Sunday, September 30, 2007

At Walden Pond, Sunset, September 30, 2007

I came to the pond at the end of a day to say my evening prayers. When I think of prayer I think of the moon, who is always whole but shows herself in pieces. I think of the stillness in the dark water at the center of the pond, of my body moving through that smooth wetness, of the muscle of the water gliding along my skin. When I think of prayer I think of the shape of my skin in the pond, of the precision of each movement of my arm. I swim toward the sun, which is setting over the woods at the edge of Walden. My arms make bubbles that glitter underwater and as I swim a strong line through the middle of the pond, I think: this is what I want to be swimming toward always, the golden track of the sun on this dark, shadowed water on an ordinary day in the fall.

I came to the pond to say my evening prayers. I dive into the water and let it coat me, let my body disappear into the arms of the pond. This is the place I want to write from, speak from, love from. This is what I think of when I think of prayer.

This is fall’s pond, now. The sun is harder as it sets, the water sharper on the skin. The light is sadder, the air scented with endings. Prayers are plentiful here. There is the light on the beach trees and the evergreens, the deepening circle of the sky, my body moving. There is a bird whose name I do not know speaking in the woods. There are shadows on the surface of the pond and smooth stones at its bottom and an endless darkness in its middle where the world around you narrows to the shape of the water and widens to include the breath of every stone and creature you can see.

Geese are flying south and I am swimming toward the sun. Prayers are plentiful here. When I think of prayer I think of details that take my breath away.

This morning I harvested spinach and sorted tomatoes. I separated heads of garlic into cloves that we’ll plant later in the fall. As the afternoon waned to evening I walked down a row of hot peppers, filling my bucket with oranges, reds, yellows, greens. Working in the earth is one way I know how to pray. Swimming to the center of a beloved pond is another. Every work of hands is its own prayer. Every seed, every sunset, every curve of water over skin.

Prayers are plentiful here and words are elusive. What I’m trying to say, with wet hair and dirt-stained hands, is that giving is part of asking, that to truly see a stone or a hawk or a pond is to say its prayer, that prayer is how the earth and I forgive each other. Prayer is the ache in my gut and my muscles after a day spent outside. It is the geese flying south and coming back year after year, buds that overwinter and seeds that produce fruit. Prayer is one of the ways I love this pond. It is the feeling that spreads through your body when you eat a bowl of hot potato soup. It is every simple thing that opens a window of gratitude inside your heart: a ripe tomato, a beloved song, a pond at sunset.

1 comment:

John Sackton said...

"that to truly see a stone or a hawk or a pond is to say its prayer, "

this seems to me a very native American kind of sensibility. In a less alienated time, people recognized the power of names and the spirits of places and animals and objects, and made their relationships whole by naming them.