faith

Faith. Another laden word for me. Sigh.

But a favorite author that I read uses it like this, ‘faith in the wellspring of life’. Wendell Berry suggests that when despair for the world grows in me, I take myself to the ‘peace of the wild things, come into the presence of still water, and feel above me the day-blind stars’. There is little that restores my faith in the deep goodness and beauty of life more than paddling a canoe in the waters of a northern lake and lying back upon her granite shoreline to bathe in that great dome of sky. While some may think these annual migrations are escape from the ‘real’ world, I have come to understand them as homecoming instead. A coming home to what is real, what is true. A coming home to myself. A return to my remembrance of the sacred.

In her book, Behold Your Life, Macrina Weiderkehr explains the purpose of a pilgrimage

“A pilgrimage is a journey with a hallowed purpose. A pilgrimage is not a vacation; it is a transformational journey during which significant change takes place. Life giving challenges emerge. New insights are given. Deeper understanding is attained. New and old places in the heart are visited. Blessings are received and healing takes place. On return from the pilgrimage, life is seen with different eyes. Nothing will ever be quite the same again.”

Yes.

Like the snow geese whose calls echo in the shrouded dome of this fog laden day, my spirit this time of year begins to call me home to a place of quiet and simple belonging, where something I have not yet been able to name is being incubated in me, as in those northern nests. Perhaps it is peace.

When I was a girl, I remember climbing up on risers on the stage of the capitol forum to sing with a specially selected chorus. That year my wing was broken, slung in a cast, and I felt quite a bit off balance on that top rung. As it turns out, that would be the first of many breakings of my young wings and not long after that, I stopped singing. My young life was off balance for many long years afterwards, but the song that we sang that day soothed like a lullaby.

The mystery of music is perhaps a second thing that restores my faith. How is it that something ineffable carried by those melodies and chords speaks to the human soul of what is deep and true. I am reminded of the story told by a pianist who played for nursing homes as a volunteer. He was performing a piece written by a prisoner of war during his imprisonment as a way of expressing the profound grief of losing a friend who had been shot down. The playing of that piece 60 years later stirred similar memories awake in an old man listening, bringing him to tears in the remembrance of losing one of his own friends, who was similarly shot down in the war all those years ago.

That song i sang as a girl has likewise come back to me all these years later. I don’t know what this particular piece of music is awakening in me, but I’ve been listening to it on repeat over the last 2 months now. Each time it soothes me like medicine for my soul. Who understands a mystery such as that? What is inscribed in that Melody? Perhaps my Scots-Irish ancesters’ blood is stirred. Perhaps my longing is addressed and expressed. Perhaps my young self, with broken wing, is tended.

I have faith that there is meaning in it, even, and perhaps especially, if I cannot name it. The same holds true of life. My deepest knowing is that Love is encoded within it all. And that I belong to it somehow.

Today, I spent the better part of the morning bringing together these two… this sacred geography of my heart and this tender piece of music, and then most of the afternoon listening to and watching the images that were like a lovesong from my soul to my soul, feeling deeply the presence of Beauty. Deep Sorrow and Great Joy were there in one place. My heart awake, listening, calling, responding.

I have faith that something is answering me.

‘Everyone must believe in something. I believe I’ll go canoeing” -Henry David Thoreau

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