Whenever I am overnight at Job’s Pond, there is consistency in the first thing I see in the morning’s light. There is Gracie the Dog at the end of the bed, standing in silent stillness looking out over the pond into the new day. She is unmoving. She is absolutely attentive to whatever might be presenting itself (or not) on the water, in the sky, across the pond. Most often she makes no assessment nor comment on what she is seeing, or smelling, or hearing. She just takes it in.
She just looks, and receives.
I am blessed to live with such a natural teacher. As smart as she proves herself to be day by day, it seems she could have the power of speech if she really wanted it. But she doesn’t need it. She teaches by example.
And every morning I get this example:
Here is a new day. There is light. There is air. There is both stillness and movement. No one knows what the day will bring and, you know what? It doesn’t really matter. It will bring what it has been created to bring. And whatever it brings (even on the days that include
death), all is embraced under the name ‘life.’ There is no need, nor any real capacity, to figure it out, to understand it before it blooms as it will. There is only the invitation, new every morning and modeled by Gracie, to look and receive.
She looks into it every morning as if it were the first and the only morning of creation. “Morning has broken, like the first morning . . . ”
Last evening, deep into vacation, I drove two hours to spend some time with old friends. There I was reunited and talked and laughed and shared a marvelous meal with two families that I met first through the husbands and fathers thereof, and through them came to know and cherish their amazing spouses and wonderful children.
Somehow, most of five years had passed since we were last together. This was hard to believe, though on reflection easy enough to understand, as those have been the years I have migrated to New York and worked on resettling and renewing.
I value friendship above almost all else. And there really is something particular about old friends. There is something special about those friends whom you may not see for months or years at a time, through months and years of change and challenge and God-knows-what-else. But when you do come together once more – and you know what I am going to say – it is as if you have been in one another’s company all along.
And in a way, you have. You have carried them in your heart. And there, the passage of time does not rob. It only enriches. It reveals the deeper gifts that take time to unfold, be made known, and mature. It reveals just what a treasure these people are.
Last evening reminded me of something that I have long believed. People, men and women and children, human beings: these are real sacraments of the presence of God. These, together, are genuine icons of the face of Christ. They are no less precious than that.
Today, as though to remind me that God’s generosity is never exhausted and that God is always giving, I was privileged to accompany a friend to an important appointment. The bond that makes that accompaniment possible is strong. The experience of being together is transforming.
We make one another more human, by the connections forged between and among us, and allowed to strengthen – even in the background – over the years. I bless all those tangibles and intangibles that draw us closer to one another. May our eyes and ears be always open to see and hear them, and to let them work in our hearts, remaking them again and again.
This afternoon I have embarked upon the beginning of what might be expected to be somewhat straightforward – spring cleaning.
But when you have moved 11 times in 10 years, and counting; when you have moved from priestly ministry in the Roman Catholic Church to a once-in-a-lifetime position at Boston College, and then to priestly ministry in the Episcopal Church in another metropolitan area; when you begin to unearth boxes and folders that have traveled with you from a grand old parish in West Lynn MA to Glenstal Abbey in County Limerick to BC to Brooklyn to Mercer School of Theology in Garden City NY; when you find snippets of conversations and good wishes and prayers and questions answered and unanswered . . . then spring cleaning becomes something worth beginning that may never be ended.
Every inch of that landscape is marked both by the compassion of God, made flesh in great people, and by my own strivings, needs, half-understood yearnings, and throughout a faith that is the foundation of all. Absolutely all.
I can only do this work for so many hours at a time. I have to stop then, return to the present place and time, and consider well. There may be some things I deem worthy of sharing as they are (re)discovered. You may not find much in them, but for me they are worth transposing into another key, with hope and a tear or two, a smile, and a grateful heart.
This prose poem – without skill or guile that I can see! – bears the date of 6/6/06. That was the period of time between Sacred Heart in Lynn (hi guys!) and Boston College’s Institute of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry (a beautiful reality, now tucked into BC’s School of Theology and Ministry). I believe I was at the time of that writing staying in a condo in the beautiful town of Newburyport, a condo owned by a friend from Sacred Heart. I was upheld entirely and without want by the love of friends and strangers, and the Lord whom I could see standing between them. God bless those generous friends, every moment and always.
I have no idea almost a decade later who the ‘neighbors’ are as they are mentioned here. I hope they weren’t put off by a neighbor between them who was thinking a lot, as is still and always true, about the meaning of our lives together.