Glimpses IV: the spirituality of home

With this topic I enter through a small door into a big room. I do so on tip-toes so as not to awaken any sleeping giants. Home, like love is a word deceptively larger than its meager 4 letters suggests. In my 48 years post-womb I have been many people to many people with many people. A social chameleon, I guess I thought it best to live vicariously through anyone other than myself. Their stories were better, more invigorating or inspiring, or more inclined to win female attention or male praise.

As a result, home, both as place and idea, hasn’t always had the centrifugal force it is supposed to have. From time to time, life has felt a bit disjointed, like a balance with an ill-positioned fulcrum. It’s always a little off. Move it enough and one forgets where the center was to begin with.

Most folks enjoy at least a minimal sense of who they are and when their boundaries are breached. Whenever something foreign or unnecessary storms the walls of their identity they have a means of objective detachment whereby to judge their suddenly unfamiliar surroundings. I, apparently, lack this essential characteristic.

Why?

Is it my artistic, non-logical, non-empirical sensibilities? Perhaps the fact that I’m adopted? Could it be my “progressive” sensibilities (think protest songs, Kumbaya group hugs and flannel shirts), my piss poor memory or some unseen psychological malady(s)? Bad gas? It is as baffling and frustrating as it is intriguing.

The result is the fact that home needs redefining for me – renaming even; something broad enough to encompass my complexities (annoyances to those who know me best), focused enough to provide sufficient context for who I am becoming and “Jesusy” enough (thank you, Anne Lamott) to be honest, self-sacrificial and have lasting trajectory with ultimate meaning…oh, and perhaps a hint of compassion.

(The 950 square foot bungalow in Calgary where I grew up)

A recent trip to my home-turf of southern Alberta left me with these thoughts:

Home is not geographical as much as spatial. It involves an awareness, a familiarity as it were; that place “where everybody knows your name.” I know it and it knows me. There is no awkwardness or second guessing. I understand the politics, the inside jokes, the acceptable or unacceptable faux pas. The prevalent bigotries, hip views, “in” restaurants, “now” looks. The shortcuts and back roads to places only I know or care to know.

In other words, home is where we know and are known. It is about who we spend our lives with and why. We are most home when surrounded by those with whom we share life, both good stuff and bad. We are home when someone cares enough to be pissed off at us or play practical jokes on us. Or cry with us.

Here is the challenge however. As good as all that sounds, it’s still an unsure footing for something as untamed and uncertain as the spiritual life. It makes a ton of assumptions, many of which grow from our home-grown, Western world, Waltons mentality. What if I’m blind and cannot see the above gifts? Deaf and cannot hear the words of familial comfort or humor? Comatose and cannot experience them? Mentally incapacitated so as to deny full involvement in it all? Incarcerated or worse? Where, then, do I find “home”?

If anyone stood well outside the comfortable, normal or expected, it was Jesus. His was not a simple move across the country or even the globe. The journey he undertook landed him amid the harassed mass of fallen humanity of which he was now a shareholder. Where once he enjoyed the benefits of Trinitarian dwelling and the benefits thereof, he passes through a birth canal into the cold world, created for, through and by him. Jesus’ example and presence makes home possible even in the least likely locations.

Why?

He gave up his “home” in order to give us ours. And that’s good enough for me.

Glimpses, part III – thin places

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.

1

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

waiting…waiting.

That which is unseen – now

I see.

2

Wind-soaked beach-stained

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

deeper wind.

3

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

The ocean. A thin place.