Free-falling into Beauty & Grace

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you,” is a mainstay quote for me that I have carried with me for more years than I could possibly remember.  It is from Psalm 143 and, in fact, the entire psalm is my adopted, personal creed, that returns to me when I need it the most.  Having these words emblazoned in my memory has helped me stay the course in my life and though I have found myself falling back on them sometimes after the fact of my weaknesses and sin, they do indeed restore me as well.  When I am afraid of free-falling into the abyss, these words (and several other quotes) lift me and instead I am free-falling into beauty and grace, coming to rest safely on the earth.

I guess flying to Pennsylvania last weekend has my head still in the clouds, enjoying the beauty of the snowy landscapes below as we flew over the Appalachian mountains, while praying for safe take-offs and landings.  It’s always amazing to me how a change of perspective can shift priorities and desires into their proper order and places.  A birds-eye view of winter, flying over what a few days before was a major snowstorm, gave me an unexpected new outlook that contrasts sharply from the warmer southern climate, grounds-eye view that has held me for too long.  I missed the snow and didn’t realize how much until I saw it from above!

But now, back on the ground in South Carolina, rested from the busy and wonderful visit with my extended family, I find myself embracing the possibilities of the coming year anew, asking myself what do I want to focus my time and energy on?  I don’t have to hesitate with the answer for I feel it clamoring from my bones…my writing!  This morning in the hours before dawn I started reading and finished a small book by Annie Dillard, “The Writing Life.”  It completely absorbed me, both scaring me and inspiring me, like flying over the snowy mountains.  Years ago I started her Pulitzer prize-winning book “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,” but sadly, in the midst of child-rearing busyness, I never finished it.  Today, inspired anew by her writing I started it again, thinking if anyone can help me keep my feet on the writing path it would be her.

Her description of a mockingbird free-falling from the gutter of a four story building that she says “was an act as careless and spontaneous as the curl of a stem or the kindling of a star,” is an image, a metaphor, that leaves me catching my breath for the courage to write, to fly with words, to walk the creative path, and to cherish beauty and grace:

“The mockingbird took a single step into the air and dropped.  His wings were still folded against his sides as though he were singing from a limb and not falling, accelerating thirty-two feet per second per second, through empty air.  Just a breath before he would have been dashed to the ground, he unfurled his wings with exact, deliberate care, revealing the broad bars of white, spread his elegant, white-banded tail, and so floated onto the grass.  I had just rounded a corner when his insouciant step caught my eye; there was no one else in sight.  The fact of his free fall was like the old philosophical conundrum about the tree that falls in the forest.  The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them.  The least we can do is try to be there.”  Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

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