Today’s meander led me to look more closely at some places in my tiny community that I typically pass by without much regard – this reinforced embankment next to the state road, for instance, truly an eyesore in our picturesque village, but hidden somewhat from view. Most people passing through town, or visiting for the day, see something that looks more like this,  just downstream a hundred yards or so from the photo above.

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I had gone in search of the word, Brokenness, and, though open and curious, wondered what I might be led to that could possibly fulfill that word. In the natural world, there are many things that may appear to be broken… a fallen tree, a breach in a boulder, a flooded  earth, a dead bird… but to take a snapshot in time of such realities is to capture only a small part of the story. I resist that truncated view. Life has taught me that the tree will become earth again, providing much nourishment for many along its decomposing way; the breach will fill with debris and seedlings will sprout;  the floods will bring nutrient rich sludge from the river bottom, accumulated debris from its own little deaths, to spread  out across the hungry land; and the dead bird will provide food for the soaring vulture so that her body can craft an egg. Left to its own course, redemption and healing, resiliency and creativity prevail in the natural world.

But then I came to this sight, a naturally flowing watercourse diverted from its course by concrete, asphalt, and wire  and I wondered what could redeem this. It is much harder for me when it comes to the acts of man, where too often one selfish choice leads to further devastation. (I also discovered trash thrown into the woodlands, a twisted and tattered American flag beneath some rhododendron, and a rusted chain link fence preventing passage.) These things are hard for me to make sense of, and despite my deep trust of the earth, feel like brokenness beyond repair.

When relationships are broken, relationships that rapaciously, exploitatively take at the other’s expense rather than see and listen and honor the dignity, the needs, and the gifts of the other, real devastation can follow. Of course, given enough time and if human hands could be willing to let go of control, eventually the earth would be able to integrate even this, clear it away, take itself back.

As I looked through the images, I wondered how many of us, scarred and roughly patched by broken relationships, limp along in the same way as that stream of water. Words and actions from the past still controlling us like so-many-rocks bundled up into cages, we are unable to clear away the debris to take our selves back. We may learn to hide it from view, so that passersby don’t really notice. We may even look to all the world like that sparkling body of placid beauty downstream, until someone becomes intimate enough to look closer, to enter in to the healing conversation that is at the heart of true relationship.

I have come to acknowledge that often, hidden beneath human Beauty, I will discover patched together places, crumbling debris and bulwarks. We are all walking wounded perhaps. But if we are lucky, someone will cast a loving gaze on these places with tenderness and compassion, perhaps even help us to loosen the cages.




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