queuing up for the adventure

Image result for human beings lined up with communion

No, this post is not about yet another wilderness adventure, at least not in the more literal sense that you might imagine it to be, given my proclivities. That is unless you consider, as I do, that this experience we call life is one wild (and precious) adventure.

On Saturday, I attended the funeral of a friend, a dear soul whose life’s journey overflowed with the depth and breadth of all that being human brings — beatific bliss and wretched despair, profound joy and deep regret. Of course, in truth I really knew so very little of her, merely the small bits of her life that brushed up against my mine, my understanding of which was most likely colored by my own experiences of life and subsequent interpretations of hers.

This reality struck me poignantly during the funeral, how little we are known by, how little we know of, one another. Each person in attendance, more or less touched by this woman’s life in some way, glimpsed but a fragment of the mystery that lay beneath the surface of this precious human life. All of the storytelling, put together, was but a morsel of the feast, a hint of the fragrance, and drop of the essence of who she was, and Who she was. I was affected particularly by the observation that it is so often the children of the deceased who are the primary storytellers in these moments, knowing how distorted a perception of our parents we all carry.

Later, at the church service (which I’d questioned myself about attending, especially as the service of poetry reading and sharing at the funeral home had felt so complete), I was moved, as I frequently am, witnessing the procession of humanity, pressing forward in that continuous stream, making their way toward the altar for a taste of this exquisite life, a taste of its sorrow, its nurture, its sacrifice, its love, it’s blessing. It always feels to me like so many souls lined up, a throng of beings at the gates of life, waiting for the chance to taste humanity, fully knowing the extremities of its expressions and experiences, saying ‘yes’ I want to be a part of that.

It is such an extravagant mystery.

Today, the snow falls heavily outside my window, visibly piling up on the winter-bare earth, its invitation also beckoning. I too am drawn to step out into that bitter beauty. Though I am cozy and warm next to the fire with a quiet view of the wonder, I want to be IN it, to feel its sting, to taste its beauty, to breathe its cold joy.

We were to be in Canada this week, camping and snowshoeing there in the 2 feet of snow that fell last week on the several feet of snow that already blanketed the earth there. But here I sit instead, my wild heart choosing, freely and naturally, to say ‘yes’ again, to be where Love calls me to be, present to the pain … and the beauty ….. of life.

My son called, on the morning of my friend’s funeral, the day before we were to depart, broken open by the pain that his father-in-law had died unexpectedly and suddenly the previous night. His heart was torn apart at his own loss, but even more so, at the loss for his wife, and the loss for his two young daughters of their beloved grandfather. How would he tell them this news, which would crush their hearts, breach the cocoon of their childhood innocence, where all is love and safety, to introduce them to the deep grief of this life.

I have felt blessed by the these days companioning my son, holding his heart as he walked through terrain, new to him, along this journey of being human. He didn’t really need me after all, his heart is so big. I just reassured him that he knew the way through— how to tread lightly, how to hold tenderly, how to listen compassionately, how to trust love, how to be human. I simply reminded him Who he is.

These things he knows. He is a phenomenally loving man. And just as I am so often astounded by the crush of humanity lining up to say ‘yes’ to life, I also frequently find myself in awe of the profound wisdom and tenderness of my adult sons, the ways they embody Love. I don’t know why it astounds me when I catch a glimpse of them like this, when the beauty of their souls shines through, but I always feel the blessing of that glimpse wash over me like a baptism .

Of course this experience – this very real human experience- of profound loss and deep grief- in the paradoxical way that life always presents itself- is also allowing this part of him to come forward, to grow, to become more fully incarnate, if you will. It is allowing him to taste the terrible beauty of life that he perhaps signed up for. Last night, he mentioned that he is in awe of the tender beauty and strength of his little ones.

Perhaps that’s why we line up for it, after all, for a chance to know this wonder, to be filled with this awe, to touch this tenderness, to taste this feeling, to know this Love.


This evening I received a phone call from a friend with the news that our mutual friend’s son took his life yesterday. And this is also true about life, that for some the terror looms too large, and the redemption of pain never comes. I wonder if at the end some part of them simply says ” I didn’t sign up for this”, or I’m so tired of waiting for something nourishing to eat.

I know that anything I say here will fall far short of understanding, for I cannot grasp the mystery of this young man’s life, the depths of his pain, anymore than I could catch a glimpse of the soul of my friend, whose funeral I attended last week. It is all so ephemeral and fleeting.

I only hope he is tasting Love now.

Go to the Limits of Your Longing
  Rainer Maria Rilke
God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.
Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand.
Book of Hours, I 59


In meditation yesterday morning, I received an invitation (yet again) to plant a seed of intention into the soil of my heart, then to trust that spirit (godde, the universe, love) would nurture it, outside of my mere willing it to be so, growing it into something fragrant, or fruitful, or shade bearing, or… Of course, this is the time of the year when such seeds, hidden in the earth’s soil, are doing the same– burrowing and receiving. This day, the temperatures here are such that the recent freeze is melting. I am sitting on my porch, listening to it tap and ping, drip, and trickle, and run. Quenching those buried expectancies.

I wonder if it can happen that way with a heart too, that one day it feels frozen and the next day, something suddenly shifts and you hear music where there was silence.

I hope that you are hearing music on this day.

Often, intention setting is an abstract thing for me, and at the suggestion, I feel like I am grasping for something tangible in the midst of swirling mists.  Whether it was goal setting as a young adult, intended to set me on a specific path, or the ‘tell me what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life’ as an older adult facing the empty pages of the next chapter of my life, I often don’t seem to grasp an answer. Is it that I don’t know who I am?

Or is it that who I am is boundless?

Sitting afterwards (after the meditation, that is) with my journal, I thought to explore what the pen might reveal that I couldn’t see in all that ethereal fog. It played around with the word Freedom, trying to pinpoint this longing in me to feel released from a life-long nagging feeling of never quite measuring up—being enough, doing enough, loving enough—the fear of unworthiness, I suppose. Earning love.

I’m not sure if you caught up with the news that my mother died this fall, her parting message to me a reminder that I had never quite earned her love. (so yes, this has been with me a long time). The season of advent was one of attending to that tender place within me, listening to my body’s wisdom to simply BE with it, to dwell quietly in that darkness, to slow down and be still/tender with it. The natural world was my teacher during that season, too, as I followed the teachings of beaver and turtle, muskrat and bee.

Back in my journal, yesterday morning, my pen led me from freedom to words that spoke of my desire to simply be. Me. As I am. With permission to engage joyfully in life, in the things that bring me contentment, peace, beauty, without fear of judgment or rejection. Somewhere in that swirling mist of intangibles the word Delight emerged. That is I new one for me and I wondered what that might look like. To gaze upon life with delight.

Perhaps it seems a subtle shift from the abstraction of Freedom to the nebulous Delight, or from Beauty (which has been an in-forming word for me for a long while now, with its invitation to seek and to see it in All) to Delight, but in other ways it feels as marked as the shift from last week’s subfreezing temperatures to today’s 50 degree thaw. There is a lightness around my heart when the word, Delight, settles there. A sparkle, like sunlight on melting snow, which is not there when the word Freedom or even Beauty alone holds that space.

Today, during my morning practice, I pondered whether the word should be tempered a bit, with Compassion, for instance. If it is wrong somehow to take delight in life when others are suffering. If it is wrong to deny that some aspects of human existence are not delightful at all.

Our dear Mary Oliver perhaps offers a prescription for this too, in the line right before that elusive question about what one plans to do with one’s wild and precious life, she asks, ‘Tell me, what else should I have done on a day like today…. than to be idle and blessed’, observing life through eyes of wonder– a fitting description of delight.

I shall try to hold onto this promise, not let it slip like mist through my fingers, but let it be tangible as a seed in the palm of my hand. Real. Reality. Let it grow into Joy from that seed in my hand, that seed in my heart, now visible and glowing, after the thawing of winter’s freeze around it.

I pray that you find moments of delight this day, and throughout the remaining blessed days of your wild and precious life, my dear ones, for it is precious indeed.

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