Saturday, January 28, 2012
Retirement has taken me out of the rather sterile environment of the office to the dirt of the earth. Perhaps, the movement from one to the other made Barbara Brown Taylor's words all the more powerful. In her book, "An Altar in the World," she wrote, "Keeping the earth is hard work. You get dirty doing it...You also remember where you came from, and why. You touch the stuff your bones are made of. You handle the decomposed bodies of trees, leaves, birds, and fallen stars. Your body recognizes its kin. If you have nerve enough, you also foresee your own decomposition. This is not bad knowledge to have. It is the kind that puts other kinds in perspective. Feel that cool dampness? Welcome back to earth, you earthling. Smell the dirt? Welcome home, you beloved dust-creature of God."
As I knelt down on the earth to pick up a now fallen limb that had been hanging suspended in decay for more than one season and as I rolled it over to get a better hold, I felt the decayed underside and saw the multitude of ants which were hurrying its disappearance from the earth. Suddenly, I was aware of the holy being in my hands. Taylor's words about the earth rushed over me like holy wind and I found myself kneeling there in a moment of divine awareness.
The voice of the Almighty often seems to come in strange and unexpected moments. As I watched the sight there before my eyes, from my inner being came words I have said before others more times than I could possibly count. "Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return." Could it be that Ash Wednesday and the return of which it speaks is indeed so near?