At last, my soul has stopped churning.
I am blessed to have great friends who allow me to take up residence at their lake properties on occasion, for the purpose of solitude and writing. Jack dropped me here, and left on Friday to return to southwest Wisconsin, his sweet spot.
A Walk in the Park
Writing on an Empty Stomach
As for the Church, it's sad to realize that without (outside) discovery, the history of these activities would not be interrupted at all.
If we look at what Jesus of Nazareth had to say to religious leaders of his time (Matthew 23, Mark 12, Luke 11), it's clear that he did not spare them the severity of his conscience, his raw emotion, or the meaning of his words.
And this is not the time, either, to be sparing in our responses.
And what meaning does it truly have when a seventy-five-year-old bishop retires? What meaning does it truly have when religious leaders are called out for their crimes, and named, when the statute of limitations has run out for the victims? Ant what is the meaning when the vilest abuser is protected under the rule of Patriarchy, which is itself a distortion of what masculine energy was designed to be and intended to represent?
If misogyny didn’t exist within patriarchal systems, this would never have happened to our children. We haven’t begun to talk about what the Church has done to women.
I pour my thoughts on paper and feel better, free now to eat, take care of myself, go outside and be with the hummingbirds that fly past me constantly, feeding on the neighbors’ decks on either side. I count them. There are eight, ten, twelve.
A white pelican drifts to the water. The birds, including a heron, settle into the reeds for the night. The hummingbirds take turns stopping, hovering a foot away from me, before zooming off. There’s a waxing crescent moon overhead, ripples on the water, the waning light of evening. The geese fly in, the boats leave, the bugs come out. It takes a great while for dusk to die away, for sounds to fade, and the bringing on of darkness, rest, and sleep.
I go indoors and turn on a light. I decide to make SoulCollage® cards.
Up at five, and the stars are brighter than they were at bedtime. By 6:30, the hummingbirds are active again. I enjoy a long quiet day, reading in the sun. The temperature reaches 90 degrees.
For some reason, I think about Don Hammonds, a long ago friend from Atlanta, and the poster on the wall in his office: She is free who is not afraid to go to the end of her thought.
And I talk to myself. Let go. Stop fearing. Be free.
Some things are on my mind, the creation of the world, for one. When God created light, did the light shine brightly, all at once, or was it like the slow dawn on a small lake in the upper Midwest that begins as a hint of glow that grows slowly and steadily, spreading across the sky from the east, brightening to fill the air?
Another thing has been on my mind, too. Recently I was with a group of people and another man hit on me. He didn’t use words, but I could see and feel what was on his mind. He moved toward me, and I looked at him and said, “No.” I moved away and returned to my seat. He sat down next to me and jabbed his knee into my right buttock. The life went out of me. His significant other was seated right next to him, and one of his children. I moved to the other side of the table.
He ruined the event for me, if for no other reason than I felt I had to avoid him and remain hyper-vigilant for the rest of the morning. Isn’t that exactly what every predator wants—to trigger those kinds of feelings and therefore have that kind of power over another person? It’s never about attraction, and very different from flirting. It's always about power, about dominance. And it's ugly.
Jack starts back from Wiscnosin, and arrives in the afternoon. After dinner we sit on the deck, me with a glass of Moscato; a lovely evening, and eight white pelicans float by in formation. We watch as they land on the other side of the reeds, and eventually float around to our side. A little while later they move out, take to the air, and fly west.
At last I feel I’m fully on Lake Time.
Before we walk the next morning, I sit on the deck with coffee and hummingbirds, watching the lake. I call this “Lake Pajama Church.” I watch small flocks of birds rise from the reeds, but they’re not the yellow-headed blackbirds I’ve seen here in early summer. Suddenly the sun lifts, too, and casts bright light on the world. The hummingbirds fly back and forth, fly right up to me and look into my eyes, check out my hair. I have no idea what they gain from this assessment.
Jack and I sit two feet apart, and they fly between us, as on some reconnaissance mission, nearly grazing the back of Jack’s neck, landing on the deck railing close by.
I wonder what the lake sounds like in its natural state, or what it may have sounded like a hundred years ago or more. I try to roll back the traffic sounds, the motor sounds, even the sound of waves lapping against the sides of boats, and find it’s not fully possible. If I come back in the fall, I may try this again.
I read this on Facebook:
Those who have the
gale of the Holy Spirit
even in sleep.
~ Brother Lawrence
The gale of the Holy Spirit. I’ve experienced this, but never heard anyone else say it. The Spirit is a great force in my life, like a windstorm. A whirlwind. A tornado. Not sweet, soothing, peaceful, the way others so often speak of it.
After breakfast, Jack launches me from a neighbor’s dock in Kay’s red kayak, and I’m out on the diamond studded open water when I make this discovery: there are dragonflies and monarchs in the middle of the lake. A gull flies overhead on mission, like God’s First Raven after the floodgates of the sky were closed, empty-beaked but with plenty to report.
I paddle, float, paddle, float, wishing I’d brought my moleskin along to capture my thoughts. Morning traffic picks up along the thoroughfare frequented by leisure boats and jet skis. One large boat idles and waits (thank you) but the young couple riding the Sea-Doo doesn’t have time. They pass me ya-hooing, the girl’s long blonde hair flying straight out a foot behind her. She looks like Barbie.
I turn myself parallel to a pontoon as the people on board pontoon-honk their horn to friends seated on a nearby dock. When I paddle by a short time later, I hope the smooth rhythmic elegance of my strokes on the water bring them thoughts of, “Ahhh. . .this is the life,” and not, “Who the heck's the sloppy oldster out there who think she knows how to kayak?”
I float into the shade of oak trees along the shore, and think of my dad. He grew up a woodsman and friend of trees. (I learned from Grandma’s journal that when she was lonely she often took her children to the woods to play.) Dad grew up hunting and fishing, the kind of hunting and fishing that poverty requires.
I talk to him. “Look, Dad, the trees! It’s an oak grove.”
I think he only got to come to Iowa once, when I first moved here.
This weekend I've finished Edward Abbey's book, Desert Solitaire, based on his experiences as a solitary park ranger in the wilderness areas of southeastern Utah. What a renegade, one of my favorites of all men and writers.
He says, "If a man's imagination were not so weak, so easily tired, if his capacity for wonder not so limited, he would abandon forever fantasies of the supernal. He would learn to perceive in water, leaves and silence more than sufficient of the absolute and marvelous, more than enough to console him for the loss of the ancient dreams."
It's getting harder for me to be with God inside a building. I know the invitation is always there, but I don’t respond very well. I say this not to offend anyone else’s sensibilities, but because experientially God is most real to me here, where the natural world is also most real to me, and I am most real to myself. It’s not about worshiping nature or God in nature. It's simply about being. with. God. Someone is probably praying for me just now, wanting to wish me into a church.
Heading back, I steer clear of the fisher folks, as I’ve been taught to do. I’m glad they’re there, in case the kayak capsizes. I’ll let you in on a a little secret. I can’t swim.
When I left, Jack asked how long I was going to be out.
“You’ll probably know,” I said.
As I paddle toward the dock, he steps out and waves.
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