Monday’s Meander: The Grotto in Early Spring

Another family gathering in March during a sporadic rainfall included a visit to The Grotto, the National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother in Portland. Though I am not Catholic, I find it a lovely meditative expanse among huge trees. I do walk the labyrinth, designed after the one at Chartres Cathedral, from time to time.

It felt like a good choice to stroll about and share quiet talk.

The 62 acres upon which it was designed were purchased in 1924. A cave for a scultpure of Mary holding the crucified Christ was chiselled from a 110 ft. high mound of basalt rock. A stone altar was made shortly after. People come to pray, leave flowers and light candles for loved ones. The first mass was conducted in 1924. There is also a church and smaller chapels on the grounds, as well as a contemporary place of prayer that oversees some of Portland and across the Columbia River towards Washington.

Our twin grandchildren were fascinated.

This is a Roman Catholic sanctuary and place of worship, lived within and run by the Order of Friar Servants of Mary. Sometimes they are glimpsed moving about, but mostly they do their work on the grounds or in the monastery atop the bluff. In this area there were built the Stations of the Cross, small chapels and gardens.

Below, outdoor seating is seen for Mass in good weather and various family members (2 daughters, daughter-in-law, a future son-in-law, Marc and me, granddaughters) chatting before using the elevator to the top of the bluff. My son Josh and visiting daughter, Cait, are middle photo.

Shots below: a glimpse of the glass/cement chapel when disembarking elevator; entrance to walkways on second leve; 3 views of the contemporary chapel atop the bluff. This building holds a copy of the Pieta.

I am always stilled and deeply moved as I slowly make my way to the center of this labyrinth (see small areas above). When I arrive at the center unbidden tears flow. I feel the power. I became enthralled with Chartres Cathedral and the original labyrinth when I read about it and studied photos as a teen. I had hoped to one day visit. But, too, this sacred space of daily, intentional compassion and healing prayer of the Servites imbues the area. The quietude of the Grotto reaches and settles inside; towering trees tower over all as people walk and rest. I am reminded anew of my love of God and God’s love of us as we sort out life amid the pain and troubles of this world we live in for a short time. The labyrinth reminds me of the intricate design and mysteries of the universe, eternal Light, and the soul journey we each undertake to find or refresh hope and wholeness.

I wrote no poem last Friday. It was Good Friday, and I am Christian. And the following day was both the third birthday of our twin granddaughters, as well as the first anniversary of our 26 y.o. granddaughter’s sudden death last year. Yes, the same day. I could share nothing of it. Now it is noted and over this year, and I am grateful so many of our family were gathered together in love.

Monday’s Meander: Back to Bishop’s Close in December

I am thinking daily of family and holidays, as are most. And photos surfaced of a wintry walk through Elk Rock at Bishops Close, a place about which I have posted often. It is a delight– the grounds are seamed with trails and rocky steps, shadowed with hideaways, and gentled by trickling water and a small pond or two. My last visit here was shared on WP in July this year.

The Scottish estate house always impresses a bit–it is so stolid and commands a respect. Elk Rock, its garden, is perhaps the oldest and biggest (13 acres) private garden in Oregon. It was managed from 1897 until 1957 by businessman Peter Kerr who developed his estate and grounds. It is now used by the Episcopal Diocese of Oregon.

In summer the air was bright, the plants and flowers waving in warm breezes. This time winter’s veil is lain over all. The quietude of December wandering is deeper. The air sharp, the river that wends it way below a bit more forbidding, birdsongs more silenced. Yet I am drawn to it as much in this season as any other. It is a place to think as one climb’s about and to long pause and admire nature’s work.

These photos date back to 2016, the day of Christmas. Naomi was visiting from S. Carolina where she was/is an art professor; Alexandra was visiting from CA. where she was PR manager at an arts center. And since I appreciate Bishops Close as well as my adult children here is that mosey. (Not all family like personal photos shared so those are discreet.)

An altar used for outdoor Holy Eucharist.
View of Mt. Hood, across the Willamette River, seen from the back lawn.

On my refrigerator is a sticky note left by Naomi last year before she flew back to S.C. after Thanksgiving. I’d had the luxury of seeing her three times in 2019. On that note she wrote: “Bye, Mom! Love you! See you again before too long. XOXOXO-Na.” I left it there to enjoy looking at– never thinking it would at least a year more. But I’ve not seen her once since, nor another daughter, Cait, in VA., for an even longer period of time.

So it is that we begin a new sort of Christmas or other religious holiday. No doubt you will agree: one primarily of the heart and spirit. We can manage it, though, can’t we. Make sure to get out and take good walks, no matter wintry or other interesting weather. I will be out there with you, as well as right here.

Friday’s Passing Fancy/Poem: Safe Harbor (for Marinell)

Photo copyright 2011 Cynthia Guenther Richardson

This is one larger-made-smaller view we shared,

we were always all in and alright, pulled life to us closer.

It was pure essences we loved, seeking better,

that slim perfection resurrected from any ruin,

aches and vagaries of such living more a pittance paid.

Risk takers underneath calm skin

— those men, such work, this family–

the body and soul moved on, up, through

and if we left things unspoken, kindly so.

The giver gives to be more at home

so we gave, then navigated the mazes,

and always there was one more thing, what next?

so we laughed about it.

We cried with a language of song, not words.

It began to tally up, remnants amid

the new bits, stealthy, powerful,

familiar or confounding, each given

room as needed, little or much.

Sea swelled, flattened into a harbor of mirrors

transforming past and present

so air breathed entered us richer,

left us brighter, our talk languid and

sailing here and there.

Would that you might sit

with me again, sister, admire a view.

Think on this world together with

sorrow and wonder, lean in closer,

shake our heads, note the music

of many waters and winds.

But not now, not here,

for you have gone while part of me

waits to see you leaning forward,

your good being alight in the fantastical beyond

Monday’s Meander: Home/Yesterday, Today

Hello readers and fellow bloggers,

I’m having some trouble preparing mind and home for Thanksgiving, although my husband, the cook, is busy with his food lists and plans–he gets absolutely gleeful about the fuss, mess and tastiness! But it is the first year for all holidays in our new place. Our dining and living rooms are smaller, the surrounds outdoors entirely different if , yes, beautiful, as well. Everyone lives farther away than before, except for one daughter and her family (including beloved 7 mos. old twins). And it will be the first year I do not have my only remaining sister much closer; she has dementia, and holes up more and more in her retirement complex. I do miss many in my family, especially those passed on as we all likely do this time of year. I think of them dearly, keep them close to heart as I recall the best times amid our family’s’ years of ups and downs.

The picture above is from 2017 around Thanksgiving– at the old place, our home of 23 years. It provided a flush of pleasant memories while looking through old photos– and I wanted to share its quiet simplicity.

Tomorrow I will have lunch with my sister. That is good. Also, I know the babies will have a blast smearing and tasting potatoes and and all for the first time! And fortunately, my oldest daughter from S. Carolina is visiting this week. She has kept me moving at a fast pace visiting people, seeing sights, shopping…it has been fun and, as usual, we will be sad to see her go at end of week. It clarifies once more that it’s people–not decor, not material treats– during holidays that matter most.

If I don’t find time to write my usual post Wednesday this week, have an embraceable sort of Thanksgiving Day. Well, just love one another if you can even if it is taxing, share moments of kindness and fun, name every thing that positively powers your life. I will be doing the same.

Blessings,

Cynthia

Friday’s Quick Pick/Poem: Gathering Here, There

May your quite simple or elegant repast

serve you well, shared at tables of hope

and warming cheer, of peace and forgiveness.

And may your soul’s good ease capture

a gift of delight, and voices free music, and your

hands hold gently all hands in widening circles.

And even if not so fine a thing as all this,

do not turn back, the longing falling away.

May you not regret each trying, and not

dismiss balm and beauty of care we are meant for,

but keep asking for power of Love to bless and

fill you long, long after candles burn down.

When you leave the table, you are not truly alone.

Remember this: that eternal flame glows for you.

Merry Christmas.