Tuesday, December 15, 2015
The feathers have fallen, scattered in mournful disarray, an entire story trod by the feet of people who rarely look down in haste. But I look and notice. I can't help but notice - and wonder - from which body they fell. A pigeon, I believe. How many there are. And the way they've fallen, as if each ruffled strand tells of a struggle I did not witness.
I am curiosity brimming over, crouching on my haunches in the rain, on a downtown city sidewalk, as people step around me and the feathers.
I collect them as treasures, tuck them gently in my lunch bag. And I marvel, at the treasures that have always laid hidden in plain sight, when I was one of the haste- driven ones who rarely looked up or down to see. I keep them in an empty porcelain flower planter on our kitchen-table-converted-to-art-workshop: feathers, leaves, conifer cones, strips of birch bark peel, shells, the fuzzy cone of a magnolia tree with red seeds hanging through slits by the tiniest of filaments. I carefully drop these treasures in small glass ornaments, a few of my favorite reminders of the world I love in microcosm.
* * * * *
I love books, always have. They have been among my favorite friends and teachers through the years. But I find myself in a larger, more rugged classroom these days, reading stories not in print but in wood and filament, leaf and cone, feather and bird call, wind and rain. These are my friends, my teachers, and it's taken more than two decades to bring me back around to this classroom. To the ground I began upon.
This instinct as deep as the deepest roots, that each creature, each created thing, no matter how small, has something to show me. To teach me. But I forgot how to listen, how to see, how to slow, how to wonder. I was never taught to see the sacred here, in all these beings, in all these things and places. We worship the Creator, not the created, I heard for years, nodding my head in agreement. As if I had permission only to notice their beauty, then look quickly away, lest I fall into the temptation of worshiping the wrong god. It is not a feather, after all, that speaks sacred things to us, but God who created the feather and the bird from which it came. And so for many years, I looked away, looking for God in acceptable places, resolving not to love the created world as I did the Creator.
For. They. Must. Be. Kept. Separate.
* * * * *
And, alas, they cannot.
The year wore on, and I grew more weary of the dichotomies. The division of soul and flesh from trees and feathers. Can God not be found on the wind and in the water, stretching through the arms of a tree, in the quiver of a flower petal, the wing beats of a hummingbird, the drumbeat of rain, the stretchmarks of a drought blighted land, the DNA of a pine cone, the bleat of a goat, the penetrating eyes of a tortoise, the warmth of a donkey's neck? Is the Divine so small and insecure as to separate things so incessantly as we humans? Or is the Divine not also like a tapestry: colorful, distinct and yet inseparable; bound together from and in and through all things eternal.
I sought to know God also in the meditations and practices of Buddhist monks, who honor all life as sacred. The prayers of Native peoples, who love the earth and the spiritual world as one. The art and traditional celebrations of Mexican Catholics. The questions and ever-unfolding journeys of agnostics and atheists. The language of the created world, revealing to me spiritual treasures everywhere I look. Not as a choose-your-own-religion as much as a flinging off of religion to choose the One who cannot be contained by a label. Nor can I.
As this year comes steadily to a close, I see: this is my resurgence.
[My word for 2015 has been resurgence. For more posts on this, you can read here and here and here and here.