Our theme for February is actually a challenge: write a piece without using first person pronouns (I, me, we, etc.)
“And there was an oak tree in front of the house, much older than the neighborhood or the town, which made rubble of the pavement at its foot and flung its imponderable branches out over the road and across the yard, branches whose girths were greater than the trunk of any ordinary tree. There was a torsion in its body that made it look like a giant dervish to them. Their father said if they could see as God can, in geological time, they would see it leap out of the ground and turn in the sun and spread its arms and bask in the joys of being an oak tree in Iowa.”
– “Home,” Marilynne Robinson
In the tops of the leafless bushes that stood shoulder height along the path, a sea of spider webs swayed in the soft wind—hundreds and hundreds of webs, perfectly spun and glistening with dew in the morning light. If you looked closely, you could see the chubby spiders clinging in the center of each as they waved back and forth, back and forth. It was peaceful, strangely, like watching waves lap a shore. And breathtaking. There was little else to do but pause the hike and watch the webs in the wind, feeling an odd kinship with the spiders.
Sometimes, being in nature is isolating. Other times, in a strange way, it seems to keep company with whoever takes the time to appreciate it. Perhaps that is the Holy Spirit. He was there, breathing on a sea of webs just for the pleasure.
Morning came with a headache. Just sitting up felt like a workout, lifting a torso so waterlogged with sleep. The only reason to wake up, to unzip the sleeping bag and pull on some clothes that had chilled overnight, was the promise of coffee. Cheap, powdery, camp coffee made with river water.
You can feel the difference between waking up indoors and outdoors on your skin. Outdoors, your skin tingles—air brushes along the surface of it like a pair of cool lips. Your skin is oily and dirty from the trek the day before, but there’s something about the way that sunlight presses weightlessly onto it that makes you feel fresh and creaturely. Maybe it’s the taste of the air, too, still rich with dew and the smell of pine. It’s all so different from waking up on a soft bed, breathing in stagnant air. Everyone should experience the feeling of unzipping a tent flap to take in the morning. There is more peace to be had from the sounds of a burbling river and creaking trees than a silent room. These are the sounds of the world waking up.
And a cup of coffee sipped by a riverside fuming with sunlit mist beats a cup of coffee lazily slurped over a kitchen counter any day. That thought alone, even if the coffee tastes a bit swampy, is enough to lift a body out of a sleeping bag, if nothing else.
Not a single cloud floated through the night sky, so the glaciers glowed white under the moonlight. To the left, a steep slope of untouched snow that ended in the gaping maw of a crevasse. To the right, a towering cliff of ice, so titanic that it blocked out half the sky and left mountaineers in its shadow. The path was thin—a bad step could send one tumbling downhill and into the depths of that crevasse. Even with all the surrounding groups trekking to the peak, Rainier’s vast snowscape was isolating. The tremendous slope loomed above like the presence an angel—beautiful, powerful, terrifying.
Still, as the altitude thinned the air, and everyone grew irritable with headaches and adrenaline and empty stomachs, the Holy Spirit felt farther away, somewhere back home, indoors with friends and family. Even in the presence of an angel.
Life unfurls slowly, quietly, and all too quick. Memories spread like branches yearning for the sun, while their roots remain unseen below ground. One day, long from now, they will leap from the earth and be seen. If only the wait weren’t so restless, and the Spirit so quiet.