The author of Hiding in Plain Sight offers the best of her weekly Internet musings on spirituality, faith and everyday life in this simple volume, arranged according to the six seasons of her native Canada (the usual four, plus two "mud seasons" before and after winter). The book opens with a profound essay sparked by the quotidian exercise of cleaning the refrigerator. Reflecting on the molecules that compose all biological organisms, Wolf explores the possibility that the cruddy exterior of her spoiled cucumber may contain hydrogen and carbon from other parts of creation--specifically, from Christ's body hanging on the cross. In fact, Wolf speculates, perhaps her own body harbors some of Christ's incarnation, making her a physical part and parcel of the Body of Christ. Some of the book's deepest theological ideas spring from these notions of the Incarnation, such as a vignette about a poor single mother who struggles at Christmastime ("God had not only come down to dwell among humankind, as one of us; God had chosen to dwell among that portion of humankind that humankind doesn't have much, if any use for": the poor). Wolf sounds other themes as well, such as the uselessness of stoically avoiding pain and our damaging tendency to judge others. Readers who enjoy fine spiritual writing infused with thoughtful theology and a healthy dose of humor will consider this book a friend. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
I was all set to write a thoughtful, solemn, intuitive piece about woundedness and grace and all that good stuff, but the weather's been too damned beautiful.
Right now, as I write, the sky is a blue of such depth and intensity as you never see around here except in mid-October, and the sun somehow manages to be a warm kindness without being overly strong. There's just enough chill in the air to make blankets on the bed feel delicious. Of my three huge maples, two are at the exquisite green-gold stage, and the middle one is simply blatant flat-out pure gold with touches of tawny. Its fallen leaves have turned the scruffy side yard by the porch into an emperor's cloak. Those leaves demand to be scuffled through, raked into a pile, and jumped in.
This is clearly a week to set down the intellect and pick up the senses-to give Martha a run and let Mary put her feet up. So I walked out to the store through the fine morning, through a field whispering with yellow aspen, touched with the last of the asters, and graced with the annual milkweed miracle. I bought a big round mild yellow onion, bacon, tender beef, carrots, mushrooms, and potatoes, and also a bottle of Merlot, and right now most of those things (except for a tiny glass of Merlot, just a quality check, of course) are becoming intimately acquainted over low heat, smelling wonderful. And for the same reason, three loaves of strong-minded whole-wheat-with-honey bread sit rising in the sun on the picnic table out back. Next on the agenda: cherry pie.
There are times, I believe, when our whole duty to God is to allow ourselves to be happilyseduced by creation.
I know this goes contrary to old notions that Material Stuff is Bad and Spiritual Stuff is Good (maybe outdated now, although I suspect that both Gnosticism and Puritanism are alive and well). But: I do not see how it gives glory to God to overcook brussels sprouts, on the grounds that whatever makes you miserable must be good for your soul. True, a certain degree of necessary suffering goes with the honest recognition that we're Miserable Offenders, but I don't see that God intends us to drag the rest of creation through the mud with us. That brussels sprout has not offended, as we have offended; why then should we take our misery out on it by boiling it to death?
It is important, I think, to distinguish between the earthly and the earthy. A Maserati is one sort of thing; beef stew with Merlot is another, especially when the purpose of the stew is to express one's delight in God's creation and one's love for those to be fed. A day spent shopping for three-hundred-dollar Guccis is not the same as a day spent picking apples in the sun. Earthly says, "Make these things your God"; earthy says, "God is here in God's extraordinary creation, give thanks." Earthly says, "We can make and control, and suffer for, and make others suffer for, things we declare to be beautiful and valuable." Earthy invites you to pick up one single fallen leaf from a scarlet maple and be clonked crosseyed by its sheer glory.
It's not often, in the Bible, that God moves center stage, turns to the audience, and speaks directly to us, instead of letting others of us do the talking. But He does exactly that at the end of the Book of Job, saying (in effect), "Okay, bucky, listen up here. I'm going to tell you why I'm God and you aren't." There God is, offered that prize intellectual and theological plum, the Problem of Evil, and if anyone has the solution to that one, God does. God could utter any wisdom in God's unimaginable mind. God could have given us the Unified Field Theory, or the Secret of World Peace, or the Meaning of Life, or whatever. Instead, God gives us a catalogue of creation, from the loosened cords of Orion to the soar of the hawk and the majesty of Leviathan: "Creation I have made, and made beautifully, in ways that delight Me. Can you do the same?"
Creation, this whole week before Thanksgiving, has been singing back to its Creator in a great burst of glory, a huge melodious shout of joy, before it settles down for the quietness of Mud Season and the stillness of Canadian winter. And for a short time it hints at what might lie beyond the River. Will the delights there be all of mind and spirit, not of the "bad" body and senses? I would hate to have God so limited. I feel through the soles of my feet, planted on this warm and vibrant earth, that C. S. Lewis had it right when he wrote at the end of his life:
Then the new earth and sky, the same yet not the same as these, will rise in us as we have risen in Christ. And once again, after who knows what aeons of the silence and the dark, the birds will sing out and the waters flow, and lights and shadows move across the hills and the faces of our friends laugh upon us with amazed recognition.
Guesses, of course, only guesses. If they are not true, something better will be.
(C. S. Lewis, Prayers: Letters to Malcolm, Fount, London, 1977)
Okay; that's that," I thought, when I opened the fridge door and got jumped by one lettuce, two tangerines, a container of cherry yogurt, and a pound of hamburger. There's simply too much stuff in there. I'm used to the same phenomenon when I open the freezer door-in fact, I usually step back reflexively, protecting my toes from being dive-bombed by cans of frozen orange juice. But clearly it was time to Do Something about the fridge. So, resolutely, grimly, seriously, I began to unpack its contents.
It's really something else, isn't it, what happens to the butt end of an English cucumber after a few weeks, right? Good thing I studied microbiology, the second time I went through university. I could look at the contents of the baggie with a certain detached fascination, but without revulsion. The phrase is "saprophytic growth." After certain microorganisms break down the plant tissues, other microorganisms utilize the released nutrients for growth . . . phew! Look at the fungal bloom on that. Wonder how it managed to turn that color?