Monday, December 10, 2007


by Alissa Newton

“A Course in Creative Writing”
by William Stafford:

They want a wilderness with a map
but how about errors that give a new start?
or leaves that are edging into the light?
or the many places a road can’t find?

Maybe there’s a land where you have to sing
to explain anything: you blow a little whistle
just right and the next tree you meet is itself.
(And many a tree is not there yet.)

Things come toward you when you walk.
You go along singing a song that says
where you are going becomes its own
because you start. You blow a little whistle

And a world begins under the map.

Mother Melissa ended her wonderful homily yesterday morning with the poem above. She spoke about the wilderness of transition - that place that occurs over and over in biblical texts and resonates so deeply with the reality of human life. It's the moment, or hour, or month, or year(s) between letting go of what was and the arrival of what is-to-be and it's a terrifying time. We traverse there everyday in some way, between sleep and waking, between leaving work and coming home, between meeting someone's eye and deciding to smile, or not to. And there are bigger moments. The four years of college are such a wilderness - not yet really grown-up, but certainly not still a child. The years after college are even more wild, for some. Being engaged to be married - not single but not married yet, that is a wilderness. Being unemployed, about to move, applying to grad school, pregnant. All these come to mind when I think of the wilderness of transition in human life. Even more the big losses - divorce, death, separation. Those are the places we really never want to go, but, as Mo. Melissa noted in her homily, sometimes we find ourselves there despite all intentions.

I'm scared of transition. I can freely admit that I am all about what is and ever planning for what might be but it is hard for me to think about the in betweens, the letting go of now for something that could be better. Maybe there's a land where you have to sing, to explain anything... This is faith, I think. The belief that in this frightening wilderness there might be something magical, adventures and learnings that cannot be planned for but nevertheless should be met with eyes wide open, and hearts hopeful. What would happen if I could embrace the unknown with joy instead of anxiety? What would happen if St. Paul's could? This Advent that lightness, that vision of the world under the map - that is one thing I am waiting for.

Alissa Newton is Jr. Warden at St. Paul's and the editor of the parish blog. This entry was adapted from her personal blog, which can be found here.

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