Easter on Monday

“Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’” John 20:16

You said my name today and
my heart exploded – not
strangely warmed not
merely melted – but it
became a raging
sky and with each
thunder-beat,
lightning arced
me through.

You said ‘I see you’ and my
name became my resurrection.
I wonder at the thought – ‘Allen’ now
hanging in the air and I rising to
meet it. My name embraces
me and now I am in the between –
where You are and where I was – the
heavens inhabit me and I them as
I surface from my mire,
clinging to the miracle of
You speaking me.

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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.

Running Like a Fish

It has been an unusually mild winter in our parts – not much snow nor sun. These winters are utterly unlike those I remember as a child. This isn’t altogether surprising since I lived far west and north of my current location: now Southwestern Ontario, and then Central Alberta. I miss the sun but not the cold, although I find the weather feels warmer when there is snow on the ground.

While I haven’t been so fond of the weather, the upside is that it has made running outside quite easy. I have done a number of longer runs over the last little while, all around 10 km. My run starts with a bit of an uphill climb for the first 5 minutes or so. If you were to drive my pathway, you would have no idea that the path is uphill. In fact, when walking I would only attend to the grade for the last 100 metres or so of the first 500 metres. But running, like cycling, makes one intensely aware of grade, and wind, and temperature.

My pathway mostly involves a hiking/running path. It is well protected, which is nice when the predominantly northwest winds are blowing hard. The run is largely uphill on the way to my 5 km turn around. The trip home tends to be downhill, with the wind behind me most days. The trip home seems to be the part of the run where I manage to experience the “runner’s high.” This makes the run doubly rich.

The euphoria of these moments – not experienced with every run – are really quite remarkable, and give a kind of gravitas to the idea that the journey is the destination. The race itself is the prize, it seems. Many times, as I’ve run, I’ve thought about the marvel of being able to move, something I most often take for granted. When I’m in the right head and heart space, it strikes me as an utter marvel that I can slip across physical space like a fish through water. As I do so, I feel badly for people in cars, too often seemingly stressed and sometimes racing to make lights etc. When my lungs and legs are in harmony, my spirit soars and I have no desire to give up that feeling of being alive for the comfort of the car.

Last week I was speaking with a senior friend at church who ran regularly throughout his adult life. He spoke eloquently of the joy of the sport. He, unlike me, ran competitively. I have not run in a race proper since I was a youngster. One day I might try it again, but for now I revel in the experience of knowing that my knees can still sustain my joy, and my heart can yet propel a hope that humanity will find the collective will to ensure that the air for all is fresh.

My friend no longer runs but he remains an avid walker. One day my running days will be over, but as long as I’m able, I keep on the move, thankful for movement in whatever way I can manage – recalling all the while that it in God that we live and move and have our being.

Some Kind of Walk

I am now a week back from walking the last third of the Northwest Mounted Police Trail. My wife and I walked about 110 km of a 300 plus km trail. The trail runs from Wood Mountain Park to Fort Walsh in the Cypress Hills. It was established by the NWMP in order to keep the peace in an area frequented by “Wolvers” from south of the border in the late 19th century in what is now southern Saskatchewan. These folk were known by this name since they killed bison, poisoned the meat and then collected the hides of wolves who ate this. They ran a booze business on the side, selling to Native Americans who were in the midst of losing a way of life as the bison disappeared from the land, and as the Canadian government waited upon them to starve, until they finally agreed to sign treaties in a desperate attempt to find a way in this new reality. This patrol trail across the praire is wet with tears.

How is it that I found myself on this trail? My friend Matthew Anderson, a theologian and documentary producer invited me and my wife and we said yes. You can learn more about this at Matthew’s site. Matthew is a scholar of pilgrimage and was piqued by the observation that people who research pilgrimage often write and research European trails, but seemed little interested in North American sites. He grew up in southern Saskatchewan and so knew of this trail and of its significance. He thought it especially important to visit in light of the recent report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which speaks of the continuing need for First Nations and Settlers to work toward renewed relationships of truth, accountability, justice, and concern for the land.

I learned much on this walk. We arrived on a non-walk day. In the evening, the author Candace Savage spoke to us of the sad history of this place. I bought her book and asked her to sign it. She did and wrote “welcome home” above her signature. This was a bit odd, since I am not from Saskatchewan. I grew up in central Alberta, in what is called “parkland.” But as I walked across this bald prairie, replete with breath taking coulees, horizons that spoke of the Creator’s breadth of fierce mercy, and a sky that glistened with the stark clarity of a diamond, I found myself breathless. Every now and then I would stop, and look, and find myself with hands on my hips: just looking. It reminded me of my dad, raised on the prairies, who would do this from time to time on our farm. We would be on our way to look at the cows, or check the grain, or whatever, and he would stop – like a man with all the time in the world – and look to the horizon with hands on hips. And here I was, reprising his posture, a posture formed in his southern Alberta by like surroundings. And then Candace’s note rang true. This was a homecoming on foreign territory.

All territory is foreign to us. We experience it as a home-becoming when we walk it. Walking is a holy venture: prayer on feet trod with attention to the marvel and miracle walking is. Children who first learn to walk and people who have lost their ability to walk know so very well that walking is a wonder. Walking is wonder-ful. As I walked this trail I found myself over and over again. I saw myself in my fellow pilgrims who both looked forward to a day’s end while they wished it went on forever. I heard myself in the Swainson hawks who prayed us across the prairies. I sniffed out myself in the sweet sage that bore witness to hope on hard ground. I felt my skin as I caressed teepee ring rocks, reminders that this land that has adopted me is my elder, my mother. I tasted myself in fresh bread made by farmers who invited us in, with prairie hospitality. As an ancient sage noted: we are grains of wheat, crushed, wetted, fired and broken to become food for the hungry.

I have walked for a time. I have walked with others, with the land, and by myself. I am richer for it, and now wonder how to best invest what I have accrued from this time. I am confident that a pathway will open up, as pathways do: mysteriously.

IMG_2719 (1)

Thanks to Matthew Anderson for this photo!

Surfacing Tensions

I went to a Mechanical Engineering Class last Thursday on the topic of Surface Tension.  Let me assure you that quite a few tensions surfaced in this experience!

It was teaching day at my university, and professors were given the opportunity to sit in on mini-lectures from a variety of disciplines.  Since my two eldest daughters are in Mechanical Engineering programs, I thought it would be interesting to find out what they find out in their day to day existence.  I quickly learned that they inhabit a different world than I – which was part of my purpose in attending this lecture.

It is good to be a student again, especially a student far afield from areas of ease.  It is good to be uncomfortable: to have that feeling of your feet coming out from underneath as you are carpet bombed with facts, with ideas, with a way of thinking that is not yet habitual.  It is good to be intrigued by a world of possibilities that you have not yet imagined.  It is good to learn, complete with all of the joy, worry, and sense of possibility that learning entails.

It all made me think about my own teaching: what do students experience in my class?  Are they afraid? Intrigued? Bored? Excited?  I suspect they  are all of the above at different times.  But I am mindful that I don’t only address learners in my classroom, but in my writing too.  I wonder: How do readers hear me from the lectern of my letters?  I hope to make people hungry with my writing.  I want to feed them with a famishment for more because the world we write is a wonder. This is what my favourite authors have furnished for me.  All who write and teach do so in an effort to echo what we have experienced in those who inspire us.

Who has inspired and so invited you into the marvel of the novel, the essay, the short story, the poem, the homily, the hymn?