Thursday, November 25, 2021

November 25: Wild Cherry Trees, Thanksgiving, "Pepper"

 Merton wrestles with God . . . 

Back in the world, I felt like a man that had come down from the rare atmosphere of a very high mountain. When I got to Louisville, I had already been up for four hours or so, and my day was getting on towards its noon, so to speak, but I found that everybody else was just getting up and having breakfast and going to work. And how strange it was to see people walking around as if they had something important to do, running after busses, reading the newspapers, lighting cigarettes. 

How futile all their haste and anxiety seemed. 

My heart sank within me. I thought: “What am I getting into? Is this the sort of a thing I myself have been living in all these years?” 

At a street corner, I happened to look up and caught sight of an electric sign, on top of a two-storey building. It read: “Clown Cigarettes.” 

I turned and fled from the alien and lunatic street, and found my way into the nearby cathedral, and knelt, and prayed, and did the Stations of the Cross. 

Afraid of the spiritual pressure in that monastery? Was that what I had said the other day? How I longed to be back there now: everything here, in the world outside, was insipid and slightly insane. There was only one place I knew of where there was any true order. 

Yet, how could I go back? Did I not know that I really had no vocation?... It was the same old story again. 

I got on the train for Cincinnati, and for New York. 

Back at St. Bonaventure’s, where the spring I had already met in Kentucky finally caught up with me again, several weeks later, I walked in the woods, in the sun, under the pale blossoms of the wild cherry trees. 

It's a familiar story.  When God comes knocking, many people don't want to answer.  Other people run out the back door, into the woods, and find God waiting for them there, too, in the blossoms of cherry and apple trees.  God doesn't give up on you, even when you want to give up on God.

It has been a difficult month since my mother's passing, and I knew the holidays were going to feel very different this year.  Today is Thanksgiving in the United States.  We give thanks for the blessings in our lives--family, friends, health, jobs, pets, health, food, home.  Of course, God is the source of all those things we hold dear.

And, sometimes, God does things that we don't understand.  Like taking away one of those blessings.  Mothers.  Fathers.  Uncles.  Daughters.  Brothers.  Yes, God knocks on the door, and it's impossible not to answer.  Today, as I shared Thanksgiving brunch and dinner with people I love, I felt absence and loss.  But I also felt God with me, in the laughter of my niece and nephew and son and daughter.  In the drinks I shared with my sister-in-law (who's been my little sister for over 30 years) and her husband.  In the food my sisters prepared for dinner.  

God knocked on the door a month ago, and my mother answered.  

Saint Marty is thankful every day for the love he's had in his life.  Does have.

And a new poem for Thanksgiving . . .


by:  Martin Achatz

I blacken my baked potato,
split its skin, pry it open with fork,
spoon in butter, sprinkle salt, then
a hurricane of pepper, so much
that the flesh of the potato looks
like a Milky Way of black stars,
pepper that hangs in the air, a cloud
of Mayfly hatch, fills my nose
with that delightful near-sneeze
moment when I feel the force of it
build in my head, rolling in
from the Atlantic with winds
that tear roofs off bayou shacks,
wash gators down Bourbon Street.
A pepper plague that makes me
believe in the Nile turning
to blood, in the Virgin birth.
Pepper you taste from Thanksgiving
grace until horns blast in
New Year's Day with the sound
my mother made when she took
her last breath and blew open
the gates of heaven.

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