Sabbath Poem (6.10.2021)

Not far from the maddening cries of the family working through meals and bedtime routines, 

And not far enough from the road -- though it is a little less traveled at this time on a Sunday evening -- 

I follow the worn footpath down to the river to the place where ferns amass and fellowship with river bamboo and triphyllum, 

and an increasing number of those who don't actually belong here -- the non-native privet and ivy from England, for example, like ravening wolves among the unsuspecting threatened-endangered dwarf-flowering heartleaf lambs.

It will be my work to defend the innocent, to speak out for the protection of these wetlands, and to one by one remove the invasive plants' overreaching  roots -- 

but there are six days coming to deal with that.

Today is my Sabbath, and I have another kind of work to do.

I find a storm-felled tree a suitable pew -- not fancy, but just as firm and (un)comfortable as any in a traditional church. 

An aisle has been cut with a chainsaw by my eldest wearing chaps, putting away childish things and becoming a man so fast.

And there are footprints of deer testifying of an earlier service that I was, not surprisingly, too late to attend. 

This forest is a sacred space, a cathedral of towering tulip and mighty oak trees buttressed with swaying pine.

The birds take turns with their evensongs, and dragonfly prophets warn of the prowling snake nearer than I'd like to believe.

Jack-in-the-pulpits with their triune leaf-shelter stand proud, but their flowery preachers have shriveled up and instead 

God preaches -- a noted Clergyman --

but with less shouting, and no forced outline or contrived worship music.

This is where I can come to Him and find rest. This is what quiet actually sounds like, where creation is obediently still. 

And I am still. And He is God.

The sermon is short, the sun setting -- hinting, like the deacon who flickered the lights in my childhood church each Sunday evening when we'd fellowshipped long enough that it was time we all be headin' home. 

And though it is no substitute for communion and the gathering with other believers for prayer and the preaching of the Word and worship, this Wendell-Berry-inspired Sabbath nature walk and poetry writing exercise is a practice I intend to make a habit of and 

to keep it holy.

Allusions/quotations from Far from the Madding Crowd (Hardy), The Road Less Traveled (Frost), Down to the River, Some Keep the Sabbath (Dickinson), and Scripture. 

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