Monday, December 16, 2013

Reprinting this essay from three years ago! It still speaks to the season so well.


The barren trees stand startled, this side of Christmas. The longest, darkest night of the year is close, this hovering between last year and next year, between old and new. For the last few weeks the cold has removed all ornament from the trees –acorns, leaves, pine needles. At my farm this week, the last few gum balls fell to the ground. The stark outline lets us see what the trees and the land really look like.

Advent is this time of removing ornament - adornment, a time for rest and dreaming, a time to get down to our essential selves. Even the trees draw their sap down into their roots.

So the trees seem startled at the colored lights and streamers and tinsel that get flocked onto them by cheerful humans. What is this extraneous finery at a moment designed for dreamtime, in darkness?  What is this curious impulse of humans who haven’t lived through the night out in the garden, where the trees shiver together, sensing and awaiting the earth’s movement? The trees know it is not yet time to bring a new thing into being, not even a new heaven and a new earth. How can we pull out tinsel when the work of darkness is not done?

Here at Epiphany the church is also without ornament. It is witnessing to its essential self. During Advent, it is remembering who it really is. On Thursday, the adornment, the decoration of our church was two big plastic bags of empty cans sitting on the front walk, cans emptied of their contents to be used in cooking for Peachtree Pine, for feeding 500 cold, homeless men. The empty cans are our Advent witness, our adornment. Our essential self.

Only now in these last days of Advent, something shifts. The sun shifts, the trees call the sap back, call life back, and the Christ child takes lodging in our hearts. Isaiah remembers his prophecy. And Mary, Mary, says yes. It is time to breathe a new thing into being, a birthing from within.

Only now, tenderly, do we bring out the colored lights and streamers and tinsel and prepare for a festival. Some great hope for the world is overcoming us and we turn to the light and its sweetness. A sense of possibility a hope for the world, a joy. Come people! A baby is going to be born!


The Rev. Cynthia Hizer
Episcopal Church of the Epiphany
Advent Lessons and Carols 2010

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Foundations Fall Retreat  
Four Directions 
Earth and Metal Elements 

Dear darkening ground,
You’ve endured so patiently the walls we’ve built,
Perhaps you’ll give the cities one more hour

And grant the churches and cloisters two.
And those that labor – maybe you’ll let their work
grip them another five hours, or seven.

Before you become forest again, and water, and
       Widening wilderness
In that hour of inconceivable terror
When you take back your name from all things.

Just give me a little more time!
I want to love the things
As no one has thought to love them,
Until they’re real and ripe and worthy of you.
 I want only seven days, seven
On which no one has ever written himself –
Seven pages of solitude.

There will be a book that includes these pages,
And she who takes it in her hands
Will sit staring at it a long time,
Until she feels that she is being held
And you are writing.
 -- Ranier Maria Rilke

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Meditation Retreat on the Earth Element
With incense for the season and Honey Tasting
Hazelbrand Forest Hermitage
September 7, 2013

Just past dawn I opened the barn doors on each end. The filtered white light filled and warmed the cavernous barn. We started the retreat by preparing our space – finding our cushion/zabuton and zafu or mountain seat – or other, and making it ours. I lit the bamboo charcoal we will use for the incense this morning.
            Then, we walked out the barn doors to the grassy field. We gathered in a group and opened to the directions. East – Spring, South – Summer, Southwest – Earth,  Northwest – Late Fall, North – Winter. Then we added layers, Navajo directions and sacred meanings and Changing Woman, Celtic, Ayruvedic. By the time we had completed the circle and turned back to East we had a good idea of the energetic movements and meanings, colors, tastes, plants and personalities that inhabit each. How each direction is part of the aliveness of Earth, regardless of the “system” we use.
            The earth element, or phase, brings us balance, harmony, a center position among all the elements. It is the place of the Peacemaker, at this late time of summer, of ripening fruits, maturing wisdom, fullness of life. It is transition point between yang and the coming yin of fall-winter.
            Now we headed back into the barn, to our spaces. We bowed to the altar, we bowed to our cushion, we bowed to each other. And we sat.  We let the earth support us.
I lit incense – for this morning is propolis – the material bees make to seal their hives. It has an intense honey smell – the sweetness that symbolizes the earth phase. We use the incense to deepen our meditation, and we use our meditation to deepen our understanding of propolis.
One bell to begin meditation, three bells to end. Sit/walk/sit. Going barefoot in the cool morning grass for walking meditation– wow! It was cushiony under my feet, and wet. Ten minutes out and back, and we resume our meditation. The quiet deepening, a stillness overcomes us. One dog barks a bit, then a donkey (San Juan I am sure of it – I know the sound of his voice), and one lawn mover for a few minutes. But mostly on this September morning, birds, geese overhead, and Spider Woman watching us from her perch.

We celebrate the fullness of life today. That is the culmination of the Earth phase.
Thirty minutes break and we resume our conversation about Earth. About our Animal Bodies, about our kinship with all-that-is. I tell the story of Mitti Attar, the most precious perfume of the Lord Krishna, made from the first drop of water on parched dry land. The scent sweet, but deeper than propolis. With an edge, an earth edge. We touch it to our wrists and our noses and I sprinkle a few drops on the burning coals.
This is the illumination of the incarnation. Of the Divine becoming earth – mud – us. And so we sit in the stillness. Taking in balance, harmony, ripening fruits, wisdom, fullness of life, the stillpoint between yang and yin. Observing the incarnation as it has come to us.
Where is the Peacemaker in us? How can we use this time this morning to be a support to the Earth, as it has been a support to us? How might we begin again, with the turning of the wheel of the year, as we move toward introspection and deepening wisdom?
Then we physically eat the sweet earth. Honey – ten different varieties, scones, biscuits, breads, rice crackers, turnovers, homemade strawberry jam, apple butter. We sit together – on the floor, around on couches, and wonder about the Earth phase and its meaning for us as Peacemakers. As incarnation. As a sacred living.

The Rev. Cynthia Hizer

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A kind of compulsion

September 4 2013

There is a kind of compulsion this time of year, to burst.
It seems we grow and grow and grow and ripen and ripen and open ourselves to love and life - to excess.
On hot summer days -
So hot the tomatoes burst if we touch them, which is why we don't pick tomatoes in the heat of the day.
So hot the volatile oils in basil leaves perfume  - the oils practically boil out of the cells and explode into the noonday air.
So hot passions overtake us, our reasoning faculties elude us, and we make rash, stupid decisions that a cooler head might prevent. A time for red lipstick and extra high-heeled sandals and painted toe nails.

This excess of heat and passion and volatility at some point has to combust into fire, into fruition, until it  finally has to -- exhale.
Yang turns back toward yin.
But before it does, in the afternoon, sometime past noon and before dusk, we have the harvest.
We have the exploding flavor of ripe juicy tomatoes and corn bursting with milk and cucumbers and melons and figs and grain and grapes turning into raisins. So much flavor, so much love, so much pure bliss, so much light-headedness,
all held in suspension at this moment in late summer. Indian Summer. The time when time stops for a long pause, before yang exhausts itself.
The Earth phase of late summer comes into glory, a gracious plenty, the groaning board of contentment laughing at its own crazy exuberant abundance.

Friday, August 23, 2013

I have been reading an article by Youngman Park, director of the Aulim Spiritual Center in Korea, in Presence magazine. He has a beautiful East-West teaching, using poetry and non-direction in spiritual direction. He combines Confucianism, Daoism, Mahayana Buddhism and Christianity and the yin-yang understanding for holistic direction. My kind of spirituality. Waiting for his book to come out....maybe he will come to Hazelbrand Forest Hermitage to teach???

Temple Cleaning
at the Hermitage

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Summer enters as barn doors open

Opening the barn doors each Spring is an annual event at Hazelbrand. It is late this year - mid-May, and the anticipation was high. Friday was a beautiful day and a beautiful day to open the giant doors to make ready for Saturday's meditation retreat.

So all is ready . . .or nearly . . cobbler baked, son home near his mother, brats deliciously served, and the barn hallways open as summer enters fully clothed in freshness, rain, and sunlight.

Prayer flags announce the labyrinth way. The mowed grass smells fresh, inviting. The donkeys Moose and San Juan and the beautiful horse Lance are welcoming presences, and today I heard the hawk's wild cry just in the forest across the back yard. And I saw deer grazing in the pasture, seeming to see me, yet not be fully afraid. It was gentle and made me have tears.

Chaz Hill - at Hazelbrand Forest Hermitage, May 10, 2013

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

forCynthia and Margaret, a poem!
Home is the heart...
...and the monastery is NOT just down the road!
Is this what visiting the Desert Mothers was like?
Basking in wise love!
Beautiful, blooming forCynthia
Harbinger of Hazelbrand’s perennial Spring
Never a priest?
Try telling God that!
Renaissance Margaret
Organically appealing, our noses know!
Husband to animals, Catholic to the core
Quantum Physics has never been this exciting!
March Meditation Madness
Return to the Sweat Lodge...but without the sweat
Greatly incensed, never felt wholier
Let the seraphic sanctuary and garden grow!

by Dan Senger

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Spring Equinox Meditation Retreat. Saturday March 23 - 9 – 2. Hazelbrand Hermitage outside Atlanta,GA.  A day of meditation with tree woods, resins, essential oils and teas that are specific to nourishing Spring and the rising of prana -  expansive mind and spiritual attunement. We will walk the river and pastures, and in the afternoon mediation we will enjoy traditional tea ceremony. Bring a bag lunch. $20 to cover expenses. Email or go to our website at to pay by Paypal.

Poem for Spring Equinoxnegative in light blue and green

Like a waterfall
Depending on the flow;
The water like the wind goes
Blows flows where it will

And they return only to ask a question where we felt gentle showers in the dawn
Awestruck in roaring poured out
Streams like lifeblood coursing
Through one body
Him her we they all
Returning like the river going
Into the sea
Our cups running over.

평화. 물. 사랑 

〓〓Pyunghwa - Peace. 〓Su - Water. 〓〓Sarang - Love.
For this time and for Julie, Margaret, Cyn, and Dan 
This morning in Lent,
Traveler's day. Go in peace. Go with God. Go blessing and giving grace till we see again and rejoice face to face. Amen

On Mar 21, 2013, at 8:30 AM, Charles Hill

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Waking Wonder, Outer Places, Inner Songs (An Introductory Ode)

Ode to Place

ours is a
rustic place,
cold in the hallway, toasty in the library room, sunlighted and wood fire warm
upstairs in the common room stretching across to the great room of gentle alchemy and
contemplation on a wheel of meditation fragrant with frank incense and lavender loves;
downstairs all up and down the shelves,
books everywhere to read,
gentle pastures outside beckon to another sight near where alcovy river goes flowing slowly by,
and the horse Lancelot
and donkeys Moose and San Juan,
and frail aging Black Kitty,
and the birds---the woodpeckers and hawks and crows,
and I saw an opossum out by the road as I was returning
from the store this evening, eyes ablaze with road crossing hopes;
safe crossing hopes
we all have
as we look at the stars twinkling in the winter night, and pull our jackets tighter around our shoulders,
and when the wind gusts hard, we hold even closer
to the one we love,
in our dreams
or in our hearts, we pray our prayers as if the lips of Jesus were pressed against our own,
and we hope for the light at the end of the tunnel,
shining . . . marine and green and blue with silver eyed clouds,
all coming with us on the journey as if it was all along about
bringing us out of the closets and caves and dungeons into a dawning day,
the way sunrise yawns and rises, then hesitates, then decides it is all right after all,
to be herself unfettered sailing through the hollow oaks and caressing the spine.

I. Gloria Gracias Mere
She opens the doors
and moves gently across the frost twinkling like stars,
melting into tears,
the dew
the hue
of aqua
the taste of agua to drink,
in the rustic place
called hazelbrand farm
a monastery of hermits,
travelers, artists,
and priests,
on warmer winter days frogs sing in choruses of hundreds
their voices one choir comforting and soothing,
and then when the temperatures drop, suddenly, the voices are silent as stones in the river,
and only the singing gusts in the pines and the oddly placed bird cry and the donkey's bray at breakfast and suppertime
and familiar bushy snort of a hungry happy horse chime in to all that beats where we live
in heart's home
under the feathered roof of
forest hermitage and sanctuary
in a barn,
the water
flows by
where the coffee is brewed every morning
and fills the air
wonder as wonderful as rising mists, where sho nuff the young willow bends into more
slanting falling rain,
and slender rays of sunlight stretching across the hands of fields at dusk
reflect shimmering sounding out as tiny ripples dance in time with the fish shewed waters below
deep and cool with sweet tasting rye wheat air rising up along
shadowy green leaf grassy pond bank shores.

II. Selah

Here is home. Here is sanctuary. Here is holy ground.

III. Terra Firma, Holy Water, Healing Soup, Cleansing Soap

fragrant, rough, smooth-skinned, hollowed out with joyful croaking framed in
the turning wheels, the boiling potatoes, baked biscuits,
the soups
the bird woman soap
bubbling up
a lathery

chaz hill
2013 feb 20 (
after midnight, we gonna let it all hang out, set our worries free, dream of everlasting things)