Put yourself in the way of grace,' says a friend of ours, who is a monk, and a bishop; and he smiles his floating and shining smile.
And truly, can there be a subject of more interest to each of us than whether or not grace exists, and the soul? And, consequent upon the existence of the soul, a whole landscape of incorruptible forces, perhaps even a source, an almost palpably suggested second universe? A world that is incomprehensible through reason?
To believe in the soul---to believe in it exactly as much and as hardily as one believes in a mountain, say, or a fingernail, which is ever in view---imagine the consequences! How far-reaching, and thoroughly wonderful! For everything, by such a belief, would be charged, and changed. You wake in the morning, the soul exists, your mouth sings it, your mind accepts it. And the perceived, tactile world is, upon the instant, only half the world!
How easily I travel, about halfway, through such a scenario. I believe in the soul---in mine, and yours, and the blue-jay's, and the pilot whale's. I believe each goldfinch flying away over the coarse ragweed has a soul, and the ragweed too, plant by plant, and the tiny stones in the earth below, and the grains of earth as well. Not romantically do I believe this, nor poetically, nor emotionally, nor metaphorically except as all reality is metaphor, but steadily, lumpishly, and absolutely.
The wild waste spaces of the sea, and the pale dunes with one hawk hanging in the wind, they are for me the formal spaces that, in a liturgy, are taken up by prayer, song, sermon, silence, homily, scripture, the architecture of the church itself.
And as with prayer, which is a dipping of oneself toward the light, there is a consequence of attentiveness to the grass itself, and the sky itself, and to the floating bird. I too leave the fret and enclosure of my own life. I too dip myself toward the immeasurable.
Now winter, the winter I am writing about, begins to ease. And what, if anything, has been determined, selected, nailed down? This is the lesson of age---events pass, things change, trauma fades, good fortune rises, fades, rises again but different. Whereas what happens when one is twenty, as I remember it, happens forever. I have not been twenty for a long time! The sun rolls toward the north and I feel, gratefully, its brightness flaming up once more. Somewhere in the world the misery we can do nothing about yet goes on. Somewhere the words I will write down next year, and the next, are drifting into the wind, out of the ornate pods of the weeds of the Provincelands.
Once I went into the woods to find an almost unfindable bird, a blue grosbeak. And I found it: a rough, deep blue, almost black, with heavy beak; it was plucking one by one the humped, pale green caterpillars from the leaves of a thick green tree. Then it vanished into the shadows of the leaves and, in the same moment, from the crown of the tree flew a western bluebird---little aqua thrush of the mountains, hundreds of miles from its home. It is a moment hard to top---but, I can. Once I came upon two angels, they were standing quietly, keeping guard beside a car. Light streamed from them, and a splash of flames lay quietly under their feet. What is one to do with such moments, such memories, but cherish them? Who knows what is beyond the known? And if you think that any day the secret of light might come, would you not keep the house of your mind ready? Would you not cleanse your study of all that is cheap, or trivial? Would you not live in continual hope, and pleasure, and excitement?