Monday, February 14, 2005

At the Wellhead

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl'd.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world


So if the Sea of Faith is receding, then one might ask : have you felt God's presence laying like the folds of a bright girdle furl'd? The question is rightly asked day upon day, hour to hour, breath to breath.

What are the conditions which open one to a sense of God's presence? My experience is that the Spirit is alive and flowing among us when we are compassionate to each other, to our earth, to our selves.

What blocks my eyes from seeing, my ears from hearing?--A lack of compassion, lack of imagination for how another could be me, is me, and ultimately a lack of love for my full self.

When our eyes are open to each other, when we can look on each other with the tender heart that utters "Ah love, let us be true to one another..." then we are turning back the tide, and ultimately standing up against the ignorant armies which clash in the night.

Here's a different poem, describing what happens when we have the ears and eyes and voice of compassion, working through us:

At the Wellhead

Your songs, when you sing them with your two eyes closed
As you always do, are like a local road
We've known every turn of in the past--
That midge-veiled, high-hedged side-road where you
stood
Looking and listening until a car
Would come and go and leave you lonelier
Than you had been to begin with. So, sing on,
Dear shut-eyed one, dear far-voiced veteran,
Sing yourself to where the singing comes from,
Ardent and cut off like our blind neighbor
Who plays the piano all day in her bedroom.
Her notes came out to us like hosited water
Ravelling off a bucket at the wellhead
Where next thing we'd be listening, hushed and awkward.

That blind-from -birth, sweet-voiced, withdrawn
musician
Was like a silver vein in heavy clay.
Night water glittering in the light of day.
But also just our neighbor, Rosie Keenan.
She touched our cheeks. She let us touch her braille
In books like books wallpaper patterns came in.
Her hands were active and her eyes were full
Of open darkness and a watery shine.

She knew us by our voices. She'd say she "saw"
Whoever or whatever. Being with her
Was intimate and helpful, like a cure
You didn't notcie happening. When I read
A poem with Keenan's well in it, she said,
"I can see the sky at the bottom of it now."

~Seamus Heaney, The Spirit Level

And who is to say Rosie Keenan isn't an image of God?-- being intimate and helpful, working a cure you "didn't notice happening," knowing each person by their voice, and able to make the blind ( overtly herself, but also us) to see.

Mind you, it's in the interaction between the narrator and Rosie Keenan that she comes to see. I believe it is in our interest and interaction with the world that we come to see and to be agents of God.

It seems to me that where we stand may be Dover Beach, but it is also, surely, Holy Ground, a wellhead for healing, that may lead us to see stars in the bottom of the well of our sorrows.