Place a stone in the palm of your hand; it lies there, inert, nothing but itself. It revels in its stoniness, its solidity. It gathers light, rises from the plains, a mountain in miniature, notches and ridges carved by weather, strata and stria, the pressure of time, the rough places, planed. A climber might try for the pinnacle, looking for toeholds in cracks and crevasses. The way up is never easy. The air thins. From the peak, the horizon falls away. Borders are meaningless. The stone rests in your hand. It sings its one long song. Something about eternity. Something about the sea.
as through a glass darkly meant a window to my child’s eyes, probably at night, or perhaps it was the frown our mothers told us God might make permanent so we’d better cut it out, that dark look we got sent to our rooms for, but when mirror was finally identified, like looking glass someone explained, I understood face to face only was that God’s face lurking behind mine as I peered at the medicine chest in the morning or would we have eyes at all if we made it to heaven, drowning like moths in a sea of light.
You may sense it in the call of a Canada goose in flight a longing strong enough to carry an entire flock to their destination You may feel it in the grumble of a distant storm that dark dissatisfaction at what is in comparison with what will be The people who should never let us down let us down The cabin roof groans with the weight of so much snow The stairs in the old farmhouse complain with every footstep even with the memory of feet that move no longer The branches of an enormous oak moan in the high wind You many hear it in the spirituals nurtured in the cotton fields of the deep south a deep sorrow at temporal hopelessness distilled into hope for beyond Comin’ for to carry me home You may think you merely imagine it in the whistle of a train as it rumbles through a midnight crossing but the tracks through BC’s mountains were laid with the blood of Chinese navvies the sweat of abandoned dreams & the boxcars rolling through the prairies during the depression carried the last hope of the unemployed Don’t imagine that that wail has nothing to do with human grief Sometimes our wounds heal completely sometimes they leave a scar A woman learns of cancer in her breast a man finds his heart is failing We fall to our knees for a miracle & are startled when an answer seems to come a taste of what will be Hear the wind in the cavity where the siding is loose Hear it banging against the wall Sometimes our wounds don’t heal at all We fall to our knees but the sky grows grey featureless & silent We long for what we had what we almost had what will be You may sense it in the stillness of a beaver pond or in the rush over Niagara You may see it in the sunflower pushing through the soil reaching for the sky for the sun When we most identify with this world we are least content
At first—a leering mob circling the house, jeering, dancing naked, taunting the guests with their sex— the daughters thought their father brave to step outside, lock the door behind him, stretch his arms out in protection.
But then, even he offered them up, a sacrifice to protect strangers. Their father. The only “righteous man” in a city destined for flames, “Do with them what you like. But don’t do anything to these men.”
Then their eyes were like Isaac’s below the knife, the ram not yet in the bush, the blade gleaming.
What dread dug in the daughters’ betrayed hearts before the rioters, struck blind, stumbled, fell down, unable to find the door, Lot tugged back safely to the house?
And later, when they left that life behind, eyes straight toward Zoar, did they hear their mother turning, her stories sliced off mid-sentence?
What kept their gaze fixed? Their father’s almost-sacrifice or the intervention?
For just this day I thank you, Lord—this day when in a new and lonely empty place appeared a friend with whom I could retrace through forty years an undeserved array of other moments shared, and so survey as back across a pathless hillside face a hidden net of tangled trails where grace had always, always canopied the way. The bits of furniture he left behind will be of course in constant, welcome use but they will also serve as types that bind with unseen ligaments of love my loose days here to many others far apart in space and time but very near in heart.