Fiona and I went out to The Land yesterday. For her, the motivation was the opportunity to photograph anything that “wasn’t a rabbit or a squirrel.” For me, it was a retreat inspired by a shallow sense of sorrow and a deeper sense of well-rounded frustration.
I absolutely love editing and viewing our pre-recorded services each week. I smile, laugh, and sometimes cry while watching the contributions offered by participants at The Land. It is an exercise that reminds me of why I do what I do and why I love doing it.
What I have found less rewarding and increasingly challenging is the production of my own content; preaching to my own face, consecrating communion in an empty room. Every week it’s becoming closer to intolerable.
The most painful part of the service in this new context is hands down the welcome. Who am I welcoming? How should I welcome? Where am I welcoming people to? What am I welcoming people into? Recording the welcome became unbearable on Tuesday when, after spending over an hour unsuccessfully trying to record, I finally packed the equipment up and walked away.
I am not sure if I went to The Land because I realized I needed a change of scenery. I’d like to say I am that smart. But the truth is probably closer to craving an escape from the camera paired with a pragmatic disguise for good old procrastination.
It is more likely that I went because I missed the prairie. And, though this unfortunately anthropomorphized The Land, I imagined she missed me too.
Showing up to The Land yesterday was equivalent to showing up to my self, my truest self. This is not the self that stresses about looking and sounding perfect on camera. This is not the self that identifies and solves problems all the while feeling good about checking one more thing off my list. This is the self that feels most at home laying in the snow, imagining I am sinking into the soil, reunited with creation, and reconciled with my purpose. This is the self that imagines life in the burrows of my brother and sister prairie dogs. The self that dreams about the thrill of that aerial view of my sibling geese and my elder hawks.
This is the self that arrives humbled and hungry to receive, to learn, to renew.
The wisdom that fell upon me yesterday gave a glimpse of where I feel stuck in my production process. It is a reflection on limitations. A reality check I wrestle with, deny, and set out again determined to disprove.
I can not teach, persuade, or manipulate any one person into loving the land, loving creation. There is no message, no argument, no article that can achieve my greatest desire for the human participants in our community. This desire to fall deeply, madly, helplessly in love with the prairie and all the creatures, the plants, that, in one way or another, tolerate our invasive presence.
I experience this as a love that cushions the awakening to failure and musters within us the courage to apologize.
These days I arrive at The Land to engage in the work of wander. To connect with, so that I may understand how to care for, the life bubbling up from and dancing around this sacred ground. It is a practice during which I have found myself whispering as I walk, “I am so sorry that I never saw you. I would love to be your friend.” It is an inverted welcome. A greeting to holiness.
There are no recordings for this practice of welcome but I do believe with all my heart that it is a welcome open to all. A fresh arrival in each step on the prairie. A new beginning in each greeting of her creaturely companions. Today I realize that it is difficult to welcome others when we forget where it is we belong and to whom we belong. Remembering takes intentional experiences that reveal to us that we belong to The Land, and that the welcome we long for, abides in her.