October 24, 2016
By:  Jane Bishop Halteman

Every morning I receive a blessing by e-mail from the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids.  Each one is exquisite, but Sunday’s blessing for Day 284 of 2016 spoke to me in a special way:  “May our Creative God be with you, amazing you with the beauty of the Seasons, with the beauty of yourself. This is a day to pause and gaze about you and within you. Discover something new: Let your eyes 'notice', your taste buds 'savor', your hands 'embrace', your ears 'be attentive', your nose 'inhale' the wonders around you. Take time to thank your Body for speaking to you, for holding memories, for its healing powers, and for all parts working as one. In your own creative way, give Praise to the Creator of all good things.”  (Sign up here to receive a daily blessing from the GR Dominicans.) 

In the wake of a trip to Mackinac Island last week, where autumn had taken a firm grip and beauty reigned unabashedly though skies were grey, I had no trouble letting my eyes notice.  The above photo collage documents some of the sights my traveling companions and I saw.  Even in the slightly gloomy weather of the first day on the island, the bright buildings, glistening boardwalk, coffee shop, private homes, old stone church, and Grand Hotel glowed under dreary skies.  The next day, as we were preparing to depart, sunshine heightened color in the harbor, the Iroquois Hotel, and the trees we passed on the drive home.

And it wasn’t difficult to bring back memories of the smell of fudge and caramel corn, the sound of horses clip-clopping around the island, the taste of margarita pizza, the feel of cool air blowing off the Straits of Mackinac connecting Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.

Before the Mackinac trip, I had stumbled across this Spirituality and Practice feature entitled Falling in Love with a Poem:  How to develop a vibrant relationship with a poem, letting it change you.  The subject matter, based on a book called Saved by a Poem:  The Transformative Power of Words by Kim Rosen, drew my attention immediately and, as the week went by, I was reminded on two occasions of special quotes (though not complete poems) that had been favorites of mine for at least 20 years.

I spotted this long-loved quote from the Gerard Manley Hopkins poem God’s Grandeur on a friend’s social media page:  “The world is charged with the grandeur of God; it will fan out, like shining from shook foil…”  To be reminded of that quote while fall colors exploded around me (after having been nourished by it many times in the past) seemed a valuable synchronicity, especially as I thought of Rosen’s reference to poetry as “the language of the soul. From below the surface of your life, the truth of who you are calls to you through the poems you love. Even if you have been touched by only one poem, or just a single line heard at a crucial moment and remembered, those words are an invitation from within. To take them deeply into your life and speak them aloud brings every level of who you are—your thoughts, your words, your feelings, and even your physical energies—into alignment with what matters most to you. You are receiving and giving voice not only to the poem but also to your own soul.”

A second favorite quote, this one from Frederick Buechner’s Wishful Thinking:  A Theological ABC, came to mind in a phone conversation when a friend referenced it:  “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”  I couldn’t help but remember back to the day when I first read that Buechner quote and realized my deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger were calling me, over weeks, months, and even years, to become a spiritual director.

Recalling once again the Buechner quote drew me to this paragraph in the Rosen book:  “As you go deeper into your relationship with a poem, it may guide you to discover treasures that you did not know you had. Perhaps there are hidden talents or creative visions that will appear. Perhaps the poem will call forth a long-buried memory, magnetized by the words to the surface of your consciousness for healing or inspiration. Perhaps it will open you to a new way of seeing the world, or a feeling of grief you have avoided, or an experience of joy you didn't know was in you.”

The Dominican blessing highlights the very things we might learn from befriending a poem:  “This is a day to pause and gaze about you and within you.  Discover something new.” 

Has a poem ever led you to a sacred space?   If so, you already know the benefits of befriending a poem.  If not, perhaps you will choose “to take a poem you love into your heart and your body.” 

The Spirituality and Practice article recommends that “once you have your poem, one that seems to you to be shimmering with inspiration, write it out by hand if possible (to make it more personal) or create a printed copy. In quiet times or during your daily activities, bring out your poem and savor it one line or stanza at a time. Over the course of weeks, you will come to know it so well that parts of it arise in your heart on the spur of the moment like words of scripture, to guide and comfort you.”

May the Dominican blessing lead you this day and week, as well, to "let your eyes 'notice', your taste buds 'savor', your hands 'embrace', your ears 'be attentive', your nose 'inhale' the wonders around you."