Thursday, September 29, 2016

#SOL16: Say it Plain

(CitraSolv papers, original photographs, digital remix)
And what struck me is that what actually all three of the religions that come from Abraham — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — what we all have in common is the sense of wonder that leads to praise.  -

Mary Catherine Bateson, from here.


A sense of wonder that leads to praise.

A sense of wonder that leads to praise.

This is what moves us, moves through us. A praise song, like the one Elizabeth Alexander graced us with nearly eight years ago on that bitter cold morning when Barack Obama became president. A praise song for the new day. 

What if we were more about praise songs, about wonder, than the sad bickering that seems to be part of the national discourse?  What if it we knew that it was grace that supports us when our burdens feel too heavy? 

Would we love more fiercely? Forgive one another our differences? Celebrate what moves us?


Say it plain: There is only now. 

There are no promises beyond this moment. 

On that morning President Obama was sworn into office, Rob and I imagined a long life unfolding ahead of us. A life we would walk each day and decades later grow old together, best friends. We were filled with such promise--a loving marriage, a beautiful son, brothers and friends. That my husband would die a mere seven years later would have seemed unfathomable. But he did. Then, God was more abstraction, than substance. Faith a poem waiting to be read.  

And I wonder if on that inauguration morning as Elizabeth Alexander read her poem aloud, was she too imagining a long life with her husband and children? Was she imagining what was not to be? 

Towards the end of her memoir, The Light of the World, she writes,

When Ficre and I chose the house at 150 Edgehill Road we felt we could see our entire lives in front of us, our grandchildren coming there, sleeping in their father’s childhood rooms left intact. We searched for a table big enough to accommodate feasts of friends...(p. 169). 

Like Rob and me, the imagined future was one that happened communally, around a table. A year before Rob died, we were in a small town in Maine when we stopped in a shop to get a cup of tea.  We sat at a worn and lovely farm table that would have sat 14 more people comfortably. For weeks after we tried to figure a way to transform our small kitchen and family room so we could house such a table.  Rob would tell me,  "You could paint at one end while I prepared dinner at the other. Or I could sit and read, and really spread out my books and we could gather round the other end for eating."    


At the beginning of the memoir, Alexander wonders,

Perhaps tragedies are only tragedies in the presence of love, which confers meaning to loss. Loss is not felt in the absence of love (p. 3).

And I think she's right.  Tragedy is shaped by the presence of love, given voice by the power of our affection. And against such tragedy is it wonder and praise that are left to comfort us when no human touch can still the pain?


More than a century ago, Whitman spoke to us about the light and dark. He spoke to us about miracles.  And tonight the dark is thick with remorse, so sad that rain is but a moment away. Clouds cover the sky and I stand beneath the darkness looking for what cannot be found.  By all that is holy, it is wonder and praise that keeps me company when Rob is so very, very far from home.

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