that the whole earth is a sacrament-
a limitless possibility of encountering
God reaching toward us.
During this time of disorientation and separation, we’re asking members of our St. George’s community to offer poems, reflections and images they’ve created as doorways into prayer. We will share them with you weekly. They may be ways to face what you are feeling today. They may be reminders of beauty and communion. We pray they will be signs of hope and the nearness of God in all things.
Image: Barbara Ryther
I cannot feel my skin and hair fall off,
But all of us are crumbling creatures still.
Consider now the crab, the snake, the frog,
The lobster, lizard, goldfinch, bighorn sheep.
All molt their outer layers to grow again.
Crustaceans, form a new, soft shell within.
The birds shed feathers while they grow some more.
The dogs lose hair in spring and fall – or more…
At least , they say, it does not hurt to molt.
The birds may itch; the snakes feel too exposed.
For us the transformation seems so mild.
In general, hair and skin slough off unseen.
Our cousin beasts prepare for their new lives.
For us, the present moment is the thing.
We try to see the Spirit when she comes.
But might we grow new skins for novel times?
And should we learn to throw off useless shells,
Or drop our winter fur so we stay cool?
And at the last, let go our mortal souls?
Should we, like them, prepare ourselves to molt?
Someone wrote recently that it’s as if we’re all sitting on a spider web, and if there’s a tug on one part
we all feel it.
It’s an interesting image.
A web can look fragile but in fact be very strong.
One part of it may break, but the whole still holds together.
It can conjure up thoughts of scary spiders or sparkle with dew jewels.
And it’s true that a small twitch – or a large tug – will move throughout the whole web.
Our world does feel fragile right now, and we sometimes struggle to see its strength. It’s easy to see where it’s broken, but sometimes hard to see that it’s still holding together.
We are all together in this broken, beautiful, fragile, scary, strong, connected world. We feel not only
our own pain but the pain of others. We share the inspiration of others. We wake up each day to see
something new that seems broken and something new that’s beautiful and strong.
Pray for yourself. Pray for each other. Don’t turn away from the brokenness, but see also the beauty.
– Barbara Ryther
The Wiggly Bridge
The bridge is closed.
I didn’t want to cross it until it closed.
And now I see it taunt me from afar.
The bridge is closed.
It was a wiggly bridge anyway–
The other side a dark forest of unknowns.
The bridge is closed.
The path to get there shifting sand and rock,
Requiring a thoughtful, measured step.
The bridge is closed.
But I have faith I’ll walk that path someday,
To tread the shaking trestle, step by step.
I will see the other side.
– May 8, 2020
Image:Mei Li Yingst
Artist Statement To Go With Kitty O’Meara’s ‘And the People Stayed Home’ Poem
Mei Li Yingst (Age 13)
This is a pen and ink drawing on white paper. It has a lot of photo editing to make the black darker and white lighter, because I used 4 different pens. Each window has a different part of the poem, with the poem written on a banner in the middle. I sketched it out on the computer, and then drew on paper. The whole picture has a lot of contrast, yet simplicity from the limited color palette (grayscale). When I read the poem, the line (what I wrote on the banner) stood out to me. I loved how so much was happening at the same time, but they were still. I found it really poetic. All the people in the picture are pretty close together, only a building away, connected with the banner. Everyone is doing something different, but they are still connected, and in a way, together.
Note: You can read the poem from which Mei Li drew inspiration here: https://www.ttbook.org/interview/viral-poem-virus-time
Compline has Become My Solace
Fifty years ago I was a 2LT in the Army Nurse Corps, assigned to a neuro-surgical ICU in Vietnam, working 12-hour shifts, six days a week in a windowless Quonset hut. Our ICU was considered the worst place to work in the hospital, our death rate higher than that of the ER. Our reputation set us apart. No one wanted to visit Ward 5 just to say “hi.”
The nature of a Quonset, combined with our reputation, created a sense of isolation. We learned to depend on each other because, inside the curved metal walls of Ward 5, we were all we had. At the end of the day friendship of five fellow nurses sustained me. Often, we could be found sitting in someone’s room, writing sanitized letters home, making light of our lives so our mothers would not worry too much about us.
So, I can easily envision the strain medical teams, in gowns, gloves, and N-95 masks endure, caring for COVID-19 patients, even though they may not be physically isolated after work in quite the same way we were.
With the passage of time and then retirement my contact with other women of my generation has shrunk. Outside the women in my church family, only one person lives close by. Once we worked side by side helping babies into the world, our gloved hands touching as we kneaded a mother’s abdomen so her normal post birth bleeding would not become a hemorrhage. Now my friend is isolating, too.
How could I find fellowship in this difficult yet oddly familiar situation, reminding me so much of my life in Vietnam?
The answer came in late March when Ryan invited the congregation to join him at Compline—via Zoom–every night at 8:30 PM. Now, as the moments tick toward 8:30, I stop whatever I’m doing, sign-on to the St George’s Zoom meeting page, then greet people as each of us join—from our homes. Always, Ryan and Sudie encourage us to breathe deeply, let go of the day’s troubles, and share our concerns. And then use the words of Compline to release those concerns to God—and pray. Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we are close to tears, but for those 20 minutes I find joy, and gratitude that I am not alone.
The Rocky Beach
When first birthed
From its mother rock
Each stone was sharp, jagged, unbending.
Now, eons of storms and pounding surf
Have rounded the edges,
Smoothed the surfaces.
Each stone different.
Some black, others white—
Speckled ones abound.
Many flat, more round—
Mica glitters from granite globes.
None shaped like its neighbor.
All together make the rocky beach—
A rough-hewn edge to the sea
Sparkled by the sun.
May one stone chosen from many
Be a reminder that we are each like this—
Born of the same Source.
Each is unique,
Each is being worn smooth
By the storms of life.
Together, with our various shapes,
Sizes, colors—and our various gifts—
We return beauty to God’s world.
I remember when my daughter was younger, she had asked what Easter was about. I gave her the historical context; I shared our Christian belief in the Resurrection. But I also tried to convey a deeper sense of the symbolism. “It’s about new life,” I told her. “…about love, and hope.”
To me, Easter is like buds pushing their way into the world on dormant limbs. It’s like holding a single determined flicker of fire on a moonless night. It is the whisper of the Universe when the sorrow of one more headline feels enough to crush me, saying, “And yet…”
And yet, today I awoke to spring daylight, feeling rekindled.
And yet, I held my lover’s hand. I spoke to a cherished friend. I sipped a cup of lavender tea.
And yet, on my evening walk, the cry of the loon echoed between the blue grey shores of the harbor, painting me into the watercolor of sunset.
And yet, I heard my child’s gentle breath as she slept tucked beneath my arm.
The hard parts of life sometimes soften; sometimes they are unwilling.
Easter is breath to my fainting heart. It is the Universe reminding us of everyday miracles–resurrecting me from the tomb of despair with the astonishing hope-promise: “And yet…”
I have learned to listen for her whisper. Her voice is breezy soft like a lily field; so intensely beautiful that I find myself leaning towards it. This, I’ve discovered, is exactly the needed leverage for rolling away stones.
– March 27, 2016