The Second Day

Maybe the matrix of the Earth is disintegrating.

And maybe that disintegration is necessary.

And maybe the great arc of time collapses, pulses like shattered mercury, reorganizes, becomes a wormhole of uncertainty.

And maybe the most fruitful day of the Triduum, is the one we least know how to occupy. The second day while the stone remains in place, and we are on either side of it. On one side, in the silence of the tomb, traveling. On the other side held in a sabbatical tradition of cessation, but nevertheless free to sleep, grieve, or anticipate.

Or maybe, we are the stone through which nothing passes and wherein the speed of light is too slow to comprehend. Here, touching both sides, resisting nothing.

To Change the Order

Maybe, if You hadn't waited until the last night.
Maybe, if right from the start
Or at least somewhere in the middle,
You'd sat those men in a circle.

Equally distant from the Center
And regarding each other fully
On level ground,
They wouldn't have argued.

Who was best?
Who was least?
When each in his place round the rim,
Each body of love and dust had work to do.

Lord, I'm telling You,
They needed practice.
To change the order,
Change the form.

Had they started sooner,
Learned to wash each other's feet,
Maybe we wouldn't be in such a mess,
Still trying to prove our supremacy. 

You did what you could
With who showed up,
And so, as we follow,
Must we

Strip ourselves of rank,
Stoop and fill a basin,
Scrub the grit from our companions' necessary soles,
And with our clothing, dry between their toes.

For Jim (met in circle), on his 73rd birthday.

Image: Unknown creator from the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedon Church and gathered from Northeast Wisdom

Hearts and Ashes

Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day, love’s arduous and jubilant walk to the cross, to the center of all things, where the horizontal line of what we experience as time and narrative is pierced by the vertical line of Truth. The horizontal line stretching backward and forward farther than the eye can see. The vertical line generated like lightning. The crossing of these lines we call Now. 

The vocabulary of sacrifice can’t help but show up on such a day. We have to look at what slaughter has to do with offering. How can taking the life of another be an offering of my own? It can’t. That precious lamb or bull or child or virgin represents those things we worship more than anything: Security, a future, innocence, power. “Here,” we say, “I’ll give you my prize as proof of how much I fear you. To prove I love you. What’s that you say? You only want me? No. No. No. I’ll have to think about that.” And we walk it all back. How did we get so mixed up?  

I think of my sister’s final Now.  

Cindy woke up, peed, showered, had coffee. She walked the dogs, ate breakfast, dressed, did her hair, put together her lunch, stepped into shoes. The December day was bright and warm. The key went into the ignition. Music played. She put her elbow on the slight ledge where car door meets window, and tipped her head into her hand while waiting for a light to change. She arrived at work, said good morning. At her desk, she thought about what she needed to do to get ready for a trip to Sally’s cabin. And then, with an internal blow near her right temple, her light went out. In the shock, her heart arrested, but was too strong – from walks and gardening and time in the mountains – to stop. 

The EMTs couldn’t let her go. That decision came down to us, her family. 

So here we are. Here I am, braiding and unbraiding the threads of story and loss – a far cry from and resonant echo of letting go – and all tangled up with the language of sacrifice. 

Cindy’s life ended. The wave fell back into the ocean. This did not happen for a reason. She was not taken, stolen, smote, executed, or sacrificed. This is not to say her life had no meaning. And who knows if she offered anything up or what she offered, if she did. So much that isn’t ours to know. 

Here, only, today’s Now. No life is ever completed, and yet everyone is complete in the Mystery.

 

Abiding

night sky 17

the Mary in me

bows to the Mary in you

giving birth to God

 

you think only she

alone in the world chosen

worthy so are you

 

dark and holy night

unknowing breathing waiting

mystery becomes

 

 

the Joseph in me

bows to the Joseph in you

accepting God’s son

 

humble carpenter

he won’t inherit your tools

no one prepared you

 

raise him anyway

the Mystery in real life

reaching for your hand

11 November

That wind came barreling down from the Northwest, over the hill into Grand Marais, and out to Lake Superior. At the uphill edge of town, a gust takes your breath. You walk three steps in place against it and turn away, staggering, to blink at the place where steel gray water meets paler sky. Beyond the horizon that wind piles water into mountains and overwhelms the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Grand Marais is a town with its face to a vast drinkable sea, cold enough to kill you almost any day of the year. The ghosts of colossal sturgeon claim its depths and wait, wait for the next of us to fall into torpor on the metallic surface and join them.

It’s a town with its back to a dark forest, too quiet to hide in.

In the worst of winter, cold steals into a cabin, snapping minds like twigs. A rifle repeats 5 times, and the wife, the kids, the head of household, lose their heat in dark pools, while outside, dogs whimper on heavy chains, waiting to be fed.

Should you survive, you’ll come out from under winter’s weight just in time for the descent of biting flies.

Why would anyone want to live here?

Perhaps because in the violent indifference of the place you also find beauty, and you sense the holy necessity of everything, down to the wriggling white grub, the bacteria digesting the fir needle, the chickadee’s insistent cheerfulness, the half-blind hulk of moose, even the mosquito’s whine.

And you want to know it, every part. You want to disappear into the heart of it.

This wanting can go several ways. It can die into hardness, the lack of gratitude for your own existence, and the need to battle against the suchness of the place. It can turn you into an expert on mushrooms. It can sing in your DNA, so that when you’re striding down an unpaved road, you’re blasted with an inkling of who you are. It can call you out, over and over, to the edge in the middle of hypothermia, where you let go, let everything go.

Like the inconsolable dawn, leaking into the coldest hour of night, a knowing seeps into your dark horizon. You are seen, embraced, loved. Every cell. Every clumsy thought. The place knows you.

It’s then that you realize: every day of your life will be spent in prayer. Every crunching footstep. Every stone tossed into the breathing water. Every sigh turning to frost in your hair.

For Barb L.

Good Rest

starry-night1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Good rest! And as you settle in,
Let nothing you dismay,
Remember that the light within
Still glimmers through this day,
That you might, with a gentle pow’r,
All suff’ring cause to sway.
 
With sparkles of divinity
Each blessed soul is born.
The image of Eternity
Marks every blessed form.
And all who come to honor this
Will banish human scorn.
 
And so, with ev’ry breath you take
To Spirit you give voice.
Be mindful that it’s love you make;
It is a holy choice.
With ecstacy your birthright,
In every day rejoice!
 
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy!
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.