Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Continuum Mysterium

I have this day at home, a full morning to stretch out the limbs of the usual: I switch on the cracked ginger-jar lamp and with a Mudlark match, light the votive candle called Mediterranean Sea. It flickers inside the silvered glass on my dad's carved-oak coffee table. I lift my books off the floor because there is no room on the bookshelves monopolizing the room and then pick up the pen from my mother's gilt tray. I open this month's journal, a gray one, and then the bible - the one LeeAnne gave me for my birthday at UGA which, twenty years later, was stolen by Andrea, who secretly sent it away to have it re-bound. All that time thinking I'd lost it and mourning, until my birthday when I unwrapped the heavy box and there it was, now gray leather, instead of wine, pages with coffee stains and decades of notes bleeding into the margins. This book I open, and wince at the memory of the previous day's reading. Too many unanswered whys.

I take a drink of coffee - mixed with cream and sugar and cold-pressed because my aging stomach cannot take more of the anxiety induced acid it churns - and I sip it from the blue and white tea mug that Brad and I bought at the dirt market on the ChiangJiang Bund in Hankou. The light is dawning as I nibble on a piece of waffle from my favorite plate which was once my grandmother's, and when I look up I see photos of my family underneath the large gilt mirror that Marie gave me for Christmas before I left for China; in that mirror, I see reflected the portrait that Cheryl painted of Brittany after her death.

I am alone and the sun rises and the cat has squeezed herself underneath my arm. This long, stretched out daybreak in which I read and pray and write; is it because it feeds my soul or my flesh - these feelings of contentment and calm - in the wake of anxiety or dread. Where am I in this continuum mysterium? Am I more in love with the trappings of this quiet time or with the One whom my soul seeks? Am I more enamored with the words on the page than with the sayer? And what if I begin to sense the answer is yes? What if I have missed the mark? Should I remove the trappings? Change my temperament? Do more and be less? I am indeed a selfish sinner who craves the presence of God for selfish reasons. Would I withdraw my devotion if the ambiance changed? Is it wrong that a ritual sustains the quest? or that I am associative by nature?

But the omniscient, omnipresent God knows this. Knows me.

He woos me with this: deep calls to deep and word calls forth action and I want more of that presence Moses breathed, in smoke and fire, at the tent of meeting; more of that presence fogging up Solomon's thoughts; more of that presence sung from David and swallowed up with Jonah. I want the breath of God in my nostrils, the whirlwind on my face, the taste of his words like honey to set my hair on fire.

Of all Annie Dillard wrote, did you ever read these lines from her poem Tickets for a Prayer Wheel:

The presence of God: 
he picked me up
and swung me like a bell. 
I saw the trees 
on fire, I rang 
a hundred prayers of praise. 

I no longer believe
in divine playfulness.

I saw all the time of this planet
pulled like a scarf
through the sky....

....Why are we shown these things?
God teaches us to pray.

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