Many years ago, I started the practice of journaling almost everyday. I needed to be aware and compassionate concerning my own feelings and my challenging profession. I was responsible to teach and care tenderly for children often in pain and lost in a school settings. At home, my heart was challenged by an abusive marriage.
I started to drive to a retreat center to be grounded and gain a balance, taking time to journal at some length. I was able to walk among the white pine trees and sit by the creek. This was the ARC Retreat Center north of Stanchfield, north of the Twin Cities in Minnesota. This setting helped me look at my life from several different angles. A walk in the woods, helped me sense a quiet tenderness toward myself. My heart woke up. I learned to not only protect myself, but be filled with a hopefulness. I wrote what my heart was feeling at length and I went home each time with more understanding and care of myself.
I didn’t think of my writing as a spiritual memoir at the time, but as I looked back on my writing during my annual retreat in January, I realized how I was being guided and changed to open my heart in a different way to the children at school and my marriage. Centering Prayer mediation played a huge role in making me be aware and more mindful of my spiritual path, helping me welcome reality and the Sacred’s unconditional tender love. Like the children I was teaching, I too needed healing from past and present realities.
Then, I started to write poetry to express and capture my feelings, insights, joys and be more mindful of my need to be healed, being more truthful and real concerning my own life and its purpose. After my retirement and learning to live alone, I had more time to share these rich experiences in my writing.
My first book was Peace and Pancakes to encourage children to learn peace skills. These were the skills I was also learning. Then in My Song I tried to express gratitude for my family, creation, life itself including joys and social responsibility using my poems and art. Next I had the opportunity to write short poems for someone else’s photos about the beauty of creation. This book is called Looking Again. The photographer and I were just about to use it in senior settings as an activity when the virus changed all our plans.
Poetry became a powerful tool to capture the mystery and share my experiences. As I led Centering Prayer meditations groups according to Father Thomas Keating, I too was learning to welcome and encourage others on their spiritual journey. I collected many of my own poems and organized my latest book, Sacred Journey: Life is a Portal of Opportunities. This became my spiritual memoir. I included many photos to support the poems.
My purpose was to collect these poems to encourage others to be mindful and aware of how the Sacred knows and loves them unconditionally in this infinite mystery called life.
Anne M. Picard
White bear Lake, Minnesota, USA
Trees Along the Road to ARC
Trees meet me as I drive up
to the retreat center, a home
away from home
during crushing work loads
teaching confused little ones.
All the pine trees rooted along the road
are familiar friends.
I often leaned on them and walked
among them. I could hear
their comforting voices, felt their rough bark
sensing what really mattered.
Their branches reached to the blue sky
with strength and endurance.
It centered me. They were deeply rooted
and unmovable at their base.
Their energy filled me with courage.
ARC- Action-Reflection-Celebration (ARC is written on the retreat house door)
Time just flows differently up here
where the White Pines stand tall
and the stars sparkle above the trees.
Here is where every heart is fed with compassion
and given courage to thirst for the Sacred.
Here stillness blesses everything.