To Return Seems Like a Sacrament

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There are landscapes one can own,
bright rooms which look out to the sea,
tall houses where beyond the window
day after day the same dark river
turns slowly through the hills, and there
are homesteads perched on mountaintops
whose cool white caps outlast the spring.

And there are other places which,
although we did not stay for long,
stick in the mind and call us back—
a valley visited one spring
where walking through an apple orchard
we breathed its blossoms with the air.
Return seems like a sacrament.

Then there are landscapes one has lost—
the brown hills circling a wide bay
I watched each afternoon one summer
talking to friends who now are dead.
I like to think I could go back again
and stand out on the balcony,
dizzy with a sense of déjà vu.

But coming up these steps to you
at just that moment when the moon,
magnificently full and bright
behind the lattice-work of clouds,
seems almost set upon the rooftops
it illuminates, how shall I
ever summon it again?
~Dana Giola “Places to Return”

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A week away, experiencing new landscapes, seeing orcas and humpbacks and bears (oh my!) – this is the stuff of stories and memories.

Yet nothing about vacation compares to the sacrament of the moment of return, pulling into our own driveway, and settling back into the routine of home where the men are strong, the women are (ahem) good looking and the children are above average.

There’s no better place to summon up the sacrament of remembrance.

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Like Dew

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Faith steals upon you like dew:
some days you wake and it is there.
And like dew, it gets burned off
in the rising sun of anxieties,
ambitions, distractions.
~Christian Wiman from My Bright Abyss

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Our faith,
refreshed in the light of morning,
can evaporate in the dry stress of the day.
May we turn our faces up
each night, asking to be washed
in the mist of God’s dew,
our anxiety settled like dust.

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We Are As Others Are



Let us go forward quietly, forever making for the light, and lifting up our hearts in the knowledge that we are as others are (and that others are as we are), and that it is right to love one another in the best possible way – believing all things, hoping for all things, and enduring all things. ~Vincent Van Gogh in “Letters”


We like to believe it is in our DNA to be tribal, to justify setting ourselves apart from the “other”, to be discontent with whatever we are given — but that belief is how humanity’s troubles began.

Every election and convention season only intensifies our sense of “otherness”, further driving us apart and further into the darkness.

We are slaves to divisiveness: even worshiping and voting for it in the name of “becoming great again”, emphasizing our own “truth” in the name of “unity.”

I can’t watch it and I can’t listen to prayers for one political party over another.

I want to know it is still possible to love each other in all our differences in the best possible way,  with quiet endurance and hope. No shouting, no balloons, no  ridiculous rhetoric.

We are as others are — denying it is folly.  Believing it is the beginning of selfless love, something God did intend for our DNA. He became the “other” among us to show us how it can be done.

Propping up the Darkness

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Sometimes on summer evenings I step
Out of my house to look at trees
Propping darkness up to the silence.
~Paul Zimmer from “A Final Affection”

 

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We spent 16 hours yesterday on a ferry going up the inside passage on the British Columbia coastal islands, witnessing whale spouts and splashes.  The backdrop consisted of millions of trees in pristine wilderness propping up the sky, the clouds, and the silence we disturbed.

Anywhere I go, I look to the trees and feel immediately among old friends.

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Gayety of Stride

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Photo by Joel DeWaard

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It’s the immemorial feelings
I like the best: hunger, thirst,
their satisfaction; work-weariness,
earned rest; the falling again
from loneliness to love;
the green growth the mind takes
from the pastures in March;
the gayety in the stride 
of a good team of Belgian mares
that seems to shudder from me
through all my ancestry.
~Wendell Berry “Goods”

No one can say I haven’t worked hard enough.

Pulling on the tugs, pushing into the yoke that I willingly allowed to weigh me down,

my ancestry birthed me for this hard work weariness.

But they might say I have lost the gayety in my stride, having hit too many rocks and run head-long into stumps.

They might say the joy lies deeper than my plow can reach.

 

 

The Slowest Beauty

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As though I were nowhere around, the porcupine
              shuffles the edge of the road,
              in five minutes crosses
                            a distance I could have covered
                            in less than one

And disappears at last into cattails
              and rushes, sunset, a vespers
              of waterbirds, leaving me
                            still unwilling to move.

I am a sucker for scenes like this.
              The slowest beauty can rush me.
              And here I am,
                            all of my defenses down.
~Ingrid Wendt from “Porcupine at Dusk”

 

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A walk through enclosed tropical gardens
to witness the slow beauty of wading flamingos,
koi moving between their legs,
a lazy mist over exotic flowers,
butterflies testing their fragile wings.

I am overwhelmed,
my defenses down
over the rush of my life
outside this bubble.

Going back through the double doors,
re-entering the gray and cool of the northwest,
the bubble burst
and I’m released in a flutter of wings.

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Your Unfolding Life

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Beauty is about more rounded substantial becoming,
….an emerging fullness,
a greater sense of grace and elegance,
a deeper sense of depth,
and also a kind of homecoming
for the enriched memory of your unfolding life.

~John O’Donohue from an “On Being” interview

 

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Whenever we wander from home,
witnessing beauty in far flung places,
I find I yearn even more for the homecoming
of memories unfolding
from where they are so neatly stored,
so deep and so wide, so full and filling.

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