Follow the Song

through the plainI wake on the plain, beside the angel. The fire has died into ash-covered embers and the night sky has begun to fade to morning. The angel is sitting, back to the fire, looking out into the plain. He is robed already and has his staff in his hand. He looks at me and smiles. We gather our supplies, cover the fire, and begin the day’s journey.

It is a pleasant walk at first. He is humming softly to himself and the air is almost sweet with the fragrance of the wet grass. My feet are damp with dew. I shift the pack upon my back, balancing it on my hips, letting the shoulder straps lie slack.

The pack creaks softly as I walk. The weight of the backpack is so much easier to carry when it fits well.

On we walk, step, step, step, forward on the faintly visible path. If the angel were not guiding me, I would not really be able to tell the path from the ruts of dried streams and the passageways of animals who cross the plain in their daily search for food. My own path is hard to discern among the others. But the angel is confident and strides forward in even, unhurried, but determined steps.

“How do you know the way'” I ask, “since all these patches of earth look the same?”

He pauses on the trail and looks down. “The ground does look the same,” he observes. “That is not where the path is marked. It is written in my heart. I follow his call and not a path. Do you not hear it?”

I strain my ears, but I am not aware of any call, of any sound to guide my steps. I shake my head, a bit chagrined. It’s obvious that I am a novice here.

“Then I will teach you to listen,” the angel replies. He begins to hum. “This melody has been sung throughout the ages in response to the majesty of God. It springs forth when his presence is seen. Its tune, its cadence, its underlying essence is the pattern for your call. Learn the song. Sing it to yourself.”

“The song is my call?” I ask. “The same song of the ages, the same call?”

“No,” the angel replies, “the song only reveals the pattern in which your call will come and acquaints you with the essence it will bring. You learn from the song to recognize your own call when it comes. The song trains your inner ear to hear the call of God.”

“When will he call?” I ask.

“He calls you now.”

I feel desperate. “But I cannot yet hear it.”

“He knows and he will call until you hear. Be patient. Trust him to teach. As long as your heart is directed toward him, you cannot fail, for he is your partner in your journey. And he never fails. He is still creating you, with your cooperation. He tunes your ears, your heart, to hear the melody, to play the melody. Then you will find your purpose, and others will use your melody to find their own.   As long as you desire to follow, he is patient to lead. You demonstrate your desire; indeed, you fulfill your desire by singing the song that tunes your ears to his call.

When you have learned to recognize it, you will hear and know.”

“Teach me the ancient song.”

“Listen.” The angel begins to hum an ancient and intricate melody, a rich history of faith played out in notes of strength and assurance upon the air. There is an essence in the song that speaks to my ears. I strain to hear and learn. The angel smiles and we begin to walk again. He is humming, and I, once in a while, can anticipate a note and join the song.

Don’t look to the earth to find your path. It is not there. It is being called forth within you by the partnership between his creative hand and your willing spirit. It fits you well. Rejoice in the process and in the promise of its completion.

1/11/95

[the photo is my own]

Hollows

cave on the beach
In this quiet hollow,
In this deep, still, place
My heart at first is quieted.
It gives up the rumble of my days
And the persistent picking of my thoughts
And the undertow of worry.
All these are splashed upon the shore like foam.
They dissolve upon the great beach of your
presence.
Until, at last, they simply flow in and out without
much noise.
They come and go, but do not call to me.

I find, at last a quiet space to be.
And there I sit and listen to my heart.
And to your whispered presence
In its hollows.

2 27 01

[photo by Kate McDonald per cc 2.0]

inside the storm

stormI am on the deck of an old wooden sailing ship, conjured up from memories of pirate movies. It dips and sways in violent motion and I cannot stand without great effort. I am thrown against the mast and against the railings. I stagger and slip. There is a howling wind around me. It whips my hair and blows great sheets of water over me, drenching me with cold, wet saltiness. Then I am thrown again. I raise my voice to cry out in the storm, but though I am shouting, no sound can be heard above this turmoil. No one can hear my cry.

And I have no idea how to use the ship, how to steer, how to guide its passage. I am stuck here till the storm subsides. So I retreat inside the cabin and shut the door behind me. Two steps inside and I stop to listen. I had expected the same violent movement within the cabin – after all, it is a part of the ship in this storm. But it is calm in here. The lantern hanging from the ceiling sways in a comforting, slow rhythm. The wind is not whistling through the cracks. I look out the window and see that the storm is still in progress, but it cannot penetrate the quiet of this cabin.

I sit down at the table to rest and to take stock of where I am, of what is happening. There is a meal spread simply before me: manna and cool water. I begin to eat. My first bite stops me. A prayer of relief tumbles from my lips. I put my head on the table and sob with release from the pounding of the storm. I cry until there is no more tension within me and then I move to a bed which is secured to the wall and fall into its billows. I cannot move. Just before I slip into sleep, I whisper. “Thank you. Even within the storm, you provide an inner room of comfort and of rest. You give me peace, without which I am overcome.”   I release myself to sleep, without fear of the storm, which I know I must face again tomorrow. Its bluster can wait. Today I rest.

8 11 95

[photo by Greg Moore per cc 2.0]

learning to let go

meadow's songI sit below the tree in my meadow and look up at its deep green leaves. They are full and strong, but showing a bit of the wear from the recent winds. Then, among the branches just at the tip of one of the limbs, I see a movement. A small fairy emerges from among the green and sits upon a twig.

“Hello,” I say.

“Hello,” she answers.

I wait for something else. She sits awhile and smooths her wings and then, catching the fiber of a spider’s web, she slides down to the ground and sits upon a small stone at my feet. She sit cross-legged and alert. Listening to every sound.

“Hello,” I say again.

“Hello,” she responds, politely, and then puts her finger to her lips and motions for me to listen.

I strain my ears, but I hear no sounds beyond the common meadow sounds: the rustling leaves, the swish of the wind upon the taller grasses, the birds, the insects. The meadow is alive with sounds that I usually do not notice, but there seem to be no unusual ones here, today.

We sit and listen to together. She flies to my shoulder and speaks in a low tone into my ear. “Listen to the ordinary and find more.” She is gone.

Find more… I listen again and hear no other sounds. I strain my ears for hidden words, but none are there. Slowly, though, as I listen, I begin to note just how the sounds blend and move together. The rustling of the trees and grasses rise and fall together with the rhythm of the wind. The wind, too, brings the songs of the birds more clearly and then muffles them again. The wind is directing the sound symphony. It is not a collection of separate sounds but a concert, a musical comraderie, an interweaving of each into a whole.

This is must be the message I am to hear today – I must listen for unities, for wholes, for rich patterns blended from individual fibers. I sit and close my eyes. I feel the sway of the sound and deep from within I hear an echo of its rhythms, the pull of its movements.

I find that I am no longer just listening. I have become one with the symphony. I exist as one, but not alone. The me of my consiousness blends, but does not dissappear. It lends its tone to those around. I have become a part. I am not separate and alone; I am not independent and self-sufficient. I give and take in the symphony, not in a series of trades and bargains, but in an unbroken exchange of the essence of self, broadened and deepend by sharing.

When I try to close my hands around this concept, I loose it. I must remain open, giving and receiving, part of the flow. I cannot step outside and evaluate. I must be, instead.

I shake my head to clear my thoughts and find that I have broken the spell. “What is this?” I ask my meadow, my tree. This letting go is a fearful passage. How do I know I am not abandoning myself to some beautiful deception, some strange spell?

Yet, somehow I know that here, in my meadow, I can risk letting go. Caution is fine, but fear impedes progress. I can let go into his melody. I will not forsake what is real; nor will I be forsaken.

I let myself go into the sound and feel myself drop into its enormity like droping over the edge of a waterfall. I am surrounded and engulfed, but not distroyed. I am bigger in a way that is unfamiliar to me: not apart, a part. It does not diminish me. It enlarges me. I do not understand, but I rejoice… and wonder.

8/14/95

[photo by muffinn per cc 2.0]

morning connection

morning sunrise

I stand on the hill beside the oak, arms across my chest, a little cocky. I warn myself to be careful about cockiness but I feel good – not defeated, not tired, not discouraged: good. I am ready for the day, pleased to be alive. That’s a surprise – no dread, no sigh. My head is buzzing from this feeling and it is strange enough that I feel wary about it. I drop my hands to my sides and stride off toward the well.

As I approach, my heart, still singing a light tune, feels the sense of awe in the amphitheater, and welcomes it. Awe and confidence at once. I come and seat myself quietly on one of the stone benches that surround the well. I watch the congregation gather. Angels, apostles, even animals come forward and find a place around the well. Everyone is quiet but there is a unsung song of joy on the hearts and faces of the crowd. On my face, too.

The well begins to overflow. The water rises slowly and flows over the edge in a clear smooth sheet. It gathers at the base and then flows off in a stream toward the edge of the meadow. One by one the members of the crowd go forward to the well and touch the surface of the water as it streams quietly over the edge.

Each one touches the well. Each one begins to glow with a soft light – it enters the fingertips and flows through the whole being of the one who is at the well. One comes and touches the water and then touches his own forehead. Another touches the water and touches her lips. A third touches the water and touches her heart. All, in turn, anointing themselves with the water and the energy that radiates from the well. All return to the congregation, take a seat and offer their hands to those seated next to them. Soon the whole congregation is holding hands and is surrounded by a faint glow.

Then the sun above the meadow breaks through a cloud. I had not missed it until it appeared, but now it’s brilliance shoots down and gleams off the surface of the well.

Suddenly the whole congregation bursts into song. It is a glorious, highly complicated melody where each member sings what seems to be a separate song, but, sung together, they make a whole of woven tunes so rich and yet so complex that the ear, not even the heart can really receive it all.

An angel on the other side of the well stands. He is seven or eight feet tall and towers over the congregation in great strength and beauty.. His face is both stern and soft, young and old, joyful and sorrowful. It is as if he holds the complexity and fullness of all of humanity in his features. He says, simply, “Today we take the time to rejoice, for it renews and completes us all.” He lifts his hands, as does the whole congregation, and they are pulled toward the sun and are gone.

I alone, am left on the benches. I still feel confident and strong, but I realize that my own piece in this complex web of life is very small. Humility and confidence have never sat so comfortably within me as they do now.

What a pleasant morning. What a blessing to be a part of the greater web of life.

3 10 95

[photo by Norm Smith per cc 2.0]

this simple meal

deep within the woods

One day, this day, lies before me. One step, the next step, is to be taken. I have strength for only one. I have manna for one day only. If I try to grasp at more, it rots within my hands. One day, one step, one piece of grace to give me strength to face it.

I kneel at an oaken table, deep within the woods, deep within a clearing where the large stump forms that table and where the brightness of the day is obscured by the heavy canopy of trees. Only one shaft of light finds its way through and hits the surface of the table with a clear, bright beam. In the spotlight of that beam, centered within its ray, is the simple meal of manna, which is spread for me this day. A cake of bread, a glass of wine, a napkin unfolded underneath as a cloth for the meal to rest upon. Nothing beside these simple provisions.

I say my grace before the meal… my grace, my prayer for grace, sets my heart in tune with the meal itself, to receive its nourishment. “Oh, Holy One, open my heart to receive your blessing for this day. Open my eyes to see your will, my hands to carry it out.” I reach and take the bread, break it and hold it for a moment in my hands. “This strength of yours I eat. I ask that you help me to spend it in your service and on your priorities. Help me to know what I must do, and to separate that from what others would like for me to do, from what I sense as urgent, but do not have the wisdom to also sense as hollow – an empty, busy bluster with no lasting value. Feed me on wisdom today, my Holy Friend, and let its essence creep into my soul.”

One step, one beam of light to guide, one hand to hold. For as my meal is ended, you join me here and offer me your hand. I take that hand of love and rise to meet the day. My own shallow wisdom is not enough, but the love and the wisdom that you offer is more than enough.

Isn’t that, after all, the promise of the manna? Enough for one day. Enough.

3 28 95

[photo by Jaroslav Kuba per cc 2.0]

Friendship’s grace

tiny flowersI am in the mountains, in a high meadow, where the trail is clearly worn along one side. It leads my feet without much difficulty, few roots or rocks and no question of direction. That gives me the chance to catch the full beauty of the meadow, the tender plants that grow on marshy stems, where the moisture is gathered, green, into a living form; the vast expanse of plant after plant, dotted with small white flowers, ruffled by the fingers of the breeze.

Beauty opens my heart like a flower to the sun. Friendship shared in the presence of beauty is water at the roots. In that moment, the flower, itself, can acknowledge its own beauty as one indivisible part of the whole. And that wholeness is the heartbeat of beauty, itself.

I don’t know that I need some profound insight today. I need the presence of a friend to hold my hopes with me a while, to help me face my fears, my doubts, my failures and know that there is still a ‘me’ that makes them smile. They are not waiting for me to be perfect, and neither are you.  They delight in friendship’s dear embrace, where the beauty of each soul, reflected in the other’s eyes, is deeply known, confirmed, and grown.

[photo by Jessica Lucia per cc 2.0]