In the late afternoon yesterday, a tremendous spring thunderstorm rolled in, as all my greenhouse plants were outside, basking in the heat of the day. At first, as the rain fell, I could see them coming to fuller life within minutes, and I was so glad to see them being rained on.
But then, the hail arrived.
I yelled “move!” to Ian, and we ran to rescue them and bring them back under the shelter of their greenhouse. Around 500 plants, some of which are now large pots with tomatoes and greens, had to be carried in as hail balls pelted us and the rain fell.
All plants were saved.
This time of year on a farm offers so much contact with weather and with life. And with the vulnerability of life. It keeps me on my toes. If we hadn’t moved fast, we would have lost months of effort, and also would have wondered where the food was going to come from in the winter.
Today, in the midst of lots of time with my children, I was able to offer nearly a combined two hours to my medicinal, edible, perennial bed. As my hands worked in the soil, touching worms, and feeling the satisfaction of having started so many perennials from seed, I found myself singing some of the music from my (currently on pause) Hildegard von Bingen album.
"I welcome all the creatures of the world with grace."
"You were planted in my heart at daybreak, on the first day of creation."
"God is the good, and all things which proceed from God, are good."
I would certainly call those revelations!
I have known for a long time that God needs to be bigger than our current (and future) cosmology, and correspondingly, that our level of defensiveness ought to shrink, (and our humility ought to grow), in proportion to how vast the mystery of universe is, as it unfolds to us.
But there is also something to be said about our connection and comprehension to the microscopic universe, which takes place in our bodies, our soil, through the communication of trees, fungi, and the systems that support life all around us.
We’ve focused so much on God needing to be big enough, that we’ve often failed to see how small God also needs to be, if we claim incarnation as one of our foundational beliefs. One raindrop. One blade of grass. One microorganism among billions, in one handful of healthy soil. One act of photosynthesis. A single compulsion of pelvic muscles, merged with will and passion, holding steady, or thrusting, to match the power of a birth contraction.
I haven’t visited The General Dance in awhile and thought it would be a good exercise to listen to it with the microscopic in our hearts.
In this piece, James Finley reads one of the finest excerpts contributed to Christian literature in the 20th Century, (from Thomas Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation).
My personal intention for this piece was to celebrate true embodiment… my own body… your own body… all the way out to the inspirited nature of the universe... and then back again, into the inner and outer connectedness of each created thing. Our thin, but precious outlines of particularity, (offering mutuality), that get to express in concert, the whole manifest nature of our great Lover.
The glorious and painful music of life itself.
I long to know what it might feel like to be infinitely free, even in this body. Especially in this body.
I long to fail and to fall into the Infinite Arms... and laugh, as I comprehend what James Finley calls the "infinite irrelevance of attainment and nonattainment". Because let's face it, at least half the time, I struggle deeply to "throw my awful solemnity to the wind."
Any of the brief glimpses of that freedom I have had, are what I try to hold a fidelity to, in the midst of all my failings. And remembering another great line from James Finley helps me to laugh at myself... again...
"the poverty of the practice, is the richness of the practice."
Shucks. So much for my awful solemnity.
Until the next moment, when it returns.
As you listen to this song, try and not only imagine the "out there", but remember the small. The medial. The ordinary. And imagine all of it dancing, by God!
Lew Welch's words come to mind:
Step out onto the planet.
Draw a circle a hundred feet round.
Inside the circle are 300 things nobody understands,
and maybe nobody's ever really seen.
How many can you find?
Alana Levandoski is a song and chant writer, recording artist and music producer, in the Christian tradition, who lives with her family on a regenerative farm on the Canadian prairies.