A skiff of Advent grace

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Sometimes all it takes is a skiff of snow to turn unfinished tasks like a pile of undistributed rocks into a feature in a larger beauty.

I’ve been looking for daily beauty and this morning’s snow, so light it might have been frost, obliged. Just enough to glorify the bare, brown earth, highlighting the bas relief of leaves and pebbles and sticks and mud. Even the concrete apron in front of the garage sparkles.

The daily beauty quest is one I’ve taken on for Advent. It was partly sparked by an online retreat I’m taking with Jan Richardson, an amazing artist and spiritual writer. With this retreat she sends daily email messages but I am especially taken with the images that accompany them. Her art is beautiful and unsentimental, probes deep and pleases the eye. The images scratch my soul where it itches, pardon the homely metaphor.

I am trying to make beauty as well as see it. Hence my impulsive order of 12 dozen votive candles for luminaria to light the way to the firepit in the woods and maybe spiral around in a kind of labyrinth. You can never have too many candles. I love to play with fire. There will be a Solstice bonfire this year.

Now that I call this play I have to confess what this is really about. It is a result of consultations with a younger self of mine who has figured prominently in my consciousness recently. I’ve been asking the little kid what she really wants to do. You’d think her wishes would be all play and entertainment, and these do enter in, but it’s more about following instinct and impulse.

Although I will be in Florida next week for a vacation with my family, I paid attention to a little inner kid who was jumping up and down yesterday, saying, I wanna start that vacation NOW. What do you want to do? I asked. She came up with a list that included watching for beauty and playing outdoors and having lots of time to read and lots of time with people she likes.

And treats. She wanted daily treats. Doing the Advent retreat is actually one of her treat requests, plus getting together with a few friends who are also doing it. And buying all those candles. As well as, today, painting her nails blue-green in honor of the coming outing to the beach where she will have lots of playtime with the granddaughter. It is all coming together in a playful way. The kind of flow that happens when I follow the leading of the heart signals to me that I am on the right track.

For example, I had been wondering how to tackle some work I’ve started that is beginning to feel like that undistributed pile of rocks in the picture at the top. Today’s Advent email suggested setting aside the stuck things you have been wrestling with, clearing a space, lighting a candle to the mystery they hold. I think this is what my December vacation/Advent is about.

And the image in that email made me think of a bereaved friend. I wondered why I had not asked her to join this retreat? While I was kicking myself for my thoughtlessness, I opened my email and there was a note from the friend. I wrote back and invited her to visit the weekend of my Solstice party. Then I went online to the Advent retreat forum and, lo and behold, there was a long comment from her. She, too, had found the retreat and joined it.

This Advent, may a skiff of grace cover your unfinished tasks, your stress, your obligations, your harried preoccupations, turning them into features of a larger beauty. May the light of the Coming One scatter the concrete of your daily life with diamonds.

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