Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Gift

I am home from teaching at a Land Trust conference in Denver. I stayed with a new friend in Boulder. I drove three round-trips between Boulder and Denver. At the close of each forty minutes on the highway, my eyes felt as though they had been sand-papered.

My friend's home was a haven, her back-yard green solace. The highway, the downtown, the hotel in which the entry-lounge to the Ladies Room was the size of my cabin, were a shrill of not so much white noise, as noise the awful brilliance of burning phosphorus. Only later, driving home somewhere west of Colorado Springs, did I understand the assault I had come through, the assault a million people occupy each day. Thirty years ago foot soldiers in Viet Nam called white phosphorus "Willy Peter". When it slashed down from the sky onto a grunt's skin, it burned clear to the bone.

I thought of the deep-hearted and weary people I had taught at the conference. My writing workshop had been named "Sharing the Passion". Seventy people bent their heads over their notebooks and wrote. They read. Their words were both radiant and fierce. A few of them said, "This is beautiful, but aren't we preaching to the choir? We need to write to reach the people we aren't reaching."

I thought of the choir, of the unreachables, of the people who might be neither, or both. I was grateful to be in the silence of my car and to find myself in the heart of a long valley. South of Saguache I followed a ribbon of last light. The Sangre de Cristos were on my left. They were cobalt. The mountains on my right cast a black shadow across them. The tops of the mountains on my right were covered with indigo stormclouds. All this black and blue. Not bruises, no, anything but bruises.
Red-gold lances of sunset slashed through the clouds. They spotlighted an impossible undulation of pink sand dunes in a dark valley.

I thought of my kin Robert, how he might have pulled over and painted. I burned the picture into my mind. And I wondered if preaching to the choir is not a waste, but precisely the gift we can give each other---we who are deep-hearted and weary, we who perservere in believing that if we just try harder, just find the magic words, the tone-deaf will hear our song; the color-blind will see our art.

And those lost in the shrill of busybusybusy and bumper-to-bumper? For them, we bring out the beauty with which we have been blessed---and trust some of them will hear.