Take a Journey with me

My experience on a four day Vision Fast in the fall of 2006 was life changing.
Maybe, if you have the time to go along with me, you'll find some food for thought on your own journey.

At the right of the screen are the stories, Day by Day, of my trip into pysche and soul.
Hope you find something you're looking for there.


There was no time.

sept 28th, 2007Lake Nunikani

There was no time. I was way too busy for this. But I had promised myself that in a year I would return and complete the ritual. Go back to the same spot where I had spent three nights last September on a Quest without food, free of distractions, to receive what God had for me. Now, to honour the gifts of those days; the vision I’d been given, the humour I’d been armed with, the company of the angels, I had to make time.

It was late September and the rush of a church season revving up to full speed had me hanging on with both hands. Hitting the gas from the dead stop of a summer sabbatical was a nauseating push in the first week back. In the next weeks, I managed to shift through the gears of pulling people together again – working against the pull of summers’ entropy– fueled by necessity. And now, jumping off the moving vehicle was frightening – all those details I needed to take care of, all those calls and visits and threads to pull together…

Last year I had spent weeks, months really, preparing for the kayak trip to Lake Nunikani. This time, on the morning of the trip, I grabbed the pack from where I’d left it in the basement a year ago. It still had the tarp and kettle and rope in it. I rooted around ‘til I found my drum and sleeping bag and put a change of clothes and rainsuit in another bag. Outside, I threw the kayak on the truck roof. Kissed Carol goodbye. Dropped David at school. And I was gone – my head more full of the busyness behind me than the journey ahead.

It was a gray, cold, and windy fall day. The wind carried an occassional spray of rain my way. It seemed crazy to be heading off camping into this weather. I’d said as much to Steve on the phone that morning – calling about last minute details for Sunday’s powerpoint liturgy. He laughed and said “a bad day in a canoe is still better than a good day in the office.”

A good listener; someone who will take time to slow me down, and ask important questions, is so important at a time like this. If Steve was the Doorkeeper who pushed me out into the world. Brenda served as the Wise Woman met on the road’s beginning, just beyond the edge of town. She stops me before my journey’s yet begun and asks me “where am I going?” In response to my answers full of quest and purpose, she offers up a gift for the journey. She pulls from me the question “What really matters?”, and she tells me that I must not answer this question – only carry it with me. It is a token to wear that reminds me of the purpose lying below the ritual’s surface performance.

The ritual is to return one year later to the same place and remember the messages of the quest. To remember the resolutions and to re-discover the skin shed in that place, look at the husk of the cocoon, and re-view where my new set of wings has carried me in the months since.

Paddling against the wind slowed me down. I hadn’t used my arms and body like this for a while and they complained bitterly. But after a while, my neck and shoulder muscles started to loosen and the stress I’d been carrying there drained into the water in my wake. The paddling became easier.

At the north end of Big Hawk Lake, in a bay where the river that connects Nunikani to Big Hawk flows, I greeted the solemn, cedar-bearded cliff faces that watch over the bay. Their ancient watch humbled me; a passer-by of moments while they counted in centuries.

The first little pull-through rapids was familiar. It felt like I was just here weeks ago. The water in the river was lower than last year and so the kayak scraped a little more over the granite shelf as I hauled it up and over. At the next rapids however, the 100 metre portage up to the dam seemed just as long and just as steep. I was glad to be back in Nunikani and excited by what the Spirit might have to tell me.

The lake seemed smaller than I remembered. The large-ness of discovery was gone as I found each landmark pretty much as I remembered it. I paddled directly to the campsite in the little bay running west off the north-south stretch of the lake. It seemed like a rainstorm was a distinct possibility so I wanted to get my tarp up and my stuff under it before any downpour.

I met the features of the campsite, like the features on a familiar face. The campsite sat atop a granite outcrop the size of a house. At the shore was the hollowed eye of a stump. Stepping up, there was the flat shelf of granite where I had performed the Death Lodge ritual. Up on top was the fire pit and mossy spot where I slung my tarp on a rope between trees and laid my sleeping bag. I pulled out the drum and re-enacted my introduction to this place; introducing myself with a rhythm that stated my presence. Instead of the stimulating wind on water welcome of last year, the wind only brought in a cold drizzle of rain. My mind was heavy and tired and I crawled into the nest and slept.

It was dusk when I woke. The sky had cleared. Staggering around the site a bit, I decided to go out on the water to pray. Gliding over flat water, balancing, letting each paddle stroke take the kayak as far as it will, put me in a mood for magic. And, as the sun set red and purple over the western shore, a full moon rose in the eastern sky.

While the Moon is Full
Clouds are such momentary creations
God’s improvised jazz
never to be repeated

I want my words to be great stone cliffs
scripture, solid stuff,
undiminished by passing days

but my time is only a season of the moon
coming full
only to turn and go

so let these words be spoken
while the moon rises
and let the clouds carry them to the cliffs
where they’ll rain down
tears on the ancient face

some other moonstruck fool
will let morning mists inspire
a similar riff

The next morning I had tea over a small fire. I looked again at the small maple tree leaning against the great white pine. It had been God’s revelation to me – an image of my artist self. Thin, shadowed by taller trees, I hadn’t felt exactly empowered by the vision – as real and true as the picture was – I felt mostly compassion for that part of me yearning for sun and growth. As I looked it over again, I saw something new. Just beyond it, was another maple with exactly the same lean. The difference was that this tree was out at the forest’s edge. It leaned against no other. It lifted its branches and red leaves to open sky.

I had to agree with what God was saying. In the last twelve moons I had taken a step out to the shore. I had made a shift in self-regard. And I had spent more of my creative energy putting pen to paper (and fingers to keypad). While still far from a mature tree, I was out at the shore where I would get sun and exposure; where I had started to share my stuff.

Back in the kayak, I made a return trip to the upturned stump at the north end of the lake and jotted down a poem. Retracing the journey’s steps, I dutifully revisited the moss-covered, weeping wall. The creative juices were flowing fast and steady and I hurried back down to pad and pen and wrote it all up.

But I had no endurance this time. Although I’d carved out space for two nights away, the things back home that needed attention lured me away. The lack of mental and spiritual preparation for this trip meant my stamina for emptiness was low. I’d emptied a little and God had quickly filled it up to overflowing. I packed it up and split for home.

I sang some songs of spontaneous praise (that only God would enjoy). Some strange ducks encouraged me on. They too were seasonal, annual, visitors here. Stopping by on a long journey, generations long. A year is not long they said. Just another ring inside the bark. Be patient, From root to branch give thanks. Let your leaves grow green, turn bright and brilliant, then fall and decay for another circle’s turn. And so these words fall onto the page for your winter’s read. Reader, may your hope be stored deep and safe in your roots and rise again when the sun calls us out to play.
November 1, 2007

The Temple of Need

the roots that grip this spinning earth
that suck life from soil
to feed trunk and branch and stem
stretch out in silent cry

The green clothes I wear
customary coverings

instead, reaching out from nightmare’s dark places
my deepest needs, hungers, wants,

so many
so tangled
some fine, some gross and hollow-hallowed
startling to see them all at once
- no head, just tales untold
so human

allan reeve
sept 28th, 2007
Lake Nunikani

From where would songs begin?

From where do these winter winds blow?
They challenge my slipping grip on summer days
And send me scurrying for wood and wool.

From places white and grey, of rock and ice;
where trees keep their branches close to themselves;
down glacial sweeps more ancient than human song.

What message do they whisper?
For whom are they howling?

Is God’s voice in these cold uncaring spirits
the way I feel Her there in the soft summer spray?

If winter didn’t miss the sun?
If sunset never changed blue sky?
If a candle never met the dark?
If the living never tasted death?
If the good didn’t judge the other?
Then, from where would songs begin?

This cold, dark season pulls
from deep within us
both humbling sorrow and
to ease our way – to keep us sane
a crazy humour that laughs
when howling winds and setting sun
most threaten to tear the doors off our fragile shells.

We huddle in small groups
like mourners at a wake,
like chilled campers at a fire.
And those who turn to meet the night most full and hard
produce the stories, songs and jokes we love the best

They warm us front and back
and we find ourselves breathing deep
those winter winds
to join in a song and a laugh.

Allan Reeve
September ’06 Vision Fast

Day Four

I am looking forward to going home. If I had more energy I might even hurry home. But slow is the order of the day. Everything I do; make tea, pack up, clean up, is performed with ritual-like deliberation.

The slow passing of the days has given me a taste of what days must be like lying in a hospital bed or sitting in a prison cell. My energy, that quickly evaporates with short exertions, gives me a glimpse into the life of my elders. These experiences of empathy, and the continual flow of prayers for the people of my flock, tell me that I am indeed – a Pastor. (A fact that I’m often in doubt of.)

The visions, the songs, the impressions that God has put into my heart and imagination assure me that, in addition to a Pastor, I am also an Artist. In fact, calling myself an Artist clears up for me the experience I’ve known repeatedly over the years. The experience of feeling like I don’t fit in; of wondering why I don’t seem to see things the way many people do; of hiding and protecting the fact that I’m so easily hurt – and angered. All of these experiences are quite easily handled by the statement “I am an Artist.” Easily said, perhaps, but not a hat that I comfortably wear out in public.

Paddling home I sing a few songs just to see if the words are still there – and they are of course. Knowing that God will provide the words is the grace I depend on. “Be who you are, do what you do.” says the Christ “and let me do the rest.”

And what about my adolescent grace? Cleaning up the lines of stones, before chucking each one into the lake, I take a last look at the power they hold in me. I remove them in reverse order, starting with the ones who’d blessed me. How fortunate to have known so many encouragers and companions who were/are so generous. And how fortunate to find that what I’ve offered, has been received as a blessing by others. Blessed to be a blessing.

I acknowledge how much I have also learned at the expense of others. May the hurt I’ve caused be a place where God’s healing can be felt in their lives. And finally, I come to those who’d hurt me. As I toss them into the lake, one by one, I let them go. As I come to one of the biggest rocks I say “You were just being who you are.”
“Yeah – a prick!” says someone else. “Fuck ‘em.”
I laugh and toss it in the lake with the rest.
Maybe there’s a bit more healing still to do eh?

When I return to this spot a year from now, will I be more of that new person - born again on this rock? Will there be a season of fruit to show it? I’ll keep reaching back here for what I need. One hand on that steady head to lean on – the other gently supported by that smart young native fellow. I’m not ashamed to tell you, that I called upon that young native friend to help me carry my packs and kayak back over the portage. Just when it seemed I’d have to drop and flop, there he was. We made it the rest of the way with a song.

If you’re still with me, reader/friend, then let me say thanks to you. Sharing these words, and the story they tell, is the way I promised to honour your faithful prayers and God’s good gifts to me.

I should also let you know that upon crossing the hearth of home I expected to find Carol worn thin by solo parenting. Instead, she was fresh and happy. Her comment was “You should ask people to pray for us every time you go away.”

I hope this journey has been worth your time. Perhaps, like the memories of other trips we’ve been on, you’ll remember the bad patches as challenges faced, and the best parts will not fade with time.

Psalm 40
Thanksgiving for Deliverance and Prayer for Help

5 You have multiplied, O LORD my God,
your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
none can compare with you.
Were I to proclaim and tell of them,
they would be more than can be counted.
6 Sacrifice and offering you do not desire,
but you have given me an open ear.£
Burnt offering and sin offering
you have not required.

7 Then I said, “Here I am;
in the scroll of the book it is written of me.£
8 I delight to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart.”
9 I have told the glad news of deliverance
in the great congregation;
see, I have not restrained my lips,
as you know, O LORD.
10 I have not hidden your saving help within my heart,
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
from the great congregation.
16 May all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
say continually, “Great is the LORD!”

Translation from The Revised Standard Version

Day Three: A New Song

Harley Swift Deer, a Native American teacher says that each of us has a survival dance and a sacred dance, but the survival dance must come first. Our survival dance; a foundational component of self-reliance, is what we do for a living – our way of supporting ourselves physically and economically. For most people, this means a paid job. For members of a religious community like a monastery, it means social or spiritual labors that contribute to the community’s well-being. For others, it means creating a home and raising children, finding a patron for one’s art, or living as a hunter or gatherer. Everybody has to have a survival dance. Finding or creating one is our first task upon leaving our parent’s or guardian’s home.

Once you have your survival dance established, you can wander, inwardly and outwardly, searching for clues to your sacred dance, the work you were born to do. This work may have no relation to your job. Your sacred dance sparks your greatest fulfillment and extends your truest service to others. You know you’ve found it when there’s little else you’d rather be doing. Getting paid for it is superfluous. You would gladly pay others, if necessary, for the opportunity.
“SoulCrafting; Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche” by Bill Plotkin.

Day Three

More dreams about food wake me up somewhere in the middle of night. I get up to pee. All is dark and silent and surprisingly not as cold as the night before. I thought that this clear, clear night would drop the thermometer down. It is still far from warm so I crawl quickly back into my sleeping bag and pass the rest of the night in cycles of sleeping, dreaming, waking, watching, thanking, sleeping...

“Okay, bring it on God! I pray with the dawn “I’m ready for the big breakthrough now. Day three is here at last.” The discipline I set for myself this day is to do nothing, go nowhere, stay put - just wait and pray.

I am amazed that I don’t feel hungry at all. Despite feeling quite weak after any kind of exertion (climbing up from the lake to the fire requires a pit stop halfway up), when I stay still I feet very good. I become aware of the many prayers that are with me. One friend from church had told me that she’d be fasting today along with me. Quite a few people who I’d told about this adventure had generously offered to keep me and Carol and David in mind and heart. Knowing that this effort is not mine alone, but that it is shared by those whose lives intersect with ours - is food enough!

I’d had misgivings about telling folks about this trip. I didn’t want to be like the proverbial Pharisee announcing his self-righteous prayers for all to hear and be impressed by. I’d known a friend who’d fasted for Peace during the American war in Kuwait. That seemed a fast worth sharing. This fast is for me.

That voice sounded like me. Or, it sounded like it thought it was God.

From my heart, I had preached so many times that the Spirit moves in community. Our willingness to be moved by it will open up new channels for the Spirit to flow more powerfully. How many times had I said things like “It’s not what you do – it’s the way that you do it.” and “everything we do, every little thing, good or bad, affects everyone and everything else.”

My own small effort to find, or create, some peace in my soul was perhaps worth sharing. If it caused a friend or three to connect with the Maker one extra time on my behalf could that be bad? If it encouraged just one of those friends to do something unusual to feed their own souls with enough time and space to let the Earth nourish and replenish them, was that worth exposing myself to the critics?

My conclusion to this dilemma is my usual fallback position – one I’d learned at the age of fifteen. So far, it’s been working pretty well for me…“I am who I am. If they don’t like it – fuck‘em.” Adolescent Bravado? Definitely! But like I said, it’s where I fall back to after all my agonizing and worrying about the good, the bad, and the ugly of being “good enough?”.

It’s the antidote to the poison pill of my childhood critics. When I finally came to this conclusion as a teenager – it was my first experience of what I now call “grace”. I could feel a weight lift off and an inner joy of self-satisfaction put a spring back in my steps. Later, Jesus was to put it another way for me…”just keep being who you are, doing what you do, and I’ll do the rest.”. So far, these two versions of Grace had kept me getting up off the ground after a trip and fall.

A cup of tea and some Tai Chi exercises are my only morning distractions. It’s a grey day again with clouds to watch and winds to listen for. I sit down among my rows of rocks and my imagination is peopled with prayers.

The Sunday I’d left, I was preaching about the story of Job. Job’s suffering stirred up the questions of “Why?” and all the human explanations to that age old question. The final chapters tell of God’s response to Job. Without really replying to the questions, God instead directs Job’s attention to nature’s wonders. The Creator responds to human enquiry with the Creation.

Thinking of that sermon, I remember that I’d not only asked folks to pray for me but also said that in return, I would pray for them. I am struck with a problem. How can I keep that promise? How can I possibly remember every person who had been in church that day? Even though I do know all their names, there had been well over a hundred of them. Surely I’d miss many if I tried to go one by one. That statement had been an impromptu promise spilled from wherever those words come from. How could I honour such a promise?

Just then, the sun comes out and the wind picks up. As I lift my eyes to the lake, I see dozens and dozens of bright and sparkling lights dancing atop the wind’s little waves. There they are! They are all there before me at once! The people of Trinity-Providence, the people of my past, the people of my future – all dancing together as pure reflections of sun and hope and living light! I give thanks; ask God to bless each and every one of them and laugh at how the things that are a problem for me are so simple for God.

All through this day, God keep bringing people to mind. I take note, give a word of thanks and care for that person, and give them back to God. This process started yesterday, and as the day wears on, more and more and more people keep coming to mind.

If yesterday had been long ride, today is like waiting for a bus that might never come. I see the yellow canoes cross the bay’s mouth heading home. The hawk crosses once and is gone. And those are the big events of the morning. My bum gets sore from sitting so I raise my stiffened limbs up to a stand and a stagger and I think “maybe I’ll just go for a little paddle eh?” I really want to, but I also really want to do this thing well. I am a little surprised at my resolve.

I’m not usually good at following a strict discipline. I never much liked or respected the people who’d been strict with me, so why would I be one of them?

Somewhere in that musing about how well I am doing – something clicks. I am down by the water, near the gaping tree stump of my neediness. I connect my childhood need to please - please all those who had hurt me, and all those who might hurt me, - with my own internal damage-control-manager that keeps me working overtime to please and produce.

A talented Spiritual Director, had diagnosed it as my “over-functioning”. John had helped me begin the process of a mid-life shift. I wanted to balance the “human doing” with more of the “human being” that I talked, and talked, and talked, about but so far had remained illusive and only a hobby. I wanted to live more simply and creatively. I wanted to use my creative energies to create more beauty with fewer costs; costs to my family, my community, the earth, and my self.

In my twenties, after a similar kind of Quest that I’ll write about one day, I’d been drawn back to Toronto as the centre of a circle; a place to make things happen. I’d found a great joy in being used by God to make so many things happen with so many wonderful people. Carol and I made babies happen. We made businesses happen. We drew together circles of people and work and meaning and spirit that were a privilege to be a part of creating.

But the dream of community I sought can’t be made to happen. I tasted it several times in those years. But I also felt that I had wasted many, many hours of creative energy trying to make something so simple with such extraordinary efforts. A simple life required a simple strategy. Our urban lifestyle was pulling us in so many different directions. It was so hard to live slowly in a place where busyness sets the pace. I’ve known lots of people who have perfected the art of living simply in the city and it works well for them. But for us - we needed a shift.

Our son David had been born disabled by an extra chromosome. Downs Syndrome was a challenge we met by changing quite a few things. The emotional struggle to deal with our heartbreak opened us up to more pain than we knew was there. Our marriage was stretched beyond our limits - and the limits of marriage counseling. We both sought help from professionals but individually. We also did some family counseling to try to help our daughter Alana get through these messy times.

We were coping. We were gifted with a spiritual community that was wide and deep. At its centre was a small group of families who met every couple of weeks for a few hours of Saturday afternoon study and prayer and support. Would our marriage have lasted without these supports? I doubt it.

And then Carol was diagnosed with Colon cancer. That was the kicker. I dropped everything at work to be at home during Carol’s recovery from surgery. That summer of recovery gave us a chance to do some strategizing. I had known for some time that what the small community-based organization we had created really needed – wasn’t me. To move to the next level of growth, it needed someone with greater administration skills. I also had known for some time that what I really needed –to move to my next level of growth – was not to be an administrator.

We’d talked for years about living in a small town. I had the credentials to be a small town pastor (just no experience). It was now or never. I announced my resignation at the Riverdale Economic Ministry and we started looking. Within six months I was a country pastor in Bobcaygeon. I was determined to stop over-functioning and start living simply and lightly.

Five years later we had made many, many, lifestyle changes. But the over-functioning was at best – on a leash. In the last year it had been pulling me around the block and pulling my work and personal life out of shape again.

Standing on the rock by that gaping needy stump, I see that somewhere, early along my life’s road, I’d become convinced that the best defense was a good offence. The best way to keep from being hurt, was to run around trying to keeping everyone happy. When I got really manic about it, I’d be running around solving problems before they occurred, meeting needs that hadn’t yet been named and trying to please…really….the ghosts of days gone by.

My over-functioning was simply the daily expression of the nighttime neediness I run from in dreams and run towards in the day. Running in circles was what I was doing. And so I slowly walk back up the rock and sit still in the middle of that “circle” and listen some more.

After what seems like a couple more hours of sitting and thinking and trying to talk my way out of that circle - it finally dawns on me. I am over-functioning again! I am doing what I always do with a problem. Worry it over. Think it through. Talk it over with the people who like to talk such things over. And come up with my next solution. The problem is that those solutions have so far only proved to be minor detours that always lead me right back into that circle.

It’s my head that is keeping my heart from leading. I remember a dream that I’d had weeks before - during my Vision Fast preparation time. In the dream, Carol and I are flying (with Carol as the pilot) to a remote lakeside destination. We are greeted on the shore by a young native man who I am quite impressed with. He is courteous and intelligent. He leads us up to a cabin where Carol climbs the steps and goes inside. We wait outside while she disappears down a dark hallway. Soon, there is the sound of running water.
“She got the water running even in this freezing weather.” I say with surprise to my native companion.
“The well runs very deep and has a heat source from below.” He explains.
Carol emerges triumphantly. There are little children in the hallway with her and I lift another little boy up the stairs and into the hall. Carol comes out to the doorway. She leans down and puts her right hand on my head, putting most of her weight onto me.

I am greatly annoyed! I feel like I am being suppressed; put down, leaned on too heavily. I shove her hand off of my head. Looking up, I see that our native friend is supporting her other arm with a hand beneath both her wrist and her elbow.

I’d talked that dream through with another talented Spiritual Director. Gloria helped me to see that Carol was the part of me who was leading me on this journey. The “I” in the dream was the part of me that observes and reasons and judges. The dream offered an exciting and affirming message – Carol had brought back flowing water from a dark, deep place heated with passion. What had troubled me about the dream was that - among the positive image of an abundance of children - she had pushed my head down.

Suddenly, I knew with certainty - that dream had been for this moment. If I was to receive what God was desiring to show me, I would need to suppress the observer, the reason-maker, the judge.

And that’s why –also during my preparation time - my friend Kim had received a message on my behalf, as she prayed for me before I left. The message was simply “drum”.

So, I went and got the drum. The drum I’d crafted at the Haliburton School for the Arts fourteen months before. I’d made it small enough to fit into the bottom pouch of my canoe pack. It felt like I’d made it for this day.

I choose a three beat rhythm; tum, tum, TOM! Right, left, centre! Left, right, centre! Tum, tum, TOM over and over and over. The heavy TOM slap was Carol’s hand leaning heavy on my head – “you, get, DOWN, you, get, DOWN, you, get, DOWN, tum, tum, TOM!

I keep drumming til I stop noticing that I am drumming; til I stop thinking about anything and am just “doing what I do”, and truly “being who I am”.

When I stop, I’m not tired. I’m not changed. I just am. I’m drumming up on the hill by the fire and my shelter. I walk down onto the ritual rock just for a stretch. The wind gives a gust and those two trees give a groan.

“Which one of you is complaining?” I ask.

They groan again.

I take a closer look. And then I see. Those two trees are singing my song. They are groaning my groan. The one tree is a White Pine; tall and straight and mature. It stands beside and just below an even taller great White Pine in the midst of a family cluster of tall pines and Hemlock.

The tree that is causing the groaning is a maple. I have to walk over closer, off the rock to get a better look. It’s rooted about ten paces away from the pine. It has grown up in the shady midst of these older, taller evergreens. I can almost wrap my two hands around it - all the way up to where the branches of the bigger trees start high over my head. And there it takes a turn. You can see where it has made a move; a major move. It had stopped growing straight up and had started growing out towards the lake.

Maybe it was just top heavy. There are no branches on it until after the point where it turns and bows and crosses over to lean against the pine. To me it looks like these two trees have worked something out between them. Where they meet, the maple branches out and is adding its bright red colour to the steady green of the pine. The pine offers the stability and strength that the maple lacks. Together, they offed something unique to this part of the woods. Those other pines are stately and handsome, but only this pine has colour!

I know that I can’t say with a thousand words what these trees tell me with just one close look. They are dancing both my Survival dance and my Sacred dance at the same time. The tall White Pine looks strong and straight and “together”. At middle age I’ve got a home and family and a career in the church (the “family business” as I like to call it). I’ve figured out how to Survive with the skills I’ve got and how to maintain a footing in the place I’m planted. I can hold my head up among tall pines.

The Red Maple is my Sacred dance. As I stand where it’s planted in the midst of the tall, dominant, successful, evergreens I give it a pat and say “I give you credit for growing so tall in the shadows of this family.”

Creativity had not been discouraged in my extended family system, but it was always subservient to a rational, reasonable, pursuit. There are no artists in my family. (The aunt who wears her creative flair for all to see - also happens to be the black sheep.) I’d been a maple among Ever-greens, ever-happy, ever-sure providing ever-shade for this young sap.

That Maple sapling wasn’t destined to be the strongest tree in the woods. I am a little disappointed that this is how God sees this creative side of me. But it feels accurate. And it answers the question about whether I should take courage and take the leap to let that inner artist stand alone.

No, the white pine is part of the picture – and the path forward. Just as Carol had leaned heavily on my head in the dream; my creative self will lean upon the tall and strong professional and add some colour; something unique, to this stand of trees.

It isn’t a new plan or a new story for me. But it is an affirmation of the path I’d chosen. I am satisfied with the vision God has provided. My hunger is sated.

Like a sweet dessert to the dinner, a storm blows in. God is gonna let me know that that’s it and the deal is sealed - no going back.

Rain and wind send me into the tarped cave. The storm walks through its paces, growing slowly and steadily in intensity. It rises up to a pitch blowing rain in under the tarp and shakes the skies with a few choice cracks of thunder. Lightning flashes - bright instants of illumination. And then it’s on its way. Slowly receding again back down to a steady rain and then a drizzle.

Now what?

Before leaving home, as an afterthought, I’d tossed a few extra things into my bag. Four tiny beeswax candles made by Betsy and presented to me after she’d died as a gift from her estate. I hadn’t had an occasion to light them until now. I used them to light a few branches of dried sage – a going away gift from another friend. Never completely comfortable with Native rituals performed by “wanna-be Indians”, I feel that this is a good time to offer these gifts as a humble and sincere show of thanks to the Creator.

Down at the lake, the wind is dancing across the water again inviting me to join in.
I go and stand out on the rock. I lift my eyes up to the evening sky, a mist hangs in the trees on the opposite shore. It stays there, gently moving and ever-changing but not going anywhere. Even as breezes pick up and blow through the trees, the mist remains in that place before me.

“You are so good. You are so good, You are so good to me.” I sing.
“You are so good. You are so good, You are so good to me.” These words are the chorus to a song of praise – but, as usual, I can’t remember the verses – only the melody.

And so God provids the words for my song of praise. They come from my heart. They come from my past. They come from my future. They are provided without thought – for each note of the song. They just flow and flow as long as I keept singing. I change to another song of praise. Then a Christmas tune of wonder. Then I sing a Children’s song about Jesus. Then another song. Phrases are provided. Provided in a language I don’t recognize but that I know how to sing.

The mist remains and I keep singing. Each song seems to have its own language. I’m no Linguist, but they seem like the words of the first peoples; of earth people all over the earth, who first used voice to name and celebrate and share with the One, and ones, they knew and loved. I had spoken brief prayers “in tongues” before, but in song they just flow and flow. What fun! What freedom! How simple! Ha!

When the mists are finally lost to the descending dark, I leave the rock and go to bed.
No evening tea tonight. I’ve enjoyed all the comforts I need.

Psalm 40
A David psalm
I waited and waited and waited for God.
At last he looked; finally he listened.
He lifted me out of the ditch,
pulled me from deep mud.

He stood me up on a solid rock
to make sure I wouldn’t slip.

He taught me how to sing new song,
a praise-song to our God.

More and more people are seeing this:
they enter the mystery,
abandoning themselves to God.

Translation from “The Message” by Eugene Peterson.