It is with great pleasure that I introduce you to Christine Valters Paintner, who joins us today from Galway, Ireland. Many years ago I read Christine’s book, The Artist’s Rule. Her writing was a refreshing invitation to me to consider how spiritual and artistic practice might be meaningfully interwoven. I read Christine’s book again years later, and the practices continued to be integrated in my life. Then, in 2017, I had the immense privilege of spending a week with Christine at her “Awakening the Creative Spirit” facilitation training in Perth, Scotland. My life is undoubtedly marked by her wisdom, and grace.
Christine is a Benedictine Oblate and an accomplished author, poet, artist, and teacher. Her Abbey of the Arts is an online monastic community offering “pilgrimages, online classes and retreats, reflections, and resources which integrate contemplative practice and creative expression.”
It is wonderful to have you here with us today, Christine.
1. What is your present unique version of life teaching you?
Christine: I am being reminded how much I adore long stretches of time at home in quiet spaciousness and how my own creativity erupts freely in those conditions.
2. We often say we wish we had more time for certain things. Having been given this gift of more time, what are you spending it on?
Christine: I am writing more poems, but also immersing myself in some other creative projects including a lino block art series for a book on Mary I am writing, collaborating with videographers to create videos for some of my poems, releasing a new album we produced and starting to dream into the next music album already. I am also sitting in silence and listening a lot more.
3. What is one surprising thing that happened today?
Christine: I was standing in the grocery store with a scarf over my face picking out Doritos for my husband and a recording of the voice of our prime minister came over the PA reminding everyone why we were practicing social distancing. I started to weep at the surrealness of the moment, at all the suffering right now, and all the grief in my heart in the midst of trying to carry on the most ordinary tasks.
I appreciate the poem you have offered us because it recognizes a world of darkness and of light, and the need to hold space for humanity in the tension of these realities. To me this is the contemplative call, and one I believe you answer richly.
May the road rise to meet you, my friend,
In a Dark Time Do not rush to make meaning. When you smile and say what purpose this all serves, you deny grief a room inside you, you turn from thousands who cross into the Great Night alone, from mourners aching to press one last time against the warm flesh of their beloved, from the wailing that echoes in the empty room. When you proclaim who caused this, I say pause, rest in the dark silence first before you contort your words to fill the hollowed out cave, remember the soil will one day receive you back too. Sit where sense has vanished, control has slipped away, with futures unraveled, where every drink tastes bitter despite our thirst. When you wish to give a name to that which haunts us, you refuse to sit with the woman who walks the hospital hallway, hears the beeping stop again and again, with the man perched on a bridge over the rushing river. Do not let your handful of light sting the eyes of those who have bathed in darkness. —Christine Valters Paintner