"beyond the face of fear"
a blessing for uncertain times & intentional wandering
I have been trying to create intentional sabbath time. It is difficult, with the demands of school breathing down my back.1 I face yet another threshold in May, which is now less than two months away.
The image I’ve included is a picture of a Boston cityscape along the Charles River from my view in Cambridge. The sunsets on the right, draw warm light to a third of the photo, reflecting in the water and the city skyline. In the middle of the photo is a canoe touching the darkest waters, and to the right of it, more canoes dot the image until just before a bridge. The sky is full of streaks. Some are from the clouds and others are sketched from the pathways of planes toward the city.
The picture does not capture the backdrop of MIT and various tech and software offices. Or the group of folks parking2 their sailboats, their cheeks red from the cold.T Or the noise of people running behind me. Or the couples and friends walking and talking. Or the old woman, glaring at me as I walked by, as if I needed another reminder that I was out of place.
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Blessing the Boats
The indigenous name of this river is “Quinobequin,” which means “meandering.” Whenever I think of the word meandering, I am reminded of someone somewhere implying that time is being wasted. My inner critic notices my won meandering and tries to ask “what is the point?” In the absence of a goal or direction, there is only wandering.
But I am reminded of the beauty of meandering at this moment honoring the indigenous name of this river. There are moments of beauty in the meandering and a relationship with the wind that pulls and draws. A magic to the currents that have waved in these waters long before humankind ever carved a boat. To think that I am invited to witness the ongoingness and for a second, surrender the need for a perfect goal, objective, or demand.
I know this river has known demands longer than I have lived. Something about that comforts me, as does this Lucille Clifton poem.
blessing the boats (at St. Mary's) may the tide that is entering even now the lip of our understanding carry you out beyond the face of fear may you kiss the wind then turn from it certain that it will love your back may you open your eyes to water water waving forever and may you in your innocence sail through this to that —Lucille Clifton
Intentional Wandering (and a Landing Track)
I love using this Lucille Clifton poem as a “benediction,” when I facilitate a space or preach.
It has been a calming and important reminder to make intentional space for wandering. I hear the tension in that phrase—intentional wandering. I will use it anyways. 3
What does intentional wandering look like for you?
Do you have time and space to just look at a body of water and notice how it waves? Even if that water is in a sink, or coupled into your hands before it meets your face? Have you ever just walked in the direction the wind takes you? What does that feel like, to for a moment, surrender to a force greater than your own? Maybe there is a work of art that cultivates a space of intentional wandering for you. What do you notice as your eyes float towards the places the artist guides you?
Even as I wrote this newsletter, I embraced meandering. I did not know where I would start or end. I just knew I needed an alt-text description for this photo. As I observed and considered what was present and what was not, thoughts strung together and this is what I have come up with.
On this day, as I “open[ed] my eyes to water/water waving forever,” I consider how I arrived here, often uncertain about where I will end up. I have “sail[ed] through this to that,” and I am again in the space of wondering where the wind will take me next. I hope for some direction and some gentle guidance from wind and water. I hope I will make choices that honor my values and I hope to find myself surrounded by love wherever I land.
Some days, yesterday included, I hope hope is enough.
And can I just say I hate the hot breath of deadlines and expectations?
I clearly am not a boat person.
I also want to name that some wandering is unintentional. My mind wanders a lot and I have learned to love that, even when it gets me in trouble in moments I ought to be present. There is also unintentional wandering that may be dissociative, clinically or otherwise.