Riveted to the Sky

We said Your name again today,
and suddenly You arrived – You
slipping into our speech, our song, our silence;
You like seal sliding into sea, but no
– that’s not quite right – because
You are seal and sea both,
both speaking and hearing,
tongue and cochlea.

At the hearing of Your name
I’m riveted to the sky,
I’m nailed to the earth.
Mention of You and
my skin’s a horizon
with the setting sun
now You piercing me.

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Let those with ears…

I’ve been trying to listen these days.

Not to listen for something, or someone – not even a still, small voice. I’ve been trying to listen – full stop. I’ve purposed to listen, every now and then, without deciding in advance what I’ll hear. It is an interesting exercise, and one I would readily commend to all. I can assure you, however, that it is harder than it first appears, and in truth my success in this venture is frighteningly fraught with failure.

It is a bit like the meditative exercise of sitting still and attending to your breathing. Soon, you find yourself thinking about what’s up at work, or how will I resolve this issue, or that. The only difference is that I do this while walking, or standing, or sitting. My eyes are not closed. I have no desire to empty my anything. Instead I aim simply to listen. And I have been a bit surprised in this.

The other day for instance, I listened while I walked across campus. I had just spent some time at the gym, and was making my way back to my office. The first thing I noticed was the tap of my feet on the sidewalk below me. And then, to my utter amazement, I noticed that I heard the footsteps of two young men 50 metres or so, in front of me. I didn’t hear their voices. I’m not sure if they weren’t speaking, or my ears were differently attuned. But the cadence of my steps, and theirs, served as a kind of Grundton for music of my journey.

On Saturday, my wife and I were down prepping the deck of our sailboat, Santa Maria, for fresh paint before she moves from the hard to her summer slip. As the day ebbed away, I took a break while Gwenanne did some last-minute touch-ups with Bondo, I stood still and listened to hear: the lilt of chickadee, red wing black bird’s trill, wind strumming branches and water settling into shore. It was a miracle of sorts.

It is now deep in the night and as I sit the clock walks its circular path, ticking each step as purposeful as any step I have ever taken. Softly, but noticeably, in the back the gas fireplace makes sound: now a click, now a whoosh of gas, and then later the fan kicks in a blaze of sound. All the while a I perceive a low, but steady ring in my ears. I can imagine how painful this latter would be if it were louder and persistent.

I’ve heard of rooms where all the sound is shut out, and all you can hear, in them, is your body’s sounds. Perhaps, finally, there is no silence in our lives. There is always the beat of heart, the swoosh of blood through veins and arteries. There is always sound, it seems: ever an acoustic horizon for the play of our pathway from cradle to grave. But then, again, I wonder about the experience of those deaf

The bible talks of sheer silence, when Elija meets God. I can only imagine its sound, or not…

At the Edge of Eternity

These days our tree
weeps joy,
bleeds peace,
sweats sweet spring …

I gasp and she
replies, but I do
not yet speak her
tongue. All the same,
I can see her buds brave
frosty mornings and,
at midday, her branches
shimmer, like locks, with
warm sun on glistening wood.

Pregnant with promise, she
preaches resurrection, she
hymns creation, she
lauds God.

With my hand on her trunk,
at the edge of eternity,
I wonder about her roots: are they
sated with humus, or do they
pine after the sky, which
her crown so delicately nibbles?

Running the Faith

Yesterday I entertained a luxuriously long run. I’ve been slowly working up to longer distances after 6 weeks away from jogging while on my most recent jaunt to Switzerland, and then India. I am happy to be working my way back up to my pre-travel fitness level. I walked as much as I could while away, and did a few exercises – a push-up here, a sit-up there – but now is the time to do a little catch-up.

I find running to be relaxing. I know that not everyone has this experience. But I find that I sometimes enter a Zen-like zone on the trail, something I’ve written about elsewhere. Jogging is pretty much meditation for me. I have a profound sense of God’s presence when I am running. I’m not at all surprised that the apostle uses a running metaphor to describe the spiritual life in 1 Cor. 9, although the idea of running to gain a prize isn’t altogether intriguing for me. Running is the prize, in my experience.

While on my most recent run I started thinking about running a marathon. Once upon a time, I was asked if I would ever do this, and I said no. At that time, I think the idea of the physical and time demand was a bit overwhelming. But now I find that I crave this time on the trail. I get lost in my thoughts, or perhaps my lack of thoughts. The idea of a marathon intrigues me because it will demand of me the sweet discipline of clocking in a significant number of kilometres each week in preparation. And so the idea of running a marathon marries the discipline of training and the experience of spiritual communion. I suppose it becomes, then, a spiritual discipline.

Spiritual disciplines are notoriously hard to define. It is easy to point to prayer, scripture, worship attendance etc. But I like an expansive definition, and readily include art, and conversation with friends, and walking, and baking, and running, etc. A spiritual discipline is an activity that promises a more intense awareness of God’s presence, although sometimes in the modality of a delayed gratification. There are so many ways in which I experience a more acute sense of the presence of God. To think that running has this benefit, as well as the joy of increasing one’s physical, emotion, and mental health too, is an amazing thing. But that is true, too, for other spiritual disciplines.

I am not absolutely certain that I will run a marathon this summer, but a seed has been planted. Perhaps the plant will be a surprise, but that’s the nature of grace, ever giving me joy in new and wonderous ways.

Gone now, save in this memory

What will come of all
of this poetry:
verses
words
letters
punctuation? Will
they fill the white space
or will it consume
them? A
Q now an O, a
bite taken out of it; a
t now an l, the ‘–’
erased…

I remember well a poem
I wrote in grade nine, published
in an education column in the Edmonton Journal. It was
sent in by Mrs. Massing, my Language Arts teacher, and cut
out by my modestly proud mother, who pasted it
on the inside door of the food pantry,
only to be seen by certain eyes, and
gone now, save in this memory:
my chewing on it,
its chewing on me.

Traversing Thoughts

I’m back now
after some
days away and in
diverse ways this
wandering has
left me in
wonder:

Airports are organic
too and sometimes
chaotic markets are
coherent after
a fashion.

Airline tickets have
an aesthetic – a taste of
their own while
tongues, indeed, are
dry now and then.

And change, change
that matters may be
so subtle so
chameleon like
as to be
surreptitious.

These Shillong Stairs…

These stairs
where I stay,
stay me. Each step
differently deep than
the other. My feet are at sea:
now they meet stone too soon,
now they reach for stone not yet there.
But soon I will leave this inn, this town,
these hills, even while they will
not leave me; having taught me
not to take my footing for
granted; having taught me
the unpredictable play
of geography, of traffic,
of taste; and maybe
just maybe rubbing
off on me some
unpredictability.