Coffee Break 4

Ikebana, with Alexandra Shenpen.







“What actually is not needed, in order to see what is essential?” 


39 thoughts on “Coffee Break 4

  1. You slay me. I’ve been saving this one for a long time, and now I just know it’s going to take a bad turn. 😉 I’m glad I didn’t have a mouthful of coffee.

  2. This is along the lines of my latest post. I think in certain moments, WORDS (written/thought/spoken), tho’ politicians do come in a strong second. Maybe because they talk too much or with forked tongues?

  3. AKA “holy leisure”….
    how much pleasure & joy comes into our lives, by allowing the “non-essentials” to have a place of meaning? 🙂


    If you have a mouthful of coffee, and you were reading THAT wonderful comment, it’s probably just been spewed everywhere! 🙂 How insightful…and how true…

    I think you are about to have some very INTERESTING comments in response to THIS post, Gabrielle! 🙂

    Nice to check in, and find you (& our other friends) waiting to greet me! Unbeknownst to you, it resulted in a nice birthday gift, to receive this (indirect) “greeting”. 🙂

  4. Hey! Happy happy birthday, Kristin! 🙂

    Gab, there were any number of choices for an answer to that– guardrails, overcoats, a shillelagh in hand (or a yardstick in a little Frenchmother’s hands..)

    Gosh, the one time I tried to be serious, you missed it?

    “Words” is a great answer, Pia. 🙂 If it’s not the only serious answer, I’ll be interested to see what else comes forth.

  5. Heh, Ann’s never seen me drive.

    Or walk.

    I was thinking earlier that memory/history is not needed in order to see what is essential. As a matter of fact, it may hinder vision.

  6. Hi everybody; great answers. I don’t know if any of you were able to watch the short video I linked to in the post; I found so many metaphors in the art of Ikebana for the contemplative life.

    I have to be mostly away until Friday, but I will post something then or over the weekend that might help explain why I put this up now; it’s been sitting in my “drafts” for awhile, but something came along recently that reminded me of it. And Pia, yes, I see what you mean; I didn’t think of that when I posted it – I was thinking more along the lines of space and uncluttering and simplifying, but I see now how it also relates nicely to words and the wind in the pines you posted about!

    Kristin, I hope you had a very Happy Birthday! I will go immediately and eat a chocolate-chip cookie in your honour! 🙂

  7. This may be hard to understand, but I was avoiding the video, as I was afraid it would colour my thinking in regards to the question–that it would stunt my unexpected rosebush of deep thought in its infancy. (Is that so for others?) Ikebana seems like one might call it “botanical divina,” oui? Well, I always pay homage to flowers or great branches or wonderful trunks with as many senses as I can..while thinking on their Maker with great wonder and gratitude. But for me, what isn’t needed in order to see what is essential is snipping anything off and bringing it inside– go out to it, and let it live unmolested, but caressed (and cried into, if need be).

    I would flunk out of Ikebana class, wouldn’t I?
    : – )

  8. No, not necessarily; I understand what you’re saying, but flowers/plants inside the home add so much to our joy too, especially in the long, cold winter months. Do you remember the picture you posted on one of your older blogs, of the (was it a topiary) against the red of the dining room wall you had just painted? Ikebana? And one can do this with things that have already fallen – branches and twigs on the lawn, fall leaves, the parts of the plant you have to cut off when you’re pruning… but what I really found interesting in the video was the same type of vocabulary and concepts being used in the art of Ikebana as in the contemplative life – I guess that’s why it is a contemplative art-form! I love your thought: botanical-divina.

  9. Was it a photo of the tiny bonsai tree (and its winter-sun shadow cast on the red wall), which son had gotten me one birthday? I honestly could not bring myself to hack away at the lilac bush’s fruit this year, but I just realized I’ve hypocrited myself nonetheless– a few weeks ago, I brought in a tiny little flowering weed and stuck it in a paper cup. I did have a bud vase in the cabinet, but this little thing wanted an everyday cup, something not to die in, but to live in–much as would be so if a child brought it in. (Oh, trust me, it was a child who brought it in.) I had marveled over its tiny, tiny bloom –did God make this for the creatures who have to raise their heads to see it? Well, I feted it. It had a position of importance right beside the can opener for a couple of weeks. Of course, I also killed it! But you know what? Even after son’s insult, “I don’t know what ungodly wreck is in that cup, but can we get rid of it?” (a shame he’s not more outspoken, isn’t it?), the lovely little thing bloomed once more –for a THIRD time! 🙂 That’s fairly amazing for something ripped out of its more earthy habitat and stuck into a direct form of what nurtured it. I was surprised by its tenacity. Or maybe heartened, i.e., if the ants’ earthen glory can adapt to and even thrive in water, surely I can adapt to an earthen life, and at least bloom 3 times for any who’ll see it.

  10. C – you have just bloomed, for all of us…by sharing this incredible little story…a view into your life and home and heart. Thank you, and God bless you.

  11. I thought a while about this but realized that Pia had pretty much nailed it for me. I think WORDS really do get in the way. It is highly likely that an inarticulate person may have a much better sense of what is essential than an articulate person but cannot express that due to a poor language skills. And it is also probable that WORDS can never express what is truly essential anyway.

    That being said, I could do without lima beans and beets.

  12. ROFL! Oh man, I just busted a gasket, Terry. I wasn’t expecting that last line!

    A deaf lady at our church, during the RCIA reunion buffet, held up a cream puff and unofficially signed at me “mmmmm”. I came up to join her, and bit into one while she watched, and unofficially signed that I’d died and gone to heaven. A while later, I looked over at her table, and she *signed* she was full, then put up 4 fingers. Four? FOUR cream puffs?? She was mortified. I was aghast. We roared. All without a word being exchanged. I love it.

    Oh, Kristin, thank you so much. You’re so sweet, honestly.

  13. When I first got married, I could speak very little Italian. I understood almost everything but I had some kind of mental block which impeded me from communicating more than yes, no and I need to go to the bathroom. I was capable of speaking (with some big errors and even some hysterical ones) but I was extremely shy, and I had so many emotions inside that there was no way I could articulate them into anything intelligible in another language, so I kept quiet most of the time. My husband and I lived near Assisi and would drive to Abruzzo almost every weekend; a three and a half hour ride…of almost complete silence, at least on my part. Those years were for absorbing the beauty of the countryside we’d drive through, for letting our relationship germinate, blossom and grow. Those years constituted the solid foundation of our marriage and frankly I find it almost an impossible thing to believe. In this day and age, where talk is just so cheap, we built something beautiful and durable on the basis of very few words.

  14. …but then, without “words”…where would poor Gabrielle be? With no way to host this wonderful blogsite….and where would WE be, with no way to share with one another (at these great distances), such kindness, such humor, such insights, such empathy, such wonderful absurdity, such faith, hope and love?

    But…. I think I DO understand what you mean, Terry, with your comments re: an “inarticulate person”, as opposed to an “articulate person”….sitting down, face to face, with both types of persons, it may matter less (or not at all), since we CAN often learn so much about a person’s essence by their facial expressions & body language.

    Then, when we pray (alone or together), words aren’t always necessary, as Scripture says that the Holy Spirit can intercede for us, when we don’t HAVE the words to say what we need to say…..this has often been a tremendous source of comfort to me. Besides all that, when we are communing with God, in prayer, He can see our truest intentions, and into the farthest darkest corners of our hearts….and so, at times like these, words are often superfluous (sp?) as well…..

    Funny how Gabrielle’s original post has brought us down these lively and inspiring pathways, over the course of these last 2 days…..all with the sharing of our thoughts & reflections, via the medium of “words”! 🙂 (Yes, this is a REAL grin, one that is spreading from ear to ear!) 🙂

    P.S. Terry, you will have to pay a visit to “the South”, to learn to appreciate Lima Beans….I can’t prepare them (yet), but I know where to take you, to get them served up just right! As for beets, I am in complete agreement w/you on their value and purpose…. 😦 And thanx for the b-day wishes! It was a wonderful birthday, with lots of memorable surprises and the kindness of loved ones.

  15. Kristen, you’re right, I think we’ve spent at least one hundred words here? And before this post, hundreds of thousands of words were shared. But the passage from scripture is so true: there is a time for every purpose under heaven. A time for silence, a time for speaking, a time for writing, etc…

  16. And a time for fishin’.

    By the way, I’ve never met a beet I didn’t like. And although I learned to serve my m-i-l her beloved Fordhook lima beans with buttah, I think they all should be Gehenna beans. Soybeans are a close second. [[[shudder]]]

    Aw, the quiet courting drives sound marvelous, Pia. If I’d known my husband was going to turn into one of those guys who drive work vans with an arm hanging out the window, even tho’ there is perfectly functioning air conditioning, so that he’d develop into someone who shouted every word over the wind while my hair blows straight out behind me, I’d have sent him back to Idaho-Polly-of-the-tube-socks.

    As for inarticulateness, for certain I am not the only one who has at times leaned back against a huge sturdy unseen breast, able to say only, “Don’t lose me.”

    Kristin, I’m glad your birthday was nice. So, is 38 any better than 37, or is it about the same? Aw, you kids.. so lucky.

  17. I hardly REMEMBER what 37 OR 38 was like! I just passed the “51” mark, and am now (officially) in my 52nd year of life….and it sure is a “wild ride”! 🙂 I am grateful, more than words (there’s that word again) could ever express, for this miraculous gift.

    And I hope that each of you knows (or that you WILL, after you read this) what a source of inspiration, encouragement, hope, comfort, strength, humor and divine love you have all been to me, since I joined Gabrielle’s “family of friends”). I have learned so much, and grown so much, since stumbling across this site… There have been days, unbeknownst to you, that you have brought a smile to my face – or dried a tear – when you never knew it (or maybe you did, by a special “revelation”?)…. thank you for being so “real”, and for making a difference in my life, and in my walk of faith.

    (((big hugs)))

  18. Kristin, I think we all feel exactly that way. 🙂 And I don’t know if you saw the last one, but now and then Gab hosts up a feast of us, complete with dialog. It’s hard work to compile and arrange, so I won’t really ask it, but I’m pretty sure I developed a whole new brain fold from laughing so hard.

    Gab, I love the new header. Who is to the left of Jesus? At first glance, I’d thought from the clothes and cross it’s St. John the Baptist.. but then it could also be the first assuree to Paradise, St. Dysmas.. We often say “Jesus, Mary and Joseph” so it might be St. Joseph, especially since he is pointing at Jesus, but it’s beefy enough to be St. Peter–and also because he is pointing to the Lord. Who is it, and with the exception of Moses whom I recognized (we went to pre-school together), who are all the others?

  19. C: Wow! You went to pre-school with Moses!?!? that is just TOO cool for words (there’s that word again)! 🙂 What was he like? did he have any “special gifts/abilities” that you can recall? Did he have signs of a beard showing yet? 🙂

    I like the idea that a good “belly-laugh” can develop brain cells! I am chuckling to myself, just imagining that! Ronnie is always telling me that I have a “big head” (physically speaking….an X-tra Lg motorcycle helmet is tight on me…and you should see the problems I have with baseball caps!) Maybe that is from finding humor in so many things! 🙂 I am suddenly no longer ashamed of my “big head”! 🙂

    (Gabrielle….hurry back, so you can join in all this fun!) 🙂

  20. Mosie was always a good kid, awe-fully serious, and had quite the fascination with water. He must’ve had a beard even then, tho’, because if he hadn’t, I’d remember it as his one flaw.

    I should think having a big head is a plus. I love Victor Hugo’s head — leonine. I’ve never seen a big-headed woman, but that would certainly make a great song.

  21. Okay….I’m game. Sing me a few lines! I’m ready to have a new & snappy tune rolling around in my (big) brain… all I can think of is Cat Steven’s “Hard Headed Woman”!! That one only applies to me on the rarest of occasions… 🙂

  22. …and I think the rest of the figures represents the comunion of saints. J tB is recognizable by the staff on his left shoulder and the pointed finger. We have a statue of him in the abbey which is named after him and this guy is a dead ringer. A live one, actually… 🙂

  23. Hi everybody. I’ll be back later tonight, I think.

    I didn’t put that new header up there; it appeared out of the blue last night, from where, I don’t know. I have very little control here, unlike Blogger or WordPress. I guess the St. Blog’s admin. put it up there for me, but I’m a bit stunned they wouldn’t ask me first. Anyway, at least it’s very nice, and much better than what was there before.

  24. Goodness! I don’t know where I have been, but it appears it’s all been said…I’m just here to agree! I do like the header though, if that counts for anything. Have a grand weekend! I’m going to!

  25. Trust me, no one is more pro-Word than I am. Any of the few brave masochists who read my blog know that my philosophy could be “Why try to say something in one word when twenty can be used to say the same thing?”

    But, since the original question was “What actually is not needed, in order to see what is essential?” I still contend that WORDS are dispensable.

    Plus, on a very personal level, I do find myself very often thinking that, while I may never be able to explain my faith or beliefs very well to anyone else, I really do know that I get it.

    See, it’s only taken me about 100 dispensable words to make my point.

    And, Kristen, I actually lived in South Carolina for 10 years. But nobody ever introduced me to a lima bean dish that was prepared in a manner that would offset the childhood trauma caused by succotash.

  26. Cathy, that’s okay. I don’t know where I have been either, and I live here.

    Terry, “Why try to say something in one word when twenty can be used to say the same thing?” I think you must have a bit of French in you. 😉

  27. I have said, “Ugh,” every time I looked at the photo of the ikebana at the top, and I finally asked myself why it is so. My self replied, “Because it’s ugly.” So, I asked myself further, “Why is it ugly?” I replied as if necessary, “Where it should be fat, it’s all skinny, where it should be short, it’s all long.. where it’s all deadish and not flowery, it should have at least leaves.” Something told me, thus, that perhaps my self is spoiled rotten, but that consists of will, and I don’t will to be spoiled (rotten or otherwise), and I very often don’t find ugly what others would, so I thought further. Perhaps it is a picture of life askew. Life not as God planned it. Maybe that’s why it reminds me of the Golgotha day. There is just one bit of green, there, in its center. Without it, even the flower(s? ) present cannot ease the stark landscape, all balanced precariously on a small base. If I were in a museum viewing this as a painting, I’d walk on, muttering, “C’mon–there’s gotta be some Baroque somewhere!” because maybe I am more willfully spoiled rotten by beauty than I know. What does anyone else make of the ikebana?

  28. What they call “minimal” furniture here. The latest fad. Your house is practically barren, except for a few pieces here andthere and maybe a chair or two. I don’t care much for it either. Our church was minimal once. Now it’s almost baroque, thank God. However, there has been so much attention paid to the exterior and interior beauty of the church, and too little to the people. There are many folks needy of attention, who just don’t get it. Maybe minimal is best, because you see what’s wrong or out of place right away. Can’t hide it anywhere.

  29. Now don’t go blaming Ikebana just because I may have chosen a lousy photo! And by the way, I don’t think I’ve ever had this many comments on a post before so,

    a) you’re all happier when I’m gone, or

    b) the Ikebana was so stark you had to add joyful fullness to the scene, or

    c) you all secretly love Ikebana, refuse to admit it, but are drawn back time and again, or

    d) you’re waiting for someone to post a recipe for succotash.

  30. ROFL!!

    Thufferin’ thuccotash, I do believe it’s the starkness that got to me. As you know, only some of us like bare trees of late Autumn..perhaps this particular ikebana is a seasonal statement: Clinging to a bit of spring green and floral summer, then the sparse residual leaves which aren’t enough to save my mind, all leading to deadly barren morose winter of New England. Aw man, I need chocolate, now.

  31. Words matter. Silence matters. Love matters. Truth matters. I don’t think we can separate these things from each other and be whole. When I first watched the vid (and there were no comments then so I held off) I thought just what Carol thought; but you just snipped the thing off so you could be all empathetic with its lines and shape. I still feel a tad that way but yes, we do bring cut flowers into the home so what can I say in defence of my plant hugging?

    Lines matter. My mom has told me time again that the thing she loves most in my art are my lines, “line quality” she’s always on about that.

    I think maybe I do my own kind of Ikawhatist when I enjoy the drawing process, “feeling” the line (in pencil or ink or paint) both on the paper and with my eye in regard to the subject being drawn or in the case of imagination simply feeling with the inner eye.

    What this vid did do for me was remind me that I am not spending enough time in my sketch books and for that dear Gabrielle I thank you.

  32. Owen, no one ever has to defend his/her plant-hugging to me. I only cut what is dragging the plant down, like overly-heavy peonies and white blossoms from the snow-ball tree, or what is excessive, like the columbines and sometimes irises. Everything else stays intact and is hugged on a regular basis. Inside are potted plants which hopefully blossom, until they die for (truly), no apparent reason. 🙂

    I am thinking about what you say in your opening remarks, Owen, about being whole, and it has got me to pondering now about essentials that can and should fluctuate in our lives (like words and silence) versus those that should have no fluctuation, only a steady increase (like Truth and Love).

    Carol, nix on the chocolate. Go hug a tree. 🙂

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