There are books that seem to call me back. Books I have read more than once…some several times. Since I am a dedicated underliner, I find phrases that have meant something at one time, their words sitting atop a red, blue, black or even green line reinforcing their meaning., giving weight to the various letters that have come together to forge their identity in the world and in the sentence. Sometimes I understand what the phrase meant to me when my pen put its signature under it. Other times, I furrow my brow with the ‘what was I thinking?’look.
Over the last days I picked up again A Hidden Wholeness:The Journey Toward An Undivided Life by Parker Palmer. I must have read this book, or at least parts of it, at least three times. My underlining got started early with the his first short quote from Leonard Cohen that begins the Prelude to the book: “The blizzard of the world has crossed the threshold and it has overturned the order of the soul.” I had not simply underlined this sentence but created a box around it with blue ink.
I do not know what was happening in my world or the wider world that caused me to box this collection of words. I cannot remember the year or the time in my life. But as I reread the Prelude to this book of invitation to wholeness, I was drawn in again to the lure of their beauty and truth. The blizzard of the world…even in these summer days…crossing the threshold…piling up wind and storm…overturning the order of the soul. Have you ever had this experience?
Our lives can often become divided by any manner of things. Our work. Our health. Our life circumstances. The workings of the world around us. The pain and pull of others both near and far. Some days it is simply easier to create little compartments where one part of ourself goes…worry, here…pain, there…joy, in this box…grief, in this slot in the back. We divide ourselves into little squares of emotion and thought, mind and spirit, creating hard edges that threaten to crack and peel at the least appearance of vulnerability. It can be a difficult balancing act to maintain.
Parker Palmer uses these words of Cohen to tell the story of how, at the threat of an impending storm, the farmers of days gone by who lived on the Midwest plains would run a rope from the house to the barn. This rope became the lifeline that kept the farmers connected between the shelter of their home and the shelter they were providing for the animals they cared for and that brought them their livelihood. This way, when the winds blew, the snow fell and their vision became obscured by all that swirled around them, they held onto the rope and found their way between their responsibilities and their home. The rope became a way of not getting lost in the storms of the world.
These days we have many stormy words and sentiments flying around us. Our political climate and the rhetoric filling our airwaves can become overwhelming. What to believe? How to think? What to say…when to remain silent? For me, this can be upending to the order of my soul. And so I have been tying my rope from home to the places that help me maintain a soul order… beautiful words that don’t mean to harm or coerce…listening to the chattery sound of the morning birdsong…observing the particular color and shapes of the evening, autumn sky… spending time with the people whose hearts are kind and gentle…and embracing the gift of silence. These are the knots along the rope that, I hope, will carry me through the storm that is likely to be the next two months.
Whatever storm is crossing your threshold, may the rope you tie be strong and sure.