the winter of my content

She asked, “And how are you this morning?”

Taking a moment to truly check in, scanning my internal landscape and seeking a word to describe what I saw and I felt there – quiet, still, settled, at peace—the word ‘content’ bubbled forth as the one that fit.

And then she went on to describe what she saw on the landscape spread out before her- the crsp early morning light, glinting off crystals of fresh snow, a finger of light reaching through the passage (that leads to the marsh where we paddle in summer)  to tickle the island awake.  The band of pink haloing the hilltop behind the cabin, where Don and I have nested like honeymooners, the interplay between that rise of land and the rising sun casting a line upon those frozen waters, separating (or connecting?) radiant light with blue shadowed ice. That pinkening spreading slowly to fill the sky, eventually kissing the same island, which that the finger of light had tickled awake. (oh you lucky island, how I envy you! ) The blush of pink that fades into the afterglow of gold.

I was transported. Her sun cracking the ice of this, my winter of content, until the tears dripped like honey, to the steady beat of my heart.  How could it be that beneath all this still silence, the quiet peace, that subtle surrender, there lay sleeping so much longing?

But has this been a time of ice, of coldness, of hardening? I want to trust that both can be present at once, in this complicated body of my humanity, that both can be true, concurrently – contentment and longing at once. That contentment has not meant either settling or suppression. I want to believe that one does not negate the other, that longing does not deny contentment, even as I trust that within this body of mine there is both something timeless and something constantly changing, an infinite yearning bound up in a finite body,  something profanely human and something profoundly divine,

(All is Well, and all is not well, as I have come to understand it)

Yet there it was, clear as the tears rolling down my cheeks, something melted in me by her words. A piece of my heart, perhaps frozen in that place where it has found home, in that beloved geography , which has been denied me because of a disease that has barricaded the border between us.

 I am in exile of sorts.

I thought I was ok with it, really. The piano that moved into my home has soothed my spirit. It is a place I can go to be present and free—similar enough to the way that I feel in a canoe paddling the shoreline. I am resilient that way, after all- good at surviving, to the point of thriving, it seems.  There are phone calls and zoom calls and books and prayer and new babies and snowshoe walks in the woods for connection.

 So what is this “longing’ all about? Longing for? Is it More, with a capital “M”? Is it Home? Belonging? (Did I not see the sign that said ‘Kensinger Cabin’ when I was there last?)  Intimacy?  Is it embodied, full-bodied (full spirited) living, body and soul in one place, at one with the earth, fully alive? A desire to dwell “in the undivided unity of a whyless Love’

If it is the Eros of the divine that got this whole wondrous ball rolling, the Alpha whose Omega point is Agape, (an Agape that could not be fulfilled without the human condition/experience  of heartbreak and suffering, and its resultant development of compassion and tenderness , forgiveness and fidelity, beauty and joy)  then I suppose this Eros in me just might be a Sacred thing, also.  This longing of mine may just be divine, not merely some human restlessness, not merely seeking some sort of escape, but desire for a deepening Love. And not seeking Love in all the wrong places, but in the right ones, hovering, perhaps, not over the waters, but under these frozen ones. Perhaps I can stop labeling my longing as a lesser/baser thing and integrate it as wholly holy.

Likewise feelings of exile (without which this Holy Longing would be absent) and grief and sorrow and loss and pain.  Each of these are Very Good, too, not feelings to deny as mere illusion, nor signs of my brokenness , nor of the inherent symptom of the ‘sin’ of humanity, but an aspect of its very gift, not as a sign of something false or wrong but of something very right and real. The line separating right feelings from wrong ones, sacred from profane, real from unreal, as much a illusion as that line cast upon the snow between blue shadowed ice and dazzling reflection.

And deep contentment and limitless longing can abide in the same body, as Love.

This Strange Land, Meister Eckhart, as translated by Mark Burrows

When you find yourself possessed by God,

you will enter a strange land, a wilderness,

which is nameless beyond names, and more

unknown than known; there you will find

that your I and God’s I are a single I

in the undivided Unity of a whyless Love

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