"The truly precious things are those forming ladders reaching toward the beauty of the world." - Simone Weil, Waiting for God

Earlier this week I set out on my evening walk with fuzzy-computer-brain. I began to climb the secret staircase just outside my house, declaring this hike one of my overdue prayer times. With some measure of grumpiness I said, "All right God, I'm finally outside. Show me your face." Three steps later my foot landed next the most precious purple blossom, just waiting on the railroad tie. It was unopened - a little lavender thing that looked like folded silk rice paper. Simple. Tiny. The face of God.

But that's not the story I mean to tell. Sure, God's immediate response to my feisty petition offered some consolation. Three stairways later, though, I rose over the lip of the path and locked eyes with the biggest buck I've ever seen in these hills. This sucker was huge, as far as black-tailed deer go. The pre-teen fawn scampered away, but his 8-point papa remained, and so did I. I just stood there and looked.  After a couple of minutes it became clear that papa wasn't leaving his raspberry bush, so I plopped myself down right there on the path. I didn't inch forward and I didn't retreat. I just sat. I waited. I watched. We must have stared at each other a good ten minutes, that deer and I, before he decided it was safe to resume his munching. Every so often he'd crane his neck to check on me. I didn't budge. I didn't take off my hat or my sunglasses or fish for the camera in my pocket or laugh out loud at the way his nose twitched and sniffed the air just like my cat Phoebe's. I didn't inch forward and I didn't retreat. I waited. I watched. And I loved.

My God, I loved that deer. I know it sounds ridiculous, but why can't we call it love, when the glamour of an animal just doin' their thing takes our breath away? I couldn't believe how long he let me look, or how comfortable he was only ten feet away. At one point, papa deer completely turned his back to reach a new section of berries. I stared at the sagging, black-rimmed tail for at least three minutes - plenty of time to pull out my rifle or bow and bag winter's dinner. Lucky for him, I was far more interested in the position of his ears than his hindquarters. Really, it was hilarious to watch them swing so drastically from one position to another. One moment they would prick upright, flush with his rack, adding a regal air to his posture. Next moment, those enormous ears would flop out to the side, completely horizontal, making him look like Bullwinkle's distant, dim-witted cousin. Is it not called love when we delight in another's dorkiness and majesty in equal measure? I drank it all in, but I didn't inch forward and I didn't retreat. I sat and I waited.

What was I waiting for?

I really don't know. I could answer with "nothing" but that's not entirely true. I was waiting to see what would happen, even if I had no idea (or hope for) what that might be. I just wanted to be there with that deer and would've stayed all night, if he had too. Being together on the path was enough.

As I sat (the juice of squashed plums soaking through the bum of my jeans, but never mind) I began to notice how this felt a lot like prayer. Most of the time what I'm doing in prayer is waiting. It would be easy to say that I'm waiting for my mind to slow down, my body to soften, my breath to find its rhythm. I could even say that I'm waiting to feel the presence of God, and that certainly wouldn't be a lie. But the kind of waiting I'm talking about exists simply for its own sake. It abides, alert to its changing surroundings, yet fully at rest in what is already here. It doesn't inch forward and it doesn't retreat.

If this sounds vague and confusing, that's because it is. I don't know what I'm talking about. But I can feel it. And so I'm going to keep at it, because waiting is an enormous part of this year of receiving what's given. I'm starting to think that waiting and receiving aren't as contrary as they sound. Hmm...I'll get back to you on that. For now, as you go about your day, join me in noticing the places where you find yourself waiting. What does it feel like? How long does it last? Tell me, what are you waiting for?


A Lost Sufi Poet

I hate waiting! I think I don't quite realize how rich and busy the nothing is, though. I'm reminded of John Cage's 4'33", where the pianist sat down at the keyboard, started a stopwatch, and sat there doing nothing for four minutes and thirty-three seconds. Of course, some people thought it was ludicrous, but others got it: they heard the symphony in the silence, the whoosh of the fans, the creak of the chairs, the clearing of throats, etc. And they appreciated it, maybe for the first time. Of course, it's hard to remember that when I'm standing in line at the DMV, cursing myself for not bringing a book.

urban love monk

You're awesome, Lost Sufi Poet, whomever you are. (As is John Cage.) Unfortunately, you were probably in line at the DMV for longer than four minutes and thirty three seconds. Ugh.

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