Consider: Calling Across the Lake

kayakSince moving to the Pacific Northwest, I have come to believe that nothing is better than “messing about in boats”–if those boats are kayaks.  I love that first pull away from shore, the transformation of clumsy land mammal to gliding waterbird.

Some months ago, I escaped the busyness of my life for a camp near Mt. Rainier.  More than anything, I hungered to be out on the lake alone.  I pushed out my kayak, paddled into deep water, and waited.  For what?  I think I wanted the lake to give me something, though I can’t tell you what it was.

The lake did not fulfill my overly simple quest for “peace and quiet.” The wind stirred the trees, birds cried, my paddle dipped into the water.  Inside my head, voices shouted and whispered and cajoled.  Still, I waited, as I often do when I enter into a wild place, for some kind of gift, some kind of salvation.

But as the saying goes, wherever you go, you are there.  Even in the midst of that expansive beauty on the lake, I felt the margins of myself keenly.  Again, I was the self-conscious human, standing outside, looking in.  Small, limited, cosmically alone, I waited.

I am–and you likely are, too–the man in Robert Frost’s poem, The Most of It, who stands at the edge of a lake and shouts.  What does he hope for?  A voice not his own, a voice to startle him out of his weary self.  What does he receive, coming back over the water?  An echo of his own voice.  He thinks he keeps ‘the universe alone,’ and in this echo-chamber, there is no escape.

Sound familiar?

“Some morning from the boulder-broken beach

He would cry out on life, that what it wants

Is not its own love back in copy speech,

But counter-love, original response.”

What saves him, with sudden, unsettling crash, is a mighty buck that pushes the water and scrambles to shore, “pouring like a waterfall,” then ploughs through the underbrush–and is gone.

What saved me that day out on the lake were the ospreys that circled high, crying, and then plunged down into the water to hook fish in their claws.  I pulled my paddle and let myself glide, absorbed in watching the birds dive and call.  For just a moment, the multitude of things that clamor for my attention died away in the stunning scene before me.

This world shakes me from myself again and again.  Some days, of course, my walls are simply too impenetrable.  But I keep calling across the lake, waiting for that encounter with the Other.  And all I have to do, most of the time, is show up.  Whether it’s pushing out a kayak or simply stepping out on my back porch, this world so often rises up with is own startling presence.

Peace,

Kim

P.S.  For a rather humorous behind-the-scenes glimpse of this week’s Consider, please visit The Back Page.

P.P.S.  We’d love to hear from you.  Please enter the conversation–suggestions for further reading, counter-readings of Frost’s poem–on Facebook or on the comments form on our blog. Or drop us a line.

Consider: A Meditation for Rest

Dear Friends,

This week, I took my journal and Rilke book with me to the Oregon coast.  The wide swath of sand — broken by the ethereal, craggy rocks and the endless Pacific sea–gathered my attention to itself, and despite my intentions, both book and journal stayed in my bag.IMG_6093
There is something about wide open spaces that is good for the soul, that offers rest to an over-hectic mind.

 Our minds are often cacophonous places.  Our spirits are cluttered with what we must do, where we have failed, and who we must protect.  We cling to these thoughts.  Or they cling to us.  But to be as open and expansive as the sea — who dares to ask for such a gift?

“Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you,” St. Augustine wrote to God.  What a simple, lovely reminder to step into healing rest.  And what a hard thing to do.  Ironically, we so often work long and hard trying to find rest!  But rest does not need to be earned- it is a divine gift and a relational beckon from Unconditional Love.

I wrote this blessing for a friend of mine at a desperate time in her life.  In this mid-summer moment of busyness, I offer it to you.

 When you have given all you can

and your spirit is drained

and your body worn,

may you find rest.

May you forget about deserve,
earn, 
and not enough.

Instead, may you find grace,

abundant, overflowing.

May you step under this waterfall

and hold up your hands,

drinking your fill.

May the sweat and dirt and tears

from your good labors be washed away;

may every anxious muscle unknot,

and may Peace minister to you.

May you have the wisdom

to put away all that can wait until tomorrow;

may you find a silent space and stay there.

For all that is vital is here now, in this place,

waiting for you.

Open your hands and receive.

May everything in your body
accept goodness;

may you hear the words you long to hear:

Well done, good and faithful one!

May the roots of your longing

drink deeply.

Here’s to cultivating wonder,

Kim

Rest

For me, summer has always meant a plunge into sweet busyness. A steady, happy clamor accompanies every hour — kids yelling, the zip of the cooler as we pack yet another picnic, feet shuffling in sand, the splash of water at the end of the day as we rinse swimsuits and rack up another load of dishes after dinner.  

But this past weekend, we enjoyed a rare spate of days without guests. We hiked, worked in the yard, and watched the whole miniseries of “Emma.” And one blissful afternoon, I stole away to the hammock where I finished reading a book and then drifted off to sleep. The leaves of the cherry tree stirred in a slight breeze, the dog curled up on my legs, and the neighbors turned off their power tools. Just like that, I floated away from the everyday things — both the blessed and vexing — that nip at my heels. I entered a deep, profound rest. When I awoke an hour later, I felt refreshed down to my bones.

Lately I’ve been talking with others about taking a Sabbath — that is, setting aside a day, or at least a period of time, when I put down all work, open my hands in gratitude, and rest.

It sounds easy, right?  But it’s not.

Disciplining myself to take a day of rest — for me, time without screens or writing or busyness — makes me take a hard look at my own identity. Do I define myself by what I do? Or do I define myself by who I am — that is, a beloved, worthy human, divinely and beautifully fashioned, wholly complete? This is basic stuff, right? But it’s ongoing work, and for many of us, real, fulfilling rest is hard-won.

Taking real rest — being alone with our thoughts and in the space of quiet — opens doors to our hidden wounds and longings. It takes courage to carve out these spaces in our lives, for what the clamor of daily work and necessity obscures comes out of the shadows. While this can be a painful space, it is also the space our souls deeply yearn for. In this quiet we encounter not only what troubles us, but what feeds us deeply. These ritual pauses in our lives open a door to a sacred place where we can find healing and rest.  In the poem, “Sabbath,” Wendell Berry writes:

The mind that comes to rest is tended
In ways that it cannot intend:
Is borne, preserved, and comprehended
By what it cannot comprehend.

We must seek this pearl of great price — the rest which our souls beg for. As Wendell Berry illustrates, we must physically remove ourselves from our work and move to a fundamentally different space. In This Day: Collected and New Sabbath Poems, Berry associates the tilled, orderly farm fields with work, while the woods symbolize rest:

To rest, go to the woods

Where what is made is made

Without your thought or work.

Sit down; begin the wait

For small trees to grow big,

Feeding on earth and light.

Their good result is song

The winds must bring, that trees

Must wait to sing, and sing

Longer than you can wait.

This summer, I hope you will be able to carve out time for real rest. Go to the woods, where what is made is made. Hush your thoughts. Listen to the world, to the voice that calls you by name. Receive your gifts. It is perhaps the kindest thing you will do for yourself all summer.

Here’s to cultivating wonder,

Kim