Something Intimately at Hand

4.17.20 9:36 am Last Homely House

“It has something to do with presence—not a future good outcome, but the immediate experience of being met, held in communion, by something intimately at hand.”

Cynthia Bourgeault, Mystical Hope: Trusting in the Mercy of God (Cowley Publications: 2001) 

Outside my studio window the morning light emblazons the maple trees in the backyard. I often feel a communion with that luminosity, except at those moments when my dualistic mind kicks in and my ego overwhelms my reverie with anxieties of one sort or another. During the last six years I have migrated from hope to fear and back quite often. That cycling has been due to the abrupt changes in my life walk. Through it all, when my head cleared and I was able to see my way past my troubles I have come face to face with that “something” that I can only label as God. That proper noun seems inadequate because of what most people assume it signifies—which is not what I mean at all.

“Being met” with that communion and sense of love for me as who I am, is what I think Bourgeault means by mystical hope. It’s what I am writing about in Winterland Nights, though I don’t tell it—I try to show it—as in the final scene that finishes Chapter 14. It is “an abiding state of being” whether I am aware of it or not. It is subtle—yet sometimes obvious. When I become aware of it my eyes tear up and I am filled with an indescribable emotion, a bliss state that transcends all my ego experience and simply sustains me with love. I do not want to break off the intimate connection to that condition when I am cognizant of it.

I sensed it the other night as I was reading a poem by Joy Harjo from An American Sunrise, titled “Directions to You Rainy Dawn Ortiz” (pg. 22). It begins:

Follow them, stop, turn around
Go the other way.
Left, right,
Mine, yours.
We become lost,
Unsteady.
Take a deep breath,
Pray.
You will not always be lost.
You are right here,
In your time,
In your place.

Then, yesterday, as I sat in the passenger seat of Paul’s truck riding through the valley of the White Salmon River, and later, eating my lunch while standing in the empty parking lot of the Mt. Adams Ranger District building, I could discern my departed ones enfolding me, not physically—though I like to imagine it that way—but spiritually. As I think about it I see that they are now bound up in that same communion. As Harjo writes: You are right here, / in your time, / in your place. That comforts me.

This does as well:

But we do hope. It is the main impulse of life. Why do we awake to a new day anticipating that things will improve? What accounts for the hope which lies within us? If life was simply about random particles interacting with no purpose or meaning, death too would be meaningless.

Ilia Delio, Hope in a Time of Crisis  https://omegacenter.info/hope-in-a-time-of-crisis/

I suppose all these thoughts are whirling around inside of me because of the pandemic and all the psychic energy that’s being projected by multitudes of people. That’s unmeasurable of course and easily dismissed empirically. But I can’t do that. There was a time that I tried, but my heart wasn’t in it. Something inside of me—the poet, mystic, artist, and creative man—wanted me to understand that Flatland thinking can only explain everything as particles interacting “with no purpose or meaning.” Not much poetry there! Now, in this time and place, in these circumstances, it’s obvious to me that the myriad things are not obvious.

Instead, there “is something intimately at hand.” The fact that I can’t fix a specific word on it just shows how intimate it is. That truth disturbs some people, so they either dismiss it as unscientific, or smother it in sentimentalism or literalism and remove all the sacredness from it.

There is nothing new in this journal today, save for the definition of hope as mystical. These days of waiting and quarantine are starting to seem like a blessing to me. I’m not sure what I really mean by that other than the outside world, that I normally discount, is now so quiet it seems not to really exist. I find that fascinating, because somehow that also comforts me. It is possible that this experience that everyone one is part of (“we are all in this together”) is a turning point. Maybe we are close to that moment of global awakening that I have hoped for. I will not dwell on that. All that’s important now is that I sustain my health and write, think, read, and care for my little piece of Earth and Heaven.


Seal Rock State Park, Oregon – photo by Richard Gylgayton

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