the place where the prayers come
the people here first, the people long long ago, the ones who were blessed, who lived off its forests and lakes, the ones whose very skin knew the touch of the divine all around, the ones who gave names to each tree and each dip in the path, they would have had a name for this place. a name that rolled off the tongue.
my name is not so poetic. my name is simple. i call it the place where the prayers come.
i am pulled there, to the tall grasses that grow in the sand at the edge of the lake, the great lake. i am pulled there like some sort of tide in reverse.
the waves roll in one way. i roll in from the other.
especially these days. especially here in the autumn when the sun is offering up its very being. solar balm, just barely diluted. just enough so you can take it in doses longer than that of the summer.
it whispers, it pulses, the sun does, the promise of healing, of filling us up for the long winter ahead.
come now, i feel it saying. come to the place where the prayers come. come to the place where the wind whispers, too. where the wind in the grasses rustles and stirs and tingles your spine. and the gull cries. and every once in a while the geese fly, in their uncanny lines, with the one in the front squawking and honking like nobody’s business. like some bossy old thing i’d be tempted to bump out of line. go sit in a corner, i might want to tell that unruly gander, till you learn to behave. but then no one said it’s easy being in charge.
the october sun lures: come to the place where the lake never stops. some days it crashes, others it tickles. but the sound is incessant. no matter what else, there is always the play of the water on sand.
it’s a place where the sky is the dome and the vault is forever. the church has no walls. its very architecture demands the propelling of thoughts. there’s the rustle within, and the catapult beyond. a horizon that’s infinite. that has room for whatever flows.
there is no feeling cramped in the pews in this place. you can wiggle your toes in the sand, for crying out loud. you can feel like a ladybug, too. nestled there in the grasses that bob in the sun, play catch with the rays, turn golder than gold. and then dim.
you get caught up in the swirl here. in the sounds and the sun and the sand.
there is no sign that’s posted. other than the one about keep off the ice. but that belongs to a whole other season, and i pay no mind.
still, i notice, time after time, that i’m not the only one called here. there’s a sprinkling of others. all of us joined in the hushed and holy communion of publicly dropping our guard, unspooling what lays in our hearts.
oh, not a whisper is spoken. it’s quiet as any cathedral. at least in terms of the noises of humans.
it’s as sacred as church. maybe moreso. there is an unspoken knowing our thoughts and our prayers are not to be jostled. there are no interruptions of everyday small talk. that would be sacrilege.
some slip their fingers down the edge of a page, turn it slowly. others, like me, bring their prayers in free form.
there are benches for those who don’t favor sand. but me, i bury myself there in the grasses. like a quail in a rush, i go as small as i can. i like to feel little. against a sky and a God without beginning or end.
it makes me feel wrapped, held in very big arms.
as much as i love the tick-tocks and hum of my house, there is, i must admit, something about being out under the heavens. about being enveloped by the most blessed earth. even the sharp edge of the grasses serves to awaken some place deep inside. and there is no softer softness than the bump of the beach under your bottom. it’s as if i’m surrounded by a choir that won’t call it quits.
i never stay long. i don’t feel the need to. the fuel that comes there, in the place of the prayer, it is rather intense. it fills me quite fully. and it lasts.
till the whisper comes once again. come to the prayer place. come to the place where the prayers come.
and so i start walking. i never can wait till i get there. it’s as holy a place as i know.
and i think that the people from long long ago, i think they knew, too.
i’m not the first one, nor the last, i imagine, to be called to the place where the prayers come.
how blessed that amid all the horns and the sirens and the buzzing cacophony we’ve brought to these once sacred woods, i hear the whisper, i follow the call.
my beautiful friends, do you have a place where the prayers come? a place out under the heavens? tell us the tale of your place, one of now or one from long long ago…
well whaddya know, it’s little old me adding a thought to my very own thoughts. my thought is this, and it has nothing to do, really with the thoughts up above. it has to do with the date. which is worth mentioning, if only because i find it all rather humorous. when i was wrapping it up in that way that i always do, with a nod to whoever might have been birthed on this day, or whatever. i kept thinking october fourth, october fourth, i know that that’s something. but i could not for the life of me remember. then, just a while ago, it came to me: it was, past tense, the feast of saint barbara. she was beheaded poor thing. by her father, if i have it right. but back when i was in maybe sixth grade, in the roaring sixties when all was being flopped on its head, they deposed poor saint babs. dumped her out on her headless head, i suppose. she is no longer a saint. something happened it seems. so, in a nod to my marvelous friend maureen, who keeps me informed about things like saint catherine the astonishing, whose story is such that i will wait for another fine day (but here’s a hint: she strapped herself to windmills to escape the stench of human sin, and is now the patron saint of therapists–go figure), i would like to reinstitute today as the feast of saint babs, the poor dear was once lost her head and then lost her saintliness. i hold my head high as i carry on in the name of my namesake. or whatever it is you would call the saint you’re named after……..and that is the whole reason october fourth was ringing my bell. i’ll see if i can round up maureen, have her tell you the tales for herself……now, please, back to the places where prayer comes…..
one last thing and then i’ll be quiet: you all, of course, are invited any day, any time, any hour, to come to the place where the prayers come. there are no chairs (only that bench that i mentioned). but we can pull up anyway. did i mention the cottonwoods? i fear i did not. their rustle is the bass to the grasses’ alto…..
I love going to the green mill or andy’s to hear jazz, but I would love to hear the basses and the altos at your beach.I too go to a beach on one of the great lakes to pray. There is a spot on the beach overlooking a sandbar and the waters that stretch all the way to canada, wisconsin and the u.p. of michigan. I have gone there for years to pray. In fact, no visit home is complete without me going down to that beach to pray at least once. I have even gone down there in the deepest and coldest parts of a mn winter, when I sit in silence to hear cacaphony of sounds come from ice shards being pushed by the cold gray waters towards the snowy white beach. Somehow Lake Superior reminds me of the strength of the divine, the reality that life is ever changing and even in the midst of chaos the possibility of a calm and serene day with glass-like waters is still possible and that life is bigger than just wee little me and all of my questions and worries. Yes, this great big lake is an angel to me on days when God doesn’t seem that close and on other days seems to be the biggest affirmation that yes God is as close as the next wave or the next breath.On another note. The photo reminds me of wild rice plants. A few summers ago I was invited to harvest wild rice on a lake in MN. This was the holiest of holy experiences of my life thus far, next to being in the delivery room on three different occassions when I saw and heard babies take their first gulps of air. Anyways back to the story that fits with today’s photo. My teacher and guide as I harvested the wild rice was an Ojibewe man who learned how to “rice” from his mother. He told me that his ancestors were led by the great Spirit through each season. His ancestors were instructed to stop for the winter in the place where they found food on water. As they searched for the mysterious food on water, they eventually discoverd the rice that swayed above the waters of many of what is now MN’s lakes. This rice, when gently tapped, falls into a canoe and is later dried on tarps along the lake. What most of us know as Wild rice, is merely a mix of all sorts of rice and can be found in orange boxes in aisle 6, 7 or 9. Real wild rice is the color of dark earth and has the nuttiest of flavors. If you ever gawk at the price of “real MN hand harvested WILD,” Wild Rice at Whole Foods, know that it was harvested by the hands of one who knocked the rice into the boat and another who stood in the back of the canoe steering through the wild rice plants. Know that this food, is like manna falling from the sky or the host that graces some people’s tongues on Sunday mornings. I hope that whereever all of you are today, whether it be in Arizona or the shores of Lake Michicgan, that the blessed Spirit will guide you to stop in a place and be nourished if not for a season, for a moment or a day.
amen, blessed sister……i knew you’d have an ojibwe or an iroquois story…..didn’t know it would be rice on the water……..i believe i am being led to discover more of the wisdom of those who were here first……p.s. just so y’all know, slj is not my blood sister. i don’t have one of those. but she, like many of you, is my spirit sister. the cacophony of ice crashing through water….i can hear it. your magnificent and deep understanding of the pulsing of the divine through the natural world speaks to me in ways that seem to linger forever. you frame ideas in ways that sear them in my mind’s eye, and seal them in my heart……in celebration of your story, i might soon splurge on maybe an ounce of the real minnesota wild rice and pick it up in chopsticks to truly savor the journey it’s taken……..someone remember to put that on the menu for the pullupachair feast when it happens……
I spent an hour just now trying to get my internet connection connected. It was down all day. Talked with tech support at two different places and finally, finally was connected. And the first site I went to was yours, sweet bam. And what balm for my frazzled nerves was the photo of the grasses and the beach and the lake. My favorite places for prayer are all by water – lakes, pools, rivers, oceans. I find them all deeply soothing. I remember one Easter eve about six years ago when we were fortunate enough to be spending several days with friends on Sanibel Island. We were plopped down on the beach – the grownups drinking wine and enjoying the peaceful coming of evening, the little ones frolicking in the waves at the edge of the beach. The sun was beginning to set and the sky was taking on a heavenly glow. And right then a family of dolphin passed by, only a few yards off shore. For me, it was a sacred moment. I felt deeply connected to the divine on that holy evening.
OH NO it’s me again….only because i had to race back to tell you i just found out from one of my elves that i am wrong wrong and more wrong about ol’ saint babs and her feast day. i jumped the gun. she’s in december. but holy cow, the link that my beautiful elf sent me tells me this…..you might want to pull your chair in even closer, and you will want to sit tight, for it’s true and who knew…..st. babs is the patron saint of architects. do you think my jewish architecture critic husband knew that when he set out to marry a babs???? i think not, but i’ll ask him. other thing is, when she was beheaded, poor thing, all sorts of sparks flew from her beheaded body. this all makes her the patron saint of lightning, and those who use firearms. geeeeezzzz. the more i read the tales of the lives of the saints, the more i am deeply intrigued. just don’t read before bed. not recommended as bedtime stories. they’ll keep you awake to be sure. should you care to read more about babs, check out this link…..http://www.folkstory.com/articles/stbabs.htmlthank you for righting my wrong. mea culpa mea culpa mea maxim culpa. now what then was i thinking happened on the fourth of october? a mystery indeed…..so sorry if i’ve now utterly scrambled your sense of the saintliness of this day…..
december fourth, i meant to spell out. i was off by a mere two months…got it? 12.04=feast of st. barbara. glad we’ve cleared that totally up….
Love the reverent awe in your piece. As for me I head up to the top of Mingus Mountain that watches over our valley where we live.Mingus is 7K feet up (the valley 5) all covered with Ponderosa Pine. The wind through the pine needles is reminiscent of the sound of the ocean, sans water. It’s easy to drop your cares at His feet and have a heart to heart. The carpet of brown pine needles crunches lightly underfoot, a wildflower here and there, and I’m lost in reverie with my Maker.
oh my goodness, the saintly mystery has been solved. and it is such that my breath is simply taken away. the meander up above was rather fitting for the day, and i didn’t even know it. the little rustling in my soul, the thing that had me thinking october fourth was something, was the fact that it is, quite seriously, the feast day of saint francis of assisi. my all-time hero if ever i had one…..i could spend a whole day on His Gentleness. he was so tender and kind, even the squirrels in the woods whispered to him. the birds ate from his palms. which reminds me of the wonderful pigeon man of western avenue in chicago, whose story i once told, and who passes out prayer cards of st. francis. i have maybe 200 right here in my desk drawer. the drawer where i stash the essentials: my calculator, my post-its, st. francis. there it is, the prayer i committed to heart: lord, make me an instrument of your peace. where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy…”i have loved him, tenderly, sumptuously, as long as i’ve known of his ways. he might be, in fact, the patron saint of the chair. to be the consoler, the understander, the one who gives love…for it is in giving that we receive and in pardoning that we are pardoned…..the whole spiral of the saintly confusion has led me to a plane that feels weighless. to know, after all, in the end, it was saint francis scratching my memory……maybe if i’d stayed in the place where the prayer comes, just a little bit longer, it would have come to me. but i like that it came to me from a most blessed friend who helps me to keep my life straight. forgive me for being so commenty here. it’s just that well…..this saint thing, on top of the prayer place, has wholly captured my attention…..
Extravagant love, self-sacrificing love, poured out and running over love.Thank you for doing the extravagant thing.