I often wish I had the spirit of Georgia O’Keefe, so I could paint beautiful close-up images like hers that take over your entire view when you look at them. Or the spirit of Walt Whitman in order to create a sustained homage to nature. Of course, I can imitate other artists, looking long at an O’Keefe painting or reading Whitman’s poetry hoping to catch the spirit from which their work sprang. Artist and poet look at the world more intensely, with more intentionality, so that every day things like a piece of drift wood or even the tiniest blade of grass come to life in a way that allows us into their singular vision, and enlarges ours. Mary Oliver meanders through the woods early in the mornings with her notepad, watching and waiting for the deer to come down and drink at the pond, or the flower to open at the first light of day. I often read her poems of a morning as I would the psalms, wanting to enter into the spirit of the world that she has been able to capture in well-chosen words. Her poetry also brings with it a sensibility for the sacred and the blessed in our world. As the artists opens other worlds for us, we glimpse this world with more truth, beauty and grace.
Jesus left his Spirit with us in a very decisive and intentional way. Two thousand years later how do I come upon his Spirit? How does his Spirit enter into you and I so we might see more truth, beauty and grace in the world and in ourselves? Can I look at his life and his ‘work’, what is left to us of him, so I can enter into the Life of his Spirit? Shall I watch and wait for his Spirit to come down from Galilee to the river, or like St. Paul says, ‘walk according to the Spirit’ (Romans 8:4) looking for the day to open its broad petals across the landscape.
We are the people of Pentecost. On that day Jesus poured his Spirit out upon the world, like a rainbow of colors spilling down, transparent, washing over us all, the felt experience of his life. His Spirit is like the rainbow in Genesis that the Lord set in the clouds as a sign of his promise and blessing upon the earth and all the people in it.(Gen.9:13) Christ’s Spirit remains too as both promise and blessing. The promise of our becoming and the blessing by which we are touched by his Life in his Spirit. He is with us too in a reign of words that comes down to us in stories about him. Whatever he did and whatever he said, he was unforgettable. Surely some sacred Spirit created in those whose lives he touched the need to tell others what they knew of him, so that we too might get a glimpse of him from the distance of two thousand years and today enter into his Spirit, and into the timelessness of his presence as it remains with us. Perhaps all I need do is stand under the rainbow and believe.
Spring is here. I can hear the birds singing. Fresh air comes through the open windows. The thaw is underway. Easter is right around the corner. It’s not just the windows that are open, but there is something inside of me that opens up, thaws out, reaches out to the world. Wants to be out in it. With the onset of Spring it seems whatever Lenten ritual I’ve fallen under, in spite of what I have or have not done, the Spirit seems to enliven not just the outside world, but my inner world as well. Perhaps it’s just that wonderful sense of wellbeing that comes with the change in weather. I feel more connect to the world beyond my door. More alive. My souls seems to have expanded.
This seems like a good time to think about the soul. For one thing I know. The soul is not a static thing. It’s large. It embraces the world beyond my door and it enlarges me. Soul can grow. Like Spring. Perhaps being snowed in is an opportunity to read and reflect about life, or just enjoy not having to do anything, but by this time of year, even before I’m sure, something in me has become restless. That’s my soul. The sacred ground of my existence. The sacred ground of all existence.
I want to give flesh to my soul. Find a nugget of inspiration. Make marks on paper. Write. Paint. Watch the flowing crab tree outside my window budding. I pay really close attention each day, each hour if I can, because it buds, bursts, blooms, blossoms and then the flowers are gone. Then I wait for the irises and peonies to grow.
I think the soul is like my flowering crab tree. It has its own dormancy, it sits outside my window, a brown branch, with so much potential. Perhaps I’ve overlook it. Forgotten what it is capable of. So now it’s time to do soul work, soul searching in so many ways. Take walks. Watch Spring come to life. Listen to the voices of children playing outside again. In the mornings I often read the poetry of Mary Oliver. There is something about poetry that bring us to the threshold of the sacred. Connections are made. Images bringing revelation. It’s like whatever reading you do in the morning, it stays with you during the day. Shapes your day. Taking a walk, digging in the garden, the soul of poetry connects us to the soul of the world and our own life. It is the Word becoming flesh in our lives. We shape our souls and they shape us. It is the inexhaustible resource which makes life possible; which makes living worthwhile. Paying attention to these small bloomings is how we enlarge life. Then perhaps like the poet we can write the day. Take up a blank page and draw, paint, write this moment, this day, our lives in the poetry that shows the soul taking flesh in our lives.