Consider: Already/Not Yet

Dear Friends-

Last night it rained, a serious, no-nonsense rain, thrumming against the windows and glugging in the downspouts. There was no mistaking it for summer’s passing showers. This was an earnest rain, autumn’s first full-throated announcement.

This wet morning, I walked the dogs through a different world: same trail, new palette. The ponderosa trunks were rain-black. The broad-bladed grasses lay silvered and flattened. Along the trail, lacy blue clusters of elderberries dripped bright drops, and rosehips, the waxy red of a child’s crayon, presented themselves for the picking. The grasshoppers, which yesterday had scattered before the dogs like sparks struck from flint, had disappeared entirely. Instead, crows cawed overhead and a lone doe raised a wary neck as we passed.

What is it about the change of seasons that is so exhilarating? Why does the crispness in the air send that little hopeful frisson shivering through me? I’m not even clear about what I’m hopeful for, or if hope is the right word. But this morning each rain-glazed leaf seems intricately beautiful (as, surely, it always has been, had I eyes to see) and everything – including me – seems on the verge of becoming more deeply itself.

It’s a funny thing: this idea of becoming more deeply oneself. How can you be more –well, you?

There’s a complexity at the heart of this question; some sense that we are not yet all we are meant to be. In the faith tradition in which I was raised, this tension is called the “Already/Not-yet.” It holds that by virtue of being alive, we already participate in the divine. And yet, at the same time, our participation has not yet come into fullness. In essence, we are and are becoming.

I think it was this idea that I caught sight of while walking among the rain-sharpened colors this morning, as if somehow this daily walk had, overnight, closed the space between what is and what is possible. As the dogs furrowed among wet foxtail and timothy, the distance between the Already and Not Yet seemed diminished. That deeper, truer version of being shimmered almost everywhere.

Peace,
Lindsay

Consider: Past the Headlands

Dear Friends,

Each Holy Hour is one month old! Like a newborn opening her eyes to the world, Kim and I are in a haze of astonishment at the response we’ve received. Your comments, shares, personal messages and feedback have meant a lot to us. Thank you for letting us into your lives. It is truly an honor to journey with you.

This week, as I watch my kids near the close of another school year and anticipate the long, lazy days of summer ahead, I’ve been thinking about my own childhood. My hometown in coastal New England is a postcard of colonial clapboards and blue ocean. Through all sorts of weather and almost daily in the summer, my family made the short trek to Crane Beach, a glorious four-mile sand beach and estate. We’d park the car, freight ourselves with towels and pails, shovels and sunglasses, and amble over the dunes. On the far side of those shifting mounds, we’d find the closest thing to infinity I knew. The Atlantic. With a few sailboats tacking at the horizon, and (on clear days) Maine’s Mount Katahdin a hazy bump, it was an immensity so searingly beautiful, it was a hair’s-breadth from pain.

The Atlantic nurtured all my budding devotional impulses. Like the Divine, it was unboundable, unknowable, and yet right here, spending itself on the sand, lapping my shins. Changeless yet always changing, it followed its own rhythms of waves and tides, a pattern as old as Earth.

In my family, we were earnest Sunday-school attenders. While my friends zipped around bays and coves in bowriders, I spent Sundays in the pews of First Presbyterian. Often, on our hard benches, we traveled deep into questions of faith and meaning, casting lines from the bow through prayers and hymns, stories and practices.

But the Atlantic preached another kind of sermon. Wordless in its exhortation, speechless in its exegesis, it made me feel the thing we mean when we say, “my heart leapt up.” Solemn elation, deep-fed joy, something at the far-border of my senses, stirred in me.

“Exultation is the going/Of an inland soul to sea, —” writes Emily Dickinson. “Past the houses, past the headlands/ Into deep eternity!” As a child, I thought this poem was written for me. It seemed so intuitive to my experience, I felt proprietary regard for it. It bespoke the way the Atlantic pulled the tide of my heart toward something deeper. It suggested that all the human habitations – the propositional truths and earnest homiletics in which we usually trafficked – were just the beginning of the adventure. Beyond these headlands, deep eternity called.

I’ve never gotten over that call.

Every trip to Crane Beach ended with gathering up our pails and shovels, shaking sand from shoes, traipsing back over the boardwalk. We’d drive home and pack everything away, hang towels on the back porch. I’d brush my salt-tangled hair and arrange a few shells on my shelf, living in the afterimage of the blue, endless Atlantic, and waiting again for this inland soul to go to sea.

Here’s to cultivating wonder,

–Lindsay

p.s. On Friday, Kim will continue the conversation on our blog. Check it out and leave us your thoughts.

p.p.s. We’ve launched a new page on eachholyhour.com. The Back Page is our way to honor the messiness of providing thoughtful content. It chronicles some of the behind-the-scenes pitfalls and levity we bring to this work.

Consider: The Essential Work of Soul-Making

Dear Friends,

This mid-May morning we woke to a surprise: every tree bent beneath a tremendous weight of spring snow. In the early dawn hours, my husband hefted a pole and riffled through the plum and mountain ash, the lilac and aspen, relieving them of whatever burden he could. For some branches, it was too late. Full of yesterday’s blossoms, they littered the yard.

For some reason, as I looked on this unexpected conjunction of winter and spring, snow and blossom, I thought of John Keats’ descriptor of the world as “The Vale of Soul-Making.” This lyric phrase has something both sad and luminous about it. I hear in it Keats’ attempt to reconcile his world of frailty and illness with the limitless “sparks of the divinity” he intuited in himself and others. Keats was not alone in feeling this tension between two true things: we are limited beings in time, and yet, always some intrinsic part of us opens into eternity. Every day, we encounter this paradox.

Keats’ words help orient me to what’s really at stake within the granular moments of my day. The essential and holy work of soul-making is literally hidden in plain sight amid the choices and commitments of daily life, amid the harried morning routine, the second cup of tea, the momentary glance at finches pressing tiny footprints around the feeder.

It’s tempting, I think, to expect such cardinal work to have a little more pomp and pageantry to it, a little more signaling to pay attention. It doesn’t. This vale, as Keats calls it, is full of humble, forgettable, common things, and at times beset by unexpected snowfall. And yet, out of this swale our souls are being made.

I don’t know about you, but most of the time, I feel both rife with blossom and bowed with snow. Like the lilac outside my window, such are the conditions into which we must lean.

On Friday, Kim will be exploring this theme on our blog. Also, this Consider will be posted there with a comment section. As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts.

Here’s to cultivating wonder,
–Lindsay