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nothing knows more than the woods know
(notes on binary thinking)
The hardest thing this life asks of us is to hold in balance impossible contradictions. I won’t subject you to a cumbersome list of what I mean; won’t speak here of which dicohtomies are mine to integrate. It’s enough for you to know you have your own.
Dualities are a young one’s game, and they served me well when I was 22. Rigid, black-and-white thinking kept me physically safe after a few reckless years; kept me emotionally safe after too many heartbreaks; kept me spiritually safe at a time when I could only trust a God who was predictable, knowable. But I am a woman now, not that womanchild in the rearview mirror. Dualities no longer serve; they hinder.
If I do not intend to stay as I was — or as I am — then I understand this is my path of growth: to turn from the either/or and trust the both/and. My particular brain is not well wired for this, but our weaknesses are our callings. I see that now.
Earlier this week I was sad, not for any real reason but you know how it is to be sad just because. Because the air is a little too cool for June or because the dog is ignoring you or because there’s not enough childcare in the world to do all the things you really want to do in this life, but also your babies will leave one day soon and that’s terrible in its own way.
You know, sad like that.
I was stormwalking my feelings around the neighborhood when I came upon a doe, waltzing through the field a dozen yards away. She looked at me. I looked at her. She looked at me. I looked at her. A minute or two ticked by and we watched each other watch the other.
This is where you’d think I’d have a point, but I don’t. There’s no point. There’s only an exchange of — well, of what, really? An exchange of energy? An exchange of Spirit? Something intangible; unknowable, yes, but not untouchable. For touch it, I did.
In the years of my religious zealotry I was instructed to run away from the bad and toward the good. It’s the simple story of Adam and Eve, they said. But I like snakes, I’d pressed. I like being naked. Were we certain these were the villains? Oh yes, they assured me. Naked bodies and talking snakes are very bad indeed.
And I — wanting to be safe, wanting to be loved — nodded dutifully. Very well then.
The doe was devoured yesterday.
A murder of crows circled her carcass in the woods behind our house. I thought of the haunting Noah Kahan lyrics, There’s a murder of crows in the low light off Boston and I see your face in each one, but I don’t know whose face it is I’m supposed to be seeing. Maybe it’s my own.
The coyote was not bad.
The doe was not good.
Some things just are.
The woods are teacher and preacher in my soul these days. The owl, a homilist; the mulberries, a dissertation; the deer, a parable. Nothing knows more than the woods know.
So I kneel on her earth with my naked knees and my snakeskin hair, and beg her to speak to me of an unsplit God. An unsplit self. A cosmos where contradictions fade into union; where opposites don’t repel, but adjoin; where all things are held together for the sake of, in service to, a Mystery that means something.
For the sake of, in service to, Love.
this & that
The Catholic Media Association distributed awards last week, and a cover story I wrote for St. Anthony Messenger magazine, “Helping Children Face Racism,” won second place for Best Reporting of Social Justice Issues – Life and Dignity of the Human Person. You can read the online version here.
After I sent out last week’s post, I realized I forgot to include my interview on Let it Matter under the roundup of podcasts, so dust off those earbuds and have a listen.
The ebook version of Rewilding Motherhood is still going for dirt cheap ($4!) this month. Snag it at B&N if you don’t want to support Amazon.
writers for readers
If you enjoy my posts, I’d love to recommend others for you to check out here on Substack. Here are some pieces I’ve particularly enjoyed in the past few weeks — be sure to subscribe while you’re there! It’s an easy and free way to support writers.
Katherine May’s “The sharp scrutiny of midsummer” (I really love May’s writing tone: contemplative without being explicitly spiritual.)
Sherman Alexie’s “Highway Lazarus” (The parallels between this poem and my recent post about running over a groundhog felt mysteriously synchronous.)
Eric Clayton’s “Who sees the mountain?” (“The mountain is new. No one has seen this mountain in this moment. Yet, who returns to look once more?”)
Jessica Defino’s “Martha Stewart's Sports Illustrated Cover Means Next To Nothing” (Defino is doing incredible work in the beauty industry sector and I am here for it.)
May the week ahead hold peace and presence for each one of you.