Every morning after the coffee is made and the dog fed, I sit down at the table with two books. One is the Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim by Ed Hays, a wonderful seasonal prayer journey. I am reading the daily morning prayer of winter now.
The second book is also a book of prayer. It is called Home Ground. It would be easy to describe it as a dictionary of land forms in the United States, but that is such a dry, unexciting description. it is so much more. The contents are arranged alphabetically as a journey through the features of our American landscape, beginning with abutment and acequia and acre, and ending up at zigzag rocks.This is the happy brain child of naturalist Barry Lopez who asked 45 poets and writers to define terms that describe America’s land and water forms — phrases like flatiron, bayou, monadnock, kiss tank, meander bar, and everglade.The result is a delicious enterprise of descriptions, line drawings, and quotations from works by Willa Cather, Truman Capote, John Updike, Cormac McCarthy, and others. Carefully researched and exquisitely written,emphasizing a language that suggests the vastness and mystery that lie beyond our everyday words.
As every morning I open at the bookmark. I am engaged by the fact that nothing in our landscape is fixed, static, forever. Our world is one of transfiguration: the definition for that is a complete change of form or appearance.
The subtitle of this book could be: the subtle effects of wind and water on rock.
To read this book is to see a diary of transfiguration of the world, one day, one rainstorm at a time, one drought, one tremor …as the old, that to which we are accustomed, becoming new over and over.
How does a volcano transform? What inner movement goes on inside a volcano long before it blows skyward before our astonished eyes. Or a flood? How does a drizzle that we experience as life-giving, boil into a flood with the power to transform stream and bank and move boulders the size of houses?
Most interesting, how is the slow steady, mostly invisible breath of wind end up being the primary shape changing force in nature?
How does the old, fixed, safe, sedate landscape amaze us with its power to reconfigure what greets the eye?
Where is the Transfiguration in this? How does the work of Jesus and the journeys of Peter, James and John, come into this story?
Mark begins this story long before this. He tells us that Jesus takes his friends up the mountain, but this is the second time. Mark tells us that he also invited them earlier. After a time of healing in the communities he visited, Jesus asks those who had become especially close to climb the mountain with him. That is when he calls them to walk with him in a special way and those friends became known as his Apostles.
Now Jesus again guides them into a new place, up a high mountain. They, who are used to the shore, to the sea, to the fields around Caphernam. are taken to a place from which they will have a new perspective.
How does it feel to rise up, seeing that which you left behind from a new viewpoint?
When Jesus and Peter, James and John went with him this time, many more miracles, teachings, debates, confrontations with the local powers had occurred.
Gradually gradually gradually, one day and then another, one conversation, one meal, a joke or two, a madman returned to normal, a cup of rough red wine, one broken woman, one leper or ten, a pharisee, a few fish and a loaf or two.
The first meetings, the time sitting on the sand or in the smelly battered boat. the conversations. The erosion of old perspectives, the trickle of love and hope, the upheaval of laughter and the fear and the growing bravery, not just from one man but growing in them all.
And so gradually the human landscape of Galilee was transformed by possibility, slow and like a steady wind. It is that one tiny bit at a time that changes the world.
On the mountain top, is it not possible that Peter, James and John had what was a tiny glimpse of divinity that glistened for them, blazed with hope, with truth, with delight?
And what of the voice, that mighty voice? Is this not possibly the realization that is so powerful of “truth heard who knows how”, that comes from the gradual dawning hope against hope, dream into reality? Is it that that Jesus was and is the Saving
How long does it take for us to see a trickle become a flood, the small pathway open the land to new understandings? Small ideas begin and become mountains, up swellings of words begin to have the power of tornados. small ideas planted one by one become forests.
They knew him better, they had been present as more had been able to walk, to return to sanity, they had heard his stories and seen his brave heart.