Someone told me
recently about the time, right after September 11th, when you were
able to throw the doors wide and welcome the community in during that time of
national shock and mourning. You opened the doors. People
came. You gathered as did people all over this heartbroken land, to
gather and grieve, to talk and to listen, to begin to put your own selves back
together and consider how to help the world around you.
How I wish we could do that now. For surely we are shocked and heartbroken in our own way, but we cannot do that basic, primitive human thing. We cannot come together.
At least physically. But humans are an inventive lot and I’ve watched you in these days as you’ve made phone calls, brought groceries to a neighbor, put up prayer flags outside the sanctuary, sat in chairs at noon-time (yes, carefully spaced apart, and yes, carefully wiped down before and after!) You’ve told me about crafting on Zoom, going to a “virtual” tea party/cocktail party/family dinner/you name it. You’ve talked about play dates on Zoom and bike rides with kids and walking on forest paths.
We’re figuring out new ways to be “together” in this new landscape we inhabit. I’m wondering what new ways this community will find, as time passes and we begin to adjust to this strange new reality as best we can. I’m wondering what new creativity will grow out of this community, what inspiration, what beauty, what goodness. Because, yes, I do believe that will all be born out of this terrible time. I don’t know how and I don’t know when. But I have faith in you, in your heart, in your humanity, in your desire to love one another and to serve this beautiful and broken world.
How to be a “giver of light” in this dark time, how to be a gatherer of people when we are supposed to stay apart, how to model moral courage when we’re supposed to stay home. I don’t know what will emerge but I trust new things will be born out of loss and fear and grief — a beacon, a lighted lantern.
In the morning, I like to start with coffee! And some quiet time. I sit in a favorite chair, book shelf nearby. And recently, I’ve found myself turning to one book of poetry; it’s Garrison Keilor’s Good Poems for Hard Times. I think it came out after September 11th.
I found this poem. It was sent to me in those raw days after September 11 by a parishioner who had clipped it out of the New Yorker, and mailed it to me. May it offer you a certain measure of solace now, as it did to me so many years ago.
“Try to Praise the Mutilated World”
by Adam Zagajewski
Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June’s long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of rosé wine.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You’ve seen the refugees going nowhere,
you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the gray feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes