Learning from The Land 20: Rising
It is St. Patrick’s Day here in Iowa. And Lent consciousness abides. This morning I find myself out on the burnt prairie patch. And it all begins where the last lesson began: with light. Only today the simple truth about light is that the rising sun is hidden behind a drooping, dreary canopy of misty clouds. The real light out here this morning is that which is contained in the emerging grasses. They are positively glowing. Oh, and so are the damp robins who illuminate this charred expanse of soil. They sprint, from spot to spot, looking like flares, stopping abruptly to give head-cocked study to a potential meal before piercing the ground to extract some morsel— an earthworm, a grub, or even perhaps one of the terrestrial snails on the prairie.
But I don’t want to lose this point: This place was burned in autumn and frozen solid in winter, buried in three feet of snow in February, and still, all the living world out here contains its own light, the light of life, of generativity, of re-creation. So try this if you can: Walk out onto The Land or gaze out upon budding bushes on any dreary morning in April, and you’ll experience this very thing. Not metaphorically or allegorically or mythically, but literally; right before your eyes and behind your eyes as well.
And right here, right now I know in my bones that even out of sight, whether deep in the soil or deep in our souls, through the longest winters, all of creation holds the light, is ever rising. And it is clear that this place, every wave and particle of it, mine included, is risen. Indeed.
There is a stream that runs along this bit of prairie. Today is the day my friend, who stewards this place, needs to assess the state of the stream in the wake of winter. A spring wellness checkup. I follow her lead up from the burnt patch. Wide awake at the touch of cool mist and light rain on my skin. I find myself filled to overflowing with the scent of fertile spring mud; with cardinal song; with the poke and grab of thorns; and with the winter-kill remains of fellow mammals. But the light! Oh my goodness! Pouring from the lichen on nurse logs; flickering in coral reefs of fungus; streaming from the moss and bedstraw; shimmering low and steady through blood red buds of nascent skunk cabbage. So real, so tangible, so kindred, so holy, so true. And in this damp place I feel so connected to The Land: our much drier, Ten Acre Sacred Slice of Paradise. So offering my prayer of greeting for The Land seems just right in this place, right now:
You are the Christ Pattern incarnate.
You offer a mirror of who I am in Christ.
I am your humble student.
Your will not mine be done here.
I ask your forgiveness for the trespasses of myself and my people.
Teach us how to care for you and save ourselves.
Thanks be to you, Dear One.