I was born and raised Baptist. The kind of Baptist that flinches when the words ritual or sacrament are mentioned, tainted as they were, by profane Catholicism. (But then again, we didn’t know what the words meant, only that anything non-Baptist was considered profane.)
Here’s what I know now. A life giving ritual makes our world bigger, not smaller.
There is room for kindness and grace and inclusion and nourishment and restoration.
There is room to spend our days savoring sacramental miscellanies. (And just for the record, that’s not a bad way to spend a day.)
I am in my garden. And I will write my Sabbath Moment later tonight. But for now: I am not Phoning. I am not Tweeting. I am not Texting. I am not Emailing. I am not Googling. I am not mentally editing the to-do list in my head. I’m practicing savoring sacramental miscellanies.
Which isn’t to say that I’m not tempted to do the others. Because the world is a scary and worrisome place. Made all the more so with our knee jerk propensity to fix it, or at least decipher it all. It’s no wonder we live in a restless kind of anxiety.
A prophet once wrote that a person has found his or her true vocation when they stop thinking about how to live, and begin to just live.
Bottom line: When I lose sight of who I am (or where I am grounded), I forget to live. Preoccupied with apprehension, I’m unable to give or care, to weep or mourn, to invest or contribute.
In a February Sabbath Moment, I wrote about Sankofa (a word from the Akan language of Ghana). It is often associated with the proverb, “Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi,” which translates “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.” Or to remember. Or to recover. As an affirmation of the very things that make us human and fully alive.
When we practice Sankofa, it is possible to reclaim the fruit of the sacrament of the present moment – light, kindness, compassion, understanding, forgiveness, kindheartedness, tolerance, gratitude, mercy, second chances, hope, dignity, open heart, open mind – that has been buried or lost or dormant.
Well, it’s Sankofa time again.
And I am determined to live.
When I am not grounded (or not in my garden), my mind wanders with scenarios that chill, frighten and unnerve.
But here, I walk, sit, read and work. The garden heals me.
And here’s the deal: Any healing power – our love and our light – spills from a grounded life.
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? Mary Oliver
Wild? Really? Let’s not forget that Baptist boy inside of me. Wild is a little over the top don’t you think?
So I’ll shoot for measured (that way I don’t have to call it controlled), focusing on how I live, giving way to a propensity to solve or perhaps make sense of it all.
Thank God for the times when I let go of that urge. Not long ago, I received this evaluation after a presentation, “We were all laughing so hard, I seriously wondered whether we were ever going to get to any important stuff!”
I was raised in a world where excess is a dirty word. (We were careful to avoid all things wasteful or extravagant or decadent… excessive laughter included.) I assimilated and absorbed life in the school of antiseptic gardening, requiring, even demanding, a well-mannered well-modulated world. That is, all things in their correct places. Above all, tidy and evenly spaced, with no threat of overflow, for there nothing touches. I chose to strive for what was proper and tasteful. Unobtrusive and correct. The thought of intoxication as a prerequisite for my soul was utter heresy!
(It reminds me of the story about a Sunday School class concerning moral behavior. “Tell me,” asked the teacher, “what must we do before we can expect forgiveness for our sins?” One boy raised his hand. “Well first,” the boy said, “we gotta go sin.”)
It’s just that I excelled (cum laude and all that) in the school where image is everything, measured against the requirement to do things “correctly.” So it is no surprise that all areas of my life were carefully scripted. At the same time, my Midwestern religious heritage taught me to never feel prideful or exuberant of possessions or skills or accomplishments. So I kept all of my emotions in check, meting out only those that others or I deemed appropriate. I went overboard protecting myself against the sin immoderation.
Avoiding the pit of being at the mercy of my feelings, that discomfiting place where passions rage and demons howl, where colors bubble and explode, where one is no longer in control, no longer strained, as the heart–not to be trusted–wildly races. For incentive, and to stay the course of control, I carried in my mind pictures of men with puffed scarlet faces, contemptible and pitied. I was above that, surely. And the result is that there was a part of myself, this cauldron of passions, I entombed. Of what was I afraid?
Your guess is as good as mine. However you slice it, there is to be sure, a price to be paid for living this way–all emotions restricted, close to the chest. The payoff is certainly for the short run, while we still enjoy the apparent rewards for our protectiveness, as the world feels manageable and comfortable. Meanwhile, our enemies–our fears–are kept at bay by true grit.
But down the road, something snaps. While I sit on the back deck, the sun sets over the Kitsap Peninsula (the expanse of land west of Seattle and Puget Sound). The sky, as if batter poured from a pitcher, turns an effluence of slate blue and vermilion. Spires of hemlock are backlit and silhouetted like hand puppets on an immense screen. I stand for some unknown reason, singing, “Jeremiah was a bullfrog. Was a good friend of mine…” at the top of my lungs, and do a little boogie with my dog, who hasn’t the foggiest idea what’s come over me but is a sucker for a party and plays along nonetheless.
I let the moment melt around me before I gain my composure and give myself some sort of reality check: a quiz requiring justification for what I’m feeling and why. And then it hits me. I can’t tell a soul about my dance at twilight without coming face-to-face with who I was pretending not to be and the energy it required to maintain that image.
When I lived in Southern California, I spent three days a month at a Benedictine monastery out in the high desert. It was my periodic trek to a place where I could slow down long enough to pay attention. Truth is, I wanted to learn how to be alone with myself and like it, because I wasn’t very good at that. And, I wanted to learn how to be alone with God and like it, because I wasn’t very good at that, either.
On one visit, a friend asked one of the monks, “What exactly do you do here?”
“We pray,” the monk replied simply.
“No, really,” my friend persisted. “I mean besides that. What do you really do?”
“It is enough just to pray,” the monk told my friend.
“It is enough,” I tell my dog standing on the deck absorbing the summer sky, “just to boogie.” Just to boogie under the inexplicable marbled canopy of dusk. Just to feel your lungs swell and your heart flutter. Just to cheer the sun as it sets and not give a damn about some need to fight back the tears, standing spellbound in the salty prism for twilight rainbows.
I just walked the garden. I like the fact that my blood pressure goes down here.
The sun has set. It’s well past 9. In the evening air, the garden pulls out all the stops for Memorial Day, and begins a wild and precious parade of lavender lupine, hardy geranium, alchemilla, columbine, lilac, iris (bearded, Siberian, Louisiana), astrantia, scarlet oriental poppies, blood red peonies, candelabra blooms on the Empress tree, and the first blooms of the rose Penelope. Mercy, it’s good.
I just finished Jim Harrison’s, A Really Big Lunch, speaking of sacramental miscellanies. This week we begin the second week of our eCourse Find Your Sanctuary. It’s definitely not too late to join us if you wish. There is no prize for finishing first.
Quotes for your week…
Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up. Pablo Picasso
Life without intoxication is not worth a “pitcher of spit.” Kurt Vonnegut
POEMS AND PRAYERS
Had I Not Been Awake
Had I not been awake I would have missed it,
A wind that rose and whirled until the roof
Pattered with quick leaves off the sycamore
And got me up, the whole of me a-patter,
Alive and ticking like an electric fence:
Had I not been awake I would have missed it,
It came and went so unexpectedly
And almost it seemed dangerously,
Returning like an animal to the house,
A courier blast that there and then
Lapsed ordinary. But not ever
After. And not now.
I Would Be Glad
You are sitting in a wagon being
drawn by a horse whose
There are two of you
who can steer
Though most never hand the reins to Me
so they go from place to place the
best they can, though
rarely ever happy.
And rarely does their whole body laugh
feeling God’s poke
If you feel tired, dear,
my shoulder is soft,
I’d be glad to