If I Didn’t Know Better

I’m waiting for the tea kettle to squeal. I always like to let her have a good long lusty scream before I turn off the flame; if I turn it off at the first I feel I’ve cheated her somehow. It’s a solidarity thing.

My ginseng tea bag is waiting in my mug by the sink. I’m gazing out the kitchen window, waiting, not really looking but sort of seeing the greenhouse and the snowbanks and the asparagus stakes casting purple shadows in the afternoon sun.

I’m thinking about God. It’s a subject that’s on my mind most of the time, but in an unsatisfactory way. I so want to have an affectionate friendship with a higher power. But I feel I can’t get a handle on the entity in question. I was baptized Methodist, raised in the Baptist Church, went to Sunday school, Bible school and Church until I graduated from high school. On my college app I indicated that I was Christian, and some Christian students reached out to me during the first week of school. We didn’t mesh. So, I didn’t go to church in my college years. Well, I tried a few churches on my own from time to time, but did not find a place to renew my spirit.

My spiritual history is not where I was going with this. I guess I wanted to convey that I’ve been spiritually curious and enthusiastic all these 49 years. I’ve read up on a great number of religions, from Buddhism to Judaism, from Earth Based Spirituality to Hinduism. I admire and yes, envy those who have a devout, meaningful, spiritually nourishing religious identity. I especially appreciate those whose religious lives are intricately woven with a lengthy family tradition. I imagine their spirit dancing, hiding, protected by, and at times soaring above yet always returning to that sacred structure. And to – how can I say this? To stand with their family and friends, agape. I’m trying to say this without saying commune or community. Both of these words make my shoulders tense. I’ll say it this way: to find that they are frequently in the company of other humans who are concerned with the real stuff. There are entire cultures who drop to their knees at appointed times throughout the day to get in spirit, to stay in spirit.

With organized religions, there is always for me, that morsel I can’t swallow. That thing I’m expected to take literally, when I feel it is meant figuratively. My breathing goes shallow, I may break a cold sweat; I smile pleasantly and ease slowly to the exit. I’m sorry, I’m out. It’s not a good feeling. Previously, I may be thinking, “Yes! By George, I can get behind this! These may be my people! There is love here and kindness and wisdom.” And then the morsel, and you know the rest.

So I’m looking out the kitchen window and a compelling thought lands in front of the greenhouse.

If I had no preconceived notion of God or religion, what would my spiritual life…be? I’m not sure how that would happen, but just say the subject had never come up and I’m just little me looking out the kitchen window, got some towels in the washer, need to put a log on the fire, going to go play some cards with my dad in a bit, what’ll I make Greg for dinner?

Wise men on camels, using a star as a guide, find their way to a prophet born to a couple of innocent kids in love. A young prince slips out of the palace gate and sees that everyone doesn’t have it so good and he can’t go back and he takes on the suffering of a planet. But I don’t know these things.

What do I know? What do I think? Would I pray? If I did, would all my prayers still start with, “Please, please tell me who you are. Please, what should I call you?”

I think, no. I wouldn’t think to pray.

If I had only the trees and the snow and the sky, only the living beings around me for company, only the tasks at hand with which to concern myself, I would probably shovel or snow- shoe in the snow, and admire and sometimes cut and stack the trees. The stars would tickle my fancy; they always do. I would help or hinder the people around me. I’d work purposefully or not. Sometimes my heart would glow, sometimes just beat. Filling the wood box on a cold winter night would often be indescribably beautiful .

Originally posted in Winter 2016.

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