Category Archives: Faith

Developing a Personal Point of View

I stop for a latte and drink in the view. The café, six tables and a banquette against the plate glass wall, offers a window onto the Byward Market and the Gatineau hills. Wind pushes the clouds across the city in an ephemeral drama of light and shadow. A commercial crane, red and ten stories tall, anchors the scene.

I blink and the operator appears in the cab, a glass pod of levers and the nerve centre of his crimson behemoth. He takes his lunch – a bowl of noodles judging by his gestures – enjoying a mirror image of my view. The café is a democratic place to see and be seen.

Since the founding of Ottawa, and its designation as the nation’s capital, unimpeded views have been commonplace within the downtown core. With the easing of height restrictions, a trade-off for increased density and “highest and best use of land,” new buildings push the limits.

Before me, the once-180 degree view has been reduced by a third with the installation of a dozen-floor condo development. To its right, the crane, with its unrelenting appetite for height, will ensure that the middle third of this long view disappears within weeks or months. As years pass, fewer will enjoy what many have taken for granted: a big sky and a way to navigate the city by natural means. However, development offers its own perspective.

I scan the condo windows for signs of life but all is quiet. Moments later, a woman in a white robe and hijab moves into the frame, a truncated theatre of the body from the waist up. She bobs into view then disappears as she prepares for midday prayers. The hills tell me she is facing east although her precise direction will be predicated upon the position of the sun and the particulars of her geographic location. As a follower of Islam, she will enact this ritual as many as five times a day like clockwork: before dawn, mid-morning, noon, mid-afternoon and evening.

Aside from being a personal act of faith, ritual is a subset of placemaking and timekeeping like the secular sights, sounds and smells that populate our public and private lives. I know, for example, it’s 9:00am on Sunday because the church bells ring or that it’s 7:00am because my neighbour runs past my house every day at the same time. In a few hours people will return to these windows to prepare dinner, drink with their friends, or, like me, take in the sidewalk ballet. As onlookers, we reflexively perform the role of one another’s keepers with an arms-length connection to the overarching narrative of daily life.

Lunchtime is over and the crane is moved to action with its box step of ordered predictability: swing, lower, raise, repeat. I drink up and drive home, still taking in the view.

Developing a Personal Point of View

Developing a Personal Point of View

Developing a Personal Point of View

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Larry’s Christmas Cards

I didn’t so much as meet Larry Racioppo as find him. Home from NYC and working on this piece, I admired his photographic work on the 9/11 Memorial & Museum site and he agreed to lend me an image. Turns out, he’s lived a fascinating life; he’s been a NYC taxi driver in the early 80’s, staff photographer for the Department of Housing, Preservation and Development during the city’s lowest (and scariest) point, and a well-respected photo documentarian and keeper of knowledge of life, pre-gentrification, in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan. Check out his site at www.larryracioppo.com. Continue reading Larry’s Christmas Cards

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Manhattan’s Divine Intervention

Unless you leave room for serendipity…how can the divine enter? ~Joseph Campbell

A few minutes one way or the other, heading south instead of north, a conversation, a distraction, a photo or lunch. There’s no good reason I stepped into St. Paul’s Chapel at that precise moment and not another. Filled to the brim – standing room only – I felt I’d stumbled in on a private event, a funeral perhaps. Not so, the man in a dark suit whispered back. You are perfectly welcome.

Crossing the threshold at 12:59 (not earlier, not later) was a flash of serendipity, a flourish of divine intervention, the kind that occurs every minute of every day all around the city. But then St. Paul’s, part of the Parish of Trinity Church and the oldest house of worship in Manhattan, is no stranger to miracles. Continue reading Manhattan’s Divine Intervention

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Perfectly Beautiful

When I stepped into the dark coolness to escape the scorching heat I didn’t expect to find the most beautiful space I’d ever seen.

Of course no flash photography or tripods were permitted and my children possess a built-in limitation for looking at things tiled or religious.  I was, as always, left wanting more.

Click here to find out about the mosaic restorations.

P.S. The alabaster windows are for you, Theresa Kishkan.

The Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy

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Natural light on a midsummer day radiates through sheets of alabaster. Imagine the winter.

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Every surface is decorated. On the walls, opposing marble surfaces.
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Contemplating this design for my vestibule

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The Paddler

Yesterday afternoon I went for a walk in a torrential downpour and returned home with a kayaker from Florida.

Karen has been travelling, paddling and visiting up here since late June.  She completed sections of the Trent-Severn Waterway then discovered the Rideau Canal.  She parked her car in Ottawa and caught a train back to Kingston, the starting point of her 202 km adventure.  In another couple of days she’ll be done.  By next Tuesday she’ll be back home and into the flow of regular life.

Clean, dry and fed, Karen pushed off from Burritt’s Rapids this morning under glorious, auspicious fall sunshine.  I hope her last few days are brilliant.

 

 

 

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Live Where You Are….And Love Where You Live

On her site, Musings of a Kitchen Witch, writer Thalassa weaves a gorgeous story of the irrefutable role of geography and place in her world.  It is reproduced here with her permission.

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Spirit of place is defined as the tangible (buildings, sites, landscapes, routes, objects) and the intangible elements (memories, narratives, written documents, rituals, festivals, traditional knowledge, values, textures, colors, odors, etc.), that is to say the physical and the spiritual elements that give meaning, value, emotion and mystery to place. Rather than separate spirit from place, the intangible from the tangible, and consider them as opposed to each other, we have investigated the many ways in which the two interact and mutually construct one another. The spirit of place is constructed by various social actors, its architects and managers as well as its users, who all contribute actively and concurrently to giving it meaning. Considered as a relational concept, spirit of place takes on a plural and dynamic character, capable of possessing multiple meanings and singularities, of changing through time, and of belonging to different groups. This more dynamic approach is also better adapted to today’s globalized world, which is characterized by transnational population movements, relocated populations, increased intercultural contacts, pluralistic societies, and multiple attachments to place.

from the QUÉBEC DECLARATION ON THE PRESERVATION OF THE SPIRIT OF PLACE

My Paganism is a religion of location.  Modern terminology might call it bioregionalist or topophilic.  More traditional terminology might say that it is based in the idea of “spirit of place” or by the Roman idea of genius loci.  My faith sits at the point where these definitions overlap, not wholly part of any of them, instead, part of all of them.

This is where we live.

Our home is about three blocks inland from where the sea meets the sky, but this is where we spend the largest chunk of time outside.

Most mornings, when the tide is low but on its way in, I start my swim here.  Every once in a while, I share my swim with a pod of dolphins cruising along just offshore.  More often, my only company is a couple of crabbing boats or a lonely sailboat out for an early jaunt.

Nearly every day, the kids dig in the sand and play in the waves at the beach that hosts this view.  They know which rocks the big crabs live behind, where to dig for soft shell clams, how to tell a boy crab from a girl, and all of the different kind of shells that hermit crabs make their homes in on our beach.  Chickadee has necklaces of jingle shells and Sharkbait, who can’t otherwise sit still to save his life, can hover motionless behind a ghost crab hole until its resident makes its appearance.

My husband and I held our children’s baby blessings in this place.  We have celebrated a number of holidays, religious and secular, here.  I have come to this spot in anger and frustration as well as joy and elation.  I have cried here, and prayed, and bled as well.

This is not just a place where I live, it is the place where I live.

There are a million different ways to live local– farmer’s markets, supporting small businesses, getting to know your neighbors, walking or biking rather than driving, volunteering for local charities, being a tourist in your own community, etc.  Every community is different and every individual’s situation is different, and the ways that we can participate in our local communities meaningfully vary widely.

But to be spiritually meaningful, it starts with really living where you are.  It starts with getting to know the spirit of your place, as a personal relationship with your land-base and your community.  To truly live where you are, you have to learn to love where you live as an active devotion.

***This has been a post for the annual Pagan Values Blogject–this year I’m blogging on my personal values and how they are informed by and in turn inform my spiritual and religious beliefs.  In past years, I’ve blogged on the values that are central to our family (hospitalityserviceintegrity, and conservation) as well as those that I think are uniquely represented in the wider Pagan umbrella  (respectpluralitysacredness, and experiental gnosis).  Other posts this year for this year include “my body, my temple”, and “pass it on”***

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SacredSpaces: Vedic Verses on the Mystical Rites of House Consecration

FROM THE VEDAS

Reproduced with permission from Hinduism Today

The building of a house, or even any transaction concerning it, is not just a matter of masonry or of business. It is in both instances a liturgical act, in which human lives as well as the powers above and below are involved.

A house is not real estate, but a human dwelling place, the prolongation, in a sense, of a Man’s body; it is the first extension of Man’s real world. It is no wonder that even up to our own times the human habitat has been the last bastion to succumb to the desacralizing process.

In almost all human traditions there have been innumerable blessings and spells, enchantments and magic practices concerned with houses. The Atharva Veda is full of this and special attention is paid to the purification of a house from all evil forces. A house is not only shelter for the body; it is shelter for the whole world also, for in the house sacrifice will often be performed. In fact the word shala meant, first of all, the sacrificial building, and then came to signify a home, once sacrifice began to be performed regularly in people’s homes.

Because sacrifice is the center of the house and of Man’s family life, the house is said to be built by brahman, liturgical action and sacred word, to be designed by the kavi, the poet or wise man, and to be the abode of rita, cosmic order.

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O Pillars of this House of countless treasures, O buttresses and crossbeams, we loosen your bonds!

What is bound in you who contain all riches, those fetters and knots, with a powerful word I unloose, like Brhaspati breaking open the cavern.

We unite the bonds of your beams and clasps, of your thatch and your sides, O House of all riches.

We loosen the bonds of the clamps and bundles, of all that encircles and binds the Lady of the House.

These hanging loops,which are tied for enjoyment within you, we loosen. May the Lady of the House, when established within her, be gracious toward us!

Receptacle of oblation and hall of Agni, abode and domain of the wives are you. You, Goddess House, are the seat of the Gods.

By Holy Word we unfasten the extended thousand-eyed net which rests upon the central beam, well-placed and well-fastened.

May the one who receives you as a gift, O House, queen among dwellings, and the one who built you both enjoy long life and reach ripe old age!

Here let her come to meet her owner. Firmly fastened and adorned are you, whose limbs and joints we proceed to loosen!

The one who collected the trees, O House, and built your walls, the Highest Lord of creatures, has made you for the increase of children.

To him be homage! Homage to the donor and to the master of the House! Homage to Agni and homage to the one who performs his rites!

In your innermost heart, with both creatures and men, you cherish God Agni. O future scene of births and young life, we loosen your bonds!

The expanse that lies between heaven and earth I accept together with this your House. The air it encloses I make a container for wealth.

Abounding in food, abounding in milk, with firm foundation set on the earth, receptacle of every nourishing thing, do no harm, O House, to those who receive you.

Covered with thatch and clothed in straw, the House, like night, gives rest for her inmates, she stands firm-fixed, her broad feet planted on the earth like an elephant cow’s.

This House is founded on Worship, designed and built by the wise. May Indra and Agni, the immortals, protect this House, the abode of Soma.

One nest is placed upon a second, one container laid upon another. Within is born a mortal. From here all things originate.

This House is constructed with two sides, with four, with six, eight, or ten. In this Mistress dwelling lies Agni like an unborn babe in the womb.

Facing you, O House, who are facing me, I approach you peacefully: sacred Fire and Water are within, the main doors to Cosmic Order.

I bring here these waters, free from disease, destroyers of disease. In this House, together with Fire immortal, I take up my abode!

From the eastern direction I summon a blessing to the glory of this House. Praise to the Gods, the praiseworthy, forever and ever!

From the southern direction, the western direction, from the northern direction, from the depths below, the heights above, I summon a blessings to the glory of this House. Praise to the Gods, the praiseworthy, forever and ever!

Atharva Veda IX, 3


Raimundo Panikkar, 83, holds doctorates in science, philosophy and theology. His anthology of verses, The Vedic Experience, excerpted above, is the result of ten years spent in Banaras translating with the help of Vedic scholars.


The Vedas are the divinely revealed and most revered scriptures, sruti, of Hinduism, likened to the Torah (1,200 bce), Bible New Testament (100 ce),Koran (630 ce) or Zend Avesta (600 bce). Four in number, Rig, Yajur, Samaand Atharva, the Vedas include over 100,000 verses. Oldest portions may date back as far as 6,000 BCE

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