Let Me Be Saved By Small Things

Spirit of Life, Radiant Mystery,
Source of all that is good and holy:
I confess to a certain weariness of spirit.

Just as we were beginning to recover
from the other disasters,
another shooting.

And since the rains have still not come
the power will be turned off

And people who should love one another
and speak with kindness
or at least civility
are shouting in rage
and flouncing away–
forever!–they say
from their circles of love and support.

What is to become of us?

I long to pray to an omnipotent god
who would fix all this
if we just said the right words

But since that is not an option

I take myself
to the running waters
and listen to their song.

I call my dear friend
and listen to their beautiful voice.

And I sit with a four-year-old child
and read our favorite story.

Salvation is not something grand
heralded with trumpets;

It is instead effected by
a hundred small things:

The good dinner on a beautiful table,
a small child bouncing on your belly,
a dog chewing a bone against your leg.

The way water slides over smooth stone
over and over again but
never exactly
the same way twice.

The way the ravens converse
as they fly over the neighborhood
talking to each other
at the end of the day.

The way moss springs to life
the moment
it is touched
by rain.

Spirit of Life,
let me be saved by these small things.

Blessed be.







Behold!  From before the dawn of time I have been here
for you…
I gave birth to stars that swirled away
into spiral galaxies
forming and reforming the molecules of me
into new stars
that died and were born again;
I grew larger and larger, and the stars of me
burst and joined again and again
and their partings and joinings made new elements
that danced toward each other,
and caught, and held on,
and my love made them alive.

Behold! This is all alive and dancing here together
in intricate motion:
a luminous blue-green ball whirling in space
filled with starfish and bats
and grains of sand that once were mountains
and belly-laughing babies and rivers and trains
and eagles and cats
and little buildings filled with people who love me.

Behold! From the dust of long-ago stars
I formed your ancestors
who died and returned unto me to be re-formed
into trees and rocks and soil and grass and YOU.

From air and fire and water and earth
I ripen into fruit that drops into your waiting hands.
I feed you and clothe you and shelter you
with my body,
I quench your thirst with my water,
my blood.

Behold! This is my body, grown here for you:
See, my round purple eggplants,
my many colored tomatoes,
my fuzzy rosy peaches, my little perfect grapes,
my juicy melons, my vigorous zucchini,
my beans and grains, my leafy greens,
my alluring herbs and spices.

Behold!  I have set your table with good things!
Now—this is what I want from you:

Learn to share.
Clean up your mess.
Say thank you.

Blessed be.

Be Like The River

Spirit of Life, source of all love,
this is my prayer today:

It is high summer and the air is hot and still
dry leaves crackle overhead
and cicadas buzz in my ears.
Fires rage out of control in the mountains
and cruelty rages out of control in the nation.
I weep with anger and with sorrow.

In times such as these
let me go down to the river.
The water is a blessing
so cool and clear,
so delicious on my skin,
I can let go of all I carry
and let the water hold me
and soothe me
and wash away my tears.

The river slides over rocks,
sculpting them as it goes:
all in its path is made more beautiful.
If the rocks stand in its way
it finds another way
under or over or around or through:
it will not be stopped.

The river will not be stopped.

Spirit of Life,
Help me be like the river.
Help me be a blessing
that soothes away pain
Help me be a coolness and a clarity
that dissolve cruelty and hatred.
Help me join with others
to become unstoppable.

Help our love change
all whom we touch.

Help us be like the river.

Amen.  Blessed be.

Spring Cleaning

I was longing for spring
but it was not forthcoming
so I went to sit by the river
and found that, as always,
the winter storms
have changed it.  The bank
on the other side is gone
and the river has a new course.
The granite boulders are sparkling clean.

When last I was there
at the end of fall
the air was still filled with smoke
and there was very little water.

The boulders were slippery and orange
and stank of algae
that had grown and died
and the rocks on the bottom
were covered with mucky green.

Drought and fire in the autumn
were followed by winter storms and flood
and now we may be close to the other side,
to the time when flowering trees bloom
and the poppies raise their orange heads
on the bright green hillsides—
but not quite yet.

For now, what we have are
granite boulders scoured clean
by powerful water that rose high
and scrubbed out all the muck.

For now, what we have
is a river whose course was changed
by powerful water that rose high
and washed away resistance.

O let us be that storm that comes

Let us be that water
that rises high

Let us be that water
that has such power

that power
that power
that power

Let us be that power
that scrubs away filth
and washes away resistance
and leaves behind only clean stones

only clean stones

and the knowledge
that flowers
will be blooming soon.

God, Being

Look, there…

Among the dry stones
rainwater has collected
into a pool.

A single yellow leaf
floats on the surface.

The stones are round
from a thousand years’ travel together.

The water is perfectly clear.

Do you see?

None of this was arranged just for you.

Stones, water, leaf…

They have been doing this
since the beginning of time
and they will continue
until the end.

This is God, being.

You can walk on,

or you can stop, and
wade in.

Language, No Words

I do not understand the noise
that comes from the television
or the freeways
or the open mouths
of the people in charge.

This is the language I understand:

The maple leaf
slowly twirling down
from its branch

The trickle of water
seeping out of the rocks

The water boatman rowing
to the bottom of the pool

The cottonwood leaves
turning, whispering
whispering, turning



After the rain

After the rain
Blue sky shining
Pine needles shining
Yellow willow branches shining
Water droplets on moss shining
Stones in river shining
Little ripples of water shining
Waterfall on canyon wall shining
Pools of rainwater shining
Tears on my face shining
Everything is shining here

To Do What is Needed

Great Spirit of Life:

My heart is sore today, and I am lonely.
For lo, these many years I have been failing you.

This blue-green ball
that you have given us to live on,
Your sacred body,
this miracle of interwoven cycles
of water, air, earth, fire,
is heating up.

One by one we are killing our relatives:
tigers, grizzlies, elephants, oaks, otters,
whales, salmon, grasses, butterflies,
gorillas, orchids, lorikeets.

Thousand by thousand we are killing ourselves:
women and children first.

My voice is small
a whisper lost in the wind
Those who hear it laugh at me
and tell me how impractical I am
to want to find a way to live here
in love.

But please,
help me not give up.
Help me receive Your gifts
and use them to save us all.

Grant me the presence of a mountain
implacable and unarguable
Grant me hope that grows like tiny tendrils of grass
after just one rain
Let me be rooted deeply and reach high, like the pine tree
flexible enough to weather the storm
Let me be as persistent as water
wearing away resistance one molecule at a time
Let me be as fierce as a grizzly bear
that I might protect all of the earth’s young
Grant me the endurance of the salmon,
the instinct to keep swimming upstream.
Grant me the vision of the hawk,
that I might see what to do next
Let me keep the wonder of a tiny child
and the joy of a baby’s belly laugh

Great Spirit,
the Web of Life is torn.
I place myself in your hands,
that you might use me to mend it.
Keep my heart full of the love that will sustain me
that I might find a way to sustain You.

Thank you for all you have given me.

Blessed Be

Unto the Hills

When I am out here in the hills,
I am in God.

I am air warming and rising and cooling and falling; I am the hawk soaring on the air currents; I am the turkey vulture sweeping out from the rock over the canyon. I am the patient stone, worn to smoothness by millennia of caressing water; I am the water flowing, carrying, carving, rushing, quieting. I am trees rooted deeply and reaching high; I am wind dancing in the trees; I am the play between trees and wind; I am the song the two together make. I am the rocks on the hillside and the rocks inside the hill; I am the heaved and folded layers of the earth’s crust. I am the blue sky, the gold sun, the tiny white cloud, the fragrant green leaves, the rustling dry grass, the glinting darting dragonfly. I am bone, blood, sinew, muscle; I am the trail made by unseen deer, I am the walker on the trail. I am nothing. i am Everything.

When the River is Just the River

One late summer day my friend Katie and I were hiking in the Columbia River Gorge, above a waterfall in one of the side canyons there. We had spent the morning clambering over moss-covered rocks, throwing sticks for our two exuberant dogs, glorying in the sights and sounds of clear water flowing from pool to pool to pool over dark basalt in a green forest.

Now it was time to return to the city, and we had to make our way back across the stream whence we had come. We had just spent half an hour talking about how neither of us is as nimble as we used to be; when we fall now, we fall hard, and we are more aware of the risks we take when we move from rock to slippery rock to cross a creek. I never was very nimble, even when I was young; I have a daughter who leaps from boulder to boulder with no fear and who never falls, but I have been falling flat on my face ever since I can remember.

Getting across the stream in the first place had not been difficult. Rocks are often dryer on the downstream side, but have slippery moss or algae on the upstream side. If you cross in an upstream direction, using the downstream side of the rocks, it can be easy. But coming back across, using the wetter side of the rocks, it is harder not to slip and fall in.

On this day, it would not have been terrible to fall into the water. It was only a few inches deep, the day was warm, and it was only two miles back to the car. I could easily have hiked that in wet boots. But sometimes, we humans get fixated on an idea about how things should be. How they must be. And it seemed to me on that day that I should be able to cross that stream without getting my feet wet. I must be able to.

So I was concentrating with all my might on moving carefully from one stone to the next. My whole body was rigid with tension, my brow furrowed so deeply it felt like my face was one big frown. I had to do this right, I had to get across the creek without falling in.

Then Katie said to me, “Leisa, look up. Look at the river.”

I looked up. I saw the river. It was exquisite. It was so beautiful that I could have died right then and there in perfect happiness. Clear, cold water flowed over basalt, moving around stones with ease and fluidity. The shining surface reflected green upon green upon green, with a few yellow splotches where maples were beginning to turn. The sound of the moving water was paradise. There are simply no words to describe the incomparable beauty of a clear stream running through a forest.

As I looked upon this perfect beauty all the tension in my body flowed away with the water. The music of the stream entered me and I saw how I flowed with it. I was water, standing in water, hearing and seeing and smelling water, feeling water. I stood like this for a long time outside of time. When I came back to myself, I was relaxed and unafraid, and easily stepped the rest of the way across the stream. Katie crossed behind me and we made our way down the trail.

When I thanked Katie later, for saying just the right thing, at just the right moment, she said, “Sometimes the river’s just the river. Not a problem to be solved.”

Sometimes the river’s just the river.