Two people stand on either side of a white bed sheet suspended from a clothesline. As it billows and blows this way and that, you are given a passing glimpse of someone standing on the other side. The image never stays long enough for you to determine its shape or identity. Your curiosity is piqued enough however to move closer to the sheet. The breeze stops momentarily and you place a tentative hand upon the sheet, now still and waiting. Your hand feels cool fabric, thin and light to the touch.
To your surprise at first and then to your delight, a hand presses against yours from the other side, the side that hinted at an image impossible to confirm with your eyes, untrained for such visions. Two hands touch, finger to finger, palm to palm and there is recognition. It is the realization that something holy is transpiring. The sacredness of it hangs in the air like a heavy mist. You stand, breathless, waiting, uncertain – yet somehow…sure.
That is what the Celts have called, a thin place.
Peering out my hotel window onto the suburban Portland landscapes, a collaboration of grey sky with green horizon conspires against my equally somber mood and confirms that this overstatement of beauty is underrated. It is a melancholy scene uniquely designed for creatives and mystics like myself. It doesn’t parade itself, shouting in one’s face like the endless, overly peppy summer days my fellow Yakimanians insist upon.
No, this multilayered beauty lets me seek for it. There is the obvious beauty one sees immediately with the eyes. But there exists an indirectness, hinting at something still deeper, under the skin, as if to say, “if you think this is beautiful, just keep looking…” Here it is that Hopkins’ “dearest freshness deep down things”, for me, makes the most sense. One feels that to plumb the depths of one level of this spongy flora is merely an epidermis covering the heart of the matter many floors down where every living thing converges, colliding to become itself all over again.
See the following poetic inspiration from this same journey from Yakima to Portland.
The green of Oregon. A thin place.
I always say in such heavily wooded areas, as I do near the ocean, that the air has a finished quality to it. It lacks for nothing. As a family, we loved to spend a great deal of time on the beach when we lived in Oregon. Along with our two boys, our dog and a Frisbee, it was not uncommon for us to take lawn chairs and a host of reading materials, planting ourselves confidently on our tiny plot of sand. From there the wind, waves, body surfers, gulls, joggers and beachcombers would teach us of the God who makes sense of the small and great, loud and quiet, still and quick. One of those many times garnered the following poetic triptych posted elsewhere.
Thoughts from the beach…
To commemorate a beach walk with my wife.
Beauty. Random squalor in effortless
wave deposits her treasure.
In our efforts to build that which
hand could never grasp we trade
Quintessential. Queer. Quiet for
Quantifiable. Quick. Casual.
Oh, such grand wordless words-
wonder, world-watched prayers
That which is unseen – now
dark; darker still where waves
kiss the sand of my imagination.
Flat boards float on round earth
playing with my finitude and finer still,
fill my earthen breath with
Dare she flit on so light a wing,
fading into vastness, blue-
the sky and water, one;
where one defines what much cannot
in so many syllables contain-
the vast smallness of it all.
May 12, 2003
4 thoughts on “Glimpses, part III – thin places”
Thin as a veil of fairy spun linen. Written with power and grace, Rob.
Why, thank you, Mrs. Keffer. I have a number of these and plan on posting at least one more “thin places” installment.
Beautiful. “The air has a finished quality to it.” Living away from the coast I miss the depth and richness of “multi-layered beauty.” Difficult to describe, yet you have so well.
Thanks, Janet. Instead of leaving me gasping for breath, it leaves me breathless.