photo by Sheri Dixon

Saturday, May 25, 2013

And the Sermon Today Is...

I spent an hour in church today.

Oh, don't worry; not THAT kind of church.

My church.

The Church of Eternal Change.

It's down a path that's hidden so well even I can't find it on the first pass. The boys have offered to trim it up some, but I told 'em, "Don't you dare!"

To get to the church proper takes navigating a steep leaf-covered slope, but there's a tree covered in poison ivy on one side and a holly tree covered in spiny leaves on the other side to hang on to, and if you still slip on the leaves, the needle-sharp nuts of the sweet gum tree overhead will slow you down some. Texas. Gotta love it.

And I do.

I love the soft even clearing betwixt the slope and the creek. Most of the creek lines are stark and abrupt; steep slope and then creek with no gentleness in between, the creeks cut directly down about 20 feet from the rest of the property and weave a path seemingly mapped out by drunken lightning.

But this one spot is different.

It's different from the rest of the creek lines and it's different from any other place I've ever been.

It's mine.

Let me rephrase that. I'm its. I belong to the place- the place belongs to no one.

I felt it the first time I set eyes on this place- from the road and peering beyond the locked gate. I knew it was back here.

My church.

The clearing is grasses and leaves and poison ivy but also ferns and mosses and stands of inland sea oats. The clearing is never mowed but never tall and overgrown.

There are pines and sweet gums and dogwoods and hollies. Oaks and cedars and elms. Mimosas and honeysuckles and Virginia creepers. Prickly pear cactus peer over the top of the bank, shy of the water.

The creek itself is shallow and narrow, but spring fed and ice cold all year round, no matter how tiny drought may render it. During violent storms it rises to about 2 ft deep and widens to about 6 ft across, whirling and twirling whitecaps and detritus in a brief episode of channeling the Mighty Colorado that lasts all of about 24 hours before it magically returns to normal.

It's not really a creek at all. It's a 'branch'.

When we bought the place, I was telling the man at the feed store about it and he knew right where our new place was. Said that there used to be a natural swimming hole (where my clearing is now?) back years ago that all the area kids knew about since it stayed freezing cold even in a Texas August when everything including giant Lake Palestine is peed-in bathwater warm.

I asked what the name of the creek was.

He told me it was Deadman's Branch.

I thought 6 year old Alec was going to faint straight away.

All the way home, he wanted to know why. "Why is it named 'DEADman's Branch??? Is there a hanging tree there? Who died there? Will there be ghosts? I don't want to move there. Give it back. I'm not moving there!"

I called Billy at the feed store and thanked him for scaring the bejeebus out of my son.

I asked him why the creek is called Deadman's Branch.

Billy laughed solid for seemingly an hour before he could catch his breath enough to explain, "It's not DEADman's Branch, it's Dedmon's Branch- it starts one road over in a spring on old Mr. Dedmon's place".

And there's a tree. It's a pine like hundreds of other pines on our place and millions of other pines in East Texas. Not the biggest pine or in any way distinctive. But it's where I sit. I sit on the ground with my bare toes rooted in the pine needles and leaves on the soil and my back straight up against my tree. When the wind blows I can feel her creaking and swaying behind me.

The church is ever changing. Depending on the season, the weather, the time of day, the recent rainfall, whatever life is ebbing or flowing, winging, hopping, climbing or swimming at that particular moment I'm never alone. The congregation is ever-present and ever-celebrating.

Always I can pull energy out of the air, up from the earth, through my ears and eyes and nose and always I can release all the pent-up shit that accumulates in an artificial society beating to a mechanical clock and I can see it waft into the air, float on down the creek, terminate in the ground like electricity.

I ask and I promise.

I ask for patience and strength and I promise to care for this planet and those people who cross my path.

It's a prayer but not a prayer.

I'm not visualizing 'anyone' to pray to because I don't have to.

I'm part of the cycle; the everlasting change. I'm here for but a moment and I'm no better than any other tiny speck on this earth.

Mother Nature is benevolently cruel, filled with disinterested drama and indifferent passion. All of us are born, live, die and are recycled over and over and over again (whether or not you believe in souls, our physical beings are only organic matter after all) and that's not depressing to me, it's a comfort.

There's nothing evil about it and nothing dismal. We may be insignificant but we're none of us pointless.

I can access the energy around me because we ARE energy- everything we do, every person we meet, every word we say has meaning and makes a difference.

I will make a difference because we all make a difference and the only question is will my tiny spark help others or hold them back?

The congregation today consisted of about half a dozen dragonflies darting over the water, dancing and landing and messaging each other with their wings. We were serenaded by frogs and birds and thunder in the distance.

I spend a fair amount of time in church letting go of worry, of fear. All the 'what ifs' normal American adults have plus our own family's personalized list that includes cancer and the many losses that come with that large and small, life-changing and trivial.

I hadn't been to church in a few weeks- we've been too often to Houston and the rest of the time I spent trying to catch up at home and at work and I had a huge shoulder-load of left-over fear and worry that I couldn't completely shake off even after breathing deeply and watching the dragonflies and listening to the water splashing over the rocks, the birds and frogs calling from the trees, feeling the soil under my feet and my tree strong and warm against my back.

Today's sermon was brought to me by a jumping spider who insisted on crawling on me. I'd shoo him off my left leg and he'd appear on my right leg. I gently knocked him off my right leg and he was there on my left arm. I set my right hand down on the rock next to my tree and he had beaten me to it, glaring at me with multiple eyes through bushy multiple eyebrows.

"Sure, you're huge next to me but I'm not afraid of you. The worst you can do is squish me. You'll have to do better than THAT to scare me".


(Welcome to church- press "HD" and "full screen" for the best view of the dragonflies...)

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