By Susanna Bertelsen
June 1, 2017 will be remembered by me as an extraordinary day. I attended my first staff meeting at Loyola Spirituality Center in St. Paul with a warm welcome into their vibrant community of Spiritual Directors. Later in the afternoon that same day, I joined my classmates at St. Catherine University in a graduation ceremony to celebrate the completion of our Spiritual Direction studies. It seemed that the Creator had invited nature to celebrate with us! The weather was warm with a gloriously bright and blue sky and abundant blooms of lavender, white, and pink along the campus pathways. It was a day to recognize four years of invigorating theological and spirituality studies as well as a day to open a new pathway on my life’s journey.
I noticed that June 1 fell in between the feast of the Ascension and Pentecost which arrived just a few days later, on June 4, closing the Easter season with Scripture images of “tongues of fire” over the heads of the Disciples. At mass that Sunday at the Basilica of Mary in Minneapolis, Father John’s homily reminded us all to claim and use the gifts God has given us for the good of all. I reflected on my own gifts soon to be shared in a new role, and those “gifts” that summer has to offer like warmth, growth and energy!! I was challenged.
Beckoned by the “life-long learner” inside me, I jumped into June with a seven-evening continuing learning class at St. Catherine’s on Carl Jung and Spirituality, an exploration of the meaning of dreams, images, stages, types, mandalas and mandorlas, the collective unconscious, and the dark and golden shadows of life. June’s energy also found its way into my 8th annual 5K walk, fundraising for Lymphoma Research, around lush lake Nokomis. That same energy continues with regular visits to Pilates classes and musical aerobics at my local YMCA. These wonderful learnings and movements strengthen my mind and body.
The quiet and peace of our early June garden nurtured my spirit with pansies, peonies, iris, leafy fern and variegated hosta. Sitting in the garden basking in the warmth and green foliage around our wooded backyard, I noticed the shadows on the grass from the trees. These shadows, some short and others long, served to remind me of the not-so-quiet-and-peaceful times in my life, like loss, grief, serious illness, transitions and challenges. Musing over these darker “shadows,” I was awakened to the rustling breeze moving through and around the leaves in the maple, ash, and evergreen trees nearby. Its gentle touch embracing my shoulders brought to mind those who have walked with me in those “dark” and scary, empty and confusing times long past. I smiled with gratitude and awe for the human and Divine “teachers” who have presented me along the way with their grace-filled learnings. I realize once again that I was not, and indeed am not, alone.
At our oldest granddaughter’s 11th birthday supper at an eatery adjacent to Minnehaha Falls on June 20, I was once again reminded of the gift of community. There was a blue grass band on the eatery’s wide veranda. Our 4-year-old granddaughter, her 8 (and ½) year old sister and other children soon found the band’s box of shakers, cymbals, and tambourines and quickly joined in, swirling and jumping to the music, alongside dancing adults. Seemingly enlivened by their exuberance, a woman of advanced age rose from her wheelchair and, with oxygen tubing and tank in tow, began moving to the rhythms of the music holding hands with a younger man next to her. My spirit was touched to watch the obvious joy beaming from the woman’s face. Later, I recalled verses from Psalm 150 – “Praise the Lord! …Praise him with tambourine and dance, praise him with strings and pipe!…with clinging cymbals! Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Amen!
The gift of community continued to present over the weekend of the Summer Solstice in Spokane, Washington where we visited our son’s family and friends. After a day celebrating our fourth granddaughter’s 6th birthday, we sat around their backyard bonfire, enjoying the looooong summer evening, warmed by the fire in each other’s laughter and friendship. Upon returning home on June 26, I walked up the path to our front door between beds of fern and hosta, damaged by one inch hail stones from an earlier June storm, and I pondered how fortunate that not more of our garden had been damaged. Then, suddenly, I was “nudged” to take a closer look – over the weekend in Spokane, the hosta had sprouted from their damaged foliage with 12-inch-long strong stems under tightly folded buds, in anticipation of July bloomings. I was surprised that the plants were not lost from the earlier storm! Grounded in the nurturing earth they showed their God-given resiliency. I again was filled with a sense of hope. How am I (are we) also able to be resilient and grow when well-grounded in God?
Today, June 30, sitting at my computer, completing the June 1st invitation from Loyola’s community to compose an Introductory Blog article, I look back over this extraordinary month. It was a month of nurturing events to strengthen the mind/body/spirit. What comes up for me today, are the Ignatian teachings from the fourth week of the Extended Ignatian Exercises, the section on the Resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost, the sense that God continues to be, as always, working in my, in our lives, present daily in relationships, the earth, in communities to bring forth new life, new beginnings, renewed mind, body, and spirit. I am humbled and grateful.
As we say “good bye” to June and “hello” to July and beyond, I invite you, dear neighbor, to consider my bio, in the Loyola link on Spiritual Direction. Ponder my motto, “LIFE!!…. It’s all about the journey with those you meet along the way and how we hold each other together in sacred space.” Come as you are, bring your dark and golden “shadows”, pick up a tambourine and join my colleagues and me in the dance of life.