Like gravity ushering mercury free from a broken thermometer, prayer spirits my anger away and leaves me empty and clear. I look at the world I ignored during my indignation. Winter sun flashes and plates the snowless earth silver, and all that is in it, silver, more silver. Cottonwood leaves lie fallen in heaps— currency from handsome silver-barked trees. Angling sunlight polishes dirt till it glints, and a flurry of feathers, dappled and beige— even they somehow shine silver, silver as notes from the throat of a thrush. A man all in camouflage perches among the tree branches, holding his breath, a rifle at rest on his knees, his back warmed by sunshine that burnishes him like a silver milagro, a talisman somebody placed there in homage and hope. He waits for the silver-furred deer to step into his sights, but I scared them off with my footfalls. Now, from the silvery floor of the canyon, a great languid tree trunk, surrendered and skinned clean of bark, invites me to rest in its crook with my pen and my book, so I can write all this down before it gets dark.
I was raised in a middle-class, suburban family for whom religion, like sex, was a taboo topic. My Uncle Paul, a monastic known as Brother Leo, would join us each year for Thanksgiving dinner, but we never offered grace for the meal. Uncle Paul was an oddity in his black suit and drab, community-owned sedan. But I sensed that spiritually he was on to something.
The other day my husband, Ken, and I splashed and swam in a pool, then ate burgers and drank iced tea at a barbecue hosted by our friends Ann Marie and Patricia. We are pleased and proud of the honorary titles “Uncle Ken” and “Auntie Rachel,” bestowed on us by this couple and the children they are raising. I’m also thankful for permission to tell their story, which has taught me much about what the apostle Paul calls “a spirit of adoption.”
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