Christin's Words from Sunshine Hill

If it is to be music
you must be present to it, must offer to it
a profound self-remembering.
-from Altar Music

Friday, February 10, 2012

THIN PLACES

Yesterday evening we heard a thump on the back deck. John looked up from his reading. "What was that?"

I shrugged. Then it happened again, a little louder this time. I looked up from my own reading and leaned over the back of the couch which is right in front of the glass sliding doors. Not more than three feet from me, looking into the house, was a gray fox much like this one. We locked eyes. He knocked again with his nose on the glass. Apparently I didn't scare him because he didn't shy away but got his fill of the scene and then ambled over to take a look at John.


We've had several "visitations" from the wild lately, but this was extraordinary. So close. Probably the fox was new to this world, a kit. He was smaller than Mo who is only seven pounds. In fact, they look alike. So we called to Mo to meet his fine canine cousin. That was the moment that the fox chose to saunter into the darkness.

There is a thin place where worlds intersect. Communication is possible there. John spoke to a circling hawk today, and the bird swooped down close to him. A black tailed doe didn't move from the back yard when I walked towards her murmuring words about her beauty. Gen says the hummingbirds come when she calls. It's important to remember this. What is wild in us can be more gentle than our rational minds with their sharp edge of logic. What is wild can also be more--well--wild. A cougar could, for instance, probably feel the pounding of my wild heart were I to encounter her on Sterling Ditch Trail. We might have any kind of meeting imaginable there in that thin place.

No wonder so many indigenous peoples considered such encounters sacred. The mystical encounter with the fox closely resembles that mystical encounter at the other pole of our human experience -- the thin place between human and divine. Both encounters resist language -- poetry might come close, or prayer. But the true language of that intersection of world is silence in the space between two beats of the heart.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

GOOD MAN KEN

The doctors tell us Ken is dying, and it seems impossible. Isn't he our man of the hills along Sterling Creek? Doesn't he know everyone in every house hidden on ridges and in hollows? Isn't he the one we turn to when electricity fails, or pipes freeze and break, or smoke curls from a wild fire?

Ken is dying, lying in his bed in CCU, looking out of place there among the sterile contraptions of stainless steel and electrical cables. Though machines have been his life's work. Life-saving machines, fire-fighting machines, wood cutting machines, home-running machines. How often did he fix my riding mower? My Kawasaki Mule? My car?

The nurse comes in to get blood from his finger. Work has hardened his fingertips impenetrable as mountain laurel wood. The little one is soft, he tells her. She doesn't want to poke that one, already poked so many time. I don't mind, he says. He laughs. He can barely breathe, but he still can laugh, a throaty laugh, staccato, infectious.

Ken was my deceased husband's best friend. They understood each other. When John died Ken taught me all I hadn't learned yet about running a house on nine acres of hill and woods. Some things he had to teach me over and over. That first year of widowhood my brain simply could not retain the intricacies of, for example, starting the air compressor and filling a tire! What a patient teacher Ken is. When the linoleum popped off the guest bathroom floor, he stood in the doorway and instructed me in the craft of softening it, gluing it with the proper brand of glue, securing it, and finally installing a new threshold. He joked about now taking care of two wives. I tried to reciprocate with home baked bread, dinners now and then, little things like that.

His "other wife," the wife of his heart is Sammie. She's in tears, and then she's organizing details because this dying came as a surprise and that's what we do. She's at the hospital every day. She's my dear dear friend, the one who held me when I sobbed over the death of John. We trade places now. That's what we do here on this earth with the beautiful people we are given in our lives. Someday may we know how really precious all of us are.

I hope Ken will soon come home to the beautiful log house he built on the hill across from mine. I hope that he and Sammie will be able to complete the circle of their life together there. I know she is organizing things to make that happen for them.

In the meantime he works now to simply breathe. But we all, those of us who know him, recognize the work he's given himself to all his life...he loved his neighbors and loved to help us in whatever ways he could--which were multitudinous.