even the simple things
can reflect the light
I am in a dark wood, trying to find my way. All the trees look the same. What seems to be a path will disappear in a tangle of brush after just a few steps. The moon has not come up. The sounds of the night wear a menacing edge.
I try to keep from panicking. I tell myself to breathe. How did I get here? How can I find my way home? It is as if I suddenly came to consciousness in this place. It seems I’ve been here quite a while, but unaware. Which means, unfortunately, that I can’t retrace my steps.
There is no visible threat, but my heart is beating in my ears. I can hardly think. I’ve heard the stories of terror and all of them are breathing down my neck at once. My imagination fuels my fear.
As I cast to the right and to the left, I see the dark form of a large tree. I make my way there and, circling the bulk, I push aside a low branch, and crawl inside the canopy. I find a place where there is a bit of room and I lean myself against the trunk.
With my back to the tree and a large branch on either side, I feel my panic begin to subside. Here, at least for a moment, I can breathe and take stock of my surroundings. Here, cuddled up against the bulk of the tree, I release my frantic wanderings and whisper a prayer.
Then, to my surprise, I begin to notice other things. I feel the slightest breeze and it carries the scent of pine upon its breath. I notice that the ground beneath me is covered with a blanket of pine needles, softening its surface. The branches on either side are full of life, earning their monicker of ever-green. I raise my eyes to see the stars through the highest branches, punctuating the night sky with hope.
The moon sneaks out from behind a cloud. It had been there all along. It’s face wears a craggy smile as it sends its shimmering light upon the grasses down the hill. Turns out, this tree is at the edge of a clearing. From it, I watch a cautious doe lead her fawn out into the open space. She lifts her head at a sharp sound and sniffs the air. Then she resumes her grazing.
The wood is full of undeniable danger, but it is also filled with beauty. Now my prayer has turned from desperation to gratitude. For a moment I am in a wood that is deep with wonder. It is the same wood – mysterious, and whispering grace.
Looking forward to giving thanks.
It is an interesting exercise.
It holds blessings
And hidden challenges.
There is a grace in preparing food
In anticipating the laughter and hugs
In remembering the favorite delicacies
And simple dishes of past years.
Making the cookies that grandma made;
Fixing the ‘right’ dressing
Or the green bean casserole
These are all are a kind of sacrament.
They honor family
And weave a tapestry of memory
And help to keep the place at the table
For those who no longer attend.
But we must remember
In the remembering
To actually be at the meal
With those who actually come.
There is no confection,
There is no perfection
(Even if perfection were possible)
That is better than presence.
So, I pray that I will remember
To attend to the family
More than the meal.
To let the mess become a miracle.
For that is the way of grace.
Where did I put myself?
Surely, if I run around
Peeking under every thought or action
Second guessing every move,
Surely, I will uncover my true self.
Instead, the empty box remains empty.
All the busyness is just a desperate attempt
To fill the void and distract the mind.
There is still no substance, there.
The more I fuss and fuddle
The more I do and do
The more I hide behind the masks of effort
The less my heart is sure
The less my soul is true.
So, finally, I fall exhausted in a heap.
Relieved, at least, there is a me to fall.
(At least, I think so … let me look.)
Have I managed to erase myself
Instead of just hiding my mistakes?
The perfect me is a fiction.
Even the efforts to be a better me
Fall useless to the ground.
Only this befuddled, messy me is left.
Yet, turns out, that is the me you love.
It is the real me
The one I keep losing under the mess
The one that I try to deny or fix
That is the one you hold within your heart.
And in that holding I am made whole.
If you love me
Maybe I can love me, too.
And then true transformation can begin.
Is your jaw tight?
Is your heart clinched around fear?
Is there a knot in the core of your being?
So, today I will set a different intention.
I will look for opportunities to smile.
I will listen for the kind laughter of friends.
I will release the world to the care of the Holy One
And step into the flow of grace.
All I have to do, is force myself to relax.
Arrrgh! …. Oh! Ahhhh!
There in the midst of goblins and glitter,
There where shy eyes peek out behind scary masks,
There where audacious personas dance with secret dreams,
There you are.
On this day you pick your fantasy
Or face your fears in your own mirror.
There is more to us than school uniforms or suit coats.
Isn’t it interesting what can be revealed by a mask?
And isn’t it a wonder, a gift of grace,
That all the strange variety of life,
Can knock on our doors this night,
And we smile and give candy and well wishes.
[photo is my own]