It‘s Sunday afternoon in November and the leaves are in a rush to vacate the trees. It’s like they’re mamas and they have urgent errands to run and important places to be, and the kids couldn’t find their socks again so now they’re late to arrive on the ground, unlike all the other leaves who seem to have it together and arrived much earlier, so they’re running to catch up. “Here are your socks, Kid Leaves, now go, go, GO!” and dozens of leaves spiral for the earth to win the relentless race against time and themselves.
The sky, gray and overcast already, is growing demonstrably darker, and I can hear distant thunder rumbling cautiously, trying to decide whether it ought to approach us or not, like we’re wild animals and unpredictable, even though we stay in our cages when it comes around. The thunder is probably right to be wary of us, and brave to come as often as it does.
It’s not usually my place to notice such things, having little time to stop and watch the sky. But it’s Sunday afternoon and, with the exception of the laundry tumbling round and round in our modern magic machines, All the Things I should be doing are on hold.
I’ve been rushing lately like the leaves and rumbling a little like the thunder, on the go rather constantly with places to be even though I don’t always feel brave enough to venture there, and, as a result, I’ve had hardly any moments to sit watch over my world. To act as gatekeeper and guardian. To find the missing socks. And so I find myself today wanting to hug the earth and rest my head in the mud and sit quietly, watching the sky and season change around me. I am, quite literally, in the calm before the storm, since storms are on the way always, and I am, just for this minute, at peace.
I’ve been wanting to write to you about prayer, friends, for quite some time — the rote record and strict structure I believed prayer was, versus the calmer and quieter and louder and freer way it’s turned out to be — and I meant to try again today, but every time I start to write it, I end up waylaid, falling beside the ocean or intercepted by the sky. So I’ll tell you this, instead: the back path to my house is muddy today, and it makes the feet of everyone who walks it messy. Those who enter my house that way inevitably track in mud and mess, but they bring magic and mirth in equal measure, and I greet them with gratitude and grace because all who arrive that way are my people.
I thought for years that prayer was a front door experience, and that I ought to arrive at God’s door via the conventional method, knocking politely, dressed pristinely, and wondering whether I’d be admitted, instead of tumbling through the back with twigs in my hair and dirt under my fingernails, having wallowed in the mire and rather enjoyed the mess. The older I get, though, the more I find people like me — those uncomfortable with the formality of the foyer — arriving at the back door, flinging the it open with enthusiasm and forgetting to shut it behind us in our hurry to reach the kitchen which is bright and boisterous and a little bit grimy.
Someone throws a pot of water on the stove while others rummage for the tea and honey, and we hand around a half-full bottle of whiskey to warm us while we wait at the big farm table that always has room for one more.
The storm comes and scatters leaves, which rush and rest and rot and are reborn, and we are, too. We are, too, friends, as we sit and swig around the table and swing back and forth on the pendulum from human to divine, fabulous and fallible and still somehow made in Love’s own image.