Monday, February 11, 2008

lenten journal: random and radiant

It’s far later into the night than I intended to have to stay up to complete my daily practice. The thoughts running through my head are not original; in fact, all I can hear are borrowed words. There’s Barbara Crooker’s poem, “All That Is Glorious Around Us,” featured The Writer's Almanac last week. Here’s an excerpt where she quotes Mary Oliver:

It is the nature
of stone / to be satisfied / writes Mary Oliver, It is the nature
of water / to want to be somewhere else, rushing down
a rocky tor or high escarpment, the panoramic landscape
boundless behind it. But everything glorious is around
us already: black and blue graffiti shining in the rain's
bright glaze, the small rainbows of oil on the pavement,
where the last car to park has left its mark on the glistening
street, this radiant world.
I went looking to learn a little more about Crooker and found out she’s doing a poetry reading in Durham a week from Friday. I guess I know what I’ll be doing for lunch that day. I kept coming back to the Oliver lines because it struck me that we talk about God as the Rock of our salvation and Jesus talked about himself as the Water of Life.

I’m preaching this Sunday because Ginger is going to be leading our church’s women’s retreat. The two passages are Abraham being called by God to go find home and Nicodemus being told by Jesus he needed to be born again for faith to really take hold of him. I guess it was Abraham’s leaving home to find it that sent me on my next tangent. I remembered Frederick Buechner talking about a homecoming in his novel, Treasure Hunt. The narrator, Anton Parr, is coming back home after being gone for some time and his children have made a banner saying, “Welcome Home,” except one of the legs of the M doesn’t really show up, so the sign reads, “WELCOME HONE.”

“It seemed oddly fitting,” Parr says. “It was good to get home, but it was home with something missing or out of whack about it. It wasn’t much, to be sure, just some minor stroke or serif, but even a minor stroke can make a major difference.”

I don’t know how it happened tonight, but a minor stroke of some sort shut down the computer in the restaurant that allows the servers to charge the meals on the students’ meal cards. Our lead server, Tabitha, got the computer back on, but the numbers had to be entered by hand. Those minor strokes completely took her out of the game. She was seething to the point of hardly being able to converse. She was not even open to expressions of solidarity or compassion.

There was nothing to do on my part except to make sure the food was done well and done on time. The other server on duty made sure it got to the tables hot. Tab kept dealing with the mess and steaming with rage.

I couldn’t do anything to help.

We sold our house in Massachusetts (or we are in the process of selling it), but we didn’t sell it for as much as we owe on the mortgage. We’ve been in a bit of a quandary trying to figure out what to do and we weren’t sure how anyone could help. Today Ginger met with a man at a local bank and he knew exactly what he could do to help, and he did it. She called me at work to tell me the news. His minor stroke made a big difference for us to continue to move toward feeling at hone here.

While my day improved, Tab’s fell apart. We would both do well to read all of Barbara Crooker’s poem:
All That Is Glorious Around Us
(title of an exhibit on The Hudson River School)

is not, for me, these grand vistas, sublime peaks, mist-filled
overlooks, towering clouds, but doing errands on a day
of driving rain, staying dry inside the silver skin of the car,
160,000 miles, still running just fine. Or later,
sitting in a café warmed by the steam
from white chicken chili, two cups of dark coffee,
watching the red and gold leaves race down the street,
confetti from autumn's bright parade. And I think
of how my mother struggles to breathe, how few good days
she has now, how we never think about the glories
of breath, oxygen cascading down our throats to the lungs,
simple as the journey of water over a rock. It is the nature
of stone / to be satisfied / writes Mary Oliver, It is the nature
of water / to want to be somewhere else, rushing down
a rocky tor or high escarpment, the panoramic landscape
boundless behind it. But everything glorious is around
us already: black and blue graffiti shining in the rain's
bright glaze, the small rainbows of oil on the pavement,
where the last car to park has left its mark on the glistening
street, this radiant world.
I may read that poem again tomorrow.

Peace,
Milton

1 comment:

Rev Scott said...

In the rush of installations and family visits I missed that poem last week - thanks for posting it.

Minor strokes can pile up to bring us to seething rage, too - I had it this morning over a combination of things that normally wouldn't have been worthy of even mild frustration.

"The glories of breath" Good one to remember. Thanks.