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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Limping toward You

And then You come to me
again, and again, and again,
slipping Your words into the silence
of my speech. You right and write
my wrongs in strophes of
reconciliation, allowing
my ears to be hallowed
by Your cries; my
eyes to be sanctified by
the sight of Your tears
now made mine.

You are not
content to see
me face to face
but embrace me
from the inside out:
Your presence now my joy,
Your absence now my hope,
my words now my tongue
limping toward
You.

There’s More Here Than Meets The Ear

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Meet Chip. I realize it is not the most inventive name for a chipmunk, but my wife called him that one spring day when he popped his little nose around a rock to sniff us out. The name has stuck and he has stuck around. A few years back we lost our cat, and in the ensuing summers our backyard has become a bit more diverse. Chip is out and about. We regularly see robins, cardinals, rabbits, squirrels – the list goes on and on. We all loved Noel dearly, but it is nice to see some bio-diversity.

I especially like Chip. One day I was reading a book on a Muskoka chair and when I looked up, on the chair beside me was Chip eating a raspberry. He calmly ate half and then scooted off, leaving the other half for me or some other hungry creature. My wife has had the same experience. We will often see him pause in his jog across our patio, cheeks full to the brim with seeds or such, panting while he catches his breath. And then again after a brief repose, he sprints to the end of his race, a barely noticeable hole in our lawn, which serves as a portal to his storehouses.

I thought of Chip the other day while reading some theology. Luther wrote a treatise in 1525 entitled “How Christians Should Regard Moses.” It was written in response to an emerging idea that Christians in the German lands should be freed of the pre-Christian laws, which formed the basis for current laws, and embrace instead the mosaic laws. Luther disagreed, claiming that the mosaic laws were written for mosaic times, and while we might employ some of them (he mentioned, in particular, the Jubilee Laws), he rejected their wholesale engagement. He wrote that some of what we hear God say in the bible is said by God to others, not to us and so we ought not to hear them as addressed to us. Of course, this invites a broad conversation concerning which bits are intended for us, a matter taken up in earnest throughout the document. At any rate, he used a most interesting example to illustrate his point concerning directed speech. He mentioned that God speaks to angels, trees, fish, birds, animals etc but we do not hear it because what God says to them was not meant for us. And then I thought of Chip.

I like the idea of Chip – and Noel for that matter – holding converse with God (I can’t imagine it being a monologue). Nature, like “civilization,” is both messy and beautiful, and I would anticipate praise and lament from Chip and his fellows. Of course, I do get to hear one side of the conversation from time to time. The local cardinals let me in on their side of the song, for instance, even though I do not know what they say. But I hear them “saying,” that’s for sure! Of course, there are other – biological – ways to interpret their song, and I will happily hear of other interpretations. I will probably agree with them, but rescind from thinking scientific and theological explanations as mutually exclusive. But in the meantime, I will listen hard for what God has to say to me in this verse and not that, and in the play of Chip and friends, gracing my lawn with their presence.

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Talking up a Storm

We have some dear friends who have a delightful, precocious and beautiful four year old. She has mastered a number of significant skills, not the least of which is fluidity in English and Marathi. She comes by it honestly. Her parents, from India, are exceptionally bright and can converse in a host of languages. They have decided that Marathi is a good meeting language for A and their family and friends from India.

When A talks her beautiful brown eyes bewitch anyone paying attention. Her mom and dad tell us that when she switches into Marathi, she is able to add to her sparkling eyes that graceful, and fetching dance of the head; a kind of swaying back and forth that waltzes with the cadence of the language. Her grandparents – who live in India and visit from time to time – demonstrate the same in their deliciously accented English. But A’s parents never betray this linguistic Bollywood dance in their English, except for the odd occasion in which we see them flipping back and forth from Marathi to English in the company of confreres from their homeland.

A is like her parents. Her English is dance-less. English doesn’t seem to demand the same rhythmic sway that accompanies Marathi, or Hindi, or other languages of the Indian subcontinent. Yet, I suspect English has a host of embodied oddities – some local in character – of which I am unaware because of my proximity to it. Place seems to put its stamp on speech. I remember, for instance, the first time I was in Switzerland and heard the Swiss speaking German. I thought them to be Norwegians speaking German. Both speak in a lilt that echoes the summits and dales of their country side. Could it be that language is shaped by the geography in which it finds itself?

I’m not certain that language always mirrors the contours of its locale. But it does seem that language regularly reminds us that it is thoroughly physical. Here it slowly scans big sky and broad horizon; there it climbs hills and races into valleys. In other locales it crashes against shores’ rocks, while it clips along in short, serious sentences ordered by big city efficiency. I am told that Woodland Cree ripples like the brooks it describes and sings like the birds its names.

It is a delight to see A growing comfortably into two languages. I am quite certain more will come along in due course. And with each language we will see little more of the world in a little one who is talking up a storm as she choreographs consonants and vowels intuitively. What a delight to know that the divine Word sweeps across the world with a range of words reflecting the world’s diversity!