The Gift of Seeing Our Breath
Jennifer Angelina Petro
As a child, as summer slipped into fall,
And the first frost shrouded the grass in little, dissolvable crystals,
I would go outside first thing in the morning
And make my mouth into a wonder-filled O,
And breathe. And when I saw my breath
Spill wispy veils upwards into the air, like so many unfurling ghosts,
I rejoiced and ran in my footy pajamas back to my bed and covers,
To contemplate this most marvelous thing.
My friends and I walked to school back then,
And on the first day it was cold enough
To see your breath, every few steps
One of us would say: “Look! I can see my breath!”
And we would stop and we would see and we would say:
“That’s so cool!”
This morning I saw a little girl step from her front door,
Make her mouth into a wonder-filled O, and breathe.
I just caught the look of amazement in her eyes as I drove past.
What a gift this being alive, this being able to see our breath,
This casting of feathery nets that needn’t catch anything into an invisible sea of blue,
This gentle launching of ships of clouds—
What a gift to live in amazement,
What a gift to be able, on the coldest of days,
To be reminded we are alive, we are warm in here,
We are message bearers sharing silken signals,
“This is mine,” we say, “and I share it with you.”
We are makers of clouds and shepherds of little flocks of adventurous sheep,
And not a single one of us breathes alone,
We share the breath of those we fear
And those we love, as summer slips into fall
And the world becomes shrouded in frost,
And coldness touches everything—pause,
Let us make our heart into a wonder-filled O
And breathe, letting our warmth spread defiantly into the cold.
And one day when we breathe our last
Our spirits will spill upwards in feathery spirals
And be carried on the shoulders of the breath
Of the living, and we will rise, our souls shaped like
Wonder-filled O’s, and we will slip into the arms of angels
Who will bear us back to a bed of softest down,
Tuck us in to rest, kiss our forehead
And whisper, “Rest now. Tomorrow is a new day and there is much to do,
And many people to fill with amazement. ”
Joseph Anthony Petro
Inspired by Father J.P. de Caussade, S.J.
What if we were being written as we speak,
As we live, as we move? What if our lives were one
Interconnected, interwoven revelation? One story,
One plot, one theme? What if our every step and breath
Were known, seen, loved, and allowed to unfold
In ways that always and ever ended with breath-taking
New beginnings, and that every new beginning
Was somehow more beautiful, unexpected, and startling
Than the last? What if every revelation, every new chapter,
Every page was part of one book of life in which the author intended,
Willed and wanted the very best for each and every character
And that every word, punctuation mark, indentation,
And sentence was composed through you with foresight and wisdom,
And that somehow, matter what it seemed like fit together perfectly,
And that when we went back and read what was written
It all made sense and we said, “Of course, that was meant to be?”
What if, despite not liking some of the twists and turns
And cliffhangers, or the sudden, unexpected
Exits of our favorite characters, or the annoying returns
Of ones we just can’t stand, that no matter how
Convoluted, distressing, painful, or tragic it all seems,
That the arc of the story is eternal and the ultimate
Storyline is a road to everlasting joy and a deeper understanding
Of who we really are? What if the more that drops away
As we go on reading, and the more the story
Simplifies, that we become lighter and lighter until one day,
On what we thought was the last word, the letters suddenly lift, like
So many birds scattering heavenwards,
And the story continues, unfettered, untangled,
Unencumbered by the confines of the language
Of time and space and expectation, and we soar, completely free
In a radiant book of thanks?
God is in the trees,
wind-infused, sifting through branches,
whispering eternal solutions to everyday problems,
wholly unafraid, spreading infinite roots,
holding the sun on the tips of his fingers,
cracking new skin making new rings appear rippling forth
and so on and so on unto eternity.
Goddess is in the trees,
elegant and wise,
stars in hair, branches spreading shelter and touches,
and invitations to holy silence:
Come, sit down against me, she says, and rest,
feel what real solidity is, and the strength
I bear in my boughs for you and birds
And climbing children, tree houses,
And nests of eagles and hawks.
God is the trees, shadow-maker verdant green,
Goddess is in the trees, shadow-dappled fire-crowned,
God is in the trees, leaning down to lift the little ones up–squirrels
baby raccoons, cicada nymphs, and wayward snakes and cats,
Goddess is in the trees, lifting the sky, setting out stars,
God is in the trees, stirring the clouds,
weaving constellations of planets and stars,
Goddess is in the trees, mingling roots with earth and singing
Incantations of nourishing wonder,
God is in the trees offering space for ravens to assemble, like
Monks and ministers, where owls can perch, like
Joan of Arc and Sister Odilia after her sight is returned,
Goddess is in the trees, tossing leaves, like
Little ships, each catching a glimpse of the light
As they sail away in streams and rivers,
Carrying holds of gold and hope for tomorrow
And now, there and here, everywhere
Moments are opening to space and time,
That Goddess gives and gives some more,
God is in the trees, seed-sailing, breath-giving
Wanting only the best for you and me
And the giraffe nibbling leaves,
Goddess is in the trees, seed-spiraling, seed-blessing,
Seed sending, each with a message
Abudance is real
in each and every beat of the heart.
God and Goddess are in the trees,
Intertwined and interwoven, like lyric and song,
And night and day, Lover, Beloved,
Mountain and sky.
God and Goddess are in the trees,
Blanket of leaves and branches of intricate wishes.
Stop a moment,
give yourself over to them,
kneel at their roots,
Sleep in their arms,
Pray to their slow, patient consciousness
Pervading the ground of being with filigrees of earth-touching,
Water-drawing, heart-holding roots,
Pervading the sky with air-climbing tendrils of praise
And praise and praise,
And palms that open in gratitude sweet with tears,
Hear them as they sing:
You have been born
And you have been seen
And you have been carried here
Through our passageways
and intentions and through our conscious
Benevolence and kindly mischievousness,
Through each ring and root and leaf,
Through each swaying in summer storm,
through each autumn when we dress in our finest clothes,
through each standing still in winter, arms outstretched, gathering snow,
and through each spring when we surprise you again and again
with green, sweet green, and blossoms that rain delicate
and heavenly, and fruit, more fruit than you can ever imagine,
it is all for you, breathe it in—breathe it in.
This sky is for you, breathe it in-
We are for you,
Breathe us in—
This earth is for you—
Breathe it in—
This moment in time and space–
Is for you—
Breathe it in—
This song, this fragrance of unity and restfulness—
They are for you—
Breathe them in,
And pray to one another
Let your love spiral through us like
ribboning wind, and know that we hear you
and know that we are you
and know that you’re never alone.
Let every tree, every branch, every root, every leaf, every seed,
And every least bit of kindling and firewood,
Every table and chair, pencil and bookcase,
Let them all be reminders
Of our presence and what we allow
And ache for you to make with us, create with us—
Breathe it all in.
And know that we,
God and Goddess,
Grace is something we say at meals. We are saying grace, as in thank you, we praise you, be with us.
We say that dancers or athletes move with grace.
We say we are under God’s grace.
How can this one little word mean so much?
Grace is something we can pause for and say.
May we speak it with everything we do.
We can move in ways that are filled with grace. We can walk through life’s circumstances with grace.
Grace comes from the Latin and means “favor, esteem, regard, pleasing qualities, good will, and gratitude (Online EtymologyDictionary).”
When we pause to say grace, what are we really saying? Do we favor the food, the cook, the Divine, all of the above? Do we hold them all in high esteem? Are we speaking with kind regards and goodwill for their pleasing qualities? After all, I’m sure the food, the preparer, and of course, the Divine, all possess pleasing qualities. Are we speaking gratitude for the meal, the cook, the Divine, the fellowship? All of the above? And more? What are we saying when we pause to say grace?
How about when we move gracefully through our lives?
May we all figuratively and literally slow-down in such a way as to move with grace in our bodies and thoughts, and spirits. May we move with
the consciousness of beauty in body, mind, and spirit. May grace be in our thoughts and hearts; may it spread like the fragrance of honeysuckle into every heart and hand.
Compare the Latin roots with the Sanskrit roots for grace: grnati, which means “to sing, praise, and to announce (ibid).”
When we accept life with grace we are singing praises to the Creator. When we realize the need for change and move with grace towards achieving those changes, we are singing praises to the
Creator. When we move with beauty in mind, heart, and body, we are announcing we are part and parcel of the One Great Dance; that we are infused with the same blood as the One Great Dancer.
The Lithuanian roots for grace (giriu) mean “to praise and to celebrate
When we speak with grace, allowing beauty to be in our words, tone, timber, and intentions, we are praising each other, praising ourselves, praising the Divine Singer of All. When we esteem one another, assume the goodwill of one another, we are celebrating each other and the One Cosmic Partier.
When we move with grace we are celebrating ourselves, each other, the very ground we move upon, and yes, we are celebrating the One.
Is it true “there but for the grace of God go I?” Are we held in grace by the Divine in such a way that we only go because of that grace, because of the Divine? Are we woven into some sort of fabric of predestination in which we simply get to move the Creator’s intentions, beautiful though they may be?
Or do we have a say in how me move, where we move, and why we move? Do we get to pick the colors of the threads and the style of the stitch? Do we get to decide what we make of this intricate tapestry of breath and bone?
I believe we are graced with freedom; freedom to move how, where, and for our own purposes. The grace that propels us from the Divine to help us move in the world is God’s esteem for us, God’s favor for us, God’s goodwill and kind regards for us; it is the Divine singing praises through, and for, us; it is the Divine celebrating His/Her Life through, and with, us; it is the Divine celebrating you and me for simply being you and me. It is the Divine’s trust in us; the Divine’s faith in us.
I am a part of grace; you are a part of grace; we are all a part of grace; of the singing, the praise that the Creator announces through our simply being here—here and now. We live in gratitude for the Creator and the Creator lives in gratitude for us. It is proper and good, holy and wonderful to love what we create. How much more so the Divine for us?
May we all realize grace in our bodies, minds, hearts, and souls. May grace be in our thoughts, feelings, movements, and dreams. May grace flow with our breath. May we sing grace throughout the land; announce grace through whispers and shouts; proclaim grace in the touch of our hands; may we celebrate being alive by being grace made flesh; grace
manifested within us, through us, from us, for us, and for all things in heaven and on earth.
May the grace of the Divine be with us always—how else could it ever be?
All donations go to medical bills and groceries. <3
A prayer hung heavily on a branch of the Tree of Life. Ripening over centuries, it grew sweeter with age and the persistence of faith. One day the Gardener strolled by, singing as usual, and plucked the prayer from the Tree, and with great gusto, took a hearty bite, letting the juices river down his chin.
“Now that,” he said, talking with his mouth full, “is a good prayer.”
He continued to eat the prayer, crunching down to the core. When he got to the star shaped seeds he carefully picked them out and then casually, gracefully, and with intention, dropped them to earth. Weeping for the sheer ecstasy of having been touched by the Gardener’s hands, the seeds fell for days and weeks through open, pristine space, tossed here and there by currents of sound and desire. They danced as they descended—leaning into little pirouettes and whirled in sweeping spirals, down, down, down they drifted and eventually landed precisely where the Gardener intended them to go—right into the hearts of a little boy and his father.
The little boy had prayed prayers of gratitude all night, for his father hadn’t had a drink in over three months; and the father, weeping in thanks for finally having been freed from the chains of his disease, had prayed prayers of gratitude all night as well. The seeds nestled in their hearts and, because they were prayers of thanksgiving, sprouted quickly, spreading their holy fire into entire orchards of flourishing trees right through the dark valleys of the lives of that boy and his father. Soon the boy and his father would be harvesting the fruits of their prayers, and sharing them in heaping bushels with each other, their neighbors and friends, and the world.
“A beautiful day,” the Gardener said as he plucked another prayer from the Tree, “thanksgiving is blossoming everywhere.”
All donations go to medical bills and groceries. <3