Wed, May 15 2013 01:37
I stood at the rim of the Grand Canyon a week ago. It’s funny because I’m not fond of heights but my stomach was steady and my nerves calm as I looked over the edge down to the Colorodo River over 5,000 feet below. Five thousand feet – that’s nearly a mile. The elevation change is so significant that the Canyon comprises five separate and distinct ecosystems from arid desert at the bottom to spruce-fir forest on the north rim. The elevation change is so significant that when Spanish explorer Garcia López de Cárdenas first set eyes on the Canyon in 1540 he estimated the Colorodo to be six feet across, merely a creek over which to hop. He had no reference for what he was seeing. I sympathize, hence the lack of vertigo. Nothing could be that immense, that spectacular. The expanse played tricks on my brain, making me feel like Tom Bombodil and tempting me to think, In four or five leaps I could be off this ledge and down to that stream for a drink!
My husband is wiser. When we approached the Canyon for our first look, Markku burst into shouts of “Halleluiah” (to the mortification of our daughters and the delight of a very friendly park ranger). With the same sense of awe, Markku touched every rock along the “Geological History” walk, setting his hand on stone that was nearly two billion years old. Every rock he touched predated the age of the dinosaurs.
That’s when the vertigo set in. Every rock, older than the dinosaurs. This rock, this rock I touched -- “Vishu granite” -- nearly half the age of the earth. It made me dizzy. Fall off the edge and you not only plummet nearly a mile, but 1.8 billion years as well.
Who are we that you are mindful of us, oh God?
I watched a forest felled last week. First I heard the rumble of a large machine, then the cracking of wood splintering, then a shivering balance and the fall of a tree appearing both ponderously heavy and bizarrely weightless as it toppled in slow motion, seemingly drawn to earth as much by subjected surrender as by gravity.
I had been standing near the garden outside my home on Kingfisher Farm when this occurred. The forest in question ran along the 5 acres of our eastern border. Most of the trees were alders – weeds of the tree world, but also home to squirrels, raccoons, and countless birds including a pair of Barred owls that called regularly to us from across the fence.
Three different envoys of farmmates pleaded with our new neighbour to leave a few trees standing – the cherry that draped over the fence onto our land, but especially the towering cedars on the slope toward the pond. But our case was made in vain -- every tree came down. In as sense our pleading was hypocritical -- our own gardens and pastures were once a tangle of Firs and ferns and our houses are built of wood. And so we pause and lament, recognizing both our own culpability in creation’s destruction as well as the potency of our technology which can destroy in a few days what had flourished for centuries. And we recommit ourselves to know our place, to steward it well, and live in peace.
Sat, Dec 22 2012 10:00
St. Francis is believed to have been the first to bring animals into the church, arranging them around a manger for the Christmas mass. “See,” he said, “your God has come amoung you not as a king among his subjects, but as a baby amoung his fellow creatures.”
Behold, Emmanuel -- God with us, all of us.
|credit: Mr. Po|
My farmmates slaughtered a cow recently. I didn’t want to be there. I liked Spruce, his tawny curls, bawling voice, and thick tongue that wrapped around blades of grass like an arm of an octopus. His death was an event I would happily forgo.
I went to church instead. I love church. I love the singing. I love our pastor Anne’s sermons. I love the prayers. It all draws me to the Real. Technically we’re “low church” Baptists – thus, no robes, no candles and just two sacraments, baptism and communion. In the seven years of the church’s existence we have only performed one baptism; but what we lack in water, we make up in wine (or, in our case, grape juice). Rooted in the image of the table -- where all are welcomed and nourished -- we celebrate God’s tangible demonstration of love every Sunday. I love the remembrance integral to this ceremony. I love the earthiness of the bread which is often homemade and sometimes still warm. I love the way the servers say everyone’s name as he or she receives the elements. “John, this is the body of Christ broken for you...Danielle, the blood of Christ, shed for you.” I like to go first so that I can sit and watch others receive, which is a communion too.
Given that I had chosen sacrament over slaughter I was surprised when my farmmate Karin described Spruce’s slaughter as “sacramental”. The officiating “priest” hardly seemed a candidate for such a label. A chain-smoking man in his early thirties, he consumed three cans of Old Milwaukee beer during the 30 minute early morning procedure. When Karin asked if he would be willing to slaughter their next cow in a couple year’s time, he answered, “If I’m still alive, which I doubt.”
But there was evidence of sacrament in the channel hand-dug from the slaughter area to the field, which still shone bright with blood when I saw it hours later. And there had certainly been reverence as expressed by Karin and our fellow farmmate Angela’s prayers of thanksgiving for Spruce’s life. True, there was no, “Behold, the cow of God that takes away the sins of the world.” But there was an encounter with the “Real” and in turn, a turning – of hearts toward the Creator in gratitude and humility at the provision of nourishment that only comes through sacrifice.
Tue, Oct 9 2012 10:20
During the frivolity I chatted with two guests staying at the centre – a couple who both held PhDs and who were both highly successful in their fields. Watching the skill with which our bunch swirled balls through the air, the husband's eyebrows arched as he commented on how good we were at wasting time – we must be if we could become so accomplished at activities so meaningless.
His comment lodged in the craw of my brain and has needled me over the years. With the wisdom of hindsight here is the reply I would now give. Could it be that being drawn to the work of conservation, which involves the studying, preserving and relishing of the “physical”, we A Rocha-ites are likewise drawn to our own physicality? Juggling, for us, just might be a way of being physically embodied. It takes hand-eye coordination, concentration, measured breathing, peripheral vision and an awareness of space. It requires an attention to the present moment. That’s the philosophical justification; probably we juggle because it's fun.
Yes, the world may be going to hell in a hand basket, but there’s still so much goodness to be enjoyed right now, right in our bodies. So why not juggle? Why not waste a bit of time doing something that won't compute?* Why not spend some time in our bodies, joyful as saints?
*(From Wendell Berry's Poem Manifesto: The Mad Farmer's Liberation Front: "..everyday do something that won't compute.."