Let it be beautiful. I woke up with these words recently. They felt given, which inclined me to listen into them with care, to have a conversation with Mark about them that morning in bed and later over breakfast, and over the course of the next few days. And also, to converse with the Sender about them.
"Let what be beautiful?" I asked. "Life?"
Well, yes, but that's a little vague and overly general, don't you think?
I tried again. "Let Fern Creek be beautiful, children, marriage, church... and our children's troubles? Troubles in marriage, in relationships, in church? Aging? Illnesses? Death?" A list of woes tumbled out.
Yes, came a whisper, when I finally stopped. All of it.
I squirmed, of course I did. "Well, then, what does it mean to let?
Silence. And then, You already know in your bones. You have "let it be" before. You know something about being "A Contented Soul." I sensed a smile behind these words. Not a smirk, not accusatory, but a gentle reminder of how that Great Comforter has lived in me, penned words with me, breathed with me ever since I took my first breath.
I sigh. And then ask, maybe a bit snarkily, "So why are you telling me all this again, and now?"
And then, quietly. Let it be--Beautiful--
Fullness comes, then, to the back of my eyes and throat, followed by a litany of beautiful things--things that hold beauty even as they also hold non-beauty. I wondered, in that moment, if we need to see the beautiful to be kind, because we can't be kind if we don't see beauty and we all know the world needs more kindness.
One. We grow lots of fruit and vegetables and watch squirrels, chipmunks, and birds feast on our berries and young vegetable shoots and blossoms (that never get to grow into tromboncini squash) with enthusiasm and joy. Just today we watched Clara stretching toward our not-quite-ripe grapes, her head passing through the fence to do so.
We do not, generally, share their glee.
Let feasting be beautiful.
These creatures express such delight with the diversity of food found at Fern Creek. Maybe they are grateful, thinking we grow it for them. And we do not, after all, go hungry. Or even berry-less and tromboncini-less. Besides, glee is a rare thing to witness these days.
Two. My body is old, yet not so achy, just now, as it is sometimes on account of working with said fruits and vegetables, and hens and goats besides.
Let aging be beautiful.
I have lived long. And long enough to learn to listen and (more often now) heed, the asks of my aging body. I have an excuse now, to walk slowly, to stop and smell and touch and listen. To be still.
Three. I have failed on so many occasions to love well, to live into the fullness of who I am created to be.
Let failure be beautiful.
How do I learn grace, except through failure? How do I become who I am created to be, except through failure?
That one is difficult, and will take more simmering. More dark ones followed.
Take last week. The car carrying our daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren to the beach got smashed on Highway 18 by a man gunning across the highway without stopping at his stop sign. (We wondered if it was an attempt to end his life--the audacity of his choice being otherwise inexplicable). We were making our way to the coast as well, to join them for a few days, and were just 10 minutes ahead of them when Rae called. We have all been traumatized by the fragility of life, and the unpredictability of other drivers.
Let that be beautiful? Really? ... They did walk away only with bruises, some rib, neck and shoulder pain. Everyone lived, including the driver whose car flipped over twice and landed upside down. By the look of the cars someone should have died. Yes, we could be with them, pick up the pieces of their car top carrier--strewn with things for a beach stay--from the side of the road. (I remember tossing a smashed carton of blackberries into the shrubbery at the roadside, and wondered who was holding it on impact). Yes, we brought them home for a few days and loved on them and could be present to them. Yes, another daughter and son-in-law loaned them their car until they could figure out the what-next of being an hour from home with no transportation. Yes. You, Divine Mystery, stayed with them in the interstitial spaces (as though you could have left!). You were in the bodies of those precious people, and the body of the driver, too, holding whatever troubles led him to make such a terrible terrible choice. You felt all those impacts, each one's aftershock, you cried their tears, still, even now, you feel their fear.
Something of all that is beautiful, even if they are hard words to say.
But what if they had died? What would be beautiful then?
(I'm on a roll, now...). The earth groans under the burden we place on it as we take and use and toss and wreak havoc on ecosystems intended to keep us, and everything else that lives alive. What does it mean to let that be beautiful?
After much silence I hear softly:
I am in all that. I am the grace that keeps the universe from coming apart. As eons come and go, as species die out that others might live. I am. I am in the new formation of stars and the dying of suns. I am. I am Love made manifest, infusing the unfolding Universe with my presence.
Some days that feels like enough. Other days not so much.
Recently Spiritual Director Terry Christianson shared the following, an adaptation of a poem by Clarissa Pinkola Estés1, which has been like a post script to this conversation:
"What a mess! What a mess!"
My ego says, "fix it!"
My soul says, "make it holy."
1. “Tiny Prayer," in La Pasionaria: The Collected Poetry of Clarissa Pinkola Estés. 2008.
Photo Note: The photo at the top of this post is one I took of an old filbert (hazelnut) drying barn that used to be our neighbor. I'd hang out there, loving the smell, and the Oldness. When I learned the property had been sold and the barn was to be torn down, I went over with my camera to catch some memories. I wanted to remember this old barn, which had had a long life, and been a companion of sorts for the few years we overlapped. The barn held assorted old beautiful things.