|Our woods on January 30, 2018|
Haskell describes how most plants survive through freezing winter by moving the essential to the center: “Plants start their preparations several weeks ahead of the first freezes. They move DNA and other delicate structures to the centers of their cells” (p. 22). In similar fashion, in order to survive the freezing times that worldly life brings toward the soul, humans need to follow the example of the plants’ preparation.
Importantly, the testing times of winter demand the development of discernment. Purification of the human heart means discerning the individual’s spiritual DNA. Coleman Barks places a Rumi poem here in the midst of winter where it teaches us about the ability to discern true ecstacy: “There are thousands of wines/ that can take over our minds.// Don’t think all ecstasies are the same./ Jesus was lost in his love for God./ His donkey was drunk with barley.”** Yes, humans need the “fire” from wine in order to make our way through winters, but we have to choose the wine of spiritual ecstacy over the intoxications of pride, ambition, domination, as well as alcoholic drunkeness.
If a human surrenders the ego, surviving the winter of life might be possible. Haskell’s elaboration of his woods in Shakerag Hollow offers helpful models for us. In addition to the way taken by perennials, he notes “a different path”:
Leafcup herbs completed their short eighteen-month lives last fall and now stand dead, surrendered entirely to winter. They have sublimated into a new physical form, like snow passing into vapor. Like vapor, these new forms are invisible, but they surround me…seeds, waiting out winter…When spring sparks the mandela, the energy released will carry the whole forest, birds included, through another year. [p. 24]
Haskell’s account stirs several themes worthy of meditation. For one, consider the value of going invisible. Of course we saw the power of the Invisibility Cloak for Harry Potter. Perhaps less apparent is the value of the quiet life somewhat protected from the storms of status, wealth, and winning. When we realize this, we have gratitude for not being seen, for not receiving the “merit” bonus, even for losing the world’s prestige. The authentic life of the individual soul has to be known in secret.
Or perhaps there are sightings or scents but only accessible to those prepared to receive them. The pathway toward God moves into the invisible, the inarticulate, the ineffable. I believe that human capacity for such movement develops, for example, when engaging Good Stories through increasing discernment of “resonance,” by discriminating the authentic, the holy. Although I’ve just discovered the book, I’m excited to open John Renard’s Friends of God where his Preface notes “when an author appears to have slipped off the straight path of ‘fact’ onto the mucky byways and quick sands of credulity” and going forward as “travelers in the realms of the religious imagination” guided as “smaller stories communicate the ineffable” (xiii-xiv). God’s light breaks through every instant but catching the rainbow spectrum takes special vision. These new forms wait out winter preparing to spark into spring.
* Path of Attraction is “code” for following God’s light, for the “Religion of Love,” perhaps even signaled by the code-word “resonance” that I use in Good Stories [clink on the resonance “label” at bottom of blog], and for continuing purification needed to track or to be drawn by the Source, the Truth…
** From p. 40 for January 28 in A Year with Rumi, taken from Mathnawi IV, 2683ff. In the passage, Rumi warns us that these two “wines” (infidelity vs. true religion, line 2716; carnal soul vs. reason, line 2718) are “at war: take heed, take heed, and strive that the spiritual realities may prevail over the (sensual) forms” (line 2719, Nicholson’s translation).
In her notes for Hafiz’s ghazal 5, Elizabeth Gray comments on the symbol: “Wine has a rich array of meanings and resonances in Persian poetry, and is associated with light, illumination, and truth… The surface of the wine in the wine cup reveals the face of the Beloved, the reflection of one’s own face (which is a mirror of God as His creation, and therefore is Him)” (p. 147, The Green Sea of Heaven.)