Saturday, November 5, 2016

yes, and

.... Love for the earth
and love for you are having such a long
conversation in my heart.

from Thirst by Mary Oliver

This is a line from one of my favorite poems. The first time I read it, I sat on the floor between shelves of books in Borders, probably looking through a stack of magazines I piled in my arms and lugged with me. The title of the book, which is the title of this poem, stuck out to me from the binding of the thin paperback where it sat on cart of books to be shelved. I picked it up, thumbed through, read a few short poems, and cried when I read this one, stuck in at the very end of the collection. And, when I first read it, and for years after, this line seemed to me to describe a battle. An either/or. You choose the earth or "you" (God) and the author, trying to choose God, gives away a lot of things (we read in the next lines of the poem). 

The poem appealed to something in me, but I struggled with this line because, I realized, I really like the earth. Not just like the geese and ponds that Mary Oliver usually writes about (though sometimtes I like those, too). But I'm talking the way I feel after a run, sweaty and satisfied. Feeding my people with brunch or a really good salad. Tears that are happy or cathartic. Rhythm and dancing. Holding a book in my hand. Finding a piece of clothing or jewelry that I love or that are flattering on me. I like being carnal - of the body, of the earth. But am I supposed to not like these things? What does it feel like to like God more? To let him dominate the conversation? Win the battle?

But the word she uses isn't "battle," but "conversation."

My friend is a comedian and has taken improv classes. She's hosted groups of creatives at her apartment, and as a warm up activity, she leads us in "Yes, And." Two of us sit across from each other, are given a premise, and make a story by affirming what the other says and building on it. "Yes, and." 

The last time I read the poem, that word "conversation" stuck out to me and I realized that  it was this kind of conversation that these loves may want to have in my heart.

Yes, and. The things we love about being in a body, being on an earth, holding and smelling and feeling and being with - all this in conversation, affirming and building on the things we love about being God's, of the spirit, able to sense and intuit mystery and be filled with grace and see how one plus one can equal some crazy number we didn't think possible. 

(photo: lights in trees, pasadena nights)

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