In the household of God, I have stumbled in recitation,
and in my mind I have wandered.
I have interrupted worship with discussion.
Once I extinguished the Gospel candle after all the others.
But never held the cup to my mouth lagging in gratitude.
The Lord forgives many things,
so I have heard..
The deer came into the field.
I saw her peaceful face and heard the shuffle of her breath.
She was sweetened by merriment and not afraid,
but bold to say
whose field she was crossing: spoke the tap of her foot:
It is God's and mine."
But only that she was born into the poem that God made, and
called the world....
It's close to hopeless,
for what I want to say the red-bird
has said already, and better, in a thousand trees.
The white bear, lifting one enormous paw, has said it better.
You cannot cross one hummock or furrow but it is
His holy ground.
I had such a longing for virtue, for company.
I wanted Christ to be as close as the cross I wear.
I wanted to read and serve, to touch the altar linen.
Instead I went back to the woods where not a single tree
turns its face away.
Instead I prayed, oh Lord, let me be something
useful and unpretentious.
Even the chimney swift sings.
Even the cobblestones have a task to do, and do it well.
Lord, let me be a flower, even a tare; or a sparrow.
Or the smallest bright stone in a ring worn by someone
brave and kind, whose name I will never know.
Lord, when I sleep I feel you near.
When I wake, and you are already wiping the stars away,
I rise quickly, hoping to be like your wild child
the rose, the honey-maker the honey-vine:
a bird shouting its joy as it floats
through the gift you have given us: another day.
Enough Mary! You are getting at something here that is uncomfortable.
As one author, Paul T. Corrigan, said of this volume, "Thirst," you elicit the human experience of tension between God and Earth. Your very title seeks to compare the two by saying that God's words are more beautiful than the locust tree. You would think it would not be much of a challenge, for as a child growing up in the Eastern U.S. I never found the Locust tree to be of much beauty. But then neither did I find God, his words, or his church to be much to bother about.
Times changed when I began to know of loss.
Since those dark times, my spiritual practice has been these last 15 years to find beauty in everything. Though I have not finished the journey, I go to others to ask these questions:
Is beauty in everything?
Is beauty enough?
In fact, I preached a sermon on this yesterday at the Unitarian Universalist Nature Coast congregation.
In my own experience, and in Mary's poems, I find my heart rate increase when I ask, "Why can't earth be enough?" and hear the answer, "It isn't." Like I fool, this response doesn't keep me from falling back in love over and over again with her. I also ask, "Why can't church be enough?" The answer too is, "It isn't" and damn my luck, I fall back in love over and over again with her.
Three months ago I left the parish ministry to serve as a community minister in multispecies ministry. I think it can be safely said then that I know of this tension between God and earth.. I hunger for God and thirst for reverence of the earth. There seems to always be something missing, and then suddenly everything is enough, and nothing is enough. I am a quiver of confusion and an arrow that I know not who points or where I will land.
A Native American legend is that the Thunder Spirit recognized his son by his ability to sit comfortably on locust branches, despite the thorns.
I don't know if comfort is too high a goal. Maybe though, me, no we - please join me - are truly Earth/God's children as we try to find more joy in a world where we are completely stuck. For out of these tensions, regeneration comes. Perhaps not just for us, but for the transformation of our society that comes from the wounds of loving Earth and God never enough.
In this poem, in this volume, the stakes are rising, and bless my heart, I am gaining insight into what exactly is at risk. It is the salvation of the earth's soul, which is also mine, and which is also Yours. Always.
Do you ever pit God against Earth? Do you accept both or neither?