I was thinking recently about all of the things that happened this summer. About how there was an incredible storm on the morning of my very first sermon in Landgrove. How, just as Sally was introducing me, a huge clap of thunder made me jump for joy and giggle, and then how, afterwards, I wasn't sure if that was a good omen or not. I thought about traveling to California to meet my new nephew -- how that sleeping-baby weight felt on my chest. I thought about officiating at my brother's wedding in early August and the funny things that happened that day and how insanely great it felt to be the bridge, marrying two of my favorite people together in one of my favorite places. I thought about walking on the beach on Martha's Vineyard, listening to a friend talk about his teenage son who had died the summer before. I thought about all the great burgers, all the cold swims and all the starry nights. I thought some about love and the confounding mystery of it, how it's hard and scary and confusing and also really, really beautiful and melodious.
When I was talking with my friend, Lauren, about my summer, however, everything sugared off to this: I grew a pumpkin.
Or, I don't know...the pumpkin grew near me, in the space I created and filled with love and faith and dirt. And attention. I can't take credit for the rain and sunshine, but I can give a nod to the god-ness in that part of its nourishment. It's a perfect little pumpkin and it's sitting, now, on my kitchen counter, silently reminding me that a lot of really great things happen in the quiet spaces of our lives.
On Tuesday afternoons I visit with a person in Middlebury as a hospice volunteer, and our time together goes something like this: I help her eat lunch -- she usually doesn't want much. Then we go outside and I push her around the grounds in her wheelchair, singing things to her, making up songs about what's happening around us. Then I find some shade and we sit for a while. I hold her hand; she usually sleeps.
What I notice about her hand is how tender and fragile it looks, how silky it feels; how her veins protrude. I often wonder about what her life was like when she was a newlywed; when she was a young mother. What kinds of things she did with those hands. She lives in a place mysterious to me -- swimming in her ocean of dementia -- so we don't talk, but we can convey all we need to share through touch. I'm sure she hears me singing, poor thing, but I'm also pretty sure she doesn't know who I am. It makes no difference; it does nothing to diminish the loving time we share: she, calming me to a quieter pace; me, perhaps, bringing her back into the world for a moment or two. We are, the two of us, humans doing what humans are supposed to do: not much of anything important or even attractive: simply being together, free from distraction, from need. We're just there, and in all that quiet togetherness a kind of love wells up. We have nothing in common; we don't even really know each other; we've never had a conversation that went longer than two sentences. Still, the space that we share each week is filled with a kind of silent grace; our own brand of loving gratitude.
For me, that's where God lives. Not in a building or a book; not owned by anyone who has all the right language or knowledge, but in a pumpkin and an elderly hospice patient. Those are the places where we find written the stories of the best of creation and the lessons we all sorely need in how to be.