls, wide and powerful. There had been so much snow the past winter even the top falls was sparkling and brilliant…
My highest interior sense of awe was captured standing before El Capitan, looming, encompassing, majestic, dominant—the largest granite formation in the world. Another rival view of greatness was experienced during a hike with a ranger to a grove of sequoia trees 1500 years old. The bark of these massive trees was soft and spongy to touch, their colour a beautiful reddish brown, branches beginning far up the tree, needles thick almost braided. I was warned by the ranger that nothing could be taken, especially the hard, seed-bearing cone. Only fire causes the seeds to be freed.
By late afternoon each day I returned to the calm of my campsite and mobile room, gave time to writing, sharing with campers and preparing delicious camp-fare meals. Yosemite was indeed a magnificent view. I look forward to future encounters with our world’s lands and cultures.
Where I ‘Sit, Pray and Sing’
by Sister Lorraine d’Entremont, Nova Scotia
When I wake up in the morning, I am already in my favourite ‘contemplation’ space in the house: my bedroom. From the tall window, topped by a sheer, cream valance, I can see the surrounding landscape through the slats of the plum color mini blind by just sitting up and leaning slightly forward in my bed.
On some days, I see only fog, but on a good summer day, I see vibrant green shrubbery and trees, a narrow, paved coastal community road, the cemetery across the road, and a few scattered homes. I see several small islands just off the rugged coastline, and in the same view plane, a space where the eye can move out to the open Atlantic Ocean and to the horizon where sea and sky meet.
Our environment is equally remarkable for what one does not hear often, such as mechanical or traffic noise, as it is for what one does hear. Through an open window I can hear the sounds of the ocean, ranging from a soft swish to a raging roar, and an occasional motor boat. Accompanying this is a variety of bird song, and at times, squabbling between the gulls and crows over their perceived territory. Inside the house, I hear the familiar sounds of others about their morning routines.
I feel privileged and grateful to be in this environment any time, but particularly so in a time of pandemic. There is much open space for walking without needing to be concerned about social distancing. I feel calmed and balanced by the rhythm of the ocean, advancing, ebbing and retreating in recurrent cycles. Simultaneously, the ocean beckons to a far off horizon, beyond my known boundaries and limits. I reflect that farther than I can see, those waters are touching the shores and people of another continent, which is also in the throes of pandemic, and pray for their well being. In a nutshell, the ocean speaks of inner balance and expanded horizons, both needed for health generally, but especially in crisis times.
The poet/contemplative Nanao Sakaki, a 20th century Japanese man, captures well the distance our spirits can travel from the grounding of our home place. The poem begins:
‘Within a circle of one meter
You sit, pray and sing.
Within a shelter ten meters large
You sleep well, rain sounds a lullaby.’
It continues on, progressively widening the horizons of vision,
through circles of meters, kilometers, and thousands of kilometers,
to light years and billions of light years, and concludes:
‘Within a circle one billion light years large
Andromeda is melting away into snowing cherry flowers.
Now within a circle ten billion light years large
All thoughts of time, space are burnt away
There again you sit, pray and sing
You sit, pray and sing.’ *
I would paraphrase ‘sit, pray and sing’ into be still, contemplate, and celebrate – both the present
dwelling and terrain we call home, and the places and spaces that draw us in our larger home
of earth and universe.
*From Earth Prayers: Eds. Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon, Harper Collins e-books, April 2011. 378-379
Room with a View
by Carrie Flemming, Nova Scotia
As I sit looking out the second floor window of my home in Ketch Harbour, I look over a view with a Sisterly connection. After purchasing our home three years ago, we discovered that for a time in the 1960s, the Sisters of Charity rented this house and several Sisters lived here.
While parts of the house have been renovated since then, and some of the surrounding landscape has changed, it’s lovely to share the same beautiful view of the harbour, watched over by St. Peter’s Church, in a home and community that has such deep roots.
Room with a view?
by Sister Phyllis Giroux, British Columbia
The blank slate.
If you’ve written anything, you know it.
“Room with a view?”
That theme drew a blank slate for me…so I went looking.
I found that A Room with a View is a 1908 novel by English writer E. M. Forster, about a young woman in the restrained culture of Edwardian era England. Set in Italy and England, the story is both a romance and a humorous critique of English society at the beginning of the 20th century. (Wikipedia).
Edwardian England the setting may be, but I found snippets that are very much us, very much 2020….
“By the side of the everlasting Why there is a Yes–a transitory Yes if you like, but a Yes.” Isn’t the call that got us here in the first place somehow wound up in this?
And isn’t this what keeps us here, and labouring: “You can transmute love, ignore it, muddle it, but you can never pull it out of you. I know by experience that the poets are right: love is eternal.”
“The armour of falsehood is subtly wrought out of darkness, and hides a man not only from others, but from his own soul.” Ah, yes…look around…darkness hiding many “men” from their own soul. And how can you not respond with sadness… “When I think of what life is, and how seldom love is answered by love.”
And you’d think Forster was eavesdropping on our Chapter process. Doesn’t this describe our circles and contemplative dialogue: “Pull out from the depths those thoughts that you do not understand and spread them out in the sunlight and know the meaning of them.”
And whether we meet for Chapter face-to-face or in cyberspace, some cautions are appropriate: “Take an old man’s word; there’s nothing worse than a muddle in all the world. It is easy to face Death and Fate, and the things that sound so dreadful. It is on my muddles that I look back with horror – on the things that I might have avoided. … all my teaching of George has come down to this: beware of muddle.”
And when the crunch moments come, and the difficult decisions loom, “Don’t go fighting against the Spring.” And finally let us: “Mistrust all enterprises that require new clothes.”
Hopefully by the end of Chapter, “We (will) know that we come from the winds, and that we shall return to them; that all life is perhaps a knot, a tangle, a blemish in the eternal smoothness. But why should this make us unhappy? Let us love one another, and work and rejoice.”
Summer at Caritas
by Sister Deanna MacDougall, Nova Scotia
“From this place we/I call home” is Caritas Residence in Halifax, NS. We are now in the summer months but since March, we have been living with the knowledge that we are in the midst of a deadly pandemic and because we are among the “vulnerable” keeping healthy is extremely important. We have however been very successful in keeping the virus out and we are working hard so that will continue.
These summer months of sunshine, blue skies, huge fluffy clouds with a few rainy days have contributed to my ability to keep hopeful. What I observe from the windows around my room lifts my spirits, and once again, I get to praise our God for the beauty of creation. There is a sitting room close to my bedroom and from there I look out over the beautiful Bedford Basin and in the distance one of the large bridges in the Halifax region as well as the former Motherhouse property and the grounds around this building. If I am fortunate, as I gaze out the wide window in that room, I might even get to watch a few deer playing or feeding on the grass in the apple orchard nearby. This year I have noticed a difference in the trees and bushes around “this place” I call home. There seems to be a greater fullness to the trees, a lush greenness and beauty that I have never noticed before. There is a beautiful saying I have read in a prayer book I use. This is from the Wednesday evening prayer “Whichever way you turn there is the face of God.” (Quran 2.115) When I gaze out upon the beauty around here that quote comes to mind. I do not have scientific facts to confirm this but I really think Mother Nature has had a time to breathe because of the pandemic crippling our world and that God’s creation has taken a well-needed break and rest from the pollution we have created. The grounds around Caritas are beautiful and our flowerbeds are aglow with amazing colour.
Our world has experienced many deaths and sickness from this pandemic and there seems to be an abundance of fear and sadness throughout the human family. In addition, we in Nova Scotia have experienced and witnessed tragic moments and events that have shaken us and truly tested our faith in God and humanity. Yet in the worst of times, we have reason to hope! Out of this horrific time, I have witnessed so much kindness, care, and love from those around “this place” I call home and in our province. The care, gentleness and love I have seen so often from our workers and friends is uplifting, affirming and a strong witness to all that is good in humanity. My hope and prayer for each of us going forward is that we carry that witness of love, care and gentleness not only to one another but also to our world so in need of charity and compassion.
by Angela Rafuse, Nova Scotia
Growing up in Nova Scotia with parents with roots in Cape Breton, the Annapolis Valley and the South Shore, our family favourite destinations were always near the lake and ocean–the shore. Nearly every summer vacation included camping and the destination chosen around the shore. Other day trips were organized by Mom who packed a picnic while Dad loaded the car up with us five kids and essentials which included a selection of 8-track music for the journey. While Dad had been a sailor, he never learned to swim and was utterly terrified of the water. Yet Dad loved being at the shore. He converted his fear to strength in all five of us girls. We swam like fish, completing our swim lessons to the lifeguarding level. Mom swam but rarely left Dad on the shore as they kept watch over us. My sisters and I still talk about these trips with joy and such fond memories. We later learned this was our parents’ way of entertaining five kids when they had little money for anything else. We were none the wiser and felt as if we were the richest kids in the world.
When I returned home to Nova Scotia, I lived with Dad for six months (oh yes I did!) while I settled back into life at home after over twenty-five years away. It was a transitional time in my life and an awakening self-discovery journey with many emotions. Dad was an amazing listener, confidant and cheerleader. He took me on many drives to the shore that we loved as kids. Our most special place was a daily walk to Albro Lake. Adjacent to where he lived and where we grew up, Albro is a small lake in the city of Dartmouth, known as the “City of Lakes.” In summer, Dad and I would catch a sunset on Albro Lake and in spring watch the awe-inspiring transformation of The Creator’s magic. We talked through our hopes and dreams, and shared many laughs.
Little did I know I would come to live on Albro Lake. It was the last of about 30+ houses I saw in my desperate search following a fire that displaced Dad and me in the summer of 2018. In my view, this humble house was the perfect place to make a home and I am a hop, skip and a jump to the lake. I still watch the sunset, and talk through my hopes and dreams with Dad, this time through prayer about how much I miss sitting there with him. Glen even maintained a rink on the lake this past winter! I swim, skate and / or hike the lake nearly everyday, sometimes two or three times! COVID-19 saw its closure and it truly was a sad day to walk by and not be permitted access. When it reopened, I think I was even more grateful for this wonderful place.
by Sister Judith Rollo
A raging pandemic sees the death toll growing every day. While the daily news brings a heaviness to one’s heart, Sister Dolores and I are blessed with rooms on the north, south, east and west with beautiful views of life in abundance. Looking to the south we see the majestic Bermuda cedar tree planted when only six inches high in 2006 when our home was blessed as a House of Prayer. It now reaches high into the sky at about 75 feet tall. Near it also is the frangipani tree with its beautiful white flowers. As we look out we often see a lively monarch butterfly darting around. The jatropha bush with its pretty red flowers is in full blossom. At various times of day whether we are looking south or north we may see a Bermuda blue bird, cardinal, mourning dove or starling. The feral chickens think our yard belongs to them; however, with the excessive heat and the outrageous humidity they seem to have gone into hiding. It seems to have no effect on the many chameleons who are searching for water at this time as we are presently experiencing a drought.
To the north the pride of India tree and the poinciana tree went from no leaves to forming an umbrella of greens shading the northwest corner of our yard. A tree that needed to be cut down during one of our recent hurricanes, now has started to grow.
To the west depending upon the season we can enjoy the deep purple bougainvillea as well as a variety of palms and flower bearing trees. A mango tree with its attractive yellow blossoms stands mighty and tall.
To the east our banana trees’ leaves are healthy looking but unfortunately since Hurricane Fabian we have not had any edible fruit from them. Behind them are our three avocado trees which have borne literally thousands of avocados over the years. They are huge and delicious. The fruit is now beginning to grow but will not be ready before late October to reach full size. However, if the smaller ones come crashing down with the many winds we will be getting over the next three months, they will be small but delicious.
Yes, so amid death new life abounds presenting us with a sense of hope. From death to life, the Paschal mystery is the foundation of our belief. Martha’s profession of faith telling Jesus that she knew her brother would rise in the resurrection on the last day invited Jesus’s response that He is the resurrection and the life. In each tiny bud, in every little chick we are reminded that life follows death. So with joy and hope in our hearts we look out any window with an absolute conviction that there is a future full of hope as we journey together during these scary times.
by Sister Mary Scinta
Recently I moved from a trailer on a 10 acre farm to a house on a corner street. Out my back door, I can see the trailer. Out my front window across the street I can see a yellow house surrounded by flowers and an acre of neatly cut grass. Seeing my trailer in the distance however, makes me feel somewhat “home” sick. It has a history, an unforgettable one.
This is the history and the beginning of a little town now called Calvary*. Over one hundred years ago Mr. McNair bought these ten acres of land and little by little brought it to life. He built a huge barn and year after year houses (three exactly) for his family. One of them I now live in. This one and each of the others are on two acres or so. It took a number of years to establish this homestead. Where my trailer is now, had been a small rustic house for servants. As the generations grew up they moved to their own farms nearby as their farms grew they acquired more land.
My friend Linda, whose family I knew in Kentucky, came up from Florida and saw this abandoned farm and purchased it from McNair’s oldest daughter. For some reason, this became Linda’s quest, a quest to restore this historic site in memory of the original settlers. Not having money nor labor she enlisted her husband, me and two young men who needed work to help her. It was a challenge to say the least.
As the dream grew so did the need for old wood. Coincidently, there were men burning and tearing down old houses nearby. This was the answer for wood. Linda convinced the men to let her salvage it, which eventually became a house in the barn which she wanted to do. A few years ago an older couple from the north bought this unusual barn along with my trailer and all the land at the lower end.
Recently Linda began work on the third house. It needs very little restoring. This will complete the quest which began 15 years ago. The six new mail boxes lined up in a straight line along the roadside will let everyone know that Calvary is still alive here. Hopefully others in the area will continue saving this small American town.
*Linda says Thomas Mercantile, a country store, and a post office are all that remains of what once was a thriving town in Georgia just 19 miles west of Tallahassee FL. Less than 200 people live here today. Accompanying photos show what fifteen years of creativity and hard work can accomplish. For now on to the next dream- make it better than you found it.