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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

343 The wisdom to savor every utterance, every signal, every clue from the silent mouth of God

Day 343: Monday, February 22nd, 2021:

Dialogue in a Desert - A Reflection by Geoff Wood

There are times when each of us feels adrift in some wasteland - alone, spiritually parched, aimless, nothing but a silent horizon all about us. Emily Dickinson, the nineteenth-century American poet, often felt that way, growing up in a small, Puritan town in Massachusetts.

All of her neighbors and friends seemed content with their lives. All the girls in her Mt. Holyoke College class, when invited to stand up for Jesus, literally did so at once. Not Emily.

She alone remained seated because she just wasn’t moved anymore by her Puritan creed, which had become pulpit platitudes. And she was desolate over it:

To lose one’s faith - surpass

The loss of an Estate

Because Estates can be

Replenished - faith cannot.

Inherited with Life

Belief - but once - can be.

Annihilate a single clause

And Being’s - Beggary.

Uncertain of what she believed, hurt and frightened by frequent deaths (the young as much as the old), she sensed she lived within a very fragile circle that could dissolve at any moment into nothingness. To survive this state of mind, she began to write poetry (which is a kind of prayer). To a friend she wrote: “I had a terror - I could tell to none - and so I sing, as the Boy does in the Burying Ground - because I am afraid.” Many of her poems dealt almost despairingly with the death of a friend:

It tossed - and tossed

A little Brig I knew - o’ertook by Blast

It spun - and spun

And groped delirious, for Morn.

It slipped - and slipped.

As One that drunken - stept

Its white foot tripped

Then dropped from sight.

Ah, Brig - Good Night

To Crew and You

The Ocean’s Heart too smooth - too Blue

To break for You.

And many dealt wearily with what she called the Blank, those ultimate questions about life that science cannot answer:

From Blank to Blank

A Threadless Way

I pushed Mechanic feet.

To stop - or perish - or advance

Alike indifferent.

But the more she wrote (or prayed), the more she felt the presence of Someone beyond the horizon. Her poems became less monologue and more a dialogue. Even Death became less a chilling event and more a tender visitor, come to escort her home:

Because I could not stop for Death

He kindly stopped for me.

The Carriage held but just Ourselves

And Immortality.

Since then - ‘tis Centuries - and yet

Feels shorter than the Day

I first surmised the Horses’ heads

Were toward Eternity.

Indeed, that Someone began to feel ever more like a Friend, no longer passive but magically, sacramentally reaching out to her:

He touched me, so I live to know

That such a day, permitted so

I groped upon his breast.

It was a boundless place to me

And silenced, as the awful sea

Puts minor springs to rest.

And now, I’m different from before

As if I breathed superior air

Or brushed a Royal Gown.

My feet, too, that had wandered so

My face - transfigured now

To tenderer Renown.

Jesus knew the desert Emily knew. Being fully human, he too was shaken by the frequent coldness of the world around him. He wept in Gethsemane, sweated blood. His cry from the cross has resounded down through the centuries. But ultimately he had the will to resist all seductions to despair, because he, like Emily, had the wisdom to savor every utterance, every signal, every clue that comes from the silent mouth of God. As a result he too, like Emily, experienced a transfiguration that you’ll be reading about in next week’s Gospel.

Announcement #1: Taize

The link to Taize Prayer from the Sisters of Mercy

Stay with us, O Lord. B. Bridges © OCP, 2007

Stay with us, O Lord. Walk beside us on our journey. Burn within us, O Light of the world. O Word of truth, our strength and our hope.

Your radiant light gives us hope in our darkness. Strengthen us, stay with us,

O Light of the world!

Our broken world cries for justice and mercy. Strengthen us, stay with us,

O Light of the world!

You join us here at this table of plenty. Strengthen us, stay with us, O Light of the world! O Bread of Life, give us strength in our weakness. Strengthen us, stay with us,

O Light of the world!

You send us forth to be servants of others. Strengthen us, stay with us,

O Light of the world!

Announcement #2: Celebrating Family: Black History Month 2021

Saturday, February 27

6:30pm - 8:00pm

Sonoma County Library

Families come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Celebrate our diversity together through story and song.

This year, Petaluma Blacks for Community Development will celebrate Black History Month virtually and you’re invited! Created in collaboration with Petaluma Historical Library & Museum, Petaluma Arts Center, and the City of Petaluma, this year’s program provides a rich tapestry of perspectives for exploring the black family in past and present America.

Please join us for 90 minutes of music, art, stories and yes, dancing as we celebrate the vibrant diversity of our Community!

Registration is required. Please register with your email address to receive the Zoom link one hour before the event starts.

Sign Up with this link:

Questions? Email

Family Portraits from Petaluma Blacks for Community Development

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