Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Off on a sideroad again

A couple months ago, in an introduction to a mailing list I wrote:

My spiritual path is the scenic route - There could be a four-lane highway leading straight to heaven, and I'd insist on taking a deer-path that crosses itself at least 6 times, skirts cliffs, involves fording whitewater, and leads to a few unexpected clearings with Trillium and phlox all over the place. I like to blame it on being a stubborn Appalachian.

And yet, I try to step lightly. When you're off the main road, it's good to bear in mind that there is much that is precious and rare out there. You don't want to frighten the wildlife or crush the plants. You don't strip the blackberry bushes bare - the birds have to eat something, too. (Besides, do you have any idea how scratched up you can get, trying to get to the inner part of the bramble?)

It still rings true for me and yet in trying to come up with a decent metaphor for my spiritual journey over my life, I left out a key component. While the path is sometimes lonely, I am never alone. (Don't worry, that overquoted poem about footprints is not about to appear in this space - I'm much more likely to direct you to check out Terry Pratchett's Small Gods, in which a prophet finds himself carrying his god through the desert*.) You see, I don't think heaven is a place you can get to on a 4-lane highway.

Rumi wrote about union with the beloved, about drunkenness in an attempt to communicate the feeling of that closeness. Jewish mystics talk about the Shekhina - the imminent Presence, and I talk about a landscape I haven't lived in for 10 years, in part because that's where I learned to feel that closeness, that Presence, and it's where I go to reconnect when I feel that I am forgetting to be Present myself.

I was raised mostly with formal religion, though my parents have a pretty vast tolerance for the paths their kids have found themselves on - agnostic, Unitarian, and well, a deer path. My mom even once found a really pretty pair of silver moon earrings for me while I was still active with a working Circle. I spent some time after that attending Synagogue and still frustrated with the idea that any one person should be standing between that Presence and the average worshipper.

I should have been warned that I still wasn't happy with the whole thing when the best worship service I can remember happened while camping with a Friend. I brought my prayer book and a ram's horn. She brought her tent, the one with the removable walls (too cool. The only thing I really envy about folks with historically based tents.) there was another friend there, and we sat in the shade of that canvas roof, looking out at forest and rolling hills. Every so often, I would read out a bit of the service from the prayer book and then we would lapse back into silence. And maybe one of us might comment a bit later on the way the light and the shadow fell, or the smell of mid-autumn, or the feeling of mortality both from the prayers and the falling leaves. A bit later, I chanted a prayer for peace in Hebrew, and then translated it for my friends. We all sat with that prayer in silence until the sun began to set. When the third star came out, I blew on that ram's horn, both an addition and a breaking of the silence. Then we had some dinner. We were aware of each other, of our fellowship, and of Something More. That was incredible.

Last night, I found a post by a f/Friend whom I've only recently met, talking about the difficulties in communication and acceptance between theist and non-theist Friends. I wish she lived nearer to me, because I would invite her to go camping. Though she professes to be non-theist, we have spoken with each other about that Presence, and I think we use different language to describe the same thing.

* And I seriously do recommend this book. The basic plot is that the Great God Om has found himself just a trifle embarrassed, recently - he meant to turn into a Bull, but found himself turned into a small tortoise, instead, and is learning a lot about what vulnerability is, especially when his prophet gets into trouble.


Blogger Don said...

This is beautiful and eloquent. Your writing is like a scripture that has been long lost from me and from us. Thank you for stopping and leaving a comment on my blog otherwise our paths might never have crossed. Peace.

6/10/2006 6:30 PM  
Blogger ef (Pam) said...

I love that book as well!

Beautiful post,


6/15/2006 9:47 AM  

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