Fellow Passengers: This week’s Poetry Passage* (Psalm 104:1-18) transports me just outside of Mebane, to the home of my nine-year old nephew Francisco, whom I’ll be visiting this afternoon. It’s a great neighborhood of horse lovers, with lots of riding trails through the woods that surround all the homes. Behind Franco’s house is a beautiful pond. Whenever the deer come to get a drink, he likes to open the window and use his monster voice to scare them back into the woods. He doesn’t want them snacking on the flowers. Maybe during my visit he’ll be up for a walk around the pond with his dogs Happy and Rose. I was thinking about their pond last night as I sat in Franco’s mom’s hospital room and read some more poetry. Lines from Like the Water, another Wendell Berry favorite, seemed appropriate, as I felt drenched in the profusion of love and care that so many people are extending to her and Ron and Francisco. Streams of compassion are overflowing from friends, family, faith communities, and an incredible staff of nurses and doctors whose care goes far beyond the science of medicine. Like the water of a deep stream, love is always too much. We did not make it. Though we drink till we burst, we cannot have it all, or want it all. In its abundance it survives our thirst. . .
Whoever wrote Psalm 104 must have been an ancestor of Wendell Berry, combining a love of nature’s beauty, a love of beautiful language and love itself. Perhaps I’ll take the 18th century German philosopher Johann Gottfried von Herder’s advice one day, as he wrote that it is worth studying Hebrew for ten years in order to read Psalm 104 in the original. Until I have that pleasure, I’ll revel in the English version of this hymn to the overly abundant waters of creation, which started out covering the genesis of earth as a garment, and then at the sound of thunder fled to their assigned places in various rivers and ravines to satisfy the land and quench the thirst of wild asses and provide a nesting place for birds alongside the streams. Out of the watered earth comes wine and bread to gladden and strengthen our hearts and oil to make our faces shine. Bless the Lord, O my soul!
Reading these ancient lines brought to mind another poem from one who shares a kinship with the Psalmist and Wendell Berry. I’ll leave you today with Thirst by Mary Oliver, and my prayer for the morning is that the next time I read this to Carolyn, it will be during a walk we share around her pond.
Another morning and I wake with thirst
for the goodness I do not have. I walk
out to the pond and all the way God has
given us such beautiful lessons. Oh Lord,
I was never a quick scholar but sulked
and hunched over my books past the hour
and the bell; grant me, in your mercy,
a little more time. Love for the earth
and love for you are having such a long
conversation in my heart. Who knows what
will finally happen or where I will be sent,
yet already I have given a great many things
away, expecting to be told to pack nothing,
except the prayers which, with this thirst,
I am slowly learning.
How about you? Where does this Poetry Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment, and to share with your friends on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, etc.