I returned to Seattle the night of January 5th, and two days later, Brooks, Katie, my sister, and I all floated to St Paul’s Episcopal Church for their evening jazz liturgy. Through the last three years, I have all but given up on church and the structure of religiosity that I was surrounded by growing up. However, the sensory experience of the Divine and embrace of paradoxical Christian mysticism in the Episcopal church has consistently, tenderly, called me back despite my growling and barking.
And so, we sat, twenty people all holding our breath, and the bell gonged, and unrelenting rain pattered against the windows, and the silence of beginning and unknowing cradled us. One of us would later remark that much of the service and liturgy is pregnant; this word of anticipation and femininity, of vulnerability and physicality, of relationship and transformation, of fertility, of land and body where things can grow.
In Dance of the Dissident Daughter, Sue Monk Kidd leads us through her journey of rediscovering the feminine divine after forty years of practicing in the Baptist tradition. At the cusp of her dive inward, she describes a dream where she gives birth, looks down at the child, and gazes into her own face. Although not as vividly metaphorical, there is a rumbling in my sense of Being, pleading for affirmation and nourishment. An intuition that has been dismissed as illogical by Western patriarchal understandings of knowledge, yet speaks from my gut as distinctly and clearly as my mind (if not more so). Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of Women Who Run with Wolves, consistently emphasizes the validity, mystery, and spirituality of our intuition and connection to the Sacred in her work. This Knowing is embedded in our bodies, at the places where flesh and energy and earth and spirit all intersect (as if they are separate), where we hear the calls, “What are you willing to give up? How far will you go? Will you listen, will you act, when nudged?” Pregnant.
At St Paul’s that night, the homily discussed God’s sense of humor and unapologetic fuckery in the lives we craft oh so carefully. God is not a dove, as we are often taught in Judeo-Christian tradition. Contrary, in Celtic spirituality, God is a wild goose let loose in our lives to remind us that nothing is static, that despite our plans and well wishes, all we can do in this life is hold our hands open to the miracle and holiness of now. Because the more you try to grab the goose and throw it out of the house, the more the goose will scream and flop Her wings in your face, until you remember! The door! And you fling open the front door in desperation, and the goose rushes outside into the night, and then there we are, gasping, standing in the doorway. Behind us, the chaos of a house in ruins, a house we built so intentionally, so carefully, so perfectly structured, and yet, before us, the world of trees and wind and stars and leaks in the boat and mice in the car and friends getting engaged and skinny dipping in the ocean with strangers and harvesting purple potatoes and making meals together and musicals that make us consider faith in new ways and tattoo pilgrimages to Vancouver Island and art and new friends in the rainforest and dancing shadows of aspens and sitting in silence and holy tears and realizing that nothing is separate and; we step out into the fresh snow.
Father Gregory Boyle, in Barking to the Choir, tells the story of a homie who, while trick-or-treating on Halloween, has dog shit thrown into his candy bucket. After describing the event, the homie smiles, shrugs, and says, “Life’s great.” The two of them continue to remark "Life's great" at moments where one would typically become disheartened. Since church on that first Sunday after my return, Katie and I have continuously thrown our arms in the air at appropriate moments and exclaimed in surrender, “The Goose!” Hope! The Goose! Life's great!
There is a rumbling and unease of this season, a preparation, an advent. As I continue to process the last few months with those closest to me, we all seem to be holding this temporary space with softness, indicative of a gentle closing. The shift is here, the cracks can’t be ignored anymore, and all we can do is sink our toes into the earth and turn our palms upward in awe.
“And there’s mountains where there used to be earthquakes/ what’s a heart for/ but to break” - Eileen & the In-Betweens