It’s really unusual that a whole season of Advent passed without my writing a single blog post about it! But even so, I observed the four weeks with intention, following Jan Richardson’s online retreat which provided daily emails featuring her vivid painted images, one for each day, along with her lyrical reflections and signature blessings. The days of Christmas so far have been enjoyably full of times with family and friends, but the turning of the year invites renewed contemplation.
In late November my husband and I had accomplished a minor rearranging of our office space that returned an easy chair to a corner vacated by our now moved-out son’s desk. Within the first few days of Advent, I noticed myself distinctly drawn like a magnet to this particular spot for retreat reflections at the start of each day. Unlike my longstanding custom of sunrise morning prayer in our eastward-facing living room, this chair in the study looks toward a north window.I sat with this awareness, wondering about it. Then the phrase “changing direction” came to mind, a literal description of my physical action and also the title of my blog post about deciding to withdraw from regular Sunday mass attendance. That seemed interesting. Visually, the move on a compass from east to north presents a straight up and down axis, looks balanced. It’s actually more of a pivot than a complete change of direction.
I remembered reading somewhere that in Native American spirituality the four directions are associated with the four elements, so I did a little research and learned that the North is identified with the element of earth (though this can vary), which conjured a number of positive associations, like “being grounded” and “embodiment,” along with an image of a path. All of these provide much needed antidote to my tendency to over-analyze and get lost in thoughts that delay or prevent decisive action. Stay on the path, close to the earth. Attend to the tasks at hand. Take the next step.
Although New Year’s can be a bit contrived as an occasion, I still love the sense of crossing a threshold into something new. I’m not making actual resolutions, at least not just yet, but want to stay attuned to earth-path awareness. Perhaps specific ideas will emerge. To mark this intention, this afternoon Joe and I walked our “neighborhood labyrinth” on the grounds of a convent just 10 minutes from our house. One step at a time.