by the Rev. Barbara Threet
Recently I’ve been reading a lovely little book called ‘Silence in the Age of Noise’, written by Erling Kagge, a Norwegian explorer and the first person to reach the South Pole alone. I’m discovering all sorts of gems. Here’s one that struck me:
Scientists and maintenance workers reside there [at the American base at the South Pole] for several months at a time, isolated from the outside world. One year there were ninety-nine residents who celebrated Christmas together at the base. Someone had smuggled in ninety-nine stones and handed out one a piece as a Christmas gift. Nobody had seen stones for months. Some people hadn’t seen stones for over a year. Nothing but ice, snow, and man-made objects. Everyone sat gazing at and feeling their stone, holding it in their hands, feeling its weight, without uttering a word.
That’s an amazing image, all these people being lost in appreciation, memory, even magic, each by a simple stone.
I write this in my living room, and as I look out, I see a soft, thick blanket of white, gentle undulations of snow. There are some larger undulations: they cover the large rocks around which I’ll plant flowers in a few months. In the field behind my house there are a few trees and remains of tall grasses, along with the sheep, and on three sides of the field are tall pines with snow-decked branches, the edges of the forest. It’s beautiful, and very still. In a few months, when the grass is green, the flowers are up, and there will even be a few lambs frolicking in the pasture, it will be beautiful too.
But stones. The wonder of simple pebbles. I am struck by all the things I take for granted, so much so that I absolutely do not notice them. When I travel, I have sometimes been where the absence of trees is very clear, or the absence of abundant streams and lakes: I remember how much I missed little streams when I lived in southern California. Stones have always seemed so ubiquitous that I’ve barely noticed them (expect to grumble at how many of them there are when I’m trying to establish a garden).
One of the readings in our hymnal contains the words: When seasons come, as seasons do, old and known but somehow new/when lives are born or people die/ when something sacred’s sensed in soil or sky/mark the time. / Respond with thought or prayer or smile or grief…/ For all of these are holy things we will not, cannot, find again.
Each spring I watch carefully for the first hint of tiny flowers and buds. This spring, I want to pay more attention to the re-emergence of small stones, and little streams, the things so common they’re almost overlooked. For all of these things – are holy things.
Shalom and Salaam,