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Mary Rose O'Reilley

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Mary Rose O'Reilley



Average rating: 4.11 · 850 ratings · 169 reviews · 12 distinct worksSimilar authors
The Barn at the End of the ...

4.10 avg rating — 482 ratings — published 2000 — 4 editions
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The Love of Impermanent Thi...

4.03 avg rating — 105 ratings — published 2006 — 2 editions
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Radical Presence: Teaching ...

4.37 avg rating — 87 ratings — published 1998
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Half Wild: Poems

3.74 avg rating — 69 ratings — published 2006
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The Peaceable Classroom

4.20 avg rating — 51 ratings — published 1993
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Earthly Love: Stories of In...

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4.63 avg rating — 16 ratings
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Bright Morning Stars

3.94 avg rating — 18 ratings
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The Garden at Night: Burnou...

4.23 avg rating — 13 ratings — published 2005
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Earth, Mercy

3.80 avg rating — 5 ratings — published 2013 — 4 editions
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Earth, Mercy: Poems

0.00 avg rating — 0 ratings
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More books by Mary Rose O'Reilley…
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“On the first day of November last year, sacred to many religious calendars but especially the Celtic, I went for a walk among bare oaks and birch. Nothing much was going on. Scarlet sumac had passed and the bees were dead. The pond had slicked overnight into that shiny and deceptive glaze of delusion, first ice. It made me remember sakes and conjure a vision of myself skimming backward on one foot, the other extended; the arms become wings. Minnesota girls know that this is not a difficult maneuver if one's limber and practices even a little after school before the boys claim the rink for hockey. I think I can still do it - one thinks many foolish things when November's bright sun skips over the entrancing first freeze.

A flock of sparrows reels through the air looking more like a flying net than seventy conscious birds, a black veil thrown on the wind. When one sparrow dodges, the whole net swerves, dips: one mind. Am I part of anything like that?

Maybe not. The last few years of my life have been characterized by stripping away, one by one, loves and communities that sustain the soul. A young colleague, new to my English department, recently asked me who I hang around with at school. "Nobody," I had to say, feeling briefly ashamed. This solitude is one of the surprises of middle age, especially if one's youth has been rich in love and friendship and children. If you do your job right, children leave home; few communities can stand an individual's most pitiful, amateur truth telling. So the soul must stand in her own meager feathers and learn to fly - or simply take hopeful jumps into the wind.

In the Christian calendar, November 1 is the Feast of All Saints, a day honoring not only those who are known and recognized as enlightened souls, but more especially the unknowns, saints who walk beside us unrecognized down the millennia. In Buddhism, we honor the bodhisattvas - saints - who refuse enlightenment and return willingly to the wheel of karma to help other beings. Similarly, in Judaism, anonymous holy men pray the world from its well-merited destruction. We never know who is walking beside us, who is our spiritual teacher. That one - who annoys you so - pretends for a day that he's the one, your personal Obi Wan Kenobi. The first of November is a splendid, subversive holiday.

Imagine a hectic procession of revelers - the half-mad bag lady; a mumbling, scarred janitor whose ravaged face made the children turn away; the austere, unsmiling mother superior who seemed with great focus and clarity to do harm; a haunted music teacher, survivor of Auschwitz. I bring them before my mind's eye, these old firends of my soul, awakening to dance their day. Crazy saints; but who knows what was home in the heart? This is the feast of those who tried to take the path, so clumsily that no one knew or notice, the feast, indeed, of most of us.

It's an ugly woods, I was saying to myself, padding along a trail where other walkers had broken ground before me. And then I found an extraordinary bouquet. Someone had bound an offering of dry seed pods, yew, lyme grass, red berries, and brown fern and laid it on the path: "nothing special," as Buddhists say, meaning "everything." Gathered to formality, each dry stalk proclaimed a slant, an attitude, infinite shades of neutral.

All contemplative acts, silences, poems, honor the world this way. Brought together by the eye of love, a milkweed pod, a twig, allow us to see how things have been all along. A feast of being.”
Mary Rose O'Reilley, The Barn at the End of the World: The Apprenticeship of a Quaker, Buddhist Shepherd

“Whatever you eye falls on - for it will fall on what you love - will lead you to the questions of your life, the questions that are incumbent upon you to answer, because that is how the mind works in concert with the eye. The things of this world draw us where we need to go.”
Mary Rose O'Reilley, The Barn at the End of the World: The Apprenticeship of a Quaker, Buddhist Shepherd

“There is a bench in the back of my garden shaded by Virginia creeper, climbing roses, and a white pine where I sit early in the morning and watch the action. Light blue bells of a dwarf campanula drift over the rock garden just before my eyes. Behind it, a three-foot stand of aconite is flowering now, each dark blue cowl-like corolla bowed for worship or intrigue: thus its common name, monkshood. Next to the aconite, black madonna lilies with their seductive Easter scent are just coming into bloom. At the back of the garden, a hollow log, used in its glory days for a base to split kindling, now spills white cascade petunias and lobelia.

I can't get enough of watching the bees and trying to imagine how they experience the abundance of, say, a blue campanula blosssom, the dizzy light pulsing, every fiber of being immersed in the flower. ...

Last night, after a day in the garden, I asked Robin to explain (again) photosynthesis to me. I can't take in this business of _eating light_ and turning it into stem and thorn and flower...

I would not call this meditation, sitting in the back garden. Maybe I would call it eating light. Mystical traditions recognize two kinds of practice: _apophatic mysticism_, which is the dark surrender of Zen, the Via Negativa of John of the Cross, and _kataphatic mysticism_, less well defined: an openhearted surrender to the beauty of creation. Maybe Francis of Assissi was, on the whole, a kataphatic mystic, as was Thérèse of Lisieux in her exuberant momemnts: but the fact is, kataphatic mysticism has low status in religious circles. Francis and Thérèse were made, really made, any mother superior will let you know, in the dark nights of their lives: no more of this throwing off your clothes and singing songs and babbling about the shelter of God's arms.

When I was twelve and had my first menstrual period, my grandmother took me aside and said, 'Now your childhood is over. You will never really be happy again.' That is pretty much how some spiritual directors treat the transition from kataphatic to apophatic mysticism.

But, I'm sorry, I'm going to sit here every day the sun shines and eat this light. Hung in the bell of desire.”
Mary Rose O'Reilley, The Barn at the End of the World: The Apprenticeship of a Quaker, Buddhist Shepherd

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