February seems to be a difficult month for many people. I’m one of them. When my life starts to feel too chaotic, I need to take a step back and do something with my hands. On a daily basis, it’s knitting. The process is simple but the results are both lovely and practical. And the routine helps to order my inner self.
When I need something more significant, I tackle my house or my yard. The principle is the same: Ordering my outer world helps to focus and sort out my tangled thoughts and feelings. I’m pretty sure it has something to do with being active instead of sitting in front of a computer screen. And it has a lot to do with thinking my own thoughts instead of being bombarded with all the major and minor conflicts that fill the news 24/7.
I’ll spare you pictures of my yard. It’s still a work in progress. But here is an example of what can happen when this principle of creating order from chaos takes place on a larger scale. These are the gardens at Mondo X in Italy, a ministry of the Franciscans begun in Milan in 1961. One friar working with troubled Italian youths has become a network of 40 locations where those struggling with addictions are rehabilitated. One of the principles behind their treatment is this very concept of ordering their outer world as they discover the mystery that lies within themselves.
“In the world there are many people who have great power simply because they own much, know much, and make decisions. Many people count for very little but they believe and love a great deal. When those who count will join those who love, we will be able to change the world.” (from the Mondo X website)
Yesterday we celebrated the Feast of Candlemas or the Presentation of the Lord. And around the US, people made a big fuss over the significance of a groundhog being frightened of its shadow. From Simeon’s exclamation over the child Jesus (“a light to reveal you to the nations / and the glory of your people Israel”) we developed the practice of blessing candles on this day.
Here in Cincinnati, we had a day of warmth and sunshine, a true promise of the spring that always follows winter. I took a much-needed break and spent the day cleaning the house. As the sun rises this morning, I’m planning an attack on the yard. And contemplating this thought from Richard Rohr’s daily meditations for February 2:
You become so upset with the dark side of things that you never discover how to put the dark and the light together, which is the heart of wisdom, all love, and the trademark of a second half of life person. Maybe that is why we blessed the candles on this day, right in the middle of winter.
What are your strategies for dealing with the inevitable chaos of life?