Forest Prayer at a Time of Uncertain Beginnings

From Forest Prayer at a Time of Uncertain Beginnings

I am lifting my gaze
with the lichen, catching
the first golden breeze
off the sun in the sharp spruce-tops.
I am resting it
next to the pearls of last night’s rain...

…The whole poem lives over at The Christian Century; I’d be delighted if you took a moment to read or speak it. It’ll be in the October 7th print edition, if you prefer the inked word.

I had no idea when The Christian Century would choose to print this poem. It’s resonant (for me—I’m not privy to their reasoning) that they decided on the Equinox.

I’ve been listening the past couple of days to songs and a recent sermon by minister and musician Simon de Voil*, who shares something of my mixed Christian/pagan path. He talks (and sings) about non-duality quite a lot, this idea that, at the equinoctial balance of the year, we are invited to be “both and,” “neither this nor that, shimmering in [our] solidity.” This image of shimmering will not leave me, and this is the part where it feels delightfully uncanny that Forest Prayer came out today. Nowhere in the poem do I say the word, but it’s the underlying texture of the light in my memory of composing it.

More non-duality: “Things can be one thing and another in the same moment,” and our invitation is “to expand who we are to hold opposing truths.” My whole being right now is a struggle with this. Our whole world, maybe: the way we feel and respond to the political, social, physical crises of this moment. I’ve been having a shit couple of days with all of that. And I’ve been pissed off as much as anything that I’m angry and frustrated and unsettled at this entrance to my favorite time of year. I’ve been trying to let it be what it is: unfair and exhausting and inconvenient, and a time of learning, an invitation to both action and contemplation, and full of small joys. A time of deep uncertainty, endings and beginnings and fear and desire.

I remember what this poem was “about” at the time I wrote it. Which doesn’t matter, because reading it now, it’s about now.

*Simon played a concert for the season (improvised at a distance via Crowdcast, and available as a replay) with another musician, Aimée Ringle, who has the loveliest alto voice. I support Simon’s work via Patreon, which is how I mostly listen to his songs and sermons, but there are other ways to find him online. He preaches Sundays at Suquamish United Church of Christ, for example.

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