Department of the Interior

Interiority. Huh. That is actually a word.

There is a base camp. Tucked in the foothills. Nestled, as it were, in sight of the mountain peaks, frosted and ominous above the tree line. Cleft in view of the valleys where shadows are as much of the landscape as those protrusions which birth them. This is the base camp of the soul. A place carved out of the bustle of life with its highs and lows, the EKG existence of trying to establish a baseline.

I don’t live in the Sierra Nevada’s. I’m in Michigan. In each house we’ve lived in, I’ve staked out my claim. One time it was under the basement stairs. Another, a corner of the living room. Once I had an office—a luxury for sure. The desire was for place. A setting in which the heart was heard. My own. The department of the interior.

Reading, writing, and arrhythmia. A bible and a journal are always nearby. Sometimes I read out loud when my wandering mind is flooded with the tasks of the day. Poets, dead or alive, are given their due honor. Essayists flesh out ideas like a Rueben…little bites of thought to chew on. But when the basecamp is warm, lit just enough to see what open heart procedure is needed, that is when God attends.

I’m finding over the past few years all that is needed is a space, a place to give opportunity for the interior life to be checked and nurtured. Maybe you’ve figured this out already. In the end, the heart of the matter is the heart of the matter.

“Guard your heart, above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 4:23

Do a biblical search on the word heart, and you’ll see the place of prominence of which it is given. God thinks our interior is important.

Take in this little ditty I read yesterday.

“God signifies an alternative impulse – to sacrifice rather than grab, to love rather than lust, to give rather than take, to pursue truth rather than promote lies, to humble oneself rather than inflate the ego. In all creation the hand of God is seen; in every human heart, in a blade of grass as in great trees and mountains and rivers; in the first stirring of life in a foetus and in the last musings and mutterings of a tired mind.” Malcolm Muggeridge

After I read that I was reminded of a Wendell Berry poem.

Thirty More Years

When I was a young man,

grown up at last, how large

I seemed to myself! I was a tree,

tall already, and what I had not

yet reached, I would yet grow

to reach. Now, thirty more years

added on, I have reached much

I did not expect, in a direction

unexpected. I am growing downward,

smaller, one among the grasses.

Wendell Berry from Entries

These dudes knew. They had a base camp, I know it. Now, think of someone you know, famous, or in your circle of friends. You can pick out the basecamp people, can you not? There’s something. A lowness, a humility, a longer attention span maybe. All characteristics I long for.

Jesus often left the crowds for the “lonely places” yet he was never alone. The department of the interior was high on the priority list. If Jesus, why not me?

2 Bedroom Pet Friendly Cabin between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge with Hot Tub

Stream of Consciousness

“It may be that when we no longer know what to do,

we have come to our real work

and when we no longer know which way to go,

we have begun our real journey.

 

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

― Wendell Berry

 

Stream of Consciousness

 

Maybe I’ve been sitting by the wrong stream.

Its quiet depth and broad shoulders

have me nodding off.

 

I sought peace away from the paradoxes,

away from the tinkering creek

of arias and punk rap rhythms

 

and water rolling over bands of rocks.

It’s time the sound of the shallows

penetrate the deep space of the soul.

 

I’m heading upstream, above the tributaries,

where water flows over pebbles,

and jigs off the impediments

 

like a singing tap dancer.

“To everything there is a season.” Ecclesiastes

To Infinity and Beyond! I know, I keep using that phrase…Thank you Buzz Lightyear

Eternity is not infinity.

It is not a long time.

It does not begin at the end of time.

It does not run parallel to time.

In its entirety it always was.

In its entirety it will always be.

It is entirely present always.

Wendall Berry

p. 47 Leavings, Poems

We have a six-year-old sassafras. Her name is Emily. Whenever my wife or I tell her we love her she one-ups us. The other night when I tucked her in I said I loved her she fired back “I love you more!”  How can a little tart exude such power over my heart? She also responded “I love you to the moon and back!” many times. But the reverberation that catches my mind and heart is:

“I love you infinity!”

Followed by

“I love you infinity, infinity, infinity!”

Really? Wow! This little pip-squeak set in time, my time, to blow my mind and detonate my heart. In my estimation that equals a thousand of Ann Voskamp’s gifts. I am grateful.

Buzz Lightyear, from the Pixar movie Toy Story, embossed my frontal cortex a while ago with his intellectually suicidal statement:

“To infinity…and beyond!”

I was talking to a friend recently about the infinitesimal real estate us humans can inhabit. Think about it. Only 29% of the earth is land. Humans can merely ascend so high before running out of oxygen. We can only dive so deep before the pressure wrings us like a rag. We are walled in. We are essentially tucked in a linen closet of the universe. Why?

Dear God,

I don’t want to be unthankful, but why are we so fenced in? Is it because we couldn’t handle a little gardening? Is it because we are in time out?

Sincerely, Jerry

Dear Jerry,

My ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts are higher than your thoughts. Do you want me to start the “where were you when the foundations of the earth were laid” speech? Listen, the uninhabitable vast spaces are there to keep you wondering about Me, like you are presently. Simply look at these areas as room to grow acreage. Seriously, I didn’t hem in the universe so you would consider that there is always room to grow. I put bright and colorful creatures in the deepest, darkest places of the ocean so you would ponder my intention. So you might ask Me why I splash shadows with frivolous bright colors for no human to see. You will never be satisfied on earth just like that C. S. Lewis thought that has wrinkled your brain. You are ultimately made for another world. Although the world is busted up, I have given you the sense to take in what I have revealed thus far with awe and gratitude. There are gifts, way more than a thousand, but you can start counting and thanking. I like that.

About that little tart of yours, I dare you to love her back…infinity, infinity, infinity.

I love you…infinity,

God

It Is A Quiet Mourning

It is a quiet mourning.  Even the words stopped their breathing.  The hospice nurse kept checking her fingers.  They were bluing.  The fever, that was making a last ditch effort to rescue her body, broke.  When I laid my hand on hers it was cooling.

My baby sister held that hand a few days ago.  She and her mom agreed it was comforting and then tears.  She was my mom too, but at that moment she and her were they.

“We are the you and I who were they whom we remember.”  Wendell Berry

Ellen, my older sister read that aloud.  It is a sentence which requires more than one reading.  Its truth applies not just to Wendell’s decades love for his wife, but it applies to any long term relationship.  I witnessed this truth over and over again.  My siblings would all rotate around my mother’s bed and it would echo a book from younger years.  “Just Me and My Mom.”

It was grace upon grace.  We knew when to let another into the country chair with the cushion.   We took turns to sit close enough to count the freckles on her arm.  There was no positioning, no “saving a seat”, no arguing over whose turn it was to ride “shotgun”.  It was grace on grace.  Our mom became my mom to each of us.

Our Mom moments are tucked into the breast pocket of our hearts.  No longer is there a seat close enough to catch her breath.  We will “sit still” as she so often sternly said.  We will sit still with each other now.

 

For my siblings as we process the next days, weeks, and months.

 

© Gerald Allen Barrett and parentheticallyspeakingin3d, 2012.